Of Katas and Curios

Katas are somewhat lacking in Western Martial Arts.  Although pretty much universal in Asian Martial Arts, these sequences of movement are an excellent training tool that I think we need to bring to the Western practice.  If nothing else, katas mean that solo practice becomes more engaging.  After all, there are only so many times you can practice basic motions before wanting more.  Katas provide a way of linking these motions together in a set form.  Historically, only a few Masters wrote down anything that can be accurately be described as a kata, but we can build a few more from context within some manuals.

Perhaps the most well known of the Western Martial Arts practice forms come from Achille Marozzo.  Marozzo had several practice forms with both the single and double handed sword.  He also had two types.  Marozzo’s Progressions were solo forms designed to teach all of his many guards and his Assaults were two person forms that were something like a choreographed fight.  Much later in the 18th century we see the rise of a few more masters begin to teach both Progressions and Assaults, most notably in the Angelo school of broadsword.  Just a little after that, in Victorian London, someone did something amazing.

In many ways Alfred Hutton is the grandfather of Western Martial Arts.  Not only was he a master and instructor of the contemporary sabre system, but he is also the first person I am aware of that practiced historical styles of swordplay.  Additionally while he apparently studied and trained in the styles of Marozzo and others, he also added to them.  He actually took the teachings of historical masters and built Assaults with them.

To me this is pretty huge.  Very few teachers do this these days, although I understand why they don’t.  It is almost an act of extreme hubris to add to the art of ancient masters but at the same time it may be a necessary evil.  For all that we have their manuals, we have very little idea on how people historically trained with swords.  We can see some very effective techniques in old fight books, but what about drills?  What methods did they use to practice and perfect these techniques?  We have hints of this, but little in the way of clear answers.  So I think it’s justified to create our own Progressions and Assaults in order to learn and teach the fencing arts.  I am currently working on a Progression for George Silver’s style, which I will share when I am happy with how it works, but for now here is my interpretation of Marozzo’s Progression for Two Handed Sword.  It’s rough and next time I’ll have to put it to music, but for now, this works.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *