Broken Lances and the Children of Hell

There were about seventy five people on the field, and after the sides settled out, we had about a third the number of the other side. We had a slight edge in experienced fighters, and it was one of my only opportunities to actually be in charge of the troops. I’d been hitting the history books in preparation, looking for tactics that might translate to our situation. I found a pretty good one. It depended on some oddities of the human mind. People don’t do what they should in group fights. Outnumbering us, they should have just swarmed us into oblivion. Sure, we would have killed some of them, but probably not many. And they would have handily won the battle. But people don’t think that way. If they did, we wouldn’t have to train soldiers, would we? People tend to cluster together, and wait for someone else to do…

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Coming to grips with the knife

Prepping for the new school again, and working over some of the material. As always, this means digging up my notes on Marozzo, checking what’s up with the latest translations, and re-reading the original. With Marozzo, I found my key to understanding him best comes from his self-defense section at the back. It mirrors the layout of the rest of the manual, but the accompanying pictures aid in mnemonic learning. You can hear the words, and see the actions, and the choice of words and patterns these are presented in added a kinesthetic element. “Prese” I like to hear as “catch,” for example. All these actions feel like they involve some aspect of catching…either catching a blade or a hand, and then following up. Which also reminds me of Catch Wrestling, which leads to the follow up. Catch the hand and wrestle. The first four catches are a perfect example.…

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From the Archives: Secrets of Edges

Shaving with a straight razor is an excellent education for a swordsman. You learn to be decisive, as the blade is so sharp that if you pause while in contact with the skin, you can bleed. And you learn your limits as well, because if you are tired, grumpy, or lazy, you will bleed. You learn to take time to do things right, as a well-prepared shave is pure satisfaction. You also learn self-sufficiency, because you have to put your own edge on the blade, and maintain it. Which is today’s lesson on fencing: a comparison of edges. In my houseful of sharp objects, one stands out…my antique straight razor. It’s stupidly sharp. I restored it’s edge myself. When I got it it could barely cut cheese, never mind my very tough facial hair. I hit the web for a few weeks, searching and reading everything I could find about…

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Once were tough

Calgary is a special town… Just before I get to that, a little heads up. This post is scheduled later than usual. I’m about to start the process of transitioning out of night work. I quit my day(night) job to write. I’m not stupid so I’ve landed myself a part time job to cover expenses, but…yeah. Big change. Scary. My plan at this point is to wake up early and write blog posts, and then use the day and evening for writing when I’m not working. I did briefly consider doing blog posts on alternate days, but I’ve come to really enjoy the experience of raw, first draft, no edit writing. It’s a humbling treat for me. So where were we? Calgary. David Edey and I made the trip up in a lovely rental car, and only one speeding ticket. Got into town late in the dark, and crashed at…

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From the archives: Ruminations on a Duel

Dug up from the archives, originally posted on another blog a few years ago. Part One It’s been about two years, so I think a retrospect is in order. Mostly to clear up some misunderstandings, but also to share what I learned from the experience. I’ll add conclusions at the end. It started with Justin Ring and I, probably drinking, talking about fencing. Big surprise, eh? We decided that life was short, and the one thing we both wanted to experience was a duel. A real one. So we decided to do it. We picked a date three months in advance, at the first Garibaldi Peak Accolade Tournament. We announced it so we’d commit to it. We decided the best option was first blood, with sabres. Seemed like the safest alternative. We got a pair of the Hanwei Pecarroro sabres, as they seemed light enough not to hack a limb…

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First lesson of swordplay…

What you learn in your first few classes is what you fall back on. I always keep this in mind when teaching new students. Nothing will ever define a students style more than what they learn in those crucial first lessons. My crucial lessons came from Sean Irwin. The local SCA practice used a system of eight classes to introduce the rapier to students. The eight classes were developed by F. Braun McAsh way back when. New students were assigned to an experienced fighter, and put at the back of the hall for separate classes. I still have vivid memories of those lessons. They were in Kennedy Hall in Surrey, which was predominantly a dance hall. Killer wooden floor…you can’t beat those. The hum of the fluorescent lights, the smell of sweat-soaked steel and athletic tape. And duct tape and fibreglass. So much damned duct tape. Back in those days…

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