Monday, 31 October 2011

31/10/11 Lesson Plan. Zwerching 201: The Binds That Tie

Well, today's a bit busy, so cheers to Pete for giving me a hand preparing this lesson plan.

Well, let’s admit this a sequel to 10/10/11 Lesson then.

Basically, we’re going to let the decision tree branch into three - is he weak in the bind, too strong (and therefore pushing offline), or strong and online?  Then we’re going to have two or three related options for each.  Against weakness, we push our Ochs through and attack his face.  If he’s too strong, we attack cutting to the right side of his head in the other direction before he can recover to a threat.  If he’s strong and online, we have to push him offline by abandoning our point’s threat and going to a very hanging cover.  It’s the top half of

First 30 Minutes: Warm Up and Faffing: Let’s call this half an hour to be ready to introduce new technique.  I’d suggest throwing some winding and both Zornhaus and Zwerches (or at least compact oberhaus) into the warm up.  In fact, make sure they’re in there.

10 Minutes: Best Case Scenario: He’s not strong enough, because I’m awesome.

We’re going to run all this as one guy in Ochs, his partner in Kron/Langenort.  I don’t even care which order they do it in.  Agent Zorns, Patient counters Indes with a Zwerch is canonical, but it could be Agent thrusts to Ochs, Patient displaces from Pflug on one side to a forward-angled Kron on the other to cover himself.

In this case, the guy in Ochs is going to take control of the bind, by raising his point to collect the opponent’s weak on his strong, or otherwise as works at the time.  The point is to get his point in the other guys face.  Cover three options - stabbing him in the face or a high opening, stabbing past his face and then cutting his throat, or the slightly complicated play of turning the sword along the long axis once the tip is past his face so the edge bound switches, then using the short edge against his neck and your right foot behind his left to shove him over.  Look at Tobler for the general idea - Secrets pp.54-55.

10 Minutes: Still Not Bad: He’s trying too hard in the bind, and therefore sucks at sword fighting.

Assume the guy not in Ochs tries to push the sword away, not threatening you.  For a moment, you can abandon your impregnable Ochs fortress and do whatever you want.  Firstly, you can wind to right Ochs behind his sword, almost coincidentally cutting him with a dupliered Zwerchaw.  How humiliating.  Secondly, and less extremely, you can just cut into Langenort at his face, which is less dramatic but offers better cover if he wasn’t pushing too too much offline.  Option three is taking off to Zwerch to the other side.

10 Minutes: He Can Fight?!?: Your opponent has attended SwordFighting 101 at his local community college, and has both a strong structure in the bind and an online pressure that’s threatening to come over/through your Ochs and do bad things with the stabby end of his sword.

So we’re going to be cunning.  Rather than fight back with all the high pressure we can, and turn into a Hollywood (or “When Peter Fights Batfink”) bind we can chat past, we’re going to deflect his pressure and do something unexpected.  These techniques sacrifice our threat from the point, so you’ve gotta hope they work fast.

Firstly, we can use our crossguard to collect his blade and shove it harmlessly to the right as we drop to a hanging guard, the point aimed down and to the right.  Make it an active shove, so he can’t cut us with online force, as often happens if people misjudge a more passive handing guard deflection.  From here, we can come off and strike to his right hand side (from our left...) with a Zwerch or Zornhau.  We can bring our hilt over his hand to secure them while controlling his right elbow with out left hand, and then throw him with a step of our left foot in front of his right, or we can just come under our hanging cover and grapple. Verkehrer und Durchlauffen!  What a wonderful phrase!  Verkehrer und Durchlauffen! It’s just a transitory phase...

Finally, I’d suggest starting to integrate all this with a restricted sparring set, similar to the one in the last Zwerchau lesson.  I’d suggest Agent Zorns, Patient Zwerches, swapping roles after each exchange.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


Michael Chidester makes some good points over in this HEMA Alliance thread that tie into the SG forum's questions about Liechtenauer's systems as opposed to others.

Last night went well - I had some really enjoyable sparring with everyone. Hopefully there'll be some video of it soon to analyse.

The videos have started coming in. I'm on a reeeaaally slow connection here, but here's Mark and I sparring:

More to come in time.

Edit Edit:

I haven't had time to knit-pick it all, but I might get around to it tomorrow. Hopefully I'll be getting some more footage on Monday.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

24/10/11 Plan

Tomorrow night is IDC night, and as I mentioned before it'll also be Johann's last night. My plan is therefore to run a warm up and stretch like normal, and then let people spar him. I'd quite like to take a back seat for a class, although I'll be up for it if people want to ask questions or do some one on one training. I've also got a lesson plan for the Schilhau if people are up for it, but that can always be left a week.

Also, Jakob was interested in getting some Hanwei practical rapiers. I would certainly be up for having a play with them, and have a fencing jacket, and I'm sure Ben feels the same. Anyone else?

Apart from that, I'm all right. Been thinking a bit about the best way of interpreting the earlier KDF's intentions (ie. who was the intended audience, how does this relate to how we train and what we train for?), but I haven't reached any kind of conclusion yet - damn SG threads, bringing up complicated issues...

Tom's mask rocks.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

18/10/11 Training

So, I spent today doing someone-else's-home-improvement rather than planning a lesson. Blame the economy.

You know that drill? Where one person does a vertical cut, and the other displaces/parries/deals with it by adopting a hanging guard on the opposite side, and then mirrors the movement? Like Fiore's 'Villian's Blow' or whatever? The dead as hell one?

I ran that. As an excuse to get people thinking about tempo, to introduce some entering into crappling grappling, to introduce hangen and schnappen, to play around with Zwerchaus. That kind of stuff.

I also introduced the Schilhau as another type of displacing cut. So, lots of introducing and a fair bit of dead drilling, we can work on this.

Next week is Johann's leaving beating though, so perhaps not then.


Monday, 10 October 2011

10/10/11 Zwerchau again Lesson Plan

So, I think that last week's lesson went quite well, but this week people might still be a little bruised and battered from Saturday. So, we'll crack on with the task at hand - practising and integrating what we've already learnt, drip-feeding in more concepts and techniques, and generally getting better at this whole sword fighting thing. Generally speaking, we're going to be working with the same kind of drill as last week, but this time focusing on the Zwerchau, the dastardly displacing crooked cut into Ochs.

This is a Zwerchau. From MS Germ.Quart.2020 , folio 22r
Want more notes on it from the surviving documentary evidence? Go read this post.

10mins of faffing about. - As with last week's plan, I’m resigned to the idea that there’ll be a period at the beginning of every session sorting out kit, getting water, meeting and greeting and all that stuff.

15mins warm up and stretch. A good ten minute warm up of jogging, sprinting, lunges, walking like Doctor Zoidberg, wrestling steps and so on, depending on my mood. If people are feeling lazy or low on energy, then we're going to warm up harder. What would them Svedes do? Five minutes of stretching after, introducing what we’re going to do this class.

5 mins of everyone going for water and kit. Exactly what it says on the tin. They'll need a sword like object and at least a mask between two, but preferably a mask each.

5-10 mins. Begin the drill. 'Who here knows what a Zwerchau is, and feels that they can comfortably do one?'. Use this to divide the class into experienced and inexperienced people, so we can partner them up against each-other, at least to begin with. Then divide the class so each pair is across the hall. At this stage (side A) just walks up to them and without breaking pace cuts a zornhau and then recovers into Ochs on the left hand side from Langort. Then they reset. After a few tries, swap sides. This is to get people into a sword-y mood, and get them thinking about cutting and recovering. I can wonder around and observe.

5-10mins. Next step. Keeping the same partners, they now thrust up from Pflug, stab their partner in the face or chest, and then recover into Ochs. Simples. Swap sides and so on.

At this stage, if anyone has any questions about structure or footwork or hand positions or wrist positions, I should be addressing them. Ask about it.
5-10 mins. Still sticking with the same partners. Side B, that is to say our previous crash dummies, now walk up and try and deliver a Zornhau to Side A. Side A responds with a thrust from Pflug into Ochs (and their face). Oh look, some kind of displacing going on. Swap sides and so on.

10-15mins. The final bit in this stage of the drill. Side B flounces up with a Zornhau, being as confident as they were in the beginning. Side A is in Vom Tag, and they respond by doing exactly what they did before - thrusting into Ochs, displacing and simultaneously killing. Congradulations, you can has a hidden strike. Swap ends. Then swap partners by rotating around clockwise 1d10 steps. Make sure that everyone can do it comfortably, by having them zwerchau me.

If by this stage everyone can do a Zwechau in isolation then HURRAH! LESSON GOAL ACHIEVED!

By this stage we might be as far as half-way through the available time. Now, there's a whole bloody bucketful of potential plays and directions that we can take from here, just as we did last week. Don't believe me? Somewhere I have a bunch of sketched out decision trees. Here's one of some plays from Ringeck (IIRC):
One day we'll all understand this. One day I'll be able to do it under pressure.
Instead of worrying about all that we can take baby steps depending on the mood and how we feel If people are really up for learning more conceptual/technique stuff, read this next section here. Otherwise, skip ahead to the next bit of italicised text.
Here are some options from the point of view of the zwerchauer. That's a word I just made up. Liechtenauer was a zwerchauer. Anyway:

  • If the zwerchau lands with a cut, protecting yourself, congratulations, you win.
  • If the zornhau lands with its cut, congradu-well-done, you lose.

Now, they're the two basic conditions, however there's a whole bunch of stuff which could happen in between, like

  • The zwerchau succeeded in covering you, but it came up short and you ended up with the point on-line with his throat, but not there yet.

Well, there's an obvious solution. Step forwards, stay covered, stab him in the throat. Kind of like a zorn-ort under the same conditions. Hell, there might be a system here somewhere.
But what, about this situation?

  • The zwerchau succeeded in covering you, but the other guy is putting in lots of pressure and trying to push my point off-line. I won't be able to just stab him in the throat.

Well, you've got two options here, depending on how much pressure he's putting in. This is where that whole being able to read the bind thing comes in. For example you can release the pressure and be soft where he is being strong, by leaving the bind and re-engaging, for example with any of the plays we did last week to cover this situation. Abnehmen, Durchwechseln and Zucken - to use the jargon. Hell, there might be a system here somewhere.
Otherwise though, otherwise you could do a duplieren. What's a duplieren? It's a technique which releases the pressure in the bind to attack behind their blade. It's kind of awesome when it works. We covered it back in... February.

At this point, this isn't really a class plan, just a bunch of reminders saying 'You've got the beginning of a drill, you know what to do from here Mike, go run with it on the spot.'

Want more plays from it? Go watch:

Because all this stuff is really not the point. It's giving you options from the position depending on the pressures of the fight. It's not integrating the Zwerchau into people's plays. It's not a gradient between drills and sparring. It's me indulging sword-fighting-geekiness. Instead:

10-15mins. Swap partners by rotating a position clockwise. Now, mix it up, make it less dead. Either person can enter with an attack, so for example Side A can enter with a Zornhau, while Side B could enter with a Zwerchau.

10-15mins. Swap partners by rotating a position clockwise. Now, mix it up, make it less dead. Either person can either zornhau or zwerchau, no set defenders.

5 mins. End of session thanks, question and answer etc. Let people who want to spar spar.

How'd it go?
All right, ish. To be honest, I was running out of steam at the beginning of the session and absences meant that to begin with the drills were dead and un-useful. We did manage to have everyone doing Zwerchaus in isolation by the end of the class though; and I was impressed by how Dan was doing after a quick one-to-one session working on getting comfortable with Ochs.
For me though the highlight was playing with single-handers against Andy and Jakob. Now, I know nothing about rapier, sidesword or sabre combat. They're just bloody fun to play with. Unfortunately Matt took some footage, so I can see how lazy my footwork was.
Fortunately though, someone also caught Matt and Graham in free-play. You can see it at if that'll work. Looking at it briefly, I thing that Graham needs a bit more confidence reacting to the bind - at the moment it looks as though he's freezing up after contact rather than trying to seize the initiative. On the bright side he's doing the right things - clearing the centre-line, winding his point on and, well, actually trying to incorporate the session into freeplay. Another point is footwork - when Graham's stepping, I think that he's being too linear - I think that I didn't emphasise the need to step forwards and out to the side with the Zwerchau.
Matt's looking good, with neat footwork and lots of attempts to make use of the space by circling. Especially impressive for a man who walks with a cane! I like how he's providing a threat almost all the time, and willing to disengage from the bind at the right times. On the other hand, I think that there are a few times when he didn't commit to entering the fight with a Zornhau, but instead just waved a sword in Graham's direction. Really though, that's a minor quibble - especially if he doesn't feel that comfortable in the bind yet. It might be worth running through pflug, ochs and the cone of protection shabaz with him again.

Friday, 7 October 2011

A Kunst des Fechtens Roadmap

What is this HUGE post?

When I last taught at IDC, a first lesson new guy named Adam came up afterwards and asked what he needed to improve. At the time, worn out by teaching and anticipating getting thrashed on camera and in front of everyone imminently, I quoted what a BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-jitsu) black belt told me the first time I rolled with him and asked the same question - that everything was bad, what else could it be so soon? Keep training and it will all improve. Which sounds kind of profound, or at least it did to me at the time, and covers the main point: keep at it. Nothing substitutes for training.

Of course, I haven’t been training in either BJJ or HEMA anything as much as I’d like to. Partly I’ve been injured, partly life got in the way, partly “no excuses” laziness. Like most people not “shut the freak up and train”-ing, I’ve been on the internet talking about it. On the Bullshido forum, I noticed praise (which is rarely given there) for the “BJJ Roadmap” eBook by a guy named Stephan Kesting. It’s a free guide (available at here at his website if you’re interested) which doesn’t aim to teach BJJ but to “give you a basic framework to help you make sense of all the different techniques you are learning. In essence I am trying to give you a big picture which functions as a kind of filing system to help you learn more efficiently, and to access the correct technique quickly in the heat of battle.” I read it, it made sense, and it seemed to do a good job of not trying to interfere with the role of actual classes but help the student make the most of them. If you show up to your first four classes spread across 9 weeks, do eight techniques without much apparently in common, and then spar messily a few times, you may well wind up confused and lost about the overall shape of the art.

Like BJJ, Kunst des Fechtens (“Lichtenauer” longsword fighting) can get pretty complicated. I think there’s a place for a similar guide - not an instructional work on the whole of KdF, but a guide to what someone new should look to learn. KdF can be used as a pretty wide term - fighting in or out of armour, unarmed or with a wide range of weapons were all covered. This guide will be written for unarmoured longsword fighting in the tradition associated with Lichtenauer, using that system’s terms and jargon. Many of the concepts and ideas have analogues in other historical longsword fencing systems, and the many skills that you need to develop can be approached from an ahistorical, ‘pan-European’, or just plain making-it-up-yourself way of understanding a fight. It’s just that this guide is intended for people interested in “blossfechten” (unarmoured) KdF.

Starting the Map
Before I start talking about KdF, the system for fighting with the longsword, it’s probably best to get to know your longsword. There are a lot of great practice drills involving just taking a longsword (or simulator of one) and moving it about, feeling where it wants to balance and move. Remember that the less the centre of gravity (CoG) of a longsword has to move, the less work you have to put into moving it. Don’t move the sword’s CoG in a big arc when you can move it in a straight line. You’ll take longer, be more predictable, get tired, and generally die first. Get used to gripping it properly, and transitioning your hands around the grip as needed. Ask your instructor on that - I’m not going to talk about it here.
If you want to work out the overall structure of KdF, you may as well start with the moments of stillness, like places linked by roads of transitions in our roadmap. Theses are the positions you take before attacking and in binding on the opponent’s blade.

KdF ostensibly has four guards in it’s “Vier Leger” - Vom Tag, Ochs, Pflug and Alber - as well as the position of Langort. Familiarising yourself with these five positions is probably the first thing to do - I’d suggest you can leave Alber on the back burner for a while. There are other positions such Schrankhut, Kron or Nebenhut that you’ll see often enough, but they’re not as common or crucial as these five.

The Vier Leger are the positions we’re told to adopt out of distance, because we can attack powerfully from them. They threaten an attack. Remember to have the “sword side” leg to the rear. This lets you power your attack with the passing step forwards. Additionally, Ochs and Pflug are used as the “hanging guards”, they can be used to cover yourself from an opponent’s attack and bind with his sword. Langort is close to being the attack - there’s less scope for a powerful attack, but the point is right in your opponent’s face.
Next, I’d work on making sure you’ve got two types of transitions between these positions down: Winding and the Meisterhau (“Masterly Strikes”, although I prefer Hidden Strikes, a term also used in the sources). Winding is simplest to think of as changing your guard to Ochs or Pflug, even if you’re already in one. So I can wind from a bind in Langort to Ochs, or from Ochs on the right to Ochs on the left, or from Pflug on the right up to Ochs on the right (or left). Lots of permutations - look at the binding discussion later. Winding is great for moving his swordpoint out of your face while putting yours in his.

The Hidden Strikes are topics in themselves. In terms of what to focus on when training them as a beginner, may I suggest the mechanics of throwing the cuts, and timing? Not timing vis-a-vis your opponent, just in your own movement. Ask your regular scheduled instructor for more details, or ask me to expand on it here, but timing of movements within a blow are important. Once you can throw it as a coordinated movement, work on distance. Learn how far away you can hit comfortably is important. As the “Dobringer” glossa of Lichtenauer’s Blossfechten says, “It is terribly embarrassing to see someone thus stretched out as if he wanted to run after a hare”. Learn your reach and fight to it. Finally, learn how to use them as active counter-attacks against an opponent’s attack. This will involve an introduction to the timing of sword-fighting, and the Vor/Indes/Nach (Before/During/After) and concepts used in KdF.

So let’s draw up a list of what you need to learn before you can start doing relatively free-form sparring:
[Editor's Note: In this section Pete talks about 'the line' a bit. You may not know what that is at this stage, so excuse me while I get some conceptual, theoretical baggage out of the way for him. Imagine two blokes holding longswords staring at each-other, like in the freeze-frames above. Now imagine an invisible line between them, stretching from one's sternum to the other. That is the 'centre-line'. Suppose that Bloke A reaches out to stab Bloke B in chest without stepping. Bloke B doesn't like this, so he might step to move the 'line', or displace the other guy's sword to gain control of the 'centre-line'. I hope that this makes sense. Go ask your instructor if it doesn't.]
  • The basic principles that will help you do KdF well probably begin with Rule 1: Be efficient, and Rule 2: Stab him in the face. Then consider Rule 3: Strength is in structure and Rule 4: Fast isn’t fast - smooth is fast, and slow is smooth and Rule 5: Be weak where he’s strong, strong where he’s weak. These aren’t from Lichtenauer, by the way. They’re me. Except the stolen ones, which are most likely my own teacher, Adam Roylance. [Editor’s Note: And the fifth one, which is actually something Liechtenauer-y! See Codex Döbringer (MS 3227a), folios 21r-22v.]
  • Focus. Don’t whip a longsword around your head like a Braveheart extra, hoping to win by intimidating your sparring partner into quitting rather than get walloped by you after he’s stabbed your face. Intensity is easy to crank up. Skill is hard. Try and rely on skill in sparring.
  • Those five positions, including both the withdrawn and extended versions of Ochs and Pflug. Recognising them will let you have some idea what’s going on in Zufechten - “I’m in Vom Tag, my opponent is shifting down to Alber - could I hit him in his head?”
  • A basic grasp of distance. KdF more or less divides distance into Zufechten (“Coming to the fight” - I can’t hit him right now) and Krieg (“War” - I can). The point where the two meet - where you can hit him with a step as you strike - is going to be focus of a lot of your early work. You want to know when your opponent can hit you and when you can hit him.
  • Footwork. How else can you control distance and angles? It also rather helps with most everything else, from cutting to disengaging. Experiment and find out. Focus less on leaping about like a ballerina or worse, sport fencer, and more on just staying moving. Frequens Motus is a term that gets used a lot in KdF sources. Dead things stay still.
  • The four openings to target. “His Ochs is covering his upper right opening. So I... hit him somewhere else?”
  • The five “Hidden Strikes”. I’m not going to particularly detail them here. Suffice it to say that learning them teaches a number of key principles at the same time. As examples: Zornhau teaches controlling “the line” and basic cutting mechanics in the Vorschlag (Before Strike - the first attack as you enter distance, to cover that transition), Zwerchau teaches using Ochs to cover yourself, Schielhau teaches using Pflug as an extended hanging guard, Krump teaches lateral footwork and beats, and Scheitelhau teaches why you shouldn’t just reach for the opponent’s legs if he’s ready for you...
  • Absetzen - using any position where the point is aimed at your opponent’s face to cover you while stabbing him in the face.
  • Winding to cover the line once bound.
  • Abnehmen - taking your sword out of the line. Why and how is a matter for a lesson, but at the least get a handle on the back up and cut down the other side style and Durchweseln (disengaging your blade under his). Think of them as going over and under.

Purposes, Not Techniques:
That sounds like a lot. There’s a few more things that will really help - Duplieren and Mutieren especially - and we haven’t even started on the wonderful world of wrestling at the sword. It’s honestly not that complex, once we’ve got past the German Jargon and don’t discuss individual techniques but their purpose. Honestly. If we look at that previous list, it can all be broken down into three things that for you to learn:

  1. How to cut and thrust.
  2. How to cover yourself.
  3. How to control the bind.
1. I talked earlier about timing in the movement of throwing a cut. I’m not going to go into detail, hopefully, about technique here. I’ll instead suggest you observe Rule 1 as well as timing/telegraphing issues. Developing your technique is a matter for live training, but a rough guideline - go from hitting a held target (I think it’s much more helpful than repetitive air cutting, just like boxing padwork is more helpful than a karate air-punching kata) to hitting one while you and your partner move about, to using it in “competitive” drilling. “Chain” attacks together and get used to not stopping or standing still. C-c-c-combo maker. Get feedback. Test cutting will also help, if your group is in a position to practice it.

2. Covering yourself means thinking about the line a lot. The two key skills are reacting in time to an opponents attack (distance as well as timing!) and having an efficient counter-technique (whether a counter attack or not) ready to hand. I insist that Lichtenauer bloody well does encourage single time defense with offense, out of the bind as well as in, but any cover beats dying in extremis. When in doubt, Meisterhau.
[Editor’s note: I think Pete’s throwing out a lot of jargon here. It’s not his fault, it’s the coffee. To put it more simply, think about whether you or your opponent is controlling the ‘centre line’, the space between you and them. If in doubt, use the hidden strikes to clear that space while gaining the initiative of the fight.]

3.The bind a very complex area of longsword fighting, surprise surprise, and this will be a long section. There are eight possible binds, depending on whether you’re high or low, left or right, and bound on the inside or outside, as well as the Sprechfenster or “Speaking Window”. The Sprechfenster is a relatively neutral position, since both fencers are in Langort, but it’s still possible to “have the line” in it. Having the line is much preferred, because you can use it to obey the basic rules and stab him in the face! Efficiently!

Controlling the bind requires a strong structure in the position you’re in, an understanding of how to transition between the positions, and most importantly Fuhlen - “Feeling”. This means being able to appreciate what’s happening in the bind by feeling it through your sword, allowing you to react quicker than if you wait to see it.

One model for thinking about all this, borrowed from BJJ, is that within each position of possible bind is the postures of the fencers. If you’re in a strong Ochs, you’re able to resist your partner’s attempts to take the line easily. If you’re in a weak Ochs, then it’s likely to collapse under pressure. From this posture comes the pressures which occur. To continue the previous example, if your Ochs keeps you in line to thrust, your partner will almost certainly try to push across to take your point out of his face. From pressure comes the potential to use techniques. If he pushes sideways, he isn’t threatening you, so you can come off the bind and hit him with a Zwerch to the other side. That’s probably overthinking it a little when you’re beginning, but it’s critical to remember that each technique has a context. If you’re bound in Sprechfenster, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to Zucken - his point will be too on the line. If you’re in a very off-line Ochs, Mutieren won’t work. Various kinds of Abnehmen might, as might closing to grapple. Learn multiple options for each situation as your vocabulary of techniques grow, but it starts with “Is he weak? Stab him. Is he strong? Wind. Is he offline? Come off the bind.”


Freeplay is good. Freeplay let's you pressure test interpretations, integrate things, and feel like a badass. The problem is, it can also serve to encourage you to aim to "win" sparring, rather than using it as a time to keep training. People (and this includes me too much of the time) stick to what they know they can do rather than experimenting, rely on attributes rather than technique, and "game" aspects of sparring (by which I mean exploit the sparring rules - like whippy nylons which won't cover like steel would, shinai which bounce, not counting hand shots etc). This can lead to sparring actually damaging one's skill (if hypothetical) at fighting with a real longsword in some anachronistic fifteenth century skirmish.

What should you do as you begin free-play, then? Well, get used to being hit and hitting people. Don’t panic and forget your training, don’t worry about losing, just try to keep calm and apply what you’ve learnt. Focus on the key points mentioned earlier - cutting well to cover the entry into range, with a real threat that they have to deal with, keeping yourself covered and safe, and controlling the bind to hit the opponent.

Now I’m a fan of grappling in sword fighting. I can’t deny it. It’s not what you need to focus on right now, though. Durchlaufen (coming in under the cover of your sword to grapple, aka “Rush ‘n’ Crush”) or Ringen Am Schwert (wrestling at the sword, techniques where the sword is a part of the grappling technique) are very important areas of Lichtenauer’s KdF. However, they can easily (for me, for example) serve as a crutch for inadequate bindwork. You need to first get a handle on fighting from Zufechten, when you enter with big cuts and thrusts, and the Krieg, when you can hit him without a step (and are probably in a bind to stop him doing the same), before you close further.

Feedback is very welcome. And have a nice day.
(Rule 6: Be Excellent To One Another AND PARTY ON, DUDES!)

Monday, 3 October 2011

03/10/11 Lesson Plan and ramblings.

I'm going to be breaking with tradition today and posting up the lesson plan before the actual class. 

The last month has been spent getting people at various stages of experience into HEMA and KdF. As a forthcoming article/essay from Pete will outline, it’s reasonable to say that you need to have a basic understanding of some aspects of sword fighting in order to get stuff out of sparring on its own (as opposed to drilling with intent, structured free-play or whatever).  Well, stuff beyond the immediate ‘I really suck at this.’ feeling...

Although he focuses on the system associated with Liechtenauer (or as I'm now going to call him Johnny Lickty, just to annoy you), he broadly outlines:
  1. How to cut and thrust.
  2. How to cover yourself.
  3. How to control the bind.
I'm growing my beard until I can pose like this symbolic representation of Johnny Lickty here. That's how serious I am about this.
I think that what we’ve been covering lately directly addresses those three areas, in about that priority. We’ve covered things like guards, stepping and 'the centre line', but all without them being the end goal of what I’m covering (I hope). To disappear up my own butt for a moment here, I think that a lot of this conceptual and technical baggage is epiphenomenal - it appears as an indirect consequence of mechanics of trying to kill someone, so while they’re useful for explaining a system to someone who already understands it, learning positions by wrote isn’t a very effective way of teaching absolute new comers.

But anyway to pull back from that tangent for one moment - we’ve covered a fair bit of ground pretty quickly - how to cut, how to thrust, how to cover yourself with hanging guards and with a counter-cut. Leaving the bind to cut to the other side. All this kind of stuff. So this lesson will be trying to cement that stuff and make sure that everyone’s on the same page. It’ll be a skill-set focused partnered drill rather than learning new techniques and concepts.

10mins of faffing about. - I’m resigned to the idea that there’ll be a period at the beginning of every session sorting out kit, getting water, meeting and greeting and all that stuff. I might as well take it into account.

15mins warm up and stretch. A good ten minute warm up of jogging, sprinting, lunges, walking like Doctor Zoidberg, wrestling steps and so on. Five minutes of stretching after, introducing what we’re going to do this class.

5 mins of everyone going for water and kit. Exactly what it says on the tin. They'll need a sword like object and at least a mask between two

5-10 mins. Begin the drill. Divide the class in two, down the length of the hall. Pair people up across it and according to weapons. Get everyone on one side a mask (or everyone, if we can). The other side (side A) at this point just walks up to them and without breaking pace cuts a zornhau at side B’s mask, while they stand there in vom Tag. Then they reset. After a few tries, swap sides. This is to get people into a sword-y mood, and get them thinking about cutting. I can wonder around and observe.

10-15 mins. Next step. Everyone shuffles around a position clockwise, meaning that they swap partners. The person wearing the mask, on side B, can now block with a crappy unthreatenning defence into kron, without even stepping. Side A’s hit now either lands, or it gets blocked. If it doesn’t land and they’re being pushed offline, they should step off and cut to the other side. If it doesn’t land but they hold the centre-line, they should stab side B in the face. Repeat, then swap sides. This is building up the drill, and getting attackers used to feeling the bind and reading whether to press on or disengage. The emphasis here is on Side B providing the right set of inputs for Side A, and not stealing the drill from them.

5-10 mins. Change around clockwise for new partners. Build it up again. Now, Side B, if they feel that Side A is leaving the bind to attack on another line, can try and stab Side A with just a step. This is meant to make it less of a dead drill, and to re-inforce the importance of reading that bind. Swap partners.

10-15 mins. Guess what, change partners, build it up again. Now, if Side B feels Side A going in for a thrust, they can displace into one of the hanging guards, as well as thrust with that step. Stuff should be getting a lot more gamey now as the options increase for each side. Swap sides.

10-15 mins. Lastly, if it is not yet 8.30, we can have another stage in the drill in which Side B can use a zwerchau into the oncoming cut. Side A should be really being made to work to get their cut landing now, not just walking up as they were in the beginning. We’re almost doing structured freeplay, with the myriad of options available.

5 mins. End of session thanks, question and answer etc. Let people who want to spar spar.

End of the plan.

In other HEMA news, HEMAGoth has quite an interesting spin on 'Fighting with Intent' over on his blog. It's a fair point, and ties in with stuff that Matt and I talked about - how what we do is a monkey dance, training for sociable violence. However, I'd also argue that there's a difference between intent to harm in fighting, and an intent to behave in a way which would cause harm if we were doing it for real. I can wrestle with an intent to hurt someone, yet I can also wrestle with an intent to actually follow through with my actions and put the other guy on the floor. I think the point that I'm trying to make here is that 'We're not trying to kill each other' isn't an excuse for dead training, bullshit drills that train the wrong responses to the wrong stimuli, or make acceptable wasting people's time with things that they won't get better from.

Which has become one of my set-piece rants. It's okay, I think that I have another one brewing at the moment, 'shameless self-promotion without making getting into HEMA any easier'. It's self-serving, doesn't do this fringe hobby of ours any favours and just rubs me up the wrong way.

But that one would lead to drama, and so is to be avoided...

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host, 

    That he which hath no stomach to this fight, 
    Let him depart; his passport shall be made, 
    And crowns for convoy put into his purse; 
    We would not die in that man's company 
    That fears his fellowship to die with us.
                     - That's the good kind of drama.
Okay, it's been a couple of days since the session, and I have to say that it went quite well. Everyone was able to perform the techniques (at least in isolation), and people were getting better at feeling the bind despite using nylons. Even better yet, people were making useful suggestions (such as hand-stretches) and making good feedback outside of class.

The plan for next week is to build up a drill based around the zwerchau, from 'being used to counter a downwards cut' to 'I heard that you likes zwerches, so I'm zwerching under your zwerch, so I'm protected from your zwerch by my zwerch which is also zwerching your head.'
It'll be less complicated than that, honest.
The other thing that I've been asked to clarify are body positions, such as the structure when you're in ochs, and the type of footwork you should be using when changing the line. Now, I think Pete subscribes to the 'whatever works' school of doing things, but I'm sure that there must be a better answer than that...

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Michael Edelson on training and cutting.

Although I wouldn't have expressed it in quite the same terms, Michael Edelson has quite an interesting post on the relationship between test cutting and training for HEMA over on his blog at the NYHFA. It's certainly thought provoking for me, as someone whose main training simulator is a synthetic nylon.

I do wonder what he thinks of the latest 'federschwerts' which seem to becoming more and more the norm in Europe, both for training longsword systems and competitions.

One of these is older than the other.