Modern Chivalry

I fell flat on my ass, and I’m still not sure how that happened. Working with “Gunslinger” Van Humbeck, I’d opened with a clever lead. Single sword against sword and dagger, I chose to launch a thrust in terza to the inside, just next to his dagger. As my tip cleared his dagger, I snapped my wrist over to quarta as I extended into a passing step, going for the deep reach. As expected, he countered with rising thrust from his rapier up into my exposed face. Having a lovely set of just-so curved quillons on my rapier, I snapped my wrist down to capture his sword, while maintaining my tip in high line to keep his dagger from stabbing in and finishing me off. The Gunslinger took a pivot step as a counter, disengaging to cut around my blade…but I kept the blade pressure on, leading him to briefly…

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Balance, Timing, and the War.

The problem with most martial arts teaching, especially in written form, stems from a basic misunderstanding. In order for me to explain the technique I want to teach, I have to break it down. I have to talk about the separate steps. If I want to teach a parry-riposte, I will talk about an opponent who throws an example attack, and then explain the parry. I might throw in a variation or two, and talk about the good mechanics opposed to the bad. I’ll do the same for the riposte. The problem here is that the attacker has suddenly become a person who stands still. Or has become terminally stupid. It’s a small thing, but it crops up again and again. That tiny flaw starts to show up in students. It infects the minds of teachers. It’s a great big lie, the great big lie of martial arts…that you can…

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Grappling with Wrestling

Coffee and pain are my morning companions today. I’m reviewing the entire class in my head, trying to catalog each iota of pain to a particular activity. Forearms ache from a nasty balance position. Knees are bruised from landing hard during a sprint variation. Back is a mass of pain from trying to do pushups without my feet touching the ground. Shoulders and ribs hurt from handstands and cartwheels. No idea what’s making my outer thighs feel painful to the touch today. The neck pain, though…I know what caused that. Good old fashioned wrestling. The mother sport. The one and only and original martial art. I don’t know of any culture that doesn’t practice wrestling, even if the western world mostly ignores it. If you practice a martial art, you should practice wrestling. If you aren’t familiar with the effort and play of full-out grappling, then your art is only…

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Mixing Martial Arts: Swords, Fists, and Sexuality

It’s been a historic weekend for martial arts. Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche tore it up in the first UFC women’s Bantamweight championship. It was a great fight…Rousey was the expected winner, and won the way that a lot of people predicted, but it wasn’t a walkover. Rousey earned the win after surviving a truly vicious neck crank. It takes a champion to keep fighting through that kinda pain. It was a good fight. While it was historic, I really enjoyed that it was, at least in the media, mostly free of controversy. Most of the fight media did something that would have been unexpected a few years ago. The only condescension to be found in most coverage was in the subtext of wondering why it took so long to happen. And Liz Carmouche’s sexuality was treated as a part of her character, not as a novelty…it was just a…

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Boxing Marozzo

We had a complex technique to learn, so I decided to start the class out with warm up drills. In theory, an angled off-line step is a simple thing, even with a passing step. In practice…much more complex. Facing an eager opponent with a sword pointed in your face, and planning to step forward as that thing rockets at your face, at a speed no punch could ever hope to match? That takes courage…and timing, as well as excellent body mechanics. So after our sprints and strength training, we moved into boxing drills. Started with a simple jab/cross combo. Boxing is an excellent exercise for the more academic fencers. It’s very hard for a rooted fighter to box correctly. You have to develop agile feet and smooth body movement to perform basic techniques well, and fencing tends to make people stiff. Our counters to the jab were a lean back…to…

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Fight Rhythm

I suppose we run an unusual class. Hearing that we teach fencing, and sticking your head in the door to see what a class looks like, it’s not going to be what you expect. The first thing you might notice is the music. It varies, but it’s always playing, and always something with a rhythm and swing to it. Music is important to martial arts training. It helps with motivation. When the effort gets to be a real grind and exhaustion sets in, you tend to become aware of the music. It relaxes you. Taking a few seconds to just bounce around or sway to the music is big energy boost. It can occasionally make it a little tricky to hear instruction, though…If I’m teaching something complex I might turn it down for the explanation and demo. Most of the class is drilling, so mostly I only need to shout…

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