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Christopher VaughnStrever




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Nov, 2011 7:48 am    Post subject: WMA-Sparring&Tournaments         Reply with quote

Ok, first please do not get me wrong, I love the entire WMA community, because without everyone's different approaches we would not have the vast amount of understanding that we have today.

With that said I have always had concerns over sparring and the sportive aspect of WMA for myself in particular. I am referring specifically of the early to mid 15th century of Blossefechten of the longsword. Around this time period Knights on the battlefield certainly (and hopefully) did not fight unarmoured, though of course a stroll through the streets of a city - a knight (Or Man at Arms) did not always wear his suit of armor. Though indeed (and yes depending upon the laws of carrying arms in the city) a Knight or even perhaps a man at arms would have certainly carried his sword at all times possible. And thus perhaps through an engagement of two knights (one offending the honor of the other)in casual dress attire could could take place and therefore a blossefechten fight could ensue. (we have evidence of these turmoils of the effects of knights and their irrational behavior causing quite a state of distress for local inhabitants of cities from several chroniclers of the time period even before and into the 15th century)

If Blossefechten is/was taught it was certainly used. However in every modern aspect of sparring and sportive tournaments involving these blossefechten techniques there is protective equipment used.

is not protective equipment considered armor?

(Yes, into the later 15th century and more so in the 16th and following centuries the protective gear increased, such as the "tourney helms" but I am not talking about those later time periods.)

If Protective equipment is used, does this not change the sparring or sportive tournament into Harnischfechten? Armored fighting, no mater a full suit of Armor or only pieces of armor used still constitutes Harnischfechten imho. A simple illustration conveys the idea....

If I am wearing vambraces, a breast plate, or gauntlets; I will risk getting struck to those areas that I know a sword will not be able to slice open my skin because of the protective gear i am wearing.

This changes the dynamics in a fight, because if it is completely blossfechten, and I know any portion of my body is available to get sliced or stabbed, I will not be so careless as I would have been while wearing (even only a single piece of) Armor

And this is at the heart of my thoughts. Even wearing a sparring helm, one does not feel the risk of injury and I believe this influences (subconsciously) what we do when sparring or engaging in sportive tournaments.

Just take a look at some of the extreme jousting tournaments going on. people are literally risking death every time they ride that horse and charge at their opponent. With the armor they are wearing; if they were to fall on their head, their neck would snap like a twig, yet I feel they are representing Jousting as the realities are, (not necissarily in accurate historical armor and clothing) but rather in attitude and in the risk involved.

The risk of injury and death because of a stupid untrained mistake causes the mind to think a little bit longer on whether to get involved or not. And while knights in their hey-day seemed not to demonstrate a fear of this inherent danger, I feel personally there is a major piece of history we are all not able to see.

We can understand why a squire from the age of 12~14 would have not been Knighted until at the earliest age (roughly) around 20. They had years upon years of spending their days training with these weapons before they themselves were knighted and fought in war. solidity in their WMA skills granted them prestigue, life, and wealth in war and tournaments alike..... But how often does someone with only minimal hours of learning these arts (now days) go into sparring?

I have been considering these ideas for quite some time, and I could no longer keep them to myself. I hope I did not offend anyone in their endeavors. to reiterate: I encourage anyone and everyone to pursue their personal goals of the WMA because the more people there is the more we all have to learn from each other. I guess this can be here simply as food for thought...

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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Nov, 2011 8:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Christopher,

One important thing to remember: Harnischfechten is not fighting in armour - it's fighting against armour. These are techniques for overcoming/circumventing the armour.

As soon as you use techniques for thrusting into armoured gaps, etc., you're employing Harnischfechten.

Cheers,

Christian

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Nov, 2011 11:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One problem with bouting is that we have a bout followed in quick succession with another bout and another so that we get into the habit of wanting to get on with it but in a real fight one would approach it with patience and not just rush in: We tend to " play " at fighting with a RESET BUTTON mentality and lets face it most times we are doing it to have some fun. Wink

With only very low stakes we make mistakes, lose the bout, and just keep on going to the next one !

With safety equipment/armour one can approach it in two way:

A) Acknowledge the presence of the armour and train or bout to defeat the armour as one would in a real armoured fight.

B) We fight as if we had no protection but the armour is just there so we can hit each other for real with less control and risk of injury but a hit to a vambrace is the same as possibly losing the arm or having it incapacitated.

One problem is to keep the focus one would have without any protection and not be " bolder " than one would be if it was a real fight: In a way it means that both participants have to think like " actors " or children making believe that they are not armoured and very vulnerable to injury, but what often happens is that we act without fear and differently so the fight stops being a good simulation of unarmoured combat.

My old training group has the opposite problem of training without any protective equipment except light gloves and fencing mask but depending on a very high level of control to not hit at all or pull any hit that makes contact.

The problem with this style of training is that judging the results are difficult for the people involved and for people observing the fight ..... but we avoided making winning or declaring a " sure " winner and tried to use the techniques we where learning. At times one doesn't notice the killing blows that are pulled but we didn't perceive, so at times the one who thought he won would actually have lost a fraction of a second before " their " killing move .... the ambiguities of the results are unavoidable.

On the other hand those training with full protection may be tempted to flail away and hit hard but do things that would be almost suicidal in a real unarmoured fight in my opinion.

So just think how many of us would be alive after a swordfight considering that even the best of us only " win " a fraction of our bouts. Wink Imagine if your first loss in a bout was your last bout !

Someone in period fighting their 20th real duel would have had to survive all of the previous 19 fights with no or only minor injury and maybe it would be good to try to simulate in one's mind the mental attitude one would need to survive any of these fights.

Obviously, one has to practice to acquire a high level of skills, and one will lose practice bouts much more often than win at the beginning but I don't think one should be overconfident until one was consistently winning 19 out of 20 bouts against competent swordsmen ( Or swordswomen Wink Laughing Out Loud ).

Each bout must be using the mindset that it could be your last, or at least try hard to act in a way consistent with the high stakes of a real fight.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Mike O'Hara




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Nov, 2011 8:43 pm    Post subject: WMA Training         Reply with quote

Hi Christopher

I think all of your questions (and the reason for raising them) are valid so please don't apologise.

For a while our WMA group were training to hit but were not really considering the consequences as we were working on the assumption we would be armored and could therefore take less care. A few things changed this:

1. A tournament where a lot of us got hit (but not hurt) indicating clearly that our technque was lacking.
2. A couple of strikes to armored parts that still hurt like $%*&^# - I have a broken knuckle to show for it.
3. A recognition that a struck person in armor is temporarily vulnerable and then open to further strikes that DO do damage.

We now train to make sure that when we attack (cross into our opponents space) we are binding out or otherwise executing our attacks so that our training partner is 'struck' but we are not. Our instructor is drilling the 'never get hit' concept.

This does not make you tentative - its makes you sure. I have to say my technique has improved markedly since he started pushing this.

So while I do wear armor I am now NOT risking getting struck and treating the armor purely as a safety barrier if I stuff up.

Looking at the Fiore manuals (that's what we study from) it seems pretty clear that his philosophy was also hit without getting hit.

I cannot speak for massed combat but a look at a few Battle of Nations clips will also show that armor only protects somewhat.

cheers

mike

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Nov, 2011 11:57 pm    Post subject: Re: WMA Training         Reply with quote

Mike O'Hara wrote:

1. A tournament where a lot of us got hit (but not hurt) indicating clearly that our technque was lacking.
2. A couple of strikes to armored parts that still hurt like $%*&^# - I have a broken knuckle to show for it.
3. A recognition that a struck person in armor is temporarily vulnerable and then open to further strikes that DO do damage.

We now train to make sure that when we attack (cross into our opponents space) we are binding out or otherwise executing our attacks so that our training partner is 'struck' but we are not. Our instructor is drilling the 'never get hit' concept.



I strongly agree with the above and being hit should be considered a " FAIL " since in a real duel without armour we would be dead or seriously wounded and even in armour possibly stunned enough to be incapacitated for the 1/2 second it would take for the opponent to finish us off.

Even in a real fight the armour is there to save your skin if and when you mess up and I don't think one would normally depend on the armour to stop an attack and get sloppy with technique. ( Most of the time. Question ).

In armour one might in certain contexts actively use the armour ( Vambrace/gauntlets mostly ) the way one might use a buckler or a shield to deflect a strike but this isn't forgetting about technique and accepting being hit while concentrating on only one's attacks ....... might work, but might also build in very bad habits that would get one killed when fighting without armour or with less armour coverage than one is used to. Wink Imagine stopping a cut with your unprotected forearm because you reacted as trained to deflect with the vambrace and where not wearing the vambrace that one time !

Maybe in a real fight these deflections using armoured body parts could and would happen but it should be the exception rather than the rule and when practising swordsmanship it would be much better to learn good technique to be used at " almost " all times to avoid developing bad habits or reflexes that would be dangerous when not protected by armour or safety equipment. ( The old " You fight how you train " and there is not time to think and remember that this time you are not wearing armour and might react all the time as if armoured when not armoured ).

NOTE, disclaimer: Since all my training was virtually unprotected, as I mentioned in my first post, I'm mostly giving my theoretical assumptions about fighting or training in armour in a modern and in a period context. Wink

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Colt Reeves





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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2011 12:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I thought I'd throw these two things in for consideration.

Michael Edelson of the New York Historical Fencing Association has this to say about free-sparring with various types of weapon simulators and protective armour: http://www.newyorklongsword.com/articles/WMAB.pdf

Hugh Knight of Die Schlachtschule has a less pleasant but quite well thought-out view on the activity as well here: http://talhoffer.blogspot.com/2008_12_01_archive.html

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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2011 1:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In all martial training, proper attitude is fundamental. You will not normally be seriously hurt in any form of training, that's the whole point of it: you gain experience without getting all the damage that goes with it Happy If you let that confidence in your own safety influence your behaviour too much, your training will have less value. If you remove all protections because you want to train blossfechten you have to add so much control that your behaviour is influenced too...

Tournaments are always the easy target here perhaps because it's more obvious when people play for points or don't take the threats as seriously as we think they should. But safety is not the real issue here, the issue is attitude. Safety is a prerequisite; you absolutely can't train without it. In a tournament, the rules and the pressure to win every point should change the attitude a bit, but some of it will always be up to the fighter.

That said these issues show up in all kind of training. Do a solo drill without acting as if your cuts could hit a target, and you'll distort your fencing. Do a paired drill without commitment in attacks, or anticipating the defence, and you distort your fencing. Test-cut without consideration to your cover before and after the cut, and you distort your fencing.

Because all training should be safe there will always be some part that is up to your imagination. And this is not just risk to your skin; normally you're not intent on slaying your training partner either, and I guess this state of mind could entice different reactions too... Good martial artists are characterized among other thing by their ability to focus intent into everything they do, as if their life or the life of their partner was at stake with every single subtle move. With that attitude, all sort of training becomes worthwhile.

Regards,

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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2011 9:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vincent Le Chevalier wrote:
In all martial training, proper attitude is fundamental.


And this is the real heart of the matter. All forms of training are fake, otherwise it wouldn't be training. It all boils down to your attitude and what you train for.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


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Herbert Schmidt




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2011 11:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As others said before - modern protective equipment is just a safety feature that allows you to make a mistake, learn from it and still being able to go to work the next day.

If you are doing Blo▀fechten, then of course you should fight like you would with no armour. Problem is that every protection hinders you to a certain degree which in itself alters the way you fight.
Fighting without any protection (or with gloves and mask only) also alters the way you fight because you can't use full speed, contact and intent.
What you want to do is to train everything. One should fight with and without protection, slow and fast. In the end, when you bring all this together you might end up with as close a simulation to a real fight as you can.

Of course the mindset is a completely different thing. The moment someone with a large blade stands in front of you and wants to hurt or kill you, you will react different than you will in the gym.
Those who had this experience know what I am talking about. Only if in such a situation you stay calm and are able to use your techniques in a safe and sure way you have a grasp of sword fighting as such.

We all do this for a hobby, for fun and for education. To which level is each ones own decision.

Personally I am totally against tournaments for a number of reasons but all for duels or free fights between individuals.
It also depends a lot on your opponent. There are people I happily spar against with minimal protection and then there are those I would not spar against if I wore a complete armour.

Something I always tell my students: Historical Swordfighting is NOT about winning - it is about staying intact and being able to walk home after the fight. Winning is secondary.

Herbert

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Nov, 2011 4:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Herbert Stemmed wrote:


Something I always tell my students: Historical Swordfighting is NOT about winning - it is about staying intact and being able to walk home after the fight. Winning is secondary.

Herbert


That is almost exactly what my Longsword Master ( Although he was too humble to call himself a Master ) taught us even in practice bouts and we never put much importance in " declaring " the winner of a bout since unless one has 3 different camera angles and slowmo it is often very hard to know exactly what just happened.

Well also, as you wrote the most important thing is to first not take hits in a real fight and one should train with that mindset. Big Grin Cool

He used to say that when bouting one should concentrate on trying to use the techniques, master strokes and parries/binds/etc ... that we are trying to learn: Losing the fight being less important than learning something from attempting to use proper techniques rather than win at any cost or " game " the rules of engagement.

Even a " failure " to make a technique work teaches something if one can figure out why the technique failed: Bad timing, erroneous estimation of measure, bad tactical use of time and space and judgement or simply doing the technique wrongly.

In a bout one can rarely find the perfect set up for the use of a technique that one will find in a paired " Agent/Patient " training drill which makes using the proper techniques much more challenging in a bout, and one must try to not fall back on desperate flailing or improvisation to win the bout at all costs ...... at least for training free exchanges where learning is the priority.

If one does end up having to improvise it is a good thing if it's using the elements of various techniques and core tactical principles recombined in a creative fashion: The techniques are like the Alphabet, or short sentences, that one uses to " write " original sentences ( Techniques ) the same way that the 24 letter of the Alphabet can be combined in an infinity of ways that are correct, but one can also recombine them in an infinity of " wrong " ways.

I think that once one can improvise using proper techniques elements in original ways is when one has crossed over from " memorization of the details of techniques and one has evolved to being able to act without conscious thought based on the core principles ...... only at this point would one even begin to consider oneself as minimally competent if one was faced with a real fight ( In theory and in period real sword fight, but true for any martial art I think. Wink ).

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Mackenzie Cosens




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Dec, 2011 2:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I like finding historic sources that reflect on the topics. Master Fiore, a late 14th Century Italian sword master, seems to have believed that it was better to fight in the lists in armour then to fight with sharps and no armour, because fewer people will die. So if wearing armour when one competes is good enough for a high end sword master in the late 14th - early 15th century then its good enough for me.

Quote:
I have always told my students who had to fight in the lists that doing so is far less dangerous then combat with sharp swords in gambeson. With sharp and a gambeson, a single failed parry can be fatal, while in the lists a combatant wearing good armour can receive multiple hits and still go on to win the fight. Also oftentimes none of the combatants dies because one will hold the other for ransom. This is why I always say that I'd sooner fight three contests in the lists than a single one with sharp swords. as I have described.
Fiore de' Liberi's Fior di Battaglia (1409) translation Tom Leoni 2009

Mackenzie
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Dec, 2011 2:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mackenzie Cosens wrote:
I like finding historic sources that reflect on the topics. Master Fiore, a late 14th Century Italian sword master, seems to have believed that it was better to fight in the lists in armour then to fight with sharps and no armour, because fewer people will die. So if wearing armour when one competes is good enough for a high end sword master in the late 14th - early 15th century then its good enough for me.

Quote:
I have always told my students who had to fight in the lists that doing so is far less dangerous then combat with sharp swords in gambeson. With sharp and a gambeson, a single failed parry can be fatal, while in the lists a combatant wearing good armour can receive multiple hits and still go on to win the fight. Also oftentimes none of the combatants dies because one will hold the other for ransom. This is why I always say that I'd sooner fight three contests in the lists than a single one with sharp swords. as I have described.
Fiore de' Liberi's Fior di Battaglia (1409) translation Tom Leoni 2009

Mackenzie


Yes but context is important here, he is talking I think of semi-friendly fighting in the context of jousting ( Lists ) or competitive fighting and not battlefield fighting and in that context friendly fight with sharps would be a lot safer in armour than just in gambeson: These fights might have been in earnest with the stakes high enough that injury or death was part of the acceptable risks but not fights to the death.

The armour would also be used in the context discussed earlier as safety equipment and give almost total protection from the blows that would be used in un-armoured fighting but still used in a competitive armoured fight. The specialized half swording, targeting the chinks in the armour and going into dagger and wrestling to finish most fights that would end in surrender and lucrative ransoms ...... when you are going for ransoms you restrain yourself from using the deadliest techniques.

So, what we have here is a type of period " sports " fighting for glory and riches that could certainly be very rough and dangerous. I assume that fighting in gambison was a choice that master Fiore warns as being more dangerous than an armoured fight: Sort of makes sense since protection is the whole point of being armoured. Wink Big Grin Cool

But bottom line for any real fighting and even for serious training with sharps, fighting in armour gives much better odds of coming out of it un-injured.

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Mike O'Hara




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Dec, 2011 12:14 am    Post subject: Fiore and getting hit         Reply with quote

HI all

I have just received Robert Charrette's interpretation of Fiore's Il Fior di battaglia and have been able to read a number of the other online translations (my Italian is non-existent).

The way Fiore describes most of his system in verse implies that he wanted to strike/act without ever being hit in response. An example from Charrette's book

"I have quickly come to this situation after turning you by pushing your elbow. I did this to throw you to the ground so that you can't pick any more fights with me or anyone else".

As Jean and others have said above, armor is to look after you if you miss your defence.

Easier said than done I know but certainly what I am striving for. I find I mostly get hit when I rush - funny that. Wink

cheers

mike

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Mackenzie Cosens




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Dec, 2011 2:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:

Yes but context is important here, he is talking I think of semi-friendly fighting in the context of jousting ( Lists ) or competitive fighting and not battlefield fighting and in that context friendly fight with sharps would be a lot safer in armour than just in gambeson: These fights might have been in earnest with the stakes high enough that injury or death was part of the acceptable risks but not fights to the death.

The armour would also be used in the context discussed earlier as safety equipment and give almost total protection from the blows that would be used in un-armoured fighting but still used in a competitive armoured fight. The specialized half swording, targeting the chinks in the armour and going into dagger and wrestling to finish most fights that would end in surrender and lucrative ransoms ...... when you are going for ransoms you restrain yourself from using the deadliest techniques.

So, what we have here is a type of period " sports " fighting for glory and riches that could certainly be very rough and dangerous. I assume that fighting in gambison was a choice that master Fiore warns as being more dangerous than an armoured fight: Sort of makes sense since protection is the whole point of being armoured. Wink Big Grin Cool

But bottom line for any real fighting and even for serious training with sharps, fighting in armour gives much better odds of coming out of it un-injured.


I don't disagree with anything you are saying. But some of the language in the translations give me the feeling that "Sporting" may not be a sufficient description, Language like "... oftentimes none of the combatants dies.." implies to me that sometimes people do die in the lists and perhaps and it is may not be that unusually that they do and "... I'd sooner fight three contests in the lists then a single one with sharp swords..." leave me feeing that the lists are safer but not that much safer. I get the impression that there is so much honor and prestige at stake in the list that putting your life at serious risk is a small thing The only thing my poor little modern brain can equate it to would be a world title prize fight and that's likely a poor analogy, of course that is just an 21 century impression and may not be correct. Happy

I support wearing protective equipment in the context of of a modern tournament or practice, for a number of reasons.
> To paraphrase Guy Windsor, wear protective equipment so your partner/opponent can give you a real committed attack.
> When someone gets excited, angry or tired their control can go out the window.
> There are times where everybody thinks they have more control then they really do
> In tournament you do not know everyone you may bout against and exchanges that would be safe with similar styles may end up being not so safe with people who do things differently.
> It reduces the chance of me getting really hurt when I miss my crossing
> Amour is COOL!

Of course Viggiani tells us only to practice with sharp swords(spade da filo). Because with sharp swords (and presumably no armour) we will learn a perfect Schermo, we will drive a way the opponent attack with all our strength, but with practice swords (spade da marra) we will get lazy and only beat it aside a little, producing an imperfect defense. Lo Schermo, D'Angelo Viggiani, 1551: translation W. Jherek Swanger 2002 And as you train so shall you fight.

I think Mike is right, there is nothing I have read in Fiore that would suggest taking a blow on your armour to gain a tactical advantage. Your armour is there if you miss your crossing or blow your attack.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Dec, 2011 4:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mackenzie Cosens wrote:

I don't disagree with anything you are saying. But some of the language in the translations give me the feeling that "Sporting" may not be a sufficient description,


Note: Bold text on quote added by me.

Very good point: Sport is not a strong enough word, maybe one or two levels of intensity less than fighting to the death in war or a serious duel ..... could be variable in how rough or friendly but very much training for war and the only way to test one's courage and be mentally and physically prepared to facing sharp and pointy things in the hands of someone ready to do you serious harm or death, if that was what it took to defeat you.

So I guess one could define " Fighting in the Lists " as semi-friendly war with glory and profit plus learning how to fight as motivation.

The context of the quote by Fiore maybe should be taken at face value that fighting in armour is less dangerous than fighting without armour whether it be for serious training, fighting in the " Lists " or war. Wink

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