Forteza Fitness

From the Blog

ONE DAY WORKSHOP: REVERSE GRIP KNIFE/IMPROVISED WEAPON TACTICS!

 

• Date: Sunday, July 29th 2012
• Time: 11:30am-4pm
• Location: Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts, 4437 N. Ravenswood Ave. Chicago, IL 60640
• Required gear: eye protection, and a training knife (there will be a few loaners available).
• Cost: $30 pre-paid, or $35 at the door.

Adaptability is the key to developing good self-defense skills. As both the ability to carry purpose-designed self-defense weapons and the legal use of force becomes more restricted, it becomes increasingly important to learn how to immediately identify and implement improvised self-defense tools.

Fighting at close quarters happens suddenly, brutally and often ends fatally. That’s why this seminar is designed for anyone who wants to develop basic threat detection and the ability to react immediately and spontaneously.

Using the proven reverse grip knife tactics of Martial Blade Concepts as a foundation for using improvised weapons, trained martial artists will increase their use of high speed, close-quarters defensive tactics. If you are new to martial arts, or just want to learn how to escape from harm if trouble comes to you, then you will learn a set of easily internalized and adapted skills, that can be employed reflexively to defend yourself at extreme close range and confined quarters.

To save your spot, email us at: info@fortezafitness.com and PayPal GMele@fortezafitness.com
Read More »

Forteza Challenge Workouts

Ready for a challenge?  The Forteza Challenge Workouts are designed to test both your fitness level and mental toughness via fun, but demanding workouts.

There are plenty of these sorts of workouts online, but as with everything else at Forteza, we’re going to try and make it a little different.  Challenge workouts will combine training themes, combined with our love of old-school training methods and martial arts to make you sweat but crack a smile between all of the grimacing.  Keep watching this space, as the workouts will sometimes include photos, videos or even contests, to see who is out there watching – and training!

Today’s challenge is Fight Gone Bad.  A fight gone well would be a one punch knockout.  A fight gone bad, however, is you going to distance in a brutal, back and forth war of attrition.

Perform 3-5 rounds, depending on your fitness level.  Each station lasts for 60 seconds, with a 60 second rest between rounds.  Try to challenge yourself as much as possible by choosing the heaving weight or most difficult version that you can safely handle for each exercise.  Remember; never sacrifice good form for a few more reps or heavier weight!

Fight Gone Bad

·         TRX or Ring Rows

·         Heavy Two Handed Kettlebell Swings (Men should aim for a 75 pound bell; women 45 pounds)

·         Box Jumps

·         Medicine Ball Slams (Use the heaviest medicine ball that you have.  The less bounce, the better!)

·         Battling Ropes

Enjoy!

Read More »

SWORDPLAY OF ROMEO & JULIET: BROADSWORD AND RAPIER IN ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND

A 3-Class Overview for Actors and Fighters.

Sundays, July 8, 15, and 22
11 AM to 5 PM
Cost: $225

Southwark, London – 1597

A new play is published by a relatively unknown playwright. A tragic love story drawn from older sources, it resonates with Londoners because its characters and dialogue draws from real events and gossip filling the city streets. Filled with romance, plots, and poison, it pivots around a disastrous swordfight, carefully detailed by the author as….

They Fight

While the Bard’s rather vague directions have left centuries of fight directors a great deal of creative leeway, it doesn’t tell us “What did fighting look like to the audience of Romeo & Juliet”. In this three class mini-camp, students step back into 1597, taking the role of actors preparing to debut Romeo & Juliet to a Southwark audience well-versed in swordplay. Nervous of its reception, Master Shakespeare has arranged to bring in a pair of fencing masters to prepare his actors.

Each day of the workshop will have a different focus, but will present real historical martial principles alongside the stage combat techniques that make it possible to safely perform them:

Day One: Broadsword and Bucker
The traditional sidearm of English fighting men for centuries. Taken directly from a text written in London during the 1590s, learn how to use this stout cut-and-thrust sword to mind your swashing blows!

Day Two: The Rapier
An “Italianate” weapon favored by English nobles and duelists, the rapier was a long, elegant and deadly sword, the weapon of Romeo and Tybalt. Drawing from the greatest Italian masters of the year 1600, you will learn the foundations of rapier play and become what Mercutio called the very butcher of a silk button, a duelist and a member of the very first house!

Day Three: They Fight – Creating Effective Elizabethan Swordplay
In this final class we will begin with a short recap of days one and two, then show how to use the sword against the rapier (and vice-versa) before teaching you how to use your hard-won knowledge of real Elizabethan fencing to create believable fights on stage!

Presented by renowned stage combatants R&D Choreography and respected historical swordsmen from the Chicago Swordplay Guild, this is a workshop unlike any you’ve ever seen and will appeal to actors, stunt performers and martial artists alike!

Read More »

Our First Open House a HUGE Success!

On Sunday, March 4th from noon to 4:00pm, Forteza held a special Open House to showcase our swordfighting, physical fitness and Western martial arts classes. Over the course of the day, over 150 guests filed through the studio to check out our combination of demos and mini-lessons, including:

  • Armizare: the Martial Art of the Medieval Knight –  including the two-handed sword, spear and dagger
  • Renaissance Swordplay: the Art of the Duel –  including the rapier, rapier and dagger, and rapier and cloak
  • Bartitsu: The ‘Lost Martial Art’ of Sherlock Holmes –  a unique Edwardian blend of Eastern and Western fighting arts
  • Garimot Anis: Traditional Martial Arts of the Philippines – including fast-action self-defense techniques against a knife
  • Stunt Display – an exciting stunt display by Asylum Stunts

There was also be a hands-on table display of the weapons and armor we use for training.

The link above will take you to a short video impression of the Open House, featuring demonstrations by the Chicago Swordplay Guild, the Bartitsu Club of Chicago and the Asylum Stunt Team.

Our public debut also drew some media attention. Check out:

Martial Arts, Victorian Style: Bartitsu at Forteza Fitness Brings Back the Lost Fighting Art of Sherlock Holmes, by New City journalist Kristen Micek,

and  Blast into the Past from Action Quarterly.

Read More »

Welcome to Forteza! Welcome home!

Forteza Fitness, Physical Culture & Martial Arts, a unique studio in Ravenswood, Chicago blending cutting-edge knowledge with old school training. 

Forteza is an ancient Italian word meaning “fortress” or “stronghold”. At Forteza we help each person who comes through our door build their own personal stronghold; the stronghold of their body, mind and spirit.

We do that by being far more than an ordinary martial arts school or a gym.  Rather, we are:

  • A fitness studio that combines personal training and functional fitness with modern nutritional counseling, set in a beautiful, 5000 square foot, c.1900 facility;
  • Pioneers in the revival of 19th century “physical culture” – the combined use of calisthenics, Indian clubs, medicine balls, therapeutic gymnastics, body-weight exercises and games designed to create natural strength and grace with athletic performance;
  • The Midwest’s only full-time school for the study of traditional Western martial arts, including the fighting arts of the medieval knight, and Renaissance swordplay;
  • Home to Chicagoland’s only licensed instructor in MBC Self-defense System; a nationally known and respected method of hand, stick and knife defense designed for modern people with limited training time;
  • A gymuseum: a unique “living museum” of antique exercise equipment and an inspirational gallery of 19th century prints portraying combat sport athletes in training;
  • An international center for education on the rich and sophisticated martial traditions of Western Civilization;
  • Home to an innovative and eclectic series of workshops, lectures and unique social events.

Above all, though, we are a fellowship and home-away-from-home for anyone who has ever been fascinated by these subjects and wants to challenge themselves to do more and be more

While our website serves to get prospective students the 411 on what we teach, when we teach it and how to join, our blog and Tumblr page are a growing archive on the Forteza experience in word, photo and video. It is also an ever-growing library of articles, martial arts techniques, old-school fitness workouts, nutritional tips, that we hope you will come to time and time again.

Welcome to Forteza! Welcome home.

Read More »

Armizare Academy: A Celebration of the Knightly Arts

The Chicago Swordplay Guild is pleased to host this invitational, three day event in honor of Maestro Fiore dei Liberi and his Art.

In 1410, Fiore dei Liberi, an aging condottiero and master-at-arms to some of Italy’s most renowned warriors, presented a book to the bellicose Niccolò III d’Este, Marchese of Ferrara (1383-1441) containing the sum of four decades of knowledge won in the training hall, siege, battle and  five duels with rival masters. He named this work Il Fior di Battaglia, the Flower of Battle, composed so that the “art might not be forgotten”.

Six hundred years later, a small circle of martial artists gathered from around the world to prove him right! This event, affectionately called “The 600: Prepare for Fiore!”, was such a success with attendees, that we decided to make it a recurring workshop! Since “The 602″ seemed to be missing some flair, the event has been renamed Armizare Academy. Each Academy session will have a central theme, but will also include a renowned instructor from a similar, outside tradition, to help put our art in context. This year’s outside focus will compare Arimzare to the German Kunst des Fechtens of the Liechtenauer tradition.

You can find out more here.

 

Read More »

The Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture: Chicago, 2012

The Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture: Chicago, 2012

The 2012 Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture will take place at Forteza between September 8-9.

Participants are invited to join a field trip and guided tour of the Hegeler Carus mansion and historic gymnasium in LaSalle, IL on the afternoon of Friday, September 7.  Saturday the 8th will include a full day of Bartitsu cross-training instruction followed by dinner, discussions and socialising, and Sunday the 9th will include a further day of training with fellow enthusiasts, finishing with a fun and challenging antagonisticathlon combat obstacle course event.

Please see the 2012 Bartitsu School of Arms web page for all details, registration, etc.

Read More »

Captain Hutton writes about his friends at the Bartitsu Club

A portrait of Captain Alfred Hutton, taken at about the time he was teaching at the Bartitsu Club.

Captain Alfred Hutton was among the instructors who taught various branches of “antagonistics” at E.W. Barton-Wright’s School of Arms in London circa 1900.  One of England’s most prominent and respected swordsmen, Hutton was also the president of the Amateur Fencing Association and a pioneering practitioner of revived Elizabethan era fencing with weapons such as the rapier and dagger.

Although Hutton’s specialties do not appear to have been formally included as aspects of Bartitsu, it’s evident that there a good deal of cross-training took place at the Bartitsu Club; for a complete account, see Ancient Swordplay: the Revival of Elizabethan Fencing in Victorian London.

In an article for The Press newspaper (8 February 1904, Page 10), Captain Hutton reminisced about some colourful characters and incidents from his long experience of fencing.  He also offered the following remarks upon his Bartitsu Club colleagues and their methods of antagonistics:

“Before bringing my passing recollections to a close as regards people I have met, and as having been more especially connected with the use of defensive and offensive weapons, I should like to refer to my friend Monsieur Pierre Vigny, a Swiss gentleman, devoted to all athletic exercises, and certainly master of the art of self defence by means of an ordinary walking-stick, a Malacca cane being preferred.  The exercise is most useful in case of attack by footpads, most interesting as a sport, and most exhilarating in a game. It beats single-stick.  However, it would take far too long for me to give further explanations.

There is another new development of athleticism which I strongly advocate, viz., Ju-jitsu, or Japanese wrestling.  I am too old to go in for regular wrestling as it obtains in Japan, easy as it may look, but my good friends Uyenishi and Tani put me up to about eighty kata, or tricks, which even at my age may one day or another come in useful. In modified form the art might be advantageously practised by a small boy when meeting a great hulking bully; indeed, the successful way in which a twelve-year-old friend of mine who knew some tricks of Japanese wrestling floored his parent in my presence was most instructive in spite of its apparent disrespect.

My Japanese friends tell me it is one of the most amusing sights to watch the little native policemen in Japan throwing and capturing huge, stalwart, European sailors who have supped not wisely but too well.”

These anecdotes clearly demonstrate that Hutton took a keen practical interest in the classes offered by his fellow Bartitsu Club “professors”. He occasionally demonstrated the Vigny method of self defence with a walking stick during interviews, and he offered a somewhat more detailed account of the Vigny system in his book The Sword and the Centuries.  It was also in that book that he described the Bartitsu Club as being “the headquarters of ancient swordplay in England”.

As it turned out, Hutton did find use for some of the 80 “kata” he learned from Tani and Uyenishi, beginning when he penned a short monograph on Ju Jitsu, or Japanese Wrestling, for Schoolboys. A few years later, Hutton demonstrated a number of jujitsu “tricks” for a panel of doctors working in one of London’s psychiatric hospitals.  This was almost certainly the first time Asian martial arts had been applied towards the problem of humane self defence and restraint in a therapeutic environment.

Read More »

Gymuseum 1: Indian Clubs

Circa 1900, schools of “physical culture” offered a wide range of tools and machines to develop strength, endurance, agility and flexibility.  Sadly, many of these devices have been lost over the generations, but some have survived in working order.  The Forteza gymuseum includes both a unique “living museum” of antique exercise equipment and an inspirational gallery of 19th century prints portraying combat sport athletes in training. One of the most readily noticed parts of the museum is a large collection of odd wooden bowling-pin shaped objects, known as “Indian clubs”.

The exercise of club-swinging was first introduced to Europe during the late 19th century, by British soldiers who had observed similar exercises performed by wrestlers and other athletes in India.  By manipulating the clubs in complex swinging and flourishing patterns, exponents were able to develop their co-ordination, strength, endurance and flexibility.

Club-swinging spread throughout the Western world via public gymnasia, military physical training courses and physical culture classes offered in schools. A “flourishing” trade also developed in home study manuals, further establishing Indian club swinging as a fitness craze that lasted through to the early-mid 20th century.

Some of our gymuseum clubs are modern and some are antiques dating back to circa 1900. All Forteza members are welcome to make use of them during their training; and remember, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing!

Read More »

Forteza hosts its first Playing of the Prize: an exhibition of historical swordplay.

This past weekend (April 22) Forteza hosted its first Playing of the Prize for the Chicago Swordplay Guild. Of course, for people new to Historical European Swordsmanship, the question arises…

What is a “Playing of the Prize”?

The Chicago Swordplay Guild utilizes a ranking system based on those of the medieval fencing guilds of England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, which included three to four ranks: scholar, free scholar, provost, and master. These grades are not really analogous to the “belt ranks” in modern martial arts, but rather are closer to the system of licensing found in classical Japanese martial arts. They reflected a junior and senior level of two different roles within the school of arms: that of student and teacher. A scholar was one accepted as a student in the school of arms. In the English tradition a second grade of free scholar denoted a senior student who had grasped enough of the art’s foundation, usually encoded in the sword, sword and buckler and/or two-handed sword, and now had the “freedom of the school” to move on to more advanced training. Particularly dedicated students might press on to the grade of provost. This was the lesser teaching grade: a provost was licensed to teach students, but only under the auspices of a master, who oversaw all advancement testing. A master at arms or master of defence was the highest rank, and referred to a swordsman who had attained a high level of both martial and teaching skill. They were able to maintain their own schools and promote their own students.

Chicago Swordplay Guild Bill of Challenge for a Scholar’s Prize to be fought at Forteza, 22 April 2012, adapted from its Elizabethan antecedents.

One of the most important steps in the progression through the grades was the concept of Playing the Prize. This comprised of two steps. The first step occurs as an internal event, comprised of written and physical tests to assess the student’s skills. The second step was for the student to submit a challenge for a public prize playing (free fencing exhibition), for the grade being tested for. These Bills of Challenge were posted of the event and a wooden scaffolding was erected in a public square. A good number of formalities were observed. On the appointed day and time, following a procession of drums and flags the Player was paraded to the raised scaffold with much fanfare.

Usually fought on raised stages in inn yards or playhouses, Playings of the Prize were the precursors to the “prize fighting” that would become associated with boxing in the 1800s. They were boisterous affairs, including music, food, and rowdy, cheering (or booing audiences) who would throw coins (or if displeased, perhaps less savory “awards”) onto the platform.

At the start, a senior Master would declare the name of the Player, the rank being sought, and then announce “The first bout to be at [whichever weapon]”. Bouts were fought using blunted weapons and played to a number of ‘hits’ rather than to a ‘victory’. Although not real, the fights were not displays or exhibitions, but rather a sort of sparring tests to  evaluate the Player. The bouts could sometimes be bloody, but never lethal. No armor was used and blows were limited to above the waist, but even the bare head and hands were targets. The job of the “answerers” or “challengers” was not to break or beat the Player but to seriously test them. The ‘Prize’ itself was promotion to the new rank.

Playing the Prize in the Chicago Swordplay Guild

Although this was the first Prize to be fought at Forteza, Playing the Prize has been part of rank advancement in the Chicago Swordplay Guild since 2001, and we proudly embrace the traditions of our ancestors.  Family and friends of the candidates, Guild members past and present, and guests from other martial arts schools, are all invited to attend this public exhibition of arms. Much like the original Prize, ours are a combination of formality and raucous celebration. Refreshments and music entertain the audience before the Prize begins and during breaks between challenges. Rather like watching a tournament, spectators are encouraged to cheer good blows, and to boo wild, uncontrolled blows.

This cheerfully irreverent atmosphere offsets the formality of the Prize itself. The list (cordoned off combat ring) is decorated with heraldic banners representing the Guild and the virtues ascribed to the medieval warrior (if you’ve been paying attention to our website, you already know that these are strength – speed – knowledge and courage!).  Guild instructors trade in their black Forteza t-shirts for our formal uniforms, which are a modern homage to the arts origins in the 14th – 16th centuries, much like the hakama seen in traditional Japaneses martial arts. The Prize begins with a formal opening ceremony, taken from their Renaissance precursor, and then each candidate is called forward one at a time, their challengers are announced, and combat begins.

Armizare students fight their Prize with the longsword, while Renaissance Swordsmanship students fight with the single rapier. Challenges at the Scholar level are fought under a set of rules somewhat more “permissive” than those of the 16th century, in large part because of access to additional safety gear:

  • Each match is 3 minutes in length;
  • The entire body is a target;
  • Strikes may be made with the point, edge or pommel of the sword;
  • Disarms, grapples, leg sweeps and throws are permitted, but combat will stop once both parties are unarmed, or one is thrown to the ground.
  • Combatants acknowledge their own blows, and the Judge intervenes only to part combatants with his baton for safety reasons or because a throw or disarm has occurred.

Erin Fitzgerald performs a little “death from below” in her bout with Shannon Winslow

As this is not a tournament, but an examination, each Challenger is given a specific task for their match with the Prizor, based on the observations of the instructors. For example, if the candidate has trouble initiating attacks, one Challenger might be told to hang back, forcing the Prizor to pursue and open with attacks. Conversely, a Prizor who starts strong but tends to “stop and look” might find their opponent continuously presses in with an unrelenting barrage of blows.The purpose is to push the Prizor physically and mentally, under the added stress of the watching eyes of friends and family.

One place where we have decidedly improved upon the past is that Guild Prizes are distinctly co-ed. Weapons are a great equalizer in terms of strength and size, and female students face men and women Challengers equally. Guild membership has traditionally been about 1/3 female, but this past Saturday saw three ladies take the field as Prizors, out of six competitors in total!

The candidates await their judgement by the instructors and challengers.

Once all the bouts were over, if the Prizor was judged victorious by the four Masters, he would be declared “a well-tryd and sufficient man with divers weapons”. He would then (after collecting the change littering the stage)  swear his oath of obligation, and be escorted by his new peers back to the school and from there off to do much drinking.  Our modern Guild’s Scholar’s oath is adapted directly from the Elizabethan one, requiring the student to treat those above and below him or her with respect, to train diligently and with pride, but not vanity, to be sure that their actions and deeds in the list or the classroom bring renown, not shame, to their fellows and teachers, and to be a good citizen. Students kneel and swear this oath on the hilt of a sword, receive their license and are gifted with a green garter tied under the left knee – a symbol of their rank. Finally, they sign their names in the Guildbook – a custom-made, leather-bound volume containing the history, rules and doings of the Chicago Swordplay Guild. (One such guildbook is in Ghent, home of the oldest surviving fencing school in the world. While the modern guild is a sport-fencing club, the records and entries in its book go back to its founding in 1614!)

And then, it was time for a celebratory Guinness….

Or course, it would be quite foolish to preserve all of these Renaissance customs without including the celebratory drinking at an inn! And so, with all due diligence, the tired, and bruised newly-minted Scholars were escorted by their colleagues to O’Shuaghnessy’s Public House for a pint or four. Slainte!

Our hearty congratulations go out to Christina, Erin, Heather, Jake, Robert and Nathan and our thanks to Shannon, Dan, Davis, Jacques, John, Phil and Trey for serving as Challengers!

Here are a few videos of the day’s combats:

Longsword

Rapier

Read More »