I Saw This Happen…

Sometimes people don’t take the right precautions. They leave the house without thinking of their defense, and they pay for it with their lives. I’ve seen it happen. It didn’t have to. If they had know how to use their art right, they could have saved themselves. Which is one way of reading the introduction to Marozzo’s “Presas” knife defense section. Or maybe “These guys where stupid enough to leave the house without their swords and died. Didn’t have to, let me show you how…” Swap handgun for sword and you have what sounds like the start of a modern self-defense article. Marozzo’s knife defense work is very overlooked, somewhat unfairly I think. Not without reason. The layout and presentation don’t really work for modern students, and self-defense is a pretty rare part of the usual HEMA/WMA curriculum. Can’t win a tournament with these techniques, that’s for sure. And martial…

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Teaching Tempo and Deception

My favourite part of teaching has to be those nights when the students figure something out on their own. We’ve been hitting movement a lot lately, discussing tempo in fencing. Exploring up from invitations and parries, developing the riposte, and graduating up to the remise and reprise. I’ve been explaining these as essential parts of the usual rapier single-time attack. By understanding the mechanics of these double-time actions, you can start to see the underlying structure of how an opponent actually reacts in combat. The subtle openings for single-time attacks and counters can then been seen in the void spots between the opponents actions. Around this, in our boxing we’ve been working through tempo actions as well, working from the techniques of Ernesto Hoost and Joe Louis. Through their teachings, we see how to set up tempos through footwork, creating angulations and openings by stepping and predicting opponent reactions. Take…

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Cultivating Awareness

When I demonstrate a technique, I do want you to perform it the way I do. Last night we did wrestling, and explored some pinning movements from a couple of traditions. I try to show the technique clearly, and then break it down visually and verbally so that people can have the most understanding before they try it for themselves. What I can’t demonstrate is the feel of the technique. The integrity of the connection between my opponent and I. When I go around and check on everyone’s application, I see a common error repeated. The physical expression of the error differs from student to student, and sometimes that needs to be addressed, but usually fixing the common error does the job. I’ll look at the students trying to apply the technique, and I see that the crossing of the arm is at the wrong place, the wrist is at…

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The Cost of Doubt

Doubt costs repetitions. The time you spend thinking about how to do something, or what you have done wrong, or even if there is a better way to do something, is time you spend not doing something. Success in athletic endeavors can be correlated to volume. Working on handstands, the students with the best handstands, or most improving handstands, are the ones who do the most handstands. In the brief amount of time there is to perform the task in class, some students will do 20 or more handstands or handstand attempts. Some students will only do two or three. Over time, volume wins. The old saying about the water wearing away the rock is true, but it’s difficult to be the water. Doubt is a thing that holds us tight, and stops us from wearing away at our task. When a student is wondering about the correct way to…

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Heaven and Hell on the Night Train

Good dramatic title, isn’t it? One of my favourite zen tales is the story of the badass samurai looking for a little wisdom. He came across a priest, and asked this priest about heaven and hell. The priest started to swear at the warrior, belittling him. The warrior grew angry, and reached for his sword. The priest looked that the warrior as the sword started to come out of the scabbard, and said “Now you enter the gates of hell.” The warrior froze up, realization dawning. He slid the sword back into the scabbard. “And now you enter the gates of heaven.” Good wisdom there, and a deeper lesson than you think for martial artists. Class last night was one of those rare and special moments. We’ve wrapped up two lengthy training phases, and as such the week had been designated for rest. No formal class plans, no workout. The…

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Heavy to Light

It can get a little confusing for students when I lay out the prescription for the day’s class. I’ll explain what’s behind that. The first thing I talk about is what phase we are in. We have four phases that we move through: Power, Strength, Endurance and Mobility. Power is about explosive speed. Strength is where we build our muscles. Endurance is where we work on keeping our strength up for a longer period of time. The Mobility phase is where we take all that strength and learn to preserve it through our whole range of motion. We also take a short recovery phase, as well as the odd single day recovery, where we just give our bodies a chance to catch up. The type of exercise we do is determined by what phase we are in. The intensity of the exercise will vary from class to class. We have…

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