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Sunday, May 17, 2020

LVD and Alfanje Research

I am sorry it has been so long since I have made an update here, but I am very happy to say that my passion for LVD has not been diminished during these strange pandemic times that we have all been living through.

Before we start...

Before I get into my current research I want to share something that I think everyone interested in Destreza should be aware of.  For the past 5 weeks the Sacramento Sword School, lead by Puck Curtis and Eric Myers, have been hosting some amazing online lectures with experts in the study and practice of Destreza.  So far they have had Tim Rivera, Lois Spangler, Manuel Valle Ortiz, Matthew Howden, and Sean Reichman give presentations and next Thurs. they will be hosting Alberto Bomprezzi.

Probably the easiest way to get connected with the invitation to the lectures is to join one of the many Destreza groups on Facebook, as Puck typically cross posts there each week.  From there you can follow the instructions on where to send an email to get an invitation.  After each lecture he also posts the video to let people who missed it go back and watch them.  You can join any of the groups, but for simplicity I will give the link to the "Destreza in the SCA" FB group as I think that is a great one to join in general: Destreza in the SCA

Now on with a post on the Alfanje...

So recently I have been starting to research and delve into a portion of a Pacheco translation in which he discusses how a diestro should fight someone who is wielding a curved blade he refers to as an "Alfanje".  The material I am working from was translated by Xose Nieto, has notes and explanations by Ton Puey, and was Revised by Rob Runacres.  A direct link to that wonderful material can be found by clicking:  Against the Alfanje.

My initial research and the short presentation I gave was for a Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) challenge.  I will be posting my slides and script below, but if you are interested in just watching the approx. 6 minute youtube video you can just click to where it is hosted on the SCA East Kingdom youtube page:  "LVD Against the Alfanje presentation by Douglas Kozlowski aka Don Doroga Voronin"

As a bonus (or if you want to just skip to the end)  at the bottom I will be talking about some additional related information about Carranza that I learned from Dr. Manuel Valle Ortiz.  This knowledge is something I will be using as I move forward.  Again this initial research is hopefully only the start of a larger research project. Enjoy!

My Powerpoint Begins Here.... Enjoy!!!!

I am discussing how one of the authors of this style of Spanish fencing called La Verdadera Destreza, Destreza, or as I will refer to it LVD wrote about how to fight a certain style of weapon
My goals are:
  • Introduce the author
  • Discuss the cultural reasons he might be writing about this
  • Give my interpretation of the techniques themselves
  • And lastly talk about the questions that I plan to look into further 

The author is Luis Pacheco de Narvaez.  Pacheco is one of the most prolific authors on LVD.
This book I am referencing was written in 1599 and is only the second (known) book that was ever written on LVD, after the one by the founder Jeronimo Carranza in 1569 which was published widely in 1582.
I am only looking at a small portion of this work, 9 pages or 6 plates where Pacheco discusses how to fight someone with a curved blade that he calls the Alfanje. This is a Mediterranean sabre.
Based on the picture he provides and how other authors describe it, it was most probably what we call a falchion.
The person he describes as wielding the weapon is referred to as a Turk or a Moor and he uses these terms interchangeably, and there is a lot of baggage with him doing this and I will bring that up shortly.

The reasons behind him writing about this techniques has layers:
1st - There seems to be a fear in Christian Spain of either reinvasion by Muslims or rebellion by those that are still living there.   Spain as we know it today had taken back the Iberian Peninsula in 1492 after several hundred years of fighting against primarily Muslim and this is only about 100 years before this book was written.
2nd- As late at 1571 Spain was still fighting the Ottoman empire for control over the Mediterranean. 
3rd- The founder of the style, Carranza, actually participated in the suppression of a Morisco revolt (*SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM) The Moriscos were actually Muslims that were converted to Christianity, which goes back to the fear. 
4th - Pacheco actually claims to have fought the “Turk” before and has personal experience against this opponent.

Pacheco claims that the opponent is successful in wielding this weapon, “due to inconsideration and little wit of our men, than for what they are capable.”  
He is saying the opponent wasn’t successful due to skill or technique but because of the Christian lack of knowledge AND of course Pacheco is taking it on himself to educate people with his book.
He goes on to say that while the weapon might seem scary, the limitations are many…. 
They have only a single downward attack,
They never attempt a first intent attack and only wait, and
They have no thrust and lack blade length compared to the Spanish sword, being about ¼  shorter than the Spanish blade.

I am going to over simplify and generalize here, but I think that is only fair as it is exactly what Pacheco did.  Almost every one of his 6 responses can be broken down into: 
Stay far enough away (know your range), Feint, free the blade (disengage) and counter after time or after the attack
He goes into some items like how to close on angles in various directions, what happens if the opponent comes back up real fast, but the response still follows those same steps.

The big question I want to investigate is…
Is what he wrote actually valid?

Sound Impressive: First…. Was this written to sound impressive or was it an actual threat?
Some evidence points that he might have just been writing it to gain social prestige in the royal courts rather than it being practical, some of the writings of Pacheco’s social enemies at the time (Quevedo) accuse him of doing just that.

Racism: He uses the terms Moor and Turk to mean the same thing and they are not the same culturally, but he groups them together as a single “other”.  Moors were muslim inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula and were from a certain area, originally Morocco.  Turks were supposedly from the Ottoman empire, this generalization raises questions about his understanding of the enemy

Weapon: What type of weapon did the opponent actually use, it looks like a falchion, but other Mediterranean and middle eastern weapons had curved blades, like the shamshir, and they also might have been used in period and again he grouping them together

Technique: His opponent only has one downward swinging strike, I want to look into the cultural fighting styles that used the curved blade in this period, to see if it was true, as it really undervalues the enemy and goes back to him possibly trying to sound impressive rather than having true content

In Summary, I am super excited by this material, with such a small passage there is so much to look into in terms of technique as well as the cultural exploration of the history of Spain, their opponents, the politics, the weapons they used, the time period and the lives of the people that lived there.

SO... there you go. That is the material that I presented for the challenge.... BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE :-)

*Bonus Learning:

After I put this up on facebook I was beyond lucky and honored to be contacted by Dr. Manuel Valle Ortiz with additional information that possibly disproves one of my sources that said Carranza had participated in the Morisco revolts.

Dr. Valle Ortiz told me he was not sure if Carranza was in the Alpujarras revolt. While Carranza did mention it in his book, there is possible conflicting information in records that puts him in a different location during the rebellion.  Something just as interesting was that in Carranza's book there is a character that is a mockery of a false Destreza master who actually speaks in the first person of how he was in the revolt.

What does this mean?  I am not quite sure, but I do know that it opens up some very interesting places for me to take my future research and writing on this subject.

That is about it for now, so until next time I hope you all stay happy and safe. :-)

Thursday, August 22, 2019

How did I get interested in Martial A&S?

I had a wonderful time at Pennsic this year.  That is the large 10,000+ person SCA festival that happens  in Pennsylvania that I have been attending for the past decade.  I was able to teach a La Verdadera Destreza (LVD) research class, hold an LVD meet and greet, and I placed third in a 20+ person “By the Book Tournament (one of my personal high points).

One of the more interesting things to come out of this year was a conversation I had with a person who attended both my class and the meet and greet.  Topics included the history of Destreza from the 16th century up until the current revitalization of the style, as well as a very interesting question they asked about why people chose to study historical fencing and martial arts in general?  I think there are some overarching answers that can be given, such as for challenge and curiosity, but I also think that everyone has a personal journey.  Sharing these experiences, like I am about to do below, can hopefully help others navigate their own learning experience and find inspiration.

I have also been working with my Laurel (think SCA mentor/teacher in my art and research) on how to communicate my thoughts and passion for LVD in the best way.  This blog post is a result of both the conversation I had at Pennsic with my class attendee as well as my work with my teacher.  My hope is by sharing my story I can show how interest, growth, and passion for historical martial arts and sciences can be sparked.  Enjoy !

How did I get interested in Martial Arts & Sciences (A&S)…. the Doroga Story 

Part 1: Interest and practice

Prior to my interest in fencing I practiced several styles of martial arts for many years.  I dabbled in fencing in order to hang out and play with my friends within the context of the SCA.  I did very well for an amateur and in fact won the Pennsic 42 novice tourney due to my athletic ability and previous martial experience, but I did not go beyond a certain point due to my lack of practice, which in fact stemmed from my lack of interest.  How I found my interest in fencing also ended up being how I found my passion for Destreza and Martial A&S.

After fencing for several years as a “Pennsic fencer” (show up in April and practice a few months before war, then disappear after war until the following year) several of my friends were beginning to receive awards and accolades for their skill and participation in the SCA.  This piqued my interest and at this point I asked 2 friends who were well known for their prowess what I could do to get better… other than show up more.   I was told the answer was to study and practice a historic style.  This made sense to me on a personal level as practitioner of martial arts.  Studying something in an organized way with structure, drilling, and repetition will in fact make you better than the person who is just messing around, which is what I had been doing up until then.  I realized this was solid and practical advice so I decided it was the direction I needed to go.

I was left with the problem of what style to choose.  With my limited knowledge of historical fencing I had only so many options.  The Italian styles never called to me personally and always felt far too linear for my tastes.  The German styles just didn’t connect for whatever reason as well.   As far as I was concerned that left me with the Spanish style of La Verdadera Destreza (LVD) which I had only heard of in passing, but it had caught my interest for 2 major reasons. 

The first was that I was a huge fan of the 90’s TV show Highlander and in Season 5 episode 14 “Duende” they supposedly practiced LVD.  Years earlier prior to doing any fencing at all I had purchased 2 instructional DVDs that were taught by Maestro Ramon Martinez and produced by an actor and fight choreographer for this Highlander series. I had never watched them, but they sat on my shelf for years gathering dust.  Simply put the first reason was I thought it looked cool.

The second reason I decided on LVD was one of the martial arts that I practiced and taught for a long time was Arnis, which is a Filipino stick fighting style that depends largely on angled stepping and entry.  From my limited knowledge of LVD I saw similarities in the footwork and thought that it would fit with my already existing martial experience and style of moving.  I thought that the fewer poor behaviors I had to un-train the faster I would learn this new style.  So, the second reason pretty much boils down to it looked familiar and like something I already had an interest in.

You could say that that was how I started martial A&S, but I don’t think that is 100% true.  Yes, you can practice something (like A&S) without knowing you are doing it, but I believe that you also need intention.  My intention at the time was to only get better at fencing, not do Arts and Science.  My further adventures and research are what took me down that road or rabbit hole.

Part 2: The accidental A&S entry

                So I began with my research.  I watched the Martinez DVDs to start with and I found Puck Curtis’ manual on the basics of the style. My thoughts were that I needed the language and modern understanding of the style before I could read more period manuals.  This starter research also was my first A&S drug in a way.  I somehow began caring and became curious about not just about how to fence, but also more about the weapons they used and if the Spanish were the only ones using cup hilts (short answer no they were not).  I started looking at maps and searching out who the rulers of Spain were during the period in which the style was practiced once I learned one of the founder’s students (Pacheco) became the fencing master for King Philip IV (spoiler alert, it was the during the time of the Hapsburg Empire).  I began not just wanting to know about how to fight, but also more about what they fought with and what class of person was actually doing it.
After practicing LVD for about 5 months I heard about a tournament being held at the SCA event of St. Eligius.  Based on my readings it was going to be a “by the book” tournament where people who practiced various historic styles would compete against one another.  I figured this was a chance to see if I could stick to the movements I was practicing and not just fall into my old more bouncy and athletic/ free form ways.  The day of the event arrived and I was quite excited to see how I would do. 

It didn’t work out quite the way I expected though. Maybe it was the cold weather, maybe they didn’t find someone to organize the tournament, most likely though I just read the description of the tournament wrong.  It turned out that the event was not in fact a physical tournament, but instead we were supposed to select a portion of a manual and demonstrate one the sword plays from it.  It just so happened that in being a giant geek I had a bag of the manuals I had been studying with me in the car with my fencing gear.  I decided that I did not drive all that way just to sit on the sidelines and watch other folks have fun.  I grabbed one of my books, my sword, and picked out a play to reenact.  Another twist occurred and it turned out that I was the only fencer to enter this portion of the competition so I was grouped with a number of non-martial artisans and put into the category of performance art.  I ended up winning an honorable mention for entering my first A&S competition that day and it was quite the learning experience to say the least and an unexpected challenge that made me want to keep exploring this art further in different ways.

Part 3: Conclusion

                The answer to what inspired me to study martial A&S is not a simple one.  It was my passion for martial arts in general, my desire to get more involved in the SCA like my friends, and my wish to get better at fencing.  It was the advice I was given on how to do that, my interest in a very awesome 90’s television show, the similarities I saw between a historical style and my own martial experiences, and a set of strange circumstances that showed me there were ways to compete in A&S and share my passion with others.   The story goes on further of course and there were more crossroads, questions, conversations, and rabbit holes I went down in my A&S research.  I think that an important take home message is that people should realize that the inspiration to begin something is not always the same as what inspires you to continue exploring it.  Continued inspiration to research and share our passions is what keep us going no matter what art we chose. 

Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Competition Headspace for Fencing and A&S

Hello again, I know it is kind of crazy that this will be my 3rd month in a row of posting something.  I need to thank my teacher and Laurel in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), Mistress Elysabeth “Lissa” Underhill, for the motivation and the kicking in the butt to get back to doing this on a regular basis.


As you can tell by the title, this post won’t be strictly about Destreza, but more about competition in fencing and in Arts and Science (A&S).  Specifically I wanted to talk briefly about my experiences with getting into tournament headspace for different types of competitions, as well as what I have seen others do.   If you have competed in fencing or just about any sporting event, you are most likely intimately aware of this state of mind.  There is an entire field of sports psychology built around this topic and I hope to do more reading in the coming year to get better informed and prepared.

Tournament headspace can be generally defined as the way that the mind influences the performance of the participant.  Think about when you were in school and you had to take a test.  You were done with the studying and preparing and it all came down to how you performed that day and how well you did on the test.  I know some people that were awesome at taking tests and others that would just freeze up and do horrible.  Tournament headspace is very similar with how an athlete or artist spends countless hours perfecting their actions and art before they get to the competition.  All of that physical prep will play a role in how they do that day, but how they prepare their mind for the test/fight/tourney will also influence the outcome and how they feel about their performance afterwards.


I can not cover all of the different ways to prepare your mind for a tourney as there are entire books and classes taught on this subject.  Instead, I will mention a few different categories or techniques that I have witnessed and how various people use them.  As you read, try and think about how these methods relate to different types of competitions, be it a fencing round robin tourney or perhaps and Arts and Science entry where there is a need for more social interaction:

  1. Personal Space: Some prefer to not have contact with anyone when they are getting ready to compete as it will distract them from their performance, while others like to talk and use casual conversation as a way to relax.  
  2. The Adversary:  This is how you see the competition.  Some prefer to see the world as an enemy that must be beaten and some of the best fighters out there use it.  I personally like to get into a “FUN” headspace by bouncing and thinking about how much enjoyment I am going to get out of the tourney regardless of my wins or losses.  I discovered this works for me by reflecting on a quote by the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, where he wrote about practicing in a Joyful manner.  I have personally found that counting my wins and losses will really mess with me BIG TIME and this is something I fight with all the time in my head.
  3. Visualization:  This is a classic technique that many professional and Olympic athletes use.  A VERY simple description of this is that you visualize or meditate on their techniques being applied.  You see them working in your mind and perhaps see yourself in the winner’s circle getting the award.
  4. Patterns:  This one can be summed up as, what you do at practice is what you should do at the tourney.  Do you wear the same shoes or gear at practice as you will wear in a competition.  I personally have a footwork drill that I do before every practice.  In order to get into my headspace at a tourney I step away from folks and do this same drill to get into a good mind. 
  5. Rituals and superstition:  You hear it made fun of sometimes, but it is 100% valid.  Maybe it is a lucky pair of socks you always wear.  Personally, I have this goofy ritual with my lady, where she shoots all the bad thoughts around me in a funny “pew pew” fashion.  Yeah, it is goofy and crazy, but it also helps me stay in my fun headspace.  These behaviors and habits are similar to the previously mentioned patterns and in the end they give the competitor a sense of comfort and familiarity.  


As well as thinking about these techniques and categories I mentioned, you should also reflect on what the format of the competition will be and how that might influence your mind.  I find the bear pit format that involves 3 hours of non-stop fighting many different people requires a much different headspace than say a round robin tournament where the competition is smaller and the time more focused.  Even more different than those is a “one and done” tourney such as Pennsic Rapier Champs.  There is A LOT riding on a single fight and that can really mess with you.  There are also small group battles and melee fights that require a different headspace and level of cooperation or social interaction that might be more similar to a basketball team.

To add a different layer of complexity to the format idea, take all of that and reflect on how this could relate to an Arts and Science competition.  It might not be a one on one fight, but there are similarities. You did all of your work (substitute for practice) before the competition and you must take time to be social with folks and explain your art and answer their questions.  It is more like a job interview in ways, where you must show your work as well as yourself and your knowledge of the topic.  Similar to a fencing tourney, there is a lot riding on it and you want to score well and win. 


While there are many things lacking in the training methods of SCA competitors, one of our biggest advantages is the fact that we have so many opportunities to enter competitions.  In my section of the SCA world (East Kingdom), if you are willing to drive, you can find a fencing tournament almost every single weekend or every other.  In Sept. alone I participated in 3 different tournaments and actually could have done a 4th at an event I was attending.  I realize how lucky we are in the SCA as other sword sports like HEMA do not have quite as many opportunities to compete.  You can practice as much as you want, but if you have very little chance to experience the stress and pressure of a competition you will most probably not be prepared and not have a chance to figure out what works for you and your mind. 


To summarize all of this information I will say simply that it is a personal journey that takes time and experimentation.  What works one time to get you in your headspace, might not work the next.   You must come to grips with the fact you will not win every tournament you enter and understanding your reactions to loss is essential to your growth and the development of your mind game.  Also, remember that no matter how good your headspace is you need to still Practice, Practice, Practice and perfect your art or you are simply wasting time.  Visualizations without practice are delusions.  

Here is a good blog post Lissa sent me about fencing tournament headspace that folks might be interested in.


My personal goals for the coming year include:
  • Practice more and get my skills to a higher level.  
  • Get a pair of shoes that I will use at both practice and in competition to create a better pattern for myself.  
  • Attend and enter more A&S tourneys to  reflect on the similarities and differences between my two passions (research and fighting).  
  • Lastly and perhaps most important, I want to look at headspace a bit deeper to educate myself on this topic to improve my game.

Next month I will try and update the Destreza Resource list.  It is been almost 6 months and I have a few extra things to add to that.  Until then...

Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 16, 2018

What is Martial Arts and Science (A&S)?

The title of today’s blog post kind of says it all really.  When competing to be a Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) Arts and Science (A&S) champion earlier this year, I was asked what I would do if I won.  My answer was that I wanted to promote Martial A&S.  That sounds like a great idea, but I have spent much of my time so far as the East Kingdom Queen’s champion trying to determine what that actually means.  My goal now is to introduce the idea that Martial A&S is a much broader topic than you first might think and by understanding its depth as well as breadth we can encourage a greater number of people to study these arts and categorize what they are studying as being Martial A&S.

Arts and Science in the SCA is a very large topic that permits a great deal of creative flexibility on the part of its members. It can encompass weaving, embroidery, costuming, scribal arts, woodworking, cooking, dance, brewing, glass making, blacksmithing, research, and so much more.  My own study and paper on Spanish fencing falls into the category of “research”, but due to the topic being on a period style of fencing it also falls into the category of Martial A&S. 

Each of the other topics listed above can have many subcategories that fit within their group.  If you look at blacksmithing are you referring to armor smiths, jewelry makers, or sword makers?  If you say someone is a woodworker are they making chairs, tables, boats, or spoons?  Is a glassmaker creating beads, cups, or stained glass?  Don’t even get me started on the category of “Fiber Arts”. 

Through conversations with other people in the field as well as by running a Martial A&S panel at Pennsic, I realized that the topic of Martial A&S was similar to the other arts mentioned above.  If I want to encourage people to study Martial A&S  I believe I should start by spreading the message that Martial A&S is open to many areas of study and only restricted by the creativity of the individual doing the research. 

I will admit that when I first heard of Martial A&S I thought that it had to be a recreation of a period manual or martial art. This was how I started my A&S journey, by entering a competition where I acted out a passage from a fencing manual.  Also included in what people usually consider Marital A&S is the research and practice of fighting styles that the SCA might think non-typical or experimental such as grappling or fighting with a weapon like a sickle or scythe. 

Martial recreation ideas are what first hooked me on research.  The recreation and mastering of techniques from period manuals is very much Martial Arts and Science, but the topic can have more depth and should not be limited to martial movements.  I know of one member of the order of the Maunche (an SCA A&S grant level award) that has looked at dueling practices within period and has also researched what it took to make a living as a fencing instructor.   It is easy to see how A&S projects revolving around not just martial techniques themselves, but the historical context in which they were performed falls under the Martial A&S umbrella.  For example, if someone researched battlefield tactics of period conflicts there is a direct connection to the Martial arts and sciences.

We can look at the Arte De Athletica, a combat manual by Paulus Hector Mair, as an example of how a person can delve deeper into the field of Martial A&S.  This manual has a series of plates that explore typical martial weapons like pikes, halberds, and swords.  He also details fighting techniques for what are sometimes called peasant weapons, like the scythe, sickle, or flail.  An artist could focus solely on the mechanics of these peasant weapons to recreate their techniques.  That same artist or another could write a paper on the societal context of these weapons and how a book like this was possibly written due to the German peasant wars and revolts that occurred in the early 16th century.   Both the recreation as well as the research into the historical context of the material can fall into the category of Martial A&S. 

I believe that not just the topic, but the intent of the researcher can make a piece Martial in nature.  If an artist is recreating a pair of breeches from period, it is evident how that can fall into costuming or fiber arts.  Let us say the same artist is recreating those breeches because they saw them in a fencing manual.  Perhaps they are now looking to document how those specific pants influenced the movement of the fighter or style.  Does the style of pants allow for greater flexibility of movement than other period examples?  Does the fit make one hypothesized movement more or less functional when recreated while in garb?  If that were the case, I would argue that the intent of the research could also fall within the framework of Martial A&S.  

A similar argument about intent can be made for woodworking a shield.  Is the artist looking at how the straps for the arm were functional on the battlefield?  Are they looking at the effectiveness of the material against various types of weapon blows it might have taken?  The Martial context of the art and the intent of the project is only limited by the creativity and research of the artist.

The word “Martial” indicates something that is suited for war or a warrior.   Without a doubt, the techniques and recreation of martial actions fall into this category.   I would also say that that if you are studying martial philosophy, armor smithing, fiber arts, the historical context of weapons, as well as a much wider variety of ideas than I can list here, it is possible you are also practicing Martial A&S.   Within the SCA and the very broad and deep field of Martial Arts and Science we should welcome all of these well researched ideas under our umbrella and encourage the continued exploration of our passions. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

La Verdadera Destreza Seminar with Ton Puey

Today’s Post will cover:

An update on what I have been doing
A summary of a Ton Puey Seminar
What I hope to be covering in future blog posts


Hello,  It has been a little while since I put together a blog post and not just a La Verdadera Destreza resource list or Spanish circle update.  I am sorry about that, but I hope to get back to posting about things that might prove valuable for those studying La Verdadera Destreza (LVD), as well as folks interested in researching the martial Arts and Sciences (A&S).

Even though I haven’t posted in a bit, I have been anything but bored.  The Pennsic War happened over the summer where I taught a Destreza footwork class and hosted a martial A&S panel, I have been involved in multiple fencing tournaments, and in early July I was very honored to be inducted into 2 different orders within the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).  Those are the Order of the Golden Rapier (OGR) which is given for excellence in fencing, and the Order of the Maunche which is given for excellence in the arts and sciences (specifically my Destreza research).  I am humbled beyond words to be inducted into these orders, which contain some insanely talented and amazing people that I admire.


Now to get to the heart of what inspired today’s post.  As you can guess by the title I was very lucky to attend a Destreza seminar this past Sat. and Sun with Ton Puey, who is the head of the Academia da Espada in Spain.  The seminar was held at The Athena School of Arms, which is a Boston area HEMA school.  They are a great group and I know some of their members as they have hosted visiting instructors in the past, such as a seminar I attended with Devon Boorman in June.

If you do not know Ton Puey you can find out more about him from the resource list (see link in first paragraph or at top of page).  I would say there are a handful of modern masters that are very actively teaching and researching the art of LVD.  Some of them include Ramon and Jeanette Martinez, Sebastien Romagnan, Alberto Bomprezzi, Tim Rivera, and Puck Curtis.  Near the very top of this list is Ton Puey.  He is the head of his fencing school in Spain and recognized for his skill in Destreza as well as his scholarship, as he has also co-authored / translated multiple books and papers on the topic.

Sadly, there is no way for me to summarize everything that happened in 2 days /12-14 hours of seminar and lessons in a short post.  I have attended and taught a number of martial arts seminars over the years.  Even with taking notes (which I always try to do) I tell people that you are lucky if you can absorb between 1-5 concepts (varies with length of seminar) to work on at home. I will give you an idea of what was covered and some of my personal take home messages.

Saturday morning was Destreza basics.  We did not pick up a sword at all that morning and worked entirely on footwork and sensitivity.  OMG it was AWESOME, lol.   I picked up at least 2 new footwork drills along with an expansion of several that I had been doing.  I am a firm believer that footwork is the heart of all martial arts.  While the paint and molding in a house might look nice, it will do you no good if the whole thing is built on a poor foundation.  I think this is doubly so in LVD since we are constantly moving on angles and curves, crossing our steps, etc. 

The other part of the morning was spent practicing a drill I would describe as being similar to Tai Chi sticky hands or Wing Chun’s Chi Sau.  If you don’t know what these are I suggest googling it.  The idea behind this was to help us understand what is called “tacto” in LVD.  It is this style's method of contact and blade control.  We also combined the footwork drills with this concept and it was very much LVD training gold for me.

If you watch any videos of Ton you will notice his use of distance, rhythm, tacto, and footwork are very distinctive.  These drills helped me better understand how he is moving and not only confirmed I am on the right path with my self-training, but they also gave me a type of mental permission to expand on what I am doing.

On Saturday afternoon I had a private lesson where Ton covered the Atajo with me in relation to my own body.  A couple of my friends also took privates and we were very lucky to be able to watch each others’ sessions.  I can only say that if you ever get a chance to train with any modern master I suggest you TAKE IT!  Training on your own only goes so far and the type of advice and feedback you get in terms of refining your movements is priceless.  You can of course train on your own, but without a doubt it will take you longer to find your way along the path, than if you have a professional guide who has been there before.

Sunday morning’s seminar was intermediate Destreza and this was where Ton covered the basics of blade control.  He went over Atajo and cutting with the group and he had us practicing the application of that along with our footwork from the day before.  We also briefly went over the 4 LVD General Techniques (a link to a blog post I wrote on them a while back) and how they can be incorporated, but to be honest I might be combining some of my memories from the private lessons I watched the day before.  In the afternoon he taught a buckler class which was great as well.  He drew connections to both the larger Rotella (a link to a shield I personally own) as well as how to use these same concepts with a dagger. 

As I said, in any seminar you should try and absorb as much as you can, but there are limits to what is possible.  A few of my personal take home lessons from the weekend include:
  • New footwork drills (transverse, curve, foot crossing, etc.)
  • Proper flow is a combination of good footwork, distance, and tacto while being mentally flexible
  • Refining of my atajo and the angles needed to apply it properly
  • Quicker and more explosive movements are ok on occasion
  • Use the cup/hilt to block on upward angles while also stabbing at the same time

Finally, one of the greatest things I got out of the conversations and time I spent with Ton was that I think I am on the right track with my studies and applications of LVD.  I have a long way to go on this journey, but it is great to speak to a guide that can help me along the path.


I am hoping this is the start of a trend for me posting more frequently.  Some future post topics I hope to cover include: 
  • Tourney and competition mindset in both A&S and in fencing 
  • Use of historical techniques and concepts when fencing
  • What is martial Arts and Science (A&S) and how does it relate to what we do

 Until my next post thanks for reading!

Bonus photo of me with Ton Puey :-) 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

King's and Queen's A&S Championship LVD Paper

Hello again,

So I have some very interesting and exciting news to share with you in this post.

Last Saturday Feb 10th, 2018 I entered the the King's and Queen's Arts and Sciences  (A&S) Championship for the East Kingdom.  I submitted a research paper I wrote on La Verdadera Destreza.

If you are interested in reading the paper you can click the title:

I will jump to the conclusion very quickly to avoid any stupid suspense and just tell you.... I Won!  

For people not familiar with the SCA A&S championship it goes like this.  There is a competition held once a year and the winners hold the position for a year.  There are 2 champions selected, 1 King's and 1 Queen's.  In some of the East Kingdom championships the King's is considered the overall winner, but in the Arts and Sciences competition the Queen's is the overall winner.   Well, not only did I win Queen's A&S, but my Lady Elena Hylton (who has helped me with my work more than you can imagine) won King's Championship.... yup, speechless.

It is an insanely difficult competition to judge to say the least, as you are not just comparing apples to oranges.  You are evaluating scribal art, fiber art, leatherwork, painting, research, brewing, blacksmithing, and another dozen or so types of SCA period artistry.  There were about 37 entries I believe and each one was beautifully unique.  The Minister of A&S, his deputies, and last year's champs have done an amazing job of standardizing the judging rubrics, but I do not envy that job in the least.  

The quality of the works at the competition left me in awe and beyond humbled.  I loved so much of what I saw and was so excited to talk to people and not only learn about what they did, but to see the joy and excitement in their eyes as they geeked out with me about the thing that they put SOOOOO much time into and that which gave them joy and passion.

I want to, but will not spend this post thanking everyone that made it an amazing day, but I did post a G+ thank you  that got some of it across I hope.

One thing that should be mentioned, and many folks in the rapier community are very excited about, is that this is the first time a Martial research project has ever won champs.  It is an amazing thing to have this recognized as an art worthy of the name and study and just so COOL!  It is a testament to all of the martial researchers in the East who made this possible, such as Master Donovan and Don Lorenzo and all of the other fencers and fighters who shared their passions for period martial research with each other. Thank you!

Part of the job of being one of the kingdom champions is to represent the East in the coming year and spread the message of A&S.  I will be working hard with Elena to do this together.  Her intelligence and passion for A&S is beyond compare and she will also be getting her well deserved Laurel in just about a month.  Her mind is boiling over with ideas on how to get more people involved and we are both so excited.

The main message I personally want to get out this year comes down to:
  • More people should and can study the Martial Arts and Sciences in ALL forms
  • Spread the joy of ALL our A&S passions to others and remember THIS IS FUN!
  • A&S is a process and takes time so just try something and learn

If anyone wants to see more about the process and falls I went through to get this paper to its current shape, I made 2 other blog posts in the past year to try and document my journey.

A&S LVD Research Paper Experience  3-28-17 (contains an older version of my paper)

Remember that we are doing all of this because we find joy in sharing our crazy geeky hobbies.  This isn't our full time job, but it is a full time passion that we must all cultivate by sharing with each other.  

Thank you!


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Importance of Drilling a Research Paper

Hello Again,

This past weekend inspired me to get another post up a bit quicker than usual.  Since this isn't a catch up post like my last one it will be a bit more focused I hope.  I will be talking about what I have been learning in the process of writing fencing research papers and compare that to the act of fencing itself.

First, at Barony Beyond the Mountain (BBM) Yule on Saturday I was honored with the East Kingdom Silver Brooch for my fencing research and teaching of La Verdadera Destrea (LVD).  I was extremely surprised and left speechless.  I do what I do in LVD because I have fun.  The combination of learning history and another mindset, placing it directly into action to see if it works, and getting other people excited about the same thing, gives me a sort of child like glee. Having this research and passion recognized as being useful to other people is beyond awesome.

The Future Paper:
Next, as I mentioned briefly in my last post I have been reading Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics in preparation and research for my next paper on Destreza.  Specifically I am looking to discuss how the ethics and Catholic religion of Carranza was responsible for how LVD was created.  There is no doubt that if you have a Catholic lawyer who writes dueling books during his free time, there is a very good chance that his fencing style and philosophy will have some heavy outside influences.

The Past Mindset:
That being said I have been going back and forth in my head about how I should move forward with my A&S activities.  While I WILL be writing the ethics paper soon, I have been considering if writing a NEW paper is the right thing I should do for Kings and Queen's Arts and Science competition in February.   I wrote a paper last year for KnQ, but due to some bad stuff happening in my life I was unable to enter it there. I did get feedback from some judges who read it and I also submitted it to the Laurel's prize tourney a month or so later and received some awesome feedback from Mistress Lissa on how to improve my paper in the future.  Here is a blog post I wrote in March about that great experience: LVD Research Paper Experience.

After that last event I thought I learned what I needed to from that paper and pretty much shelved it and started thinking about my next work.  After several discussions with my Lady Elena and after getting some great advice and consultation at the A&S research table last weekend, with Master Magnus and Lady Raiza, I am now rethinking things a bit. 

In my education and research paper experience prior to the SCA, once you submitted them and received a grade, you moved onto the next work.  Sure, you can get some advice and have reviewers help you before you submit the paper and make changes then, but you didn't submit the same paper to two different classes and that is how I think I have been viewing my work. 

The Advice to Drill First:
Based on feedback and wisdom from the folks mentioned above, that mindset does not need to be the case when writing papers for the SCA.  Most crafts people will submit their work to multiple competitions to get feedback and figure out how to improve their craft.  In fact, as I was reminded, it would be considered very rude to not listen to advice you were given and show how you incorporated it into your future work or how you took that into consideration as you moved forward.

This is where the comparison of the process of SCA research papers to Fencing competitions and drills came into the consultation conversation with Master Magnus.  When you enter a competition and/or fence someone better than you, they will sometimes give you advice on how to improve your game.  You then take that information and alter what you are doing, practice/drill , practice/drill, practice/drill and try and put it back into action in another fight or tourney.  For those that don't know, fencing drills are repeated movements, frequently done with a partner, that you do to train your brain and body to learn how to fence better.  If you value the opinion of the person who gives you the advice you do not just ignore it and go about your business making the same mistakes over and over again.

Now to bring it back to the paper.  It would be possible, but not very efficient to enter a tournament (read: A&S paper), receive some good advice, and then just move onto another tournament (read: new paper) without practicing and drilling the previous material first to make sure that what I learned is ingrained in my brain.  Sure I could do it, but the more that I thought about it, if I want to get the most out of that original paper I need to change my previous mindset and see my research paper and tournament entry as more of an opportunity to drill my academic skills and paper writing abilities to get the most out of them.  This way, when I do get to my Detreza ethics paper, I will have that much more time with the pen/sword in my hand and brain.

SO, what I will now be doing is breaking out the previous paper and drilling the you know what out of it.  I want to get the most out of that experience and also try and get it out to as many people as possible to share the fun that I have with Destreza.

I hope my insights and experiences as a fencer and fencing researcher in the SCA can help other people.  Each path is unique, but it is very much a journey and a fun one if you take the time to look around and listen to folks.

Thank's for reading.

Bonus picture of my Silver Brooch.  Squee!!  :-)