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Posts Tagged ‘Greg’

Alphabet - Happy New Year!

Now that the holidays have passed, we thought that we’d bring you a Twelfth Night present to keep your mind occupied as you recover from a month of heavy food, family gatherings and office parties: three new, free articles.

In Ancient Swordplay, Tony Wolf not only brought readers to the “Elizabethan Swordsmanship” revival of fin de siecle London, he also introduced them to the little remembered – or in Anglophone circl es, unknown – work oftheir “spiritual heir”, George Dubois (1865 – 1934). Dubois wrote and published extensively, and we celebrated his pioneering work last year with a blog post on the man, and making his Cemment du Defendre, Le Point d’ Honneur et le Duel, and Essai sur l’Escrime: Dague et Rapiere freely available on the Freelance website as downloadable PDFs.

Of these varied works, Essai sur l’Escrime: Dague et Rapiere (1925) is perhaps most interesting to students of Historical European Martial Arts. In this short work, Dubois and his associate Albert Lacaze presented an innovative system of competitive fencing with rapier and dagger, marrying historical technique to French classical fencing. Although Dubois became the better known of the two men, it was through Salle Lacaze that this tradition continued and survived to this day.

This combination of historical swordplay and living tradition is the sort of thing that medievalist, Francophile and Prévôt d’Escrime could not resist. Ken has spent time researching and studying this system of “modern French rapier”, and in the article Lacaze Sword and Dagger he supplies a short training curriculum to jump into a fast and furious style of sword and dagger fencing. Modern/classical fencers will find the method a logical adjunct and new twist to their training, while students of historical swordsmanship will get an interesting glimpse into how the ancient traditions were studied and adapted a century ago.

Ken is also working on a full translation of the original Essai sur l’Escrime, coming to a certain publisher near you…

Whether you are historian, martial artist or enthusiast, privately ask yourself how many of you firs found a love for times past through fiction? Be it Ivanhoe or the Hobbit, many of first felt wonder of another era portrayed through the words of favorite author. Of course, no matter how vivid that author’s portrayal might be, it doesn’t mean that portrayal is accurate – particularly when the world is not even our own.

Over the holidays, Ken decided to tackle this very topic. Hanging up his provost’s epee for his historian’s pen, he turns to Westeros, the mythical world of George R R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. Martin’s works are blockbuster bestsellers, the basis for an ongoing television series, and has been an entree for a number of folks to find out “just how do swords work”? In Down and Out in Westeros, or:Economy and Society in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire Ken decides to reverse that question and ask, “Does Westeros really work as a medieval society?” You might be surprised!

Finally, our titles on armizare, the medieval Italian martial art recorded by Fiore dei Liberi, were among our most popular titles in 2012. Dei Liberi himself is a bit of a shadowy figure – a man whose existence is provable, but who is better known through whom he taught than the scant details of his own biography. Gregory Mele, Freelance’s co-founder, publisher and sometimes author takes a look at the life of Galeazzo da Montova, perhaps the most famous of these students.

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After our last blog post, we had intended to post a review of the fictional bartitsu appearing in the new Sherlock Holmes film, but it turns out that  bartitsuka Tony Wolf has beat us to the punch, literally, in his The Substance of Style: A review of the martial arts action in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows:

http://www.bartitsu.org/index.php/2011/12/the-substance-of-style-a-review-of-the-martial-arts-action-in-sherlock-holmes-a-game-of-shadows/

and besides its fictionalized depictions, there is some big news in the bartitsu  and HES world. As many of you may know, Barton-Wright’s “Bartitsu Club” was a martial arts and physical culture studio which not only brought together the best of 19th century fitness and fighting arts, but served as a home for Alfred Hutton’s “Ancient Swordplay” circle – the first sustained effort at recreating the extinct martial arts of Europe. In his discussion of bartitsu on the Freelance website, Tony stated:

“Eventually, someone is going to bite the bullet and open a fully-fledged Edwardian-style martial arts and physical culture studio. “

We can say with absolutely assurety that when he made that statement, Tony had no idea that his interviewer, Freelance’s own president, Gregory Mele, would be the one biting that bullet, or that Tony himself would be coming along for the ride. And yet, not even a year later, we can proudly say that just such a studio is about to open its doors! Well, since Tony already scooped us once, why don’t we let him do so again:

A 5000 square foot Western martial arts and fitness training center is currently under construction on the border of Chicago’s Ravenswood and Buena Park neighbourhoods. Patterned after a circa 1900 physical culture studio, it features high timber ceiling, a hardwood floor and brick walls, which will be decorated with large historical prints featuring swordsmen and combat athletes in training.

The new gym will include my collection of antique physical culture apparatus, including Indian clubs, medicine balls, iron dumbbells, an 1880s rowing machine and wall-mounted weightlifting machine, pull-up bar and climbing ropes, forming a “gymuseum” for old-school physical culture training. Functional replicas of other classic training equipment and a Western martial arts store may be added in the future.

The complex will also include an upstairs library/meeting/lounge area reminiscent of a Victorian era private gentlemen’s club, with comfortable chairs and couches, a gallery of antique antagonistics images and books on all manner of Western martial arts and related topics. Basically, it will be an athletic club in the traditional sense, a place to socialise, relax and learn as well as to train.

Beginning in February, the school will be running multiple tracks in:

Historical fencing – Fiore de Liberi’s Armizare system, including two-handed sword, dagger and unarmed combat, as well as Renaissance-era rapier and Bolognese fencing
Fighting Fit – a CrossFit type exercise program geared towards martial arts/combat sports training
Modern self defence
19th century “antagonistics” – classical sabre, bowie knife, catch wrestling and both canonical and neo-Bartitsu

There will also be a full program of special-interest public seminars and intensive courses, starting with a Bartitsu seminar scheduled for January 22nd. The seminar will roll through immediately into a progressive, experimental course of 12 introductory Bartitsu classes over the following six weeks, between 6.30 and 8.00 pm each Tuesday and Thursday evening.

All going according to plan, the new school will have a web presence from early January.

(From: Art of Manliness)

Historical Swordsmanship and the Manly Arts are afoot in the Windy City!

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A Chivalric Rogues Gallery: combatants, judge, heralds and valets from WMAW 2011’s Armoured Deed of Arms

s the pen mightier than the sword?

That is the question the Freelancers sought to answer as they took to the fields of honor at the Western Martial Arts Workshop, in Racine, Wisconsin. (See The Road Goes Ever On and On, Part II for more details!)

New at this year’s Workshop was an armoured Deed of Arms, in which seven challengers agreed to meet and hold the field against all challengers (suitably armed and armoured), with sword, axe, spear or dagger.  In the pas d’armes, combatants challenge one another for the pleasure of the combat-not for victory. In reality, other than the winner himself, few remember who one any given tournament, but all remember an exciting, invigorating – or embarrassing – bout, and the names attached to that bout. Renown is earned within the lists by demonstrating great skill (prowess) combined with the other chivalric virtues of, courage, generosity, humility (in accepting defeat or victory), faith (in our ideals), a sense of justice and the duty of defense. These are the real contests of the tournament, and it is the yardstick by which we are measured. The ‘gallery’ and your opponent can see who you are; it is hard to be deceptive of your motives and your sincerity in such contests.

Greg, Christian and Adam all donned their harness and broke a few lances with the other combatants. Christian, who had been chosen as the captain of the challengers, began the Deed by meeting the defender’s captain, none other than FAP author Robert Charrette! They engaged in a long, vigorous fight with poleaxes, that set the tone for the rest of the Deed.

It fell to Christian to also fight the final bout of the day, a duel with spears fought with Greg! We have been asked if there were any particulars wagered on the encounter, such as majority share in the press. Well, maybe so and maybe no, but fortunately the encounter was a draw!

The armoured Deed of Arms was a great deal of fun, and the only regret was having it come to an end! But the special events continued.

Since 2002, Saturday night at WMAW has concluded with a grand fête combining an old-fashioned pig-roast, displays of arms, merriment, and a cast of characters dressed in their best attire. The order of the day is “eat, drink and be merry, but remember the long generations who have come before thee, for we are but caretakers of ancient traditions.”

This year, there was something new: a proper, late Victorian Assault-at-Arms, organized by Bartitsu and Victorian “antagonistic” expert, Tony Wolf. The tradition of the Assault-at-Arms became well-established throughout the British Commonwealth and the United States during the latter part of the 19th century.  Thought to have been originated by British troops serving in India, Assaults-at-Arms developed into popular events whereby soldiers, gymnasts and combat athletes demonstrated their skills for an appreciative public, often in aid of charitable causes.

The 2011 WMAW Assault-at-Arms notionally took place in September of 1901 and featured displays of various forms of military and civilian swordsmanship, French cane and baton fighting, and incorporating the “Elizabethan swordplay” that was then being revived by a coterie of fencing antiquarians led by Captain Alfred Hutton.  There was also exhibition of self-defense via E. W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsuby Tony Wolf and his co-host, the mysterious “Professor X”.

Greg had a chance to be a part of the Grand Assault at Arms in an exhibition of two-handed swordplay, ably assisted by Ms. Nicole Allen. Although the material demonstrated was taken from modern reconstruction of Italian and Iberian sources, rather than Hutton’s set-plays, the demo was in the style and flavor of Victorian demonstrations of “Ancient Swordplay”.

The many demonstrations in the Grand Assault were captured on camera and can be seen online:

Intro

Italian Foil

Italian Duelling Sword

Heavy Sabre

La Canne

Bartitsu

Womens Self Defence

Victorian Greatsword

Sword and Buckler

Messer

Longsword

Rapier

Broadsword

(Special thanks to Paul Wager of the Stocatta School of Defence, for being so handy with the camera!)

You can also learn more about the Grand Assault in this essay by Tony Wolf, and even more in his forthcoming Ancient Swordplay.

Of course, we aren’t just swordsmen….we are merchants. So with all of those martial artists gathered at WMAW, we thought it the perfect time to debut not one, but two new titles that we guarantee are game-changers for students of medieval martial arts: Armizare: The Chivalric Martial Arts System of Il Fior di Battaglia and the new Agilitas DVD, Sword and Shield.

All in all it was a tiring, but exhilarating couple of months. Now our journey’s come to an end, and while we’d like to borrow the line, “Well, I’m back”, it truth it more, “Well, back to work!”

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rom Pennsic it was off to the 2011 Western Martial Arts Workshop, in Racine, Wisconsin. Founded in 1999, WMAW has become the premiere North American venue for students and instructors of the western tradition to gather and cross-train, drawing instructors and students from three continents. Besides being the oldest event of its kind, WMAW is unique in being a retreat, set at the picturesque, DeKoven foundation in Racine, WI, a walled, Anglican retreat center overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan. The Foundation began as Racine College in 1852, and was the first college built west of the Appalachians. During the Western Martial Arts Workshop, a somewhat rowdier bunch fill the campus and one can only wonder at what Dr. DeKoven would have thought.

This year was the largest and busiest Workshop ever, selling out within a week of registration opening! Freelancers Greg Mele and Christian Tobler were pleased to present four different classes on the German, Iberian and Italian martial traditions. Christian reprised his Glasgow Messer class from Pennsic, and then also took a new look at the Inverted Left Hand Grip in German Longsword Play based on research and discussion with our friend and colleague, Mr. Dierk Hagedorn of Hammaborg.

Most martial arts begin by teaching the student how to defend, and the medieval material is little different. This is because it can be very dangerous to break measure and initiate an attack against a trained opponent. Nevertheless, the reality of combat means it is sometimes necessary to attack first. This was the premise behind Greg’s How the Hell do I Attack? Entering Combat in the Swordplay of Fiore dei Liberi.

Greg’s second class was Monte’s Levata: a Simple Cutting Sequence with Many Applications. Writing in the late 15th century, Pietro Monte was likely a Spaniard in Italian service. His fencing instructions are somewhat unique in that they are not an instructional manual, but rather short chapters of tactical advice on a broad range of weapons. Book I, Chapter XIV of the Collectanea forms Monte’s instruction on the two-handed sword, and teaches a simple combination of actions called the levata, which Monte says is at the root of the art of fencing. The class looked at Monte’s instructions as a solo cutting exercises with serveral variations, then as a series of partnered drills that show how to apply the same sequence as both attacker and defender. Finally, we looked at the levata as it might be used with disparate and variant weapons. I’m not sure if the class instruction itself was a big hit, but everyone seems to love swinging around 5’ swords, particularly when dressed in tail coats….

Most martial arts authors are amateurs – as writers, photographers or both. While digital media has made the ability to communicate easier than ever before, the question of how best to visually represent the martial arts on the written or printed page still exists today, as it did 400 years ago. Indeed, if anything, technology can make the problem worse, not better! Photography is still truly an art and science all its own, and creating images that not only look good, adhere to basic photographic principles, communicate effectively, and still meet the demanding technical criteria of the professional publisher/printer, can prove daunting.

Adam tried to sum up three decades of experience in his lecture Martial Arts Photography: Essentials for Education and Publication. (Fear not, aspiring authors, Adam’s notes will be an article coming soon – watch this space!)

Finally, life – and graduate school – intervened and prevented Tom from attending this year’s workshop, but Bill Grandy of the Virginia Academy of Fencing was kind enough to step in and teach his classes on Bolognese sword and buckler and the relationship between Gioco Largo and Gioco Stretto. Thanks, Bill, for helping a brother out, and doing it so ably!

The Freelancers were hardly the only instructors at WMAW; we were among a cast of nearly thirty teachers from three continents, including well-known names and new faces, such as Bob Charrette (Forteza Historic Swordwork Guild), Sean Hayes (Northwest Academy of Arms), Rob Lovett (the Exiles), Roland Warzecha (Hammaborg), Guy Windsor (School of European Swordsmanship), and Tony Wolf (Bartitsu Society) teaching classes as diverse as Gladiatorial combat, Bartitsu, German sword & buckler, French cane fighting, and good, old-fashioned American Catch Wrestling.

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Would you buy books from these men?

hey say it gets lonely on the road.

Actually, it seems that it doesn’t – at least when you are surrounded by friends, patrons and fellow enthusiasts of the sword. It just gets sle

ep deprived.

After a busy spring, summer was largely taken up with one of the most onerous tasks of the publishing industry: production snafus! No one likes when a project goes astray; it’s a hundred times worse when technology, third parties and just pure bad-luck are to blame.

So, when the going gets tough, the tough mix a little business with pleasure in the infamous “sales trip”.

In August, we were off to the hills of western Pennsylvania for the Society for Creative Anachronism’s 40th annual “Pennsic War”.  Pennsic is a hard thing to explain if you’ve never been there: a 12,000 person tent-city that is a unique combination of reenactment, Renaissance Faire and Burning Man festival all rolled into one!

(I told you it was hard to explain!)

Over the years, Pennsic has also become an increasingly hospitable home for students of historical European martial arts to meet and exchange ideas, whether they are reenactors or not.

Ergo, we dusted off our doublets, practiced our “Huzzahs” and yet again imposed upon our friends at Revival Clothing to host the Freelancers and our wares in the Pennsic merchant court. To the left you can see us at our dashing, knightly best. (We clean up pretty well, don’t we?)

This year there were HEMA-related classes running throughout the two weeks of the events, including many taught by all four of your friendly-neighborhood Freelancers:

  • Last year it was big shields and paired swords; this year Tom taught classes on Bolognese sword and buckler and the history of the judicial duel in Italy.
  • Greg taught a very well-received class on Italian Spear Fencing, and another on the one-handed swordplay of Fiore dei Liberi, designed to give new student a quick and easy method of wielding the arming sword without a buckler or shield;
  • Christian took a similar tact in his class on the Glasgow Messer Treatise, which is an entire curriculum in miniature for this unique, falchion-like weapon. Christian also taught additional classes on the German longsword and the dagger material in Peter Falkner’s Fechtbuch.
  • Finally, Adam taught four hours of classes on the rapier and rapier and dagger of Salvator Fabris, each building on those preceding it.

Of course, there were many other classes and instructors, such as those by our friends Scott Wilson and Dr Ken Mondschein. I wish I could say that we saw them all, or even many of them, but contrary to what everyone thinks, this really was a working trip, so if we weren’t playing instructor, we were generally inside the booth.

A huge thanks to all of you who met us with sword – or book  – in hand, came to our wine and cheese soiree, or just popped your head inside the tent to tell you us you appreciate our work. It really does make a difference!

(And of course, special thanks to our hosts at Revival Clothing, without whom we’d have been selling books out under the stars; and we all know that paper and rain do not mix.)

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