Monday, November 09, 2009

I took the short drive up to St. Martin’s Academy over the weekend of November 6 - 8, 2009 for Bob Charron’s winter retreat. This is Bob’s annual seminar on Fiore de Liberi’s medieval wrestling and dagger defenses.

I arrived on Friday evening to be shown into my guest room in the villa and then was ushered into the dinning hall, where I was introduces to my fellow scholars. We were a mixed group: several of Bob’s regular students were there; several folks who had no experience with historic martial arts; the rest of us had worked with various historic systems.

We then supped on the light repast put out for us before starting the evening’s activities.

Bob led us over to the converted barn that is now his training hall. Bob took us to the second floor room that is set up for close combat. The walls are lined with the historic art works of Durer and Fiore, as well as many symbols of the art of defense and of course a number of swords, daggers, spears and polearms.

Bob started the weekend’s studies by explaining the basic principles of Fiore’s close combat. Each principle was illustrated with a small cartoon so, as in the medieval system we were following, the principle would be easier to remember.

Bob then had us work on the basic footwork and entries for the wrestling portion of the weekend. We all worked on those for some time and then Bob showed us the entry for the dagger defenses. Bob has come to the conclusion that, as with any great system of combat, Fiore limits the student to a set response to most situations so as to eliminate confusion. Thus the basic footwork for both the wrestling and dagger defenses is the same.

After about two hours of training we once again returned to the villa for an evening of conversation and discussion about fighting. Bob and Kristi brought up the amazing horsemanship used in Portugese bull fighting. So we all went to view videos of these riders and their horses. I have never seen horses do the types of moves that were made, much less under the stress of being charged by a bull!

Saturday morning dawned clear and unseasonably warm for November in the mid-west. We partook of Kristi’s excellent breakfast, and then once again made our way to the training hall. Bob started out by reviewing the footwork and entry for Fiore’s wrestling and then led us into the plays from the manuscripts.

We learned how each play is a response to the opponent’s attempt to counter the previous move. We spent most of the morning working on this material. and then found ourselves consuming the hearty lunch put out for us.

The afternoon found us moving on to working on the dagger material. Bob emphasized the first thing you want to do with a dagger attack is get two hands on your opponent’s dagger arm. Then you work to get him to the ground as quickly as possible. If the initial move does not work, then you must strike him to loosen him up for a follow-up technique.

We worked on techniques from both inside and outside responses. These included armlocks and takedowns. After many bodies hit the mat, we all felt comfortable with what we were doing and retired for an excellent dinner.

After dinner some of the scholars felt a need to do more work, so Bob took them back to the training hall. I, however, felt it better to reserve my energy for the next day, as did some others. We instead gathered firewood and started a fire outside, to tell tales of our exploits at other training sessions and organizations.

Sunday morning found all of the scholars ready for the last hours of the seminar. We reviewed some of Saturday’s material and then worked on using the four guards of Fiore to defeat an opponent in an unarmed attack.

We then moved back to working on dagger techniques, including Fiore’s disarming moves. Then we started working on how to deal with multiple attackers. During the last part of the session, we went back to working at a very slow pace to review and refine what we had learned over the weekend.

This seminar put many of the pieces of Fiore’s system together for me. I really like that Bob has made Fiore’s teachings a system not just a bunch of techniques. I also like that Bob admits that striking is a fundamental part of Fiore’s system, something I have found too many other instructors forget.

I recommend anyone interested in getting the basics of Fiore’s system take the time to get to St. Martin’s for one of Bob’s weekend long seminars.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Busy Month for Gallowglass Academy

Andrea and I drove over to Philadelphia for the SCA's Known World Academy of the Rapier over Columbus Day weekend.

We put out books on HEMA at our merchant booth and did very well. I taught my classes on Silver and Swetnam.

The next weekend we hosted six members of Gallowglass for a member's day on Highland broadsword. We used the DVD produced by Paul Wagner on Page's system of Highland broadsword.

Then over October 23-25th we put out our books and I offered classes at Rock-Con, a gaming convention in Rockford. Last year we did fairly well at selling books but this year the only books we sold were to friends who were helping to run the con. No one signed up for the classes. Apparently, gamers are just not into learning about the fighting arts they "use" in their games.

On Halloween I went into Chicago to help with a promotion ceremony for three of the instructors at the Northwestern jujutsu club.