Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pithy lines

I made these up at various times, for various weapons. Some are fully original. Some are catchy versions of lengthy explanations made by others. One is copyrighted. Some are old platitudes that apply perfectly to swordsmanship or other martial arts or, indeed, life...
  • Down is easier.
  • Strength is for compensating. / If you're using strength, you're doing it wrong.
  • Don't be controlled by windmills.
  • Trust is never wrong.
  • Use your time well.
  • There's a chance that the teacher knows more about this than you do.
  • Just do it.
I invite you to post your own pithy lines in the comments :)

Quarterstaff - good clean fun

Today I had the privilege of attending an excellent quarterstaff seminar by Paul Macdonald of Macdonald Academy of Arms. Paul's relaxed and focused teaching manner (much like what I saw of his martial manner :) gets his points across with clarity and humour. As a basic-level introduction to the weapon, the quarterstaff seminar's spirit of introducing a bevy of techniques rather than a sophisticated skyscraper-like structure combining theory and technique was very appropriate: after four or five hours of training, any high-falutin' theoretical constructions tend to become rather blurred for the participants anyway.

Paul's seminar was good, solid fun throughout, six hours of training, learning and doing new things and applying things you already knew. And, of course, bashing people over the head with big sticks, which is always a bonus.

For myself, the day counts as less than a complete success, what with being late in the morning, making also Ilkka late because I was giving him a lift, forgetting my bank debit card at home, forgetting also my training trousers at home... It's a wonder I'm still alive, really, because all this distracted me during class rather horribly. (I refuse to believe that I always have to be corrected for every friggin' action in every damn sequence that I perform.)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Massimo Malipiero: Il Fior di battaglia di Fiore dei Liberi da Cividale

As noted above, I've got a copy of Malipiero's Fiore book. If only it wasn't in Italian... Well, there's nothing for it but to learn Italian, I suppose. Not for Malipiero's portions, though, so much as for the original treatise.

Class leader training

Class leaders (and would-be class leaders) from all five branches gathered in Helsinki for some training and chinwagging on Sunday. In the morning, Guy took us through the entire basic-level syllabus and evaluated the teaching given by "out-of-towners". We had the opportunity to ask questions about any technique or point of theory that troubled us or which other people saw differently. The run-through greatly clarified my understanding of the syllabus and provided a lot of ideas for coming up with things for people to do for dagger practice especially, although when I get my act together with that nice copy of the Getty Fiore, oops I mean of Malipiero's book on the Getty ms ;) those ideas will be easy to transfer to sword practice.

Then Guy left us and we spent the afternoon mostly with First and Fourth drill. Personally I would have wanted to spend even more time on them as I still wasn't really fluent when we knocked off, but the six-hour training session was beginning to take its toll.

Then each branch presented cool stuff the branch had come up with for the other branches to steal. Unfortunately I can only remember a few; here they are, in no particular order, unattributed:
  • Back exercise (toes and forearms on the floor, back straight) with one arm off the floor.
  • From a standing position, lie down on your back, get up, lie down on your stomach, get up, lie down etc., complete with cool circular hand movements that make it flow.
  • To "rest" after squats, sit down on an imaginary beach ball and hold another one to your chest, or keep your fists at your waist.
  • Guard position testing exercise done with both hands so that the back hand pushes when stepping.
  • Strength exercises with stick.
  • Sit-ups and push-ups done as a group, supporting your neighbour.
  • Sword-handling exercise with circular motion (hard to describe).
  • Push-ups with a handshake with your neighbour done between each push-up; can be combined with crocodile walk.


All in all, the day was very productive and a lot of fun! I wasn't nearly as clueless as I thought I'd be, which was good and confidence-building (ego-boosting?).

Two weeks' worth of training notes

Been to regular class three times in two weeks. Nothing to blog about, really. Training happened. A modicum of learning was achieved.

A really good thing is that Guy (perhaps in response to my whining about it?) got us doing drills again. It's never the same in a class led by a free scholar, because often the FS in question is not 100% certain that he knows the (latest version of the) drill, the students are definitely not 100% certain that the FS knows the drill, and usually they are both right in doubting. In my case, at least :)

The FS may also know what the drill should look like, but may not know or be able to explain the limits of the acceptable. Or the FS may know the most common problems students have with the drill but not understand or figure out the reasons why the problems arise. Or the FS may not provide enough feedback and guidance for people to learn the drill. FS classes are not supposed to be about learning new stuff but rather to train stuff that people already know - I have this on good authority (i.e., Guy) - but doing a hundred reps of a drill in a way you know to be wrong but can't figure out why is still kind of silly.