Balancing Skill

Conlan, who is going to be running what looks like another fantastic workshop at Valkyrie weekend after next, asked me a question on facebook today. I’d posted one of my favourite handstand progression videos to my wall and Conlan asked about what my interest was in handbalancing. What was the benefit to working on it for us? He commented that handbalancing is very skill-specific, just like martial arts, and wondered how I would balance training in both. Which is a great question, and gives me an opportunity to talk about some of the things that make our training at Valkyrie unique. For a little bit of clarity, and to answer the obvious question, handbalancing skill is not very important to us. If it was, we’d spend far more time working on it in class. I posted the video because I believe students should pursue training opportunities outside of class as…

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

Red Team: Being a Better Bad Guy

The future of martial arts training should lie in scenario work. I think it’s unlikely, though. I think we will see a rise in scenario based training, but it’s likely that it will be done poorly enough that it will be dismissed as a fad once the fresh wears off. It’s a really easy thing to misunderstand. It seems fairly simple. “Red Team” work means being the bad guy. It used to refer to a specific kind of military training, where forces in the same army would split and take turns playing war games against each other. The Red Team was the bad guy. The idea (and I’ve never been in the military so my understanding of the history of this sort of thing is second-hand at best) was that one side could act in the role of an expected opposing force and use their tactics, so that a realistic…

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

Protection and Pain: Finding the Balance

In the picture above you can see two Valkyrie coaches going at with Cold Steel plastic Bowie trainers, and wearing partial High Gear body armour suits. High Gear suits are awesome. We are incredibly lucky to have a pair of these suits at the school. Each suit provides a set of wrist-to-instep protection that is guaranteed to keep you safe from injury while sparring with full intent. So why are we wearing only partial suits in this photo? What makes the High Gear suits valuable, as explained on their website, is that they prevent injury but they don’t prevent pain. So if I punch you in the face while you are wearing the helm, you won’t get a broken nose. But your head will rock back and you will feel like you just got punched in the face. You will not enjoy it. But you won’t be injured. Why is…

Continue reading

Habitus: Or Why SCA Rapier Is Awesome…And Why SCA Rapier Sucks.

Clearly I’m a little proud of my SCA rapier background. I had access to a number of seriously talented fencing teachers and dedicated historians, and came from an area with a history of turning out some of the best rapier fighters in the world. That said, I’ve also seen some horrible rapier fencers in the SCA. For the majority of the training time, the training is identical between the great fighters and the shit fighters. Training consists of armour up and fight whoever is there to train with you. Period. On the surface, we are seeing pure Darwinian evolution at work. The naturally good fighters rise to the top, and everyone else either drops out or reaches a certain stable point of usually very low skill and stays there. If an area has good fighters, it’s because random chance caused a pocket of genetic freaks to collect in that spot.…

Continue reading