10 Questions with David Gaffney

Posted in 10 Questions, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , on May 27, 2016 by Combative Corner

David Gaffney 10 Questions

When did you start Taijiquan and what brought you to the art?

I was introduced to Taijiquan in the mid-nineties. At the time I was heavily involved in practising and competing in external martial arts and, in those early days, I saw Taijiquan as no more than an interesting supplementary activity. Some months afterwards the teacher I was training with organised a seminar in Manchester’s Chinatown with Chen Xiaowang. It was a very different scenario than the large scale seminars you see today. The group of fourteen or fifteen people were, for the most part, quite new to Taijiquan, but were serious martial artists from different disciplines including Hung Gar, Wing Chun and Karate etc.


At the time Chen Xiaowang was about fifty years old and it was obvious looking at him that he was a powerful and confident individual. After giving a short talk, with minimal fuss, he stood up, took off his jacket and tie, rolled up his shirt sleeves for an impromptu demonstration of Chen Taijiquan fajin. The following series of punches, kicks, elbow and shoulder strikes literally changed the course of my life. Up until that moment I’d been doing martial arts for about fifteen years, starting with Wado-Ryu Karate and later training Shaolin gongfu and kickboxing. I had trained with some very proficient teachers, both eastern and western, but this was just on a different level. From that moment I have trained only Chen Taijiquan. Within a few months I was in China for the first time training with Chen Zhenglei.

What is your favorite form to practice and why?

Overall I prefer to think in terms of training an integrated system rather than picking out one particular favourite aspect. Each part of the Taijiquan curriculum is inter-related and there for a reason. Basic exercises like standing pole and reeling silk exercises, hand and weapon forms, push hands, pole-shaking etc complement and support each other. All Chinese martial arts work towards developing a number of key areas such as: physical strength which is self explanatory; fitness and general constitution – that is, not just good aerobic capacity but also the need to develop physical resilience and robustness; as well as effective techniques – all supported by the Taijiquan requirements that have been passed down, eg. head suspended, shoulders relaxed, elbows lowered, chest relaxed etc.

That said, in Chenjiagou Taijiquan the Yilu (First Form) is generally accepted as the most essential core element of practice. The skills developed by training this form provide the fundamental basis for all the skills of Taijiquan and, for this reason, it is often referred to as the “gongfu form”. Rigorously training this form helps to develop correct body structure and movement patterns. By structure I mean both the correct positioning of all the body’s joints relative to each other and from this the emergence of awareness of the body’s core/centre. Modern sports training understands that the foundation of peak performance is the ability to move well, without limitations and with good balance. Correctly approached the Yilu routine refines habitual movement patterns so that they are co-ordinated, stable, allowing a full range of motion, good movement control and body awareness, and good posture.

What do you find most “lacking” in taijiquan training today?

One of the first things that came to mind is the general lack of confidence and clarity many people have in what it is that they are doing when they train Taijiquan. And why they are doing it. There seems to be a general erosion of the complexities of Taijiquan – with the recent trend towards simpler shortened forms, fast-track instructor’s courses and an expectation of mastery in a relatively short time. Perhaps it’s just a sign of the times. I recently read the biography of Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the most successful British football (soccer for US readers) managers. He spoke of the changes he’d seen over his forty odd year coaching career. An interesting phenomenon he observed was the inflation of the language used to describe players. Today, it seems, every half decent footballer is referred to as “world class”. In Taijiquan also. It seems that anyone who’s done some training is a master or sifu. The same is seen in China, where young practitioners in their thirties are often referred to as “dashi” or grandmaster.

If that’s what people want that’s what they want, but don’t anyone kid themselves that they will get the real skill of Taijiquan. The traditional art is a lifetime process of constant introspective refinement. An individual is said to have “good gongfu”, whether it be in Taijiquan or any other pursuit, when it is clear to a knowledgeable observer that they have put three elements into their discipline: The first is that they have studied for an extended period of time; the second is that they have worked very hard or “eaten bitter”; and the third is that they have yongxin – literally “use their heart” – more than just working hard, they have given it their full, deep and unwavering commitment. Traditional skills are hard earned. Taijiquan trained in the traditional way is an all-encompassing development of an individual’s body, character and spirit. It’s easy to recite the list of requirements but what is required is training these requirements until they become internalised and instinctive. This requires a high degree of mindfulness and awareness and focused training.

An outspoken Chinese friend of mine reacting to the never-ending keyboard battles on Wechat, China’s equivalent of Facebook, posted the comment: “If you say that you practice Taijiquan as a martial art, who can you fight? If you say you practice Taijiquan as a health system, how healthy are you?”

What does your personal training regimen look like?

To keep training relevant it’s important to be clear what you are training for and to be flexible and revise your regimen over time. The younger practitioners may be motivated by the most dynamic aspects and the combat side of Taijiquan; older practitioners are likely to be drawn to its health benefits. Chen Taijiquan has an unbroken transmission of close to 400 years with a deep repository of training knowledge to draw from.

In terms of my own training regimen, I believe that the best results are from consistency and a commitment to long-term daily practice. Anyone who’s been teaching martial arts for any length of time will be familiar with the students who appear, train with enthusiasm for a while and then leave to do something else. For the most part my training follows the methods taught to me over the years. I try to get in a few hours personal training each day on top of whatever classes I’m teaching. I like to train outdoors if the unpredictable British weather permits, where I train the traditional hand forms and weapons (with an emphasis upon Laojia Yilu). If I’m training indoors I tend to do more standing pole, reeling silk exercises or single-movement drills. I do other aspects such as push hands, when I have a training partner and equipment training like the long pole or Taiji bang when I feel like it.

When you’re in your twenties or thirties you can blast through training everyday and any injury seems to heal quickly. I’m in my fifties now and feel that it is important to train intelligently. Now I pay more attention to prehab or injury prevention work. Before breakfast most days I go through a routine of exercises and stretches I’ve picked up from several sports physiotherapists over the years. A couple of times a week I go to the gym and do some cardio on the cross trainer to prepare me for a more demanding stretching routine.

What advise do you give anyone starting taijiquan for the first time?

Today there seems to be a “Tai Chi” class on every corner and it is not easy for a newcomer to know if what they are signing up for is in any way authentic. It is difficult for beginners to assess the quality of a prospective teacher. Some slick marketing, a nice studio with incense burning in the corner and a room full of students is enough to convince many people. If the motivation for a new student is to get out and meet some people and play at Taijiquan this might be enough for them. With more and more fast-track instructors’ courses, simplified and shortened forms and people claiming lineage to Chinese masters (often after meeting them once or twice and taking a photo!). The first piece of advice I would give would be to hang on to your common sense.

If a new learner is serious about doing Taijiquan they should take care to research who they are going to learn from. Everyone has preferences, but It doesn’t really matter which style of Taijiquan they choose (Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun etc). What does matter is that they should be confident that the teacher knows the theory of Taijiquan and its progressive training method; that they have an understanding of the whole system and how it fits together and that they are able to teach this. This is really not an easy thing for a novice to assess! In reality, many “teachers” don’t really know very much beyond superficially copying a set of movements. Taijiquan is much more than just learning a few sets of movements or a few push hands tricks.

Some basic understanding of Chinese philosophy and Taijiquan theory would enable newcomers to Taijiquan to ask appropriate questions and get a sense if the class they are looking at is suitable. Having chosen a class, it is especially important for Western students to continue to read and research around the subject. Certain concepts may be instantly clear to a Chinese student who has the advantage of having clear cultural references. For example, the concept of qi may seem mysterious to Western learners, whereas it’s commonplace to a Chinese person. Misunderstanding these ideas is forgivable for newcomers, but lazy in experienced practitioners. I can give one example, recently I was asked by a publisher to write some supportive blurb for the cover of a new Taijiquan book. After a quick read through I came across a statement by the author, a thirty year plus ‘veteran’ of Taijiquan that reads: ‘of course ‘Chi’ was important in ‘Tai Chi’ otherwise it wouldn’t have been included in the name of the art’. A basic knowledge should tell even a newbie how ridiulous this statement is! I couldn’t endorse the book.

What concept, principle or exercise do you wish you had learned sooner and why?

All the lessons I learned and experience I gained from the fifteen or so years doing external martial arts were valuable. However, incorporating Taijiquan’s core training method added a deeper dimension to my practice. This methodology revolves around the three characters, song (loose), rou (pliant) and man (slow). That is training the body to be loose and pliant through the method of slowness. Slowness is required to pay attention to all aspects both physical and mental. Adding this method into my training greatly enhanced both my mental quietness and the ability to focus on the many small details that ultimately must come together. Taijiquan training is no different than any other martial art in that ultimately it is concerned with improving qualities such as strength, speed and coordination. But, it asks us to achieve them this unique way by focusing upon looseness, calmness and balance as the basis from which these more dynamic aspects can be brought out.

Building from this, Chen Taijiquan’s emphasis on the development of circularity and rootedness as the foundation of martial effectiveness and the importance of considering the body as a system rather than learning lots of pre-set attack and defence drills adds a level of reality. Pivotal to Chen Taijiquan’s attitude towards combat is the need to accept the idea of spontaneity and to train yourself to react in accordance to a situation.


What are your thoughts on teaching “explosive power” in taijiquan?

The development of explosive power, alongside other aspects like strength and conditioning, body structure, footwork and whole body coordination is essential to all martial arts. People who don’t have a clear understanding of Taijiquan’s step-by-step training method often try to make sense of its martial aspect by comparing it to other seemingly more obvious martial arts. Taijiquan has its own way of training martial skill. For example, an important concept lying at the heart of Chen Taijiquan’s effectiveness as a combat system is the use of softness to change and neutralise an attack, followed by hardness to emit power at the moment when an opponent’s position has been compromised. This requires training the whole body as a system.

Instead of trying to understand the underlying method, many practitioners become fixated on training set applications, or particular aspects that they are drawn to such as explosive power, low postures etc,. It is not enough to train hard but train in accordance with Taijiquan’s principles and philosophy.

To come back to the question of developing explosive power in Taijiquan – a number of different things need to be put in place first before even thinking about releasing power. First, learn to ”fang song” – loosen their body. Taijiquan’s unique brand of looseness allows us to use strength effectively. This is not a small undertaking!

As I mentioned earlier, the thing that sold me on Chen Taijiquan in the first place was its explosive power. During my first few years training the system I constantly asked about this aspect – how can I develop my fajin? The answer was always the same – “fang song”. Eventually an instructor in Chen Zhenglei’s school in China asked me if I really wanted to know how to improve my fajin? Finally, I thought, the secret! His advice was, “for the next year, train everyday and don’t do any fajin – just concentrate on being loose”.

And then there’s the spiral force, the requirements for each part of the body, how to coordinate the crotch and waist, how to use the floor to employ ”rebounding force”. Approached in this systematic way, in time Taijiquan’s method of using explosive force is realised.

Of all the people you’ve met, who first comes to mind when you think of “the successful martial artist”? And why?

For me, a successful martial artist needs to tick a few boxes. Obviously they must have a high level skill and practical ability in their chosen art. More than this, I would say that a successful martial artist is not just someone who can do it, but can develop and inspire others to reach their potential. A few years ago I was in Chenjiagou for the 60th birthday celebrations of Chen Xiaoxing. He has lived in the village his whole life. He knows everyone, and everyone knows him. Unlike the lavish, large-scale and well publicised events marking the birthdays of many other famous teachers, Chen Xiaoxing’s birthday dinner was held in the main training hall of his school. At the party there were no officials, no casual Taiji tourists, just a hall full of long time students. At the end of the evening Chen Xiaoxing took the microphone and gave the following simple words of advice to the students present: “Don’t criticise other people. Don’t boast about yourself. Just put your head down and train”. This sentence In a nutshell captures his simple approach to Taijiquan.

I first met Chen Xiaoxing in 1997 and have trained with him in his school in Chenjiagou almost every year since 2003. Over the years my partner and I organised his seminars in the UK and travelled with him on all of his European seminars. In that time I’ve got to know his character well. According to Chen Xiaoxing “words are cheap”. Anyone who has trained with him will be aware of his penchant for simple, repetitive and excruciating emphasis upon basic training, with no truck paid to entertaining students. He offers what works and then it is up to the individual to put in the effort. Don’t think about success. Just follow the rules and grind out the skill. I’ve seen students come to his seminars and struggle to cope with his approach. Chen Xiaoxing’s method is designed to produce disciplined practitioners capable of thinking and training without needing someone else to hold their hands. He often says, “It’s no use watching me! The only way to get it is to practice it yourself”. Then, in the old fashioned way he will sit and watch his students trying to replicate what he has shown. Students who like to be spoon-fed and entertained don’t last long, but his many successful students are his legacy.

Some of his favourite sayings: “Don’t be in a hurry”; “Commit yourself”; “Don’t talk about other people”; “Put your head down and train”; “Don’t think that you know more than you do”; “Have confidence in what you are doing”.

Of all the people you’ve met, who first comes to mind of a teacher or practitioner that amazes you? And why?

I’ve been inspired by many practitioners over the years and really couldn’t single out one individual, so I’d rather speak about a few people that have touched my own martial arts journey. First I’d like to mention John Bowen the teacher who first set me on the martial arts path back in 1980. His passion for the Oriental fighting arts saw him build his own dojo, the Red Dragon Karate Centre where he ignited an interest that has taken me to China and the Far East many times. I think sometimes of the atmosphere in those early classes when he would drive us to always be faster than the person next to you in the line. I still remember as a raw teenager sitting in the back of the school minibus on the way to my first open tournament as Sensei Bowen gave us his unique brand of pep talk: “My green belts beat other people’s brown belts. My brown belts beat other people’s black belts!” In those days anyone could be there, kung fu, karate, thai boxers, taekwondo –He sadly died at an early age, but I do wonder sometimes what he would make of my martial arts journey.

I’d also like to mention Wado Ryu Karate Sensei’s Kuniake Sakagami and Peter May. Training with them introduced me to a different kind of discipline. Sakagami would drive us really hard, and when he eventually shouted “stop”, expected us to maintain composure no matter how exhausted we felt. In later years I’ve come to appreciate this training more and more. The ability to remain calm and composed on the surface, when inside you feel like you’ve gone way past your limit is real martial arts training. Taijiquan training offers endless opportunities to temper oneself this way. The requirement to remain calm, centred and loose within the “bitterness” of holding postures or maintaining correct structure during movement slowly transforms a practitioner’s character to be more patient and enduring. Too often people want to show everyone how hard they are training, or want a pat on the back each time their legs tremble a little bit. Peter May was a great example of personal discipline and dedication. Up until today he has followed one method and one teacher for over forty years. In a world where people flit from one thing to another, this kind of focused polishing of an art is a rare thing. I’d also like to give a shout out to my Shaolin Gongfu teacher Shahrokh Nael with whom I began the transition from Japanese to Chinese martial arts.

Over the last two decades I have trained with some great Chen Taijiquan teachers – some many times, some just a few times – each have inspired me in different ways: The aforementioned Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing, Chen Zhenglei, Zhu Tiancai, Wang Xian, Chen Yu, Feng Zhiqiang, Chen Ziqiang and Wang Haijun …

Outside the field of Asian martial arts, I love the attitude, confidence and exploits of US boxer Bernard Hopkins. His longevity, drive and fearlessness driven by an outlook that allows no BS, no smoke and mirrors, no short cuts or excuses. A lifetime of excellence built upon the simple mantra – “If you want to be great, do great things!”

What book (besides your own) have you most gifted or recommended to others and why?

Essence of TaijiquanI love the book Winning by former England rugby union coach Clive Woodward. In autobiographical style he explains how an ageing team of athletes most people assumed had seen their best days were transformed into the premier rugby team on the planet, culminating in their victory at the 2003 World Cup. Central to Woodward’s philosophy was the idea that by improving one hundred aspects of sporting performance by one percent, the overall ability of an individual would be unrecognisable. For a serious and experienced performer in any discipline it can seem impossible to make significant improvements in any single area be it strength, speed, nutrition, discipline, recovery, or any other measure. Woodward, however, believed that the accumulation of tiny positive improvements would ultimately lead to a radically improved performer. He was proven right. Anyone, whether they are an athlete, martial artist or regular person balancing work and family can believe that they can improve by one percent. Generations of Taijiquan practitioners have known this truth and have left a blueprint for developing every aspect of a person. The prerequisite for bringing this blueprint to life is accepting that the deepening of one’s knowledge and skill must occur naturally and gradually.

[to the left, The Essence of Taijiquan – a wonderfully book on the martial art]

Bonus Question:

If you were to die and come back as any martial artist, which one would you be and why?

This was actually a hard question to answer. Usually I’m quite happy just being myself. But if I had to pick I wouldn’t mind coming back as Li Mu Bai, the character Chow Yun Fat played brilliantly in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I’m not much into martial arts movies, but I love the scene when he trains alone in a moonlit courtyard with his “Green Destiny” sword!

David Gaffney

Chenjiagou Taijiquan GB

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How Guys Will Control You : 3 Tips for Women

Posted in Safety, Self-Defense, Videos, Women's Self-Defense with tags , , , , , , , on May 16, 2016 by chencenter

It is very important for all students of self-protection to understand the predatory mentality.  Many guys are just wanting to be appreciated and gain a friendly rapport with a woman, but there are some with harmful intentions and women must look out for these.

(see our video on 3 Types of Predators)

MEN

We need to understand that there is a right way, and a wrong way to go in gaining a ladies’ attention and (if seeking) affection.  The two main things are: Do not be too brash or persistent, and be respectful of the ladies’ space, state (especially if they’ve been drinking) and of any decision that they decide to make.

WOMEN

It’s not enough to say, “Be safe.” Most Millennials these days have heard it so much that they dismiss it.  Making the wrong decisions, allowing lines to be crossed, barriers to be breached, and not exercising your voice and (when needed) commanding respect – you do yourself a huge disservice.

When you’re out… be a social scientist.  In conversation, try to get to the core of what they guys wants.  Ask yourself questions, especially a guy that sounds overly-charming.  It’s not that someone is or is not charming – it’s why they feel the need to “charm” you!  Think of the word charm as a verb, not an adjective and already be more in control.

For more info on what we do, check out our YouTube channel or visit our website at Outfoxxed.Com

MICHAEL & JENNIFER JOYCE

Outfoxxed Self-Defense Program

10 Questions with Richard Marsden

Posted in 10 Questions, Fencing, Swordsmanship, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2016 by Combative Corner

Richard Marsden

Richard Marsden is a teacher, writer, and historical fencing instructor from Phoenix, Arizona.  I became familiar with his work early this year when I was searching for information on Polish military history.  His book, The Polish Saber caught my eye and was immediately dropped into my Amazon wish list.  So… dear loyal readers, due expect a review (which many Amazonian’s have listed as a 5-star book) by the end of the year.  As I got to know Richard from his Phoenix Society, Facebook page and website, I was certain that he belonged on our list of CombativeCorner interviewees.  Without further ado…. 10 Questions with swordsman-extraordinaire, Richard Marsden.

What brought you to the world of historical fencing?

At 15, in the 1990s I was dragged by a self-proclaimed Hawaiian Prince, Nick Kalanawani Makai Among to Central Phoenix where the SCA, Adria and other groups met. I was put in Adria and quickly latched onto Greg Hinchcliff who had zero interest in dress up and a huge interest in swordsmanship. We had no manuals, nor did we appreciate them, but we had sideswords and rapiers and learned through fighting. Greg created his own organization, the Loyal Order of the Sword and we fought among ourselves for around 15 years. The group did not die so much as age out, and some of them are in HEMAA today. I even have a tattoo on my right shoulder with the group’s symbol and a custom ring or two. Greg is alive and well and is still the best fighter I have ever known. After the group dispersed I started one at the High School I teach at, and decided to focus on manuals. This was in 2006 or so. As the years ticked by I discovered more and more historical treatises and came across Jim Barrows who taught Italian Longsword at his house. For two years I worked with Jim and around 2011 John Phoenix and I decided to create our own group, the Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship. Today, my group is the largest HEMA group in Arizona, and I have a host of students and instructors, including Jim Barrows, Kyle Cimerian, John Phoenix, Adam Simmons and up and coming Chris Phoenix. My students are many, but my longest is Randy Reyes, who I trust will be a HEMAA certified instructor in no time!

What is it about teaching swordsmanship that gives you the most joy?

I am a teacher by trade, so I must have a passion for it. My greatest joy is in seeing my students be successful, and better than that, my students’ students. This is now happening, and I feel I have done my job in passing on HEMA to others. Reviving a dead art means we need more people involved, more teachers, more students, and so forth. Small cults, led by a single irreplaceable sensei like figure, do not survive the sensei. I am hoping my cult lives beyond me. I am on a mission to spread HEMA, which is why I ran a High School club, run a large club, attend events, have served for years in the HEMA Alliance to expand services for HEMA, wrote a book, and plan to write more.

What principle/concept/exercise do you wish for your students to best understand/practice/embody?

All of them in the end. However to start with the simplest.

Hit and do not be hit.

Read treatises.

Make others better when you are better.

What is your favorite technique to use in sword fighting? Can you describe how it is executed?

There are no favorites, because every opponent is different and I have a host of techniques. However, for effective and or crowd-pleasing…

Inquartata. In rapier stand with your chest slightly presented as a target. When the opponent lunges, intercept in 4th, while your rear foot swings to the right and your hand flings back. You will then void, intercept and thrust your opponent in a showy display.

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Agrippa, Capo Ferro, Giganti, Fabris all have variations of it.

When it comes to longsword I enjoy using Boar’s Tooth. Fiore spends a great deal of time explaining how to work from Boar’s Tooth and one I like is the deflection.

From Boar’s Tooth, have a wide stance, wait for the opponent to strike (make sure they are in measure). As the opponent strikes, the front foot moves a bit left and forward, but does not cross the rear. It’s like going from a wide stance to a narrow. Deflect with the false edge of the sword, batting the opponent’s sword to your right. Pass and cut them. I get fancy and do this from Boar’s Tooth but also Left Woman’s Guard and Left Window.

300px-MS_Ludwig_XV_13_31r-b

When it comes to Polish saber a cut to the opponent’s right with power, so they parry or get hit. If they parry, then pass while performing a reverse moulinet , where the blade spins backwards, and deliver the tip of the false edge into the opponent’s right wrist.

Invitations. Out of measure, or just barely in, strike any pose you want. The Lee Smith vs Richard Marsden saber fight on you-tube shows a couple of those.

Should all fencers with a love for historical fencing do HEMA? Why or why not?

That is for them to decide. I wave a flag and people come to me, I do not try to push people into HEMA.

How important or unimportant do you consider competition? Why or why not?

Sparring is important, which is a form of competition. Sparring strangers is important. One teaches application, the other teaches application against the truly unwilling. People who never spar are missing out on a valuable teaching tool. Sparring has its faults, but so do static drills.

Competition, such as tournaments are another matter. I have a host of medals, my club has buckets of them. We like tournaments, but we are well aware that they have faults. Tournaments are a good way to showcase one’s skill, meet new people, but also understand that there is a game element to it. There are rules, there are judges, there is a ring, and so forth. Again, like sparring, I think it is a good teaching tool.

You wrote a book on the Polish Saber. What brought you to this weapon in particular?

The introduction to the book explains! Go buy it…

Ok, so I watched a dueling scene set in 17th century Poland and asked myself, “Wonder what the system is really like?”

No set system.

Spotty research.

Not much in English.

How can I fix that?

Two years later, with international help, the book was made on what we think the Polish saber system of the 17th century on foot looked like.

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Many instructors feel “A Jack of all trades, a master of none.” What do you feel about this as someone interested in many different weapons?

I have enough wins or placements in tournaments in different weapon systems to be a pretty good Jack of All trades, and some of the top performers today are the same. I find that you can’t focus on too much, so I have two or three I work on hard for a time, but I also find that by working with many different weapon systems, even if some for only a few weeks, gives me a greater understanding of HEMA as a whole.

Besides, Fiore for example was meant for wrestling, dagger, sword in one or two hands, spear, pole-axe, mounted and more!

Rapier treatises show single rapier, but also rapier and cloak, or dagger and so forth.

Even inside our systems there are nuances.

My suggestion for most is that they consider, longsword, rapier, single-stick/saber/ or sword and buckler at the same time. Each compliments the other, each teaches a specific set of skills. It’s ok to focus heavily on one, but delving into the others may be beneficial.

What goals do you have for the near future?

Ohhhh you know. Things. A podcast (history), HEMA-centric books, maybe put my Sci-fi novels up as a podcast, possibly another RPG with John Phoenix. More successful students and more HEMAA certifications within the Phoenix Society so one day they can go off and make their own clubs. I have spent a few years on working for others, so I may try to do some catch-up for myself. I need to up my stock portfolio so I can one day pull in a 1000 a month through dividends. I want to visit some places with my family. I’ll be at events for sure, and I’m in hot demand to teach abroad or give seminars, so I’ll work some of those in as well. I’d also like to see the HEMA Alliance continue to grow and support more members and affiliates and certify more people.

Maybe I will sit on the dunes of Arrakis and wonder when the sword-messiah will come from the outer worlds.

Spend time with the wife!

What does Richard like to do with his spare time outside of teaching and fencing?

I am a writer, and I do like video games, especially those with immersive stories like the Witcher 3 and GTA V. Here are my publications.

http://www.worksofrichardmarsden.com/publicationlist.htm

BONUS QUESTION

You die and come back to life as a fencer from the past (real or fictional)…who is it and why?

Interesting one. I am often asked, “What time period would you like to live in?” My answer is, “This one, or 50 years from now is probably pretty awesome. I love A/C, good food, drink and video games and housing….”

But your question says if I had to be a real or fictional fencing person who?

Stilgar of Dune has a fancy knife, rides worms and gets to be in a long, confusing film, but with great imagery.

Syrio Forel from Game of Thrones would be divine justice of a sorts. Teaching… again.

Drizzt do Urden has twin scimitars, but… how would I pick anything up, and all that family drama.

The Emperor does know how to fight, he is a Master, and I get to rule the galaxy for a bit but then get thrown down a shaft that does not have proper OSHA safety precautions.

Solomon Kane, sure I’m dour, but… fighting evil.

Fiore lives in a rather violent time and had to kill/wound five men because he wouldn’t share his secrets. I’m not much into really killing or hurting people.

George Silver seems bitter.

Rapier masters all come across as prima-donas and chasing work.

Jan Pasek, a cool 17th century Polish noble and swordsman, but a life too filled with drama.  So, not for me as much as I love the guy.

Alfred Hutton…hmmm, good lifestyle, modern era, interested in HEMA, and seemed happy enough. Maybe him.

Maybe a highwayman?
Maybe a drop of rain?

RICHARD MARSDEN

Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship

HIS LINKS

WEBSITE

THE POLISH SABER (BOOK)

PHOENIX SOCIETY FB PAGE

THE WORKS OF RICHARD MARSDEN

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The Ground Attack Posture from OutFoxxed

Posted in Self-Defense, Techniques, Training, Uncategorized, Women's Self-Defense with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2016 by chencenter

Since many of the attacks on women are of a sexual nature, we have to know how to fight back from different positions, including from our back!

The “G.A.P.”…

or Ground Attack Posture, is our favorite way of delivering a powerful attack and helping to create space for escape.  Take a look at this short and informative video that we made for you guys and gals!  If you have any questions, please comment on the video or visit our website (blog) for more details.  We have write-ups on each movement/technique we teach in order to improve your understanding.

And if you haven’t already, please subscribe, like and share.

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The Art of Aikido in these Modern Times

Posted in Aikido, Martial Arts, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2016 by Combative Corner

Gary Boaz

Over the last several years I’ve talked a lot about how I believe that the way aikido is taught falls drastically short of modern practicality. This has led to many misunderstandings. I’ve been accused of saying that aikido doesn’t work in modern times. That’s ridiculous. I wouldn’t waste 25 years of my life on something that doesn’t work. What I am saying is that I believe in the principles of aikido. Where today’s teachers fall short is in the presentation. If aikido is to survive, even to evolve we have to address the modern fighter. We have to train against hooks, jabs, uppercuts, knees, elbows, the groundfighter as well as modern weapons. I recently dug up an article discussing this and these next video clips will go along with those themes. 

If you want more examples of aikidoka doing this, check out Lenny Sly A former Tenshin practitioner, Sly is advancing his own aikido with what he refers to combative concepts. It’s great stuff. A word of warning, his videos aren’t always safe for younger ears or if you are at work. Regardless, his stuff works.

Sensei Gary Boaz

Reposted with Permission from Facebook

The other side of the coin to the traditional munetsuki kotegaeshi. Please don’t think I’m saying that kotegaeshi doesn’t work. That’s not what I’m saying. Quite the opposite. Apply the principles to a modern attack and see what happens. Get your butt outside the freaking box folks!

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Use of Forcillo

Posted in Crime, Miscellaneous, News, Training, Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2016 by hybridfightingmethod

FullSizeRender

photo credit: The Toronto Star

I have so much to say since Toronto Police Service’s Constable James Forcillo was convicted of attempted murder in the 2013 shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim.  I’m prepared to be a pariah, as I may be seen that way after expressing my opinion.

A quick history

Yatim was on a Toronto streetcar, high as a kite, and whipped his penis out and started masturbating in front of a group of women in the back of the streetcar.  He then took a switchblade (illegal in Canada) and attempted to slash one of the girl’s throats. She managed to block the attack with her purse. Moments later everyone from the streetcar emptied onto the street, leaving Yatim on the streetcar pacing back and forth alone, still with knife in hand.

When police arrived, Yatim was screaming things at them, like “pussies” and “pigs”, while the responding officers repeatedly commanded him to drop the knife. Instead of complying Yatim, advanced on the officers, and was subsequently shot 9 times and killed.

There are a few sticking points that I’d like to talk about, as this situation has caused significant public outcry in defense of Sammy Yatim and criticism of Toronto Police – specifically James Forcillo.

Some of the things that the public say were uncalled for were:

  1. Shooting Yatim in the first place instead of many other force options (eg. bean bag shotgun, tazers, riot shields, etc.)
  2. Shooting Yatim several times after he was already shot and downed.
  3. A reminder that James Forcillo had drawn his firearm 12 times while on duty in the last 3 years.

I would like to suggest that unless you’ve had a knife pulled on you or seen what a knife can do, you have no clue what you’re talking about (and the jury probably also had no clue). You don’t grasp the magnitude of danger a knife-wielding assailant poses; Nor how much that danger can be enhanced when the assailant is drugged or mentally ill.

Mental illness and substance abuse make someone unpredictable. Think about how you might react to a situation like this if you were the first office on scene.

You’re responding to a call about a knife-wielding attacker on a streetcar. When you arrive the attacker still has his knife in hand, taunting you while your firearm is drawn and pointed at him.  Every command you issue to drop the knife is met with “fuck you pussy”, ” fucking pig.” Then he advances. What would you do?

A knife is lethal force. Yatim demonstrated intent and ability to kill (again, knife still in hand while advancing).  Because of this, after 5 days of jury deliberation, the original charges of 2nd degree homicide and manslaughter were dismissed.  As Forcillo did, however, get convicted of attempted murder – and due to the severity of this charge – the lesser charge of aggravated assault was dropped.

Security camera footage from the streetcar now released to the public shows police entering the streetcar after the shots were fired, and kicking the knife out of Yatim’s hand. This occurred after the extra shots were fired once Yatim was already downed.

Excited delirium is a condition that has allowed many criminals to have superhuman strength, and in some cases take shotgun blasts or multiple revolver shots and still fight until they bleed out. If Yatim was down, but still had a knife in his hand (again, the officer kicked it away upon entry), he could have potentially stabbed an officer, possibly in the femoral artery. A stab wound to the femoral artery has the potential to be fatal in minutes. This isn’t a far-fetched conclusion.

Ontario Use of ForceUse of Force

For those that say that the officer was too quick to shoot, should have backed up and increased the distance, don’t understand real violence and intent.  You advance on a threat, removing their capacity to attack. Giving them more space is irresponsible, as it gives the assailant more opportunity to attack.

The chances of a bullet passing through and hitting a bystander increases if Yatim was let out of the streetcar.

As for tazing him, only police supervisors are equipped with Tasers. Forcillo is not a supervisor; a Taser was not an immediate option.

Wait for riot shields and board the streetcar?  Haven’t seen the movie 300 have you?  The first officer through the door is the first casualty, usually suffering the first stab or slash wound.

Bean bag shotgun?  Knife is lethal force.  And Forcillo didn’t have one at his disposal.

“Police in the UK don’t shoot and take threats down with pepper spray.” Because they don’t have guns, and I bet your tune would change when UK cops get mowed down by semi and fully automatic weapons that criminals don’t seem to mind using.

As for Forcillo’s history of pulling out his firearm, let’s look at this logically. If an average police officer works a 40-hr. week (likely probably more), and responds to 3 calls a day, that means in a 5-day work week an average officer responds to 15 calls a week. If you take two weeks out for vacation, that’s about 750 calls a year. In three years that’s 2250 calls. This is an conservative estimate. So, Forcillo drew his firearm 12 out of 2250 times.  That means his gun came out in 0.5% of his calls (we already know this is a conservative estimate).  With the increase in Toronto gun and knife crime, how unreasonable does that sound to you?  In my view, it sounds very reasonable. Trigger happy?  I think not, for a frontline officer.

Final Thoughts

I don’t care about bleeding hearts and compassion here. The fact remains that a disturbed person tried to sexually assault, injure, or kill another human being.When told by police to drop his weapon, he taunted them and advanced, leading to his death. To be sure he was no longer a threat, Forcillo shot him (as the first responder, Forcillo was lead officer; he was on point and everyone else was to follow suit) several more times. Again, the onus was on Forcillo to act, and he did for his own safety, for the safety of his colleagues, and for the safety of the public waiting on the street.

On top of all of this, we have to remember that police are not immune to the shitstorm of a limbic system “fight or flight” response; causing loss of logical thought, and loss of a large portion of motor skill.

I believe James Forcillo acted appropriately, even if a judge and jury didn’t come to that conclusion.

It’s a sad day for justice. In fact, there is no justice here. The only justice occurred in 2013 when a young monster was stopped before he had a chance to became an older monster.

I know most will still be critics and use of force “experts” from the comfort of their couches and office jobs, while police will still go out every day and face the risk of death to protect those critics. That is why they are heroes.

Below are video links and the Canadian National Use-of-Force Model you can observe to help you make up your own mind:

https://youtu.be/dx2iQnYMQfM

https://youtu.be/xyMUyv_vf1k

https://youtu.be/89VWeqSKPcU

https://youtu.be/-jP96xewXDI

https://youtu.be/FGvdnPow1oE

Attachments:

Sammy Yatim’s chilling final moments released

Preview YouTube video Toronto Streetcar shooting July 2013 CCTV Security Footage Sammy Yatim

Toronto Streetcar shooting July 2013 CCTV Security Footage Sammy Yatim

Preview YouTube video Toronto officer’s trial sees video of Sammy Yatim shooting

Toronto officer’s trial sees video of Sammy Yatim shooting

Preview YouTube video Sammy Yatim Shooting – TTC Streetcar Audio and Multiple Video Views – Const. James Forcillo Trial

Sammy Yatim Shooting – TTC Streetcar Audio and Multiple Video Views – Const. James Forcillo Trial

Preview YouTube video TTC surveillance camera 4

10 Questions with Richard Kruse

Posted in 10 Questions, Fencing, Swordsmanship with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2016 by Combative Corner

Richard Kruse Interview CC

I was able to catch up with Richard this Dec/Jan throughout his hectic training, touting and traveling schedule.  As a fencer myself, and a great fan of sport fencing, I instantly gravitated and quickly grew to appreciate Kruse’s style and patience on the piste.  Looking over the internet, I saw that there wasn’t enough information on this guy and many of his previous interviews were short and out-dated.  Myself, and all of us at CombativeCorner.Com is glad to have had this chance to catch up with Richard and get a deeper look.  

(quick look)  Richard Kruse (32) is a British fencer specializing in the foil.  He has represented Great Britain at the Summer Olympics three times.  In 2015, he was part of the Great Britain team that shocked Olympic champions Italy to win the first European Games in team foil – the first British gold medal in a team fencing event at World or European level for fifty years. (wikipedia.org)

photo credits:   Marie-Lan Tay Pamart

photo credit (profile): wikimedia.org

How did you get into fencing?

I got into fencing through a local club in my neighbourhood in north London way back in 1994. I was trying a lot of sports at the time like karate, football, tennis etc. By sheer coincidence my local club was run by the national Olympic foil coach Ziemek Wojciechowski. As I result I was able to get world class coaching from the very beginning which I attribute a large amount of my success to. Twenty-two years on and my coach and I are still working together.

 

What has been your biggest challenge as a competitive fencer?

I can’t say what the biggest challenge of being a professional fencer has been to date. Throughout the years I have encountered many challenges, all of which were problematic in their own right ranging from chronic injuries, to funding, to finding motivation to continue after not qualifying for various championships. All of these issues were difficult in themselves but all managed to get resolved.

 

I’ve always admired your technical style. How have you been able to remain so methodical and “classical” in your approach without fully adopting a “sportive” style?

On the issue of my style, I did initially fence in a “sporty style”. Up until 2004 the game was very different due to the more lenient box timings that allowed all flick hits to register. I did actually enjoy that type of fencing a lot but it was fair to say that the game had lost its roots as a sword fighting art. For this reason the FIE made the decision to alter the box timings to allow less flicks and hence restore the character of the foil. This brought about the initial changes to my style. As I’ve got older I am not able to be as physical on the piste as when I was 21 and therefore have to focus more on the technical and tactical side of fencing rather than the athletic side.

It should be noted that there were some successful classical fencers back in the late 90s and early 00s at a period when the flick hits dominated the game. The most notable was Piotr Kielpikowski from Poland who retired at in 2002 at the age of 40 after winning a bronze medal at the world championships in Lisbon. In an era when fencers used to run down the piste in foil with their arms back it was refreshing to see someone using the point so neatly. Of course this style does require a lot of skill to function at the highest level so I can see why it’s overlooked by a lot of fencers.

 

As a tall (6’3), right-handed fencer; do you think that those qualities help or hamper you? Why or why not? (Seems like many other top level fencers are short, lefties. i.e. Joppich, Baldini)

Do I think being a tall right hander disadvantages me? Fencing is a bit of a Cinderella style because our competitions are not done in height or weight categories – unlike all other combat sports in the Olympics. This is because you are not actually hitting people with a part of your body and are never supposed to allow your body to come into contact with that of your opponents’. One year you would see an Olympic or World Champion like Lei or Chamley Watson at around 6’5’’ and then next you would get a champion such as Baldini or Joppich that are both well under 6’. Height is no excuse for losing you just have to fence at a distance that is suitable for your body type. The taller fencers will want to keep shorter ones at bay and the shorter fencers will want to fight at a closer range.

Being left or right handed is more of an interesting debate in fencing. Clearly there are far more left handed champions than are proportional for the amount of left handers in the population. I’ve heard many theories as to why this is the case, all of which are interesting but the mathematics of the situation is clear. When starting to fence it is likely that a left-hander will practise more against right-handers than vice versa. As a result left-handers will be more accustomed to fencing right-handers than the other way around and therefore they have an advantage. Left-handers at first won’t be so confident against other left-handers but that doesn’t matter because when they both fence you’ll inevitably have a left-handed winner and a left-handed loser. That applies for younger fencers, at the top level you can’t blame a defeat on the handedness of a fencer.

 

You have a tremendous coach in Ziemowit Wojciechowski. How has he helped your game improve?

My coach Ziemek Wojciechowski has been of tremendous influence. He has not only produced me but has worked with almost all of the top British Men’s Foilists of this generation. He has single handedly elevated Britain above a third world country in this sport and is a bit of a “John Connor” character of fencing in our country. His enthusiasm for the game is unparalleled and that certainly has rubbed off on me over the years.

 

What specific fencing drills do you enjoy doing and are there ones that you dislike (but need to do)?

Specific fencing drills that you do that you like or don’t like. My training mainly consists of a warm up, a half hour lesson and then a few hours of sparring followed by a good stretch-off afterwards. I’m not really too big these days on all the footwork drills that I used to do as a younger fencer. I concentrate more on the technical and tactical game nowadays.

 

Could you explain the most thrilling moment/victory you’ve experienced?

My most thrilling victory had to be qualifying for the 2012 Olympics. For a long time it looked like I’d be able to qualify directly off of the world ranking but in the last world cup of the season I was leapfrogged by one world ranking point by Hertsyk from the Ukraine. I thought that was it but it turned out there was a satellite event in Copenhagen the following weekend which would count for Olympic selection.

It turned out that if I were to win this tournament then I’d finish just above Hertsyk in the world ranking and get an automatic place in the London Olympics. It was a hard task but I managed to scrape my way through six matches and win the competition. A lot of people asked me why I was so keen to qualify legitimately when Britain had eight “host nation” spots to use in 2012. The truth is that I was told that if I didn’t qualify properly then I wouldn’t be given a “host nation” place. As a result it was crucial to qualify legitimately.

 

What do you feel was your biggest loss, and what did you learn from it?

My biggest loss was finishing 4th in the European Zonal event before Beijing. The top three were to qualify for the Olympics and I missed out by the smallest of margins. It was very difficult to find any motivation to finish the season at that point but my coach Ziemek persuaded me to do so. In hindsight I’m pleased he did because about a month before the Beijing Games I was told I’d been given a wild card to compete. As a result of training through the darker times it was possible to go to Beijing and put in a respectable performance.

 

What do you think is important for young fencers to know when they first begin to fence?

It is important for young fencers to really enjoy the game. Train as hard as possible and have some achievable goals but at the same time keep other options open for the future. Of course, if you are one of the lucky ones that can be a professional fencer for a living then I’d advise you to take that opportunity! You’ll get to learn a lot about yourself, meet a lot of people and get to travel to all corners of the globe.

 

What does Richard Kruse like to do for fun (besides kicking arse on the piste)?

When I’m not fencing I still have a lot of things to keep me busy. I coach twice a week at a local fencing club. I enjoy learning foreign languages which also come in handy with all the travelling we do. Plus I teach the bagpipes once a week at the local scout group. I have a very privileged life as a professional fencer, it has certainly given me the time to explore many hobbies!

Interview by: Michael Joyce

RELATED LINKS

The Telegraph; London 2012 Olympics. by: Jessica Winch

BEAZLEY interview w/ Richard Kruse

10 Questions with Tim Morehouse – Olympic Saber Fencer

Fencing Language in The Princess Bride

Exceptionally Answered Questions : On Fencing

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