Tuesday, 28 February 2012

27/02/12 - Back to the Italian.

So, this week we took a break from the Liechtenauer to do a compare and contrast with Fiore's system. We ended up working with the Giocco Large (wide-play) section of the sword-in-two-hands in the Getty Manuscript. I'll send out an email with links to copies of the manuscript.

The session was pretty manual-focused, going through the plays in order. The drilling was pretty dead, but this was really an introductory class - different vocabulary and different cutting/body mechanics too.

Man, I prefer Liechtenauer as a system.

Monday, 20 February 2012

20/02/11 Session

A brief re-cap of what happened:
Warm up, incorporating a little bit of getting used to 'being in each other's space'.
Some points on body mechanics. Beginning with everyone walking around the room looking snooty - head tilted back, shoulders rolled back and hips stuck forwards. Specifically, keeping the hips facing forward. Keeping the elbows 'in line' with the hips. Keeping the hilt in line with the forearms. Doing 'Ochs' right. It's basic stuff, but we'd been sloppy and I wanted to bring people up on it. It's partly also a tactical choice - you can fence more linearly, or with different weighting.
Then JP led us into a footwork drill. It began with mirrored stances, and the dance leader either performing a round, compass step or a 'shuffling' step, and their partner mirroring it. That naturally led to doing it with a bind, and then without a set leader, and finally while also going for thrusts.

Then sparring. Tom in particular impressed me with how much he has improved over the last few months.
As for depictions in period art, I'm working on an infographic in my spare time. Short answer - compare and contrast the following. They're a bunch of explicitly labelled depictions of Pflug:


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

06/02/11 Session Re-Cap

Sorry for the lack of a written out lesson plan, I didn't make one.

This lesson focused on feints, and generally speaking all the stuff that happens in the beginning of a fight, out of distance. Trying to gain the initiative and the vorschlag. It's an area that the early sources don't tend to focus on, so I worked mostly from Olympic fencing principles to 'pad out' an area of the KdF.

To begin with, the key point that I wanted to make was that a good feint should be a credible threat, and in order for a feint to be a credible threat the attacker should be able to continue through into a strike. To emphasise this, the first drill was a set attacker and defender one. The attacker had to make a feint. If the defender reacted, then the attacker stopped. If the defender didn't, then the attacker could carry on through into a strike.

After that, it was the usual game of increasing options and intensity. For example, the next stage had the defender able to respond with an oberhau if they felt that the attacker was feinting - seizing the initiative, doing a nachreisen or whatever. At this point someone (I think Ant?) said:
 'Doesn't it make sense for the defender just to do a zornhau most of the time?'

After that we started adding more options for the attacker - switching target quarters, stopping short (as an apel, or by changing your silhouette shape, or a twist of the hips - something to gain a reaction without presenting a target), and then we moved onto being able to transition between the hidden strikes after beginning a movement - for example beginning an attack, seeing an incoming oberhau, and transforming your cut into a zwerchau to regain the initiative.

Then we played around with daggers, because daggers are cool. I sparred JP at the end - he's come on a long way, although as always there are a few things that could be improved (ELBOWS!). He's planning on running a footwork drill he learnt in France next week. See the above meme for my feelings on the matter.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

To fence with steel, with intensity.

Monday's session was drills, drills, drills sparring. It seemed to go not too bad. Thoughts on a back of a postcard, please. Anyway:

Some people, as referenced elsewhere, are happy to play with steel using the bare minimum of protection. There's a spectrum of protection, from 'T-shirt' through to 'Full harness'. Obviously, different amounts of protection lead to different artefacts in free-play - if you're messing about in t-shirts, then you're not going to be using the same techniques against your sparring partner that you would against a tatami mat with a sharp. Equally, if you're dressed like 'Panzer Tom', then you're not going to move as you would if you were just wearing a T-shirt.
Thousands of tons of armour and Tom / making it's way through the... castle?
Let's get down to brass tacks and work out how much HEMA asks from your wallet.

Now then, all sports have their budgets. HEMA is relatively expensive to get into - most groups expect you to pick up a mask, a nylon and some gloves after a couple of months.
Let's say that is:
Sword - Knight's Shop Pro Line XTREME Rawlings Nylon Sparring Longsword Waster thingy - £47 + P&P
Fencing Mask - The Weapon Store (Pre-order Price of £50 + P&P), or Red Dragon (£65 + P&P). Given that the Weapon Store one isn't available yet, and that that is a cheap price, let's say £65.
Gloves - The cheapest Lacrosse gloves currently on UKLacrosse are 'Warrior Tempo Elite 11 Gloves' at £30.

So, you're looking at a 'beginners' cost of at least £150, not to mention classes etc.

Steel is even more. Of course, the sky is the limit. But, I was wondering earlier today, how much does it cost to play 'at the top of the game', ie. in a Swordfish tournament, using bought kit?

Longsword - I'd recommend either an Ensifer or a Regenyei Peter federschwert, if asked. Of course, you can go Chinese roulette, and get a Hanwei Federschwert cheaper, or if you have the budget go for a full on Albion, but that's your call. Last time I checked, a Peter's prices began at was 170€, or £140. Plus postage and packaging, bringing it up to £175. If you prefer a 'real sword' then I'd recommend something like a Pavel Moc, coming to £270-290. So, for a good HEMA training sword, you're looking at a 'ballpark' figure of  £200-£300. Let's pick a nice round £200 here.
Gloves - Looking at the Swordfish injury report, there's only one glove that I'd recommend - the Ensifer Sparring Glove, at 200, or £167.
Torso Protection - HistFenc.com's Axel Petterson Sparring Jacket, because it will make you fence like Axel. It's also £140.
Groin Protection -  HistFenc.com's groin protector and Padded Skirt, £40.
Head Protection - Assuming that your mask is still going, and you trust it, then you'd only need mask padding and back of the head protection.  HistFenc.com's 'Vectir' stuff comes to £40, or the 'Trinity' hood comes to £100 for the version that makes you look like a badass monk (a must for all I.33 practitioners). Let's say £40.
Mask - If you no-longer trust your old mask, then by this stage I'd recommend a top of the range three weapon coach's mask, such as an Allstar-Uhlman coach's mask, at £150.
Leg's - Leaving aside the bad-ass pair of three-quarter-length-gusseted-breeches, with matching socks, I'd recommend either some knee pads or some brush-cutter guards, at £15 or so.
Arms - Again, you could go for elbow pads, although HistFenc.com also does combined forearm and elbow protection for £33.

As usual, there will probably be some more things that you might like, such as a throat protector. But these are all pretty necessary. And they come to at least £635.

That's a lot of money. Sure, you could spend however much you want on golf clubs, but you don't need £600+ of kit to have a go at your local tournament. I mean, HEMA is a hobby where people are prepared to drop £600 for a book that's contents are freely available online.

Sometimes, when I'm having a bad day and spend too much time reading internet forums, I feel that HEMA is a martial art for middle-aged, unathletic, well-off men. Certainly, when you look at how much it costs to compete at a decent standard (No FightCamp, you don't have a decent longsword competition.) the price is certainly a barrier to taking part. 

And at the end of the day, high barriers to taking part (and even more in the past, gated access to knowledge) means that HEMA is more likely to have bullshit merchants in it. At least when it comes to the documentary evidence:
On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other. - http://www.rogerclarke.com/II/IWtbF.html
Edit - Well, after ranting like that, it Jake N goes and posts something like this. Oh, and as someone pointed out:
[These] frustrations with HEMA aren't the result of lacking cash or watching others spar in WrongFun mode. I think they're because we don't get to train often and hard under good instructors.
Which, sadly, is true.