Phoenix Arms Historical Training

Recovering Ancient Wisdom for Living in the Modern World

After-Action Report

So yesterday, we held a seminar on historical combatives for the UMW students. The focus of the class was “All fencing comes from wrestling,” using unarmed combat as a means of teaching footwork, balance, hand-motions, and the principles of Liechtenaur’s art, namely Vor, Nach, Indes, and Fuhlen. We first split the class into two goups, with Bill taking one group to the mats to teach them how to fall safely, and myself taking the other half to work on footwork and basic strikes (based on extrapolation from dagger combat). Afterwords, we “danced” in a basic ringen tie-up position to work on footwork, Vor and Nach, and Hard and Soft. We next move to a “drive/retreat” drill to further those principles, and work on acting “indes”. Finally, we began to teach the hand-motions of the Five Strikes with the Longsword, but utilizing them as wrestling throws. The class really enjoyed this last part (although it left them very tired and sore, so we never managed to get to the Glancer and Scalp strikes). Overall, a successful seminar.


October 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Seminar plus other news and reviews

So it’s been way too long since I’ve updated this thing.  First off, let me announce that this coming Saturday, October 2nd, we will be teaching a seminar at the University of Mary Washington on the basics of Historical Combat in the Liechtenaur tradition.  We will be focusing on stance, balance, movement, and basic strikes, throws, and locks, keeping with the concept that “All fencing comes from wrestling”.  This way students will have at least a basic foundation in grappling before moving onto sword-work in future seminars, as well as have the opportunity to practice footwork and learn the concept of “fuhlen” without having to worry about a sword in the hand.

In other news, over the summer we’ve begun to take a look at British broadsword traditions in addition to our studies in the Liechtenaur tradition.  At the moment we haven’t yet really focused on one master, mixing in lessons from George Silver, Thomas Page, Zachary Wylde, and some later 18th century military broadsword/cavalry saber.  We’re using the military manual of LeMarchant  ( as a starting point, as it’s a fairly simple system to learn and drill (being intended for training large numbers of troops to work together, and less focused on individual sword-play and tactics).  However, we plan on moving to one of the more in-depth systems for advanced practice – I’m not liking Wylde’s presentation, so I’m thinking Page or Silver (we may one day do both, but I wish to focus on one or the other for a time).

Lastly, over the summer I aquired the new Hanwei Practical German Bastard Sword ( for use as a training blunt.  I have to say, for the price, I really think Hanwei did a great job with this.  There’s the usual relatively poor quality of the leather grip wrap (every grip I’ve seen that’s seen any real use eventually has had the stitching coming apart – I personally remove the leather and wrap the grip with electrical tape when this happens).  It is a fairly big sword, over four feet long and weighing in close to four pounds, but it is well balanced and proportioned, so it moves very well for its mass.  It also has great flexibility in the blade, definitely enough for this to be used with contact drills or controlled freeplay (although one would definitely have to be used with good control and while each person is wearing adequate protection against blows – it IS a big sword, so it will hit hard in the cut!).  The only downside with that flexibility is that it’s a little too wobbly for half-swording (and even more-so for a good mortschlag), and if you accidentally bind with the weak instead of the strong, you can sometimes get a slightly unpleasant vibration in the hand.  However, the vibration is minor (and can help tell you when you’re binding poorly), and the flexibility is not a real problem for a blade that’s primarily going to be used for blossfechten practice.  As a last comment, I have not yet had to file down the edges – they are well-rounded, and the blade seems to have quite a decent temper.  Overall, a very good value.

– Chris

September 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Being Ready For Fight Or Flight

Great idea to be prepared, have fun, and get a great workout all at the same time:

Wired’s ZombieFit Workout

June 4, 2010 Posted by | Humor, Modern Combatives, Survival, Training | , , , | Leave a comment

Parading about….

I figured I ought to post the parat (or “flourish”) that we’ve been working on in class.  This is something we’ve been working on to fill the function of a “form” or “kata” in Japanese martial arts, and such things existed historically in europe.  They could be practiced alone as solo drills to work on footwork and guard transitions, or used in order to display your skill in order to intimidate your oppononent and/or impress the crowd before a public match, either in a duel or the fechtschule (fencing school).  This is not specifically a historical parat, but one I created for use in our own training.

(Part 1)(Reverse all use of “right” and “left” if left handed). Start standing with the sword held in the left below the hilt, at hip level (as if in scabbard). “Draw” the sword with a pass back with the right foot, ending in right ochs (this part works best with a thumbed grip, horizontal ochs on both sides). Make a short thrust with a sliding step (my term for a “fencer’s advance/retreat”, what Christian Tobler refers to as a “gathered step,” although I used Jeff Tsay’s definition for that term), and recover in right pflug. Thrust to langenort with a pass forward and recover in left ochs. Make a short thrust with a sliding step back, recovering in left pflug (long-edge up). Pass back with a thrust to langort, and recover in right ochs.

(Part 2) From right ochs, drop the sword’s point to left hangenort, bring the sword around, and with a pass forward, make a right-to-left diagonal oberhau, ending in left weschel/nebenhut (short-edge forward). Make a short-edge unterhau along the same line (no footwork) (begin a pass back here), bringing the sword to high vom tag, and make a left-to-right diagonal oberhau, ending in weschel/nebenhut on the right side (short-edge forward). Make a short-edge unterhau, with a pass forward, bring the sword back to the right to a long-edge forward right nebenhut and make a right-to-left unterschnitt, ending in left einhorn. Begin to continue the motion, bringing the sword to left-side, long-edge forward nebenhut, and passing back, make a left-to-right unterschnitt, ending in right einhorn. Turn the blade (and, if necessary, adjust the body) to “the day”, and you should end in a left-foot forward high vom tag.

(Part 3) From high vom tag, make a vertical oberhau with a pass forward of the right foot, ending in alber. Pass back, making a short-edge unterhau, and bring the blade to right shoulder vom-tag. With a traversing step to the right, cut a zornhau to the left lower hanger, and bring the sword back to left pflug, long-edge down. Bring the sword to a left-shoulder vom tag, and with a traversing step to the left, make a left zornhau to the right lower hanger, and recover to right pflug. Bring the sword to right shoulder vom tag, and with a pass forward, cut explosively to longpoint (this may be angled, like a zorn, or more verticle, like a low schietellhau). Lower the sword to alber, then cross the right arm over the left to stand in left schrankhut. Cut a left-to-right short-edge krumphau (I use a slightly more forward-angled version of the “windshield whiper” interpretation) with a traverse to the left, ending in right schrankhut. With a traverse to the right, make a right-to-left long-edge krumphau, ending again in left schrankhut. Slice up with a pass back of the right foot, ending in right ochs.

And here, for those who may be interested, is an actual historical parat from HS3227a, aka, the “Doebringer Hausbuch” (Interpretation is by Jake Norwood of Maryland Kunst Des Fechtens, available on the HEMA Alliance forums,

“(1) Shake your sword manfully. (2) Assume Schrankhut on the right. (3) Step (all steps are passing steps) with the right and transition to schrankhut on the left. (4) Step with the left and wind over into pflug on the right (long edge up). (5) Step with the right and transition into pflug on the left (short edge up). (6) Step with the left and bring the weapon up into Ochs on the right (with crossed forearms). (7) Step with the right and transition into ochs on the left (this can be a simple wind or an explosion through longpoint as in Drill 0004). (8) Step with the left and cut a zwerch from the left, ending in a right ochs-like position (with the blade ending horizontal, hands crossed). (9) Step with the right and cut “helicopter style” with a zwerch from the right, ending in a left ochs-like position (blade horizontal, arms uncrossed). (10) Step with the left and lower the point down into Schrankhut on the right. You are now in a position to repeat the sequence from (2) – (10).”

As a sidenote, I believe Jake made a typo there and reversed which edge should be up in his description of the pflug on each side, especially on the right side, as to hold the long edge up would be an increadibly uncomfortable and unstable position.  So it should (in my opinion) read long edge down on the right side pflug, long edge up on the left pflug.

 – Chris

April 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Swordfest 2010

So, this saturday, Swordfest 2010 will be hosted in Alexandria.  Here is the quote from swordforum:

“The Virginia Kenshinkai and the Capital Area Budokai is once again hosting Swordfest on April 24, 2010. This is a free event, open to the public. Friends and family invited. This will be the 7th year of swordfest, which was held in Pennsylvania back when it started. A search in the forums should find some background and comments.

It is an open forum celebration and appreciation of swords and sword arts, ancient or modern, east or west. The format will be 20-30 minute demos, plus some displays and possibly a vendor or two. Specific details to follow, but so far we have commitments groups doing German Longsword, Italian Rapier, various koryu and gendai sword arts, plus some related weapon arts.

It will be hosted at 25 S. Quaker Lane, Alexandria, VA . It is an old school building, our dojo is the former gym.

If you have questions or want to demonstrate or have a vendor or display table, please PM me and I will help arrange things.”

As it currently stands, I am scheduled to work that day.  However, if there are any who are interested, let me know, as I am trying to see if I can switch shifts with one of my co-workers in order to attend, this would be a good opportunity to meet other people studying different styles of swordsmanship, as well as see other interpretations of the German longsword system.

 – Chris

Edit – Times are from 10AM to 5PM  The format is various demonstrations in 1/2-hour increments, starting with Bill Grandy of Virgina Academy of Fencing doing a German Longsword demo at 10!  Sorry, when I first posted this, I didn’t have all the info myself, thanks for reminding me to update!

April 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Badge of Honor

Good striking training day on Wednesday with Chris and I.

We started off with lots of fist-pushing, where you press your fist into the other person. That gives you feedback on whether your strike would have any strength and/or penetration into the other person, due to body positioning. It lets you know if you are in a power position or not, and if you are in a position where might actually hurt yourself.

If you’re aligned you will move the other person, and if not, you won’t. Simple, but effective training.

After that, we ramped up the velocity to actually strike each other. This is very important for both the hitter and… “hit-tee.” Again, as the striker, you are given feedback on how well you’re doing, but perhaps even more importantly, you’re learning to be struck, and not phased. As I explained to Chris, there are a couple of points here that bear thinking about.

1) There is actual physiological toughening occurring when you’re being struck repeatedly. But that’s not nearly as important as preparing the nervous system to take physical shocks. As a wrestler, and more importantly, a football player (American-style), you learn to take impact to the body as just part of the game. Impact occurs in every play, and it doesn’t stop you. Watch a football game sometime and you’ll see this.

2) You have to de-personalize the hits, as in a football game. Once you stop taking impacts personally, you will fare much better, though I would almost say that it’s harder than with say, football. Your ego wants to take this personally, because it is a personal, one-on-one hit from someone. But the moment you see it as just a physical act of nature (“this thing just happens,” without emotional context) then you don’t have to have any emotional response such as anger or embarrassment or “why is this happening to me” type feeling sorry for yourself, then you don’t actually feel attacked and can easily shrug it off.

The problem comes when you mirror aggression or whatever, instead of projecting a strong confident frame. If you take it personally, you will project aggression or fear or some other destructive emotion, which will feed into the other person and create a feedback loop that ends in destruction for the both of you.

Instead, smile, laugh and literally shrug it off and not only will you do better handling the strike, you may de-escalate the whole confrontation.

Here’s a pic of a pressure-point that Chris was pressing on at one point in the practice. I call it a “badge of honor.” 🙂

Badge of Honor

Badge of Honor

April 18, 2010 Posted by | Modern Combatives, Training | , | 1 Comment

Making A Throwing Stick

Some handy info for making an ancient hunting and survival weapon–the throwing stick:

Note how he takes a very familiar ready position with the stick… 🙂

April 13, 2010 Posted by | Survival | , , | Leave a comment

Liechtenaur Longsword seminar on 3/27

There will be a seminar on the teachings of Johannes Liechtenaur’s longsword on Saturday, March 27th, from 11:00AM-5:00 PM.  Please arrive early to warm up and stretch.  Bring your waster if you own one, or let me know if you need one.  The focus of the day will be on using drills to teach basic principles and an aggressive attitude.

 – Chris

March 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

German Longsword Seminar

Today’s longsword seminar at the University went quite well. Very few attendees, but that allowed us to devote more personal time for each student. Whilst we’ve given the historical combat training there at the school before, unlike the last series which focused on dagger and hand-to-hand techniques, tactics, and strategies, this seminar was singularly about longsword. We focused exclusively on the interpretations of the earliest works and intentions of “the German style” of Johannes Liechtenauer.

Chris has been really delving into the cutting edge (heheh) of Liechtenauer research and interpretation. One of the trademarks of his work is the primacy of attack, vice the later Italian focus on learning and working from “guards.” Quite an interesting philosophy.

February 21, 2010 Posted by | Historical Combat, Training | Leave a comment

Coach Bill’s Standard Operating Procedures For Knife Combat

The following SOP addresses the Procedures that shall be followed when short bladed combat is imminent or already occuring.

The Procedures are arranged as Plans A through D, with Plan A the default Procedure. Contingency Plans B through D are listed in order of preferential deployment.

Plan A

You shall:
1. Bring to bear a gun, the calibre of which shall be no less than the diameter of your little finger (males) or middle finger (females).
2. Bring all the friends with guns you can manage.
3. Apply tool(s) until desired result occurs*.

Plan B

You shall:
1. Bring to bear a sword, and/or machete, and/or long heavy stick.
2. Apply tool(s) until desired result occurs*.

Plan C

You shall:
1. Control the body part of the opponent that has or potentially may acquire a sharp object (if both hands of the opponent, for instance, come up with sharp objects, it is incumbent upon you to control both).
2. Bring to bear your own sharp object and apply directly to the opponent’s body, point first, as deep as possible and in a percussive manner.
3. Repeat Step 2 until desired result occurs*.
4. If you are denied opportunity to use the point, use the edge in the following manner: apply the edge at a shallow angle and, while keeping contact with the opponent’s body with the blade, slice *away* from yourself in a filleting motion.
5. Re-attempt Steps 2-4 until desired result occurs*.

Plan D

You shall:
1. Follow Step 1 of Plan C.
2.. Similar to Step 2 of Plan C, bring your own improvised object or hard body part to bear against the opponents face, until they agree to give you their own sharp object.
3. Follow Steps 2-5 of Plan C.


SOP Note 1: These Procedures indicate a MINIMUM of actions to be taken, in the preferred order, when involved in the scenario.
SOP Note 2: These Procedures cannot hope to encompass the scope of every possible option. Creativity and initiative are encouraged, provided the main content in the order in which it was given are followed.
SOP Note 3: The writer(s) of this SOP cannot be in any way held liable for any negative results gained by following these Procedures either explicitly or approximately. Use these Procedures at your own risk.

* Desired result = cessation of aggressive activity by opponent.

February 11, 2010 Posted by | Humor, Modern Combatives, Training | | Leave a comment