Sunday, August 31, 2008

Meditation seminar

The salle is crammed with great seminars this autumn. On Saturday, Dr Geo Trevarthen gave a meditation seminar that left me feeling the grass of a new path beneath my spiritual toes. Not only was it personally satisfying, if occasionally puzzling with regard to the things that meditation brought before me, and religiously empowering (it's not often that a homemade pagan like me encounters anyone else with even vaguely similar religious views), it was also immediately practical in terms of swords training! Unfortunately I'm one of those on whom holding the state of awareness while training has the effect of eliding my already fluffy technique even further... so I have to ask Guy how to use it to increase sharpness instead.

Aim the knee

The way to keep the knee in line with the foot, the number one factor in preventing knee injuries in training, is to aim it deliberately. Spare enough concentration (at least to begin with) that you can deliberately keep it pointed towards your opponent, which in longsword most often coincides with where your foot is pointing. (Well, in a sense, anyway.)

You can also aim your entire body!

Okay, I'll stay.

Thanks to everyone for the encouraging comments, especially Ken, Janka and Kevin (who I agree with ;) and of course Guy whose opinion is, in the end, the one that really counts apart from my own (this is a training blog, after all, and he's The Guy Who Tells Me What To Do).

Speaking of Guy, he linked to my blog from Swordforum, so he's not ashamed of me at least. Or alternatively lets me stew in my own juices. Yeah, yeah, it shouldn't matter but it does.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


After making the mistake of actually reading my blog, I'm thinking of deleting it entirely. The whole thing is mostly useless whining about why I can't train more, interspersed with statements that range from insulting through patronising to fatuous and liberally spiced with adolescent angst.

Only I'm not sure if the benefits of actually thinking about my training enough to commit it to computer don't outweigh the psychological costs of whining.

Spaghetti Bolognese

The title refers to the state of my arm on Wednesday after an Ilkka-led session introducing the basics of Bolognese sidesword. Otherwise the class mainly strained the brain, what with having to cover the gazillion guards with vaguely fioreish (and yet not) names and the strikes which, to a longsword gal like me, were just wrong. Accressere with the wrong bloody foot and strike with that same hand? Gaah. At least stepping is easy: reserve the fancy stuff for when the right foot is forward. Well, easy, that is, if you can tell left from right.

Ilkka is to teach a sidesword seminar in October. I'm sufficiently intrigued that I'll attend, if I can work it into the various schedules of our family...

After class, Laura increased our spaghetti-like state by leading us in a few minutes' yoga session. I admit it was more confusing and anxiety-inducing than pleasant and relaxing, but no doubt this would be remedied by more practice.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Brilliant teaching seminar

Over the weekend, Maestro Sean Hayes of Northwest Fencing Academy gave a brilliant two-day seminar on how to teach swordsmanship. It was a pleasure and a privilege to learn from such an accomplished teacher.

The seminar included instruction in various longsword techniques by Mr Hayes as well as instruction in giving individual lessons, leading a small group of students and observing a drill being executed by an entire class. Yours truly didn't get to do any of this (grumble ;) but derived considerable benefit from watching and being taught. (...and was pretty gratified to have various pedagogical principles she has followed and even mentioned in this blog be taught in class... ;)

(EDIT: aspects -> principles. Never watch cartoons, discipline daughter and write blog entry all at the same time.)

Friday, August 22, 2008


Before the start of Thursday's class, I said a very weird, insulting thing to Joeli. I'm sorry. I plead insanity and the flu.

Syllabus form

The form is so easy when you separate it into its component techniques. The lesson here is not to mush it all together and anticipate each technique about a step and a half in advance; but also not to take a coffee break between techniques.


Different sort of lesson

On Wednesday I was sick, but I went to the salle anyway and asked Guy to think of a sitting-down project I could do that night, and preferably finish, too. Instead of the proofreading or formatting or research I expected, he plopped a pile of attendance records in my lap, an Excel file on my computer, and told me to enter the information in one into the other.

Remember my patronising remark about the lesson you came to learn isn't the one you walk away with? Hehe :) The attendance sheets and their little crosses told tales unimagined. For instance, without naming names or mentioning numbers, let's say that Certain People boost the average attendance figures ridiculously as each of them train as much as four average people put together. My 5-times-in-a-good-month-1-time-in-less-good in 2006 and mostly less since then just, well, doesn't cut it. My crosses for this month added up to a nice eight already, but does it make any difference whether I come to the salle five days a month or ten?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fighter magazine article

We are featured in the latest issue of Fighter magazine.

Indian push-up

The funniest exchange of the day occurred when Guy demonstrated a new push-up and asked us to name it.
"Apache," I said, "because you put your ear to the ground."
"Apaches don't need to train," Guy pointed out.
"No, they just need to iron horse."

(The push-up ended being called the Komodo.)

Exploding rear leg

Rapier today. The first half of the lesson caused bitching that I'd picked up the wrong weapon again, what with the aching leg and seriously dead arms and all, but the second half was actually enjoyable. I got my guard position fixed again. Firstly, the hilt really is turned all the way to horizontal in quarta and seconda. And secondly, there's no call to flap those elbows like a chicken in rapier, either, just relax them. Particularly the second correction made a world of difference to the general level of exhaustion and raised my arms from the dead.

The title refers to the fact that during a lunge, the toes of the rear foot turn for a reason, and the reason is not that they can't stand the toes of the front foot. (No pun intended. Not much.) Rather, there should be power coming out of that foot and leg.

My brain filled up at about a quarter to eight, but I was able to ask Maaret to explain again, slowly and simply, what I was supposed to do and it wasn't so bad.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Oops, wrong sword

I thought I had solved the problem illustrated in the previous post: to disabuse people of the notion that I know things that I actually don't, I would start doing something I really obviously don't know and switch from longsword to rapier for a while.

Well, the best laid plans of mice and swordsmen etc.: when today's class started and Guy called "en garde", I realised I was holding the wrong damn sword - I had gone for my longsword by habit instead of the intended rapier.

Class was entertaining and challenging to exactly the right degree. We did dagger techniques first, including an opportunity to practice those devilish Eigth Master techniques. Then we moved on to First and Third Drills. The difficult quarter hour (which comes at the end of each class) didn't fry my brain this time(*) but offered the enjoyment of practising three counters to fendente mandritto from a low guard - specifically, frontale from tutta porta di ferro -> fendente (first action of First Drill), sottano from zenghiaro -> posta longa -> fendente (first action of Third Drill) and sottano from zenghiaro -> posta longa -> pommel strike (variation on Third Drill).

(*) Actually it's quite heartening to realise that no longsword class has fried my brain for quite a while now.


Ilkka accused me of hiding behind my bew beginnership and "other problems" of neurological nature. Am I? Well, I'm certainly using my status as ├ętudiant ordinaire as a shield to deflect incoming orders to show people how to do something I don't know how to do.

Other than that - nah nah, made ya look! Contrary to my usual modus operandi, I'm not going to write a long, whiney, semi-intellectual, halfway-analytical rant, I mean blog post, on this topic, this is just a teaser to get you poor readers all geared up to expect one :D

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Useful solo training

I went to the salle for free training after a wild shopping spree (yay, new training trousers!) and got through a gratifying amount of stuff: several cutting exercises, some Syllabus Form, wrist and arm conditioning, and punching the punch bag. I really have to ask someone for guidance in using the punch bag - I rather hurt my thumb...

The soundtrack makes all the difference. I played Dido on the stereo and listened to Hunter in a very fanficcy mood and was motivated like anything! :D

Just Don't: Un-Classleadership and How To Not Do It

I never blogged about last Wednesday's class because I wanted to digest it for a while. It will go down in history as the only class when I told the class leader to stuff his direct order and refused to comply. I got away with it, too, which I probably shouldn't have done.

The occasion was Ilkka telling me to take the longsword portion of the class through the continuation of First Drill. I had already had them do some cutting exercises, and Ilkka wanted me to go on. I told him I wouldn't. He tried to make me. I told him I wouldn't some more. He got angry and ignored me for the rest of the class, then went home and wrote a blog post about people not appreciating what he does and not doing what he tells them. (Now I know Ilkka and I trust I can write things like the sentence above without making him an enemy for life...)

The problem here is a general one that I keep having, so please let me make this absolutely clear: I am not a class leader. I am not a free scholar. I'm just an almost-beginner making my way up the ladder, one who happens to know a bunch of almost useless stuff about principles and basics not unrelated to swordsmanship.

The reason I refused to lead the longsword class in anything more complicated than cutting exercises was that I really, really don't have anything to teach anyone. I can't even use the names of the postae and the blows in class because I'm bound to get them mixed up. I don't know First Drill (or, indeed, any other drill) well enough to demonstrate it, because I'm bound to become confused and freeze up. This is why I'm not a free scholar or class leader.

Increasing learning

Universities are famous for labouring under a basic duality in their raison d'être: they have to both conduct research and teach students. This is not so much a problem for the university (well, perhaps it is, in these days of funding tied to performance=graduates) as it is for the staff who are usually more passionate about their research than their students' edification. The traditional solution is to spend as little time teaching students as possible, which is why university terms are so ridiculously short.

How, then, should the swordschool address the selfsame problem? :)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Read the paper!

The article is ou. Today's Helsingin Sanomat featured the School of European Swordsmanship on page B7 in the sports section. Click here for the article (in Finnish).