Since meeting Adrian Paul, I keep having this TV sitcom idea running through my head. I play
myself, the obnoxious writer and inveterate Ebay collectibles seller. Paul, in my sitcom, portrays himself as the famous guy who was the Highlander, now my next door neighbor. Why an actor would suddenly move to Tennessee I don't know. I'll have to ask Brad Pitt when I see him. Anyway, the comedy opens with Adrian Paul shopping incognito in the local supermarket. My character, spying an opportunity to land a valuable souvenir, grabs a stuffed rabbit and approaches Paul. "Ok, Adrian. Sign the bunny for me and you don't get mobbed in aisle three at Krogers."
In his best Highlander voice, Adrian would reply, "I told you before Wiley, you get no more autographs from me."
"See the fat chick over by the doughnuts? Let's see if she's a fan," I say with sinister glee
on my face as I turn to call the woman. "Here we are..." I begin singing.
"You're bluffing. You don't have the guts," says Paul, picking up a broomstick to pummel me.
"Oh no? Drop the broom, sign the bunny or I start screaming 'Adrian' like it's a Rocky movie reunion. Do you really want to see what a store full of soccer moms and teeny boppers will do to you? It could get ugly."
Fighting back the anger, Adrian Paul signs the bunny and tosses it in my shopping cart, the look of anger and disgust on his face a thing of beauty. I wheel about and depart, waving the bunny in triumph.
Later that same day, while I'm dining alone at Giuseppe's, celebrating my upcoming Ebay windfall, in walks Adrian Paul with two beautiful women in tow. "Wiley," he says, "What a surprise. Marguerite, Ellinor, this is my good friend and neighbor Wiley Vaughn. I see you're alone old man. Do you mind if we join you?"
"Please do," I cry, elated at my good fortune. Adrian and the women join me, ordering lavish meals
while enthralling me with intricate tales of Hollywood movie making. I throw in my own tales of writing the Wanderers series, doing the comic conventions and the day to day activities of a Loredagger
writer. All is heavenly, as all the locals are seeing me chatting up a big star.
Suddenly Adrian's phone rings. "What?" he thunders in that great action hero voice. "Hang on. I'll be right there. Wiley, I've got to run. Be a good man and pick up the check, eh? Catch you later pal." He smiles the old Duncan Macleod smile and runs out the door with both women giggling behind him, just as the waiter brings a check so big, he has to use two hands to place it on the table before me. Bursting into laughter, the studio audience roars, as I fume at the table, my Ebay profits disappearing before my eyes.
Now, what does the previous material have to do with Adrian Paul and The Sword Experience?
Nothing. It did make my sweet wife laugh though, so it was worth including in the blog. Now,
as to the real deal.
Having decades of experience in swordsmanship, Adrian Paul is expert in handling blades for
television and movie making. Sharing his knowledge is done expertly as well. Running the class
through some warmup exercises, Paul demonstrated not only his skill as an instructor, but his
sense of humor as well. Though my knees and bones were begging for mercy early on, I enjoyed
every moment of it.
Assigned a black bokken, I was to train for the Hero part of the scenario, while my sparring
partner Gabriel, the Villain received a red bokken. Great. I'm 60 and my partner is at least 20 years younger than me. It's going to take a lot of camera magic to make that combo look believable.
Anyway, I'm ecstatic the exercise is over. Now comes the drilling.
With no nonsense tolerated and absolutely no horseplay allowed, Paul put us through our paces.
Demonstrating the desired technique, observing our moves and correcting our faults was done seamlessly. At times, I felt like I was Ritchie from the TV show, about to duel and getting last minute advice from Duncan.
For several hours this went on. Sufficiently satisfied the class knew the basic pattern for the drill,
Paul set us to individual drilling with our sparring partner. Here's where our Hero/Villain roles became important. As envisioned by Paul, the Heroes would be down on one knee, black bokkens thrust
blade first into the ground as the savage Villains charge into the scene. Heros would then
leap to their feet, dodge a blow, thrust their bokkens into the air, block the descending evil red bokkens and begin an exchange of blows ending with the execution of the Villains. This was great the first two or three times I ran through the drill. As the night wore on, it became exhausting, though still great fun.
As I said, I'm 60. Not that I'm making excuses, but we'd been at this nearly four hours after I'd put in a full day walking the aisles at the Fanboy Expo. My blood sugar was dropping fast and I desperately
needed to go to the bathroom. Determined, I struggled on. Hey, I wasn't going to look bad in front of
Duncan Macleod, even if I wet my pants. Did I mention I had two bottles of water? Anyway I dared not
go to the bathroom. I needed every minute of instruction I could get. Besides, I didn't want to be edited from the video. I'm not making excuses, really. I'm sharing vital information.
Finally, I told my sparring partner, "Gabriel, I've only got a couple more leaps up from the knee position left in me. Just pretend I've come up from kneeling and go from there." Sparring from that point was much more animated, as I was able to avoid a lot of time consuming grunting and grimacing. In the meantime, Paul introduced the more practiced students, ok, the safer and more skilled students, to a great finishing move. It was a Highlanderesque slash to the throat. It looked great, but there was
an air of danger. Someone making a mistake could injure their partner severely. Now most of my bokken play comes in the form of fighting with other confirmed sword wielding psychos on the weekends. We wear padding, actually hitting one another with plastic bokkens to score points. We don't strike to miss. I was having a terrible time trying to pull my stabs at my sparring partner to turn them into misses that would appear as lethal blows at the right camera angle. Yet, that brave soul wanted to include the potentially dangerous throat slash to our scene. To make matters worse, the throat slash would have to be performed twice to allow it to be properly recorded for editing and later viewing by posterity. Should we attempt it? "Go for it," said Gabriel with a determined look in his eye, "I do a great dying routine."
Taking our positions for the camera, I put on my best fighting face. Even if I wasn't the best swordsman in the building, I wasn't going to go out looking like an amateur. I hoped Paul was as
good at editing video as he was at teaching. "Roll film! Action!" cried Paul. Rising flawlessly from my
aching knee position, I met the charging Gabriel, dodged his slashing blade and began our dance of death. Although I knew mistakes were made, it didn't look half bad to me. Gleefully, I slashed Gabriel's
throat. He really did do a great dying scene. I could almost feel the Quickening. I'd have settled for a
doughnut at that point. Paul coached us into position for the next take, which would give a different view of the same repeated action. For the final time, Gabriel charged me, evil red bokken coming to
gut me in front of everyone. Shooting up from the knee, I dodged the slash expertly, in my imagination
anyway, beginning the series of rapid fire blocks and blows that ended with a carefully positioned black
bokken slashing across Gabriel's bare throat. Yet again, he died wonderfully well. I gave the camera my
best icy cold stare. Then, it was over.
Collapsing, I lay on the floor, as the remaining students played their parts. I kept thinking how I could have, should have done better. No regrets for this student though. I learned a lot from Adrian Paul. Standing in line at the finish, I was a humble student awaiting the signing of my bokken. Adrian Paul ran a great class. Kudos to him. Gabriel was a great sparring partner. Many thanks, my friend.
Returning to my family, I was told I didn't look nearly as bad as I thought. My son, Colt and his wife, Chelsea both understood my plight, having completed the class with me. My crew knows what to say to appease the old man. Anyway, the video will tell the tale. May it be well edited.
Due to the popularity of the Fanboy Expo, open parking spaces were lacking that day. Our transportation was parked a mile away. There we were, Colt and I, walking the darkened mean streets of Knoxville, bokkens in hand as the bells tolled midnight, going to retrieve the van. It was wonderful. There were no beheadings that night, no Quickenings, but it felt like there could have been. That made the experience worthwhile.
Adrian Paul supports THE PEACE FUND. If you've got a few dollars to spare, donate them at www.thepeacefund.org.