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)?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hey, is this thing still on?

So real life happened, and I fell off of updating this. My bad.

I've been doing a lot of reading lately. Going through Capo Ferro again; both Leoni's translation and Windsor's training manual based on it.

I also picked up a new translation of Giganti, by Aaron Miedema. I haven't gotten into it yet, but I really can't wait. Miedema seems to have a lot of issues with Leoni's translation and how he's interpreting the actions. I love Leoni, but questioning these sorts of things is how we improve our understanding, so I think I'm going to be doing a couple rereads along with Leoni's.

I think the Thursday night Carolingian practice is slowly starting to turn a lot of historically-minded people into a pack of Italian rapier folks, which makes me happy. (It's not everyone there by a long shot, but that's not the point.) There's a single Meyer holdout, but that's cool. He keeps us on our toes.

I'm idily putting together a class on Finding The Blade and Guards and Counter-Guards. I've got the material in my head, I just need an excuse to put some notes down on paper, and maybe a handout. I should find an event that has classes at it to teach.

That's about it! I'll try and get more stuff up here more regularly, and not slack off quite so much.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Leather flask, essentially done.

I made a thing!

Okay, so I need to get some rope and tie it on there, and I need to whittle down a stopper, but whatever. I made a bottel!

Like I said I was going to, I threw some thread up by the mouth of the bottel just to make sure it wouldn't gap apart. Nothing fancy there, and nothing weird happened.

Then I melted the cheese wax and poured it out of the wax pot, so I could melt beeswax. I ended up using two pounds of it, which seemed to be just the right amount to fill up the bottel and let it soak into the leather. Then I poured it back out, rattled a stick around in there to make sure there weren't any clumps of wax and sand, and did it again.

That's what I ended up with! The wings have no wax on them, and that's okay - I opted away from the full immersion method mostly due to available pot size as well as economy of beeswax. There's some clumping and blobbing of wax on the bottom of the bottel, but not unduly so.

Also, it seems like there's an uneven amount of wax on the sides. Like, on the surface that's not soaked in. Maybe this week I'll warm it slightly in the oven and wipe the sides down to remove it. Would that help? I think it might, but I'm not sure.

Right now though, I'm gonna let it sit, try and find some rope for it, and either repurpose a wine cork or get a dowel and shave it down, but I'm pretty much done!

Also, now I have a pot full of beeswax I can melt and make another one with, so I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Leather flask, part three!

Despite the terrible loss of an hour of sleep, I decided to take some time before I had to run out of the house today for guitar practice to get the next major step of the flask done - pounding sand.

In short, I needed to soak the leather and then force as much sand into it as possible to get it stretched into a bottle shape. Soaking it was easy. Happily, it took exactly as long as it took me to go grab a shower. Coincidence? Surely not! (Note the kind assistance of Darcy, our local helpful housecat.)

After that was done, the real work started. This took the following tools:

  • A bag of sand.
  • A funnel and scoop.
  • A wooden spoon.
  • A dowel.
  • A hammer.
Eventually, I settled on a kind of system to maximize the amount of sand I could force into the flask, while minimizing what was scattered around the counter. I recommend starting by blowing a puff of air into the bottle to force the leather apart and give the sand somewhere to go. Then insert the funnel and pour in the sand. When it backs up, start using the handle of the wooden spoon to force more through the funnel.

That will eventually not work out anymore; start using the spoon inside the flask itself. Force it down, remove the spoon, repeat. Add sand as necessary. When it starts to fill up, use the dowel and the hammer. Don't be gentle here - I found that the leather was super resilient, stretched a great deal, and pounding as much sand in as I could was really entertaining. Seriously, you will use more sand than you think will fit. 

So that's all done. Now I'm just letting it dry, which will take forever. Once the leather's dry, I'll probably whip a little extra thread from that top stitch up on each side of the neck, to keep it from gapping more, but that's not a big deal. Then I need to get some beeswax. The plan now is to melt the beeswax, pour it inside, let it soak in, pour it out, repeat a bit, and to call it a day! I'm excited. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Today's random fencing style realization

I love the pedagogy of Fabris. He's clear, he breaks up the manual in a way that makes sense to me. I can follow what he's saying and doing.

On the other hand, I find myself actually fighting like Capo Ferro or Giganti, especially the more I learn about them. (The response to any motion is to kill you!) Not just because of the stances, but other things, too.

I'm not sure where that puts me, but it's interesting.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Capo Ferro's Hierarchy of Defense

Recently I was pointed at Guy Winsdsor's video describing Capo Ferro's hierarchy of defense. It's one of those things that summarized a lot of dispersed information in his manual in a really concise and excellent way, and helped me get a much better understanding of Capo Ferro.

(Go watch it here.)

The comments on the video summarize the procedure, but not in a way that I could use as a way to introduce this drill to people - let alone really integrate it into my own brain - so I'm re-writing it up here in a way that will be useful to me, and hopefully other people.

In short (and hopefully correctly), through Capo Ferro's manual, a consistent set of responses and counter-responses can be found. The most common attack in rapier is, once your blade has been gained, to disengage out of stringere. Guy uses that term, I'm used to cavazione, so let's roll with that for consistency.

Capo Ferro flowcharts out four possible defenses for this attack. They are:

  • Two tempo parry-riposte
  • Counterattack in opposition (aka "single tempo parry-riposte" because Capo Ferro uses parry and riposte kind of interchangeably at times. This is performed simply by turning your hand over into the opponent's blade, not with a countercavazione.)
  • Void and counterattack (aka "counterattack with avoidance")
  • Countercavazione
Each of these defenses, naturally, has a counter. So when your opponent gains your blade, you feint with a disengage to flush out one of those defenses and then you counter it. (This is the core of the way the Capo Ferro plates are set up: Action, Defense and then Action, Defense, Counter.) The counters are:
  • Two tempo parry-riposte: disengage back, avoiding the parry
  • Counterattack: two tempo parry-riposte
  • Void: two tempo parry-riposte (note: scannatura is a two-tempo parry riposte, just saying)
  • Counterdisengage: any of the initial defenses, though for this drill just recavazione for simplicity's sake
From my quick glance now, it looks like a drill could be set up to chain one into another into another, but practicalities of range, hitting the other person, and working an action out of a void would probably cause it to break down a little over time. Still though, it's a thought.

The basic drill is, in effect, to recreate the plates from Capo Ferro, running through everything in sequence. So it goes like this:
  1. You start off having gained your opponent's blade. Your opponent performs an attack by disengage. You perform one of the initial defenses and strike your opponent. Repeat until you have performed all four defenses against your opponent's attack.
  2. You again start off having gained your opponent's blade. Your opponent feints a disengage, and you respond with one of the initial defenses. Your opponent performs the correct counter for the defense and strikes you. Repeat until you have performed each defense and your opponent has countered them.
  3. Switch sides. Do it again. When you begin to run it through for the second time on a side, remember to change your starting inside/outside blade positions, so you work both lines.
Guy does bring up a very good point near the end of the video, that is well worth keeping in mind: Four possible actions can come out of you performing a feint. You need to be able to predict (or better, force) your opponent's reaction. How do you do that? Discuss!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Leather flask, continued.

I'm progressing on this little project and it's making me happy, so all of you get to hear about it and get proof of me learning things. Or something.

Anyway! I'd gotten my hands on a marking wheel, so I laid out one of the pieces of leather, put the pattern on top of it, and traced along with the wheel. Then I put the two pieces of leather together, got my leather awl, and drove holes.

I learned a couple of things at this point:

  1. Using a marking wheel when there's anything more than a gradual curve in the seam is a giant pain in the ass.
  2. I didn't use a groover, but if I did - even if only to just mark a line rather than carve out a groove - it might have helped with the above problem.
  3. Alternately, just manually spacing out holes on a line I made, but that strikes me as painful.
  4. Punching holes through both layers of leather worked fine on the top layer, less fine on the bottom.
  5. I had a cutting board under the leather. Maybe if I had something with more give, more of the awl could have moved through and made clean holes in both layers. Maybe a wooden board of some kind? Or a thick piece of leather over a board. 
  6. Make sure you keep the awl vertical at all times when punching with it.
  7. Because of all the above problems combined, some holes don't line up. 
  8. Cheap awls break.
So, yeah. I've got a newer better awl set on the way to me (thanks, Amazon!) and I'll be putting more holes in the leather soon. Here's a Value-Added Picture of how things looked shortly after I got going - I took a break on it yesterday evening and I was about halfway done stitching around the outside. I'm using what I think of as a two-needle figure eight stitch, because that's what my friend Alex taught me to do with leather.

Next step - finish the stitching and then go pound sand!