Showing posts from 2015

It's about precision and timing

"He's powerful, he's fast. But precision beats power and timing beats speed and that's what you saw there... precision beats power and timing beats speed every day of the week"  - Conor McGregor

Kit mod: SPES Forearm and Elbow Protectors V.2

A follow on from this post.

My main "issue" with these was that the elbow cops were clearly designed to be worn over a padded jacket and are not really able to be worn without one. For 99% of my training I fight with a light fencing jacket or just a t-shirt so I've been looking for a way to make these work better.

In the end I hit on a solution that was so obvious I'm feeling slightly stupid about not doing this ages ago. I've got a cheap pair of skateboarding elbow/forearm protectors that I've been using for years and have generally preferred because while not so protecting they are easier to put on and have a elbow cup that works.

So, I cut off the elbow cup and sewed on a piece of Velcro and now these attach to the SPES protector with a perfect fit.

You can see what I'm talking about from these, as usual, barely adequate photos.

Re-enactment style gauntlet

I like making things and I've got myself some basic leather working gear so I thought I'd have a go at making one of those re-enactment style gauntlets you see on the internet (see left). Like, how hard can it be right?

Well the answer is: pretty easy actually. I decided I wasn't going to bother with all that riveting non-sense and I was just going to sew it all together, which cut down on a lot of faff.

After that I made approximations out of cardboard, wrapped them onto my body and cut things off until I had the pattern right. Then I got some thick (4mm?) veg tan leather and soaked it in water until it was soft. Using a normal pair of scissors I cut out all the pattern and sewed it together using an awl and needle.

After that I lightly soaked it again, bent it all into shape with my hands and then popped it in the oven on 100. This hardened it into shape (though I burnt it slightly) and it was looking pretty good at this point:

Finally, because I'd heard that "w…

On mixing sources.

"The masters often brag about how much they traveled and the variety of sources that they learned from. It would be vain to think that we are so intelligent that we can learn the art of fencing from a single source when the masters we seek to emulate could not." - Jonathan Allen

Some thoughts on slow play.

"Fencing is, par excellence, a fast sport, in every sense of the word: speed of perception, speed of reaction, speed of movement, fast change of action, fast change of rhythm." - Zbigniew Czajkowski

As I see it the purpose of slow play is stop wailing away at full speed for a minute and bring mindfulness to your actions, to catch nuances of our mechanics that you wouldn't notice when moving fast. It allows realisations such as "oh hey, I didn't realize that I wasn't voiding my torso fully when parrying" or "I didn't notice how my elbow sticks out when I make this guard." It can explain happenings that are hard to understand at full speed like "how come I'm always thrusting short?" or "why do I always get hit in the same place?" Slow play is a great tool for finding inefficiencies in your technique and experimenting with solutions.

Is slow play something we should be proud of in of itself? No, not really. Drills inc…

Guidelines for being a Good instructor

Inspired by this blog from Academie Duello

Guidelines for Being a Good Instructor

1. Your goal is to be a better swordsman

You should be doing this to be a better swordsman. Acknowledge that this should be at the center of everything you do, including instructing, and you're all good.  The real trap with teaching is getting sucked into the bullshit that comes with the whole "position of authority" thing. Teaching people because you like being a teacher smacks of ego. Teaching people because a large club is important to you smacks of ego. Ultimately if teaching isn't about making you a better swordsman then your motives are questionable.

2. Teach to learn

It’s that simple: you are teaching other people to improve your own Art. Partly it’s about creating useful training partners and partly it’s about field testing your understanding of sword fighting. Students can be relied upon to pick holes in your theory and force you to properly think through your practice. There…

Some thoughts on Martial Art v's Sport

Let's be honest: there is an underlying conversation which is "people who think they are good at sword fighting finding reasons why they aren't the ones winning tournaments."

Personally I appreciate the dash of reality you get from getting your arse kicked at tournaments but it's interesting to watch the online cognitive dissonance from people trying to maintain their self identification as an "authority" and justify the fact that they are unwilling or unable to put their money where their mouth is.

Apparently it's because:

1. Tournament rules are prejudiced against "real" sword fighting techniques
2. You have to do special training for tournaments and this takes time away from "real" swords training
3. A slippy slope argument about how HEMA is the next MMA thanks to "Sportification"
4. Tournament fighters lack "control" and against "real" sword fighting technique it would be unsafe
5. [insert ration…

Strength and Speed Matters

"No matter what your mother told you, you are not necessarily equal to your opponent. If your opponent is stronger or faster, you will have to adapt your strategy and mechanics. Not every technique is meant to work against every opponent. If you are smaller and weaker than average, many techniques just won’t work consistently enough to rely on. Skill makes up for gaps in natural attributes, but you won’t normally be fighting people who are significantly less skilled than you are. Unfortunately, smaller and weaker individuals need to put more work into keep up." - Ben Michaels

Motivational quote for today...


George Silver - the advantage of being tall

"The tall man has the vantage, he can maintain his fight, both by nature and by art, with more ease than can the man of mean stature, because the man of mean stature has thereby a further course with his feet to pass to the Place, wherein he may strike or thrust home, and in winning of that place, is driven by art to come guarded under his wards to defend himself, because in the time of his coming, the tall man may have both naturally or artificially strike or thrust home, in which time, if the man of mean stature should fail in the least iota of his art, he should be in great danger of death or hurt." George Silver, Paradoxes of Defence 1599

A little follow on to this post.

Critics are rarely remembered.

"In the HEMA community critics are rarely remembered. A great many of them act out of self-interest, or out of the perverse pleasure of seeing others torn down, or because they find strength in it because they lack strength of their own." Richard Marsden

Kit review: Danelli Armouries Basic Longsword

"The new 2016 entry level longsword. The crossguard is new, 2mm thicker to be more durable and a new improved design. Also the grip has a new waisted design. The blade is hollow ground and flexes enough to fence safely and the tip is large and round (about 15x6mm) and now the edges are thick (2.5mm c.) to withstand the sparring duties." Website here

This is the "basic" sword produced by Danelli Armouries. I've been keen to try these guys after reading a few positive reviews from friends. Prior to this I had no experience of Danelli Armouries.
I can say firstly that Giulia has been an absolute pleasure to deal with, a rapid and thorough responder to emails! I've over 40 emails in my trail which is exceptional and a testament to their patience, with me, and their communication skills.
Their postage and packaging was excellent, the shipping time was extraordinary (4 days to New Zealand). There was a little problem with one of the swords I ordered that Guila wo…

Some thoughts on offensive v's defensive tactics

"Attack is the secret of defense; defense is the planning of an attack"  ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Just to clarify my understanding of terms, as I see it, being offensive or defensive is about who takes that first step from out of range to into range, whomever takes that step is being offensive and whomever waits to receive that step is being defensive. I then agree with Meyer that broadly people fall into four types based on who steps into range and then the type of action they do in range. So this means either acting Before or After in the first action and then acting Before or After on the second action. 
This breaks down into four behavior types:
1. Acts Before, then acts Before 2. Acts Before, then acts After 3. Acts After, then acts Before 4. Acts After, then acts After
Sounds weird but I think it is shorthand for:
1. This person steps into measure behind an action that blocks their opponent & takes center, they then act immediately to strike an opening. 2. This pe…

Machiavelli on teaching

"It is not possible for me to make a better gift than to offer you the opportunity of understanding in the shortest time all that I have learnt in so many years, and with so many troubles and dangers; which work I have not embellished with swelling or magnificent words, not stuffed with rounded periods, not with any extrinsic allurements or adornments whatever, with which so many are accustomed to embellish their works; for I have wished either that no honour should be given it, or else that the truth of the matter and the weightiness of the theme shall make it acceptable." - The Prince, Machiavelli

Some thoughts on the three ways of cutting in Longsword

I was chatting with one of my club the other night and she said she couldn't find any information about this on the internet so I thought I'd put something up here in case it wasn't an observation that was well known.

A distinct part of the "German" branch of longsword fighting, to my mind, is the use of the three ways of cutting with a longsword. These are true edge cuts and the two types of false edge cuts.

If you haven't already made this observation, then on each cut line you can do the cut three ways. Looking at the High Line then firstly, obviously, there's with the true edge. Secondly you can push the pommel under your arm turning the blade anti-clockwise for the Crooked (or "hooking" as I think of it) false edge cut, and finally you can Squint (or "twisting" as I think of it) the blade clockwise to bring around the false edge for the Twisting cut. On your right side the hooking type cut ends with your palm facing out, while the…

Some thoughts on why being small and weak isn't a good thing

Just a few thoughts about the above video.

It's a nice idea that skill "vastly outmatches" size and strength. Unfortunately this idea that there is a spectrum with "physiology" on one end and "skill" at the other end isn't really true and it can be detrimental to your training to operate under this assumption. Generally speaking they go hand in hand.

In all sports there's a "software" element and a "hardware" element, this means a element that is skill based and learnt (like Software on a computer) and there is an element that is physiological (like the hardware on a computer). Having better software can make a computer with bad hardware operate better but I doubt it would vastly overcompensate against a computer with better hardware. Likewise in fencing if I had the choice I'd definitely trade off for physical advantages. Why? Because those with physical advantages can achieve disproportionately greater outcomes with …

Swords move really fast

Check out the sequence of pictures. The sword starts in a point backwards cutting position, like Meyer high guard, ends in a wide position. No step but the torso has twisted though and this is quite obviously a strong blow.

These photos bring it home to me about how fast swords move, something that I'm not really conscious of when I'm training. In this sequence each frame is a tenth of a second, so this heavy blow took 0.3 seconds to execute from start to finish. The blow to the bottle probably less than 0.1 seconds (see how the sword is already through the bottle in the middle picture).

This is a good illustration of Silvers idea of Place, that if your opponent is in a position where they can attack an opening without having to step then there is pretty much nothing you can do about it. It highlights the importance of reading your opponents intentions and setting corresponding body mechanics in place before someone is in this position.

Thanks to Ian Nelson for the photo.

Seeing the wood rather than the trees

"these devices are not so set in stone that they cannot be changed in practice - they are merely examples from which everyone may seek, derive, and learn devices according to his opportunity, and may arrange and change them as suits him. For as we are not all of a single nature, so we also cannot all have a single style in combat; yet all must nonetheless arise and be derived from a single basis" - Meyer, 2.19r

Some thoughts on improving reaction time

"You should here learn firstly how to recognize an opening quickly, secondly how to act against it." - Meyer, 2.15r

How do we improve both the speed and quality of our reactions?

1. Simplify the stimulus to only the relevant
2. Limit our reactions to only the optimal

While also making it difficult for our opponent to do this to us, simple huh? No.

"Cognition is the art of focusing on the relevant and deliberately ignoring the rest" - Gerd Gigerenzer & Peter M. Todd

The Principles tell us what information is relevant and then neatly packages this into simplified concepts:
"Mechanics" recognizes that force generation and body language is highly important information. This is packaged into Guard postures and Openings. "Place" highlights that the space between you and your opponent is highly important information. This is packaged into Measure and Line of Fight. "Time" highlights the speed is highly important information. This is package…

Some thoughts on tournaments

The club I hang around with has just had it's annual open invite tournament.

It's the first time I've been in a "proper" tournament, i.e. formal and interclub, in a very long time. I was competing in Longsword, Singlesword and Spear and line judging in Rapier. These are just some thoughts on it:
It's the first "proper" tournament I've done that followed a Franco-Belgian ruleset which was interesting. Surprisingly given that the main argument I hear in favor of the ruleset was that everyone does more fighting, I actually felt like I was standing around more and fighting less than at a "normal" tournament. This could have been down to the number of people, 25+. Each bout was over very quickly and if you didn't spend much time as the King then you didn't do much fighting at all. At least with a "hierarchical" type ruleset you are either progressing up the ranks or you are knocked out and can toddle off to free play. The r…

Sainct-Didier - On ordering the Art

"anyone who wants to put an art or doctrine into order or draw it from confusion for fear that otherwise it will be corrupted, it is required that he is provided with judgement, born of experience gained in the exercise of the art." Secrets of the Sword Alone, Henry de Sainct-Didier 1573

Some thoughts on "Parrying" in Longsword

"And guard yourself from all parries which the simple fencers execute, and note when he cuts, so you also cut; and when he thrusts, so thrust as well; and how you shall cut and thrust, you find that written in the five cuts and in the setting-aside."

This is just some thoughts around parrying with Longsword, specifically parries execute by "simple fencers" or "holding against" parrying as Meyer calls it:

Ox and Plough guard an Opening because "they are in essence the position of a thrust", i.e. they threaten a thrust. The key point however is that this is a counter attack (same tempo) action not a parry and riposte (two tempo) action. If you actually receive a Principle Cut to a high opening that you are covering in Ox you'll notice how you often get your hands cut, end up suppressed under his blade and are unable to riposte without some further work. Likewise if you receive a low cut in Plough your hands are vulnerable and he takes your poi…

Agrippa - on "insignificant" blows

"Let me note that one often places oneself at risk of being hit by insignificant blows in order to emerge the victor and kill the other combatant. Accordingly, you should learn how to void your center, use your unarmed hand, make attacks in time and counter-time and understand the importance of the points, lines, circumferences, and surfaces." - Camilo Agrippa, 1553

Meyer's Trivium?

So I never picked up on this before, and I'm not certain it is in any way significant, but I've just noticed that Meyer orders his Longsword on the divisions of the "classical education" the Trivium which would have been the norm at the time (1.1v Forgeng):

" discuss it very briefly but clearly in such a manner as is done with all other arts and practices:

Firstly to show the vocabulary and manner of speaking that pertain to it, which have been invented by the masters of this art with particular diligence, so one may learn and grasp the secret and genius of it more promptly and rapidly

Next to explain and interpret this vocabulary, so that everyone may properly understand what is meant by this manner of speaking.

Then thirdly to present the practice of the art itself, and how it shall be carried out in the work from the cuts and postures that I will have explained."

So the first is his grammar (input), the next his logic (process) and finally his rhetoric …

Some thoughts on "Time"

I've historically not really thought hard about the significance of Time within fencing and have tended to only think that it's about the speed of an action (1 Action = 1 Tempo) and pretty much left it at that. This is true but this really misses the point that that's "a Tempo" not "the Tempo." The Tempo is the rhythm or speed made up by a series of individual Tempos. Once you've added up tempos from a few exchanges you will implicitly have formed "The Tempo" of the fight.

By consciously understanding The Tempo of the fight, which tells you the probable speed of the upcoming action, you can then vary your timing within that upcoming Tempo. This is acting slightly faster (Before), the same speed (Instantly) or slower (After).

Of course a more masterful fighter will look at timing from a more strategic perspective, perhaps referring to the character of their opponent, to deliberately set a slow initial Tempo to hide their true speed capabili…

Some thoughts on "Judgement" and the "Initiative"

"There is no doubt but that the Honorable exercise of the Weapon is made right perfect by means of two things, to wit: Judgment and Force: Because by the one, we know the manner and time to handle the weapon (how, or whatsoever occasion serves:) And by the other we have the power to execute therewith, in due time with advantage." Di Grassi, The true Art of Defense

Following on from this post I thought I'd put some thoughts around about reaction time or "judgement".

Speed is composed of two elements: movement speed and reaction speed. Most historical sources are aware of this distinction referring to movements of the body and your "judgement" or "reason." Improving the physical action is relatively easy: you work until you become faster. However this is of little use if you do the wrong action. Therefore being fast is also largely about thinking fast and forming the correct action. This is the subject of serious concern in many treatises beca…

George Silver - Fencing, good or all that ails you

"the exercising of weapons puts away aches, griefs, and diseases, it increases strength, and sharpens the wits. It gives a perfect judgement, it expels melancholy, choleric and evil conceits, it keeps a man in breath, perfect health, and long life. It is unto him that has the perfection thereof, a most friendly and comfortable companion when he is alone, having but only his weapon about him. It puts him out of fear, & in the wars and places of most danger, it makes him bold, hardy and valiant." - George Silver, Paradoxes of Defence 1599

Some thoughts on understanding Meyer through Principles

Something I'm working on at the moment is breaking down Meyer's devices using the Principles as I understand them: Mechanics, Time & Measure.

Firstly the tools Meyer has based on the Principles, these are:

Mechanics: he explains these through his system of Guard Positions as we know that every action takes place through a sequence of these positions. Taking the information about bladework and footwork from his devices we can broadly reconstruct the mechanics. We then use the pictures as occasional reference checks to ensure we're on the right track.

Time: there are two tools for time, these are Tempo and Timing. Tempo is really just breaking down the device into time sections broadly by actions, a single action being one tempo. Meyer will highlight these by saying occasionally "for the first" or "for the second" etc. Within the Tempo there is also the question of Timing which he specifies in terms of Before, Instantly and After. Sometimes he explicit…

Digrassi - It's simple really.

"There is no other thing in this art than to strike with advantage and defend with safety." - Giacomo di Grassi, 1594

Jean D Brye - Excellence in Mastery

"An excellent master is judged by the Science and his character; he possesses his Art in all his intentions, and the order in which he puts his ideas and in his principles should be instinctive,
which are always prepared and given with reason, and spoken with great certainty and ease: his interest is in the long-term view, and the progress of his students whom he must hold as dear as his reputation." - Jean D Brye, The Art of Fencing Reduced to an Abridged Methodology 1721

Digrassi - Study the Art not just the particulars

"learning one blow to day of one master, on the morrow of another, thereby busying himself about particulars, the knowledge whereof is infinite, therefore impossible."  - Giacomo di Grassi, 1594

Musing on Speed

“Now I say, that a weak Man, either by Nature or more Practice than a strong Man, may be swifter, and in course stronger in his Thrusts, and his Parades, by that natural Suppleness, or acquired Spring.” John Godfrey, A treatise on the useful Science of Defence 1747
Force is about the speed, or rather the acceleration of your actions. On its simplest level if Force is about Mass times Acceleration: it is much, much simpler to increase your capacity for acceleration than your mass. Of course good swordsman do both by engaging their whole weight however proportionately the richest pickings are in improving acceleration or speed as we perceive it, delivering faster actions.
This involves understanding that a big slow action might look "powerful" but the result in reality will be equally, or even less, forceful than a small but fast action. It's not about "strength v's speed" but "more strength through speed."

What's at work here is static streng…

Antonio Manciolino - On "Professionalism"

"the art is not a harlot to suffer itself to be sold. And I wish to hold to a more useful path, noting that the school should be devoted to offering some instruction of the art. It is of more worth to me to be useful to my scholars with this work than, through the putting of a price to the play, to provide myself alone with great benefit." - Antonio Manciolino, Bolognese 1531

Holding the sword in Meyer

I'm doing a far more detailed analysis of the images from Meyer at the moment, based on trying to understand in detail his mechanics. One unintended result was noted something that will probably be of little surprise to people who have studied Meyers woodcuts in detail: how Meyer varies his grips on the sword.

Gripping the pommel (leverage grip). Seems to happen in two ways: directly behind, presumably for point control and to give the sword a good thrusting push, and also on top of the pommel, presumably for maximum leverage in the cut.

"Thrusting" version:

"Cutting" version:

Both hands on the grip. (baseball grip) Seems to be the invariable position for Tag and Longpoint, also for Meyer's sole Wrath position. This can vary from the hands being close together at the guard end of the grip to the offhand being directly above (put not gripping) the pommel. Interestingly, the Tag positions mainly seem to have room between the hands while the the Longpoints seem…

Capo Ferro - From whom one must learn

"You have to know that there are some who immediately after they have learned a little, and having yet a bit of practice, put themselves to teach others, and they teach without the foundation of the rule which is true, not knowing that knowing is quite different from teaching, and this methodical teaching is acquired with length of time, because in order to recognize measure and tempo requires much time, so that he who does not well understand measure nor tempo, and does not have a methodical teaching, can be called an imperfect player, and one must be wary of learning from these." 

Colombani - concise advice on stepping

"throw in terza, always starting with the hand and not rushing in but as I have already said moving the foot when it is needed by the hand." - Carlo Giuseppe Colombani

How long to train someone in Sword fighting - take 2

A follow along from this post about the length of time sword training historically took, this new translation from The Scholar San Marco was interesting, detailing the amount of time Lippo Dardi took to train his students. Clearly dividing his instruction into theory and practical sessions and also taking into account the physical attributes/intelligence of students:

"I do not want to be obliged to teach anyone for less than a year, except as far as it pleases me, informing your lordships that if one were larger than the man from Buda [?], he would learn the theory of the two-handed sword in two and a half months, and the practice in the same amount of time the theory of the buckler in one and a half months, likewise for the practice and so for each of the other plays as far as theory goes, they will learn each separately in one month and the practice in the same amount, such that each play requires two months, between theory and practice, such that everyone has over seven months …

Principles of fencing - Take 5

“I have first of all laid down the principles or grounds of all the Art” – DiGrassi, True Art of Defense

"the discipline of fencing grows on properly understood principles you have contributed to, rather than relying on mindless juggling," - Joachim Meyer, 1570

It often comes up as an assumption that there are “principles” of swordsmanship and all martial arts: universal rules. The idea being that all good systems of combat are a blend of an implicit understanding of these rules and the accepted norms of combat from that time.

Principles are:

Universal, meaning that they apply to every situation and weapon.Empirical, meaning that they are drawn from practice.Foundational, meaning that they allow you to build upon with confidence
I've attempted to write this summary several times and abandoned it every time as I confused myself. However this process has helped me consolidate my thoughts so I think it's time I attempted again and perhaps even might stimulate others to ed…

Philippo Vadi - On Mastery

"If you would be dexterous, and master the sword, you must be accomplished in teaching and learning" Philippo di Vadi, On the Art of Swordsmanship (1480's)

Using "the Force" in Longsword

"The Force is strong with this one." - Darth Vader, 1977

"This knightly art is grasped with the fist and practiced with the application of the entire body" - Meyer

I've been thinking about this, on and off, for a long time but only recently I've decided to really try and nut this out so I've been focusing on working out what Meyer's stances tell us about how he generates force and in my head I've broken it down as follows:  Just the arms - generating power from just the arms, this is broken into swinging from the shoulders, elbows and wrists to generate power by rotation: i.e by cutting by just dropping from Day into Longpoint would be a great example of a shoulder cut by itself. It's also composed of leveraging the handle which contributes significantly to the acceleration. Twisting the torso - allows you to generate power from the hips. This often appears to involve holding your guard out to your left or right side and then bring it back acr…

Book review: The Medieval Longsword, Guy Windsor

"Do you like swords? Do you want to know how to use them? Then this book is for you. With a foreword by historical novelist Christian Cameron, in this book renowned swordsman and author Guy Windsor will take you through the principles and practice of medieval knightly combat with the longsword."

The Medieval Longsword, Guy Windsor
I'd just like to say at the outset that I don't just read Guy Windsor books. That this, my second recent book review, happens to be another Guy Windsor book is co-incidence and it just happens that the last two books I've felt were noteworthy enough to put a few lines on the blog have been his. That said I feel like this book is everything that I felt his "swordfighting" book is not. If I was a "writer, game designer or martial artists" this is the book I would hand them.
First at $8.29 I feel that this book this ridiculously cheap. That's a fact. However, if this sets the bar for future HEMA publications I wouldn…

Kit review: titan clubbells

"But yet after he has sometime travailed with a light weapon, then it is necessary according as he feels himself to increase in strength of arm, that he take another in hand, that is something heavier, and such a one as will put him to a little more pain, but yet not so much, that his swiftness in motion be hindered thereby. And as his strength increases, to increase likewise the weight by little and little." - Giacomo di Grassi

Titan Clubbells
"Club bells are designed to be like ancient training clubs used by warriors of past millennia, providing strengthening to the bodies main muscle groups. The reason why they can be beneficial is that unlike many traditional free weight exercises, clubbell exercises are multi-plane movements, stressing the muscles from every imaginable angle! The ability to perform these swinging exercises also draws heavily on the core for support and stability, meaning that almost every club bell exercise is also a fantastic core exercise!"


Excellent blog posts at the moment

There are some excellent thought provoking blog posts out at the moment

This from Keith Farrell:

"When watching modern tournaments in person or online, for weapons such as the longsword, messer, or sword and buckler, then the fighting often looks messy... Is this a problem? To some extent, yes… But if some fencers do not behave like this, then their opponents will never learn to deal with such behaviour and overcome it. It is therefore a necessary step to have “play masters”, “common fencers”, “buffalos” or “Winkelfechter” before we can have fencers who fight in a technical and excellent fashion."

"since the MS I.33 teaches a complicated system that requires certain situations to occur, there need to be skilled fighters who can produce these conditions before the I.33specialists can begin to dominate."

This from James Roberts:
"Thus, my brief argument here is that martial skills such as using a longsword are useful in warfare, just not necessarily directly in…

Has tournament fighting improved in the last five years?

Interesting comment below:
"Five years ago it was rare to see even top-level fencers pull off complex historical techniques in a tournament setting and the winners were generally natural gifted athletes, whereas these days not only is it common to see good technique at all levels of a tournament, but people lacking in technical expertise (or athleticism, you need both) generally don’t even make it into the bracket of a large tournament. A lot of semifinal and final matches end up looking almost like exhibition matches, the level of technique is so high. Top fencers five years ago would be considered average at best by today’s standards. The human instinct to excel in competition has caused people to train harder, the opportunity to pressure-test against people outside their club has resulted in stronger and more mechanically-sound interpretations, and the constant criticism from the anti-tournament crowd has made top competitors feel they have to constantly prove that they’re mar…

Capo Ferro on pole-vaulting in shrubbery

"The truth is a disposition of precepts of fence; it must not be measured following the ignorance of some, who teach and write owing to the long use of arms that they have; and not owing to knowledge, but rather more often they make of shadow, substance; and of chance, reason; mixing gourds with lanterns, and pole-vaulting in shrubbery; but one must esteem those who constrain themselves to the truth of its nature." Ridolfo Capo Ferro, Great representation of the art and use of fencing 1610

Achille Marozzo - Will expand your mind later

"I also advise you that as you start teaching someone, you should not begin with something difficult, since that would seem too hard to them; doing so would turn them away and would cause them to not learn as eagerly as those who start with something more gradual. Anyway, I will expand your mind later." Achille Marozzo "A new work" 1536

Opportunistic v's creative

"To begin to understand how an advanced fencer thinks, we must understand the difference between opportunistic and creative actions... Opportunistic actions rely on your opponent making mistakes. Creative actions are more important since the attacker initiates what will happen next. Faced with the challenge of producing an all-important winning hit, a creative action will serve you best." Ed Rogers, Advanced Fencing Techniques 2013

The more I study the Bolognese School the more I come to understand that the "differences" between the "Italian" and "German" schools have been vastly overstated to me. In fact the more I learn the more continuity I see. Undoubtedly this is due to bio-mechanics: the optimal cutting and thrusting positions and techniques do not change, so you will find a Alta/Vom Tag position and a pflug/Coda Lunga position etc. It appears to me that the main difference lies in the tactical application of the mechanical actions rather …

Achille Marozzo - On mastery

"I want you to know that it is a beautiful mystery to know how to teach people well, more than to just play; for a man, if he knows how to play well and does not know how to teach, is not good (he is single): but one that knows how to teach well, is good for many people; and know that when he knows the one and the other, he is of double virtue and is a double master." Achille Marozzo "A new work" 1536

The importance of introductions

I'm just reading translations of Marozzo at the moment and it's just highlighted, again, one of my least favorite bug bears: the translation skipping the introduction.

Sure, the introduction is often a role call of the authors noble patrons, the linage of swordmanship back to the Romans and comments on the parentage of other so called sword masters who slander the author. However the introduction is also often the source of summaries of the system that provide key information towards understand the rest of the text. Often they comprise the authors "how I learned sword fighting, from whom and how my opinions changed" and my "summary of my philosophy of sword fighting" paragraphs.

When you look at the length of some summaries you realise that they cannot all be filler and there is undoubtedly some killer in there.

Anyhow, whinge over. If some budding translator want to go out and translate all the missing introductions to treatises on Wiktenauer they'd be…

Capo Ferro on biomechanics

"Art regards nature and sees that owing to the small capacity of matter, it cannot do all that which it intends to do, and however considers in many details its perfections and imperfections, and in the guise of architect takes thereof and makes such a beautiful model that it is thus refined, and sharpens the rough-hewn things of nature, reducing them little by little to the height of their perfection.
From nature art has undertaken in defending oneself the ordinary step, the third guard for resting in defense, and the second and fourth for offense, the tempo, or the measure, and the manner as well of the placement of the body, with the torso now placed above the left leg for self-defense, now thrown forward and carried on the right leg in order to offend." Ridolfo Capoferro, Art and use of fencing 1610