Monday, 28 February 2011

A thesis I intend to nail to the door of the Royal Armouries.

While wasting my time on the internet today, I came across the text of an interesting interview with John Danaher, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach who some of you may know that I have a slight man-crush on. After all, this is the Kiwi who came out with 'I still think that the greatest thing a man can study is philosophy and mathematics, greater even than jiu-jitsu' in an interview.
He may have a tonsure, but he's no Friar Tuck...
In any case, the text is probably worth copying over in full. I'd recommend reading it in full, too. The discourse going on in it echoes debates and disagreements within the HEMA community so closely it leaves me with a sense of deja-vu...
Most traditional martial artists dismiss the very idea of a combat sport. Their claim is typically that in a real fight all means must be used to attack the enemy. Sporting competition develops poor habits for combat since it is bound by a set of rules. Traditional martial arts thus emphasize a large number of techniques that could never be made part of a safe sporting match - techniques such as eye-gouging, biting, groin attacks etc. etc. The emphasis on such hazardous technique makes live sparring and sport competition impossible. 
The only alternative is to practice this kind of technique in a thoroughly artificial manner - by the use of repetitive forms, kata, imagination, no-contact "sparring," etc. The obvious problem with this approach is that students never get the opportunity to perform their techniques in the same manner in which they will do so in actual combat. The result is that they are no more experienced in the actual application of these techniques under the stress of combat conditions than anybody else. 
How then, can they be expected to do well in the chaos and stress of a real fight? Imagine if a football coach attempted to train a team along analogous principles. He insisted that all training sessions involve no contact. Players were not allowed to run at full speed, nor could they engage in open play, but had to stop at the completion of each move. Essentially they would be training in a kind of slow motion, stop start, touch football. How could such a team hope to make the jump to a full power competitive game against a rival who trained in the normal manner? Yet this is very nearly what the traditional martial arts prescribes as its training methods to thousands of willing adherents. 
All too often the unfortunate result is a student who has a grossly inflated sense of his or her combat readiness. When the shock and confusion of real combat is sprung upon them the result is almost always failure. Contrast this with the case of combat sports. By combat sports I mean those fighting styles whose nature is most closely associated with open sporting competition and which have an obvious combative heritage in so far as they involve the battle for physical domination over an opponent. This is made possible by the removal of hazardous technique that would make the sport unacceptably risky. So for example, Olympic wrestling is a classic combat sport. It has a set of restrictions on which techniques are legal and which are not. 
One's initial reaction to the notion of a combat sport is that they are merely watered down martial arts. They are martial arts minus the really deadly techniques. As such they would appear almost by definition to be less effective in combat than a "true" martial art. This is in fact, a very naïve assumption. The removal of dangerous technique makes possible the use of full-power, live training (sparring) with the techniques that remain. This has an immensely beneficial result. It allows students to train in almost the same way they fight. 
The importance of this point cannot be overemphasized. An axiom of the martial arts is this. The way you train is the way you fight. This simple point is very important. The successful application of a combat technique under combat conditions requires much more than a theoretical knowledge of that technique. In addition to knowledge of the technique itself, the student must possess a set of attributes that allow him or her to successfully apply the technique. Without the possession of these attributes the technique is very unlikely to succeed. 
Attributes such as adequate strength and physical conditioning, speed, timing, presence of mind, body sensitivity, balance etc. etc. are necessary prerequisites to the application of a combat technique. The development of these attributes comes only from live training and sparring. This explains how a student of traditional martial arts whose training is limited to kata and cooperative training partners can never gain anything more than a superficial knowledge of a given technique. They know what the technique is supposed to look like, but they lack the necessary attributes to apply it under combat conditions. 
Their understanding of the technique never progresses beyond the look of the technique and never passes into the feel of it. In this way can we explain the irony of the fact that combat sports that prohibit so much technique can be far more combat effective than "deadly" traditional martial arts that emphasize apparently dangerous techniques but never give the students the chance to practice them live. 
The essential difference between the combat sports and traditional martial arts is that the latter emphasize technique alone, while the former emphasize the attributes required to apply the techniques they retain. Combat sports can do this successfully because they prohibit the techniques that make live training in the form of sparring and sporting competition impossible. This realization that success in combat requires far more than the memorization of the appearance of various techniques, but also involves the development of bodily and mental attributes that allow a student to apply these techniques in a real fight, is the key to understanding the success of combat sports. Consider the most well known combat sports - Brazilian jiu jitsu, judo, wrestling, sambo, shooto, San Shou , Western boxing and Muay Thai. 
So then, in answer to our question as to which styles are those most effective we can reply that it is those that are combat sports. These allow students to train at something close to full power with the same techniques and strategy that they will use in real combat. As such they develop not just the superficial knowledge of the appearance of a given technique, but also the essential attributes and skills that enable a student to apply that technique in actual combat
-John Danaher, found a

This. This applies to Historical European Martial Arts too, damn it.

Are you comparing the UFC with this, really? Yes. Yes I am.
We try and learn how we, why we and when we perform techniques to physically incapacitate another person. Conceptually, we do these according to frameworks and systems that analyse the physical actions of two people trying to break each-other. This to my mind is a martial art.

The difference between HEMA and many other martial arts is that we do this for combat that might have taken place five or six centuries ago. Normally, the systems that we use date from the period, and the techniques we learn are interpreted from documents of the time. I for one respect the point of view of someone who actually lived, fought and risked their well-being at the time and then recorded how they did so. For this we need to research their words, or the material evidence that has survived and left traces in the modern day. To my mind, this makes it a historical art.

European then? To some people it's an ethnic thing, 'my ancestors did this!'. To be honest, I think that that is a dead end, but in a way is an understandable attempt to form an identity. Others emphasize what they consider to be the world-view of the time, 'it is a chivalrous art!'. I think that these people have a poor grasp of the context of what they are talking about, and would hazard that again these are people attempting for form an identity for themselves. This is where past snide comments about confusing HEMA and live action role-playing stem from; - I believe that at best these two points of view spring from a poor grasp of how things really were in the past. At worst they imply an ethnocentrism I find to be wrong. Personally, I study European martial arts because I find that Europe is the most easy area to find research about, as I live there. If, on the other hand, I lived in the Middle East, I might find myself researching Arabic horsemanship from the period of  al-Ġazawāt. The European aspect of what we study is, I sincerely hope, due to convenience.

The Victorian mindset is a source of humour, not of sound advice.
From this it seems reasonable that in order to learn this art we need access to the historical evidence to do research, communication of ideas and debate to test our interpretations and above all martially sound coaching to learn all this.

And for the last part, we need to get out there and hit one another with glorified sticks. Srsly. Without pressure-testing ourselves as fighters, or our interpretations as researchers, we cannot begin to understand what we are studying.

To paraphrase a second-hand point of view, we train to be the very best fighters for a rather unlikely set of circumstances. Sure, we may never get into harnischfechten on the high street, but our study still faces the same challenges and pit-falls as any other martial art.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Class plan for 28/2/11

Warm up. - Jogging, with called changes in direction, jumps, lunge-steps. 5 mins.


  • Group drill. - Weaving around masks on the floor, followed by circling around them, followed by circling around them and air-cutting while doing so. 5 mins.
  • Paired drill. - One person wears a mask and holds a sword as their waist, as if half-swording. When they lift it cover their head, the other person cuts it, as if doing pad-work. Nothing could be simpler. Then add in aliveness as if sparring. 5 mins.

Stretching. - 3 mins.

Brief recap of last week - When someone displaces your attack well, and hasn't yet stabbed you in the head, here are two options. If they displace hard, then you can duplieren behind their blade. If they displace soft, you can mutieren. Not that important to this lesson. 3 mins.

Longsword lesson, 'When to leave the bind'.

Introduce the following:

  • Abnehmen, 'taking off' - removing your sword from the bind. Comparable to Fiore's 'Volta'.
  • Zucken, 'twitching' - pulling your sword back towards you and then immediately thrusting again.
  • Durchwechseln, 'changing through' - taking your blade underneath the opponent's to come up the other side.

- Purpose, to introduce the technique to new people, and to break it down for older members.
- When to do it - when you want to give up on the current bind and attack a different line, without leaving krieg. Otherwise just bind and wind or run away.
- Done when the opponent is displacing your blade too hard/putting too much pressure into the bind. Otherwise they can just stab you in the face.
- Don't make too big a motion, rely on bodyweight and hip rotation to provide power, rather than arms and shoulders. Small and subtle wins the day.
If he's pushing too strongly to displace, Abnehmen. If he's pushing with his sword vertical, your tip to his strong, then zucken. If he's pushing with his sword horizontal, your tip to his strong, Durchwechseln.
- Footwork. Abnehmen pretty much required a step offline, moving the back foot forwards. Openning and closing the hips to generate force. Zucken and Durchwechseln can be done more linearly, as they use the point.
15 mins.

Partnered Longsword Drill 1 (Isolation) - Two people start in the bind. The attacker pushes too hard, the defender uses one of the three options.
10 mins.

Partnered Longsword Drill 2 - Two people start in zufechten, and cut zornhaus. The attacker knowingly puts too much pressure in, and the defender responds with one of the three options. 3 mins.

Partnered Longsword Drill 3 - Two people start in zufechten, and cut with zornhaus. Then just fence. With intent. 5 mins.

Sparring - One half of the hall free like normal, the other half I'd like to grab for 15 minutes of continous sparring, Switching partners every couple of minutes or so. They can get water, slow breathing and watch the fight. So it's not just me being greedy.
- Purpose, I get some of the intensity I've been wanting, they get to rip my fencing to shreds?

Thoughts - Trying to cover both the intensity of training that I worried about in the last post here, and progress to the next logical bit of the Lichtenauer system. Footwork's quite a bit focus, with the drills and Volta-ing, but I think it may be too conceptual/full of stuff. Let's see how it goes.

After this, where to take things? Ringen Am Schwert is always fun, or I could throw in the next of the meisterhau.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Anders' Shut the F*ck Up Rant

A few years ago, Anders Linnard of the GHFS posted a 'Shut the f*ck up' rant on the Schola Gladiatoria forums. For a bit of entertainment, but I suppose mainly as he had grown tired of what he felt were inappropriate criticisms of what his school does, and the videos of them training on youtube.
Yeah, the GHFS gets on front pages. Gits.
For a bit of entertainment, I figured that I would see how many of them apply to myself/the IDC. While plenty of the criteria can be attributed to butt-hurt or arguments going on within the HEMA community at the time, I still think there's a fair bit of worthwhile stuff said:

1. If you think that fighting from a distance is not a part of German fencing, then shut the f*ck up
Nope, I believe that fighting from a distance, the 'zufechten' is an important part of the Lichtenauer tradition, but at least in earlier periods a large part of the documents focus on what to do in the bind, or in range to wrestle at the sword. You need to be good at all stages of the fight, just like in MMA you need to be good at striking, grappling and wrestling.

2. If you think that movement and athleticism doesn't belong in HEMA, then shut the f*ck up
Oh, it does. I wish I had more of it.

3. If you think that you have a better perception of HEMA because you do things differently, then shut the f*ck up

4. If you think it is wrong to have tournaments, then don't attend and shut the f*ck up 
I don't feel it's wrong to have tournaments. Hell, I've run some. I do though think that you need to understand what they are for in order for them to be worthwhile.

5. If you have a lot of opinions on people fighting in tournaments, but never fought in a competition yourself, then shut the f*ck up 
Actually, I haven't fought in one of the big international tournaments, I chickened out of Fight Camp on the grounds that the nylons were new and had a reputation for breaking little fingers. I guess I should shut up regarding tournaments for now then. Fail.

6. If you get hit a lot, then it is not due to flaws of your opponent, the rules or anyone else, so shut the f*ck up and go train 
Yep. Some people disagree with certain rulesets that clash with their training. But that's life.

7. If you have opinions about how we fight in our videos, but would never post videos yourself, then shut the f*ck up
I've posted videos, but haven't made them that widely available, I guess. So a partial shut up here.

8. If you think that having an opinion is all that it takes, then shut the f*ck up
Having a reasonable, well backed up opinion is a lot of what it takes. I guess this is a YouTube comment one though.

9. If your website looks quasi medieval and you think shoes are an important factor in HEMA, then shut the f*ck up 
Eh, the HEMA community has moved past the shoes debate - most people wear shoes with thin flat soles now, not para-boots or combats. But I think it's a fairly justified dig at the mindset that uses 'unchivalrous' as a real insult in the real world. We aren't knights, and some people need to stop getting LARPing and HEMA confused in their heads.

10. If you can't fight but think you are doing some sort of art, then shut the f*ck up
Eh. I'm not sure if I can fight, but I am *trying* to do a systematic approach to suceeding in combat in a particular context. Does that count?

11. If you don't spar, then shut the f*ck up 
I spar. I guess this is a dig at a few people who believe that sparring isn't what the Olde Knighte LARP is about. But you need to know why you're sparring, otherwise it's just dicking about with sticks I guess.
'Shut the f*ck up' face.
12. If you only spar with people in your own group, then shut the f*ck up
Guilty as charged, aside from meet-ups like Swords and Cyder and Fightcamp. Distance is a pain. So a partial shut up here.

13. If you think that we only fight with nylons, just because you only fight with steel, then shut the f*ck up. Actually if our equipment is what bugs you, you should shut the f*ck up.
Fair enough. Within the HEMA community there are plenty who feel that steel is the best simulator (like Pete). Fair play to them. I think that for us at the moment nylons are the better simulator. Perhaps if I win the lottery steel will be a better option.

14. If you think that control is the only thing you need in a fight and therefore never tried fighting with full intent, then shut the f*ck up
Some people spar with wooden wasters and no helmets. Some people are idiots. Hopefully we're not those people.

15. If you think that a tournament should be a simulation of a judicial duel, you are deluded and should shut the f*ck up
*shrug* I don't. I guess specific to the debates at the time.

16. If you think you train as hard as us, but generally don't have any trouble walking to the showers, then shut the f*ck up you are not training hard enough to have an opinion. 
Guilty as charged. I can see where he is coming from though, most HEMA-ists don't train nearly as intensely as other martial artists. Fail.

17. If you think that mixing modern teaching methods, equipment, language etc with HEMA is wrong, you are an idiot in thinking you are doing things with any more validity and should shut the f*ck up 
True. Otherwise let's go to a field and throw stones about as strength training.

18. If you feel there is a moral code from medieval times that we should all adhere to, actually, if you think some bullshit notion of chivalry has anything to do with HEMA, just shut the f*ck up 
A few people getting LARP and HEMA confused again.

19. If you think we are spamming ze interwebs with videos, don't f*cking subscribe to our videos and shut the f*ck up 
Fair enough.

20. If you believe in Vorthr you should shut the f*ck up. 
A pretty personal dig, but hey, it's true. Ad hominem, and the bloke in question does some pretty decent translations, but whatever.

21. If you are actually a good fighter or want to train seriously, willing to share your experiences then you are ok with me. And by all means feel free to disagree with all things we do and say.
Hopefully this is where we succeed. And to me it's far more important then all of the above.

How do we do? I think that it highlights some of our weaknesses as a group, especially when compared to the GHFS - we're fairly insular, although we have been trying to build links with other clubs like the LSDC and SG. We also haven't really gone in for the hard-core tournament scene, and there's a relationship between that and the lack of intensity in our training.
That said, I'm happy with the IDC not training to win competitions. It would be nice if our training did include more pro-active drilling and getting ready for intense sparring though, but you have to work with the tools to hand.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

21/02 Sparring Footage

Thanks to Jakob for taking the footage and getting it to me:

First up, Cat vs. JP (Pixels):
Then Dave sparring myself. Problems with shortsightedness and the mesh of the mask meant that we mainly stuck to fencing from the bind, rather than from zufechten:

Finally Jakob and I sparring:

Comments and criticisms please!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

21/02 Training

This week's session covered a couple of techniques from the Lichtenauer tradition that the group has never encountered before - pretty much everything that I've taught so far has an analogue in Fiore, so this was a bit of a leap of faith. I have to say that I wasn't too comfortable with them myself, but by the end of the session everyone was able to do them at least in isolation, a result that I'm pretty happy with.

The turnout was good, nine people again. However, several of them are still relative newcomers an not too comfortable all out sparring. One person is short sighted, and has trouble focusing outside of the fencing mask, so in sparring I took to inviting them to the bind and then doing a free-play almost like a speaking-window exercise, but they did very well at that. No idea about a long term solution. Perhaps the work-rate has been lagging a bit, I don't know.

A couple of people who couldn't make it let me know in advance, or gave their excuses after. Which is nice of them.

The class went pretty much according to the lesson plan, and I don't think that there's much to add. One pair were still stuck using shinai, when nylons are much better for getting the 'feel' of the bind, but there's not much that I can do about that.

Sparring went all right, but as I said, I'm a little bit concerned with slow pacing. People seemed to react well to the 'structured sparring' drill at the end, which is good. One of the other members took some footage, as I forgot to bring a camera - hopefully I'll be able to put that up in the next day or two.

Heard some news about Swords and Cider. Looks like it'll be from Friday 20th May to Sunday. I need to write up an email and send it out. Which is after my dissertation hand-in, so I should be free. Huzzah.

Need to send out an email today. Time for more writing...

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Class Plan for 21/2/11

Warm up - Jon's 3 person tag game.Brief but hard working. No more than 5 minutes.
- Jogging from one side of the hall to the other, cutting a fendente to my head (holding my sword  straight in front of me), then sprinting back to the back of the queue. Warm up, and get people in the right frame of mind. 5 mins.

Brief recap of last session - Zornhau as a 'master cut', able to displace an incoming cut. Zorn-ort as a thrust by whose blade is a threat. Absetzen of Zorn-ort (the thrust comes in, and in the Indes/in the moment, they set it aside by transitioning into one of the hangers).
 - Purpose, to jog people's memories, introduce people who missed last week. May take longer, depending on who is there. Shouldn't be longer than ten minutes.

Introduce the Duplieren (doubling) - Done when someone tries to absetzen in pflug, but gets it wrong, binds too hard and doesn't threaten with the point. Cut behind their blade at them.
- Not in Fiore, he emphasises working when you have the centre line, or leaving the bind.
- Purpose, to injure the other person without leaving the bind when they control the centre line.
- Don't wait, act in the moment.
- Don't come off their sword too early, keep pressure on incase they bind to a different side.
- Footwork. Step off while doing it, don't just step forwards onto their blade. 5 mins

Partnered Drill 1 - Isolate the movement. Have people begin to do it in the bind. The person with the centre-line thrusts, the other displaces into Pflug/Kron too hard/badly. The first person cuts behind it. 10 mins.

Introduce the muterien (mutating) - Done when someone tried to displace upwards into Kron or Ochs, and does to too hard, bringing their point/blade offline and not presenting a threat. Wind up and over their blade into a hanger on the same side (they displace to your right, you wind up to your right), and slide the blade down to stab them in the lower hip.
  - - Not in Fiore, he emphasises working when you have the centre line, or leaving the bind.
- Purpose, to injure the other person without leaving the bind when they control the centre line.
- Don't wait, act in the moment.
- Don't move jerkily. Flow over their blade.
- Footwork. Step off while doing it, don't just step forwards onto their blade. 5 mins

Partnered Drill 2 - Isolate the movement. Have people begin to do it in the bind. The person with the centre-line thrusts, the other displaces into Ochs/Kron too hard/badly. The first person thrusts behind it. 10 mins.

Integrate - Partnered Drill 3.
Get people armoured up. Begin out of distance. Only cut on the way in a Zornhau.
Either the zornhau lands, or they bind.
If they bind, then the person with the centre line zorn-orts.
The person who zorn-orts displaces either into Ochs or Pflug.
Either their absetzen results in a thrust landing, or they are offline.
The person whose thrust was poorly displaced mutierens or duplierens.
15 mins

Notes - a pretty conceptual lesson. None of the techniques being taught are present in Fiore, so it may take more time. They are also tricky, needing to be done using fuhlen/feeling of the bind, as well as being down in indes/in the moment.
Also, note that Duplieren can be done against Ochs, and Mutieren against Pflug. But it seems simpler to introduce them this was (ie, above vs. below) rather than hard vs. weak displacements, as I'm not too confident about the techniques. Hell, you can duplier against a zornhau that comes in too hard.

May have to repeat the week after, otherwise we'll cover leaving the bind.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Notes on Mutieren

Research for 21/2/11 - Mutieren

Modern definition of Mutieren:
A  long sword  technique,  employed  from  a bind, whereby one winds the sword so that one's point comes down on  the  opposite  side  on  the  opponent's  blade  to  thrust  to  a lower opening.' 
Christian Tobler, Secrets of Medieval German Swordsmanship, p. 380

Dobringer 25R -
 'If you wish to take revenge, then artfully break the four openings. Above double [Duplier] and below rightfully change [Mutier]. I say truly that no man can defend himself without danger and if you have understood this then he cannot come to blows.'

Ringeck 23v-24v -
'When you bind against his sword with an Oberhau or something similar, so wind the short edge against his sword and go up in an orderly fashion with the arms; and hang your sword blade over his sword on the outside and thrust into him through the lower openings. This can be done on both sides.'

Von Danzig 13R? -
'How one shall drive transforming to both sides
When you have struck him strongly above to the head from your right shoulder, if he displaces and is weak on the sword, then wind the short edge on his sword to your left side and, driving well up with your arms, drive your sword's blade high over his sword and stab his lower opening.
When you have struck high to his head from your left side and he displaces and is weak on the sword, then drive up with your arms and hang the point over his sword from above and stab to his second opening. Thus you will drive the two elements from all strikes as you find him weak and strong on the sword.
Thus are fencing and work with the sword retained to be praised.'
Is this mutieren? Picture from Goliath (MS Germ.Quart.2020 16V)
Edit: No, that was not Mutieren. This is:
MS Germ.Quart.2020 17v

07/02 Training

Session seemed to go well - a good turn out, nine people, but I forgot the crossguard, pommel etc. for the nylon blades we have so we were still short of equipment. Lesson went more or less to plan, except that one person showed up with a bottle of mead for the end of session, so we stopped five minutes early and toasted our Glorious Former Leader.
Turn out was seven people, plus one newcomer (attached to last weeks newcomer, which is nice), Glorious Former Leader and myself. As that meant that over a third of the class hadn't made last week, I decided to do a re-cap of last weeks lesson too, biting into sparring/structured sparring time. Seemed to go okay though.

Footage and moar footage for footage of sparring, comments and criticisms welcome (they're also up on the super top-secret Facebook Group). No, seriously. Tell me how I can improve.

Soo, 9am tomorrow. Need to send out an email letting people know that there's no session next Monday. I'll leave it till tomorrow. Also, sources for Jakob. (Yeah, sorry, but significant others are actually more important than historical martial arts. Live with it, even if it does mean sacrificing one night of training.).

Note: Teaching doesn't give you enough time to warm up or spar. Managed to get there early/on time, but did forget things as I said.

Kudos to - Jakob, for picking up on things immediately, questioning my interpretations, and having patience with my explanations. Cat for getting the points that I was making immediately (but boooo! for hand-sniping during early sparring), Johann for helping new-people, and Tom for being receptive to what I had to say.

Comments and Criticisms of the videos, and more importantly of the lesson are more than welcome.

And your meme of the evening:

Monday, 7 February 2011

Just hurry up and hit him with your sword.

So, what's the first thing you have in mind, the first thing you should want to do when in a sword fight? Well, let's see what the documentary evidence recommends:

Dobringer (Erm, 23V) as:
'When you are angry and raging, then no strike is as ready as this upper strike [Oberhaw] struck from the shoulder at the opponent. That is why Liechtenauer means that when someone strikes an upper strike [Oberhaw] against you, then you shall strike a rage strike [Czornhaw] at him; that is you move quickly in towards him with your point leading.'

Ringeck 13v as:
'Note: Always fence using all of your strength! When you're close, strike at his head and at his body, so he may not be able to change through in front of your point.'
and 19r:
'Someone over-hews you,
So wrath-hew and swivel your point;
Note: When your adversary strikes at you from his right side with a strike from above (Oberhau), then hit with a strike of wrath from your right shoulder against it. Strike with your true edge and in your strong. When he is weak at the sword then, thrust into his face along his blade.'

Von Danzig (11R?) as:
'Strike closely at him as you will,
that nothing comes unto your hilt,
head, or body,
allow no attack.
With the entire body fence
as strongly as you can drive.
Glosa When you come to him in pre-fencing, as you would then fence, then drive with your body's full strength, and strike closely to him, one to his head, and to his body, and always keep your point ahead at his face or chest, Thus he can't change through past the point.'
and 13R?:
'To him who strikes you from above,
Wrath Strike point concludes.
Glosa The Wrath Strike counters all high strikes with the point. And it is indeed nothing other than a bad peasant strike. Deploy it thus: when you come to him in the pre-fencing: if he strikes to you from his right side high to the head, then to this also strike from high on your right (note in margin: in the weak on the sword) wrathfully displacing with him on his sword, if he is then weak on the sword, then aim to shoot ahead with the point and stab to his face, or attack the chest between the arms.'

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Class plan for 5/2/11

Warm up - Jon's '3 person' game, concentrating on moving tactically and being aware of space. Brief but hard working. No more than 10 minutes.

Brief recap of last week - Four Guards, Using Ochs and Pflug to displace cuts and thrusts.
- Purpose, to jog people's memories, introduce people who missed last week. May take longer, depending on who is there.

Partnered drill 1 - One person cuts in from out of distance with a oberhau or unterhau, the other person displaces it using Ochs/Pflug.
Partnered drill 2 - The two people begin in the bind, one with the centre-line. The person who has it goes for a thrust, the other person displaces it.
- Purpose, to isolate the two main techniques of last weeks lesson again. Shouldn't take too long (three minutes each tops.)

Introduce the Zornhau - oberhau from the shoulder, point leading, at the opponent (not their sword), foot following.
- Purpose, to introduce something everyone is familiar with, but to break it down and analyse what makes it work.
- Don't lead with the hands, they get cut.
- Don't lead with the foot, not much power generated.
- Don't strike at the opponent's sword, you will no longer threaten them.
(Shouldn't take too long, 5 mins max. 10 inc. getting them to practice some).

Partnered drill 3 - One person cuts in from out of distance, the other person counters with a zornhau. The person who has the centre-line goes for a thrust (Zorn-Ort).
Next level - Same as before, except that the Zorn-Ort is displaced.
- Purpose, to isolate the function of a zornhau, and how it is used in sparring. The next level isolates displacing from the bind, but intergrates it into the bigger picture.
(Spend some time on this. 7 mins on each.)

Structured sparring IF THERE IS TIME - People spar. Only actions allowed are thrusts or zornhaus. Once they find themselves in the bind, they should try and stay in it. A third person referees/watches and tries to analyse with the people after what happened in that play.
- Purpose, to try and integrate these techniques in sparring, also to start thinking about other techniques from the bind (ie. Mutieren, Duplieren) to be introduced later.

Free sparring. Ask people to try and use the German guards that they have learnt. VIDEO IT IF POSSIBLE.

[Thoughts, conceptually, last week introduced the guards, and also absetzen. Next week will build on absetzen, and also introduce the first of the meisterhau, the zornhau. It's nothing particularly ground-breaking, but it'll still be working away at building the foundations of Lichtenauer's system. Comments and criticisms guys?]

Oh, and because every post needs a meme:

Friday, 4 February 2011

1st Commissar for War and Education...

So, yesterday I was in this pub, right...

No, that's not the right impression. An email's gone out so this should be pretty public knowledge in the club. Yesterday I met with Johann and Gary, mainly to discuss a transition of responsibilities for IDC. It's nothing drama-wise, Johann has a lot on his plate thanks to the University and feels that he should take a step back from running sessions and teaching to, well, learn things and enjoy fighting with swords more. Fair play to him. Gary and I will be running things day to day, and I'll be focusing on teaching.

A few issues, like insurance, that I should probably get sorted. BHFS looks like the safest/most official option, but the website is buggered, and I understand that it's a bit of hassle. On the only hand, I could go with Amateur Martial Association, which seems a little less trustworthy, but also less hassle.

Some good feedback over the week, and I've been thinking about teaching, the role of questions and approaches to learning a bit. Currently just a bunch of ideas brewing in my head, but I may work out a plan for Monday's class at some point. I should spend the weekend working on my dissertation and other academic work, but no plan survives contact with the enemy.

And also:

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

31/01 Training

Quite a large turn of out eleven people, but three of them were new (I think two were likely never to return again, but just showed up for the lulz and to socialise). The person who took a nasty hit to the hand a couple of weeks back attended too, and seemed totally unfazed, except that I managed to kick them in the knee during the warm-up game of tag and send them to the floor. Fffffffffffff-

 Johann took the srs new person to one side for some one on one learninatin', while I began with the whole Lichtenauer system. In retrospect, they could probably have joined in too, and I hope/think that everyone could have gained something from it.

The basic lesson structure pretty much went along with the last post, except that the Integration and Isolation stages there were pretty merged together, and I added in the famous 'Scott Brown's Windmill drill' at the end; - I stood cutting an infinity sign in the air (cut down from the right shoulder [fendente/zornhau], cut down from the left shoulder, cut down from the right shoulder), while people queued up to step in and try and displace the attack with a thrust. Particular kudos at this stage goes to the two new people who we probably won't see again, who were doing it great, and Ben, who had the knack for it and seemed to be helpful through the other drills.

That said, things weren't perfect - the session didn't begin very promptly at all, and I copped out and had people do the 'ten cuts from the right shoulder' thing in a circle while I tried to work out what was happening. Two of the people there already had some grasp of the German system, and pissed off to do their own thing. Cool, whatever. It did show when they re-joined later in the session though, when during the 'Windmill Drill', they seemed to have an attitude of 'Hurrah! I have hit this person really hard in the leg when they weren't defending in the slightest. We are the dudes!'. Eh, whatever, they didn't waste my time, and I hope that I didn't waste their time.

The other problem was lack of kit. I picked up my left-glove and Jon's left-glove yesterday after the Dojo, there were three new people, and the kind of drills/forms I was trying to teach didn't really suit shinai at all. A lot of people were trying to do Ochs with one handed nylons, or swapping gloves while waiting for the 'Windmill Drill.' I'm skint, the club isn't raking in the pounds, and most of the regulars already have their own kit, so I can't really see a way past this. Sure, if I had a few grand to invest in a HEMA club (along with 20 hours a week, and a willingness to pretend that it has real-world applications), then it wouldn't be an issue, so fuck it.

Sparring was pretty meh - I was slow and not on top of my game, and it didn't help that the majority of the sparring was against people wanting to use nylon one handers. (Cool, let's build some dussacks and fuckin' well go at it, but one-one-handed nylon against a longsword-nylon, when we can't really throw eachother to the floor? Well, I won't be gaining anything from this, and I'm not really sure if you will either. Sure'd be happy to go one handed nylon vs. one handed nylons (what the hell are those things anyway? Arming swords? I need to Oakeshotte it some time), or S&B vs. S&B, or poll-axe vs. poll-axe or whatever, but sparring time was limited, and it seemed like a bit of a 'let's fuck about with toys' rather than a 'let's get some learninatin' in. I know I'm over-reacting, but this blog is for thinking about teaching/learning in the club. [/rant].)

Ben did well though. Pity his poll-axe was broken by others. Johann did bring a camera, but I don't think any decent sparring footage was taken. Should have seen about taking one out from the Uni, but I didn't get up there today. Slept through my lecture...

After the session, pub was fine. Chatted to Johann about things a bit, and hopefully something'll get worked out later in the week. Then read about John Danaher for a bit, got a man-crush, and thought about 'analytic grappling vs. opportunistic grappling'.

Worth £5? Probably for the newer-guys. Hopefully the regulars found it interesting and stuff too. That said, I feel like a socially awkward penguin trying to organise things and get skills/ideas across to people who want to be there. Also, worrying a bit about the autumn.

For next week - probably concentrate on some element of winding apart from versetzen. Duplieren? Mutieren? That cutting behind the blade after too strong a displacement whose name escapes me right now? For the future, also Ringen am Schwert and the meisterhau-s.

Need to be up in six hours. Time to read some Fuller Memorandum...

P.S. - People doing HEMA right.