Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The So What? Dodge, Part II

The following is an interview of myself conducted by one Matt Grettir regarding Lessons on the English Longsword and the pan-European Theory. I have decided to let it serve as the 2nd part of The So What?Dodge. The questions posed to me are in italics. My answers are in plain text. -B.

Matt G.:   In Lessons on the English Longsword, you postulate a continuity of European martial art. Because the book is so lengthy, your argument is spread out across several pages and indeed several sections. Is it possible for you to agree with or clarify my summary of your argument, to wit: 

"The art of the longsword did not spring whole cloth from Master Liechtenauer's imagination. Prior to Liechtenauer, the longsword had been in use for quite some time, and the longsword's predecessor, the epee de guerre for some time prior to that. Given that I.33 seems to take for granted the existence of a broader art of fighting, and in light of other contemporary references to fighting masters from a broad range of sources, cross-fertilization of techniques and overarching martial philosophy seems inevitable."
BPH: Well, the author of the longsword treatise in the Dobringer manuscript comes right out and tells us that “There is only one art of the sword” and that it was developed over centuries. This view is corroborated by Fiore, in his own manner, as well as Ringeck (who states that “Alles fechten kompt vom ringen;” and similarly, Fiore refers to the plays of abrazare as the “pillars of the Art"); in addition to Siber, Vadi, and others. Indeed, the majority of the masters of note say essentially the same thing, and the others are generally silent upon the matter. So, it would appear that this was the broad consensus. But, of course, consensus alone proves nothing.
In point of fact, the art of the longsword is descended, indirectly, from the art of sword and buckler; the techniques whereof were instrumental in generating the methods with which the epee de guerre was used in combat. And this in turn, along with new developments in armour - which necessitated different blade forms and ways to use them - generated the art of the longsword. 
What of sword and buckler, you may well ask? The art of sword and buckler derived from what I refer to as the Old Art: namely, the art of sword and full-sized shield; itself a product of the “Dark Ages,” the Classical period before that, and the period before the Classical, in all likelihood. The Old Art coexisted for a long time with the new(er) art, which was broad enough in scope and complexity to absorb and appropriate the entirety of the technical syllabus of its predecessor, while simultaneously being more dynamic and inclusive. 
This “new art” was, of course, the Knightly Art of Dobringer, Ringeck, Man yt Wol, Fiore, et al; which was comprised of sword and buckler, falchion, longsword, dagger, spear, ringen/abrazare, pollaxe, and a few parochial weapons unique to certain regions (the multi-hooked, barbed and spiked Germainic dueling shield, for example). Both on foot and mounted. Both in armour and out of armour. And all of them, as attested by both Ringeck and Fiore, come from wrestling and striking without weapons. 
So, it’s not so much about cross-fertilization as it is about paradigms and what comes out of paradigms. Systems arise out of paradigms, and traditions (such as the German, English, and Italian traditions) arise out of systems. Lineages (which are thought to be so important that the Liechtenauer lineage, comprising but one aspect of the German Tradition, is called a “tradition” in it’s own right) find their roots in Traditions. Schools spring from lineages, and styles (also erroneously thought to be so very important by so very many) comprise the very bottom aspect on the totem pole of importance, and are derived from schools. And paradigms, it should go without saying really, arise from the circumstances and technology available in any given epoch.
The Old Art arose from the old ways and old mode of fighting. It was comprised of sword and shield, wrestling, spear, dart (javelin), dagger, and various forms of axe. All primarily, but not exclusively, on foot. Armour was a factor but not nearly as important a factor as it was to be in the Knightly Art. It was a product of its paradigm, which was similar, but different, to the paradigm that gave rise to the Knightly Art. The Knightly Art absorbed all of the Old Art, and what’s more, significantly added to it. Thus was the Old Art granted an extension, a new lease on life, rather than being eradicated. 
So, there was no real cross-pollination, per se. It was the fighting art of one class, one exclusive set of guys, all part of a large, violent, squabbling extended family interconnected through a tangled web of family ties, oaths of fealty, the system of vassalage, politics, common enemies, grudges and blood feuds. All of that good, good stuff. And this set of circumstances provided the crucible that brought forth the Knightly Art, and in particular the art of the longsword. A new paradigm that subsumed, rather than destroyed, the old paradigm, incorporating new aspects while retaining the old aspects. And the men who wielded this deadly art in war, skirmish, chevauchée and duel were effectively borderless. Moreover, there was a very limited pool of experts from which to learn this Art, and they all likely would have known one another, at least by reputation. Therefore, any cross-pollination would have had to have been of a very incestuous kind.
But returning to the main point about paradigms: it was this paradigm - the feudal paradigm, and it’s requisite warrior aristocracy - that generated and sustained the Knightly Art. That’s why it was called the Knightly Art in the source materials. This was the art of combat as employed with deadly efficacy by knights and men-at-arms from the beginning of the High Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. The art of the longsword was one of the central aspects of that, but still only an aspect. 
Now, that’s not to say that there was no variation from lineage-to-lineage, master-to-master, or school-to-school. We know there was. But these were “sustainable variations”, as I refer to them. For as long as the feudal paradigm, with its borderless warrior aristocracy existed, then so too existed a “feedback loop” of sorts that always brought the aforementioned subtle differences back into the greater Art; and kept those comparatively slight variations operating upon the principles of that greater Art. We also know that this was true. The masters tell us of the many travels and great efforts that they undertook to learn the Art to its fullest extent, under the tutelage of as many skilled practitioners as possible. We can trace Fiore’s activities as far abroad as Paris, or so I’m told. So, it all ultimately drew upon the same well, if you will. And speaking of Fiore, it is perhaps he who informs us about the Greater Art most explicitly, stating that the Art is so vast that no one can possibly be even a good student of it without possessing books upon books on the subject. Likewise, Talhoffer admonishes his reader to not trust or further the cause of false masters who abridge the Art. The author of the Dobringer treatise, and Siber also comment upon this greater Art, after their own fashion.
So, we have this effectively borderless of class of warrior aristocrats and their men-at-arms (military retainers), whose very existence created the Knightly Art. And later on, as the feudal paradigm was beginning to sputter out, other elements - like the condottieri in Italy (and Fiore, despite his knightly lineage, really is part of that element) - added more to it, in a final flowering, if you will. But once the feudal paradigm was broken, the aforesaid feedback loop or holding pattern was no more, and more and more divergent “styles” began to arise. It’s called entropy, and it will most assuredly kick your ass in the end.
And, if I could be forgiven entering into something of a tangent, I think it’s both interesting and very relevant to the subject that - paradoxically - it’s always as things begin to reach their apex that they inevitably begin to deteriorate. And divergence is a symptom of deterioration. All too soon the Knightly Art was relegated to the twilight of mere tradition. The arts of Meyer, Mair, etc. - while still useful, to an extent, for the rote drill training of soldiers - were really more about tournament, “school fighting,” and such. Make no mistake, the art of Meyer, despite its callbacks and sentimental clinging to a particular traditional weapon, is not the art of Ringeck. The art of Ringeck was a vital art that existed in both theory and in application. Meyer’s art, at least his longsword art, existed as a dusty relic, a thing disembodied from a continuum that had already long been fading from its theater of action.
For once the feudal model and its martial paradigm was shattered, the Knightly Art became outmoded. Lots of things precipitated this: plague, the longbow, the pike, gunpowder, the reemergence of the primacy of infantry, the advent of powerful national monarchies - and the standing armies, centralization, and modern sense of patriotism that came along with more powerful national monarchies - as well as socioeconomic factors, etc. And that’s when a system that previously had relied upon a paradigm like feudalism, that is no longer functioning, breaks down and becomes specialized rather than broad, exclusive rather than inclusive. 
An example of this breakdown is the art of the rapier, which only appropriated approximately half of the technical syllabus of the Knightly Art. And as I've already mentioned, the Knightly Art absorbed the entirety of the Old Art’s technical syllabus, as well as added to it. This is the hallmark of a vital art, an art alive in theory as well as practice, an art less concerned with counting the angels dancing on the head of a pin, and more focused on the practical, brutal business of kill or be killed. The rapier is therefore a symptom of martial entropy, which is really what Silver was so adamant about. And Silver, like all good conservatives, railed and rallied and raved against the forces of entropy. But entropy always wins in the end, and the rapier represents the most significant of the latter indicators in the slow process of the disintegration of the Knightly Art.
However, the art of rapier, unlike the Knightly Art, was a dead end, which became - by comparatively rapid degrees - more and more confined to navel-gazing, newfangled theory (the Spanish Circle, Thibault’s material, etc.); and less and less about actual fighting. And worse, as the rapier’s range of motion and effective modes of attack are so limited, the one way to distinguish one “style” of rapier play from another is to continuously and deleteriously subtract from the weapon’s technical syllabus. This, again, is contrasted in the art of the longsword, which contained the whole of the rapier’s syllabus, and much more besides. Indeed, thanks to its versatility, it retained the whole of the Art that came before it. All of which makes the longsword, the most revered weapon of the masters of the Knightly Art, the perfect weapon. At least in my book. 
But returning to the rapier, and its significance in the slow, withering death of the Knightly Art. It must also be considered that the rapier was only capable of bringing forth one more generation, that being the art of the small sword; an even more exclusive, narrow art than the art of the rapier. Add to this the fact that the rapier was practically useless for war and skirmish, and really only viable as weapon of assassination, petty quarrel, and vendetta, and the writing on the wall becomes very clear. And, of course, in the end we wind up with sport fencing.
And this, in my opinion, is the current downward spiral at play within the HEMA collective. Why on earth they would want to emulate the figures of the twilight of the Art, and their practices (tournaments, etc), instead of the robust figures of Fiore, Ringeck, Talhoffer, or what have you - all of whom would have rightfully despised the tournaments that took place during the days of Meyer, to say nothing about the even paler reflections of the Art that are currently taking place under the name of “tournaments” - is utterly beyond me. 
In conversations I've had during my own studies, I've also heard the opinion expressed that there must have been a broad "Sword martial art," against which individual masters would essentially market themselves through signature moves and plays, such as "Priest's Special Longpoint" and Liechtenauer's meisterhau. Inasmuch as the opposition to this view must be that each master presented his own unique vision of combat, it would seem that you couldn't disagree with this view, but you could hold some third unimagined viewpoint. Can you elaborate on this idea?
To a certain extent that’s true. Fiore tells us he only included techniques he had either used successfully himself, or else techniques he had seen to be used effectively in his treatises. In other words, techniques he knew he could trust because they worked. What ethical master or instructor would do otherwise? But Fiore also warns us of false masters peddling snake oil super techniques. Hype’s an old thing. The Dobringer manuscript echoes Fiore on this point. So, how much was hype and how much was the real deal? It’s a fair question, and it’s open to debate. 
As for a “third view,” I’m of the opinion that the Art underwent a gradual evolution, a very organic process; and I don’t hold to false dichotomies like “you’re trying to have it both ways.” Arguments based on weak premises like “Where’s the krumphau in Fiore, huh? Huh?!” and vain appeals to macro versus micro are comparable to saying “There are gaps in the fossil record, therefore evolution is bunk.” I know one thing, it’s pointless to argue with Bible literalists, and it’s pointless to argue with anti-pan-Europeanists. There’s too much emotional investment at stake to get a fair hearing. 
And likewise, equally fallacious arguments employing appeals to the gross similarities and natural biomechanical overlaps that exist in all forms of swordsmanship (comparing Japanese swordsmanship to European, for example), in an attempt to render the pan-European Theory moot thereby, are unserious. Demonstrably ludicrous, even. A katana is vastly different from a longsword. A jian may, in some instances be a two-handed weapon; and it while it is straight-bladed and double-edged, it does not possess the same distal taper a longsword does, or the same point orientation. Nor does it have the substantive cross and pommel of a longsword. It does not have the same point of balance, or handling characteristics that a longsword exhibits. And neither did it face the same obstacles (such as armour types), or opponents that the longsword did. Such arguments therefore operate on the same blinkered logic which postulates that, as a cat has a tail and four legs, and so does a dog, a dog must also be a cat. Well, a dog isn’t a cat, and a dao isn’t a falchion, either. But a longsword is a longsword is a longsword is a motherfucking longsword. Got it? No? It’s no wonder your parents hate you.
In short, I haven’t encountered a single argument that can’t go and suck it in the face of the vast, overwhelming evidence in support of the “pan-European” Art. And speaking of, was it pan-European? Sure, it was. But that was just the theater wherein it operated, not the mechanism. So of late I’ve been thinking perhaps “pan-feudal” is better. But it ultimately doesn’t matter. It was the Knightly Art, and all of its iterations and variations had a common origin and they all drew upon the same well; to wit, the Greater Art to which Fiore and others alluded.
While the linguistic arguments and textual arguments you make for your interpretations of the Scholar, the Cottonian Titus fragment, and the Harleian Master are compelling in and of themselves, to what extent is your interpretation of English techniques predicated on extrapolation from Liechtenauer, Fiore, et al.?
That’s a good question. It’s hard to quantify, really. In our work on the English material, Casper Bradak (his real name is Ben, but he’ll always be Casper to me) and I drew as heavily as we possibly could from the English longsword sources themselves, as well as from later English martial sources, and from English literary sources. The parallels with the Continental material - for the most part - just became clear as we went on. It wasn’t conscious, really. The similarities and insights drawn from the Continental materials emerged as we went forward. They became apparent. We didn’t look for them, at least not at first. But as more and more of the English material reminded us of Fiore, of Talhoffer, of Ringeck, then we began to cross analyze a bit. But we realized that it all bolstered and affirmed our work. So, at a - very rough - guess, I’d say 70% English sources, 30% Continental. Somewhere in that neighborhood, anyway. Casper might tell you differently. 
Can you characterize specific ways in which the English masters differ from, for instance, the German and/or Italian masters, or is this entirely counter to your views?
Another excellent question. It’s also difficult to answer. I’ll try to give you an answer that’s not a cop-out... ...It’s not entirely contrary to my views. However, honestly, I never really thought about it. It was all very fluid, and seemed to work most of the time. And when tested and compared with the available datum it continued to work most of the time. And when it didn’t work, we went back and reexamined. When all else failed, we cross-referenced with other sources. If it made sense linguistically and contextually and martially then we believed (and still do believe) that we were onto something. Therefore I see more parallels than differences. All the major “moves” are there in the English sources. They are demonstrably there. There are predilections, of course. The Southern English sub-tradition (Ledall being the only known example thereof) preferred to open the fight with a proffer (a thrust to the face), and thereafter engage in intensive cutting and thrusting. This seems signature, to be sure. But, as I said, it’s all there.
Can you characterize specific ways in which the English masters differ one from another?
The Southern sub-tradition likes to open with thrusts, the Northern (Harleian, Cotton Titus, Man yt Wol) likes to open with cuts.
Are there any specific similarities in styles which you would care to elaborate upon?
They all contain everything essential to win.  
If your responses inspire further questions, I hope you don't mind if I subsequently send those, as well.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Dear Historical Fencers

This is my final post of a related trilogy of posts:

Recently I had a Revelation.  This was the direct result, after years of not doing so, of opening my doors of perception again.  (Some of you may understand the meaning of that.)  So last Saturday, I went up into North Portland, into the apex of this urban pentangle.  I got high above the rest of the city.  Very high.  It was the view from Eternity.  When I came down again, I had gained clarity.  Thus I came to a forgone conclusion which was forgotten yet not forsaken, whereby I may now move forward to find the Fechten that I want to make manifest in my life.  The answer was quite simple, really.  Maybe I should explain:

I realised that just as a kenjutsuka ultimately should want to go to Japan herself to learn Kenjutsu correctly, then likewise a fechter should want to go to Germany herself to learn Fechten correctly.

I realised that the American swordsmanship scene, with its major tendency for gamey tourneys and sportive competitions, shall never be my way to swordmastery.

I realised that it is not worth it to try to keep making friends, or to gain the understanding of peers, here in that scene of my native USA.  To paraphrase a really good song:  I tried hard to have some brothers, but instead it went all bad.  I just want you to know that I do not hate you anymore.  There is nothing I could say that I have not thought before.

So you historical fencers here in the USA shall keep holding your fencing contests and forumitic discussions.  Hereafter, I do not ever intend either to attend the former or to partake the latter, just maybe announce new projects and so forth.  So hey guys, do your thing, enjoy yourselves, good luck.

However, there are still fencers here in Oregon with whom I intend to keep good company, and fencers in Utah and Arizona whom I well intend to meet someday.  But otherwise, I aint got no reason otherwise but to save my nickels for an eventual & hopeful journey to Germany someday to work with fencers there.  Where I hope to meet friends and make friends.

Well, I guess that makes it clear to everybody. ~ JH

Friday, August 9, 2013

Sport des Fechtens

Dear Tourneyeurs of
Historical Fencing

I must continue, somewhat, the narrative of my previous post, in order to clarify for you what I think of tourney-fixated training, indeed, tourney achievement as the primary goal rather than martial mastery as the primary goal, in regards to Historical European Fencing.

Let me, an outsider, who admittedly cannot afford to attend your expensive and far-flung tourneys, even if I wanted to partake, tell you this: There are dismayed fencers and instructors amongst your ranks.  I have personally spoken with some and/or sparred them.  Some have partaken of Alliance tourneys, and some not, and some intend to attend further forthcoming.  All told, they have conveyed to me that they find tourney fencing to be, to paraphrase one fencer/instructor, a complete cluster-muck.  And he had more to say:

I have not seen a rules-set that produces truly appropriate fencing, by my estimation at least.  We are still stuck in rock-em-sock-em robot-mode, parry to riposte, offense to defense.  I see close to no use of single time actions, and fights ending with techniques from the bind are rare.  When you look at the manuals, we see mostly techniques meant to be used from within or just leaving the bind and then a huge corpus of ringen am schwert.  Those are grossly underrepresented in the tournies.

These martial artists simply do not feel that tourney-focused curricula is ever going to get them to full realisation of the True Art.  Furthermore, all the gatherings or events of the scene now seem to be turning exclusively into tourneys, bereft of other activities (e.g. demonstration, presentation, education) which said fencers might rather partake.  They truly wish to pursue the entire meaning of that much-touted yet often-misunderstood acronym of HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts).  Thus they do not want the historical to be forgotten for sake of the rest.  (I would even argue that the martial is, de facto, also being forgotten.)  But if gatherings or events become only about sportive fencing, then they are simply going to lack cultural and combative enrichment for those who might desire more than athletic contests.

Consequently, I hear a variety of reasons why these dismayed fencers find tourney fencing rather unrealistic, i.e. unlike what real swordfighting evidently was, if one actually bothers to read the fight-books and/or historical accounts.  Indeed, I think that there are now groups training primarily or even exclusively for achievement at tourneys, that either openly or secretly disdain the Kunst des Fechtens (Art of Fencing/Fighting) of the fight-masters and their fight-books.

Here is my summary of exemplary objections to this modern tourney fencing:

  • Darth-Mauling.  We witness this constantly and epidemically.  This means a fencer hopping in one place whilst assuming low tight Alber or Pflug, with longsword withdrawn close to body as if it were ergonomic katana, with no regard for proper Mass instructed for fighting, hacking and feigning rabidly, thwacking the ground before him with sword-become-tool, until by virtue of his foe's impatience to please screaming crowd and frothing coach, said fencer lucks-out and gets the false move that lets him hit said foe crudely.  One could describe all that "behaviour" of endless maniacal movement at tourneys as "darth-mauling".  Is that what one should do in a real swordfight?  Even discounting the obtrusive presence of everybody-and-his-second having a video camera at these events, the tourney is not a movie, yet the spectators expect a spectacle, and that is just what they get.  This behaviour happens despite the fact that it was frequent motion (frequens motus) which Liechtenauer via Doebringer advised, not constant motion.  Then again, that master was talking about what made sense for mortal combat rather than modern contest; where everything was regulated with sobriety and dignity; where everybody had to shut the muck up; and the fighters had to fight an earnest fight.
  • Distortive Nature of Tourney Gear.  The very nature of tourney gear, with its modern synthetic safety armour, and its flared-crux feders, and everything else, is not allowing the sensory spectrum or bodily manoeuvres or weaponry manipulation needed to do the instructed techniques of Blossfechten (unarmoured/bare fencing), as per the fight-lore of the masters & books.  Just look at how somebody moves in such gear.  Just feel for yourself how you move in such gear.  And then tell me I am supposedly wrong.  That informs the next point...
  • Unrealistic Calls.  Imagine for example, one fencer scrapes with sword-point across mask while other fencer hews at 1/4 blade upon shoulder - thus the former is negligible and the latter is substantial - yet such is called a "double-hit", or if the former be later than the latter, then it counts as a point-quelling "after-blow" (cf. below).  That is merely one example of the disreality caused by gear like the bug-heads or by misjudged calls as to what makes for a "real hit".  Indeed, there are meandering, tiresome forumitic discussions as to what counts as a real hit, thus evincing that the fencers themselves are confused or unconfident or doubtful as to what-is-what.  Besides, in a real duel to the death, a man may have been ready, willing & able to take multiple injury in order to make one great decisive & final strike upon his foe to win the fight.  Modern tourney fencing disallows any replication or representation of that possibility.  All the previous lead to the following point...
  • No Real Danger.*  There is no actual fear of dishonouring or maiming or killing as per a real swordfight, which inherently and greatly distorts the nature of modern tourney bouting compared to medieval earnest combat.  A respected peer who hosts tourneys and fights well at them joked to me at HA-HA Forum: Should we just be killing each other?  Actually no, I do not think so.  Yet one must admit that the lack of verisimilitude, of not even pretending it is a real judicial duel, but rather the cozy realisation it is just an athletic contest, fought in synthetic armour with blunt feders in a civic recreation centre, does take away from the gravity of the struggle, does make it somewhat less than the serious ritualistic slaying that characterised the true Kampf (duel/combat) of knights.  Is nobody interested in how that was actually done?  Well, I am.
  • After-Blow Abuse.  Again, the abusive & injurious gaming of the "after-blow" is pernicious & vicious.  Perhaps it should remain in the rules of modern contests, considering its historical Franco-Belgian scholastic legacy.  But for muck-sake, it is obvious that there are major problems with how fencers are using it, i.e. punishing one's foe after one has already lost the match.  Can this not be amended or deleted?  (Righto, you big dumb mobility-mangling sons-of-bitches who strike the back of other fencer's legs after score is called, you deserve to feel the same pain, via a nice full horizontal staff-strike to back of both your knees by an umpire.  Hope you enjoy that.)
  • Hand-Sniping.  This may seem yet another supposedly "minor" thing (cf. after-blow abuse), but it only contributes further toxicity to the environment of tourney fencing.  Those who perpetually engage in this offence may defend it by saying it could be an effective move for real swordfighting.  Undeniably it could be, but not always.  Not if you take Wittenwiler's implied advice that you could wear gauntlets for Blossfechten, thus neatly negating the foe's ploy.  That would give tourney rule-makers & enforcers every right to say fine, go ahead and hit your foe's hands, for whatever reason, but that shall not count for any points whatsoever.  (So there, you foul smug little dexterity-destroying bastards, you need to learn some real fencing and try to hit other targets, that is, iffen you can, you who deserve to be punched in the throat with a synthetic waster hard enough to make you puke.)
  • Competition.  That seems what it is all about for most tourney fencers.  Competition, competition, competition.  The famously repeated mantra of an infamous WMA dictator.  Did you not get enough of that bullshit from needless artwork contests in grade school, or via pointless sports in high school and/or college, or at boot camp, or at cop academy, or daily at your corporate IT-job?  Must everything always be about goddamned competition?  Must it be a TV-style sports contest, existing for its own self-satisfied yet unsatisfying sake, unnaturally divorced from any historical context, promoting who is better at the game than whoever else, and to hell with whatever other activity may deserve inclusion at a given event?  Thus not about learning the Stuecke (actions/scenarios), and reviving the martial sword-art of our shared heritage, or about every fencer getting to have at least one sparring match with every other at an event?  (Like unto how our German peers do so admirably at their events.  Indeed, the leader of a major historical fencing group confided to me recently he would enjoy free sparring much more than tourney fencing at gatherings anywhere.)
  • Modernity.*  So your synthetic gear and your sports-science and your faultless videography and your interweb networking and your petroleum-economy big-box-stores all somehow make for a superior modern pursuit of fencing?  No, that does not.  I would advocate, for exactly opposite reasons, that the medieval pursuit of fencing was superior.  Those men were superior.  They were warriors.  Fathom that for a while, and once it makes sense, then act thereupon.
  • Why Are You Fighting?*  Nobody ever asks that question, especially of himself.  It is for vainglory?  That seems to be your main motivation.  (You sure aint winning no rubies nor emeralds nor horses, like the prizes they might have offered at some medieval tourneys.)  Yet if I were to get out there with you all, assuming I had the $1500 or so needed to buy the modern synthetic safety armour and blunt feder, plus could afford travel and registration, and somehow was actually invited, then I suppose that I might actually have reasons for fighting more akin to those of the men who wore medieval steely knightly armour and bore sharp swords: Killing my archenemy, winning the favour of my lady, gaining revenge & honour, learning self-protection, etcetera.  But of course that would make me anachronistic, fantastical, atavistic, illegal, even ludicrous to most of you tourney fencers (not to mention know-it-all cops and fat gun-fanatics).  Well, then I shall just skip the next tourney and save my money for another sharp replica sword (plus a feder & a waster, for the same price).  I would rather empower some random friendly hippy-chick by teaching her how to do the Vier Versetzen in a sunny park, than fulfill the needs of some dominance-game versus other male fencers at a tourney.  So you dudes go ahead & beat the piss out of each other, while I enjoy my day with feminine beauty.
  • Chivalric Arts Are Unwelcome.  Yet, that means Ritterlich Kunst.  I need not justify that statement to anyone. Besides, I already explained enough junk already, so either take my word for it or go figure it out on your own.  Let us just say that, to borrow a famous brilliant lex naturalis phrase, it is self-evident.
Thus said, the whole scene really makes me feel, in one word:  Miffed.

Perhaps my expectations, and those of the others dismayed fencers, are unrealistic.  Perhaps we just need to be realistic about the division devolving throughout the modern scene of European sword-arts.  I would liken it, as a couple other scholar-fencers have done so independently, to the paradigm found in the modern scene of Japanese sword-arts:

Kenjitsu = combative fencing = martial art
Kendo = sportive fencing = athletic contest

And so likewise I would offer, first an ancient phrase and then a newly minted phrase:

Kunst des Fechtens = combative fencing = martial art
Sport des Fechtens = sportive fencing = athletic contest

That is the new reality of Historical European Fencing. ~ JH

*Edited once, twice, thrice by author post-premiere to rename one point (No Real Danger) and to make a new point (Modernity), and to reword some content here & there, for better clarificaiton of what he meant.*

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Tourney Scoring Adjudication

Dear Tourneyeurs of Historical Fencing:

Unless you all have the volition and capital for electrical scoring adjudication, as for example Olympic Fencing, then Historical Fencing must utilise some reasonably consistent & proven natural model/method for its own scoring adjudication, as for example Kendo.

Although Kendo is not perfect in its scoring adjudication, it has devised a way which has worked for decades, and is evidently a lot better than the contentious paradigm of Historical Fencing tourneys.  Just take a look at this videographic example of how confident, indeed almost doubtless, these collegiate kendoka are at scoring their own matches without benefit of a judge/umpire to make the calls:

Plus you need to do something about this "after-blow" rubbish, which (among other things) recent events have shown is prone to becoming the most absurdly abused and injurious gaming-device of your matches.  Perhaps get rid of it altogether, since it is, quite literally, getting out of hand.

And everyone ought finally to admit that sportive bouting does not really replicate the deadly struggle of Kampf or Ernst, rather at best it is similar to what was called Scherz or Schimpf.  Do not keep deluding and dementing yourselves that such makes you ready for survival of a judicial duel!  Your training for what works in Modern tourney-fencing does not necessarily make you fit for what was needed to win Medieval swordfighting.  You need to realise that.  You need to get real.

None of the aforesaid was meant to disparage or discourage you folks or your chosen activity.  You are going to do what you want to do anyway.  Which means you shall keep treating those persons truly pursuant of Chivalric Arts as outsiders, and keep rejecting them from your events, and keep marginalising them amid your precious InterWeb, all while you moving your activity further away from martial art to combative sport.

Indeed, as much as I dislike your efforts, I might even toast your success with Rumple Minze, as long as you were buying the shots. ~ JH

*(Edited by author post-premier for sake of syntax and lexis.)