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Colt Reeves





Joined: 09 Mar 2009

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PostPosted: Sat 14 Aug, 2010 12:13 am    Post subject: My German Longsword Technique or Lack-There-Of         Reply with quote

Ok, for some time now I've been popping up in the odd thread or two trying to talk like a armchair general of sorts when it comes to WMA/swords/etc/etc. Now I'm going to put a little money where my mouth is... sort of. Wink

I just signed up for Youtube and used my new camera to do a short video of me swinging around my Hanwei War Sword. I'd like some of those on this board (who know far more than I ever will about swordplay and martial arts in general) to give me a little feedback as to my technique.

Here's the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sTvfJs35eI

Right away I can see some very obvious and simple things myself, though I'm not too sure on their significance. I obviously like to bob up and down, I swing back my sword quite a bit when I strike from Vom Tag, and I slide my feet across the floor. I already know bobbing up and down and placement of the sword varies from group to group, person to person, but are there any major views on sliding the feet?

And those are just the three things that jumped out at me. What else is glaringly wrong or odd? Am I doing anything right? What needs adjustment?

Disclaimer:
I am well aware I am far from perfect and the best title I can strive for at this point is novice, but I also want the audience to know that I have received no official training and most of my knowledge of German Swordplay is off the net, Youtube in particular. I can plainly see I am less than skilled, though at this point it is hard for me to focus on any particular thing I need to change, given my lack of training.

Six millionth edit:
And another thing I forgot to mention. Since this is in my apartment and space is cramped, I was limited in movement and was reluctant to go all out for fear of hitting things.
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JE Sarge
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PostPosted: Sat 14 Aug, 2010 1:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for posting and inviting a critique.

I am unfamiliar with the German system; I studied Fiore. While I will not critique your method, I will offer some words on the weapon you are using; I believe it's too short for practicing German or Italian longsword. I'd suggest picking up something with at least a 34" blade and a longer grip to work on your technique - perhaps one of the new polymer trainers. They are inexpensive, safer for indoors, and effective training tools.

Also, instead of practicing indoors - you need alot more room. I'd suggest that finding an outdoor pavilion or gym would be better for you - as working indoors with such limited space will result in you cramping yourself and not practicing your footwork/movement properly.

Keep us posted on how you progress and good luck in your studies. Happy

J.E. Sarge
Crusader Monk Sword Scabbards and Customizations
www.crusadermonk.com

"But lack of documentation, especially for such early times, is not to be considered as evidence of non-existance." - Ewart Oakeshott
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Colt Reeves





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PostPosted: Sat 14 Aug, 2010 3:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I got the Hanwei War Sword largely because I moved away for school and didn't bring my other swords with me. It was cheap and gave me a hit for my sword addiction. That being said, the ones I have back home don't really fit the bill for true longsword techniques either, with one being a single-hand Norse type sword and the other being the Windlass English Baron with a blade of 36" but still a short hilt/pommel length of about 8". I have my eyes on the Hanwei Bastard Sword, which is surprisingly cheap and looks to be less of bastard and more of longsword size if I'm not mistaken. Not a particularly good sword for true practitioners I suppose, but I'm not one of those and I'm still in a stage where I don't want to buy anything over $200.

As for practicing elsewhere, I am reluctant to do anything in public, but you have a good idea there. I have been so used to being secretive back home with my swords that I never gave much thought to leaving the apartment here.

Possibly student services would be willing to let me use an empty room somewhere. Could be an insurance issue, though they do let other martial art activities take place on school grounds. I'm one idiot with a sword, not some fancy club with uniforms and a website, so I may not impress them much. If I did that though, it would actually force me to work on the skills. At home I have a tendency to do a few moves and quit in favor of something else. I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to go to a room somewhere only to leave after five minutes.

The waster idea is another one I've been largely ignoring as well. It's not a real sword, it doesn't slice and dice, so I've been thinking of it as a someday purchase for when I actually find someone to spar with and haven't really checked prices or compared different versions. Using one of those would probably look better in the public's and student service's eyes.

Oh, and the relatively low ceiling is partly to blame for my lazy down by the shoulder Vom Tag. Even if doing over the head didn't feel awkward to me I couldn't do it here.




I write long posts....
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 14 Aug, 2010 4:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Colt Reeves wrote:

The waster idea is another one I've been largely ignoring as well. It's not a real sword, it doesn't slice and dice .....

....... Using one of those would probably look better in the public's and student service's eyes.

Oh, and the relatively low ceiling is partly to blame for my lazy down by the shoulder Vom Tag. Even if doing over the head didn't feel awkward to me I couldn't do it here.


Well wasters are what one trains with the most so slicing and dicing really don't have a place when training with a partner ....
for obvious reasons. Wink Laughing Out Loud

Using a shorter than normal sword may just be convenient if you are stuck having to train with low ceiling and small rooms. Wink

The Baron sized sword with and 8" grip can certainly be used two handed with later longsword techniques but certainly the shorter handled swords even if with a long enough blades are less responsive and give less good leverage than a 12" or more handle.

It's very difficult training alone this way if you haven't had some coaching and practice with a partner: So much of the technique is in the feel of sword on sword, hard or soft is hard to imagine if one hasn't felt actual contact between swords.

Also when trying a technique like this " alone " you have to imagine the actions of the target/training partner and visualize what they are doing, imagine pressure on your sword and how the technique works i.e. what you are trying to do.

I would try to do each of the master strokes and repeat each rather than trying to link techniques together " Kata-like " as it's hard enough trying to do one thing well.

Someone with real experience I guess can imagine a series of linked actions and visualize using their memory of what it felt like doing it for real when " stuck " having to do solo practice.

Don't want to, or feel qualified, to do a detailed critique of your moves but it doesn't look too bad to me except for a few odd times when you turn the sword from true edge down to false edge down in some sort of Pflug ( Plow guard ) or unextended longpoint ? ( You might be visualizing something that makes sense, I'm just not sure if you are doing it because it feels like a good transition from one guard to another ?) .

In general, you should avoid bringing the sword back before an attack as the move to the back telegraphs your attack and is a classic error that one trains to exploit and avoid oneself.

In person I might be able to give some basic advice to someone new but it is very difficult to write something useful when one could show it much more easily and give immediate feedback.

In any case I'm sure you will get advice from people used to training others and more qualified to notice and correct any errors you might be making.

Finding a training partner would certainly help as well as using books and DVDs and going slow trying to learn one little thing at a time. Hope this helps a bit. Wink Big Grin Cool

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James Head





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PostPosted: Sat 14 Aug, 2010 5:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Colt Reeves wrote:
I got the Hanwei War Sword...


Colt Reeves wrote:
The waster idea is another one I've been largely ignoring as well. It's not a real sword, it doesn't slice and dice...


Hi Colt. I'd like to offer some critique, but right off the bat I'd like to address the fact that it seems like you have been practicing with a sharp sword. I don't think Hanwei makes a blunt version of the War Sword. If this is the case, I would advise you to stop practicing immediately. With a sharp sword, it will only be a matter of time before something bad happens. Especially in such a confined space. You do need to get a true training tool like a waster or Hanwei's Practical Hand and a Half. Neither of these training tools will ever be able to slice and dice, but that is not the real point of learning a Historical Martial Art (although test cutting can be part of your studies)

There are a lot of little things that you need to work on, but that's part of learning any new skill. It is good that you have noticed some of the quirks yourself. People could pick apart your body mechanics all day, but the most important area that needs improvement is your guards.

You are holding Ochs to far behind your head. The crossguard is not protecting your head. I noticed that at roughly the 0:14 mark you thrust from Right Ochs and recover temporarily into a Left Ochs before thrusting again. That little bit of Left Ochs appears much better.

Imagine that you are pointing the tip of your Pflug at your opponent's face. I also think that you are holding Pflug too far back on your hip. This is another situation where you will protect yourself better if you hold the weapon a little farther forward so that the crossguard is slightly in front of your body. (Although there are one or two manuals that show Pflug illustrated far back on the hip, but then the is the question of how accurate the illustrations are...)

I leave out Vom Tag because there are so many variations out there, and you had to change the way you held it because of your small space.

For what it's worth, I also have some Youtube videos up, and one of them talks about the basics of the Four Guards. Maybe it will be of help to you. You can see it HERE
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Colt Reeves





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PostPosted: Sat 14 Aug, 2010 2:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Quote:
Don't want to, or feel qualified, to do a detailed critique of your moves but it doesn't look too bad to me except for a few odd times when you turn the sword from true edge down to false edge down in some sort of Pflug ( Plow guard ) or unextended longpoint ? ( You might be visualizing something that makes sense, I'm just not sure if you are doing it because it feels like a good transition from one guard to another ?) .


I'm not sure what you are referring to. I think you mean when I'm trying to do something similar to this here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmUqhrcSkY4 What Clements calls a vertical rising cut.



Concerning what you wrote, James, you're right that the War Sword is sold "sharp" and is unsafe. I consider it dull compared to my others back home and laugh at the idea that it could ever be used in test cutting, but it is still a lot sharper than any waster. I seriously doubt it could cut me in a straight impact, but the tip could put out an eye/slice a bit, and the rest of it might manage a ragged sort of cut if dragged forcefully across bare skin.

Do you have experience with the Hanwei Practical Hand and a Half? It seems a little on the small side as far as longswords go. In my present Hanwei Bastard Sword fixation, I was thinking of the Practical version of that, which is bigger.

I hadn't noticed the Ochs positioning, though I did think that I was holding Pflug a little further back than advisable. As you say, I do remember seeing a few illustrations showing it held back like that, but it still doesn't seem like a good idea. I haven't really seen myself in video like this before and it is showing me things I didn't realize I was doing.

Speaking of video, thanks for yours, though I sort of consider pointing out what I'm doing to be more helpful. Like I said, I've watched Youtube videos on this stuff before and still did things wrong, so having others take a look is beneficial.
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James Head





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PostPosted: Sat 14 Aug, 2010 3:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Colt Reeves wrote:
Do you have experience with the Hanwei Practical Hand and a Half? It seems a little on the small side as far as longswords go. In my present Hanwei Bastard Sword fixation, I was thinking of the Practical version of that, which is bigger.


The Practical Hand and a Half is what I'm using in the video. I'm 5'8 and I wouldn't go any shorter. You seem taller and I've heard good things about the new Hanwei Bastard, so I'd say go for it.
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M van Dongen




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PostPosted: Sat 14 Aug, 2010 5:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you want a longsword why not the hanwei/tinker blunt longsword trainer ?
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Colt Reeves





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PostPosted: Sat 14 Aug, 2010 7:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've considered that in the past. I would have to do something about that pommel though. I think of some chrome toggle switch or some such on a funky sports car when I see that thing. Wink I suppose the good thing is that it is made so I could easily fix that if I can get my hands on something suitable to replace it.

Also, what's kind of funny is how Hanwei labels it as a Longsword and the other as a Bastard sword when the latter is bigger than the former.


Edit: And yes, I'm taller than you James. Six foot even.
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Sat 14 Aug, 2010 8:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some good advice here on training swords, but don't get too caught up on what you're practicing with. Definitely not so much that you stop practicing until you get something else.

When one of my students complained of low ceilings, I gave her this:



A good sword is important, but in a pinch, you can get away with almost any sword like object. What's important is that you practice.

New York Historical Fencing Association
www.newyorklongsword.com

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Neil Langley




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PostPosted: Sat 14 Aug, 2010 11:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Now, before my involvement western swordsmanship I started off in a Japanese sword background so I have the following engrained in me (but I am convinced it is valid for all systems) ...

Colt Reeves wrote:

The waster idea is another one I've been largely ignoring as well. It's not a real sword ...


Training with a waster is real training. Furthermore, all swords - wasters, blunts or otherwise (Mr Edelson's odd kitchen implement - whatever it is - included. Michael is probably well aware of this in suggesting the cutlery in the first place) are REAL swords when you train with them! Dismissing a 'training' sword as being 'not real' in some way is totally the wrong mindset in my opinion. Always treat a waster/blunt like a live blade - don't throw it, leave it lying about, step over it, pass it to anyone by the blade - simply think of it as a dangerous (sharp) weapon just as the Japanese do. Having said that, then...

James Head wrote:

I would advise you to stop practicing immediately. With a sharp sword, it will only be a matter of time before something bad happens. Especially in such a confined space


With experience, and an awareness that you are using a live blade, I have no qualms about training with a sharp (I do) - but you do need real experience first. If Iaido is possible with a shinken then (as I see it) drill with a sharp longsword is acceptable, and safe, too (although you may not want to drill on your own just in case!). The key here is to get experience first and until then really believe that your waster IS a scary sharp sword. Mind you, indoors practice is not a good idea with a full length sword in any case at all - unless you have lots and lots of room (and high ceilings)!

Neil.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 14 Aug, 2010 11:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Colt Reeves wrote:
Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Quote:
Don't want to, or feel qualified, to do a detailed critique of your moves but it doesn't look too bad to me except for a few odd times when you turn the sword from true edge down to false edge down in some sort of Pflug ( Plow guard ) or unextended longpoint ? ( You might be visualizing something that makes sense, I'm just not sure if you are doing it because it feels like a good transition from one guard to another ?) .


I'm not sure what you are referring to. I think you mean when I'm trying to do something similar to this here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmUqhrcSkY4 What Clements calls a vertical rising cut.




Ah, that would be a yes, that is what I was referring to: Now that I know the source and the objective/purpose of the technique it does make more sense to me. Wink Laughing Out Loud But it isn't a technique our group usually uses so I wasn't very familiar with it although we have new members familiar with the Italian system that use something similar and we have been exploring this.

But again linking a whole series of guards and attacks together in a form of Kata may be very useful if you have learned how to do each well, including the subtleties like having your sword at the right place(s) protecting whatever the technique is supposed to guard, but if you do sequences of very partially learned techniques all at once you may just be training in a large number of errors. Exclamation Eek!

Now, executing each technique well is hard enough, linking them together is almost and art in itself to keep it real and not end up creating unrealistic to a real fight short cuts as you may skip over an essential part of a move as you rush to get to the next or do a bad move to get into position to do the next.

Just saying to not try to do it all at once: Learning 3 things well is more productive than trying to learn 10 things all at once that you don't fully understand and have no instructor to correct all the small things that add up to big errors. Wink Cool

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James Head





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PostPosted: Sun 15 Aug, 2010 8:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Neil Langley wrote:


With experience, and an awareness that you are using a live blade, I have no qualms about training with a sharp (I do) - but you do need real experience first. If Iaido is possible with a shinken then (as I see it) drill with a sharp longsword is acceptable, and safe, too (although you may not want to drill on your own just in case!). The key here is to get experience first and until then really believe that your waster IS a scary sharp sword. Mind you, indoors practice is not a good idea with a full length sword in any case at all - unless you have lots and lots of room (and high ceilings)!

Neil.


Hi Neil. I will have to disagree with you on this one. Unless you are specifically cutting an appropriate target like tatami, there is no reason to have a live blade in your hands when practicing drills and movements... S#!T HAPPENS
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Alen L




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PostPosted: Sun 15 Aug, 2010 9:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello there! First off, you really aren't as bad as you made it sound, definetely no worse then most of the beginners, and it seems you do have quite a bit of potential, so keep it up.

So, first thing, for starters, i would recommend you choose a master of the lichtenauer school (ringeck, meyer, i wouldn't really advise original lichtenauer, as it is bloody difficult to make out what he's trying to say), and stick with it for the basics.

Then, get a new sword/waster. This one has a grip that's too short.

For the third one, try getting a partner as soon as possible. This is really, really important, as you won't really know what you're doing wrong without a good partner.

Fourth, more room is absolutely necessary. If you have a forest nearby somewhere, go practice there.

Ok, now for your techniques.

As was mentioned, your guards could use some work. The thing i noticed first is that you aren't really facing your opponent in most of the guards, which in turn, makes the guards less reliable.

Pflug- you start off with this one. You use the what i like to call "come here if you dare" variation, which means really close to the body. This one is really useful for quick, powerful stabs, but not much else. Try the other one, with the hands extended and to the right of your center. The point should aim in the opponent's face.

The Ochs - here, you should turn more towards your enemies, and cover your head with the sword, meaning it should be in front of you. when you get a partner, and he does a regular scheitelhauw on you, you'll see why. (note: the ochs is much better when you go into zwerch)

Vom Tag - looks pretty good.

Of the rest, i didn't see enough to really comment.

As for the strikes: sometimes you start moving forward before your sword does, which is a bad thing. Razz You bob a lot up and down, but i think we all did that. It can be very obvious how and when you are going to attack by doing that. Also, when you start working outside, and you have more space, try stretching out a bit further, reching out longer. Your unterhauw, for instance, falls a bit short.

Otherwise, keep up the good work!
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Tim Hall




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PostPosted: Sun 15 Aug, 2010 10:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello

I have three pointers which I didn't see above:

The thing that stuck out the most to me was that your shoulders were not relaxed. They seemed to be tensed up and tight. I would recommend practicing your cuts slowly at first with relaxed shoulders and paying attention to all the little details so that you don't develop muscle memory for bad habits.

Second tip is extension. I realize you're in a tight area but once again if you cut slowly you can make sure you don't hit things(this is what I do when I'm forced to practice inside due to bad weather) but also get that proper extension. as you can see in James' video, in most cases cuts should pass through langenort and then retreat to whichever guard you prefer.

Finally, I would advise not dropping your point back before cutting(example at 0:28). I noticed that when you cut an oberhau you would drop the point before you cut. This is a pretty big telegraph and I would advise paying attention to it.
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Sun 15 Aug, 2010 5:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James Head wrote:
Neil Langley wrote:


With experience, and an awareness that you are using a live blade, I have no qualms about training with a sharp (I do) - but you do need real experience first. If Iaido is possible with a shinken then (as I see it) drill with a sharp longsword is acceptable, and safe, too (although you may not want to drill on your own just in case!). The key here is to get experience first and until then really believe that your waster IS a scary sharp sword. Mind you, indoors practice is not a good idea with a full length sword in any case at all - unless you have lots and lots of room (and high ceilings)!

Neil.


Hi Neil. I will have to disagree with you on this one. Unless you are specifically cutting an appropriate target like tatami, there is no reason to have a live blade in your hands when practicing drills and movements... S#!T HAPPENS


Hi James,

I respect your views on this and there is merit in what you say (particularly that a beginner should not use a sharp sword), but I think it's best to leave this one to individual preferences. For example, I advocate practicing with sharp swords, and accurately reproduced ones at that, as absolutely necessary to the study of HEMA.

It's cool that you disagree, but practicing with sharps is a long standing tradition in sword arts (eg Japanese arts) that aim to train students for fighting in earnest. Risk of injury is present, but you have to accept it as the price of studying how to use a deadly weapon.

If they passed a law that said I could no longer do my solo drills with my sharps I would either become a criminal or quit HEMA. I feel it is that important.

New York Historical Fencing Association
www.newyorklongsword.com

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http://newyorkbattodo.com/
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Colt Reeves





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PostPosted: Sun 15 Aug, 2010 10:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would think the odd practice session with a sharp for half-swording would be needed to be fully assured of one's hand technique, though I wouldn't recommend doing it with a partner.

Alen, you say I am not facing my opponent. How so? My body? Feet? Sword? I thought I was fairly good on that account, though I tend to slouch and look down most of the time. (I have found in the past that I prefer to watch an opponent's body rather than arms or face. On the other hand, I usually lost sparring matches, so...)

Concerning the thing about sharps injuries, would it be wrong to say that most injuries from a Western sword come from bouncing it off of something you shouldn't while katana injuries tend to occur due to putting it away in a flashy manner? I've noticed a fair number of reports of people stabbing themselves when putting away their katanas in the traditional way and people cutting themselves bouncing Western swords off pells. Maybe it's just me...

On another note, thanks for the advice folks. My present plan of action is to decide on a suitable blunt for practice and check with campus to see if I can practice in an empty room somewhere.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Aug, 2010 12:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Edelson wrote:

Hi James,


It's cool that you disagree, but practising with sharps is a long standing tradition in sword arts (eg Japanese arts) that aim to train students for fighting in earnest. Risk of injury is present, but you have to accept it as the price of studying how to use a deadly weapon.

I


But only for very advanced students and with perfect control as far as training with sharps but psychologically it would " FOCUS THE MIND " by inserting real danger and care in not stupidly rushing into any attacks.

I assume that the vast majority of this would be structured pre-established drills and that bouting, if any, would have to be done very carefully.

As to sharps and handling them solo: I come more from a collector's background but I always wanted my swords to be real weapons with very sharp edges and before collecting swords I was into knives that where either sharpened by the maker or re-sharpened by me that I could shave with them. In decades of handling I have had only a couple of cuts that where deep enough to possibly justify stitches although I didn't bother doing more than applying pressure and a bandaid. Wink

Tiny little cuts more like papercuts where more frequent but the point of all the above is that a " SHARP " should be treated like it's an always loaded gun and one always aware of where the edges and point are oriented and what objects or body parts could get in the way of the sharp edge(s) or point at all times.

Even blunts and wasters should be handled as if they where sharps so that bad handling habits don' t bite you later when handling a sharp too casually or inattentively.

Anyway, these good habit owning and collecting sharps do transfer well to " solo training " with a sharp but one should not handle a sharp at any time without being " ALL THERE MENTALLY " at the time: Too tired, too drunk, too mad or emotional or too casual i.e. getting so comfortable with the sharps as to lose focus and do something stupid or careless on a stupid impulse if just playing with the sharp.

( NOTE: This is partly in reply and in support of Michael's post but stuff I'm sure he knows better than I do, so I'm also making this post as a general comment and my take on sharps Wink Big Grin Cool ).

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Andrew Maxwell




Location: New Zealand
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PostPosted: Mon 16 Aug, 2010 3:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Colt,

I won't critique your technique right now, but I will offer some advice which I think will be helpful: get yourself a safer practice tool, get other people to practice with (at least one), get some decent source material (I recommend Christian Tobler's Fighting with the German Longword and In Saint George's Name- both are good and available pretty cheaply). If you want to go beyond "guy-swinging-sword-aimlessly" to "guy-practicing-a-martial-art" you need to take it seriously, imo- and learning off youtube probably isn't the best way to go about it.

Of course, as with all opinions, this one is worth exactly what you paid for it Wink

Men do not care how nobly they live, but only how long, although it is within the reach of every man to live nobly, but within no man's power to live long. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Aug, 2010 4:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes I agree that getting Christian Toblers book would be a great idea but also look into buying the book by Hugh Knight as I find it very complete and easy to read and follow the clear instructions as well as the well thought out pic sequences explaining the techniques.

Link to Topic about the book and how to order it from LuLu.com
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?p...ht=#197802

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