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Spotlight: Kyle Tolle

I think a fair number of us know who that dashing figure is. His name starts with a ‘K’ and ends with...well an ‘e’, but the point is there is so much more to him than just his name. He began his martial arts journey at the tender age of seven in a Tae kwon Do class making it all the way to Junior Blue Belt. That, however, was just the beginning. His training expanded to Okinawan Goju Ryu Shoriekan where he earned a second degree black belt. It doesn’t end there! Karate. Kickboxing. Freestyle wrestling. Tai Chi. And weapons. So many weapons. It was during this martial arts adventure that Kyle first started teaching which he did for ages three to sixty-five, making fine warriors of the young and old. Seriously, in a zombie apocalypse, this guy is going to train the army of the future so keep tabs on where he sets up camp. He has also used the art of fighting as a means of empowerment for others, using the training and focus necessary to help juvenile offenders as well as running courses in self defense.

Then...then came HEMA. In 2014, Kyle began training with Cymbrogi and that put into action his destiny to RULE over the world of HEMA as it’s King of Daggers. Remember how I said he was going to train the army of the dystopian future? Well, the future is now (too soon?) and he has released German Dagger Fighting Volume 1 for everyone’s fighting pleasure! You can learn to stab with the best of ‘em. It has been a labor of love on the part of Kyle and he talks about it more below, but it’s always wonderful to see someone facilitating the spread of HEMA into more mainstream accessible avenues. Head over to HEMA for All to keep up with what’s next for this Master of Stabby.

Kyle was kind enough to answer some questions about his HEMA journey, his teaching style, and of course, daggers.

Read on, fellow HEMA enthusiasts!

How did you find out about HEMA?

I found HEMA via a friend of my Filipino martial arts instructor talking about German longsword and trying to convince him to look it up. So, I got on Youtube and found the Recovering the Blade documentary. After that, I scoured the internet for training videos and watched every John Clements video I could find. When I moved to the city, one of my friend’s boyfriend was running a class. So I went a few times and got kidnapped by Jeremy who was a guest instructor.

What made you want to try it?

I mean with an entire childhood based around cartoons and movies where people were using swords, how could I not? Besides, after years of being punched in the face, I thought getting hit with a three-foot bar of steel sounded like a fun challenge.

How do you feel yourHEMA experience has changed over time?

I feel like my HEMA experience went from recreational exercise to an outreach program. After joining the Cymbrogi tournament team and going around to multiple states and countries now, I found that most groups are not as fortunate as mine to have such great facilities and teachers. So, it went from just having fun beating on people, to competitive level, and finally, now to giving back to the community.

How has HEMA impacted other areas of life?

Well the majority of my friend group that I see regularly are all HEMA people, as well as my online friend community. So, if I am needing someone to hang out with or needing support in some way, they are literally a hop, skip and jump away. Also, I have made several friends in other states and countries that I never would have made except for HEMA. My health has greatly benefited from HEMA. I’ve gotten back into cross training with weightlifting and dieting in order to maintain a competitive edge.

What are your HEMA goals? (competing, fun, etc)

I want to keep competing as long as my health holds out. I want to help increase teaching material for HEMA especially in the less focused on areas such as grappling, dagger, and dussack. I would like to travel to far off places, meet new and interesting people, commit simulated medieval homicide upon them, eat their food, and eventually get paid to do so. Eventually, I want to compete and teach in Europe and Canada.

Have you been to HEMA events such as workshops and/or tournaments? If so, what were some of your experiences?

I have participated in several tournaments and workshops. I feel like the best tournaments that I’ve been a part of are those with simple rule systems and an understanding of martial culture. The more complex the rules the worse the event seems to run, and the more upset people tend to be about the experience. Workshops I’ve taken under Anthony Bonodumbass [sic] (That might be the French pronunciation of his last name, dear Readers), Leon, and Pablo were the best experiences outside of my club due to their understanding of the material, but also creating a teaching curriculum that starts with a basic premise and builds.

What do you appreciate about your club?

The closeness of the members. The focus on application and the martial mindset rather than specific plays. Our grounding in fundamentals which we can then expand upon. The fact we focus less on protective gear and more on tactics that keep you safe. That we are willing and able to take risks to get better because we are fighting ourselves versus each other’s egos.

What prompted you to produce your own training series?

The sheer lack of training material in HEMA is a real tragedy. I come from both traditional and non-traditional martial arts background and the amount of material out there for those arts is like an ocean compared the HEMA sphere, so I decided to put a dent in that and give making a video a shot. Also, I figured if I could get everyone better at dagger then I could have some really interesting fights at tournaments.

What kind of research went into it?

Jesus, I gathered every single 15th and 16th century manual on Wiktenauer into one document, and I also bought several books that contained material that was not on the website. I then “translated” the material of the resources into standardized terms and phrases so that I could understand them at a glance. Then I compiled similar techniques together and began to organize them into a progression system based around my experiences with how FMA/JKD groups arrange their material. After that, I wrote up my own “Gloss” of how to do the most fundamental example of each the techniques. After that was edited down several times by myself and co-conspirator Christiana. We then began drilling each of them in series and discussing ways of further simplifying and organizing them for teaching. After that I divided it into three major divides of difficulty, and created outlines for material to be recorded. Finally, after a month of practicing teaching the material to a camera, we filmed it. The process entire process took about a year and half before we were able to film the first dvd.

How would you describe your style of teaching?

Laid back, efficient, and effective. I don’t like teaching/learning where someone is the “God” of the art. I like to question and expand upon material, and thus I like to create that kind of environment for people learning from me. I like to crack jokes, make inappropriate comments, and generally make the entire experience fun, educational, and entertaining. I find that people learn best when they are smiling and enjoying the process of learning and drilling, rather than them feeling like its just hard work.

What do you love about teaching?

I love seeing a technique I showed someone done effectively in a competitive environment, even if it is done on me! My other great love is seeing people grow more confident as they are able to expand their understand of fighting in general.

Closing thoughts?

I think HEMA/WMA is a young art and is still working on finding its purpose and meaning. For some, this is a recreational thing to be done for the mechanical beauty in and of itself, and for others, it is the revival of a killing art that is elegant and brutal in its efficiency. As we go forward, we probably continue to see divides in how the art is practiced, but these divides are only different groups and regions ways of defining the art for themselves. Just like how our martial ancestors used to hold tournaments and games with different rule sets and philosophies, so do we continue on the tradition of disagreeing and fighting each other to this day. But it is in this discourse that we all find our own personal version of the art.

HEMA Stats

HEMA Nickname – The Barbarian, Mad Ork Doc, or the Graceful Buffalo.

Favorite Weapon – My mindset.

Best HEMA Memory – My first tournament where I essentially pommeled my way to second place.

Favorite Drill - Longsword-rolling thunder. Dussack- one for one free flow drill.

Dagger-disarm and re-feed. Ringen-Takedown for takedown free flow drill.

Favorite color - Grey Purple (We know it’s purple. See below)

Favorite HEMA Vocabulary Word – Kampfringen.

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