Well, it’s been a hell of a year.
We began the year with some new ideas and concepts – not so much revolutionary, but at least new to us – concerning class discipline and having a professional demeanour at least to the outside looking in. This brought some simple guidelines for class structure, saluting and of course, the uniforms. These changes were brought about by circumstance, which aside from necessity, is the mother of invention. Alot of class time was spent getting people to line up and ordered in drills, etc. This is partly due to my relaxed teaching style, but also to people just puttering around between drills and taking their sweet time. Some kind of decorum was needed. So, salutes, a bit of discipline, and all is well. I was initially worried that I would have a revolt on my hands, but all seem to have taken to it quite well, and in all it has been very positive. Students get more bang for their buck, training time is maximised, and everybody recognises this, so all is well. I now find myself in a position where I have to be careful not to slip back into old, relaxed habits. Such is life.
The uniforms came about with two objectives: provide suitable training clothing for grappling, and to provide a unified professional look for the students and the school. Armizare has come a long way in the years we’ve been doing it, and we need to reflect that. I’ve busted my hump trying to get people to understand it’s a martial art, and not grown-ups playing at sword. Part of that process, imo, is uniforms. Japanese arts all have a traditional training uniform, as do most other arts, and while I didn’t want to go with something “costumey,” it need to have at least a vague medieval feel to it. It is, for all intents and purposes, a medieval “gi” but it looks European, and that’s why I’m happy with it.
Another factor is the unifying effect it has. At Chivalric weekend, our students were readily discernible all over Todd’s wonderful plot of land, and were appreciated by all the instructors present. They comported themselves like the martial artists and good people that they are, and made me proud. I got many compliments on both them and the uniforms – folks mentioning how they could see our “blueberries” everywhere. Good work, folks. Keep it up! It was also, of course, good to see old friends – Christian, Greg, Jess, Aron, Jesse, Jörg, Bill, The Teague – and to meet some familiar folks whom I had only discoursed with online – Roger Siggs and Eric Slyter come to mind. Roger, next year, try not to break Pete, okay? 😉
Incidentally, I owe Todd a debt of gratitude. I was initially very leery of a public display of arms such as the Martial Challenge. I considered them silly affairs of breast-beating. Frankly, I was scared. Not of losing, mind you, but of sucking. Of being exposed as a fraud, an incompetent, whatever fearful flights of fancy took me. Despite my apparently extroverted nature, I prefer not to be in the spotlight. Well, I pulled that one out of my ass and apparently performed admirably, so all is well that ends well. It was not done in the spirit of competition, but of friendship and I better understand what it’s about – at least with those in my circle of friends. It also led to me defending the honour of the Commonwealth beside and against some great people I call friends and whom are models of what good teachers and good people are. More on that later.
And then there was 600. What can I say? I felt among family, and the venue is nothing short of breathtaking. Sharing the space with Guy Windsor (thanks for egging on Greg about my pollaxe book, btw…), Greg Mele, Jesse Kulla, Sean Hayes, Mark Lancaster, some of my students and friends, and everyone else that was there (yes, you too Alex…) was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I shan’t forget it. The martial challenges were nothing short of awesome, some great displays of fencing, and I can die a happy man knowing I got first blood on Maestro Sean Hayes. I could have lost that bout, but frankly, I accomplished what I set out to do – not suck. And of course, everybody involved are such good people, one cannot help but be in awe. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Let’s do it again sometime.
Then there’s The Book. It was pretty much done. Really, I swear. Some excellent suggestions by Greg however have put it off somewhat, since I’ve got more writing to do (and mostly research). Of course, life gets in the way of my hobbies and my writing comes after work and kids, so of late there is little time for even the latter, since I’ve been slammed with the former. Things are looking to slow down after January, however, and I promise I’ll do my damndest to get this done by spring. Really. Really, really.
So, what do we have planned for the New Year?
Well, we recently received our group order of single swords (yes, Tinkers again) for our foray into the one-handed sword. Initially a study group I wanted to set up, everybody is pretty much on-board, so now I have to come up with actual classes. I guess I must be doing something right. Such is the price of success I suppose. Thankfully, I have some wonderful friends in the community, and have a curriculum all fleshed out and ready to go in the New Year. This should prove to be interesting!
Aside from that, I finally need to get to a doctor to treat an ongoing problem with my shoulders that is radiating out and affecting my elbows, since I’m compensating. I’m thinking impingement syndrome (in both shoulders, dammit), but I’ll let the docs sort it out. I really want to get back to training as well as teaching (the former of which I did zilch this past year, given the pain) so I’ve finally resolved to see a doctor. This is really not going away on its own.
Finally, I’d just like to say thanks to everyone – both friends in the community and students. You make me a better person for having known you. Happy Holidays and see you in the New Year.