Going the Distance

One of the biggest keys in winning any fight, with swords or without is distance.  At its very simplest, if you cannot reach your opponent you cannot hope to win.  So the tallest swordsman wins, right?  Not remotely.  Oh, height helps to be sure, but a mastery of the sword begins and ends with mastery of distance. The trick seems almost geometrically impossible at first, to enter a distance where you can safely strike your opponent without him being able to reach you in return.  It can be done, although it isn’t easy and the movement involved is actually pretty cool. Continue reading

The First Sword

It’s not often these days that you’ll see me practicing Italian Rapier.  Lately, though, I find myself drawn to it and feeling the need to study my Capoferro once again.  A big part of that is that I have been giving much thought to the ideal sword to first pick up.  I often consider what sword style is the best to teach someone who has no previous training and for a multitude of reasons I keep turning to Capoferro’s Rapier.  I have no doubt that there as many opinions on this subject as there are instructors, but I thought I would lay out my reasons for starting new students on this particular brand of swordplay.seclunge Continue reading

Circular Logic

The shortest distance between two opponents is a straight line.  The straightest line is often not the most ideal.  It is the easiest to predict and the easiest to defend against.  Unfortunately it is also the most instinctual path to take.  Historically most instructors in swordplay have focused training in a less direct way.  Often times you have to go a little into subtext but most Masters preferred a more circular path of attack.  Even the act of the lunge, though it seems a linear attack, is often best performed at an angle.

Perhaps the system that best exemplifies this circular motion is Destreza.  This quintessential Spanish rapier system is the most mathematical style of fencing I am aware of.  The art of it lies in the fact that a lesson in Destreza is a lesson in geometry.  I’ve heard tell that at the time Spanish fencers were thought of as practitioners of black magic in their time.  Whether or not that is true, the key to their success was in in moving circularly when many of the rival systems were very much more linear.

Going back a ways, we see the same thing with the longsword.  Though footwork is more in the context than written clearly, we see that very basic attacks are so simple to defeat when delivered in a straight line and become a sudden challenge when delivered with the intent of circling your opponent.

So, on to the crux of things.  My own personal training goal for this month shall be to focus on the circle.  Lessons I teach will be focus on this type of movement and my own solo training will focus in footwork as well.  My research goals will be met by working on that Destreza manual I’ve been meaning to get to and experimenting with the principles therein.  Now, off to the books with me.

A Guide to Historical Fencing

I tell people I am a fencer.  This to them summons the image of those guys in the white suits poking at each other with what looks like car antennae.  So in order to combat this I thought I would provide a brief history of the sword as well as explaining exactly what it is I do. Continue reading