Grabbing my swords, hopping on a boat…

In August I’ll be teaching at CNAT, the Cascadia North Accolade Tournament. I’m always leery of teaching at WMA events. My teaching style just doesn’t lend itself to the kinds of classes I feel people want to take. I don’t feel comfortable teaching “manual” classes. I think teaching scholarly material is for those with an aptitude for academics. That’s not me, at least not in the formal sense. Honestly I often feel completely out of the place in the WMA world. I don’t argue well, I don’t get debate culture and don’t understand the rules or conventions…so when I try to participate online, I usually wind up feeling somewhat bullied. I don’t do much better in person, either. I often feel at a complete loss with some of the “name” people because of that.

When Jordan Both asked me back to teach last year, I reluctantly agreed. I have to admit that part of the reason I agreed was that Jordan asked just the right way, and I couldn’t think of a polite way to beg off. And I was curious to see what the event was like, what it had become after the first one. I was in a quandary about what classes to teach, though. I had no interest in debating my interpretations of the historical material, so I didn’t want to teach any of that. But what else would people be interested in taking?

I prefer one on one coaching and leading groups through progressive lessons, but those weren’t really options. I would up teaching two classes. One was an overview of historical wrestling, which I really enjoyed. The other was a class I really figured no one would take, in which I presented my gymnastics-based workout. I honestly thought I’d have an empty class. Actually I’d planned on it, hoping I’d be able to take some of the other classes being offered. Didn’t work out. I got a great showing of students with good athleticism and attitudes. It was an awesome class. I had an absolutely fantastic time teaching both classes.

I did some fencing at the event as well, but it was pretty miserable. I hadn’t picked up a rapier in years, but some old friends were going to be there. I couldn’t pass up a chance to spar with them. I got some fights in, but I felt like a fish out of water. Since then, though…I’ve regained my love of rapier, thanks to Jordan, Kaja and Mr. Moone.

So I was more than happy to agree to come back this year. And now that I know what to expect of the students, I’ve got two special classes planned. The formal descriptions are:

Movement and Guard – 2 hours (advanced students)
“A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.” Hit a plateau? Lost all the zest in your training, feeling a little stale? Want to be the best in the world, but just can’t figure out how you can get better? In this class we will work on deep structure, learn to develop new movement patterns, and learn how to adapt your physique and habits to your preferred system and weapons.

Cutting – 2 hours (intermediate and advanced students)
“Killing with the point lacks artistry…” The most complex art of swordplay lies in mastery of cutting. If you want to make your fencing game more beautiful, or want to learn how to deal, or deal out, those frustrating and annoying cuts that always seem to land no matter what logic says, this is the class for you. In this class we will explore the physics of the moving blade, how best to move the body to accommodate the blade, and teach an understanding of the effects of interactions with other blades.

In the first class, I’m going to touch a little bit on what I do in my private lessons, which is a complete deconstruction and rebuild of style. I did a tiny little bit of this in the gymnastics class last year. I’ll be sharing some of the tools I use for movement and posture analysis, and some exercises for developing deep self-awareness. We’ll use this to help the students break down some of their habitual patterns, and learn to move in new ways that work better for the individual. We’ll explore how to take that knowledge and expand it out into combat movement and the formation of guards. This stuff is what I love to teach, more than anything. I’m really looking forward to this class. I listed it as being for advanced students. It’s not hard material, but it will be of more benefit to people to who’ve already put some helmet time in. I’m also lazy and don’t want to have to explain things beginners might not know. This class will work equally well for longsword, rapier or any other crazy weapon students prefer. Bring your favourite to class.

In the second class, I’m actually going to do almost the same things as in the first class. I’m just going to take it to the next logical step and cover how a weapon moves in space, and what happens when it meets another weapon. This class is intended for single-handed weapons. Any kind. This one is more open to less experienced students, as I will be using examples from historical swordplay. It’s also less exploratory and a little more directed. I love the cutting game, and am sometimes just flummoxed that people don’t seem to “get” cuts. I’m hoping this class will help spread the love, and get people thinking outside the box a little. I’ll also be covering some of my favourite dirty tricks and little secrets. Might not be a bad idea to bring a notebook for this one.

Really looking forward to this year. The excellent David Teague will be back, I’m hoping I get a chance to do some slow work with him. Not sure who the other instructors are yet, outside of the AD crew I already know. I keep hearing rumours of some interesting people. Register if you haven’t already, it’s a great event!

4 Comments

  1. I’m really excited for this year’s CNAT, and credit last year’s event (and sparring with you there in particular) for re-energizing me at a time when my rapier fight was stagnating and I was losing a lot of my focus and motivation. That’s no longer an issue, and the thanks go both ways.

  2. Have fun, and tell Dave Teague and Devon “hi” for me!

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