I’m not quite sure what the issue is but lately I’ve found that I’ve been feeling very distracted with regards to my various projects and I haven’t been feeling like I’m really getting a lot done.  Oddly I’ve been feeling like I used to be able to get so much more done than I have these past few months.  Logically though I know I must be getting something done because my FR articles are finished and free time seems to be at an even higher premium than usual.  Years ago I used to keep yearly project lists of the things I was working on, things I had finished, and projects I wanted to start over the course of that year.  I sort of stopped tracking them though in early 2009.  Why?  I have no idea.

So in an effort to really compare what I’ve been doing this year with what I had accomplished in years past I decided that I need to revive my old project lists.  So far I’ve found one from 2008 and one from 2009.  I’m fairly certain I kept ones for 2007 and 2006 as well but I’m still looking for them.

Here’s my list from 2008:

2008 Projects

Black silk suit Finished! Jan 2008
Red Wool Hood Finished! Feb 2008
Silver’s Gryps and Clozes Finished! Mar 2008
Linen GFG/Kirtle Finished! Mar 2008
Linen Surcoat Finished! Apr 2008
Second Linen Surcoat Finished! Apr 2008
Gamboised Cuisses, 2 pair Finished! May 2008
Arming Vest Finished! May 2008
Padded leather fencing doublet Linen Proof of Concept Finished! May 2008
Linen Suit Finished! June 2008
White Linen 63 Finished! July 2008
Scarletwork Coif Finished! Dec 2008
Swetnam Article One Finished! Dec 2008
Complete In Progress Silver Article Finished! Dec 2008

Not too shabby.  I finished at least one project a month except for August-November when I was focusing on my coif.  I don’t embroider very quickly.

I had to go back and use my blog to recreate most of it but in 2009 my list looked like this:

2009 Projects

Get my fencing in top notch shape In progress
Wool Jacket Finished! March 2009
Embroidered Jacket Started August 2009
Black Bias Cut linen Hosen Finished! March 2009
Green Bias Cut linen Hosen Finished! March 2009
Blue Linen Fencing Doublet Finished! May 2009
Scarletwork Forehead Cloth Finished! September 2009

I got some things done but I spent most of my free SCA time fencing and embroidering.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  It was really quite enjoyable. :)  But it does mean that I have finished fewer projects.  Especially since my jacket was one of the things I was spending most of my time on.

So now that I’ve had a chance to go back and look at what I accomplished of over 2008 and 2009 I needed to create a list for 2010.

2010 Projects

Get my fencing in top notch shape In progress
Embroidered Jacket In progress: Started August 2009
Flander’s Gown In progress
Saviolo Dueling Blog Series Finished! June 2010 (Combined with class)
Silver Training Blog Series In progress
Swetnam Training Blog Series In progress
Early Modern English Dueling Class Finished! June 2010
Steampunk Gown Finished! January 2010
Wrapped and Stuffed Buttons @ Etsy Opened! January 2010
Grey Wool Bias Cut Hosen Finished! February 2010
Linen Kirtle Finished! April 2010
White Linen Bias Cut Stockings Finished! April 2010
16th-17th Century Stocking Tutorial Finished! April 2010
Blue Linen Bias Cut Hosen Finished! May 2010
14th Century Hosen Tutorial Finished! May 2010

Hmmm…no wonder I feel distracted.  I’ve accomplished much more than I thought I had but I have let several “In progress” projects accumulate at once.  Normally I try to keep it to one or two.  Plus three of those projects are blog series.  I should certainly be trying to limit those to one at a time.  So for now, no more new blog series!  I need to finish these first! :)  I don’t have too many sewing projects going at once, just my Flander’s Gown and my jacket but they did get pushed to the back burner while I worked on some others.  I definitely want to get back to back to work on them once my second article is turned in.  I will also probably place my Saviolo dueling series on the back burner since it’s so similar to the class that I’m working on for June Univeristy.  And I’m going to add a few more items to the planning list to start on once I’ve finished my gown and jacket.

2010 Project Plans

Get my fencing in top notch shape In progress
Embroidered Jacket In progress: Started August 2009
Flander’s Gown In progress
Saviolo Dueling Blog Series Finished! June 2010
Silver Training Blog Series In progress
Swetnam Training Blog Series In progress
Early Modern English Dueling Class Finished! June 2010
Steampunk Gown Finished! January 2010
Wrapped and Stuffed Buttons @ Etsy Opened! January 2010
Grey Wool Bias Cut Hosen Finished! February 2010
Linen Kirtle Finished! April 2010
White Linen Bias Cut Stockings Finished! April 2010
16th-17th Century Stocking Tutorial Finished! April 2010
Blue Linen Bias Cut Hosen Finished! May 2010
14th Century Hosen Tutorial Finished! May 2010
Green Linen GFG (pieces cut out)
French-Cut gown
Red Silk Bodies (have fabric and boning)
A new linen suit
Natural Form Gown

Postponed Projects

(HMA)
Di Grassi Series
Di Grassi Class
Swetnam Class
Arming Garments Class

(Sewing and Embroidery)
Blackwork shirt
Red Wool Suit
1530′s Tudor gown
1530′s petticoat
1530′s Kirtle
English Hood
1605 Gown
Embroidered Night Cap
Blackwork sleeves
Blackwork partlet
Doublet and Pluderhosen
Edwardian Lingerie Gown

Swetnam suggests three ways that a fighter may hold the rapier. The first is called the Natural Fashion. This grip is formed by holding the rapier with the thumb forward or on the rapier blade. The second manner is formed with the whole hand held within the pommel of the rapier and the thumb locking the fore-finger in. You may also hold the rapier so that the thumb and fore-finger join at the smallest part of the grip. The third and final method is called the Stokata Fashion. This grip is formed by having only the forefinger and thumb within the pummel of the rapier. The rest of your fingers are held around the pommel and the button of the pommel is held against the inside of the little finger. 

These descriptions may seem vague and confusing at first but upon closer examination we can see that that is not necessarily the case. In the Natural Fashion the sword should be griped so that the palm and fingers of the hand wrap around the grip of the sword and the thumb is held so that it is touching the base of the sword. This adds extra stability and strength to the guard making it ideal for executing cuts. The second and unnamed guard is framed similarly to the Natural Fashion but rather holding the thumb so that it touches the base of the bade the thumb is also wrapped around the grip of the sword where it held so that it touches the first finger. Finally, in the Stokata Fashion the grip of the sword is only held with the thumb and first finger while the rest of the hand is held wrapped around the pommel of the sword. 

A fighter should spend time practicing these grips until he is skillful with all three. Now it’s true that a fighter will be likely to favor one grip over the others just as a personal preference but it’s very important that he still be skillful with all three. There will be times when one grip will be better for executing a particular attack or defense than the others and it may or may not be the same grip that the fighter generally prefers. For example, Swetnam prefers the natural fashion for executing wrist blows because this method of holding the sword adds more strength to the blow than the other two methods and allows a fighter to execute the attack more swiftly.

Before beginning his discourse on fighting, Swetnam takes the time to lay down “seven principal rules where on true defense is grounded”. These seven principles cover such cornerstones as distance, time, and place as well as several other precepts that make up the foundation of almost every martial art.

The first principal is that a fighter must learn and be able to maintain a good guard for the entire length of time that he is in danger of being attacked by his opponent.  It is not simply enough for a fighter to have academic knowledge of the guard, that is not enough to provide protection against an opponent. Only being able to properly frame a guard that provides a good ward against an opponent will protect a fighter. It is also imperative that the fighter be able to maintain his guard for the duration of the fight. The guard is only able to provide protection as long as it is in use. If a fighter ceases to maintain his guard during the fight he makes himself vulnerable to attack from his opponent.

Secondly, a fighter must have a good understanding of distance. A fighter must be able to stand so that he is outside of his opponent’s range but close enough that he can still reach him with a step forward and an attack. When he does attack his forward foot and hand must move together. He should also take care to keep his rear foot firm on the ground so that he may more easily regain an en-guard position once he has finished his attack.  The best way to gain a true understanding of distance is by practicing with other fighters. However, if that is not possible, a fighter may gain a good knowledge of distance by practicing alone and using a wall to represent one’s opponent. When using a wall for practice a fighter should be standing with his rear foot approximately 12 feet from the wall and should be practicing with a rapier approximately 4 feet long.  Distance is a fundamental concept of fighting. It is important that a fighter understand and be able to determine not only their body’s distance from their opponent, but also the distance covered by his and his opponent’s range of attack. It is vital that a fighter have an understanding not only his own range, but also the range of his opponent. Once he understands these ranges he will be able to determine not only when he is within range to attack his opponent but also when he is within their range and in danger of being attacked himself. Once a fighter has obtained an understanding of range and distance he can then manipulate them to his advantage.

The Third Principal Rule that a fighter must keep in mind is that he must have a good understanding of place. There are several “places” that a fighter must understand: the place of the weapons, the place of defense, and the place of offence. However, Swetnam is chiefly concerned with the place of offence, meaning the place on a fighter’s opponent which is most vulnerable to attack; the place the fighter is most able to hurt his opponent without overly endangering himself.  A fighter needs to have a good understanding of how to spot or create openings in his opponent’s defense. Otherwise he runs the risk of creating openings in his own defense while executing ineffective attacks on his opponent. If a fighter wants to be effective at endangering his opponent it is imperative that he understand is opponent’s vulnerable areas and be able to attack them and manipulate them to his advantage.

To take the time”, the fourth rule, dictates that a fighter should take care to strike his opponent the moment his is given an opportunity to do so. He must take care to both defend himself and attack his enemy in the same time. He also must take care to attack quickly and not allow his opponent to regain his guard or else he will lose his advantage.  If a fighter does not take care to defend himself when he attacks his opponent then he runs the risk of leaving himself vulnerable to a counter attack and places himself at a disadvantage to his opponent. Similarly, if he does not take care to attack and defend in the same time but takes multiple times to complete these movements he also leaves himself open to a counter attack by his opponent.

Swetnam’s Fifth Principal Rule concerns “keeping the space”. The space can refer to two things. The first is the space between a fighter and his opponent which is covered in the rule concerning distance. The second concerns the space between attacks, which is what Swetnam discusses in his fifth rule. Swetnam cautions that a fighter must take care to mind the space between his attacks, meaning that when a fighter charges his opponent with a blow or a thrust he must take care that after his attack he takes time to regain his guard and defense before attacking again. He cautions that a fighter must attack with discretion, mindful of what he is doing, and that he should not charge forward needlessly or rashly. If a man does not attack mindfully and allows his emotions to control his actions during the fight then he makes himself vulnerable, no matter how skilled he may be otherwise.

It is also imperative that a fighter posses patience, the subject of the sixth rule. A fighter must have patience in order to govern his own emotions, an ability that is vital to a fighter’s success.  If he can not govern himself he leaves himself vulnerable to his opponent and allows his opponent an undue advantage.

Finally, a fighter must practice and practice often. Not only is practicing good exercise for maintaining health but it also helps a fighter firmly entrench the skills that he has learned of the Arte of Defense. If a fighter finds himself in need of the skills he has learned they will be readily available to him if he has taken the time to practice.

The Seven Principal Rules that Swetnam discusses may seem like common sense but they are the same basic principals that help to make up the foundations of all the martial practices that make up the Arte of Defense. If a fighter does not understand the purpose of a proper guard and can not form one to protect himself then he is open to attack from every angle. Similarly all fighters have to be able to understand distance in order to know where they are in relation to their opponent and at what point they or their opponent is within range of attack. He also has to be able to understand when he or his opponent is vulnerable to attack so that he is able to both protect himself and assault his opponent. The rules are basic but that is because they help make up the very basics of the fighting art and are necessary to both attack and defend.

When I was baroness I had several projects I really wanted to pursue but I put on the back burner due to time constraints. Among there projects were training manuals for Silver and Swetnam’s systems of defense. Now I am ready to pick those projects back up. While I was finishing my recent article on Swetnam I spent some time thinking about how I wanted to make these manuals available. In the end I’ve decided to publish them in installments here on my blog. Starting probably next week but definitely by the week of the 19th I will be making them a weekly feature. I haven’t yet decided which day I will be publishing them but currently I’m leaning towards midweek. My current plan is to start with Silver and then do Swetnam. When they are finished I’ll be compiling them and making them available in pdf format on my website.

I’ve also be diligently embroidering my jacket to the point where I feel pretty good about taking on another sewing project. I’ve been enamored with Flanders gowns since doing the research for my loose gown in 2006. I have some lovely wool flannel that would be perfect for the project and I’ve decided to make it fully fur lined since I have wanted a fur lined gown since probably 2005. I know I live in North Carolina and am not likely to get to wear it very often but I don’t care. It’s going to gorgeous and it will ensure beautiful weather for Ymir in February. I have wanted to try my hand a working with fur for quite some time and I already have several coats for the project.