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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Fixes and Changes

We’re coming to the end of another cycle of teaching at Valkyrie, and we’ve already started rolling out a new curriculum. For the coaches, it offers less strict guidelines on what to teach, but more strict goals of what students should achieve. So less direction on what specific drills to do, and more emphasis on working through a given topic in a way that makes sense to particular group of students we see on any given night. To make sure we are all together on how this will be done, I’m returning to being head coach for every single night of instruction. I’m taking Saturday mornings off in exchange, and letting the other coaches have a chance to play in Power class. I’m loving how it’s working out. Getting a chance to personalize classes a little bit is letting me really reach down into the deeps of my knowledge in…

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Modern Ancient: Moving Forward with Historical Martial Arts

What’s the point of training with a sword these days? Or, more accurately, what’s the point of training in the use of the sword as a martial art. Opposed to say artistic skill display, stage combat, or sport tournament usage. Why on earth would anyone train swordplay with the intent to use a sword in earnest? I suppose a further question might be why would we chose to study Historical sword arts in their entirety, with an intent to use them for modern martial art or self defense usage? It makes sense to study them for academic understanding, for accurate re-creation in order to further our understanding of the origins of our modern world. That’s not the same thing as learning to use a sword to survive an actual swordfight. Modern swordfighters tend to use these justifications to explain the pleasure they take in practicing sword in hand. It’s a…

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Habitus: Or Why SCA Rapier Is Awesome…And Why SCA Rapier Sucks.

Clearly I’m a little proud of my SCA rapier background. I had access to a number of seriously talented fencing teachers and dedicated historians, and came from an area with a history of turning out some of the best rapier fighters in the world. That said, I’ve also seen some horrible rapier fencers in the SCA. For the majority of the training time, the training is identical between the great fighters and the shit fighters. Training consists of armour up and fight whoever is there to train with you. Period. On the surface, we are seeing pure Darwinian evolution at work. The naturally good fighters rise to the top, and everyone else either drops out or reaches a certain stable point of usually very low skill and stays there. If an area has good fighters, it’s because random chance caused a pocket of genetic freaks to collect in that spot.…

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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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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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