Episode 6

Running a club in New York City, with Tan Smith

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Show Notes:

One of the great advantages of starting a podcast has been getting to talk to people I’ve not yet met, but whom my friends speak highly of. I think you’ll see why several other guests suggested I talk to Tan when you listen to what she has to say!

Tan runs Rogue Fencing, a historical martial arts school in New York, and is also a successful tournament fencer. You can find her online at Rogue fencing, and on Patreon.

GW: Hello, everyone. This is Guy Windsor, also known as The Sword Guy, and I’m here today with Tan Smith, who runs Rogue Fencing, a fencing club in New York City. And she also runs Fecht Yeah, a women-focussed swordsmanship event that should be happening in two weeks’ time, but sadly, isn’t. It’ll be postponed. It’ll be rescheduled for sometime hopefully later in the year. Now, I could blabber on for ages, but let’s go to Tan and so Tan, whereabouts are you?

TS: I’m in New York. I did live in New York City for a while. Now I’m outside the city, so I am what they call a bridge and tunnel commuter. My heart will always be in Queens, which is where my club is.

GW: What made you want to start historical martial arts? How did you get into this?

TS: I actually have an interesting story for that one. I was referred to this. I used to do parkour in college because that was the trendy thing when I was in school, but Dakao from Sword to Sword in Houston and I were friends from one of the parkour forums and he referred me when he heard I was moving to New York to take up swords. I’m like, “Sure, swords are great, swords are cool.” So the club he referred me to was actually Sword Class NYC and those first classes were with Tristan Zukowski.

GW: What were you studying? What was it like?

TS:  I got my start in longsword, particularly German longsword with a Kunst des Fechtens focus. I’ve moved on a little bit from that, but that is my foundation. With all the interesting wild theories and all of that, I have chosen a more straightforward path I think these days, with more Renaissance sources.

GW: OK, so what are your interests now? What are you researching at the moment?

TS:  Our school is a Meyer school, so German longsword. But what we really like is that we have some more options. So everyone gets excited about polearms. We have a great park close by our school where we could go outside. This year, our hopes, which is very social distancing appropriate, are to get a bunch of polearms for the club so we can start doing that.

GW: Yeah, that’s it. Nothing more socially distanced than the polearm. It says get the hell away quickly.

TS: Exactly. Kind of spin it as a positive, something we’ve been wanting to do and kind of saving up club funds for. Hopefully in a few weeks or a few months when we feel safe and comfortable enough to assemble, we can do it in a safe-ish way. A martially sound, safe way. But that also allows us to do things like dagger, Meyer’s rapier and the like. I also have some familiarity with Capo Ferro doing some rapier.

GW: I do love my Capo Ferro.

TS: I know and everyone is a Fabris fan. And I feel kind of funny because I didn’t go into that. But I’ll be over in the Capo Ferro camp. I think part of that is really just having great people who study and teach it. And then this might jump for it a little bit. But Dori and David Copeland are really wonderful, positive people. And some of their work with that is one of the reasons why I continued on and found something really interesting to me and something I can be open and learn about. So I don’t get too stodgy when I’m teaching longsword, it keeps it fresh.

GW: OK, so you find your rapier studies sort of freshen up your longsword material?

TS: Yeah, I think I like rapier better. I like sidesword probably the best of all. I like longsword and it’s fun. And, you know, I guess to put it this way, for people coming in to Historical European Martial Arts, it’s kind of the sexy weapon because people see it and it feels very strong and empowering, which is cool.

GW: Also it’s like a lightsaber.

TS: There’s kind of this image of it that’s very catchy. But I think the way I am and the way I like to think about things fits a little bit better with some of the rapier texts. I can be very analytical, which is funny, I guess, flipping back to research. I’m pretty straightforward, which is ironic because I was a poetry major in undergrad. I studied writing specifically poetry. But the very poetic works in Kunst des Fechten, I think I kind of just grew out them a little bit and wanted something more straightforward. I don’t want to have to do literary analysis for the rest of my life forever. That’s just giving me homework flashbacks.

GW: You could have gone with Fiore, I mean, Fiore, writes very straightforwardly. Technically some of it’s inverse, but it’s not poetic in the sense like the Zettel are poetic. “Stand with the left foot like this and your right foot like that”. It’s really pretty straightforward.

TS: That’s why I am glad I ended up with a friend’s school, a Fiore school in York City, so if I wanted to take a break, we could go visit the people at L’Arte, which is where Patrick McCaffery, who has his HEMA podcast, and Rebecca Glass are. They’re the ones running that school and it’s good. And I think one of the great things about being in the New York area is that you have access to many options. So you don’t really have to feel obliged to be “I can only do KDF and people who don’t do KDF don’t get it.” It doesn’t become as much of a weird exclusive club, even though in a way it is a weird exclusive club historically.

GW: Yes, good point. So we all have things that we know we ought to be doing more of. So what do you think you should be adding to your own training, your own practise, maybe Fiore?

TS: Yeah, maybe Fiore. Oh, gosh. I know some people who would say grappling, but right now we can’t do that as much as I’d love to. My heart is in grappling and I wish I was better. Along with that is higher intensity sparring and high intensity sparring games. I think really more of the key reactions and the sparring games in particular. Teaching makes that difficult. But now the great thing about having students that get better and, you want to have students that get better, is they eventually can make you work harder. So it’s something to look forward to. And, you know, I have a training partner who I can push with a little bit, which is good. But yeah, I think it’s kind of that whole, “What happens when we come out of quarantine and we spar again” situation is on my mind. Yeah, I could say everything. I’d love to work on everything a little bit more. I have lots of books that I should be reading. But the list is always so long. I’m a very active action-oriented person, so I get twitchy sitting around too long, which is why I’m glad I moved out of the city a little bit. I have a yard now so I could go outside. Yeah, I can run around by the trees. No one sees what I’m doing or if they do, they just don’t worry about it.

GW: When we moved to our house here, I warned our neighbours that this is what I do for a living. And, you know, if you see me swinging a pollaxe in the garden, don’t worry. It’s all perfectly safe and straightforward and actually historical. And for some reason, people think if it is historical, then it must be safe, which is just doesn’t make any sense at all. Think about it, because historically they were killing people with these things.

TS: It’s just a fun hobby. What’s your fun, quirky hobby? Barbecue? That’s fire!

GW: So we were talking about sort of the higher intensity training and that sort of brings up the subject of protective equipment. Everyone I’ve interviewed so far for this podcast has had pretty strong views on protective equipment. What do you think could be done better? What do you think is good? What’s missing? What are the risks? Just feel free to rant on a little bit about protective equipment.

TS: So when seeing this, and I’m glad you gave me questions beforehand, there is a point that I think really made the whole thing kind of coalesce in my mind. My number one priority is puncture protection. And my second priority is impact protection and part of it is because puncture tends to – because I have sport fencing background as well – part of it is that puncture comes a lot from accidents. So if we could mitigate the accidental stuff as much as possible, then for impact protection then we start looking at behavioural changes.

GW: It’s a very interesting approach.

TS: And really asking that question and looking at that question again after some time away from it made me think about it that way, because thinking about harm reduction in general, sometimes people accidentally hit too hard. But most of the time there’s either a skill gap or cognition gap between like, what are they doing to hit that hard? And that’s something you can drive and kind of push the brake on or add some gas on to get it in the right thing, where that connection is. With puncture, I feel like that one’s harder to account for because if something breaks, if something goes wrong…

GW: If you are using a rubber point on your weapon, the only puncture you’re going to get is if the blade breaks. You can get a rib broken from the impact, but the sword is only going to go through you if it breaks. So what are you using, to mitigate these risks?

TS: I do have a JF jacket and I have my old women’s jacket I’ve had for years and years and years. I have not upgraded my gear in a long time. I was making a joke when typing these out with like high speed, low drag. What I like about the JF jackets is that they’re roomy enough and light enough that I can move around in. But then I could add stuff to it. So I always wear a chest protector. I use the flat ones, the men’s chest protectors. I’ve had it for a while so it’s basically formed to my body like even around the ribs to a degree because I’ve got a small frame.  So between that and the jacket it is pretty good. I have pretty solid neck protection. I think I have three or four different forms of neck protection that I rotate out depending on how I feel and what feels best with the jacket, always with rigid there. But I want to be light enough that I can move, but also have the hard protection as needed to protect there. So I think that’s where the roominess comes in. For armoured stuff, because I’ve been experimenting with armour a little bit, which I’ll probably read more Fiore for her. So it’ll happen. I just got a new gambeson which is actually really wonderful. I bought it used, but it’s a pretty good fit. The arm and sleeve fit is wonderful and that’s my main priority to make sure I can have that. And then I build up head and neck to make sure those sensitive parts are solid. And then I wear poofy pants because they’re cool. But I have the High Hill pants, which the good thing about them is that they do have rated options and they’re very knowledgeable.

GW: Rated for puncture resistance?

TS: Yes. So you can be stylish and safe at the same time. I’m very for that. For me, more is like what’s going to allow me to wear crazy colours. I have a bright red jacket and like purple poofy pants, black and purple, but still.

GW:  What are you using on your hands?

TS:  I have been using the same pair of sparring gloves for six years now. I don’t mind them at all. I’m at once really easy going about gear, but also I’ve seen punctures, so that’s where my paranoia comes in. And also seen head injuries. I have broken my hand back in the lacrosse club days, but once I got into Sparring Gloves, it’s been six years and I haven’t had any serious problems with those guys. And I also I feel like I got like a magically good fit before they changed the design a little bit. They’re the Uni Hoof model, I forget which one’s which. The clamshell ones. And it hasn’t really caused me too many issues. I think part of it was because I broke my hand during the lacrosse club days. It was right after I got my cast off. So my hand was even smaller because of the atrophy which made the glove fit even tighter, which made it less clunky on the handle. So I actually have a fair amount of mobility, just having small hands in general and having a very snug fit glove. I think one of the things that I would push for / stand for it with gear is getting used to snugger things. I think when you take that measurement snug a little bit, you end up with a better fit. The one thing I harp on about are giant masks because people have these things and they’ll rattle around and go, oh, they’re like, well, it’s tight here and here’s how to readjust masks. And those are those are things I think people don’t get the education about because they went to an Olympic fencing school for a while, where you’re like, oh, yeah, you just slightly do this and very gently, like, shape it a little bit. You don’t need to go up a whole other size for very delicate shaping. So I think that’s a little bit about my gear. It’s very colourful and cobbled together, but I feel like that’s also historical.

GW: Totally. And actually, one of the things that’s been one of the complaints when I’ve been doing these interviews that has come up more than once is all the black. Where are the colours? I couldn’t agree more. This whole Darth Vader look doesn’t it doesn’t do it for me either.

What has been your proudest moment in historical martial arts so far?

TS: It’s almost it’s definitely my club, as trite as that can be, like you’re always most proud of your children. But, my club has been doing pretty well, even in a challenging time for people. We have been able to do online classes. We still have people involved. We have people who come away feeling good about what they’ve done, even if they can’t come back to it for the reasons we face these days. And when I bring them to events, they’re helpful or respectful. They fight well, you know, people compliment me on how well my students fight. And I’m like, “Awesome, that’s great”. It’s fantastic when people are like, wow, she’s really good. And we put effort into it and practice, I guess.

GW: Is Rogue Fencing your own club or do you have it with other people, other instructors. How does that work?

TS: Rogue has been my passion project for the last five years now. I think either 2015 or 2016 – I should have that exact day off the top of my head. It reminds me that I’m ageing, so I’m not going to look! I have been the main instructor and basically only instructor for most of that time. I am working on training up assistant instructors and with my move it was going to be the natural, “How about you teach now?” and then have Lauren, who has been the most senior student and most interested in teaching, step up and do say the beginner / introductory classes while I keep working with intermediates and, you know, growing the club that way. So that was supposed to take place in March. We kind of ran into a hiccup, but we definitely have plans to expand our teaching staff, so it’s not just me. I am glad for the help and grateful that people are willing to step up for it.

GW: You don’t have your own permanent space, do you?

TS: We do have a space in a studio. It’s not just us, but we have regular classes in a brick and mortar studio.

GW: Cool. It must be extremely expensive in New York.

TS: We were very, very lucky to have, again, students are wonderful, people coming to class are wonderful. Through word of mouth they told me about this space that, you know, just like a small studio. And the great thing about New York is that there are lots of little studios. I met with the owner, great person. And basically, he has us on kind of like you would have a Zumba class, so we don’t really have to worry about rent. We have basically a very good financial arrangement that allows us to continue to have a space in a way that doesn’t essentially bankrupt the club. It’s still hard. We still have to get people in to try the class, see how it is. That’s kind of how a lot of New York classes have to be. But in a way, we kind of end up working almost like a fitness class does and within that scheme, we’re almost like fitness instructors. But it’s been a way we can work and we’ve been in that space probably two or three years now.

GW: So you’ve been in the same space two or three years and you have it several times a week for a few hours?

TS: Well, we also wanted to add our Friday night classes again so that we could break it up into multiple classes. When it’s just me, I have also have a nine to five. I have a day job. So my bandwidth let me do it about once a week. But with having another instructor again, because I’ve tried for multiple days a week and it’s just too close to burn out. But with having another instructor then we can give multiple days a week.

GW:  Yeah. I had no trouble teaching four nights a week and most weekends because I didn’t have a day job. That’s my only job. But with a day job, I yeah. I couldn’t possibly have done it. I’d have just died.

TS: It’s interesting. And then you also have to look at teaching teaching. When are you going to practise for yourself?

GW: How do you squeeze that in? How do you get your own training in?

TS: Very carefully. One of the things I’ve always tried to do is get there early and stay late. It’s kind of like first one in, last one out. But also I’m really the one opening and closing up so why not come in 15 minutes early? So I would just come in for a little bit. I do a lot of solo training. I do a lot of shadow fighting. That’s really been the way for me to go through. It gives me time to work on stuff for the next class. If I do fifteen minutes before and fifteen minutes after, I’m working on hey, these are things maybe I pulled out from this class. Let me look at the curriculum and see what I need to highlight for next class and start building something that’s also very responsive to my regular students, that works within our curriculum, that is open to anyone.

GW: You developed your own curriculum?

TS: Yes, I wrote my own curriculum and I based it on kind of a general understanding of looking into how people will learn something and what will keep them interested. So every class in a way can be self-contained and every class has like this general to specific structure. And then the curriculum overall has a general to specific structure.

GW: Do you have a pedagogical background, by any chance?

TS: Yeah, I have a Master’s in Education.

GW: Yeah, this is coming through in how you’re describing your curriculum.

TS: I try to think about that a lot. And seeing more people more interested in pedagogy is really important to me as well. But yeah, when I was building this, I think about takeaways a lot. What’s someone going to take away, especially how we’re viewing things now, as a club, we have to be realistic. Some people aren’t going to come back. A lot of people’s lives have changed in really profound ways. And that’s not saying anything against us as a club or us as a community. It’s just how things are for people. It’s been a very trying time for many people. So when we’re looking at goals – and this has been something I’ve thought all along – just have people with a takeaway from every class so that they could go away, especially in how the New York City environment is for classes. I want people to go away and say, “Oh, I learnt how to do a couple of cuts on longsword and I know the right term for it. I’m not calling it a broadsword because that’s something else”. Or “We learned how to do footwork and now I can do a lunge”. And, you know, they could say they have something specific. The other side of it is that it’s very competitive, you’re looking at reviews…

GW: Do people review your clubs on internet sites?

TS: Yeah. The studio that houses us is part of something called Class Pass. You basically buy a bundle of class credits and can use them here and there. So user reviews tell people what to expect when they go into classes. With that in our minds, as part of a studio, the studio that houses us needs to make money so it survives in a competitive economy. As a class, we should be able to be like, OK, so you’re going to learn this. But the challenge for me as a teacher and also me as a martial artist is how to make that relevant to what we do as a whole. So it’s not just, you know, “Ta-dah you could do a lunge”. Anyone can do a lunge.

GW: So it’s strategic rather than tactical.

TS:  Yeah. Yeah. So that’s always a challenge. But I try to make sure people have something they can take away, even if it’s like, oh, I met with some really cool people and, you know, this nice person who’s been coming for three or four weeks was really patient with me and really nice to me. That’s also a really good takeaway for it.

GW: Yeah, that’s a very good takeaway. So you’re not running then beginners’ courses and sort of staging people’s entry into the classes through a beginners’ course that they have to attend first?

TS: So I’ll tell you a little bit more about our curriculum. We do have it in strata a little bit. We have essentially a six to eight week cycle where we go through the curriculum. And then afterwards they could choose to test into our open level. I call them the Queen’s Guard because we’re in Queens, New York, right? So you get to come into the Queen’s Guard. You get the cool chat where you get to stay abreast of everything that’s going on. But we do have a test at the end of that. I want to see how people communicate and work with each other in that setting because of some of the challenges of being in a place where I only have the capacity to do once a week. If we’re lucky, I can do sparring nights a couple of times a month in addition, specifically for the people who’ve gone through – passed the test – essentially I know they’re safe enough and invested enough to come in with gear or something they want to work on. So it’s not even just a spar night. It’s, you know, hey, we did Zornhau for two weeks and then I was gone. How does that actually fit together? And we can, you know, spend time working on those needs. So we do have a little bit of stratification there. That’s also helped with identifying who might want to teach and help the club grow and expand. But, yeah, it’s an interesting challenge to face and also work with, like, our classes are generally open level. And then the other layer of that with the general to specific for the more experienced students, they get very specific. And in the questions there’s like, “What inspired you?” Like, “Who are some of the instructors that influenced you?”

GW: Let me let me just orient the listeners as to what’s going on, OK? When I invite somebody on the podcast, I send them a sample list of questions beforehand so that they have an idea of what we’re going to talk about. And they can prepare stuff if they want to. They can add to that list or suggest that maybe they don’t want to discuss that particular topic or whatever. So Tan’s referring to the list of questions that I sent to her last week so she could see what the deal was before she committed to coming on the podcast.

TS: I am a note taker. So I will take notes on everything. And like, wait, hold on, let me look at this thing. It helps me flow through things a little bit more. So I always will refer back to some. There are just notes everywhere. But one of the things that helped me with kind of getting that class structure to make more sense and to make it more useful for more experienced students are at the Batto instructors. Japanese sword arts. In Hema there are a lot of people these days talking about Sang Kim and he is one of the instructors who I would mention for that.

GW: My Japanese is failing me. Tell us more about Battodo.

TS: This martial art is very popular with the cutting focussed group in HEMA.

GW: In historical martial arts generally? I’m surprised I haven’t come across it, this is news to me. Please carry on.

TS: Tristan Zukowski’s instructor.

GW: Yeah I know Tristan and I know he does the cutting. So Battodo is cutting-focussed, right. Yes.

TS: It’s kind of like with what we do, there is kind of a holistic perspective from it. The component that is most developed that we can take from and share with what we do is the cutting. So they actually have it as like three components, three branches. It’s the cutting; it’s the kata; and then it is the gekiken.  gekiken is the padded sword fighting. So that’s how they spar with the padded swords. So it gives you the technical, it gives you the practical with sharps and it gives you the practical with combatives for sparring. So they kind of break it into those three and because American HEMA likes to cut a lot, it influences a lot of American HEMA through that and the instructors they’ve come in contact with.

GW: This has been going on a long time. I remember in 2003, at an event in Benicia in California, a chap called Jim Alvarez, he is an Aikido instructor and he brought a whole bunch of tatami and we all had a go cutting tatami. If I remember rightly, I think that was my first time actually cutting tatami. I mean I was cutting ropes and stuff before that. Tatami is so much better. So I’ve been into the cutting side of things for a long time. It’s nice to see that it’s getting more of a broader currency.

TS:  It’s great. And you know, if we have this thing we view as a weapon, we should know how to use it in that way as well. And I think if we want to look back to safety, you learn how to respect it that way, so you’re not just flinging it behind you and even stuff like that where you’re like, where’s the tip going? You want to be aware of that anyway because you could be standing next to someone. And if you’re just gesturing wildly with your blade, even if it’s synthetic, that’s still problematic. It reminds us that we should be aware and focussed on this because it is simulated but you have to you have to respect it and what the potential is with this as a training focus. Again, New York City gives us access to many things and many opportunities so I’ve been able to train with Sang Sensei quite a bit. I go to a few of his classes. I’ve trained with his one of his students who started his own school, Zac Sensei. I’ve been trying to loop back and see the honorifics of Japanese sword arts here. So as I blunder through it I’ve been lucky enough to train with those people. It’s interesting as a beginner to see how they structure things, but also somebody who is a teacher who has done instruction to see how they focus and how they can have an open level class, but also have something for a beginner and what the beginner can be learning and somebody more experienced and what that person can be learning and how they kind of scaffold or differentiate within that class. Yeah, it does develop a lot with education and pedagogy.

GW: There’s an art to teaching, particularly a mixed level class where you have got beginners and you’ve got more experienced people. And you got to make sure that the more experienced don’t get frustrated from boredom or the beginners get frustrated from just being overwhelmed. Keeping them all operating at the right level so that they’re challenged enough to be engaged, but not so challenged they get frustrated. That’s probably the most sophisticated art of teaching of them all.

TS: I think that’s a mountain for me to continue climbing. And I like to think that we have good classes and fun classes. But I just want to make sure that, like, as my students grow, I can keep responding to their needs, too.

GW: As all students get better, it’s like a rising tide lifts all boats as the students push the instructor up because, you know, you have to scurry like hell to stay ahead of it.

So I have a couple of standard questions that I tend to ask people. And one of them is, what is the best idea you’ve never acted on?

TS: Best idea I’ve never acted on. I would have to say this is me giving away something I want to do and wanted to do this summer, but because of how things are, I haven’t been able to. People have been talking about first seeing a HEMA sword skills course with the Denver school. Jason Barron’s school, building on something almost like 3-gun. So it is more of cutting and cutting tournaments, but kind of turned up to 10 and pushed to a higher level, mostly because it’s cool. And we’ve seen a lot of people seen the videos of Keanu Reeves doing his 3-gun runs for training for John Wick. So I feel like that might be a good touchstone for people.

GW: Can you just make sure I got it right? The 3-gun run?

TS: This is a really interesting point of pedagogical divergence to go into. Okay. So what if we make it practical training but also a little bit crazy. So 3-gun is a competitive shooting sport. I guess it’s a way of doing competitive shooting sports. There are three guns: there’s handgun / pistol, rifle and shotgun. You have different targets and different goals at different stages. So being able to use all three weapons competently, also safety and accuracy are important components.

GW: OK, so that sounds like a lot of fun. In Finland I would shoot and I owned guns then. It sounds fantastic. Now I have to look it up and spend like 10 hours on YouTube looking at clips of 3-gun runs.

TS: So what if we did that with swords? So, we have dagger for shorter range. Longsword, maybe rapier, and then we have polearms.

GW: That sounds fantastic. Count me in. Why wouldn’t you?

TS: The pandemic! I haven’t been able to act on that but it’s something I think would be really fun. Even just like, be with the friends where we get like six people together and go all right, let’s just, you know, afterwards we’re going to have a barbecue. But first, what we’re going to do is see who… again, thinking of Fiore stuff, you could get a lot of the baton work in there. Can you do this baton play when you get this stimulus at you. Who’s doing it fastest and most accurately?

GW: At each of those you could have destroying actual targets, cutting with the longsword, stabbing with the dagger, whatever. You can have sort of a pair-drill type of technical training and you could also have a competitive sparring type training. Harder with the polearm. You don’t want don’t take a pole onto the head when you’re wearing a fencing mask or even when you’re wearing full plate armour.

TS: But you could see who is going to cut that pumpkin over there.

GW: Well yeah, sure. So you can get the destruction of targets. Actually, fencing with the polearm is super fun, but it is a little on the dangerous side. I had a lovely fight with the guy called Loïs Forster a few years ago in armour in my salle. Pollaxe is his thing and we were fully armoured up in plate armour and beating the crap out of each other with polearms. I mean, he’s a gentleman, so he wouldn’t say he hammered me, but… OK. So your best idea you’ve never acted on is a “3-gun run” inspired swordsmanship event for dagger, sword and polearm. I think you should I think you should act on that.

TS: I really want to. I’ll take video, it’ll be great.

GW: Get Keanu to come along and give it a go, I’m sure he’d be delighted. Why not? That would do historical martial arts a lot of good. OK, so my last question is somebody gives you a million pounds to spend improving historical martial arts worldwide so what would you do? You can have a million dollars if you prefer.

TS: Pounds still have a better exchange rate, right? I would probably put at least half of it into a scholarship fund. Specifically underrepresented groups, especially queer and black and indigenous people of colour. So one of the things that Fecht Yeah has done and this is also something we have been able to adopt from another event, the one run by Dori and David Copeland is scholarships. So every year, Fecht Yeah usually has around three scholarships for people to come to our event if they have barriers being involved with HEMA. I think having something particularly to help people get some more events is a very important component, especially the way we see it with Fecht Yeah is that we’re the ones creating instructors. This is how we keep people going and how we keep things sustainable by getting the people who want to go the extra mile, go to an event, take classes, learn from people, see how other people do things, and to continue encouraging that. And that’s how we get instructors and in the long run that’s how we get researchers. To keep the people who will go this extra mile and to, you know, push them to go the extra mile. I’d like to invest in pedagogical training in general. How I envision that is a little unclear. I don’t know if it’s coming up with an event or a series of workshop modules that can be, you know, nicely produced. But that might be a little too rigid for really what I’d envision. Things like that, I think, really fall in line with my bigger mission, which sounds a little cheesy to say out loud. And that’s what Fecht Yeah really does because the people who’ve received scholarships will come back and hopefully contribute to the community. We got a really cool application that would have been for this year but we extended the offer to the next the next event, that is like I do want to teach and I do want to, you know, really have an option to learn and see how other people teach. And I think when finding your teaching style and finding how you best communicate, it’s also good to see how other people do it too. Kind of like a magpie taking what works and what you like and being able to use it on your own. So, yeah, like a scholarship travel fund and then a general and nebulous cool teacher initiative.

GW: Okay, so some of the money would be for disadvantaged people to travel to events and some of the money you would use to establish a scholarship fund for or a system for training teachers. That’s a really good use of the money. Yeah. If I if I had a million dollars, I’d probably give it to you.

TS: And honestly, if I could like, take five to ten for myself and just like go and see different programmes, that would be good too. It’s a fact finding mission. I would take ten grand and just be like, listen, I’m going to take like six months to like see a couple different places and I’ll be back.

GW: And the funny thing is if your pedagogical training has been good so far, your students will be just fine without you. That’s the absolute measure of teachers – how well your students do when you’re not there.

TS: Might as well be upfront.

GW: Yeah, absolutely. And I get some sense of broader experience. Have you travelled much so far?

TS: A little bit. I’ve been to Europe a little bit. I went to Swordfish a few years back and did not perform well enough to really mention. But that’s fine. It’s more about learning and having fun. Same thing with Paris. I went to Paris.  I definitely am more teacher focused. I do pretty well at fighting, but I’m not going to be too shiny with winning all the medals. I have a handful and I’m very proud of them, but I’ll leave it for the next gen. But I have travelled a little bit. I actually do want to see some of the groups in Asia. I’m half Filipino and I hear there are Filipino groups. So that would be cool to see. And I was just talking with a friend of mine about the Indonesian group. And I’m like, oh yeah, I think I’ve been talking to one of their people on Instagram or something like. I’ve been hearing they have a cool, vibrant scene there.

GW: A student from Indonesia came to a seminar in Singapore that I did a while ago. She flew over from Jakarta for it, and it’s like, wow, there’s stuff going on in Indonesia. I had no idea.

TS: Right. OK. Yeah. Let’s go see Indonesia. See the people there and how they’re doing it. And clearly going to another country for a seminar is showing a lot of dedication. It’s really cool to see and to see that kind of exchange of information. Someday I’ll get out to the Pacific. We’ll see.

GW: Good luck. Well, Tan, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me today. It’s been an absolute pleasure. And I hope to see you at somewhere on the globe in the near future, when the coronavirus madness has passed. Thanks for coming along.

TS: Thank you for inviting me.

GW: I hope you enjoyed my conversation today with Tan Smith. Remember to go to www.guywindsor.net/podcast-2 for the episode show notes and download your free copy of Sword Fighting for Writers, Game Designers and Martial Artists. And tune in next week when I’ll be talking to Jennifer Landels about mounted combat, writing and other things. To make sure you don’t miss that episode subscribe to this podcast wherever you get your podcasts from. See you next week.