Archive for Schola St. George

Death by halfling

SSG Malmö is now running both adult classes and an extensive junior program.

Last night we kicked of this seasons first Abrazare training with a little Spada on top. We did lots of flow drills and ended up with some ground work and sparring with the long sword.

Today we opened up SSG “Mobbsäker” with two full groups first week. As it was the first session of the season the kids where a bit unruly and discipline somewhat lax. But it was fun.

Now I sit here in the sofa and I cannot move, my body aches everywhere. The funny thing is, the training with people my size was easy it was fighting two 45 minute session with halflings (4-7 and 7-13 year olds) that broke me.


Sir Colin "Gabriel" Hatcher recognised as Magistro of Schola Saint George

At the latest symposium in Atlanta, Schola Saint George instructor, and my mentor was finally recognized as Magistro (the highest rank available in SSG).  Here is an excerpt from the SSG website.

On May 30, the SSG was proud to make a long-overdue recognition. Colin Hatcher, who was present in the first SSG class in San Jose, California (2001), has in the years that followed contributed significantly to the Schola Saint George, not only as a renowned combatant, but as a researcher and teacher as well. As such, it was an honor to recognize the first non-founding Magistro within the SSG. 

This award is long overdue as Colin’s prowess and renown speak for themselves. Colin has long been contesting that he is the most skilled yellow belt in SSG (I slightly spoiled it by awarding him the blue belt in London 2008 :P, as if I could ver presume to grade Colin) and now finally his ranking matches his skill.

It is an honour to have fought along side such a great man and indeed to be mentored by such a skilled warrior and humble Knight.

Why do I need sword fighting?


Originally uploaded by gilbertdeschamps

Last week I was asked by one of my students, why do I need to sword fight? The question was asked with the implication: as a Christian, why should I spend my time on this.
The short answer was of course ‘You don’t!’ but as with everything, there is more to it than that. So Why do I need to sword fight?
I like it, it makes me a better person.

Physically, it keeps me fit. It helps me to develop and keep a healthy posture (Crucial for me as I have a bad back). I get to movce and work out, but since it is so much fun I forget that I am exercising.

Mentally, It is my outlet, my two hours a week where I do not have to think about essays and theological reflections.

Spiritually, the schola is the training ground and the testing ground for chivalric virtue. It functions as the crucible where impurities are forced to the surface and cleaned away. It is the mirror where I truly get to see if my life reflects truth, grace and justice in the microcosm of the martial art.

Living by the sword

Hanna and the kids have been in Croatia for Easter break and I have been in London trying to pick the brains of some of the best WMA instructors around. It has been a week of many bruises long hours on busses and trains but oh so worth it!

The Exiles

The Exiles is a renowned group and I really looked forward going there and see what they where up to. They have their core training in Barking. On the Sunday training I had the good fortune to be driven by some friends who where heading that direction.

Mark Lancaster who holds the training is an extremely skilled martial artist and very good with the fiore system. I had hoped to meet Rob Lowett (Marks father) as I had learnt so much from him in Dallas, but it turned out that I learnt just as much from Mark as I had from Rob.

The Exiles seem to have a dual focus on staying within the Fiore system and applying that to modern day self defence much like what we are trying to to in the WSD school. So I really liked the take on Fiore that I was presented with.

My second visit to the Exiles was equally fruitful as I was treated to Fiore’s dagger system in a very compact, comprehensive but most importantly applicable way.

The most important bit I take with me from the Exiles is the fora dela strada (stepping out of the way or of the line). A concept that I have been struggling with and not quite gotten to work properly within Fiore’s plays.

The other thing was the introduction to Terry Brown and the recommendation on Mark for me to see him.

Terry Brown

I was Incredibly lucky to be invited to train with Terry Brown, who can only be described as the grandfather of WMA. I doubt that I would have been welcomed so readily if I had not been introduced by Mark Lancaster.

Terry has been a Martial artist for 40 years and has been doing WMA more than half that time. So I was in for a treat. His immaculate grasp of MA principles carrying over from unarmed to dagger and sword both single and two handed, made it possible for him to teach these principles independent of treatise and form.

I think the most important thing I take with me from this meeting is the “Red light / Green light” concept coupled with a much deeper understanding of silvers true times, false times and governors.

Schola Gladiatora

Schola Gladiatora offered a very different training than what I am used to, higher tempo (SG – 4 trained by Gordon Hart at Muswell hill) and a lot more sparring (SG – 1 trained by Matt easton at Ealing common). While I like sparring (a lot) I also think that to much sparring distorts technique, just like when you train BJJ or any other Martial Art to compete. You start scoring points instead of learning how to defend yourself or how to subdue your opponent.

Hear me right, I am not slacking the training in Schola G at all the training with SG – 4 quickly showed me how out of shape I am and that our training at Denmark hill have lost out by training with unweighted shinais. We really have to get back to training with metal swords or at least weighted shinais to keep up. I also picked up some extremely useful warmup and half swording drills that fit neatly in with our sticky hands system. At SG – 1 I also learned a lot especially from fightiing people with A LOT of more helmet time than I have. I have to keep reminding myself that I am only at level 2 (scholaro minore) in our own curriculum and even though I have much martial arts experience I do not have a lot of longsword experience.

But having visited a group which focuses heavily on sparring (at least from what I see) I am more resolute than ever to stay the course and keep our curriculum on modern self defence application of the medieval European martial arts. What am I saying? We will never train wrist cuts or light hitting but to always be coiled for striking full power blows, even if that costs us a little time and even if we may lose out in the sparring against groups such as SG.

The SG are a great bunch of people though and by far the most welcoming and friendly bunch I have ever had the privilege to train with. I look forward to much interaction and plenty visits to and from SG in the future.

The Schola Irregular

As I had been invited to attend the schola Irregular, an internal sparring event where SG were going to announce the new King of London I had to reshuffle my schedule to make sure I could attend.

The format was simple, we divided up in two teams SG – 1 against SG – 3, SG – 4 and SSG (represented by yours truly). The tournament held a fast and furious pace and the one hit bouts were judged by Matt Easton. The winner of each bout collected a garter from the other player and so the tournament could crown the most successful fighter as well as the team with most wins (each win earning the winning team a card from a standard card deck) The tournament lasted for 52 bouts, the numbers of cards in the deck of cards.

I loved the fact that we crammed so many fights into what was just over 45 minutes, we did however loose all the ritual and chivalry that I usually associate with longsword play. There where no heralding, winning the favour of the gallery or grand gestures of chivalry. And while there were many oohs and aaahs following a particularly good exchange, there was precious little interaction between the combatants. We also missed the opportunities to challenge one another as per the pas D’armes which gives such a colour and flavour to the list. The fact that the bouts where marshalled also took away some of the opportunity to display chivalry. I think I would rather have fought a tournament where the compagni call their own hits, this will give the greater opportunity for chivalry to be displayed.

Having said that, it was a furiously fun fight that rewarded yours truly with many medals of honour (bruises) and a fat lip. I realize that I really need to work on my quarto magistro dell’entrata and gain some speed on my buttare la punta. 

WMA Camp report by Colin "Gabriel" Hatcher

WMA CAMP – JULY 12, 13, 14, 2007, IN RIGA, LATIVIA



Mr. Colin Gabriel Hatcher – Instructor Schola Saint George

Instructor’s Assistant:

Mr. Patrik Olterman (Compagno SSG Riga, WSD Founder & Principale)


(Note, Mr. Olterman’s WSD Riga is a contemporary martial self-defence and survival system built from Fiore’s grappling, dagger and sword fighting system, which employs similar ranking titles to SSG, so read carefully below!)

1. Representing BOTH SSG Riga and WSD Riga

Ms. Erika Kozlovska (Zugadore, SSG Riga; Scholara, WSD Riga)
Ms. Karina Kozlovska (Zugadore, SSG Riga; Scholara, WSD Riga)
Ms. Darta Seso (Zugadore, SSG Riga; Scholara, WSD Riga)

2. Representing SSG Riga alone

Mr. Arturs Baltacis (Captain, Salvation Army, Zugadore, SSG Riga)
Mr. Vitalij Kirilkin (Zugadore, SSG Riga)
Mr. Tengiz Pruidze (Zugadora, SSG Riga)

3. Representing WSD Riga alone
Ms. Anna-Marta Sveisberga (Compagna, WSD Riga)
Ms. Anette Vasarja (Compagna, WSD Riga)
Ms. Linda Silina (Compagna, WSD Riga)
Ms. Astrida Kozlovska (Scholara, WSD Riga)
Ms. Marika Kozlovska (WSD Riga)

4. Representing themselves
Mr. Dimitrij Karol (Riga)

5. Representing Mr. Guy Windsor’s School of European Swordsmanship (SES) in Finland
Mr. Ilkka Hartikainen (SES)
Ms. Maaret Sirkkala (SES)
Mr. Jukka Salminen (SES)
Mr. Daavid Vaananen (SES)
Mr. Joell Takala (SES)

6. Honorary presence
Ms. Hanna Olterman (Instructor, WSD Riga), who attended the camp but did not train, and instead generously dedicated herself for the three days to caring for the Oltermans’ two very young children, thereby freeing up her husband Mr. Olterman to fully participate and assist Mr. Hatcher in instruction. Ms. Olterman’s self-sacrifice and extreme generosity was not unnoticed, as Mr. Hatcher knows how much she loves to fight.

PROGRAM – subjects covered

1. Fiore’s Abrazare (Grappling), footwork, basics, concepts, guards
2. Falling, locking and binding safely
3. Abrazare (Grappling) basics
4. Dagger v. Dagger basics
5. Fiore’s Segno discussion and presentation
6. Longsword basics, footwork, guards, concepts
7. Fiore’s Zhogo Largo basic concepts and plays
8. Fiore’s Zhogo Stretto basic concepts and plays
9. Chivalry discussion
10. Tournament preparation and rituals
11. Mini longsword tournament at half speed
12. Free play opportunities throughout

In the beautiful setting of the Skangale Schoolhome in Skangale, Latvia, SSG Riga and WSD Riga played host to three days of Fiore, chivalry and fellowship, under the instruction of Colin Gabriel Hatcher, of SSG, flying into Riga from San Francisco, California, USA. Five members of Mr. Guy Windsor’s SES also flew in from Finland to make an enjoyable international mix. SSG Riga is isolated geographically from other SSG groups, being the only SSG group to date outside of the USA. Therefore it was with great pleasure that Mr. Hatcher was able to attend and preside over the three day camp.

Mr. Hatcher’s mission was to provide some basics tuition in Fiore’s system, including Abrazare and Dagger/Dagger (specifically requested by WSD Riga) and for SSG to review the Elephant and Tiger courses of SSG Riga (basics and Zhogo Largo) culminating in an examination of the Riga SSG group for their yellow belts (Elephant), and to examine Mr. Olterman for his SSG blue belt (Tiger). Mr. Hatcher also looked at Fiore’s Zhogo Stretto basics, illustrated by several Zhogo Stretto plays (first, second, fifth and thirteenth Remedy plays of the Scholar of the First Master of Zhogo Stretto).

First day
The Fiore basics class began on the first morning with footwork drills of Fiore’s basic x-pattern footwork – the two forward steps and the two rearward steps. From there the class looked at the Four Magistri de Battaglia (Four Masters of Battle), the three tempi (duo, mezzo and stesso), coverta and rebattimento (covering and setting aside), Fiore’s seven swords (7 attack directions) and the concept of moving inside or outside the attack line. From there to the falling and locking basics, the class practiced simple backwards and forwards falls, and looked at how to apply and receive locks safely, given their destructive capacity on the joints. The afternoon’s two hours of classes were Abrazare basics – looking at the basic body holds (prese, or clinches) employed and the throws that come from them; and then the class looked at some simple dagger v. dagger drilling to understand the Four Masters of Battle and two of Fiore’s four attack directions for dagger, drilled in both duo tempo and mezzo tempo. Very high quality food was served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the evening Mr. Hatcher gave a powerpoint presentation of Fiore’s Four Animals, and the class discussed the meanings of the Segno and how they might be applied to sword-fighting.

Second day
The second day was a longsword day, in which the class played for four hours or so with tactics, concepts and plays from Fiore’s Zhogo Largo, and thereafter with some Zhogo Stretto plays and concepts added too. In this Mr. Hatcher made sure to include the Elephant and Tiger syllabuses of SSG. Students were all diligent, attentive and dedicated, and Mr. Hatcher saw much drilling of high quality.

Next came the grading of the Riga SSG group. Five students were testing for yellow belt. Testing consisted of theoretical discussion, practical demonstration of Fiore’s poste and basic plays, sparring with each other and then Mr. Hatcher sparred with each student to see how they performed their form under a little pressure. Mr. Hatcher found their performances to be superlative, which came as no surprise to him given that the five had been faithfully taught the SSG program by Mr. Olterman and given that they have been training with SSG for one year. Mr. Hatcher did in fact test the students on both the SSG Elephant and the Tiger syllabus, and was personally satisfied that these students have competence, attributes and understanding at the blue belt level.

In the evening Mr. Olterman and Mr. Hatcher held a chivalry discussion, talking about how the chivalric values might be important in the modern world and why. A very good discussion with many excellent contributions from the group. Once again the meals provided by the Skangale Schoolhome were extraordinary in their high quality.

Third day
The third day began with an outline of tournament ritual, a discussion of how the chivalric values applied to the tournament, which ones the instructors were particularly looking for in the tournament (courage, prowess, generosity, courtesy and humility) and why SSG as a school loves to tourney. A shower of rain drove the class into the big hall (all prior training had taken place outdoors). Due to the hard wooden floor, and the instructor’s emphasis on safety, the tournament was to be played at half speed and half impact, using modified bamboo shinai bearing the excellent hilts made by SSG’s own Scott of Ardenwood Forge in SSG Bay Area, California. As always these shinai being so well balanced by Scott performed very well in their capacity as simulated swords.

The tournament was played with great courtesy and ritual. It began with a calibration exercise to get everyone used to fighting at half speed and half impact. Thereafter teams were selected, with Mr. Hatcher and Mr. Windsor’s SES students being the Tennans (holding the field) while SSG Riga and WSD Riga were the Vennans (challengers for the field). Teams having been selected, the Vennans were invited by Marshall Mr. Olterman to step forth and issue their challenges. Despite the fact that the Vennans were facing a much more experienced team (which was of course the point), challenges were boldly and courteously given, and humbly and courteously accepted. An excellent tournament spirit was created simply by this challenge ritual (which is why it was done).

The tournament began. Everyone (including Mr. Hatcher!) struggled to keep things slow and soft, given the adrenaline rush, and ultimately everyone succeeded. Overall the group displayed good Fiorean form and great spirit was seen from all, both warrior spirit and joyous laughter. The tournament was played to three good blows, and had a Marshall (Mr. Olterman) judging the strikes of the participants. All fighters had fencing masks, elbow points, gorgets and padded gloves. Much mirth was generated as Mr. Hatcher interrupted several engagements to respectfully request the point be replayed slower, due to him being an old man and his eyes having been damaged by the speed of the fight. The fact that there were no injuries proved that the competitors all displayed more than adequate control of the sword. Much amusement was also generated as several competitors sought to apply the thirteenth Remedy play of the Scholar of the First Master of Zhogo Stretto. Mr. Hatcher had the day before offered a prize of $100.00 to anyone who could apply that play at speed (Mr. Hatcher calls this sword taking play “the Clock”), and $200.00 to anyone who could do it on him. Mr. Baltacis did in fact manage to perform the Clock twice while fighting Mr. Hatcher in the tournament, but generously refused to take Mr. Hatcher’s money on the grounds that Mr. Hatcher had said “at full speed”, and the tournament was fought at half speed.

One of the highlights of the tournament (for Mr. Olterman at least!) was the defeat of Mr. Hatcher by 14 year old WSD student Ms. Anna-Marta Sveisberga (or as Mr. Olterman publicly and loudly announced it with a huge grin “the demise of an old man at the hands of a 14 year old girl.” ) Young Ms. Sveisberga smiled. Mr. Hatcher smiled too, for Ms. Sveisberga, all 14 years of her, had earlier stepped up to M. Hatcher in the challenges and boldly challenged him to fight, which all present agreed was a feat of great courage, not least because Mr. Hatcher is more than three times her age, with 30 years of martial experience.

The tournament concluded, Mr. Olterman and Mr. Hatcher discussed who should be chosen as the day’s Champions. Three were chosen.: Mr. Baltacis was selected for his prowess at performing the Clock not once but twice on Mr. Hatcher, and for his generosity and courtesy in refusing the prize. He was awarded Mr. Hatcher’s personal waster, a pair of SSG light sparring/training gloves and a copy of Mr. Windsor’s excellent book The Swordsman’s Companion. Ms. Karina Koslovska was chosen as a Champion for her extraordinary Lion qualities. Not only on the previous day when sparring Mr. Hatcher had she rushed Mr. Hatcher before he had time to rush her (no mean feat given Mr. Hatcher’s love of rushing his opponent), but she continued her boldness of spirit in the tournament by challenging opponents she thought had the most prowess and then consistently attacking aggressively in the engagement. Ms. Koslovska was awarded Mr. Olterman’s personal copy of Raymond Lull’s Book of Chivalry, for the chivalric display of courage, boldness and warrior spirit (Mr. Hatcher named her “The Lion of Riga”). The final Champion of the day was Ms. Sirkkala of SES, whose perfect posta forms performed at half speed while fighting, resembling a beautiful Fiorean Tai Chi, earned her the prize for loyalty (to the Fiorean system and to the aesthetic of the tournament), courtesy and generosity towards her opponent. Ms. Sirkkala was awarded Mr. Hatcher’s personal copy of Raymond Lull’s Book of Chivalry.

Next came a non-SSG event: a knighting ceremony, in which Mr. Hatcher was given the great honor of being the person knighted. He is now a Knight of the Order of the Disciple Knight, having been so knighted by Salvation Army Captain and ordained minister Mr. Baltacis. The Order of the Disciple Knight is a Christian Order created some time ago by Mr. Olterman to preside over the implementation and application of the chivalric virtues to day to day life, through the mentoring of squires, that is persons applying to participate in the Order’s chivalric mentoring program and dedicating themselves to leading a chivalrous life. The Order’s squire-mentoring project is named, appropriately, Knight School. Mr. Hatcher becomes the first Knight of this Order, and while testifying that he felt unworthy to be so honored, pledged an oath to meet the great obligation placed upon him, in being a role model for all those squires in the Order’s program. It should be noted that Mr. Olterman, who created this Order and who is running Knight School on a weekly basis as a teacher and great role model himself, has humbly placed himself in the program as a squire. Such humility does not go unnoticed by Mr. Hatcher, who has known Mr. Olterman for fifteen years and knows well the mettle of his character.

In the next ceremony, also a Knight School ceremony, a group of Riga squire-aspirants were presented to Mr. Hatcher to request admittance to Knight School as squires. The squire-aspirants were duly accepted and continue their studies and practices, under the highly qualified eyes of Mr. Olterman.

Finally in a third ceremony, Mr. and Ms. Olterman’s younger daughter Anya was officially dedicated to God (the Salvation Army equivalent of baptism) and Mr. Hatcher was officially (and proudly) appointed her Godfather.

It should be noted that while all attendees at the SSG/WSD WMA Camp were invited to attend and bear witness, all participants were informed that the Knight School ceremonies, Anya Olterman’s dedication to God by her parents and Mr. Hatcher’s appointment as Godfather to Anya Olterman were not in any way Schola Saint George events and were separate from the Fiore WMA camp. While it has many Christians in it, SSG is not a religious organization. It was however a pleasure to see that all WMA attendees chose to witness the ceremonies, regardless of whether they were Christians or not.

And so, regretfully, the three day Fiore camp was over, and it must be said that in the opinion of Mr. Hatcher, it was extremely well organized, great fun, and extremely successful. Indeed, Mr. Hatcher even managed to get a little time with Mr. Windsor’s students who kindly taught him a few things about Mr. Windsor’s current approach to Fiore. Thank you SES students for your great courtesy. Both Mr. Hatcher and Mr. Olterman enjoyed the company of the Finns, who were very good role models for Mr. Windosr’s school.

And so, full marks and congratulations to Riga SSG, who all easily qualified for their yellow belts and who clearly demonstrated that they are far above that rank in their ability and knowledge of the SSG system (they have been training diligently for one year). Congratulations to Mr. Olterman for all his dedication and hard work in making this great event happen, for his superlative assistance in the instruction and for easily qualifying for his SSG blue belt (and of course for his excellent instruction of his SSG students). A big thank you to our hosts – Salvation Army of Latvia and Skangale Schoolhome. And a special thank you to Hanna Olterman for watching over the kids, no mean feat considering the kids (who are delightful and much loved) are like Fiore’s four animals gone wild! Ms. Olterman: you were seen, not forgotten and much much appreciated.

And to all of our new found friends, we look forward to a repeat event next year. Let us all continue to train and fight in the chivalric manner and continue to develop fellowship through that fighting!

Grounding myself for the summer…

As my time in Latvia is drawing to a close I find myself asking what legacy I will leave behind if any. The Youth I have been working with for 18 months are changed, but will they stay on the path? Will they continue to grow in freedom and express their diverse callings loud and proud? Or will they grow quiet and sink into tradition and liturgy?

Will they continue to become more chivalrous and become a new generation of modern day Knights in Latvia and by their virtue change the temperature around them or will they compromise their commitment and settle for less.

Either way I find myself in a race with time to impart the last it of my knowledge to these teenagers, hopefully empowering them to take a few steps on the path and maybe giving them a thirst for more that will last them a lifetime.

So as I am trying to take measures to ensure their growth spiritually I am also hoping that they will continue the martial training I have started with them, both as spiritual enrichment for themselves but also as an evangelistic tool for the future.

In mid June I am hosting a WSD Instructors camp consisting of three days hard core instructors training designed to empower the youth to continue running the WSD schola and the SSG Schola as study groups when I leave. In doing so I am also preassured to finish my WSD Instructors manual in the next three weeks. It is a huge job to convert, compress and refine all my martial knowledge into writing and then researching the WMA base to find the equivalent techniques referenced in medieval manuscripts.

The hardest bit is the ground fighting wich incidently is my favorite part. I am struggling to build a Fiore based (or even WMA version) of any ground work, it seems they all stopped fighting once their opponent hit the ground. Colin Hatchers reply to this is “well since they all carried a dagger once one person was grounded it was over”. Although I give this train of thought a lot of credit I doubt that there was no wrestling going on in the italian barriers, I also doubt that there was no training in it. We just haven’t got any of it recorded.

So I am facing a dilemma, in the absence of medieval refernces, do I just fill the void with modern MMA techniques or do I make assumptions based on the techniques we actually have documented and say, well if Fiore did this standing up, it kinda makes sense that he would be doing it on the ground only turned this or that way to account for the floor being in the way.

Whatever way I’ll be going with this it proves to be an interesting summer, with blue knees and sore muscles.


Chivalric virtue #4

Here is the Knightschool talk on Loyalty posted on Youtube for your pleasure!

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Tying the knot.

As we are moving forward in our development of our WSD school we looked in to the issue of belts, and have decided that instead of the special belts made by Schola Saint George we will use ordinary Martial Arts belts with a specialized knot to give it a WMA styled look.

This way any group can just go to the nearest Martial arts shop for their belts and will not have to bother with special orders.

The belt loops twice around your waist to symbolize the dual protection a Knight recieves from God and from the Order of Chivalry, then the knot is bound with two loops symbolizing the dual alliegence of the Knight to God as a defender of the Faith and to the Order of chivalry as an upholder of chivalric virtue. The knot itself then forms a trinity symbol for the divine trinity and the trinity of Love, Truth, Grace and Justice!

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New pictures

PICT1771Hanna is now back from Croatia and we have new pictures up, we also took a lot of pictures at the last SSG training so they are up to. PICT2120Lots of pictures of our new helmets, swords and gloves including pictures of my brand new pig faced bascinet, enjoy!

Developing your Lion!

We are looking into courage in the knightschool and in SSG Riga we are starting to spar. For sparring a certain amount of courage is needed. The Lion in the Fiore system symbolises the bravery, courage and the chivalrous virtue of the fighter.

In the segno the Lion holds a heart and it is my belief that the Lion truly is the heart of the matter. Here are is an article posted by my mentor and friend Colin Hatcher in the SSG Riga google group.

Some thoughts on developing Fiore’s Lion attributes of courage, daring and courteousness within Fiore’s martial system by Colin Gabriel Hatcher

Fiore’s martial system has four animals representing four combat “virtues.” In the old Italian language, Fiore’s Lion represents the martial virtue of “Audatia” or “Ardimento” The modern English word from these words are “audacity” and “ardor.” Audacity means boldness and
daring. Ardor means passion. Fiore’s Lion also stands for Courage. Finally, the Lion is the symbol for chivalric Courtesy. The attributes of Fiore’s Lion only really come into play when
students of Fiore begin live sparring. Suddenly students find themselves in a competitive environment, where they might win or lose an engagement. While such engagements are not literally life or death engagements (as they would have been on the medieval battlefield), they
evoke the same kind of emotional reaction from participants: fear, panic, adrenaline rush, over-aggression, etc. On the medieval battlefield, over-coming the fear of death would have been standard preparation (through prayer and blessings by priests, for example). The Lion, in medieval philosophy, represents the spirit and to overcome the fear of death requires faith. For the modern Fiore longsword fighter, the worst we can expect is bruised ribs and bruised pride (from losing or looking foolish). Nevertheless, in order to be able to fight effectively, one must be able to overcome the fear of being struck, and of losing or looking foolish. This too is a Lion attribute. Faced with a live opponent, who is now attempting to strike without being struck, and who is no longer cooperative or helpful, the student new to sparring may well find themselves seriously lacking in the attributes of Fiore’s Lion. Students may approach live sparring with plenty of technique, strategy and drilling (the realm of the Lynx), with plenty of strength, stamina and stability (the realm of the Elephant), and with plenty of speed, flexibility and agility (the realm of the Tiger), only to find themselves caught paralyzed and flat-footed in the live sparring environment, when they face an opponent who is more comfortable in the realm of the Lion (hyper-aggression) than they are.

In the case of these students, the fear and panic brought on by the pending confrontation, the nervousness about facing the opponent, the fear of losing and/or the risk of looking foolish (not knowing what to do) before the watching gallery, all combine to cause a massive surge of adrenaline, and the student’s body goes into what is known as adrenaline shock. The result: paralysis (“adrenaline paralysis”), in which the ability to think and plan (symbolized by the Lynx) collapse, eyesight and hearing deteriorate, and breathing becomes shallow and fast, resulting in insufficient oxygen to the muscles. This has two effects: stamina and strength (symbolized by the Elephant) collapse (both need oxygen) and the body’s fast reactions and agility and flexibility (symbolized by the Tyger) slow down. In other words, the mighty Lion defeats Lynx, Elephant and Tyger! The panicking student thus loses the initiative, is defeated before the engagement even begins, is intimidated and dominated by the opponent, and spars passively and without intent, just trying to survive the bout. The fear of not knowing what to do becomes a reality, as the student’s mind blanks out, and faced with “fight or flight”, the student chooses neither, since he or she is rendered unable to make any choice at all.
The Lion also governs courtesy and chivalric ritual, but these attributes can suffer also when the student is intimidated and paralyzed by fear and adrenaline. Often the intimidated student
(deficient Lion) avoids too much chivalric ritual before and after a live sparring engagement, almost as if they do not believe they merit such ritual. Thus the engagement becomes sloppy and un-chivalric, not because the student is not a courteous person, but because they are
embarrassed to be too openly “chivalric” lest they cannot thereafter produce the fighting performance to match the pre-fight ritual.
On the other hand, the “deficient-Lion” student may be very courteous indeed. The pre- and post-engagement rituals do not involve adrenaline surge, and the rituals of a pre-engagement can be easily learned. Indeed the student, even though lacking in the Lion attributes of courage and aggressiveness, may well take their courtesy attributes into the engagement itself. Such a student may well lose the engagement often, deficient in the Lion as he or she is, but at least they lose
At the other end of the Lion spectrum we have the hyper-aggressive reaction to adrenaline surge. This kind of student responds to the fight or flight adrenaline surge, not only with “fight”, but also with “fight hard”, and in doing so responds over-aggressively. The sparring engagement then becomes a fight to the death, where the need to “win” dominates the mind of the over-zealous student, and blanks out the need for restraint or courtesy. In short, with muscles over-loaded with adrenaline, this student fights fast and furiously, strikes with too much impact for the armour standards of the engagement, and with little control or apparent concern for the opponent’s well-being. The fear of looking foolish is overcome by exceptional aggression, and in engagements like this, when an opponent is “excessive-Lion” (or Lion not tempered by the prudence of the Lynx), injuries can and do occur. This student is bold to the point of foolishness, rushing at the opponent without fear, to be sure, but flailing their longsword wildly, without technique and without good judgment either. In other words, Lion-deficiency can be shown by lack of courtesy or lack of passion (aggression) in fighting.
How best then to develop the key Lion attributes of Courage & Boldness, Aggressiveness and Courtesy? My notes below are for the new student approaching live sparring, perhaps with excitement, perhaps with trepidation.
Courage or boldness is an essential attribute for any student to develop for live sparring in a quasi-competitive or competitive environment. It forms the essence of the Lion, and is hard to develop unless The student is willing to spar at every opportunity. Thefollowing tips may be useful in the development of courage:
(1) Spar competitively whenever you can
Courage cannot be developed outside a quasi-competitive or competitive environment. In order to develop it, you must enter the realm of the Lion, which is the competitive field of combat. Only by sparring will you learn to cope with bodyshock and adrenaline surge. Seasoned fighters still experience adrenaline surge – they are just better able to channel it into controlled aggression and action, rather than allowing it to paralyze them. This is simply achieved by lots of sparring.

(2) Try to avoid long discussions during sparring

Sparring is a kinetic learning process. Courage is an emotional attribute – it is about how you feel – and it can be developed kinetically, but it cannot be developed by discussion. You cannot develop courage and boldness by talking about it between bouts. Courage evolves from the kinetic experience of competitive fighting. Don’t talk about it… DO it!

(3) Face your fears
You can develop courage by regularly facing your fear. First identify your fear, then face it. To begin with this will be difficult. But, as you develop courage, it will become easier. To face a fear requires willpower. For example, when given a choice of who to spar with, stand proud and tall and boldly pick the most fearsome looking opponent, or the biggest, or the strongest, or the fastest. Timid students often prefer to pick someone who looks like they will be the easiest to fight. This will never develop your courage. There is no shame in acknowledging your fear, but you must not allow your fear to dictate your choices. When faced with choosing an opponent from a group, ask yourself “Who am I most afraid to face”, or “Who do I believe would be the most intimidating or challenging person to engage in combat sparring?”, and then pick that person to spar with. Use your fear response as a method of choosing your sparring partner, not as a way to choose who to avoid, but rather as a way of choosing who to spar with. This is true

(4) Work on overcoming your fear of losing
The Lion does not fear losing in competition (nor death on the battlefield), because the Lion has faith. As students, your fear of losing or looking foolish may well inhibit your sparring ability. To
develop your Lion attribute of courage and boldness, it will be necessary to overcome your fear of losing. Sparring is your opportunity to lose and yet to realize that losing is not a catastrophe, but an opportunity to show grace and courtesy in defeat, and to gain renown in its own right, not to mention an opportunity to learn and improve your technique. Only by sparring repeatedly in a supportive environment can you develop this approach to combat. It really does not matter who wins or loses. What matters is that the play itself was conducted in the manner sought by your Schola, that is, with chivalry. Students ask me how they can become good sword fighters. I often answer “You first need to lose 5,000 engagements, so get going!”
Passion or Aggressiveness in a chivalric combat context does not mean violent, hurtful, destructive and malicious conduct. Aggressiveness means a combat willingness and readiness (a joy of combat), a driving forceful energy intended to dominate or master the opponent, and a
willingness to attempt to seize and hold the initiative, coupled with a strong desire to take back the initiative if it is lost. Here below are some of my thoughts on developing the Lion’s attribute
of aggressiveness:

(1) Follow the advice on courage and apply it to aggressiveness!
Aggressiveness and courage/boldness are closely related. All of the advice above regarding courage applies to aggressiveness! You cannot develop the Lion’s aggression if you never spar competitively.

(2) Try to constantly seize the initiative when sparring
It is the Lion who seizes the initiative. When sparring, try to be aware of times when you are passively responding to what your opponent is doing. Boldness means seizing and keeping the initiative. Understandably, for the student struggling to remember techniques, it is difficult to seize the initiative, but this can be developed through sparring itself. If you find yourself only defending without counter-attacking, your opponent has the initiative. Defending at speed
while counter-attacking can only be developed by sparring itself. Spar!

(3) Work on combining technique (Lynx) with speed (Tiger)
A driving forceful energy in combat can be developed by working on Lynx (technique) and Tiger (speed). When these are coupled together in a struggle for the initiative, aggressiveness is seen!
Technique and speed cannot become rooted in your kinetic memory (“muscle memory”) unless you spar, spar and spar some more!
Courtesy for me is an essential Lion attribute, and it prevents aggressiveness from becoming a destructive “win-at-all-costs” approach. Here are a few things to think about:

(1) Spar boldly and aggressively with the intent to help your opponent improve, and with the intent to create beauty on the field.
Practice sparring boldly and aggressively for the purpose of enhancing your opponent’s skills, rather than for the purpose of aggrandizing yourself. Aim also to create beautiful combat patterns that those watching will enjoy and admire. Remember: “The candle does not burn
to illuminate itself”.

(2) “Better to lose honorably then win dishonorably”
While aggressiveness wants to win, courtesy modifies aggressiveness. Courtesy does not want to win at all costs. There is no honor or renown to be gained by winning badly, for example winning by injuring your opponent. When you spar, practice avoiding winning, if by winning you
are forced to act discourteously.

(3) Remember, your opponent is not your enemy, but is rather your colleague
Treat your opponent on the field of combat as you would wish to be treated. Aggressiveness begins at the call “Lay on”, and ends at the call “Hold”. Courtesy, on the other hand extends throughout the bout from beginning to end. Remember, your opponent is not your enemy,
but is rather your colleague.

(4) Seek opportunities during the combat to display courteous behavior.
Speak politely to your opponent at all times, and treat them in the same manner. Never strike a blow with malice in your heart, no matter what. If your opponent falls down, offer them a hand up. Always seek to concede the fight should there be any doubt as to who won. In conceding
a close-call fight, you display courtesy, generosity and humility,three important chivalric virtues.

(5) Practice the pre- and post-engagement rituals carefully and clearly
Practice the pre- and post-engagement rituals carefully and clearly. These will help to place you in a courteous frame of mind.

(6) Wearing medieval style clothing can also help place you into the correct frame of mind
Wearing medieval clothing to fight in is not just “dressing-up” It also helps to place you into the correct frame of mind for combat within the school’s framework of medieval chivalric virtues.

(7) The main purpose of competitive sparring is to improve your own character
Remember that one of the main purposes of competitive sparring is to improve your own character. Thus the main struggle in combat can be seen to be against your own limitations and weaknesses, rather than against your opponent. Seek always to confront your own weaknesses when sparring, so as to overcome and improve them. In this sense your opponent is there also to help you improve, by sparring with you to the best of their own ability. While the framework is the field of combat, the purpose is unchanged: self-improvement. If you won a bout but did
not improve yourself in any way, did you really win anything at all?

(8) Remember you represent the Schola of Saint George, or your own School, at all times when you are engaged in competitive sparring
You do not represent only yourself when you engage in competitive sparring, but you represent the entire school. Others will judge not only you but the school itself, from the conduct of its members. Seeing yourself as an ambassador for the school at all times, and therefore always “on display” will help you conduct yourself appropriately, and will help to place your much-needed Lion ardour/aggressiveness within a framework of equally important Lion courteousness.
Fiore’s Lion carries a heart. To be a great warrior you need the heart of a Lion. The heart of a lion is bold, courageous, has no fear of death, has faith and practices courtesy at all times.
It is my personal opinion that the Lion is the last attribute set that you can begin to develop in Fiore’s system, because the key attributes of courage/boldness and aggressiveness cannot begin to be developed until the student can begin sparring in a competitive environment.
Courtesy of course can be developed from day one, but conducting oneself courteously while in competition and under the pressure of adrenaline pump and its concomitant aggressiveness is also a sparring-related attribute, and is different than practicing courtesy
while drilling cooperatively. Lynx, Tiger and Elephant attributes can all be developed prior to and
without sparring. Lion is different. Lion requires competitive combat. So fight! And embrace the Lion with both arms!
Colin Gabriel Hatcher

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