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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 19 Mar, 2012 5:24 am    Post subject: Revolutionizing Spear Fighting         Reply with quote

My friend Kyle and I did some sparring with spears today, following the teachings of Fiore and Vadi for unarmoured fighting with spears. We also did some practice with the armoured sword against spear from one of the anonymous commentaries on harnischfechten in the Peter von Danzig fechtbuch. I have a good understanding of Liechtenauer’s teachings, whereas Kyle does not have this knowledge. However, Kyle knows about body motions and biomechanics. Even more importantly, he knows how to fight, and what fighting involves, since he trains in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has been in fights himself.

In the process of learning the techniques, we discovered that the core assumptions we had about spear fighting—the same core assumptions that you see in nearly every video depicting spear techniques— are wrong. Consequently, as our core assumptions were wong, and nearly everyone else’s with us, whatever “fighting techniques” are developed from these core assumptions would be faulty, too.

Our Misconceptions

We had several misconceptions that it seems most people make when fighting with spears. In fact, even though some groups may theoretically “know better”, their actual sparring and free play reveals that they still make the same mistakes.

1) Spear fighting involves making long, reaching motions that extend the spear far out from the body, and allow you to vastly outreach the longsword.

2) Spear fighting involves making quick, jabbing stabs, coupled with the long thrusts and reaching movements with the arms.

3) Spear fighting involves keeping the hands widely spaced on the haft of the spear, to facilitate the long stabbing motions.

What We Discovered

1) Real spear fighting involves relatively little arm extension in a thrust. Much of it depends upon using the hips and the body, and not the motion of reaching your arms, to facilitate a powerful thrust.

2) Real spear fighting does not involve making short, quick jabbing attacks, but rather powerful thrusts at your opponent using motions that are short, stable and powerful.

3) Real spear fighting involves the hands spaced closely together, and the arms kept relatively close to the body, allowing you to brace the spear and strike with power.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 19 Mar, 2012 5:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Manuals

Where are we getting all of this from? How do you know that any of it is true? Look at the masters; specifically, look at the illustrations in Fiore and Vadi.

Notice that you never see images in Fiore and Vadi—neither in the images of the masters nor the students— the long, reaching thrusts using spears so ubiquitous in virtually every sparring video you can see online. Look at the picture of Fiore, after he has displaced the student’s spear and has thrust the student in the face. His arms are held out just in front of his body. His arms are not extended out to thrust the way most people do when they use a spear:

Simply put, you do not see illustrations in the manuals of people thrusting by reaching their arms forward far in front of their body. When you think about it, this makes sense. From a physics and biomechanics perspective, making stabs by reaching out your arms with a spear is very weak. When you’ve extended your arms forward, with the spear outstretched, you have all that mass hanging out into space, which means it is much harder to strike with force. Further, if the spear wobbles or fails to track perfectly when you extend your arms to stab with it, the blow will be extremely weak.

We even have a historical example of this phenomenon: Usama ibn Munqidh, a Muslim who fought against the crusaders in the 12th century, describes thrusting forward with his lance and striking the back of a mail-protected crusader. The latter rode away unharmed from the encounter. Usama ruefully reflects that, had he kept his lance in a couched position, braced under his arm, he probably would have slain the knight.

One might argue that Usama’s example does not really apply, because he was fighting an armoured opponent. However, if this is true, we must ask why the unarmoured spear fighting illustrations illustrate the exact same thing, namely the spear being either held close to the body, or even braced against the body, for greater stability and power. Clearly, the historical masters felt that the only certain way to end the fight was with a powerful, stable strike that put the point of the spear deeply into the opponent’s body.

Interestingly, some of Vadi’s unarmoured techniques with the spear do not even involve thrusting the spear at all. Vadi’s “half turns with the spear”: (the top two images of this scan) .

In both of these images, the master with the crown does not need to extend his arms to stab with the spear. Instead, by pivoting his hips and feet forward, he rotates- makes a half turn- and moves the spear into position, so that the student skewers himself while trying to stab the master in the face. In the case of the top left image, the master will lower the butt of the spear a little as he pivots, but most of the power of the movement comes from the hip rotation, and the fact that the spear is braced between his body and his left arm once the rotation is finished. Precise, efficient, quick, powerful and deadly- all the hallmarks of an authentic fighting technique.

Conclusion

So, to sum it up: most of the spear fighting done, even by practitioners of Western martial arts, comes from faulty core assumptions. Spear fighting is not about thrusting your arms out and forward, and trying to outreach the opponent’s sword (or spear) with a series of rapid, stabbing motions. This is weak, and in an earnest fight, more than likely to be insufficient to stop your foe. Instead, true spear fighting is at a much closer and much more intimate range. True spear fighting employs powerful stabbing blows that depend upon stability, and often keep the spear braced against the body. In conclusion, true spear fighting is closer, more intimate, more powerful, and more brutal than most people realize.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Mon 19 Mar, 2012 7:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Spear fighting is great fun!

Having performed numerous tests on whole pigs, we have found that a spear thrusts will penetrate the ribs with a minimum of pressure. You can, litteraly. put the spearhead against the dangling pig, and push it clean thrugh.
Based on this, there is little need for bracing the spear as you thrusts, on reasons of impact.

If you find yourself in a bind, or try to displace the opponents spear, this is another matter. For this, you need weight and leverage. For instance, the principles you show from Liberi (which is as far as I can see the same as the secons Vadi) is allready reenactment spearman basics.
However, these principle is applied while using gathered steps rather than turns, in order to maintain your guard while moving.

As a general principle, the hands are faster than the body, and the body faster than the feet; my "pool que" spear thrust is faster than my body lounge, whis again is faster than stepping with my couched spear. The same is true of range.
Consequently, I need to cover myself against swift attacks as I step.

It also means that if you train spear based purely on body and footwork, as I understand that you propose, you will be slower and have less range than a fighter that includes the hands in his reportoaire.
You will have a lot of strong binding techniques, which will give you an advantage if your opponent ONLY uses his hands. But in my experience, a combination of all three is neccesary to be fully efficient.

"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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Greg Mele
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PostPosted: Mon 19 Mar, 2012 11:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Craig,

Fun experiment! Wink

I do and don't agree. The couched thrusts, and thrusts driven with the body that you discuss *are* a part of spear fencing, and they specifically appear with short spears when fencing against *fully* armoured figures (you might recall that although the PD shows the figures unarmoured, the Getty shows them armoured, as does the Gladiatoria Ms, which present a similar system). Fiore's mechanics for his spear play are all based around one sword play: the exchange of thrusts, which also involves basically driving the point in with a pass of the body (think of a set bayonet), and which is meant to counter armour.

However, in 16th c sources, such as Marozzo, Manciolino and parts of Maier's compendia, slide thrusts are quite common. Indeed, the Italians even have a name for it: punta slanciata (flung thrust), vs the punta portata (carried thrust) that you are discussing. Both kinds of thrusts are used with all polearms - and again, partial armour is still assumed - with the shorter, heavier polearms using more carried thrusts and the spear (lanciotto) or half-pike using more flung thrusts. If you've ever been on the receiving end of a slide thrust, or even one-handed thrust, from a 9 - 12' spear where someone is NOT pulling their blow (and armour is an absolute requirement to feel this!), you'll see what Elling is talking about: it takes very, very little power to to knock someone clean off of their feet with a thrust to the face.

We also see plenty of slide thrusts done with Meyer's long staff, or the staff play of Silver and Swetnam, which is supposed to be the foundation of polearm's work.

So I certainly agree that there is a need for people to understand how to use the spear close, how to use carried and set thrusts, etc, particularly when looking at armoured combat. OTOH, I would argue that your new conclusions are now slanting too far in the opposite direction, because they are running contrary to what many of the sources describe and advise, which in turn is not dissimilar from what we see in Asian spear systems or later bayonet systems.

Anyway, hope this helped!

Greg

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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Mon 19 Mar, 2012 1:40 pm    Post subject: Re: Revolutionizing Spear Fighting         Reply with quote

I don't see what you mean by these:

Craig Peters wrote:

Our Misconceptions

3) Spear fighting involves keeping the hands widely spaced on the haft of the spear, to facilitate the long stabbing motions.

What We Discovered

3) Real spear fighting involves the hands spaced closely together, and the arms kept relatively close to the body, allowing you to brace the spear and strike with power.


.. especially since the first following picture has widely spaced hands.

Close-together hands facilitate long stabbing motions, widely-spaced hands facilitate moving the spear with the body. If the hands are widely spaced, the front arm is already partly extended so you can't get as much distance by further extension, and the front hand is holding the spear closer to the point so you have less reach.

Do you mean pool-queuing? But that's a known historical technique (in Europe, China, and Japan - in Japan we see special pool-queuing aids in use), so not a misconception.

"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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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Mon 19 Mar, 2012 2:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As someone who studies Silver and Swetnam, I second Greg. Swetnam explicitly instructed us to make one-handed flung thrusts in which the staff ends up functioning as an eight-foot rapier. He noted that such thrusts have the value of outreaching blows and recommended them against a striking opponent. Silver wasn't as clear, but I suspect he meant the same thing by one-handed thrusts. He wrote that someone who thrusts both single and double has the odds over who only uses the staff in both hands. For unarmored duels with the spear, reach constitutes a mighty advantage.
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PostPosted: Mon 19 Mar, 2012 2:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What Greg said. Happy

I completely agree with you, Craig, that too many people rely on flinging the spear out. My problem with this for unarmored combat, though, has less to do with power (it takes very little power to penatrate an unarmored foe with a sharp spear), but more about control. This type of fencing leads far mroe to double hits than not because the participants are more concerned with getting the quick hit in than protecting themselves (which they can't do when the weapon is so far from the body). And for armored combat, you *have* to put your hips into powerful thrusts into mail (and that's not even counting what happens when you miss the mail and hit solid plate but still need to drive your opponent back).

But as Greg said, the flung thrust is absolutely part of 16th century pole arm and quarterstaff curriculums, and when used judiciously are quite effective. The ability to play with your opponent's sense of distance is a very useful tool, and likewise a trickier thing to learn to counter, so it really makes sense that this type of fencing was written about and taught. Further, when we look at Japanese and Chinese sources for staff weapons, we see the same types of flung thrusts. So while I agree with a lot of what you're saying in general, we can't throw the baby out with the bath water when we draw our conclusions, either.

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Sam Gordon Campbell




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PostPosted: Mon 19 Mar, 2012 5:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm just going to say that I'm really enjoying this thread. I like where it's going.
The stick is the universal weapon so I like how one can draw information from so many countries and time periods and come up with quite comprehensive systems. Some being better for being in armour or against mounted opponents, some being better for little to no armour. Heck I've tried to understand what Swetnam and Silver said and now I think I understand a little bit more! Oh, and bastone is good too.
All I have to contribute to the practical side of things is this: When I have fenced with a spear, no matter what I still didn't like it when lots of stabs where directed at my face or groin. Just sayin'.

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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Mon 19 Mar, 2012 5:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Morgan sword in armour (pages 10r and following) is a good proof that Fiore sometimes had unarmoured players show armoured techniques. Fiore shows no harness there, but the guards and techniques are the special ones for combat in full harness.

I'm not familiar with very many spear sparring videos online, so I don't have a clear understanding of what you disagree with. I personally don't think that sparring is the best way to understand people's interpretations, because many people's physical skills lag behind their theoretical understanding of what they should do. (I certainly fall into this category).
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2012 1:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:

because many people's physical skills lag behind their theoretical understanding of what they should do. (I certainly fall into this category).


People forget all the sophisticated techniques and tend to revert to reflex actions that although they may well work, even by just dumb luck, this does nothing to becoming able to use the advanced techniques or even basics techniques as the default ways to move: One has to train in slowmoe ( 30% speed to 80% speed ) I think in a more cooperative way to learn the techniques ( Agent/Patient drills ) and when bouting it is better to try to apply the techniques and lose than win with random flailing.

If you can't force yourself to try to apply the proper techniques you never learn to apply them in a real bout or even less in a real fight, if we where in period and training for real life and death fighting.

Oh, I also think that Craig's " Ah Ah " moment of discovery is very valuable: Sudden insights mean adding to one's fighting vocabulary, but don't mean that other methods are wrong interpretations but maybe " incomplete " when used exclusively: Context is very important in what techniques or movement styles are chosen/applied moment to moment.

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PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2012 3:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:

People forget all the sophisticated techniques and tend to revert to reflex actions that although they may well work, even by just dumb luck, this does nothing to becoming able to use the advanced techniques or even basics techniques as the default ways to move: One has to train in slowmoe ( 30% speed to 80% speed ) I think in a more cooperative way to learn the techniques ( Agent/Patient drills ) and when bouting it is better to try to apply the techniques and lose than win with random flailing.


This is two important training insights. Good!

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Context is very important in what techniques or movement styles are chosen/applied moment to moment.


I think that, for what is being discussed in this thread, armoured or unarmoured is a very important context. The various quick flung or one-handed or pool-queued or thrown or overextended thrusts work very well against the naked body, and through multiple layers of clothing, but armour is a rather more effective barrier.

"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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PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2012 7:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As far as a context goes, Swetnam specifically told us not to thrust single against an opponent with rapier/sword and dagger. Properly timed, a one-handed spear/staff thrust allows you to outreach a similarly armed foe at no risk to your yourself but proves unnecessary and dangerous against someone you already hold a reach advantage over. For Swetnam and Meyer, combat with staff weapons revolves around solid defense positioning and false play to trick opponents out the advantage of firm guard. Though I've only had very limited sparring experience because the risk associated with long weapons, I interpret these contests as exchanges of controlled, economical motions punctuated by mighty strokes and lunging thrusts.
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PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2012 7:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I feel compelled to mention that Peter von Danzig (in the section of the manuscript actually written by PvD) says to use a pool cue motion as part of the action for a spear in armoured combat.

That said, this is in the context of getting the point on target, and once the point is set, the combatant should snap the spear into the armpit to brace it and shove, either to injure through the weak spots in the armour or to force the opponent away.

There is also a great deal said throughout the Liechtenauer texts and the Gladiatoria texts regarding holding the spear at various lengths, all for armoured combat.

There are few absolutes in HEMA, if there are any.

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Greg Mele
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PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2012 12:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Shackleton wrote:
I feel compelled to mention that Peter von Danzig (in the section of the manuscript actually written by PvD) says to use a pool cue motion as part of the action for a spear in armoured combat.

That said, this is in the context of getting the point on target, and once the point is set, the combatant should snap the spear into the armpit to brace it and shove, either to injure through the weak spots in the armour or to force the opponent away.



Yes, this was something i was thinking about, but couldn't remember the source! This is an interesting passage as it shows how to combine the two actions of the flung thrust and the set thrust to deal with armour. (The first hit concussively and is FAST; the latter then sets the point and allows the push.)

It is also worth looking at Will McLean's Commonplace Book http://willscommonplacebook.blogspot.com/ for some great, non-technical descriptions of the use of "pushes" against armour with spear.

Otherwise, basically Bill had a nice discussion on the *tactics* of flung thrusts - use them to break measure, use them following a strong defense, as the opponent seeks to fly away, use them to retreat , but don't use them to basically "six-gun shoot" and see who can hit first.

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Kel Rekuta




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2012 10:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah. Out of armour. Wear some, try that nonsense and see if you even notice it. Pool cue thrusts are for gamers.

Kel
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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2012 8:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is no reason a flung thrust should be light. Quite to the contrary.

Provided you do them propperly, of course.
The body mechanics that Craig underlines the importance of also aplies to these thrusts. By using your hips and body weight you can deliver a full force blow. Think of it as a rapier lounge, or uppercut punch.

Then, as Greg says, you can develop the thrust to a push. Or make a new "carried" attack, which you now are within range to do.

"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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Greg Mele
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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2012 9:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kel Rekuta wrote:
Yeah. Out of armour. Wear some, try that nonsense and see if you even notice it. Pool cue thrusts are for gamers.

Kel


Actually Kel, that isn't what the Bolognese say at all, but they aren't playing tag with spears, partizans and spiedi (winged spears). These are hard slide thrusts, followed by setting the spear, or using the slide to displace a body part and then make another strike to the opening created.

Likewise, there are living schools of Japanese spear combat that use slide thrusts (some with the kuda, a sleeve to reduce friction, some without) against armour, and as with European armoured combat, the rule is to target the weak points of the harness.

I think it is important to understand that there is an overall body of techniques, and you adapt based on how much harness you have, he has, etc.

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Steven Reich




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2012 10:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greg Mele wrote:
Kel Rekuta wrote:
Yeah. Out of armour. Wear some, try that nonsense and see if you even notice it. Pool cue thrusts are for gamers.

Kel


Actually Kel, that isn't what the Bolognese say at all, but they aren't playing tag with spears, partizans and spiedi (winged spears). These are hard slide thrusts, followed by setting the spear, or using the slide to displace a body part and then make another strike to the opening created.

Likewise, there are living schools of Japanese spear combat that use slide thrusts (some with the kuda, a sleeve to reduce friction, some without) against armour, and as with European armoured combat, the rule is to target the weak points of the harness.

I think it is important to understand that there is an overall body of techniques, and you adapt based on how much harness you have, he has, etc.

I'm with Greg on this. The Bolognese clearly and unequivocally use the "pool cue thrust" (i.e. the punta slanciata), as does every system of sojutsu (i.e. Japanese spear) that I've ever soon. Additionally, Muso Shindo Ryu Jodo also uses this type of thrust with the Jo--trust me when I tell you that if you take one of those, you'll move backwards.

This is all about good body mechanics. Poor body mechanics means that hardly any of your mass is behind the thrust--absolutely a move for a "gamer" against someone in armor. Good body mechanics means that even if you're in armor, you're either impaled, pushed back, or knocked down.

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Matt Easton




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2012 12:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great thread.
From what I have read and experienced I am inclined to agree with everything Greg has written above.

Saying that flung thrusts are for 'gaming' just sounds like the words of someone who needs to learn to defend from them better, Kel. Razz

I hadn't heard PvD's advice on this before, but it makes perfect sense to me.

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2012 2:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt Easton wrote:
Great thread.
From what I have read and experienced I am inclined to agree with everything Greg has written above.

Saying that flung thrusts are for 'gaming' just sounds like the words of someone who needs to learn to defend from them better, Kel. Razz

I hadn't heard PvD's advice on this before, but it makes perfect sense to me.


Just guessing but there can be prudent use of flung thrusts, when a good opportunity/opening presents itself, versus lack of care and discipline and being reckless abusing the use of flung trusts by almost randomly doing them hoping for a lucky strike and at the same time suicidal when done against a cool opponent taking advantage of your lack of judgement.

Any good technique fails when done at the wrong time, with the wrong timing and probably with inadequate skills. Wink Laughing Out Loud

Flung trusts done with a " gaming mentality " versus flung trust done when the stake are high and one mistake could be your last.

( When bouting I think we often do it as a game instead of taking a pause and trying to act and imagine that every bout is a life and death situation ...... we can still have fun doing it, but if we act as if there is no danger, because in fact there isn't any, it distorts our reactions and the timing of when it's time to act and when it's time be very very careful while at the same time not being timid ).

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Last edited by Jean Thibodeau on Wed 21 Mar, 2012 2:15 pm; edited 1 time in total
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