Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘training’


King’s Armiger

The king’s armiger was originally just what the Latin world literally means, the bearer of the king’s arms. On ceremonial occasions in the eleventh and later centuries [C.E.] the armiger continued to be the royal servant whose duty and privilege it was to carry the king’s sword, lance and shield. But by [King] Sancho II’s [d. 1072] day the responsibilities of this officer were far wider than the merely domestic or ceremonial. The armiger was responsible for overseeing the king’s household militia, the body of troops who formed the king’s escort and were the nucleus of the royal army. While we do not possess any contemporary description of the duties of the armiger, it is likely that he was responsible for recruiting, training and keeping order among these often unruly young men; perhaps for supervising the arrangements for their payment too. He had to have an eye for potential talent, to be demanding in his appraisal of mounts and equipment, to be firm and tactful in sorting out the scrapes his subordinates landed themselves in. He was also one of the king’s principal military advisors. Thus the armiger had to be at once staff-officer, adjutant, regimental sergeant-major—and something of a counselor. It was a demanding job. Usually held by fairly young men, it equipped them for independent command.

Richard Fletcher, The Quest for El Cid, p. 114

To Train in the Martial Arts

To train in the martial arts is like being apprenticed to frustration, to the burn of effort, and the unattainable criteria of perfection. There’s no glamour, no reward beyond the ones you create in your own heart. You struggle along the path and your teacher goads you or challenges you, always three steps ahead and always waiting, his eyes betraying nothing but demanding everything. And you try to give it.

John Donohue, Kage, chapter 2

Hunting Served Several Social Functions

Hunting animals was the absolute passion of the medieval upper class, and the only activity recognized as a real recreation. It served several social functions. It confirmed power, wealth, status, and prestige as the king or aristocrat went out with his retainers, horses, dogs, and, sometimes, trained falcons. It brought men of similar social background together and was good training for medieval warfare, keeping men and horses fit. It developed strategic thinking as the men hunted elusive and often dangerous quarries, such as wild boar, bears, wolves, and red deer. Late summer and, especially, autumn were the usual times for hunting, which was often dangerous. Accidents were common, especially among immature, testosterone-driven, risk-taking young men. The Annals of Saint-Bertin reports that in 864 [C.E.] the sixteen-year-old Charles of Aquitaine, the son of King (later Emperor) Charles the Bald

whom his father had recently received from Aquitaine and taken with him to Compiegne, was returning one night from hunting in the forest of Guise [nowadays Cuise-la-Motte near Compiegne]. While he meant only to enjoy some horseplay with some other young men of his own age, by the devil’s action he was struck in the head with a sword by a youth called Albuin. The blow penetrated almost as far as the brain, reaching from his left temple to his right cheekbone and jaw…. He suffered from epileptic fits for a long time, and then on 29 September [866] he died.

Hunting accidents were also convenient ways of eliminating rivals and were sometimes used as plausible covers for assassinations.

Paul Collins, The Birth of the West, pp. 19-20

Haragei

The nonverbal elements of communication and perception are highly valued by the Japanese; they prize their ability to grasp the essence of people and things using methods we can only guess at. They call this ability haragei. Yamashita has it. He can cross swords with a complete stranger and know the skill level of his opponent before they’ve begun. You can argue that it has to do with subtle physical clues people give off: a look in the eye, posture, breathing rates. The longer I train, the more I tend to agree. But there’s also more to it than that.

On days when he’s really cooking, it seems as if Yamashita can actually read your mind. What’s scary is not that he knows what you’re going to do before you do, but that he does it by getting inside you somehow.

I’ve experienced hints of it. The feeling is a weird, emotive certainty that washes up from the base of the neck and creeps over your scalp. It is often totally unexpected. And distracting.

John Donohue, Sensei, chapter 7

Any Sensei is a Bit Mercurial at Times

Any sensei is a bit mercurial at times—they do it to keep you guessing. Part of the mystery of a really good martial arts teacher is the way in which you’re perpetually surprised by things, kept just slightly off balance. I had a karate teacher years ago, and every time I thought, OK this guy has shown me just about everything he’s got, he would waltz in and do something I had never seen before. Then he would look at me like he could read my mind.

John Donohue, Sensei, chapter 4

In the Martial Arts, Nobody Owes You Anything

In Japan, white is the color of emptiness and humility. Many of us had started our training in arts like judo or karate, where the uniforms known as gi were traditionally white as a symbol of humility. Most mainline Japanese instructors I knew frowned on the American urge to branch out into personal color statements with their uniforms. The message was clear: a gi is not an expression of individuality. People wanting to make statements should probably rent billboards and avoid Japanese martial arts instructors. They are not focused on your needs. They are concerned only with the pursuit of the Way. You are free to come along. But your presence is not necessary.

You have to get used to that sort of attitude. In the martial arts, nobody owes you anything, least of all your teacher. The assumption is that you are pretty much worthless and lucky to be in the same room with your sensei. You do what he says. You don’t talk back. You don’t ask rude questions. You don’t cop an attitude—that’s the sensei’s prerogative.

Emphasis mine.

John Donohue, Sensei, chapter 2

Dojo Storming

“In the old times…a young warrior would learn all local sensei could teach and then seek out ‘instruction’ at another dojo. A truly skilled fighter could go from school to school, challenging the best students and even the masters.” A sip of air as he paused. “It was known as dojo arashi.”

Dojo storming. I could imagine what it must have been like: hard young men clomping down the packed dirt roads of Japan with battered armor and well-kept weapons slung over their backs. They churned up the miles like hungry predators, hunting down new masters to defeat and new towns to prove themselves in. The good ones earned reputations. The less skilled, in the best of situations, learned to limp away quietly. Sometimes, only their ghosts moaned in phantom processional down midnight crossroads….

John Donohue, Sensei, chapter 17

A Dojo is a Miniature Cosmos

A dojo is a miniature cosmos where we make contact with ourselves—our fears, anxieties, reactions, and habits. It is an arena of confined conflict where we confront an opponent who is not an opponent but rather a partner engaged in helping us understand ourselves more fully. It is a place where we can learn a great deal in a short time about who we are and how we react in the world. The conflicts that take place inside the dojo help us handle conflicts that take place outside. The total concentration and discipline required to study martial arts carries over to daily life. The activity in the dojo calls on us to constantly attempt new things, so it is also a source of learning—in Zen terminology, a source of self-enlightenment.

Joe Hyams, Zen in the Martial Arts, p. 4

Quality and Resilience Determined Victory in Ancient Battles

Victory in ancient battle did not go to the ‘big battalions’, as the processes of combat were very different to the mutually devastating firepower duels of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries [C.E.]. Fatalities from missile fire or mêlée seem to have been remarkably light until one force turned tail and exposed itself to one-sided slaughter. When victorious armies did suffer significant losses, these were usually concentrated in parts of their force that had given way before the eventual triumph. Hence, raw numbers were much less important than fighting spirit and a fearsome reputation, as good troops could stand firm even against great odds and could sometimes panic less-resolute adversaries into flight even before physical combat was joined. By far the most important variable in the model is troop quality, to reflect this psychological factor and also to show how good troops like Spartan hoplites and Roman legionaries could use their superiority in drill and discipline to achieve tactical advantage.

…Although combat did not involve heavy mutual fatalities, it does seem to have revolved around shorter-term attritional mechanisms such as wounds, exhaustion, psychological strain and ammunition depletion, so the distinction between fresh troops and those who have become ‘spent’ becomes a key means of tracking the progressive loss of resilience.

Philip Sabin, Lost Battles, pp. 221-22

Control of Attention is the First Skill of a Magician

Attention is selectivity applied to perception. It is an inward decision, usually made unconsciously, about what is worth perceiving and what isn’t. Attention both finds meaning and creates meaning. When we adopt the principle of “separate the subtle from the gross,” we are deciding on purpose where we want our attention to go, temporarily withholding it from what is obvious and bestowing it instead on what is inconspicuous and elusive.

In the world of spirit, attention is the equivalent of physical movement. It carries us toward the knowledge and acquaintances we seek and away from influences that we have determined to be harmful or useless. If you can’t control your attention, you can’t move properly, can’t get where you want to go when you want to go there. To the extent that you allow your attention to be jerked around by whatever happens to be manifesting most insistently, you look to other spiritual beings like a spastic. Control of attention is thus the first skill an aspiring magician must master, and perhaps the most important.

Catherine MacCoun, On Becoming an Alchemist, pp. 52-53

I have used the concept of attention-as-spiritual-movement in my fiction, most notably in the “The Princess, the Sorcerer, and the Wizard” story thread on the Rings of Honor site.

Attention as Psychic Energy

Because attention determines what will or will not appear in consciousness, and because it is also required to make any other mental events—such as remembering, thinking, feeling, and making decisions—happen there, it is useful to think of it as psychic energy. Attention is like energy in that without it no work can be done, and in doing work it is dissipated. We create ourselves by how we invest this energy. Memories, thoughts, and feelings are all shaped by how we use it. And it is an energy under our control, to do with as we please; hence, attention is our most important tool in the task of improving the quality of experience.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, p. 33

Author’s emphasis.

Mystical Explanations Are Not Necessary

The remarkable accomplishments of Hindu fakirs and other practitioners of mental disciplines are often presented as examples of the unlimited powers of the mind, and with more justification. But even many of these claims do not hold up under investigation, and the ones that do can be explained in terms of the extremely specialized training of a normal mind. After all, mystical explanations are not necessary to account for the performance of a great violinist, or a great athlete, even though most of us could not even begin to approach their powers. The yogi, similarly, is a virtuoso of the control of consciousness. Like all virtuosi, he must spend many years learning, and he must keep constantly in training. Being a specialist, he cannot afford the time or the mental energy to do anything other than fine-tune his skill at manipulating inner experiences. The skills the yogi gains are at the expense of the more mundane abilities that other people learn to develop and take for granted. What an individual yogi can do is amazing—but so is what a plumber can do, or a good mechanic.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, pp. 24-25

The Spiritual Hunt and Spiritual Warfare

In the context of the hunt, Native American youths were taught to view themselves as subordinate to their game: as suppliants requesting a favor from a powerful being. The hunter’s strength was necessary to inspire the animal to sacrifice its life on his behalf. He had to prove himself worthy to appeal to the animal like a medieval knight performing brave deeds before begging a boon from his king.

The relationship between the warrior and his human enemies was viewed very differently. The warrior’s intention was always to dominate his opponent completely, on both the material and the spiritual plane. Most of the Plains tribes believed that the spirit of an animal that willingly gave up its life to a hunter would either travel to a peaceful spirit world or else be reborn in this world. Either way, that animal’s spirit would bear no grudge against the man who killed it. By contrast, they thought that if you destroyed a man’s physical self without fully conquering his spirit as well, his spirit would continue to represent a serious threat to your own physical and spiritual well-being. The angry spirit of a fallen enemy could bring a warrior bad luck, disease, or even death.

The warriors of the plains felt that the only way for a man truly to defeat an enemy without risking postmortem supernatural harassment was to demonstrate clearly the superiority of his spirit over that of his opponent. Even after death, an inferior spirit would always fear to attack a stronger one. Therefore a great deal of their warrior training was directed toward encouraging their young men to have confidence in their own superiority of spirit.

Shannon E. French, Code of the Warrior, pp. 145-46

Hand-to-Hand Combat Was Rare in Ancient Warfare

…No one now alive has witnessed combat between organized forces using hand-to-hand weapons, for the last vestige of it disappeared one hundred fifty years ago when the bayonet charge became obsolete. We tend to think (assisted by the movies) that direct shock combat of the sort described above was much more common in premodern warfare than it was. In reality, it was always difficult to make foot soldiers seriously engage one another with edged weapons because of their natural tendency to keep out of one another’s way. We have already seen that the Persian and other Eastern armies put no faith in heavy infantry assault. The main function of their spearmen was to provide cover for their archers, and battles were won by cavalry and archers with a minimum of physical contact. Only the Greeks had developed a style of warfare that made shock combat inevitable, because their infantry formation was no loose huddle but a tight rectangle (phalanx) often eight ranks deep or more, its heavy shields a collective locking device, its sheer depth and weight propelling the men in the front ranks onto the spears of the enemy.

Doyne Dawson, The Origins of Western Warfare, p. 48

From Hunters to Warriors

War has been intertwined with hunting for millennia. The word venison, originally “hunted meat,” comes from the same Indo-European root as the Russian votna, meaning war. Certain French armored units still dignify themselves as chasseurs, huntsmen, while several elite German and Austrian formations are styled jaeger, or hunters, a reminder that they were first recruited from the gamekeepers of central European forests. A guest of the more established officers’ messes in Italy or Spain is likely to dine beneath stag or boar heads glaring from the walls, the high-toned British regiments preferring paintings…celebrating the fox hunt. In the United States, which finds its romance on the frontier, the comparable designation for light, fast-moving outfits is Rangers, harking back to the days when woodsmen passed almost overnight from hunters into warriors who contested mastery of the forests with Mohawks and Hurons on the edge of an unknown world.

Derek Leebaert, To Dare and to Conquer, p. 4

Backstabbing Assassins, Not Knights of the Air

There is little finesse in air combat. Many civilians and those who have never looked through the gun sight…at an enemy aircraft have a romantic perception, no doubt influenced by books and movies about World War I, that pilots are knights of the air, chivalrous men who salute their opponents before engaging in a fight that always is fair. They believe that elaborate rules of aerial courtesy prevail and that battle in the clear pure upper regions somehow is different, more glorified and rarefied, than battle in the mud. This is arrant nonsense. Aerial combat, according to those who have participated, is a basic and primitive form of battle that happens to take place in the air. Fighter pilots—that is, the ones who survive air combat—are not gentlemen; they are backstabbing assassins. They come out of the sun and attack an enemy when he is blind. They sneak up behind or underneath or “bounce” the enemy from above or flop into position on his tail—his six-o’clock position—and “tap” him before he knows they are there. That is why fighter pilots jink and weave and dart about like water bugs in a mason jar. They never hold a heading or a position longer than six or eight seconds. Aerial combat is brutally unforgiving. To come in second place is to die, usually in a rather spectacular manner. Most casualties never know they are targets until they are riddled with bullets, covered with flames, and on the way to creating a big hole in the ground. Those who want to engage in the romanticized World War I pirouette of a fair fight will have a short career. Thus, aerial combat favors the bold, those who are not afraid to use the airplane for its true purpose: a gun platform. There is nothing sophisticated about sneaking up on someone and killing him. Aerial combat is a blood sport, a knife in the dark. Winners live and losers die….

Robert Coram, Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, pp. 42-43

Emphasis mine.

No Match for a Well-Trained Aristocrat

All [medieval Japanese] warriors, regardless of rank, were trained in swordsmanship. Those of the upper ranks, of course, had more time to devote to the pursuit of excellence in this art, and to the pursuit of superior instructors—which explains why a retainer of lower rank, notwithstanding his longer exposure to the hardships of military life, was usually no match for a higher-ranking bushi in a duel. This type of situation…resembles that of Europe during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries [C.E.], when hardened veterans of countless battles were still no match for a well-trained aristocrat with a sword—the noble’s weapon which, with the rise of the bourgeoisie to power at the end of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, became known as the gentleman’s weapon.

Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai, pp. 254-55

Hunnic Bow and Mongolian Release

The Byzantine horsed archer was an expert, capable of loosing arrows from either side of the horse while at full gallop, either shooting a fleeing opponent, or defending himself by a ‘Parthian’ shot over the horse’s rearquarters if he himself was fleeing. The method used was a full draw to the right ear which imparted greater poundage to the arrow. The penetrative quality of Roman equipment used at the battle of Callinicum was due to the adoption of the Hunnic bow and the Mongolian release. The Mongolian release, which uses a thumb lock, is faster, whereas the Mediterranean release, using the fingers to draw, is slower and with an oriental bow the fingers would be crushed. Procopius says the bow used by the Persians at Callinicum was much weaker and the arrows unable to pierce armour, even though the rate of delivery was greater.

Ann Hyland, The Medieval Warhorse, p. 22

Emphasis mine.

Art of Japanese Spear Fighting

Naturally, there were many ryu and many sensei of bujutsu who specialized, often exclusively, in the use of the spear in combat. Famous among the former was the ancient Hozo-in ryu, named after the Hozo monastery where spear fighting was widely practiced. The Shinkage ryu, famed for its skillful swordsmen, also included spear fighting in its program of instruction. According to the literature of bujutsu, an expert spearman trained in any of these schools was studiously avoided not only by single warriors armed with the formidable katana but even by groups of warriors whom he could scatter with an intricate, yet impenetrable and deadly circular dance—his long weapon cutting, thrusting, slashing, and parrying as it cut through the air around him in a series of murderous whorls….

According to the major types of spears, there were two major arts or methods of using them: yarijutsu, the art of the straight spear, and naginatajutsu (or simply naginata), the art of the curved spear. Each art was practiced in accordance with innumerable styles, and there were subspecializations centered upon the use of all the various types of long and short spears and javelins. All shared a substantial number of basic techniques, such as the thrusts (tsuki), strikes (kiri), and parries which, in common with all cutting weapons, were also found in swordsmanship. Postures of readiness, introductory movements, styles of moving in toward an opponent or of sliding out of range of his blade, manners of reaching a target or of evading an attack, varied from school to school and even, within each, from expert to expert….

…In feudal times every part of the yari was used, including the bottom, which was usually capped with a pointed metal head; and that the position of readiness with the spear kept close to the side (in one of the predominant styles) was known as kai-kumi. We also know that several schools taught intricate patterns, high and low (jumonji-yari), in order to be able to strike not only from the front but also with characteristic sweeps directed at the opponent’s rear, while other schools specialized in parrying, hooking, and deflecting techniques known as kagi-yari. Naginatajutsu added to the techniques of the yari those circular cuts particularly appropriate to the curved shape of the naginata.

Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai, pp. 250-253

Emphasis mine.