So last night I fought in the first of the ACL’s new style of fighting, Knight Fights. 5 one minute rounds, matched weapons, 10 point must. Our answer to MMA or boxing style fighting. It was an amazing experience and I was so proud to be able to participate in it. Just fighting would have been great and winning was beyond awesome. However as I look back and think back on it the best part is that I think that’s the best I’ve ever fought.
I’ve been fighting steel for about a year and I’ve had a few fights I’m really proud of, chief among them beating Ettiene in Longsword at Nationals last year. He is no joke as a swordsman and made up for that loss by stomping my ass in Poland a few months later. However while I’ve done well, while I’ve fought fights I dominated far more than this one, I’ve never performed to this level.
The short and sweet summary of the fight is, I had a plan and I executed it. I want to dive a bit deeper than that though. I don’t have the video in front of me however I did get to watch 4 of the rounds once last night after the fights so I’ll to to comment based on that and my memory. Sadly I’m one of those fighters who tends to forget the majority of the fight right after it happens.
In general, I am not a thinking fighter. I’m not exactly spazzy but I do tend to blank and just start throwing, letting my body decide what to do while fighting. I don’t often keep strategy in my head, don’t concentrate on throwing combo’s, don’t set up openings so much as throw at whatever I can see. There is a a major benefit to this in that I tend to do very well in chaotic scrum type fights. Which tends to happen alot in ACL, in particularly the melees. The lack of vision, the odd weight placement and extra size the armor adds to your body, and the lack of good tactile feedback can really reduce the data you have to fight with, making it harder to play strategically.
That said, going into this fight I knew I had to be. I am a better swordsman than Brandon. I’ve been training for 3 years mainly as sword fighter. He’s been training for one with a focus on melee skills. I have a better shield defense and I’m probably quicker. However he is far stronger and he knows how to punch to deal damage. He tends to fight in straing lines, charging in little to no fear and dropping bombs. I knew that going in and was really thinking this would be a fight of ballerina vs the brute. I like to fight at angles, bouncing in and out, changing levels, throwing many quick shots. I figured I’d try and circle him throwing sword blows while at range and if we ever got close just rain punches, kicks, and sword strikes, hoping a flurry would be enough to keep him from either pushing me around or just punching through my defense and separating a shoulder or breaking my nose. I’ve experienced the latter and watched him do the former when he was half the fighter he is today.
Before the fight started, while in the locker room Ravenhair pulled me aside to discuss tactics. He hadn’t seen Brandon fight but he knows my style very well having taught or helped teach me the majority of it. When I filled him in on my opponent he gave me a much more firm plan to follow then I had. Keep to the center pole and used it as a shield to keep Brandon from having angles for his sword. Strike with the sword at range and keep distance. If he got close, press out, throw a shot and restore control at distance. Basically, fight it smart. Think.
These were all things I knew, but hearing them in a plan finalized it in me head. It gave something to fall back on. Something I could think about when I got lost instead of trying to think of what I need to do next to take advantage of a situation, just try to get to the plan. I had been getting nervous, getting into my own head, too hyped, and this gave me something to focus on. I was still very hyped and in my own head when I stepped into the Chopping Block, but now I had something to put that energy into. In the past I’ve need to completely abandon that energy and basically go in as if the fight were a play fight in order to perform. It’s nice to know I have another option when I started over hyping.
The first round felt odd to me. We both came out to the center and Brandon began circling the pole, same as me. I’m not used to him being this hesitant and it was odd him wanting to stand at range with me. He actually kept measure very well the first few seconds and it took me a little while to find my openings. Eventually they came though and my blade managed to score some hits. I don’t know how solid they were though as the blade felt awkward in my hand due to a combination of hurt finger, poorly sewn gauntlets, and a lack of familiarity with the weapon(it was Cat’s falchion, hopefully the last time I’ll have to borrow a weapon).
Brandon did not let me keep the advantage for long though before charging in. I stuck to the plan though and for a little while at least was able to keep out from punches and clinches. I’m fairly certain he manage to tie up once in that first round. I think he was overbalance from chasing because I have a memory of being able to pull him over and bend him down. I felt his balance shift and thought I had him thrown. But he stabilized and his base got real strong. This was unexpected and real improvement since the last time we wrestled. It would not be the last time his improvements through me during the fight.
The round ended and when I came back to my corner I was assured that the plan was working and I was doing what I needed. I was surprisingly fresh and asked for no water. We came back out and began again. Both this and round 3 were very similar. I took the center, and held the ground at the pole, but Brandon set up inside striking range and actually starting things off. He would land something, sometimes it felt good, sometimes it was glancing or barely there, I’d try to counter and he’d step out. I’d be surprised, try the counter 2 or 3 times without a set up, then I’d add some footwork or a feint and it would open things back up. He’d try to make it more dynamic pushing in, I’d back up and block and throw. Eventually we’d tie up and I’d try to throw which wasn’t successful and then try break out, which sometimes was successful.
I didn’t feel confident about either of round. I was told in the corner I was definitely in the lead but I didn’t want to fight that way in round 4. I was still too worried. In round 4 things really began to open up. I think Brandon had begun to gas. I was tired but hadn’t begun to hit the wall yet. I got some good strikes in but it was tying up that really made me confident. I was able to get behind him and threw a bunch of shots to his back and thighs. I wasn’t able to throw him yet but he was not standing as strong as before.
Round 5 I wanted to put it away. I heard some yelling telling me to take it to him, so I did. I didn’t just wait in the center but went in hard. Through shots, even a few punches. Got him in the corner, threw knees, through kicks, pommel strikes to the back of his head and was able to get him down with enough punishment to the back of his head. Brandon stood up and tried to keep range and measure like earlier, but wasn’t as fresh. I through a spin strike, partially for the crowd but also cause I knew it would let me close distance without him being able to respond. I’m not sure it landed but it got me in and I finished the round strong. I walked away, knowing I’d pulled out the last 2 rounds and with the 1st also definitely mine, I was sure I had the victory.
I threw off my guants and helm, cause I had gotten pretty close to my limit. Brandon and gave each other a huge hug first thing. It was an epic fight and we both knew and loved it. Jaye called us over a little later and raised me man. It felt fucking awesome. Can’t wait to do it again.
Big thanks to Cat for setting it up, and to Jaye and Andre for putting the framework of the ACL in place to allow this to happen. Also huge shout outs to the Corr Thieves who acted as MC’s, Peter Freidman and his escrima peers for coming out as judges, Jana, Elizabeth, Gauth, Carroline and the rest of the staff for putting in the work that lets us fighters fight. And a huge thank you to my Mentor Michael Luich, AKA Ravenhair for coming down and being my cornerman. I really think that changed the fight for me.