Tag Archives: cooper’s park

In The End…

I don’t think there is any single reason why the Combat Guild idea failed, nor do I think it was the fault of any one person. I think all four of us came up short in at least one task, myself possibly more than anyone. There were plenty of little errors or shortcomings that popped up here and there.

Before I mention why we fell apart, I will mention some of the things we did right; a) We almost always managed to get a 50/50 ratio of male and female students, which is rare in any combat art.

b) We saw a great deal of improvement in all our students’ body awareness and agility and,

c) We were doing something nobody had done before.

However, that wasn’t quite enough to keep things going forever.  The key ingredients in our collapse were thus;

We never wrote a final business plan because we never really finalized what our business actually was. The ideas kept evolving regularly enough that we never nailed down exactly what we were proposing to be in therms of a company. This meant that we never applied to get any kind of financial aid to secure a better location, and we never had a distinctive ‘product’ to advertise. That said, some of our advertising ideas were great, in my opinion. I still really love the mini-business cards we made that featured nothing except a small picture of us doing something awesome on one side and a sage piece of stoic advice on the other, accompanied by our logo and our website address.

Secondly, we began to drift off in terms of our own goals, and we often found ourselves to not be on the same page as each other. Randy began really developing his gymnastic fitness program, which I was only partially involved in. As such I often felt like I was in the dark about what was going to happen next, and wished I knew more about his plans. Also, while I liked the gymnastic conditioning, I wanted to spend a little more time teaching specific martial arts techniques as well. Some days we would spend nearly the entire three hours of a class doing agility exercises and only a few minutes of actually hitting stuff. Now, while this was a great workout, it was often leaving me feeling unfulfilled since I don’t actually like working out all the time as much as I like fighting and drilling techniques.

There were also several projects that were started and not completed, notably the steampunk self-defence manual (which may yet see the light of day). There was also a morning class in Vancouver which, while it did happen, usually resulted in grumpiness and no actual students. Holly hated showing up for it, which became plain, and while I tried to always attend it did start to seem pointless when we had nobody to teach.

In the end, I felt like there wasn’t much point of me being around in general. Randy was a more experienced instructor, and I wasn’t arguing that, but I felt like I was becoming superfluous to the whole scheme. I rarely really taught anything anymore and, not that it matters on a philosophical scale, but I could tell that the few students we had didn’t really have that much respect for me. I would sometimes offer a piece of advice, see them totally ignore it, and then see Randy offer the same advice to which they would immediately adhere. Now, I won’t kid myself that most of this is my fault for not stepping up as a leader, but it was still an uncomfortable place to be.

It was frustrating; I wanted to trust Randy since I had watched him come up with new and effective idea for the last six and a half years, but I also felt like I had no idea what was going on and didn’t really need to be present. I tried to get opportunities to teach more, but that would mean shifting back to the skills I felt confident teaching – which had started to be phased out of the curriculum.

I started trying to get a second night of the week where I taught totally separate arts, mostly sabre. This was held in the same location as the morning classes, but at a more accessible hour. It was in Coopers Park, which has the advantage of a large, covered area for rainy days. I kept this practice going for a few months, working with Holly either on Hutton sabre or the 5×5’s. I tried to drum up at least two students to participate with Facebook groups and the like, but in the end it had the same result as the morning class and nobody ever showed up more than once.

Coopers Park

Then Randy surprised me.

He offered to give me solo control over the Tuesday night class, to which he would not even attend anymore. The regular class would be mine, and he would work on his own thing in a location nearer his home.

I didn’t really know what to say to this. My initial response was guilt, since I felt like he at least had a plan in his head and I wasn’t sure I did, and therefore it seemed like I should have been the one to leave. This outcome was not at all what I wanted, really. I wanted us to work together and come up with something we both felt comfortable with, not to take over on my own. So as such, I largely blamed myself for this turn of events and counted the dispersal of our group as my failure.

But I said yes anyway. I’m honestly not sure why anymore. I believe I still had enough faith in myself to pull everything thing together and piece it back into what I had originally imagined. I felt bad that we had shattered as a team, but I was determined to write up a full curriculum that did justice to both our teaching methods anyhow. There had been a few days prior to my would-be inaugural take over where I felt that I had run good classes, so I started to feel like I was up to the challenge.

I can’t remember how far I got in revamping my whole plan, since it effectively never saw the light of day. I did a full blog on the first class I was to teach at the time, which can be found here; https://scienceofdefence.wordpress.com/2011/07/08/snap/

The short version is that my insecurities were confirmed, and not a single one of our regular students (few of them though there were) showed up for my first class. After working out essentially by myself for half an hour, Holly and I informed the woman who ran the location that we would not be coming back in the foreseeable future, and we made plans to pick up all the gear we had stored there. That gear is still sitting in my basement storage locker.

There were some other attempts to restart things, or to shift to something else, but they came not to fruition. Holly and I tried to at least work out together a few times a week to keep everything going in our minds, but she eventually grew frustrated with only working with me. It soon became apparent that she had no interest in training unless she had another partner closer to her own skill level, so it was only a matter of time before we stopped working together.

This was a particularly dark time, since this left me with no outlet for my martial arts passions. Eventually I stopped trying and just developed my previous workout routine, focusing somewhat begrudgingly on just getting fit without  beating people up at all. I suppose a better part of a year passed in this way; solitary exercise with none of the camaraderie or focus that I had grown used to over the previous eight years.

I started attending the fight nights at Academie Duello to get a little practice in and to make sure to didn’t atrophy completely, which was the beginning of a rebound. Still, my ego was remained pretty squashed and I had no confidence in ever stepping into a leadership role again.

I also decided to get back in to fencing shape and participate in a mini-tournament Duello was hosting, which was educational. Back in the earlier days of my fencing career, I had always had a problem with my tournament mindset. I would often do terribly in competition because it took me too long to actually warm up and feel competitive. However, this time I shifted gears perfectly. Since then I have noticed that, whenever I decide I want to win, my fight brain clicks in immediately and I fence exceptionally well.

However, it also proved another point to me; I really don’t enjoy winning for the same of winning. I love victory, but I want to feel like I have worked for it, like I have earned it. My first match in the tournament lasted about four or five seconds. It was a two-out-of-three match, and I decided to be sporting and only fight with a single sword since my opponent held no dagger. I landed my first shot with my favourite off-hand slap to the tip followed by a falso dritto cut to the left temple. My second touch was a simple lunge, cavare, counter-cavare ending in  thrust to the shoulder.

And that was that, the first bout was done in less that ten seconds and I was on to the next round. It did nothing for me.

Unlike the rest of the people fighting, I spent the time before my next bout constantly moving and bouncing, making sure I didn’t cool down.

In my next match I felt somewhat guilty about how rapidly I had won the previous one. (Yes, I can manage to feel guilty for winning.) Because of this I was careful to call back any shot I didn’t feel I landed perfectly, and fought s little less aggressively. In the end I lost in a close exchange of hits. I won’t say that I lost on purpose, but I feel like I could have won the second bout as well if I had not been so self-conscious of ploughing through the last fighter. I also thought I would have a third bout to balance it out, but it turned out that was it for me in the tournament.

I would also like to add that I am not belittling the skill of both fighters. They both fought very well, though I daresay they were not used to fighting against someone with my style of fencing, which is quite different than what they usually dealt with.

I had fun and enjoyed the night, but it did prove that rapier tournaments were never going to be my thing, even if I won them. I love rapier, and I love fighting and sparring with good people – but the all fuss and muss of tournaments just doesn’t gratify me when the actually fights often come down to a few scant seconds.

Then, this summer, I decided ask my mother to make my only birthday present a membership at the boxing gym. It was a toss up between boxing or Capoeira, since both arts contained aspects I wanted to work on. In the end boxing was the more logical choice since a) it was more direct and practical, b) the facilities were open to me as often as I wanted and I didn’t have to worry about attending regular classes at set times during the week and c) it cost a fraction of what Capoeira training would.

So what is my plan now?

I’m trying to keep up with my gymnastic routine from SCG at least once a week, and I’m boxing at least three hours a week, sometimes five. I’d like to up that number to six and a half, but I’m still juggling the rest of my life at the moment. (Plus summer tends to distract one with all those fun, outdoor activities.) I’m actually in better shape than I was before, having dropped nearly 20 lbs over this year of exile and increased my endurance considerably.

I would like to spend the next year boxing more and more, and my plan is to try and have thee or four actual fights at some point. I don’t necessarily want to try and make a career our of boxing, since I like my face the way it is, but I’d like to see if I have in in my to step into the ring for a little while. If nothing else, getting good at pugilism with help to rebuild my confidence. After a year or so I will start to really feel like I might be qualified to give people advice again in something besides rapier (Which I do still remain pretty secure about in regards to my abilities.)

Yet I often get nostalgic for the whole Scatha thing, and I wish there was some way to bring it back. However, I still think I am too young, despite the fact that I often feel ancient. I would love to try and start up another martial arts school from scratch, but probably not for a few years at least.

I still think we had some brilliant ideas, but I’m not going to act on them again until I’m positive I can do it right.

A Week in Summation

It appears that it has been over a week since I have actually posted anything on this blog. That is a shame, considering that I originally intended to post something every other day at the least. Shift work is the arch nemesis of health and productivity. It sits on a high-backed swivel chair stroking a white cat and plotting. It probably also has minions with such fashion accessories as scars, eye-patches, mechanical arms and Nehru jackets.

So, to sum up the last nine days;

The Tuesday following the first sabre class was another quiet one. May has proven to be one of our slowest months ever. Between the Hockey play-offs and the students who went on vacation it has been a bit of a desert in regards to attendance. Apart from that, class went as class usually does – we worked out to an impressive degree and then worked further on some of the new ground fighting stuff we have been playing with.

I honestly do not remember what I did on the following Wednesday at all, so either I worked on the computer all day or I lounged around doing very little.

Then came Thursday. Thursday is never good, as it signals the beginning of my non-martial arts work week. The rest of those five days consisted of being at work, working on sabre curriculum, occasionally writing creatively and reading the works of Robert E. Howard. Actually, I am really enjoying the Conan stories, 30’s pulp is some of the most fun reading material there is. You have to love a genre that has no illusions about the fact that is a complete male fantasy. Whether it’s Conan smiting mythical creatures and running off with the women, or the Shadow laughing maniacally while he kills a room full of gangsters, it is endlessly amusing. That and that era of fiction had a certain melodramatic poetry to it. H.P. Lovecraft is a perfect example of the eccentric, colourful, imaginative way authors described their fantasy worlds in the good old Weird Tales days.

Anyhow, and then it was Monday again. Work went by slowly, like dragging a huge heavy stone across a field of superglue. Afterwards I hurried down to Coopers park for Sabre practice. At appears that the other instructors were mistaken, and arrived at six rather than six thirty. I got there as soon as I could, snacked quickly, and prepared to teach more of the Victorian sabre style I have been working through. There were still no actual students, per se, so I skipped the basic warm-up and beginner footwork portion and and jumped to the parry and riposte drills. There were no real hitches in that department, and we covered all riposts from quarte after parrying cut 1. (I don’t expect that last sentence to make sense to most folks.)

Randy and Courtney had to leave shortly thereafter since their early arrival only left them so much parking time. After they departed, Holly and I moved on to the riposts from high prime. Holly had a bit of an issue with that parry, which is understandable since it is one of the more unnatural positions in fencing until you get used to it. After a little time I think she got the hang of it, however. At that point we were both tired and the hour had passed. We made our way home and prepared for…

Tuesday!

Class was still fairly quiet, although one of our new students did return for his second time and still seemed keen to continue his participation. After the work-out portion we moved onto some Capoeira-based techniques. Following that was some of the sword drills that Randy developed to build good habits in our students and work the bad habits out of ourselves. Afterwards, well, afterwards I took slight issue with the turn of things. We proceeded to continue cartwheel and gymnastic exercises, somewhat including the sword. I, personally, would like to see the second hour of the evening focus more thoroughly on direct martial applications.

Some of the exercises Randy comes up with are fantastic for building co-ordination and strength, but they do not always deal with actual martial arts techniques. I am going to try and push for such things to always be included within the first hour of class, and have the second hour focus more on direct fighting methods. Partially this is for my own satisfaction, since working out is never enough to satisfy me. On the evenings where we end up working out or practising esoteric maneuverings I always leave feeling unfulfilled – I need something that feels like fighting to gratify my own love of martial arts.

Which brings me to today; Thus far, today has been a good one. After breakfast Holly and I got back into our sweatn’  clothes and prepared for my third day of physical activity on a row (four for her). She donned her roller skates and we went down to the sea wall. We started off along the beach back towards Copper’s park. She skated and I jogged, ran, walked. This, by the way, turned out to be harder than I though, and Holly built up quite a bit of speed at certain junctures and I was hard pressed to keep up. Also, the sea wall route made the journey much longer and less direct that the street path, and it was farther than I had thought to run there.

Yet it was enjoyable nonetheless. Once we arrived (grateful that the water fountains in the park had been turned on since winter) we caught our breath for a few minutes in the refreshingly breezy shade of the park. I then did a few gymnastic moves on the playground equipment, afterwards coaxing Holly to remove her skates and participate in some boxing drills. When we were finished at the park we began a more leisurely stroll back towards our apartment. And thus concluded our enjoyment of this fine, sunny day.

Now I would greatly appreciate a cup of coffee…