Friday, June 18, 2010

DVD Review

Today's review will be on Christian Tobler's new DVD “German Medieval Martial Arts Vol. 1: The Poleaxe” available from Freelance Academy Press. As the title suggests, this is the first in a proposed series on German Martial Arts.

First off, the production quality is excellent! As someone who dabbled (briefly) in the video production world, I can appreciate the obvious hard work that Speaking Window Productions put into this DVD. There was only one point during the Drills section where the sound editor missed an audible “cut” - and I only caught it because I was paying very close attention. Wonderful job guys! The music adds a very nice ambiance to the video without being too distracting.

The DVD opens with a re-enacted judicial duel, which is just great fun!

Following this is the Introduction, a mini-documentary detailing just what a poleaxe is, the etymology of the word, as well as interviews with Christian Tobler, Dr. Lee Jones and Dr. Jeffery Forgeng.

This is followed by a section covering the Guards and an overview of what can be done from each guard. In this section, Tobler finds the perfect medium between being too brief and going into too much detail. The participants are in period clothing and armour (of which there is a wonderful variety!) which adds to the experience. Each guard is shown simultaneously in a side and front view, which is very helpful, and all the actions are clear and precise.

The Drills section covers handling the axe (i.e. being comfortable moving the axe around and using both hands as leads) – I would have liked a mention of the importance on practicing this while wearing gauntlets, because gauntlets do change things about how you grip (and Christian is shown wearing gauntlets during this spot). Then the DVD moves into paired drills for practice, which highlight in greater detail the actions shown earlier.

The Special Features include the trailer for this volume, as well as a video trailer for Tobler's book “In St. George's Name” (my review here) and a quick video about the Selohaar Fechtschule. Also, be sure to check out the Special Features menu very carefully ;)

This is perhaps the best instructional DVD I've ever seen – clean, concise, & informative without trying to do too much. It is a great volume for beginners and long-time WMA students. For those well-versed in the axe, don't expect any ground-breaking, brand new techniques here – a poleaxe is a poleaxe after all. That said, fighting from Nebenhut is a little different than anything in the Italian system (although you could use Vera Croce the same way).

The only negative I have about the DVD is the massive amount of “toy-envy” I developed after watching the copious amounts of beautiful arms and armour parade across the screen!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


It's been a while and it's been an absolute pain in the ass for me to try to come up with something worthwhile to write about here. It's been an interesting couple of weeks: Celebrating accomplishments with one friend, mourning the loss of another, my work schedule being jimmied around, and battling my inner... well “inner demons” is rather cliched but it fits here.

On the WMA front I've been:

- Attempting to decide whether or not to pick up a steel waster. Scratch that. I want to pick up a steel waster, but am deciding how much I am willing to spend at the moment (not exactly Scrooge McDuck here).

My preference would be for the Arms & Armor Fechterspiel, which is what I use(d) training with Maestro Hayes. However, monetary concerns mean that I have my eye on the A-Trim I-beam trainer, which is considerably less money but still has what I'm looking for: Thick edges ( I really like the Tinker longswords, but the edges are too thin compared to A&A's and the I-beam). My goal here is to pick up a waster that can travel with me to various events & face various swords without too much worry on my part. I got to handle a couple of the I-beam trainers at 4W and liked the feel of them, not as much as the Fechterspiel's but hey. :p And A&A's are kinda like Subaru's; damn hard to find cheap used because they don't depreciate in value :)

- Still trying to get classes set up or at least to find a training partner here in Portland. My somewhat-erratic work schedule makes this difficult, but I am also really good at making excuses (see, inner demons).

- Had a great training session with Sean at his in-law's vineyard, Winter's Hill Vineyard, near Dundee, OR. Swords followed by wine = A really good day! It was more of a theoretical workout; we started by going through each of the twelve poste & figuring out the “easy” defences against attacks from all the other poste. When faced with an attack you only have four choices: Cross it, Deflect it, Exchange it, or Break it. In fact, Exchanging & Breaking can be seen as sub-options after you've crossed their blade. But that's it. Those are the four things that get you to the bind, from whence the majority of Fiore's plays take off. Sean then showed me an abrazare flow-drill based the 1st play & the ligadura mezzana and sottana – it's pretty cool. The drill works (and has been used I guess) to introduce students to abrazare (touching & being touched in close quarters) as well as learning body mechanics. Then Sean & I (oh, and his son. Can't forget Patrick.) got out the axes and I ran Sean through some things I'd worked out, for instance, what Fiore means in the Getty description of Posta Finestra:

They call me the left Posta di Finestra, and I keep the right arm withdrawn. We have no stability. Each seeks deception: you think I'll attack with a fendente, but I pass back instead and change guards. So, while I started to the left, I will enter to the right, and I can quickly perform the plays we will now see." (Leoni, 2009).

I know that that's a teaser, but I will try to take some video and do a full write-up on this, along with some video of how to approach some of Fiore's plays – the hint is K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Scholar) :p

- Along those same lines, I have some axe projects I've been working on, at least one of which will be put up here after I make it look all pretty. The other project is big. Very big. I don't know if it will be useful or if the community in general needs it, but I want to do it. But because of my lack of easy-to-get-to training partners (see above) it will be rather slow going – at the moment I can work up a bunch of theory stuff that I feel very confident about, but haven't really tested. Oh well, updates on those projects as I can.

- Finally, is anyone else freaking excited for Christian Tobler's new poleaxe DVD? I know I am!