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.