Thursday, 26 November 2009

Middle Ages spread

Realised the other day that the old MAS has begun. Damn! It seems I've just slid into a lifestyle pattern which is pretty sedentary and comfortable and includes quite a lot of goodies, like biccies (my one weakness, or one of my weaknesses) with every cup of tea or coffee.

It started a few weeks ago when Mr. Windsor visited Turku. During the warmup we do this exercise where we sit on the floor and raise the feet about six inces and either hold that position or move the legs. It just hurts my back and I feel not just a pull in my lower abs but like I have absolutely no power there to keep my feet off the floor. Frustrating!

I often enjoy watching programmes on TV where overweight people struggle with new exercise and dietary regimes in order to lose weight and be happier. I must admit to feeling rather smug as I watch sipping my tea and having another couple of biscuits or some more chocolate, thinking "that will never be me, after all I have self control!". But do I? How much do the ups and downs in everyday life affect our self-control? I could blame change of season, lack of light, worries about work, etc. for the desire to feel "full", which brings a certain feeling of satisfaction. These causes though may be just be a small part of the problem.

Ok. I'm not obese. I have a belly and love handles and I probably could do with beginning jogging again, but I still think I'm moderately fit. I guess the balance of food intake versus physical exercise has shifted so that the former outweighs the latter. Pun intended. What to do?

Well, first off, cut down on the calories. I'm not the sort of person who believes in the cold turkey approach. I think though that rather than having something sweet with every cup of tea or coffee, one small treat per day is ok. But that's it, ONE! In the past I've noticed that when I do this, I can get used to having less but enjoying it more. It's also not to just cut out the sweet stuff. Good diet is about good choices and certainly in my case, it requires conscious effort. I often get to the checkout and wonder how those choccy biccies got into the shopping basket, while the fruit and veg I planned to buy are nowhere to be seen. It's funny but kind of pathetic at the same time.

The other plan is to do more physical stuff. I don't feel like I really need to ramp this up to the point where I'm sweating buckets and ready to puke. I used to train like that in basketball and later in karate. I didn't enjoy it then and I sure as hell wouldn't enjoy it now. However, to do enough to get out of my comfort zone and to raise a sweat would be just the job, and this 3-4 times a week. The sword training is ok for this, it's occasionally demanding, but only occasionally. Anyway, we're not training to get fit per se, even though good conditioning is essential to be a good swordsman.

I'm thinking about going to Peru for 5-6 weeks in 2010 with my wife so I this gives me a good target to aim for, actually more to improve fitness than to lose weight. However, if I can get the balance back, I'm fairly sure one will take care of the other.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Back from Swordfish 2009

Just got in the door this morning and am trying to drum up some enthusiasm for working from home today on the laptop. Well, what can I say? Swordfish 2009 was a blast and I had a lot of fun despite feeling somewhat fluish on saturday afternoon and evening.

The first class I attended was Harry Winter's class on German dagger fighting. This was pretty interesting and I got some good ideas on warm up and reaction drill that we might use in our own training. Overall, the material itself was not hugely different from Fiore dagger but the presentation itself was kept fast-paced, intelligent, clear and by turns downright funny. Harry is a big man but moves very smoothly and quickly for all that and his technique was very impressive also.

After lunch I went along to Matt Galas class on Montante or Portuguese longsword. This style seemed to consist of, at least at first viewing, of twiddly sword forms, which increased in complexity as the class wore on. However, Matt told us that different forms were described in the manuscript for specific purposes, like fighting multiple attackers, defending a bridge or an alley, or fighting on a ship. The forms themselves were actually beautiful and a superb workout but quite a few people seemed to drop out as there were no pair drills and as the forms became more difficult, concentration was quite hard to maintain. This might simply be a feature of some people attending Swordfish, who seem to like a "good bash" and they weren't getting what they wanted from this class. All in all though it was very enjoyable and I'm glad I stayed til the end. I look forward to seeing Portuguese longsword thrown into the mix of German and Italian longsworders in tournaments in the future.

I was feeling rather fluish on Saturday so I just took it easy in the morning and watched the sword and buckler and singlesword tournaments. The former was a little bit too bash-crash for me, but I really liked the single sword comp. The vibe was completely different and it was a really nice opportunity to see a Silver exponent take on sabre and backsword fighters from other traditions. I have a new found respect for the backsword and think it would be fun to take it up. In the afternoon I took part in only half of Dierk Hagedorn's class on techniques from the Falkner manuscript. Although it was German style, which I'm not so familiar with, the clear instructions were easy to follow and the techniques shown very interesting. My headache had returned so when we had a break I packed it in and went to watch the rest of the nylon longsword tournament. It was interesting and fun to watch but the organisation took quite a lot of time and I think it may have been given too much weight in the overall event, with only one other option for those less interested in competition. Oh well, can't please everyone I guess.

On Sunday morning I was supposed to go to Fabrice Cognot's class but tiredness, flu, a slight hangover and laziness made me just take things easy and move from class to class, checking out what was going on. From what I caught while watching on the sidelines, Fabrice's class on Fiore was interesting as his interpretation is very close yet still different from ours. Ilkka Hartikainen held a very interesting class on Bolognese dagger, which looks very elegant. By comparison, Claus Soerensen from the Laurentiusgildet had a class on half-sword techniques (in armour) from Tallhofer which was brutally elegant. Both were great fun to watch and judging by those taking part, even more fun to do.

Although this was my third year at Swordfish, I caught the phenomenon that is the "Midnight Brawlers Club" for the first time. This is where anyone, regardless of age, sex, whatever, can take on anyone else in some friendly wrestling. It at first seemed incongruous that two guys in their underpants trying to twist each others' heads off, would then jump up and hug the other affectionately at the end of the bout, but I was told that this is precisely the essential element that makes this happening so popular year after year.

A big thanks to all the GHFS people who worked so hard to organise this event and did such a good job yet again. I'm looking forward to the next one already!