Monday, December 10, 2012


Last week was a good week for fencing.  Randy Packer has started up his new classes through Valkyrie and I have had the pleasure of training under him during the maiden voyage of his new venture.

The content of the classes has been a welcome addition to my training and development.  The classes begin with a small amount of cardio, usually in the form of movement exercises like bunny hops, crab walking, and fog jumps.  Following that, there are conditioning exercises like L-sits, and then the exercises incorporate balance and conditioning, with the last exercises focusing on coordination.  It's an eclectic mix of activities incorporating gymnastics, calisthenics, and even break dancing.  Highly enjoyable, and ultra draining.  Seriously, when I woke up on Tuesday it took me at least 2 minutes to work up the strength to open my eyes.  After warm-up and conditioning, we got into the 5x5.  And having done it, I can see why it's Randy's baby.  The format was simple, the movements were simple, and it's goals were easy to recognize.  The speed was a little overwhelming, but that was intentional according to Randy.  150 techniques is a lot to cover in a whole class, never mind the blistering timeframe that Randy tries to keep, but we all eventually muddled through it.  The last few minutes of the first class was spent on rapier drills, with a focus on flow and movement.

And walking out for beer after class?  God, that might have been the highlight.  One of the things that made me fall in love with swordplay was the community at Duello.  After class or a big demo I'd usually wind up taking in a few drinks with the other students, and to my sadness, a great many of those students I used to burn a couple hours with after class have moved away from Duello either due to life taking them away from Vancouver, or because their training had moved in a different direction.  I've missed connecting with my fellow students, and getting to know them.  These days I feel like I hardly know many of the regular students.

The class also added more fuel to the fire.  Training at Duello is beginning to feel stale within the mastery program.  It's not that I don't think they're out of material to teach me, but rather, that because I never catch that last bit of knowledge that I need for blue cord, I keep on repeating the same green cord classes over and over and over and over again.  The improvements to my form have all been clearly necessary, but there's only so much refinement I can stomach before I want to gnaw on my rapier pommel to break the monotony (and my teeth).  Currently I'm breaking the monotony by taking the training into my own hands and researching Manciolino and his treatise through Tom Leoni's translation.

There's an underlying problem that troubles me through all of this.  Am I only driven by novelty?  Am I going to get bored and drop the sword once I learn everything?

Only one way to find out.  I need more books now...

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Thing I Should Do


And update more.  And I should probably get on yoga, vegetarian eating, and saving the whales.

But seriously, interviews.

It all starts with the desire for knowledge.  That's really what everything I'm doing right now boils down to.  I don't know how to fence competently with the weapons I'm interested in, and if I don't know how to fence competently with my chosen weapons, I certainly can't teach them.  To that end, I study under Devon and his most advanced students so that I can expand my knowledge and improve my skills, and learn how to pass the skills and knowledge on.

And because I have a bad habit regarding horses, carts, and their order of acquisition, I can't help but wonder about all of that other stuff that rests well outside of what I need to know and be working on in the immediate future.  And who better to tell me about it than the people who are, quite literally, teaching me everything I need to know to pursue my dream?

But I can't just go right for the big fish!  Oh no.  The last interview I did was back in the 11th grade for history class, I interviewed my parents and a set of grandparents in search of their life stories.   It was intense, it took a long time, and my father threatened me with a beating if I didn't omit a piece about how one of his great joys was psychoanalyzing his wife without her knowledge*.

So.  The plan is simple.  I sample people within the community that I fence with regularly, admire, respect, or work with, and ask for their stories and thoughts on the WMA community, the art, and their place within it as practitioners, or teachers and keepers as the case may be.

More is coming.  Keep an eye out.

*the piece was not omitted; the beating was worth it

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Why Should They Pick Up a Sword?

A few months ago I was in a demo team meeting and trying to develop a presentation for the archery program, and Devon asked me to say a piece on the program:  what it is, what we teach, what the focuses are, and why people should join.  The first four points were simple.  They're the meat and potatoes content of the program.  They're a part of my life, and how I'm developing as an athlete, and a teacher.

That last bit though... Well, I was kind of stuck (except for the "kind of" part).  I asked Devon for a bit of help, and not wanting to give me a canned line, he asked me why I did it.
My response was indicative of why I do it, just in a poorly articulated and flippant manner.
"I want people to look at my resumé and think I'm Link from The Legend of Zelda."
Devon smirked and told me to think about it more.

I wrote the original off as silly nonsense and set myself to trying to sell people on the idea of learning archery, without using buzz words, or sounding like a tool.  I eventually gave up because I was failing at my task, and set myself to learning some rapier choreography.

But lately I've been thinking about it.  Link was always my favorite video game character when I was much younger and more keen on gaming.  He was brave, agile, capable, a thinker, an adventurer, and always keen to help (if needlessly cruel to chickens on ocassion).  But above all of that, he was a hero.  An old school sword swinging, princess saving, monster slaying hero.  Hero.  The word carries power, and has a lot of different images and symbols associated with it.  My favorite of those images?  The sword, and to a lesser extent, the bow.

I want people to think I'm Link.  I want to be that brave, clever, agile adventurer. 

I want to be a hero.

Heroism is a curious thing though.  The sword doesn't make anyone a hero.  So why take the sword up?  Or the bow, for that matter?  Because the equipment doesn't make me a hero, but it has made me stronger, better, more confident, wiser, more attentive, patient, tactical, agile, and capable.  Through my learnings with the sword and the bow, I am coming closer with every lunge, cut, and shot, to being the hero I idolized through my youth.

Why should anyone take up archery or swordplay?  There are probably as many reasons as there are students of the arts.  Why did I take up archery and swordplay?  Because it connects me to my heroes, and to my own vision of heroism.  Everything else that has happened since pursuing my training is just the result of connecting with that heroism.

Am I a hero though?

No.  Not right now.  But heroism is a topic for another day.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Rank Exam #2

"Aaron, could you come here for a minute?"

I hate hearing those words.  They very rarely are portents of anything good.

I went over to see Clint and hear the fateful words.
"You didn't make it this time."

I like to be flip about it and say that it would have taken a miracle to pass that exam, and that I'd rather save that miracle for my silver cord or my gold cord.

I like to look at the positives, which was that my wrestling, which was my weakest point in my last exam, was my strongest point in this exam.

I like to make excuses too.  I spent all summer in knight camp, I hadn't trained in months, I was thinking about getting to work on time, I spent too long trying to check my form in the mirror, and a great many others. 

But the simple fact was that I wasn't ready. 

The biggest piece of feedback that I got was that my sword moved in a two foot wide circle, and that it needs to move in a three inch circle.

I waited a few days for the feedback form, and was more than a little crushed when I got it.  There are three grades listed on the feedback for each section:
1. Exceeded Expectations (EE)
2. Met Expectation (ME)
3. Did Not Meet Expectations (DME)

I exceeded expectations on my wrestling, and didn't meet the expectations on anything else. The feedback pointed out what was wrong, and to my frustration, there was a lot that I had been working on in the feedback that still hadn't improved.  The feedback is necessary to my growth within the Academie, within the art, and as a swordsman.

The last lesson I could take away was a fairly important one.  Failure is good.  It keeps me humble, and reminds me that I have a standard to live up to; that I need to continue my training; that I need to keep chasing that dream.

Cascadia and the Iron Waffle

The timeline for Cascadia and my specific experience with it was something of a long one.  It began in hypotheticals, half promises, and lots of confusion.  Was I volunteering?  How much was I paying to go?  What would my duties be?  How much running and stress was there going to be?
The last thing on my mind was lesson content.  I was only going to be a volunteer.  My duties (theoretically) included the same things I did in the city: set up the range, tear down the range, marshal the range when Jason needs a break, and make sure no one does anything crazy.

I booked the time off work.

I packed up the van and the trailer on Friday afternoon.

I rode out to North Van, unloaded the van, and hopped on the boat (still confused).

"Oh Aaron, you're teaching the Beginner Archery workshop."

"Wait, what now?"

Yep.  Teaching.  I was supposed to run the standard 2-hour workshop that I had spent a great many hours watching and assisting for the last several months.  A bit of a bombshell, but my options included getting Jason to teach the course, trying to teach it and crumbling to itty bitty pieces, or actually doing a good job of it.

I was introduced to the man representing Jubilee for the weekend and then I set myself to work.

Assess the facilities, determine how much equipment I would have, plot the lesson, talk to Jason during supper and get his thoughts, and then drink myself into a stupor and spin fire with Terri.  (by the way, fire spinning is stupid amounts of fun)

Then the next day was the lesson.  Up bright and early to stretch by the dock, then a big breakfast, then a bit of prep work on the Jubilee range, and then I went to fetch my students for the morning.

I gave the history talk to the late comers on the way up, had a short talk on the bow and it's technology and was terribly nervous through the whole affair.  Once the history talk and the preliminaries were done, I got into the physical component, and then everything got easy.  Helping someone's form is easy.  Eventually Jason got one the scene and started running a couple other lines, and then before I knew it, it was all done.

I didn't know what to think of it.  In all honesty, I still don't.  I've heard nothing but good feedback from everyone, including Rish, so I guess I can take that as a sign that the job was well done.  Well done, but not done to my own standards.  The goal for next time is to be able to deliver the whole spiel without appearing so obviously nervous, and to make non-awkward conversation for the first half of the workshop.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Knight Camp Pt.1

Let me preface anything to do with Knight Camp with this:

There is nothing in life that I've ever been more proud of than my work with Knight Camp.

It's everything special that I wish I could have done as a little boy, a teenager, and a young man.  It's a collection of every single thing that I wanted to do, and usually did with friends in my parents' back yard when I was little, except there were people around who shared in the joy of the sword, and adults who made it safe and fun.

There were games, there was sword training, there were ranks to climb, battles to fight, and a deeper level of involvement for the kids who were a little older.  There was a standard of behaviour that the kids not only adhered to, but a higher standard that many aspired to.  I saw acts of kindness from these kids that moved me to tears on more than one occasion.  I saw a spirit of comraderie, competition, and compassion that I didn't think was possible.  I saw punk kids come in on Monday mornings, and well mannered; virtuous young men and women leave on Friday afternoons (usually begging their parents for another week, or to be allowed to come back next year).

I saw teenagers give up a summer of making money for the chance to pass on the joy of Knight Camp to a new group of kids.

I could swear that I saw everything that was best in life in the two months I was there.

There were days that I wanted to string a few kids (and a few of my counter parts) from the ceiling, but in the final estimation;

I've never had more pride in anything I've done.

Training with Randy

Yesterday I got the privilege of training under Randy Packer over at box-wrestle-fence with a dear friend and old training partner, Jordan.
Let's start at the beginning.  I met the man for the first time, after much acclaim from Jordan and Kaja at CNAT.  I knew that he was Devon's former partner, that he was a white scarf, and that he had a beard.  Other than that, I could infer that he had a much different focus than Devon from how Jordan and Kaja's fighting had changed and developed since they started training with him, though I couldn't articulate what it was.  Outside of that, for all I knew, him and his (epic) beard could have been fueled by the blood of his enemies*.
* Jordan has not explicitly denied the possibility of this.  I remain necessarily curious and wary.
We arrived at his house shortly after 3:30, and after affixing my tips to my weapons, we set about to slow work.  He told me just to work on flow and to really try and get my joints loose, to try weird and goofy stuff, and to fight with my dagger unless I was exceptionally uncomfortable with it.
After that, he had me and Jordan mask up and fight a few full speed passes.
Then he recorded me lunging from a few different angles.
Then he inquired about my diet, and I earned a disapproving look from him for several months of poor choices.
Then there was more full speed sparring, some slow work woth just daggers, and yet further sparring, and then holy mother of god do I need some water, and it's already been an hour?  No way.  That's almost impossible.  I don't hurt NEARLY enough for that to have been an hour of training.
My classical fencing looks terrible according to him.  He made me stop thinking about footwork, and just focus on my fighting.  He did that in a fairly novel way, too.
He told Jordan to kick my ass.
He made Jordan set his dagger down so that he would be forced to be aggressive and high energy, and then after Jordan was moving quickly and aggressively and being fairly consistantly foiled by my dagger, he was instructed to take his dagger back up again.
Then it started to get furry.
The passes were intense, and combat flowed quickly.  Far more quickly than most combat at Duello.  There were cuts.  More than I've ever seen in any rapier fight.  And it felt almost like a dance.  I was shifting from a long guard into a refused guard and batting attacks away with my dagger and testing him with my sword and voiding my legs and body.  And through all of it, Randy was quizzing me on previous combat and sport experience, looking for a movement that I was used to that could be inserted into my fighting.
He was puzzled by some of my defenses and motions.  Not because they were bad, but because he hadn't seen anyone fight like me before; becuase my horizontal attacks and defenses were rock solid, and most fencers lack strength on that axis.  He was less surprised when I told him that I was an archery teacher, and that Patricia was training me.
He let me know what wasn't working.  What postures were bad, what was making me get hit, and what his fixes were.
He told me that I was good; that I was better than I thought I was.  That I have good reflexes, and that he can help me learn to fence comfortably.
It was an intense hour, but not uncomfortably so.  He's easy to talk to, very casual in his language, prone to cussing, and willing to explore the mechanics of my body.  It was enlightening, invigorating, and sweet god, it was FUN.
I look forward to training with him more in the future.

Back Again

Among other things, I have returned to the blogosphere, and boy howdy do I have stuff to say.  The first rank exam took it out of me; removed the wind from my sails as it were.
Knight Camp came shortly after, the Cascadia North Accolade Tournament took place, a bit of training on equipment maintenance has happened, and holy god there was another rank exam, and I've gone and expanded my training by adding in another teacher.
But before I get into anything about that, I have a thought on an eventual school:
There has to be hardwood floors.
Because aesthetics are important dammit.
Now that I have that out of the way, keep your eyes open, because there's much to catch up on.  It's all going to come out in a fairly unfiltered manner, but I hope the sheer volume will make up for the lack of polish.
Thanks for reading, and it's nice to get back into it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Training Journal- Day 21

June 15, 2012
Took a couple Weeks off of formal training after the rank exam. Between a move, two jobs, and archery, life has been a goddamn mad house.
The week following the exam was spent settling in to the new house, losing my keys, and adventuring as a borderline hobo for a couple days.
The week after was spent in merciful decompression.
The next several weeks are going to be an aggressive training schedule. All focus classes.
Life carries on, training makes it all worth while. The goal is near, next time I will be strong and ready.
Warm Up- dynamic warm up
Solo Drills- footwork in a mirror, emphasis on good posture and alignment
Partner Drills- tessatura, defense against cuts in contra tempo, off hand covers
Slow Work- N/A
Full Speed- N/A
What Worked- hips stayed back in solo work, learned how to defend against cuts in contra tempo (retreat, collect the sword, strike; I almost take 2 actions in the space of their single action)
What Needs Improvement- body needs to be positioned better, I'm leaning towards my right leg, should be directly in line with my left
Follow-up for Next Time- footwork and body alignment corrections with a mirror
Other Notes- none today

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rank Exam 1

June 2, 2012

Today was my first rank exam.  The first time I was called on to demonstrate a measure of proficiency with the weapon as a whole.  It was an important lesson and learning experience, but I'll get into that below.  The exams make me realize just how damn special that the school and it's students are: we all/as many as are able, come together to test and help each other grow.  There's a high standard for success, and fortunately for those of us who aren't quite ready, a large network of superior swordsmen/women who will help train the areas where we are deficient.  Anyways, a breakdown, and an AAR.

Warm Up- Standard mastery warm up, with movement added to the medicine ball tosses.
Solo Drills- N/A
Partner Drills- demonstrating techniques for gaining control, maintaining control, and regaining control; defending against cuts in mezzo, contra, and dui tempo; covers and stringere with the offhand.
Slow Work- lots of slow work.  must have been at least 10 straight minutes
Full Speed- Two ten minute rounds of sparring, with a 5 minute break in between.
What Worked- I controlled the measure of the fight well, controlled my opponents' swords well when preparing for a strike, and moved in good tempo.  Demonstrated well with my off hand.
What Needs Improvement- my grappling needs more intention, my footwork needs to improve (keep a consistent distance between my feet, don't let them gather, don't use so many passing steps) need to brush up on defenses against cuts in contra tempo, and I need to adjust my posture so that my weight is resting over my rear leg instead of in a more central position.
Follow-up for Next Time- Movement drills and body alignment in a mirror.  Follow up with Clint and Greg for ways to construct effective drills for the points I need to improve on.
Other Notes- From a non technical perspective, I felt rather unprepared for the exam.  Physically, I was gearing myself up for a test in August.  I had only managed to get one night of conditioning in during the four sessions that got lumped into a single post.  My arm was ready to quit on me at the end of the slow work section.  I'm going to need to start strength training in addition to the technical training that I've been focusing on.  And mentally, I was grossly unprepared.  The exam was stressful.  I had to stop and center myself on several different occasions so that I would stop rattling.  Now that I know what I'm in for I can train up my deficiencies, and prepare myself mentally and physically.

Training Journal - Day 20 - pt. 2

June 1st, 2012

Why are you posting twice in a day?  That is a silly thing to do, and you should feel silly.  PISS ON THAT, THERE'S A DEMO TEAM PRACTICE!

Warm Up- Similar to the mastery warm up, except tossing the medicine ball around also involves moving around through the room, and some more awareness and agility focus.
Solo Drills-  N/A
Partner Drills- Basic rapier choreography up to 3 plays with Radge and Kat.
Slow Work- Expanding the choreography into a combative looking set
Full Speed- N/A  A full speed version of this choreography will be expanded and developed over the coming weeks.
What Worked- I can play the agente reasonably well in any given drill.  I felt solid in my findings, and control.
What Needs Improvement- As passiente, I need to receive my hits better, and establish the speed of the plays.  Too often the plays were speeding up, and leading to messy disengages.
Follow-up for Next Time- Practice practice practice.  Also involve a camera.  In fact, do that last bit for as much training as possible.
Other Notes- As usual, I had to leave early for work.  The affair saddened me more than slightly.

Training Journal- Day 20

June 1, 2012

Right, the training is moving to another stage, so I think the blog should reflect that.  I'm fairly comfortable with the information section so I'm going to preface my posts.  I love having a preamble.  Here we go.

So I rolled into class a little bummed because the assessment is tomorrow, and I wasn't signed off on all of my points yet.  Apparently I was mistaken.  Clint stopped me as I was walking in and told me that I was testing at the end of class.  And that he expected me to pass.   Oh goody.  Class was useful, if uneventful, though the assessment yielded a few surprises.  Read on, and as always thanks for reading.

Warm Up- Standard Mastery Warm up.  10 minutes of dynamic stretching, medicine ball tossing.
Solo Drills- Lunges and guards with the off hand, with a focus on properly aligning my body.
Partner Drills- Control drills; variants on tessitura (still not sure if I'm spelling that right)
Slow Work- N/A
Full Speed- N/A
What Worked- Alignment, and mental state for off hand worked nicely.  The tip Adam gave me about engaging the side of the sword that I can see helped immensely.
What Needs Improvement- In addition to the standard required areas of improvement, my mental state in general when assessing needs work.  I had to stop and re-focus several times.  I need to find a way to maintain my focus in the face of difficult tasks.
Follow-up for Next Time- Sports psychology, and possibly meditation.
Other Notes- Passed the off-hand assessment, and cleared to test on Saturday.  Excellent.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Training Journal- Day 16, 17, 18 and 19

May 15, 16, 17, 18

There wasn't anything noteworthy about the days in question.  Solo work, and training as per usual.  Two nights, and two afternoons.  The blogger app kept erasing my damned posts whenever I'd switch to another app.

The focus in classes last week was on postura and conuter postura exercises, and ways of maintaining control of the sword.  After hours and during afternoon classes, I trained myself up on off hand, with advice and assistance from some of the higher ranks.

What do I Want in a School? Part 1

The question has been present in my thoughts for a while.  I have a few things that have been kicking around at a conceptual level.

I want
-A store
-A training space
-An office
-A lounge
-A workshop
-Storage space
-Sword display/museum

Yes, Duello has all of this.  These elements all work nicely in the school, but there's a few ways I'd like to expand.

-A BIGGER workshop
The workshop at Duello is small and seems somewhat haphazard.  It's not a focus area for the school, and the actual space duello occupies has it's limits, so that is worth considering.  The dream workshop would have space for supplies for polishing and restoring, leatherworking, armoring, and whatever other crafty projects that staff and students may be interested in.  Should an in-house smith be a possibility?

-A classroom
The lounge at Duello serves this purpose, as well as housing the school's library.  Ideally, I'd like a space reserved for chatter and socializing, and another for learning and other scholastic pusuits.  In fact, a library/classroom may be another possibility.  Books along each wall, floor to ceiling, a small database, accessible via tablet or computer, tables and chairs arranged for individual projects, rearrange them to make a small lecture hall.

That's all or now.  I've been wanting to get this out of my mind.  But what else does a goo school need?  This much I will ponder.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Training Journal- Day 15

May 4, 2012
Warm Up- Fun with a medicine ball! (Special guest appearance from the demo team)
Solo Drills- Stage rolls, musketeer salute
Partner Drills- Partner stage rolls, plays that need to be recorded (contra cavare di tempo)
Slow Work- practiced plays that needed recording, developed approaches
Full Speed- N/A
What Worked- rolling onto my dominant arm
What Needs Improvement- rolls out of a headlock
Follow-up for Next Time- learn pair rolls
Other Notes- hurt my left heel when I tried the fall out of a headlock

Friday, May 4, 2012

Training Journal- Day 14

May 3, 2012
Warm Up- Mastery warm up
Solo Drills-Fast lunges (wasn't counting; lots)
Partner Drills-measure and control drills
Slow Work-N/A
Full Speed- 10 minutes with various partners, 3 minutes combat assessment, successive 1 minute rounds for other assessors.
What Worked- good grasp of how to control measure in the true fight. Advanced when I was supposed to 80% of the time, form was reasonable.
What Needs Improvement- disengages need to be tightened up, I need to stop bulling my way through equal crossings
Follow-up for Next Time- drill my disengages, and yielding to pressure

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Training Journal- Day 12

April 30, 2012
Warm Up- medicine ball class warm up
Solo Drills- 10 Lunges in each measure with each hand (80 total)
Partner Drills-N/A
Slow Work- 4 minute sets with the other students in the noon class
Full Speed- N/A
What Worked- body alignment felt good during the lunging drills, footwork for largissima lunges was greatly improved
What Needs Improvement- need to alter my reflex from raising my tip out of threat to shifting into a forward guard in order to control the sword.
Follow-up for Next Time- time in front of a mirror just shifting into forward guards, drill where I shift into forward guard when seeking cintrolof my opponent's sword
Other Notes- first noon class. Clint commended my chosen solo goal (feel where my measure is) and advised that things will change I combat when the measure is somewhat more fluid. Adjust drills with a focus on different striking measures.

Training Journal- Day 13

May 1, 2012
Warm Up- medicine ball class warm up
Solo Drills- 10 Lunges in each measure with each hand (80 total)
Partner Drills-N/A
Slow Work- 5 minutes with Gareth
Full Speed- 20 minutes with Gareth
What Worked- shifting into forward guard to control my opponent's sword; control of my opponent's sword in general
What Needs Improvement- need to cross the line before striking and work on covering myself (defence defence defence)
Follow-up for Next Time- tessatura drills, line crossing drills
Other Notes- just a quickie, a small informal session

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Training Journal- Day 11

April 27, 2012
Warm Up- N/A
Solo Drills-N/A
Partner Drills-N/A
Slow Work-N/A
Full Speed- 30 minutes with various partners (Anton, Kieran, and Kat)
What Worked- stringere from out of measure worked rather well; there was good use of disengages, counter disengages, and Volta stabile of the blade to gain and maintain control of the sword in each measure; successfully played with the off hand in a few plays
What Needs Improvement- body alignment, footwork, and posture need to be focused on in full speed. As always, further drilling is required.
Follow-up for Next Time- posture drills against a wall, footwork drills (specifically watch the passing step- straight steps, not arced steps) and lunges in front of a mirror. Lunges in each measure against a pell are well advised.
Other Notes- good combat at fight night.  Read more into the sports psychology that Jaimie was showing.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Training Journal- Day 10

April 26, 2012
Warm Up- Fun with the 6kg medicine ball! 5 minutes: wall tosses, 5 minutes: pushups w/ ball, 5 min situps and twist sit ups w/ ball
Solo Drills- measure drills (10 lunges from each measure with each hand.  80 lunges total)
Partner Drills- Collar and elbow key exercises, cutting defense drills (defense in mezza tempo, and dui tempi)
Slow Work- N/A
Full Speed- N/A
What Worked- Arm didn't quit on me.  Strength is improving.
What Needs Improvement- body mechanics during lunges.  need to focus on order more in future drills (shoulders first shoulders first shoulders first shoulders first shoulders first) my passing steps need to go in a straight line instead of in an arc.
Follow-up for Next Time- footwork drills and slow lunges in front of a mirror
Other Notes- passed the theory portion of the measure and control assessment.  Combat test next week.  Tablet comes back today, will be asking Devon if I can make a ghetto e-book from the Fabris translation.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Archery Journal- Day 1

April 22, 2012
Warm Up- N/A
Open Range- 0.75 hours shooting.  Finished my bracer.
Class- Reading about the muscles engaged in the lower body during archery. Another 0.75 hours of shooting.
Cool Down- N/A
What Worked- Ring finger is getting stronger, so is the engagement of my core for stabilizing.
What Needs Improvement- Focus on breathing and torso alignment
Follow-up for Next Time- breathing exercises through the week, have Jaimie watch my alignment during open range next week.
Other Notes- Staff meeting on Sunday.  Won't discuss contents, but as a corollary to the topics presented, what kind of professional development can I look forward to?  Perhaps something worth chattering about in the future.

Bonus Archery Sundays

Oh shit, what have I gotten myself into now?  It all started reasonably and innocently.  An archery lesson for $2 and a can of non perishable food for a charity event.  I took the event with a bunch of friends and had a really good time.  Apparently I made an impression on the archery instructor, because a couple weeks later I was playing model for the textbook and being bent into unpleasant shapes.  And that too must have went well, because shortly after that, I was laying in bed when my phone went off.

"WAFFLES!  I'm teaching a class of children and all of my apprentices are MIA!  Can you come in and help?"
"Buh?  Huh??  Wha???  I... hardly know anything about archery."
"You don't need to know anything.  You just have to keep the children in line."
"... when do you need me in?"
I groaned audibly.
"Gimme an hour."

Soon I was at Duello trying to herd children, force them to stay in good stance and form, and make sure they didn't injure themselves or act in a perilous manner.  And I did it without administering pushups.

Shortly after I was offered an apprenticeship.

Shoot arrows, log hours, teach and refine, ?????, profit.

Anyways, training logs to follow.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Training Journal - Day 9

April 19, 2012 (the wee hours of the goddamn morning)
Solo Drills- Longsword guard progression (10 mins) Poleaxe cuts (10 mins)
Partner Drills- N/A
Slow Work- N/A
Full Speed- N/A
What Worked- N/A
What Needs Improvement- I need to focus more on my footwork when I'm doing longsword.  I think I'm moving like I'm doing rapier still (strictly forward, no sideways movement)
Follow-up for Next Time- Focus on footwork before picking a sword up.  And not just in longsword.
Other Notes- Continue to get money (more?) and chase that dream.  Apply halberds to the situation as necessary.

Quiet Times

Breakfast television is coming in to Duello in a few short hours, and I can't sleep.  I'm here in the salle typing away and whiling away my time until the film crew shows up at 5:30.

The archery range is set up.  There are people in the next room asleep and awaiting the show.  It's a demo like any other.  I won't be swinging my sword about today.  There's shooting to be done.

It's a curious thing to be here when there's nothing happening.  The place is silent.  It's a good night to appreciate what's available.  I've taken time to handle my weapons, string the bows, and practice a few other things that interest me.  I've taken time to feel the floor; where it's smooth and where it's rough.  Time to smell the faint odor of sweat, leather, oil, and dust.  Time to see where the stone in the walls is losing some mortar.  To examine the archery butts, complain about the bows not being put away properly, and have a pleasant evening with one of the archery apprentices.

There's magic and power in this place.  It pleases me to be a part of it, and is a good reminder of that (im?)possible dream.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Training Journal - Day 8

April 10, 2012
Warm Up- Stretches and light medicine ball work (20 minutes)
Solo Drills- Lunges (lots) lunges with off hand positioning (not as many, but still lots) cutting homework (exactly what was listed on the board - 30 cuts with various footwork)  Lunges at a pell from stretissima, stretta, and larga (legs threatened to rebel at largissima)
Partner Drills- N/A
Slow Work- N/A
Full Speed- N/A
What Worked- Body alignment and arm positioning in off hand drills was improved.
What Needs Improvement- Finding my measure in short order, still not able to consistently place the sword where I want to get the right amount of flex with the right amount of footwork (maybe going to far forawrd over the knee?)
Follow-up for Next Time- More body alignment and basics.  Sparring and combative drills.
Other Notes-Must procure tripod and adapter for tablet when it gets returned to me.  Must also see if I have magical talent, because technology keeps goddamn breaking on me.

Training Journal - Day 7

April 9, 2012
Warm Up- Archery Yoga with Rish and Jamie. (1 hr)
Solo Drills- N/A
Partner Drills- N/A
Slow Work- 45 mins w/ Jordan
Full Speed- N/A
What Worked- Body was slow to fatigue.  I'm willing to chalk it up to yoga and stretching beforehand.
What Needs Improvement- It's back to basics, so my control of measure, and the sword itself was very weak. Measure control drills will be paramount over the coming weeks.
Follow-up for Next Time-  Body mechanics, and measure drills
Other Notes- First day back in a while.  This whole running out of money thing is troublesome as hell.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bad Days and Failures

Today was a poor day of swordsmanship, and a worse day in regards to sportsmanship.

When fencing today, I grew frustrated and lost control of myself.  I lashed out with a cut that was supposed to knock my opponent's sword away, and succeeded admirably in the attack.  Either in keeping with my pace, or because I had been disrespectful and a jerk, my opponent rushed at me, and before I knew it, we were wrist deep in wrestling, that could have turned very ugly.  I was ready back him into a corner and proceed to mash him, and had he wrenched a little harder, he probably would have broken my fingers on my right hand.  It happened so fast.  It was the first time I felt like I'd truly lost my cool in the midst of a match.

I was ashamed; I am sill ashamed as I write this.

Once at an SCA event either last year or the year before, I showed up and Devon vouched for me.  He told the marshals and the dons that I was a good guy, a good fighter, and I was safe.  At the end of the event, he came up to me and told me that I had acquitted myself well.  That I had represented him and the Academie admirably.  I just about cried what my friend Eric (and anyone reasonable) would call "manly tears".

I was the opposite of that tonight.

As a swordsman and a future teacher, mine is to live the chivalric ideal.  What do I do when I stray from it?  What does Devon do when his students stray from it?  How big of a failure is this?  Big enough that I felt it was time to get out of my combat gear, and cool my temper.  Big enough that it left me shaking on the sides.

But falling isn't failing.  Not getting back up is.

Back at it again tomorrow.

Training Journal- Day 6

March 29, 2012
Warm Up- N/A
Solo Drills- 5 lunges into each closed position
Partner Drills- N/A
Slow Work- N/A
Full Speed- 10 minutes with Raj
What Worked- Good intent, and improved ability to capitalize on blade control
What Needs Improvement- body alignment and footwork were sloppy
Follow-up for Next Time- back to basics, lots of footwork and posture drills for the next little while
Other Notes- It's bigger than a notation.  This one gets a write up.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Regarding Kingmaking

Yesterday was epic. I feel justified in using the term due to what happened.

I armed myself, faced great opponents in honorable combat, bested them, and ascended the iron throne of Westeros.


Okay, totally not what happened. It was a demo tied to the Game of Thrones marathon at the Van City Theatre yesterday. The iron throne was there, Kit Harrington did a Q&A, and there was also an advanced screening of the first episode of season 2.  Oh, and then we wound up doing another demo immediately after said Q&A.  All told, it was a good day, and a good experience. A post on the actual breakdown of how I did will come later. Now I sleep, because bar hours are cruel to men without cars.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Training Journal- Day 5

March 21, 2012
Warm Up- N/A
Solo Drills- Lichtenauer guard progression. (2 hr 15 mins incl. Reading and learning)
Partner Drills- Tessitura with Jordan Bo. (5 mins) Basics of side sword with Tay-Tay, further cutting mechanics and basic counters for each quadrant (30 mins)
Slow Work- 45 minutes with Jordan Bo.
Full Speed- N/A
What Worked- as a mental exercise, seeing each attack as moving through a guard. Shoulder cuts with side sword felt smoother during solo work
What Needs Improvement- targeting/alignment on my squalambretti needs improvement. I'm presently cutting too low. The mechanics of my longsword work needs to be verified.
Follow-up for Next Time- Try cutting to a pell to improve alignment?
Other Notes- must practice off hand with rapier, and go through all the online videos. Must drill further with side sword. What IS the difference between Italian and German long sword, anyway?

On Errantry

Why have you been missing Aaron?  The 67 people who have viewed this blog MUST HEAR OF YOUR ADVENTURES.

Funny about that, there's been non blog related things over the last couple weeks.  Well, non related in content, but related at a resource level: I ran out of money.  Not "I couldn't afford double meat steak sandwiches blended into my golden protein shakes" or "I had to cut the beer out of the budget" (which I had to) I'm talking about "I couldn't even afford bus fare." poor.  You know what I'm on?  The quest for work isn't so much for money in and of itself, as it is for the money to chase the dream.

Anyways, I'll puzzle out some manner of work, or a clever way to make dollars.  Thanks for reading, all 67 of you.

Training Journal - Day 4

March 20, 2012
Warm Up- N/A
Solo Drills- Sidesword cutting (0.75 hr) Thanks to Kat and Tay-Tay
Partner Drills- N/A
Slow Work- Sidesword slow work with Kat (.25 hr).  It was highly ham fisted, and bits of Lichtenauer and I.33 kept creeping in.
Full Speed- With Raj in preparation for his assessment, also with Kat and FancyPants when Raj was unavailable (0.33 hr)
What Worked- Footwork was decent, and my arm didn't want to quit immediately this time.
What Needs Improvement- Need to get a better grasp of when to capitalize and attack my opponent.  There were points where I had control and hesitated, and other when I had no advantage and tried to attack anyway.  Fast footwork, and an equally (un)skilled opponent occasionally kept me from being hit.
Follow-up for Next Time- Work tessatura (did I spell that right?) drills as a warm up; furthermore, actually warm up.
Other Notes- Double hard this week as I prepare for a demo with the performance team, and make up for not getting any sword time in during the last week.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Training Journal- Day 3

March 5, 2012
Warm Up- N/A
Solo Drills- N/A
Partner Drills- N/A
Slow Work- 10 minutes with Jordan Bo.
Full Speed- 25 minutes with Jordan Bo.
What Worked- better footwork, good control when facing single sword.
What Needs Improvement- Need to keep my sword on line, need to learn how to counter the dagger.
Follow-up for Next Time- read/watch videos on defeating the dagger and off hand.
Other Notes- Jordan took me apart with that dagger! It wasn't even a contest. I might have gotten a single hour on him in 10 minutes of full speed.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Training Journal- Day 2

March 2, 2012

Warm Up- 15 minutes with medicine ball (mostly standard mastery warm up)
Solo Drills- 10 lunges from each measure with each hand (80 lunges total)
5 lunges to each closed position with off hand x 10 (left hand only)
Practiced solo portion of off hand material
Partner Drills- Capo Ferro plate 8 with Devon for the performance team
Slow Work- N/A
Full Speed- N/A

What Worked- front foot was well aligned during lunges, footwork is slightly improved
What Needs Improvement- alignment of quarta high seems suspicious, spend more time on form instead of working on speed when tired
For plate 8, watch that the off hand stays in the open position, or stays well behind. Make sure the lead shoulder advances even though the front foot is meeting voided.
Follow-up for Next Time-Further practice of solo material, arrive in time to practice with opponents

Other Notes- learn the afternoon class times, and arrive in time to get people before or after class.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Training Journal- Day 1

March 1, 2012
Academie Duello

Warm up- 10 lunges
Solo Drills- 5 lunges with off hand into each closed position
Partner Drills- stringere with the off hand (Duello learning video) w/ Raj (Asian kid, huge blade on his rapier)
Slow Work-N/A
Full Speed-N/A

What Worked- good understanding of off hand use
What Needs Improvement- body alignment in lunge with off hand (seconda)
Follow-up for Next Time- all assessment material, drill footwork, posture drill against wall

Total work out time- 45 minutes

Other notes- spent 20 minutes screwing around with snickerdoodles (Steve) playing rapier vs. longsword. Spend less time screwing around next time.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Now then, to business

Alright then.  Now that I've laid out a bit of exposition, here's what to expect:

  • A journal of my training on each day that I train
  • Thoughts and reflections on swordsmanship
  • Questions and ideas on what makes a good martial arts school from an aesthetic, business, scholastic, physical, and community standpoint.
Is there anything else that's worth keeping track of that I'm not thinking about?  I'm open to suggestions for training techniques and avenues of research.


Ever since I was a little boy, I've loved swords.  It started with seeing the Sword and the Stone on TV when I was little.  Nintendo followed shortly after with Dragon Warrior and The Legend of Zelda.  My favorite books had knights in them, my favorite TV shows had swords in them, my favorite video games starred swordsmen.  All through my youth, I played with sticks and pretended they were swords.  My best friend and I LARPed well before we could even conceive of a name and community for it.  In high school, the sword was relegated to thoughts and dreams, doodles in the margins of my notebooks.  And even when high school ended, and the doodles stopped, and I stepped into the first stages of adulthood, the dreams of the sword remained.

Life brought me to Vancouver after a few years of misspent dithering in Manitoba.  It was on a fateful day three years ago that I saw a little sandwich board on Richards Street that read : Academie Duello - School of Modern Swordplay.  LEARN TO SWORD FIGHT!  First Lesson Free.

Learn to sword fight?

I went in.

There was a cute girl behind the desk smiling brightly as soon as I walked in.  She had me signed up for the lesson in short order, and about ten minutes later I was on the floor of the salle for the first time.  It was near the middle of the month, and on this particular day in the beginner program, they were doing longsword.  I grabbed one of the club swords from the rack, drew it in front of me, and held it like the knights I remembered from all those years ago.

I'd never felt so right; so complete in my entire life.

I went through the drills with about as much grace as could be expected.  I signed up for the course immediately.  I was excited about what I could learn, and about all the other people who had that same look in their eyes.

School came and went, careers, jobs, successes and failures; wine, women, and a couple of songs.  Things got tough and I found myself broke.  "Swordsmanship isn't a career.  It's a place where I go and dick around with some friends, and maybe I take in some neat plays and mechanical knowledge.  It's an expense, and it's gotta get cut."

Christmas would come around, mom and dad would buy me a couple of months of classes.  Gifts ran out, money had other places to be, and I either lamented my lack of funds, or grew frustrated with my poor skills, and lack of progress.  Open sparring was depressing, because I couldn't advance my training, and I found myself getting left behind by people who I had joined up with.

Things didn't go my way overmuch for the next couple of years.  Without the gory and highly unnecessary details, I was in a bad place.  I was unhappy, losing myself, and wasn't sure what to do.  I wouldn't have figured out what to do, unless I spent a fateful night with a friend of mine.

She asked me what I wanted to do.
"Easy.  I want to open my own Salle.  I want to teach others about swords, and spread the art and the community."
"Well then do that, silly."
I started to protest, got a train of thought going, and decided to do it.

About a week and a half later, I found myself so sick that I couldn't move.

A week after THAT... was the start of training proper.

I hit the salle three times in that first week for solo training, and sparring with anyone that had spare time and the will to go at it with me.  The next two weeks I was there four times.  And since then, 5 times a week.  As money was available, I've been to class for the proper lessons.

The story (such as it is) has been told, and the journey has begun in earnest.

Welcome to my site.  Welcome to my story.