At Calgary Horror Con, I met Tim, one of the instructors at The Forge Western Martial Arts. They were promoting Fight the Bite, a zombie apocalypse survival/self-defense workshop. Of course, I was interested. I mean, zombies! Martial arts! Swords! What more do you need?
Note that this is a sponsored post; I was able to take this course at a heavily discounted rate because of my posts here at ICoS.
Hi Tim! Welcome to In Case of Survival! And thank you for letting me take your course and pick your brain (though not at the same time, heh).
We at In Case of Survival would like to learn more about you, your martial arts school, and your course. We’ve got some questions for you (because of course we do, lol). Here they are!
1. What is western martial arts, exactly? How long have you studied it?
Western martial arts (also known as Historical European Martial Arts or HEMA) is the study of combat principles and techniques from ancient European sources. A lot of people think that the Europeans didn’t really have a martial art and simply bashed away at each other with heavy metal swords. This is not the case, there were a number of very complex combat systems that were taught and practiced “back in the day”. These combat arts died out with the advent of gun powder and firearms, but not all was lost as instructors from that time wrote down their teachings with detailed illustrations in what are commonly referred to as “Fechtbuchs” or Fight Books. These manuals detailed their techniques and principles of combat. So, when some guy who has survived over 30 duels to the death with a sword has something to say – I’m going to listen! Over the past 20 or so years there has been a renaissance of sorts wherein these ancient manuscripts have been translated, studied, and their knowledge is now being taught as a living, breathing martial art. We focus on striking, grappling / wrestling, knives, and swordsmanship.
I have been a martial artist for 32 years and have been practicing Western Martial Arts for the better part of 8 years.
2. Tell us about The Forge Western Martial Arts. When did it open? Who are the instructors? What are classes like (ie. are there different levels, like in Karate or Tae Kwon Do)? Are there a lot of western martial arts schools?
The Forge is the Calgary chapter of a larger organization called The Academy of European Swordsmanship that has it’s head chapter in Edmonton and an affiliated group in Madison, WI. The Calgary group was started by a group of us approximately 5 years ago. We used to be quite small, only 6 or so students, but over the past year and a half we’ve grown to a school of 30+ practitioners. It’s worth noting that we are not-for-profit organization. We do this because we love it!
There are three main instructors; myself – Tim Holter; As mentioned previously I have 32 years worth of martial arts experience and hold high ranking belts in Tae Kwon Do, Shaolin Kempo, and a combat form called Combatto Libero (Mixed Martial Art style that combines Muay Thai kickboxing with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu). I’m also a certified KAPAP (Israeli martial art) instructor. My main partner in crime is Mark Winkelman who, along with WMA, practices Japanese sword arts – Kageryu battojutsu and Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu kenjutsu. We also have John who is a 13 year vet of the police service who volunteers his time to assist with unarmed instruction, self defence, and urban survival.
The classes generally run 2.5 hours long. We focus on combat conditioning, armed combat and unarmed combat in each class. A typical class would involve a warm up stretch, followed by cardio conditioning, then working on our combat techniques. Generally we would start with armed combat (either longsword, short sword, or knife) followed by unarmed (striking or wrestling) and then we finish the class off with sparring. Recently we have also started teaching urban survival as an interest class every other Tuesday.
We do have different ranking levels, but not to the extent of most Eastern-style martial arts. We have two paths for people to follow; the martial path wherein you can achieve rankings of Initiate, Savant, and Provost in the various armed and unarmed skill sets we practice. And we have an academic path where people can contribute to our overall body of knowledge by researching related topics, writing papers, etc. We have rankings in the academic path of Scholar and Sr. Scholar.
There currently are not a lot of WMA schools out there. There are four to my knowledge in Alberta – two in Edmonton and two here in Calgary. Of those only one is not affiliated to us. In Europe the art has progressed a lot further than it has here. And there are some rather large organizations in the US as well.
3. Let’s move on to the Fight the Bite course (because that’s why we’re all here, right?). Tell us about the class. Why did you decide to offer this workshop? Why use zombies? Do you find that zombies and the zombie apocalypse increases interest in the course?
Right! Let’s move on to Zombies!! Well the class is at it’s core is a self defence class. We will be covering key survival concepts like mind-set and situational awareness, as well as, the hard skills you need to defend yourself. We will be providing really basic hand-to-hand techniques that simply work if you need to defend yourself from the living or undead alike! Along with those unarmed skills we will be touching on some basic knife defences and an introduction to swords. See… if I can teach you how to effectively use a sword… well that translates nicely into how to use a baseball bat, broomstick, piece of rebar… you get the idea. And the best weapon is the one you have… not necessarily the one that’s hanging on your office wall! We will also provide an introduction to urban survival concepts – where to find water, how to get home in the case of a disaster… or Zombie Apocalypse!
Why a Zombie Survival course? Well I was originally putting together a self defence course for women, but had thought that the idea had been done to death (pun intended). I wanted to cover more topics (e.g. swords and urban survival) and reach a wider audience. Being a fan of the zombie genre – the idea just popped into my head! So, I designed the course around basic skills one could use to survive the zombie apocalypse and of course, your daily commute downtown! And to differentiate ourselves even further I have developed fun personas for our instructors and a background story. The course is being taught by The D.U.D.E.S. from The Forge: Western Martial Arts. D.U.D.E.S. standing for Dead / Undead Deanimation and Eradication Specialists. A group of bad ass mercenaries that quell zombie uprisings around the globe and now want to teach YOU how to survive!
I’m hoping that the use of Zombies will provide people with a unique and entertaining class wherein they’ll learn some real world skills. People always want new experiences… and this will be one of them!
4. What do students learn in the Fight the Bite course? For those who haven’t taken any survival or self-defense courses, can you tell us why those topics are important for people to know?
As stated previously we’ll be touching on a number of topics; survival mind-set, urban survival basics, striking basics, self defence (e.g. how to get away when that Zack grabs you by the arm!), a couple of knife defences (for that time when another survivor is trying to steal your stale cheezies), and wrapping up with armed combat focusing on sword techniques and improvised weapons. All of these skills will be applicable to your overall chances of surviving any kind of confrontation. Ideally knowing what to look for and being aware of your surroundings will first of all, allow you to avoid those bad situations. And if the situation can’t be avoided (hey… I thought the old lady was asking for help across the street… I didn’t realize she was a ZOMBIE!) you’ll have something to draw on to help you survive.
At the very end of the course you will be practicing what you’ve learn at a Zombie Smack Down! We’ll be setting up zombie-esque targets for students to wail away on with their go-to Zombie Apocalypse weapons… there will be blood!
5. Do you plan to offer the Fight the Bite course on a regular basis? Will it be offered on a weekend for those who live out of town?
I would love to make this course a regular offering, but it really depends on the public interest. Right now we don’t have plans to offer this past October. We would be willing to host a weekend course if there was enough interest.
6. Are you a prepper/survivalist? Or do you think it’s just a good idea to be prepared in general?
Can I say yes to both questions? I think having some level of preparation just makes good sense whether you’re a “prepper” or not. Too many people are reliant on others to ensure their own safety and the safety of their loved ones. And we don’t have to look too far to see the results of little to no self reliance. The ’98 Quebec ice storm was a perfect example of people not being prepared and self reliant. Over 30 people lost their lives due to a STORM! We are statistically the most heavily insured population on the planet. We have hail insurance for our houses and cars, we have life insurance, we have collision insurance, the list goes on… but do you have enough food to feed your family for a few weeks if the trucks can’t get into the city and stock the shelves?
As to the self defence aspect of that question… I think everyone has the right to defend themselves and those they care about. Essential services do a great job of cleaning up and finding the bad guy AFTER the crime occurs. And of course there are great preventative programs out there trying to reduce crime, but lets be real. Things happen. And when seconds count… help is minutes away.
7. What do you think will be the most likely apocalypse? A slow and eventual decline of society? A sudden apocalyptic event? The zombie apocalypse? Evil space monkey pirates?
Have you ever seen “Idiocracy”? Watch that… I see that being the most likely scenario!
8. Zombies or vampires?
I want to be a Zombie-killing Vampire… that doesn’t sparkle in the sunshine! I’m allergic to sunlight and proud of it!
Thanks for the opportunity to talk about what we do here at The Forge!
Thank you, Tim, for taking the time to talk with me!