Spoiled By Choice

There is a funny thing that happens in martial arts.  At beginning levels all students seem to want to learn new techniques.  New techniques, all the time.  As an instructor, it’s sometimes a challenge to restrain yourself from indulging them.  There is that niggling insecurity (at least with me) that by showing new students things too slowly you’ll lose their attention.  This is a problem for more than a few reasons, the most immediate of which is that those students who get bored by the basics are probably not worth training unless they can be convinced to change their mind. Continue reading

Paradoxes of George Silver I: The Sword

The Renaissance was a fascinating time for swordplay.  This is in part because of the fact that so many fencing manuals survive from this era, but also because in the late 16th century we see the first truly civilian swords.  Prior to this time duels were fought only with consent of local rulers and therefore the grievances were primarily of a legal nature.  Due to this fact, the weapons used were generally the same that would be used in battle, complete with full armour. Since these Trials by Combat were set up well in advance, it was alright that plenty of gear was required before fighting could commence.  Once people began to use the duel as a method of settling personal disagreements it became impractical to carry so much equipment and the swords changed to reflect this.  Thus the rapier became the preferred weapon of the civilian classes. Continue reading

Guarded Statements

There’s something that’s been bothering me about historical fencing for a while.  I’ve been having a lot of problems with the term “guard.”  In theory a guard is any position your body and sword take to defend yourself.  There are complexities within that definition and some people have their own different definitions.  For example, one interpreter of the medieval I.33 system stated that there were no guards present in the style, because you were never supposed to stand stationary to protect yourself in any particular position.  One of my own instructors once made the ridiculous claim that any position you can hold your sword in is a guard, but it is only a “good guard” if it serves to protect you.  Ignoring the fact that if every position is a guard then the entire concept of guard becomes useless, some refining to the term is clearly needed. Continue reading