The International Armizare Society’s First Provost Exam! Part 1: Testing Process & Internal Skills Examination

Introduction

On the weekend of 9 – 10 February, the Society held its first Board of Examiners and Prize Play for the rank of Rettore d’Armizare, or Provost.

A Provost was the first of the upper ranks in the medieval fencing guild system, and the first formal teaching rank. Provost generally act under the guidance of a Master, and can teach as heads of chapters or specific programs. It is the first rank that is conveyed directly by the IAS, except in those cases where, for lack of a sponsoring academy, the association has directly awarded the rank of Free Scholar, as noted above. First and foremost, the Provost must have a proven track record in the instruction of the art, and is skilled in all weapons as described by Fiore dei Liberi’s treatise. (more…)

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The Teaching Circle
The teaching circle

The Teaching Circle

The Teaching Circle in Martial Arts

Much of what I’m going to put down in writing below is likely in the “obvious” category for many of you reading this. Much of it, through the failings attributed to human nature, also fits into the “oft neglected” category, because despite having the knowledge, it doesn’t always carry over into practise – something I am most certainly guilty of on occasion. In the interest of helping some of our more fledgling instructors, and reminding some of our more experienced instructors, I’m going to lay down a few fundamentals, or “ABCs” of teaching martial arts, and despite the title of the article, they apply to teaching any subject matter.

Moving directly to the subject of this article, one can observe that there are several steps involved in teaching any subject. These can be summarised as follows:

  1. Set goals
  2. Plan and prepare
  3. Execute
  4. Assess and correct
  5. Revise and repeat

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Metaphysiks of Armizare

The Metaphysiks of Armizare; Theory to Doctrine, Doctrine to Practice

By Christian Cameron, IAS

This article is not founded on my belief that I am a particularly gifted swordsperson.  Rather, it is founded on the observation that too many swords people with solid training and principles in the art don’t seem to be aware of ways to think about their art or put together various essentials of training which they fully understand into a single, coherent ideal of a system, which they can thus translate into performance (and then practice).  Put simply; they know a lot, and yet, they do not fight well.

Let me add that I don’t think I’m going to tell any experienced swordsperson anything they have not heard before.  I’m just going to try to codify some things, like a philosopher or theologian. Hence that threatening word, ‘Metaphysiks.’

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Evaluating physical skills

This article continues our pedagogical series by focusing on evaluation methods for physical skills. These evaluation schemes can be either formal or informal as previous articles have detailed, with their primary purpose being to provide the evaluator with a proper picture of the students’ abilities, strengths, growth, and points upon which to improve. This picture also provides the student with a global picture of where his abilities lay, and provides important feedback for continued progress. Finally, it should provide a reference point for future evaluations to ensure progress is being made, by providing a baseline for comparison.

The best method for providing lasting feedback on student’s progression is with a dichotomic evaluation scheme, as this article will present. In a nutshell, while there are many and varied methods of formal and informal evaluation (see Ranks and curricula, part II for more), the simple fact of evaluating physical skills is a student either can or cannot perform a particular skill or technique. This article will present different evaluation schemes and provide examples of why a dichotomic scheme is preferred for evaluating martial skills.

Percentage scores

Besides the perennial (and widespread) trope of evaluating a student by observing and saying “yup, looks good,” (a horribly insufficient method) the most familiar modern scheme we know of is in the form of percentage grades. We’ve been raised on this scheme, and are used to and familiar with it, but it has serious disadvantages in terms of evaluating physical skills, competence, and providing feedback. An example follows.

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Fundamental Mechanics: Executing a Correct Fendente

From time to time IAS will release Member’s Area content (normally only available to affiliates) to the general public, in the interests of promoting L’Arte dell’Armizare and the Academy’s approach to it.  This post is an in-depth lesson and video detailing the execution of a fundamental action: the fendente, and is part of a series of in-depth Fundamentals videos.

The video details the specifics of the fendente itself; the lesson refers to partnered body mechanics exercises that are reviewed before the fendente lesson is begun.  Those videos are not shown here (but are in the Member’s Area).

Lesson 1: Fundamental Body & Sword Mechanics

Level: Fundamental/Beginning

Description: Students will learn to execute both mandritto and riverso fendenti from Posta di Donna diritta (mandritto side) and Posta di Donna sinistra (on the riverso side) using correct body mechanics.

Prerequisites: None.

Goals: To properly engage arms, shoulders, hips and legs to power the blow in a true time (hand before body and feet) into a tactically sound and physically stable ending position.

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Measuring Success: the Role of Freeplay & Competition in Training
Author (right) fighting at the Borealis 2014 tournament.

Measuring Success: the Role of Freeplay & Competition in Training

Freeplay

IAS Schools employs a variety of models for freeplay (sparring).  The bridge between strict drills and complete freeplay is in the form of exercises with certain parameters in which actions are limited to specific techniques.  Such exercises can more or less limit the scope of possibilities, and are designed to focus the student’s attention on specific aspects of the art as applied in the fight.  Since any limitation introduced necessarily distorts the reality of the art’s application, conditions in these drills are usually changed frequently from more limitations to fewer, consistent with the student’s level of ability.

Sean Hayes (r) fighting Axel Petterson (l)
The author (right) fighting Axel Petterson at Longpoint 2014. Axel took 1st in the tournament.

It is important to understand that even freeplay has limitations placed on it.  The most obvious limitations are that we use blunt weapons and protective equipment, we play so as to minimize the possibility of injury, and our intent is not lethal – quite the opposite!  Safety is always our first priority.  The effect of all this is to remove the very natural fear one would have with sharp weapons and lethal intent, to remove the caution that fear would inspire, and to encourage behavior that is not consistent with a real fight.

Because of these considerations, students must: (more…)

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Ranks, curricula, and pedagogy, Part III

This last article in our three part series will focus on attaining long term goals through short term planning, i.e.: lesson plans and pedagogy. If you’re arriving at this article without having read the rest of the series, I strongly suggest you begin with part I.

The Lesson Plan

As seen in part I of the series, the lesson plan is derived from the curriculum. A simple list of things to do written on a napkin can serve as a lesson plan, but I would suggest preparing a more in-depth plan for better results.Philo_mediev

The lesson plan acts as your guide for the class, helping you stay on point, focused, and working towards your stated curricular goals. It helps you plan, time-wise, and can help with your pedagogy. Let’s look at a simplified, yet detailed lesson plan for a fictional class, returning to our fictional art from part I, the “military corkscrew”, again so that we may focus on the pedagogy rather than the techniques of any given system. I would normally use a table to better organise the lesson plan, but the space available here doesn’t lend itself well to that, so please bear with me!

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Ranks, curricula, and pedagogy, Part II

This second article in our three post series will focus on ranking systems and student evaluation. You can find part I here.

Ranking Systems – good or bad?

There is some debate in the martial arts community about the relevance or usefulness of ranks. Some democratically organised clubs often find them elitist and have no place for them. Many professional schools use them and prefer ranking systems. The International Armizare Society is solidly in favour of ranking systems as a pedagogical and organisational tool, for reasons that will become clear below.

Ranks are common and widely used, despite not always being recognised as such. Beginning with the modern Asian belt system as an obvious example, students progress through a series of coloured belts known as “kyu“, each belt signifying they have achieved a certain level of technical skill or learned “x” number of new techniques before moving on to obtain their “dan” levels (a further classification for advanced students).kyu

Other Japanese systems use menkyo (teaching licenses). The English Maisters of Defence used the Scholar, Free Scholar, Provost and Maister system. Moving away from martial arts, trades and guilds historically (and today) used ranks: apprentice, journeyman and master. Universities employ a similar paradigm: Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior, or if you prefer, Bachelor’s, Masters and Doctorate levels.

Even elementary and high school grades are meant to classify a student according to their level of achievement. All these disparate systems have one thing in common: they are levels of progression through curricula. While there are a variety of opinions surrounding the use of ranks, they are certainly a practical and widely used means for marking advancement – clearly, such systems have a usefulness beyond satisfying simple hubris. (more…)

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Ranks, curricula, and pedagogy, Part I

This article is the first in a series of three articles that will cover curriculum building and its importance in the continued advancement and improvement of your students. I will use this as a foundation for the articles that follow, touching on ranking systems and finally, pedagogy and structuring and running a successful class and how to address different types of students by varying pedagogical approaches.fight training (more…)

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Applied Armizare – Fiore’s Five Throws

Introduction

Fiore dei Liberi is known as the founder of a fully-functional, holistic system of combat, used with and without weapons, that he named l’arte dell’armizare — the Art of Arms. Grappling without weapons forms the introductory section of at least two manuscripts, and is known by practitioners as abrazare, or “the art of embracing.”

Dei Liberi is often referred to by modern practitioners (erroneously, but that is a subject for a separate article) as a“wrestling master” when comparisons are made with his Germanic contemporaries . In point of fact, there is precious little in the way of wrestling instruction in the corpus of works attributed to Maestro dei Liberi, and what is present is predominantly a repetition of techniques across a variety of weapons. A portion of this is undoubtedly due to his focus on a holistic style of combat. For this reason, not only is much of the underlying structure for a wrestling system found integrated into the dagger remedies, but also throughout dei Liberi’s self-referential work.

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Memory and Performance: Visual and Rhetorical Strategies of Il Fior di Battaglia

(First presented at the Renaissance Society of America’s Venice conference in 2010. Presented also as part of an academic session followed by an armoured combat demonstration, organized by Dr. Regina Pskai, at the American Association for Italian Studies conference at University of Oregon, 2013)

This paper is part of a larger study on medieval and Renaissance martial arts manuscripts, their art historical context, their relationship to medieval arts of memory, and the practical interpretation of the arts they represent. I will address the work of Mary Carruthers and Kathryn Starkey on medieval techniques of reading to show how a medieval martial arts manuscript makes use of visual rhetorical devices to address the problems inherent in notating fencing actions. MS Ludwig XV 13, dated to 1410 and commonly known by its title Il Fior di Battaglia or Flower of Battle, is a Northern Italian manuscript by a military captain named Fiore dei Liberi. The manuscript, currently held by the J. Paul Getty Museum, is a complex performance document which employs specific notational techniques to record for later use the elements of a physical performance.

The difficulties of understanding and interpreting historical martial arts texts lie partly with their semiotic remoteness from the present day. It is not simply that the teachers of those traditions are now long dead, or that the manuscripts themselves invariably seem to assume some prior knowledge of the arts they record, but also that they employ a literary, academic, and artistic vocabulary that is different from our own. To arrive at reasonable interpretations of the physical performance and use of these arts requires study of the complete cultural context in which these arts were performed. Only with this type of study can we begin to assign degrees of confidence to our interpretations of these arts.
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