Regular longsword practices continue apace and bring us closer and closer to something that resembles free play. The hand protection issue remains unsettled. There has been some recent progress on this front but much more remains to be done before it’s worth blogging about.
E.A. and I have been working more on thrusting attacks, which brings to the fore the need for protective gear on the body. The I-beams are excellent practice swords in just about every way, but receiving a thrusting attack with such a weapon is no picnic. We are obliged to use the new plastic swords instead; these have blunt, rounded tips but still leave considerable bruises. It’s hard to see this becoming a popular recreational pastime!
Went to SAMBO practice last night. As is invariably the case, I had to psych myself up to go there, but ended up being glad I went. I am still at such a novice level that almost every practice brings discernible improvement. If anything is hampering me it’s an inability to remember the moves, which look simple and obvious when demonstrated but disappear from my mind immediately afterwards–more so during free play when I actually need them. For some reason I have a much better memory for sword moves.
Brief discussion afterwards with A.F. about sticks. He’s a fan of the Gemeiner la canne video and interacts frequently with the local Escrima community. We keep meaning to get together and do something in this vein, but we’re both busy. Need to check in with the machine shop to see if they are finished with the steel ball project.
N.B. and I have been looking at the rough draft of the DAUE saber from A.T., which he supplied, with sample handle and hilt, a few days ago.
As shown here the saber has a 32″ blade with I-beam profile, and weighs two pounds and about half an ounce. The guard is a bit cramped, especially if one is wearing gloves, but that’s okay since it’s just a sample that A.T. happened to have lying around. I may put my rudimentary metal shop skills to use making a customized, ambidextrous guard (I am left handed but do a lot of right-handed sword work).
N.B., who does much more one-handed sword work than I, is keen on having a weapon that is wieldy and lightweight, since it’s easy to get tired or even injured swinging a heavy blade around. A.T. is going to knock an inch or so off of the tip and round off the end, then repeat the same treatment on the other copy, and then we’ll have something that we can evaluate in light sparring.
N.B. also seems to be thinking about curriculum, which is fortunate since I am not that well equipped to learn or teach this sort of material myself.
Returned yesterday from another trip that had interfered, for about a week, with all things BWAHAHA. Today, modest progress on a few fronts:
- Called the machine shop to find out what was going on with boring out the stainless steel cane head. They had attempted the job only to find out that the ball I provided them was made of hardened stainless steel, too tough to machine even with carbide tools, and so working with it was going to be unreasonably difficult and expensive. The shop has ordered a plan steel ball of the same (1.5″) diameter to try the experiment again. The result will be less pretty, but that’s okay since it’s just a proof-of-concept experiment.
- It seems as though I’m getting drawn in (quite willingly) to a group being put together by N.B. that would pursue a number of Bartitsu- or at least Victorian- or, at any rate, Steampunk-themed activities. This feels like something that shouldn’t be talked about too specifically until it has become more real, but I’m optimistic. The general flavor would be somewhat more theatrical/re-enactment than what I’m used to, but I have no objections to this since I’m becoming slightly weary of being the only active BWAHAHAn. If making it fun brings in more people, it’s a good thing.
- Made it to SAMBO practice for the first time in eons. Took it somewhat easy, had a great partner to work with, and was glad to see the inside of the dojo again.
Today had another in a series of fine pugilism lessons from T.R. We covered the shuffle step and the elbow (Jack Slap) guard. It is good to be back on this horse and to be working on drills that can be applied in a somewhat free sparring mode. The Jack Slap guard leads directly to chancery (headlock) so we now have a clear path from pugilism into grappling. Worked on chancery and on how to escape therefrom, using a move strikingly similar to Fiore’s fourth play of abrazare. Some interesting discussion regarding the current dogma that all fights lead eventually to ground fighting.
In other news, A.T. has sent our practice sabers off for heat treat, and N.B. is getting ready to launch the cutlass/heavy saber group.
Finally made it to Escrima (“screaming”) practice. This is a useful counterpoint to sword work because of its emphasis on the biomechanics involved in generating power. In longsword, by contrast, we have become all about speed; as G.W. expresses it, the sword is a labor-saving device. The only thing that really matters is who gets there first. When working with sticks and fists, the stock-in-trade of Escrima, it’s necessary to deliver power, with raw speed being of secondary importance, and so there is a lot of emphasis on things like letting one’s body weight drop as a way to convert gravitational potential energy into striking power. The transition in style is surprisingly difficult for one who has become accustomed to the movements associated with sword work, which I take to be a good, albeit challenging, thing.
Lull turning out to be more stubborn than I had expected. Jiujitsu dojo is temporarily out of commission during move. Missed Saturday escrima practice because of an epic bill-paying session. Sunday pugilism lesson was cancelled because of illness. Have managed to keep up with longsword training during all of this, largely because there is a fixed practice schedule and a critical mass of participants.
Contributed in a minor way to moving the jiujitsu dojo to new quarters. Took possession of a kurtka, that being the western equivalent of a judo gi. Did not do any actual working out, however, since the club is suspended until moved.
The Polish saber book loaned to me by A.T. is Cięcia Prawdziwą Szablą by Wojciech Zabłocki, published in Warsaw in 1989. It has an ISBN number of 83-217-2601-1. At first I had assumed that it was an old nineteenth-century manual, but now that I know otherwise I am reluctant to scan and post images from it.
Here is a discussion thread about the book.
Back at home, returning to action in between bouts of jet lag. Neck 95% better. Spam infestation quashed.
Yesterday, aerobics training only (sorely needed after 7 days of hearty participation in the eating and drinking customs of the scepter’d isle).
Today, a somewhat chaotic sword practice, continuing–despite many distractions and frequent outbreaks of conversation–to spread the new gospel acquired at the Fiore 600 event. A.T. turned up and assured me that the material is heat-treated, the machines are programmed, and we should have first prototypes of practice sabers within a week or two. He brought with him, and deposited in the Library of Violence, a binder containing a photocopy of an old Polish treatise about saber fighting. This has been lying around his atelier for a long time. I haven’t the faintest idea what it says, but it contains a number of illustrations making it abundantly clear that it falls squarely in the middle of our envisioned curriculum. One of these, which I’ll try to reproduce here soon, appears to give instructions on how to apply several distinct types of dueling scars to an opponent’s face.
On the road in London, made a ritual pilgrimage to the site of the original Bartitsu Club, now the Best Western on Shaftesbury. Did not bother trying to go inside since I am assured that no trace of the original Club is to be seen there. The surrounding neighborhood is a mixture of Chinatown, theatre district, bars, and shops selling naughty clothing, all of which adds up to a thematically appropriate steampunk ambience. Across the street, saw a hand-lettered signboard in Chinese except for the English words “iphone jailbreak.” Time constraints will not allow me to visit other local sites such as B.W.’s pauper’s grave. Might try to swing by James Smith, but the last time I went there they seemed ever so mildly taken aback by the concept of walking sticks as a self-defense item, and so I have never gotten the impression that they were a source of sticks meant to be handled roughly. If messing around with Escrima has taught me anything at all, it’s that La Canne only makes sense with a very specific kind of walking stick, difficult to find even at a place with the awesome selection and service available at James Smith.
Whatever countermeasures this site has in place to prevent comment spam have been decisively penetrated, in the last day, by some sort of new spambot that has been racking up new comments at the rate of one every few minutes. Hoping that WordPress will catch up with the problem and begin blocking these things automatically.
[Followup: the comment spam plague seems to have been terminated by E.A.’s installation of an Akismet plug-in. I have no idea what it’s doing, but it seems to work.]