A Philosphy of Arms

In a heart that is one with nature though the body contends, there is no violence. And in the heart that is not one with nature, though the body be at rest, there is always violence. Be, therefore, like the prow of a boat, it cleaves the water yet it leaves in its wake water unbroken.
-Master Po, Kung Fu (1972)

The image of the Warrior Scholar is a pervasive one.  There is the Bushido code of the Samurai, there are the Shaolin Monks of china and the Chivalric code of Knights.  There seems an idea that having a “code” makes you a better warrior.  Does it, though?  Or is it all some mystic bull crap? Continue reading

Speak Softly…

We discussed last week a few reasons why someone would want to carry a weapon.  Mostly I left out the self defence aspect.  There is evidence, much of it anecdotal, that having a weapon is a beneficial in a self defence situation.  I have met people who have told me that simply drawing a knife or firearm was enough to deter the attacker.  There is a danger to this, though.  It is not enough to have the weapon.  It is not enough to be able to draw it quickly and without exposing yourself to attack as you do.  The most important part of carrying a weapon is the willingness to use it. Continue reading

A Knight in this Day

There is nothing in the world to which Nature, wise mistress and benign mother of the universe, with greater genius, and more solicitudinous regard, than for the conservation of one’s self provides him (of which Man is, more so than any other noble creature, demonstrating himself very dear of his safety), as the singular privilege of the hand, with which not only does he go procuring all things necessary for the sustenance of his life, but if he arms himself yet with the sword, noblest instrument of all, protects and defends himself, against any willful assault of inimical force; nonetheless following the strict rule of true valor, and of the art of fencing.
-Ridolfo Capo Ferro da Cagli, 1610

I saw something interesting the other day.  I saw a man not get arrested.  On its own, this isn’t so interesting.  Why, I bet you’ve seen several people not getting arrested today.  What made this interesting is that he was wearing full military camouflage and army boots.  He wore a twelve inch combat knife which, at the time I came around, was in the hands of one of the three police officers who were firmly escorting him off the bus.  Of course I hung around to watch. Continue reading

Phoenix Arts

A student and friend of mine pointed me in the direction of an interesting article today.  The gist of it centered around the “last master” of a traditional Sikh Martial Art called Shastar Vidya.  It’s a weapon art, that was all but stamped out by British occupation in the 19th Century.  Nidar Singh now seeks students to pass on this dwindling style of weapon play.  Sadly, his story is not unique.  One of the first things a conquering nation often does is take the weapons away from the natives.  We have seen this numerous times throughout history.  Rather than focus on this aspect of time I want to examine what arose from the ashes of imperialist oppression. Continue reading

Knightly Knife Defence

I came across something that frightened me the other day.  A certain Western Martial Arts school was offering a workshop on Fiore’s dagger plays.  That isn’t the worrisome part.  No, the part that gave me pause was that they were advertising it as being conducive to modern knife defence.  Now don’t get me wrong, the grappling system as taught by Fiore d’ei Liberi in the 14th century is an excellent art.  If taught in the right way it is an invaluable tool for self defence.  However, there are a lot of traps you can easily fall into that makes teaching irresponsible.  Continue reading

Going the Distance

One of the biggest keys in winning any fight, with swords or without is distance.  At its very simplest, if you cannot reach your opponent you cannot hope to win.  So the tallest swordsman wins, right?  Not remotely.  Oh, height helps to be sure, but a mastery of the sword begins and ends with mastery of distance. The trick seems almost geometrically impossible at first, to enter a distance where you can safely strike your opponent without him being able to reach you in return.  It can be done, although it isn’t easy and the movement involved is actually pretty cool. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Fights

I`m taking classes again.  Sword classes.  It`s good to be on the receiving end of lessons once more and I`m having a blast.  And remember kids, any instructor who can`t see the value of being a student as well should be avoided at all costs.  At the end of last class we had an open sparring session and even though I had more than a few great passes, two fights in particular stood out as being particularly excellent. Continue reading

Victorian Day

“There are those who affect to ridicule the study of obsolete weapons, alleging that it is of no practical use; everything, however, is useful to the Art of Fence which tends to create an interest in it, and certain it is that such contests as Rapier and Dagger, Two hand Sword, or Broadsword and Handbuckler, are a very great embellishment to the somewhat monotonous proceedings of the ordinary assault of arms.”
-Alfred Hutton, 1892

Happy Victoria Day everyone.  It seems fitting that on this day celebrating the reign of Queen Victoria I share a celebration of a Victorian gentleman of great import to the Western Martial Arts world.  One Alfred Hutton. Continue reading

Sword and Buckler Man

Swashbuckler.  Swashing your buckler.  The term swashbuckler may refer to the sound sword make as young English ruffians bash them against their bucklers as they prowled the streets looking for a fight.  I’m not entirely sure I believe in that origin of the word, but it’s an explanation that, despite being a little too pat for my tastes, works as well as any.  This small, handheld shield was ridiculously popular throughout so very much of history.  But why? Continue reading

Slaying Dragons and the Practicality of Swords

Tomorrow is a special day, an auspicious day if you will.  It is of course St. George’s Day and I’m sure you have your celebrations planned accordingly.  Anyway, it’s a great time to go out and practice your highland broadsword and work on perfecting your technique of St. George’s Guard.  Today though, I find myself considering a conversation I had a couple of days ago.  I mentioned what it is I do and although he was keen on martial arts and weapons specifically, he was less than excited about swords.  He said he wanted to train with something more “practical.”  So this raises a simple question.  Can swordplay be considered a practical martial art? Continue reading