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Jesse Eaton

Joined: 15 Feb 2008

Posts: 34

PostPosted: Wed 13 May, 2009 5:09 pm    Post subject: The Game         Reply with quote

In conversation with an old sparring partner of mine, which I hadnít seen for years, he mentioned that he has been focusing on teaching and learning WMA in terms of the choreography. Iíve been thinking about his concept of fighting as choreography and wondered what other practitioners think.

My thought is that Choreography and Principles combine to make a play (or fight). Choreography gives you the specifics of the plays/fights. Principles give you the underlying concepts that make particular plays/fights work. Given the principles of fighting and the particular arms and armor used, the choreography evolves. Examining the choreography of a given art, the principles can be derived. A single choreographed play alone tells us very little, if anything, of the principles at work. But a set of plays from a given art can be examined and the principles derived. Some of the masters focused on plays, some on principles, but all used both. I tend towards principles. As a student of several styles of martial arts, I can see principles clearly. But I have little eye for choreography. I often times find myself practicing choreographed moves after I've spent time dwelling on the principles of a given fight. I have a hard time remembering a sequence of moves when I don't understand the principles at work. On the other hand, I've met all too many poor martial artists that only know the moves and fail to grasp the bigger picture (i.e. the principles).

I think both should be taught together. To steal a line from Kant (the philosopher), Principles without choreography are useless, choreography without principles are blind. I've been thinking about my friendís idea of choreography as readying oneís self for a time when an opponent will make a specific strike or position. I want to expand on that. What is even better is to learn to make your opponent strike or position their self in such a way as to make your choreographed set useful. The concept is to give your opponent the impression that he has an advantage in from taking a particular position or strike in a particular way, and then taking advantage of his mistake. This can be done in several ways:

1. Feigning weakness/vulnerability
2. Intimidation through fierce action
3. Projecting false intention

1 is something most martial arts practitioners probably know a lot about (i.e. leave the leg 'open' then counter). 2 is the hallmark of the Liechtenauer tradition. 3 is more subtle and used more in the single combat/duel schools of fighting and may require some explanation.

When your opponent is skilled and won't fall for either method 1 or 2, you might coax him into a flawed position or action by feigning to gear for one quadrant or another of his. Knowing his response, you can now strike to another quadrant (I'm assuming most you know your quadrants). The trick is to give a false tell that is not in fact a vulnerability. This can be risky if your opponent knows how to do this as well. And even trickier if he knows that you know how to do this. But of course, against a skilled opponent, what non-risky options are there? What do you think?
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Christopher VaughnStrever

Location: San Antonio, TX
Joined: 13 Jun 2008
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PostPosted: Wed 13 May, 2009 5:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i love the idea, where can i sign up?

in all seriousness, this is exactly what i have been thinking of. i simply could not use such words to describe what i was thinking. there are so many groups, but none that do it all...

Experience and learning from such defines maturity, not a number of age
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Jared Smith

Location: Tennessee
Joined: 10 Feb 2005
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PostPosted: Wed 13 May, 2009 6:33 pm    Post subject: Re: The Game         Reply with quote

Jesse Eaton wrote:

1. Feigning weakness/vulnerability
2. Intimidation through fierce action
3. Projecting false intention

One classical aspect of historical longsword teaching was the idea of seizing the initiative. (I believe it was called boar.) I would roughly compare this to strategic aggression, and lack of weak positions that continually placed the opponent in a more desperate situation defensively than the aggressor. Feints, flourishes, and recklessly brutish strength may be defeated by one truly skilled in this regard, for they tend to surrender the initiative unless they are employed very judiciously. I am sure my interpretation will be debated and refuted, but I believe it to be historically taught.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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David E. Farrell

Location: Evanston, IL
Joined: 25 Jun 2007

Posts: 156

PostPosted: Thu 14 May, 2009 8:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Depending on what you precisely mean by 'Choreographed' sequences, I may or may not agree that this is a good idea for studying a martial art.

If you mean to construct a relatively simple set of actions that a 'patient' can make in response to an attack by an 'agent', which are used to impart one particular application of a greater concept - then yes, I agree this is a good idea. And it is one that is historical as well as broadly applied up to the modern day. My HES group (among others) uses this approach with great success. We refer to these as 'set plays' (because the agent and patient each have a defined role), by loosening restrictions you can easily progress from rigid set plays to looser plays exploring variations to all out fencing. All the while, concepts are being learned and reinforced.

if you mean to construct a set of actions that one can perform against an agent for each thing they may do and thus learn every application of a concept- then I must disagree. Either you will find yourself going crazy trying to memorize all the different permutations and your fight will fall apart as you try to recall the 'correct' sequence of actions or you have *much* greater mental and physical capacity than I.

AKA: 'Sparky' (so I don't need to explain later Wink )

For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother
-- King Henry, Henry V, William Shakespeare

Before I came here I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture I am still confused... but on a higher level.
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Jesse Eaton

Joined: 15 Feb 2008

Posts: 34

PostPosted: Thu 14 May, 2009 1:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah, the idea is to use a limited number of well drilled set plays and then apply tactics that induce your opponent to act in a way that allows for the application of those plays. The list must be long enough to allow for multiple applications without letting opponents 'catch on' to what you are doing. The list has to be short enough to allow for decisive move in the heat of battle. The list also needs to be flexible and sufficiently diverse to allow for the possibility of of unforeseen circumstances. If the list is diverse enough, then you should be able to understand the principles underlying the set plays. The set plays should always incorporate the basic concepts of physics, physiology, and psychology inherent in a martial situation. But the trick is in figuring out how to get your opponent to do what it is you want them to. As David pointed out, trying to have a set play for every circumstance is nearly impossible and would require enormous brain power and time. If we have a limited number of well drilled set plays that are sufficient to cover a wide range of positions and we can provoke our opponent into fighting within that range, then we should be able to win every fight, barring an unforeseeable accident.

Looking back at the list of three tactics, I should have put them differently. It should be

1. Use a set of aggressive movements to keep your opponent constantly on the defense (ie seize the initiative)

2. Feign a weakness to make your opponent believe he can use tactic 1 then capitalize on his error

3. Project a false intention to do 1 or 2 then capitalize on your opponents error

Each tactic is employed for different levels of tactical sophistication of an opponent. A less sophisticated opponent will not necessarily recognize 2 and 3, so 1 is the natural tactic to use. A more sophisticated opponent will use 1, so you have to make sure that he uses a set play that benefits you. 2 is an efficient way to deal with some one that knows how to employ 1 but doesn't yet understand 2. An even More sophisticated opponent, one that understands 1 and 2, will require type 3 tactics. Projecting false intentions by appearing to 'gear up' for a specific type of attack, focusing your vision on a specific target, or using stutter steps and twitches without following through with an attack, can make a sophisticated fighter believe he has caught you in a tell. A less sophisticated opponent may or may not recognize the false tell. Deciding which tactic to use depends a lot on understanding your opponent, which leads to tactics 4 and 5.

4. Prior to engagement, learn as much about your opponents fighting style as possible

5. Prior to engagement, disguise your own skill level and tactical sophistication

4 and 5 are, I believe, well documented in such military masterpieces as "The Art of War" (Tsun Tzu's and Machiavelli's), "A book of Five Spheres" and others. But I mention them here because they are critical to deciding which tactics (1-3) one should use in a fight.

Hope this helps clarify what I meant in the post Happy
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Bennison N

Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Joined: 06 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Thu 14 May, 2009 4:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher VaughnStrever wrote:
...there are so many groups, but none that do it all...

I love to hear people say things like this. I recently bought a fibreglass sparring Rapier (the last owner was unbeaten in the local SCA groups with it, but I've already lost twice...) to help me understand my Jianshu better. It has always been my intention to take everything I can from all schools I come across.

Also... I need to ask, do you consider Kata/Forms to be "choreography"?

Also, I always say that to understand Sun Tzu, you need to read his grandson Sun Bin ("Sun the Mutilated") as well. Together they bring such a clearer picture. It seems that not a lot of people know of Sun Bin, which is a great shame.

"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" - Confucius

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Jesse Eaton

Joined: 15 Feb 2008

Posts: 34

PostPosted: Thu 14 May, 2009 4:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote


Yes, I do consider Kata's to be choreography.

No, I haven't red Sun Bin, but thanks for the heads up. I'll be reading that too, as soon as I can get a copy. Do you have any recommendations as to translations or a preffered edition?
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Grayson C.

Location: NCF, Sarasota, FL
Joined: 25 Oct 2006

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PostPosted: Thu 14 May, 2009 4:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jesse, I see what you're trying to say here and I agree with it quite a bit!

...Although I just lost Cool
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