Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Because the last time I went to the salle to train I only managed some ten minutes of footwork exercises, I decided to concentrate on the blade this time; a motivational session. Fortunately, without Ilkka there, I actually got some training done ;) I went through basic cutting exercises and realised I've forgotten how to "sit" properly. Fortunately, by some fluke, I was able to recall the pictures from Fiore and used a mirror to adjust my position, and finally rediscovered it from the inside, too.

My cuts were all wobbly and horrible, though. If we had a higher ceiling, I'd practise them at home rather than embarrassing myself in class.

No excuse

Here's a new phenomenon: during the last week, I've missed training twice because - get this - I forgot to go! Aargh! Well, no more excuses. I went to the salle last night and was able to do scoops and squats as well as blade exercises, so now I have no excuse not to resume training. Apart from the two little black-haired hurricanes at home, that is.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Who am I kidding...

Nobody actually believes I'll ever have any real contribution to make to historical European swordsmanship - myself included. I missed that train. I'm just beating a dead horse here.

Here's why I think so:
  • I'm a 34-year-old woman with young children. What chance of my being able to travel to conventions, train 3-6 nights a week, do research etc. before I'm too old to hold a sword? Sure, in ten years' time I should have more time on my hands, but please - I'll be 44 years old. Not ancient, but not much use anymore either. Please note that at 44 years of age, medieval swordsmen were either ancient or dead.
  • The threshold of "making it in this field" is getting higher all the time. I've already missed my chance of getting a foot in the door when the threshold was low enough for me to realistically reach; if I'd got in then I could have grown as part of the field, but by now there are too many intelligent, diligent, experienced people for me to start faking it. And unfortunately faking it is the only way I could get a start, 'cause I'm no damned good.
  • I'm no damned good at this swords business, regardless of age and sex. I'm clumsy, stupid about physical things, lazy, careless, unfocused... And I haven't got a clue about remedying any of this. Well, push-ups work great for lazy, maybe I could also try to do push-ups when the other faults rise to the surface and see if it helps. Unfortunately that would mean my training would become 90% push-ups, and I doubt that stupidity can be remedied by punishment.
  • Besides being lazy, I'm too obsessed with appearances and status. Hence my tendency to fake expertise.
And why do I need to "make it in this field"? Because I don't want to go back to living with that large swordsmanship-shaped hole in my life that I had before I found my way to the school. The realities of battle (i.e., everyday life) mean that in order to have time to wave a sword around (= my imitation of practising swordsmanship) I have to get paid for it. In order to get paid for it, I have to teach and publish stuff. In order to do that, I need to firstly learn to be a swordsmand and secondly make it in this field (or I won't have any credibility; man, I hate politics).

So giving up is not really an option.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tutta porta di ferro

For some reason, in unarmed TPDF I have had my hips and shoulders turned squarely towards the opponent and my hands in front of the pelvis equidistant from my centreline (as if holding someone's head - having arrived there from unarmed frontale, that is, not for immoral purposes). The armed TPDF is, naturally, much the same, and this hand position leaves the blade at right angles (90 degrees) with the forward-facing hips.

Fiore apparently had different ideas. The unarmed illustration shows the hips and shoulders "closed", i.e., turned some 40-45 degrees away from the opponent, and the hands much further apart so that the forward (left) hand is near the left knee and the back (right) hand is near the right hip or thigh. What is more, the same position with the sword reflects the same hand position: the blade is not at a 90 degree angle - in the Novati, the picture clearly shows that the blade is pointing backwards at some 135 degrees' angle from the opponent. The blade is closer to a right angle in the Getty version and the hips and shoulders are turned more directly forwards, but the tip is still slightly back.

Now if I could only figure out why this is not how Guy teaches it. Things like that tend not to be oversights with him. I'm sure there's a good reason.

Sore-footed training

For the second time since getting back from China I hauled my butt to the salle for some training. The first session on Friday was more symbolic than useful as I only had 25 minutes in which to warm up and train (before this Lady had to leave the Gate for her hairdressing appointment :). Today, even though I took my 3.5-year-old along, I actually got some training done.

The foot, which the doctor said is coming along fine and no worries, still won't take just any load I set on it - any torsion at all in the bones of the foot and the whole thing just folds, and repeated impact builds up very quickly into a cutting pain - but I was able to do push-ups, squats and similar. Even footwork was possible, but I'm not sure how useful the training was considering that my balance and mobility are hugely compromised.

A refreshing change in my training routine was that, when I had a question about a guard position, I actually pulled the salle copy of Fiore out of the bookshelf and consulted it. Why did it never occur to me to do so before? No idea.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sick lady or malingering hypochondriac?

All this week I've been trying to get my butt to the salle. Unfortunately, I've been prevented by my failing health. My foot, the one I broke before Christmas and which I naturally overtaxed in China, hurts and there's a new, strange lump in the middle of the sole. Also, I've been in the throes of an acute attack of heartburn, and I when I say acute, I mean that on Tuesday the burning sensation in my esophagus was so bad I could barely walk.

Offhand (ha, fortunately I don't suffer from that yet), you might think this means I'm a sick woman. I might agree, if it wasn't for my subconscious's annoying tendency to make me sick so I wouldn't have to do anything strenuous. Did I mention I hate physical exercise? I really do. It's the bane of my existence that I can't become a good swordsman without leaving my armchair.

Tomorrow I'm actually seeing a doctor about that foot. While I'm there, I'll also ask her about the big toe of my other foot, which has been sore for about four years now. Maybe I'll even bring up the pain in my esophagus, although that seems to be on its way out.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The level of knowledge

Guy and I agreed that I should start writing a paper on some aspect of historical European swordsmanship, not least because this will keep the topic on my mind even though my training time will be reduced even further now that we have two children. The plan is to examine what general technical writing principles can tell us about Fiore's treatise(s).

To gain a better, broader understanding of the current status of the field, I've been doing some reading. Thus far my effort mainly consists of Fiore, and Teaching and Interpreting Historical European Swordsmanship on loan from Ilkka, but I plan to finally get round to buying all those interesting books and treatises I've been salivating for on Amazon and elsewhere.

TAIHES is a very interesting and useful book and has given me new ideas and perspectives. It also provides reassurance that in writing my paper, I will not have to invent the wheel or use thick wire to illustrate my basic premises as the writers one and all understand that martial treatises really are instances of technical writing, rather than, say, art.