The Benefits of Interdisciplinary Study

At the moment of writing I’m sitting in a plane seat on my way out of Duluth Minnesota. I’ve spent my weekend at the beautiful facility of the Avalon Educational Institute teaching a combination of sword alone, sword and buckler, partisan, and spadone. I love inter-disciplinary weekends. They’re an opportunity to connect students with the application of a full martial system. It’s great to teach one technique with the sword and buckler, and then bring it across to the partisan and spadone and have students recognize this shared thread.

Each weapon has its own lesson to teach and principles that it best represents. The spadone, a heavy two-handed sword with a long handle and quillons, has taught me a tremendous amount about how to use my whole body to cut and manage a weapon’s momentum. It is unforgiving if you try to push it around with only your forearms. This understanding has illuminated how to incorporate my whole body into the attacks of any sword. The quality of how I move with a sidesword, longsword, and even the thrusting oriented rapier have been transformed by my time swinging the big sword. And, the rapier with its emphasis on binding (being in contact with the opponent’s sword) has given me a sensitivity to feeling pressure and controlling blade position that is useful with every weapon and even when unarmed. Each weapon requires that its user attune to its unique strengths and weaknesses and through this develop an underlying martial ability that is universally applicable.

It’s easy to get focused on practicing with only your favorite tool. Either because it’s the one you emotionally connect with or you feel you need to prioritize your training hours. However, there is so much to be gained from approaching what you love from a different perspective. A little time with a sidesword in hand, or wrestling on the mat, or even riding a horse can open up a whole new connection for you with the discipline you love.

The benefit of practicing a martial system that includes multiple disciplines is that this learning from alternate perspectives is baked in. It is also part of what separates sport from art.

Thank you to Mark and everyone at Avalon in Duluth for your desire to explore the art of Italian swordsmanship. You were all conscientious and hard working students. You were a pleasure to teach and train with. To everyone else, I recommend that if you’re ever in their neighborhood that you pay them a visit.

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