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Thread: Fencing

  1. #46

    Re: Why do you think those techniques are forbidden?

    Originally posted by GeneChing
    I'm very familiar with fencing up until about a decade ago... Nobody talked about the Spanish
    My initial assessment to your remarks here was "Perhaps are you conflating modern fencing and historical european swordsmanship? The two are significantly different", and this seems increasingly confirmed as you elaborate.

    If I was interested in elbonian boxing, I would go train in elbonian boxing. And if a bunch of boxers claimed I was weak and a coward because I was doing something other than they're doing, I'd think they're a bunch of narcissistic twits. And if they thought that nothing in the world counts unless it wins boxing bouts, I'd be convinced of it.

    Returning to fencing: chinese swordsmanship hasn't won any olympic fencing bouts either, and I do that too. Do you take me as twice as weak and twice the coward for the affectation? Oh well.

    It is a safe bet that at the moment you wrote that historical Spanish fencing was extinct, and each moment you've defended that assertion, that someone, somewhere was fencing with that method. Food for thought.
    Last edited by Christopher M; 06-08-2004 at 11:02 AM.

  2. #47

    Sport versus recreationist fencing

    How come Bruce Lee studied fencing and not the defunct Spanish school? Because it was not in existence at the time. It has been recently reborn from the research of Mr. Martinez and a few others. It was not handed down in an unbroken chain, from master to apprentice. It is a recreation of how it might have been.

    Mr. Martinez is unusually and laudably forthcoming about his credentials on his website (a practice practioners of all arts would do well to follow) but a bit vague on those of his mentor, Maitre Rohdes; I would like to have known more about him.

    "Sport" fencing has been handed down in an unbroken chain and evolved and modified into a fast paced martial *sport* (where Tai Kwan Do is heading and boxing already is). Martinez and his compatriots are the modern equivalents of the Victorians Hutton, Castle and Burton, recreationists in their own right, rebelling intellectually against the "sportification" of swordplay in a world coming to be ruled by gunpowder.

    What's wrong with that?

    Nothing. In fact, from a historical standpoint it is to be commended.

    If your group allows modern fencers with modern (pistol grip) weapons to compete in your tournaments, then I salute you for your open policies; on the West Coast and in the Midwest, the Classicals are not so open minded.

    Why can you not use your weapons in our modern tournaments? Because we are an international Olympic sport with rules that are applied world wide, just like basketball, just like motorcycle racing.

    However, If you want to fence in a club against sport fencers, I'm sure that some (not all) clubs with an open floor policy would be interested in the experiment.

    You would have to do what was common in the 19th and early 20th centuries and negotiate what target was valid and agree on weapons (remember during the time of the duel, weapons were of a similar weight and length so that ability would decide the match, not technology) but it is do-able.

    I would guess that such interaction would bring a greater understanding of the relative philosophies of the two groups.

    I certainly have had plenty of experience fencing with classical fencers (the few who come out to the clubs and tournaments) and as I wrote earlier, I have enjoyed crossing blades with them. But, even by the most basic rule of "hit and don't get hit" they are lacking. Why?

    If you were going to be in a gunfight tomorrow, would you like a nice cap-and-ball Navy Colt (a fine revolver and very reliable) or would you rather have a 9mm Glock with a laser sight? Don't see too many cops or soldiers with percussion cap revolvers, as good as those pistols are.

    Why? Because, like it or not, modern training and science have really improved the effectiveness of some basic human activities, like violence.

    19th century training gets you slower movement and stiff posture. Modern training gets you speed and strength and absolute control of distance as well as simple hand techinque because the action is too fast to allow for such inefficient yet beautiful actions that make up the old school phrase d'armes.

    Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my classical training during my coaching education. You get to learn all sorts of fun and arcane moves. The modern game is too fast and athletic for much of that, though.

    I am awaiting your riposte.

  3. #48

    Re: Sport versus recreationist fencing

    Originally posted by decafyeti
    If you were going to be in a gunfight tomorrow, would you like a nice cap-and-ball Navy Colt (a fine revolver and very reliable) or would you rather have a 9mm Glock with a laser sight?
    A more germane consideration would be if I was going to be in a swordfight tomorrow. While this is not at all likely, were it to occur, I would prefer to have trained in an environment that addressed lateral movement, percussive techniques, and grappling, because they would be sure to occur in such an unstructured engagement.

    But in any case, I have no interest in debating one school's superiority or another's. If the derisive remarks and allegations of extinction are dropped, then I have no complaint.

  4. #49
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    lol

    ...and what if they aren't dropped?

    I received one of my provost degrees in classical Italian fencing. I really enjoyed the theory, in fact, it changed the way I think about combat in general. I even did that using a traditional Italian grip with a true ricasso, pas 'danes, wrist strap and all. Also, of course, I practice traditional CMA, so don't think that my comments are against traditionalism.

    My comments are more directed to the possiblity of creationism. The whole recent revitalization of the Spanish school reminds me of something that happens in the martial arts all the time - the creation of a new myth to justify a secular activity. It's what scholars call (and this is one of my new favorite terms) the invention of tradition. If you do any research in CMA, you'll find that we are very guilty of this, in almost every origin legend. But East is East and West is West - Western fencing is well documented. There's even a massive bibliography - like a phone book - that just lists title after title of fencing books. So you can chart the lineage of the Spanish school, right down to its demise. Now maybe Martinez's lineage was keeping some ancient teaching alive, like some renegade Shaolin monk or something - I'm open to that just as much as I'm open to the often 're-discovered' Wing Chun skirt fighting techniques of Yim Wing Chun. But I'm also skeptical. If those skirt techniques didn't survive, there's probably a reason, just from a Darwinian perspective. Unless they could prove themselves on the field, I'll remain skeptical.
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  5. #50

    Fencing, reprise d'attaque

    Debating the superiority of one school over another is what makes this fun! Also, the Spanish school is, as I have written previously, extinct.

    What you are doing is the "Martinez School of What Spanish Fencing May Have Been Based Upon Thorough Research of Written Documents From The Time of Thibault". Which as I wrote before is cool in itself, but still it is recreated from books.

    Why from books?

    Because it died out. No living practioners. They were surpassed by the French and Italians who adapted their styles and continued the march into the present. Otherwise, Martinez could have gone to Spain and learned it from a practioner.

    Enjoy it for what it is, historical re-creation with some apparently good scholarship behind it, a modern reconstruction.

  6. #51
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    Re: Re: Sport versus recreationist fencing

    Originally posted by Christopher M


    A more germane consideration would be if I was going to be in a swordfight tomorrow. While this is not at all likely, were it to occur, I would prefer to have trained in an environment that addressed lateral movement, percussive techniques, and grappling, because they would be sure to occur in such an unstructured engagement.

    But in any case, I have no interest in debating one school's superiority or another's. If the derisive remarks and allegations of extinction are dropped, then I have no complaint.
    The vast majority of fencing masters today, with degrees conferred by the various, cooperative, international governing bodies are the direct decendants of masters who taught people to fight duels, not brawls. Duels have been extremely formal affairs for a couple of hundred years. While you may need the lateral movement, although in many instances that, too, would have been proscribed by the rules of engagement, it would be highly unlikely that grappling or smacking someone would be allowed. Duels are arranged affairs, with very clearly delineated rules of engagement. Duels with swords in the past ~100 years do not involve such dramatic breaches of etiquette as you describe, duellists being at least as concerned for their social status as their skin.

    With some possible exceptions, classical fencing training today is, in some form or other, modern interpretations and derivations of past technique as described in extant literature. There are NO direct lines of instruction for Ancient Techniques of western swordplay. Since all such instruction would have to adapt with ever changing technology, the instructors of 15th century swordplay would have been outmoded by the instruction required to save your skin with 17th century sword technology. Of course, there is commonality - long, pointy metal sticks intended for piercing opponents - but you can't dress up "classical" fencing as anything like "true" technique until you or somebody invents a time machine and can prove your theory.

    That's why sport fencers take issue so often with classical fencing. The assumption in a fighting sport has to be 'ok, you got game, bring it.' That doesn't imply ill treatment or rudeness, it just means, until you're willing to bring it, nobody is going to respect it unless you insulate yourself with cronies or lackeys. Like it or not, Olympic style sport fencing is the one western style fecning art that can trace it's origins back over generations. There are classical instructors who can claim some piece of that history, but once they take themselves out of mainstream and into isolation amongst "true believers", they've turned their back on the sport their internationally recognized, trainer of champions instructors lived for. Those originals, faced with a modernized game (if you could bring them to today) wouldn't hide in a gymnasium and proclaim their mastery - they'd get out on the strip and prove to all comers just who's got game. That's what made them champions; they brought the goods. In turn, that success as competitors made them teachers, instructors, masters. So they could, in turn, show others to bring game. No teacher worthy of the name, in any sport, would shield their students from the world, unless they were holding them back for reasons of age or maturity. But once unleashed, the student goes forth to try, play, learn, win, lose, whatever.

    Fencing is fencing. Call yourself a fencer, even if all your pedagogy is out of a book, sooner or later somebody's gonna call you to bring some game. If you won't, what can people do but assume you can't?

    Until the 'classical' gamers can bring some, they'll be marginalized by the fencing world. If they don't care, and want to live in my world and play in theirs, that's cool. Just drop the "fencer" moniker. Maybe "classical sword playerist" would work.

    And finally: School, schmool. There aren't schools, today. Schools are defined today by noting that we need to: 'be better than those people'. The lines between "french school", "italian school" and "hungarian school" are all gone, except as a point of national pride for those people cool enough to have their own school named for their nation. Don't forget the "german school" and the "polish school". Since at least the '60's there's been the "russian school" and now there's the "chinese school" the "cuban school" and the "south korean school". And none of those "schools" are going to take smack from anybody, pick what school you want. They got game, and they'll bring it. The top school is whoever wins today. Tomorrow, different. But the "classical" school people? Not in the game. Well read, erudite? Can be. Historically accurate knowledge? Often. Tough bout? Not likely.

    Of course, I guess a swordfight could just break out, I dunno, at the mall or something. Then, I guess, the grappling techniques might be handy. :-]

  7. #52

    Re: Re: Re: Sport versus recreationist fencing

    Originally posted by Scrap Meister
    Duels with swords in the past ~100 years do not involve such dramatic breaches of etiquette as you describe, duellists being at least as concerned for their social status as their skin.
    Indeed, this is one of the main distinctions between classical and historical fencing, with the historical period being older than this 100 year period your describe, and into an era were use did occur outside the duel. And such a historic method is precisely, as I have noted from the outset, what I am talking about.

    It seems like the consistent problem here is that you guys think someone is appropriating your method when they're not. Here's an example: you're criticizing the stance from the classical period perspective yet that wasn't the perspective in question.

    Previously, it was noted critically that historical fencers are descendants of Hutton and Castle and not of the mainstream of fencing which has developed into modern theory - again, this is precisely what they say themselves.

    Working with historical methods has been criticized here, yet again - as decafyeti pointed out, Martinez and the like are entirely up front with what they're doing.

    All of these - all of your complaints from the beginning - have been based of all of your own entirely incorrect assumptions as to what is going on; that is to say - based on your ignorance.

    until you're willing to bring it, nobody is going to respect it
    The historical method cannot be transposed onto the modern framework, because in so doing it would lose those very elements which distinguish it as historical. This was addressed above in noting the distinction between the classical and historical periods.

    Historical fencers, by and large, have no interest at all in earning a modern fencers "respect"; in "proving it." They're attracted, and have typically gone to great length to participate in (as it is not so populous a field as modern fencing), those exact elements characteristic of the historic approach. The implication that it's somehow flawed until it can be done in the modern context shows a complete ignorance of this fact that it's the historical context which was of interest to begin with. This is like telling a soccer player he doesn't count as an athlete until he can win a football game. Most soccer players would not dignify such an absurdity with a response. As I'm regretting having done so in this case, and there seems little left to clarify (either you get it at this point or you're stilling clinging to that axe hoping to gring it), I'll withdraw. To give you all the benefit of the doubt, I will go inform those I know working on historical methods that they do not exist. If they vanish like mirages at this revelation, I'll return and apologize for my misunderstanding. Otherwise, good practice to you.

    I am glad that those in this conversation new to fencing are intrigued by what the historical method has to offer. This seems to be the typical response, and gives us some hope for the future of these teachings.
    Last edited by Christopher M; 06-11-2004 at 03:15 AM.

  8. #53
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    Re: Re: Re: Re: Sport versus recreationist fencing

    Originally posted by Christopher M

    As I'm regretting having done so in this case, and there seems little left to clarify (either you get it at this point or you're stilling clinging to that axe hoping to gring it), I'll withdraw. To give you all the benefit of the doubt, I will go inform those I know working on historical methods that they do not exist. If they vanish like mirages at this revelation, I'll return and apologize for my misunderstanding. Otherwise, good practice to you.
    Ok, now that cracked me up. :-]

    I get it up to a certain point, and then my brain turns into a path that doesn't get it at all. It's totally my problem. It's why I can't dress up in costume for the Ren Faire, and know with certainty the life-through-fantasy-life of the SCA crowd isn't for me.

    It is odd; after all, I like swords and I like history. The root of the problem for me stems from the fact that Castle, et al, based their teaching on their own conjecture of how it must have worked in the olden days. A lot of Historicals take their work as Truth. Some don't, and they'll pursue their own lines of conjecture from the same root source material or other original sources - mostly.

    It's my own issue that currency and relevance are more important to me.

    I don't intend to inflict wrath upon your head, and won't. You made me laugh, so I concede the touch. I'll just make one last remark about my own ignorance.

    By a wide margin, the Classical and Historical fencers I've met or watched have struck me as posers. I've met far more Classical fencers, so I'll abstain from the Historical discussion henceforth.

    There is extremely little margin for poser-hood in sport fencing. There is a wealth of poser talent amongst the Classical fencers I have met.

    I admit, it colors my opinion overall.

  9. #54
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    respect

    It seems like the consistent problem here is that you guys think someone is appropriating your method when they're not.
    I don't think that's it at all. I think most fencers would like it if the 'classicalists' or 'historicals' appropriated some of the 'modern' method. Then they could fence. As it stands, they can't fence. So why bother?

    Let's look at another sport for an analogy, because I feel that you might be trying to bring in the old "street reality' argument so prevalent in the martial arts today and that's really not relevent here. It's 2004. There hasn't been a real street swordfight in quite some time and the possibility of a new one is quite unlikely.

    So let's look at baseball (BTW, I think your soccer/football analogy is way off base here). I don't think I have to go far to describe the state of baseball in the USA. It's got formally agreed upon rules (although there's some international disagreement between Japan and the US, but the rules of all sports are constantly changing). Now imagine a group is playing 'stick ball' and calling it baseball. Stickball could be thought of as historical baseball, yes? Now suppose they started calling it baseball. What would the baseball players think? Probably not much. Truth is that baseball is so big that the notion of a stickball league, which probably does exist somewhere, has such a minimal impact. I'm sure the baseball players would think it's really funny. Just like any fencer might think about whatever you might be doing, Christopher M. If you want to fence, fence. If you want to play stickball, go for it. But just like you wouldn't call stickball baseball, don't call your game fencing.

    While fencing is not that big in the USA, there are plenty of reputable clubs and competitions across the country. It's even NCAA. Fence for real, with other fencers outside your school. It's a fun sport and a great tradition.

    I should dig up that old fencing thread we had on the main forum a while back. that might be fun to add those guys to this discussion. What do you think?
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  10. #55
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    If you want to fence, fence.

    Looks to me like there is sword-fighting (no holds barred fighting with swords), then there is fencing (with all its rules and regulations imposed ontop of the "fighting with swords".)

    If a fencer told a kalista to bring it with a blade or any weapon, I doubt he would consider himself bound by any rules, specially the ones that make sword-fighting into fencing. What does it matter that the kalista would do poorly in a fencing format?

    "Fencing" is just a set of rules, no matter how well documented. Just a game.

    strike!

  11. #56
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    Missed that news

    Originally posted by yenhoi
    If you want to fence, fence.

    Looks to me like there is sword-fighting (no holds barred fighting with swords), then there is fencing (with all its rules and regulations imposed ontop of the "fighting with swords".)

    If a fencer told a kalista to bring it with a blade or any weapon, I doubt he would consider himself bound by any rules, specially the ones that make sword-fighting into fencing. What does it matter that the kalista would do poorly in a fencing format?

    "Fencing" is just a set of rules, no matter how well documented. Just a game.

    I guess I'm out of the loop, news-wise. I've missed all the reports of murders & deaths by swordfighting. Where is all this no-holds-barred fighting with swords going on?

    There is fencing and, to use Mr. Ching's term, stickball. :-]

    That aside, your latter analogy doesn't wash. Fencers train to use their blades to hit their opponent in the most immediate and effective manner. If you mean by throwing out the rules, they would throw out their technique, then you miss the mark by a wide margin. If, and this is a mighty big IF, I was ever in a position to use a sword to defend myself, I would use one I was very familiar with and use it in the way I've been trained. I wouldn't pick up a duelling sword and start grappling with my opponent or attempt to use my free hand to strike my opponent's eyes. I'd use the duelling sword the way it's meant to be used. Every rule of combat I've ever learned would come out in spades, except stopping - until I knew I was safe. The only rules that apply to fencing as a sport that don't apply to fighting or duelling are counting points and common courtesy. Other than that, it's a fight with swords, full speed. And nobody gets hurt. That's what makes it such a cool sport.

  12. #57
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    Fencers train to use their blades to hit their opponent in the most immediate and effective manner

    This is not true. They train to hit someone using the same (both people use the same weapon) outdated swords (training blades, but none-the-less) under a very strict set of circumstances (rules.)

    / I would use one I was very familiar with and use it in the way I've been trained

    Exactly. And with the limitations imposed by training "fencing" you would die. It is not an effectice way to train modern or historical "blade." Its a very specific way of training and playing a made-up game.

    The rest of your post is IFs and BUTs. What if I attacked you with a sword? To start with, yours wouldent be on you. What if I grabbed you in short range? What if I smashed at you with the butt? What if who cares. Fencing is very well documented training method. We all know the rules and what "they" (you fencers) actually train for. There are other bladed methods out there - moder, historical, filiphino, whatever label you want - that train just as full-contact as fencing, and just as full-explosiveness, as fencing, but train with less limitations: no specific weapondry ('specially outdated weapondry, like the epee), no specific limitations on movement (like the strip or right-of-way.)

    All of these are good training methods and obviously do develop good blade fighting attributes. Fencing is a very specific game, with a very well documented history of its lineage to true blade-fighting methods and its entire mutation from that to its current sport. Its all in the books Gene has read and written about.

    strike!

  13. #58
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    full contact fencing

    That's a really funny concept actually. Kind of like full contact bowling. But coming from a MA standpoint, I can see where the idea of full contact fencing might seem appealing.

    Fencing actually derived from duelling, not battlefield warfare or street fights. I'd attribute the advances in firearm technology to the state of the modern game. Fencing, as we know it, was practiced under the shadow of the gun. It existed in duelling - duels of honor - so rules were very well outlined. Sword duels of honor existed until fairly recently, and some might argue that they still do in Mensur circles. I've been told (but have never personally verified) that it was Governor Reagan that removed legal duelling from CA law and the Louisiana still has duelling under what they call "napoleonic law". Anyway, a duel is a very formal affair. There are all these safeguards so that honor is upheld, face is saved and theoretically, but rarely in practice, the was some margin of safety. The notion of street swordfights like the Three Musketeers or something, died out once guns became fairly handy, ofr obvious reasons. Those duels were fought in on strips with rules of play. Check those books again and you'll see.

    Now duelling is a specific art, something that tests man-to-man (or woman-to-woman, or woman-to-man) fairly. It's sort of like chess. In fact, as I'm sure you know, fencing is often called the 'physical chess.' You can look at chess like a metaphor for combat, sort of a tactical training game. You can argue that it would be good to add things like lind minds to the chess board, since that might exist in a real war. You can keep doing this additions until you have something quite different, more like a wargame, like Risk. But in the end, chess is still a better test. It's a better duel because the rules keep it clean. It's better training because there are more people to spar with you. So who's better in the end, the world chess champion or the world Risk champion? I suppose it's relative to your perpective, but I can actually think of people, real names of chess champions. I've seen chess columns in the daily newspaper. I even see them playing chess on Market st. I never see that with Risk.

    As weapons go, it's true that the modern foil and saber have been extrapolated to something more safe. Fencing injuries still occur, although they're fairly rare because of these safety measures. The epee is still pretty accurate to latter day swords and I'll argue it's a remarkably effective weapon. Just put a live point on one. In fact, as you know, I have extensive weapons training, and I still think that an epee would be one of the top weapons of choice in a real fight. I'd also argue that the power in fencing is the point work, not the blade work. Realistically, saber blade work is lost in the modern game. But it's all in the point. Most weapon styles have to be very cautious about point work because it's so injurious. In Kendo, for example, you can't use the tsuki (sp?) or throat jab until your earned your first dan. A stick or a shinai can't really bend, so if you really get behind it, you can still hurt someone prety badly, armor and all. But the modern fencing sword absorbs the bend of the blow in the weapon. So fencers can work the point like no other combat sport.

    If I can be fast and accurate with a sharp, I don't need power. I've put a sharp epee through wood with minimal effort. That's an epee, mind you, not even something stiffer, like a musketeer blade (a double thick epee blade). It would take less to penetrate skin and puncture an organ.

    BTW, you're IFs and BUTs rebuttal would work better if you didn't say 'if' right after. That undoes it all. True, you can cite other sword combative arts, but that's really apples and oranges here. Nobody is questioning the validity of kendo or escrima or even CMA sword arts here. What is in question is whether or not the re-creation fo historical fencing schools has any validity, especially when there's a clear evolution to modern fencing.
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  14. #59
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    What is in question is whether or not the re-creation fo historical fencing schools has any validity, especially when there's a clear evolution to modern fencing.

    If recreated historical fencing school stylists cannot even compete in real fencing competitions due to the rules (limitations) - specifically the weapon requirements, but "real fencers" CAN enter recreated historical school competitions and rarely fare very well due to the other competitors use of foul tactics and dirty tricks... who is really fooling who when it comes to talking about "bringing game" to prove whos "fencing" is a real and viable method?

    Arent there numerous accounts of many duels where participants used foul tactics and dirty tricks like grabbing and punching?

    strike!

  15. #60
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    Fencers dont train to use the actual sharp of their tool against resisting opponents. How much training time is devoted to poking blocks of wood?

    But in the end, chess is still a better test

    I disagree. What about Go? How can you get any "cleaner" then Go? Why does anyone care about Chess Champion names or columns? Because they care, not because of the nature of the game. Just because a guy is good at chess and people who know about chess know his name doesnt make him smart, it only makes him good at chess. A game. I dont accept your metaphor as accurate.

    strike!

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