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Show Notes:

Today’s episode is a little bit different. It’s an Ask Me Anything with me. I sent out a query to my patrons on Patreon and also to my mailing list, and I got a whole bunch of questions that apparently people want answers to, so I’ve answered them. Find out which historical master I would like on my side in a tavern brawl, my funniest moment in teaching, my ideal podcast guest, and more.

A couple of useful links

From the question about the best rapier fencing system:

From the question about the lefty Todesca:

Guy Windsor: Today’s episode is a little bit different. It’s an Ask Me Anything with me. So what I did was I sent out a query to my patrons on Patreon and also to my mailing list, and I got a whole bunch of questions that apparently people want answers to, including this first one from Mr. Giles Holtby in Singapore, who I happen to know is a very naughty man because he shows up to my trainalongs quite regularly and so we’ve actually got to know each other quite a bit, which perhaps explains why the first question is if you were a Jedi, which Jedi would you be like? And honestly, Giles should know me better because firstly, I am a Jedi. And so I would be like me, obviously. So that dispenses with that one.


Right, now, the next one is also from Giles. There’s quite a few from Giles, and I’m going to mix and match them to an order that I think most useful. Who would win in a duel? Fiore or Capoferro? Okay, these sorts of fantasy duel scenarios are potentially interesting because they require you to think about the context in which these people are fighting. So basically, if Capoferro went back in time and fought Fiore, I think Capoferro would get slaughtered because he’d be using unfamiliar weapons in an unfamiliar context and Fiore would be literally on his home turf. Likewise, if Fiore went forward 200 years and fought Capoferro, I think that obviously Fiore would get slaughtered because Capoferro would be in his own home context, using weapons he was familiar with and Fiore would have to adjust. Now, that said, I think either one of them, given the traditional 30 days of preparation that was common before a formal duel, would stand a fair chance to adapt what they know into the context. However, Capoferro knows nothing about mounted combat so if it’s done on horseback, Fiore would win. And if it’s done in in armour, 30 days is not enough time to condition yourself to fight in armour against someone who’s been in armour since they were a kid. So in that context, again, Capoferro would get slaughtered. But out of armour, I think 30 days would probably be enough for either one of them to adapt to the new weapon. And so this sort of begs the question, at what stage in their life are they? So if let’s say they’re both 45 years old in reasonable health and out of armour, given the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the new weapons, then I honestly couldn’t say. On balance, I would put my money on Fiore because he, I think, has a broader and possibly deeper immersion in martial arts for the sake of killing people. He’s much more of a military person than Capoferro is. And if you think of the duel in the beginning of Ridley Scott’s movie, The Duellists, where Harvey Keitel plays this cavalry officer using an unfamiliar weapon against a young man, they’re both fencing with smallswords. It’s a formal duel with sharp smallswords. And Harvey Keitel basically slaughters this kid. Though the kid has some training with a smallsword, he’s not a killer. And the character played by Harvey Keitel is absolutely a killer. And I would suspect that Fiore has a lot more actual combat experience than Capoferro. So on balance, that’s where I’d put my money.


Now, Giles’s next question is what’s the funniest, weirdest, most profound thing that’s ever happened in one of my classes? Okay, possibly the funniest was in a completely serious, ordinary, regular class. I brought a student out to demonstrate with and it was one of those situations where the class is quiet, everyone is paying attention and it’s serious. I mean, we’re taking it seriously because we’re serious about what we do. And as my student, and I will not name them, comes up from the class and sort of gets ready to be my demo partner, he accidentally let rip a giant fart and everyone just fell about laughing. So that’s probably the funniest. The most profound, it’s really hard to say, because one of the great privileges of this job is I have seen so many students sort of come into themselves, expand and grow in sometimes in quite rapid and startling ways. And so, yeah, I can’t really put a finger on which would be the most profound moment, but it’s going to be one of those times where a student just levelled up before my very eyes and really enacted a personal and internal change that made them closer to the person they were trying to become. And that’s happened really so many times, and that’s kind of the point of what we’re doing. So, yeah, I’m not I’m not going to pick out an individual moment or an individual student because that’s not really fair. But yeah, one of those.


Okay, next question. This is quite interesting. Again, this is from Giles. Tell us about one thing from doing this podcast that has changed you and you have it, tried a new thing, a different outlook on life. Okay. I didn’t start the podcast for the purposes of actually learning anything, which may sound odd given that I’m interviewing experts from all sorts of areas. But the reason for starting the podcast, as if you’re a regular listener you already know, is because I wanted to use the platform that I have to give basically visibility to, particularly women, but also minority demographics in the historical martial arts world. So that was the purpose of the show. And a massive side benefit, of course, is I have met and talked to all sorts of people who I wouldn’t otherwise have got to meet. And yes, I have learnt all sorts of things. It’s very different. It’s very difficult to put a finger on one particular aspect because these things tend to kind of creep up on you. I mean, I just edited Episode 131, so there have been an awful lot of guests with an awful lot of insights, and I can’t think of a single habit that I’ve changed. But my perspective on things has definitely changed in a way that’s very difficult to put a finger on. I mean, the one most obvious change is this is the first time I have ever produced anything on a regular schedule. And in fact, I don’t actually produce the podcast on a regular schedule. What I do is I do a whole bunch of interviews and edit them and whatever, and my assistant Katie then schedules them all in a nice weekly format. And so I’m not doing one episode a week, I might be doing four episodes in one week and no episodes for the next three weeks. And yet the appearance is given of this sort of consistent work over time. And one of the things that has really come out of that is I’ve been much more regular about my email list and newsletter so that, you know, if I have something coming out every week, I have to tell people about it every week, which means I have to send out an email every week, which has got me into this habit of writing a weekly newsletter, which has provided all sorts of opportunities for getting to know my students better, and also for just bringing my attention to the wider community more often. That’s a bit of a vague and crap answer to what is pretty good question. But I’ve actually been thinking about this question for quite a while, and that’s the best answer I’ve got at the moment.


Now, let’s take a break from Giles’s questions for a bit. Here’s a question from Fabio Luelmo. He says his club is trying very hard to adjust many German longsword stances and techniques for women. Some we have figured out through trial and error, such as holding the vom tag on one’s non-dominant side higher than normal. This helps avoid the chest and allow the dominant hand to properly point the knuckles to the opponent. We noticed many women pointing their knuckles back. However, he says, we are having a devil of a time figuring out how women’s wider hips and closer knees require us to adapt Meyer’s rather low fencing stance. Women are at alarmingly higher risk of knee injuries in fencing because of this difference in structure, and he gives a very helpful reference, so I could actually look that up. A reference incidentally from the Sport Fencing Organisation at FIE, the Federation Internationale d’Escrime. What advice would you give in adapting the longsword fencing stances or steps to better support women fencers? He then goes on to say I love your podcast and recommend it to everyone in my club. That’s very kind of you, Fabio. Thank you. So I am hesitant to generalise about women’s knees because this has everything to do with skeletal structure, and everyone’s skeleton is different. But in general, women have hips that are placed wider apart, and instead of their thighs hanging straight down off their hips, they tend to kind of come together a bit at the knee. So you do get a different mechanical structure than you do with the typical male pattern pelvis and femurs. So the basic rule is always the same. When you step, your weight should be going into the ground in the correct part of the foot, which is usually just behind the ball of the foot. If you’re running, of course, it comes up on to the ball. But in any case, the weight as the foot lands on the ground, the weight should be going down into the foot, not forwards, and the knee should be bending in the line of the foot. So if you were to track the movement of the knee as the knee goes forward, as you step, as your weight moves onto the foot, the movement of the knee should be in line of the foot. And the problem that we’re talking about, I believe, if I understood the question correctly, is that let’s say you step forward on your right foot, there will be a tendency for the knee to track to the left of the foot. Likewise, if you’re stepping with the left foot, there will be a tendency for the knee to track over to the right as opposed to following the line of the foot. So the first thing I would do is emphasise proper knee tracking. This is critical. This by itself will solve most problems and prevent most injuries. If the weight is going in the right direction. So down into the foot, not forwards through the knee and the knee is tracking the line of the foot, the problem doesn’t really exist. The issue is that the historical system we’re talking about has these rather extreme stances with the front foot, for example, pointing all the way out to one side. So right foot point at 90 degrees to the right and the knee is supposed to track in that direction. Always, always, always, I will put the safety of my students’ knees ahead of an accurate rendition of the technique as illustrated in the text. Okay. So health comes before historical accuracy. So having trained the student to be careful about the tracking of the knee, we can then see how far out that foot can go whilst maintaining that knee tracking. Now in some cases, a little bit of flexibility training in the hips is helpful to allow a greater turn out, to allow the knee to track more accurately. But what will tend to happen if you emphasise hip flexibility is although the flexibility is there, it’s not being used because the natural path of the leg is different. So one thing I would do if, let’s take a rapier lunge as a classic example. Generally speaking, your front foot is pointing directly forwards, your back foot is pointing 90 degrees to the side. So if your right handed it’s going to be right foot pointing directly forward and left foot pointing directly to the left, and as you lunge, that orientation remains more or less the same. So the right foot, the lead foot, continues to point forward. What will often happen is the knee will start to track to the inside. So I would have the student turn the back foot slightly forward to allow the hips to turn slightly forward and sacrifice that side on ideal rapier position so that the front foot will go in the correct line because what tends to happen is the foot tracks in. So if it’s the right foot going forward, it will track slightly to the left and the knee tracks even more to the left. And the weight keeps going straight forward. And so the knee starts to twist. So the foot must point in the direction of the weight is moving and the knee must move in the line of the foot, and the weight must go into the foot in the correct way. And I will make whatever sacrifices need to be made on the back foot to get the foot that is being weighted to be pointing in the right direction and have the knee tracking in the right way, and the weight moving in the right way. The issue really comes when the student tries to copy what you are doing. So let’s say you have perfect Meyer-style footwork and you look exactly like the pictures. Good for you. That’s awesome. It also means you have, shall we say, genetically gifted hips. If the student is copying that, they will tend to generate the problems that we’re talking about. But if the student copies your emphasis on the foot pointing in the direction that the weight is moving, the knee moving in the direction of the foot and the weight going into the right place on the foot, then the problem will probably go away. I am not generally a fan of trying to prevent injury through increasing flexibility for this kind of thing. Yes, some injuries are caused by lack of flexibility. Pulling a muscle, for example. But the problem with increasing flexibility is it’s quite easy to increase flexibility quite quickly, but it takes a lot longer for the joints to become strong in that range of motion. And the reason is that the muscles will adapt very quickly. So you can increase the distance down the muscle in which the stretch reflex is activated. And so the muscle will tolerate a much longer position. But the tendons which attach the muscle to the bone and the ligaments that hold the joint together, they have a very poor blood supply and therefore they will develop strength extremely slowly. So you might get meaningful changes in the muscle in a matter of a few weeks, but changes to the soft tissue, the tendency ligaments will take an absolute minimum of nine months and probably longer. So if you’re going to be using flexibility improvements to help with this, you have to be very, very careful that the student doesn’t put too much force through the extended position too quickly. You’ve got to allow the soft tissue time to catch up.


My next question is from Jack Graham, who asks, what is the best or most complete system of historical martial arts for the rapier? And he goes on to say, the few I’ve looked at seem thin or incomplete or so full of assumptions about the opponent’s moves, which are not clearly defined, that I am left guessing when to use which moves or plays. What do you suggest as a coherent first system to learn? And it would be nice if I could say the word coherent coherently. Okay. Now I am an Italianist. In other words, I can read Italian and so I tend to work with Italian fencing sources. There is no question that the most complete Italian rapier source is Salvatore Fabris’ Scienza d’Arme. It is absolutely thorough, absolutely complete. It has these very weird guard positions which you can take or leave, I would say. But it is absolutely complete. Issue with all of these sources is the behaviour of the opponent, which Jack mentions. These sources tend to be full of assumptions about the opponent’s moves. The thing is really the issue is almost all of these rapier techniques and almost all the sources, Fabris, Capoferro, Giganti, etc. they begin with one fencer constraining the other’s sword with a stringere, trovare spada or whatever, and the opponent disengaging to strike. That’s the usual set up. The problem is most opponents that we face today don’t disengage to strike. They disengage to counter stringer, or they disengage and step back. Or they try to close the line or they do something else. And it can be quite tricky to adapt these systems in the books to, shall we say, a more modern fencing context. However, for completeness, I would still say Fabris. For a beginner, because he asks for the first system to learn, I would actually go with Giganti because it’s relatively short. It does actually have everything in it that you could reasonably ask for, and it’s very accessible. It is not as complete as Fabris, it is not as complete as Capoferro, but it is a thoroughly coherent, first system. The problem is that the thing that’s missing is adapting it to a modern fencing context, because we are not homicidal lunatics trying to murder each other with swords who will disengage and strike at every opportunity. We are perhaps more cautious, perhaps in some respects less cautious because we are using blunted swords with rubber points on the end and fencing masks and whatnot. But one thing that seems to be fairly common in the sources and in my experience missing from the modern fencer, is this absolute willingness to strike because that’s what we see over and over again. You know, so-and-so has such and such stringer on the inside. Such and such disengages to strike. Over and over and over again. And that wouldn’t be that if that wasn’t what was expected. So as a Capoferro man, it seems a little odd, perhaps, that I start out saying, well, Fabris is the most complete. And then I say, well, you should probably start with Giganti. So where does Capoferro sit with all this? And I have to say that the reason I’m a Capoferro man is entirely accidental, because I just so happened to come across Capoferro many years ago, but I started taking it seriously in 2003. And that’s entirely because William Wilson and Jherek Swanger produced the translation. And my Italian at that time was not good enough to handle the sources directly and so I started working with that translation. So in other words, a free translation became available. And by the time I was able to work with the other sources, I was so far into Capoferro that there wasn’t any real sense in switching because Capoferro is also a fairly complete, fairly thorough examination of how to fence with the rapier and the rapier dagger, what the basic techniques are, what the more advanced techniques are, what the fundamental concepts are, and so on. So this is probably not helpful to poor Jack, because I’m guessing from the question that he is already familiar with Fabris, Capoferro and Giganti. And I should perhaps point out that those are not the only rapier sources and there may be some Spanish rapier sources that might suit you better, Jack. I can’t really speak to them because I don’t do the Spanish stuff. And there may even be some, like German sources, for instance. And we certainly have some German rapier sources from the 17th century, which, again, may be a bit more useful. But I think really the issue is adapting the sources that we have to a modern fencing context. And that is not so much to do with the source and is more to do with our approach to the source. Let me take a concrete example. So he says, so he’s left guessing when to use which moves or plays. All right. And here is a significant problem, right? Because if the setup is the same for like five different plays. When do you do which do you do what? Okay. So let me take a concrete example as to how I approach this and that may shed some light on the situation. So let’s take plate 17 and plate 19 from Capoferro. Both of them begin with you stringering your opponent on the outside so you are in seconda so your true edge is pointing out to your right, I’m assuming two right handed fencers just to make life easier. And yes, I do have videos of these plays on my Swordschool wiki so you can find those. I’ll put a link in the show notes. So you stringer your opponent on the outside, they disengage to strike on the inside. So they are coming in to the left of your sword and you see it and you either step your right foot out of the way to the right and thrust at them with the scanso del pie dritto. So the avoidance of the right foot. Or you move your left foot out of the way to the right doing what’s called the scansa della vita, the avoidance of the waist. So when do you do which? Well, the way I see it, because Capoferro doesn’t say a word about it. The way I see it is it all to do with the timing of your opponent’s disengage. If you’re approaching and your weight is settling onto your right foot as your opponent disengages to strike, then you should move the left foot out of the way and do the scanso della vita. If, however, your back foot, your left foot is planted, then as they disengage to strike, then you should move the right out of the way and stab them that way. I think that’s the only sensible way to address the difference why would you do which. But then the setup is exactly the same as for the scannatura where you stringer on the outside and they disengage and they strike on the inside and you drop your point over and you pass forward and you grab with the left hand and thrust. Why would you do that rather than a scanso? Well, I would say that has more to do with how you want to murder your opponent than it does with any kind of particular tactical difference on their part. So if you want to get a solid hold of their weapon with your left hand, while you run your sword through their body with your right hand, then you want the scannatura. Literally the butchering or slaughtering. If you want to maintain a bit more distance, let’s say you are insecure about your wrestling skills. You may want to maintain some distance and maybe you’ll do a scanso del pie dritto or a scanso della vita instead. So, yes, it’s unfortunate that the sources don’t specify in depth and detail why you would do which based on the actions of your opponent. But then not all of these decisions are based on the actions of your opponent. Your opponent may do the same thing, and you may have three complete different responses depending on your state at that time, where your weight is, where your weight is moving, which foot is weighted, where your sword is relative to theirs, and all sorts of other factors. And there is no reasonable way for a source, I mean, I’ve written a whole bunch of fencing books, so I’ve seen this problem from the inside. There is no way to specify all the necessary things, so that by any given movement the opponent only has one response because there are so many variables. And those variables include blade relationship, measure, movement, weight placement, etc.. So this is a difficult question, Jack. I hope that is a reasonably useful answer. In short, maybe start with Giganti. The most complete is Fabris, but whichever one you study and this is always true of every system, you are going to have to do quite a lot of heavy lifting to adapt your actions to the specific actions of your actual opponent who is never going to be quite like the one in the book.


My next question is from Jason James, who asks, how close am I to my pilot’s license? For those of you who have not been paying attention to what I’ve been doing for the last year or so, in December last year, in December 2021, I started learning how to fly small aeroplanes, as in Cessna 152s, that kind of thing. So two or sometimes four seater single engine propeller planes. And the standard approach to teaching somebody to fly these things is to train them up for what’s called a PPL or a private pilot’s license. That has all sorts of aspects to it, a whole bunch of theory exams collectively known as ground school, and a whole bunch of actual plane flying experience, which is sort of maybe collectively known as skills. Okay, so I flew solo for the first time on March 18th after about 12 hours of instruction, so 12 hours of practical experience in the aeroplane. And just so you get an idea of what that means, I was completely alone in the aircraft, so if I had fucked it up I would have died. But I wasn’t just like, you know, don’t just rock up to the airfield. And my instructor said, yeah, Guy, you’re flying solo today, off you go. No, no, no. There have been 12 hours of very careful preparation for this. And the last hour of that was me flying what was called “circuits” where you take off, you circuit the airfield doing the necessary pre-planning checks, and then you land again and you take off and circuit and land again. And each circuit takes about maybe ten or 15 minutes, depending on how big you fly it. So my instructor was with me and we did maybe five or six landings. After a couple of them I did particularly nice one. And he said do three more like that and you’ll fly on your own or I’ll send you up on your own. So we just did three more circuits and the landings were beautiful. It was a perfect day for flying. There was a gentle wind straight down the runway and it was a cloudless sky. It was just a beautiful day for this. So it was the easiest possible landing conditions. And I had just done a whole bunch of landings with my instructor. And so after that third very good landing, he got out. He was on the radio standing by the airstrip so I could talk to him if I needed to. I took off, flew the circuit and landed and he videoed it on his phone. And it is, I have to say, an absolutely flawless landing, it is beautiful. Not all of my landings since have been really so good. But that is the critical moment in the training of a pilot, I would say, because it’s the first time you actually fly the aeroplane entirely on your own and knowing that there’s no way for your instructor to save you if you make a mistake. However, there is a very long way from your first solo flight to actually being competent to fly an aeroplane on your own. So most of the next 20 hours and I’m at about 33 hours at the moment. Most of that has been learning to navigate, which is extremely tricky because firstly, when you’re flying through the air, the air is moving and is moving you with it. So if, for instance, you want to fly due north so your track along the ground would be due north, but the wind is blowing quite hard from the east, you’re going to have to fly some angle into the northeast. And what that angle is will depend on the exact direction of the easterly wind and its strength. And as you are flying northeast with the wind movement, your track along the ground will be due north. So you also have to be able to time what you’re doing. So you start from a known point. You fly at a consistent speed and altitude, on the correct heading that will give you the correct track on the ground, that will get you to the place where you’re trying to go at the right time. Because the only way you know where you are is by looking out the window, and looking at what’s on the ground below you. And it is a long way away. And it’s very indistinct. And honestly, one village looks a lot like the next. So you have your chart, you got a compass in the plane, a direction indicator, you’ve got a watch. So you know how long you’ve been going for. You’ve got your airspeed indicator telling you how fast you’re going through the air. That is tracking the speed of the air over the wings. It is not tracking your speed over the ground. That you have to calculate. It is phenomenally complicated and I would quite happily spend the next hour of this podcast episode explaining it all because that’s kind of fun for me, but I’ll just skip over that. It’s just you’ve got a chart and you’ve got these various tools and you have to fly the plane consistently in the right direction. And then when you get to one waypoint, you make the necessary turn in the necessary direction at the necessary time and mark your time down and fly to the next place. All this while making sure that you are actually going where you think you’re going, which is not guaranteed. And while you’re making whatever necessary communications with radio stations along the way, for instance, if you need to fly through a military air traffic zone, which is the airspace around a military base, it’s best to get permission from those military people. Otherwise, they get very cross with you. Most of the training so far since flying solo has been navigation and the rest of it has been what happens if your engine catches fire? What happens if your engine quits? What happens if your engine quits on takeoff? What happens if things are going wrong as you are landing, what should you do? All sorts of things like that. So basically how to not die when everything goes to shit. And honestly, that is probably the thing I enjoy the most because it involves things like there I am doing a navigation exercise with my instructor in the aircraft and we’re flying along at maybe two and a half thousand feet and suddenly the engine quits, I mean literally because he will do something like maybe cut off the fuel supply or whatever or pull the throttle out and the engine is not working anymore. So suddenly I’m gliding instead of flying under power. And I have to do what’s called a practise forced landing, which is you pick a spot where you’re going to land the plane, you fly to that landing thing. You need to be flying into the wind for your landing and you get everything sorted out. You do your necessary drills for making sure the plane won’t catch fire and so on. So you cut the fuel and you cut the mixture and you cut the throttle. Then you turn off the mags. And when you’ve made your decision about flaps, you turn off the master switch because the flaps on this aircraft are electric. So you have to you have to turn off the electrics after you set your flaps. If you’re going to use flaps at all, make that decision, too. And yes, there are flapless landings where you land without flaps, obviously, short field landings where you land in a field which is very short, short field take off where you land, where you take off from a very short field. How do you do that, etc., etc., etc.. There’s just so much stuff. And that’s my favourite bit actually. Because it’s the bit that feels most like flying a plane, the navigation stuff feels more like being a bus driver, you know, you have to get to a certain place at certain time and then turn in this particular direction. It’s a bit I don’t know. Well, for me, it’s not the fun stuff to do that way. So the rule is you have to have, I think, 45 hours of actual flying experience before you can take what’s called your skills test. And those 45 hours include what’s called a qualifying cross-country. And that is where you take off from your home airport. You fly to another airport, land there and then fly to another airport and land there and then fly home again and land there. So it’s actually three flights, usually. And that requires you to be able to find those airports, be able to communicate with their air traffic control, if they have air traffic control. Landing in an unfamiliar place, going to where you need to go, putting the plane down and getting out and, you know, paying your landing fees and whatnot and following all the necessary procedures for taking off again from that airport and then finding the next one and so on. And it is a lot. It is an awful lot more than driving a car. So once you’ve done your qualifying cross-country and you’ve got the necessary hours, you can get what’s called a skills test. And the skills test is basically an hour or so, maybe an hour and a half with your examiner who will take you through all the things you are supposed to know, all of the disaster scenarios, getting you to land the plane, maybe getting you land the plane several times and so on. Personally, I don’t actually care that much about getting a license. The only reason to get a license is the flying becomes cheaper because you don’t have to pay an instructor’s time. That’s really the only reason to get a license for me. I have absolutely no practical need for a pilot’s license, but I’m doing this because I’m fascinated by it, obviously. And I absolutely love flying the plane, obviously. But also, it is really useful to see how this system of training and examination has been developed so that pilots are less likely to die or worse kill their passengers, because obviously you can’t take passengers until you have a private pilot’s license. But as soon as you do, you can take passengers in the plane. And there are all sorts of horror stories of pilots who have just passed their license, killing their passengers because no system of training is perfect. As you can tell from the way I’ve been rambling for the last little while, this is all jam to me. But it’s really interesting to see how this is approached, for example, how very early it is in your training when you first fly by yourself. And how once that milestone is reached, I haven’t actually flown by myself that many times since. But, you know, I’ve done basic nav trips where I take off and I fly to a couple of waypoints, towns near the airstrip, maybe ten, 15 miles away and come back again. And I’ve done land aways where I’ve gone with my instructor and landed at different airports. But really I’m looking for insights from pilot training into how we can teach swordsmanship better, because really an actual sword fight, if you get it wrong, you’re going to die. And with planes, if you get it wrong, you’re going to die. And there aren’t that many mortal scenarios for which publicly available training can be had. So, you know, flying training is just one really good example of this where they are training you how to not fuck up, right? When the pressure is on. And so much of it is about where your attention goes. For example, a really common way for an inexperienced pilot to kill themselves is coming in to land. Maybe somebody walking a dog goes across your landing strip. And so you have to abort the landing. You do what’s called a go around, which means you put your full power on and adjust your flaps as necessary. And you go off and you do another circuit and you land again. No problem. I’ve done loads of them. But when you put the full power on the nose of the aircraft will tend to pull up and you need to control it and keep the nose down to maintain your flying speed. Otherwise the aircraft will stall. And when you are that close to the ground, 200 feet, perhaps, if you stall, there is no time to recover and the plane will just drop its nose and smash into the ground. And that’s that. So if you are distracted when you’re putting the power on, maybe you’re thinking about bringing your flaps up and so you’re leaning over and you’re looking at the flap handle, the handle that moves the flaps up and down and you might not notice the nose picking up. And once the nose is up, if it goes up too high and you stall, that’s it. Toast. So keeping your attention on the necessary things, despite the distractions, is super hard. Because there are so many distractions. You probably have an idea in your head of what the inside of the cockpit looks like. There are a bajillion switches and lights and dials and things and the problem is every single bloody one of them is necessary. And so I’m not a good multitasker. And so I can see how it would be quite easy for me to fixate on the flaps and not notice what my nose is doing. So, yes, this is what the training is for. And there are all sorts of parallels with swordsmanship, right? Because when you are fencing somebody, you should be paying attention to what your opponent’s weapon is doing. And that’s it. It doesn’t matter what they say. It doesn’t matter what shoes they’re wearing. It doesn’t matter what people around you are saying. It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters except the threats in your environment, the primary one of which is your opponent’s sword. And of course, if you’re fighting multiple opponents, it gets even more interesting. You have to kind of take the entire tactical situation into account. And that’s probably closer to the flying situation because there’s lots of things going on. But prioritising the sword that is coming towards you over all other things is the key. And with flying a plane, prioritising flying the plane. So like aviation skills comes ahead of all other factors because if your aviation skills, you know, or what we call airmanship is lacking, it doesn’t matter if you can’t navigate and can’t communicate because the plane is going to fall out of the sky and you’re going to get squished. So I don’t know how close I am to finishing, which is Jason’s actual question, partly because I’m not really focussed on the exam. And also because while I am fairly far ahead in the airmanship and navigation and communication training, my ground school is severely lacking. I have not done a single one of my necessary exams yet and there are so many of them and I should have done one of them, the so-called air law exam. Technically, the advisory is you do it before you fly solo for the first time. But yeah, the ground school is just so full of irrelevant shite that you don’t need to know to fly an aeroplane. Like well, for example, all questions on the exam have the same number of points. So say you’re coming in to land somewhere. What sign will indicate that you must not land there because it is not safe to do so? You need to know that. And that’s one point. One point. Also, should the plate that says what kind of plane it is and when it was made and whatnot, is that made of frangible, breakable or burnable material, or is it made of more robust material isn’t going to burn up if you crash? That is the same number of points as this absolutely mission critical information. So I think the whole air law exam curriculum is appallingly badly organised and it’s very, very, very arbitrary. It is also absolutely, completely made up of acronyms and abbreviations of three or four letters. So do we have VMC for a VFR today? That’s a good question. Right. Do we have visual meteorological conditions for a visual flight rules flight? Ugh. So, yes, I need to get on and actually do some air law study and take my exam and then do the rest of the many, many exams, because it’d be kind of a shame to be ready to take my skills test but not have done any of my actual ground school yet.


So Jason also asks whether I have ordered my Lefty Todesca yet, so I’m going to give you some context. Okay. A while ago I ordered a longsword from Malleus Martialis. This, which is absolutely beautiful, is called it Todesca. It arrived in the summer. And I have an unboxing video and a handling video which I’ll put a link to in the show notes. And of course, the designer of the sword, Eleanora Rebecchi has been on the show in episode 126. And the thing about the sword is it’s absolutely beautiful. It handles most gloriously. But I ordered the S-shaped cross guard and I didn’t really think it through because it’s perfect for a right hander. When you bring the sword back, the curve of the cross guard takes the point of the cross guard outside your wrist, and it just makes handling it a dream. But when you put it in your left hand, that same curve makes sure the cross guard slams into your wrist every time you bring the sword back. Now, I routinely switch hands when teaching and I routinely switch hands when shooting videos. So I can demonstrate everything left handed for the left handers who may be watching, I’ve thought about getting a left handed version of the Todesca. But switching swords is a pain, right? Particularly you’re doing it several times in a few minutes. And I think the solution is to get a straight cross guard that fits my existing Todesca, or indeed just to buy a standard straight cross guard Todesca and probably keep my other one because it’s very beautiful and I love it. I mean, technically, perhaps I should, you know, pass it on to a student or sell it or something. But no, I’ll probably just keep it because well, I mean, I’m right handed, and it suits me perfectly when I’m right handed. It doesn’t suit me so well when I’m teaching. So I hadn’t ordered it yet because thanks to Brexit foolishness, it’s very expensive to get stuff sent over from Italy. So my plan is to have it sent to me when I’m travelling somewhere in Europe. Or indeed what I really ought to do is go to Florence and pick it up in person because any excuse to go to Florence is a good excuse. So I hope that answers your question, Jason.


Okay. Back to Giles from Singapore with his many, many questions. Of all the authors of historical martial art source material Fiore, Capoferro, Marozzo, Fairburn, Sykes, etc.. You have to choose one to sit next to at a dinner party. One to back you up in a medieval tavern brawl. One to co-author a book with you. Who do you choose? And it can be a different one for each scenario. Well, okay. I have a pretty strong suspicion that many of these people would not be terribly pleasant to have dinner with because they’re not famous for being good conversationalists or even pleasant people. They’re famous for having written books about how to murder people. So I would probably, now I’m misreading the question slightly, but that’s okay. It’s one of these questions that you are entitled to misread. I would probably choose Walpurgis from the 1.33 manuscript to have next to me at dinner, because I would like to ask her what she’s doing in that manuscript and how many women she knows of who train sword and buckler because this is early 14th century source. Generally speaking, most sources only have men in them. And here we have in our very earliest source, we have a woman doing sword and buckler. So I would want to ask her what’s up with that and how many of her female friends also do sword and buckler and perhaps shed some light on the whole women in martial arts in medieval times question. To back me up in a medieval tavern brawl, obviously Fiore. Because obviously. Though, maybe I mean, the question asks for an author but I might actually go for Galeazzo di Mantua because he was one tough son of a bitch and handily beat Marshall Boucicaut this super famous French knight dude, twice, in a duel. So I would take Galeazzo if I could have him, Fiore if I couldn’t. And to co-author a book with me. Oh, dear God, what a question. It would be absolutely fantastic to have the authors of the sources that I have written books on, have a look at my books and tell me what I got right and what I got wrong. I imagine the second column will be a lot longer than the first. To co-author a book that’s tricky because what is that book about? Is it about how to interpret historical martial arts? Well they don’t know how to do that? Because they didn’t. They just they were doing current martial arts and they weren’t interpreting stuff from books. If it is, shall we say, a gloss on a source like for example, my From Medieval Manuscript to Modern Practice is kind of a gloss on Il Fior di Battaglia, it would probably be helpful to have the author present. So at the risk of being repetitive and boring, I’d probably go with Fiore for that one too. Or I might go with Paulus Hector Mair because he compiled this fantastic compendium of effectively historical fencing techniques in his fantastic treatise that was so expensive to produce that he embezzled funds from his position as a civil servant and ended up getting hanged for it. So he’s the first martyr, shall we say, for historical martial arts. But I think he’d be a fascinating person to co-author a book with, because he is a producer of a book that is not a monograph. It’s not his opinion about this particular style of fencing. It is more like a survey of martial arts and martial arts techniques from mediaeval stuff to, shall we say, the middle of the 16th century, because he died in 1579, was hanged in 1579. So given my interests and given what he did with his life, however brutally cut short it was. He was only 52, I think, when he died, which is three years older than I am now. I think the Paulus Hector Mair to write a book with because he has broad and deep knowledge and he was absolutely like fanatical about historical martial arts. But he’s also coming at it from a 16th century perspective, not a modern one. And of course, there are lots and lots of contemporary historical martial arts authors who I would love to write a book with. And there are some indeed who I am planning to write a book with, but that is all still super top secret. And I’m not saying anymore on that. Sorry.


Okay. Last question. Who is your dream podcast guest That is a hard question, my dream podcast guest. Well, I’ve had several of them and basically my dream podcast guest firstly is a talker because it is so much easier to interview someone who is chatty. Because you ask them a question and they rabbit on for a bit and then you ask another question and they keep rabbiting on and it just makes the conversation much, much easier. That’s the first thing. Second thing, they need to have kind of like a deep specialised knowledge in some area or other. That’s ideal. It’s not necessary. But it is ideal. That area does not have to have anything to do with swords necessarily. I mean, one of the biggest takeaways from my interview with Ariel Anderssen was her insights on investing in property, for instance, and interviewing Leigh Shocki. She is a well, she works in the rocket business, the space business, and despite not being very good at maths, for another instance. And we also had Naziyah Mahmood who’s also an aerospace person and an engineer. Rockets are cool. What can I say? Aeroplanes are cool too, but rockets are very cool and we’ve had a lot of people with really interesting specialisations which we’ve ended up talking about. And so some kind of deep knowledge of a subject, very helpful. For the purposes of like growing the podcast listenership, it’s very helpful if the person has an enormous social media following and or something similar, some kind of enormous audience. I don’t know maybe, that actor chappy who played Aragorn, what’s his name? Viggo Mortensen. I mean, I think he’d be a great guest because he is mad about swords. I mean, really mad about swords and has played many sword wielding characters on the screen, such as well, Aragorn, obviously, but also Captain Alatriste and he’s also a poet. So, you know, there’s some breadth there. So maybe Viggo. Viggo, if you’re listening, happy to have you on. Honestly, sometimes my absolute favourite episodes are complete surprises. So somebody who you may have never heard of and who I just come across by some random happenstance on Twitter or whatever and approach them, get them on the show, and we end up having a lovely conversation and people write to me and say how much they enjoyed it. Because really, a good podcast guest is one who the audience likes, so it’s actually quite hard to predict. Some guests who I was sure would be a complete slam dunk for the audience didn’t get much of a reaction and others who I would have thought the audience, you know, I was maybe, maybe pushing things a bit to bring them on the show, you know, it’s not easy to see why they were invited have turned out to be brilliant. And I know why they’re invited, of course, I invited them. And I always invite them because I think they have something interesting to say. That’s the fundamental qualification. And of course, what they’re saying and who they are and where they’re coming from and whatnot is also supportive of the overall mission of the show. So yeah, that’s been the ramble. So my ideal, my dream podcast guest, there are so many. It might even be you. If you think it might be you by all means drop me a pitch. And so long as you’re not offended by the word no, do feel free to pitch. Not all pitches are successful, but many people who have pitch were surprised when I said yes. So that maybe you too.


Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed that ask me anything session. There were a few questions I didn’t quite have time to get round to, and I’ll probably do one of these again if you let me know you enjoyed it. So if you think the AMA is a good idea, just drop me an email to to let me know. If of course, you never want to hear such a thing again. You can tell me that as well. It’s okay. I can take it on the chin.