Win, lose … or live

Aldo Nadi looks back with disdain. He says competitive fencing should be about scoring regardless of form, and jeers those who insisted that every fencer had to demonstrate excellence of form before being allowed to compete. Yet he allows that the process of exacting form produced stronger fighters than the modern crop, who lack correct body mechanics to exploit their natural given advantages. Aldo Nadi fought a duel, an experience completely foreign to almost all modern fencers. Martial arts schools are full of tough-as-nails baddasses who never, and never will, ever fight outside the training hall. Modern fencers adore their longsword and zweihanders because of there apparent war nature, but they will likely never fight in a tournament outside their school, and will only ever daydream about using the blades for real. I’ve seen my share of death up close and personal. Amongst my friends, teachers, and acquaintances are people…

Continue reading

Up to our necks in it

Ripped a cow in half yesterday. Tore into it like a pack of velociraptors. Sectioned it off, scattered it amongst us, cut it to shape. Started with half a cow actually. It’s skin, to be a little more honest. A full side of tooling leather. Six gorgets for the class, to start. After that maybe a set of demi/clamshell gauntlets for everyone. Some of the students of Valkyrie WMA gathered in our living room for our first armour making session. We started out with leather because it’s a little less intimidating to begin with, and it’s easier to see how small shaping differences can have a big effect. Leather is squishy enough that you can mold it by hand and see how it feels on the body. You can do that with metal, but you have to spend time building hammer skill first. It’s tempting to take short cuts with…

Continue reading

A sword in the hand

Spent the morning curled up with coffee and AVB Norman. It’s interesting to look at the large collection of different hilts, and see them in a new light. I’ve fenced with many swords, and I used to be a welder…I’ve smithed my share of things, including a hilt or two. I can look at those centuries of hilts not with the eye of a curator, but with the dual eyes of a maker and a user. The maker does what he was taught to do, and stretches out past that into things he enjoys making, or feels that he has a knack for creating. Once in a rare while, he makes something just for pure pleasure. Mostly, though…you have to make a living. You make what people want. If they like a particular hilt that you make, you are going to be making a lot of that kind of hilt.…

Continue reading

Spring in the step

Not training hurts. I’d forgotten that, and it took ramping up to two days a week to remember that lesson. When I was in my teens, our Shotokan club took the occasional seasonal break. We learned to dread those breaks. A week away from training always resulted in the most awkward creaking pain setting in to the body. I was comparing notes with Squeak at work the other day…As a former figure skater, she had had the same experience. Stopping training sucks. Those good strong muscles, devoid of the discipline of balanced development, start to argue for dominance…and wrench the body apart. Foam rollers help, and so does stretching or any kind of “off-season” activity. We are built to move, not to flop on couches or hunch in chairs all day. It’s a surprisingly brutal prison we force ourselves into, in the name of relaxation or comfort. We develop all…

Continue reading

Day Two, Year of the Rampant Lemur

I don’t believe in new years resolutions. I do, however, believe in taking a little time to just figure out where I am in life, and what’s changing. Seems kind of silly to me to make some big statement about what you plan to do, when you don’t even really know what you’ve been doing. Changes in our lives happen in ways we don’t often notice. We cope with a crisis, we enjoy the moments of happiness. I remember whole years of my life passing like that, moment to moment, telling myself I’d catch up later…and wondering where the hell the massive depression came from. Hell, right now I wonder where the hell all those years wound up. As far as I feel, ten years ago was about a week ago. I’d really rather not have the next ten years go at that pace. I wish I could say I…

Continue reading