Sunday, June 3, 2018

A.V.B Norman's "The Rapier and Small-Sword" reprints available!

This is a seriously exciting thing. No, like, more exciting than that.

A.V.B. Norman's absolutely amazing catalog and classification of rapier hilts has been out of print for years; probably decades. It's a fantastic work to have for serious researchers of the rapier, and an absolute pain to get your hands on - a quick google search as I type this post up shows used copies going for about $300 and up, converted from British pounds.

Now though, we have an authorized reprint. This is a facsimile of the 1980 edition, and is going for £32.50, or about $43, converted as I'm writing this.

I have no idea how long this reprint will be available for, so jumping on this is probably a good call. I can say that while I don't bust out my copy of Norman often, when I do, it is utterly irreplaceable as a resource for what it covers.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Dual Entry - Brain vs Body and Secondary Fabris Sources

First up, Brain vs Body!

I've been noticing that for the past handful of practices, I've been really down on myself about my single rapier fencing.

Granted, I might have been feeling down in general. My tennis elbow is flaring (yes, again) and that's always going to be a drain. Also, lack of sleep and other stuff going on. Still though, this feels different - I'm being very hypercritical of what I'm doing, how messy it all seems, and how I'm just not able to execute the plays that I want.

Some of it, I think, is because I'm trying to execute something despite what my opponent is giving me. This is absolutely something that comes up in practice for a lot of us, especially when we've been reading or drilling certain actions. We want to try and use what we've been focusing on, but our opponent isn't often so accommodating - either they're not giving us the setup we need for the action we want to use, or as we often see in the SCA, there's a lack of commitment to their action for us to capitalize on. Or, well, both.

More than that though, I think that I'm running into a developmental hurdle which I don't see too many people talking about, but I do see people hitting and getting very frustrated by - your brain is internalizing an action as a concept before it's able to really make your body do it as you understand it. Basically, you can see what you should be doing, but you just can't seem to make it work.

Of course, if you have a tendency toward being hypercritical of yourself (hi!) this ends up being one of the worst mental places you can get into, despite it being part of normal skill development.

It might not always be the case for what's happening, but especially if you've really been focusing on training and expanding your skill set, it's worth considering as a cause.

Second up, Secondary Sources!

So one of the pieces of feedback I got at Kingdom A&S Champs was that I should be using more (any, really) secondary sources for Fabris. Problem is, I just don't know of anyone who's specifically writing on Fabris. (Capo Fero I could do easily enough, but Fabris? Not so much.) Depending on what I wanted to focus on, I could possibly reference some training videos but they'd be behind a paywall. (Though I did for a moment think that this would really just up the accuracy of any of my papers in terms of making them feel like real academic publishing, right?)

Aaaanyhow, I ended up tripping over a pair of manuals which I might end up mining for insights as secondary sources; just not modern ones. First is New Discourse on the Art of Fencing, translated by Reinier van Noort - originally titled Newer Discurs der Rittermeßigen und Weitberümbten Kunst des Fechtens, by Joachim Köppe. Köppe's manual was published in 1619 in Magdeberg, Germany - after meeting Salvatore Fabris in Paris in 1608 or 1609, where he says that Fabris gave Köppe himself a copy of Fabris' own treatise! Certainly, Köppe's manual is absolutely in the style of Fabris, though he takes pains to point out that he did not plagiarize Fabris' own book, pointing out that while he gained many insights from Fabris there is material in his own book that a reader would not find in Fabris'. Of special interest is Köppe's chapter on "resolution," which I hope will provide his interpretations of principles presented in Fabris' Book Two - proceeding towards your opponent with resolution.

The second book is Of the Single Rapier, also a translation by Reinier van Noort. This is a translation of Grondige Beschryvinge van de Edele ende Ridderlijcke Scherm- ofte Wapen-Konste, by Johannes Georgius Bruchius, published in 1671 in Leiden, in the Netherlands. Interestingly, after Köppe took many pains to point out that he did not plagiarize Fabris' work, it seems as though Köppe was himself plagiarized by Bruchius, among others. That said, there is material in Bruchius' work which is original, and I hope to be able to mine this book for some thoughts as well.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

April Update Time

Nothing super new since the last update, but let's not let this blog just lie around completely dead, right?

Practice continues apace! So does conditioning work, when my schedule, son, and health allow. So that's good. I'm trying to be better about being kind to myself when my meat-car isn't allowing me to do what I want at a practice or at the gym, and buckling down and doing what I can.

The regional practice we had in Carolingia was a blast, fencing at Mudthaw was great (the C&T tourney was fantastic!), and seeing a couple old faces show up at local practices has also been fun. Need more of that.

I should really get around to editing the draft post I've got sitting around on competition, mastery, headspace, and journey over destination. That'll take a lot of focus to make sure that I get it right, but I'm hoping that next week I can finally get that up. (Warning: it'll probably still be super rambling and messy, but whatever.)

I'm definitely teaching a class on Fabris' forte guards at EK 50 Year, which should be fun. It'll by necessity touch on Book Two, but not go into any great detail there. There's also going to be a By the Book Tournament that I have some very high hopes for. I'm really looking forward to all of that, along with what will no doubt be a bunch of ad-hoc teaching around the field. Good times!

(I'm also thinking of doing a class sometime based on the period methods "to fence a bestial man" which should be a hoot.)

Balfar's is in a couple weeks, and I'm planning on marshaling the melees, and doing So. Many. Pickups. All the pickups forever.

And that's all the news that's fit to report right now!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Still going!

Yup, this blog is for reals still going! It's just that life has been busy and when sleep is that hard, so are blog updates.

Here we are, though! Let's get caught up.

In my world of rubber meets the road fencing, I won this year's King's and Queen's Rapier Championship. The tournament was fantastically well run, and was full of good fencing, good people, and was as problem-free a tournament as I've ever seen. People were excellent to each other, fought their best, and kept it clean. I was so excited to get to fight my buddy Devillin (who was chosen as Queen's Champion, which is great!) in the finals, and thrilled to get to fight the fights that we had. (Plus, people got video, so I've been able to re-watch them ad-nauseum and critique my Fabris form. This isn't a good idea for long term mental health. Obsess over videos of your fights in moderation!)

In the world of I Do Research Papers About Martial Arts, I entered my paper on applying Fabris' system to the buckler in St. Elegius back in November, incorporated feedback from that, and entered it into King's and Queen's A&S Champions this past weekend. While I didn't make it to the final round, I am so stoked that Doroga - whose blog is over here and you should check it out - was selected as the Queen's A&S Champion for his paper on Destreza. Big congratulations to him for that!

I got some very good feedback from from the judges about my paper (and I was very happy that while the rubric forms were handed out to all the entrants, feedback was delivered verbally and allowed for good discussions over it); primarily structural issues with it, which are definitely good to hear about from a fresh set of eyes. It was interesting to hear that the judges would have liked to see some secondary sources, as opposed to just the primary ones that I had - we had a good laugh over how it's almost always the other way around. I think a paper with a broader topic would have been more interesting for the judges, but I had made the active decision to walk into a narrow but deep topic instead and focus on Fabris. It hamstrung me somewhat on being able to write to the rubric, so that is what it is. While I would have liked to have done better in the competition, folks were very enthusiastic about my research and it went over very well - so I'm pleased with all that. Also, I'm just ridiculously excited for my friend Doroga and he deserves every bit of praise for his selection as champion! And the first martial A&S champion in the East, no less! This is going to be a great year.

Also, while it wasn't martial work, I want to take the moment to congratulate Elena Hylton for winning King's A&S Champion! Her webpage is here and there's buckets of amazing stuff up there.

I'm planning on hitting Aedult Swim this coming weekend, and while I'm not teaching any formal classes, I'm absolutely always going to be up for working on Fabris or other Italian rapier plays and such with folks, troubleshooting problems, and otherwise swordnerding out.

...maybe I'll look into a formal block of time for doing that at Mudthaw next month? I'll have to see what the schedule for the day looks like.

That's about that! I'll hopefully be able to get back to more regular updates now that the sun is coming back. I've got some headspace thoughts percolating, which could turn into a post any day now.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Today's Rabbit Hole To Fall Down Into - Fabris Book 2, and an Accompanying Video

So at the Western Martial Arts Workshop, or WMAW, there's a big Saturday night dinner for everyone. At the dinner, there are typically a number of martial displays that happen. Generally, these are really high quality displays of combat, and I love watching them just to enjoy two very high level practitioners celebrating their art.

This year, there was one that wasn't a timed free bout. It was different, striking, educational, and is going to end up being something I watch a lot, with my copy of Fabris in hand, because I'm That Kind Of Nerd:

Fabris Book 2, Single Rapier

This is super good stuff.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mid-November Update Time!

Right, so, it's been a couple months and I figure I should ramble for a bit about what I've been up to.

Mostly, I was trying to go from "outline" to "actual real paper" for a paper on (shock!) Fabris. I entered it in the competition at St. Elegius last weekend. It was scored in the "okayish" range - I have a very scientific and technical scale here - and I did get some feedback. I'm planning on reviewing the feedback, thinking about it, and using some of it to revise the paper for A&S Champs in February.

That was a lot harder than it really needed to be - my focus has been pretty shot lately, so buckling down to write was hard. Still, I got it done and edited and submitted, and I'm pretty proud of that. I lost in the research paper category of competition to Elena, but her research kicks so much ass and we were both super excited for the potential to lose to the other.

I also competed in Christoffel's Martial A&S challenge at St. Elegius, using some of Fiore's dagger plays to illustrate the structure of the manual. (And to get a chance to show off some plays that are flagrantly illegal for use in SCA rapier, which is always fun.) Jean-Michel won that with his sweet Lichtenaur play, though Christoffel was really excited to grab me later and tell me about how close it was, which was very nice of him to do.

Other than that, I'm primarily working on trying to Get Good at Fabris' single rapier. I think the biggest issues I keep running into are maintaining good opposition, more dynamic body movement, seizing the tempo, and breathing.

Yeah, breathing. Anastasia keeps pointing out to me after every couple of passes we fight that I need to remember to breathe. I don't think I do this when I'm doing Tournament Fights, just when I'm thinking too hard when I'm practicing. Still, it's worth fixing and isn't too hard to work on. I figure that I'll go back to working on guard transitions during my evening drill time, and remember to breathe during them.

Outside of that, I keep spending time with cloak! Besides needing a longer and heavier cloak (and given the weather lately, that would be nice to have for not-fencing reasons!) it's really all about getting used to the movement of the arm and trusting the drape of the material to protect me like it should. It's a ton of fun though, and I really appreciate why Fabris loves it so much. (Besides the fact that they were ubiquitous and never outlawed, unlike daggers in some places.)

I'll probably pop back up on this after Rapier Champions, unless I have more thinks before then. Which I might, never know!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Thoughts From A Class - Formulating Second Order Principles

Last weekend, I embarked on an utterly ridiculous trip to an event - I flew out to Chicago on Friday to attend the Middle Kingdom Academy of Rapier on Saturday, and returned home (late) Saturday night. I did this primarily because Sir LOGOS had said that he could be convinced to do a three hour class on Fabris, so there we were.

I took a bunch of notes which I'm about done transcribing from my notebook to the computer, at which point I'll edit, revise, and reorganize them into a format which will be more useful to anyone other than myself. They may find their way here, or into class handouts (with credit, natch!) because certainly one of the broadest things I learned from the class was how to better organize and structure a class on Fabris, which is excellent.

However, I wanted to spend some time here kicking around some thoughts that I had around a couple key (for me) points in the class. The specific points aren't deeply important - rather, they're examples of a broader concept in terms of really growing to learn and internalize a period combat system. (Also any combat system, really, but some of my thoughts are pretty specific to working from manuals.)

I think that for a lot of people, when they're working from a manual and want to really internalize and utilize a specific master's fight, there's a lot of "do what the plates show" and "look like the plates" happening, while at the same time you're trying to understand and embody the theory of combat that's described. That all makes sense, and is kind of a first-level understanding. It helps that generally the plates reinforce and demonstrate the theory, so if you work through those plays you can see the theory in action. At that point, you can probably start to extrapolate - What Would Fabris Do Here territory.

What really struck me though, was when points were made that weren't explicitly described in the text - but were no less true for that. They were small things, usually. Placement of the feet, movement of the offside shoulder, and the outsize impact they can have on a fight. They're not described, but they're still there. Second order principles.

It was cool, because if you were really doing everything correctly - I mean really, truly, 100% correctly - you'd be doing all those little things, right? But when you're learning and extrapolating from manuals, it's really interesting to see those realizations happen. To suddenly just get, "oh, wait, I'm turning my hip a little when I do this, and that means..." and there's a sudden wow moment, and usually the conscious realization of one tiny thing just has this massive impact.

So that's just a thing I'm kicking around, and how that can really help measure the real understanding we can have about the fighting arts described in these manuals.