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Guy's Blog

Guy frequently keeps this blog updated with thoughts, challenges, interviews and more!

Tag: online course

I'm a Luddite, it’s true. I resist the march of technological progress because I think that most new technologies aren't labour saving life enhancing devices at all. I was saying this back in the ‘80s when people were extolling the new ‘desktop publishing' thing. “What used to take two weeks can now be done in a single day!” they cried. “Great” I replied. “Do you get the rest of the fortnight off?”

No. What happens, every time, is that as capacity increases, expectations rise, and so you end up with an increase in productivity and more work being done for the same pay. Not fair, and not helpful, except to those who own the fruits of your labour.

But, and this is a very big BUT (I like big buts), there are areas where all this new-fangled gadgetry does actually help people. HEMA would barely exist without the internet, because it is such a niche interest that finding fellow enthusiasts was very hard before the web came along. And for those of us trying to make a living serving those enthusiasts, I think it would be impossible without things like print-on-demand technology, easy-to-use web building tools, and communications of all sorts. I have students in Chile who can send me videos of themselves doing my Longsword Syllabus Form for me to comment on and help them improve. Fantastic.

This is a screen capture not a video link because the video is set to “Unlisted”. Chaps, if it's ok to share it, let me know…

I've also come round to the idea that while the actual use of force (responding to pressure in the bind, that sort of thing) cannot really be taught over the net, there is a place for online courses to help self-study. Lots of people use my Syllabus Wiki in various ways to help them learn, but I am taking a great big step right now and am plunging into creating online courses. The first one is now live, and you can see it here.

I'm using the Teachable platform, because it seems to be the best in class for what I need it to do; unlike Udemy, for instance, I can directly control things like pricing, and tracking student progress.

Another major benefit of the internet is that I can reach vastly more people virtually than I ever could in person. And some of those people are excited by the work I’m doing and want to help. My School and I have benefitted enormously over the years from people volunteering their skills to help. Ilkka Hartikainen shooting the photos and laying out two of my books, for instance. Jari Juslin shooting the photos for the last three. And when I arrived in Ipswich, Curtis Fee (of The Barebones Company) showing up to help unload the lorry for another instance. And when I mentioned the projects I was working on, well, turns out he has a bunch of useful professional skills, which he has applied to making the online school interface vastly more beautiful than it was.
Isn’t this pretty?

It's an exciting time to be teaching swordsmanship, that's for sure. Right now my head is simply buzzing with ideas for other courses that I can create to teach online. Breathing. Meditation. Mechanics. Dagger. Longsword. Imagine if when students finally find a group they can join, or start one themselves, and they already have decent fundamentals in place. Wow.

I loathe bureaucracy in all its forms. And I really don't understand why so many companies, organisations, and people feel the need to clutter up other people's houses with pieces of paper that aren't either proper letters (I'm a big fan) or nice cards (also a fan). As you may know I did a major blitz on paper before we left Finland; I bought a decent scanner and digitised everything that needed to be kept (or was just interesting), and binned about 15 years worth of processed dead trees. The only things I kept were either official papers (birth certificates and so on), or things that had sentimental or other value as artefacts (a concert program signed by Louis Armstrong, some of the fathers day cards my kids have made me, things like that).

The pile had grown to critical proportions over the last month, as you can see from this little vlog I did:

So, step one is to make a big pile of all the paper, and put it next to a paper-recycle bin, like so:

One pile, one bin.

Then go through the pile, and sort it into two: keep/scan, or straight to bin. Be ruthless. At my advanced level, I get to split the keep/scan pile already into keep no need to scan; scan; and check with wife, and I also do some sorting into source or type on the fly, because I've done this enough that that actually saves me time because the decisions are very fast. Here's the martial-arty-bit: the difference in reaction time between a single response (on signal, go!) and one with two options (on signal, go left OR go right!) is about a 60% increase. And it just gets worse the more options there are. So at first it's best to make every response binary: scan/keep or straight to bin. The pile is now a lot smaller; and there are actually only three on this table:

the piles.



Then it's out with the scanner. I'm using the NeatDesk, and it is amazing. The stuff just zips through.

Every time something is scanned, it goes directly into the “keep” pile, or it's ripped (to prevent remorse) and goes directly into the bin. And everthing is scanned straight to pdf, the file named, and filed in my documents folder (I use Neat's own archive system, which works well).

Then (and this is a critical step) all the ‘keep' stuff gets put away properly. Because everything is still a bit ad-hoc in the new home, this entailed quite a bit of sorting and rearranging, and in the process I set up the big computer. This meant that a couple of dvds of fencing books got loaded onto it, and the flurry of uploading fencing treatises for free can recommence.

Let's start that with something really gorgeous. Camillo Agrippa, 1553, Scientia d'Arme.


In other news, my course Recreate Historical Swordsmanship from Historical Sources went live over the weekend. It's got about a quarter of its content up so far, and I'll be adding more regularly. The idea behind letting students enrol before the course is finished is to allow me to take their needs and feedback into account as the course is developed. This should produce a much better end product than anything I could just create from scratch. If you're on the mailing list, you should have a 50% discount code; if you didn't get it, then let me know and I'll send it again.

And to recap:

  1. All paper into one pile.
  2. Quickly go through the pile and throw out as much as possible.
  3. Scan and bin what's left, keep only the essentials.
  4. Name and file pdfs as you go
  5. Put away all the kept items.


Tomorrow, I’ll pull the trigger on my latest venture: an online course. It is called “Recreate Historical Swordsmanship from Historical Sources” and by the time it is done, it will be a clear and systematic way for people to learn how to do the academic side of historical swordsmanship. You know, the bit that makes it actually historical. The course is by no means finished: my plan is to have enough material up to keep people busy, and to use the feedback from the students to guide my creation of the rest of the course. I cannot reasonably predict exactly what every student will find difficult, or need extra help with, so I will create the necessary modules as the need arises. I have a fair bit of content up already, including all the homework assignments (which will tell you what the goal of each section is; if you can do the homework, you have acquired the intended skills and knowledge). I have a stable map of what the course will cover, and how it’s broken down. But the specifics of “a pdf with examples of translation problems” or “explain how to set up a more advanced drill”, or “we need more explanation here”; that will be finalised, expanded on, and polished with the first batch of students telling me what they need.

Which is exactly how I run my seminars; start with a theme, ask the students what they need, and give them that.

When I launch it tomorrow, I’ll send a note out to my mailing list, with some 50% off discount vouchers. These are limited to a total of 45 students, because I want to keep enrolments small to start with, while I work on the course content. These vouchers are intended for people who really want to be beta-testers and co-creators. There is nothing stopping people signing up at the full price, but I hope it’s clear that the course isn’t finished yet.

Because the format is so different to what I am used to, this is a really hard process for me; writing books is, if not exactly easy, at least totally straightforward and familiar. But creating an online course is very different.  Once this one is properly up and running, I’ll get started on others, such as turning the content of my Medieval Dagger book into a course, and indeed, eventually, the entire School syllabus. Ambitious, much?

I’m writing this in the Atrium Studios space in Suffolk University; they run a “Jelly” networking meetup on the last Thursday of every month, so I came along and met a load of interesting folk. Explaining what I do for a living is a great ice-breaker.

I am also doing a daily vlog thing, partly because my daughters are totally into vloggers right now, and partly to help with goal-setting for creating this course. I’m in a totally new environment (Ipswich), and finding my feet here creatively. It’s hard to get into the proper zone, outside the really specific environment I had created for myself in Helsinki. Perhaps the vlogging will help. I’ve got 5 short clips up so far; you can find them on my personal youtube account (with almost 0 views, because it’s not my main swordschool account). But there may be stuff there you’ll find interesting. I’ve embedded day 1 here, though it’s way out of date! Nearly a week old already!

So, that’s what I’m up to in the land of Sword. How about you?

Last week I ran a survey to find out what I should be working on next. This generated a very clear ‘get on with the “systems from sources” online course' response. I am following orders, and hope to have the first couple of modules up for beta-testers next week. I will set it up so that a small number of people can sign up at a big discount, on the understanding that they will let me know what needs to be improved before I roll it out to the public. I'll send an email to my mailing list when it's ready for preview.

The survey also generated some interesting questions and comments, which I have answered below.

1. Your Syballus for level 4 is a bit confusing when you name the drills but give no clue on how they are done.

My response: Yes. The level 4 drills are all on video, which shows you what they are, but they are not instructional videos. This is deliberate: my syllabus wiki is free, and intended as a reference resource for everyone who is following my syllabus. It is not designed as an online course.

2. I live in a small province on the east coast of Canada and have just started taking longsword instruction at the new and only school in the province. The instructors are basing their instruction on Liechtenauer's work. I know you have an add-on for Audatia based on Liechtenauer, but does any of your work focus on comparing his approaches to the ones you use?

My response: Not really. I actually think that the Liechtenauer material is not a complete system; it is part of a system (as Fiore's Longsword material is too). It seems to me that it assumes a lot of basic training on the part of the user; basics that we find in all other sword styles are simply missing from Liechtenauer. I think that the basic material is shown with the messer, with Liechtenauer's merkeverse being, if you like, the advanced course. I don't find it terribly useful to compare and contrast except with students that have an in-depth knowledge of both.

3. I think a book about building participation on a local level including marketing, weapon and and armour procurement and financing, finding a location and course structure and design would be just jolly. Most new students have a difficult time building momentum, and finding practices. This book should be a ground up treatise on how it was done historically, and how to do it today. Just saying…. I have been at it a few years now and have faced several challenges including being ‘Dear John” ed and the ebb and flow of new faces. Might even want to throw in some info about building a facebook group and how social websites can help(I assume that a social website historically was a pub) TY
The online training course sounds intriguing also…

My response: A book on how to start and run a study group or school… hmm, interesting. I might, but there are already some good books on the subject out there, such as Starting and Running your own Martial Arts School by Karen Levitz Vactor and Susan Lynn Peterson. I don't know anything about how schools were started and run in the past (I have an idea, and there are stories and legends, but hard data not so much). Leaving history aside for a moment, a booklet on how to start and run your own HEMA group might make a good instalment of The Swordsman's Quick Guide. Let me know if you agree!

Too many damn choices: 1. Breathing is my top pick because no one has really spoken on it. 2. The community needs a review of how to create training systems when pulling from historical treasties. 3. Really, your next book should be something fun, why I chose other: contact Mark Ferrari who did the art for Monkey Island, add in what you know of historical come backs, and then make a book!  Just a thought…

My response: I think I'd better get the course up and running and Breathing published, and Sent, before I think about a comedy project… but I'll take that under advisement!

Hi! I love you books and videos! Great work! I am an AEMMA (Canada) club member (Fiore Scholar) working towards my Free Scholar challenge in a few years, so gathering my armour and learning to move, train and fight in armour. Any future material (books, blog entries, videos, seminars) on all things Fiore would be very helpful for me and our club's students – but especially any insights to help with armoured plays/ drilling and sparring would be excellent. Thank you very much, Aaron Beatty (Scholler, instructor AEMMA Guelph, Ontario, Canada).

My response: Thank you Aaron, glad you like my work. Armoured plays and such are a tricky problem for me, now that I'm in Ipswich and not surrounded by armour-wearing thugs. I think this is one area where the guys who run the IAS might be able to help: Sean Hayes, Greg Mele, Jason Smith, Christian Cameron etc all have a lot more time in harness than I do.

I really need the training systems one as it is basically the only thing preventing me from teaching a class.

My response: OK, so the course would be useful for you; but in the meantime have you read this?

Hello, My name is Wiktor Grzelecki, and I'm a long-time reader of your blog. I also bought some of your books and Audatia game. While I disagree with some of your opinions, I greatly value your materials and input. I like the project about online course, but I would also like to ask you about something different. You are a father, I will be a father in a couple of months. I would like to ask you, how do you keep children safe, how do you keep sharp weapons knowing that your children are near them? Would it be enough to just keep them high enough, that they can't reach them? Or would it be better to have a key-closed chest or closet? Similar to those required for firearms? Or simply to show them wooden weapons, and metal ones with you so they lose the “forbidden fruit” taste for children (What I mean is, could kids be less interested in touching weapons if they got used to them? Something like teaching kids to use bb gun so they don't see actual firearm as appealing.). I understand that this is a complex matter, that would also require lots of time to spend with a child to explain what weapons are and how to use them, but I would like to know what do you think?

My response: Congratulations on your impending fatherhood! Kids and weapons.. This is a tricky matter, as it makes people very nervous. I'll explain how I've dealt with it with my kids in my home, but this is “reportage” not “advice”.

Guns: My guns (two revolvers and a semi-automatic) were always in the safe. The kids could ask to see them any time, though they very rarely did, and I would get them out (hiding the 10 digit combination from them), check they were safe, treat them as if they were loaded, and closely supervise how they were handled. They could play all they liked with rubber band guns and cap guns, but the real thing was (obviously) very strictly controlled. Now we live in the UK my guns are at a gunsmith's in Finland, so the issue is moot. If they had wanted to, I would have allowed them to shoot at the range, under very close supervision, starting with a .22 or something similar, when they were strong enough to handle the weapon.

Blades: Blades are easier, as they are less dangerous (it's harder to kill someone by accident with a knife than a gun), and they are everywhere; scissors, penknives, kitchen knives, eating knives… The kids have been helping to cook since they were so little that that meant sitting on the floor and banging on a saucepan with a wooden spoon. They have been cutting and peeling vegetables since before they can remember. Cutting began with them standing with their left hand round my waist and their right hand holding the knife, with my hand on top. I'd hold the vegetable and do all the actual work. That progressed to their hand under mine on the vegetable, and so on. The only person who could get cut was me (though I never was). Now they can chop stuff without supervision, using my proper kitchen knives (they are 7 and 9).

Until a couple of weeks ago, all my swords were at the salle (I didn't keep any in the house, except for a sabre for champagne). I'd take the kids to the salle quite often, and we would fight with wooden swords, lightsabres, or any other weapon. They could ask to see anything they wanted, even sharp swords, and I would get them off the rack and they could touch them, heft them, that sort of thing, but under careful supervision.

In summary then, nothing is forbidden, but some tools/weapons/things can only be handled under supervision. When my kids were very little, I kept everything dangerous out of reach. Since they have been old enough to understand that some things are dangerous, and also old enough to get a chair to stand on when they want to reach something that is ‘out of reach', we have taught them what needs supervision and what doesn't. Kids are curious, so I've always let mine have a go at anything they want to, while I control the situation to maintain the necessary safety. The idea is to teach them to use things properly, so their skill keeps them safe, not their ignorance. I even let them drive my car. They have never been injured or injured anyone else with any weapon or tool. They will eventually cut themselves with a kitchen knife or chisel, but that's ok; it's part of life.

Now, I'd better get on with that course material!



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