The Wolf Lord of Blades Shows a Little Leg

So the Wolf Lord taught us a nice basic technique, and smidge of principle. Gain the inside line, threaten with the point, roll to palm down to maintain control if the opponent tried to get to another line. We also learned that a smart fencer won’t truck with such basic things, and will instead use your control to bait a trap for you. The Wolf Lord teaches us to use line to control and win a fight, but shows us to use cuts to counter the perfect technique. I’d invite you to try out the Wolf Lord’s first technique in sparring. In theory, the same technique should work just fine with longswords as well as rapiers. I’d be interested to hear how your experiments go. It would also be interesting to examine his first lesson from the perspective of other rapier styles. My understanding of Destreza leads to a slightly…

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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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Being Most Excellent

I like to be perfect, but I’m not very good at it. Despite my efforts, I’m constantly making mistakes. It’s pretty obvious, with all my experience, study, and teaching, that I know exactly what to do all the time. At least, that’s what I berate myself with every time I make a mistake and get hit. My sparring last night was full of dismissive grumbles as I was taught over and over again all the little flaws in my approach. It wasn’t all that bad, really. I can fight up to a very high level when I want to, and I work on keeping my students honest by bringing that game to them from time to time. I had my moments last night, but working on developing a new skill means I’m going to collect shots. I know this, but it still makes me grumbly when they land. It’s a…

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Slow work

Some of my favourite moments when fencing have been in slow work. Moments of sublime joy, and surprise, can come out of the steady pace. It’s a place of insight into your fencing and your thinking, the kind of learning you can only do in those moments when you drop the pace of your fencing game down to one tenth speed. It’s hard. Physically, it can be a challenge. If you move honestly, you are trying to maintain some of your awkward fencing transitions for a period of time, while slowly moving the weight that is the sword. It’s a reliable way to get good sweat going. At speed, I can do lunges all day. They are an easy, thoughtless movement for me after so many years of practice. A passing step is like walking, completely subconscious. I am not a champion fighter, but I’ve had more than my share…

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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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