There's a meme running round the socialz: post an image a day for ten days, with no explanations, and nominating a friend to take up the “challenge” each day. I was nominated by Nikodemus Siivola, an old friend who used to train with me back in the early days of my School. I was travelling at the time, and so my choices were limited to images I had on my laptop that I could find in the very few moments I had to spare for such things.
The rubric is:
Day X of 10 day Martial Arts challenge.
I was nominated to select an image from a day in the life of a martial artist that has had an impact on me or been a memorable moment and post it without a single explanation. Then nominate somebody to take the challenge. That’s 10 days, 10 martial arts photos, 10 nominations and 0 explanations.
I nominate X.
And it bothers the hell out of me. I'm an inveterate explainer. It's in my nature, and it's a big part of why I teach for a living. So I have uploaded all of the images here, and am reposting them with explanations.
1. Bleeding Head Wound
In the process of leaving Edinburgh to found my School in Helsinki, I issued an open challenge to my club, the Dawn Duellist's Society. The challenge ended with me getting my head split open, but in the meantime I stood my ground and fought all comers at their choice of weapon. It's the sort of thing young instructors need to do from time to time. I did it again at WMAW in 2009. I wrote something about the head wound here.
2. In the Early Days
This image was taken in April 2001, when my School was still training in school gyms. Most of the students were using sticks, because there were very few steel swords to be had at the time, and practically nobody was making them. Ah, the bad old days. Now, you have an abundance of excellent makers to choose from.
3. Wim Hof
I have long been fascinated by the more esoteric aspects of martial arts training, especially breathing exercises. About five years ago I came across Wim Hof's method, and have been incorporating it into my regular training ever since. In 2018 I went on a parkour and Wim Hof seminar, which I wrote up here.
4. Women's Class
This photo was taken after my first ever all-female class. It was an eye-opening experience, which confirmed for me the need for female-only training opportunities. I wrote up the class here.
5. Mounted Archery
This photo was taken during what I think of as “Guy and Jen's Day of Fun!”, where Jennifer Landels took me out to her training facility, and we spent the day doing mounted archery and mounted swordsmanship. I wrote it up in detail here.
6. Teaching Class
For fifteen years, this was my day-to-day life. And since 2008, this space has been my salle. It has since passed to the students, when I moved to the UK, so I'm no longer responsible for it (and what a load off my back that has been), but even now, when I only teach seminars to existing groups (and don't run a school), when I think of my job, it's this.
7. Three books in the Amazon Bestseller rankings in the category Fencing
A critical turning point in my career came in December 2014, when I realised that my book sales would more than cover my mortgage that month. Up until then I hadn't thought of my books as financially important- they were a useful calling card, a service to the art, and necessary for my own learning, but I never expected them to make significant income. Then they did. I took this screenshot on April 6th 2018, some time after The Theory and Practice of Historical Martial Arts came out. As you can almost see, my works are at #1, #5, and #7. Very satisfying, and a development that freed me up to do more research and writing, and ultimately to leave the day-to-day teaching behind.
I love this photo, as it is a huge slap in the face to the ghastly element that wants to keep historical martial arts white and/or male. I was passing through Singapore on my way to New Zealand in 2017, and gave a class at PHEMAS for old times' sake. It went rather well!
9. The Fiore Creed
This is a fair statement of how I train. I've written up training for boldness, strength, speed, and foresight here and elsewhere. The bit that annoys some people though is ‘I do not believe in innate talent'. This is a representation of two of my core principles. One is ‘adopt useful beliefs'. If you choose not to believe in innate talent, you will tend to adopt a ‘growth mindset' (such as I discuss here). This generated some discussion- as usual, some people took rabid offence at the notion I'd suggest there was no such thing as innate talent, because they wilfully misunderstand the concept of useful beliefs leading to useful mindsets.
10. Group Hug
The bald git facing away from the camera is me, right after being presented with a fucking gorgeous sword by the organisers of Swordsquatch, for no actual reason. It was like a lifetime achievement Oscar, I think. I often doubt the value of the work I do to society at large, and moments like this one restore my faith.
So there you have it. Ten moments from the life of a martial artist, with explanations. Much better, I think.