Take Five, From the Top

I’m working on a new description of classes for students interested in training with the Valkyrie WMA Alliance. It’s not a difficult thing to do, but it is an opportunity to re-examine a lot of my base assumptions, and maybe redefine what it is we do. When swordplay is your life, and has been for years, you sometimes lose perspective. Passion can shape your language into something that doesn’t speak to the curious. Which doesn’t help attract new students at all. I need to think less about the keen people with some experience, and more about the person who just saw someone with a sword. They might want to take classes, but need to know what to expect. It’s a difficult bit of writing. I want to ramble on about all the cool things. I want to encourage, to entice, to share my passion…but what I really need to do…

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Movements subtle, strong, swift, supple and bold

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance. -T. S. Eliot, Burnt Norton Squeak made the breakthrough when I was lucky to be watching. It was in the middle of a tight bout with Zim. He had been pressing hard, the way he does, when Squeak decided she wanted to be on the other side of him. He attacked, she dodged off to the right. Zim was barely phased by the rapid transition, pivoting on a foot to reach out to her with another blow as she floated off behind…

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Top Five

Feeling a little under the weather this morning, and have an early start at work, so just a quick one this morning. The site has been running long enough to start having some workable stats generated, and I’ve collected a lot of new readers in the last few months. I’m putting together a sidebar list of interesting posts, so I might as well share the top five (in terms of hits) today. 1. Is Chivalry dead? Sexism and Swordplay Sometimes it only takes a few words to set me off on a rant. This one struck a chord with a lot of people, and tracking back the hits from it led me to discovering Reddit, which is not a bad way to kill ten minutes a day. 2. Forward from the Back Just one example of the many interesting anatomical connections that power our fighting, that seem counter-intuitive from we…

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Strong enough?

I’m not sure when strength became a swear word to the historical fencing community. The knee-jerk reaction is to comment that weights slow you down. I’ve been told a few times online that strength training would ruin my fencing, making me into a lumbering beast, presumably with shortened arms to match my primitive approach. I sometimes feel like I’m alone in actually taking the time to keep up with sport science. The usual refrain is that speed, finesse and control are the hallmarks of good fencing, and those are things that can only be destroyed by lifting weights. Which is total nonsense. You cannot be fast without muscles to make you go fast. Speed is nothing other than the result of an intense contraction of muscle. Strength training is training a muscle to contract as quickly and strongly as possible. Weights are most commonly used for this, but they aren’t…

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Balance, Timing, and the War.

The problem with most martial arts teaching, especially in written form, stems from a basic misunderstanding. In order for me to explain the technique I want to teach, I have to break it down. I have to talk about the separate steps. If I want to teach a parry-riposte, I will talk about an opponent who throws an example attack, and then explain the parry. I might throw in a variation or two, and talk about the good mechanics opposed to the bad. I’ll do the same for the riposte. The problem here is that the attacker has suddenly become a person who stands still. Or has become terminally stupid. It’s a small thing, but it crops up again and again. That tiny flaw starts to show up in students. It infects the minds of teachers. It’s a great big lie, the great big lie of martial arts…that you can…

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Grappling with Wrestling

Coffee and pain are my morning companions today. I’m reviewing the entire class in my head, trying to catalog each iota of pain to a particular activity. Forearms ache from a nasty balance position. Knees are bruised from landing hard during a sprint variation. Back is a mass of pain from trying to do pushups without my feet touching the ground. Shoulders and ribs hurt from handstands and cartwheels. No idea what’s making my outer thighs feel painful to the touch today. The neck pain, though…I know what caused that. Good old fashioned wrestling. The mother sport. The one and only and original martial art. I don’t know of any culture that doesn’t practice wrestling, even if the western world mostly ignores it. If you practice a martial art, you should practice wrestling. If you aren’t familiar with the effort and play of full-out grappling, then your art is only…

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