Travel and Workshops

Man, I miss the glory days of air travel.

Okay, maybe that should be missed, past tense; from what I can tell, zepplins were pretty classy, but things have changed a lot- for the worse- in the last dozen years. I could go back further of course, but what’s got me thinking now is packing for the Paddy Crean workshop, something I’ve done every couple years since… 1999?

Up until 2001 it was pretty simple. I usually had to remind myself to put my pocketknife in my backpack before I walked through the metal detectors, since it might otherwise make it take longer to get through security, but I never had any problem with it when it was in my pack. I wore my combat boots through security. I’d check multiple bags, which meant I could offer to bring swords to the workshop. The seats generally seemed big enough, and often there was nobody next to you so you could spread out. You got fed. Things were a lot more pleasant, and simpler.

Post 2001, as we all know, things got hyper-sensitive; I was told I couldn’t fly with my wallet chain once. I had to take the pins off my jacket prior to flying, as did everyone (and I mean everyone!). I was routinely pulled aside for a pat-down, albeit nothing like what they’re doing these days. I suppose I’m still one of the lucky ones, at least so far: no colostomy bag, no breast milk, or other complicating factors- I say this having not tried to fly recently with my family, of course… having heard enough reports about TSA terrifying children (and let’s face it, would we really want to raise our children to be okay being stripped and/or felt up at random by strange adults?) I’m not looking forward to that milestone.

So here we are- no specific threat but full security theatre, extremely invasive and insensitive security, no more free checked bags (except on a few airlines, like SouthWest- which doesn’t serve Richmond), no more free food, planes generally packed, and it’s more expensive than ever. Enough to make a person nostalgic.

Not saying there aren’t reasons. I was looking for my ancient hunter’s safety certificate card today, and found frequent flier cards for airlines that no longer exist. We still have 9/11 first responders who’s benefits are being held hostage in congressional debate over tax cuts. And we’re still making war on multiple fronts, with little lasting “success” to speak of. Times are hard on all of us (well, most of us anyway), including the airlines.

But I miss that second bag, and the mediocre food.

When I flew to ISMAC a year or two ago, I ended up buying a new synthetic training sword and having it shipped there, then shipping it back- it was cheaper by far than flying with a nicer sword of my own. Fortunately at 4W I didn’t have to fly. I’ve been asked to bring a few bucklers and capes to Banff, and just that and my fencing mask, jacket, and knickers have come close to filling the suitcase. At $175 each way for an oversized bag (as a sword case would be), it’s just not an option for me or many participants to bring their own swords. Replica firearms of any sort can’t be brought through customs in to Canada anyway, which is another, separate frustration. Couldn’t bring my nice video tripod to any of these events either, although videotaping was part of my job at some.

I know for many martial arts and stage combat instructors, offering workshops has been a staple part of their professional lives for decades. Do we have to limit ourselves to venues that can provide all the gear, or just add to the cost to bring us out?

I think maybe I’ll be selling a couple cheapo bucklers up in Banff, if only to make room for a new T-shirt and avoid overweight baggage fees.

Please, let us help you with that sword case!



  1. Posted December 15, 2010 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    hehe, I was expecting something different when I clicked your blog.. and that last sentence is gold ;).

    I also would want to try a old-days flight with all the luxury and lack of security measures some day. A few months ago I was in a plane where the flight attendants were all male! That was frustating 😛

  2. Barbara
    Posted December 15, 2010 at 3:15 am | Permalink

    Flying to L.A. tomorrow for a meeting; I am not thrilled. Full-body scanner for me but I resent it. I especially resent being told to put my hands in the air with my thumbs to my head “like Mickey Mouse.” I swear on my honor that is what the woman said when I was flying to Kansas for Thanksgiving. I fully expect “like a reindeer” tomorrow.

    I enjoyed your post, Kevin. I do believe I would recognize a Medal of Honor but ONLY because of television shows. Sad, but better than nothing.

  3. Posted December 16, 2010 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    I’m surprised anyone lets you bring any stage combat weapons on at all, these days.

    • Posted December 16, 2010 at 12:29 am | Permalink

      Oh, not carry-on of course.

      I flew with blank firing prop guns a couple years back for a gig in Boise, and the TSA really didn’t know what to do with them. We mutually decided to just treat them like real guns to make life simpler; often it’s easier to deal with real guns than replicas, just because the laws are more clear and generally understood… and flying with a checked firearm is still pretty standard.

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