Fight for Life

What are your plans this Sunday?IMG_4617

If, after family brunch, your answer is “I dunno”, then why not come out and watch local Historical European martial artists swing swords for charity? There will be food, fights and fun for the kids, armoured combat and a special birthday treat for a little princess, with all proceeds going to the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa. You can make a donation on the Fight for Life page of the YSB, or in person at Hintonburg Park in Ottawa, between 10AM and 4PM. In fact, through the simple act of eating a hot dog, you are contributing to a worthy cause!

Come out and help us help Ottawa’s youth!

To make a donation online:

Fight for Life

Have you seen the New York Times article on modern competitive longsword? If not, check it out here:

Now that you’ve seen it, did you know there was a group in the Ottawa area dedicated to reviving those arts? Better yet, you can come out and see them in action!

October 5th, from 10 to 4 at Hintonburg park,  is the fundraising tourney for the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa, and we’d like your support. Of course, by support, we mean coming out to watch medieval sword fighting at its best, by local martial artists supporting a local cause..

The YSB will be taking donations on site, or through the YSB website here:

Fight for Life 2013, with thanks to Robert Faubert
Fight for Life 2013, with thanks to Robert Faubert

There will be both unarmoured and armoured fencing, with the armoured deed taking place roughly around noon, at the peak of interest. There is also a BBQ where you can eat and refresh yourselves, all while contributing to the cause. Every hot dog eaten is a donation!

Spread the word, support a fighter, and come out and enjoy the day – and some hot dogs!

New Season Begins!

dui_mano-300x282As September rolls around and the school year starts, so too does a new session begin for your swordplay fix with Les Maîtres d’Armes! Fundamentals classes will be beginning September 17th, at the Richelieu-Vanier Community Centre, 300 Des Pères Blancs avenue. You can pre-register through the City website, or on-site the first day of classes. The Fundamentals classes cover the basic requirements up to the rank of Scholar, and forms the springboard for the rest of our offerings.

Likewise, the Bolognese side sword and Rapier study groups will be back in full swing starting Monday, September 8th at 7:00 and 8:30PM respectively.

Finally, to help you decide if this is for you, you can come visit us at our open house Wednesday, September 10th at our usual location, from 7:30 to 9:00PM. We’ll have stations set up so you can try different aspects of the Art, and you can ask questions of our instructors and students. This is your chance to try it out!

Fundamentals Class 14/05/2014

Class began with the usual warm up, begun by Jean François Gagné, as I attempted to repair our weapons cabinet (don’t ask…). This was followed by a simple partnered moulinet dagger flow drill, and our version of the dagger poste dance. By this time, I’d managed to get dressed, and jumped in. Thank you, JF!

The rest of the class was dedicated to the 6th remedy master of dagger and some of its derived plays. Begisixth remedy masternning with the cover, we drilled covering from different position and footwork – stepping in to break the attack, receiving the attack without moving, and moving offline with a compass step. Some points to consider for each one:

  • When breaking the attack, some offline movement is desirable – the range is shortened when using the dagger to cover in frontale. Don’t eat a dagger to the face.
  • When receiving the attack, ground yourself with proper structure by dropping your weight and extending your rear leg. all the force of the dagger should be routed into the ground through your back leg.
  • Offline with a compass pace sets up a natural path for the dagger to move to the outside.

We proceeded then to the second scholar of the remedy, setting aside the dagger to gain the attacker’s outside. Always remember to suppress the dagger as you enter and stab with your own. Not doing so gives your partner an opportunity to free himself and counter with a direct thrust.

The dagger disarm was practised next. An important point to consider is an anchoring point for your own dagger as your strip your partner’s. Adding insult to injury, you can also get a ligadura if he refuses to let go.

Finally, the dagger plays were related back to the first and third (unarmed) remedies that play to the inside and outside, respectively. To end, the first scholar of the sixth remedy was practised, whereby the scholar covers with the dagger, but then transfers to a first master grip to stab the player in the ribs. Notes: Don’t remove your second hand from the dagger if your partner is bearing down on you. This turns out to be a good sentimento di daga drill as well, because you have to understand when it is appropriate to remove the left hand from the dagger. In essence, when pressure is removed (beginning to draw back for a second attack) or redirected to the outside.

In all, excellent class, and students picked up quickly and intuitively. Good work!


Fundamentals Class 26/02/2014

Class began with a simple warm-up, followed by some cutting exercises. Students were asked to traverse the room and cut using Meyer’s cutting diagram – the entire sequence – whereas formerly, they learned it in increments, one part at a time.

To add to the diversion, students were asked to tailor the drill to their skill level, and gradually work up. For beginning students, a simple version of the drill was adopted – fendente, sottani roverso, sottani dritto, fendente roverso. Slightly more advanced students could add a slight flourish to the drill at the end of cutting lines, using what is basically a preparation. Cuts thus became more fluid from one guard to the next. Finally, those feeling up to the task were asked to do the drill using double cuts: first falso, then dritto. The sequence then becomes: falso fendente  mandritto, fendente mandritto, falso sottani roverso, dritto sottani roverso, etc. This proved an adequate challenge, and an excellent entry to the class.

Finally, timing of cuts was worked on – landing the foot and the cut at or near the same time.

The rest of the class was spent on thrusts – all five thrusting angles were visited, and students drilled starting thrusts from different poste.

Following this, students practised a simple defence against a thrust: a beat. The goal was to harness an instinctive flinch reaction many have, and hone it martially by enhancing its mechanics. Defeating the beat came next, with a simple dip of the point (cavazione) to finish your thrust to the other side of your partner’s blade.

We ended with the rompere di punta from four quadrants, as a means of securing the opposing blade and enhancing your safety.

Next week will see more thrusts, drills against resisting opponents and maximising your thrust’s stability.

Advanced class 12/02/2014

After a fast-paced, high energy fundamentals class, it’s always good to relax with a high-energy, moderately paced (since we were gassed) advanced class.

Following the 1st and 3rd remedy class we had just completed, I thought it would be interesting to visit the 1st remedy master as done from grips, in close quarters. This, of course, changes the force levels, measure, and several other parameters of the remedy. Students were subjected to close-quarters multiple attacks from a grip position, and had to defend and gain control of the weapon. Following this, they were instructed to not only control the weapon, but apply a technique of the first remedy master from this set up.

After the 1st remedy, the next most likely candidate was visited – a good ol’ prison yard shanking. The 9th master from a grip position. The same parameters applied to the exercise, and after several variations, people were gassed.  These were followed by an exercise whereby rather than defend the attack, the defenders were instructed to anticipate the attack and try to either suppress the weapon as/before it was drawn, or simply steal it outright.

We ended with a variation of the end of the previous class, whereby students were instructed to defend against their attacker who would attack with a mandritto or sottani, but the defender was in a corner against the wall, and could only leave the corner once he was in control of the weapon. This led to some interesting exchanges, although safety was an important concern, given the constraints of the set up.

Fundamentals class 12/02/2014

After a warm up featuring the sword as a focal point for exercises (I’ve found integrating the sword to add a layer of complexity and some additional weight to the average, mundane exercise,) tonight featured more dagger work, with a review of last week’s class where we visited the first remedy master of dagger, focusing on application versus an aggressive, determined attacker, with multiple attacks. It was limited, somewhat artificially, to simple mezani dritto attacks (mandritto), but it was no less intense for that. Beginning with simply the cover, then cover and control, and finally cover, control and apply a technique. To simplify follow-on actions, students were given a binary choice of techniques: a takedown, gambarola style, or a ligadura mezana.

After this initial review, we visited the third remedy of dagger, with similar parameters. First the cover, then control, then apply a technique.

Once the third remedy had been sufficiently practised for the evening, we moved to applying the whole of what we’d worked on for the last 5 minutes or so of class. Attacker attacks forcefully and determinedly with either a mandritto or roverso, and the defender must do what he can to defend.

Next week, we’ll visit the 4th and 9th remedies and apply them against big, mean people as well.


Fundamentals class 05/02/2014

After several weeks of working the longsword, it was time to switch gears and do some dagger work. Class started with a brisk game of Trollball to warm up (don’t ask…), followed by some attack flows drills combining footwork to get people moving across the room using a simple moulinet, with the goal of completing the warm up and integrating footwork practise.

This was followed with an attack flow drill using Meyer’s cutting diagram as a base. And you thought it was just for sword, eh? Students moved through a series of four attacks using Meyer’s first pattern of the 4 pattern sequence, as follows:

  1. Begin in porta di ferro, pass forward with a mandritto (mezani dritto)
  2. Attack roverso with an acressere
  3. Pass back (tornare) and switch grips
  4. Pass forward, attacking upwards with a sottani
  5. Recover with a volta stabile, switch grips again and pass with a rising roverso from dente di cinghiale
  6. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This was followed by a brief (really, I swear) discussion of the context of dagger use. In short, it wasn’t a duelling weapon when used out of armour, but rather employed for wilful murder (I admit to thinking of my friend Christian Cameron as I said this). So, while we often practise in perfect measure with well-timed attacks against ready partners, the reality was wholly a different affair. In light of this, we ramped up the practise so that it incorporated more of an aggressive stance. a quick exercise with the attacker trying to “Norman Bates” his partner (I showed my age here, apparently…), and the defender trying to defend against an aggressor repeatedly attacking while you attempt to cover – no mean feat.

We reviewed the base play of the first remedy master (the cover),  then moved to the disarm and ended with the ligadura mezana under some pressure by the partner. It wasn’t pretty, but neither is someone attacking you with a 12-inch blade.

Next week will briefly review this, then we apply the third remedy in the same manner. Advanced class will cover these two simple attacks, dynamically, from varying postures and states of readiness, and we’ll see how we fare.

Advanced Class 2014/02/06

We began with footwork. Yay footwork the foundation of all that is fencing. Pyramid drills for advances and chasing steps. Against emphasis on stomping the foot a little for those who have a tendency to hop, jump or slide their feet. Next we did some distance control work in Posta Longa and then into a circling footwork drill to attempt to start planting ideas that footwork isn’t necessarily liner. Many people seemed to struggle with the circling footwork. The basics of moving in and our are looking cleaner across the board and performance pressure will need to be applied to certain individuals to increase their footwork speed and accuracy.

We briefly discussed invitations. What makes an invitation and how to get your partner to bite. A bit was said on how invitations and preparations can play together to nicely lay traps and create favourable engagements. Some mention of having a plan was dropped, but I figured that would be figured out quickly enough and lastly a mention of how invitations differ from point forward guards to refused guards. Then we broke up into pairs to play with invitations in a relatively controlled environment. After we brought that back in and did a quick “what worked, what didn’t” then stepped it up with a build-a-drill utilizing invitations to set up desired plays and responses.

We rounded out the evening by breaking into 3’s and working slow speed freeplay. The 3’rd person was to “observe” and ensure the participants made a concerted effort to play slowly. Good stuff all around in the freeplay. Particular notes being something work poorly at slow speed but what I saw was encouraging. There was some good movement happening by many and some nicely setup plays that came from intention rather than luck.

Advanced Class 2014/01/29

A continuation of last weeks bridging technique to application theme. This time we looked at how to cross that initial stage of the fight and get your self to a place within which to act. We looked at forcing your partner to move physically to create an opportunity to act safely and we looked at using pressure to create an opportunity. We primarily looked at use of preparation actions to do these things.

We started with some footwork drills, as without footwork you will never find your self in the right place to act. Without that, nothing else matters. So we did some advance-/retreat pyramid drills and than some 5×5’s and repeated this with chasing footwork. Focus on clean, crisp and snappy footwork with an explosive direction change. Stomping slightly on each footfall (pitter-patter) helps clean up sloppy foot drags and hopping.

Next we looked at one of the simpler provocations in a more restricted drill. Working from Longa to tie into the beginner class we preformed an upward beat followed by passing out and in with a downward cut down the opposite line – the “ribbon cut”. This provided an opportunity to see the invitation (dropping the blade) along with the preparation (upward beat) and use of footwork to make you safe to attack and lastly the attack itself. This was of course executed dynamically with your partner using there feet to make it harder to execute. Dead feet make baby-Fiore cry.

Following this we had a brief discussion of some other preparation options and how to apply them against refused guards. I wanted to also talk about the invitation aspect, but I seem to have completely forgotten to include that. So, just to restate; invitation -> preparation -> attack. Then we moved into a build-a-drill trying to work a preparation/attack as the opening play. We built a few drills, debriefed about how that was going. We then dialled it up a bit into robot drills where the robot was to apply a preparation into each attack. Robots were encouraged to apply more pressure and give less recovery time between each attack from last week.