Stripping Down To The Real Basics

I was looking over an old notebook about a month ago, from back when I started rapier fencing. One day I had taken a bunch of notes after talking to a bunch of the really senior fencers, and watching them bout against younger and newer fighters. One of the things I wrote down stuck in my head, and this weekend I saw even more examples of it. We just wrapped a lovely weekend workshop run by Cst. John Irving on knife fighting. It was a good opportunity to expose some of our newer students to shock knife work, and a chance for everyone to get exposed to John’s finely tuned stress environment training. The thing I had written down in my notebook years ago, was that experienced fighter tend to be very still, while new fighters are all over the place. At first I thought that must have been a…

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Fixes and Changes

We’re coming to the end of another cycle of teaching at Valkyrie, and we’ve already started rolling out a new curriculum. For the coaches, it offers less strict guidelines on what to teach, but more strict goals of what students should achieve. So less direction on what specific drills to do, and more emphasis on working through a given topic in a way that makes sense to particular group of students we see on any given night. To make sure we are all together on how this will be done, I’m returning to being head coach for every single night of instruction. I’m taking Saturday mornings off in exchange, and letting the other coaches have a chance to play in Power class. I’m loving how it’s working out. Getting a chance to personalize classes a little bit is letting me really reach down into the deeps of my knowledge in…

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500 Blows

I’m reminded today that it was eight years ago that I fought 500 passes in two hours. I didn’t do it as a personal challenge. I didn’t do it to prove a point. I did it because my best friend had just died, and I needed to process my feelings. You can sob your eyes out behind a fencing mask, wrench all the grief out of your heart, and pretend no one notices. And despite all that rage, tears, and sorrow…you can still fight with all your heart. And that’s why I chose to fight all those passes against everyone I could convince to show up and fight me. The lesson Yvonne taught me was that you always fight with all your heart in life. No matter how bleak and hard and pointless things seem…you fight. Because fighting is joy. It’s happiness. It’s a dance we get to share with…

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Devil On Your Back

I read an article about a week or so ago that really bugged me.  It was one of those feel good, overcome your failures sort of articles. It talked about how defining a failure can be, and in this case how it pushed this one person on to succeed better than they ever have before. And that really pissed me off. I read these sort of articles often…it’s a common inspiration tactic. What really set me off on this one was that the flaw that is common in all these articles. It was really clear in this one. The failure that defined this person was singular. He recounted how he’d been successful at everything else in his life, but this one thing. He credited his one failure with teaching him to overcome difficulties, to be a better person, etc. Most importantly he credits the failure with him continuing to succeed…

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Sex and Swordplay

Not talking about gender today. Had a fun class last Saturday. We are into our Mobility phase of exercise, where we work on assimilating a lot of the new muscle that has built up in the last few months. We reconnect with our bodies, find out what works, what new bad habits have crept in, and try to compare where we are now to various baselines of posture. It’s a good feeling to get back in touch with yourself. I usually end such workouts with a fun drill that gets some good gross-body movement going on. In this class it was working through various stick-fighting drills from different cultures. At one point I asked everyone if they thought what they were doing was the same thing they would do if they had a club in hand and were trying to fend off a bear or wild dog attack. No, no…

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Modern Ancient: Moving Forward with Historical Martial Arts

What’s the point of training with a sword these days? Or, more accurately, what’s the point of training in the use of the sword as a martial art. Opposed to say artistic skill display, stage combat, or sport tournament usage. Why on earth would anyone train swordplay with the intent to use a sword in earnest? I suppose a further question might be why would we chose to study Historical sword arts in their entirety, with an intent to use them for modern martial art or self defense usage? It makes sense to study them for academic understanding, for accurate re-creation in order to further our understanding of the origins of our modern world. That’s not the same thing as learning to use a sword to survive an actual swordfight. Modern swordfighters tend to use these justifications to explain the pleasure they take in practicing sword in hand. It’s a…

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