Safe Place

As human beings it is important that each may have a safe space. Both physically and spiritually. This is not a place of escape, for there is no such thing in this world. This is not a place of weakness, for strength most be given to others at all times. This is a place of regeneration and peace. As a martial artist, there are only two such places one may find. This must be one’s home and one’s training hall.

The world we live in is not a safe place for anyone. To believe this will only bring hurt upon your path. This is due to the innate instinct of the human. There is no such thing as community. The world is directly one of competition. The world wishes to see you fall. This is found in professional relationships, close relationships, and everyday passings throughout the day. Without armour, one is to be harmed. Therefore, it is your responsibility to wear the armour, especially when others can not. To give respect and honour to those who carry high morals. For this is a rare thing to find.

Of the home, one can say I am a “traditionalist”. I care nothing of debate as to how anyone wishes to live their life, as long as it brings harm to no one. It is the responsibility of a man to make his house a safe place for his wife and family. To be both the foundation and the roof. To give the support, guidance and protection. The security that there is no anxiety to feel in this ever chaotic world. Thus allowing your wife to give the care and love that a man and his children desires and needs. To make the house a safe place for him. For it is easy to fall into hatred and warlike perspectives when left to ones masculine self. This is a topic that can be wrote of extensively. The modern quality of men, and the lack of many qualities we now face.

Next is the safe place of the training hall. This is to be a place to both cultivate the body and spirit. A place of safety, to prepare for the world of hate. Mutual respect, alongside constant forward development, and what the entails. A place of training and ever testing. Inner self exposure to reveal paths of growth. A place to inspire the heart to greater acts of courage and dedication to a noble cause. Yes, a place of romantic idealism, for both the child and the elder. I have no training hall. Yet, one day I wish to have such a place, one not a public entity. Not all halls are created equal. Both in quality of leadership and atmosphere.

In leadership, we are in an ever losing world. I stand behind traditional martial arts behavior and teaching when it comes to leadership, and man to man dealings. In a world were sports gyms are ripe, and behavioral desires have fallen to the absolute lowest examples, we are in need of noble Tradition. We are in need of respect and true spirit. We are in need of humility veiling a true Dragon. There are many types of leaders. The highest position, must be willing of completing the lowest task, else he is unworthy of leadership. The highest ranked must still be able to place himself upon his knees to replace floor boards alongside the white belt… Mankind’s desire for importance of position, and the insecurity that brings if ones spirit is undeserving is a disease this day. “Leaders” who are desperate and embarrassed of their true personal traits, ever seeking dominance in insecure ways. These men are many and one of true spirit can easily see such men. These are the pitfalls and relationships to be avoided. I have experienced first hand the lowness of leaders, insecurities and self hatred that manifest into the hall, upon students. From sporting gyms, to traditional arts. Every man must live in the solitude of their own home, for the qualities they bring to the hall they take home. Every man that walks, travels towards an end, unfortunately dragging others alongside the way. Some men never create a safe place, for themselves or others, for their armour is unforged. Therefore understand what you take part in, with who you choose to associate, with who you give and take…

In the training hall, the current lowest, must be able to see himself in the current highest, and vice versa. A relationship were all can meet in the middle, with the respect that we are here together. This is the heart of the Training hall. Yet this is were the discipline of the hall comes into play. Ritual, and the importance to always maintain such a thing. A safe place is not about the classes being full of laughter and uncontrolled smiles. This is giving out a shortcoming. It is not about belts given too rapidly. It is not about pretending to be in the modern military and such breaking abuse. This is not the legacy of the martial arts. Not what is being created. Not about massive classes to pull profit. For a teacher is to be as selective of students, as a student is to be of a teacher. It is about ritual, past legacy and spirit, the maintenance of such a thing. For only here and in ones home is such a thing possible. It is to find the sage and the warrior. It is about the atmosphere, the temple.  I am an artist, it is called martial “arts”. The spirit should be tangible in the setting. A place to inspire in silence. The setting, the floors, the countless weapons and decor. It must be an inspiring place, the spirit saturating the walls. Respect for tradition and guide, a separate world momentarily, a world of empowerment and safety. It is in this empowerment, that one will then bring forth this spirit into a spiritless world. And thus righteous ritual and tradition will live that much longer. It is my desire to one day create such a place. A training hall that when one steps into, they have entered through a portal, a portal closed to many. Into a time long past, or perhaps a time that never existed. Were the rare ideals of chivalry may still be harnessed. A safe place, not of ease and relaxation, of empowerment and ever striving. To carry this forth into a deadening world. For it is these ideals that build our houses, or businesses, our world, our legacy. Our place of silence in this world of noise. It is carrying such tradition that the great masters of old smile down upon us. That in a world of darkness, some men still carry a torch.

Spadone

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A significant Italian text in wielding the greatsword is Opera Nova, of Achille Marozzo. The Italian tradition, while very similar to the pan European tradition in general, has a few unique stylistic traits to point out. These writings are to point towards stylized differences between texts, while also maintaining the thought of a single European martial art. A single art in which to wield a tool. Yet, when approaching Hema this way, it can be quite overwhelming. Therefore one must first choose the weapon, similar throughout all Europe, followed by seeing the majority of similarities found, as well as the slight differences. When studying the greatsword, this Italian text is of the upmost importance. It is were the greatswordsman should begin, in a pan European approach. The greatsword should be studied after a long period of longsword study, this is simple to understand. When I write that Meyer is the foundation of longsword, I speak of the form. His form is the most difficult to mimic. It is true martial arts. To be able to take such deep stances requires great flexibility and balance. Great endurance to maintain such shoulder height. To be able to move fluidly through them without bouncing up and down takes this to the extreme. This is the purest form of the martial arts. When one actually fights, one must stand more erect, feet around one to two spans separate. His erect form greatly strengthened due to being trained in such a true art form. The majority of all fight books represent the combative form. Understand this. Therefore in longsword and greatsword, the stances of Meyer should be the foundation you seek, regardless of German, Italian, Iberian, English, etc, martial arts. From understanding to seek this foundation, Achille represents one of the most sound forms of wielding the greatsword, clearly depicted. When styles become Rapier-like, or the transitional and contemporary cut and thrust, this is when things begin to change. Marozzo’s single sword seems to fall into this transitional cut and thrust phase, this is not what this post is about. The broadsword, such as the English, maintains the traditional stepping forms for some time. All forms living within the same world at once for a time. Yet this is something else.

While his text is quite lengthy of plays upon plays, this is not what you should seek in the beginning. Nor ever feel over committed to in general. Seek the mastery of his images. Do not even worry of mastering the names, as this will come naturally, simply seek to mimic form. For upon the foundation of mimicking the “stances”, the trial and error of sparring someone skilled will teach you what is most necessary. The stances are utterly fluid. Many have very little variation, transitioning from one to the other. These become so natural, you feel there is no other way to carry such a weapon. The actual act of transitioning the guard, is of itself the vortex of the strike. Tight and contained… What you find repeated often is his use of thumbing the flat of the blade. This is quite different than Goliath, in which you often see gripping the handle a few inches below the cross. While one could thumb the handle, it is a different feeling. Feeling the flex of the blade when thumbed matters greatly. When your thumb is so close to the point of balance, there is a fluidity that can not be denied. The two handed swords of Achille mostly bears lugs, as some do not. My theory on lugs is not concrete, and therefore the swords point of balance is unknown. His lugs are low upon the blade. Thinking of sword proportions and the perfect great sword geometrically can be quite obsessive at times. I will in the future create blades to put my thoughts in steel, seeking the perfect geometry for such a weapon dependent upon the wielders measurement.

Thus, this is what stands out most of the Opera, the repeated use of the thumb. To be filtered into all other styles of Greatsword arts in the desire of mastery. There is also the image of placing the thumb over the cross on the false edge (short edge). Just as you see many styles place the index finger atop the cross of the true edge (long edge). This is something of note in his style. His constant use of the false. Thus are a couple aspects unique to this style, offering great understanding to overall mastery.

Something else of great importance is the art, the images. There are two books. One from 1536 and one from 1568. The art of the latter can actually be considered a piece of fine art. It is not so much the technical ability that is of importance, but the feeling of it. Many of the martial art manuals are static and hard. Yet this one is soft and round. You can actually sense the weight of the weapons. The breathing of the man. The artist who created these had a great understanding of art, and as such, this is a beautiful piece of art history.

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Lifestyle

We are as we practice. We are as we eat. Humans all fall in to a habitual style of life. When following the path of martial arts this style should be one that revolves around empowerment. Practice and eating habits go hand and hand. Two acts that are intimately intwined, inescapable from one another. Ones health is ones choice. Choose and follow. The Way is to empower you through all of life’s years. Each man must find his own path. A lifestyle that I have embedded myself into is as follows, written in generalized terms:

Practice:
-7 days a week I train in martial arts. This revolves around the Greatsword (my core), Longsword, Knife, Unarmed Combatives and Ringen. Depending on my current inspiration this can change to Axe, Greataxe, Staff, Shields, Sword, Rapier, Buckler, Pole arms, Spear, Broadsword, Targe, Dirk, anything in the Hema spectrum and before, anything outside of it, Muay Boran, Kanabo, Odachi, Kenjutsu, Kendo, “Japanese arts”, Various Striking methods, Ballistics (old and modern), etc.
-7 days a week Stretching or Yoga.
-2 days a week Weight Lifting. One upper body, one lower body.
-2 days a week Running. Abs. Followed by weighted vest (60 lbs.) for martial arts. This is to somewhat mimic armour. 1 day is ‘Shield Run’ (Fire Body).
– Lightning Body-1 Day a week Explosive and Balance Body Weight training. This is jump push ups/squats, one handed pushups, one leg squats, “martial shoot training”, etc.
– Oak Body- 1 Day a week Body Hardening. Jump rope. High repetition endurance Strikes, “Bare Knuckle”(Hand Wraps), Striking body with oak staff, striking wood pell with limbs, “Ringen Hardening/ snaking the pell”, etc. This is typically done several times, sometimes everyday, a week.
– Stone Body- 1 Day a week Grip, Balance, Hardening and Strength training. All aspects involve 30 pound granite rough hewn blocks. Strong man techniques, bending and breaking metal. Sledge hammer (6 ft oak handle, 12 lb. head, 16 lb. total. Heavy, yet still somewhat usable in combative form.) Hammer fist, palm strike hardening on granite blocks. Balancing on granite blocks standing upright (mainly ‘warrior 3 and tree’). Grip holding of blocks, one in each hand, until failure.
-Sometimes/oftentimes a skip a running day once a week, and add the weighted vest to another. Choosing to only train the Shield Run .

Diet:
-Many thanks to my wife who is a nutritionist. Cornerstones are: Great quantities of Grains and Nut mixes( Oats, Millet, Quinoa, Amaranth, Chia Seeds, Almonds, Walnuts, Buckwheat, Pumpkin Seeds, along with Maple, Honey, etc.) Large amount of Lentils with only salt, pepper and nutritional yeast flakes. (This, or black beans, etc. is what you should eat if you are vegan, not soy. Nutritional Yeast should be a staple.) Always Dried Cranberries, Apples and various berries. Sides of Brown Rice or Potatoes and Onions, Broccoli, Greens beans, Peas, Avocado, variations, etc. One Apple Cider Vinegar “shot” loaded with Turmeric, a little Cayenne and Lemon juice every other day. My Dog and I eat a large amount of Chicken or Fish at dinner. Any oils are Coconut or Sunflower Seed oil, sometimes/oftentimes I use Butter and eat cheese. One day a week I eat a lion’s share of red meat (typically high quality Steak (rare) and Sausage together). Sometimes/oftentimes I consume various other “things”.  The “consistent” foundation is the importance. Around 4,000 calories a day.

A generalized overview of a lifestyle that works for me. One that I pull empowerment from.

I.33

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The I.33 Fight book is both an interesting and important historical artifact. It is the oldest tome expressing the martial arts of Europe, specifically that of Germany. It is perhaps the oldest expression of a martial arts tradition, actually teachable and frozen from the time it was created. While many legacies throughout the world claim ancient lineages, few can prove such things, and those who speak truth, have often evolved and changed deeply alongside technology causing them to no longer present ones original war form. I.33 is simply the catalogue number for this tome held within the archives. While it is connected with the tradition of German fencing. It also stands alone. As the German fencing tradition “begins” with the teaching of Lichtenauer, as recorded by the priest and master at arms Hanko Döbringer. In the same light, the I.33 is a fighting form recorded by priests, for priests. One must remember that religion did not unite a culture. Attacking an enemies territory and slaughtering his priests, ransacking temples, raping nuns, etc. meant nothing to many medieval (and modern) combatants. Therefore, the priests most often protect themselves.

A romantic thought that has always lingered inside my head, given the time period, is how inspiring it would be if such a book was recorded by remnant Templar knights. Given the Dual nature of it. There is much to be said of the Templars, yet this is not the point. The fight book dated to circa 1320, places it shortly after the Templar’s persecution. One must understand, very few Templars were arrested, very few. Only in locations were their enemies held great political and man power. Many of the Brethren simply prepared for battle, went to the authorities and asked who amongst them would come forth and perform such an arrest. Few challenged this afront. Yet obviously with such a decree sent forth, the Order simply was forced to dissolve. Many simply fell into disguise and silence. Many under the name of new and older orders, perhaps in secret conclaves, some simply not convicted. This is reasonable to understand. The obvious wealth was obviously taken elsewhere, or used elsewhere. It is quite easy to believe that many did indeed leave to Scotland or new lands, the passage to the new world was known of for several centuries at this time. The Scotland theory seems tangible given the fact it was free of this persecution. Fighting alongside Robert the Bruce? Nothing specifically states yes, or no. The idea of a small presence does not seem too radical, given the politics and time. I do not not believe the Templars persecution was unfounded, that they stood in complete innocence. Innocence is a twisted word. What we have at hand is a witch trial. False charges brought forth, spoken from ignorant minds, accusing what one did not understand. Insane acts spoken under tongues of torture. The Templars had their secrets. Secrets that made them what they were. Lost secrets. Learn and decide what you will… Yet, we at least have one of the most inspiring quotes of all time attributed to the men. “A Templar Knight is truly a fearless knight, and secure on every side, for his soul is protected by the armour of faith, just as his body is protected by the armour of steel. He is thus doubly armed, and need fear neither daemons nor men.” And thus in fire and blood, we are left with a legacy…

Yet the I.33 is of martial arts, romantics to be left aside. It offers a large perspective into sword and buckler training. Yet there are a couple things to be aware of. Most importantly, is the lack of always stepping. That is as one attacks from a particular side, one steps placing that foot forward. This is stressed in nearly all traditional martial arts, especially the Arts of Mars. Yet it is not always necessary. Yes, one wishes to step in strength in balance, yet cutting a man down is simple, and often takes little strength. Many combative and sports forms, such as Muay Thai, offer little stepping. Performing attacks from all angles while maintaining the “same” foot work. The “strong” foot often already forward, both feet being the “strong” foot. This is effective. Often there is little room to step, yet one should not be limited to one side. Therefore, one should train as diligently in not stepping as one should stepping. What the I.33 seems to be expressing is a form of “shoot combat”. Highly explosive propulsion from the balls of ones feet. Were you “slide forward” without stepping. This is an extremely effective approach to combatives. One to be trained in order to be understood. Simply take a fighting stance, sword pointed at “enemies face”. There is after all only One proper opening stance… Now explode forward again and again, dozens of times across your yard, causing your calves to hurt. Do the same thing moving backwards, diagonally in all directions, etc. This is the “leaping” the masters speak of, not actually jumping, that is foolish. Understand how to kill a man without even moving your sword. Therefore, when you do move your sword, you are thus moving in double… This is what I view when exploring this text.

A reason that such a text is connected to the priesthood, is that priests and religious men throughout time and cultures, have been the most connected to art on average. It is they who would express such things, have the men at their disposal to create such things. In their otherworldly pursuit, writing and embellishing writings into what eventually became true art. Of the world of Art, we owe everything to Renaissance Europe. This is when art truly became “Fine Art”. What the masters accomplished have set the standards for all eternity. Causing all cultures to fall miserably in comparison. This is an undisputable fact. In the history of art, before the modern era, it is the pursuit of the divine that drove such men to such high standards. Art, and all matters of the pen, being firstly held in the hands of religious and learned men, nearly always the same. This is why the I.33 is important to us. For arts sake, for martial arts, for history, and for spirituality.

Image: Conceptual Illustration I created depicting the I.33 models. 2010

Goliath

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The Goliath Fightbook is the Germanic foundation source for fighting with the Greatsword. Although a Longsword is a “Two-hander”, it can be easily used as a single handed sword. The True Two-Hander can not. Although one should train with it in a single hand for strength and balance purposes, fighting this way is not recommended. Thus, this is the “Two Hander”. There are a few things to point out when studying Goliath:

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First, Goliath is simply one of the greatest fight books given to us. Both in the quality of art and the uniqueness of it. The swords are undoubtedly True-Twohanders, measuring the height of men. When speaking of Greatswords there are two types the swords will fall in to. Those with lugs and those without lugs. Goliath embodies fighting using those without lugs. Thus dictating the style within the book. When studying historical artifacts, those made of a masterful quality, one must study the point of balance the sword carries. This is of upmost importance. As this dictates the bind. Your binding point, the lugs or cross, must be below the balance point. A “perfectly balanced” sword is not so. Perfect swords are made with perfect geometrical proportions. Creating a balance point a few inches above the cross. When binding you want the pivot point/ balance point above the “bottom-line” bind point for fluid motion. Thus two types of great swords. I will refer to two specific examples as generalization. Two specific examples created by master blade smiths.

A German example measuring 68” in length, a 17” handle, with a balance point of 8.5 inches, weighing 6.9 pounds. Slightly above the lugs, this balance point is purposefully put there. A Scottish example, although most likely a German made blade, measure 75”, a 22” handle, with a balance point of 4” weighing 9 pounds, with no lugs. Designed to use the cross. While both swords are masterfully created. The Scottish example is the more perfect weapon. The greatest balance. It will handle with great ease. Weight is not in issue in this category as one must train. It is simply created with greater geometry. Yet, are the lack of lugs a weakness or strength? This is up to the personal style of the wielder.

The swords used within Goliath are closer to the Scottish example. This is were the Goliath fight book comes into play. For one will may still desire the distance lugs create. This comes to grip placement. Many grip techniques place the cross hand a few inches below the cross, thus creating the distance of lugs, also placing balance point higher, yet still maintaining the ability to wield a sword with perfect balance by a quick shift of grip. Something a sword with lugs will lack. The grip varies within this book. From as written above, The pommel hand upon the pommel, sometimes above. The cross hand firmly placed under cross, etc. When wielding a great sword, you must be able to clear underneath your arms with ease, this can become somewhat awkward when the arms cross. In my understanding, it is the length of your forearm that is the ideal length when clearing under your arm. Although this is not necessary, especially when arms do not cross and proper extension maintained. Therefore upon placing attacks at your opponent, a grip inches below the guard will give you proper clearing room, maintaining distance as lugs, allowing quick shift of forward grip for superior sword balance, a luged sword lacks this, as you may never grip with perfect balance. A luged sword with “perfect” balance will lead to many an awkward bind, this is why you do not often find these. Yet personal preference may create such an artifact. There are many benefits of having a handle longer than your forearms, just as there are weaknesses, yet this is fluid and such a sword allows change. One must keep arms high and solid.

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Within Goliath always view the height of the arms, the extension of the arms. This must be maintained. This must be trained. Only changing upon the bind, as is natural with leverage and distance. As pictured above. It takes great endurance. Yet in any form a fighter who drops guard, drops dead. Of the upmost importance within Goliath, notice the tips of the swords. They nearly Never leave the forward direction. In nearly every technique the point is placed between self and opponent. This leads back to the hoop training I wrote of. This is the most important aspect of great sword fighting. You will see many experienced practitioners swirling their great swords around fluidly. I cannot express the silliness of this. It is not attractive nor martially sound. I ask how this differentiates from a baton twirler, simply twirling around with flash? These are the “show” fighters the masters warn of. In a sword fight, fluidity is often a bad thing. Movements should torc and jerk about, traveling paths that are not traceable. Else you simply leave a trail to your defeat. Sometimes it is best to simply train inside with the great sword, under normal ceiling height. Forcing small movements. These forced small movements are typically the only thing you will desire in actual combat. Force, force, force. The “1 inch” strike is of all importance. Strike the pell thousands times. The vortex, back and forth. Long edge and short edge are not static, they typically alternate as you reset grip and guard. Forearms and hands are to be disabled, in equal importance to torso and head.

Thus, the most important aspects of Greatswords are to master the changes of grip. Always maintain proper arm height and extension, Always! Never allow your point to travel far. Never be predictable.

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