Follow by Email

Old Tired Squire In Action

Old Tired Squire In Action

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Back to Basics Part 2 (Way, way, way back)

A couple of weeks ago I announced that I was going back to basics. At the time, I didn't realize how far back I needed to go! :-)

How I Began

My original thought was that I was in pretty good shape for a man of 60, but I needed to add body weight exercises to my cardio workout, and go back to working on basic SCA combat techniques to improve my foot work and shot mechanics. If only it was that easy!

As a start off point, I looked at some sites I'd visited before for some inspiration. This led to me re-visiting Following the Path of the Sword, the blog of Duke Cornelius von Becke, KSCA, OL, who lives in the Kingdom of Lochac.

The specific posting was Conditioning for Beginners, and appeared to be what I was looking for in a beginning body weight problem. 

  • 20 Squats – make sure you are not leaning forward and the weight is on your heels.
  • 10 push ups
  • 20 walking lunges (that is 10 each leg)
  • 10 dumbbell rows (use a big milk container as a weight) or 10 incline pull ups
  • 20 second plank
  • 30 star jumps

Into the Deep End

But could I leave well enough alone? Oh, no. Of course not! So I followed the link to the "related" article on Duke Cornelius' page to the Do You Even Lift? page, which linked to Primal Fitness and Nerd Fitness, and I had passed the point of no return. 

And so this week, I joined the Nerd Fitness Rebellion and set out on a new adventure which will, obviously complement and improve my adventure in following the path of chivalry. For one's prowess on the field of chivalric honor builds on one's fitness.

But was I through and finally Back to Basics? Well, apparently not, as I began to see while delving into the wealth of information on Nerd Fitness and discovered that even a complete warm up routine may be beyond me at my current fitness level (considering previously obtained injuries and just plain wear and tear of age).

And I Thought I Was In Good Shape???

I began this week working my way into Steve Kamb's Beginning Body Weight Circuit:

  • 20 body weight squats
  • 10 push ups
  • 20 walking lunges
  • 10 dumbbell rows (using a gallon milk jug)
  • 15 second plank
  • 30 Jumping Jacks
As an aside, let me confess that I have almost NEVER done squats per se, despite knowing their efficacy as an exercise. I simply never had anyone to teach me the correct way to do them and was afraid of hurting myself. I had toyed with Yoga Squats, but had difficulty doing them and didn't persevere. But I vowed this time would be different.

But immediately I found a problem. Steve warns that a proper warm up is vital and that, if time was limited, it was better to cut the work out short than the warm up. But what warm up?

I settled on an impromptu set of jumping jacks and running in place, but I wasn't satisfied. And here I was, an experienced exerciser and heavy weapons fighter and I didn't even know a good warm up routine?  Sheesh, can't an old guy catch a break?

Even Farther Back To Basics

So today I took some time after church to wander around the Nerd Fitness (and sign up for the free forums) and lo and behold Steve had posed a How to Warm Up Properly and Avoid Injury lesson. But, the warm up routine is more extensive than the Beginning Body Weight routine!

  • 2-3 minutes of jump rope (who cares if you mess up, push yourself!)
  • 50 jumping jacks (pull your shoulder blades back, extend arms and really focus on the movement)
  • 20 body weight squats
  • 5 lunges (each leg)
  • 10 hip extensions
  • 5 hip rotations each leg (like you’re stepping over a fence)
  • 10 forward leg swings (each leg)
  • 10 side leg swings (each leg)
  • 10-20 push ups (scale based on your level of fitness)
  • 10 spiderman steps (each leg)

And So It Goes

So, it looks like I have my work cut out for me! Today I will start working on introducing the warm up into my program and go on from there. The warm up may, in fact, replace the Beginning Body Weight program for now, with the addition of dips for my triceps.

The good news is that the Beginner Body Weight program does not seem to aggravate my shoulder pain and may even be helping it. I will take it easy and see what happens.

Until we meet again, keep training and keep fighting! 


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Back to Basics

It has been over a year since my last post and a lot has happened (I just haven't blogged about it):

  • I got authorized as a fighter (heavy and fiberglass spear)
  • I got authorized as a youth marshal in chivalric combat
  • I've fought in three tourneys (Coastal Grand Baronial, Commander's Crucible and War of Ages)
  • I've been fairly consistent in attending fighter practice (averaging 1-2 fighter practices a week)
  • I've been fairly consistent in increasing my cardio ability.  (Except for Spring Break, but that doesn't count, right???)
But I find myself, while having fun, not advancing as fast as I'd like in my fighting skills.

Some things I could do to advance my skills are simply out of reach because of mundane reasons. I can't travel much, for instance. (This weekend is the coronation of HRH Sven and Antigone and I could get LOADS of helmet time if I could go, but I can't).  

I know that I can get better if I do the work, but I am frustrated by the same issues coming up over and over again:
  • Not relaxing
  • Chopping my blows and not extending
  • Using my arms for power, instead of my hips
  • Lousy footwork

But enough of the 'pity party' thing - there are things I can do and I know what they are. They are just so HARD to get motivated to do alone!  

It is time to get back to basics. I know this not only from my rattan fencing, but from my earlier, traditional martial arts training in Tae Kwon Do. In the words of Master Lee Jun-Fan, "I fear not the man who has practiced 10000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10000 times."

And so I will now attempt to get back to the basics. In my case, footwork, hip rotation and good biomechanics. This means slow work to get the muscle memory where it needs to be and (hopefully) drills with other fighters to build the reflexes to allow 'mind of no mind' in combat.

Some of my ideas I'm pulling from the following sources:

Cornelius von Becke - Following the Path of the Sword

Leif's YouTube Playlist

And, of course, this one, from Duke Paul:

The Bellatrix Fighting School

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Quick Update!

Started a new job in September so I've been a bit short of time. Nonetheless, I've been working on getting back in fighting shape.

For the last couple of months, I've been doing a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio, 5 days a week. And I haven't forgotten weight training. I'm also trying to work some stretching and yoga into the mix.

Tomorrow night is Stargate fighter practice at Hermann Park and it will be three in a row for me. I've gotten all my armor (with the help of my knight, Sir Karl) and I'm doing adjustments, but it is working better every practice.

I'm planning on attending the Southern Region War College in Raven's Fort in two weekends and getting authorized and doing some melee fighting. Unfortunately, I can't make it to Gulf War this year, but I can at least help those that can go train.

That's all for now, but there is more to come.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Yoga kicked my ass! (Or, how I realized what sucky shape I'm really in)

In the recent past, I've had a bad tendency to start a fitness program, only to overdo, injure my self and get discouraged and quit. So this time, I thought to myself, I'll do it differently.

I've accordingly been moving slowly to introduce new elements to my program. I started with walking using my Heavyhands, which is the way I lost 60 pounds or so back in the late 80s. I've been upping my distance slowly and watching for signs of injury. So far, so good.

Today, I finally started adding yoga.  And it kicked my ass!

I used to be so flipping flexible and now I suck. But, as Jake says:

The good news is that I am not discouraged, just determined to get better.

Remember:  Never give up!

If Arthur can do it, so can I.

(And if I can do it at 59, so can you).


Friday, August 31, 2012

Swordmaiden reborn!

A quick plug for a Facebook friend and a great site, reborn. 

This is a revamp of the old Swordmaiden site, brought to you by Isabella Evangelista (m/k/a Amanda Michaels) with the permission of Lady Eichling, the original web mistress. Much of it was salvaged from an Internet Archive snapshot from 2009, but Isabella is working hard to bring it completely back to life. 

I've checked it out and it has some good stuff (including some armor ideas I will be incorporating in my kit).

So, if you are a woman fighter in the SCA, or are are thinking about it, or know a woman fighter, check out this site!

Monday, August 27, 2012


I was honored to receive a comment to my last post by Dr. David Friedman, known in these current middle ages as Duke Cariadoc of the Bow, KSCA, OP, OL.  Receiving the comment, and responding, brought into better focus some of the reasons I started this blog, which I wanted to share.

I am a recovering underachiever.  There; I've said it. Up until my 40s, I simply could not seem to get my act together. I was always the guy with "so much potential" who couldn't seem to prosper. There were always too many distractions, or I did not have enough self confidence, or some other lame excuse. 

Somewhere along the line, I got past that failing, for the most part. I mean, I went back to undergrad and got a degree, attended law school, graduated and passed the bar. But I still sometimes would find myself sabotaging my own progress.

One area I feel that needs work is procrastination. I have conquered my tendency to put things off in my work life and, in fact, I'm very deadline oriented in the practice of law. In my personal life, not so much.  I have in the last year found this to especially be a problem in getting my armor together to hit people with rattan swords. 

I believe that this is because I get a picture of how things ought to be in my mind, but I know that as soon as I put cutter to leather, that thing will no longer be perfect.  A silly concern, I know, as know one (except me) is expecting me to be perfect.  But a nagging concern, nonetheless.

That is why I quoted Ms. Frizzle in my last post -- "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy."  That is what I need to do in building my armor.  And I sense that I may not be the only one with that problem! Perhaps some others can take heart from my experiences and do things they might not have attempted. 

So, one purpose of this blog is to get me to take chances, make mistakes and get messy, and by example to help others do the same. 

So stick around and see what OTHER mistakes I can make.  It might be fun.  At least, it should be educational.  

I leave you with a quote from Thomas Edison, who failed many, many times in perfecting the incandescent light bulb:  "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."  

That is what I like to think I'm doing - finding all the ways that won't work!  :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Experiments in Leather

I decided to try and build some elbows from some of the leather scraps I picked up at Tandy a few months ago, using the plans from Duke Cariodoc's The Perfect Armor Improved. My results were less than spectacular, but it was a learning experience and the only failed experiment is one in which you did not learn something.

I began with the elbow patter HG Cariadoc published.

Simple, right?

Well, easier said than done.

I cut two mirror images of the pattern from my leather (5-7 oz vegetable tanned bellies), which I had soaked in water before cutting.  Then I attempted to following HG Cariadoc's instructions. 

First hiccup -- someone lost the thermometer!  The process requires that you heat the water to 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius).  So, I "eyeballed" it to see what I could do.  After all, our ancestors didn't have mercury thermometers in the 14th Century, right?

After heating the two pieces (separately) for what I thought was the right time at the right temperature, I took each piece out and tried sandwiching the piece in two bowls, each of which has a diameter of about 6.5 inches.  

As I had feared, the process left major folds and creases in the leather, which I attempted to smooth out with my fingers. 

The resulting pieces look like this:


The piece on the left shrank more than the piece on the right, and is thicker and harder. Both pieces are not in the optimum shape for an elbow cop because there was too much leather that needed to be removed or folded to create the right shape.  

So, what have I learned? 

1. Water temperature (and immersion time) is very important in getting a consistent product.
2. Modifications must be made to the pattern or process to obtain a "cop" shape for the elbows.

For the next step in the experiment, I am going to try softening the larger cop in water, then removing a gusset of material on the front and rear of the cop and riveting or  bolting it together.  Then I will try  re-hardening it in 180 degree water with a thermometer!  

Hopefully, this will give me the desired shape and size. If so, I am considering reinforcing the cop with plastic to add some extra protection, followed by adding a strap that will ride in the fold of my elbow, holding the cop on. I also intend to experiment with baking wet leather in the oven at 200 degrees and liberally basting the leather with hot rabbit glue or other organic glue to more accurately reproduce what is believed to be the period procedure (or at least, one of them) for creating cour boulli. (See excellent articles here, here and here).

My fantasy is that, once I have a good pattern and consistent procedure down, I can turn the cops out fairly easily and create new loaner/new fighter gear for our Barony. 

And remember, do as I say, not as I do -- "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!"