Archive for warrior code

Victorious Battle Brother

I wake up Sunday morning, close my eyes in prayer and see a beautiful lake at the foot of a beautiful mountain with snow covered peaks piercing the clouds. My vision is back!

I can feel peace and a quiet strength inside as I walk to the last session of the weekend. We worship and I can feel the presence of Spirit. I know God is there and I know that he is with me.

John is kneeling leading us in prayer, Jesus is saying it’s time you forgive me! I don’t feel that Jesus has wronged me…. but wait, what is that. I hear a voice from deep within, screaming, no, raging.

“You’ll just send me away like all the others”

“No”, Jesus whispers, his voice heavy with grief. He is not speaking to me, he is speaking to the eleven year old boy in my heart.

“Whee where you that day?” The boy rages on, “The day my heart shattered. Why didn’t you protect me?”

“My son”, Jesu answers, words filled with compassion, “I was there with you, it was my arms rocking you to sleep. I loved you then, and I love you now. I will never, ever leave you alone”

I have been listening in on the exchange strangely detached but now Jesus turns to face me and his eyes pierce my heart.

“You are not on your own”

I can feel the healing begin, I can feel how he is binding my heart together as the boy inside starts trusting, allowing me to trust Jesus as well. I break the agreement that I am on my own, I break the agreement that I will always leave before I get left behind, and most of all I break with the sinister behaviours that have led to my cycles of self destruction in order to prove that I am unlovable.

I am deep in prayer during the following covenanted silence, holding a sword in my hands when Jesus surprises me yet again. “Battle brother”, he whispers, “You can be my wing man any time”

Why transparency is NOT a chivalric virtue!

Transparency is a buzzword in todays world and especially in the emergent circles. As a church we need to be transparent and as Christians we need to be transparent so that people can know that we are what we say we are and of course to battle all prejudice against both Christian faith and Christian churches. More than ever do we loathe secret societies and lodges for their secrecy.

But I realise slowly that as great as transparency is as a corrective to the obfuscation and secrecy of church in the past it cannot be the future of the church and it cannot be a virtue that guides the path to knighthood.

Please understand me correctly, I still believe that honesty (the core of honour) and a safe environment to truly be oneself is crucial to the Warriors path, I am no longer certain that transparency is.

Let me explain! Transparency and openness, while great in itself completely removes the need for trust. If I know al there is to know about you and can follow your every move every day, I have no reason to trust you, I do not have to trust you because I know all there is to know about you.

We learn to trust each other when we do not know what the other person does once around the next corner. Only privacy allows us to trust each other, and more importantly only privacy allows us to practice and grow in trust.

Trust is the same thing as having faith, and faith IS a chivalric virtue. God does not build faith in our lives by full disclosure. On the contrary God, when asked for a name, answers tongue in cheek, “I am who I am”, walk with me and find out is implied.

It occurs to me that while we often say in modern society that one has to earn trust, I believe to the contrary that, when I trust you, you are built up and become more trustworthy by my faith in you. If I on the other hand mistrust you and require you to prove that you are trustworthy before I trust you, I undermine the relation and mistrust and betrayal are more likely to follow.

This is why transparency is not a chivalric virtue, and why we are called as warriors and knights to trust others before we have reason to trust. Because a broken heart is better than a cold or dead one!

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.¬†

Holiness, Holiness is what I long for

I found this quote here, and it really spoke to me, it is the core beliefs of Opus Dei,1 Whatever one is to think of Opus Dei this statement rings true to me. This would be how I see holiness, and as I see Knighthood as being a holy warrior this quote illuminates the way to Knighthood.

holiness, ‘being a saint,’ is not just the province of a few spiritual athletes, but is the universal destiny of every Christian. Holiness is not exclusively, or even principally, for priests and nuns. Further, holiness is not something to be achieved in the first place through prayer and spiritual discipline, but rather through the mundane details of everyday work. Holiness thus doesn’t require a change in external circumstances, but a change in attitude, seeing everything anew in the light of one’s supernatural destiny

  1. A Catholic order that has been much questioned because of some of their practices []

WSD celebration!

CIMG5600Today we finished of the WSD instructors course and ended our WSD – Womens self defence course with a graduation of our students. they all exceeded my expectations and showed unprecedented feats of warrior spirit, prowess and plain old whoop *ss! (pardon my french)

CIMG5623So today I prodly present three new Compagnos, one new Scholar0 minore, three new Scholaro maggiore and four newly appointed instructors whereof three will run the Riga WSD Schola when we leave Latvia.

The course has been great in itself but the graduation today really hit the spot. These Latvians turned from Martial arts students into amazons within the course of the test. Warrior spirit flowed and all the students performed excellent. This is the first full class I have graduated since we ran a Guardian Angels dojo. In the Angels Warrior Spirit was a nessesity and it came naturally in the training because it was needed to survive on the streets. I really didn’t know how to teach this to a non Angel class. The transformation from martial artist to warrior just happened and these amazons fought just as well as any angel I have ever trained.

I am now convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that these amazons are ready to take on the task of running the schola and instructing the WSD classes.

Chivalric virtue #5

Here is the next installment of the Chivalric virtues series, this time we are talking about generosity. Maybe in a much broader or deeper sense than what the word is usually assosiated with, but I think this is a core value in chivalry as well as in Christian life….

Please let me know what you think.

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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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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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