it works!

Nov. 11th, 2009 05:44 pm
zebee: (Default)
So last night I got to try my longsword against a live opponent.

The answer is... this is one lethal set of evilness. Rick was using English, those lovely swinging blows were so neatly avoided and then I sliced his wrists open as they went past. (It was Across not Down, but the idea is to cut the tendons not exsanguinate him)

Having the sword well extended and a long grip makes evasions and cuts just a matter of leverage. The motions that take the whole arm in the English and German systems just require a bit of hand motion in the Italian one.

Now we were moving slowly and playing with it, the real proof will be after some practice so I can instinctively make the proper counters. But so far the ones I've tried are shockingly effective: easy and fast and were the blades sharp he'd have definitely noticed the results.

You don't need to use big blows with a sharp heavy sword, the trick is a sharp percussion and then a proper slicing motion. So as long as you lever the tip quickly and neatly then drag it through the bit you hit, you will damage them well enough for the purpose.

I now have to work out why he says that the best guard to be found in and therefore the best to find your enemy in (by which I think he means the best guard for you to be in when you are in distance) is Intrare which is a high point forward guard that protects the head from downward blows and threatens the opponent's face.

Is it because it's a good attacking guard because it threatens with the point and the best defence is a good offence?

Is it because unlike the low guards it closes off more avenues to your opponent and so constrains him?

I suspect it's the former. The Italian style is very much about 'draw the response' where rather than waiting for the opponent to attack and responding to that, you attack with something designed to draw a known response and then respond to that in a way to a) nullify it and b) hurt him

So if I start in Intrare and extend/step so he eats point if he doesn't respond, he has two responses: to push my weapon away with his, or to retreat in some way. He only has a couple of ways to push the blade, a couple of directions to take it in depending on where his sword is. And for each move he can make I have a simple response that means his sword is out of action for a fencing time and mine is hitting him.

(Which makes me sound unbeatable but it's all in the timing, mine and his. And what he does just as he parries or just after. And what his angles are and what his feet are doing.)

So back to my lists. Are there commonalities of footwork? Does he always step away from the opponent's blade? If not why not?

THe other difficulty I will have is size. It's OK fighting Rick, he's not that much taller than I am. But Hugh is easy 5" taller and that could make things interesting....

It will be interesting to see how the different styles interact. So far the Italian sword and sword and buckler seems to take the English (as per Silver) apart without much difficulty. Will the Italian longsword do the same?
zebee: (Default)
Life has been off and on again for a bit. I'm not a journaling type I suppose

I did find when playing about with English longsword that it really doesn't suit me compared to the Italian. I could do the same moves using the extended arms and the leverage of the hilt and it felt faster and easier and just as effective.

Won't know if this feeling is true until I do some bouting. Now we are back doing Tuesday night fencing I should get a chance to play with this stuff.

My niche in the fencing classes seems to be fencing dummy. My fencing partner runs people through some moves and then I help them practice them on the move against a live opponent who gradually ramps up the speed and the lack of helpfulness.

(That's the huge difference between drills and free bouting: the helpfulness of the opponent. I start by being very helpful, by doing always the same moves slowly enough and with suitable timing for them to practice the counter, and gradually ramping the speed without changing anything else. Then I start being more evil. It does a lot for their fencing but is actively bad for mine....)

When I can't avoid a competition I feel like yelling "This is not what I do it for. Yeah you can hit me, but dammit I spend 99% of my fencing time teaching people to hit me!"

I guess I'm just pissed I get no respect :) I do from the ones I teach but go to a big gathering and I feel a complete fraud wearing these badges of high rank and being creamed by anyone who can hold a sword.

Others tell me that I'm a hard fight for people of any level, so while an intermediate can hit me if the try hard, they have to try hard and the high level ones have to try equally hard. I can't see it myself.

Ah well. The English session on Thursday made some of the Spadone things clearer. The use of leverage with your hands wide apart on the hilt is utterly vital. Some of the blows are like the longsword equivalent of the one inch punch... to move the sword over a very short range maybe only a few inches, but have enough oomph in it to do damage.

And if you don't keep the movements tight and controlled and use the leverage for power, then as you are doing it with extended arms you will easily be deflected. Nothing half hearted about this.

Agrippa (new translation, brilliant!) has a paragraph on two handed sword. Reckons it's way to dangerous as it's too fast and uncertain for there to be any hope of explaining how it is done.

Now he tells me!
zebee: (Default)
I'd left Marozzo alone for a bit, as the easy almost rote bit of deconstructing the assaults is done.

Now I have to make sense of what I have....

But I was at Fencing Fest on the weekend and while my fencing ability has jumped off a cliff and is in free fall judging by the few bouts I had (as my left elbow has decided to blow now the right one's fixed) I got enthused about longsword again.

I've arranged to visit Canberra once a month for some focused fencing as I need to work with people who are at my level or better and who I haven't been fencing once a week for years... and they've agreed to do some focused critique and drilling so with luck my skill level will get back to something approaching normal.

Next job is to make sure I have the different wards down as gut level knowledge. THat I don't have to think about where feet and hands are when Marozzo says "Cingharia Porta di Ferro Alta" but know it's hands nipple/shoulder high (Alta), blade forward and straight (Porta Di Ferro), left foot forward (Cinghiara). He's not as consistent as he might be - normally the right foot is the forward foot unless the guard name is modified with Cingharia, but of the 4 Coda Lunga guards 2 have left foot forward and 2 right foot, and no modifier to tell which is which.

(That may just mean it doesn't matter, but I think it does given that footwork is different depending on which is forward. It may be that you have left foot forward in Coda Lunga Distesa because otherwise you would put your back out so there's no need to mention it, but what's Coda Lunga Alta's excuse?)

Once I have the ones I know, then I can work on the oddnesses. Like just how angled is Intrare? And is there a difference in blade angle between Intrare and Intrare Gran Passo, or is it just the feet?

Once I have the wards sorted then I need to work on finding the commonalities. What's the usual response with feet and hands to different attacks, and why.

I figure I'll try and tease out a few things this week, then next Tuesday grab my fencing partner and have a play and bounce ideas off him. He's a Marozzo sword and buckler expert so it's likely he'll have parallels. After all if you can believe the Germans longsword and sword and buckler are sisters under the skin.

The more work I do with these 16thC Italians, the more in awe I am. This is a consistent coherent system. It's not just a bunch of tricks, it's a full martial art with a lot of attention paid to biomechanics and to the niceties of timing. The difference between counter attack in time and attack into preparation for example. If you have it explained it's obvious, if you don't then it's a very hard concept to come up with unaided.
zebee: (Default)
It's true that when I am reading fiction and I see something that is important to me done badly, I really notice it, out of all proportion I suppose.

I noticed in in HP fanfic, all those Americans writing about Graduation and Proms annoyed me (not that such things are important to me, but it was suprisingly annoying), it ruined a perfectly good Dr Who fic for me when the writer had the 8thDoc riding a motorcycle with a foot accelerator.

I see [personal profile] musesfool feels the same way about sports.

I haven't read much commercial or fanfic lately that does much swordfighting. I have come across ones where the hero has a crowbar weight sword either because that means he's so manly [1] or because the writer has some idea that all swords are like that.

I swallowed The Incompleat Enchanter's idea that an epee fencer might outdo a Viking swordsman because a) the Norseman's sword would be really heavy and slow, and b) the big muscly guy had no idea, but that was a long time ago, and I don't think it washes now.[2] I still see the meme in fantasy books though (not to mention a certain iconic movie) that some untrained but Pure peasant can get a little training and in his first fight completely outfight people who have been killing other people with swords for years.

Doesn't mean novice can't beat experienced, I've been taken out by new fighters often enough to know that even Homer nods. Still, that's in play and I feel uncomfortable monstering new fighters so I don't tend to unleash on them. If it was lethal fight then experience in "real" can trump a lot of skill - ask Aldo Nadi who at the time he fought his one and only duel in 1922 was generally considered one of the best if not the best sport fencers in the world. He was terrified when that sharp sword was heading in his general direction, and was touched by it several times.

[personal profile] joyful_molly has a list of resources for [community profile] age_of_sail that includes a link to The Association for Historical Fencing, but I suspect that they'd get something more useful from fight directors who could help with having a reasonably realistic fight which also advances the plot. ( seems to be down at the moment...)

I learned a lot about theatrical fencing from my fencing master who has directed plays and even commercials. How to use technique to advance the plot. The obvious movie example is The Court Jester, Dave Luckett did a reasonable job in his Tenebrae trilogy, anyone got any examples where the swordfight was clearly a useful part of the book rather than "swordfight cliches #2 and #6, check"?

Any that really struck you as "you are *joking*"?

[1]Cornwall's Sharpe has sort of an excuse as the heavy cavalry sabre is at least only marginally bigger than an infantry one but the Sharp's Sword movie made me throw things at the screen.)

[2] for one thing, your average modern epee fencer doesn't get off line by more than a few inches due to spending all their time on a piste, so they are really relying on a stop-thrust stopping that broadsword from blowing right through their 500gm needle on its way to slicing them up. And they had better get that needle into a bone or an artery or some very vital organ because that sword is still coming even if the bod is dying next day from a puncture wound gone septic. See Frank Lurz's "Dubious Quick Kill essays on


Jun. 2nd, 2009 02:59 pm
zebee: (Default)
You know there are times that I wish perspective in art had been discovered a little earlier.

Or maybe the artists had spent a little more time working out how to get the 3d positioning onto 2d paper.

Why? Because of this:

Ok, you look at that, where do you think the tip of the sword is? back over the guy's right shoulder? Level with it? Pointing forward?

Is the weapon held level in front of him or angling back with the hilt further forward than the middle of the blade?

Where do you think his left and right hands are in relation to his left and right knees?

He does not, of course, describe it. He doesn't for sword and buckler either...

Tip back over your shoulder makes no sense, but what does?

Have to have someone hit me a couple of times while I adjust the blade until it makes a decent head guard.

Be nice if the bod who drew the left side pic had indulged his liking of shadows to give one to the sword....
zebee: (Default)
Being a 2nd generation geek, and a seriously verbal person....

Is it allowed to realise that you have to actually *do* it to understand something, and not just think about it?

(or does it just mean you aren't an Arisian adopted at birth?)

So I'm still ploughing through Marozzo. He's a very bright lad, as what he's doing - describing physical movements in writing - was a new idea at the time he was doing it, and he doesn't do too bad a job. I do suspect that he got sloppy towards the end though! And when he gets more into theory, such as timing, then he's floundering a bit.

(I'm still amazed at how much theory and understanding as shown in the 16thC Italian fencing schools was taught to me by my fencing master in damn near the same words. There really is nothing new under the sun.)

Anyway, I'm getting past the "assaults" which are really just teasers for "this is what you need to learn to do" and into some theory.

The first thing you have to accept in the 2nd half of the Spadone section is that as it's not a longsword but a great sword, if you get to what he calls "medig spada" which seems to mean what the Germans call "the cross" where you have struck blades edge to edge and are close enough to reach out and touch someone....

Once you get that close, forget about using the blade. You start the wrestling and the pommel strikes and the fisticuffs. Ugly stuff.

I'm skipping that though, won't be usable in the SCA and it's dangerous.

But then I get to something like " that is if he casts a manditto tondo or
his mandritto fendente or his mandritto redoppio, you can raise in guardia alta in the time of his unleashing; but in his casting of the said mandritto, and be the one he wants, so you throw yourself in that way that you know and cast and unleash him a mandritto for his left temple or in his said mandritto, casting and immediately
entering and giving him a roverso to his right side or in his unleashing, lifting in guardia alta, in the casting of his mandritto, you will put yourself below them & consent and cast him a roverso redoppio;"


No way can I work that out just reading it.

So I tried standing in the living room with my sword, messing about with it, but I think I'll have to grab a fencing dummy and say "stand there while I attempt to kill you please"....

But it would be nice if he'd mentioned Guardia Alta a bit earlier. In sword and buckler Alta is where you stand with your sword vertical above your head like a well dressed lighting rod, I really can't see how it translates to you being false edge to false edge and you are going to try and eggshell him at the temple, break his elbow, or smash his teeth out with your pommel...

Lovely hobby for a lady eh?


May. 23rd, 2009 06:01 pm
zebee: (Default)
Someone on was gushing about notecase, so I gave it a try.

It's doing the job, in that I can use it to break up each assault section and then make notes as I try them, plus I can add diagrams and pictures.

It exports to text and to html, so that's useful as a backup.

So now I'm enthused about Spadone again.

It's a very geeky thing really, complete with jargon:

"So having arrived nearby your enemy, you will put yourself in guardia di testa to go for the said enemy; but watch well if that he is in porta di ferro alta it is necessary that you do a falso inpontato outside of his sword to his right side, passing with the your left leg, & right forward, casting simultaneously in such passing a mandritto for the head with a tramazzone, in a way that your sword
will settle in porta di ferro larga."
zebee: (Default)
So I'm trying to get back to analysing Marozzo's great sword text, with a view to using it with longsword. (Being short, there's not a lot of difference...)

How Marozzo explains his system is via a series of "assaults" which are vaguely like kata in the Eastern systems. He describes your reaction to your opponent making some attack.

Usually there's 3 or 4 parts to each assault, with each part showing the move from one guard to another, and what happens on the way.

So from this, I want to deduce the principles behind it. If someone attacks with a fendente - a straight down blow - what do you do? And does that apply to all high attacks? What is the timing, what are the usual targets, what footwork is usually used with each move, are there things you don't do?

THe way I've seen this done is using index cards. You write each segment onto a card and note the guard you are in, the one you move to, and what it is in response to.

Then you look them all over, looking for patterns. Is there a "move this direction in response to this" pattern? A pattern in the timing, in that are some things usually attacked in preparation rather than counter attacked or deflected?

What is the usual method of attack, how is the opponent set up for your blow?

The geek in me wonders if these patterns could be easier with a database.

"Opponent in porto di ferro, responses are these" or "Only steps to the right in these circumstances".

I did try, but none of the quickly available cheap and easy ones seemed to have enough flexibility.

Back to index cards.


zebee: (Default)

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