Balancing Reality and Fantasy in Martial Arts Practice

The UFC is the ultimate test of the value of any unarmed martial art. If your art doesn’t stand up in full-contact Mixed Martial Arts practice, it’s of no value. If you train with weapons, then your art and training better stand up to full-contact tournaments, or it’s useless. Or so goes one side of the argument. The other side argues that tournaments of any kind are artificial environments, and therefor a poor reflection of true combative reality. The first side tends to fetishize competition winners, the other side side fetishizes talking about violence and loves people who have to deal with violence in a professional aspect. Down the middle of this line we have most martial arts schools. They try to keep to themselves for the most part. The have some students that compete, and they keep a weather eye out for the latest “It works in the streets”…

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Good, Bad, and a Little of Both

Saturday Valkyrie had to deal with an assault in the neighbourhood. We intervened quickly, and as a team. It was an unpleasant interruption to the afternoon’s teaching, but these sort of things happen in life. I’ll probably write more about the incident in a later post, but for now I want to talk about some of the aspects of self-defense that never really get critically examined. I want to talk about the bad guy. The subject in the weekend’s play was a bad guy in that there was absolutely a victim. She was bloody and on the ground, and her main role in events seems to have been to try and stop violence between the bad guy and her partner. Bad guy hit her and she was injured and that’s pretty much all the legal we need to know. Bad guy was a bad guy in that he was angry,…

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In Search Of Real Self Defense

Run away. That’s got to be the piece of martial arts advice I hate the most. It’s so full of smug assumptions about what constitutes a self-defense situation that I feel only envy for the life of people who think it is good advice. Of course, when we are talking about self-defense, context matters. So if you are talking exclusively to men involved in some sort of social display that mostly has a positive or negative outcome that affects social status, but risks life and limb? By all means take this excellent advice, which could also be summed up with “Don’t be an idiot.” For the rest of the situations that might happen to us, the kind we frequently read about in the papers and inspire us to consider lessons in self-defense? By the time the event is happening, if we had the opportunity, we would have run already. Or…

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Hard Starts

Sometimes I don’t know how my students do it. Fencing is a damned hard thing to learn. It’s demoralizing. You have to be fit, and that’s a process that is quite daunting for some. Especially since the fitness we demand isn’t the normal kind that you can brag about to your friends. No easily recorded kilometres run or weight lifted, no records to compare from last week. You need to have an excellent posture that translates all the way from your spine to your toes and fingers, with no weak points between. That takes dedicated strength work and tenacious endurance…and you won’t see the results for years. And the techniques are complex. The weapons are awkward. Throw on top of that our demand that you also excel at boxing and wrestling and you’ve got a very steep learning curve. Toss knife and cane work on top of that. And our…

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Fat

There is a current and recurrent thread amongst HEMA and other martial arts disciplines that mocks the fat instructor. It’s one of those things that everyone feels comfortable jumping in on. Five years ago I dropped 50lbs. It was just after finishing my Precision Nutrition certification. One of the most common things you will hear about choosing a health or fitness professional is that you should never chose a fat one. I was sitting at 195, with a good body composition, stellar bloodwork and fitness abilities. And yet every time I looked in the mirror I wanted to scream. I was terrified. I don’t think I can describe the fear.  You’ve either felt it or you haven’t. I looked in the mirror and saw a ghost. I was an insubstantial freak and every ounce of weight that left me was leaving me more and more transparent. Empty. Invisible. Vulnerable. When…

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Molar Equations And The Plastic Brain

I wanted to be a science nerd really bad in high school. There was a problem with that for me. With my family’s frequent moves and the differing school systems I’d been exposed to, as well as some issues with no one noticing I needed glasses for many years, my math skills sucked. And math is really important in physics and chemistry. So chemistry in particular was a massive drag for me. Physics I could get by in because the teacher was sort of taking it easy on everyone, but the chem teacher was a martinet. Probably because the students were damn close to immolating themselves a few times. So my scores were abysmal. Until we got to molar equations. The rest of the class fell apart for this subject and couldn’t keep up, but to me it was childishly simple. Same when we covered ion rings and energy state…

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