The Four Cardinal Virtues: Guideposts for War and Peace

In an earlier article I touched upon the importance of martial artists committing themselves to some sort of ethical framework by which their potentially dangerous skills could be harmoniously integrated into society. 

History has given us a wide variety of warrior codes and martial ethics from a great many times and cultures. But although there are elements of these that are useful and insightful for us today, they are generally products of their time and place of origin of which much—the maintenance of rigid class divisions, the use of violence to preserve personal ‘honour’, or unquestioning loyalty to one’s ‘superiors’ even unto death, for example—is less relevant to us today. 

For myself, I have found that another set of guiding principles exists which is both of considerable age yet timeless enough to speak to us now. While not specifically martial, they have proven very useful in managing martial ability—the capacity for trained violence—both in times of peace and war. Furthermore, these qualities have shown themselves to possess both strategic and tactical applications, giving us not only a means of approaching daily life, but also a set of tools to effectively deploy our training in combat. 

I am referring to the four qualities known in the West as the Cardinal Virtues: Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance, and Justice

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How sword training can teach us mindfulness, mastery, and self realisation

It’s not uncommon for me to respond to the question ‘So what do you do?’ by saying that I’m a swordsman. While this is partly for a bit of fun, to a greater extent it’s reasonably accurate. Starting at 15 performing fight shows at Renaissance Festivals, then studying the techniques preserved in treatises written by early fencing masters while caring for Britain’s national collection of arms and armour at the Tower of London and later receiving a PhD in medieval European martial arts, for me the sword has gone well beyond a mere passion or an academic pursuit.

Yet my pursuit of swordsmanship has also become more than just learning a lot about swords and how to use them well. Over the years, it has become an all-encompassing guide, a ‘Way’ as the Chinese or Japanese would say. For if we study it closely, the sword has a lot to teach us about life and how to live it.

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The School of Mars is now on Patreon!

I will now be sharing my research and teaching on Patreon to help support my ability to continue to do this important work and share it with the community.

While most of my videos and articles will be publicly available, certain tiers of patronage will give you access to these earlier than general release. Other tiers will provide access to instructional videos covering the core teachings of the School of Mars curriculum, private discussion groups, and also one-on-one lessons via Skype.

You can visit my Patreon page here.

New lecture videos to be released, and a new musical alliance.

Several bits of exciting news!

First off, since I know that a lot of people are sitting at home looking for ways to keep entertained, I’ve decided to do my bit.

Over the coming weeks and months, I am dusting off about a decade’s worth of lectures and presentations I’ve done, recording them, and sharing them for all to see. There’s quite a lot of ground covered, ranging from basic introductions to some more in-depth scholarly stuff. So hopefully it’ll be useful to everyone. Stay tuned for releases!

Second, I have received the blessing of one of Britain’s renowned medieval ensembles, Misericordia, to use one of their songs for the opening and closing of my videos. Their arrangements of medieval music are mesmerising, and I can’t wait to make one of my favourite songs of theirs part of the forthcoming videos. You can learn more about them and hear some of their music by visiting

Hope all is well with you and yours. Speak again soon!

Pursuing a Modern-Day Way of the Sword

Why we fight

The likelihood that any of us will ever engage in real life or death combat with a sword is, to put it mildly, slim. What, then, is our motivation for practising historical martial arts today? Each practitioner is going to have a slightly different answer to this question.

For myself, my interest can be broken down into three approaches: the historical, the practical, and the philosophical.

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