This week the Sport of Kings featured fighter is Sir Rauokinn eyverska Starradottir, KSCA. Since being knighted in 2003 by Davin III and Groa II, she consistently seeks to increase her combat skill at arms and create new opportunities to learn and improve for herself and others.
SOK: Tell me a little bit about yourself. How long have you been in and fighting in the SCA?
ReS: 14 years. My sister, Daphne Achaxe, was doing this stick fighting thing, and when I moved up to Seattle to go to law school she told me I was going to love it – I thought she was crazy. But she dragged me to a practice, put me in armor and I have never looked back. During law school, I externed for a Judge in San Francisco for the summer and had the opportunity to play and fight in the West a bit. I grew up in Southern California, but have spent the majority of my “SCA” life in Madrone, An Tir.
SOK: What hooked you and keeps you coming back?
ReS: Fighting and friendship. I like the historical aspects of our game as well, but without the fighting and the wonderful people I am blessed to call my friends, I am pretty sure I would not play at the level I do at present.
What I like most about the SCA is that we are, at our best, an organization that is welcoming and has something for everyone and room for all different types of level of play and commitment to the game. I think that is important and that sometimes we lose sight of how cool this aspect of our organization is when we pursue too narrow-mindedly “authenticity.” But that is probably a conversation for a different day.
SOK: To whom were you squired and how did you choose your knight?
ReS: I was squired to Sir Timmothy ap Caradoc and he chose me. No, really, he was teaching in my area, my boyfriend at the time was his squire, and Sir Timm welcomed me to his training sessions and finally decided that since I was already doing the work, he would throw a belt at me (literally). I feel very fortunate to have made this connection, Timm is a skilled teacher and one of the most cerebral and analytical fighters I have ever met.
SOK: Who are your greatest fighting training influences?
ReS: This could be a huge list. I differentiate between influential, inspirational and indispensable. I have been influenced to fight and train certain ways by people, I am inspired to fight by others and still others have been indispensable on my path to be a better fighter and knight.
I am honestly just so grateful for all the time and energy and consideration that so many people have shown me on my journey to be a better fighter and knight. And I think influence and inspiration comes from so many places and is so important to acknowledge.
SOK: Why SCA fighting as opposed to any other martial sport?
ReS: I found fighting first and I have a finite amount of time to spend outside of work doing things I love. Also, armor protects my body and allows me to work at a professional job without broken fingers or a swollen face or other obvious “damage” that I would have to explain at work. I feel strong and athletic and fierce and alive when I fight. I am in the moment. Fighting is freeing for me in that way. It brings me joy in an amount that is difficult to quantify.
SOK: What do you consider to be your greatest fighting related accomplishments?
ReS: I am such a goal oriented person it is hard for me to sit back and say, yeah this is my greatest accomplishment. I have not accomplished my long term goals yet, but when I do, I hope I will feel like that is my greatest accomplishment. But maybe that will just be another step to an even greater goal? Who knows? I guess I do not feel like an “accomplished” fighter yet, I’m still walking the path heading toward accomplishment. If I had to choose something hard I set out to do and accomplished that I’m proud of, I guess it would be coming back after having a baby and getting my prowess back up. Mentally, emotionally and physically that has been a very tough journey. And my prowess is still not where I would like it to be.
SOK: Tell me about your training regimen.
ReS: Over the last several years, I have been working on a well-rounded training regimen than just going out and fighting. It has mental, physical, and technical components.
I’m not sure when, but several years ago, I decided I needed help with focus and tourney head and I was having a really hard time finding any information or techniques that really worked for me. So, through the magic of the internet, I stumbled onto “The Gold Medal Mental Workout for Combat Sports.” It is a book, a set of CDs and a journal, that guides you through a process to train yourself to focus, relax, feel confident, self-hypnotize, visualize and work on mental and physical triggers to get in the tourney headspace. I have found it invaluable in helping to gain focus, calm confidence and relaxation in a fight.
HE Sir Sagan also sent lent me a couple of books on Ki that I have been reading as well and they have helped my focus and mental game as well.
The physical stuff I do is pretty basic – interval training to work on anaerobic bursts (like fighting), core work, to make my abs strong for power generation, yoga for flexibility and balance, and strength training for power and speed. There’s a bunch of exercises I am trying to work into that build better explosive power, but physically I do not think I’m ready to go there yet. That will probably be the next step.
Daily pell work – working on throwing with perfect technique, pell drills to work targeting and transitions between shots, and moving and throwing and footwork drills. Partnered drill work – once or more a week – drills with a partner working on technique. Critiqued Sparring. Video Analysis. Review of fighting/ martial arts texts – SCA manuals and martial arts manuals – the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, the Principles of Effortless Power, The Book of Five Rings, Duke Paul’s Fighting Manual, The Old Castle Manual, the Asgard stuff, you name it and I have probably read it or have it in the queue to read. I incorporate what works for me and sometimes use techniques to make what I do better.
SOK: Do you consider yourself primarily a tourney or war fighter?
ReS: I’m a singles fighter primarily. Whether that is in tourneys or pickups or what have you; I am a bit of a fighting junkie. I figure if I want to fight or learn more, I need to put some energy into making things happen. To that end, I have tried to organize regional practices and have put together a winter workshop series where we bring in top teachers to teach once a month over the winter. The workshops have been great, we have been doing them for three years and I have made friends with people from all over the kingdom and the known world. I actually have people coming up to me or emailing me and asking if they can come out and teach. It has been pretty cool.
SOK: What do you think about the SCA tournaments as a whole?
ReS: There are not enough of them. Seriously, they are one of the best ways to spend a weekend. I love the camaraderie, watching skilled opponents compete, seeing other fighters develop and mature over time and meeting new people and nurturing old friendships.
Sir Octamasades and I put together a “Tourney Circuit” for An Tir for 2011, where we designated one tourney a month for a bunch of us to agree to go to and you get points for competing, bringing people with you and for winning. The turn outs for the tourneys have been great; the smallest tourney so far still had 43 people in it. But what has been even cooler is getting to know so many of the fighters from across the kingdom better and being able to give each other feedback on one another’s fighting and knowing you are going to get top level tourney fighting once a month. I have additionally tried to be diligent about filming the tourneys and have been posting the video to YouTube, so that the participants can self-critique. This is a hugely important tool.
SOK: What advice do you have for new fighters?
ReS: Fighting is not easy. Things worth doing rarely are. Enjoy the journey of learning, don’t fixate on a destination and do not compare your progress to others.
SOK: You’ve been a big supporter of Sport of Kings: Academy of Armored Combat as a student, a staff member and an instructor. What do you hope to get from this year’s event?
ReS: I really want to take some classes from some of the out of kingdom guys that are coming to teach. I like getting a new perspective on techniques. I’m also planning to teach a couple of classes this year that are not gender focused and I’m hoping they are well attended. Sometimes being a female knight, people pigeon hole you into only being able to teach other women – I’m hoping people can put aside that misconception and come out and let me share some cool stuff with them that I have learned over the years.
SOK: Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about your kit and presentation as a fighter. What is your fighting kit persona and how did you choose it?
ReS: I am 10th century Viking from the Orkney Islands. The clothes were comfortable after a day of fighting – I had originally tried a Scottish 14th century persona and hated it — after fighting all day the last thing I wanted was to be in a tight dress.
SOK: How important is period presentation to you?
ReS: I like to look Viking, but I admit I love my side mounted heater and I know that is not a period appropriate shield for me. I have found questionable documentation for it from Sagas and the Lewis chessmen, but I know it is not right. And honestly, I do not care too much. I love my heater and I love my Viking stuff. I just try to meld them together the best I can and laugh off the “Space Viking” jokes.
SOK: What resources do you use to make your presentation more period?
ReS: My husband. He is my personal armorer. He is amazing at maintaining my stuff. Books. The Armour Archive has been a huge boon in connecting with people that make cool things. Also, maintaining my soft kit makes a huge difference. I enjoy embroidery and appliqué and sewing. What has really been cool is just the sharing of knowledge within the group as a whole and my circle of friends who do a similar time period. The SCA is unique in that allows one to nurture so many different facets of their personality/ interests. The motivation is the joy of doing – whether it is fighting, serving or an artistic endeavor.
SOK: What advice do you have to a fighter that might like to have a persona/kit of the same time and place?
ReS: Find a helmet you like, that is protective and fits perfectly. Build your kit around it. There are some guys who are making beautiful helms. Invest the money it takes to have a helm you like. Your helm makes our breaks your kit.
If you’d like to connect with Sir Raoukinn at an event or a practice, she regularly attends the weekly Madrone Wednesday practice and will be hitting the events on the An Tir tourney circuit this summer. Many thanks to Sir Raoukinn for her time and support.