Forteza Fitness

From the Blog

Hate Pushups? Let’s make this October change that forever!

October Training Challenge:
Do 100 Push Ups in 1 week 

You have 4 weeks to get there. We have a plan to get you there!

Each week is it’s own mini-challenge, building up to big strength gains by month’s end.  We Start Monday, October 5th.

Ready? Of course you are! Let’s do this!

Step 1) Commit to a few minutes a day for your health, and join the FREE PUSH UP TRACKER to watch yourself progress.
(Want to be anonymous? Make up a fun nickname.)

Step 2) Monday Night PUSH UP CLINICS will happen during FightingFit! Class at 6:30 PM. We’ll show you variants to challenge any fitness level, and coach your form.   

Worried about your wrists? We have options.
Think you’re too buff for this challenge? We’ll show you more difficult pushups to try.

Step 3) Might as well come to weekday classes to get in your reps 😉.  All our fitness classes will provide an opportunity for that day’s pushups, as well as coaching.

Miss a class? Then pushups are simply homework.

Special Facebook Frame

Excited about what you’re gonna accomplish? Use our special Facebook Frame around your profile picture in October.  Get it HERE.

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Forteza’s Pro-Shop is expanding online!

Historical martial arts are a great deal of fun, but they are also equipment intensive, with a sometimes dizzying array of items to choose from! Fortunately, we’ve developed an on-site and on-line Pro-shop for students. From fencing masks to swords, instructional manuals to exciting, Forteza bling, we’ve got you covered!

Of course, the pandemic has meant that all of the various items in our shop have been gathering dust for most of the year. But now, you can order online with our partners at Historica, who carry our items in the new HEMAWear department of their online store. We will be providing an expanding range of product categories to help you speed up your shopping on our own Store page.

Historica is still setting up the store items, but they are open for business and ready to hook you up, so stop by!

This online store will also be the official pro-shop for the new Swordplay Online project, which many of instructors are involved in, and which launches next month! Even better, we have been working with Historica/Revival Clothing to develop some new, historically-inspired but modern HEMA-focused designs that will hopefully be debuting over the end of the year, watch this space for more!

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Forteza Online is Here!

Classes start Monday, May 4th

COVID shutdown continues. More than ever, we need to practice self-care, and find new and interesting ways to connect with the places and people that matter.

We’ve spent the last month learning about at-home programming, and while we might not be able to bring you back to “The Fort” right now, we can bring the Fort — and the Forteza Family — back to you! 

The expanded, online programming replicates our two most popular programs: Swordplay and Fitness! And if you can’t decide, try both!

If you already have an active Forteza Fitness membership: 

You’ll be granted immediate access to the equivalent online classes. If your membership elapsed, or you are a distance learner, you can get one of our online memberships!

Online Memberships include:

  • Live Classes with instructor interaction
  • Class Recordings, so you can go back and review.
  • An ever-growing library of short Technique Videos
  • Guided Training Videos – workouts and drills you can turn on at your leisure
  • And where applicable, Homework Critiques and Review

To join class, all you need is a smartphone, or a computer with a web camera!

And as special gift to everyone during the ongoing stay-at-home order: SwordFit and Bowie Knife and Martial Blade Concepts classes will still be available to the public after May 4th!

Forteza Online is something we have talked about and brainstormed on and off for the last couple of years, and while the pandemic forced our hand to finally move forward, it won’t be going away once we reopen our doors. Programming will expand to include more beginner’s/distance learning, growing technique libraries and more. Although this wasn’t how we planned on setting out on this road, we look forward to taking the journey with you.

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Feeling Sluggish Locked Inside? Try Forteza On-Line!

Since we are all stuck at home “Flattening the Curve”, Forteza has been working hard at getting classes on-line. This is new for us, but we are ready to offer you some training and exercise opportunities!

There are several ways we are providing training:

Free, Open-Access Training Videos

Short, 2 – 5 minute solo drills and training advice on everything from fitness to martial arts, posted on the Forteza and Chicago Swordplay Guild Facebook pages. 

Public On-Line FightingFit! and SwordFit! Classes

On-line classes will be run by an instructor, so you can follow along at home. Classes are using ZOOM! Click this link 10 minutes before class starts to join the web-meeting.Public classes are announced on the Forteza Facebook page, with log-in info. Here’s a roster of classes!


SpartanFit! – 10:00 AM 


FightingFit! Combat Yoga – 6:30 AM 

FightingFit – 6:30 PM


FightingFit! Flex – 7:00 AM 

Swordfit! Sprint – 6:00 PM

FightingFit! – 6:30 PM


FightingFit! Combat Yoga – 6:30 AM 

FightingFit! – 6:30 PM


FightingFit! Flex – 7:00 AM 

FightingFit! – 6:30 PM

SwordFit! Sprint – 7:30 PM

There is no charge for these classes, though instructors will have a PayPal “tip jar” available.)

Public Martial Arts Classes

We are also making a growing number of martial arts classes available to the public, especially those that neither require a lot of gear (for out knife classes, you could use a spoon, if you had too!) or experience to practice. Why not join us?


Bowie and Knife – 8:00 PM


Martial Blade Concepts – 3:00 PM

There is no charge for these classes, though instructors will have a PayPal “tip jar” available.)

Private, Member’s Only Martial Arts Classes

We have a series of weekly swordplay classes and lectures, just for current members! These are using ZOOM! and members will be emailed a full schedule and logon information. Keep checking your email and social media for details!

None of this is the spring we envisioned when 2020 began, but it is the spring life has dealt us. All we can do is see it through with the most flexibility, determination, compassion and good humor we can. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, and let us provide you with a little distraction and sense of community during these trying times.

Best Wishes,

Your Forteza Family.

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Forteza Featured on ABC7..Twice!

Our recent feature on LOCALish …pitching us somewhere between Medieval CrossFit and FightClub. I guess that’s about right.

On a somewhat…er…lighter note…ABC invite us back to attempt to teach a little swordplay to Ryan Chiaverini and Val Warner. Take-away — Ryan got a luck shot, but Val plays for keeps…

It was great fun and thanks to the folks at ABC 7 for letting us show off what we do not once, but twice!

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Forteza Holiday Schedule

Whether its Christmas, Hannukah, Yule, Saturnalia, or just a simple celebration that the Winter Solstice means the days start getting longer, December is a time when we celebrate the old year and welcome in the new. It’s a time for reflection and merriment, friends and family. For all of us here at Forteza, it is a time to remember all of you, our family, and all you bring to our lives. May 2018 end happily and 2019 bring you joy!

Christmas Closure — No Classes
Monday, December 24
Tuesday, December 25
Wednesday December 26

New Year’s Closure–No Classes
Monday, December 31
Tuesday, January 1

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6-Week Bowie Knife Principles and Tactics Course Now Enrolling for January 2019

6 Weeks, Beginning January 10
Thursdays 7:30 PM
Cost: $125.00

Register Today!

It’s hard to believe the new year is nearly upon us, but it’s time to start planning that post holiday, back to training regiment now. And what could be a more interesting way to get yourself up and moving than with the premier weapon of the American frontier — the fabled blade of Jim Bowie?

The Weapon

Following in a long-line of heavy, northern European fighting knives that go back to the medieval messer and the Anglo-Saxon/Norse saex, the Bowie knife is a long-bladed weapon with a wide belly that allows for devastatingly powerful cuts — almost a short sword in its potential! Its length and strength also makes it capable of actually parrying blows, allowing for a fencing-style of combat that many knives can’t match. But what really makes the weapon shine is its clipped point and back-edge, which allows for powerful back-cuts and thrusts. A more elegant weapon for a more savage age…

The Fighting Art

Two men engaged in a duel with Bowie knives. Line engraving, American, c1865.


This 6-week course we’ll look at the basics of handling the Bowie Knife, it’s signature and unique techniques and motions, such as:

  • The straight thrust;
  • The snap-cut;
  • The back-cut;
  • Parrying with the reinforced spine;
  • Linking techniques;

If you’ve never taken our Intro to Bowie Knife course, there are more than enough basics to get you started. For those who have already done the Intro course, a good portion of this course focuses on the tactics of knife fighting: Analyzing your opponent, learning how to shut-down and control his actions, and using various techniques to stop an attacker using not only a similar weapon, but other, large knives and anyimprovised weapons, such as bats, crowbars etc.

The History

Although a modern fighting knife, the Bowie is a key piece of American martial heritage, and I will address how it was used in the early days of America.

The myth of “Jim’s knife”: Did James Bowie really invent a new fighting weapon for his famed duels, or was it already a common fighting weapon?

Bowie and Tomahawk: tools of survival on the American frontier.

Knife Duels in Old New Orleans: Fought under the famed giant oak trees or on top of a moving train.

The Bowie Goes to War: Did you know the bowie knife became a fighting knife in WWI and WWII, and was taught as a weapon of last resort against bayonets? Now you do!

Throughout the classes you will be learning about some of the historical people who made the blade famous.

Part history less, part martial arts class, of course, there will be putting the Knife to work through focus sparring and full sparring!

The Instructor

Thayne Alexander has been studying and a practitioner of the martial arts, weapons combat and defense, and the modern combative’s world for well over 28 years. Starting with Aikido at age 14, after graduating high school, he became interested in MMA and spent years learning a blend of Muay Thai and Jeet Kune Do and while he got thrown around a lot, he had the opportunity to learn from exchange students from Japan using various Koryu (“old school”) styles of jujutsu. He found Western arts in 1999, when he began the study of Armizare, and is still active today as a senior Scholar and Instructor of the Chicago and Rocky Mountain Swordplay Guilds.

In 2005 Thayne started Martial Blade Concepts/ Counter Blade Concepts training along with Kali Eskrima Silat and became a Full Instructor in the MBC system under the founder Michael Janich in 2013. Around the same time of starting MBC. Thayne’s love for the old American melee weapon styles got him involved with Bowie knife and Tomahawk weapons and has been teaching the big knife in on-going classes and a few seminars since 2014.

Today, in addition to Armizare and MBC, he is a student of realistic based defense systems, studying under giants in the field such as Lee Morrison and Kelly McCann’s, and is a practicing savateur  in the system of Boxe Francaise and street Savate.

Register Today!

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2019 MidWinter Armizare Tournament: Longsword and Sword in One Hand

In conjunction with the Midwest Historical Fencing League and Forteza Fitness & Martial Arts the Midwinter Armizare Open is a public display of skill with one and two-handed swords in a relatively rules-light format meant to emphasize the tactical priorities of fighting with sharp weapons in lethal combat, c. 1400 – 1600 AD.

Date : Saturday, 26 Jan 2019
Location: Forteza Fitness & Martial Arts, 4437 N. Ravenswood Ave, Chicago, IL 60640
10:30 – Sign In
11:00 – Introduction: Rules and Demo
11:30 – Sword in One Hand
1:00 – Break
1:30 – Longsword
5:00 – Awards
5:30 – After Event Party

You can find a PDF of the rules Midwinter Armizare Open 2019!
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A Reading and Book Signing with Ellis Amdur and Ben Trissel

Thursday, August 9, 7:30

Price: Free!

Forteza is very excited to present, for the first time, an author signing and reading!
Renowned martial artist and martial arts historian, Ellis Amdur recently turned his skills to fiction with the moody and powerful novella: Girl with the Face of the Moon. 

The Girl with the Face of the Moon is a combination of two of the oldest stories of humanity, the hero’s journey and that of love a driving force with a power that can triumph over death: a mother seeking to save her child from hell.

A young woman of samurai lineage is raised in an impoverished mountain village by bitter parents, identical to the peasants among whom they live, but for their ancestry. Unloved and mistreated, she runs off with a Matagi, a man of a caste of hunters, who were outcast but nearly free from the rules that governed the rest of Japanese society. After a few years of happiness, their child is stolen by a being perhaps human, perhaps not. Bereft, the young woman will challenge death itself to recover her child.

Beautifully and moodily illustrated by Chicago artist, Ben Trissel, both men will be on hand for a reading and signing.

But, of course, Forteza is a martial arts studio, and this novel is a martial arts fantasy, so it only made sense that readings from the novel will then in turn lead to readings from Ellis’ ethongraphic/hoplologic work in studying Japanese martial culture:

Old School refers to Japanese martial traditions that predate the sweeping cultural changes that followed the Meiji Restoration of 1868.  They generally have a very different character and tone from modern martial arts, such as kendō, judō or aikidō which followed. More than the study of antique weapons, self-defense or a form of athletics, these martial traditions are a cultural legacy and a window to another time and place. Ellis brings readers inside the dojōs of a number ancient schools, providing details analysis of the evolution and morphology of uniquely Japanese weaponry, addressing the myth and reality of Japan’s naginata-wielding warrior women, and discussing the modern relevance of the blood oaths, magical ritual and mysticism that often permeate the koryū.  Finally, he looks at the challenge of preservation and transmission, especially as more and more practitioners of the koryū exist outside of Japan itself Writing with a combination of the initiate’s passion for his subject, and the scientist’s rigorous search for the truth, Amdur asks critically: do the ancient traditions still meet the objectives of their founders? Are they successfully passing their ancient legacy down to the next generation?

Hidden in Plain Sight is a discussion of esoteric training methods once common, but now all but lost within Japanese martial arts. These methodologies encompassed mental imagery, breath-work, and a variety of physical techniques, offering the potential to develop skills and power sometimes viewed as nearly superhuman. Usually believed to be the provenance of Chinese martial arts, Amdur asserted that elements of such training still remain within a few martial traditions: literally, ‘hidden in plain sight.’

There will be readings from all three works, some light refreshments on hand, and books available for sale. In addition, we are happy to announce that Ellis will be in town for a few days and teaching a workshop at Forteza on Sunday the 12th, which you can read about here!

There is no cost to attend the signing, but if you are sure you want to attend we would love it if you would register, so we can plan seating accordingly.

About the Author

Ellis Amdur is a writer, an American practitioner of martial arts and a crisis intervention trainer. He has published a number of books on martial arts, on crisis intervention, hostage negotiation,and fiction. He began his study of martial arts in 1968, learning karate and traditional Chinese arts. He started training in aikido in 1973, and after moving to NYC, lived in Terry Dobson and Ken Nisson’s Bond Street Dojo. He also started training daily at the New York Aikikai school of aikido. After gaining a degree in psychology Amdur traveled to Japan in 1976 to further his study of the martial arts, and while there, entered the Toda-ha Bukō-ryū and Araki-ryū, two traditional koryu (‘old school’ Japanese martial arts). He is a shihan (full instructor) in both these arts, one of only a few non-Japanese to attain teaching licenses in any koryu. He has also studied judo, Muay Thai and xingyiquan. In recent years, Amdur has continued his training in several areas: an in-depth study of ‘internal strength’ paradigms, as suited to use within traditional Japanese combative arts; Arrestling, a mixed martial art specifically for law enforcement, created by Don Gulla; Amdur’s ‘new-old’ development, Taikyoku Araki-ryu in which, in collaboration with established groups of expert martial artists, one or more ‘modules’ of Araki-ryu are studied in depth, and applied to the environment where the particular group functions (competitive grappling and law enforcement being two examples). He also maintains a blog, Kogen Budo.

Based in Seattle, Amdur teaches courses for a variety of different venues, from law enforcement and corrections to mental health and families on crisis intervention.He also consults on situations involving stalking, domestic violence or work-site safety.

Ellis is the author of several books on the martial arts (Dueling With O-SenseiHidden in Plain SightOld School) as well as twelve profession-specific books on crisis intervention and mental health which are published under his own Edgework Publishing imprint. In addition, he has also published:

  • Shapeshifting: Effective Scenario Training for Crisis/Hostage Negotiation Teams – two separate works: one for law enforcement & one for HNT teams in prison environments.
  • Body and Soul: Toward a Radical Intersubjectivity in Psychotherapy – a book combining phenomenological psychology and clinical encounters with people struggling to survive in desperate circumstances
  • The Coordinator: Managing High-Risk, High-Consequence Social Interactions in an Unfamiliar Environment
  • Girl with the Face of the Moon – A novel
  • Along with Neal Stephenson, Charles C. Mann, and Mark Teppo, he has also published a graphic novel, entitled Cimarronin
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