Scapular protraction and fighting

Last time I posted, I talked about Upper Crossed Syndrome, which basically means a slouched posture. Upper Crossed Syndrome typically will involve some level of scapular protraction, i.e. the shoulder blades are rounded forward, and this is what I’m going to focus on today. If you’ve not read my previous article, please read it before reading this.

What I want to suggest today is that scapular retraction, i.e. pulling back the shoulder blades, is not only extremely important for everyday posture and long term health, but also very important in terms of fighting correctly with the longsword.

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Review: Fechtschule York 2013

Last weekend I attended Fechtschule York 2013. This is the second year that the event has taken place, and I greatly enjoyed my time teaching and participating at the event. I believe that it is worth writing a brief review of my experience so that more people will consider attending the event next year.


York is a spectacular city. It has Celtic and Roman history, it was a place of great importance to the Anglo-Saxons and to the Vikings, and it continued to be an important city throughout the following centuries. The architecture of the city is wonderful and some of the buildings are breathtaking.

The event took place (for the most part) in the Railway Institute. This was a huge hall, easily able to hold double the number of participants – at least, for normal classes, perhaps not for the polearm and staff classes! The venue was very close to food outlets and was easily within walking distance of accommodation throughout the city.

I am lucky enough to have most of my organisation’s events take place in the stunning University of Glasgow, or at the picturesque Loch Lomond, but York is an even more beautiful place to have an event. If you like to combine your historical fencing with sightseeing and visiting museums and historical buildings then you should definitely put Fechtschule York on your calendar for next year.


The event last for four days, involving museum and handling trips, lessons, lectures and presentations, and various other fun activities. It was a good length and allowed for a lot of lessons delivered by several instructors.

Lessons / Activities

The theme for the event was definitely 16th century historical fencing. There were lessons looking at Joachim Meyer’s longsword, dussack and staff systems; other lessons looked at other 16th century systems of longsword (from the treatises by Ledal and Mair, and the Kölner fechtbüch); messer was also present at the event. It was by no means longsword centric, nor was it focusing on any one particular system or master.

There was a visit to the Royal Armouries in Leeds, and a handling session at a local museum in York. These helped to keep the lessons in context by providing us with the opportunity to handle the real items in between sets of lessons.

Lectures / Presentations

Each day there was a lecture or presentation scheduled to take place. These tended to be a little more scholarly in nature, and were an excellent addition to the event. I would dearly love to see more events follow suit and include more presentations, lectures and/or debates as part of the event programme.

The subjects included the work of Heinrich von Gunterrodt, a proposed typology for messers and falchions, anatomy and what damage weapons can do to a person, and a broad overview of the elements of HEMA research.

Tournaments / Sparring

There were a lot of opportunities for sparring with people, and I spent quite a bit of time working with Bert Gevaert of the Hallebardiers. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to do as much sparring as I wanted, so I will just have to made doubly sure that I grab a lot of people at FightCamp this weekend!

There were no tournaments, and this was a very pleasant change of pace. It allowed the event and the participants to focus on scholarship and lessons, without diverting any attention or organisation to competition. I think this is a good thing – there are already plenty of events with tournaments, and yet another local tournament wouldn’t really add much to the scene.

I definitely believe that most events should decide whether to focus on lessons or competitions, pick one and focus on just that without any other distractions. Obviously some larger events can manage to run lessons and competitions simultaneously, but smaller events would do better to focus until they achieve a large enough number of attendees to support the split in focus.


Fechtschule York 2013 was an excellent event and is well worth a visit next year. It has a different pace and focus from many other events. If Payson and his organisational team can manage to secure a similar calibre of instructors and lecturers for next year then this will definitely be something that people should want to attend.

How to make an easy wax seal


So this week I have been extremely busy preparing for the upcoming launch of one of our new product lines. In the process I had to craft something that I actually think many of you may find interesting, a workable wax seal. Wax seals have been used throughout history as a method of ensuring documents were not tampered with or for symbolising that a specific individual had written or agreed to a document. In modern times you can purchase brass wax seals with ease but I needed a custom design that I could try out cheaply and rework if necessary so I decided to make a seal using clay. Historical seals have been discovered  made from various materials including clay so this was not as innovative an idea as it may sound however, the method I use will hopefully make getting the design you want easier especially if it is only in digital image format currently.

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Upper Crossed Syndrome

This week, I’m going to be discussing another common set of muscular imbalances, upper crossed syndrome. Upper crossed syndrome is a term invented by Vladimir Janda and it refers to a slouched posture.  Postural problems associated with UCS are anterior head carriage (i.e. holding the head in front of its base of support), cervical lordosis (i.e. excess curvature in the neck), thoracic kyphosis (i.e. excess curvature in the upper back), and anterior rotation of the shoulders and scapulae (i.e. having shoulders be rounded forward).

This all basically describes very common every day posture. As I said in my first post about posture, we typically spend much of the day sitting, and this negatively affects our posture. If you’re sitting at a computer, or behind the wheel of a car, you probably will need to round your shoulders forward in order to comfortably reach the keyboard or wheel. Some sports can make this problem worse, such as boxing or MMA for example, where a kyphotic posture will be held for defensive reasons.

Another potential problem may be that the back muscles may not properly develop because they don’t need to support the back if you are slouching in a chair, so they may be underdeveloped. If your upper back and shoulders round forward, then the head will naturally crane forward so it is in a more comfortable position.

This anterior head carriage will mean that the muscles in the back of the neck will become chronically tight, and the muscles in the front of the neck will become chronically stretched and weakened. The rounding of the upper back will mean that the muscles in the back, and in the back of the shoulders become chronically stretched, while the muscles in the chest and front of the shoulders become chronically tight.

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