Monday, November 5, 2018

Catching Up, and also, Random Musings on Prowess and A&S

It's been a while since I've posted here. Some of it is being down an arm for a while - which means typing anything meaningful was hard - and some of it was straight-up depression sapping my will to do anything useful, or focus, or whatever. It's a mess.

But I'm doing somewhat better, so I'm dusting off a draft entry and making it into something useful here! While I'm doing that, let's touch on other stuff that I'm poking at:

  • Like I mentioned in a previous entry, I'm poking at some post-period sources which show some serious Fabris influence, mostly to see if they mention anything relevant to his Book Two. I managed to grab a copy of Pascha's "Proper Description of Thrust-Fencing with the Single Rapier," put out by Fallen Rook Publishing. (In the US, it's available from Purpleheart Armory.) Also known by its shelf number of Mscr. Dresd. C. 13, this text has a section which is explicitly the author's take on "The proceeding with resolution" in the style of Fabris! It doesn't seem to have any of the theory, simply the practical flowchart information - overall, that's in keeping with the very straightforward style of this manual - but it's still very interesting to contrast with Fabris.
  • Related to the above, I'm hoping to have something reasonable in progress by this weekend to discuss with folks at St. Elegius. If not, I won't beat myself up over it but I'll still try and kick ideas for a paper and display around with people.
  • I get to judge a Martial A&S challenge at St. Elegius, and I'm excited about that!
  • Before my surgery, I started doing a lot more work with cloak because it was a lot easier on my arm than a dagger was - and wow, it rapidly became one of my most favorite forms. I can't wait to use that as a rehab form and spend more time on it. It's helpful that Fabris' cloak system is extremely simple and straightforward.

Also, I've had some older thoughts kicking around that I kind of want to think-out-loud with up here. At Pennsic (remember Pennsic?) I had a really thought-provoking side conversation with Ibrahim, after the really great Martial Arts and Sciences panel that Doroga put together for us all.

In short, it was "how much does prowess enter into the equation for determining skill at an aspect of historical martial study?" Though it was a short discussion, as we both had things we needed to run off to (in the way of Pennsic) we touched on a number of rabbitholes and I wanted to take some time this morning and kick them around here for thought, in a mostly rambling stream of consciousness post.

So broadly speaking, I think this problem comes about when we consider that - at least in the East, I think - that "martial A&S study" falls into two buckets: that which we can (mostly) do under the existing rapier rule set, and that which we cannot. The latter portion doesn't really impact this discussion; while I've looked at things like sickle combat and the like, we can't do it so we don't really look at "how well someone does it in combat" as part of their evaluation. Okay, so let's just focus on people who study period combat which they can use as part of their rapier (or C&T, whichever) combat.

Before I cannonball into this rabbithole, I want to preface with this: any statements about "what the A&S community is looking for" are coming from my experiences and viewpoint - which could be wrong, or missing some key information. So there's that!

Alright, so. If we're looking at someone who studies a historic master, and dives super deep into them, and learns and teaches and does all the stuff that we want to see out of someone learning a period skill... what do we want to see out of their practical application of that art? (Which is to say, "do we care if they win with it?") This is a weird question to look at, because I can absolutely make arguments on either side of it, or present scenarios where it does or doesn't matter as much.

Part of this discussion is the fact that pure research of skills and knowledge is absolutely a thing. For instance, if someone is studying period shipbuilding, I certainly don't expect them to go out and build a ship as part of their research; that's patently unreasonable. On the other hand, if someone is researching something that they could do, there seems to be an expectation that they go do it to some degree or another - so the hangup becomes "if their depth of knowledge is remarkable, they understand it, they can discuss it, they can teach it, but they lack the practical application of the knowledge, is that enough?"

I'd like to say that, ideally, yes. If someone has read and researched and thought and presented and taught, that should be enough. (My usual analogy here is something like "how many great boxing coaches are also titlewinners? Maybe not a lot, but they still know what they're about.") But on the other hand (there are a lot of other hands in this thought process) I want to be able to really test someone's understanding of how combat should work, and perhaps the best way for that is to actually work through those plays with them on the field. Perhaps that need not be fully combatively - in other words, it need not be an antagonistic and competitive field - but I would still like to work through the plays with someone, and that means that they should be able to perform the actions cleanly and well. To me, that says a lot about their understanding of, appreciation for, and mastery of a concept, technique, and Master.

On yet another hand, I think that how someone approaches it can impact things. Is it purely a line of research for them, or is it a martial art? Certainly, the A&S community has people who do solely research and they're appreciated for it. Also, I think that in many ways, in competitions, martial research is presented as research and not a performance or as a martial art per se. So there's also that.

I'm not sure I have a solid answer for this yet. I know that I really love to see these techniques performed to the fullest extent that we're able - and in some cases that's on the field in armor, and in others that's slowly and carefully in a collaborative setting. Ideally, I think that when performed combatively, practice and understanding of period technique leads to martial prowess - and seeing that played out is also pretty great.

So, yeah. No real answers, but just kicking thoughts around.

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.