Guy's Blog

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

Tag: parenting

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!


Grace saved for weeks and bought this knife…

Ten days after I first arrived in Finland, back in 1994, I met a girl. Not very long after that I met her mother Kexy, a civil servant who was a serious horsewoman, and had hunted with her father when she was younger. Rosy, the girl, told me that her mum was nervous about meeting me; most Finns are pretty shy. She also told me what had happened the first time she had brought a boy home. It wasn’t planned; they were passing her home and just popped in to pick up a book. There was Kexy, sat at the kitchen table, cleaning a 9mm semi-automatic pistol.

You can imagine the effect on the boy.

I recently posted a link to this article on my Facebook profile, and it gathered quite a lot of comments, mostly from people who seem to agree with the basic premise, and some who are very much of the “I’ve got a gun and a shovel” school of parenting.

This lead me to think a bit more about the issue.

I totally understand the visceral satisfaction of the idea of being able to murder anyone who hurts your child. I remember walking through the park near my home with my 3-month old firstborn in her pram. A young man on a motorbike (which aren’t allowed in this park) came blasting by. If I’d had a gun, I would probably have shot him. The black rage that came over me at his daring to put my baby at risk was so deep, so fundamental, that only smashing the person’s face through the back of their head would have assuaged it in the moment.

It would, of course, have been entirely inappropriate, and instead of taking my kids to the park, they’d be visiting me in prison. It’s hard being a good parent when you’re at home; it must be way harder parenting from jail.

If a person is threatening your child’s life, and killing them is the best way to stop it, then by all means, taking their life is justified. But the “gun and shovel” meme isn’t about that. It’s about how fathers want to protect their daughters, not from assault, or rape, or anything like that. We want to protect them from sex. Because we (most of us, I assume) remember what it was like to be a teenage boy, and how desperate we were to get into the knickers of the girls we went out with. It was, in the 80s at least, still a truism that girls had it, but didn’t want to give it; boys wanted it, and had to persuade them to give it up. “It” here being sex, of course. There was also a pretty universal assumption that girls didn’t want sex, and so would only do it basically as a favour to the boy, or under some kind of coercion from the relatively benign but still horrible ‘he won’t love me if I don’t’ to worse forms of influence like drink and drugs.

So let’s unpack some of these assumptions.

1) Girls don’t want sex. This is just not true in most cases. Indeed, for centuries it was believed that women wanted sex MORE than men did.  So let’s move on.

2) Whether the girl has sex or not is up to her father or her boyfriend. NO! NO! NO! It is, or should be, up to the people doing it: her and her boyfriend, assuming they are both of legal age. Of course, good parenting includes educating kids to understand the possible consequences of sex, both good and bad. But the core problem here is that in the gun and shovel scenario, the father and the boyfriend have agency, but the girl does not. So whether the woman has sex or not is down to an agreement between these two males. This was normal in the Stone Age, but it is an utterly disgusting pattern of thought in this day and age.

3) Sex = assault. Umm, no. So long as there is informed consent all round, sex does not equal assault. So while murdering a rapist has a certain appeal, murdering your daughter’s boyfriend should not. And if the daughter in question consented freely, then while it may be appropriate to counsel her against it if you think it’s not in her best interests, the boyfriend is innocent in this.

4) In the case of a woman being assaulted or coerced by a man, you should focus on the man… You see it in films and tv shows all the time; when a woman is hurt by somebody, her husband/brother/father/whoever doesn’t stay by her to help her get better; he charges off to wreak his revenge. As if it’s him who has been hurt. But the loving thing to do is to attend to the woman, not race off after the assailant; and only go after the son of a bitch if that’s what the person sinned against wants you to do. 

So what is my plan, with my two daughters?

1) Sex education. That’s number one. If they know what they are doing, then they can grant or withhold informed consent.

2) Self-esteem. I want my kids to feel that they do not have to do anything to ingratiate themselves with anyone, or do anything they don’t want to. They can say no. If they have been brought up in an environment in which their desires, opinions, and consent matters, they are that much less likely to put up with abuse of any kind.

3) Self defence. Bad stuff does happen, but my kids will know at least the basics of how to spot bad situations before they kick off, and have the wit to walk away in time. I’ll teach them physical skills if they are interested, but by themselves, those skills are useless if you’re not willing to use them.

4) Support. They should know that no matter what happens, I (and my wife of course) will support them. That ranges from picking them up from a party at 3am, no questions asked, so they don’t get in a car with a drunk driver, to helping them get through whatever bad things happen to them. They should also know that Daddy isn’t going to shoot anyone unless they specifically ask him to, and he agrees it’s a good idea.

5) Patience. They will bring home all sorts of potential partners, I imagine. Some I’ll like more than others. But the only fair way to judge any of them is “how do they treat my child?” However much I might want one, I don’t get a veto on who my daughter finds attractive. While they are minors I do get to establish curfews, bounds, that sort of thing; where they go, when, and with whom. But if I’ve done my job even half right, they will tend to make decent choices in the end. And if they do come home having been hurt in some way, I hope I’ll have the discipline to do what they need me to do to make them feel better, not what I would want to do to make myself feel better.

The best “meeting the boyfriend” scenario I’ve ever heard though came from my friend Jherek Swanger. I met him in Seattle in 2004, along with his utterly adorable 3-year old daughter. She loved fencing, and would go and get her little mask and a sword and challenge people to fight her. Because all of her daddy’s friends were swordfighters. My own kids were some years away in the future, but I asked him what he was going to do when she started bringing boys home.

I’ve got it all worked out. I’ll be sitting on the porch sharpening a longsword with a stone. Schrrrripp! I’ll look at him and say: “So, you want to take my daughter out, huh?” Schrrrripp! 

Um… yes sir”

“You’re not planning on doing anything with her, are you?” Schrrrripp!

“Um, no sir. Really. I’ll just take her to the movies and bring her right back”

“Really? You don’t want to do anything else?” Schrrrripp!

“No! No, I wouldn’t even think about it”.

“Really? What are you, a eunuch?”



I am 42 years old today. As everybody knows, the Meaning of Life is forty two, so a post on the Meaning of Life seems apt.

What then have I learned in 42 solar sojourns? (Other than to insert Monty Python, Douglas Adams and Blackadder references wherever possible?)

Pay close attention, because this is important. If there is ONE BIG THING I have learned, it’s this:

Love is not the main thing. Love is not the best thing. Love is not the most important thing.

Love is the ONLY thing that matters.

That’s it.

Love your spouse, children, family.

Love your friends. They’re the family you choose.

Work for love. Not necessarily do work that you love. That’s great if you can get it. But work for love. Work to get money to feed your kids. Work to get money to feed other people’s kids. Work because the work itself is worthwhile whether you enjoy it or not.

But do it for love.

Love yourself. The best way to do that is to show love to the people you care about. That will feed your soul like nothing else. But also look after your body and your mind. You deserve it.

It's probably better to do the wrong thing, from love, than the right thing from any other motive.

And tell me these pics made by my kids don't make you go ahhhhhh:

By Katriina By Grace

I am writing a short book at the moment with the working title “How to Live Long and Prosper”. (Star Trek references are good too.)

It will cover my best advice on how to live. It has five basic practices:

  1. Spend time with people you care about. (Love.)
  2. Do things you find meaningful. (Do them for love.)
  3. Think right. (Love your mind.)
  4. Eat right (love your body, part 1)
  5. Exercise (love your body, part 2)

And then a whole lot of ideas, principles, and practices to make those five easier. My go-to strength training exercises; my favourite meditations; that sort of thing. This will be backed up by the research I’ve done over the last couple of decades, much of it distilled from the works of better scholars than I. Studies of centagenarians, for instance.

I’ll also look at money, how to manage it, and what it is actually for. This has been a critical skill for creating a decent quality of life from a swordsman’s income. Because once you clear away the inessentials (anything that is not about love), then it becomes much easier to make good long-term financial decisions, which will indeed help you to prosper.

I will spend today with my wife and kids, also meditating and exercising, and eating good food, and in the evening I'll go to the salle and teach and advanced class. Following my own advice, in other words. Talk about a happy birthday!

And in case your day needed cheering up:

We often duck and dive to avoid something, when our interests would be better served by meeting it head on. Sometimes it's better to just take the hit.

By the time they are a few weeks old, most babies have mastered the art of the double-dump. Inexperienced parents react to the first load: a stinky nappy (diaper for my American friends) requires immediate attention. So we jump up, change the nappy, and then with a smug little grin, the infant fills the fresh one too. With experience comes patience; leave the nappy on for another 5 or 10 minutes, just to make sure she’s done, then change it.

My eldest daughter was a master at this pretty much from birth. On one particular occasion though, aged about 3 months, she excelled even herself, with a perfectly timed double-dump. I was changing her nappy, on the changing table in her room. With her legs in the air, all cleaned up and right before the clean nappy went on, she let go a squirt of liquid baby-shit, right at me, from a range of less than a foot.

Only my trained swordsman’s reflexes saved me.

There is a technique in swordsmanship, which is especially common with thrust-oriented weapons like the rapier or smallsword, of swinging your back leg round behind you to void your body out of the way.

Ridolfo Capoferro calls it the “scanso della vita”,  the avoidance of the waist.


(You can see the action on video on my School's Syllabus wiki page here.)

Domenico Angelo calls it the “Demy Volte”, or half turn.

I have been training to use this kind of avoidance for many years, but have only ever pulled them off in freeplay a handful of times. It’s really hard to get the timing just right, and it depends on a full, deep attack from the opponent.

But somehow, my deep lizard brain reacts better to a stream of shit than it does to a sword-thrust, and even at that close range, I effortlessly, immediately, and perfectly, avoided the attack, while keeping my right hand on the baby. (You never, ever, leave a baby on a changing table without contact. Because if you do, that’s the moment they’ll learn to turn over, and roll themselves off.) Not a drop of the vile stuff touched me. No, it went everywhere else but on me. At that elevation, under that much pressure, it travelled about 6 feet.

So instead of only having to change my t-shirt, I had to clean the floor, the wall, and the armchair.

I should have just taken the (s)hit.

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