Hard Starts

Sometimes I don’t know how my students do it. Fencing is a damned hard thing to learn. It’s demoralizing. You have to be fit, and that’s a process that is quite daunting for some. Especially since the fitness we demand isn’t the normal kind that you can brag about to your friends. No easily recorded kilometres run or weight lifted, no records to compare from last week. You need to have an excellent posture that translates all the way from your spine to your toes and fingers, with no weak points between. That takes dedicated strength work and tenacious endurance…and you won’t see the results for years. And the techniques are complex. The weapons are awkward. Throw on top of that our demand that you also excel at boxing and wrestling and you’ve got a very steep learning curve. Toss knife and cane work on top of that. And our…

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Stripping Down To The Real Basics

I was looking over an old notebook about a month ago, from back when I started rapier fencing. One day I had taken a bunch of notes after talking to a bunch of the really senior fencers, and watching them bout against younger and newer fighters. One of the things I wrote down stuck in my head, and this weekend I saw even more examples of it. We just wrapped a lovely weekend workshop run by Cst. John Irving on knife fighting. It was a good opportunity to expose some of our newer students to shock knife work, and a chance for everyone to get exposed to John’s finely tuned stress environment training. The thing I had written down in my notebook years ago, was that experienced fighter tend to be very still, while new fighters are all over the place. At first I thought that must have been a…

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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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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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Mothers

Mothers. They’re so … tactful. I was a few days into the visit with my parents in June when my mother asked something that had clearly been on her mind for most of them. “So… why don’t you have a flat stomach? I mean, with all the exercise stuff you’ve been doing…” For the record, this is me: I gave her the short answer (“diet”), but it was one more reminder that people who don’t do “exercise stuff” and even most of the people do have pretty much no concept of just how much goes into turning a body into what you see in magazines or on TV. Everybody (with the possible exception of my mother) has seen that Dove timelapse cover girl video, and everybody knows that everything in the media is photoshopped to death, but it’s almost impossible to internalize the idea in the same way that we’ve…

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Growing Power

Probably the number one reason people don’t come to our classes is fear of our workout. The language we use to talk about what we do at the school seems to make people uncomfortable. People that run marathons or at least jog regularly, people that hit the gym for weight training, people that study other martial arts…all of them seem to worry about how they would do in our class. I understand where they are coming from. You mention handstands or cartwheels…that can be a pretty intimidating thought. Fencing seems a bit intellectual, which is at least not too scary. Wrestling? Boxing? From the land of the couch, those seem pretty distant and scary. Adding to the discomfort, this blog and the school website have lots of pictures of workouts and people looking fit. And the truth is we are pretty fit. But we didn’t start out that way. We…

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