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Jeff A. Arbogast





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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jan, 2011 3:03 pm    Post subject: Pirouetting in combat         Reply with quote

I am no expert in medieval hand-to-hand combat, and I'll be the first to admit it, although I tinker with it a bit. But one thing I see constantly on nearly EVERY movie that has ANY sword to sword combat is the ridiculous but apparently mandatory "twirling about" in a 360 while dueling your opponent. Somebody tell me this never happened. I find it maddening to watch, thinking "If I was facing a ballerina like that, my sword would be rammed through his ribs before he was halfway through his spin." Am I correct finding this to be totally absurd? I know that Hollywood could care less about historical accuracy, and this sort of flashy but STUPID move is considered a necessity, but it drives me crazy. Can you imagine a Roman soldier in formation doing this? WTF?! He'd be flogged half to death by his Centurion for it. Or a viking in a shield wall? I would NEVER turn my back on someone trying to kill me, then or now. This, to me, is even worse than the mandatory "SHHIINNNNG" of a sword being pulled from it's scabbard. I have three of 'em, and NONE of them do that. They shouldn't. That's just MORE Hollywood B.S. Any authorities on swordplay please confirm my assumption that heavily armed ballerina's are pure fantasy, as I assume.
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Robert S. Haile





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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jan, 2011 3:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Howdy Jeff,

Someone will be able to give a more thorough answer than myself, but there is absolutely zero advantage to "twirling" or "spinning" before striking. It only serves to blind the twirler momentarily and show your back to your opponent. I have seen no manuscript that directs one to spin while striking, and as such I don't imagine any man at arms worth his salt would have done as such historically if he had a mind for victory. It just doesn't offer any advantage. Hope that helps a little.

P.S. My compliments on that awesome kit of yours. It's extremely slick.


Last edited by Robert S. Haile on Sat 29 Jan, 2011 3:23 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jan, 2011 3:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I could see it working in a rare case of taking someone by surprise by coming at them from the opposite direction they are expecting but no matter how fast it seems it also seems slow enough to counter with a quick stab to the back.

I also have my doubts about, but no certain knowledge, of spins kicks being used in some Eastern Martial Arts as " flashy " techniques that one would probably avoid in a real serious fight. Eek! Question

Movie directors do seem to like these a lot. WTF?! Question

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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jan, 2011 3:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It can work, and is historical in Chinese martial arts. Specifically against polearms. For example, left foot forward, block a thrust to your right, while rotating your body clockwise by moving your right foot to the left. You have contact with, and a degree of control of their weapon. Stay in contact, and increase the pressure against it. Move in, while keeping this pressure. One way is to roll in against the weapon. Cut on arrival.

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
I also have my doubts about, but no certain knowledge, of spins kicks being used in some Eastern Martial Arts as " flashy " techniques that one would probably avoid in a real serious fight. :eek: :?:


Spinning kicks can work, but in general, they're not effective as a lead technique. A lot of movie spinning kicks make about as much sense as most movie sword pirouettes. As in none.

I can't think of a good reason to spin when sword versus sword, unless it happens to be safer to continue turning around after an evasion (a lot like the anti-polearm technique, minus the big movement forwards to close). Could be quite dangerous without armour.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Nathan Gilleland





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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jan, 2011 4:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am certainly not an expert, but my limited experience with rapier fencing does suggest that spinning can, at times, work as an avoidance maneuver. There is a certain fencer in our group that employs this move when he ends up in a sort of grapple with his opponent. It ends up being more of a double passing step to avoid a cut/thrust that he continues around to:

a) get out of measure with his opponent
b) gain positioning on his opponent
c) Just plain trying to avoid a blade

This rarely is a prep for a strike, instead being more of a "oh **** I've got to move!" type of maneuver.

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Eric Allen




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jan, 2011 7:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ahh, but I'd say there's a distinct difference between "twirling" away from the opponent, such as when coming out of a particular bind, and spinning while attacking--which is what we see all the time in movies.
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Mike O'Hara




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jan, 2011 8:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo has it right about spin kicks in Eastern martial arts - there are some very nice and very effective moves where you 'apparently' step away from attacker which is the setup for the spin and strike (hand or foot) and trust me, the torque/power you generate from that turn is significant.

I can't imagine an effective spin move with a longsword. In fact Fiore has a nice elbow push for anyone trying to overpower you in a middle bind and once they start to spin you get all the fun Big Grin

There are certainly some turning (as opposed to spinning) moves in aikido for taking weapons away from an opponent

cheers

mike

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Eric Myers




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jan, 2011 8:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not going to defend spinning in movies, but there are documented spinning attacks. For example, the montante work of Diogo Gomes de Figueiredo uses a spinning jump against a polearm, and there are other montante references which include it when fighting against multiple opponents. Here is a video of something similar being used in the Portuguese stick art jogo do pau: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VES-24LNGXA. Also, remember that *any* technique used improperly (at the wrong time, with the wrong timing, in/out of formation, etc) *could* lead to three feet of steel through your ribcage.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jan, 2011 10:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
It can work, and is historical in Chinese martial arts. Specifically against polearms. For example, left foot forward, block a thrust to your right, while rotating your body clockwise by moving your right foot to the left. You have contact with, and a degree of control of their weapon. Stay in contact, and increase the pressure against it. Move in, while keeping this pressure. One way is to roll in against the weapon. Cut on arrival.



This seems to make sense since your body is still blocking his weapon as you spin and close the distance.

As mentioned in the following posts it's the spinning in place for an initial attack where the opponent is not blocked or distracted that seems suicidal and what we see in films.

I also think there are ways of initiating the spin without losing sight of the opponent and only losing sight of the opponent for a tiny fraction of a second as the head turns to the other side quicker than the body is turning.

Tactically sound only if timed perfectly at just the right distance if the opponent is blocked or is spent having overcommitted to a move. ( Well. mostly just speculation about how I think it might be applied successfully ).

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Julian Reynolds




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 1:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I fence rapier, and have done for many years (indeed, I run a salle). I don't know of any such 'Hollywood Pirouette' in any rapier treatise. There are plenty of voids which require various contortions (!), but no spins.

If my opponent felt the need to do a spin, I would run him through before he even got 2/3 of the way round. You simply don't leave yourself so exposed for any length of time when facing a purely thrusting weapon in close measure. You are gambling that you can spin then connect with your blade quicker than I can simply lunge. It's madness/suicide!

Julian
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Robert Hinds




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 3:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Julian Reynolds wrote:
You simply don't leave yourself so exposed for any length of time when facing a purely thrusting weapon in close measure. You are gambling that you can spin then connect with your blade quicker than I can simply lunge. It's madness/suicide!

Julian


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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 4:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are two questions here in fact: are the Hollywood moves tactically sound, and is it possible and/or suitable to spin in actual combat.

That the answer to the first question is 'no' shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone Happy If spinning around was the sole problem with swordfights in film I'd be happy already Big Grin

Now the second question is less easy to answer.

It's quite easy to say that one wouldn't have any problem countering such moves but not always so easy to do in practice against someone trained in that. I've started to study la canne this year, which features (relatively) a lot of spinning moves. I thought that these were artificially fostered by rules or artistic mindset and true enough, some are. I thought that I could at least see how to counter them each time without problem (even with a strike not accepted by competition rules) and I can do that against beginners. But experienced players will set these strikes up in a such a way, and execute them quickly enough that countering safely is a lot more difficult. It's a kind of feint, really. For example you'd start arming a back-hand blow but instead of executing it you spin around, move quickly to one side and forward, and strike a forehand blow. Of course you do tighter feints too but spinning around allows you to gather momentum and change the angle too...

There is one rapier treatise showing spinning strikes, the one from Girard Thibault. I think that comes in part from his method involving more cuts and off-line stepping. One example is cutting across the face of the opponent while stepping to the left with the right foot, then redoubling the cut by turning around and stepping left again, this time with the left foot. Another one is parrying an imbrocatta (a thrust with a curved arm) by doing what the Italians would call inquartata (a step with the left foot behind your right, turning the body and avoiding the thrust), that Thibault takes to a full-turn completion stepping even closer and thrusting into the body of the opponent. Of course both of these moves need the proper set-up too...

In any case, it boils down to gathering or sustaining your momentum, instead of reversing it. In arts that do not use rotational momentum for one reason or another (for example Italian rapier), it appears useless. In other arts it can be called for. Against multiple opponents, someone that is trained to spin will have a significant advantage I think: his steps will be more nimble, and he will be able to use all the momentum to parry many attacks while not getting tired quite as fast. Hence the examples with the montante, and in many stick arts, I believe. But it's the sort of move that will be horridly inefficient unless you train them a fair bit.

Regards,

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Simon G.




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 5:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric Myers wrote:
For example, the montante work of Diogo Gomes de Figueiredo uses a spinning jump against a polearm, and there are other montante references which include it when fighting against multiple opponents.


Ah thanks, I had forgotten about this one! Over on SFI, Antonie Dvorakova posted a link to a video of someone demonstrating this technique :
Antonie Dvorakova, on SFI wrote:
Did you want to see the spinning jump--XIVsimple Figueyredo's rule? I have a recording for you. No worries, although Puck was taking pictures of me doing the same, this my recording shows him :

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/505564/SpinningJumpFigueyredoPuck.flv

Rather strange, but there you have it. Perhaps Timo can tell us if that is similar to the move, also against polearms, in Chinese martial arts.
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Julian Reynolds




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 5:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have also done some 19thC stick fighting. However, when facing multiple opponents I was taught to move around rapidly, keeping low, to face other opponents at my side or behind me. Spinning my body and my cane around in order to create space or in the hope of connecting with an opponent is not very efficient, and more focus is required to target knees/elbows/heads etc. in order to create that space. As for spinning whilst targeting the opponent in front of you that you were already engaging, this is also a highly inefficient move, particularly as you can get plenty of momentum behind your stick (and considerably more accuracy in its placement) by spinning (twirling if you like) the stick rather than yourself!

And as for rapier, I confess I haven't studied Thibault, but rapier fencing is very controlled and very efficient in its moves. A small amount of movement in either the blade or your body is enough to control your opponents blade and position you for a thrust. Extravagant moves are rarely necessary (except for voids or positioning of the limbs for balance in lunges etc.). Spinning your entire body round simply shouldn't be needed. Excessive gestures are generally the sign of a bad fencer.....

Julian
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 6:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree in general Julian, it's just that some of these counter-examples make me wary of speaking in absolute terms.
It's not that spinning is advised anywhere (that I have seen) as a general method, it's just that in certain circumstances it can be the right thing to do, and if you have never trained for it you won't be able to do it right.

With respect to Thibault, some of the spins could also come from the fact that he is focusing on constant motion, without stopping in a guard. So he always has some momentum and I guess it's not really practical or even wise in his view to stop and then start to move the other way. I don't think he is doing it to be flashy or because he was bad Happy

It's exactly like twirling your sword or stick. Done wrong this will open you up, done right it will allow you to conserve momentum without expending energy by switching directions or stopping then starting again. Spinning really is the same thing with the body, involving different speeds but also different possibilities. Hollywood will show plenty of twirling done bad too Happy

I can't say I have it wholly figured out but I've been questioning my own assumptions of late, about what is efficient and what is not depending on the context and goals.

Regards,

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Roger Norling




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 7:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just a very short note. As mentioned earlier, it is done in Jogo do Pau, Montante, and even with quarterstaff (halber stangen) in Joachim Meyer's 1570 book. He does it two times in different directions and just as in Jogo do Pau, you gain angle and/or distance by stepping out suddenly quite far to the side, or back, and finalize the strike with one hand.
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Craig Shackleton




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 9:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Timo Nieminen wrote:
It can work, and is historical in Chinese martial arts. Specifically against polearms. For example, left foot forward, block a thrust to your right, while rotating your body clockwise by moving your right foot to the left. You have contact with, and a degree of control of their weapon. Stay in contact, and increase the pressure against it. Move in, while keeping this pressure. One way is to roll in against the weapon. Cut on arrival.



This seems to make sense since your body is still blocking his weapon as you spin and close the distance.


I have been taught and occasionally do almost exactly this with rapier. The main difference being that it's on the other side since I start right foot forward, parry prime (parry to the left) and then step around with my left leg while maintaining contact. once I'm in past my opponent's threat I turn my hand palm up to thrust. My arm is actually around behind my back at the end of the action. I never get hit on this, but I don't always hit either.

But Jean has th right of it; I don't need to see his weapon and I'm not exposing myself because I am controlling and feeling the weapon already.

The only other time I spin in rapier combat is if I've closed to inside distance and I am blocked from stepping past, I turn to get myself to an open space where I can go past. I'd say I get hit doing this about 15-20% of the time, so it's not a good option. If I can step through, I never get hit. If I back up from that range when I should be going through... well at that point, if I don't get hit my opponent is doing something wrong. So in this case spinning is a bad choice I make instead of a terrible choice, when things have already gone wrong.

Yesterday one of my youth longsword students spun around in front of me to avoid my countercut and find a new opening. I smacked him on the top of the mask while his back was turned. This is the spin we see in movies that is wrong, wrong, wrong.

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Mikko Kuusirati




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 10:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
I also have my doubts about, but no certain knowledge, of spins kicks being used in some Eastern Martial Arts as " flashy " techniques that one would probably avoid in a real serious fight. Eek! Question

I actually find a reverse roundhouse or back kick a good counter to high kicks, flying knee kicks, or any such move where the opponent starts some distance away and closes in fast. I think it's mostly because of three things: the backwards turn slightly displaces your body in an unexpected direction; with the opponent committed to a technique and a direction of movement, taking your eyes off of them for the split second it takes to turn your head around does not risk losing track of him; and when you can see him coming and read his intention correctly, the marginally slower attack is really not an issue.

And of course, it's good to be able to seque smoothly from a missed kick to a follow-up - or follow through on a kick even if it did hit - which in the case of a roundhouse or such is simplest to do by just maintaining momentum and, well, spinning around. It can be predictable if you're slow about it, but then, that's true about everything. Happy

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Jeff A. Arbogast





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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 11:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robert S. Haile wrote:
Howdy Jeff,

Someone will be able to give a more thorough answer than myself, but there is absolutely zero advantage to "twirling" or "spinning" before striking. It only serves to blind the twirler momentarily and show your back to your opponent. I have seen no manuscript that directs one to spin while striking, and as such I don't imagine any man at arms worth his salt would have done as such historically if he had a mind for victory. It just doesn't offer any advantage. Hope that helps a little.

P.S. My compliments on that awesome kit of yours. It's extremely slick.



Gee, thanks.
Perhaps, based on some of the responses, I should have been more clear. Jean takes my meaning though. I know that some "back and forth" action would be necessary when facing multiple opponents, for example. I merely meant when it's "spinning for spinning's sake" against a single opponent right in front of you when it serves no tactical advantage whatsoever. This is what drives me nuts, and you see it EVERYWHERE in the movies. One of the worst I saw was on "the History Channel" (where else) where a guy pretending to be Miltiades at Marathon was twirling around with his big round shield and a long spear. How he did that wearing a Corinthian helmet is beyond me. Watch it, you'll put someone's eye out with that! HeHe.

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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jan, 2011 3:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeff A. Arbogast wrote:
I merely meant when it's "spinning for spinning's sake" against a single opponent right in front of you when it serves no tactical advantage whatsoever.


It serves a tactical advantage, to the opponent. Serves it up on a gilded platter, carried by perfumed servants.

Jeff A. Arbogast wrote:
This is what drives me nuts, and you see it EVERYWHERE in the movies.


Was it common before Star Wars? In the local SCA, this type of thing was called an "Obi-Wan spin", and Obi-Wan's use of it is in a classic piece of movie fight choreography.

There are other movie moves that are just as suicidal, but perhaps this one stands out more.

Remarkably, I've seen this done in serious (sport) fighting, a stationary spinning kick as an initial attack, within range. In professional kickboxing. The opponent's response was to move just out of range, and then close and punch to the face. (Perhaps the rules prohibit hitting in the back mid-spin?) 1/2 a loss, just like that.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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