Kult of Athena


Friday, February 18, 2011

Fiore Liberi's Flower of Battle

The experience of last Thursday's class (Feb 10) was the core, heart, and soul of Fiore's transcendence into the modern age. So much more than a warm and heartfelt hello to new students, and a luke warm rerun through all of the Fiore elements to date, this class THE medieval schooling of the sword. The other Zugadore, that is snot-nosed recruits (but we try) weren't able to attend. Whatever their reasoning, I was not overly concerned.

One after another, they showed up: Charles, our Intrusttore, Noah, Senior Scholaro Swordsman, and owner of full knightly harness (sword, armor, the works), and Sean Delany, Senior Compagno of the SSG Boston. To put it in perspective, and not to sound like a girl gone back stage at American Idol, it would be like a night of crime fighting with Batman, Wolverine, Jesus, and Thor, Norse God of Thunder. That's right, justice and titties everywhere! Ha Za!

Yeah, just like that..or something...

The point is, I was studying under the direct tutelage of the masters (we frown upon that term at the SSG because no one can ever really be "master") of the school. There was no frilly nonsense this time. It was all business.

Charles and I had a little Q + A session:

"What poste would you take if I did this (standing in a Tuta Porte Di Ferro)?" he asked

"I would do...this??" said I rather sheepishly whilst throwing my sword awkwardly in front of my body. I had NO idea what stance to awkwardly launch myself into.

I knew it was a test and I blew it. But, I can't really be tested on things I havent learned yet. Right? Turns out, Fiore Liberi had a number of counter-poste for each of the 12 that would give one combatant the upper hand, or at least not sacrifice his position (and subsequently, his life). I was amazed to learn this at first, but then I remebered this was a sophisticated medieval martial art not some spur of the moment sorority pillow fight.

In the "Flower of Battle," Fiore's manuscript, there are excellent illustrations for rookies to follow and learn from. These planned actions, reactions, counters to the reactions, are the corner stones of Fiore's form.

Counterstrike: Mission Accomplished.

It was now time to discover the animal within. And before you get all weird with visions of "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" - type shenannigans, Fiore developed what are known as the "Animal Virtues" to determine the strengths of each swordsman

  • The Lynx - A master of strategy, your counters will be perfectly timed and perfectly calculated. Your tool is the compass.
  • The Tiger - You are lightning fast. Your hands move as quickly as your thoughts and your sword clashes against armor, sword, and flesh in one long glorious note of battle. Your tool is the arrow.
  • The Elephant - Your legs are unshakeable. Your form is perfect. You are the rock and armies break themselves on you like water. You are the immovable object and keep. Your tool is the tower.
  • The Lion - You are a beast! You have the heart and courage to overcome any obstacle with great fervor and energy. You take the fight to your opponent with no regard for death, only victory. You could die at any moment, and in that moment, your life as a warrior would be complete. Your tool is the heart.

I was baffled. I was awe struck. I had heard of signs and symbols before of course, the Chinese zodiac, astrological signs, ect, but never in regard to the sword! What a rush!

The lion. No doubt about it. I was born under the Leo sign. All my life, I have always jumped head long into adversity (sometimes not really thinking it through).

"The Lion!" I piped. "I'm definitely the lion."

"Soon, with our help, you will come to be all four," said Charles with more solemnity than I expected.

Really? Was I a knight templar at that moment? Yes! Was I a samurai sitting with the 47 Ronin? Hellz yeah! Was I at Thermopylae at that one second in time? Aaaa ooo!!! That Miagi-magic was all mine that night. I never could have imagined such a Thursday in Watertown, MA.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Fond Farewell

Last Thursday’s (Feb. 3) class was interesting because we shifted gears to an entirely new weapon. It was Jarkko’s, one of our senior member's, last night with us in the US until he went off to Switzerland forever where his knowledge of weapons and combat would be utterly wasted on the indigenous population. Coincidently, his weapon of choice is the poleaxe.

Described by Charles and Jarkko as “two swords at once” this gigantic two handed weapon was a splendid mash-up of ass kickery that used a crushing combination of hammer or axe head (sometimes both), sharp, pointed spike, and 6 feet of wooden staff. It was widely used in Europe during the 13th to 16th centuries to overcome the obstacle of heavy plate armor. Infantry needed something to crush the steel shell of mounted knights in heavy plate and not get their heads knocked in at the same time. Naturally, this was the way to go.

The sword didnt have the reach or the stopping power. The spear was meh, ok, but not scary enough to make a noble soak his codpiece. The Pattons of the day figured “What’s more badass than an axe, a hammer, and a spike mounted on top of 6, 8, 10 feet of hard wood?” This thing was the Swiss army knife of disgruntled medieval Europe.

Plus, Fiore was a big fan. So, we learned.

The experience was entertaining but nothing like the sword. The weapon itself was more cumbersome, unbalanced (I feel), and slower than the sword but more effective for shock-and-awe swings. More reminiscent of the standard issue for inept guards with no name tags, the poleaxe was used more as defensive, unlearned weapon, with little style, and looked pretty in formations. It was and is a blunt instrument meant to attack at a distance, unlike the finesse and acquired skill of a sword that's used to out maneuver your opponent. I’ll wager it gave the sword wielder a run for his money, but it's doubtful that it took ages to master.

After a lot of sneaky, hockey-style hooking moves, fake downward chops, delicious homemade cookies (for the bon voyage party), and running through the poste of the poleaxe, the night was drawing to a close. It was time to say our farewells to Jarkko with a warm handshake and a team photo.

Saying my goodbyes, I didn’t really to know what to think. I didn’t really know my Finnish friend (if he can be called that) too well, but first impressions and the four weeks he spent as one of my teachers told me he was a good guy and well on his way to being a master of the sword. I know that his absence robs us Zugadore (beginners) of vital Fiore teachings and interpretations, and that’s never a good thing. But, much as it tends to do, life continues, and others take the place where they must.

Hopefully, I will be among them...