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Dustin Faulkner




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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 11:15 am    Post subject: Longsword sparring observation & question         Reply with quote

Hello:

I have a crazy work schedule that prevents me from joining a fechtschule at the moment. So anything I learn about longsword and half-sword techniques is from books and youtube videos. For example: I really enjoy Dierk Hagedorn's videos (of hammaborg.de). Interestingly, a few fights with Christian Tobler are included on Dierk's page with him as a guest instructor I assume.

The longsword "grappling" and half-swording techniques are very interesting and bring the old fechtbuchen and codices back to life. It is nice to have insight into how swords were really used. Anyway ... what I've noticed, however, is that when folks actually spar or compete against each other, it is like all the tricky moves go out the window. A fight devolves into a matter of who can wind and thrust the fastest and nothing more. No grappling or half-swording techniques are used nor attempted it seems.

Keep in mind this is a simple observation of a layperson who has no formal training. My questions are:
1) is this a matter of experienced opponents "cancelling" each other so niether opponent can get an advantage over the other or
2) is this an agreed upon safety precaution because someone could really get hurt if historical grappling & half-swording techniques were used.

I am simply wondering. However, I must say it would be interesting if a movie were ever made where authentic historical sword and polearm techniques were employed.

Thank you! :-)

DUSTIN FAULKNER
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 1:43 pm    Post subject: Re: Longsword sparring observation & question         Reply with quote

Hi Dustin,

Dustin Faulkner wrote:
Keep in mind this is a simple observation of a layperson who has no formal training. My questions are:
1) is this a matter of experienced opponents "cancelling" each other so niether opponent can get an advantage over the other or
2) is this an agreed upon safety precaution because someone could really get hurt if historical grappling & half-swording techniques were used.


I have no formal training in longsword either, but here are a few comments anyway...

I think your two points are valid. The more fancy techniques work well when there is a big enough gap in skill, and it is rare to find that kind of opportunity in a bout between two fighters with about the same level of experience. Grappling is always a bit limited by rules and equipment for safety reasons, the biggest worry being to land on a blade or quillon The use of locks in a non-cooperative setting is also always difficult to do safely. Masks, gloves, all the protective gear interfere with grappling too, getting ripped off and making things dangerous if one of the fighters uses his weapon afterwards.

You have to keep in mind that most of the sparring you find is meant to represent fighting out of armor. It's pretty hard to judge the lethality of cuts in this context, but half-swording and grappling is quite risky because it is hard to close in without coming in contact with the opponent's blade on the way in. Generally when you're consciously trying to do one of these moves you get hit in the process, so they must be done when the opportunity appears which takes a lot of training (you don't want to have to think of your technique at all).

When fighting in armor it's a different story, but few people bout like that (in part because against the moves of armoured fighting, protections modern or not actually protect you very little, that's the whole point Wink ).

Still, you can see that kind of move from times to times in bouts, but they are not as frequent as they are in source texts. Perhaps they are over-represented in treatises because they are flashy, or perhaps very few people as of now have all the basic skills needed to set them up properly and execute them flawlessly...

Regards,

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Vincent
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 4:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Your observation is quite correct. Exactly the same happens in all combat arts; Despite lots of fancy and/or complicated techniques, free fights come down to speed and power.

There are several reasons for this, the main one beeing that a simple hit just as good as a fancy hit, and the straight line is the shortest parth between two points. Once the opponents guard goes down, odds are you can hit him in the head at the same time or before he hits you.

Second, people move when sparring. And for obvious reasons, nobody wants to stand at the range where a technique can be executed. And should you manage to sneak into that range, why grapple when you can hit him in the head?

This does not mean that technique is not important. However, it takes a lot more subtle form.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Simon G.




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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 5:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another beginner in swordsmanship chiming in here...

Perhaps the complexity of medieval swordsmanship shouldn't be overrated, or rather, shouldn't be misinterpreted. If you take the case of the German Liechtenauer tradition, the only one I can claim to know somewhat (emphasis on the somewhat), it starts out pretty simple. The main cut, the "Father cut" as Joachim Meyer says, is also a very simple, almost instinctive cut (yet efficient if done correctly) : the Zornhau. Also, Liechtenauer says that his art resides in five words : strong, weak, before (vor), after (nach), and simultaneous (indes ; no good way to translate this one). You are either strong and weak in the bind, you have the initiative or you react after the fact or you act in the same exact tempo as your opponent. Pretty simple in theory (and pretty complicated to do it correctly in practice, of course). Then, what apparently happened is that the following masters, reading their predecessors' works or seeing or trying new things, "fancified" the system, adding counters to this situation seen in a previous Fechtbuch and a device for that situation which they had seen once in a fight. The system becomes thus more complete but also more complex with some quite specialized moves. Sadly, I have not (yet) done a precise study of the evolution from Fechtbuch from Fechtbuch ; I know others have. But what I describe is, I think, pretty well exemplified by Joachim Meyer, at the end of the Liechtenauer tradition : plenty of cuts, plenty of guards, plenty of devices. It is also probably due to a shift in mentality, from the terse and obscure style of Liechtenauer, to the encyclopedic, "describe-it-all-in-every-detail" ideal behind the works of people such as Meyer and Paulus Hector Mair.

That does not make the specialized devices stupid or inefficient (or more efficient for that matter); but by nature they will be seen less often.

There is also the possibility, which would have to be explored in far greater detail by people more competent than I (there certainly are lots), that some of the fancier techniques, devices and plays we see in some FechtbŁcher are not really meant to be used in a real fight but serve as technical exercises or illustrations of some point. I have been told by people who know the 17th c. and later manuals better than I do that there are some authors who describe "fancy" moves with a rapier and then tell you "but in a real serious fight don't try it". At the end of the 16th, Giacomo di Grassi, when writing about fighting with two rapiers, one in each hand (certainly a rather fancy technique) points out that this technique is not used in war, only in schools and in the lists, which would indicate a technique good for "fun" and for technical practice but not for a serious fight.

Hope this helps and remember, this comes from a beginner (meaning everyone should feel very free to correct me while hitting me on the head with a Fechtbuch).
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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 5:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Dustin,

Part of what subset of the techniques comes out in a fight is situational. I rarely use the Winden in a bout because the situation of equal pressure with both swords 'in presence' isn't that common.

As for grapples, with only a couple of exceptions, they are described in the commentaries as being used when your opponent goes in to rush you. Generally, close combat isn't described as something you should necessarily seek (unless it's the armoured combat - a different beast): you have three feet of steel, so use it.

Backing this up, here's the preamble to the chapter on Durchlaufen from the Von Danzig commentaries (emphasis mine):

Note: the running through and the wrestling at the sword take place in two ways at the sword, for the running through is the wrestling at the body, and then there is also wrestling at the arms. This should be done against those combatants who are keen to run in at you.

However, if you look at my fight with Dierk, while there are a lot of things we could have done to more effectively leverage technique, you won't see a reliance on power - mostly we're exploiting holes in each other's timing, not 'blasting our way' through each other's defenses.

Now, a full mea culpa: my bind work in bouting needs improvement. There are many opportunities to work 'on the sword' that I am still missing. In fact that's a focal point for my training for this year.

All the best,

Christian

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 7:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

When skills are closely matched they can tend to cancel each other out as each will sense or anticipate the intent of the other and counter it at times so subtlety that nothing seems to have happened in the eyes of someone watching the action.

The other will sense that his intent has been perceived and will not try or will abort the attempt knowing that many techniques only work well if they come as a surprise to the other.

As to practising wrestling in a competitive match holding back with control before breaking something will be very difficult if the techniques are executed at full speed with high aggression ! Actually for safety's sake one should always have one's emotions under strict control to not carried away and seriously harm an opponent in a friendly fight.

A true or real fight has a different mindset where restraints are completely disengaged with full intent to harm and win and not be harmed or losing I believe.

The intent of a real fight can not be simulated in a safe manner without some minimal level of restraint or safety equipment and even the best armour won't protect one from a serious joint break or dislocation if one's opponent shows no restraint or is just plain acting without regard for your safety i.e. acts like a macho jerk wanting to win at all cost. ( The kind of person one should refuse to even consider training with due to bad character or lack of maturity or lack of physical and/or emotional self control ).

Most of the wresting is best practised in a controlled agent/patient cooperative way where the patient is giving you the ideal situation where the technique would or should work if properly executed.

Anyway, just my opinion. Wink Big Grin Cool

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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 8:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think that if we canít make winding/bind or "fancy" actions work except by accident in rare circumstances it is because we are not yet good enough, or we are aiming for the wrong target (or both).

I used to wonder the same thing before I threw out my old notions of what bind work/winding/"fancy techniques" were supposed to be. They exist in other sword arts. There are dimensions to those actions that I never considered (itís hard to come up with this stuff on your own!) that greatly enhanced and transformed my understanding of what the treatises say.

I donít know if what Iím working on is right or that what I threw out was wrong. My still developing understanding is but one of many. It doesn't matter much. Iím confident that the community will eventually arrive at the truth so long as people donít ever stop looking. Part of that means don't give up and make excuses. If what you're doing isn't happening, back to the drawing board and the sources.

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Last edited by Michael Edelson on Mon 16 May, 2011 4:31 am; edited 5 times in total
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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 9:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
Once the opponents guard goes down, odds are you can hit him in the head at the same time or before he hits you.


Our WMA school often uses a rule to prevent these kinds of situations during sparring. You only score points when you hit your opponent and he can't/doesn't hit you back. If the two opponents hit each other at the same time (within a second or so), both loose a point. It is after all a martial sport, the point being to dispatch your opponent without getting killed in the process.

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Christopher VaughnStrever




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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 10:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Dustin, I know you mentioned a pretty crazy work schedule, Though as our group the ritterlich fechtschule is in san antonio, and not too far away from you I would be very happy to accommodate your needs to the best of my abilities. Our school has finally got in hand two Albion practice long swords and we do not charge any of our students. If you you may have an hour here or there I can guarantee that you will get a ton more understanding from actually learning from/with someone vs. reading and watching about it.

Just a tad bit of an answer on your inquiry.... consider a few factors. FYI right now our group has more understanding towards the liechtenauer society then any other system, however we are learning a Meyer as well.

The fechtmeisters say to apply strength to weakness and weakness to strength. However for some reason as much as one may watch two learned students compete with one another all you seem to see is strength vs. strength. Now there are a couple of different reasons why you "see" this happen...

(1) This can be a form of active fuhlen. Feeling the bind of the other man. Now sometimes our reactions are a bit slow and when a person is trying to figure out (not if the other person is strong or weak) but rather when to make the transition from strong to weak.

(2) Two people can apply strength vs. strength in any given situation due to the "prowess" of the moment and getting caught up in the fight.

and...

(3) the videos you see are either presentation material or the two people simply resort to the techniques they know best and they stick very closely to what they know.

Experience and learning from such defines maturity, not a number of age
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Mike O'Hara




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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2011 10:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Dustin

Actually you will see these moves under the right circumstances. If you both form a really good bind you either need to get the heck out (safely) or use a wind or (with a close bind) a sword-take technique to control the fight.

Quote:

Christian Henry Tobler said
As for grapples, with only a couple of exceptions, they are described in the commentaries as being used when your opponent goes in to rush you. Generally, close combat isn't described as something you should necessarily seek (unless it's the armoured combat - a different beast): you have three feet of steel, so use it.


Can I note that this is almost invariably what happens? Christian has it spot on. I have a training colleague who tends to form an excellent bind but then tries to push through and then rushes. I have done a lot of Eastern martial arts and use the sword as a lever (actually the Western moves are the same - anatomy is anatomy) and she ends up being sat on or locked up. When she slows down, this doesn't happen.

Quote:

Sander Marechal said
You only score points when you hit your opponent and he can't/doesn't hit you back. If the two opponents hit each other at the same time (within a second or so), both loose a point.


Our school uses the same rules as Sander's - the reason is that only a few kills are truly instant.

However what we practice most (and we practice it a LOT) is the first strike that safely closes the distance to our opponent but leaves us unexposed to a counter on the way in. This is very hard and I am still learning.

You might want to work up some drills to try these plays with a partner - I promise you that my instructor can make them all work on me!

cheers

mike

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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Mon 16 May, 2011 6:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

@Mike E: This is very true - much of the 'small toolbox' seen in most bouts is simply because we're not good enough yet. As I noted, whenever I review one of my own bouts, I invariably think about the "why didn't I just do X right then - it was just waiting to happen".

@Mike O: Indeed. Most attempted grapples happening in bouting arise from someone rushing straight at the other guy, which really doesn't work. As I quoted above, most grapples are supposed to happen when he rushes you, not the other way around. The other opportunity to exploit with grappling is when your guy has driven you sword (and thereby, his) far out of the center - this creates an opening to 'gain his side' and effect a proper takedown.

This is all evolving quickly though, with bouting quality generally improving over the years. The bouts at WMAW05 were atrocious, those at '07 were merely horrible, but by '09 there was some genuinely good-looking stuff.

Another problem has been the tools used. If you're using a sword simulator that won't bind, then you won't be binding. Particularly when there is a strong competitive flavor to the fight, people will only use the techniques they're confident they can pull off with the tools in hand.

Safety is another issue: even with full armour, the Mordschlag is simply too dangerous to perform unless you use a non-steel simulator.

Cheers all,

Christian

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Alex Spreier




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PostPosted: Mon 16 May, 2011 8:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christian Henry Tobler wrote:
@Mike E: This is very true - much of the 'small toolbox' seen in most bouts is simply because we're not good enough yet. As I noted, whenever I review one of my own bouts, I invariably think about the "why didn't I just do X right then - it was just waiting to happen".


+1. I do this every time I watch one of my bouts. As a nice counterpoint I just want to draw attention to this quote:

"Fights are won with basic technique performed at a high level of skill." - Maestro William Gaugler

In other words, if I'm trying to pull off some fancy technique but I can hit my opponent with a simple fendente/Oberhau, then I should just hit them with the fendete. Then again, I'm lazy Razz

So when I read Christian's "we're not good enough yet" my mind immediately springs to defense - I need to be so good at defending against basic techniques that my opponent needs to dig deep into their toolbox.

Just my 2c, as always YMMV

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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Mon 16 May, 2011 8:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another point to consider: fear, or rather, lack thereof. We're simply not afraid of being killed/maimed/etc., so we tend to think "so I lost a point in a match".

One way around this is to have a single unanswered touch end the bout. This way you "can't afford to be hit". This encourages more sword on sword work, because knowing where your opponent's weapon is removes many possible avenues of him injuring you.

This works really well for basic training. I do think however that it's better suited to the training hall than to a tournament or martial challenge, because single point bouts tend to be much less interesting to spectators.

Yours,

Christian

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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Mon 16 May, 2011 10:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From a compettitive point of view, disregarding double hits also makes scoring a simultaneous hit a viable defence.

We simply asume that in a double kill situation, both parties die, though we have a quite narrow window for simultaneous. Since we mostly do group combat, beeing dead prevents you helping your team, and thus is its own punishment.

Christian:
The point about fear is very valid. It is extremley visible in the later single sword or sabre styles, where most of the manouvering is done from outside actual reach. Most of the feints used would be easily avoided in sparring, but once the pulse starts racing, instincts take over, and the mechanics of flght or flight psychology comes into play.
In such a situation, technique training might primarily serve to produce confident fighters, that at least do basic techniques instead of something actively stupid.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
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Andrew M.





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PostPosted: Mon 16 May, 2011 10:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

First Post Big Grin

I'm not an expert, though I have done a fair amount of reading about sword combat. An article that I read on the ARMA's website observed that HEMA training focuses on technique, since that is what the books we have are about. But, when modern soliders are trained, they learn a few techniques, and a lot of training in tactics. The simplicity could be that in a fight, the combatants naturally lean toward simpler blows, while manuvering to attack on the sides. I've gotten the impression that footwork is possibly the most important thing in melee combat.

My $.02
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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Mon 16 May, 2011 1:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
From a compettitive point of view, disregarding double hits also makes scoring a simultaneous hit a viable defence.


True. To prevent that, our WMA group rules usually say that on a double kill, both fighters loose a point. This makes double kills pretty bad, for both parties (note: normal hits score points but costs the opponent nothing).

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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Mon 16 May, 2011 2:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sander Marechal wrote:
Elling Polden wrote:
From a compettitive point of view, disregarding double hits also makes scoring a simultaneous hit a viable defence.


True. To prevent that, our WMA group rules usually say that on a double kill, both fighters loose a point. This makes double kills pretty bad, for both parties (note: normal hits score points but costs the opponent nothing).


All rules can be gamed, and the more rules you have, the more they can be gamed.

This is where character comes in. If you have someone deliberately gaming the rules by launching simulatenous attacks to avoid being struck, then that person dishonors himself, his teacher and his art. He can win every tournament in the world, and it wouldn't change that fact. To me, that's enough of a punishment without adding more rules. Respecting your art and your teacher and your students are what martial arts are all about, at least to me, and I see no need to create rules to force behavior without the underlying character. Better to expose such people for all to see.

This is actually on topic, as rules that punish double hits greatly discourage the sort of "fancy" actions we are discussing. Judges often mistake a sword being next to someone as a hit, or lightly touching someone, etc. If I fight under these rules, I will never try any close work, since a double kill hurts my standing, and a bad call double kill is just as punishing as a real one. If I have nothing to lose but the negation of my point, then I'd be a lot more wiling to risk these actions.

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PostPosted: Mon 16 May, 2011 2:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

All very true. Although I think that the rule isn't so much anti-gaming as it is to force people to think about how they are going to defend themselves before launching into an attack.
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PostPosted: Mon 16 May, 2011 3:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Andrew M. wrote:
First Post Big Grin

I'm not an expert, though I have done a fair amount of reading about sword combat. An article that I read on the ARMA's website observed that HEMA training focuses on technique, since that is what the books we have are about. But, when modern soliders are trained, they learn a few techniques, and a lot of training in tactics. The simplicity could be that in a fight, the combatants naturally lean toward simpler blows, while manuvering to attack on the sides. I've gotten the impression that footwork is possibly the most important thing in melee combat.

My $.02


I think there are two different points to be made here.
1. yes there is a lot to learning the basics well and knowing when to use them. Understaning the fight will get you far. A friend of mine is one of the better rapier fighters in our group despite being one of the newer guys because he focused on the basics and does them well and understands the tactics of when to use them .

2. Comparing HEMA and the Fechtbuch with training soldiers isn't quite an apples to apples comparison. I believe that the fechtbuchs and instructors who wrote them were typically training the guys who wanted to be really good in a wide range of situations -War, self-defense, dueling, etc - and were willing to put in the time to train. Were as training soldiers is a bit different. Basically, train the soldier a few basics so he can survive long enough for his friend to show up and kill the enemy.
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Dustin R. Reagan





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PostPosted: Mon 16 May, 2011 3:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Edelson wrote:

This is actually on topic, as rules that punish double hits greatly discourage the sort of "fancy" actions we are discussing. Judges often mistake a sword being next to someone as a hit, or lightly touching someone, etc.


I'm glad you brought this up. The fechtbuch illustrations often show 'incidental' sword contact of one blade (for example, an entrapment, with the opponent's sword caught under the agent's arm) on the body of another fencer. This is the result of proper technique.

Conversely, in nearly every video of tournament bouting that i've seen, I see what I would consider 'incidental' contact being called as valid hits with great frequency. I suppose the problem is that making the call on what is or is not 'incidental' is subjective. In my own personal free-play, if my partner calls that he has been hit but I believe that the hit was accidental and/or would have caused no real damage I always explain why I don't think the hit was good. I have seen videos of friendly challenge bouts where the participants have also done this, so while I think it is an issue, I don't think it explains away the lack of 'advanced technique' the OP has observed (he cites a 'friendly challenge', for example).

Personally, I agree with the previous posts which explain this lack of observable 'advanced technique' as a deficiency due, in part, to the still relatively young nature of these recreations. I mean no offense, and I freely admit that I suffer from many deficiencies in free-play of my own.

I disagree (as some have said previously) that wrestling at the sword only occurs when your opponent rushes you. Closing to wrestle is cited as a valid offensive technique. For example, here is a passage from Ringeck (translation by Keith Farrell, from the wiktenauer) :

Quote:
When you rush in towards another, release your sword with the left hand and hold it with the right. And go with the pommel outside and over his right arm, and thus twitch it downwards. And grip his right elbow with your left hand and spring with the left foot in front of his right foot, and pull him over the foot out to your right side


Dustin
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