Sunday, October 19, 2014

Unarmored Spear Use

No, I'm not going to get into the whole "rapier spears" thing here. Rather, what I'm going to drop here is a bunch of references to historic unarmored spear.

At one point during a discussion salon at yesterday's event, one person mentioned that there are no examples of unarmored spear use. (In the context of this discussion, "armor" was referring to something along the lines of SCA heavy armored combat, so meaning a historical equivalent of full heavy battlefield armor.) Using heroic amounts of restraint, I didn't say anything other than "you're wrong" and "let me get back to you with references." So here we are. (As an aside, I want to thank the nice people behind Wiktenauer so much. Seriously, this is an awesome resource.)

Firstly, I'd like to bring up our own Don Dylan's research on the London Masters of Defense, and their playing of the prize! Dylan notes that the Morris pike was used in such fights. He also goes on to note that "It is also uncertain if participants wore armor during the prize, but it is reasonable to assume that they wore at least some armor, perhaps a buffcoat." A buffcoat by itself would certainly offer protection against cuts and some impact, but absolutely doesn't approach "armored" in this kind of context.

Along those lines, John Clements has an essay (yeah, I know, Clements) which also notes that the participants playing the prize were unarmored, and made use of the Morris pike.

From there, let's go look at historic manuals!

Fiore has a section on spear. So does Vadi. Trending later, Manciolino covers spears (with and without shields). Even George Silver talks about them.

Fiore and Vadi spend time discussing a lot of battlefield weapons. However, I find it notable that the illustrations used in both their manuals have a very high degree of men in civilian dress demonstrating the techniques - including spear techniques. Fiore goes out of his way to note in his manual that in general, anything that can be done in armor can also be done out of armor. (There are some exceptions - for instance, there are some defenses that you may not want to do without something rigid, or at least padded, on your forearm, but even those are better off being done without armor than getting stabbed.) He takes the time to note when there are techniques he describes that should only be done in armor, which certainly implies that those aside, you can absolutely perform anything else in his manual with or without armor.

Marozzo and Silver are, in my opinion, trending far into the civilian area of combat. Certainly, at that point, it wouldn't be expected that you would be wearing a full harness of plate. Illustrations in Opera Nova bear this out, as well.

In short, yes, there is absolutely more than enough evidence for the historic use of spears in an "unarmored" setting.

What I've been up to, and there's this event next week!

Most of what I've been up to lately is just cleaning up my fighting, making it work better, and reminding myself of broad concepts like "footwork" and "timing" and "taking control of the fight, come on, you know what you should be doing here aaaaaaagh."

...okay, that last may have more to it than just a broad concept, but still.

Anyway! This is mostly to let you know that if you haven't heard of it, you should totally come out to Voyages of Discovery next week! It's all A&S research presentations, all the time!

I am even now putting together a 5th grade book report poster in which you can see the guards and lunges of Capo Ferro and Fabris side by side through the wonder of photoshop! Marvel at how wacky and different they are!

So that's what I'm up to. And y'all come out to the event, it's gonna be great.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hey, is this thing still on? Or, an update!


So hey, blogging about stuff I'm doing. That's a thing I should do more of. Then again, I haven't had a free weekend since my last update a month ago, so here we are.

In short, then:

  • I put together the belt that was pictured in the last entry. Turned out too small for me, so I gave it to someone else and made another one. I've still got a long, long way to go even with super sketchy and not really real leatherworking skills, but belts are fun. I don't do anything really pro like slicking down edges, but whatever. 
    • I used rivets for them, mostly because I think that if I tried to stitch all them by hand, I'd have lost my mind. Still, that's a goal.
    • I need to make a white belt (Yes, as a gift. Shush.), so I'm resorting to the acrylic leather paint, because I don't want to buy a whole damn side of white leather.
  • Fabris! I'm reading the manual, and I'm not really deep into the plates at all for purposes of actually fighting with it. I'm mostly trying to get the basic body mechanics down, and get used to moving while I'm in the postures. I'm tending to train lower than I fight, which is 100% okay in my book right now. 
  • Capo Ferro! I mostly default to this when I'm just Fighting My Fight, which is also 100% okay in my book. I need to do a little more drilling with upright footwork, just to remind me that it's also a thing.
  • In terms of fighting my fight, I need to remember to just relax and do that more, and trust that a lot of the deeply period stuff will filter in over time, because that's what drills are for. I just want to make sure that I still retain my general level of prowess, but also that I've integrated enough Fabris for the By The Book tourney next year at Pennsic.
  • Finally, I'm going to be doing a poster display for Voyages of Discovery that should be contrasting the guard stances of Capo Ferro and Fabris, and the similarities and differences between them. I expect to be doing a lot of excited talking and demonstrating things, and I'm really looking forward to it.
That's where I'm at with Stuff What Tends To Show Up On This Blog!

Monday, September 1, 2014

What I did on my Labor Day vacation, a story by me.

I started in on making the first of at least a few rapier hangars. Yay!

I'm using 4-5oz leather. I dyed it with Eco-Flo Water Stain (which according to my research doesn't need painting over with acrylic or anything), which was super easy to work with. (Maybe I'll try vinegroon soon, for more A&S goodness.) Some neetsfoot cream finished it (and made it smell pretty nice, too). The leather's a little stiff, but I imagine that'll break in with use.

I've got some rivets in the mail, and as soon as those get here I can assemble the whole thing, which will be pretty great. Then I can start in one the next one - I've got at least three I want to make, each of them being a little (or a lot) different in some ways. Actually, four - I think I want to make a yellow one for a Protege Rapier Hangar, for no good reason other than my own amusement.

I should grab some scraps and practice putting rivets in, though. You know, because. That seems like a good idea.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Capo Ferro, Plate Seven

Since I've been wanting to work through Capo Ferro in a marginally more structured manner, I'm going to be moving through plate by plate. While the plate I'm starting with is pretty basic, and we've been going through Guy Windsor's hierarchy drill regularly (so we've been indirectly working on some of the basic plates already), I want to really pay attention to each one individually.

Plates 1-4 illustrate the guards. 5 is the lunge, and 6 is how to gain the blade on the inside. (Maybe I'll go back and touch on those specifically? That seems reasonable.) Plate 7 is the first action that we see, so here we go.

Plate 7 - This Illustration and the Following Show Various Ways to Strike to the Outside, After You Have Gained the Opponent's Blade to the Inside and He Performs a Thrusting Attack by Cavazione

To start, Fencer A gains the blade of Fencer B on the inside. Fencer B performs a cavazione to the outside to thrust to A's chest, and A rolls his hand into seconda while thrusting B "in the left eye" with either just an extension or a lunge as needed, all in a single tempo.

If B was "a prudent opponent," the play goes differently. A gains B's blade on the inside, and this time, B feints the attack by cavazione, keeping his body withdrawn (but A does bring his blade to the outside, and extend somewhat if necessary). A rolls his hand into seconda and begins to push the attack. This time though, B parries to the outside with either the false or true edge, and responds with a mandritto to the head (if parrying with the false edge) or an imbrocatta to the chest (if parrying with the false edge). B then recovers in low quarta.

Comments: This is one of the most fundamental sets of actions in Capo Ferro's rapier. The first part of the plate is a straightforward contratempo action - B takes an action, and A responds in the same tempo, reclaiming the line and striking. It's also the fastest way to reclaim the line - there's no contra-cavazione, it's just turning the hand over into seconda. As the first and most basic action to learn from this manual, I think that says something.
Capo Ferro doesn't explicitly say to move to seconda as part of the counter - he simply says to strike. It's very clear in the picture that A has moved his hand into seconda, and A must do this to get his true edge into play, but it's worth noting.
As an aside, A would do well to remember the last comment given by Capo Ferro immediately preceding this play, and not put his point directly into his opponent's forte. That'd be bad.

The second part of the play has B performing a feint by the cavazione instead. Capo Ferro notes that B should keep his body "somewhat back" and immediately move to parry A's counter. Capo Ferro doesn't explicitly say that it's a two tempi action, but I think it's pretty clear that it has to be. The use of the word "parry" carries this implication to me (though I admit this could be flawed, or also a result of the translation), and the fact that Capo Ferro points out that B must parry and then counter lends weight to this. Also, the mechanics that have to happen to counter and then riposte - either with a cut or rolling the hand into something resembling prima for an imbrocatta really pull it into two tempii, albeit two that flow quickly from the first into the second. (And hey, both Guy Windsor and Tom Leoni agree with me here, so we can all be right!)
Capo Ferro's note about keeping the body back is important to me; you don't commit the body forward until you're sure that you're safe, and you haven't closed that line with the feint. It also says to me that B has begun his movement already planning for it to be a feint, and that he's not falling back to it. I imagine that if A doesn't take the bait, B could far more quickly move from a feint by cavazione to an actual cavazione and push the attack home rather than bailing from an actual attack into a feint or an abortive parry?

Going through this plate live at practice tonight should be pretty good, if we can pay attention to a lot of the little details and not draw too many unsupported conclusions.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Post-Pennsic Plans and Such

Pennsic happened! As is usual, I'm coming out of it with a lot more enthusiasm for Doing Stuff and Learning Things and Teaching It All.

So this entry is really more for me than for my readers (ha, like there's more than one of you) but here we go.


  • Fencing is life. Keep doing that. Drills, fighting, more fitness and conditioning, the whole ball of wax.
  • While I'm enjoying working on Capo Ferro, I really want to start trying to work on Fabris. It's super interesting, deeply cool, and visually distinctive. I have no idea where to start, but it's pretty exciting to me.
  • Take so many notes from all my Destreza classes at DeKoven.
  • Finalize my C&T gear. Some of it is in the mail, the rest I can assemble without much of a problem after that. Then I can work on some Manciolino and Fiore woo! 
    • Hey, I should get a less wobbly blade for my longsword. Huh.
  • Prepare for the Carolingian academic event's poster display. Aaaaaaaaaaah. I'm looking forward to it, but aaaaaa.
  • Internalize some of Fiore's basic grappling and knife plays, so I can teach a class on them.
  • Leatherworking! Make those belts for myself and others! Make a buff coat! So much riveting and sewing!
  • Do more heraldry! Pretty straightforward.
  • Basic camp life improvements and repairs. Gotta repair the clothesrack with heavier cross-braces, and maybe make a new bedframe.

That's that, really. It was a fantastic couple of weeks, and I'm gonna ride this enthusiasm train as long as I can.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Looks like I'm teaching at GNEW!

With the kind encouragement (and buttkicking) of others, I've signed up to teach a class on Gaining the Blade and Guards and Counter Guards at Great Northeastern War.

I feel a little like I might be combining two classes here. I could probably teach a whole class on Gaining the Blade and a lot of little technicalities and drills and nitpickiness around it, but the thing is - I don't think many people would find that really enthralling for 45-60 minutes. But I do think it's necessary to have a basic understanding of the fundamentals of how it works to really apply using Guards and Counter Guards. (Which means that I'll end up at least touching on using and abusing tempi, because of what happens when you form a good counter guard, but that's neither here nor there. I'm pretty sure that if I teach a class and mention neither tempo nor distance that I have wildly screwed up.)

So I think the plan at the moment (which is open to change at least until I write up a handout, if not until I actually start teaching the class) is to do maybe 15-20 minutes on what gaining the blade is, how it works, and lead into how you do that to form a good counter guard to your opponent's guard - then how you can keep playing the guard-counter guard game and then mention tempo and measure in terms of how this lets you hit someone.

I will also no doubt use the phrase, "simplifying your decision tree" because that is still, I think, the best summary of what you're trying to do with this whole thing.

There may be a bit of playing around with blades involved, based on what Christian Fournier did at the last KWAR. (Note to self: find that handout, cite accordingly, abuse for ideas.)

Anyone got any thoughts on this (or things you'd want me to cover)?