Episode 137 Furries, Bar Fights and Cryotherapy, with Lisa Losito

Episode 137 Furries, Bar Fights and Cryotherapy, with Lisa Losito

You can also support the show at Patreon.com/TheSwordGuy Patrons get access to the episode transcriptions as they are produced, the opportunity to suggest questions for upcoming guests, and even some outtakes from the interviews. Join us!

Lisa Losito is a sword mom, historical fencer and an organising brain behind Lord Baltimore's Challenge. Lisa suffers from a chronic illness which affects her training, but she is absolutely passionate about helping others achieve their vision for events within the historical martial arts world. Whether that’s a big event like Lord Baltimore’s Challenge, or small grassroots events with local clubs, Lisa will make sure everyone has what they need, and make sure that everyone is safe.

Safety is something we discuss in this episode, both in terms of gear (particularly head protection) and physical and emotional safety within the environment. We talk about the culture change that is needed to prevent injuries like concussion and to keep bad actors out of historical martial arts.

Plus, we also find out that Lisa wants to open a salle with a brothel attached. (That’s not exactly true…)

Birthday Sale

In other news, it was my birthday on November 30th and as has become traditional, I have a present for you. You can use the code, GUYTURNS49 to get £5 off any of my books at swordschool.shop and 30% off any course at courses.swordschool.com. The code will work until the end of December 2022.

This week’s non-sponsor

Most podcasts have sponsors who offer discounts to the listeners and money to the host. In the sword world most of the companies and organisations offering products or services to sword people have tiny profit margins and very little cash. So I thought I’d introduce a non-sponsor segment to the show, where I call out producers of good sword stuff and recommend it to our listeners without getting paid for it.

The first non-sponsor to the show is the mighty wiktenauer.com which is a gigantic reference source for everything historical martial arts. It’s run by Michael Chidester, who I interviewed in episode 21, and it includes scans, transcriptions, translations and articles and just keeps getting better every day. I use it almost daily and it’s a simply astonishing resource.




Guy Windsor:  It was my birthday on November 30th and as has become traditional, I have a present for you. You can use the code, GUYTURNS49 to get £5 off any of my books at swordschool.shop and 30% off any course at courses.swordschool.com. The code will work until the end of December 2022.

Most podcasts have sponsors who offer discounts to the listeners and money to the host. In the sword world most of the companies and organisations offering products or services to sword people have tiny profit margins and very little cash. So I thought I’d introduce a non-sponsor segment to the show, where I call out producers of good sword stuff and recommend it to our listeners without getting paid for it. Of course, if your company is in that tiny overlap of having margins that allow for discounts and budget for sponsoring podcasts, and I can wholeheartedly and without reservation recommend you to my listeners (that last one is probably the killer) drop me a line at guy@guywindsor.com and we can talk. The first non-sponsor to the show is the mighty wiktenauer.com which is a gigantic reference source for everything historical martial arts. It’s run by Michael Chidester, who I interviewed in episode 21, and it includes scans, transcriptions, translations and articles and just keeps getting better every day. I use it almost daily and it’s a simply astonishing resource. You can find it at wiktenauer.com. Now, on with the show.

I'm here today with Lisa Losito, who is a sword mom, historical fencer and an organising brain behind Lord Baltimore's Challenge, as well as many other things which we will get into in the show. So without further ado, Lisa, welcome to the show.


Lisa Losito:  Thank you, Guy.


Guy Windsor:  It’s nice to see you. Or almost see you. We've had some technical troubles I should let the listeners be aware of. Fingers crossed that this one will work. Okay. It's one of those things. So where else in the world?


Lisa Losito:  I am in Ellicott City, Maryland, near Baltimore. My home club is Maryland KDF.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. And what do you do at Maryland KDF?


Lisa Losito:  I mainly study German longsword and wrestling. I have been gone for a little while because of pandemic. Our class meets indoors. I also study Italian rapier and sword and buckler, both in HEMA and in the SCA. And I'm currently the recording secretary for the HEMA Alliance Board.


Guy Windsor:  Okay, well, let's just jump in on that last one, because I don't know what that actually means. So what is the HEMA Alliance? What is the recording secretary of the board?


Lisa Losito:  Well, the recording secretary is kind of like the chair, but you pretend to be less important so people don't complain to you. I run meetings and make sure there are minutes and make sure that we have, you know, kind of maybe not Robert's rules, but Bob's rules, you know, propose and second things and try to sound official.


Guy Windsor:  What are Bob's rules?


Lisa Losito:  Well, you know Robert's Rules of Order? They can be a little cumbersome when there's only one of them, so an abbreviated version is usually helpful.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. I don't know what Robert's Rules of Order are. I've never heard of them.


Lisa Losito:  Oh, it's like just the process by which you run formal meetings, the way whose turn it is to speak, how you propose things and second them and call things to a vote. And there's this little booklet that you're supposed to run meetings by, but it's very cumbersome. So, you know, I try to make it orderly, but a little bit more efficient with probably a little bit of Quaker consensus thrown in.


Guy Windsor:  Excellent. Well, you're in the right part of the world for it. Okay, so what does the HEMA Alliance do?


Lisa Losito:  Well, originally it really started to help small clubs get insurance. These days, clubs are a lot more well established. Many of them get insurance on their own. So recently we've been really focussing on supporting events and small clubs getting started. We've been doing some work recently, trying to gather a lot of resources to help people who are getting their own little baby club started.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. That sounds like a very interesting and worthy thing to do. But this is behind the scenes stuff, isn't it? So that your way behind the scenes in training. You’re working away behind the scenes so other people can get some training done. I think this is kind of your thing.


Lisa Losito:  Yeah, I do prefer that. I mean, when Jake Masters had this job, they probably were a little more high profile than I am.


Guy Windsor:  You're busy on the administrative side of things. But you did mention you train like 18 different kinds of swordplay. So how on earth do you have time for all of that?


Lisa Losito:  Well, it's usually I do them in small bits. Like I try to take time like every year and I go out and spend time with Jess Finley and I went out with her. We work on things that are in her wheelhouse. I work with David Biggs. He's been doing a little outdoor practise at his house on Sundays. So my rapier and my Italian sword and buckler happened with David. So I sort of like, learn what the person in front of me is teaching more than anything else, rather than worry about how far down the path I get in any particular thing.


Guy Windsor:  Okay, that makes sense. And it's an interesting way to do it because do you have any actual long term goals in the sword area or are you just enjoying the process of picking up the pieces you can pick up here and there?


Lisa Losito:  I am enjoying them. I mean, a lot of my long term goals have had to adjust as I struggle more with chronic illness. So it definitely makes you rework your priorities. And really I think that it's keeping my body moving, keeping learning and hearing what the people that I respect have to offer within the sword martial arts. I jumped, I think, very quickly into realising that there were some incredibly gifted and talented people out there teaching and trying to expose myself to a lot of what they have to offer has been one of the most rewarding parts of being in HEMA.


Guy Windsor:  Not what specific individuals do not like, but what to you makes for a good teacher?


Lisa Losito:  For me, it is someone who focuses on the skills involved in teaching, which is often a separate skill set from fencing. And some people are blessed to be able to do both. And people who are able to differentiate instruction, I think, are a real gift. Because for a lot of us who are not good teachers, we have to teach people who are most like us or sort of teach to the middle. People who can smoothly adjust to things within a class for the different kinds of people that are within it, I mean, I think it's a superpower.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. I have to take issue with that because it's not a superpower. It's a skill that can be learnt. And I know this because I taught it.


Lisa Losito:  I know this because I spent a lot of time on it. And one of the things that we're doing in the HEMA Alliance right now is we're restructuring instructor certification trying to focus more on how to teach people, how to teach better, rather than what they're teaching. Giving them those how to teach skills.


Guy Windsor:  And how to teach is a skill in itself. It can be applied to pretty much whatever it is you want to teach. If you know how to teach, you can teach that thing, I think.


Lisa Losito:  Yup, yup. And I think for a long time that not got neglected. People were like, well, I don't want to learn from this person if they haven't won a million tournaments. And I was like, well, if they want a million tournaments, it doesn't tell me if they're good at teaching.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah, I want to learn from their teacher. Okay. So you mentioned you’re training with chronic illness. Do you mind going into some detail about that and how it affects things? Because many people listening, you're in a similar situation and you might have something useful for them.


Lisa Losito:  Well, mine is sort of a mystery. I live in an area where I have access to a lot of specialists and they haven't really been able to sort it out. But I have a lot of nerve pain and I've been having trouble with swelling in my extremities, especially my arms. And I have a really hard problem with bruising, where I bruise like I'm an elderly person on blood thinner medication and the bruises turn black and I get these horrible calcifications. So my recovery time, particularly from like longsword tournaments, is very long. So I think that longsword at a competitive level, might be done for me. So sword and buckler and rapier are still doing okay. When I get hit it’s not in the same place and doesn't cause me the same trouble. Someday maybe they'll figure out that exact problem what’s wrong with me. Right now we're not certain, but it's some sort of connective tissue or autoimmune disorder. But there are a lot of people in HEMA now who are dealing with the same sort of thing and people are starting to spend more time thinking about how to learn and train with the body you're in.


Guy Windsor:  Right. So do you have any particular rules that you follow, any sort of guidelines that tell you what to do and when?


Lisa Losito:  Well, my main guideline is like it's so hard because I don't know how hard to push things like what is going to be bad for me and what's not. So some days my body just says, oh, we're not having it today. I've done a good job avoiding serious injury by just listening to when things are wrong and very early realised, oh, if I'm going to do stupid things like wrestling, when I have particular kinds of pain, I try to stop and figure out what I'm doing wrong. I've gone to see some movement specialists sometimes and had physical therapy to just try to figure out how my movement might be putting me at risk of injury.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. So basically you could summarise that as listen to your body and do what it says.


Lisa Losito:  Yeah, pretty much. But although that's depressing some days when there's a lot of time that it doesn't want to do much. So I do like to participate a lot in slow work, even when I'm not up to doing full speed things. So for me, that's also a place where it lets my brain work a little slower and I do a lot of my learning when things are stepped down.


Guy Windsor:  Or yeah, it's one of the difficulties. If you're young and fit and strong and agile, actually it can be difficult to learn the art part of the martial art because you can get away with all sorts of shit just by being strong and fast and agile. But if you have these restrictions, it can actually make you look deeper for the technique or the timing or whatever that makes it work effortlessly, rather than making it work with natural strength. So tell us about your role in Lord Baltimore's Challenge. And just to kind of orient the readers, I've been to the last two Lord Baltimore's Challenges, and it's a fantastic event. And it's basically the SCA and the historical martial arts people who, I have never really thought of them as all that separate, but apparently they really quite are. And tournaments on the first day and classes on the second day. And it all seems to work extremely well from my perspective as an invited guest. But I'm sure there's a lot of scurrying going on behind the scenes. So what's it like?


Lisa Losito:  Well, David Biggs and a lot of my other rapier friends, I had been nudging them to come over and do things on the HEMA side and vice versa. But when someone's stepping totally over into the other culture, like a lot of times, at least at first, nobody's real comfortable. And David had said, especially because at least in our region, rapier was not as highly developed as it is in the SCA. So we really felt like if we made a separate thing, we could show the art in a more advanced way. The SCA isn’t used to judging, HEMA until recently hasn’t been doing a lot of serious rapier study in this region. So they didn't have a lot of people to fence with to really inspire them to level up. You saw a lot of people using rapier like longswords. So that was his idea to really get this started. And you're right. It seems like it shouldn't be that different. But people pretend they are. At the core they really are not different at all. It's the same kind of people who love the same sorts of things. So once you really get them rolling, it isn't that difficult. The main problem is that the visitors that come from one group to the other are usually the most socially awkward and fit and least well in their home group, so they don't do well as ambassadors. Some of it's geek stuff like everyone within geek circles, picks on the furries as being sort of the bottom of the food chain. But furries are amazing. Furry Twitter is super woke. People should not pick on them.


Guy Windsor:  I’m sorry?


Lisa Losito:  Furries. You know, the people that dress in all the costumes? Furries. Yeah. Everybody in geek circles loves to pick on furries. And in sword arts we love to pick on LARPs.


Guy Windsor:  Right. Okay. Hang on. Just because not everyone is American and swims in certain circles. So furries people who like to dress up in, like, furry mascot suits. Apparently in geek culture, they are mocked.


Lisa Losito:  They are very mocked and they should not be.


Guy Windsor:  So in sword culture it's LARP. Okay. LARPs are the furries of the sword world.


Lisa Losito:  But when you actually talk to people who are both in HEMA and the SCA, everyone does something else. Like they do also a LARP. They are in both a HEMA and a WMA club, or they do lightsaber or they do another re-enactment there. I don't know that many people only do one thing. They just pretend that there is a little more purity than there is.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. Now, personally, I have no problem with anyone who's swinging swords around in any context. I'm perfectly happy with that, so long as if they're representing it to the public, they're representing it honestly. That's the only thing I care about. Trading standards as it were. Like if you say you're teaching a medieval martial art, it should come from medieval sources. It shouldn't be something you got out of a Conan movie, for instance. But if you're doing, I want to find like Conan. And this is how me and my friends fight like Conan, that’s fine.


Lisa Losito:  Stage combat is its own art.


Guy Windsor:  Right. But personally, the only sword world I’m in at all and have ever been is the historical martial arts side of things. I did do some re-enactment early on, but only because that was the only place I could find other people who carried swords. So I think I may be the exception to your general rule, but.


Lisa Losito:  Although I see the places you get out to.


Guy Windsor:  How do you mean? Like what?


Lisa Losito:  The culture at WMAW and at Swordsquatch. A lot of people would find them wildly different.


Guy Windsor:  Oh, sure. But what I'm doing in both of those places is exactly the same. Okay. So what culture are you trying to create at Lord Baltimore’s Challenge?


Lisa Losito:  Well, I think emphasis on learning, most especially, is that to keep focus on what we're trying to study with the historic martial arts, I think trying to keep that ‘historic’ in the martial arts and trying to make a warm, welcoming environment for people to do that study and display their skills.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. And how successful do you think it is?


Lisa Losito:  Well, certainly way more people come than we ever expected. I mean, this year we thought would be a tiny year because we only at the last minute decided to go ahead because of pandemic things. And it looked like the pandemic had never happened. This year because we dropped sword and buckler.


Guy Windsor:  Including everyone got Covid this year. I did.


Lisa Losito:  Yes, you did. And you know, I was listening to your podcast in preparation for this, and I listened to your interview with Neal Stephenson. And occurs to me that you may very well have brought me Neal Stephenson's Covid. So I would like to say.


Guy Windsor:  That's not possible.


Lisa Losito:  I would appreciate an autograph instead.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. But actually that isn't possible because the incubation time was too long.


Lisa Losito:  All right. But you went from there to Wisconsin and saw more Covid people.


Guy Windsor:  But outside and downwind.


Lisa Losito:  Uh huh? Yeah. Yeah, I know. A Covid tourist.


Guy Windsor:  Honestly, I think where the Covid came from was almost certainly aeroplanes because I was travelling and I was the only person wearing a mask.


Lisa Losito:  The people that came the longest distance got sick first.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah. I'd put the mask on when I left the house and take it off 24 hours later when I got to where I was going and I was pretty much the only person on the aeroplane and pretty much the only person in any of the many airports I was going through that was masked up. It was like Covid had never happened.


Lisa Losito:  I'm giving you a hard time. But that new strain, it was happening to everyone where their precautions had been effective for the last two years. But suddenly that new strain with everyone going not masked on the aeroplanes, a lot of pretty careful people got very sick.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah, that's right. But totally worth it. I mean, the event was so good the week in bed afterwards was worth it.


Lisa Losito:  And it did make me brave enough to go to Penzig this year because I'd just had Covid, so you know what else was going to happen?


Guy Windsor:  Excellent. So tell me about getting somebody else's vision to happen.


Lisa Losito:  I just always really enjoy that because I always think I don't always have a great creative vision, but I love to solve problems. And when I see people with great ideas, they're just not sure how to get all the way to fruition, I love to be able to help with that and see them really get those ideas done, whether it's LBC or whether like after the first year, I spent some time helping Tanya with Fecht Yeah, for a while. And especially as we've seen that it's easy to burn out when you're running really big events to help people get started running small events that will grow is, I think, so important to the community.


Guy Windsor:  What exactly do you do?


Lisa Losito:  Well, for me, mostly the practical nuts and bolts thing, like are there scoreboards, are there pencils? Do we have enough volunteers to staff all the things? You know, the physical items that we need for that day, the general hype team for the rest of our crew. I believe strongly in running events with a more lateral committee because I think for longevity it really helps people not feel too abused and burnt out.


Guy Windsor:  Is there something particularly satisfying about getting somebody else's vision to work?


Lisa Losito:  Well, I tend to think most that I'm surrounded by so many brilliant people with so many good ideas that I was like, why do I need to spend time on things that I'm not even sure how much I love myself when I can just pick up these wonderful ideas all these people around me have and help them get them to happen. That that gives me a lot of joy.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. So what events have you have you midwifed from behind the scenes?


Lisa Losito:  Well, let's see. I helped in our home club. I helped Brian a lot with Bar Fight because, well, we wanted to fight in bars.


Guy Windsor:  What is bar fight? Tell us about Bar Fight.


Lisa Losito:  We just take a bar and everybody shows up with their gear and you find a partner and you agree on a rule set and a weapons form with your partner. And you take the centre of the bar and fight for a few minutes and then you do all your drinking after your fencing is done.


Guy Windsor:  So you're actually fencing in bars, in actual bars?


Lisa Losito:  An actual bar. We just thought it would be really fun to fence in a pub, you know.


Guy Windsor:  That is outstanding. Have any trouble getting the people who own the pubs to let you do it?


Lisa Losito:  No, they think it's hilarious. Plus, you know, they realise that it's especially if we come on a slow night or a slow time of year, you know, we make it up in the bar bill by the end of the night. And then in our region we had a little wrestling series. We're really blessed in the Northeast to have such a density of fencers that even relatively niche things can get people to come to them. So we had a 3 series wrestling in the fall before the pandemic, and that was super fun and I mostly staffed that for the organisers. Like I said, we did some stuff with Fecht Yeah. Fechtschule Frisbee one year when Bill and Yolanda were not having the best time. A couple of us stepped in and made the rest of the event go. I mean, at this point, there's just so many I have a tournament in a box that I just throw all my things in the car and I'm like, come on, kids, let's have a tournament!


Guy Windsor:  Sorry. Who are Bill and Yolanda?


Lisa Losito:  Bill Frisbee, who had run a school in New Hampshire for quite some time, and they ran a really lovely outdoor camping event in New Hampshire in August that a lot of us in the Northeast really enjoyed. So a year when they were feeling stressed and had too many home life problems to pull it off, we said, well, we all want to go camping and fence, so let's do it anyway.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. And I'm all right. And thinking you were involved in Kaja's Big Gay Sword Day?


Lisa Losito:  Oh, yeah. That's because that's the kind of thing that happens when people on the Internet make me mad. Because someone suggested on a large online forum that wouldn't it be great to have a queer centered sword event and wow, so many hateful people just poured about why this was a terrible idea and totally unacceptable and all manners of awful. And I was just exhausted. I did not want to fight with these people. And so I thought about what I wanted to do and what I thought was, well, I guess we're making a queer sword event. And then Kaja wanted to make a queer sword event. So I sent Kaja money. Other people got other people I knew to send Kaja money and Kajetan had a Big Gay Sword Day. And then a few years later there was a second one and a third held in Texas. So I think sometimes the trolls on the internet don't realise that when they get really, really aggravating, it just makes us create the thing they least want to see.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah, I can understand why certain people wouldn't want to go to a big gay sword day because they may feel it’s just not their thing. But I don't understand why anyone would think that it shouldn't happen. Why not?


Lisa Losito:  And neither do I. I mean, in even with Fecht Yeah, Tanya, got criticism so many times about that and the thing about Fecht Yeah is it is open to anyone to attend but they need to be comfortable that it is centered on women and gender minorities. The tournaments themselves are only for those people, but the rest of the event, the workshops, the staffing. I mean, probably at any given year, half of the attendees were not women or gender minorities, but they were people who were comfortable with that being the focus of the event.


Guy Windsor:  Right. Yeah. I totally see why people want to run events like that and I totally see why people of a particular demographic would want to spend time at an event where they are the norm, not the exception. I just don't understand why anyone would not want that to occur. It's like the only things that should be on TV are the things I want to watch. It's just like, why? Why would you think that way? It doesn't make sense.


Lisa Losito:  It’s why I didn’t think there was anything to be gained by arguing with them. I just thought, well, better we just make it happen. And then we were all happier


Guy Windsor:  Absolutely. So in your in the introduction, I introduced you as a sword mom, and I have an idea of what that probably is. But could you just tell us what a sword mom is and does?


Lisa Losito:  Well, at any given event, I'm the one who has spares of everything, will tell you to drink water and not to be a dumb ass. So this sort of ended up happening because I had my actual child at sword events and at the time I really didn't know many other people were actually fencing competitively alongside their own kid. My child, Juniper started fencing in open steel longsword at 14. So it meant when I was at class or an event, I was already taking care of one kid. What's a couple more? So I always had extra of everything, because there's always two of us. So I always had stuff in my bag and oh, we were having so many new people. I think that's one of the things that people from the SCA appreciate when they've come over to HEMA is how generous we are with our time and our equipment. That when someone in there has a gear failure or needs assistance, that we're a culture that tries to fix that. Probably the other thing that I have done a few times as a sword mom is when someone takes a bad hit at an event and they are medically cleared as not having a concussion. But I notice that they are not themselves, I am not friend to tell them that their fencing should really be done that day. I think more people are trying to do that and it is often being the unpopular friend, but sometimes it needs to happen because the person who has the concussion can't always be the one to recognise that they're not behaving normally.


Guy Windsor:  Well, yeah. If you're behaving abnormally because you've been hit in the head, you are the last person to notice it.


Lisa Losito:  Yeah. The funniest thing that ever happened when Juniper was fencing is once Juniper was one that got a kind of a hard hit. And so people came over to tell me and I was fencing in my own pool. So I went over to take a look at Juniper all in my gear. And Juniper’s opponent. I've never seen a person look so terrified. I’m sure he thought that I was going to fence him. And Juniper was fine. And it was just, you know, Juniper was a small person. It was fine. No concussion. But that that poor opponent. I've never seen a man look so scared.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah. You do not want to mess with the sword mom, that’s for certain.


Lisa Losito:  I mean, especially I just came right out of the ring in my own gear over to that next ring. And I think that was not what he was expecting.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah. So concussion is a problem with all contact sports and various people on the show have talked about it before. But what is your take on the problem of concussion in historical martial arts?


Lisa Losito:  Well, I think one of the things we need to do is just keep paying attention to the knowledge as it is constantly evolving. I'm sure you've probably had some people on who really study a lot in this area, but when I came back to this, you know, I hadn't done competitive sports since I was a very young woman. So I started listening to people who were familiar with our sport, talk about the current research in the field and finding out things like it's defined by cognitive symptoms and not physical symptoms, which makes a lot of what we train people about how to do field assessments not at all helpful. And you know, Juniper a few years ago had a very severe concussion that was not from fencing. It was from a minor car accident. And he lost most of his last year of high school and had physical, emotional, cognitive symptoms. And so it was very serious. And so he has been a little reluctant to return to fencing, but it definitely kept me paying attention to this. I mean, in American football, they are doing things like are not doing full contact at every practise, saving a lot of the hard hits for game day only or even the Pro Bowl this year in American football is going to be flag football so that there is not the additional physical risk to these professional players. I think from the concussion perspective, that's kind of huge.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. Could you just explain what pro football and flag football are?


Lisa Losito:  Well, professional football in American as an American sport is full contact. There's tackling and there's a lot of head to head contact. Flag football is exactly the same game. It's just instead of tackling other people, you pull a ribbon out of their waistband. Same rules. Yes, the same rules, but no contact. A lot of professional American football players who have children are being more public about the fact that they keep their own children out of tackle football until they are grown and only let them play flag football as young children.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. But the professional football players, adults, they're playing full contact all the time? They're not doing flag football.


Lisa Losito:  They play full contact all the time. It's just this year with this strange move, at the end of the season, there's a sort of exhibition called the Pro Bowl. And, you know, we're getting into a level of football that I really don't understand, but they have this exhibition at the end of the season and this year they changed it to flag football because if you get heavily injured during an exhibition that impacts you physically, it impacts you financially, it impacts your team. You know if you get a severe injury that goes into the next season. So I think there was a lot of complaints by the players about their injury risk and they moved to flag football for the Pro Bowl. And I just think from the concussion awareness perspective, this is a very interesting move.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah, absolutely. So what do you think we should be doing with historical martial arts to prevent concussions?


Lisa Losito:  Well, to prevent concussions. I think one of the things when the last time I had a seminar from someone who does a lot of concussion research was that we do believe that neck strengthening exercises are protective. I think we still have a way to go in research about the kinds of masks or helms that are most useful. Trying not to routinely take hard hits. By that I mean everybody wants to fence full speed sometimes, it's part of this art. We all enjoy it. But think about how often during your week you're doing that. And if you were leaving your practise every week with a headache, you should maybe take a look at that. And if you are a big person and don't leave your practise every week with a headache, but smaller people in your club are. Maybe a discussion needs to happen about intensity during practise. I also have what is an unpopular opinion in some circles that we should continue to put tips on swords.


Guy Windsor:  Well of course. Why’s that unpopular?


Lisa Losito:  Because some people think that the tips will make the swords more sticky, which will make the force more on the head and increase concussions. And I have not seen this in practise. First of all.


Guy Windsor:  Let me tell you something I have seen in practise. I have three times seen an untipped sword goes through protective equipment and through somebody's skin and send them to the ER.


Lisa Losito:  On Spoils of War, which I help to admin on Facebook, we have a litany of pictures of hand entries. There have been several torso entries. The thing that really worries me that we don't talk about a lot is that several people that I know have had a very scary situation where an untipped sword has gone under the bib of a fencing mask and slid above the neck protection along the jaw line, which is uncomfortably close to many arteries. And if you have it happen, it's terrifying. And so I think I am very concerned about concussion, but I am also concerned that someone not die. And I think that seeing that situation has happened often enough. And when the profile of the tip is so small, it's almost impossible to protect human joints effectively and still be able to move like we need to move for our art. That yes, I even made a meme about it on the internet because of my “we should all tip our swords” opinions.


Guy Windsor:  Honestly, I am entirely in favour of tipping swords and I mean not all of the swords on the rack behind me have tips on, but then not all of the swords on the rack behind me are blunt. So yeah, all of my blunt training swords are tipped. And honestly, I wouldn't fence someone who didn't have a tip on their sword because I don't want to have a sword inside me.


Lisa Losito:  Then the other thing is that when I talk to that researcher who specialises in concussion, her point was that when you take a straight in thrust, which is the thing that people who object to tips most often think about, it is uncomfortable. It can strain your neck muscles, it can give you whiplash feelings. But at the same point, the human body is meant to move in that way. We can nod our heads. So straight forward and straight back is a safer kind of movement. The other movements that we take, asymmetric blows, side of the head blows, crushing from the top. Those I see much more associated with concussion than straight in thrusts. So, yeah, so I'm not buying the poll where we were. I think it's the aesthetic, the not wanting to tip your swords.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah. And I think there's a lot of that, too. But I think fundamentally, we shouldn't be using, like, proper weighted swords with fencing masks because that's not what they're designed for.


Lisa Losito:  Yeah, I think in the long run, we are going to come up with a different mask or helmet situation.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah. And already we did. I mean, Terry Tindall invented a very, very good alternative to the fencing mask about possibly 17 years ago now. I’ve certainly had mine for a very long time.


Lisa Losito:  Yeah, I have one of his and I've had an armourer make me one with a perf plate front and then who's that other group that makes a WMAW mask? There are a couple of solutions out there. They're a little bit harder to take on and off. But mine has a removable face plate. And so that's helpful. I don't have to take off the entire mask. I can just pop the face plate.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. And yeah. And how difficult it is to get on and off. I mean, unless it requires like two squires, if you can do it yourself in under a couple of minutes, then I don't see why it's even an issue.


Lisa Losito:  It's nice to get it open enough for water on a performance day.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah. Fair. I see my friends at Lonin many moons ago had this extraordinary fencing mask that had the basically the same sort of shape as a motorcycle helmet. And the front visor piece actually flipped up like a motorcycle visor. And so you could get access to your face for water or whatever. And then just flip it down and you clip it in place and you're good to go. But they were making those themselves and they were really, really good, but they never got into production I don’t think.


Lisa Losito:  So I think it's going to take a little while to pick up what we're really going to settle on and is going to get more of a foothold. But I think that's the direction we're probably going to have to move in because we all love this and we all want to keep doing this.


Guy Windsor:  But there's been this extraordinary amount of effort being put into hand protection, which to my mind is completely silly because hand protection was a solved problem 500 years ago with fingered steel gauntlets which give all the protection you could possibly want and better protection than anything else on the market. And if they are made properly you’ve got all this flexibility and everything. I mean, they do everything that the plastic ones do and better. And all of this research and all this development has gone into making these plastic gauntlets when they should have been working on helmets.


Lisa Losito:  Yeah, I mean, orthopaedic surgery is pretty straightforward, even if you do something very bad to your hands. Brains are very hard. And I know a lot of us work with our hands at a keyboard, but it is much, much harder to work when your brain is injured.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah. Yeah. So I don't know why. Do you have any thoughts on why all of this development is be put into the solved problem of hand protection as opposed to the unsolved problem of head protection?


Lisa Losito:  Well, I think a lot of people early on the HEMA side saw basically garbage metal hand protection, and it worried them. They're like, oh, we can do better. And plastic is safer. But I now wish I was wearing my spring steel finger gauntlets so I could just click them with attitude on the podcast. But I certainly made my choice a while ago and have been pretty happy. You know, they are not 100% protection, but there have been a few times that I know that if I hadn't had them, I would have broken something.


Guy Windsor:  Right. And nothing is 100%.


Lisa Losito:  Yeah. I mean, we take risk willingly in this. We know that the goal here is not 100% safety. This is harm reduction. We just want to avoid the worst of the worst from happening.


Guy Windsor:  Right. Yeah. And also, more particularly for me, I get people to put protection on when I’m fencing them so I can hit those bits. So, you know, if you're wearing gauntlets I can strike at the hands, if you're wearing head protection, I can strike at the head. If you're not wearing gauntlets, or head protection I can't strike at those places. So to my mind, that's why we gear up is so that our partner can actually hit us.


Lisa Losito:  I mean, it's very period to make the rules to avoid head hits and hand hits. So you know that they were thinking about it back then, too.


Guy Windsor:  So we've discussed concussion and equipment and whatnot, but what about community safety more widely? What do you think?


Lisa Losito:  Well, you know, over the years, I think especially starting as a young woman in swords in the bad old days, I've seen and experienced some terrible things in a variety of subcultures. And how they're handled, you know, historically has been very poorly. If a perpetrator has social power, people they harmed are told to just deal with it or leave. And many of us left if the perpetrator didn't have power. Sometimes the social or other consequences for them were severe. But I was always concerned because if someone gets removed from a community, they just go off to harm people in other places and in new spaces and sometimes groups I’m in have been the recipients of bad actors from other organisations and after the BLM and abolition movements happening in the United States, I started doing a little bit more thinking about how we manage that within our communities. When I start listening to people doing work on transformative or restorative justice and how that applies to us. So I am in my very baby beginnings about thinking and reading on the subject, especially because, like you, I'm sort of from a different era about how we dealt with that kind of conflict. And what I see us doing is duplicating problems we have in the larger culture, and that punitive justice is not working in these cases. It just makes more conflict. And I don't think any of the members of the community are any safer. I mean, safety is a hilarious thing to be talking about because what we do is swords. But still, you understand there's a larger point.


Guy Windsor:  There are risks that you have consented to, like getting hit in the head a bit harder than intended and there are risks you really have not consented to like getting for instance, felt up by someone when you were wrestling them. Those are two different things.


Lisa Losito:  Exactly. And it isn't unique to our community. Like this is the kind of thing that happens in any community and everywhere. And so I'm still trying to think of ways that we can make structures to handle both people that are an active threat, people that have opinions that might lead us to believe they could become an active threat in the future. How we can support the people that feel threatened by them. But I think what we all want to see is a change in behaviour. So just removing people from our community doesn't make the change that we want to see. We want to see satisfying consequences and changes and we don't want to see continued harm in our community. So I don't have any really good answers, but I've been starting to do a lot more reading and thinking and probably on my bedside table right now I have Dean Spade’s Mutual Aid, Adrienne Maree Brown's, We Will Not Cancel Us, and Shawna Potter's very practical book called Making Spaces Safer. And we don't have a whole lot of criticisms of these books yet. But I think all of us in leadership roles keep returning to these topics and are not fully satisfied with how we're handling these issues, you know, and then we've all been distracted by pandemics and the world being on fire. But I think the changes that are happening in harm reduction or restorative justice in the larger world are maybe tools that we could carry into our own clubs to try to make things better, not just for people who are potentially victimised, but also to try to encourage more positive behaviour by people that might be a problem.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah, I think it's people are responsive to their environment and there are some people who are going to be nice no matter what happens and some people are going to be predators no matter what happens. But I think a lot of people can become predatory if the environment allows it. But the environment didn't allow it, it wouldn't happen.


Lisa Losito:  Yeah. And like how we can structure things to keep encouraging people towards positive behaviour. I am like the least philosophical person maybe that you would ever meet. I really am more in the “I'll hand you duct tape” department, but because I like seeing problem solved, there is no way that you can see what happens without wanting to figure out a way that we can do better. And I really want to hear more from probably more voices in our community that may have more experience at how to handle this from outside and be more willing and flexible within our own organisations to implement what might look like some radical rethinking about how we manage ourselves and the people who are responsible for it.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah, it's easy to see when somebody is fencing in an unsafe way and easy to see when a big, strong fencer is victimising a younger, smaller fencer or whatever. But the kind of behaviour we're talking about it’s very difficult to see it generally. So what do we do to make it more visible?


Lisa Losito:  Yeah, and there's such a range of behaviours that we might not want in our organisations, but they're not illegal, they're just not how we want our community members to treat each other. And so yeah, I don't really have any answers here. I just am really interested in hearing from people who have more experience at this, at how to really do it. You know, Kajetan’s book gave us some basics about how to have some behaviour policies in your clubs. But I think that I think our culture at large is also trying to say maybe we need a bigger rethinking of this in general. And maybe the place to start with it is in small microcosms like our clubs and events.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah. Okay. A lot of think about.


Lisa Losito:  Sorry to lay all that on you with not huge amazing answers. But I'm hoping other people are doing the same thinking that I'm doing.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah. This is not the first time this topic has come up on the show. So I know other people are thinking about it, but it's one of those issues that is partly club culture. It's partly human nature. And it can partly be fixed by better reporting procedures, better disciplinary procedures.


Lisa Losito:  But some of the things we tend to implement are things that are highly punitive. And so that's what I'm saying. Sometimes it doesn't resolve things. All it does is maybe remove someone from our community to go out and do it again somewhere else. And so it's like, could we be better? Like there are some people with that's the only solution. But I think the more rigid our structures become, the more it ends up being our solution to everything.


Guy Windsor:  Okay, so what are the alternatives?


Lisa Losito:  Gosh, I mean, I guess some people use a lot of meetings where they really talk about like what would harm reduction look like? What would restorative justice look like? What would make the situation seem safer to someone who's been harmed? What would help us see someone is making a real effort to change their behaviour? I mean I think in a smaller way that's what I look for is if someone has seemed remorseful for something they did and then shown a track record of trying to change their behaviour. In some cases to me that is someone that I would allow to remain in my community. But that's really tough and I don't know. I have a feeling all I'm going to do is make people mad, but it's just something that's not working in all the ways that we're trying right now. And it's like, so if we have like rigid reporting and a lot of scrutiny, it doesn't seem to be solving all the problems. You know what I mean? It is a step forward for you know, for me from 30 years ago, where we just didn't talk about it. And if it happened, there was nothing to be done. But I think we can set our goals a little higher.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah. And compared to this, things like, you know, preventing concussion is relatively straightforward.


Lisa Losito:  Well, relatively. But the Venn diagram there is interesting because, you know, with concussion, some of the things that happen are emotional volatility, impulsivity. When you look at people who do commit crime, many of them have a history of concussion. A lot of the emotional symptoms that you see in victims of domestic violence come from concussion. So maybe this isn't as exclusive to each other as we think.


Guy Windsor:  That’s an interesting point. I had not thought of that.


Lisa Losito:  I think we need to do a lot more thinking about it because when we look at problems with professional athletes some of their behaviour is culture, some of their behaviour is having a lot of money at a young age. Some of their behaviour is probably from concussion. And how to navigate that, I'm not sure we're there yet, but I it's those things we talk about in the early hours of the morning sometimes.


Guy Windsor:  What is the best idea you haven't acted on yet?


Lisa Losito:  Oh, well, you know, the last time we talked in person, you told me I should go try cryotherapy for all of my crazy body stuff. And so I've been reading about it and I have you, will not be surprised, decided that you are right and I have picked out a place. But I have not booked an appointment. So that is the next thing on my list to go do is to try seeing how cold will do. Even though all of my person is objecting to this because I am not a mermaid, I'm a manatee, I like warm water. So this idea of cold water I think is crazy. I live in the 21st century so that I have indoor heating and hot water. But I think it could fix this. So I really am going to try it.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. Now, okay. First in cryotherapy, it is not water. It's basically dry ice or something.


Lisa Losito:  Super cold boxes. Like a super cold sauna. I might call you from my session to complain about it.


Guy Windsor:  That's fair. But also you can have, like, a warm shower afterwards if you want.


Lisa Losito:  Oh, and that will be very Nordic, right? Like sauna and then the snow. Except I'll be doing it in reverse.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah, exactly. It may be interesting for the average listener who may be going, what the hell are they talking about? Let me just justify my advice. Or at least recap my advice so that I didn't just say, right, what you need do, Lisa, is you need to jump in cold water and that will fix everything.


Lisa Losito:  You're going to be my hype team here. So explain to me why this is a great thing I should be doing.


Guy Windsor:  I am not a doctor. I'm not a medical practitioner of any kind. Let me say that first. And even if I was a medical doctor, I'm not your doctor. And I'm not any of the listeners’ doctor either. So this is not medical advice. But my feeling is when you have a mysterious ailment or an ailments that are related to lifestyle and environment is simpler and more straightforward to rather than try and piece out exactly what's happening, because it's fantastically complicated. Anything to do with the immune system is inherently fantastically complicated. So in the same way that you're finding out that you're deficient in this very specific mineral and giving you that specific supplement is super hard and it requires modern technology and stuff. But eating a varied and healthy diet is much easier and more straightforward and would probably solve that same problem. The cryotherapy thing. What it seems to do is reset your immune system back to its default settings, right? So it's not it's not treating any specific ailment. It is affecting the way your brain tells your immune system what to do. And it seems to be one of those things where if you have this cold exposure, it does good things for things like arthritis and other inflammation-related diseases and autoimmune diseases and whatnot. But it's not a treatment for those things. It is an environmental trigger that encourages your brain to reset your immune system. Does that make sense?


Lisa Losito:  It does. And I will remember this when I am cursing your name in that cold box.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah. And honestly, you might enjoy it. Now I do ice baths and stuff every now and then. And my feeling is if I get into the cold and it feels cold and uncomfortable and sort of stimulatingly unpleasant, when I get out, if I feel like energised and hot and my skin flushes and I feel warm, then it was not too much cold and not too cold. And that was a good thing. And I should carry on and that's fine. But if I get out of it and I feel tired or cold, then I probably shouldn't have gotten into it and I won't go back into it. And I will do something sensible to warm up, like have a hot bath or have a warm shower or get into bed with extra blankets or whatever. So how you respond to it, I see that as a pretty good indication of whether it was a sensible thing to do. So it should make you feel amazing.


Lisa Losito:  Okay. Well, I will give you a report after I try it.


Guy Windsor:  I look forward to hearing it.


Lisa Losito:  I did have an external idea that wasn't just for me that I haven't tried yet. And when I was listening to one of your past podcasts, it made me think of it. Is it McBane that had that combination brothel tavern fencing salle?


Guy Windsor:  Okay. McBane certainly ran prostitutes in the military camps during the wars of the late 17th, early 18th century.


Lisa Losito:  In some ways, if it wasn't McBane, someone of that era did have an establishment like that, and I thought that sounded hilarious. And that some 21st century version of that, like a bar, a play space, fencing space, should be my next career. It’s something to do in retirement.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. Well. So, yeah, I mean, traditionally, fencing was one of these kind of disreputable pastimes that was associated with all sorts of bad behaviour. And yes, in the same way that prostitutes often worked in bath houses, there were usually brothels or whatnot next to a fencing salle and possibly even owned by the same person. At least at some points in history, then fencing got all posh in the 19th century. But my main concern is there are all sorts of puritanical laws about making money off immoral earnings and that kind of thing. So how are you going to sidestep the law when it comes to running a brothel?


Lisa Losito:  Well, I mean, it doesn't have to actually be a brothel. It could be a play space. It could be some place people like. I've seen other people rent out places where they go to take their pictures that then they post online. So, you know, there are slightly more reputable ways to spin this. I'm confident. It can be also a bookstore and a bookstore and a coffee shop. You know, we can combine our vices in any way we want.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah, OK. I think it's a great idea. And I would like to visit the establishment and perhaps maybe run a class and then have a drink and then who knows what may happen after that? So, am I right in thinking that this is not the way you would choose to spend $1,000,000 if someone gave you $1,000,000 to improve historical martial arts worldwide?


Lisa Losito:  No, no, that isn't how I would spend $1,000,000, you know, because I have to keep to my brand. First of all, mimosas for all my friends, both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic version. But the rest I really would like to see in concussion research. I know that was probably the predictable answer, but if I had $1,000,000 to spend, I would like to see more stuff, more studies funded and ones more targeted on our sport. So we get more specific data on it and aren’t just trying to glean what we can from adjacent sports.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. So how exactly would you deploy the cash other than the mimosas? That's quite straightforward, but concussion research is a broad field.


Lisa Losito:  I know. And, you know, I don't know how all this medical grant stuff works, so I'd have to pay someone to figure out how to spend the money, I guess.


Guy Windsor:  Well, actually, we have plenty of people in the historical martial arts world who are medical professionals of one kind or another.


Lisa Losito:  Yeah. And HEMA Alliance is funding right now a small data collection survey for some, not quite concussion, but adjacent data collection. So I think we're all trying to look at how more information on force, on injury, will help us all make better decisions, build better gear and help us just do all that harm reduction while still being able to participate in the stuff we love.


Guy Windsor:  Okay. I think that's a great way to spend the money. Do you think is likely to lead to changes in training, rules set, equipment or treatment?


Lisa Losito:  Probably will not have any impact at all. But you know, I for a moment, my pessimism. I think it should be done anyway. But sometimes people will make choices even when the data says otherwise. Heck, we knew that lead in paint was terrible for people for a long, long time. And we knew definitively as early as what, like the 1920s and we didn't get it out of paint till what in the United States until the seventies. So even when information is known and risks are known, it doesn't always make change.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah, like they figured out that smoking caused lung cancer in the 1950s and it took over 50 years for smoking to become illegal in public places in Europe.


Lisa Losito:  So change is slow. But I think the first step is increasing our knowledge.


Guy Windsor:  Sure. Okay. Yeah, I think there's always going to be a problem with historical martial arts as a practise when it comes to that. Since you have tournaments, you have people who are really trying to hit each other, which is no bad thing.


Lisa Losito:  And it's the same in any other sport, whether it's, you know, rugby or soccer or you know.


Guy Windsor:  But yeah, also maybe, if concussion was diagnosed earlier and it was taken more seriously. And so like if you had a concussion, for instance, automatically barred from competition for a year, for instance. It’s not fair on the person who just got a concussion. So that's not a solution, but something along the lines of, well, maybe even have separate tournament for people who want to avoid concussion that has different rules sets and different equipment.


Lisa Losito:  Yeah. Yeah. Like when you have a large club, you always have people in different stages of injury recovery. So at least my own club has done that for a long time, is just had at any one time people participating in different intensity levels because of where their physical health is at the time.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah, that’s entirely normal practise. So maybe if it was just a bit more kind of codified.


Lisa Losito:  Treated like a normal thing. Yeah.


Guy Windsor:  Actually, I guess the difficulty there is getting people to recognise it as serious as it is and then also getting people to get it diagnosed. In Europe like going to the doctor is basically free, so it's easier. But getting medical attention could be very expensive.


Lisa Losito:  Yes. And let me tell you the ethics of worrying that your opponent in a tournament may not have a lot of insurance. And so even if it's unintentional, if my hit accidentally injures someone in a way that is financially catastrophic for them, it's very concerning.


Guy Windsor:  Do you think it would be possible, as an event organiser, you've probably looked into this sort of thing. Would it be possible for the event to carry its own health insurance so if someone got injured at a tournament held at Lord Baltimore’s Challenge, for example, that insurance would cover their medical expenses in America?


Lisa Losito:  It is possible and I have seen it many years ago. I haven't priced it recently, but more events are asking people that enter to attest that they do carry their own personal medical insurance. Because a lot of people, not just me, are worried about it.


Guy Windsor:  Yeah, I never go to America without having at least $20 million worth of health insurance just in case. And I send out this email to the people who are going to be organising the events where I go to saying, you know, just in case I get bashed on the head and can’t tell you about these things, here are my medical insurance details. Just because America is famous for bankrupting people, for having an accident.


Lisa Losito:  I had a Swedish friend who was in a very horrific car accident years ago in California. And he was lucky that at the time he was working for a very deep pocketed tech firm or that would have been horrific.


Guy Windsor:  Right. The other thing is, if the event carried the insurance, the insurance companies would have restrictions on what could and could not be done based on risk. So it might actually encourage safety practises.


Lisa Losito: I think instead they'd be like, no martial arts.


Guy Windsor: No, because martial arts tournaments do have insurance.


Lisa Losito:  But usually it’s liability not personal injury was the last we used.


Guy Windsor:  Even, like heavyweight boxers have insurance.


Lisa Losito:  Yeah. All right, well. Maybe I will ask our insurance agent, see what we can find out.


Guy Windsor:  It just seems like a thing that it might encourage safer practise.


Lisa Losito:  I mean, really, I'm going to say the answer is single payer health care and that we need systemic change in the United States. But that's a larger issue.


Guy Windsor:  You’re not going to solve that with a million dollars, that's for sure.


Lisa Losito:  No, I mean, you can't just say socialism. Socialism is the answer.


Guy Windsor:  You just said it.


Lisa Losito:  Well, you know.


Guy Windsor:  Splendid. Well, thank you so much for joining me today, Lisa, it has been lovely talking to you.


Lisa Losito:  Okay. It's lovely to talk to you, too, Guy.


Back to blog