Monday, 30 April 2012

KdF Weekend.

This last weekend I travelled up to a seminar by Thomas Stoeppler for the KdF group. The man is fast as  greased lightning, strikes impressively hard and is generally better at Longsword fighting than me. The seminar was brilliant, and touched up a lot of things that I was aware of, but hadn't tried to use in fencing for a long time.
On a different note, his Schielhau and Scheitelhau interpretations were pretty different to any that I had seen before. I need to investigate.
But generally, the form he presented seems much closer to the depictions in MS Germ.Quart.2020 and Cod.44.A.8, compared to how I've been fighting. He also had a good explanation of how that developed into Meyer-esque deep stances with shifting torsos.

Now, time to bring that into my fighting...

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

'Even if I'm training well, what am I training towards?'


Long time no post. Been on holiday, and other excuses.

Which gave me time to think. I’ve been having two main frustrations with HEMA. One of them is the day to day stuff of running a club. The usual stuff most people who have run a hobby group will be familiar with. Time, continual motivation, being good enough. That kind of thing. Some days I think it would be easier to quit IDC, give it a few months to recharge the batteries, and then try and start a new club as part of the KdF organisation. But there are also great guys in the IDC, a great atmosphere, and so on. Let's stick with what we've got, maybe spend less time instructing and teaching rather than training myself. Perhaps not try and run the group as much. After all, I'm not in charge of the group, and it was never my intention to do that.

The other frustration has been a matter of teleology. Having read too much philosophy, I tend to throw jargon like that out. I mean ‘What am I training towards’, ‘what am I trying to achieve by doing this?’ It’s easy to cite ephemeral advantages to what I spend my Monday evenings doing (physical fitness, for example), but I could get much the same advantages by playing Badminton.

I want to train HEMA. I want to be a good fighter. I’m trying to achieve those goals. I’m also trying to achieve other goals at the moment, like gaining good employment and sustaining a good relationship with my girlfriend. But they’re not what you guys are interested in. But there’s a lot bound up in just ‘train HEMA’ and ‘good fighter’. Pete’s been writing a ‘What is HEMA?’ rant that hopefully I’ll be able to post soon. But for now, here are some things that have been stewing, when it comes to being a ‘Good Fighter’.

“does an interpretation follow what’s written (and/or drawn), and does it work?” - Pete’s tests for judging HEMA

“And think that from every winding you can use a strike, a slice and a thrust. And these are called the ‘three wounders’” - The Ringeck Gloss

“The sort of snipy cuts we see in many bouts can cut, if you know how. It's very, very hard, and I'd wager 0.1% of the people using them today can manage it, exept against naked flesh.” - Michael Edelson

“I decided that I wasn't going to be "hema scholar" guy...I want to fight well. Simply because I love it...and so I will start to devote the required time in to be that better fencer. win more lose less...try to enjoy it. I don't like to compete...but neither do I like getting my ass handed to me.” - Johann

“People resist cutting because once you start down that path you realize that your core mechanics, things you've spent years working on, are wrong and you need to change them. At this point what you do is a test of character. You can say, "Okay, I will do what I need to do" or the good character equivalent "I'll just admit I'm a sport fencer and move on, no biggie."” - Michael Edelson

“It’s when you take advantage of something lacking in simulation to win. For example, in sparring yesterday with nylon backswords, I cut a parry into an opponents cut down from the right. With steel, I would probably have covered myself and been in position to thrust along the inside to his chest/face in the bind. Instead, the nylons bounced, and his blade went past my left side while mine skipped over his hilt to stab him in the chest. It was an accident, but if I tried to do that, I wouldn’t be training for a historic context and system any more, I’d be training for “BackSword! The Combat Sport”. It would still be a martial art - there would be a lot to use with steel - but it would be a combat sport.” - Pete’s HEMA rant.

“the way I fenced was a deliberate solution to how my opponent was fencing and how I had observed the judges were calling after-blows/double.” - Dustin Reagan

“the rules for FA are not in any way designed to be a "real fight".” - Scott Brown
What, you want actual references? Screw you, I'm not paid enough for that.

I agree with Michael Edelson. If you want to be good at sword fighting, you need to know how to injure someone with a sword. Primarily, that means being able to cut someone well with a sword. I cannot at the moment, and I accept that. I’d like to change it. But there’s no-one about who can teach me how to cut. I only have very limited access to sharp swords. I cannae affort a good sharp sword at the moment, cappun. The bank account cannae take it.

But on the other hand, if I wanted to train to win fencing competitions, then I would patch things up with my old Olympic fencing coach. Get back into that style of fencing. Their competitions are better run. It’s a cheaper hobby. The training is better. I would be able to train more. But I’d like to practise a martial art, not a martial sport.

So, at the moment I don’t think I’m going to have much luck trying to become a better fighter if I’m ever teleported to outside Nuremberg’s gates, c. 1480. Equally, the idea of going back to trying to win the SW regionals doesn't appeal.

Rather I’ve been falling back to trying to improve the sword fighting simulations we play at (which boils down to spending more money than I really have on kit. See also - bank account). But not everyone is in a position to be able to do that, if they want to, if it’s enough of a priority for them. So I’m not sure how many people I’ll have to train with at that level. I’m also trying to re-engrosse myself in understanding the martial art - that is, KdF as a technique delivery system. That’s why I’m driving up to Nottingham on Friday for a seminar.

But I want to perform the martial art well. I want to pressure test what I know. I agree with Johann that just being a ‘scholar’ of martial arts without being able to win in serious opposition to other people isn’t satisfying enough. But competitions, especially with outside judges, are martial sports. They’re not simulations. They’re also monkey-dances with swords, not fights. Sure, they test relevant skills and attributes, and I respect that. But they aren’t the art in itself. For example, cuts are heavily favoured over thrusts and slices, as they’re easy to see from a distance. At the same time, I don’t think that I can be a good fighter without putting myself on the line like that. So far I’ve shied away - from lack of experience and from safety concerns, but I don’t want to have those excuses.

So yeah, what began in my head as a ‘How should we deal with slices and thrusts in free play?’ question has devolved into a long rambling rant about The Great Triangulation and my frustration with it.

So yeah...

Lesson plan for next week?
Warm up. 30 mins on ‘Explosively moving from a Zwerch-Zornhau bind into range to do a Hip-Throw.’ Coach people if they want coaching. Otherwise get some free-play in myself.
I’ll also email people and try and get numbers up again after a bumpy month. Would be nice to see all the old faces too.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Michael Edelson - The John the Baptist of Cutting Practice


Imagine this scenario. I give a cutting class at a big event. People who take it can't cut through a mat using whatever mechanics they use until I adjust them. Later on that day, they go fight in a tournament, reverting to their original mechanics. They hit each other and score points. But...they can't cut, not even when the target is soft and easy and standing still and there is no pressure. So, what are they actualy doing in that tournament? 
People resist cutting because once you start down that path you realize that your core mechanics, things you've spent years working on, are wrong and you need to change them. At this point what you do is a test of character. You can say, "Okay, I will do what I need to do" or the good character equivalent "I'll just admit I'm a sport fencer and move on, no biggie." Or, you can make up reasons why you don't need to learn how to cut and try to convince yourself and others on the internets. The problem is most people never get to make this choice in an informed way because most of what they know about cutting is misinformation. So they sever a mat or two, or hack apart a hanging pig, and they say "Look ma, I can cut!" and think that's all there is to it.

As I think I've said before - I cannot cut very well with a longsword. I would like to learn how to, for the kind of reasons that this post highlights. Ultimately, I want to learn historical fencing as a martial art, not an alternative form of fencing. If I wanted to do that, then I'd still be wearing white breeches. There's no-one, as far as I know, in this end of the country who teaches how to cut with a sword. I don't own/cannae afford a sharp of my own. My ability to test cut is somewhat limited.

HEMA frustrations...