Forteza Fitness

From the Blog

Introducing the Forteza Combatives Method

Join us tonight for the official first class of Forteza’s newest martial arts offering, the Forteza Combatives Method (FCM).

The term combatives originates with the military close quarter methods of WWI and WWII were men like Rex Applegate and Col. Anthony J, Drexel Biddle devised simple, direct fighting methods with empty hands, sticks, knives and bayonets that soliders ould learn fast and apply in a wide variety of situations. Combatives weren’t about dueling or competition fighting, but about “getting the job done”.

Today, the term combatives has expanded beyond military combat, but still describes eclectic fighting arts aimed at practical self-defense. In this sense it can be seen as the post-World Wars inheritor of Barton-Wright’s “New Art of Self-Defense”, Bartitsu.

Inspired by these predecessors, the Forteza Combatives Method is an eclectic blend of proven fighting arts designed to meet the needs of today’s martial artists and self-defense enthusiasts. We offer a well-rounded approach to take your fighting skills to new heights, by combining boxing, kicking, clinch fighting, ground fighting, edged weapons survival, and physical conditioning into one cohesive system.

  • Closed Fist Combatives: a blend of old school Western bare knuckle boxing, combined with the devastating knees, kicks and elbows of Muay Thai and old school Korean Tae Kwon Do.
  • Ground Survival:  the FCM’s’ ground fighting techniques are a mix of military ground-fighting combatives, jujitsu, and American Catch Wrestling.  Our Catch Wrestling curriculum comes from Dr. Les Moore, in the lineage of Billy “Pops” Wicks.  Ground survival training teaches throws, holds, submissions, and escapes to give you the skills needed when a fight goes to the ground.  This is decidedly not grappling for sports competition, but rather for reality of the street.
  •  Empty Hand Combatives: practical unarmed combatives training focuses on gross motor skills that you can use to brutal efficiency in the chaos of an actual violent encounter.  This includes open and closed fist strikes, joint locks and breaks, throws, and trapping skills.
  •  Edges Weapons Survival:  learn the defensive and offensive use of the knife.  Our edged weapons program is based on the world renowned Martial Blade Concepts system as taught by MBC founder Mike Janich.
  • Combatives Conditioning: get into top fighting shape with a blend of pad work, kettlebells, body weight exercises, and sprints, and more.   You may not be a professional fighter, but you’ll be in shape like one!

If you are like to train hard, this is the class for you! No experience in martial arts are necessary – we’ll train you from the ground up, but the program is also designed to strongly appeal to students coming from a background in Krav Maga, boxing, Muay Thai or MMA who are specifically interested in integrated training and sparring focused on self-defense, rather than competition.

The Forteza Combatives class will be running on Tuesday evenings from 7:30-8:30, right after the Bartitsu class.

Bring a water bottle, a towel and enthusiasm and we’ll see you there!

Read More »

August Round-up – It was one busy month!

August was a busy month for Forteza, filled with workshops, special all-day bootcamps and our first adventure into the realm of viral media!

2012 Temple Burning – yes, we took the photo at the end of the day’s training and they were still smiling! Now bring on that Spartan Race!

On August 12th, we had our annual Temple Burning workout. Long before there was a Forteza, even before their was a Chicago Swordplay Guild, there was Jesse Kulla’s Temple Burning: an annual “push yourself to the brink” day of training, training and more training. Over the years, and with Keith and Jesse getting their personal training licenses, the Temple Burning has become a great deal more scientific, but in the end, this yearly event remains the same: a day spent running around, getting dirty, push our bodies to the brink of complete exhaustion, and have a whole lot of fun doing it!

This year’s TB  was going to be the official kick-off of training season for our Spartan Race team, so we thought we’d start them off slowly….wait, no we didn’t! The course this year featured a 4 mile course that combined kettlebell circuits, hill sprints, sand sprints, a pull-up contest, and of course, burpees up hill.

We’ve learned that Fortezans are happiest when you keep them training, so on August 26th, Greg ran four hour workshop called Coming to the Close: Infighting with the Medieval Longsword. After a quick warm-up with a 23 lb medicine ball, stick-wrestling and …why yes….burpees, Greg explained the theory behind coming to grips with the two-handed sword: when you seek to grapple or hilt-strike, and why. With the theory done and out of the way, we spent the next three and half hours disarming, wrist-locking, pommel-striking and exploring a host of other horrible forms of medieval mayhem. Fortunately, one of our students was on hand with his video camera, so we can give you a sneak peek at some of what went on:

Switching gears from medieval Italy to 21st century America, on Friday August 31st, Guro John Kovacs taught a focused two-hour session on combative joint locking techniques. We had a mix of Bartitstuka and Combatives students who gathered to learn the effective application of joint locking techniques, joint lock flow, and counters to various locks and holds.

You might have caught a mention about our dabbling in “viral marketing” as well this month. Just in case August wasn’t packed enough, we also pulled together the entire Forteza family – Asylum Stunts, Bartitsu Club of Chicago, Chicago Swordplay Guild, FightingFit, and members of the new Forteza Combatives Method for an extended photo shoot for our new website (watch this space for the announcement). But more than just getting good shots for the new page, we also shot video for a new project, via Indiegogo.

You guys do all of *that* at Forteza? Yeah, we really do!
(Sometimes it surprises us, too.)

What is this mysterious project? What better way to find out than to subscribe to this blog and be the first to see the big announcement.

Read More »

The Bartitsu School of Arms 2012

The second annual Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture will be hosted by the Bartitsu Club of Chicago between Sept. 8-9. Following the successful model established at the first School of Arms event in London last year, we will be concentrating on Bartitsu as a method of cross-training between fisticuffs, jujitsu, wrestling and Vigny stick fighting via a team-teaching approach.

Highlights will include:

* an optional, but highly recommended field trip on Friday, Sept. 7 to visit the historic Hegeler Carus mansion in LaSalle, IL, which includes the oldest known private gymnasium in the US

* two full days of Bartitsu cross-training at Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts, a full-time historical Western martial arts training studio in the Ravenswood neighborhood

* the Saturday night dinner in the Victorian-themed side room at O’Shaughnessy’s Public House, just a few minutes’ walk from Forteza

* an Antagonisticathlon (Bartitsu-themed obstacle course challenge) on Sunday afternoon (spectators welcome!)

Full details and link to the registration page available here.

Read More »

Coming to the Close: Infighting with the Longsword

Image
Date: Aug 26
Time: Noon to 3:30
Cost: $30 to CSG Members in good standing, $40 to guests
Disarms, pommel strikes and throws – all of these are part of zogho stretto, or close play, with the sword. Zogho stretto is where the lessons of the sword merge with those of abrazare and dagger, and the entire system is pulled together. It is also one of the most dangerous places to find yourself in a sword fight, since anything you can do to your opponent, he can do to you. In this special workshop, we’ll delve into a portion of our advanced curriculum to look at:
  • the difference between the incrossada (bind) at largo and stretto;
  • three “bridging plays” Fiore uses to teach how to flow from largo to stretto;
  • how to voluntarily enter into zogho stretto, when to do it and why;
  • pommel strike vs. hilt grab – a binary decision or “Dude, where’s my point?”
  • a truly wicked collection of pommel strikes, disarms and arm-locks.
This material is formally part of scholar and free scholar training, but the workshop is open to all current armizare students. Rapier students are also welcome to attend, as many of the same disarms and strikes occur with that weapon as well. However, you must be comfortable with the dagger curriculum and executing cuts, so it is recommended for Renaissance swordsmanship scholars, rather than novices.
Pre-register now by paypal at Gmele@fortezafitness.com
Read More »

How “Old School” is Old School? Personal training for fitness – and survival – in the 15th century

Image

Sweating to the Oldies, 15th Century-style: Fencing, weight-lifting, stone-throwing, wrestling and tumbling were all considered excellent ways for members of the Renaissance upper and middle classes to stay in shape and gain “a nimble and elegant body in concord with a healthy spirit”.

You may have noticed that at Forteza we talk about “going old school” quite a bit. After all, our martial arts classes cover subjects that are 100 to 600 years old, and our Gymuseum is comprised of a wide collection of working,19th c training apparatus. Nor is this just “retro-geek-cool”; much of what are now considered to be the height of modern training regimens is based around a new understanding, appreciation and application of “old school fitness”: body weight exercises, kettle bells, performance-based training, etc. But to most people, “Old School Fitness” probably means “before Pumping Iron came out.” Most people probably do not realize just how “old school” the notion of systematic functional fitness training and cross-training, especially in conjunction with the martial arts, really is. The Olympic Games are about to begin, so everyone will be reminded of the Ancient Greek interest in the gymnasium, where wrestling, running, javelin and discuss throwing and vaulting were all cultivated and practiced as part of building a natural, athletic body,  But somehow, in the popular mind, we went from naked Greeks wearing laurel wreaths to Arnold Schwarzenegger and now to Cross-Fit, without much in between.

In truth, the Greek idea of the gymnasia was carried forward, and its martial aspects emphasized, in the Roman palestra, or public training groundwhich combined gymnastics with boxing, wrestling, swordsmanship and javelin throwing. The palestra was essentially the ancient world’s precursor to the modern fitness studio.

It turns out that, as people who lived much more physical lives than we do today, our ancestors knew quite a bit about how to train for functional strength, so we take our inspiration in this from 14th – 16th century texts on health and fitness, which advise the following activities as being the idea set of exercises for achieving health, endurance and grace:

  1. Running – cross country, over-hills and in sand.
  2. Tumbling
  3. Lifting, carrying and tossing heavy stones.
  4. Throwing javelins.
  5. Wrestling
  6. Fencing

While it is clear that throughout the Middle Ages, interest in regimented training exercise, based on the Greco-Roman model never truly disappeared amongst the European warrior elite, the idea of “exercise for exercise sake” did not begin to reappear until the 15th century, when the Renaissance obsession with Classical culture gave the palestra a new lease on life.

The 15th c fencing master, Hans Talhoffer also recommended these same exercises, along with recommendations on diet and creating a specific training regimen, for someone who found himself forced to prepare for a judicial duel. This advice has been translated and presented in a short, evocative video by the fine folks at Blossfechter, a medieval swordsmanship and traditional martial arts club in Germany. The guys put a lot of heart into this clip, do yourself a favor and take three minutes to watch it!

Seem like it would be a challenging way to get fit? And more fun that more time on a Stairmaster? (At least, if you didn’t have to fight a duel at the end.) We think so! Since this same idea of the palestra was at the heart of the Victorian physical culture movement, particularly at Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu Club, how could we not?

Our historical European martial arts classes all begin with a combination of various calisthenic exercises, that would have been at home in any medieval training hall; amongst the most popular (with the instructors, if not the students!) being throwing medicine balls, stick-wrestling, rolling and falling and tug of war, then followed by the actual sword, dagger or wrestling classes themselves.

While many of these training methods are warm-ups for our martial arts classes, for those who really want to push themselves to lose weight, tone muscle and develop coordinated grace by going really old school, these same activities, combined with Indian clubs, kettle bells and a variety of fitness games, is at the heart of our FightingFit! program: our 2012 answer to 1512 physical fitness! And since, no one is going to make you fight a duel at the end, you can just enjoy swinging swords, throwing javelins, pulling ropes and basically doing all of the things you loved doing when you were ten…only now with a focused way to get in shape and stay there.

You may be fit, but are you FightingFit? Only one way to find out….

(Oh, and you don’t have to wear the “tights”!)

Read More »

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 »