Monday, 22 February 2010

Making a singlestick

Just a quick post with some ideas for making your own singlestick. The design is copied from Guy Windsor and is cheap and easy to make. Ok, it's not beautiful but function over form is more important if you want to knock out half a dozen serviceable and durable weapons on the cheap.

Plastic buoy made from hard plastic, easily available from a hardware shop, costs 4 euros a pop. Circumference 470 mm, diameter 155 mm.

The first is the basket. Guy has used plastic buoys for fishing nets. Drill two holes with a hole-cutter and cut off approximately the back third using a jig-saw. It's advisable to smooth the edges down either using a file, or perhaps by applying a flame. Be careful of fumes, fire, hot dripping plastic though! Some guys have also just taped the edge with duct-tape (called Jesus-teippi in Finnish because it perfoms miracles!).

Super high-tech drawing (NOT!) showing a cross-section of the construction. The "pip" in front of the stick (top left) is the side view of the rim, through which a buoy rope may be passed. Two cross pins are shown to keep the basket in place.

The stick itself is rattan, but hickory or the more traditional ash could also be used. I'm not sure where to source rattan from here in Finland, but Purpleheart Armory stock them, also hickory sticks. Obviously the holes drilled in the basket will depend on which stick material you use. The stick is held in place by drilling a transverse hole at the bottom of the stick and tapping a dowel into the hole. A similar arrangement can also be used at the top of the basket. The models we have (surprise surprise!) though use duct-tape to keep the basket in place above the hand.
That's it!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Backsword, smallsword and singlestick

There was a seminar in Helsinki last weekend on backsword, which of course I missed. Anyhow, judging from the feedback from the chaps who went from Turku, they had a blast. So much so that Timo bought 5 or 6 singlestick simulators on the spot. These are made from rattan cane which have cut orange plastic buoys attached as the "basket". We got to play with these at training on Tuesday and I thought it was brilliant. I started to look up books and treatises on the subject and there is a wealth of information available, from treatises by the Hopes, William and Thomas, the gladiator pimp McBane, George Silver and Thomas Page, to books by Paul Wagner and Chris Thompson. There are even some quite good videos on youtube from The Cateran Society which show at least their interpretations of how Highlanders may have fought using the backsword.

The guys who went to the seminar said that they got a sort of generic introduction based on a general mix of treatises, as some guards were simply given numbers, one , two three, or tierce, quatre, etc, while others gave them names, i.e hanging guard, St. George's guard, inside high, outside low etc.

Now my interest has been piqued I have begun to wonder how to proceed. Obviously reading treatises is a good start, but perhaps this should also back up current interpretations by scholars of the weapon. Iirc Angelo is the main source for backsword in the swordschool, but this seems to be strongly based on smallsword, which for my taste looks a bit too fiddly and gentrified compared to the broader bladed basket-hilt swords. This is just my opinion though, which may yet change!

Whichever source, the idea of taking a sabbatical from Fiore just to concentrate on backsword seems very attractive!

En garde!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Vaccinations and preparations

Prior to our upcoming trip to Peru in six weeks, my wife and I visited the doctors to get some shots for yellow fever, typhoid and swine flu. Well, I thought I'd be ok after these but had an attack of shivering and chills the same night, followed by fever and a serious dose of the sweats. I took the following day off work to recover and am more or less fully recovered apart from a stiff shoulder where I got the swine flu shot. I guess i was lucky. I've heard of others who've been really sick for days after getting the vaccination.

Other preparations have included learning Spanish, or at least trying to. We borrowed and bought textbooks in order to learn the basics and I also bought a CD series which I transferred to my mp3 player so I can listen travelling to and from work. I can pick up vocabulary readily but the grammar is more difficult. Weirdly enough, although spanish is not terribly different from french, a language I learned in school for several years and did quite well at, finnish grammar keeps sneaking in and hijacking my thought processes. So, I keep thinking of what I want to say first in english, before it passes through some sort of weird finnish filter, then comes out as poor spanish. And it takes a long time! I hope that I meet some patient people when we go there! Nevertheless, i like spanish a lot, the rolled r's, it's overall cadence and musicality. Que bonita!

One really fun thing about this trip is buying the gear for being in the rainforest. Waterproof bags, head lamps, anti fungal and insect powders (still to get) and a hundred other things I've not even thought of yet. And it's so easy to get caught up in the details of many lumens does your headlight have? how quick drying are your trousers? does the anti-insect powder work against chiggers as well?

I'm thinking about bringing some sort of telescopic fishing rod and the associated gear as it's always been my drean to fish in the Amazon also. I probably won't have a clue as to what species I might catch (without having to ask first) but this just adds to the overall appeal.

I guess this explains in part why I have sort of placed the sword stuff on the back burner since the end of last year. This trip and work occupy my mind to the point where there isn't a lot of room for much else.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Easing off...

Haven't written for a while. I'm not particularly bothered though. I'm still training at least twice a week and enjoying it immensely. I only have to lead classes every second saturday so in the meantime I can just turn up and train. Brilliant!

I'm still not sure why the hell fencing became such an all-consuming obsession for me last year, to the point where I was thinking about it 24-7. Ah well, no worries. My work takes up a lot of my brainpower these days and has relegated swording back to the position of being a hobby, something to enjoy a few times a week and while I'm doing it, I don't think about what Finns called the "arkipäivä", humdrum everyday stuff.

The one thing I notice though is that I don't really check the manuals as much as I used to do. Maybe I'll head to a one-day seminar in Helsinki soon, maybe not. As I said above, I'm not too bothered either way. With the recent changes happening in the sword school, I'm more inclined to sit back and see how things pan out with new interpretations than trying to pick up every nuance and new change that pops up. Truth to tell, I've read the last article on the crossing of the swords several times, and I STILL don't really get how if I'm close enough to smack someone with the pommel it's somehow largo because my point is not making a threat, or something (?). I'll figure it out in time.

Right, off to training!