Armour is a great thing. It keeps people from dying. The history of combat is in many ways the history of armour. Looking back it’s a historical arms race between the weapons used and the armour used. Let’s look back shall we, at the symbiotic relationship between swords and armour and carry it through to the present day. Continue reading
One of the more common and interesting discussions in swordplay is that of which weapon is the “best.” It seems there are as many opinions as there are weapons. Some think the rapier is best, because of its reach and preeminence in the a one on one duel. Some argue for the longsword for its versatility and power. There is the side that likes the basket hilted broadsword for hand protection and ease of carry. Some people even say the katana is best because they know nothing about swords. It’s always a fun conversation. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
It’s often and not without merit said that the point is the most dangerous part of the sword. Especially with European swords we see a great emphasis put on thrusting attacks. Now since people had armour as well as swords, attacks could be deflected fairly effectively whether the point or edge were used. Naturally the knights of old had a solution to this. They figured out that if you hit the person with the pommel of your sword, the extra force provided by the weight of it would destabilize your heavily armoured opponent enough to win you the fight.
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.
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
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
This is a special request I received: “Will you do one about katanas and how they can cut through tanks, rocks and telephone poles?” The request was made by one of my students, so you can be assured that there may have been a hint of sarcasm in that comment. At any rate, it’s still something that deserves to be talked about. First take a minute or six to watch the following video. Seriously this guy is brilliant.: