September 21, 2002
Saturday Training Session at Carlisle State Park.
by Justin Eckersley

Last Saturday at around one PM, people began to gather at the studio. Over the next fifteen minutes a good sized group showed up. There were about twenty-five of us, if memory serves. Some faces new to me, others as familiar as Matthew. The one common trait among those gathered was a sense of anticipation. I was looking forward, along with many others, to a great day of training.
When we finally arrived and bowed in at the park, I was suddenly thankful that I had a white, refreshingly heat-reflective uniform. The day was hot, especially for a day so late in the summer. It turned out  that we spent most of our time beneath the shaded canopy of the forest, so the heat didn't turn out to be much of a factor.
I was instructed to head up the rear of the group, to make sure no one dropped behind. It was nice, I've always loved the forest, and jogging from place to place during training was refreshing. Our first lesson was an introduction to the course, controlling the second consideration, and on maintaining a proper stance. It was interesting to try and achieve a proper neutral position on the uneven forest ground.
After that, we moved on to an open clearing where our focus was on defending against attackers coming at us over a low wall. The freestyle element of this exercise was what made it really interesting. Not only was it engaging from the defender's point of view, but trying to find effective attacks also provided a great challenge. After a few bruises and multiple grass-stains, we headed out.
After a little while, we came to a bridge. A wide bridge. A bridge that didn't run over troubled, nor calm waters. It was, in fact, a bridge over a moist, marsh like ditch. What we did here was one of the most interesting, frustrating, and fun events of the day. Two people paired up and were instructed to defend the bridge against five attackers. The resulting event was pure, unadulterated havoc. Many people simply ran across, ignoring whether or not they were actually being hit or not by the defenders. It was unfortunate that the defenders were not allowed to use full-force strikes, because I'm sure the results would have been different, I'm sure. Despite that, it was an interesting exercise in teamwork and usage of the environment.
Moving on from there, we tiptoed through stick-strewn paths, attempting to stay silent, lest we bring down upon our comrades a rain of deadly ninjas. Ahhh yes, ninjas my mortal enemy. Bringing up the rear, I had to fend off many a straw arrow with nothing but a pine cone and my metal canteen. But I digress. We came upon another bridge, one narrow enough that a single file line would be necessary to cross it. But we did not cross it. Yet. First, each individual had to defend the bridge against five attackers. Using the bridge like a balance beam it was easy to kick the heads off anyone foolish enough to approach. Well, for most of us, anyway.
After the defending of the bridge, we ventured on, to find ourselves face to face with a humongous stone turtle. Though I kept a watchful eye upon the beast, it seemed docile, and so we stopped, resting ourselves and refueling our bodies with food and libationserrmostly Gatorade.
After another entertaining jog through the woods, we came upon a balance beam. Yes, we fought upon this balance beam, as I'm sure you were wondering. It was brilliant. The log was slightly tilted, so it was interesting to see how that affected the combatants. I still wish we had more time here, but as it turned out, time was something we were running out of.
The next part of the course, and the last, was a lesson in using our environment to our advantage. Using delayed sword as a basic attack, we then used a high wall to either finish off the attack or increase the overall damage dealt to our target. Once again, havoc ensued. There were many high-flying leaps of painful doom.
Lastly, we came to a lovely field beneath an equally lovely tree, with gnarled roots and somewhat droopy branches. Here we sat and listened to Matthew describe a few very painful board-breakings, which was very, very fun. One of these days I'm going to look at those photos. In any event, we relaxed and bowed out. After this, ice cream was had by all. The whole day was great, and I for one look forward to training like this in the future. Thanks Matthew!