Monthly Archives: June 2011

Plans and Schemes

I am now completely confident on what I am going to teach and how I will run class next month.

At some fascinating point in my personal history I became the kind of person who likes to plan everything out and make lots of notes before attempting anything different. I’m fairly certain that didn’t used to be the case. In fact, I think it was quite the reverse a few years ago. I have no idea at which point I started to become like my mother, but I guess it was inevitable. For that matter, I have no idea when I started to enjoy physical exercise, since in high school I skipped nearly every gym class. Weird…

Anyhow, here is my basic plan;

First of all I am going to alternate high intensity training with technical, strength building exercises during the workout portion. I haven’t decided whether I will alternate weekly, bi-weekly or monthly yet, but I will ponder on that over the next few days. Both approaches will be challenging, one in a go-go-go sweat a lot and fall down way and the other in a ‘oh god, how much longer to I have to hold this l-sit?’ way. I think the latter is something we have been often neglecting during class.

As much as I enjoy the intense, fast-paced workouts, there are some intermediary steps in the gymnastic portion that we have been occasionally overlooking. I think it would be much more beneficial and rewarding to build up some of the skills a little slower so that our progress is more tangible. Otherwise it can sometimes seem like we are throwing ourselves against a brick wall by trying to perform positions we haven’t built up the strength for yet. Therefore, I will definitely be doing technical workouts at least once a month, if not twice.

As for the fast-paced approach, I designed a gymnastic circuit routine that I wanted to try out. However, after attempting it on my own I found that it was, well, nigh impossible. Two-thirds of the way through the circuit my arms literally gave out and I found it very difficult to actually get up off the floor. So that idea has to be scaled back a bit, though the principle was sound and I think after some more training it could be possible.

I have also decided that, in order to maintain my own confidence, I will spend the first month or so concentrating on my own strengths in term of teaching. Boxing and Rapier will be the main focus for a little while, since those are two things I know I can do well, especially the fencing. I will still insert some time for wrestling practice, but I will refrain from trying to teach any specific techniques until I am sure that I know what I am talking about.(I have a bit of a problem with ground fighting, which is mostly mental. It will take a some time to get my confidence back in that area.)

I will also be leaving at least forty solid minutes for sparring and fighting at the end of every night. Fight’n is good.

Oh, and as a little reminder to all – Bow ties are cool. Here is Ian Fleming, Naval intelligence officer and author of the original James Bond novels. If anyone tries to claim that Ian Fleming was not cool then I think there may be fisticuffs.


A New Approach

At the end of the month I will take over the duties of teaching the three-hour class on Tuesday evening, which is a fact that I find both exciting and daunting. The circumstance came as a solution for the division of interests as of late, and for my desire to have more responsibility in the running of classes. My biggest fear on the subject was the necessity to maintain confident control over my lessons, which is something I feel I have not done in quite a while. While I do want to try to bring in new students, I also want to satisfy our current ones who have grown accustomed to a slightly different approach to instruction. Regardless of what style of physical activity you are presenting, it is the teacher who had the largest impact on whether students will wish to continue attending. The instructor has to make class enjoyable, as well as providing a sense of accomplishment about the things the students are learning.

So no pressure.

After much pondering, and a very satisfactory business meeting, I think I have come up with a solution. The key was how to invent a progressive and structured system of teaching while at the same time providing the option for experimentation. I now feel confident that I have created a curriculum that is solid in its foundations, while still being open to the inclusion of any new ideas I may come up with. The trick was categorising each kind of technique into different levels of skill. Therefore, if I decide I want to include a new technique  I just decide which skill level it is and present it as part of the drills for that level. The foundation remains the same, but the applications are limitless.

The problem I had prior was that it often seemed like we were constantly abandoning old skills in favour of new ones, and therefore the progress was limited because none of the students stuck with the same techniques long enough to get truly familiar with them. This way I can use the things I know as a base, and slowly build new skills on top of them as I get more confident.  Adding the new on top of the old, rather than than replacing it completely.

Unedited Teasers for the Steampunk Self-Defence Manual


Some raw material from one of the photo shoots for my upcoming “Steampunk Self-Defence Manual.”

Class Resumed

Last night’s resumption of classes seemed to provide a solution to many of my frustrations and feelings of instructional importance. I think we have now decided on a class format and a who-does-what arrangement that will keep everyone  satisfied with their roles. Hopefully soon we will be able to implement a few more outdoor sessions to supplement our current ones, and then we will have the opportunity to work on one thing or another five days a week.

In fact, last night will probably be my template for the pacing of the classes I run in the future. The balance was perfect, I thought – A good workout for the first hour, active rapier drills, then fighting for there rest of the night. As much as I may enjoy all kinds of martial arts, a good evening of swordplay is still the best pastime I can imagine. Fighting athletically with a rapier and dagger until you are totally exhausted is a spectacular feeling. Nothing makes you feel more awesome than being an agile, bad-ass swordsman. At least that be my opinion. I know I Was still feeling energetic, confidant and smug for the remainder of the night.



Actual students

This week at sabre there were real, live, actual students.

It went fairly well, I thought. I spent the hour just teaching the 8 cuts and all of the appropriate parries, which took up most of that time, and then having the students (all two of them) practice slow work and maintaining measure. It was nothing special as far as fencing instructions goes, but it was a good place to start. There was definitely the satisfaction of actually having people to teach, even though it can be more fun to just work at my own pace. Alas though, the world does not work in such a way to allow for that.

Well, unless you become an eccentric sword master-hermit. Which is kinda my dream some day. Oh to be a intimidating, bearded octogenarian who is still faster with a blade than people half his age. That time will come.

Today we are back to regular Tuesday classes at Sapperton, or at least I think we are. To be honest I’m really not sure in what direction things at the Guild are going to go. There seems to be a lot of crossed communication going on. The focus and presentation of our enterprise is somewhat under debate at present, and I am finding myself unsure of exactly how I want to proceed. All I know is that I still love fencing, and I prefer to work out in the pursuit of martial arts rather than doing martial arts in the pursuit of a workout. I like being technical and thorough, and making sure I have mastered one thing before I move on to the next.

Replacement Tuesday

There was no class this week, for what we shall call logistical reasons. As a result I was left to my own devices for Tuesday and Wednesday. After a congenial rising Tuesday morning, I decided on how best to procure some exercise. Holly and I repeated the theory of a previous week; we made our way to Cooper’s park by way of the sea wall, her on skates and I jogging. This time I managed to keep a solid pace all the way to the park. The journey is about five kilometres, which is half of what I used to jog. However, I knew better than to try to challenge my own record after such a long vacation from running. Even at my best ten kilometres tended to cripple me the next day. After a rest at the park, and a few gymnastic exercises, we walked/jogged back to the house.

Once there we rested again, and changed our shoes – or skates in Holly’s case. After that we strolled to the other park that is nearer to our apartment, bringing along our sabres. Once there I was promptly made to feel inadequate by the person who was using the gymnastic rings – as he actually appeared to be a gymnast. I’ve been trying for month to actually get myself up on those things, and there he was vaulting up and performing a very decent front lever. Curse his small stature and proper training.

Anyhow, it turned out that my initial plan to fence first and jog later would have been a wise one. Both of us were rather too tired to be particularly graceful with the sword, and after twenty minutes or so of slow work and fighting we slunk back home.

The next day we resumed the sabre practice with much success, running through the majority of the parry/ripost drills I had planned. (We still need to run through the double riposts, thrusts, feint, double feint and ripost combination drills, but no matter.) Holly is coming along nicely in her sabre training, and I think in another few months she might be able to start competing. Except for the fact that competitions in historical fencing still don’t really exist and I have to create them. We’ll get there eventually.

I think I will focus more on my own training, and on teaching thing’s I feel I actually know well. The trend SCG has had for experimentation and creation can be rewarding, but it can also leave be feeling like I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing. I often feel like we move on to a new skill before we have actually mastered the previous one, though many of the students seem to like always having something new to work on. I do not however. I like to know I have got one thing down perfectly before I move to the next step, jumping ahead of myself just leads to confusion and clumsy fighting. Some of the new theories we have developed have definite promise, but that need to be refined, ordered and tested before they are ready for the general public.