Tourney Time

The bulk of my rapier training, before moving into full-time teaching, was for tournament fighting. At my peak, I think in a two year period I hit about 70 tournaments. Never won one, but towards the end I had a consistent habit of second place or at least in the finals. The preceding years saw greater and greater participation. My life was focused around competing and training for competing, and my marriage(s) and work history do reflect that. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time to make a five hour round trip to Seattle for a chance to spend half an hour sparring new people, and then head to Oregon that weekend for what amounted to about two minutes of sword time in a tournament. I admit to getting a little burned out on tournaments. I no longer have the fire to compete, and have found new…

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On Making My Martial Arts School a “Safe Space”

A rainbow of boxing wraps at VWMAA

A rainbow of boxing wraps at VWMAA

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “safe spaces”. Between constant articles about coddled university students who want to be protected at all costs from the real world, a recent blowup in the online HEMA community about letting Neo-Nazis air their views in martial arts forums, and the needs I’ve seen brought up in my local community in the wake of a disastrous Women’s Self-Defense news segment, there’s been ample opportunity to reflect on how we’ve chosen to mold our own space at Valkyrie WMAA.

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Double Death Decisions

I hate double kills. It annoys me to no end when I see students do it, I hate it when it happens to me, and I find it inexcusable when I see it happen in tournaments.  And yet somehow despite my hate, they continue to happen. Back in my SCA days, we tried a number of methods to get rid of them. We mucked about with the rules and training. We tried making double kills destructive, removing both participants from a tourney. The bad result of this, especially in single-elim tourneys (one received hit and you are out of the tournament,) was that the “good” fighters were getting knocked out by less experienced fighters…and by each other. It was not a satisfying method of determining who was the best fighter. Made tournament wins seem too much like luck and not enough like skill. We also tried to change up training.…

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Fighting Fear

At Valkyrie we make it no secret that we’re owned and run by women. We constantly, actively recruit women as students. When the subject of women, fear, and martial arts comes up in conversation, it’s common to assume that you’re going to be talking about fear of being hit, hurt, or injured. Bzzt. Wrong. Thank you for playing. It’s not to say that the fear doesn’t exist, because it does. In my experience, though, it’s something that we’ve prepared ourselves for ahead of time. When you go to a martial arts class you know that at some point you will be punched in the face. You begin to deal with that before you even walk in the door on your first day. It’s just one small piece of the normal flurry of emotions that come with trying a new thing. The problem. The fear that takes you by surprise the…

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Best for Self Defense: Sport or Traditional?

One of the favorite arguments amongst martial artists is to compare the relative values of a sport martial art like Muay Thai to a traditional martial art like Wing Chun, against the standard of the revered Street. The Street, of course, being the mythical place were evil monsters exist whose only purpose in life is to defeat your most beloved training technique. It happens within styles as well: your sport Judo isn’t as good for real self defense as my old-school Judo. Or Olympic Taekwondo vs your current kwoon Taekwondo. It’s a bit of a pointless argument. Odds are, neither are really good at preparing you for a self-defense scenario. It’s really not the purpose of most martial arts schools. Most schools are around to preserve knowledge, and to pass on the traditions of the teacher. This isn’t a bad thing. As Cicero says, it’s in our nature to seek…

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Ability-Ranked Sparring

Now that Valkyrie has been around for a while, we are starting to see a few things in our method that don’t scale as well as we might of thought. Mostly these are the result of making assumptions. When you start small and grow, you get used to the easy pace of new fighters coming in and getting assimilated into the gestalt of things. When you start to get lots of new people showing up, with different expectations, skill levels, and background things can get confusing. Sparring is one of those areas where things can get weird, and not safe for people. We’ve had a hiccup or two around this recently, and it spurred some good conversation. It also got me thinking about some of my ideas for ranking systems. Generally I’m not a fan of ranking. The problem I’ve found in most martial arts is that the skills learned…

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