Tag Archives: sabre

Rust and Introspection

armour

Well, this blog had gathered some dust, hasn’t it?

There are several reasons for that, chief among them my growing lack of motivation to do, well, anything. I haven’t exactly been lazy – I still spend at least four hours a week in the boxing gym and I’m still being as careful as I can afford to be about what I eat – yet my heart is not really in it any more.

Also, I have mostly been spending my time boxing and, while it is one of the most challenging combat sports out there, there really isn’t much to say about the training. I work out really hard, my hooks and upper cuts still need work and I often screw up the timing when I’m trying to slip straight shots. Apart from that, I basically do the same fashion of drills I used to do when I was fencing, except I’m learning how to use my fists. It’s fairly routine – just a constant ironing out of my techniques and a slow climb towards better form.

As for writing; I haven’t penned more than a handful of pages in four months. I simply haven’t had any ideas for any kind of story since the end of the summer. This week marks the first time I actually had an idea pop into my head that made me immediately start scribbling notes.

However, let’s deal with the martial arts side of things for now.

I used to love martial arts for its own sake. I loved training and I loved sparring and I loved learning new things just because I thought it was the coolest cat in the pet shop. I don’t seem to have much of  that enthusiasm left these days. Basically, I can’t really answer to myself WHY I’ve been doing it all these years, and why I’m still spending all my free time sweating.

The problem, I’ve decided, is that I have no real goal to strive towards. When I was younger, simply getting better was a good enough reason to keep me coming back. Yet as it is, I am getting dangerously close to thirty years of age and I want some actual final product to be working towards. The training I have been doing for the last six years has not included any kind of rank examinations, so I don’t have any kind of physical tests to prepare for. In, say, karate, I could always be working towards that next belt or what have you, but were no belts in Scatha and there are no real rankings in western boxing.

The only current challenge I have at the moment is to get good enough at boxing to feel confident enough to actually enter the ring for some amateur fights, but I know that it is still months away from happening and is a rather vague notion in and of itself. Not to mention I don’t intent to make a career out of boxing, since A) I like my face in one piece and B) I’m a bit old to start now.

I’m tempted to try and find some way to go back to Duello and train for the next rank there. Somebody must have surpassed the rank of red cord since my day, mustn’t they? I can’t remember that the next level was after red – when I was training there, nobody except the head instructors were rated any higher. I wonder who’s at the top of the pile now… Anyway, I don’t think I have the time or the money to pursue that right now.

This also brings me to the next hiccup – I often feel a sense of weariness when I think of western martial arts. Basically, I’m tired of talking about it and hearing people talk about it. I simply can’t muster the energy to be enthusiastic about this-and-that-fencing-hullabaloo any more. I’ve been thinking, writing and trying out new training techniques for the better part of eight years, and I’ve been talking about WMA for nearly ten – and I feel totally exhausted by the whole thing at the moment.

All I want to do is keep my head down, work hard and get the job done. I’ve lost the eccentric desire to create something new in favour of simply trying to concentrate on bettering my own skills and fitness in whichever ways seem the most appropriate at the time.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I no longer have any desire to take a leadership role in martial arts. If, for whatever bizarre reason, someone asked me to teach rapier or sabre I might consider it. But in regards to my skills as a whole, I have come to accept that I simply don’t have the experience to be an instructor, neither in my over-all martial ability nor in my social practices. My nature, at this moment, is to be a good soldier, not a charismatic leader. That may change some day, or maybe it won’t. Maybe I will always be best suited to be a tool rather than a craftsman.

That is a depressing notion, really…

Anyhow, I am constantly nagged by the question of ‘WHY?’ This had been compounded by the fact that I have essentially scrapped all my dreams and ambitions of the last few years out of a sense of pragmatism. I’m not young any more, and I have never earned a decent wage in my life. I’m still trapped by a job I’m bored to death of because I can’t afford to start over at another job that offers less money and I don’t have the skills to apply for a job that makes noticeably more.

I used to hold myself together with fantasies of being a writer who ran a martial arts school. I’d eventually retire to a country house and bash out novels. I’d sit there contently smoking my pipe and feeling like I created something worthwhile. I was riding the crest of what I thought was a decent sized wave of progress.

Today I couldn’t tell you how I ever believed I was capable of that.

When Scatha shut its doors it was the second time I had to start over, only this time I was totally on my own. It took me a long time to accept it, but I simply don’t have it in me to do that again right now. Not for two or three years at any rate. I’ve run out of schemes and ingenious plans and have to face up to the fact that I’m just going to have to work hard with nobody around to see it.

Objectively speaking I am a twenty-eight year old male who’s accomplishments include general good fitness, a certain adeptness at violence, and an ability to describe events with decent prose. My shortcomings are that I have no plans for the future that I can put my finger on, I have no career to speak of and I have a social circle the size of a dime.

It’s not exactly being a superhero, is it?

So all I can do it keep looking for a new job and keep trying to find a new way to motivate myself in my training while I ride out the rest of this rather bleak winter of introspection.

Advertisements

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 Winter in Review

Well, hullo then.

I haven’t used this blog in some time – a few months in fact. There are several reasons for that, though most of them are feeble as excuses. The first and most poignant was NANOWRIMO. For those who are not aware, the acronym in question is a national novel writing competition. The goal is to write a fifty thousand word book within the month of November. Such a task required the majority of my attention. Afterwords, well, followed much less productivity than I would have liked.

And so, a winter in review;

As I mentioned, November began with my second attempt at a thirty day novel. I managed to pull a basic story idea involving a historical/fantasy plot that was based around the court intrigues of Elizabethan England. (Why I am consistently foolish enough to start deadline projects with ridiculously complicated stories I shall never know.) On the whole, the novel writing frenzy began with the wind at my back and my sails propelling me forward with great haste. Contrarily, it ended with a slow sinking into the black waters of northern seas after being viciously and suddenly attacked by Nordic pirates.

I barely made it halfway, though I did churn out some decent chapters here and there. (At the end of my last attempt, two years ago, I at least managed to make it to forty-thousand words) Sadly, I allowed three very long shifts at work exhaust me. Never managing to catch up on those sad, couple-hundred-word-count days, my novel petered out and was no more.

At first, I was all afire to start another writing project – one that was less hurried. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who works best under a little pressure. So my daily writing habits slowly declined into, well, no writing habits. In fact, I have fallen into a horrific tendency of doing absolutely nothing with the first three hours of my day. For this I feel no end of shame.

On the plus side, I did spend that uncreative time altering my diet and exercise routines. Rather I should say; maintaining the alterations I made at the end of the summer. Currently I weigh less than I ever have in my adult life, and have kept a sufficient amount of my muscle mass in doing so. In fact, I am very nearly able to say that I have actually achieved the more vain aspects of my fitness goals. That is, however, all I shall say about that. After all, there is nothing more boring than listening to someone talk about their own weight loss. I suppose, as un-stoic as it is, personal improvement seems more relevant when it is made known to others.

How insecure we all are.

As to the subject of martial arts, that tale runs along similar lines. While I find the time every few weeks to visit the open fight nights at Academie Duello, I have no practice of my own anymore. The Friday fencing bouts keep me adept and satisfy my cravings to stab at people, but I do miss both instructing and learning the material to which I am most inclined. Bartitsu, in particular, is something I would love to be able to work on again. And sabre.

(Incidentally, there was also that whole Steampunk Self-Defence Manual plan. That book, by the way, was actually completed as far as the text is concerned, and still sits waiting on my computer. However, the disbandment of SCG’s regular classes left me without anyone to help demonstrate the techniques in the photos. And so…)

Perhaps, once the weather becomes more clement, I will try and re-start an outdoor practice of one of these things. If I really put effort in I might be able to secure one student. Maybe two. The real issue is figuring out what I actually want to do with martial arts. What focus do I want to take? I have no clue really. It’s been nearly a decade since I first started training, and all my plans to make a living out of it have become somewhat prone to failure.

Yet I refuse to be maudlin. I still have almost ten years of experience, some of which is in branches of fighting very few people are familiar with. That is certainly nothing to sneeze at. I just need a plan. I’ve always been able to concoct schemes within a set of parameters, but when it comes to plotting out the rest of my own life… That, I must admit, has me at a loss more often than not.

The threat of my thirtieth birthday looms ahead like an ominous sunrise of full adulthood. I’d be lying if I said that fact didn’t terrify me almost as much as the notion of… dancing. OK, that was a bit maudlin.

And on that note, I need to go and try and find a new job now.

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.

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…

This Week at Scatha

Well, this week’s class seemed to be an interesting example of collective consciousness. Apparently the hive brain of our students all unanimously decided to stay home and watch the Hockey game, and I do mean all. Only one person arrived last night. It was a very quiet evening, beginning with a relaxed set of exercises largely done on our own time without the usual structure and motivation. The single occupant is also a student who usually only stays for the warm-up/work out portion of the evening as well, so she left after an hour. Thus remained nobody but us instructors.

As disappointing as this was, it was also a good opportunity. It can be very difficult for us teaching types to actually get together to work on the new ideas we have, so a solid hour and a half without students was not wasted. We took the opportunity to work on some ground fighting techniques that turned out to be remarkable easy and effective. No doubt we will be teaching them to the rest of the students next week.

Normally I don’t care for wrestling and ground fighting that much (Given the choice, I much prefer to hit, stab and cut people. Not to mention all that rolling around in other people’s sweat that goes with grappling) but I do my best to enjoy it and gain skills with it since obviously I can’t neglect a whole aspect of combat just because it isn’t my forte. The stuff we were working on last night was different though; If wrestling usually feels like fast paced weight lifting, these techniques felt more like short bursts of sprinting. Never have I found it so easy to escape mounts and change positions. Brazilian jujitsu usually frustrates the hell out of me, but this style felt more like stand up jujitsu and came very naturally.

Hooray, for the first time ever I genuinely enjoyed ground fighting.

The last dredges of the irritating cold I have had for the last few days are MOSTLY gone, and the weather is a pleasant overcast that is perfect for outdoorsy-ness. My plan is to have a hearty breakfast, and then make my way down to the park along the seawall that actually has gymnastic rings. It is very rare to still find these apparatus in public parks anymore, though they used to be everywhere. I guess you wouldn’t want to encourage kids to actually get exercise when they could just sit in those horrible plastic buckets that make you dizzy instead.

The gymnastic training we have been doing at SCG is something I haven’t spoken much about yet, partially due to the fact that we were keeping it under out belt for the time being as our little secret. however, since George St. Pierre’s recent lauding of the same kind of training we have been doing, there seems little point in being discreet. It is true, by the way, basic gymnastics is THE best physical  conditioning there is. If you look at the physique of any professional gymnast, I guarantee you that they got that way without ever touching weights. I have done many different conditioning programs in my day, but the results I’ve had from just doing simple gymnastic exercises have by far outdone everything else. I have put on more useful muscle and gained more strength much faster than I ever have before.

If you were to take a weight lifter and a gymnast of similar build, the gymnast would most likely be twice as strong as the lifter. The kind of deep, raw power you get from gymnastics is far above the general strength that weights can build. Some people argue that you can develop the same muscles using more modern approaches, but that simply isn’t true. You might be able to bench press 400 pounds but you wouldn’t be able to do a proper planche push-up – It is a completely different kind of strength.

Planche

There is also the flexibility, agility and general ability to move more efficiently that also comes from this kind of conditioning. A martial artist who also has a gymnastic background will be capable of a much wider range of techniques than one who only does general exercises.

On a different note, today I will also begin working on my new sabre curriculum. This Monday will mark the first unofficial sabre class that SCG will offer, and hopefully this will garner enough students to make the classes official early in June. By August I hope to have a small but successful practice for classic duelling sabre running at least one day day a week. The specific time and place has yet to be announced, but shall be before the end of the weekend.