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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Integration and the Silly Dance

Sipping my coffee in our chilly library this morning, bleary eyed and reading facebook while I slowly came awake, I read a post by Ido Portal talking about his day’s training in Thailand. He talked about it being an integration day. What he meant by this is that it was a day to start letting the body know what it had learned. Drills and exercises are maximal effort things. We put everything we have into doing something correctly. We push ourselves to our limits. What’s the point of working out, otherwise? We push hard to establish a new upper limit for our abilities. Those new upper limits don’t immediately show up in our training. And if they do, they can sometimes be counter-productive. At Valkyrie, we work very hard on our strength training. For someone who’s an experienced fighter, a rapid boost in strength can trip you up. Strength makes…

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Myriad Paths

Handwork has certain character to it. In Valkyrie, our handwork is mostly modern boxing, with legwork thrown in from Savate and Shotokan. It’s a good blend, workable and enjoyable. Very practical. But it’s not a complete game. Modern boxing is a distillation of things that work, but much as we see in modern fencing, it’s a distillation that has thrown out workable things for the sake of consistency, whether for rules or safety. In fencing, the fight between the French and Italian schools, and the fights within the Italians schools, left us with a winner and many losers. It’s worth remembering that the losers once stood shoulder to shoulder with the winner, and earned equal respect. That shouldn’t be forgotten. Best is often only a marginal distinction. Boxing is an open art. The feet and hips swing, drive the shoulders, and the hands arc to the target. The arc might…

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Con Permiso: An Honest Look at Self-Defence

The truth is, the fancy police or military-based combatives training isn’t really going to do shit for you. I know, they seem so tough. All yell-y and camo’ed up, taught by guys who’ve killed with their bare hands. The techniques are simple, practical, and lethal. They can be used in high stress situations. All very useful when creepy uncle walt puts his hand on your thigh, or your popular co-worker starts feeling you up in the lunch room with all the other employees just outside the door. Go ahead. Break his nose. It’s a great idea, and everyone will applaud you. But you won’t do it. Violence can happen a lot of ways. The popular idea of violence is the gorilla chest-thumping that leads to assault, and yes that does happen. Men and women both do it in their own ways. There are also the human goblins, evil little shits…

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