“Tourney Headspace” seems to be on a lot of fencers minds these days. Hardly a month doesn’t go by where I’m not part of some conversation, over drinks, talking about what works and doesn’t for fencing competitors.
For better or worse, a lacking “tourney brain” is often blamed for poor performance in tournaments. That’s definitely part of it. Not being properly focused can lead to early exits. I also think there’s a bit of a proper technique gap, especially in the confines fo SCA rapier, but tourney brain/headspace gets the lion share of blame.
I figure I would present my two cents on the issue.
Note: By all means, I don’t think my way is the way. I think it’s one of the unlimited ways someone can prep themselves for a tournament or their next fight. It’s highly customizable, which is both a pro and con.
I also encourage people who are trying to develop their tourney brain to talk to the top fencers in their area to see what they do, read up on sports psychology, and be willing to experiment and fail while figuring out what’s best for you.
I know sometimes my sword-friends get frustrated with their skill development. Been there. Still there some days.
So here’s a little reminder. It’s hardest to see your progress through a mask.
When you get better the people around you get better. You make them better and, in turn, they make you better. It’s a leap-frogging cycle that makes measuring your progress frustrating at best and disheartening at worst.
But it’s so worth it for when things click. It’s worth it to prove to yourself that you can.
So when you feel that frustration build to a boil, take off your mask. Step away from the lists. Get feedback from people you trust. Tell the self-doubt to fuck off. And keep grinding away at those XPs.
It’s funny to look back and see how far you and your friends have come.
When I started the Carolingian Calivers with my buddy Duncan about six years back, we had a simple goal: To create a rapier unit that specialized in RBG tactics, and to build a group that could fight together and train together.
An Idea Conceived
The RBG angle might seem a bit odd, but it stemmed from a battle at GNEW about six years back (give or take). I was put on the run squad and my objective was to get to the opposite end of the ship and block our enemies from boarding, so the slower runners behind us could get all the gold for our team.
I sprinted my tiny little ass off and got there first. Barreling toward me on the other side was Don Wyatt, armed with his usual sword and buckler. I knew I was more or less toast, but the longer I could hold out the better for my team. When he got a few paces away he stopped. But instead of raising his sword, he lowered his buckler, revealing a loaded pistol.
This year marked my third time as Pennsic Melee Champs coordinator for the East Kingdom. I chose the team a little differently this year, and I want to document the process here so both the East Kingdom and our rapier community understand the process, plus act as a resource for future coordinators.
Little background for some context.
My first year as coordinator, I inherited a team already chosen and co-commanded with (then) His Grace Duke Kenric. The second year, I got to choose the team but co-commanded with the Midrealm’s commander. Bother years we lost and of no lack of effort. This year, I got to choose the team and solo command. Despite organizing things the past couple of years, this was the first time it truly felt like my team in every aspect.
I knew most of the EK “hot sticks” were going to the Single’s Team, and I didn’t want to throw another “All-Star” team on the field as that hadn’t really worked either in the past two years. I wanted strong melee combatants. Folks who work well as a team. Communicate well. Work hard. Fight hard. In short: soldiers.
I also only wanted to choose from a pool of people who showed interest in the team and was willing to put in the work to be on the team. No one would make it based off reputation alone. Everyone needed to earn their way onto the team. So I did a string of tryout/practices to see who those people where. Continue reading Pennsic XLV Melee Champs Post-Mortem→
Saturday was Balfar’s Challenge. The 3-man tourney was an escort mission, with two guards escorting a princess to different castles. It was a fun scenario but it discouraged combat. The goal was to bring a princess to a castle to score points. If you were busy killing, you weren’t scoring.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed the scenario. It was a lot moving pieces and going as unnoticed as possible, which was a fun, different challenge.
I love Birka. Ever since I joined the SCA it’s been one of my favorite events of the year. I love that I get to fight a bunch of different people in a relatively short period of time. I also love that I can mine the stats that’s collected from the event I’ve used it to measure how I’ve progressed from year to year — both in standings, total points, and win percentage. It’s my yearly measuring stick.
Last year I won Birka. Went 70-10 for a .875 Win%. Not bad at all. I was looking to see if I could retain my title.