“A wrestling tournament crash-landed at a Renaissance Fayre and they all intermarried,” was my thought. I'd tagged along with a trio of friends to SoCal Swordfight, a weekend-long HEMA competition: That’s “historical European martial arts,” three days of armored people fighting politely but hard with steel longswords, rapiers, daggers, and sabers. I’ve been practicing with... Continue Reading →
The Piñata & The Wrecking Ball: Why can small people hit so hard?
So it feels like an ever-new mystery to get overpowered in fight training by short, thin, or otherwise gracile people who, it seems to me, can’t possibly have as much power. Not just outmaneuvered and outskilled, but manhandled or just plain pounded. I’m talking thin teenagers, featherweight women, even a girl who’s too young for PG-13 and weighs less than my checked luggage. What gives?
Feet Are the New Core
Good news: The “core” isn’t the all-important missing link anymore. The cool kids have moved on. Now feet are the new core. Thank heaven, because I got bored of direct midsection work long before the fools in marketing renamed it the “core.” When did they coin that phrase anyway? I missed the Nineties, living in... Continue Reading →
Liberation Shoes: China’s Revolutionary Footwear
You pay a steep price for being first. You put in the effort and expense of inventing something, only for interlopers to copy your invention, improve it, and net better results on the back of your effort. In the 20th century, China's People's Liberation Army has usually been the parvenu who wisely refines others' innovations... Continue Reading →
From Fourth Republic to Banana Republic: France’s Bush Hat
A further installment in our series on Hats of Defeat and the charms of French surplus gear. Not even a quagmire. France's Fourth Republic didn't survive this, but its bush hat became a favorite with American yuppies.(AP, 1951. CC) It’s 1949. France grasps at torn shreds of empire like a gut-shot man clutches spilled entrails.... Continue Reading →
Hats Of Defeat
A further installment in our series on French gear. Some people deal better than others with losing. France doesn’t like to lose, but for a great power, it’s endured a tough couple of centuries. It lost its bid for global hegemony to Britain, and it lost Paris three times to Germans (twice before Germany was... Continue Reading →
Part IV of our series South African on surplus gear for arid climates. Please find the previous parts here, here, and here. In America, we’d see someone dressed head to toe in a brown uniform and guess “UPS delivery driver.” But if you put him in southern Africa, maybe with a gun as a hint,... Continue Reading →
Chat maigre: French for “lean, solid dog”
National Commando Training Center in Coullioure. Photo courtesy of Romain Mielcarek (http://www.guerres-influences.com/romain-mielcarek/) The Cult of Light Infantry? Here at Lean, Solid Dogs, we maintain a special interest in light infantry because we love to romp around the outdoors carrying heavy things. And there’s a whole profession dedicated to that! They're called light infantry and they... Continue Reading →
“Attention, Walmart Shoppers: You Already Have a Prize-Winning Physique For 1900”
"However, the champ often 'took ill' with a pathogen transmitted in oak barrels known to disparately afflict the Irish community."
Before Buff: Why Were Dad Bods Admired In the Early 1900s?
Ever look at old-time photos showing their era's paragons of manliness? Ever notice how many of those turn-of-the-century sex symbols are proudly repping dad bods? It actually gets stranger: other models from the period look every bit as sculpted and Grecian as Brad Pitt in Troy, but no one seems to care. There's no indication that anyone in 1900--the photographers, the models, or the audiences--preferred the buff guys to the dad bods. What changed?