Guarded Statements

There’s something that’s been bothering me about historical fencing for a while.  I’ve been having a lot of problems with the term “guard.”  In theory a guard is any position your body and sword take to defend yourself.  There are complexities within that definition and some people have their own different definitions.  For example, one interpreter of the medieval I.33 system stated that there were no guards present in the style, because you were never supposed to stand stationary to protect yourself in any particular position.  One of my own instructors once made the ridiculous claim that any position you can hold your sword in is a guard, but it is only a “good guard” if it serves to protect you.  Ignoring the fact that if every position is a guard then the entire concept of guard becomes useless, some refining to the term is clearly needed. Continue reading

Five Dollar Meals I: Indroduction Pie

A few years ago I was contracted for an unusual teaching job.  There was this twelve year old who was interested in swordplay and his mother also wanted me to teach him to cook, so I was hired for both.  I’m not going to comment much on the exact situation, as I doubt I could do it diplomatically.  I will say, however, that I wish the mother had pushed her son a little harder to keep at it.  He enjoyed it once we got going but convincing this kid that cooking was worth his time was an exercise in patience and stoicism.  The funny thing is I recognize the exact personality trait that would have had to be overcome.  I have taught kids in the past who lacked motivation to take initiative for themselves but once pushed they almost universally enjoy themselves.  Some kids at that age need to be pushed and most parents seem to realize this.

Anyway, time to get to the point.  Cooking is something that I consider to be an essential life skill.  I knew the basics of cooking before I left the nest and always did at least a little when first living on my own.  Due to lack of knowledge and a limited budget  I too often fell back on cheap packaged meals.  When you start buying the cheaper knock-off version of Kraft Dinner, it’s time to admit you have a problem. Continue reading


Here I am in Montreal, the first time I have been in a city with more than a century or so of history. A history in which the arts of battle I’ve spent years studying were actually practiced. True, rumours persist that in Victoria it is illegal to accompany a Lady after dark down Government Street without your sword, but here is different. Montreal has an actual sword history. There were battles and no doubt duels that happened in this area and perhaps on the very streets I now tread. I almost feel naked without a sword of my own. Sadly, however, despite being a pacifist by nature who would never draw a sword except in the most extreme cases of defence of myself or my honour I was not permitted to bring one. And I have to say, airport security was not very polite when I tried to explain it to them. Continue reading

Cutting Remarks

I have been working a lot recently with the broadsword.  That is to say, the basket hilted sword that is also sometimes called the backsword.  Not any of the following examples.

Not Broadswords

Broadswords belong to a class of weapons that are primarily designed to cut.  Cutting is a funny thing.  I equate cutting to punching.  Hand a person a sword and right away they are going to want to cut with it.  Put someone in an unarmed situation and they are probably going to want to punch.  Just as it is  with cutting it is with punching, unless you’ve received quality training you’re going to do it wrong.  When teaching unarmed fighting I tell my students it will be about three months before they are going to be able to throw a proper and effective punch and this seems to be about right for most people. Continue reading

The Katana: In which Snark Rears its Head

This is a special request I received: “Will you do one about katanas and how they can cut through tanks, rocks and telephone poles?”  The request was made by one of my students, so you can be assured that there may have been a hint of sarcasm in that comment.  At any rate, it’s still something that deserves to be talked about.  First take a minute or six to watch the following video.  Seriously this guy is brilliant.:

Continue reading

Making Bread and Rolling in the Dough

Despite doing most of my work in pastry, I’m a bread guy at heart.  I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but I could eat an entire loaf of good quality bread in one sitting.  Plain.  Without butter, even.  Really good bread is a rare thing, though.  It’s far easier to find in your own kitchen than it will ever be to find in a store.  There are of course good breads in good bakeries but that’s not what we’ve all gathered here for, is it.

I get a twisted sense of amusement when people act shocked at the thought of making bread at home.  People seem to think that this is a somehow insurmountable task, when really it doesn’t have to be difficult.  The rewards are well worth it. Continue reading

Simon’s First Three Rules of Knife Fighting

I was recently privileged to be invited to teach a couple of classes at the Cascadia North Accolade Tournament (CNAT) at Camp Jubilee.  This is an annual tournament and workshop for Western Martial Arts.  I taught two classes, the first was a combat knife class, the second was highland broadsword.  I had originally written a post about the broadsword, but after re-reading it I decided that it needs work.  So we’ll start with the knife.  I take my knife classes very seriously.  Which is not to say I don’t also take sword training seriously as well, but I don’t lie awake at night worrying that if I poorly explain a longsword technique one of my students will get in over their head at the bar. Continue reading

Blackberries: A Cobbler’s Tale

This is Strawberry Peach, but you get the idea.Blackberry season is almost upon us and I am more than usually excited for it.  I seldom can summon the gumption to harvest most of the other local berries that ripen throughout the summer.  Although I always sample any of the huckleberries, salal berries, thimble berries and salmon berries while hiking the trails in and near my city I never seems to make a point of grabbing enough to really play with them in my kitchen.  Blackberries are different though.  Sometime in the next few weeks there will be a steady flow of blackberry themed goodies flowing through these parts. Continue reading