Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Death of a Internet Forum

When I was a lad growing up in my little country village, my parents would take me to visit other family members.

I still remember bits and pieces of these visits and the households themselves.

I lived in a town that had been founded in the 1860 during a local gold rush and had maternal ancestors move to the local area during that time. My maternal grandmother had 10 sisters and they had all wed and produced offspring. This fact meant that I was related to a large number of the 2000 locals as our family was one the few remaining pioneer families of the area.

My father had escaped the poverty of the Ozarks Mountain Country after serving in the US Navy during W.W.II. He settled in the local area during the US post war economy. He had siblings along with other extended members of his family relocate to the area around the same time thus adding to number of relatives to visit.

How does this correlate to the life or death of a forum? Let me enlighten you.

There were too many houses to visit with the work hours my parent's kept, so visits only were to close family members. Frequent ones were to members my parents liked (or felt the family obligation to visit)...

just like a internet forum.

I'm a member of far too many forums and don't get to visit most of them during the month. Just like my parents there are too many "houses" to visit with the work hours I keep. A couple of the forums I drop by every day to see what's up. A few I don't even visit at all as I just didn't find them interesting after joining. One I drop by and post at only as I feel a obligation to visit as I'm personal friends with the moderator.

It's the pattern my parents had with family visits.

I've been surfing the net for many years now and have seen forums rise and fall, just like the fortunes of some of my many family members.

Some on the internet say the Sword Forum International's Historical European Swordsmanship forum is dying It smells of death and decay. I disagree. To me it's a mature forum that requires a polite tone and it's used to discuss a myriad of issues. It's a place to go to ask questions of those who might have an answer or share the answers you might already know. Just like some the different households my family would visit, a place to be polite. Not one to play as a child, but a place to go to learn and share family history or life's lessons with a mature member of my clan.

I've heard that there are other more robust forums in the world wide internet to hang out and discuss the martial arts of Europe. After visiting them I don't see anymore activity in the research and interpretation forums that what I see at SFI. Most activity seem to be on "the silly side" of life. I had cousins that owned a large ranch 45 minutes from my home and as a child I loved going there to play. We could run and scream at the top of our lungs and not anger any adult. It too, was a place to learn, but in a much more relaxed atmosphere with life lessons that differed.

In the end, the elders of my childhood have passed on, leaving my parents the roll that they held in my small home town, and the ranch fell onto hard times and was sold... scattering the members of that part of the family to the 4 winds.

But what I learned from both is what I teach in life.

In time, all the forums I visit will fall. Owners with tire of the cost, lose interest, or die and those forums will die with them. When they go, it wont be the last posting of a "silly side of life" that will be remembered, but the growth our sport has seen thanks to the exchange of information at those forums.

A few years ago one of my favorite forums was hacked off the face of the internet by a hacker who made sure he killed it and all of the backup files... an internet slaying of a loved one. All data was lost, and years worth of good armour research data and helpful posts was gone with a malicious keystroke.

That was a real death of a Internet Forum.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lies and Social Grace

When I was a teenager growing up in a rather small village in the middle of nowhere, my father raised me to never lie. Lying it seemed, was something that sooner or later would catch up with one.

In the small village, the price of lying could be costly as a man was only as good as his word.

He did however teach me " Sometimes, you don't need to tell someone everything you know".
It wasn't until I was older that I discovered that this is a form of lying known as "a lie of omission".

My mother taught me about the same time the concept "That if you have nothing good to say about a person, best not to say anything at all." It seem that this too, may be a form of lying.

One other thing she taught me was the concept of "The White Lie", those little "harmless" lies we tell throughout the day to keep people happy. The otherwise harmless lies that grease the wheels of society, love, work, and friendship.

It seems that throughout my life I used all of these types of "good" lies to keep friends happy, the work place calm, and my wife of 30 years content.

What I thought I was doing was building a community of friends, family, and coworkers by using such techniques, it seems that perhaps I could be wrong, all I might have done is become the consummate liar...

Or not.

I had a chance to test "my" community 2 years ago when my family's life was turned upside down with the near death of my teen son, & my wife's battle with cancer.

Both events happened at the same time.

Even though we had full health insurance in the US system, the bills quickly pilled up. I found myself facing almost $90,000. in short term medical debt and debtors who wanted their money... now.

When the news spread of our plight, my internet and local communities came together and helped us in our time of crisis. Most of the bills got paid off with the help of my communities. There were fund raisers, parties and random checks sent to help from all over the US. Prayers were said on our behalf all over the world.

For those of you who have seen the end of the classic movie "It's a Wonderful Life" you'll know what I mean by the statement " I felt just like George Bailey".

I had no idea how many people's lives I and my wife touched until our darkest hour.

It seems that my parents had taught me how to be a good person and not the consummate liar after all.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


When growing up, my mum raised me to believe in right and wrong, a strict set of morals as my compass and that life was black and white.

I believed what I was taught until my early 30's when I had a epiphany...
People who I thought were lying or being deceptive... weren't. In many cases those who I thought were bearing false witness just had a different perception of what transpired.
Wow, Mother was wrong and this epiphany freed me to see beyond my own perception.
I'll temper this epiphany with the following: while a person's perception makes them believe what they think are the "facts", it doesn't always make them correct or right. Perception can be distorted by many factors, drug & alcohol use, personal beliefs,mental illness and manipulation by others with a agenda.
It was George Bernard Shaw who observed that Britain and America are two countries divided by a common language. Thanks to the internet, we former colonials can anger our British cousins and they us with a stroke of a key and the enter button. Often these internet flame wars start over how each post is perceived by those across the pond and not the true intent of the poster. Sometimes, it's those who wish to stir the pot for some sort of personal gain or pleasure. These kind of people are found on both sides of the Atlantic.
Wouldn't it be nice if more of us in the WMA world looked beyond the manipulation by others and learned to see beyond our current perception of events?
It might help us all grow as western martial artists.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Why don't we all get along in the WMA world?

It's seems that I'm one of the few who really thinks that we should.

14 years ago I learned the basics of modern saber and tried to apply it to the Scottish Highland
Broadsword... in other words, like many who have come to the world of Historic Fencing, I came via a back yard homemade system that was shite.... When I discovered the WWW and
others like me were working from historic manuals I knew I'd found heaven.

When I first discovered WMA on the internet I bought into the whole idea that it is a world wide movement... I still do, but it seems there are a select few out there that would rather turn this movement in to a "us vs them" mindset.

Sometimes it seems to be a ego thing: groups that formed around a strong personality then broke all ties with the rest of the WMA world as they are "the one and only true way of the sword". Other times it seems to be one (or more egos) battling it out to prove that they have"the one and only true way of the sword" on the internet to promote themselves (and in doing so feed their egos).

I know it's not about money as all of the WMA instructors I know either have a day job, or just earn enough to pay bills.

In my case, I spend a thousand or two of my own money on insurance and lender gear each year for my classes, then I donate my time to teach. Why? Cause it helps me understand the systems, helps me be a better instructor, swordsman and human being. By introducing more people to these arts it allows the WMA world to grow, by one new student at a time.

It's a shame more of us didn't do it this way, don't ya think?

I think with the many interpretations out there on the more popular systems a student of the sword should try them out, see what one instructor teaches vs another. Look at what works and why and be willing to take those ideas that work well and use them with your "base" in that system.

None of us have it 100% "right", some of us let prior training blind us on our own work that distorts the system in to something that it wasn't. I know when I first picked up the longsword in the German system, my years of backsword got in the way. I feel others let prior EMA training sometimes influence their work.

We are all only the sum of our personal knowledge.

It's this fact that brings me back to the concept of the WMA world... by putting egos aside and working together we can put the best bits of these interpretations together to try to come close to what the systems really were, or we can labor in our little ego feeding groups and hold ourselves back.

Why anonymous wankers piss me off....

Why anonymous wankers piss me off....

Who wouldn't think it was great to attack other by give names when you can had behind a nome de plume

It's great to attack people people on the internet with half truths, distortions, or just plain lies when you can hide behind a name.

But wait you say:

You yourself hide behind such a nome de plume...

Yes, sadly it's true. Here I sit in the 49 state of the US of A, a semi-well known Highland Sword instructor who's class is based off of Thomas Page's manual of 1746 and I'm sure nobody who might read this would have a clue who Baskethilt Broadsword Boy could be...

I guess in this case, I piss myself off.