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I haven’t blogged as frequently because

  • I generally have said what I have to say about the renfaire community
  • My best works are rants and honestly, things have been going pretty smoothly
  • Have three other social platforms I’m currently spinning like plates, and additional businesses.
  • Not sure what to say

But if you follow us on Facebook, you’ll know we did a demonstration in Soligen Germany (City of Blades, Beoches!) in July and it was a wonderful experience.

What do I have to say? I’m glad we are still here, grateful that people still want to work with/for us and keep us going. I don’t miss the early days except for the friendships we’ve made!  I am happy that my chaos filter is much stronger.

It entertains me to see others just starting where we were and see how much *everything* about swords has exploded and become easier to access and participate in these days!

I miss those who have passed but left such a great legacy.

And because I’m a petty shite, a big butt-waggle to all the detractors we’ve outlasted-please feel free to give yourself sixteen big slaps on the behind and think of us!

And a big thank-you to all the fans and friends who still care about what we do-we’ll keep on, keeping on!

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This year, the event was renamed to:

Fourteenth annual Raymond J. Lord Symposium on historical European martial arts
in honor of Jeff Lord’s Father. Jeff hosts this event every year and we rarely miss one. There were no outdoor demonstrations this year (sadface) but the Center has been hosting workshops on the following Sunday. Unfortunately, this is the last Sunday of practice before we perform at the Center’s Faire  the following weekend., we could not attend.

 Program was as follows:

9:00 Reception
10:00 Welcome
Opening Remarks – Jeff Lord

Daniel Jaquet “Inscription, description or codification of fighting techniques. Towards a typology of fight books”

Daniel, started his presentation with a cat video and a page from “The Art of Manliness” so he clearly has a sense of humor and understands the power of the internet. He then launched into a very well put-together study with statistics and graphs. (Which my partner loved)

Some sample questions/ideas about fight manuals
Talk about intent
Why were they written?
How were they circulated and used?
Are they representative of actual practices?

It was intensive and I hope that it is posted because I was torn between taking it in and taking notes -and my notes don’t do the diagrams and flow justice.  But the gist is we need to take a hard look at our sources and shouldn’t be afraid to say “this is less a fight manual” and a coffee-table book or self-promotions brochure (which many are) In short, even before his second lecture, I was already a fan.

12:00 Michael Chidester “Syllabus vs System: The Legacy of Johannes Liechtenauer”

I always enjoy his lectures and you may recognize him as one of the founders of Wiktenauer, a tremendous sword resource online.  He focused on Liechtenauer and some of the work done to try and sort original works from derivative, if some items were even bound together initially and even some pieces that we have no way to connect to other manuals or sources:
Ms.3227a
An intriguing book that has alchemical formulas, recipes and a lone page on swordplay.

I guess there is a theory in circulation (not substantiated) that Lichtenauer, may be a construct of a band of mercenary group/ fraternity -who created him as a figurehead for their own works.

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We had a nice lunch and many thanks to the Garden Society and Jeff Goodhind.

Some of us also pester Jeff for a look at the library to see what new books or other items have been added in the past year. He was accommodating as always.

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We had a glimpse of a portrait of Arthur C Kinney (For whom the Center was recently renamed) and we agreed that the symposium was not the same without Arthur taking an unabashed catnap in the front row during lectures.

1:00 Panel Discussion “Revisiting the H in HEMA.”

This discussion was taken outside to the gorgeous grounds and was a lot of fun. I don’t think anyone left in total agreement but that wasn’t the point.

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2:00 Donald La Rocca “Some essential books from the sixteenth century to today for understanding European arms and armor”

Some samples:
Kunst Historisches Museum Waffensamlung Vol. 1
Kunst Historisches Museum Waffensamlung Vol. 2
Studies in European Arms and Armour: The C Otto von Kienbusch Collection in the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Imperial Austria: Treasures of Art, Arms and Armour from the State of Styria

He did say that Oakschott was not the reference we should be using as –“at the end, many of the pieces were found to be fakes”

And he redirected a set of books to the Center, available for reading so we hope to take advantage of that.

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3:00 Daniel Jaquet “The Flügelhau. A case study of an essential martial technique of early 16th c. German fighting competitions with the longsword, as documented in the fight books

This is another great lecture where S=Daniel’s notes were extensive enough that I cannot recreate them but came away with another book recommendation;

What a body Can Do -Ben Spatz 

And some new I.33 interpretations to investigate. https://cnrs.academia.edu/FranckCinato

Le livre de l’art du combat. Liber de arte dimicatoria. Édition critique du Royal Armouries MS. I.33, par Franck Cinato et André Surprenant, Paris,

Daniel mentioned that although some plays in early study (according to a friend) seem impossible (have encountered some of these) with continued physical work-they can be achieved.

 After that, we had to leave and did not join them for supper.  It’s not that we weren’t SUPER interested, it’s just that in New England at this time of year, it’s a RACE to get things done.

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Are you that person who flubs lines and trips on your own feet?  I am as well!  I don’t like crowds, I am not good at improvisation and I hate, hate, hate learning dialogue. I need to obsessively go over my choreography before shows and get grumpy. So why would anyone want to work with such a crappy performer? Well here’s how you work on your mediocrity and are better for your group.

Bring the enthusiasm. I’ve seen a lot and it’s hard to get excited after over 300 shows but if I can’t bring it for myself, I’d better bring it for everyone else. You should listen to new ideas, participate with an open heart and understand that even if it’s not YOUR first rodeo, it is for someone else and it’s not for you to dampen that.

Practice, Practice, Practice-I’ve had fights that I’ve known for years and still botched them. I have two fights (sword and buckler) that I’ve discovered we can’t do in shows because muscle memory can take over from those brain farts. You are in a cooperative dance with your partner. It does neither of you any good if you stuck at your choreography, or find hiccups that occur because of body placement or costuming-you can smooth those out. Feeling under the weather? You can still do your performance-just not at peak levels. You are never so good that you don’t need to practice.

Defer where you suck. If you want to ask me about George Silver or the various buckler styles-I could go on a little too long. But Longsword? I’ll  guide you to the people who love it. And I’ll send you to the guy with the Bachelors in historical warfare for battles. Want to talk costuming? I am NOT your person, but there are a what number of folks who love that stuff. You cannot be all things to all people so love what you love and be sure to share with others. It’s okay to say “I don’t know but X does.” Rather than make crap up to sound important.

Be situationally aware. I’m not the greatest at this, my partner is much better and he is the one with the fake bottled coffees for our caffeine addicts.  The sun has shifted and the fire kits are in the sun?-don’t grouse, move them!  Someone looking a little peaked? Offer water and food!  And Folks, if we are all standing in a downpour moving gear-you get a little complaining. But after the first round

elsa-let-it-go

Because no one is secretly in the Bahamas having mixed drinks, we are all there, in the downpour ALSO MOVING GEAR. You can’t make it better but don’t $%^&ing make it worse. And if you slack, and you don’t think people notice? They notice. I’ve been feeling a little guilty at how great members have been about moving stuff because I’m old. And we thank them.  So if you are not adding the extra hands to help-you had better be there with snacks or great solutions.

Sometimes being a good teammate is just getting out of the way or doing something mindless. One of the first things I ask new members to do is get the water.  The more senior people are hauling swords and worrying about making sure things go smoothly. Sure anyone can get water-but not everyone thinks to do it.  We have a teammate who is good at straightening out the tent. We encourage others NOT to “help out” because there is nothing like reaching for a prop and finding it missing just before a show. Packing up the fire equipment? Specialized job and dangerous if done incorrectly.  But if you are willing to take direction and be a set of hands-you will learn quickly and may even become the person who does the task in the future (Sorry about that, Ian)

So you may not be the Charisma Monster of your group but you can still be someone that your group wants along on every job. (And if you want to be Charisma Monster, go for that goal and learn from them )

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I had the opportunity for an informal tour of the Exhibit-Fanning the Flames of Revolution, Print Culture of the Reformation.  The tour was led by one of the exhibit creators Dr. Virginia Chieffo Raguin, who was kind enough to not only add modern insights but sing, allow some hands-on experiences and share some inside jokes about the exhibit itself. This exhibit is FREE!

Read the rest of this entry »

flaming_pumpkins

First, you know how I feel about free shows (except charities and donation events and even then, we discuss it) We have a rule about anyone who contacts us within a week of Halloween-Triple Rates. Why? Because 1) someone wasn’t a good planner and that doesn’t bode well. 2) Spontaneous and unplanned fire with flammable costumes and drunken people-what could go wrong? 3) WE need time to plan it into OUR schedule.

BUT NO FREE FIRE SHOWS

And here’s why;

COST:  We not only have expensive fire props but we need support for those props. That means time in training and training means a place to train. And places to train cost money-and if you ask about fire-well if they’ll even rent to you. We are VERY fortunate to have a spot we rent and are grateful they’ll have us-swords, fire and all.  We have to pay for insurance and that is never cheap. Some of our members pay for extra insurance as they do independent acts (if it’s not under the Phoenix Swords banner, it’s not coming out of our insurance) And there is LITERALLY a cost in flesh and blood which leads me to;

DANGEROUS: We are setting ourselves alight for your entertainment. Nothing is 100% safe.  Airplanes go down, food poisoning happens, and people burn themselves. In order to be where we are we have to take chances every time. And in our pricing page and contracts we have a clause that says “In the event of too much risk…”  We have had to say “nope” on a number of occasions when we saw our performance area.  And if you think all employers take into account your well-being, speak to my friend the Nigerian Prince, I’ll send you his email.
We aren’t the only ones taking a chance.

RISK:  Okay, so we’ve established you have something a *little* broken in the brain-box to play with fire. So although we may not be paragons of common sense it doesn’t mean we don’t possess any and it’s important to have!   True Story: So you would like us to perform for your city for free and “exposure.” Here’s what being exposed -you are a cheap-a$$ and we said “no.” So you got yourselves another set of performers, that’s cool. What is that person’s name?[ Real name redacted] The Dragon? That totally sounds like a Real Life name. Did you see The Dragon’s insurance? Did you have a contract with The Dragon?  Did The Dragon have a fire plan?  Nope just going to do fire stuff on some cement with no barriers and hope for the best. And they were lucky-we knew The Dragon and he does fire for fun. But what if you’d “hired” The Dragon Rando instead and he set your city on fire?  The Dragon Rando just has to change their appearance and slide out of sight and you get to breathe deeply the charred remains of the results.

RESPECT: We have been accused of being able to produce diamonds from our butts. That’s an insult we’ll live with gladly.  But honestly, people don’t generally respect what you do unless they pay for it. I used to do my art for love and then for money. After two years as a freelancer, I was done-after hearing some TERRIBLE excuses for not being paid. I wish artists could just do their thing and be beloved for it-but we don’t live in that world. To quote Cardi B “I make money moves”

 

And no one should have to give “free” anything but this one in particular chaps my cheeks because it speaks especially poorly of the people who are putting on a show. I understand that we are an “ask” society so yes, it never hurts to ask. But when you are asking at “0” recompense that’s not negotiation, that’s sheer contempt and disregard for not only you but the safety and well-being of others.

 

 

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One thing I have been guilty of, fairly early on in my love affair with swords, is elitist assholery. It didn’t last long because –logic and reality. We in the troupe call this “Swordfighter-itis” A malady that strikes everyone at one point or another and some people never recover and then aggressively try to force others to embrace this view. I’ve been seeing a variant this summer, not necessarily related to swords-more to renfaires  and my view is

letthemfight (1)

But back to the swords-

But I felt sad for a young man who asked us about swords at a recent show and it was clear to us that he had been hit with the snob stick already and so early. (He was a victim, not a perpetrator) and we gently steered him toward what it was we guessed might be better suited/social.  But I am putting up a set of symptoms so you may try to recognize, avoid, or limit the contagion in your own neighborhood.

Drinking the Kool-Aid-The One True Way:
One of the things we tell people in our group is that we take people from all sorts of backgrounds and try to teach a common “language” that is cooperative. It is based on what OUR sword teacher learned with Society of American Fight Directors and his own historical research. The same is true of our other sword teacher.  Both run active research groups and are always sharing new ideas and thoughts and they even often disagree! Sometimes that means throwing out the old ideas.  We don’t claim to be the end-all and be –all of how it is done but we are confident we do it fairly well and safely. One warning sign is when a group tells you everyone else is WRONG.  It may feel nice to be one of the “best of the best” by beating your opponent-but it is TERRIBLE for doing theater or demonstrations. It’s a quick way to make yourself an unpopular partner.  Thinking you are “all that and a bag of chips” does not make you the best, no matter how many join in your delusion.

Feeling the need to criticize others
Do we side-eye one another in the sword community-absolutely? But you have to back that up with facts. Plenty of people like to pick up swords and use them. Plenty of people buy cars and drive them. Like vehicles-reasons and modes are myriad. Are you the internet forum guy who criticizes Prius owners for not going 4-wheeling in mud flats? You are an idiot. Some study groups are good-natured people with day jobs who are there for mostly social reasons. Some want to bang on one another in armor. Some people just want to show off their weapons and some people want to discuss weapons in literature.  We have one group that I STILL catch them badmouthing my group publicly (just certain members of that group, admittedly .Ironically, these same people haven’t done a show in YEARS.)  My partner, Fenix, reminded me of us being at a number of events where someone bashed our group in our presence because they honestly had no idea who we were or who was in our group or if any of the rumors were true or fake.  I wish I could say I enjoyed their realization, but honestly it probably just fueled their indignation more.  There is a group I recently discussed with my own group and they had to agree that they were not being safe and to be fair, not their goal.  But it may cost them work because others in the community have complaints.   As for us-we stay out of it (see Godzilla film gif above)

AdamEllis

When you are douchebag you make our whole community look BAD.
Sure people will be drawn to cults of personality initially but that is not a stable foundation.   This is true of a BUNCH of different groups.  You do not make yourself taller by cutting down others (couldn’t find the quote)  I recently read something on the[name redacted] Forum community on Facebook that made me want to hurl objects. A woman had joined a group and they basically were not supporting her in training.

Fenix has an ancestral family motto “God Gives Good Gifts to Everyone” and if a person can’t use a sword, give them a dagger. If they can’t fight-go with their strengths and see how you can help. I would say that everyone has something to offer but some folks I’ve met challenge that baseline so what can you do? But you should give them a shot and let them discover their own story.

So this was longer than intended but basically, in a state with this many sword groups, you have to share the ecosystem (or in some cases, the EGOsystem) and the sooner you turn your eyes to your own self-development, the better you, and the community will be.

And bonus link

http://guywindsor.net/blog/2017/07/if-nobodys-mocking-you-youre-not-working-hard-enough/

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Cultural appropriation, it’s definitely a thing in our circles.  But often we cling to some things that perhaps need to be shared and made new again-folklore is a good example. We should just make something original and unique to our inner life.  In many instances we should have been more respectful of the things we’ve lifted from other places.  I hope you’ll read the links I post here, think about them and see where you go with those thoughts. I’m still chewing on them. (There are a ton I could post)

Camelocked Stocked: A King Arthur Review
Camelocked Stocked: A <i>King Arthur</i> Review

Le Morte d’Athur: Saving our ransacked mythology
https://nation.cymru/2017/le-morte-dathur-saving-our-ransacked-mythology/

Orientalism:
https://www.ancientsculpturegallery.com/paintings/oil-paintings-reproductions/art-movement/orientalism-art-movement.html

Karlie Kloss Apologizes for Appropriating Japanese Culture in Vogue Photo Shoot
http://www.eonline.com/news/829700/karlie-kloss-apologizes-for-appropriating-japanese-culture-in-vogue-photo-shoot

What if Mexicans celebrated 4th of July like Cinco de Mayo
http://www.metatube.com/en/videos/278578/Mexican-celebrating-4th-of-July-like-Cinco-de-Mayo/

Is it respectful? Is it accurate? Is it sharing or stealing?

This post brought to you by my costuming for the Fantasy Folklore Festival and things I always agonize over.