Boldness is a key virtue in swordsmanship, at least according to Fiore dei Liberi (and who am I to argue?). So I’d like to commend Adam Weller of Auckland Sword and Shield for having the wit and boldness to contact me and ask me to come to Auckland to teach a seminar for him. About a dozen enthusiasts from northern New Zealand congregated in a scout hall in Auckland for a day of dagger training, and another of longsword. It went extremely well, I thought, and as usual I let the students determine the content so we also covered the first six plays of abrazare in the beginning of day one. This laid an excellent base for us to build on. I moved on from Auckland having seen old friends and made new ones, and I hope given a boost to Fiore scholarship in the area.
I then got on another spine-wrecker (I mean aircraft) and tootled across the Tasman Sea to Sydney, home of my old friend and comrade in arms Paul Wagner, who hosted me for the week, and set up a series of evening classes for three of the Stoccata branches. Monday night we covered some Vadi longsword for Paul’s group; Wednesday we covered Fiore’s plays of the sword in one hand for Richard Cullinan’s group, and last night we did ‘how would Fiore counter Liechtenauer’ for Stuart McDermid’s group. As always, as a consulting swordsman, I let the organizers decide what they needed, and gave them that. What did I do on Tuesday, you may very well ask. Well, I spent Tuesday hanging out with a dear friend and her two glorious children, kicking a football in the garden, reading them stories, and generally catching up. Teaching swordsmanship is the best job ever, obviously, but you’ve got to take time off sometimes!
Wednesday morning though was a revelation. My friend Alonya Mazoyer, whom I know through sword swinging, happens to be a very highly qualified SCUBA instructor, and while we were in New Zealand I mentioned that I’d never tried it. She took a day off work, organized the gear, and picked me up at 7am on Wednesday to go diving. We went to a little sandy beach in Sydney harbor, geared up, and got in the water. Then she wanted me to actually breathe in while my face was immersed. “Are you fucking nuts?” My whole body replied (my mouth didn’t). But obedience is a skill which I can apply when needed, and after a couple of tries, I managed it. Of course there was a regulator supplying air in my mouth at the time, but try telling my lizard brain that. We went through the key skill of breathing in and out in very shallow water, then went a bit deeper and did the three basic skills: remove and replace the regulator, recover the regulator after ‘dropping’ it, and get water out of the mask. Removing and replacing the regulator wasn’t so hard, but taking my goddam air supply and throwing it away was another opportunity to practice blind obedience in defiance of every instinct. But I managed it, just. Actually the hardest thing was clearing water out of my mask; it just didn’t want to go, because I was doing it wrong, water went in the wrong places (nose and eyes), and I broke for the surface. It took a minute to collect myself, then we went back down and repeated the drill until it was working, then “went for a swim”.
Under water, for about half an hour. Oh my.
We saw a baby Port Jackson shark. Pipefish, cuttlefish, really huge sea anemones, and lots of other things I’ll have to check my notes to recall the names of. This was awesome on every level: I was completely out of my element, out of my comfort zone, doing something really cool, plus I was dressed like James Bond. And it is really beautiful down there.
What next, you ask? I’m off on a plane in a few hours to Melbourne, where I’m teaching this weekend and Monday night at Gindi Wauchope’s school, Be there, or be square!
I’m flying back home (at last) on Tuesday, after three and a half weeks away from my girls. It’s been a wonderful trip, but I can’t wait to see them.