Four in attendance. The second consecutive week of basic pugilism training, courtesy of Mr. R. The focus, naturally enough, was on footwork and posture. It is a remarkable thing about WMA that all of the ones we practice at Lonin (Fiore, cutlass/saber, and pugilism) employ basically the same footwork: the lead foot (the “rudder foot” in pugilism parlance) pointed directly at the adversary, the other angled outward, with an open lane between them. A fully generalized WMA curriculum would probably begin with pugilism, since it is such a good way to learn the basics of movement, posture and position without the distracting presence of a weapon in the hands.
We’ve been meaning to add grand bÃ¢ton to our repertoire. We now have the equipment in the form of four rattan sticks 1.4 m (55 in.) in length. We also have the beginnings of some curriculum in the form of Dr. Ken Mondschein’s new book The Art of the Two-Handed Sword.Â This is about the spadone, an immense sword used during the Renaissance, so might seem irrelevant to a 19th Century group. But even after the use of the spadone died out, its techniques survived in the form of the grand bÃ¢ton, and so Dr. Mondschein’s book can be used as the basis for a “big stick” curriculum.
P. 119 of this book contains some interesting and useful remarks about the importance of keeping the weapon moving. The spadone was so heavy that starting and stopping it required a lot of effort and entailed some delay, and so normal practice was to keep it swinging around all the time in large circular cuts called molinelli, as shown starting at 1:12 of this video from WMAW 2011.
The grand bÃ¢ton and the la canne cane don’t weigh as much, but their weight is concentrated at the distal end–they are maces–which makes them unwieldy and obliges the user to keep them moving. That’s why we begin each practice with stick circling exercises and it’s why we have recently begun working on the drill, described in last week’s blog post, in which a failed attack is followed up by a molinello and a second (or third, etc.) attack.
As it happened, this dovetailed nicely with Mr. B’s saber curriculum for the evening. We drilled the case in which the attacker’s first cut misses because the defender steps back out of range. Because the saber is a heavy weapon, the correct response is to keep the blade moving in a molinello while advancing for a second attempt.
We also worked drills showing how these circling movements can be actuated from the wrist; from the elbow; or from the shoulder depending on the tactical situation.
The new mailing list was inaugurated for Victorian-specific discussion that might not be of interest to the general Lonin population. We hope that this will also enable us to attract some new participants.
The physical culture routine continues to develop, and people are getting better at it; transitions from one exercise to the next are becoming quicker, which means we can get more done in the allotted hour. Part of the philosophy behind this drill is that each participant can ramp the intensity up or down by, e.g., using heavier clubs, or standing down and resting for part of the interval. To facilitate that, we may soon need to invest in more clubs and sticks, which is a good sign.
Partly because of the need to explain the new moving-target stick drill, physical culture ran a bit long and we concluded with about 45 minutes of cutlass work under the tutelage of Mr. B., mostly working a drill in which both participants, after an initial attack/defense-by-distance, keep their feet planted and take turns shifting forward to cut at the other’s arm, then shifting back to avoid the counter. Later this was complicated by allowing parries.
As a followup to the previous post, we have been developing a new partner drill in which the feeder is holding a target, such as a stick with a padded section on the end, and the worker is attempting to strike it with one of the canonical la canne blows.
If the target remains stationary, the worker should land the first blow, bounce off, circle around, and strike again from the other direction (e.g. a head cut should be followed by an uppercut).
If, however, the feeder moves the target out of range, causing the worker to miss, then the worker should keep the stick moving in the same direction, advance on the target, and come around for a second (or third, etc.) attempt.
In the case where the attack miscarries, the worker will be tempted to try to bring the stick to a complete stop, which is bad practice; the purpose of this drill is to train the worker to handle either of the two situations with aplomb.
In other news, Mr. S acquired a pair of baseball catcher’s leg protectors which seem to be quite well suited for savate work. Protection extends all the way down over the top of the foot and well up above the knee. The system for strapping them on is well thought out, secure, and easy to use, and despite their impressive bulk they provide fine mobility. More on this topic as we continue to test them.
It’s our tradition to begin with the Sixteen-Fold Way of stick circling exercises as a way to limber up the wrists and wake up the shoulders, then relax for a few minutes with free-form stick striking practice. This is beginning to get interesting. In the tradition that we are following, the stick is assumed to have a heavy ball on its end, which places the balance point far from the hand and makes it feel more like a mace than a sword. As such, it’s hard to get going and, once it is moving, hard to stop. When making a strike against a target such as a pell or bag, the natural tendency is to attempt to pull the stick up short just as it’s hitting the target. This is fine if the strike lands as intended and the target absorbs most of its energy. If the strike misses, however, the attempt to stop the stick can lead to hyperextension of the wrist or elbow. And if it succeeds, the result is a stick that isn’t moving any more—which is useless from a martial standpoint, and possibly even dangerous if the adversary has the presence of mind to grab it.
The skill we are beginning to work on is to keep the stick movingÂ in the event that it misses the target, and swing it around fluidly for another attempt. What makes this an interesting challenge is that you can’t know whether or not the strike will land until it’s basically too late to react, and so the challenge is to train one’s movements in such a way that whether or not the strike lands, it’s okay; if it lands, the stick can bounce back and come around the other way for a followup, and if it misses, it can keep swinging the same direction for a second attempt.
During the second half of the session, we continued our focus on cutlass training. We are moving on from basic drills into patterns of movement that involve greater mobility, shifting the weight back and forth across a wide stance, and mixing figure 8 blocking maneuvers with some left hand actions (reaching in to tap the adversary’s elbow when possible). More perspiration and heavy breathing are now in evidence during this half of the session.
Five in attendance, including a special guest from far away. We did most of the basic workout, skimping a bit on the heavy Indian club phase because of time constraints, and then worked cutlass for over an hour, focusing on some of the basic blocks and parries up out of low guard. Emphasis was on relaxation and economy of motion, maintaining an upright posture, and adjusting footwork so as to remain square to the adversary. These moves flow directly into Silver’s grips and as such are squarely in Hutton’s “Defence against Uncivilised Enemies” curriculum.
Anomalous week with three coaches simultaneously out of town or unavailable. Members stepped up to fill the gap for Monday and Wednesday Fiore group sessions. Tuesday evening Victorian and Friday early bird sessions were cancelled.
With attendance a bit low due to travel and weather, we spent a while drilling down on a few of the more hard-to-learn physical culture moves. A lot of time was spent working on an Indian club maneuver called the Figure 8, which looks simple but is difficult to learn. We ended up putting one club on the floor and working part of the exercise with a single club held in one hand.
Later in the evening we were drilling the Reply Head Cut from la canne, colloquially known as the “Peter Pan” within our group, and it suddenly became obvious that this movement is the same as the Figure 8. If you put a stick in each hand and then chain together alternating head cuts, you end up doing the Figure 8 move of Indian club lore. This isn’t the first time that we have discovered linkages between la canne and Indian clubs.
What makes this especially interesting is that Indian clubs, as the name implies, were “discovered” in India by British colonialists who brought them back to their home country as exercise devices, and la canne was later exported from Europe to India where it became part of the training regimen of local police forces. What goes around comes around.
We have been working with a wide range of different physical culture exercises, which is fine except for the fact that the transitions take up a lot of time and don’t leave much room in the practice for study of specific martial arts techniques. This evening for the first time we used the new round timer supplied by Mr. Beard to run through a timed and programmed series of exercises, beginning with la canne-style stick swinging and then moving through a series of single and paired body weight exercises to light Indian clubs and heavy Indian clubs. This provided a vigorous half-hour workout hitting most of the major muscle groups. In the future we will transition from that into punching and kicking drills, but this evening we were somewhat limited by a lack of equipment.
With five participants in attendance, we did have enough combined muscle power to move the base of our Wavemaster bag up the stairs, and so our freestanding heavy bag is finally online in one corner of the loft. After a medicine ball session we launched into an hour of cutlass/dusack training under the capable and patient tutelage of Mr. Barnett. Since we are still bringing some new swordfighters up to speed, this evening’s lesson concentrated on the basics of stance, movement, and distance.
The gada was tested and found to be in need of further work. Its handle is very thin and very hard and tough on collarbones.
During a break we admired a Christmas gift from Mr. Wolf: