Hot in the Cold: Late Season Workouts

The Saturday class is a special one for us. We don’t do any martial arts training. It’s pure conditioning. It’s a bonus class for students who want to get an edge over everyone else, by having just a little bit more strength and speed. In the hot days of summer, the workout is primarily sprints and ring work. Martial artists, especially those who specialize in weapons work, need speed. Speed comes from the right kind of strength. The kind of strength we want is the kind that involves more fully activating a muscle than normal. You develop this kind of strength by making the muscle work as hard as possible in the shortest amount of time, and having a nice long recovery between exercises. We sprint on a short soccer field, and only use part of it. Twenty metres. Not really enough time to build up top speed for a…

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Lest We Forget

MY mother’s father only ever told the “good” stories of the war. Even the ones that included his boots being full of his own blood were told with a laugh. His study was covered in pictures of ships he’d served on, and with books of war and naval service. Laughter, pipe smoke and whisky I remember from when I was young. My father’s father never spoke of the war, and I was too young before he passed to know enough about him, but his silence was a remembrance for me as well. His war was in the air and seen through a bomb-sight, and some duties are harder to laugh about. When I was a teenager, I would go to the Remembrance Day ceremonies and watch my big, burly grandfather march with all his medals and his old, old friends. My young friends and I would stand together in silence…

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Do You Know What Pressure Is?

I had a wonderful night last night. My family got to reconnect with our long out of touch French relatives. It was, I think, the first time in a long time…since world war two perhaps, that this has happened. In the midst of a giant family reunion, I fell back on my old childhood patterns. Found myself a quiet corner to hide but still observe. As an adult, I can’t duck under the dining room table anymore. Can’t even fit behind the couch for that matter. I made do by wandering and puttering. I don’t like being shy. No one does. But it’s part of my nature and I make do. It’s not always a bad thing. When I was a child, being shy made me happy. Hiding out and listening to the voices of all the adults in the room chattering away, smelling dinner cooking…these are my happiest childhood…

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Coaching Versus Teaching

We started working on new footwork techniques about a month ago, and experimenting with new guard positions for rapier. We changed up our stance, and altered our hand position. This gave us some interesting new tactics to explore. Some worked out, some didn’t. I think it’s a valuable course to follow, but will require significant increases in forearm strength to really soar. Some confusion sinks in when we work on new material. We do have a set, core body of knowledge that forms the basis for everything we do in class. This is taught in our beginner class. I assume this knowledge is in the background of everyone in the regular class. Drills work off of that understanding. New material is intended to be an alternate to the core, but sometimes students think it’s a replacement to the core material. Which is why I prefer to call myself a coach…

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Painting Death

Ditch all the drama of martial arts, and you are left with a reality that doesn’t jive with our spoken or even understood reasons for training. Mostly we spend time justifying our interest. A lot of the justifications I hear don’t stand up under some scrutiny, but we still use those justifications amongst ourselves to try and make ourselves more right than other practitioners. I train for reality, therefor your sport approach sucks. I train for historical accuracy, so your reality approach sucks. You train just for fun? Poser. Loser. Your art is empty. Long term goals are always a bit of a fantasy. As the old saying goes, you can tell what you will be doing two years from now about as well as you predicted today two years ago. Nothing wrong with putting a little aside for a rainy day, but don’t waste today’s opportunities. For us martial…

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Where The Wild Things Are

At Valkyrie, our semi-official motto is “We Make Monsters.” “Monsters” means a few things to us. The obvious is that after almost a year of our unique physical training, we’ve made some impressive gains in athleticism and martial prowess. Shirts that were loose a year ago barely fit our shoulders now. I remember getting into an argument with someone alone who insisted that bodyweight training was useless for martial arts, compared to weight training. He argued that bodyweight training didn’t scale, that it was nothing but diminishing returns. He also said it was impossible to achieve hypertrophy (gain in muscle size) with bodyweight training, and felt that real strength training only came with weights. At the time, I argued for the superiority of bodyweight work based mostly on superior muscle activation over a broader range of motion. I felt that was all that was needed for the bodyweight training to…

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