This year I will once again be going to Michigan for summer sword training. I wrote about this back in 2008 in a series of posts beginning with “And So, It Begins…”. Should you make the opportunity for it, this is an amazing summer adventure vacation that will teach you much and probably leave you with lifelong friendships. I’m posting a heads-up because I think many of my regulars would find it interesting.
There’s a classic Warner Brothers cartoon from
1951 1948 in which Bugs Bunny takes on a huge, evil bruiser of a fighter called the Crusher. One of the funniest bits is a scene where Bugs is grunting and straining in an attempt to shift one of the Crusher’s legs. The viewpoint pans back and we se the Crusher completely ignoring this feeble effort, playing solitaire on the wrestling mat.
The final day of Sword Camp. We spent our morning learning advanced field medical techniques, up to and including learning how to suture a wound by stitching together a slash through the skin of a banana with actual surgical sutures. We also learned how to use a trach tube for clearing an airway in cases of anaphylactic shock or gasoline inhalation or whatever.
Live Steel Day arrived, and we spent the first half of the morning attacking a couch.
This is a much less trivial exercise than it sounds. Couches are tough, full of padding and wood and springs and more difficult to cut than flesh. We had a tablefull of weapons — machetes, a parang, a couple of swords, a tire iron, a crowbar, miscellaneous stabbing and slicing knives, and a couple of axes. The objective: destroy. It was hard work, even for eight sword students who knew a lot about exerting force with a weapon.
The first word of the Zombie Apocalypse reached us at approximately 10:30 this morning. Sal calls those of us who had driven to the site that morning into his office and informs us that the radio news is carrying reports of heavy rioting in Flint, spreading to northern Detroit. US123 and I75 are closed, I69 has been designated as an evacuation route. A news crew has been attacked and taken down by the mob; last footage to go out shows a boot coming at the camera. In the background: The Foo Fighters’ “No One Here Gets Out Alive” and White Zombie’s “Dracula”
Tuesday was Tactics Day. It opened with a class on ground analysis; how to match your tactics to the ground you have to fight on. We analyzed a particular area of the site for access and escape routes, cover, concealment, impediments to movement, and the way all these affect possibilities for attack and defense.
Monday was the day things went bang. Firearms, basic and advanced. We began with safety instruction and refresher by the lovely Lynda, emphasizing three basic rules: (1) Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, (2) Finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, and (3) keep ammunition separated from weapons until you are at the firing line with the range hot. We were instructed in how to check and clear weapons.
Tuesday was designated MacGyver Day — all about cleverness, improvisation, and thinking outside the box. This sounded like fun, right enough, but what I was really looking forward to was…holmgang.
Saturday was designated Skills Day. The plan had been for the Basics — the beginner-level class — to be taken in hand and run through a compressed version of the first six months of training while the rest of us — Intermediate and Advanced students — got to choose from a casual smorgasbord of specials skills topics offered by the instructors.
OK, so imagine you could go on vacation with a bunch of your best friends, all of whom are either (a) science fiction fans, (b) software geeks, (c) advanced martial artists, or (d) usually, some combination of the above. Now imagine that you get to spend a solid week with these people learning stuff like how to fight with a sword, military tactical hand signals, pistolcraft, stealthy movement in wooded country, emergency field medicine, and how to improvise an incendiary mortar with soda cans and gasoline-soaked tennis balls.