Sword Fighting and Training Basics

Written by STEEL MBS on . Posted in Uncategorized

While sword fighting skills may not be as much of a pressing need as it was to our ancestors, most sword collectors have an interest – whether it is largely academic, a lifelong dedication to training or just practicing a few moves and/or doing some occasional (safety conscious) ‘backyard cutting’. With this in mind, I am pleased to present to you a series of articles that address the more practical side of the hobby – Western, Eastern and general sword principles as well as links to further resources and much more to be added as this page expands over the coming months. To get started, simply select your main area of interest from the quick jump menu below or just scroll on down to get a general overview.

Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA)

One of the earliest known surviving sword manuals
Generally speaking, with the exception of modern day fencing – the older sword fighting methods of the West died out many hundreds of years ago, at least as a continual, unbroken line as seen in many Eastern Sword Arts. However, despite this, all has not been lost. Some skeletal information has been retained in old, once forgotten dust covered medieval sword fighting manuscripts and instructional tomes. From this raw information a handful of dedicated individuals have taken it to task of putting the flesh on the bones of the past, and as a result of their careful and exhaustive efforts the Historical European Martial Arts (also sometimes referred to as Western Martial Arts/WMA), are experiencing something of a Renaissance. No doubt mistakes are made ‘connecting the dots’ and with the source material being so old and occasionally intentionally cryptic (as to a large degree, secret sword fighting methods are passed down orally from teacher to student) misinterpretations are bound to happen. However, as you will see – the scholars who have dedicated themselves to this work have done a fantastic job of reviving the old arts, to a very high standard.  

How to Make a LARP Weapon for Sword Exercises

Written by STEEL MBS on . Posted in Blog

You do not need to drop $450 on a drop-forged Samurai weapon from the Ting dynasty (just made that up) to do sword exercises. You can get started today with a fine-looking DIY LARP weapon. Just having this phrase in your vocabulary gives you a certain amount of power. Say it a few times, allow the words to tumble and cartwheel off your tongue. Then, get into action.


You need some supplies and some tools.

The supplies:

(1) 1” wide Five-foot length of PVC pipe.

(1) Foam Camping Mat

(1) Roll of Duct Tape

(1) Roll Colored Tape (for handle, cross-piece, and/or handle end)

(1) 6” piece of wooden dowel or PVC pipe 3/8” in diameter

(1) Cord


The Tools:

Utility Knife (Retractable Carpenter’s Knife)

Carpenter’s Square

1 Black Sharpie Marker

Tape Measure

A Scrap Plywood Cutting Board

2 – C-Clamps

Drill and ⅜” bit

The Procedure for Creating Your LARP Weapon:

Lay the foam pad out on the cutting board. Measure the length of sword you want and draw the outline of the blade, plus the outline of the cross-piece and handle end. The simplest is to make the handle end a triangle. Make the blade at least 5” wide or more depending on the thickness of your PVC pipe. You want both sides of the foam to easily touch on either side of the PVC pipe and to form a sword-edge. Blade should be three to four feet long, plus 6” to 1’ for the handle, plus the handle end. You can cut the PVC pipe to fit, but you can’t re-cut the foam! So make sure it’s big enough.

Next, fold the camping pad in half lengthwise so that it is double-thick and screw the C-clamps tight so that the foam doesn’t slide apart. Set the square on the foam pad and cut along the lines through both thicknesses of foam. A few notes about cutting foam: If your foam is too thick to cut two layers, you may have to cut each half of the sword separately. Also, depending on the texture of foam, a sharp pair of full-sized scissors may work better.

Once you’ve got the foam cut in two identical pieces, cut the PVC pipe to length. Drill a hole through the PVC at one end for the cross-piece. Cut the cross-piece to length and put it through the hole. Then use the duct tape to attach the foam together at the edges. You may want next to wrap the entire blade with silver duct tape (the standard color). It makes a good metallic silver blade color! You can wrap your colored tape around the handle and/or cross-piece and/or sword end.

That’s it! Now take your LARP weapon to your favorite sword workout spot and do your routine!

Kendo Sword Training Santa Barbara

Written by STEEL MBS on . Posted in Uncategorized

Kendo Sword Training

The Meaning of Kendo

Kendo literally means “the way of the sword” in Japanese. It refers to the art of traditional Japanese fencing that was originally developed and practiced by Bushi or Samurai. Kendo originated from the various sword fighting techniques of hundreds of years of combat and study. It deals with the physical and mental skills necessary for sword fighting.The goal of Kendo is not only to develop the physical capability for fighting but also the moral and spiritual aspects that may be applied in coping with real life. In Japan, it is one of the most popular martial arts. Kendo has spread to other parts of the world.

The concept of Kendo is to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the Katana.

The purpose of practicing Kendo is: To mold the mind and body, to cultivate a vigorous spirit, and through correct and rigid training, to strive for improvement in the art of Kendo; to hold in esteem human courtesy and honor, to associate with others with sincerity, and to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself. Thus will one be able to love his country and society, to contribue to the development of culture, and to promote peace and prosperity among all people.

The Basics of Kendo

The equipment used for Kendo practice are the bamboo sword (Shinai) and a set of protective armor (Bogu). The shinai is made of four carefully prepared staves or pieces of bamboo that are fitted and held together at both ends by a leather handle, tip and special string designed to designate the back of the sword. The protective equipment consists of four different parts: Men, Do, Tare and a pair of Kote. Men is the helmet which protects the face, throat, top and sides of the head. Do is similar to a breastplate and covers the chest and stomach. Tare is the waist protector. Finally, Kote are like gauntlets and protect the hands and wrists.

In Kendo, there are four general areas to attack, subdivided into left and right sides ofthe body – each worth one point. These are strokes to the head, the wrist, torso and a thrust to the throat. In order to be considered successful,the attack is to be a coordination of the spirit, proper usage of the sword and correct movement of the body so that it would be a clear and proper stroke, as if it were made with a real sword.

An official Kendo match is a three-point match and has a five-minute time limit. The player who scores two points first is the winner. If neither player scores two points before the end of regulation time, the one in the lead at that point is declared the winner. If the score is tied after five minutes, an infinite sudden death overtime is held. Three referees judge whether or not a point is scored. Kendo tournaments are held in direct elimination form.

Original article posted on Santa Barbara Kendo Dojo

7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain

Written by STEEL MBS on . Posted in Uncategorized

The meditation-and-the-brain research has been rolling in steadily for a number of years now, with new studies coming out just about every week to illustrate some new benefit of meditation. Or, rather, some ancient benefit that is just now being confirmed with fMRI or EEG. The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions. Below are some of the most exciting studies to come out in the last few years and show that meditation really does produce measurable changes in our most important organ. Skeptics, of course, may ask what good are a few brain changes if the psychological effects aren’t simultaneously being illustrated? Luckily, there’s good evidence for those as well, with studies reporting that meditation helps relieve our subjective levels of anxiety and depression, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being. 0728_deep-brain-stimulation_650x455 Meditation Helps Preserve the Aging Brain Last week, a study from UCLA found that long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged. Participants who’d been meditating for an average of 20 years had more grey matter volume throughout the brain — although older meditators still had some volume loss compared to younger meditators, it wasn’t as pronounced as the non-meditators. “We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating,” said study author Florian Kurth. “Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.” Meditation Reduces Activity in the Brain’s “Me Center” One of the most interesting studies in the last few years, carried out at Yale University, found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts – a.k.a., “monkey mind.” The DMN is “on” or active when we’re not thinking about anything in particular, when our minds are just wandering from thought to thought. Since mind-wandering is typicallyassociated with being less happy, ruminating, and worrying about the past and future, it’s the goal for many people to dial it down. Several studies have shown that meditation, though its quieting effect on the DMN, appears to do just this. And even when the mind does start to wander, because of the new connections that form, meditators are better at snapping back out of it. Its Effects Rival Antidepressants for Depression, Anxiety A review study last year at Johns Hopkins looked at the relationship between mindfulness meditation and its ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain. Researcher Madhav Goyal and his team found that the effect size of meditation was moderate, at 0.3. If this sounds low, keep in mind that the effect size for antidepressants is also 0.3, which makes the effect of meditation sound pretty good. Meditation is, after all an active form of brain training. “A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing,” says Goyal. “But that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.” Meditation isn’t a magic bullet for depression, as no treatment is, but it’s one of the tools that may help manage symptoms. Meditation May Lead to Volume Changes in Key Areas of the Brain In 2011, Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard found that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain: Eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation and self-referential processing. There were also decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress – and these changes matched the participants’ self-reports of their stress levels, indicating that meditation not only changes the brain, but it changes our subjective perception and feelings as well. In fact, a follow-up study by Lazar’s team found that after meditation training, changes in brain areas linked to mood and arousal were also linked to improvements in how participants said they felt — i.e., their psychological well-being. So for anyone who says that activated blobs in the brain don’t necessarily mean anything, our subjective experience – improved mood and well-being – does indeed seem to be shifted through meditation as well. Just a Few Days of Training Improves Concentration and Attention  Having problems concentrating isn’t just a kid thing – it affects millions of grown-ups as well, with an ADD diagnosis or not. Interestingly but not surprisingly, one of the central benefits of meditation is that it improves attention and concentration: One recent study found that just a couple of weeks of meditation training helped people’s focus and memory during the verbal reasoning section of the GRE. In fact, the increase in score was equivalent to 16 percentile points, which is nothing to sneeze at. Since the strong focus of attention (on an object, idea, or activity) is one of the central aims of meditation, it’s not so surprising that meditation should help people’s cognitive skills on the job, too – but it’s nice to have science confirm it. And everyone can use a little extra assistance on standardized tests. Meditation Reduces Anxiety — and Social Anxiety A lot of people start meditating for its benefits in stress reduction, and there’s lots of good evidence to support this rationale. There’s a whole newer sub-genre of meditation, mentioned earlier, called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness (now available all over the country), that aims to reduce a person’s stress level, physically and mentally. Studies have shown its benefits in reducing anxiety, even years after the initial 8-week course. Research has also shown that mindfulness meditation, in contrast to attending to the breath only, can reduce anxiety – and that these changes seem to be mediated through the brain regions associated with those self-referential (“me-centered”) thoughts. Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to help people with social anxiety disorder: a Stanford University team found that MBSR brought about changes in brain regions involved in attention, as well as relief from symptoms of social anxiety. Meditation Can Help with Addiction A growing number of studies has shown that, given its effects on the self-control regions of the brain, meditation can be very effective in helping people recover from various types of addiction. One study, for example, pitted mindfulness training against the American Lung Association’s freedom from smoking (FFS) program, and found that people who learned mindfulness were many times more likely to have quit smoking by the end of the training, and at 17 weeks follow-up, than those in the conventional treatment. This may be because meditation helps people “decouple” the state of craving from the act of smoking, so the one doesn’t always have to lead to the other, but rather you fully experience and ride out the “wave” of craving, until it passes. Other research has found that mindfulness training, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) can be helpful in treating other forms of addiction. Short Meditation Breaks Can Help Kids in School For developing brains, meditation has as much as or perhaps even more promise than it has for adults. There’s been increasing interest from educators and researchers in bringing meditation and yoga to school kids, who are dealing with the usual stressors inside school, and oftentimes additional stress and trauma outside school. Some schools have starting implementing meditation into their daily schedules, and with good effect: One district in San Francisco started a twice daily meditation program in some of its high-risk schools – and saw suspensions decrease, and GPAs and attendance increase. Studies have confirmed the cognitive and emotional benefits of meditation for schoolchildren, but more work will probably need to be done before it gains more widespread acceptance. Worth a Try? Meditation is not a panacea, but there’s certainly a lot of evidence that it may do some good for those who practice it regularly. Everyone from Anderson Cooperand congressman Tim Ryan to companies like Google, Apple, and Target are integrating meditation into their schedules. And its benefits seem to be felt after a relatively short amount of practice. Someresearchers have cautioned that meditation can lead to ill effects under certain circumstances (known as the “dark night” phenomenon), but for most people – especially if you have a good teacher – meditation is beneficial, rather than harmful. It’s certainly worth a shot: If you have a few minutes in the morning or evening (or both), rather than turning on your phone or going online, see what happens if you try quieting down your mind, or at least paying attention to your thoughts and letting them go without reacting to them. If the research is right,just a few minutes of meditation may make a big difference. Original article posted on Forbes