Monday, August 24, 2015

Weekend swordies

Over the weekend, my five-minutes-a-day consisted of reading swordy blogs and browsing the SESH syllabus wiki. The wiki is out of date, different parts of it different amounts out of date, so, uh, not awfully useful, except to set the mood!
This morning I did the crane exercise (can't find a descriptive link; I think it's a t'ai chi form) that Guy used to teach for core strength and stability. I didn't fall down, which was a bit surprising.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Boob armour

I hope to do freeplay one day again, so although breast protection isn't really topical for me right now (can't do pair drills with my knee anyway, and I've never needed breast protection for just longsword drills--rapier, yes, but not longsword) I'd like to get started on thinking about it. Because it's a problem.

I used to have a plastic chest protector (an older model of this), and I suppose it's still lying around in the salle somewhere, free for use. It fits okay, which is a miracle, but it's so wide that I can't properly move my arms and especially low guards are affected. It puts a damper on one's freeplay not to be able to take posta breve or porta di ferro, so maybe something different is needed.

(Now, if you didn't know this already, the moulded breastplate with boob bulges is out, even in a modern, plastic incarnation, as it directs swords towards the breastbone, and the less said about chainmail bikinis the better.)

There's this QP Sports one, and then this fencing one. This padded one probably won't do for swords, although I've done longsword freeplay in just my well-padded gambeson with no ill effects. Unfortunately, I'll never be able to afford full plate armour.

Any ideas? Experiences to share? Anyone out there who's my shape (70 (32) J)?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Wibbly wobbly

I did it again - 8 minutes of footwork, guards and dagger in the morning. I must be doing something right, because now I started to notice how bad my balance is and how much my arm wobbles in the dagger strikes.

Passing it on

Here, have a picture of my daughter from quite a few years ago.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

She's back

I had a long, long talk with Guy, my teacher and my friend, yesterday about getting back into the sword scene. To sum up the discussion in a tl;dr spirit, his practical suggestion was to do just five minutes every day--and so I will, and also revive this blog. I probably won't post daily about my footwork and guard position exercises or meditations or whatever, but will try to write something at least weekly.

We had agreed to meet because I asked for his help in making up mental hacks to get me to train. I'm lazy by nature and will take any excuse not to move my body, so I've had to develop quite a few mantras, or hacks, to talk myself into training. This isn't to say I don't love swords and fencing, it's because I have ADHD and attendant motivational issues and this is my way of coping.

My training has very sadly fallen by the wayside in recent years. After my first two very active years, my daughter arrived (this was in 2004), which cut into my training time and made me feel guilty whether I was training or at home. Then another daughter arrived. I went back to work and it was just too much to juggle two small children and a job while also maintaining sword skills at a school 40 mins drive away from home, so I went there less and less, and the less I went the harder it got. I tried to train at a school closer to home, but it just wasn't the same, and I'm a longsword gal anyway and the Espoo school mostly did Bolognese (they've added German longsword since then). I was plagued by injuries--every time I tried to start actively training again I'd hurt myself, and the latest medical issue, from which I'm still recovering, is knee surgery for an injury I received during the second or third class of yet another New Life With Swords campaign years ago.

Yet through all this, I've never stopped thinking of myself as a swordsman, and whenever anyone asks me about my hobbies, my answer starts with "Historical European martial arts".

This is the beginning of one more New Life With Swords campaign. (Can't wait to see which bit of myself I break this time.) The reason why I'm starting with five minutes a day is because I have a ridiculous amount of competing time sinks (in the nicest sense of the word, of course): children and family life in general, Uni studies, Popcult Helsinki, ailing mother, creative writing etc. The idea is to start with so little that no one can possibly begrudge me that amount of time, and see where that goes. If I want to do more, I know I'll find a way. Kind of like a mental shoehorn.

So today I woke up at 6. I started with footwork exercises (and why, may I ask, haven't I seen footwork exercises done in class for years, even though I've occasionally watched from the sidelines?) and the four guards exercise (posta longa, dente di chingiale, frontale, porta di ferro), followed by the four blows of the dagger. By the time I got to the dagger I wanted to dig out my sword and do cutting exercises, but although this household is now devoid of randomly airborn felines, the ceiling is still too low and there's the small matter of furniture to consider. Now my whole body burns with wanting more.

There's a mob at the gates!

Hi everyone, it's been a while. In fact, I'm utterly surprised there's an "everyone" here to greet! I just came to revive an ancient, neglected blog (you'll see why in the next post) and the first thing I see on the blog's page in Blogger is the stats telling me there's been hundreds of pageviews in the last month.

Who are you guys? How did you find me? Or are you just robots? Well, as long as you're robots learning swordsmanship, I don't mind.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My pointy things

My swords and stuff :)

New sword, old tricks

I bought a new longsword (after breaking the last one twice). And of course I had to test it, so I took a basic-level Fiore class for the first time in ages.

What keeps surprising me is that I learn nothing new in basic-level classes, even though it's been over a year (or two... or three...) since I attended even semi-semi-regularly. The drills are not exactly the same, but because the basics are embedded in my spine, I get everything on an intellectual level. Certainly execution lags behind reason, both because I'm out of shape and because yes, it's been a while, but I'm not learning anything as I understand learning.

I have two Big Learning Things in my life that I can't seem to shake and that I keep wanting to learn more of: swordsmanship and English. The way I now learn English is to make it work for me. I write in English, I work in English, I read in English, and every now and then I learn a new tidbit about how English works. This all keeps me interested.

With swords, I have no way of making it work for me. Going to classes is like taking beginner-level courses in a  language for the fifth time, never advancing. But I also can't take more advanced Fiore classes, because they assume an intimate familiarity with set drills and exercises that I no longer have (which is a real handicap as I truly suck at remembering and executing specific series of movements). This annoys me. Yes, I could start German style longsword, but that would be like taking the Chinese basic level class for the third time - only marginally less boring.

So how to make swordsmanship work for me? I can't teach it. I can't enlist in a 15th century mercenary army. What to do?

Anyone want to start a Sword Fight Club with me in Espoo? We could just do freeplay, at whatever speed is good for the parties concerned. We'd need an experienced arbitrator (like Guy or Ilkka or someone).

Friday, April 08, 2011

First things first

Ilkka gave private lessonettes today (an actual lesson would be longer than five minutes :)  Unsurprisingly, mine was about not fudging things together but doing separate things separately. Like, for instance, first ensuring I don't get hit, and only then hitting the other guy.

You'd think I would have learned this in nine years of swords, but then, you'd think that of a lot of stuff I've failed to learn.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Learning to fence, part II

So, it's been a while since I went to the SESH salle. In fact, I'm afraid I may have let my membership lapse by mistake, but then again, not only is the school no longer in desperate need of my euros, but I've begun to think that paying, on average, 50 euros per class may not be the best possible use of my limited funds. (Annual fee + monthly training fee comes to about that, if I manage to attend one class a month. But numbers are not my strong suite.)

Instead, I've been training (when I've been training) at the EHMS. Instead of owning a salle, EHMS has training sessions in various places around Espoo, all of them remarkably closer to my Espoo home that Jakomäki is. Even the times are more convenient (although it says something about my social life that I find Friday night a convenable time to train), especially now that there are two sessions a week. To my surprise I also find that I enjoy the slightly ad hoc feeling of the migratory school.

The training that Ilkka leads at EHMS feels very different from Guy's at SESH. On the one hand, I really enjoy the sessions at the Jakomäki salle that fill all the senses and employ all the faculties, where a class without sections on body mechanics and wrestling is incomplete, and where the warm-up alone is liable to disable you from actual training. (Yep, I'm very much out of shape and keep forgetting it.) On the other hand, EHMS is lighter, easier on the ego, less likely to induce angst about incompetence.

Most of the differences are due simply to the fact that I've trained at Jakomäki for nine years (if you consider my last three to have qualified as training) and that time has encompassed a lot of things: advancing quickly to become a free scholar and class leader, then having two children and falling back into regular student-hood with all the attendant difficulties of motivation, status and skill deficit... All accompanied by acute emotions, I'm not ashamed to admit. So whenever I step in the salle door, the past hits me in the face with almost palpable force and by the time I've changed into my black-and-whites I'm sweating with annoyance and anxiety. Not to mention envy of anyone who's been with the school for less time that I but who outperforms me, which includes almost everybody. My problems are mostly, if not exclusively, in my own head and heart, but that doesn't make them less real. At EHMS I can leave all that crap behind and just fence. And although the Bolognese style is not as thoroughly me as Fiore's longsword, I end up going more often because it's just easier on so many levels.

One concrete difference I can point to is the number of reps. Ilkka has us do lots more repetitions of each action before going on to the next technique, and at EHMS I haven't really had the experience yet of my head becoming full before the class ends. At SESH my brain usually fills up about halfway through the longsword material, and I maintain that this is not due to it being a more complicated art but rather to Guy's way of having less reps in favour of covering more material. I'm kinda dumb, and the less-brain-more-brawn is more suited to my personal learning profile.

After a months-long hiatus in training, and then basically coming to a whole new style on restarting, it's interesting to observe what happens to old skills and reflexes. Last Friday I was painfully aware of my hands having forgotten how to cut. Today, to my delight, they had begun to remember. My basic footwork is awful, but the slightly more advanced footwork is actually passable. I'm also now beginning to get back into a training mentality, instead of the "I can beat you, I want to beat you!" insanity of the past few weeks.