I’ve spent a fair bit of time talking about being a Barbarian. That, in a lot of people’s minds, has a fairly distinct definition. While I’ve tried to define it my own way, it’s still based on what the term means in most people’s minds.
But then I join a HEMA group that espouses chivalric values. It’s made me take a step back and think about what each of those terms means, at least to me, and decide if they’re in conflict and how I’d deal with it they were.
Or rather, I drew the sword. After all, the metaphor is specifically HEMA-related, and that’s what I’m talking abo- Oh, never mind. I’ll come in again, shall I?
Yesterday, I joined Schola Saint George. I quickly received an email from Dr. Brian Price, one of the co-founders of SSG, and I’m ready to begin my journey into the martial instruction of Fiore dei Liberi. Now to recruit some sparring partners…
For now, I’ll be continuing my work on body-weight calisthenics and basic gymnastic practice, and integrate some free weight barbell training into that.
I’ll be honest, here, though: I kinda feel like I’ve just enrolled in an advanced degree program. The more I dig into HEMA, the more I’m going to have to learn just to keep my head above water. No twice a week sessions at the local dojo. This is going to need to be something every day. And a lot of it is going to be book work, at least to start with. For one, there’s an entire glossary of terms I’m going to be learning. Some of which I recognize. Posta di fenestre, for example, is the Window Guard, or as the Germans refer to it, Ochs – the Ox Guard. The sword is raised to the side of the head in both hands, with the point aimed at the opponent. I suddenly wish I’d taken Latin, y’know, ever.
Fortunately, there are a number of things upon which I can work while getting up to speed on the theory. I’ve found several videos on the Tubes of You that show exercises one can perform with a sword to limber up the joints and get the muscles ready for practice. I spent a few minutes performing these, and already feel a difference. Which is a good thing, as an old impingement issue in my right shoulder has been cropping up again. Basically, my neck is too tight, and pulls the ball of my humerus deeper into the joint than it should be, where it rubs against one of the tendons, generating annoying inflammation. It genuinely sucks, but there are a number of things I can do to alleviate the problem. Squatting heavy, for one. Indian club and mace swings, for another. And (trumpet fanfare) swinging a sword around! I’m debating an indoor sword trainer, as well, which is a nifty device that looks like somebody melted a sword blade down until it was all of a foot and a half long past the crossguard. It’s the same weight as a sword, has the same balance, but I’m not going to lop the blades off the ceiling fan, or accidentally vivisect one of the kids. I’m sure Mrs. Dave will appreciate that.
The big thing going on right now isn’t the HEMA. It isn’t the resumption of physical training. It isn’t even picking out a new handgun (I’ll fill y’all in on that, when it happens). No, Dave is coming to grips with his limitations, and I’ll be frank: it [REDACTED] sucks. I believe I mentioned that Mrs. Dave travels fairly regularly on Uncle Sam’s dime. That leaves me to do the hands-on raising of Wee Dave and Wee-er Dave (not their real names) more or less by my lonesome. I went into this with eyes wide open, or so I thought. Those of you who are also parents will nod when I say: I had not clue the first. I had zero idea of the levels of frustration small children engender on a daily basis. I had no idea how exhausting just getting the basics accomplished could be. I really had no way to know. If you haven’t been a parent, there’s almost always a sunset clause built into any childcare you’ve provided. (Okay, realistically, that’s likely true here, as well. It’s just that I’ve got fifteen more years, and that’s if we don’t increase the clan, again.) I signed the check sight unseen, and now it’s coming due. And I’m tired. I’m flat exhausted most of the time. And it’s not a lot of fun. It’s fun sometimes, and it’s usually good (what’s that line about not being tame, but being good?), but it’s not easy. So my efforts as self-improvement and professional development are, while not outright frozen, at least slowed by a good bit. I suppose I’m increasing my WIS (and maybe my CHA), but I’ve never before found that to be a particularly pleasant endeavor.
So the littles are running me more or less ragged (and I’ll talk about that more in columns to come: You, too, can act as a pseudo group therapy for Dave!) and I’m not getting done the things I want. I have novels to finish, y’all, and it’s just not happening. I have skills to develop and projects to finish. And I have to let that be okay. It’s not my natural disposition, let me tell you. But that’s not a choice I get to make. Or rather, it’s a choice I made long before Wee Dave arrived on the scene.
Next week, I’ll be going into my further exploration of Fiore and his work, as well as treat you to a thrilling discussion of PT methods. I’m sure you’re waiting with baited breath (old chum). Until then, get supple and try not to rage on the effete city-dwellers around you, you furious barbarians.
As I’ve noted before, I don’t think the swordplay aspects of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) has much real-world applicability. But it’s also cool as hell.
With that in mind, I see myself using it as a pretty important part of my training going forward.
While looking into groups, I found that my closest group–a couple within reasonable driving range for the occasional class–does things a little different than most. They place an emphasis on the historical nature of things, including fighting in armor.
That led me to ask, “Do I want to fool with armored fighting?”