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Physical ranks and hmv are not the only stats that can be raised. In a more mundane fashion than the meta ritual, characters may train in particular weapon forms, gaining (again, through a combination of gold and experience points) bonuses to their to-hit and damage rolls. There are particular limits on what may be achieved - a mage can only learn how to wield a sword so well, for example.
For more information, type help spec while logged into the game.