Forteza Fitness

Events

Traditional Italian Knife and Staff Arts Workshop – November 17 & 18

Forteza is proud to be hosting Maestro Roberto Laura  on November 17 – 18 for a seminar on Italian knife and stick fighting. Mestro Laura has been spending years trying to document and preserve living traditions of Italian combatives, some of which are quite old. This will be his first visit to teach these arts in the United States.

The first day of the workshop will include training in the knife system of two schools: i Cavalieri d’onore e d’umilita (Knights of Honor and Humility), an extremely old school of combat that  derives from Manfredonia, Apulia in southern Italy (15th century). It is a highly specialised and elegant fighting system with the knife. Besides solo and partnered forms there are plenty of dueling positions which all have their respective tactical purposes. This school is NOT for self-defense! The intension is rather to survive or win dueling, to kill the opponent. The Cavalieri school also contains the fighting art with the shepherd stick and the straight-razor. The second is la Scuola Cielo e Meraviglia (the School of Heaven and Its Marvels) which also comes from Apulia, and is about two-hundred years old. This is a close-quarter fighting system which uses grips, joint locks, throws. As very old traditions these schools use  a wide variety of daggers and folding knives, including cloak and dagger techniques and improvised weapons.

The second day of the workshop will focus on using the Italian bastone – an approximately 4′ long walking staff/shepherd’s staff, as taught by in the Onore e d’Umilita school and in the modern Sicilian tradition.

This is a very unique chance to study actual, living martial traditions of Italy, and we are hoping to do our part to see that these traditions not only survive in the 21st century, but get off of life-support. Once Roberto is gone, we’ll be developing a small study group to continue working with this material.

Cost: $150 for the weekend, $100 for a single day. Please RSVP and register with info@fortezafitness.com ASAP, as spaces are limited. You can read more about Roberto and his work here: http://www.robertolaura.com/wp/english-site

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The Bartitsu School of Arms 2012 in text, video and images

The second annual Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture was a three-day conference and training seminar held in Chicago between September 7-9, 2012. The event was hosted by the Bartitsu Club of Chicago and based at the Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts studio.

Day 1

Our band of stalwart adventurers met at the Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts studio in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighburhood just before noon, embarking in a small but spirited convoy to La Salle, IL to tour the Hegeler Carus Mansion and its historic gymnasium – normally a two-hour trip. Unfortunately we were delayed by unusually heavy traffic leaving the city, but the Hegeler Carus Mansion staff were kind enough to delay the start of the 2.00 tour to accommodate us. En route, a nascent plan emerged to write a Bartitsu-themed “anthem”, perhaps in the style of a c1900 music hall song. We also met SoA instructor Allen Reed, who lives somewhat near La Salle, at the site.

The mansion tour was fascinating, particularly re. the Hegeler and Carus families’ close connections to events such as the 1893 Columbian Exposition and the spread of Zen Buddhism to the Western world and to the publishing industry via their in-house “Open Court” company. By special permission of the Hegeler Carus Foundation, instructor Tony Wolf was then able to lead an extended, “up close” tour of the famous 1876-vintage gymnasium, which he has been helping to research and re-assemble. Two Bartitsu Club of Chicago members were afterwards inspired to construct their own “teeter ladder” exercise apparatus, which would surely be a unique addition to the Forteza gymuseum; as far as we know, the original teeter ladder in the mansion’s gym is the only surviving example of its type.

Our return to Chicago was significantly delayed by extremely heavy traffic, due in part to a Bruce Springsteen concert, but we were just about able to get everyone fed and at the Lincoln Square Theatre in time for the beginning of Susan Swayne and the Bewildered Bride.

The play is set during the late Victorian era and actually opens with the title character – a no-nonsense, Mary Poppinsish member of the Society of Lady Detectives – making adroit use of jujitsu and then her parasol to fend off various assailants. Further fight scenes showcased everything from smallsword fencing to pugilism in the context of an ostensible Jack the Ripper mystery, but in fact the mysteries to be solved were of a different and more personal nature. All ended happily for the heroines and the audience was left hoping for further adventures with the S.O.L.D.

Day 2

We began the first full training day with a tour of the Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts studio and then a mini-lecture on Bartitsu history. Warm-ups began by simply walking around the space for orientation, then jogging, then jogging backwards, then jogging while throwing an antique leather medicine ball to and fro (nothing like it for breaking the ice).

We continued the warm-up with a series of synergy exercises stressing efficient whole-body movement, unbalancing tactics and elbow/hip alignment.

Next up was a set of two circuit training sessions in which small groups rotated between short classes taught by three instructors; Allen Reed teaching collar-and-elbow wrestling and jujitsu throws, Tony Wolf teaching fisticuffs and Mark Donnelly teaching cane techniques. These sessions were followed by some “integration” training, making the point that Bartitsu really comes to life when the various skills/styles are tested against each other and combined together.

After lunch we reconvened for longer, specialized classes with each instructor. Mark taught a session on umbrella/parasol defense via the “bayonet” grip; Forteza Fitness instructor Keith Jennings taught some catch wrestling holds, takedowns and reversals; Allen presented several canonical Bartitsu/jujitsu kata, and drills arising from opponent resistance; Tony taught “combat improvisation” based on various canonical unarmed and armed set-plays.

Then each instructor in turn was invited to contribute to a combat scenario beginning with cane fighting, segueing through boxing and throwing and ending up on the ground.

The last session of the day was devoted to informal “breakaway” groups and included some spirited cane sparring, pugilism drills, scenario-based cane techniques, free submission grappling and even some Bowie knife work. Serious points to those young enthusiasts who, after a very full day of Bartitsu training, still had enough energy to squeeze in a kettlebell session.

At 7.00 pm we met in the Victorian-themed side room at O’Shaughnessy’s Public House – all dark green velvet, dark polished wood and maroon trimmings – and spent a very pleasant couple of hours eating, drinking and chatting before retiring gratefully, if not necessarily gracefully, to home and rest.

Day 3

The final day of the School of Arms began with an orientation and quick Bartitsu history lesson for the four new (Sunday only) participants. We started the warm-up with forward and backward jogging and medicine ball tossing, then rotated through whole-group exercises/balance games taught by Mark Donnelly, Allen Reed and Tony Wolf, including iterations of wrist wrestling, stick wrestling, stand-off and finger-fencing.

Next we cycled through two circuit training rounds of small group mini-lessons (roughly 15 minutes each), in which Mark concentrated on cane work, Allen on jujitsu throws and Tony on integrating standing grappling with fisticuffs and low kicking.

After lunch each of the instructors taught a longer, 45 minute class for the whole group. Mark focused on the technical and tactical dynamics of parrying and countering with the cane. Allen taught applications of two canonical jujitsu kata vs multiple opponents and Tony gave a session on spontaneously combining three canonical kata/set-plays (two jujitsu, one cane) in response to opponent resistance.

We then set up for the Antagonisticathlon, which proved to be by far the roughest and wildest rendition of that event yet. The combination of stirring Sherlock Holmes and Steampunk music via the PA system and the presence of an audience fed into a quite extraordinary mixture of hard fighting and surreal Victorianesque humour. It was a sight to see.

After the warm-downs, the School of Arms ended on a high note, with thanks to our hosts at Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts for providing the perfect venue for this event, to the instructors and to the brave souls who volunteered as ruffians in the Antagonisticathlon. We then passed out participation certificates and posed for group photos before retiring to O’Shaughnessy’s for drinks and farewells.

Special thanks to the members of the Bartitsu Club of Chicago who volunteered to host and chauffeur out-of-towners, the staff at the Hegeler Carus Mansion and to all the participants, some of whom had traveled considerable distances for the event.

Onwards to the Bartitsu School of Arms 2013 …

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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.

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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.

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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
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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
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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!

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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