Warrior Fundamentals - Week 4

Day Seven

Today is poleaxe day! My excitement abates slightly when I discover that we don’t actually get to use real ones. Adrian insists that our waivers do not cover that level of damage. The trainers we use are just as heavy with nice hardwood poles and tough rubber end bits to pierce and crush with -- sort of. We use them to perform our salute, perhaps a little awkwardly. We then learn how to hold them in the correct starting position.

Today provides our only poleaxe training so we get right to work learning the four blows. First we swing the crushing end downward across our bodies from the right, to crush an opponent’s knee perhaps, all the while ensuring our arms are out and that the pole is protecting our heads. We then flip pole positions and swing the butt end down across us. It’s fun, but tough to find the right spacing for your hands on the pole. The idea is to balance force with agility. We also swing upward blows, and learn to block attacks. Adrian likes to have fun so we even get to practice on a dummy-like structure used for more advanced training. I suggest that Academie Duello offers a stress-relief class where folks can come in daily after work to take turns bludgeoning the thing. Maybe on a drop-in basis?

It is all over too soon and we go back to the longsword, which I still love. We spend a few minutes reviewing tempo, with an emphasis on the need for having both time and measure. I wish I could stay for clinic today. I feel like I won’t be ready for Thursday’s test.

After class I ask a couple of others about why they signed up. I learn that some have come because of the gaming world they enjoy, while others are inspired by books, movies, or TV shows. Game of Thrones anyone? I also know that others were coerced by enthusiastic colleagues and friends. Whatever the reason, I don’t think anyone ever leaves disappointed. Oh yes, one more thing: we discover that there is a book in the school that includes pictures of Roland with long hair! Can you find it?

Day Eight

It's the last class! This series has gone by so quickly. Adrian is excited because this is the very first Warrior Fundamentals class to be given a formal exam. In a way, he is being tested too. Up until now, there was no test for students taking Warrior Fundamentals -- so we are the first class to be held to new standards.  Adrian gives us a half-hour equivalent of cramming for a warrior arts final, reviewing at speed the cuts and guards we need to know for each weapon we've used. Wow. He thinks we’ll manage and it would be sad to disappoint him.

The Maestro arrives and he begins his quizzing by having us perform the salute. Then we line up while he asks us for different longsword guards and cuts. He is looking for position, and order of movement. He jokes with us and corrects us, putting us at ease. We stand in a circle and he begins asking questions about various tempi and other technical concepts. A couple of us falter and the others help. We work in pairs to demonstrate some of the concepts we discuss. Then, I suffer for my missed class on the sidesword when the Maestro asks us to perform the eight cuts in sequence as we cross the training floor. I start out well enough, but I get distracted by those beside me and lose all sense of sequence. How embarrassing! I try to redeem myself with the poleaxe, however, making every effort to focus only on my own weapon and the space around me. I hear, “Use the force, Luke!” somewhere in my head.

It is done! Adrian smiles as each of us receives our certificate and green cord. There are no other month-long introductory series offered at the Academie that I am aware of, except the for the  Taste of the Renaissance series, which I completed. I now have the first rank in study of the longsword and the rapier. Now it comes down to purchasing a membership and stepping up our training in the weapon of our choosing. I ask my brothers in arms what their preference is and we all agree that the longsword wins. We thank Adrian and the rest of the team and leave the training field, for now.

This is part four in a series. Click here to read "Warrior Fundamentals -- Week 1".

Devon Boorman is the Co-Founder and Director of Academie Duello Centre for Swordplay, which has been active in Vancouver, Canada since 2004. Devon’s expertise centres on the Italian swordplay tradition including the arts of the Renaissance Italian rapier, sidesword, and longsword, as well as knife and unarmed techniques.
Read more from Devon Boorman.