Thursday, April 17, 2014

What's In The Bag Today?

Here are some new views of what you can carry in your Cavalier Attitude Rapier Bag.

Here's a view of the bag with two modern foils for scale, one's French and one's a Belgian. Both have 35 inch blades. The bag behind it is full of all the equipment you see below, and is slouching somewhat.

And here's what's inside this bag today:
Those two foils
An Epee
A Saber
A Rapier with a 42" Del Tin blade
A 2-handed waster
A Del Tin Viking sword
Three 3-weapon masks

Note the zipper goes almost the entire length of the bag and features two zipper-pulls, so you can close it up or down.
     ...and there's still room for at least one more mask, and a full uniform and sundries...

And that soggy fencing jacket is in the exterior, water-resistant, outer pocket. That'll keep the moisture from rusting your blades and the rust from staining your nice white jacket. Also a great place to stash your t-shirts of fencing shoes to keep them separated from the rest of your equipment. And the upper pocket is great for tools, gloves and first aid equipment.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hammer Exercises (Original 2004 Edition)

Here's an old classic from my archives! I originally put this together for myself and some friends as we suffered from "swordsman's shoulder" and awful forearm strain. It certainly helped me a lot. It got around a bit, and I got back some great feedback from all kinds of swordsfolk and martial artists.

"This is a series of exercises developed specifically with the swordsman in mind; it aims to train all parts of the arm and body to work together in a coordinated fashion to increase range of motion, flexibility, strength and endurance. The exercises are called “Hammer Exercises” because they utilize a common 1-3 pound rubber mallet (although other objects can be used) for resistance, but they are effective if performed empty-handed, too."
                                                                              (Hammer Exercises, P.2)

The exercise sets described in this extensively illustrated book were compiled by me from various athletic and martial traditions to create a gentle but effective way to train and develop a swordsman's arm. The three sections are easy to learn and fun to practice, and work the arm, shoulder in particular, through a full range of motion in an impact free way. My experience with regular practice of these actions was a stronger freer sword arm and bar less pain and strain in my forearm, even with heavy swords.

The book includes a basic discussion of the anatomical thinking behind the exercises.
The full set of Hammer Exercises is divided into three sections:

Three exercises to develop the basic strength & coordination through three basic axes of motion.
Based on the cuts that one commonly would make with a sword–this section most directly relates to swordsmanship.
3) CONTINUOUS MOULINET A simple exercise to further develop coordination between left & right.

The only equipment you need to do these is a rubber mallet, but even that is optional, but it's a convenient and inexpensive tool that is easy to find. You can do these exercises just as effectively with an Indian club, a stick, or just bare handed.

At some point, there will be an updated version of this book available for sale, but until that time, I'm offering this for free download. Please enjoy it, and share it, but do respect the copyright.
Your feedback is greatly appreciated. email me with your experiences, questions and comments:

This material is presented for informational purposes only. I make no claims as to it’s safety or efficacy, and I take no responsibility or liability for any injury resulting from the material contained herein. Never attempt any exercise regimen without first consulting a doctor.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Hold it Like a Little Bird... (The Importance of "Sensitivity")

"Hold it like a little bird, not so tightly you crush is, but not so loosely that it escapes your hand."
This was one of the first things I learned from my first fencing master. Hold the sword carefully. (One famous Hungarian master my friend studied with had his own spin on this, saying: "hold your sword like you hold your d**k!" 'Nuff said).
We're all taught not to hold the weapon in a deathgrip, and we all take it to heart, but how often do we ever stop to think about why? The reasons are few and very practical:

  • Expending too much energy clamping down on the hilt of your sword will tire your hand out too fast.
  • Holding too tightly will make it very difficult to move the weapon flexibly and fluidly,
  • Concomitant to the above, it actually can make it easier to be disarmed in certain situations.
And perhaps even more importantly, a gentle grip lets you know where the business end of your sword is, and, when blade-on-blade actions occur, it lets you know what to do next.

The masters frequently talk about "Sentiment du fer" the "feeling of the steel," or sometimes just "sensitivity" and make it sound like some magic power, but it's actually very practical and important for a swordsman to develop.

For the attack, the balance of the blade will tell you where the striking part of your sword is. In the case of a thrusting weapon, it tells you where the point of your weapon is, something like the way a gun sight can help a marksman hit the target, IF the sight is lined up properly. If the balance of a sword changes, a swordsman can find his point off by inches or missing the target completely.  The fencer's sense of touch lets him put the point right where he wants it.
In the case of a cutting weapon, broadsword, saber, etc., the optimal place on the edge of the sword to hit with for maximum effect is called the "center of percussion." Having a good feel of your weapon lets you know where this is at all times. When actually cutting something, this becomes immediately obvious. Even for a modern sport saberist, who may prefer to hit with the very tip of the sword, the sense of touch still lets you know where the tip of the sword is.

In the case of blade-on-blade exchanges feeling how the opponent's blade makes contact with yours will tell you where to go next. If you engage his blade, you are likely to feel three things:
1) No resistance. This tells you he is unprepared, and you can continue through directly or with a bind.
2) Strong resistance. A lot of tightness tells you the opponent might be nervous, and will almost certainly be responding a tempo behind your lead.
3) Moderate, sensitive resistance. This tells you the opponent is aware of you, too. Offering enough resistance to feel you out (literally). In this case, DON'T close or engage with this opponent without a plan.

Even in the case of a parry,when the opponent attacks and you catch it on your blade, you can feel the quality of his attack and what to do next if you're careful to be aware of what you're feeling. A light, snappy attack may signal an opponent already thinking of his next move and may call for a rapid riposte, while an attack with full, heavy physical commitment will tell you that the opponent may be slower to respond, maybe more likely to be taken in a throw or disarm, if you use grappling in your system.

From the neurological point of view, it's also important to be aware that one's neurology responds faster kinesthetically (physically) when responding to other kinesthetic cues than to visual cues. Which is to say, you tend to respond with your body faster to things that you feel than things you see. A visual cue, like the sight of a sword coming at you, has to be converted in the brain to a series of physical actions to get a response. Th visual-to-kinesthetic conversion only takes a few thousandths of a second, but considering that a straight attack delivered in distance takes about one one hundredth of a second to arrive, those few thousandths make a difference.

It's not uncommon for an advanced fencing student to be given a blindfolded fencing lesson at some point. At one level this may seem very mysterious, and the stuff of kung-fu-movies, but it's actually very practical training for fast physical awareness.

Back-and-forth drills are a great way to develop one's sensitivity, since you're limited to a few, preset actions that you repeat back and forth with a partner. The trick is to repeat the drill a bit longer that you might think is necessary, till the action becomes internalized and you can begin to turn your attention to what you are feeling.

In Tai Chi, they call the development of the touch "listening" and it's a very apt way to put it--listen to what your sword is telling you!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A new source for great Spanish fencing swords!

From time to time I like to share information about sources for great fencing equipment (more often on our Facebook page, Today, I wanted to share this link with you. they are located in Spain and offer some amazing reproduction swords for fencers, and run by people who really know about swords and fencing. Please check em out--you won't be dissapointed!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Our Customers...

Not only are our customers fearsome, strong and goodlooking, they're talented, too. Just take a look at this lyrical letter we got from Kate, in Australia:

I stand, with a cavalier attitude, within a ring of fellow renaissance fencers.
Slung across my shoulder, leaving me completely hands-free, my bag carries my rapier, my sword, my two-hander, my dagger, and my buckler.
They drag bags that are too big, cradle bags that are too small, juggle individually bagged swords.
“Is it a snowboarding bag? A golf bag? A rifle bag?” they ask in confusion, knowing all too personally the faults of these bags they list.
“No,” I answer them. “You’ll never guess.”
“Is it for a musical instrument? A travelling salesman?” they offer wildly.
“No, it is for…. rapiers!"
Collectively they sigh in rapture and disbelief.
“There is no such thing!” ventures a brave soul. (Doubt my word? With my rapier just a zip away, and his tangled like a Gordian knot in his silly eastern sword bag that doesn’t believe in quillions?)
“It’s new, it’s from America ,” I tell them.
“Ahhh,” they sigh, “Too expensive then.”
I tell them the price.
I tell them the website.
They are lost for words.

Thank you,

Thank you, Kate!

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Cestus--a Roman Boxing Weapon, Close-Up

I was wandering around the Greek and Roman galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City the other day. If you've never been there, well, you could spend everyday there for a week and still not see everything they have to offer (and I've heard what's on display is only the tip of the iceberg compared to their entire collection). Anyway, it's a great place to spend some time.
The Greek and Roman galleries offer a great assortment of big and small items, from marble monuments through everyday items like bowls and jars, to helmets, swords, and armor. In one small display case I can across this delightful surprise:

Here we have a ancient roman sculpture of a left fist wearing a cestus! It would have been made at the time that gladiatorial fights were commonplace.The label indicated that it was probably sculpted to stand alone, perhaps as a votive offering (I could see it as having been a sign for a school or even an award of some sort). I've seen cestii roughly depicted in sculptures or paintings, but never life sized, and in such detail!

Now if you're a little lost here, let me back up and tell you what this is. The cestus is commonly described as a kind of early gladiatorial "boxing glove" or knuckle protection, but in fact, it is far more of an offensive weapon. It would have been used in prize fights, and the kind of brutal competitions that the Romans loved (possibly also for personal combat and defense).

There's no question that this item features knuckle protection. There is a plate that covers the knuckles, probably with a strap on its inside for the boxer to hold on to. I have to note that in this sculpture, the thumb is oddly exposed over the knuckle protection. Perhaps the boxers actually used it this way, or perhaps the boxer posed for this sculpture in a relaxed position (the thumb at full extension as it is seems quite relaxed). Perhaps the boxer merely lent his cestus to the sculptor, and the sculptor used his own hand to pose, and guessed at the proper grip. Alternatively, it may be that without the thumb exposed, it was difficult to tell what the sculpture was supposed to be. Either way, I would assume that when used in combat, the thumb would have been balled firmly with the fingers, or at least under the knuckle-guard. Judging from the simple curve of this guard-plate, and it's thickness, it's very likely to have been leather.

But what is most fascinating about this sculpture is the projection extending from the boxer's middle two knuckles! This cestus is no mere hand protection. This is a potentially deadly offensive weapon.
Even though there's no way of knowing what the actual projection would have been made from, it's still a very nasty bit of business. If it were made of hardened leather, it would leave punishing bruises on the opponent's body, and possibly break bones and even gouge out eyes. If it were made of bronze or some similar metal, it could easily break ribs and bones. Notice the scalloped striking edge of the projection, which would help the blow "dig in" even more, yet not necessarily break the skin. (I 'm guessing that the projection would have been cast of bronze or some similar metal due to the thickness of it in the sculpture).

It might have been based on a common street weapon carried for self defense, sans the knuckle protection, in the way that brass knuckles were, until recently commonly carried (and probably still are, in some parts of the world). It is interesting to notice on the sculpture how a string or thong runs down the back of the hand, to stop the deadly spike from being pushed down the fingers during the fight.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Rotten Bag Update

I'm happy to say that once we were able to track down the right people at Ebay, they promptly stopped the guy who was selling our old garbage. We're still keeping an eye out on things like Craigslist and other chatboards. If anyone comes across a seller offering "brand new" Rapier Bags at an unrealistic price, or tries to make a deal on a quantity sale, please let us know and we will certainly reward you for your efforts.
We are happy to offer wholesale quantities and prices to honest resellers. Email us if interested.