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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Arts & Sciences: La Verdadera Destreza Research Paper Experience

(If you stick through to the end you get a peek at me in my epic period Elizabethan kit that makes me look like I stepped out of a Spanish painting, hehe) 

"Life pleasant, the enemy a strong man, danger ordinary, defence natural, the science to achieve it infallible, its study obligatory and practice necessary."
Don Luis Pacheco de Narvaez, Nueva cienicia

This past weekend I had the privilege of entering a La Verdadera Destreza (LVD) research paper into an SCA Arts and Sciences (A&S) event.  The event was called the Laurel's Prize Tourney and involved more than 20 challenges that were issued by the Laurels of the SCA (peers of the A&S community).  The challenges included those in weaving, brewing, heraldry, performance, and many more crafts.

The challenge that I entered was called "Research, Research, and then Research Some More" offered by Mistress Elysabeth Underhill.  It involved submitting a research paper on the topic of your choice, as well as displaying and presenting this information to those at the event in a creative and informative way.

The paper I submitted was originally written for King and Queen's A&S Championship that was held in February, but due to some things in life beyond my control I was not able to attend that event.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to enter my paper into another event that I could actually attend, where I could receive additional feedback, learn how I could better myself, and hopefully spread the good word of La Verdadera Destreza far and wide :-)

If you would like to just jump to the paper I am providing a direct link below this paragraph.  Beware though that it is 13 pages of research paper and 27 overall with all of the extras.

by Doroga Voronin

Other than giving you the link to my paper I wanted to do a little bit more here.  Similar to how I have told folks who read my blog what I have learned from applying LVD in practice and tournaments, I will do the same thing regarding my research and display.

It is a fine line I will walk though because while I don't want to beat myself up for what I feel I didn't do, I DO want to be honest and share with everyone what I learned from this event, how I am going to use this knowledge to move forward, and most importantly show that there is a process of growth that occurs from A&S experience like there is from fencing drills and competition.

To Begin:

To paraphrase a conversation and discussion I had with Mistress Underhill, I did not spring fully formed from the A&S womb into what I am today to compete in this competition, lol.  This was not my first Destreza related A&S event and I have been building up to this point with more than 2 years of research and slightly less than that entering events.  In the fall of 2015 I entered and won honorable mention at St. Eligius for a demo of a period technique (old blog post on that here).  Last spring I displayed an annotated bibliography (link to that older document here) at KnQ A&S champs that taught me a ton about displays and gave me a bunch of ideas for my research.  Last summer at Pennsic I hosted a Destreza meet and greet, and taught a class on footwork and theory that incorporated much about the history and context of this period style (lesson plan and blog post linked here).  All of that lead up to me writing and displaying this paper.

The Display:

Part of the competition was to "think about how you can present your work to those who are at the event and who may not have the time to read your entire paper"  Here is what my display looked like.

Sadly I forgot to take a picture of it at the event, but I recreated it for you on my kitchen table :-).

My display at last year's KnQ was much different.  One thing I learned from that was to use WORDS, lol.  My display last year was nothing but a board with various Spanish circles on it, along with my annotated bibliography printed out and displayed below.  What I found out was that the Spanish circle can in fact be used as a Rorschach ink blot test.  People had a hard time figuring out if I was showing examples of celestial navigation, map making, alchemy symbols, or fencing.  Those were all actual guesses that came up when people stopped by to look at my work.   So this year I made it clear with a title, summary points, and some fun quotes from my paper, such as the Pacheco quote at the top of this post, along with the plates I used and cited.  I also used as my table cloth the folded up full size replica Spanish circle that I created this past year (blog post on that linked here).  I actually got the idea to pursue and create that circle after a conversation I had with Master Magnus hvalmagi at last year's display.  That circle table cloth this year was't fully visible, but it was a really great conversation starter for folks walking by.

To summarize my A&S display growth, you can't share your passion with someone if they can't figure out what it is.  :-)

The Paper:

Let me say that I am so appreciative for the feedback that I received from Mistress Underhill at the event.  Not only did she take the time to read the paper and look at it with an academic's eye, but then she spent approximately an hour discussing it with me and how I can better my research and myself in the SCA.   I must also thank the judges from KnQ A&S champs who read the paper and gave me their feedback even though I was unable to come and speak with them in person at the event.  All of these conversations have helped me frame this and future research projects.

I am very proud of the work that I did.   There are many things that I did well, such as the quantity and quality of the sources that I used (8 primary sources and 6 secondary sources), but I am also looking at it critically so that I can grow as an academic studying and sharing this art.  It was said to me that no one will know what I left out except myself.  That is very true, but I also want to help other people along this path by showing the process of growth that occurs through academic reflection.

Things I can improve upon:

1. A Better Purpose or Argument: 
I knew this was a weakness going into the paper, especially when I wrote it for the KnQ champs competition.  The main purpose of this piece was to help clear up what La Verdadera Destreza actually is, at least in a general sense.  I wrote this paper to be informative and to be a summary of the main concepts of the style.  One of the accurate and main points of feedback that I received from multiple sources was that I could have better tailored the paper to have a more focused argument or purpose rather than a general summary of the material.

2. Narrower Focus for the Topic
Simply put, the scope of what I was trying to cover was too large.  I could have written 4-5 separate papers or an entire book on the material I was trying to cover.  By being general in my informative paper rather than more focused I had to leave a great deal of information out and in doing so I might have left the reader with more questions than answers.  I am idealistic and hope that I encouraged them to study more LVD to find those answers, but I know that is the wrong way to do it.  Going forward I shouldn't be afraid to write a shorter paper that is a closer look at only a part of the art.

3. Don't Generalize
In my excitement and passion for LVD, it was pointed out to me that many times I made very general statements throughout the paper.  This might be permissible in another format, but in an academic research paper, these generalizations are very big holes.  Frequently I compared Destreza to the Italian styles of fencing and since my paper was not on those styles, at best I left the reader hanging and not fully understanding the comparison I was trying to make, at worst my comparison might have been inaccurate or full of research holes you could drive a bus through.  If I am going to prove a point I need to do it more clearly and with less generalization.

I will keep the main summary to the big three take homes for now.  There are other pieces of feedback I received that are just as valuable and that I will always need to be aware of in my studies.  These include:

  • Watching out for the over use of jargon or terminology that people might not understand.  
  • Do not use or overuse quotes without explaining the point they are proving
  • Be aware of my audience and not talk over them with my language
  • Use pictures, data, and graphs effectively to prove my point
  • Stay closer to SCA period when I am writing for this audience

I believe that these items are things that all researchers need to do as they study and write about their topics and I feel very lucky for the guidance and feedback that has been provided to me.  I hope that my reflection on this can help other folks that are interested in researching and writing about a topic understand that this is a gradual process of growth and refinement like the study or practice of any art.

My Reward:

Along with the education and feedback I received, the other take home from this event was a gift from Mistress Underhill.  She rewarded each person who entered one of her challenges with chocolate covered pretzels along with one of her amazing hand made beads.  I am keeping the insanely beautiful bead on my desk at work to remind me to keep chugging along in the art and science of Destreza. I should note that she did in fact give us more pretzels than the one in the photo, but that was the only one left.
Destreza research never tasted so good.  :-)

The Bonus Photo:

Huge thanks to Jeanne Clifton for my period Elizabethan Outfit.
I even have the angry dour period Spanish face going on and everything.
If you want to learn more about this outfit you can check out her write up at Elena's Threads.

Thanks for reading.

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