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 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.
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 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.