Western Martial Arts

Historic questions, thoughts and other interesting stuff

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Segrave
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Western Martial Arts

Postby Segrave » Mon Jan 23, 2006 7:19 pm

For the last 6 months or so I have been indulging in a little sword play with a recognised WMA society and have in the process learned several interesting tricks although frustrated by the lack of sparring.

I became over the course of events concerned with the lack of defence included within the training regime. Eventually I raised this concern with the senior member who conducted the training and was given the reply;

" Ahh you noticed that - well we include that as part of co-ordinated routines "

On voicing my opinion, that to teach only offence was to teach only half the story, like teaching the melody of a song and not the words. This engendered the response;

" Defense come naturally and don't have to be practiced"

I have since decided to cease attending the sessions.

My question is what, if any, are other peoples experiences with WMA and is this particular situation unique.


Steve

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Postby guthrie » Mon Jan 23, 2006 8:16 pm

Speaking personally, from my very small amoung of "WMA" knowledge, as well as my longer background in re-enacting and a few years doing karate, I would say go to another class.

I think defence does not come naturally- a proper, accurate, effective defence often takes more practise than an effective offence. (It could be how I do it though...) So, you need repeated drills in both offence and defence, in order to grind them into your body, so that when the occaision comes, you can do either without thinking.

As for sparring, I think it should be done only when both parties are judged ready and capable, and done using appropriate safety kit. Now, exactly when this is thought to be right, depends on the people involved and instructors. I personally think it should only be started once the basic offenses and defences are ingrained into your reflexes, which means a good few weeks, say at least 15 hours practise, although that is a purely ball park figure.



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Postby Gyrthofhwicce » Tue Jan 24, 2006 11:57 am

Hi Steve.
I dont understand how they can have offence without defence, surely they exist at the same time. you cannot both attack as this would result in both dying at the same time, because neither of you are defending???

I do agree that defense is natural, however this needs to be worked on until it becomes second nature. We teach defence before attack at training, and we tell them forget going for kills just yet, train to still be alive at the end of a battle.


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Re: Western Martial Arts

Postby Alan E » Tue Jan 24, 2006 12:46 pm

Segrave wrote:For the last 6 months or so I have been indulging in a little sword play with a recognised WMA society and have in the process learned several interesting tricks although frustrated by the lack of sparring.

I became over the course of events concerned with the lack of defence included within the training regime. ...

Out of interest, what lineage/sources were they using ?


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Postby tonw » Tue Jan 24, 2006 1:14 pm

Sounds like your instructor was teaching thuggery 101 not WMA


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Postby Matt Easton » Tue Jan 24, 2006 1:28 pm

Hi Steve - different WMA groups have different approaches; I think that's cool, after all, it should be up to a group to choose it's own path.

Some groups don't spar much, some not at all - other spar a lot.

I run a group in West London ( www.fioredeiliberi.org ) and we spar quite a bit, because we enjoy it and because we feel it's important, but we also have regular classes once per week where there is little or no sparring at all - though we sometimes have drills that bridge the gap between simple technique drill and proper free-fighting.

Don't give up on WMA just because you didn't gel with that particular group - just as with reenactment groups or TV Channels, there is bound to be one out there somewhere that suits you - maybe lots of them would.

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Postby Matt Easton » Tue Jan 24, 2006 2:39 pm

Incidentally, there is a large western martial arts conference/event held in Dijon in France (Burgundy) each year. This year it will run from 4-7 May and will include about 20 instructors from across Europe and the USA and about 100 students. It mostly covers medieval sources, but there will also be instruction on later systems (Spanish rapier, Victorian sabre, Modern combatives etc). It will cost 120 Euros (about £80) for the whole event and that includes accomodation in a hostel and a big dinner on the saturday night!
I'll stick a link up when the website goes live.

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El gone to Cid
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Re: Western Martial Arts

Postby El gone to Cid » Tue Jan 24, 2006 4:44 pm

"......although frustrated by the lack of sparring."

Lets take this one step at a time. Just about every member of a club I know of has become, in the early stages, fustrated by this. It does take time to understand that no matter how the pupil feels, it is the tutors responsibility to decide when members are ready for sparring with others. The instructor has not only the clubs reputation, but his own to consider when allowing two to spar. Safety is paramount in WMA, and as recent events have shown, accidents happen no matter how aware you think you are. I'm with the club on this one.


" Ahh you noticed that - well we include that as part of co-ordinated routines "

Kinda true. Offence and defence is one. Each do have their own specific movements that can be taught seperately, but come together in combat play. It's a statement the tutor could have ellaborated on for clarification.


" Defense come naturally and don't have to be practiced"

Yes...well...the less said about that the better.


If in doubt of a groups credibility Segrave, may I suggest contacting Mark Donnelly of the SSS (School for the Study of Swordsmanship), a member of the umbrella group BFHS (British Federation for Historical Swordplay). His groups are in your area and of those I have met, they're a good bunch. Contact him here:
MPDonnelly@btinternet.com

Matt: I understand Milo Thurston was to assess your group for BFHS membership. How is it going?
Sorry. Forgot to introduce myself: Paul Cameron - Highland Freebooters.


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Postby Matt Easton » Tue Jan 24, 2006 6:45 pm

Milo did it a while ago but Jonathan couldn't make it, so Andrew is now planning to come some time in Feb.

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Re: Western Martial Arts

Postby Segrave » Tue Jan 24, 2006 8:28 pm

El gone to Cid wrote:"..... It does take time to understand that no matter how the pupil feels, it is the tutors responsibility to decide when members are ready for sparring with others. The instructor has not only the clubs reputation, ..............


Sorry Paul I haven't explained myself clearly enough. It is not that I had to wait until proficient enough to spar - there was no sparring at all. It was all fixed forms based on the Swavian fight manuals.

El gone to Cid wrote:"..... " Ahh you noticed that - well we include that as part of co-ordinated routines "

Kinda true. Offence and defence is one. Each do have their own specific movements that can be taught seperately, but come together in combat play. ..............


This was the whole point of my comment to the tutor. As Chris (Gyrth) has pointed out Offense and defense are linked. I personally feel that a solid defense is more important than a blistering offence but that is another debate

El gone to Cid wrote:"..... " Defense come naturally and don't have to be practiced"

Yes...well...the less said about that the better...............


Exactly.

I am not talking about a small organisation here. It is a national society with international links. The tutor is also a branch organiseer and the inference I have to draw is that he is following society guidance.

Thnaks for the recommendations I will have to find out some morre specifics and go along for a trial. (Them not me - I already know which end goes in the bad guy)


Steve



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Postby Adam R » Wed Jan 25, 2006 12:11 am

Hi Segrave,

As others have said - don't give up on WMA - try another group.

Defence is paramount - but defence in the German tradition (of which Talhoffer's manuals are a less cohesive part) is built into the attack. You cannot teach Liechtenauer's tradition (IMHO) without grasping the attack/defence relationship of every move. There are no 'parries' only attack forms which negate any opposition by their very nature.

You are in West Yorkshire I see - perhaps you should go and see Dan at our Leeds Chapter - they train at the Royal Armouries on Monday and Thursday nights. PM me for Dan's email address.

WMA is not about adding some groovy techniques to your re-enactment combat though - it is an discipline with it's own principles and techniques within them - I have seen several re-enactors give up on WMA because they didn't fully appreciate that. If you grab these principles wholeheartedly - it will change your re-enactment fighting for ever.

As for sparring - it isn't essential - it is a flawed learning exercise, but then they all are and it's fun :D - so we do - we have even started having 'fight nights' where everyone has a go within safety rules - gives people a useful understanding of the context in which the principles and techniques must work. If you went to learn fencing - you would almost certainly start fighting on night #1!

I don't know the group you have been to, and I might be right out of order - but I would be very sceptical of people who say they do WMA and 'do' Talhoffer - he is but a glimpse of a larger picture - and without that larger picture fully in focus - fairly useless.

Or pop along and see us :D www.nottinghamsword.co.uk

Best wishes

Adam


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Postby Guest » Wed Jan 25, 2006 3:52 pm

Not to contradict Adam - I know him and his work - but just as a demonstration of the variety between different historical lineages:
He teaches in the German Liechtenauer lineage; I teach in the Italian Fiore dei Liberi lineage. In our system there *are* simple parries.
So even if a certain style of historical fighting system does not suit you, you can generally find another that does. There is great variety between historical systems, as well as between the ways that different groups interpret, practice and teach them.
(Having said all that, there is generally more in common between the medieval traditions than there is different).
I can only echo what Adam said about WMA/HEMA though - it is a martial art and has very different objectives to reenactment. That's not to say the two can't be mutually beneficial, but they are different things, and often historical technique is difficult to translate into reenactment use, for safety reasons amongst other things.

Matt



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Segrave
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Postby Segrave » Wed Jan 25, 2006 7:13 pm

Adam R wrote:.........You cannot teach Liechtenauer's tradition (IMHO) without grasping the attack/defence relationship of every move. There are no 'parries' only attack forms which negate any opposition by their very nature...............

...............I have seen several re-enactors give up on WMA because they didn't fully appreciate that. If you grab these principles wholeheartedly - it will change your re-enactment fighting for ever..........


Adam,

Thanks for your views and the points you make. I think this is in particular my major problem with the training that I have undertaken. I do understand the intrinsic nature of the defence within the attack forms detailed by Liechtenauer and when demonstrated by an adept practioner they work well.

My concern is that to become an adept practitioner you require a fundamental knowledge of basic combat techniques including a well rounded defence. This was not being taught, just simple attacks forms single and running from one attack to the next both standing and moving. Then into complex offencesive techniques (as you have stated) requiring an understanding of the relationship of attack / defence. To fully utilise these techniques requiries in my opinion a detailed understanding of attack, defence, footwork and leading / deceiving your oponnent. In the vast majority, if not all, of the students, this was not present. I include myself in that number although I have 20 years of re-enactment combat.

I think I understand the reason behind the no sparring within this group. If you permit people to try the forms being taught without having established a reasonable grounding in the basics of combat, the risk for injury is greatly increased. This in itself would be an indicator that the teaching method does not fully meet the needs of the student.

This is what has dissillusioned me and I have a lack of respect for the teaching methods. The people are fine people but I question whether they are being taught a combat dicipline or simply chorography

Steve


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Postby Adam R » Wed Jan 25, 2006 10:36 pm

Hi Steve,

Obviously I don't know the details of what you did and did not cover - but let me just say a few things -

My concern is that to become an adept practitioner you require a fundamental knowledge of basic combat techniques including a well rounded defence


But you do not need to learn another style - there is no need to teach parrying if the style being taught does not use parries for example - (if this is what you mean by well rounded defence) - defence lies principally in movement and an understanding of 'line'.

If you permit people to try the forms being taught without having established a reasonable grounding in the basics of combat, the risk for injury is greatly increased.


Training through forms is an effective means of training though - look at karate and the like - sparring doesn't start until brown belt. It is the means by which distance timing, footwork is being taught. It just requires patience and dedication.

Another possible problem (please don't misconstrue my meaning here) is your 20 years of re-enactment combat. In my experience - the fastest learners of WMA are people with little or no re-eanctment experience. The more you have the longer it takes to un-learn all the bad (from a purely WMA perspective) habits. Martial artists, in contrast, make the transition far quicker.

There are as many styles of teaching WMA as there are instructors I suspect - you need to find a teacher whose style matches your needs - similarly you need to have adaptable needs ;) It is the nature of the learning/teaching of anything.

Best

Adam


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Postby Segrave » Thu Jan 26, 2006 1:16 am

Hi Adam,

- - there is no need to teach parrying if the style being taught does not use parries for example (if this is what you mean by well rounded defence) - defence lies principally in movement and an understanding of 'line'.


When I refer to a well rounded defense I am talking about movement, line footwork and parrying. The teaching that I received did not cover any of these from a defensive point of view.

The attack form was made and the opponent made the appropriate parry. The attacker was able to continue with the move following this defence. Almost all the forms I was shown required the defender to put the blade in the way of the attack. By inference these must then have been standard defenses at the time, so that techinques were developed to overcome them. If they were standard defences why are they not taught now?

The training also assumed that all attacks were taken from out of range, that you dominated the opponent who was unable to counter as a result of your line and the force of your attack. This assumption means that you already know how good your opponent is. How do you come to this decision, especially if you are faced with an unfamiliar opponent or an opponent that does not fight in your specific style?

It just requires patience and dedication...


None taken

Another possible problem (please don't misconstrue my meaning here) is your 20 years of re-enactment combat. In my experience - the fastest learners of WMA are people with little or no re-eanctment experience. The more you have the longer it takes to un-learn all the bad (from a purely WMA perspective) habits. Martial artists, in contrast, make the transition far quicker..


In my opinion this is more of an indication of how the styles have been interpreted rather than how they were originally taught in the C.14 -16th.

Whilst I am no expert in any form of martial arts just an enthusiastic practitioner, I have not studied any Eastern martial art. I do know how to use a sword. I do know how to evade, parry and manipulate an opponent. I do know how to launch an attack that will dominate the line or evade a parry. These bad habits also mean that almost all out and out attacks lead either to the defeat of my opponent or at least make them very uncomfortable about trying it again.

I went to these sessions with an open mind, willing to learn and be taught a different style of sword combat. I have been disappointed in the result.


Steve



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Postby Adam R » Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:10 am

Hi Steve,
Well - whatever the detail (which I can't really comment on, as I said) I'm sorry you felt dissapointed with it all. I can't comment on your current skills and re-enactment training and how much of a positive or negative thing it is - because I can't watch you. However, feel free to pop down to Nottingham of a Tuesday night if you like and have a look at what we are doing - if you are passing.
Best for the future
Adam


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Postby Timothy » Thu Jan 26, 2006 1:34 pm

Hi Steve,

still a bit frustrated? You could give me a ring and perhaps we could get together some time and do some training sometime. Lord knows I could use some exercise!

Timothy



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Postby Matt Easton » Thu Jan 26, 2006 4:01 pm

I've got to agree with everything Adam said, even if in the system I study/teach we do have parries, I know very well that in Liechtenauer the defensive element is provided by place, line and measure.
You could argue that the zornhau is a parry of sorts - just that you do it in such a way that it will also hit if you do it right.
Some masters of the Liechtenauer school do in fact mention parrying - Von Danzig sometimes says to hit the opponent's blade in parts where Ringeck says to hit the opponent. And Doebringer and others assume that the opponent will parry in Kron or other positions - this is one of the key things to recognise with the Liechtenauer lineage - in its early days it seems to have been designed to use against 'common' fencers, and in all the texts it is acknoledged that 'common' fencers do parry, in the conventional sense of the word.
All of the Italian texts that I know of tell you to parry.
I am also a strong believer in sparring, and I think it's a poor teacher who will not let his students try or succeed in beating him at sparring. And if someone cannot put their knowledge into a sparring or real environment then what use is it?
I also concur with Adam that often, in my experience, it is the reenactors who have the greatest problems adapting to WMA - the Eastern martial artists and modern fencers usually (not always) seem to 'get it' quicker. I don't know why this is.
Having said that, in my group I teach people who are now competent at WMA and have also been long-time reenactors (in the ECWS, Medieval Siege Society and a couple of Czech groups).

Regards,
Matt


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Postby Guest » Thu Jan 26, 2006 4:11 pm

Hi Timothy

Thanks for the offer. I would love to do some training. When and where please PM me

Thanks

Steve



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Good post Matt

Postby Adam R » Thu Jan 26, 2006 5:00 pm

Absolutely - the German system is (amongst other things) an answer to 'play masters' - there are admonitions against taking the point 'off line' in defensive work and many techniques gain super technique status against binds in which there is no threat to you - but then much of the bind work is similarly described by Fiore unless I'm much mistaken...

I'm possibly slightly more sceptical about the use of sparring as a training too - but only a shade - it is very useful - and a laugh to boot!

See you soon Matt - probably not Steve from the sound of it though.


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