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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Sep, 2009 8:41 pm    Post subject: Article on bouting artifacts         Reply with quote

Hi all,

I wrote a paper/article on recognizing and dealing with artifacts in free play for the benefit of NYHFA students and I would like to share it with the community.

Although it is focused on longsword bouting the medieval German tradition, much of it can be applied to other systems.

Feel free to view, download and use it however you see fit, as long as you don't modify it in any way.

I hope that it proves usefull.

You can find it on the "Articles" section of our website here:

http://www.newyorklongsword.com/articles.html

...and here is a direct link:

http://www.newyorklongsword.com/articles/WMAB.pdf

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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Sep, 2009 9:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I made some minor changes, based on feedback. That was quick. Happy
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Sep, 2009 10:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great article Michael and I agree to all of it. Big Grin Cool

Where people might not agree is if they can't get out of the " game/winning " bouts mindset rather than trying to simulate the conditions of a real encounter with sharps in ernest.

The group I train with is on the extreme control/low protective gear of the spectrum and we try to stop all blows short of touching but accept that in a bout or simulated duel light touches will still happen.

We do use fencing masks and gloves but rarely gambison or any more serious protective gear.

I do think that this type of training does cause one to have to keep " control " foremost in one's mind and does make it very different in intent than if one was trying to follow through with powerful cuts.

The " artifact " in this case is that one must have a foot on the brake at the same time that one has the other foot on the gas pedal: Affects the intent of one's strike since one doesn't actually want to connect and do real damage.

At the same time it's hard to " menace " the opponent with a strike they will instinctively feel the urgent need to do something about: Intercept, counter or move out of the way ..... i.e. a lot of simultaneous suicidal strikes due to lack of fear !

The thing is that the only way to counter this artifact is for both participant to " ACT " literally act like " method actors " and try to make believe that the training sword is a real sword and that the danger of being touched/hit is real: This only works if both bouter have the same training goal of simulating real combat conditions and get away from a winning at any cost a " game ".

Games/sports can be fun but one should get clear in one's mind if one is trying to get good at a game or one is exploring and trying to learn how real swordsmanship, when lives where at stake, worked. Wink Big Grin

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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Sep, 2009 10:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Jean. Our groups...NYHFA and yours...are very similar in intent and execution. We should try to get together someday for some sharing of ideas and stuff. You're not that far away, after all.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 22 Sep, 2009 10:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think you did a good job of identifying the pitfalls of the various work arounds in trying to simulate real combat without actually having injuries of death. Wink

Can you expand on the positive aspects of how to minimize the negatives and get closer to accurately structure bouting so as to simulate real fighting as accurately as possible ?

Really a " BIG " question that probably has for answers a lot of " It depends " !

I think that there is the physical aspect of equipment, good technique and effective post bout analyses of what happened so as to learn from the successes, errors in execution and errors ( Artifacts ) slipping in in spite of being aware of them and trying to avoid them.

The second aspect is the mind set needed to keep it " real " and not a sporting or ego thing: If only one participant is thinking/acting like it's a simulation of a real fight and the other has a scoring points mindset, bouting will be frustrating and non productive when trying to keep things as a martial art and as close as possible to our interpretations of the historical techniques.

Actually, I don't expect a short or easy answer as this is a constant struggle of both understanding and execution of techniques, and it may take a life time to really get it ! ( If ever !? ).

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Andreas Auer




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 3:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

thank you Michael...great article.

one Artifact, a very important one, in my point of view is that we are not fighting against each other, but with each other.

Andreas

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to keep that pointy end thingy away from you...
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 5:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Andreas.

Fighting with each other and not against each other? I don't know who you've been hanging out with... Happy

In all seriousness, that is a good one. I will probably include it in a revision, thank you.

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 6:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Edelson wrote:
Thanks Andreas.

Fighting with each other and not against each other? I don't know who you've been hanging out with... Happy

In all seriousness, that is a good one. I will probably include it in a revision, thank you.


When training even in period I assume that they would be doing it " With " and not " Against " but would have the advantage of really experiencing the " AGAINST " part and be better at spotting the differences and artifacts.

At least those with real fight experience would have this experience but young and new trainees would not have this experience. Their teachers/masters would, or at least have been trained themselves by experiences fighters !?

As with soldiers today in times of peace or police officers many would not have been in battle themselves, so they might be " trained " realistically and have access to some trainers who would have been tested both technically and mentally by experiencing the dangers of the real thing even if they themselves would not have experienced the real thing. ( In period the really badly trained, unskilled or unlucky wouldn't still be around generally although one shouldn't completely discount the presence of incompetent trainers and " poser " exaggerating their competence or experience !? ).

Oh, don't want to get too far off subject though, but the point is that being cooperative as opposed to really trying too " beat " each other is an artifact that has to be there but might be compensated for to a degree ???

It's also possible that in period, with the stakes so high in being competent, as well as much less concern about " safety " may have meant that some so-called bouts would often be pretty rough and violent and might be closer to a real fight than what we can legally and morally do today ?

Rivalries between teachers. schools, bullies and people who just didn't like each other might lead to simulated fighting getting to be very close to the real thing and maybe some duels would be things of honor between rival masters or students ? ( Just asking as I'm just guessing here as training might have had " guild " rules keeping things " reasonable " and even in period acting like a jerk might have been frowned upon ? ).

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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 6:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Can you expand on the positive aspects of how to minimize the negatives and get closer to accurately structure bouting so as to simulate real fighting as accurately as possible ?


Well, in my opinion, the first step is recognizing that you can't. Free play is not supposed to be a simulation, it is supposed to be a learning tool, one of many. It has many valuable things to teach you, such as judging measure, timing, thinking on your feet, dealing with fear, etc. However, it does not teach you how to fight, nor does performance in free play equate to performance in fighting. Drills are where you learn to fight, because the way you do things in drills (especially full speed and power dynamic drills) is much, much closer to the way you would do things in a fight.

There are people I can dance circles around in bouts that I fear would kill me in a real fight.

The second step, as I see it, is to never judge your skill based on your bouting performance. This is very difficult, and a constant struggle. You should do this no more than you should judge your skill based on your cutting performance, or your drilling performance. Your skill is an amalgamation of these and other factors. To judge by any one of these would place undo emphasis and skew training. The exception, to me, are the drills. You can never have enough, and never palce too much emphasis on them.

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 7:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great reply, thanks. Big Grin Cool

A well executed drill is maybe when the muscle memory is established in a cooperative perfect case if the " patient " feeds the " agent " the typically perfect move the technique being learned is supposed to deal with ?


Bouting is useful if one tries to apply the techniques learned in drills and trying do use the techniques is more important than succeeding in winning bouts if bouting is being used as a training tool rather than as a " fun " activity in itself ! ( I assume that this is maybe one of the points you are trying to make ? ).

Once in a while one does have to just have a bit of fun just to keep one's motivation in training as being " serious " about it all the time can be tedious, but at the same time one shouldn't bout too much to avoid reinforcing bad habits.

Quote:
There are people I can dance circles around in bouts that I fear would kill me in a real fight.


And this would be intent in use of technique ( In French l'intention du geste: The intent behind the action ): The intent is very different when the goal is to win a fight while avoiding injury to oneself at almost all costs ( A small injury might be acceptable if the alternative is losing and getting killed but the first rule of a swordfight is don't get cut or stabbed ! ).

Anyway when the intent is the same as with a cutting target, in going through the target, one moves differently and when faced with someone wanting to do the same to you, being prudent while still being bold at the right time, the fight becomes very different than when simulating a fight !

I do know that in bouts I always have the feeling of holding back and I have no idea how my " fight " would compare to the way I fight in a friendly bout !? There is a focus missing in play that should be there if it was for real ! ( At least I imaging it to be so ).

( Anyway, until we get a virtual reality simulation like a Star Trek holodeck where one could move with total safety without having to hold anything back for safety, we have to make the best of it ).

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 7:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Edelson wrote:

Well, in my opinion, the first step is recognizing that you can't. Free play is not supposed to be a simulation, it is supposed to be a learning tool, one of many.


Trying to not be longwinded in this post ( A rare thing for me, I know ). Wink Laughing Out Loud : So how does one use freeplay in a produtive way ?

What are the signs we are not or doing too often or counterproductively ?

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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 9:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Michael Edelson wrote:

Well, in my opinion, the first step is recognizing that you can't. Free play is not supposed to be a simulation, it is supposed to be a learning tool, one of many.


Trying to not be longwinded in this post ( A rare thing for me, I know ). Wink Laughing Out Loud : So how does one use freeplay in a produtive way ?

What are the signs we are not or doing too often or counterproductively ?


Just by keeping it in the proper context, by realizing what it is, by not trying "win" and by trying to use it for its intended purpose.

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Steven H




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 11:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks. I liked this article.

One of my favorite points was, "In fact, German texts go to great lengths to explain that there is protection in attacking, as it forces your opponent to defend himself." A concise illustration of the expected attitude.

Cheers,
Steven

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Patrick de Marchi




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 11:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Michael and everybody,

I read your artice yesterday and found it very interesting, clever. It also seems to me that, underneath, lies a good deal of experience. Am I right Wink ?

I know that Jean, passionate as he is, has already told of the way we do things, but I'd like to add a few lines.

Here in Montreal with "les Duellistes", My collegue Yan and I insist a lot on non-competitive bouting. We try to reproduce a martial art, not a martial sport. So we think that the main goal in bouting is to try to make it out alive and not to hit the adversary whatever happens to us.
We know that competition cannot be taken out of human beings; in bouting, we all wish to "win", al least not "lose" and the latter is mostly taken as a failure; I rather believe the contrary. We learn much more when we are hit, because it pushes us to reevaluate the way we do things and get better.
So we tend to divert our pupils from competition by suggesting them to set a few goals before bouting. Could be anything : realizing a precise "Stück" in the right context (but not necessarily gaining the advantage with it, because it depends mostly on the way the adversary reacts), to focus on moving their legs, to accept loosing advantage to a newbie (pride is a nice place to explore with martial arts, don' you think?), etc.
It works pretty well and we can see they like it.
Did someone else try that?

We use wasters and blunts during practices and boutings. We have chosen to minimize body protections; only gloves when practicing with wasters, with the addition of a fencing mask when bouting with wood or steel. Some of you reading this may fall off their chairs; let me explain :
We have observed through the years that the superposition of protective gears leads inevitably to less control of the weapon(s) you hold in your hand(s) : "why should I waste my stamina controlling my blows when my adversary wears steel gauntlets, a thick gamibson and skate protections for elbows and knees?"
The results is : more protections = more injuries
So we conclude that the best way to avoid problem is to not add padding, BUT to learn how to control your blows. Since the opening of "les Duellistes" five years ago, we had no serious injuries.
Now, I'm aware that this causes one of the artifacts that you wrote about in your article : a good deal of strength is taken out of our blows and we have to add a supervisor to interpret if an attack would have hit its target or had been covered. It complicated things
If you have any piece of advice to make it lighter, I'll be glad and thankful to know!

As Andreas summarizes it, we fight with each other, not against. And this causes another artifact : the lack of psychological stress normally induced in fighting. I think this one is very important and changes all. Facing agression and violence (our own included!) , real or set in a controlled environment as we do it), forces us to deal with fear, panic, indecision, etc. If this is not included, I tend to think that it is as if a rainbow had only six colors instead of seven.
Any thoughts about that?

Thanks again for sharing your opinions and knowledge with us!
You are right, our groups are not so far away. How about a little meeting?


Patrick
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 11:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Steven.

I've always like that particular point also.

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Bryce Felperin




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 1:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The school I learn at we also don't use more protection than necessary. Usually we practice the same level as Patrick with only gloves and fencing mask when using wasters. We have many who fight in full plate armor and rebated (dull) steel swords also, but I have fought in bouts with fencing jacket/gambeson, fencing mask and gloves with steel also. The general goal is control of your weapon above all else. If you can't control your weapon, you can't master it after all.

I found that when I put on a heavy gambeson, hockey/lacrose gloves and helmet that I fought worse rather than better. If you are protected completely from blows, then you don't take them seriously. You actually don't learn as well when you don't perceive the other person's weapon as a danger. Yes the other person can hit you hard and make it hurt, but if they don't want the same treatment they learn control to lessen blow impact as I do.

So far it has worked very well. However all bets are off if you fight someone you don't know who comes from another school or background. Then you need to take some precautions more or give them a "trial" with more protection. For instance, at Ren faires our group NEVER lets others we don't know fight us, nor do we fight patrons. Insurance reasons and common sense dictate that you know the other person you're fighting is competent and in control of their weapon unless you want to invite injuries.
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Patrick de Marchi




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 2:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree with you, Bryce. More protection means less freedom of movement, hence less speed and agility. More than that, what is the use of practicing, for example, Liechtenauer's unarmoured longsword system if one wears a complete set of armour?

But, as I gain more experience, I also think that meeting fencers from other groups/systems is the best way to determine if what I do is efficient, mainly for two reasons : the first reason is a strategic one; as the adversary uses another martial system and is not familiar with mine, I can see the real effect of the latter. As if my adversary was, as it is defined in the I.33, a generales.
Incidentally, this point is also a problem when everybody in a group or school learns and applies the same system. One tends to not use it anymore because the others know the ways to defeat it. it's a teaching problem. Maybe some of you observe this as well?
Secondly, the psychologic stress I was talking about above can take place - at least part of it since our lives are not in real danger - because we both ignore what to expect from eachother. Of course and to avoid injuries, we have to first clearly state the way we'll fight, considering speed, strength, control, equipment, etc (as were stated in the law the ways to conduct a duel in the middle age). But don't take me for a fool. If I see to big a risk to be injured, I'll stop the bouting.
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 2:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting article, thought provoking even though my thought process is currently severely hampered by the lack of sleep Happy Here are a few remarks in no particular order, I wrote them as I read through:

1) I can't really agree with that one:

Quote:
Fighting a suicidal fencer, that is a fencer willing to give his life to kill you—or in the case of bouting someone without sufficient training and/or understanding to react appropriately to an attack—is like fighting someone armed with a sword when you yourself are unarmed. That is, in theory you should be able to do this, but in practice you’re probably going to get creamed.


True, it is harder to fight someone willing to die in order to take you. But you seem to imply that it does not happen in real life at all... I think you'd get exactly the same problem fighting for real, especially so if all the fighters are being told that the best defense is the offense. The only difference is the risk taken, losing your life or losing the game, but the gain is proportionally smaller as well. Given the chance, no one takes the double when they see any solution that prevents themselves from being hit; but at some point you have to take the chance.

I don't think many people behave in a true suicidal way as you describe, even in bouting, and I'm sure at least that you don't win a tournament behaving like that either.

2) The weighted shinai can actually be quite close to the real thing, or at least I believe so without having measured a lot of them to compare.

The normal shinai has actually two problems as far as balance is concerned. First, it is too light, as you rightly point out. Second, the mass is too spread along the length, i.e. it is closer to a stick than to a sword.

When weight is added around the cross area, the shinai gets heavier and its mass is more concentrated at the cross. This makes it a lot closer to a real sword. If you look at real swords their mass is actually distributed exactly like that: a light stick with a big point mass at the cross.

This does not mean that you cannot go wrong when weighing the shinais, but you can certainly get close to the mark.

Word is spreading that a new line of plastic weapons developped in England could alleviate the need for weighted shinais. While not being perfect I suppose (can't behave like a sharp steel weapon in every way unless you're a sharp steel weapon Wink ) it could prove to be a very good compromise for bouting.

3) It seems that a good number of those artifacts can be avoided by giving priority to hits executed with intent to a vital target. In particular that "fear" would stop being a problem after fighters figure that they risk their head when they target for example the hand too often.



It would make sense I think to continue the series with the artifacts associated to other forms of training... Just to balance the grim picture Wink Also, I'm left wondering how many of those are true artifacts leading us away from what happens in real fights, and how many are artifacts that just lead us away from what the manuals describe (which may or may not be so close to what actually happens).

Finally, I still think the tactical artifacts can be prevented by the rule structure chosen, and that fighting to win can actually be a good thing when the rules enforce realistic tactics.

Regards,

--
Vincent
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 2:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Patrick,

I take you are the director of Jean's school...I can see where he gets several of his admirable qualities. Happy

To address your questions, and this is my opinion only, there is a balance between protective gear and control, and if you ask me, you are a little bit too heavily on one side of the scale. No matter what you do, you are going to have artifacts, and from both your post and what Jean has told me over the years you guys are extremely good at identifying them and working around them.

I believe we have found the perfect position on the scale four our advanced people, which is fencing mask, gambeson and padded gloves combined with control, and fencing masks and padded RSW swords for our less experienced students.

I look forward to meeting you guys sometime in the future.

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Bryce Felperin




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 4:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick de Marchi wrote:
I agree with you, Bryce. More protection means less freedom of movement, hence less speed and agility. More than that, what is the use of practicing, for example, Liechtenauer's unarmoured longsword system if one wears a complete set of armour?

But, as I gain more experience, I also think that meeting fencers from other groups/systems is the best way to determine if what I do is efficient, mainly for two reasons : the first reason is a strategic one; as the adversary uses another martial system and is not familiar with mine, I can see the real effect of the latter. As if my adversary was, as it is defined in the I.33, a generales.
Incidentally, this point is also a problem when everybody in a group or school learns and applies the same system. One tends to not use it anymore because the others know the ways to defeat it. it's a teaching problem. Maybe some of you observe this as well?
Secondly, the psychologic stress I was talking about above can take place - at least part of it since our lives are not in real danger - because we both ignore what to expect from eachother. Of course and to avoid injuries, we have to first clearly state the way we'll fight, considering speed, strength, control, equipment, etc (as were stated in the law the ways to conduct a duel in the middle age). But don't take me for a fool. If I see to big a risk to be injured, I'll stop the bouting.
There is no disgrace to go on the run...
Patrick


Yep, the guard of the foot is often a good one. ;-)

We also do play with other schools, but you have to know somewhat whether they teach any form of control and set up/discuss the rules of play before hand to be safe. After all, I do this for a recreational and sport activity, not as warfare. ;-)
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