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Thread: Fencing and understanding TMA

  1. #1

    Fencing and understanding TMA

    I found out that one of the best facilities in the state for fencing is right down the street from my new appartment. I figured what the hell, I'll give it a try. Now I don't claim to be an expert on TMA as I only breifly studied Ba Gua (I don't count my 2 years in a Kenpo mcDojo as a kid as training), and I am more rooted in the combat arts of BJJ, Boxing, and Judo. That aside the few times I've been fencing I feel I understand the TMA much better.

    With a sword in your hand you move much slower. The blade may travel quickly due to wrist motion, but your arm moves pretty slow if you are used to watching boxing-esque punches coming towards your face. I could definately see slipping to the outside and trying some "chin na" move or combination lock and sweep. I laugh at the prospect of any such move being any better than low percentage against a boxer's punch, but it could definately work against a sword weilding and I'd imagine a spear weilding foe.

    The stances like mountain climber/bow&arrow or that one legged one seem more condusive to sword fighting and can be seen in the lunge or parry. Much of the flashy and unrealistic stuff I've seen in TMA classes and posted on the web would seem to be more condusive to a sword fight than a regular fight due to availability/speed of opponent's limbs and commitment of attack with a sword.

    It's made me wonder that if some of these style were truly made for the battlefield, then obviously bare-handed fighting would be neglected to fighting with weapons. Maybe some of the old masters tried to use movements and attacks that were familiar to them because of their armed fighting in their empty hand training because they were inexperienced when it came to that. I'd think that it's even more likely that when the arts went away from the battlefield, some masters that had a more romantic notion of fighting took the armed maneuvers and applied them to unarmed combat because they were more aesthetically pleasing. I dunno. I'm just bored and thought I'd share.

  2. #2
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    Thumbs up

    Makes sense to me. Keep it coming! Love to hear more of your thoughts on it.
    I laugh at the prospect of any such move being any better than low percentage against a boxer's punch, but it could definately work against a sword weilding and I'd imagine a spear weilding foe.
    I have a much-older friend who was a 'Nam era USMC silver gloves boxer- I always check any techniques out with him. Most of the time, he laughs.
    -Thos. Zinn

    "Children, never fuss or fret
    Nor let unreason'd tempers rise
    Your little hands were never meant
    To pluck out one anothers eyes"
    -McGuffey's Reader

    “We are at a crossroads. One path leads to despair and the other to total extinction. I pray I have the wisdom to choose wisely.”


    ستّة أيّام يا كلب

  3. #3
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    What elements of fencing did you think translated "well" into empty hand fighting?

    Surely elbows, footwork, and their ideas of timing and rhythm make the cut?

    strike!

  4. #4
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    Combative fencing and swordwork has always had a brief relationship with the old occidental fighting arts such as boxing.

    To take this into a different direction fencing is a great method to learn impact/stick skills. Some say to really learn how to use a stick you should learn the saber.

    The engilsh called it singlestick and the french and italians la canne.
    Regards

  5. #5
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    Hey Ford,

    Your thread brought me out of KFM online retirement!

    I've been going insane the last year---working 50 hours a week full time, a Taiji apps class, fencing AND a grad program at Tufts. But I'm done the grad program, so I can waste some time here .

    I'm really enjoying fencing, and I feel it's helped my CMA swordwork immensely. There's nothing like full-speed, full-power against a resisting opponent, even if the weapons are blunt. The distance, the footwork, the speed, the timing, and getting used to feints is really great. There's SO much similarity between Taiji sword and saber, and the fencing weapons. Almost every technique and drill I learned in Taiji swords has some counterpart in fencing, with the exception of some of the Taiji saber moves that support the blade with the left hand and use the force of the whole body.

    Especially I think it works with Taiji, since it's constantly emphasized in fencing not to use muscular strength, and to built up a sensitivity with the blade. We did this foil drill in fencing the other day that reminded me a lot of Taiji----we closed our eyes and touched blades with our partner, and then the partner would advance or retreat while keeping blade contact, and press your blade down or disengage for a lunge, and you had to sense what he was doing with your eyes closed, just from the subtle feel of his blade with yours and respond appropriately.


    Of course, there's some sport aspects to fencing that make it unrealistic, like the "flick" attacks, and the restricted stances and targets, but I've gained a lot of respect for the "realism" of fencing as I go along. Some things, like "right of way"(where you can't score a point unless you're attacking) may seem unrealistic at first, but then you realize that it's designed to reward powerful, forceful attacks, which would be more lethal in real life.

    Are you interested in any of the fencing weapons in particular? I do all three, but I'm 5'7" and quick, and I find foil and saber more to my liking, as they seem to reward athleticism---those **** 6-footers kill me in epee with their reach and point control!

  6. #6
    Hey Ky-Fi!

    I was actually going to make a thread to your attention, but I figured you had left KFO for good. That's good to know somebody more experienced thinks that it transfers well to the tai chi swords. I have one at home and have practiced some drills with it, and I thought the movements translated well to it.

    I've only been a few times, so I haven't handled an epee or saber yet. I was thinking about an epee because I saw striked to the whole body are allowed. I'm 6' and have long arms and am pretty quick and athletic. Maybe an epee would be good. I'll be foiling it for a few months at least. I've been trying to get the fiance to do it with me since there is no emphasis on strength. An added bonus is she gets to stab me.

    I hear ya with the work. What did you get your masters in? I've been thinking about heading back to school because computers just don't do it for me anymore. Are you training on the north shore? Take it easy! Hope all is well.

  7. #7
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    more fencing, eh?

    I guess Bruce Lee was really on to something.

    For me, fencing really helped me understand combat theory. I have yet to find another combat theory that is as elegant as fencing theory. The Chinese stuff is poetic, but not mathematical. Leave that to a western art.

    By the way, have you read By the Sword? Definately worth a look if you're into fencing, very informative and entertaining.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  8. #8
    Funny you should mention that, Gene. I was looking at that in B&N last week. I was already buying two other books, so I figured I'd get it later. I'm almost done with those books though!

  9. #9
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    If not buying it, B&N DOES have those big nice chairs to sit around in to read books that you dont have $$ for....

  10. #10
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    Hey Ford,

    I, too, got tired of my career path (financial), and got my degree in Museum Studies! Not sure if and when I can afford to make the jump full-time, but I'm now qualified .

    Yeah, I think taller people tend to have an advantage in epee, but it's not a hard and fast rule. It does change the game when the whole body becomes a target, but it can be frustrating as hell to go to epee after doing a lot of foil. I'll just be mentally preparing to launch an explosive, composed attack ending in a lethal lunge, when my epee opponent pokes the 1/2 square inch of my arm that I left exposed---son of a'....!!!!

    My only advice to you would be to stay with it for 3 or 4 months---that's how long I was told it would take before I started to feel comfortable putting things together and bouting, and I found that to be pretty accurate. I'm still on the North Shore, and fence at the 3MB club:

    www.3MB.org

    If you feel like it down the road sometime, you should stop by for a visit---there's club equipment to use, and it's a pretty relaxed atmosphere.

    Gene,
    Yes, I do have By the Sword--great book. I loved hearing from William Hobbs (choreographer of Three/Four Musketeers, Hamlet, Rob Roy, etc..) that the actor with the most natural fencing abiltiy that he worked with was Gene Wilder.

    Another book that I picked up that I thought was really excellent was The Secret History of the Sword---Adventures in Ancient Martial Arts. The author really debunks tons of myths about sword history.:

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...books&n=507846

  11. #11
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    I used to be captain of my Uni fencing team until I gave it up. Interesting you noted that flick hit. That's actually one of the primary reasons i gave it up. The prevelance of extreemly bendy foils and the popularity of flick hits to the back was, IMHO degrading the art. I met many competing fencers who couldn't parry to save their lives but jumped about the place wrapping their sword round at impossible angles that would only result in the merest scratch of the back of your shoulder.

    As for right of way. The real reason is that if you don't gain right of way then your opponant will get you anyway. If he's attacking you and you do a 'stop hit' but fail to parry the initial attack. His momentum will continue to carry him forward and you end up just as dead as he is. Another problem, certainly at club and regional level was the tendancy of presiding officials to just watch the clever gizmo with the lights on it and ignore the fencers. Of course, they couldn't make judgments about right of way of they aren't watching you fight.

  12. #12
    Hey Ky-Fi,

    Good luck with the new career. I'll stop by after a few months, so I can at least get some experience. My fiance is still up in Peabody, so I'm in the area often enough.

    TIgerJaw,

    the flick hit kind of sounds like a point-fighting tap.

  13. #13
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    Ford
    With a sword in your hand you move much slower. The blade may travel quickly due to wrist motion, but your arm moves pretty slow if you are used to watching boxing-esque punches coming towards your face. I could definately see slipping to the outside and trying some "chin na" move or combination lock and sweep. I laugh at the prospect of any such move being any better than low percentage against a boxer's punch, but it could definately work against a sword weilding and I'd imagine a spear weilding foe.
    I've never done European style fencing but in my experience of Japanese sword-based arts, I would say the same. I think a lot of aikido's really really unrealistic training techniques got that way because a lot of the aiki locks are based on methods to get someone's hand off your sword-arm... and consequently, the way that someone is going to grab and try to stick to your sword arm looks like complete nonsense if you try to translate it unadulterated, into an unarmed technique, because nobody does just grab you like that.

    So yes, the stepping off, engaging ('wrapping up') the 'sword'-arm and lock and sweep stuff, I think is very useful against someone armed with an edged weapon and not so useful hand to hand (of course, coupled with a some well-landed strikes it's going to work better).

    BTW, my aiki sensei used to do fencing, and the speed and flexibility with which he moves his wrist for locking is really something to feel.
    its safe to say that I train some martial arts. Im not that good really, but most people really suck, so I feel ok about that - Sunfist

    Sometime blog on training esp in Japan

  14. #14
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    Originally posted by Ford Prefect
    Hey Ky-Fi,

    the flick hit kind of sounds like a point-fighting tap.
    It is, in a manner of speaking but there's more to it than that.
    Fencers only ever fight in a way that MAs would recognize as point sparring. There isn't really a concept of free fighting. I know some schools do but it isn't codifyed (SP?) in the syllabus.

    The flick hit makes use of the fact that the sword is quite flexible. You bring the blade out wide and flick with the wrist as to bend the top halve of the sword (foible) in an arc and hit you're opponant arround their guard or even on the back of their shoulder. It's a tricky technique and needs good control or you give your opponant a nasty welt and get yourself disqualified.

    As recently as 10-15 years ago, the foil could only bend at the foible and flick hits were very hard and required great skill. Pretty much only very good fencers and left handers could do them (if you're a lefty you learn how to flick arround your opponants blade because it's on the same side as yours). By the time I gave it up, the foils that many fencers used were flexible down 2/3 of their length and people were using flick hits as a basic technique because they're so easy with a flexible sword. It was getting to the point where you could go to a competition and not see a single lunge or parry and riposte. Some fencers never even attacked to the front of the body at all. Maybe I just became a dinosaur but I decided that I didn't like the way things were going and i didn't want to give up my classical techniques so I quit.

    Another one was the 'loss of equilibrium rule'. One of my favorite techniques involved droping to the floor and using the unarmed hand and one foot to support yourself. I loved it for the "where the hell did he go?" effect that it had. Then they went and outlawed putting you hand on the floor.

  15. #15
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    The lengthened stances close the gap.

    Consider that the foil and epee are piercing weapons, not slashing weapons, ergo a thrust is what makes it most effective and a thrust with a foil or epee is facilitated best with a lunge into a long stance. If the end of the foil was not wrapped (blunted and tipped), it would cut on a "tap" and pierce the opponent.

    The technique in olympic style fencing has the tap made and a withdrawal following, simply because the point has been made. In actuality, the tap opens the cut and the lunge drives the foil into the opponent.


    What I have found is that fencing translates well into some of the techniques for jian/gim, especially the strike the nearest target idea (there are many gim/jian techniques that attack the wrists and hands of the opponent). My personal observation on this is that the jian is a piercing and slashing weapon and therefore shares a lot of the piercing techniques with foil and epee.

    Fencing does not translate well into broadsword techniques as there are not many physical similarities between the two weapons.

    cheers
    Kung Fu is good for you.

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