Friday, February 26, 2016

Practice Report

In the absence of a real meaty entry, I'm just dropping this quick practice report here.

Worked through basic opposition and also Capo Ferro's hierarchy with Remy. Good to get back to more fundamentals! My outside line opposition is still pants, but I've got some thoughts on that. Also, when we're working the hierarchy, I think that it'll be a good idea to work each step slowly and then again at speed, just to make sure that the actions are correct. Also, to make sure that each partner is doing their actions with real intent to strike - I think both of us were getting a bit lazy on that at points, and that doesn't do anyone any good at all.

Once we tweak those, I think it'll end up being really helpful to crunch on the hierarchy for a bit. It lets me work on a few things that I've decided still need fixing - voids, extending when I cavazione in one tempo (dammit, self), getting a good extend/lean/lunge in - and fundamentals never go badly.

Freebouting went really well and left me feeling great. Effingham commented that while I was doing Fabris that I'd seemed to have incorporated some very me aspects into it, which gives me hope that it'll all become natural at some point. Fighting Kai was also fantastic, and forced me to keep moving, circle, and not let up the pressure but keep it on with passing steps.

Good stuff, A++, will keep practicing.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Poor Scholarship or No Scholarship?

I know, I promised Fabris next. And I'm drafting that entry now, but a couple discussions came out of some thoughts I had earlier, and I figured they were worth putting up here.

Out there on the internet, someone had posted a link to John Clements' book on rapier combat, saying that it's a super great resource. These days though, it's really kind of worse than no resources at all in a lot of ways.

This led me to start to wonder - what's worse, poor scholarship or no scholarship?

When Clements published this book in 1997 (if I'm not wrong), there was a huge lack of commonly available resources for rapier combat. Wilson's The Art of Defence came out in 2002, I believe. Windsor's The Duelist's Companion was out in 2006. (I'm pretty sure of those dates, after some digging. If I'm wrong, please correct me.)

Today, there are any number of excellent resources available for rapier combat. Even discounting online communities, blogs, and self-published ebooks to focus on traditionally published works, we have Wilson's book in a second edition, Windsor's take on Capo Ferro, Leoni's translations, and more. Venturing online, there are a huge number of quality blogs, Dante's self-published ebook, and the Acadamie Duello website and DVD. There are so many high-quality scans of the original manuals, and various translations of them. The Wiktenaur site is amazing. We're really spoiled for choice in many ways.

So because of the time it came out, Clements' book was really the only game in town, and I'd venture to say that the sweeping majority of people sure didn't know how to really judge the contents. That's fine, though - we know better now, and have more and more available resources to us.

The thing is, I think that just because it's been around for so long, some of the early bad scholarship has entered our long-term DNA. Clements' book keeps getting brought up on occasion. Weird little snippets of bad technique keeps reappearing. I'm certainly guilty of this - very early misinterpretations of concepts appeared, were taught, and while they've since been corrected, it seems like the corrections are playing catch-up to the spread of the original poor technique.

How do we excise the existence of what we know to be bad resources or bad technique? Is it even possible, with books and papers just being out there? A friend compared it to Kudzu - it just spreads, and when someone rolls in from the outside to try and correct what a group has been taught and keeps teaching, there's a risk of being seen as That Terrible Reenactor/Scholar/Whatever.

On the other hand, some of that early bad scholarship led to good scholarship and led to what we have today. It got people interested, and learning. It helped bring about what we have now.

Even today, newer people can have ideas based on poor understanding of the work, but the community is generally such that it's caught, taught correctly and in a generally helpful and encouraging way, and we all move on better for the experience.

How do we give due credit to the scholarship of the past, which helped us form the community we have today, while acknowledging that the scholarship was poor, and not letting the erroneous conclusions of it become ingrained any further?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Mair's Sickle, Plate Three

Plate Three is entitled, "A cut against a way of pulling by the opponent." Wiktenaur's image for it is here. (Though I admit to preferring the image in the translation here, I think it's interesting to see the slight differences in how the combatant on the right is stepping. Huh. That seems like it might be important here.)

The action starts with the fighter on the left initiating, continuing the trend. Fighter A then, stands with the right foot forward, and the right hand stretched out high in front (the hand seems to be in front of the face, and the sickle extends from there), and the left hand placed back on the left hip. Fighter B stands similarly to A.

First Variation

  • Fighter A steps forward with their left foot and strikes B in the head. Done!
Second Variation
  • Fighter A steps forward with their left foot and strikes at B's head.
  • Fighter B parries the sickle towards their right side, and then hooks A's right arm and pulls them in. (I admit, this is an action I'm not sure about, and this is something that's going to get a lot of error testing with Doroga. It feels like cutting directly to the arm might well work here, but I'm not sure. I want to say that intercepting the sickle first is more technically correct, but moving from sickle to arm without controlling the weapon hand might not be right.)
Third Variation

  • Fighter A steps forward with their left foot and strikes at B's head.
  • Fighter B parries the sickle towards their right side, and then hooks A's right arm.
  • Fighter A grabs B's weapon hand, pulls them to the right, strikes the left side of B's head, and pulls backward. (This is another part of why the parry and then hook seems correct, albeit untested - if it was a real strike to the arm out of the gate, it would already be messier?)
Fourth Variation
  • Fighter A steps forward with their left foot and strikes at B's head.
  • Fighter B parries the sickle towards their right side, and then hooks A's right arm.
  • Fighter A grabs B's weapon hand, pulls them to the right, and strikes at the left side of B's head.
  • Fighter B pulls back to avoid the cut.
  • Fighter A follows B, passing the right foot forward, and strikes at B's right hand.
That's it! This is going to get some serious error testing the next time Doroga and I are in the same place, which will be great. Then I'll post thoughts, reactions, and very likely corrections!

Between now and then, I'm hoping to do a bit on Fabris, because we never forget him around here.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Mair's Sickle, Plate Two Followup Thoughts

Part of the fun of making the trip down to King's and Queen's Arts and Sciences Championship was the fact that Doroga and I would be stuck hanging out for a large chunk of the day.

With our A&S displays.

And sickles.

So the inevitable happened, and we worked on Plate Two! We had a few immediate takeaways from it that I wanted to mention here, and I'm sure that we'll spend more time on both Plate One and Two at practice tonight so we'll end up with more. (I'm hoping to get Plate Three written up tomorrow, and get some work done on it as soon as we're in the same place at the same time again.)

  • We both found Plate Two to be a good deal simpler to work through than Plate One. Granted, it was a full step shorter, even considering the decision point at the end, but it just clicked better for us.
  • The decision tree was a really interesting one, and something that I think comes up a great deal in that kind of close combat; how does it fall out when combatant feels that they're pressing a point that they really shouldn't and decides to bail vs. when a combatant doubles down on the position that they're in? In either case, it's absolutely possible to capitalize on your opponent's decision if you're in the right position, and Mair points that out to us.
    • Yes, this does mean that you can be pulled into a position from which there is no good exit. The best answer to this is to not get into that position in the first place, however...
    • ...the lack of a good exit relies on the combatant knowing how to capitalize on the situation that they're in. You can get away with bad positioning if you sufficiently outclass your opponent's skill, but that's absolutely not a winning strategy long-term.
  • The final strike in the play if the opponent presses ("If B presses the engagement, A pushes B's arm off to his left [this is the opponent's weapon arm, which A has grabbed moments before] and strikes B's left arm with his sickle and pulls back") was a really interesting moment to work through. As we read it, you are striking the arm of your opponent as they continue to hold your weapon arm with their hand. This was something that I did without thinking, which caused Doroga and I to go back and examine the movement fairly closely, since it didn't seem to be a motion that was as natural to him. (Doroga, if I'm wrong, you should tell me!) It really seemed to be something which relied very heavily on the properties of the specific weapon in use here - this wouldn't work with a dagger, or a blunt object. The wrist-roll involved can either catch the point of the sickle in your opponent's forearm (potentially even the crook of the elbow depending on where on your arm you've been grabbed) or loop the entire curve of the weapon around their whole forearm. In either case, when you pull back sharply, there's going to be quite an effect on your opponent.
  • The height differences between Doroga and I were an interesting problem. For instance, when the text for Plate One specifies that he is to push my am back to my ribs, he found it easier to be able to fold it across my body. That made the final step of the play a little more difficult, but not impossible. It's interesting to have to reconcile the text vs. the reality of the situation. For now, the text takes precedence, but in the long term being able to investigate other possibilities could be interesting.
I'll hopefully have more thoughts after tonight! After I post any that we have, I'm looking forward to a post on Plate Three, and then I want to ramble out some thoughts I've been mulling over about Fabris' extended guards compared to his more withdrawn ones, and the pros and cons of each. (Because we never forget our Fabris around here.)