Wood and Steel

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Wood breaks. Steel bends. In martial arts training there are obviously two types of proper training tools. Steel and Wood. It is best to have both, used depending on the occasion. Please do not use plastic or aluminum, based upon principle.

The most beneficial is a steel blunt. Created to immediately mimic the use of a sharp one. Never shy away from training using sharps in solo practice, never fear your own blade. There are few drawbacks of steel. It is wonderful when training in dual, mutual technique. When sparring, it demands one to wear proper protective equipment. Which can be a nuisance when you are switching between various things and simply wish to train shirtless, or unarmoured. The draw back is pell work. The steel bends. Steel swords are expensive, if this is not a problem, train with steel on the pell. Steel bends easily. Understand the old strong man techniques of bending such things, and then the sword seems less impressive. My albion training sword pent at the pommel at some unknown point, I apply a lot of pressure at the pommel. Only slightly, perceivable when spun upon it’s tip, yet perceivable enough to be annoying for 500 dollars. Needless to say, I will never buy another training steel. My own way of making such things will be finalized in the near future.

Wood has many benefits as well. Firstly, yes, even a well made wooden tool feels as a graceful club in comparison to steel. Yet this can be a good thing as well. Hickory and Oak are most recommended. I always use oak, just because. I have purchased training swords of wood (hickory) in the past. My true opinion is they were made too gracefully. Causing their weight to be too light. Also causing weakness of instrument. Needless to say there have been repairs, fortunately wood glue is very strong when used properly. A quarter inch here and there makes a profound difference in strength and weight. I will never buy another’s tools again. My own are simply too easy to make. Also allowing to make tools slightly above average height, as my proportions are a little above average. I am 6’2”. Wooden tools allow for vigorous pell training (wood pell, punching bag wrapped in tape, etc.) Always let the pell be of a “light wood” to protect your tools, steel or not. I have gone thru 3 pells in the past 2 months, yet breakage is due to elbow strikes on taped pads. Wood also allows for unarmored dual technique, while still allowing force, as well as sparring without protection to a degree. Always wear gloves, hands and fingers are constantly plowed through.

Something to pursue is obtaining the tools and ability to make your own training instruments. It is well worth it, the weapon feels as you. One can immediately make Exactly what they wish, not just find something close enough. Matched to your proportions or a particular historic original. Or something completely new, such as extremely heavy, well balanced training tools. Do not believe the skill is beyond you, it is not. Both in steel and wood. The skill set is basic once defined. Simply follow the process and pursue effort. If someone asks to use your weapons, simply say no if the two are not intimate and you do not wish to share energy. Another’s touch taints a weapon. “No” is easily spoken and enforced, in all things.

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

Battle Axe Culture

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Of the “Battle Axe Culture”, both literally and extended. This will be a writing of martial arts perspectives while using an axe. European martial arts. As it can be easily viewed, that the axe obtained prevalence in Europe. That on the land of Europe, humans used the axe far more excessivly ,then is present on other continents. Yet first, when speaking of European martial arts. One should first understand what the word European actually means. This will be an extremely general overview. Academic perspective of writing can be silly at times, causing an over categorization that does not need to exist, in terms of overall understanding. I avoid writing in such a way, as we must expand our thinking. Very little in history, especially pre history is set in stone. It is built upon the imagination of intellegent men, who view artifacts and apply it to “cultural” understandings of contemporary times or times shortly there after, along with enviroment knowledge. It will change and is ever changing. We often categorize things using language, but when speaking of such old times, one cannot. And yet still identify.

Long ago, Europe was settled by Neanderthals. This is a reasonable point to start as we are speaking of European humans. These tribes, or small kin groups existed for tens of thousands of years, in a changing landscape. European Neanderthal was a “fairish” coloured creature. Hair, skin, etc. Over time came what one would call modern human. By the time they actually lived within Europe on a large scale, one in which we can view, they had developed unique characteristics from the land. We are speaking in terms of thousands of slow years of movement and integration. This contact would result in an Extremely slow assimilation of species. Both displacement of neanderthal, and interbreeding. Thus why those of modern European descent have neanderthal genes. This European species, now exists as hunters gatherers. It will remain this way for thousand upon thousand of years. The environment changing over time. Small movements and mixing with other “local” small groups. The landscape ever changing of course, as well as the animals similar and unfamiliar. Slowly from the south, agricultural practices grow greater and greater, and of course hunting continues. Wild land is ripe with meat, and hunting is not difficult. The pure hunter cultures become not pushed, yet simply existed further north due to climate. A way to separate culture academically, the hunters and the growers/ hunters. The landscape is greatly different. Europe was a large connected land mass. The British isles connect to land as well as Scandinavia, with a great mass between. We call this Doggerland. The landscape continues to change. The waters take much of the northern lands. Onward with late stone age cultures. Religion and mythologies continue to develop. Neanderthal man tens of thousands of years prior practiced what can be viewed as spiritual rites. The bronze age comes. The late stone and bronze age stand out both for the change of technology as well as what seems a change of rulership practice. It is genetically viewed that humans from the eastern european steppes came across Europe over these centuries. This is not an invasion, this is not a sweep. It is a slow moving migration of of kin groups. Some displacement, some setting up new aristocratic families, some just picking up new ways of existing. This will basically happen other times through and into the Iron age, under different cultures and names.. One can always count on mingling groups to mate with one another, especially when these groups appear similar in appearance. This changes the genetic data, if only slightly. Yet, this culture seemed more war like. We call this spreading culture the Battle Axe culture, or Corded Ware culture. Due to the beginnings of extensive axe motifs. Yet there is nothing unified of this culture, just art forms across areas and slight variations. Perhaps it was due to an increase of population pressure. Causing a more warlike perspective. A sense of competition as neighbors became too close. This is mankind’s instincts at work. These herders speak what we might begin to call Indo-European. In these times language is not a functional way to classify groups, as we know so little. During the bronze age, an extensive amount of cultures appear archaeologically. We over categorize things. Yet it does make sense. Yet understand what will separate two cultures within books. This culture created butterknives with a triangle drawn upon them. This other culture created the same knife with circles drawn upon it. This is often the depth of differences within neighboring cultures. Look at the large scale… Some of Mediterranean Europe begins what scholars call becoming more “asiatic”, this means middle eastern, as in the land said cultures existing upon them for tens of thousands of years. Then comes the Iron age, at various points across Europe. Once again the increased difference within Mediterranean Europe. Although you see in Greece around 1,000bc, what seems a rapid integration from a close northern culture, this happens in other areas as well. This is due to the warlike descendants of steppes cultures already greatly inter mingled with “Greek areas”, displacing some of the larger aristocracies, and large population comings. The Sparta of the Iliad is not the Sparta of classical Greece. This is a strange thing to point out, yet an obvious corrupted truth, the Mediterranean did display a large fondness to homosexual pedophilia perhaps due to their exposure to other eastern cultures who did as well. As well as many “civilized atrocities”. No matter what positive thing I read of the Greeks I always see them as a mockery of respect and ways. Their obsession is very viewable. And we as humans whitewash history with stupidity. It is an enigma as we view cultures. All are Scarred. Much human sacrifice for example, so many “barbaric atrocities”. Can you even separate the two? Your choice of perspective I say, and always present… Sparta was the most obsessed of all with their ways. Sparta is such a silly lie to the average man inspired by such a thing. But then again, my military interest does not lie in modern military perspectives. I am more interested in the aspect of tribal groups and said protectors and culture/ society that created them and they existed in. Pushing into the understanding of modern establishments, the development through centuries. Consequences, importance, misuse, futile actions, advanced thoughts of progression, are why we study history. We desperately need to understand it in order to move properly forward. Too many mistakes to view… Were some cultures more free than others? The ways were so confined, the paths so little. Yet any different than today? In particular places in the world today, yes. We have great choice and freedom, When acting within a culture. While confining, still more free than what others in the past experienced, and many experience today… Thus, long ago, one can on a general level, view Europe as Northern and Southern. Not West and East as we view today, broadly, for one can classify four. Yes, the south created “modern” civilizations and roads and such. Yet personally, I would rather live in a self made cabin in the middle of the woods of Canada, than a penthouse in Los Angeles. Thus a write from my perspective. Cultures continue to develop, and we keep using axes. Time continues, as it does, we understand history more. Christianity brings a somewhat cultural unification of Europe in place of Rome. Or perhaps in place of Rome. Both equally administrative. Yet also splitting, just like Rome. A somewhat foreign unification. On and on. Viking, Knights, etc. And then modern establishments. Back to axes…

From the European martial arts perspective. One can view the peak of the axe as the pollaxe. The go to weapon of the unmounted knight. Yet first we return to the “Battle Axe culture”. In prehistory we have clubs, then you attach stone. Stone that starts looking like an axe. Then we have bronze. Now we have axes. The bronze age gives us many examples. A culture that stands out is the Nordic Bronze age. A time the nordic land was warmer, than becoming very wet, and shortly after cold as one would think today. We have many axe examples, as well as large axe heads we found buried for ceremonial use. These axeheads are not ceremonially unusable. They could easily be used mounted up a large shaft the height of a man. A proto-dane axe if you will. Whether for combat or simply status. There are contemporary Nordic Bronze age images that show men using such axes. Yet can one take the proportions literally.? Yes and no. Yet it is under this path you will find the earliest version of the pollaxe. The nordic bronze age is a collection of artifacts from around 1700 bc-500bc. It is unique in the richness of material we have. It seems it circulated around a sun cult, as well as an earth goddess cult. As well as representations of many twin forms, most likely said two deities. Images of what could be proto-viking gods, yet this is a stretch and not, and never to be pressed further. As inspiration is what the culture seeks. Inspiration expressed in creativity and thoughts passed on. One of the most remarkable discoveries is the Egtved Girl. One who wore a beautiful and extremely attractive outfit, and with ones imagination makes an inspiring figure. Re-enactment, role-play, at it’s peak… Onward and onward. Two handed axes appear in the iron age. and onward to pollaxes. Styles and variations of many sorts. In an excessive amount.

Axe martial arts? There are few. Yet when one is skilled in longsword and ringen you will understand. First, the axe is horrible in an unarmored duel. A combat axe. Tool axes are a wedge, fighting ones a typical even thickness meat cleaver. As a tool, perhaps the single greatest modernly. For one can build nearly anything of natural materials with only an axe. In combat, with a combative one, forget about the sense of axing someone. Thrust and pull in the duel. Many axes are theorized to be mounted upside down if created traditionally. Just for this purpose, as well as better throwing qualities. Thrust push and strike pull. In a boom boom, saw way. This way you pull down shields, throw other off balance if strong, and attempt to strategically use it as a sword than a hook, or perhaps hook than sword. If two handed use as a “staff”. Upon grappling one handed, one may slip hand toward top in order to protect forearm to protect you. Especially if in armour on the field. It becomes more an aspect of ringen than axe. If allowed to swing, than in armour swing, as to dent the opponents. The ax can be used to slip range. As in hold it high then slip low. Yet anyone should know this and understand the slipped range. The two handed axe is to be used erect placed vertically in front of you. An attack of feet and collar. Always defended. Or as a “staff”. One could view in formation a dropping of a great wall of axes, Gallowglass style. An obstacle to say the least to wade into. Yet after the initial striking, no more “axe swinging”. It simply does not pertain to reality. Thus the vertical vortex. Or use as a spear that can pull. The use of the Hema poleaxe. A weapon existing in similar form for thousands of years. The basic axe, and how to wield it, how to create a better one combatively. If anything, one can always appreciate the imagery of the axe. a powerful, capable symbol. When studying, it is best to know what it is you study and why.

Thus a quick over view of Europe. Pre history is often a confusing thing to try and create a fluid timeline with. Especially one that may have any sense of unity. While all the timelines have unity, it is up to what we find in addition to our intelligent imaginations to seek the truth of it. History, Hema, on and on.

Pitfall

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‘Set your sword pointing towards your enemy’s face, and quickly strike.
You must be very shrewd, the eye towards the weapons
which can strike you, seizing measure and timing,
and with a proper posture.’ -Vadi

This is the most solid piece of advice I have ever read in a Hema manual. Many manuals have pitfalls, most likely done on purpose to confuse one with theatrics. Simply choreographing what one views in a manual can lead to something very pleasing to the eye, yet something very weak in approach. Simply my vision, even when just meditating on the subject. My stance stays the same nearly at all times. Shuffling my feet. Whipping the sword point on circles no bigger than a foot, the pommel much less, with the point still in front. The point finding the opponent, or a small whip of a few inches of my blade that one would call a strike. The moment my point leaves my front, I feel vulnerable and weak, because I am. The moment my point must move more than a foot to protect myself, I have created to much movement, and am set from a weak point. While one does not want to compare this art to modern fencing, one must ask themselves if they could stand against a fencer, given a real rapier. Watch how much these fencers get hit, this is the same of a sword fight, It happens without sight of it. You will be stabbed so quickly, so immediately, without even a fight. The theatrics will look horrible. Video taped and presented, it will artistically please no one. Its just intelligently and skillfully breaking someone down quickly and striking. Imagine the serpent who rotated as he struck. Boxing is another good example. Imagine a boxing match that the winner was the first person hit in the head. For once again this is how easy it is to kill. In boxing there is a complete break down of “martial arts technique”. You simply do the same thing again and again. Range control decides the victor. In a martial arts sense, boxing is unpleasing to the eye, theatricly. Many of the past masters had to fill their books up with something appealing. Who’s to even say they all were true masters? Some things I come across cause me to question. Or perhaps they are lying on purpose, to confuse the unworthy. Or perhaps making up techniques in controlled environments, because they have the knowledge and skill to. Theatrical displays are something written of during the medieval era, and those who put them on. The oldest of the fight books describe very little in techniques. This is not due to being old and undeveloped, this is due to truth. It is all you need. As time went on things are added, yet the vast majority is unnecessary fluff. Simply other men trying to reinvent the wheel. When we see something more difficult to understand, we believe it better. This is a falsehood. I find more worth in the words of some masters than I do in their pictures. True sword fighting is not beautiful or appealing. Nor does it even look that skilled. Because true skill lies in range control, something most viewers of fights are extremely ignorant of. They are concerned with hands doing fancy things, when hands really move so little. What I am trying to say, is sword fighting is extremely simple in appearance, while a whole other world from sports fencing, this is actually the closest thing I can compare it to, in the sense of extremely skilled practitioners who will stab you before tea time. Pouring the tea will look more artful than the fight.

Spar!

Spar. Spar. Spar. Put aside your choreographed ego. Not only is this the greatest act of fun. It is also the greatest act of learning. Depending on what you do, you may only be able to spar with weapons. Ones unarmed combat may be unsparrable, such as the ‘Ringen’ I study, be the serpent not the bear… Sword sparring is the most exhilarating source of entertainment I can participate in with men. The problem with sparring is many people have to large of an ego to do such a thing. If you are over fifty and have many students, and your martial arts are worth anything besides just being mediocre choreography for decades, then yes, you are exempt from sparring. Hopefully you have not walked a lie of choreographed martial arts through your life and lack of any participation in the spar, the most common form of martial arts ‘master’. One must understand there is no such thing as being undefeated in such practice. It is a shame watching sports practitioners completely fall apart phsycologically because they lose. Of course you lost. You are ultimately just sparring very hard, please do not think you are participating in real combat, you are not. You are not. Protection is often needed for sparring to be more realistic, as I feel it easy to kill a man with a wooden sword, especially when thrusting, let alone a bIunted steel. I will be struck many times sparring, strikes meaning blood and mortal wounds, I will strike many times. Sometimes I may go Blitzkrieg, and be reckless, just to see what I can get away with consistently and what I can not. Sometimes I will see how long I can go and not be hit. Maybe I will just do crazy movements with my sword, writing symbols in the air around yours with no contact to make your timing fall apart, just to strike out after twenty seconds of your frustration… It is all very enlightening towards what you would actually do to win, unharmed. I care nothing of being hit in training, nothing of hitting. No ego, just fun. Although, unfortunately, many get caught in ego and act unprofessional, therefore just hit there hands and tell them to chill out. If you do not spar, you are not a martial artist. Trying to get a sword between me and some other martial artists is quite impossible at times. Because they are terrified that their ego will be taken, they put ego in choreography and call this survival. This is a silly concept. It is too easy to hit others and be hit. This is why true martial arts have more to do with range control then technique. Those caught up in theatrical display, simply do not wish this taken from them. Unarmed combat can become weird, be careful. Sports and stuff are fine, its just sport. Knife sparring is probably the most enlightening and useful. Sparring should be the core of your training. Participating whenever possible. It is not the final count of life and death. Too many other circumstances come into play to view it this way. It is just fun and learning. Get off the martial arts pedestal. Participate. Do not be a useless, ego filled, falsely confident dancer.