East meets West

Five more days til our first class. I’ve added a nice new sidebar for our Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for insurance and hopefully a few other things. We are doing great so far, but we still aren’t there. The campaign will run for another week, but we need to pay for insurance by friday, or monday at the latest. Things are coming down to the crunch, so if you’ve been thinking of kicking in a few bucks, now is the time! Hell, if you just like the blog and want to say thanks, it’s a great way to do so!

Talking with some potential new students recently has been interesting. When you are involved with a community, you tend to forget that it’s still small and unknown. Western Martial Arts is still unknown even in Vancouver, so people still ask me what it means. They don’t really know what a Western, as opposed to Eastern, martial art is.

This is usually a fun conversation and I get to ramble for some time about all the neat historical things that people seem to have never been exposed to. I like that, it brings out the leo in me, and the giant ego of getting to be the person that shines the light…I think I probably should have capitalized that, but I’m shy on coffee this morning…

The real fun part is explaining things to experienced martial artists, and talking about what the practical differences in practice are. That’s where I tell them the hard part, that they have to expect to get their butt seriously kicked the first time they spar. No matter how long they’ve been training for, or what rank they are, they are likely to get stomped the first time they mask up and have a go. And they are likely to get stomped by a relative newbie. This will happen with the armed portion, and might even happen with the unarmed portion.

It’s not that the art is inherently better…I do believe all arts pretty much stand on equal footing…it’s that the practice tends to be better. The use of steel weapons and protective gear encourages a sense of reality about sparring and training that is rare in other arts. The extremely high proficiency of some practitioners encourages a competitive arms race for technique and training, and there is something about using the rapier and longsword…the complicated angulations of use, the permutations of power and speed, aggressiveness and deceitfulness, all married to a complete system with the weight of history on it’s side. It subtly twists the mind.

There are some wonderful Eastern arts out there, but it’s the rare instructor who can teach them correctly. They do exist, and they make students who can stand with anyone…but that’s rare. Currently the WMA’s are on top of the heap. I expect that will change as more crosstraining happens, and the WMA/EMA community expands into either becoming just the MA community, or certain regions re-create history and start to develop new local styles…


  1. I recommend softening the blow by saying “attacks are going to come in on angles that you probably have not been taught to defend.” This is literally true for savate (our kicks ain’t the thai stuff), and often true for weapons, but puts the conversation in a vein where nobody need get defensive.

    • In person, I cover the softening by making it a conversation. With foreknowledge, the first experience can be different, and I think that’s good for everyone. I do love the savate kicks. The power generation by rotation instead of weight-shifting really screws with some people’s concepts. I have to admit I teach it more in line with what I learned from a rare and wonderful TKD teacher, but…gotta make things your own! …and that reminds me, I guess I better start getting my legs limber again. Ugh.

  2. I wish I had the opportunity to come for a ‘play’ with you and your guys & gals. I came to RMA via EMA and one of the things we stress a lot in our little training group is training with weapons, real weapons. I have found it keeps you honest in the way that constant empty hand does not. My view is that empty hand work is an extension of weapons work whereas my experience has been that most MA teach empty hand with weapons as a (poor) add on. Seems like a subtle difference but it appears to produce a totally different mindset.

    • Ayup. I do see the value of solid non-weapon training, wrestling in particular is invaluable to good swordplay, but I think weapon sparring is the way to go. That one extra level of complexity, the extra joint in the limb as it were, seems to be the best brain food for fighting.

      • You can’t teach a viable martial art with any relevance to ‘the street’ unless you include a good portion of unarmed work (I mean, who is going to attack you if you are carrying your rapier? Even the bad guys have some degree of sense!) but I am now strongly of the opinion that at the very least armed and unarmed should be taught together or armed (preferably bladed weapons) should come first. Unconventional. Who? Me?

        • I’ve seen time and time again, that even if you’re going to do mostly unarmed, armed training improves your sense of distance and angulation.

          • I remember teaching a friend unarmed fighting when we were getting a little stale with our rapier game. I was frustrated as hell when we started to spar. Her sense of measure and timing was good enough to shut down years of my martial arts training. Combat training is combat training, for the most part.

            My approach now is a unified one. Fencing is a fight with weapons, and includes boxing (hitting with any limb) and wrestling. Boxing is fencing without weapons. Wrestling is fighting without weapons or striking. It seems simple, but once I re-taught myself what those words mean, my fight game and teaching style changed forever. Box Wrestle Fence isn’t just the name of the blog, it’s my martial arts mantra…

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