So yea. K&Q Rapier was almost a month back and, man, this year was a day. After eight years of fencing in the SCA and five Sweet 16 appearances, I finally won King’s Champ.
I’m gonna compile all my thoughts about the tournament and the weeks leading up to it. It’s all tied together and were important to my road to the tournament, but no idea if the ideas will come across.
Let’s rewind to last year first. I was so burned out from Pennsic and being General that I almost wanted to quit the SCA. I recognized that was just burnout talking but it took until after K&Q for me to find any semblance of joy in fencing.
I didn’t want to go to practice; I didn’t want to go to events. I did anyways because of Kate and I knew it was good for me. Regardless, I went into last year’s K&Q Rapier not in the best state of mind or as prepared as I should’ve been. I still made the Top 10 or 8 or whatever; far short from my goal but respectable all things considered.
This year I left Pennsic feeling rejuvenated. I’m not sure if it’s because my overall experience as General was light years better or because I retired as General winning both years or just the fact that the responsibility of being General was now off my shoulders. But I left Pennsic pumped up and ready to train.
Of course, I didn’t get the training in that I wanted. I did more teaching than practicing, which was a mix of joy and frustration. I love teaching and watching people in my area get better, but I also wanted to win K&Q and, for me, part of that training includes a lot of drilling to hammer home the basics and build up muscle memory I rely on.
I also fought in two tournaments leading up to K&Q — Roses & Ducal Challenge. If you look at overall placement and/or my W/L record, I did really well. I made the top 4 in Ducal despite not being able to fight in my usual boots (they were in the shop) and not feeling like “me” when fighting (fatigue from driving & not sleeping well factored into that).
Similar to Roses. I won almost all of my bouts but I felt off… which I found frustrating because my W/L record wasn’t matching how I perceived my level of fighting. I knew I wasn’t fighting at my best and I was better than what I was throwing at people. That was extremely frustrating but I had some good talks with folks that put my mind at ease.
The Weeks Leading Up to K&Q
I skipped Yule which I was going to use as a final event prep event. We had done a lot of driving the weekend prior for Thanksgiving and wanted to go to a local SCA holiday party that evening, so I opted to rest instead. I felt a little bad about skipping because I felt like I was letting myself down by not taking every opportunity to get reps in, but overall it was probably the best for me. Sometimes the best prep is the TLC relaxing sort.
I usually don’t do a ton of pickups at practice both in general and also leading up to K&Q. I’d rather drill and then do some light sparring to put theory into practice. But this time I did more fighting than usual. I did keep it as light and breezy. I tend not to be able to give close to my full tourney level fight when doing pickups, and I was looking for more fun than anything else anyways.
I did get some good passes with Lupold and Bert that made me feel good about fencing but also good about my level of skill.
I also got a ton of “You winning this year?” questions/comments from folks. An awkward question to begin with. I try not to be very superstitious but I also don’t want to come off as cocky. I like to think I’m both confident in myself as a fighter while also having an acute sense of where my skill is in the community and how I’m fighting on a particular day. My answer, however, was always “I’m gonna sure as hell try.”
Outside of practice, my other “prep” for Pennsic was weightlifting at the gym. Of course, I don’t train at the gym for fencing; I train for aesthetics. Regardless, the heavy lifting and consistent exercise definitely helped during the tourney. I never felt winded and my legs never burned or got tired.
In fact, I ended the tournament with still a lot of energy to fight more but that was as much adrenaline as anything else.
The Big Event
The Anxiety Appetite Suppression hit early this year — Thursday right after practice. I had to basically force feed myself all day Friday when I was hoping to carb load for the long event ahead. No doubt I was below my normal calorie intake on Friday. And that was even worse at the event. Outside of the two glazed donuts I had for breakfast on the way to the tournament, my food during the tourney consisted of 50g of protein shake, about 600mg of caffeine, and two bottles of Gatorade. I have no idea why but I perform well on low calorie intake.
I also had been taking it easy at the gym all week, so my legs and arms were well rested for the tourney. The afternoon before the event, I went to my massage therapist for a session to make sure my limbs were as limber and ready as they could be. I spent the rest of Friday playing Halo and packing for the event — basically anything and everything I could do to not think about K&Q Rapier.
Thanks to all that I went into the tournament feeling as physically fit as I could and in a good headspace.
Mind was right. Body was right.
I woke up the morning of the event feeling exited and anxious, but also oddly at peace. I got a great night’s sleep and I woke up “knowing” that I was going to win. I realize how goddamn cocky and arrogant that sounds, but I woke up “knowing” it was my year and I just had to fight my fight and everything would work out.
As for the actual tourney, I was able to keep my adrenaline low and my mind focus. When things didn’t go 100% smoothly I was able to stay on track. I fought my fight. I felt like I was always in control. I felt oddly zen.
My tourney head was perfect all day, too. While a lot of people need to psych themselves up or emanate “murder” all day, I perform much better when I’m keeping it light and fun on the sidelines and all business while in the list. I watched very few fights all day, including my pools. What people were doing didn’t really matter to me; all that mattered was what I was doing. So I talked and joked with people between my fights but turned my game on as soon as my mask went on every bout.
The way the tourney has been set up the past few years, in my mind I break the day up into three separate tournies — Round Robin, Double Elim, Best of 5.
Honestly, with 101 fencers spread out over 8 pools, I was more nervous about the Round Robin than the rest of the tourney. I figured if I could get out of my pool and get to the Sweet 16/Double Elim I’d be pretty well off. I went undefeated in a deep pool but honestly with 101 fencers there was really no such thing as a shallow pool.
In the Sweet 16, all fighters start off with Single in the Double Elim until they take their first set of losses. Single is probably my strongest form, so I was happy to ride that wave for as long as possible. I ended up fighting a crossover Cassius in the first round, Bert in the second round, and Jacobus in the third round. The fights were tough and enjoyable, and I was fortunate enough to cruise to the Final Four still undefeated.
Final Four this year was bring your best. I had to fight Sorcha, my partner-in-crime in all-things melee and one of my close friends. I would’ve loved for that to have been my Finals matchup, but c’est la vie. Since I was undefeated I just had to win one set of best of three passes; Sorcha had to win both sets. She took the first set 2-1 but I took the second set to move onto the finals. Sorcha had a long and tough fight against Bobby Tyghts before that, so she probably wasn’t at her most energetic but she fought amazingly well with a lot of grit and skill.
Then off to the finals to face Sir Ivan. The videos of the fight are kinda amusing to me because of how much he towered over me even after he took a lower stance. Because he had the range on me, I went into the fights with mostly a counter-punch mentality. I wanted to draw him out of his guard and then take advantage of his extended blade to cross that “no man’s land” safely.
I took the first pass (Single); he took the second (Dagger); I took the third (Cloak) and then the fourth (Case).
Now About Other People
Locally, Carolingia did great. Seven of the Sweet 16 was from my local area. Three of the final four were from my home practice. I’m super proud of how well Sorcha and Jacobus did.
What was extra special was getting the King’s Champ regalia handed off to me from Donovan who stepped down as King’s Champ. He’s been my period technique drill-partner and sword-bro for years now, so it cool to be by his side as outgoing/incoming Champ for a few moments.
I’m excited to be King’s Champ finally and continue the little Handsome Caliver dynasty we got going. Also relieved that I’ve secured my spot on the single’s team for Pennsic Champs. Also glad I won’t be the Dan Marino of EK Rapier.
What a day.