Sword Camp 2008: Graduation Day, Day Seven

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.

Afternoon was the Advanced Fighter’s Symposium, which is basically all the instructors and Intermediate or Advanced students doing a debriefing on how the various activities worked or didn’t, then brainstorming potential events for next year. I’m not going to write about this in more detail, as I think the former discussion would be of little interest to anyone outside the school and talking about the latter might raise expectations we don’t yet have the resources to fulfil.

Meanwhile, Rob Landley (our lone sword-camp Basic, not to be confused with Dan-the-Basic who is in the regular classes) was doing his first fights and his Hundred, the ordeal of demonstrating one hundred reps of all the techniques he has learned. This is a no-shit serious test of body and spirit. And if you don’t think a hundred reps is serious, you try it at the end of a week of physically and mentally exhausting training. It is hard, and you graduate because you’ve earned it.

Graduation was moving, as it usually is. Sal and the instructors wear modern formal clothing for this event, and steel swords that are both decorative and deadly personal weapons, and look like a romantic fusion of assassins and Old World noblemen. The language is formal and sonorous: “He may bear arms in our company without let or hindrance, and be known among us as a swordsman and practitioner of this ancient and honorable art”.

Then came the Honor Tourney, and Sal’s table of (often rather silly) honor prizes from the dollar store.

Lynda and Sean Lisse (a senior student who helped recruit me, four years ago, and according to Sal one of the school’s best hand-to-hand fighters) opened the Honor Tourney by fighting a 3/4ths speed demonstration bout with live steel. When Sal directed then to the prize table, they claimed the right to kill the inflatable sheep that had graced the dragon-fighters’ standard a few days previously. Matt and Doug The Death Turtle protested. After some confusion, it was determined that Doug should take up the challenge.

And so it came to pass that Doug the Death Turtle defended the life of Molly the Inflatable Fuck Sheep. Full valiantly did he strive, and he did defeat them, and the pneumatic integrity of Molly was thus preserved.

Later, I challenged all comers to fight with daggers, wounds retained, until I was defeated. I defeated Marcus (taking a wound to the chest muscles), then Lynda, then Matt-the-instructor entered the ring. He wounded me in one leg (cutting my mobility), then executed a neat slash to my forehead. When that happens we’re expected to simulate partial blindness due to blood flowing into the eyes, and I did. Matt pinked my forehead again, which would have completely blinded me, so I called myself dead.

This wasn’t a bad way for it to end. I’m undoubtedly one of the school’s better knife fighters, but Matt is generally acknowledged.to be the best. Sal said “Well challenged” and told me to take a trip to the prize table.

Other notable challenges included a blindfolded knife fight, two glaive players taking on all of the Basics and Intermediates, and a “Who’s Your Daddy?” gals-vs.-guys challenge (guys won, narrowly). Doug the Death Turtle challenged Matt for possession of Dolly the Inflatable Fuck Sheep, but lost.

The most fun I had at the Honor Tourney, though, was when Scott Kennedy and Sean Lisse challenged me to empty-hand combat. Despite being officially permitted to do it, I had previously been reluctant to go anywhere near full speed with people at this school; I had feared that it might be too dangerous — not for me, but for them.

But I’d been challenged, and it seemed like it was time. Those were good fights. I felt like a tiger. I pretty much dominated the encounter with Scott, who is a deadly glaivesman and single-sword fighter but (like many people at this school) loses a lot of his aggression and confidence at hand-to-hand range. Eventually I managed to close to grappling range, took him down, and dispatched him with a neck strike.

The really key point was that I was at high adrenaline activation in the middle of full-on hand to hand and still maintained an ideal level of strike control, stopping the power right at Scott’s skin. I had not been entirely certain this would work and could be done safely.

Sean was a different proposition — more skilled, more successfully defensive, and in particular better at range control. Wisely, he used his agility to keep me from closing and kicked at me. from longer range. After he landed the first one I paused and told him I’d call the fight his if he could land another one like that. A few seconds later, he did.

I’ll feel a lot less inhibited about accepting, and issuing, empty-hand challenges in the future. This is a good thing; it’s a barrier I’ve been trying to cross for two years.

The Honor Tourney eventually disolved into happy foolery (swing dancing was involved at one point). And so ended Sword Camp, the best vacation a geek could ask for.

To find out more, visit the Aegis Consulting website.


  1. i just had a look at their website, then found their campsite on googlemaps, and noticed a place about a mile WSW of the camp that raised a smile.

    i reckon they should change their Getting Here directions to:

    “Go to Hell.
    We’re quite near.”

  2. PS – I’m glad I could make it out to fight w/ you all on the last day. It was great fun.

  3. Take Darwin. Because Darwin is the road to Hell. If you get to the Purgatory Bar & Grill (no, not the actual name, but it sure ought to be) you’ve gone too far. :)

    (Those thinking I’m talking about religion should check the maps.)

  4. >PS – I’m glad I could make it out to fight w/ you all on the last day. It was great fun.

    Yeah. BTW, your previous comment made it into my queue but then vanished for no reason I can discern. I had already corrected your last name.

  5. >I hope there are pictures or video of you guys attacking the couch you mentioned in your last post.

    There is video, I have seen the raw footage. There are plans to take it digital and post it on the website, but I don’t know when that will happen.

  6. >There is video, I have seen the raw footage. There are plans to take it digital and post it on the website, but I don’t know when that will happen.

    I’m predicting another huge viral video. The idea of attacking a couch seems so Monty Python.

  7. > I’m predicting another huge viral video. The idea of attacking a couch seems so Monty Python.

    Does Aegis teach self-defense against fresh fruit?

  8. The thing I find the most fascinating about these series of posts is that here are described a group of people who are quite different from most I’ve seen or met or heard about: they seem to be very dedicated in pursuing FUN in life, with a lot of energy and zero shame or second thoughts. It’s quite impressive. Most of us can only put energy into something if we turn it into a duty: (“I MUST do some sports because people are laughing on my big belly!” “I MUST learn economics to not be seen a dumbass in online debates!” “I MUST make a career good salary or be left behind and looked down upon!” ). For most of us, putting a lot of energy into something just because it’s fun sounds unusual – it just doesn’t seem to worth it. Very impressive. Actually, according to Buddhist theory, this fun-loving approach is the most natural one for human beings because it was desire, and not pride or anger or jealousy that made us to be born into a human form, so every non-fun-loving, “must do”-oriented lifestyle is somewhat unnatural: but still it seems to be the norm for the most of us.

    The most amazing example of this kind is Heinlein, whom I started to read because ESR recommeded him. Unlike most writers, he didn’t write becase he felt a need, a must, to express something that’s inside him and makes him uncomfortable. He wrote because he loved it, had a lot of fun during writing, it’s quite clear from his books. And he didn’t feel one ounce of shame because of it. Really impressive. I figure ESR and the others might have learned this fun-loving approach from Heinlein?

  9. >I figure ESR and the others might have learned this fun-loving approach from Heinlein?

    I learned a lot from Heinlein, and I suppose what you describe might be part of it — though I had not thought of it in those terms.

  10. Shenpen,

    Never underestimate the value of what Gurdjieff expressed as “doing what it does not want to do”.

  11. Jeff,

    I didn’t really understand that – heard about Gurdjieff, placed him roughly in the same category as Osho and Krishnamurti (good in describing the absolute states of mind, very bad in providing reliable methods for experiencing it), but I don’t get what you mean here. Would you like to elaborate?

  12. Shenpen, as I understand it it is a lifetime’s worth of accumulated and enculturated automatisms which induce sleep as the normal state of man. Gurdjieff seemed to believe that the only route to self-development was not doing what you enjoy, but doing precisely that which you do not enjoy. Only then can you know your true capabilities and limitations. He called this “intentional suffering”. “How much do you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?”

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