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Go Warrior Oddity

On the topic of shashkas, there was a TV series a few years ago called “Go Warrior”. The host, a young American martial artist called Roland Osborne went around the world investigating different martial arts: Korean Taekwondo, Brazilian Jiujitsu… and Russian Systema.

At some point, someone uploaded the systema programme to YouTube in three parts, which is where I first saw it. I had only recently heard about systema and was trying to find out more about it. I had read in William Gibson’s novel Pattern Recognition that systema had roots in Cossack dance, and these clips online showed me what that was all about. It was from the same segment that I learned that those cool Cossack swords were called shashkas.

There was a lot of really interesting material in those three clips; I would like to have embedded them here, but they appear to have vanished recently. They showed Roland training with Mikhail Ryabko and Vladimir Vasiliev in Moscow – a very interesting session because Tabby Cat is there in the background, and because I hear that Alexei Kadochnikov came to visit; a meeting that I see described on some sites as being the only time that Ryabko and Kadochnikov have met, though with all the factionalism that afflicts systema, I have no idea how true that is. It shows cossack dance-fights, a relaxation exercise with a dropped knife, a fight involving a knout… Lots of really good stuff.

It is in fact still available from someone else as one long clip:

Anyway, I do like to see people rewarded for their efforts so, having enjoyed what I saw on YouTube and learned a lot from it, I decided to buy the original DVD from (especially given that it was on sale!). It took three weeks to arrive, but when I eventually got time I put it into my Macbook, got ready to watch… and was very disappointed indeed. It’s almost entirely a different program – plainly from the same filming sessions, but incredibly lightweight, with almost none of the interesting material.

I simply don’t understand – how could the DVD be so different from what showed up on YouTube?

Think shashka


A couple of years ago, when I was first getting interested in shashkas, the Cossack sabres, I spent quite a bit of time searching YouTube for clips. I was using Google Chrome as my browser even then, and using its auto-translate feature to find Russian-language videos. I think I searched pretty comprehensively, and found most of what there was to see.

Anyway, that was a couple of years ago, and some good stuff has appeared since then. Here’s some of the clips that I’ve been watching recently:

Dance with a shashka:

Some work with a shashka from the ground:

Keeping the shashka close to the body:

Some basic sparring moves with a shashka:

As some readers will remember, I had some shashkas while I was in China: two stainless steel reproductions, and one ‘real’ shashka that could hold an edge, although I never did actually sharpen it. The first two were a make I’ve never seen anywhere else; very similar to the Denix model, but with big differences in the decoration of the hilt and scabbard. The other one was supposed to be an original Soviet sword, according to the seller, and came with a Moisin-Nagant bayonet attached to the scabbard, which was missing its leather cover. It turned out to be a fake, of a sort that was being sold in large numbers on eBay, but it handled very nicely all the same.

I used to take them to Zhongshan park – slung over by back in sword bags as I cycled through the Beijing traffic – and try out sword dancing of the kind shown in the videos above. I got reasonably proficient, although not to the standard of the women in the clips! Nobody ever gave me any problems, although I was a source of fascination to the Chinese squaddies marching out the barracks in the centre of the park, and on their way to train in the Forbidden City.

Anyway, when I came back to Wales, I decided I couldn’t bring my shashkas; it seemed that they would fall foul of very strict UK laws on the import or sale of curved swords (under the same laws, straight swords are fine, which makes no sense). So, with great regret, I left them with my friend S., along with my Chinese sabres.

Since I returned, I’ve discovered that I probably needn’t have worried; there are plenty of shops selling Chinese and other sabres. Nobody was selling shashkas, though. I found some sites overseas selling them, but they were either the Windlass version (which I wouldn’t buy, as the handle looks completely wrong to me), or Russian makers I knew nothing about. I also didn’t want to run the risk of buying one and then having it confiscated by customs.

However… last week, I found a UK-based retailer selling shashkas from WeaponEdge, an Indian-based manufacturer whose swords seem to get pretty decent reviews – and the shashka, in particular, got a very good write-up on the Sword Buyers’ Guide user forums.

I’m tempted. Very, very tempted…

Tending seeds


Well, my fingers are healing up, which is good; the dressing was getting a bit stinky, so I took it off and replaced it with normal sticking plasters, which seem to be just as effective. My Chinese students have been very concerned, and offering health advice, which I find very touching. Hurrah for Confucian values! I’m reminded again about the aspect of China that I’ve always loved – especially as none of my colleagues have felt the need to ask what happened… Meh. Frankly, I’m finding UK culture a major anticlimax. I keep telling myself that there must be more to it, but it’s well-hidden if that’s the case.

Still, don’t get me started on that, or I’ll never find time to talk about anything else!

S. is coming to the UK! That’s something to be excited about. She’ll be in London on business in a few weeks, so I’ve booked some leave to go up to the Smoke, and we’ll chill out and catch up. Got to get in shape before then to look my best 🙂 (I haven’t exercised for a couple of weeks and the weight has piled on again. I was about to work out tonight, before some crappy bad luck intervened. Carlos calls me lucky, but I say I’m as lucky as the average man or woman; it’s just that both my good and bad luck are more extreme that other people’s! Anyway, that’s a story that will wait for another time).

I’ll be in London across a weekend so, Jiang, this also might be my chance to pitch up at a systema class there. (I’ll let you know once the details are a bit firmer). Furthermore, I’ve discovered that there’s a woman in Westminster who runs Cossack dance classes; I’ll try to contact her to see if private classes are possible 🙂 Yay yay yay! Hahahahaha…

There was no taiji/bagua class this week as Eli is in Norway, so nothing to report there.

I made it down to Carmarthen last night for the systema class, which was excellent, as usual. I was so tired that I was yawning all the way through class, but there we are.

Key points… We worked on a lot of exercises that were new to me. One was pairing up; one partner lies flat on the floor, while the other does pressups, fists on the first guy’s body. The partner doing pressups gradually moves around the other’s body, fists on shin, thigh, abdomen, ribcage, shoulder, and so on… A very interesting exercise, especially as my partner weighed around 120kg. Not that it hurt; fair play, he did ‘knee’ pressups so that he didn’t put his full weight on me. Also, I couldn’t stop laughing, which kind of put him off! I can’t explain it; it was kind of a ‘ticklish’ response, ie an interrupted defence response, I suppose.

After a number of exercises, we finished up with punching drills. These were also in pairs, just trying to punch using only the weight of the arm. I thought I would be great at this, since I completely get the concept. Instead, I was pathetic. Basically, I find it really hard to hit someone who’s just standing there, so my punches were constantly going in at the wrong angle and just skimming the surface… No power at all! It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and I don’t think I would have the same problem if I really wanted to hurt someone, but still… It just goes to show that my conscious mind is not completely in control of my actions!

Which leads me to meditation; I’ve managed to sit a few times this week, and went again today to the lunchtime meditation session at work. The regular teacher can’t be there next week, so I’ll kind of be in charge (though not actually leading the meditation, only putting a CD on, but hey! Got to start somewhere!). Anyway, so, I’m out of practice, but having started again I feel once more the ‘thrill’ of good meditation, which encourages me to try harder. I was looking again at Plum Village’s website this week, and I noticed that the upper age limit for joining them is 50; I’m sure that’s changed, as I was certain they said 45 last time I looked. So, that’s still an option! I’ll be moving house again within the month; as I look around at all my things, that will have to be boxed up yet again, I feel like just throwing them in the street. Why do we collect so many objects, and invest so much emotional attachment to them? Better by far to do without!

I’ve also be working on my yiquan zhan zhuang, getting back deeper into it, and combining it with vipassana. Not finding it easy, but always reminded at just how great it is for building awareness of the body as a unit. I always feel better afterwards…

I’m making slow progress again with the Shanxi whipstaff form, after a long break. I’ve reviewed what I worked on before, and have learned a couple more moves. Slowly does it, though, and I’m still only getting towards the end of the first quarter of the sequence. It is a really nice form, though.

End-of-the-world stuff: the news today from Bahrain scares the hell out of me (read the whole article). Well, this week, I bought an ‘orchard’ – ie, five saplings of various fruit and nut varieties to plant in my parents’ garden… and I’m looking carefully through the seed catalogues for veg to plant now that spring is coming…

Why I changed direction


Some time ago, I linked to the trailer of Banlieu 13: Ultimatum, and asked is this our future?

You may have thought I was being dramatic, but the economic data keeps on suggesting that it may not be far off. The US is effectively bankrupt at every level; the Automatic Earth bloggers are pretty good at tracking the numbers, and yesterday’s entry is particularly sobering (skip past the first part about the Arizona shootings; the bulk of the post is about the financial state of US states, counties and cities).

There’s one report they reproduce that contains the following quote: “Clearly the markets don’t think we’re Argentina, but we should send them a signal that they are right, that we will address the issue.” That’s kind of on the money. I spent a week in Buenos Aires in the autumn of 2001. I loved it; it was a beautiful city, full of elegant people. Clearly, there was a fair bit of money around; the shops were packed, the tango was fantastic, and everyone was dressed to the nines. A month later, their economy collapsed. There’s an inhabitant of BA called Ferfal, who blogs about life following the crash, and a recent post of his is worth a read: Life in Argentina, 9 years after the 2001 Collapse. Remember, Buenos Aires was very definitely a first-world city.

Today’s headlines in the UK are all about the record, and unexpected rise in prices. They talk about ‘inflation’, which is a bit misleading, since inflation is caused by an increase in the money supply. Despite quantitative easing, that isn’t what’s happening here; these price increases are being caused by rising energy (read: oil) prices, plus expensive food due to climatic events. Unfortunately, these factors are only going to get worse. All the figures I read suggest that global oil supplies are likely to drop off a cliff around 2015; demand will still be increasing, so prices will go through the roof. That’s when we’re likely to get our ‘Argentina experience”…

Hence (one reason for) the new focus on systema: it’s easy to teach, it’s effective, and its links to theatre and dance make it accessible to a wide variety of people. Unfortunately, the Chinese martial arts would be harder to sell to a population undergoing extreme economic and social stress, whereas I’m convinced that systema, properly packaged, could become a social glue.

We’ll find out, of course. Perhaps I’m being too negative, and it would be far from the first time. However, if in 5 years’ time I’m right, then I’ll be ready. If not, I’ll still have lots of useful skills!

Training in the trees

As I mentioned, the Small Steps school train in a different Beijing park every Sunday. Yesterday, it was the Temple of Heaven, right down in the south of the city. There’s now a subway stop outside the East Gate, so that’s how I went – but it seemed to take a loooooong time, and I joined the class about an hour and a half late. Next time we train there, I’ll go on my bike – I think it would be quicker!

The east side of the park is where the crowds are; loads of elderly Beijingers practicing ballroom dancing, Beijing Opera, that weird taiji badminton, kicking feathered weights and so on and so on… There was a new one I hadn’t seen before, of tossing large rubber quoits at one another, and trying to get your head through the centre so that you build up a set of them around your neck like some strange African tribe…. Past all these, and the tourists (both Chinese and foreign), past the vendors of chilled water bottles (yi kuai wu! yi kuai wu! Harlo! Two yuan!) Hehehehe, past the surreal flying saucers of the temple itself, and over the the quieter west side – more open and forest-like. Here, every grove seemed to have its own group of martial artists… One group, near where we were headed, were practising xingyi and bagua; young, heavily muscled, standing motionless in santi, or gliding in circles….

Then I joined Liu Lao Shi, Dalida, and a group of others, who had been there for a long time before I arrived! I was set to working on some of the qigong postures, including a long stretch of zhan zhuang. By the end of all this, my shoulders were really aching! After that, a session of the bagua ‘tea cups’ exercise, which I haven’t done in a long, long time! It was fun, though. All too soon, it seemed, the session was over, and we all went our separate ways.

One of the other students, the Canadian I mentioned, knows something about systema, and we’ve chatted about it before. We agreed yesterday to catch up some time to try training together; I think we could work on some of the exercises from Scott Sonnon’s Softwork DVD….

I went pretty much straight on to my afternoon yiquan class, pausing only for a plate of baozi. Mmmmmm, there’s a branch of the Qing Feng Steamed Baozi chain just around the corner from Yao Lao Shi’s school, and I often eat there on my way to class.

There were four of us there; two foreign, two Chinese. It was a good session, pretty strenuous towards the end. I managed to get in a tui shou session with all three of the other guys, and was feeling pretty strained afterwards; one of them is a lot taller than me, so I had to work pretty hard. Luckily for me, he has a habit of locking himself into a position and then pushing, so he’s pretty much unshiftable if you push against him – but with a swift change of angle, he can’t defend himself. He’s going to be tough to beat once he figures that out…

Then, on to Zhongshan Park. I worked on the ZMQ-37 as usual, giving it a few rounds. Next, the wuji long xing bagua form of Master Zhou – which I haven’t done for a good long while, and needs a bit of refreshing. That’s got a move very similar to one in the ROSS systema ‘wave’ DVD, of stretching out the arms and sending a wave rolling from hand to hand; something got a bit crunchy in my left shoulder when I tried that….

After that, a bit of xuan xuan taiji dao. Mentioning that, I should note that on my way to the park, I’d noticed that my bike was shaking unusually when I braked, so I stopped at the Drum Tower to get it fixed by the bike repair man there. It turned out that the rim of the front wheel was a bit buckled, so that needed changing. While he was building the new wheel, one of his friends noticed the sword bag slung over my back and wanted to know what was in it, so I told him it was a taiji dao. Oh, he said, a taiji jian. No, a taiji dao. Is it long? he asked. Yes. Ahhh, it’s a bagua dao. Sigh. I got it out of the bag to show him. Hahaha, it’s a Japanese sword, not a Chinese sword, he told me. Sigh. I gave up.

In the bag, I also had my shashkas, of course, and I ended my training session in the park with a spell using those.That, and trying a few simple Cossack dance moves…. I’m getting faster and more accurate with one, and a bit more coordinated with two. I don’t think I’m being too forward if I say that I can already do a lot of what this guy is doing (not as well; not as smoothly; but getting there, bit by bit); what I can’t, I should be able to do soon….

My left wrist is going to take a while to train up to be as strong and flexible as it needs to be, though, and my shoulders definitely felt the strain. The left, in particular, is still too tight; it’s difficult to let the sword in my left hand swing naturally. Hehehehe, and one day I must get someone to take a picture of me doing that while a platoon of PLA soldiers marches past, staring at me in curiosity whilst keeping perfect step….

Oh yes, and I mentioned recently that I was still working on finding the correct way to grip the shashkas. Well, since I bought my new MacBook I’ve switched my default browser from Firefox to Chrome, and discovered with great pleasure that it’s got an auto-translate feature by default – which has seamlessly made a whole lot of YouTube comprehensible… Thus, I found myself looking at this, which kind of answered my immediate questions:


I had planned to work late in the office last night, but by the time I’d finished teaching I was feeling a bit jaded and in need of exercise and fresh air. So, I got on my bike and cycled to Zhongshan Park, stopping at home to quickly change and pick up my shashkas.

I got there a little after 7pm; the gates close at 8, so I got in just under an hour of practice. I’m working out various different patterns of swinging the shashka, and I’m getting to understand how to hold it now – which is quite diffferent to the Chinese swords I’ve used in the past. Still, I need to think about this a bit more to be sure I’m doing it properly; I’ve never studied this, but I’m aware that there are many different ways of gripping sword handles. Apparently the ‘handshake’ is the best for the shashka.

There weren’t that many people in the park at that time, which was nice. On my previous visit, last Tuesday, it was a public holiday, and the place was packed; not necessarily a problem, but I had to keep stopping when people tried to photograph or film me (which I don’t want!). Last night, though, it was just me, a few elderly couples, and some security guards. The guards never give me any bother; that’s one of the nice things about China, actually, with its martial arts traditions – you can swing swords around in a public park and it’s regarded as entirely natural 🙂

Anyway, I’ve made enough progress with the shashkas that I’m now able to work with one in each hand; when I first tried this, my co-ordination wasn’t good enough. It’s interesting to note some of the sensations here. Long-time readers know that my left shoulder used to be really tensed up. Yiquan really made big improvements there, as I’ve previously noted. When I started using the shashka in my left hand, though, I could still feel that there was stiffness there; that’s going away as I use the swords more.

Using the swords is quite good exercise; I work up a sweat, and afterwards can definitely feel the effort in arms and shoulders, while ‘dancing’ as I move works the legs pretty well. I still need to improve the strength and coordination of my left hand, though – I found little nicks in my leg where the sword had caught them – good thing they aren’t sharp! One other interesting thing: the stainless steel replicas that I bought from taobao feel heavier than the carbon steel one that I bought in Panjiayuan Market; however, I notice that my hand and arm feel more tired after I use the latter. It may just be because of the grip: the replicas have resin handles, the other has a wooden handle and it may just be that I have to work harder with that because it doesn’t slip around in my hand as much as the replicas…

One thing that has amused me in the yiquan classes is that Master Yao and other students have mentioned several times that I’m very strong – which can’t be true as I don’t do any strength training beyond carrying my groceries, and haven’t done so for years. What they’re referring to, I think, is actually that I’ve gotten better at relaxing, so they’re pushing against body mass, not muscle strength. Still, I’ve been thinking that I need to get a bit more active; I’m doing a fair bit of aerobic work simply by dashing around Beijing on my bicycle, but some strength training would be good….

With that in mind, I bought Scott Sonnon’s Flowfit from Amazon. I was under the impression that it was based on his ROSS background, which it isn’t. It’s actually derived from his Prasara Yoga system. Yoga’s totally new to me; I’ve never really looked into it at all, though I have plenty of friends who practice it. Still, since I had it, I thought I’d give it a go, and I’m really enjoying it. It progresses through four levels of difficulty, and I’m taking it easy – just working on the beginner’s level using a stool as a support. Very nice; perhaps I should look into Yoga a bit more.

A German friend of mine went to India last year for a month-long yoga instructor’s course at Svyasa University in Bangalore. It’s apparently very intense, with participants rising at 04:15 and training until 21:30, 7 days a week for the full month! Wow. She’s been training in yoga for several years, but her Bangladeshi husband had no yoga background, and he also passed the same course…. Hmmm 🙂 That’s something to think about for the summer holidays – add another string to my bow, and see a bit of India as well…. Hehehehe.

The Tea Road


I’m still reading the economic news, and crossing my fingers as the western economies creak and groan under vast amounts of debt. I hope that it will all work out and the world of abundance will continue as it has for the last twenty or so years – but I, like most of you, am old enough to remember how it was before, when flying to the other side of the world was only for the few, and stitching and mending and “waste not” were the rules we lived by, and so I can’t see how we carry on as we have been, living beyond our means as a culture.

So, sorry, I’m in a bearish mood still. (I never believed in “power animals”, even in the days when I knew lots of neo-pagans. I’m coming to suspect that if I have one, it’s a bear…..)

So, let’s talk a bit about what I’ve been up to.

Others are thinking along the same lines. Dave Pollard wrote about an article on Sharon Astyk’s site, which I liked very much. I recommend reading the original article, but Dave’s summary covers all the key points:

[Y]ou should move if:

Your mortgage is way more than the value of your house (especially since house values are likely to go lower)
You have young children or are elderly, and the people you’re closest to live far away
You have children you want to spend time with, or parents who need your care, living far away
You live in an extreme climate and are not adaptable to living without inexpensive heat, air conditioning, water, and imported food
You live in a community with people with mostly lousy (by your standards) values
You don’t think your children have a future where you live
You are planning on moving anyway (sooner is probably better than later)
You aren’t going to be happy or viable where you are if everything based on oil (transport, bought food, plastics, clothing, heat) gets much more expensive, or if your ‘commuter job’ disappears and you have to take (cheaper) employment locally
You live in an exurban area with no viable public transit, no locally produced food, and few close neighbours
You are not truly ‘native’ to where you live — never really fit in, called it home — and someplace else has always beckoned.

Now, I love living in Beijing; I love my work here, and there are very good people who share my values and worldview. Recently, I’ve been practising a lot in Zhongshan Park, and as I cycle beneath the walls of the Forbidden City with the morning sunlight and clear air making the red paint glow, or leaving the park at dusk with the air above me full of swallows flitting about and chittering as they return to their nests under the eaves of the watchtowers, or chasing insects amongst the willows that line the moat – well, I have to pinch myself to remind myself that yes, it is real, and yes, I am living in this amazing, fantastic city.

But I know that it won’t, it can’t, last forever. So, maybe it makes sense to think about how and when it ends – and a number of the points on Sharon’s list were already making me a little uneasy. I also got set thinking by a recent article on Afghanistan in the 1950s – a place of engineering success, rock and roll, and liberal values. I wonder if the people in those pictures ever suspected that within their lifetime their world would revert to being “a broken 13th century country“. Kyrgystan used to be a pretty well-developed element of the USSR; who, then, would have foreseen the ethnic cleansing and savagery that’s in the headlines this morning?

A lot of people are talking these days about beginning to build your tribe – or, as military theorist John Robb calls it, a “resilient community”. I’m not sure that I see that happening for me anywhere but Wales…

So, what to do? There are perhaps two options.

One is to seek to retreat from the world and let it go on its way without me. That’s the route of the hermit or the monastery. I still want to write about people who’ve taken that way, in the much-postponed next post in the “What’s it all about?” sequence of entries here. That did seem a strong option for me at one point, to be honest. I’m very drawn to Plum Village, for example… 🙂 Still, starting from when I began dating the Siberian, I’ve been drawn back into the world of attachment….

The other route is to get involved in building a resilient community. The question is, what can I (or you, reader) contribute?

It’s a question that is provoking a new movement in my martial arts interests – and leading me along the Tea Road…. In other words, it’s why I’ve been posting a lot about shashkas and systema recently!

I’ve been reviewing some of the DVDs of systema that were given to me, and comparing them to the “Systema Spetsnaz” DVD on “Internal Wave Energy” that I recently purchased. I also bought Scott Sonnon’s “Softwork“; I gather that this isn’t what he teaches these days, being from an earlier period in his trajectory, but it brings together what he learned from ROSS and other Russian systems.

To be honest, I really don’t see any huge differences between the practices of the different schools. I really like the philosophy that they all seem to share, and which is outlined in an article that I’ve previously linked to:

The doctrine of Russian Martial Art is based on the concepts of non-violence, cooperation, non-resistance and conformity. The Russian Martial Art master absorbs blows effortlessly, contorts the body to accommodate the threat and maintains contact until the assailant is rendered immobile.

… which fits rather nicely with something I’ve also been seeking in my martial arts studies (see my post ‘The manner of victory is important‘).

So far so good, but if I can get this with the Chinese martial arts, why move towards systema? This is where community comes into the picture…. With the Chinese martial arts, I’m getting great results in health, mental calmness, and combative ability; yiquan in particular, as I’ve mentioned here many times, has been particularly beneficial for me. The thing is, even if I reach the level of being able to teach in one or more of these, I’m not sure how they help to build a community -especially back in the UK where they’re not exactly mainstream; in a community adapting to resource constraints, I rather suspect that they would be seen at best as “nice, but by no means necessary”.

The Russian martial arts, on the other hand, have elements that may be a bit more marketable. In particular, I’m thinking of its connection with Cossack dance and choral singing (hey, I am Welsh, after all!). These are elements that can be used to build a community – dance and singing could attract people of all ages when a lot of what has become popular entertainment turns out to be unsustainable, and people start working in larger groups again…. It is suitable for both genders and all ages… and inside the song and dance are health techniques and systema fighting methods… Add to that the connections with the theatre from Stanislavsky, Chekhov and so on, and you have a system that’s highly appropriate to community-building….

As an example, I’ve been following the “Siberian Cossack Group LAD” for some time; although there are some elements that make me wary – and I know there has been a falling out with Mikhail Ryabko, though I have no idea what it’s all about – they are doing a lot of interesting work in combining the elements I’ve been talking about, and taking these into schools, youth groups, and so on – take a look at their videos on YouTube. (And, as a point of interest, in a recent Yiquan class, we had a visitor from Hong Kong who trains systema there, and who has friends who’ve attended the seminar in Kuala Lumpur I wrote about before. We had a very interesting chat!).

Don’t take this to mean that I’m giving up on the Chinese styles – quite the contrary! I’m still really enjoying the yiquan, though I think this is something for me to work on in my original path of “martial arts and meditation” as opposed to ‘finding a role in a community’. I’ve also been training again in bagua, though for various reasons I’ve kept quiet about that; I’ll be writing about it soon, though.

I’d be interested to hear what you think about all this….

Shashkas in Ditan Park


I got up early this morning, and headed over to Ditan Park for a change, just north of the Lama Temple. As you can see, it was a beautiful morning, with large numbers of people standing below the trees – stretching, chanting mantras, meditating, and doing lots of different forms of qigong. I spent a while in zhan zhuang with my back to a cedar (?) tree, and facing a small pine, inhaling the intoxicating scent of an early northern hemisphere spring day…. ahhhhhhhhhh…….

I took the shashkas. The pictures will give you an idea of what they look like compared to my taiji sabre. What surprised me is that they’re heavy – much heavier than the taiji sabre; of course, they’re stainless steel, while the sabre is aluminium, so it’s natural, I just hadn’t thought of it. The scabbards are also steel, covered with a very thin layer of faux-leather, so it was quite a bit of weight to be carrying altogether! The handles are hard plastic. I think they may get very slippery if I use them in hotter temperatures than this morning; in addition, the grooves were really grinding the skin on my hands – I have a few blisters. I think that somewhere I have a roll of non-slip tape, and I may put that over the handles.

That aside, they were a joy to use; they handle really well. I can see that using these babies will be a good workout for wrists, shoulders, back and waist…. Once I get the hang of it!

OK, I’ll report more later; now I’m off to yiquan class, and then I think I may head off to enjoy a sunny afternoon in the hills….

Swish, swoosh!

Yes… Rather delayed, but that only added to the anticipation…. My shashkas have arrived… and boy, are they nice! I can’t swing them around much in my apartment without decapitating my Buddha statue or disembowelling the sofa, so a full review and photos will come after I’ve gotten them out to a park… but they handle really nicely, though in completely different way to my Chinese swords; that beak on the pommel makes a huge difference!

To be continued….

and maybe threw a bottle of whisky into the mix… it might look like this Russian dancer…

Joking aside: wow. Talk about fitness!

According to one of the comments on YouTube, this guy is called Alexander Medvedev. I Googled the name out of curiosity, and it turns out he’s one of Scott Sonnon’s instructors. Hm, interesting.

I’ve just ordered a couple of Scott Sonnon’s DVDs, as it happens, and I’m waiting for them to arrive. I’ve also been reading up on ROSS, and trying to get my head around the differences between that and the various flavours of Systema if indeed there are any differences beyond internal politics….