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P. Frank

Location: Germany
Joined: 03 Jan 2010
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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jul, 2012 5:03 am    Post subject: Your definition of historical fencing         Reply with quote

(My apologies if this has been covered before, I couldn't quite find it but then again, I am a little jumbled atm. Feel free to redirect me)

hi everyone.

This is a question that has been bugging me for a while. I am studying historical fencing, mostly sabre and backsword in the tradition of Hutton and Taylor/Roworth, but I have looked into Hope, McBane and Silver as well.

I have pretty clear personal definition on what constitutes as historical fencing to me, but I have the feeling that it might be too strict and actually constricting.

So I wondered how other people see it.

For me, I hope I manage to articulate this, it is as much about the weapon as it is about the School, the tradition, I am standing it. Fencing masters wrote for a specific weapon in mind, so I try to have the appropriate trainer at hand and use it to recreate the techniques described in my sources. (This is easier for later, more educational sources of course).
I have friends who define historical fencing as "fencing with a historical weapon". For them it is not important where they have their techniques from or if they are described at all. They basically pick and choose from different times and systems, ultimately making something new and eclectic.
I have no quarrels with that, I think it is a legitimate view on the topic, but naming it historical fencing to me, just me personal really, just doesn't feel quite right.

I study different schools as well, but at least in studying them I try to keep them separated, keeping in mind where I have the things I do from. I try to keep an overview over each system I study and to use the terminology used in the source where possible. For this I find it very important to study the historical sources directly whenever I can, and I my goal is to be able "in system" if wanted. I piece my own style of "effective" fencing together as well, but this is only the second step for me, and an individual one at that.

So a question for my fellow fencers in this forum: How do you define Western Martial Art or Historical Fencing for yourself?
Do you try to keep to one school, or do you study several but keep them separated? Do you mix them?
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Scott Hanson

Location: La Crosse, WI
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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jul, 2012 7:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For myself, I would say that as long as it seems to be in the same "system", I combine things.

For instance, we don't know the entirety of how Ringeck would have fought. If you find X technique in I:33 (described as part of Lichtenauer's tradition) but not in Ringeck, to say that Ringeck wouldn't have used it is probably incorrect.

Really, we're just starting to rediscover this stuff, so I think going broader and seeing how many sources you can find to describe the fundamental ways these weapons are used is the best approach. You can restrict to a specific master if you like, but you might be missing out on things that master would have done that he didn't describe because he thought they were obvious.

Proverbs 27:17 "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another"

Wisconsin Historical Fencing Association (WHFA)
A HEMA Alliance Affiliate
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T. Arndt

Location: La Crosse, WI
Joined: 07 Jul 2011
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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jul, 2012 8:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think combining contemporary systems is a natural thing to do. None of these systems existed in a vacuum. If you were a professional man-at-arms or soldier your goal is to live, not be a technical purist.

Within a single "school", as Scott said, for a well rounded understanding I think its impossible not to include as many of the masters from that school. For example, for Liechtenauer (German Longsword) that would be Johannes Liechtenauer, Hans Döbringer, Hans Talhoffer, Fiore dei Liberi, Johannes Lecküchner, Peter von Danzig, Sigmund Ringeck, Jud Lew, Paulus Kal, Peter Falkner, Paulus Hector Mair and Joachim Me˙er. etc etc

Between "schools", for example Liechtenauer (German Longsword) and Fiore (Italian Longsword), we have to consider that these systems were contemporaries, and in periods I don't doubt they were integrated. Another example might be Silver and his continental contemporaries, but I am less familiar with this later period. Many organizations describe this as a pan European approach.

Another thing to consider, when someone says "historical fencing" I take fencing to mean what it did originally, that is "martial arts" (arts of mars). That means I consider swordplay, pole-weapons, and unarmed combat all has part of "historical fencing".

If something is a martial art is that then it is not a sport. I consider "historical fencing" to be concerned with Historical European Martial Arts and not the sporting culture modern fencing is associated with. You might point out many HEMA groups have tournaments, which are of course sport. But no HEMA group I am aware of trains for the tournament, and after all the original practitioners held tournaments as well.

"There is but one true art of the sword" -Johannes Liechtenauer

Wisconsin Historical Fencing Association (WHFA) - La Crosse
A HEMA Alliance Affiliate

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” -Juvenal
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Eyal Azerad

Location: Canada
Joined: 28 Nov 2003

Posts: 33

PostPosted: Wed 25 Jul, 2012 10:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I totally agree with T. Arndt.

Being passionate about the sword, some of us engage in reenactment combat. Historically however, this was not a hobby, but a way of life. Men-at-arms and foot soldiers did not want to die and in many instances, were scared out of their wits prior and during the battle. one such case was the Battle of Agincourt. Being greatly outnumbered, the English were petrified as were the French under Charles d’Albert (due to the different military technique of the English –ie. English longbow). That being said however, and to revert to the topic, a well trained man-at-arms, had to use his wits as well as his skill. Both of which involve both technical aspects as well as improvisation (hence the head butts and use of elbows and knees).

Eyal Azerad
Darksword Armory Inc.
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P. Frank

Location: Germany
Joined: 03 Jan 2010
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Posts: 73

PostPosted: Mon 30 Jul, 2012 8:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks everyone for your replies, it always helps me to get different perspectives on a thing I cannot solve for myself.

My, let's say, narrow view on the subject might stem from me mostly studying later works, roughly from the 19th or 20th century. Maybe it is easier to stick to one master there, as their works were often meant to be read by beginners and usually leave comparatively little room for interpretation. As far as I followed them, earlier works required considerably more work.

I understand that systems did not exist in a vacuum and I can see the merit mixing contemporary styles, in order to understand each one of them better.
I have to admit though, that I am not to keen on, for example, teaching or learning 16th century Rapier techniques with a 19th century sabre. I know people who do and I can see that it works to a degree, but mixing weapons and styles several generations apart has, for me, a rather "a-historical" feel to it.

But I digress, I mostly wanted to thank you for your replies. I will try to lighten my view on the subject, as I do not want to petrify in my opinion and, as you all pointed out, potentially miss something that could further my understanding of the art.
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Paul Hansen

Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 17 Mar 2005
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PostPosted: Mon 30 Jul, 2012 3:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's a complicated subject...

It would make sense to assume that Fiore was aware of the German school and vice versa. It would also make sense to assume that the German and Italian schools influenced each other. But there are also marked differences, in my limited experience.

Also within the school there are differences. E.g. between Marozzo and Agrippa. Both Italians, but a different system. Also for instance Meyer and Ringeck are at least writing for different audiences.

As for sport vs. "real fighting", that, too, is complicated. Sport seems to have been a significant part of fencing since earliest times. I guess it's logical, given that fencing practice is an enjoyable pastime and given that people are by nature competitive.
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