Two very substantial dudes practicing what looks like first master dagger.
Brief warmup: burpees, jumping jacks, sprints, pickups, situps, pushups
Cutting drill / flow hitting
2-1 hitting into openings drills. Feeder stays relatively stationary, cuts into various guards. Calls out to workers and they enter and attack into an opening.
- Variation 1: following the attack, beat the feeder’s sword down
- Variation 2: feeder always ends in posta longa. Worker steps in to displace thrust.
Drill 1 variant. Newbie works the classic defense. Intermediates: on attack, try to flow through and succeed against the counter (Fiore 2nd master zogho largo, plays 1-3). Examples include pommel strike, attacking and then fading out, etc. Format is aggressive with feeders working speed changes on entries, etc.
Cycling back to hitting into openings drill, now play it like a sparring match but the feeder pauses to indicate the opening.
Light contact freeplay.
- Free hitting practice on pell
- Drill 1 variant from Monday evening -
- Defender waits in any right-side guard
- Feeder moves around a bit, throws a mandritto fendente from any guard
- Defender can parry or step offline and counter-hit
- Iteration is resolved organically. Neither party has a designated action. Keep it light, not too competitive, see what happens.
- Second drill, working a similar setup but against rerverso feeds. We found three parrying patterns that seemed to work alright:
- Pattern 1: Staying stationary, throw a mandritto fendente at the attacker, covering the strike. You need to then beat the strike down to your right, possibly with a slight accressare right and forward. You can’t just counterstrike because you will get hit.
- Pattern 2: Employ similar mechanics to drill 2. Cut up into the strike from underneath. Accressare left and beat the strike to the left. We found that cutting true edge and zoning on the attacker was helpful.
- Pattern 3: Similar parry action to pattern two, but just fade back slightly, let the cut pass in front of you and then counter.
- Light freeplay, half to three-quarter speed, four rounds of five passes each.
Monday evening class with 7 present.
- Quick warmup with some sprinting, stretching, pushups and situps
- From state of light motion (shifting feet), make a pass with a specific foot, land, evaluate balance and quality of step
- Same thing stepping offline while referencing a centerline on the floor
- Walk to the pell, make pass with fendente without breaking stride, full cut to low guard on the other side.
- Same but stop when in range. Make a guard, then pass with a fendente. Classmates take turn watching, giving feedback.
- Same as above but guy in front of you waits in front of the pell and yells when you are to attack.
- Instruction and discussion on passing with a counterstrike/bind against a fendente. Put on safety gear. Drill:
- Defender waits in full iron gate.
- Attacker walks up, sets up a guard (posta di donna) and then attacks with a fendente
- Defender can either allow the attack to land, or respond with a pass offline and counterstrike to the attacker
- Attacker should bind the defender’s blade. Attacker then has the impetus to continue attack using stretto plays.
- Second setup using drill 1 variant:
- Defender waits in full iron gate.
- Attacker walks up, sets guard, and attacks fendente with a passing step from posta di donna.
- Defender can allow attack to land, or can respond with either parry or pass offline and counterstrike.
- Attacker should bind and cover if the defender counterstrikes. If the defender parries, the attacker should allow his sword to be beaten wide. This time the defender has the impetus and can continue after the crossing.
- Dagger fun drill with mystery attackers
- Melee flow drill, quick partner changes
Basics focus: stances, foot planting, grip transitions, hand positioning, true-timed attacking and parrying, power alignment in the crossing, power with relaxation and adaptability
Our Lonin sword fighting group was recently treated to a weeklong visit, and weekend seminar, with Guy Windsor. The seminar weekend culminated a year-long experiment by our evening practice group in using Guy’s Fiore syllabusas a basis for a martial curriculum. As coach of the evening practice group, I feel that Guy’s syllabus has been tremendously useful. This post gives a little history about the creation of our practice group, our group dynamic and how Guy’s syllabus has been useful to us.
The Fiore evening practice group got started early in 2012 when Lonin acquired a permanent workout space within SANCA’s Georgetown facility. Neal had founded Lonin about ten years earlier. Meeting in a variety of different spaces, the group had experimented with a broad range of different armed combat types. At first the equipment had consisted of padded wasters. Over time Lonin had narrowed its focus to the longsword and had made the transition to the use of steel training simulators. The group began to forge connections with the larger WMA community, reaching out to teachers and researchers, including Guy, who were qualified to educate them in historical techniques.
Prior to acquiring the loft, we were working around SANCA’s busy class schedule and were only able to hold practice early in the morning. When the loft became available early this year, Neal was strongly in favor of the idea of my starting an evening Fiore group there. We bootstrapped the group with a Meetup.com gathering and acquired a few members, two of whom, Sterling Nelson and Randy Holte, are still with us today. Ten months later we draw six or seven participants in our evening practices, with an extended group of about a dozen active members.
I have a selfish motivation for organizing and coaching a sword-fighting group: I want to master swordfighting. To succeed in that, I need a committed and competitive group of sibling fighters. After many years of teaching martial arts, and through related trials and tribulations, I’ve developed a sense of my own comfort zone around training groups, curriculums, and organizations.
Andrew S. and I, in founding Seattle Escrima Club with the gracious help of our grandmaster teacher Rene Latosa, coalesced a model that works pretty well for me. This is what Andrew calls a “mature adult coaching model.” We get together, train smartly in a shared avocation, and work hard so that everyone can improve. We take care of each other. Rather than an authoritarian “master,” there are coach-leaders who facilitate workouts.
One might assume that an intelligent and committed group of reasonable adults would have no need for hierarchies, sashes or complex etiquette. Specifically, it works as follows.
- The group organizes as a “band of siblings” with coach-facilitators
- In their own practice, the coaches model diligent training for the group
- The group leans on, and compensates, higher-level expert practitioners, to teach seminars and provide curriculum, while remaining an independent, local entity
- Members show up consistently, support the group and put in a good effort
- The group efficiently uses its limited time together. This means maximizing work time while minimizing discussion, elaborate corrections and time-consuming experimentation
- Beginners and intermediates are nourished alike, working a common set of drills that are simple yet deep enough to allow everyone to improve where needed.
In this model, drills and curricula are treated not as “religion” but rather as a framework in which effective movement and technique is encouraged. Mistakes surface naturally (i.e., when I err, I get hit, get my balance broken, etc.), and great coaching can happen (the right feedback stated in the right way at the appropriate time).
A useful curriculum, and effective coaching practice, recognizes the varying needs of practitioners in different stages of skill acquisition. During an ideal practice, beginners get up to speed on choreography and structure, intermediate students fine-tune skills while modeling competent technique for their youngers, and advanced students work towards perfection, experimenting in subtle ways while sticking to the flow of the drills that everyone else understands. Classmates are discouraged from stopping the flow of the drill to criticize each other, or discuss, and rather offer physical feedback by performing their part correctly. A good drill produces a wealth of teachable moments for any practitioner. Everyone should be able to self-monitor performance within the drill, recognizing mistakes and areas for improvement. A great coach can watch a student, witness the five things he or she is doing wrong, and then give succinct feedback on the highest priority item in that “hit list.”
This model demands a lightweight, non-stratified and flexible curriculum. A lightweight curriculum imposes minimal overhead for coaches and students, allowing beginners to ramp up quickly. A non-stratified curriculum allows practitioners of mixed level to work together. This is great for me because I don’t have to separate the group into different practice clusters. Also, really, basics are all that matters so there is no penalty for the advanced student to spend a majority of their time drilling basics. Flexibility gives coaches and practitioners some creative room to innovate. With such a curriculum the group can elevate collective knowledge and skills without going overboard with overhead.
Fiore’s treatise (there are four extant versions, actually — we principally study the versions known as the Getty and the Pisani-Dossi, and this reference is to the Getty) contains almost 200 plays, with many more detailings of guards, strikes, and concepts. Given some time, it would be easy for someone to create a massive curriculum from this material. Much more difficult, and time-consuming, to create a succinct curriculum that captures the essentials into a reasonable set of drills, offering a student with one or two years’ commitment, some chance of maintaining the curriculum within memory.
A final, critical piece for any martial curriculum is scope and context. Rather than play with a medley of historical traditions, we decided to standardize on a single source (Fiore). His treatises present a transitional and systematic martial curriculum that for me, meshed well with my beloved experiences with Rene Latosa and his Filipino Escrima concepts. Like Rene, Fiore was concerned with potentially deadly encounters: “…in anger, or for one’s life, employing every trick, deception and cruelty imaginable.”
To contrast the focus of our group, there is an avid and wonderful community of historical martial artists whose focus is sport bouting. Several of our members including myself enjoy competing within these venues, but as a group we have made a decision to focus on the combat scenarios that concerned Fiore.
Lonin’s engagement with Guy and the Swordschool Syllabus
Early in 2009, Neal and I, with Ben W., started working through an early draft of Guy Windsor’s new book on sword fighting. We met Tuesday and Friday mornings, and guided by Neal, who had the manuscript, would try to recreate various drills outlined in his book. There was regular back-and-forth email with Guy.
I met Mr. Windsor for the first time at one such Friday morning session. During that visit, Guy and Neal shot a video depicting the comprehensive sword plays of Fiore (sword in one hand, sword in two hands in wide play, and sword in two hands in close play). At VISS 2011, Andrew, Neal, Brandon, Mark and I attended Guy’s Fiore weekend intensive. During the same visit he also taught an evening workshop back in Seattle. Guy shortly thereafter launched the Swordschool Wiki and his YouTube channel. Andrew, Neal and I attended Guy’s workshops at WMAW 2011, and in November 2012, we brought Guy out to teach a Fiore seminar for our group.
The November seminar was for me, a capstone of a 10-month experiment in the use of Guy’s syllabus. Prior to the event, we were practicing the basic flow and structure of many of the syllabus drills. We were definitely missing a number of fine points, but having the foundational exposure to the syllabus drills in advance of the seminar was great as it positioned us to more effectively digest Guy’s instruction and feedback. Guy’s seminar and coincident visits to our practices were fruitful. We finished with a mountain of feedback on our execution of the curriculum drills, with many corrections on critical basics: stance, footwork, grips, posture, and positioning. He showed how to identify problem situations that might arise within free play, determine solutions, and then merge those solutions back into the basic syllabus exercises so they could be drilled repeatably.
Guy lives in Helsinki, and we’re in Seattle. So far, the distance has limited our face-time with Guy to two or so events per year. Even so, the relationship has worked fairly well. We are not operating as a branch school, as the consensus is that Helsinki is just too far away for that to make sense, but we lean on his syllabus extensively in our practices, and we are making progress.
When I started coaching the evening practices, I quickly realized that I lacked the time and expertise to come up with an effective curriculum. I did not want to spend class time experimenting. I believe that given time and experimentation I could come up with my own reasonable syllabus. The time factor is the biggest stumbling block. I have a day job and four kids. Plus, I view all curricula as transitory.
Good curricula flow from effective application of martial and movement concepts. I feel that any curricula founded on sound concepts (both of the art and how to run a practice) can form a good structure for improvement. The specific techniques and plays chosen for a beginner/intermediate curriculum are less important, in my opinion, than the rooting of said drills in good concepts, and the ability of coaches and participants to work effectively in recognizing good vs. bad movement.
Drillsets are just a beginning. The magic of learning and improvement comes from the individual’s attentiveness to identifying and correcting flaws, his diligence and longevity within the training group, and effective coaching. The curriculum is important, but only as a framework to allow correct practice.
Following are some of the aspects that we appreciate about Guy Windsor’s Fiore syllabus:
- Guy roots his syllabus and drills in a higher authority (Fiore). He painstakingly maps his syllabus drills back to specific guards and plays in the Fiore treatises. We can see these connections ourselves, and indeed, we can creatively extend his drills by drawing our own connections from the texts.
- The syllabus has been developed over a long period of time, and although Guy continues to tweak it, the pace of change is fairly slow. This is critical in a long-distance relationship as continual creative change and flux within a curriculum poses huge challenges for distant schools.
- The syllabus drills (drill 1 & 2, the two thrust defenses, four corners and four crossings) compactly encompass a huge number of Fiore’s plays, and numerous potential blade-crossing scenarios.
- Like Fiore’s art, the syllabus plays and exercises connect with each other to present a whole that is larger than the sum of its parts.
- Minimally stratified
- The syllabus is only differentiated by Beginner and Intermediate levels. I am a firm believer in group unity within a practice: the ability to rotate beginner, intermediate, and expert students through a common drill framework. And honestly, I have no interest in rank advancement or putting adults through testing processes.
- The syllabus drills expand within themselves (having attacks, counters, and counters to counters) — beginners can work the basic motions while advanced can move onto the latter steps. The more simple, fundamental steps in the plays (i.e., the initial attack, the parry and riposte) come first and thus get executed many more times than the more-advanced (and less likely to occur) follow-ons.
- Guy encourages us to extend and modify the syllabus drills to accommodate other Fiore plays and guards; to add degrees of freedom and hence, difficulty; and to even perform the motions competitively.
- Guy has done a great job of disseminating his teaching through seminars, through the Sword School wiki, and within his books. Having these reference materials accessible to everyone allows beginners and advanced alike to check themselves, make corrections, and identify where practice or coaching is straying from Guy’s baseline.
Finally, Guy has made himself available personally to us, to answer questions via email or Skype. We recently agreed to start donating a small monthly stipend to Swordschool, but Guy worked with us in this way for almost two years before we sent any money his way.
Bootstrapping a martial arts group is challenging. A coach facilitator needs to be ready to commit for the long term. I am lucky to have a family and a demanding day job, and a lovely wife who knows my passion for the martial arts and supports me in attending three sessions per week. It’s a big commitment.
A coach facilitator needs to commit to attendance, and it’s key to demand the same commitment from students. I tell interested newcomers they have to commit to two evenings a week. No syllabus or coaching magic can make up for lukewarm commitment. Fiore’s art is complex and demanding. I can only imagine that in his historical context, practitioners committed far more time to practice than we. Their lives were at stake.
Despite our limited time together, I’ve seen inspiring growth in a few members of our young group. Not surprisingly, the members who consistently show up, show the greatest gains. Everyone starts from their individual base, but when I consider growth rather than raw skill, in every club I’ve ever been a part of, the group members who show up consistently benefit the most from their involvement, and those same individuals give back the most to the club.
Given limited time together, any group needs sound coaching principles, individual commitment, and an effective syllabus. I’ve leaned hard on Guy Windsor’s scholarship, and he’s given freely of his time to answer our questions via email and Skype. I’m grateful for his contribution to the art, and for his freely given support to our young group. I’m also thankful for my swordfighting siblings who help me get better every day. Thanks for reading, and best of luck to all of you, in your journey of growth in the martial arts.
Eric Artzt in Seattle, Washington — December 2012
Lonin is pleased to welcome Guy Windsor, renowned swordfighting coach and internationally known scholar on Italian swordfighting traditions. Mr. Windsor, founder andÂ principal instructor at The School of European Swordsmanship in Helsinki, will be conducting a teaching seminar covering the Italian medieval swordfighting traditions of Fiore dei Liberi and Fillipo Vadi.Â To learn more about Mr. Windsor, please see his biography here.
Seminar details are as follows:
- Date: Nov 10-11, 10am-5pm
- Location: Miller Community Center main gym.Â 330 19th Avenue East, Seattle, WA. Google map
- Cost: $180 (see Paypal buttons below)
- Seminar includes a prepaid lunch of sandwich, beverage, chips and fruit.
- Longsword simulator (steel preferred)
- Fencing mask or helmet
- Protective gloves
- Groin cup (males)
- Participants interested in diagnostic freeplay activities must additionally have gorget, elbow pads, knee pads, and suitable hand protection.
Rough schedule of the weekend follows.
Saturday, 10 Nov (10am-5pm)
- 10am-12pm Warm-up, intro to using the syllabus, basic dagger and longsword drills.
- 12pm-1pm: Freeplay-type exercises, with time at the end for review of flaws thus exposed.
- 1-2pm Lunch break / food provided on site
- 2-4pm Longsword basic/intermediate curriculum, focussed and adjusted for the needs exposed by the morning’s work.
- 4-4.30: freeplay in kit to check progress
- 4.30-5: technical drills/ forms chosen according to needs.
Sunday, 11 Nov (10am-5pm)
- 10am-1pm Longsword basic/intermediate curriculum, adjusted according to Saturday’s revelations of your progress.
- 1-2pm Lunch break / food provided on site
- 2-4pm Review of progress made, revision of core weaknesses and strengths, and how to use the syllabus to address them.
- 4-4.30: freeplay to check progress
- 4.30-5: technical drills/ forms chosen according to needs.
We are accepting advance payment via PayPal.
Contact us at email@example.com if you are interested in coach surfing. We have some spots available in various homes. Otherwise, there are a variety of hotel options nearby. Be sure to check on parking, as many charge extra.Â University Inn (free parking, free continental breakfast) – they have a 21-day advance purchase deal for $107/night. Located in the University District about 10 minutes from Miller.
This drill starts with the defender waiting in full iron gate, left foot forward. The opponent waits in posta di donna, left foot forward. The opponent passes with a mandritto fendente and the defender parries. The typical ending guard, pre-riposte, for the defender is posta frontale, but adjustments may need to be made given height variations in the attack.
Two main branch points
- Opponent leaves the bind after the parry. Perhaps he is cutting around, or passing to the left to attempt a pommel strike. Defender passes to the right and strikes with a mandritto fendente into the body of the opponent, also displacing any strike in the process. (Getty wide play, 3-4)
- Opponent does not leave the bind, and instead pauses, or starts to try to angulate around the parry. Defender moves to the sword grab plays. (Getty wide play, 5)
One of the confusing things about this drill is whether the defender should pass right or not. If the opponent leaves the bind, passing right gives you a better line to defend. If the opponent does not leave the bind, and you go for the sword grab, passing right does not hurt anything, so it’s alright to pass right in either case. In the second variation, you just grab the opponent’s blade first.
Sword grab variants
It’s fun to play with the following variant plays of the sword grab.
- If the opponent’s blade tip is in reach, you can just grab it.
- If the opponent’s blade tip is NOT in reach, you can slide in, maintaining the bind, and then grab it. (exactly as stated in the Getty).Â Just be sure to cover, and not impart too much sideways pressure, when moving in.
- The opponent might raise his pommel to defend the fendente. If he does so, kick him in the knee, and then hit him with the sword. (Getty wide play 6) (Note to opponent: don’t place your hands in between the defender and your head, as they will get hit!)
- The opponent can try to cut around when you go to grab. This makes the sword grab much harder! If he does this, you can move in aggressively to half-swording mode to cover and counter. (example, Getty first play in armor)
We’ve been playing with some footwork drills lately. There are six step variations, three drill variants, and two legs. These can be combined in various ways.
- Accrescere fora di strada (sideways step out of the way, front leg first then rear leg adjusts)… such as used with thrust defenses and with the left side parries.
- Accrescere (shuffle forward)
- Discrescere (shuffle backwards)
- Passo ala traversa (pass straight forward)
- Tornare (pass backwards)
- Passo fora di strada (pass forwards, offline)… such as one does when counter-hitting against a fendente. Adjust back leg to re-set center/powerline.
- Pressure connection throughout movement… arm on partner or e.g. using a pole to connect the torso’s.
- Pressure check after movement (balance check)
- No pressure check (visual only / self-monitoring).
Things to work on
- Work the long stance
- Proper step length (not over-reaching)
- Maintaining the power line (proper hip alignment to enemy)
- Simplicity (no setup or fancy feet)
- Balance/power connect throughout (before, during, after)
This weekend six members of Lonin traveled north to Academy Duello in Vancouver, BC. Three of us competed in a longsword tournament organized by Academy Duello instructor Roland Cooper and supervised by AD Director Devin Boorman. Here’s a photo before the fights begin; from left, me, Brandon U., and Kip L. Neal S., James R., and Nicholas F. traveled up with the fighters to assist and show support.
We requited ourselves quite well in the tournament. Kip fought for first place overall against Walker L., losing in a final-death tiebreaker after a 3-minute finals match. Brandon and Eric both fought into the final rounds. Brandon’s finals fight was interrupted by a hand injury he sustained while battling the 6’5″ Mattheis. Brandon came back to finish the fight, to much applause and relief from the audience.
The tournament format worked fairly well, I thought. Points were awarded on a self-called honors system, moderated by Mr. Boorman. The round formats allowed all participants at least six fights. I felt that the judging system, though not perfect, worked with this crowd, and gave every one an opportunity to acknowledge the seriousness of the duel. The participants showed great honesty and put social capital ahead of competitiveness.Â Too often armor (or noodly simulators) become an artificial enticement to risky “double kill” behaviors that are neither historical nor martial.
As usual the AD staff and students showed exceptional hospitality and camaraderie. My Lonin brothers were awesome.
I will let Kip and Brandon tell their own tales, should they choose to do so. This was my first tournament, and so was a great learning opportunity. I had a brand new set of upper body armor that I had been working on in the weeks prior to the tournament, and that I was fighting in for the first time. It is hard to explain the feeling of mixed fear, determination and adrenaline giddiness that I felt putting on all this stuff, feeling the weight of it and looking around the room at a bunch of fell warriors decked out in similar, ready for the fight. I lost a bunch of matches but won a few, enough to make into the finals rounds. My main takeaways were,
- I can’t compete with these kids on closing speed… many of the guys I fought were in their 20s and were seriously fast. I need to work on being a great counter fighter, a strategy, I think that will go with my quest of understanding the Fiore material well and being a productive coach to the Lonin Fiore group.
- Things I need to work on: great parries, effective measure, great adaptation and footwork off the initial bind. Being patient and waiting for the right opportunity to present.
- Don’t experiment during a tournament. Stick with a tried and true strategy. This includes equipment.
- The armor I made worked well, with the exception of my gauntlets, which let through a solid hit that injured my right thumb early in the rounds.
To summarize, congratulations to Kip and Brandon, and for that matter all the fighters, for their excellent showing at the tournament. Congratulations to Walker who showed great courage and effective technique in winning the tournament. And most of all many many thanks to Mr. Cooper and Mr. Boorman.
Videos will go up soon and will be linked from this blogsite, so stay tuned.
It seemed like a good way to address the high hands problem might be to study all of the ways to defeat an opponent who has gone into high hands mode. We drilled five of them, plus one bonus technique.
1. The canonical Fiorean nut kick.
2. Up the middle with arm wrap + chicken wing
Here the high hands clinch has ended up on Black’s left, giving him an open lane to his right.
Another option when the clinch is to the left is to reach over with the left hand and grab the opponent’s hilt or pommel, then apply torque with the strong of the blade to twist the opponent’s sword around.
When the clinch is biased to the right and a lane is available on the left, as is the case for Black here,
the pommel strike becomes an option. The most powerful version of this is a hooking strike through a horizontal plane,
but in a pinch Black could also lever his pommel up and deliver a “freight train” blow.
6. (Bonus) the symmetrical clinch
It commonly happens in free play and tournaments that the combatants end up in a symmetrical clinch with each using his left to control the other’s right.