(Company of Cavalier Gentlemen)
Prepare for the Armored Tournament with steel weapons
Click HERE to see More Pictures of the CHEMA Event
In the training hall we have a saying; "work
through the pain". This means to keep going even when it hurts, and
to take a shot and not stop. This is not about being macho or
ignoring injury (which are both dumb and counterproductive). Instead,
this is training for focus, mental discipline, and the will to never
I kept reminding myself of this saying as Lily and I drove to Toronto this past weekend for the 2002 Canadian Historical European Martial Arts Seminar. Allergies had me coughing up a lung, but there was no way I would miss this event which was being hosted by our friends from the Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts at their new training facility.
We arrived on Friday night, and after a lovely home-cooked meal, David Cvet (Director of AEMMA) explained more about the new school. What they had done was form a cooperative with two other martial arts groups so that they could rent a large space together. Together with the AEMMA, a Jeet Kune Do and a Wing Chun group all aligned to jointly form the Fighting Arts Cooperative of Toronto (FACT).
When we arrived on Saturday morning, I was not prepared for how nice the location was. The training space was roughly 3000 square feet with a very high ceiling. There were a number of large metal light fixtures that had lent a medieval feel to the place, as well as banners, shield devices, racks of weapons, and huge hand-painted versions of the Magikowski Bible and the classic image of Fiore's "sette spada" or "seven swords" from Flos Duelatorum which shows the cuts and the animals representing essential concepts of swordplay.
But perhaps best of all, there was a full bar at one end of the training hall...a remainder of the studio's previous tenants, and one which the FACT crew was wise to retain! AEMMA student Kelly Rekuta is a fantastic brewer, and had home made beer on tap after class. Every WMA school should be so blessed!
By the time we started there were a good 30 people there, and after a last quick cup of coffee, it was time to get rolling. I had 3 hours, and a lot of information to impart, so we skipped any long lectures and got right to work. We spent the first hour on natural conditioning, joint mobility, combative folk games, staff-wrestling in many variations, mass fighting, and old-time Western breathing techniques.
Unlike some Chinese Chi Kung breathing techniques which are good for health in only a general sense, the two Western breathing techniques I shared had direct application...one helps for chest congestion and the other helps if you are constipated!
Then we got down to the bulk of the days instruction, which was application of the eight dagger techniques of Master Andres Lignitzer. These are some of the oldest known German dagger fighting techniques from a previously untranslated Von Danzig manuscript. They are very combative in nature and show the power and grace of the German school. They are equally effective with or without a weapon. Many innovative training methods for gaining deeper understanding of the classical techniques were taught, so that participants could learn how to make their training more realistic, yet remain safe and practice accurately.
By the end, people were sweaty and tired, but still smiling and having fun learning. To me, that is the best to see! We all headed down the street en mass for lunch at a small Italian eatery called "la Vita e Bella" and it was indeed "the good life" as plates of wonderful cheeses, sausages, calamari, breads, greens, and so on were brought out. Such a simple lunch, but so satisfying, and so much better for the assembled company from the seminar.
Over lunch, people asked a number of questions about the history of the Bowie knife, and I answered at length, describing the old masters from New Orleans, and many specific encounters and fights I had researched. One of the people there commented "When you talk about the Bowie knife, I can hear your American accent come out." and this gave me a laugh. You see, in the martial arts, everyone talks like their previous teachers at times. If you study under a Japanese Sensei for a long time, you will get a slight Japanese accent sometimes when you talk about your art and so on. Well, one of my Bowie teachers (Col. Dwight McLemore) is from Virginia, so I guess I get a bit a bit of that twang when discussing the Bowie knife!
After we finished the feast called lunch, we headed back to the school and got ready for the longsword class taught by Dave Cvet and Brian McIlmoyle. They let folks split themselves into a basic and advanced group, with Brian teaching the beginners and David working with the more advanced practitioners. The beginners worked through all the basic posta (positions) with the longsword, and Brian clearly showed how these posta formed the basis for all the cuts and movements that could be most effectively used.
David took the more advanced swordsmen through two man exchange sets. Starting off at half-speed and then progressing, the students worked footwork, attack, and defense as they traded blows. It is from these kinds of exercises that the AEMMA students develop the reflexes to be able to fight in full armor with metal weapons!
After a short break, Scott Nichols of the Company of Cavalier Gentlemen along with his training partner Ron took the floor and gave us a demonstration of rapier fencing. They fought bouts with both single rapier and rapier and dagger so that the participants (mostly Medieval fighters) would have a better idea of the differences between the styles of swordplay. After this, Scott instructed the class in a number of the basic concepts of rapier fencing. Aspects of the guard, disengage, binding, use of the swept hilt and quillions for trapping, and other classical skills were covered.
Then it was time for the Armored Tournament, or as I like to describe it, the "human demolition derby"! The four participants fought with great skill and honor, and although there was one unfortunate injury when a sword penetrated inside a metal gauntlet it was given with no malice and taken with grace, a testament to the devotion and brotherhood of this group.
We ended the day by again descending on "la Vita e Bella", to be treated to more of the owner's culinary mastery. Pasta ala vodka, shrimp the size of small lobsters, more calamari, fish, and muscles were brought out and eagerly set upon by the hungry crew.
All in all, a classy event and a great group of people! I'm already looking forward to CHEMA 2003...