An image from Meyer's 1570 treatise on sword fighting, showing figures with longswords well extended, standing in deep lunges
Source: Wiktenauer

A couple of aspects of longsword turn out to be hard not from a skill perspective, but from a simple strength and endurance perspective. Look at the guys in this picture. Their arms are fully extended, either forward or upward. That’s just hard to do for minutes at a time. Besides that, they’re in a pretty low lunge position. That’s also hard to do for minutes at a time.

A couple of days ago, I had a chance to ask celebrity trainer Mark Wildman how he’d program for building arm strength and endurance. It turns out he’s a huge longsword geek. Here’s the video, cued up to where he reads my question (should be 41:57). The related stuff goes through 48:50).

My original question was: “I’m doing longsword. One issue is arm strength and endurance. I’m doing kettlebell clean&press and pushups (for holding the sword overhead and extended forward). Any other ideas?”

Here are my notes on Mark’s reply:

Mace & Club

Single-arm heavy club program (a program that isn’t for sale yet, but that is pretty easy to deduce from the videos on Mark Wildman’s youtube channel).

Basis of Strength (2-Handed club program that does exist, although it’s pretty expensive).

Mace 360s. (The mace equivalent of a club shield cast: You bring your hand past your opposite ear, swing the mace behind you, and catch it back in front.)

Cut the Meyer square for time. (I don’t think he said WHAT time would be appropriate. Maybe do a 10-minute emom, where you do the full square, rest until the end of the minute, and then repeat. Or maybe 30 seconds on/30 seconds off.)

Graphic of the Meyer Square, from Wiktenauer https://wiktenauer.com/index.php?curid=43889

He emphasized training both dominant hand and non-dominant hand.

This, by the way, goes against the advice of Liechtenauer, who says:

Fence not from left when you are right.
If with your left is how you fight,
You'll fence much weaker from the right.

I suspect that the difference has to do with your goals. Liechtenauer was speaking to someone who had to win sword fights. Wildman is speaking to someone trying to get fit for a hobby.

Push ups as part of a warm-up. (Since I had mentioned pushups.)

Instead of pushups, do burpies in full HEMA gear. (Oy.)

Don’t do actual sword movements with mace or club. Do those with an actual longsword.

Mace drop swing in Meyer stance (4 versions: contra- and ipso- lateral with each foot forward): Here’s two videos of that:

I’ve ordered a mace so I can try that (and other mace stuff). I haven’t yet pulled the trigger on the (expensive) Basis of Strength program, although I’m tempted. While I ponder that, I’ll start doing mace drop swings while in a lunge, and see if I can get both my extended arm strength and endurance up, while also improving my Meyer fencing stance.

I’ve been training in longsword for almost a full year now—I just looked and saw that my first two classes were in the last week of March last year—and I’d gotten kind of discouraged. I did okay the first few weeks, but then plateaued. For months I felt like I was making no progress at all. Finally, on Thursday, I felt like I had taken a step forward.

Me doing a zwerchhau.
Here’s an image from today—a couple of days after that training class

I’ve come up with training-at-home plans a couple of times in the past year, thinking that I need to work out my Meyer stance (very low lunge, with the front thigh almost parallel to the ground), and of course my cuts. (This pictures shows me doing a zwerchhau, and the cut looks pretty okay, although the stance isn’t nearly low enough.) That is, I’d come up with the plans, but I largely hadn’t followed through. Today, with the encouragement of having done okay on Thursday, I got out with my sword and spent a while working on low stance, Meyer square cuts, and zwerchhaus.

Several members have done a “bear pit” for their birthdays: The birthday boy faces everyone in the group for a pass or three, one after another. The exact details vary, but the idea is to pick some metric (passes or opponents) and do enough to hit your age. I’ll turn 65 in mid-June, and I’d like to be able to carry on the tradition. I think I’m within striking distance on the basic fitness. (I was doing 2-hour runs at the end of last summer, and my last run was 1 hour 14 minute.) But it wouldn’t be much fun to face opponent after opponent and get beat every time, so I’m pleased to finally feel like I’m making some progress.

If you’re local, and you think swords are cool (and who doesn’t?), you might check out our group: Tempered Mettle Historical Fencing.

I’ve felt entirely recovered from West Nile fever for going on three weeks now, and I’ve been going back to my HEMA training sessions. But until today I’ve been finding that, once I finished the actual class part of the class, I was all worn out, and didn’t feel up to sparing. But today, I felt like I could spar. So I did.

I didn’t get any video unfortunately, but I did spar with two different people, and managed to get some hits. It was good. I’m not going to beat anyone who’s any good at fencing, but that’s okay at this point. The main thing is that I’m finally, once again, able to train for an hour and a half and then spend half an hour sparing.

Oh, and two related details. One from my Oura ring which give me a score of 100 for my activity today:

Oura ring activity screen showing a score of 100

And from fitbit on my Pixel watch, yesterday I got the Sahara badge, meaning that since I bought my Pixel watch (October 2022) I’ve walked the length of the Sahara desert (2983 miles):

FitBit Sahara badge

Today I managed to get in a workout—my first since coming down with West Nile fever five and a half weeks ago. (I dropped the weight by 33%, and dropped the set count by almost 50%, but I did do the whole workout I’d planned.)

I was only really sick for about 3 weeks, but oof—it has sure taken a long time to go from “mostly better” to “well enough to exercise.” The past two and a half weeks just fixing breakfast and walking the dog left me so tired I had to take a nap.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to regular exercise now, and go back to sword fighting!

In 2007, when I left Motorola, I was kind of reserving LinkedIn as a potential job-hunting site. In my brain I was already retired, but I hadn’t completely abandoned the possibility I might want another job, so I kept most of my random silliness off LinkedIn, just in case.

That hasn’t made any sense for at least a decade, but it has taken until now for me to get organized to fix it.

If you don’t want to read about my writing, sword fighting, dog walking, random sunrise photos, etc., feel free to use whatever tools LinkedIn provides to filter such stuff, or just stop following me. I’ll take no offense.

Dawn sky from the prairie next to Winfield Village

About three weeks ago I developed a fever and moderate flu-like symptoms. It felt like a virus, so I mostly just treated it liked one—sleeping extra, drinking extra fluids—and waited to get better.

It was kind of frustrating, because it just went on and on. For a brief period there in the middle of week two, it got a bit more exciting: I starting having trouble finding words. (I sounded exactly like my dad when his dementia made it impossible for him to say stuff. Pretty scary.) At about the same time I started suffering from double vision.

At the prompting of my mom and brother, I went to the emergency room for the word difficulty. They did a whole workup for a possible stroke: CT scan, chest x-ray, and and MRI.

I was not having a stroke.

Once I was released from the emergency room I made a follow-up with my regular doctor, who was kind of groping for possibilities, and put in an order for a few tests. The blood was draw on Monday, and today I got the results: positive for West Nile virus.

The related illness, West Nile Fever, does sound exactly like what I had. (That’s actually kind of a scary link. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to have any of the longer-term consequences. I was just sick for three weeks.)

Anyway, I think I’m on the mend. I’m resuming normal activity as each thing seems okay. It’s taking a while feel up to swordfighting, but I think I can finally do everything else on my usual list.

I cleaned and waxed my feder before heading to St. Croix. But I forgot where I stashed my cleaning supplies, and it took me until today to find that stuff again. But I have found it, and have now removed the effects of Sunday’s practice session from the edges.

My longsword displayed on the loveseat. (It's longer than the loveseat is wide by several inches.)