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R.M. Henson




Location: Honolulu Hawaii
Joined: 14 Feb 2008
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Posts: 49

PostPosted: Wed 05 Sep, 2012 2:31 am    Post subject: Trying to start a Longsword Fencing group in Hawaii         Reply with quote

Hello myArmoury members. Mostly I lurked, but I've been following this site since 2009.

I've finally decided to take the plunge and attempt to order some fechtbuchs for Langschwert fencing instruction and make some sword wasters.

I'm from Hawaii so there isn't any existing clubs or groups that take part in this style of swordplay, so essentially it'll be up to me to do things correctly and teach others. Any of you more experienced practitioners have any advice for how to get started and how you went about learning as best as possible? I've been studying the theories and movements independently for about 3 years (mostly diagrams and hundreds of youtube videos) but I'm unfamiliar with swordplay in general. I'm actually a boxing and MMA coach, so I have unarmed fighting experience, and I'm hoping my creativity, timing, rhythm, judging distance, and reaction time can be transferred into this.

-How did you first start learning?
-Any recommendations on some good manuals?
-What are some good beginner swords and protective gear to look into?

I have experience planing out wooden bokutou and I was wondering if it's worth it to shape out the shape of a blade or not for a long sword.

Lastly my reason for doing this is that there is a local "Medieval Combat Club" at the University on this island that is essentially nothing more than LARPing with foam bats and I want to turn the club on to actual historical style fencing. I think the club and the University would benefit from learning actual WMA from a historical and martial arts stand point instead of a bunch of nerds whacking each other randomly with foam.
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Craig Shackleton




Location: Ottawa, Canada
Joined: 20 Apr 2004
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Posts: 307

PostPosted: Wed 05 Sep, 2012 5:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The first thing that I'm going to suggest is that no matter how much you use someone else's interpretation of source material, keep going back to the source material and doing a critical examination of your techniques.

I have a personal fondness of the Leichtenauer tradition, and in particular the von Danzig fechtbuch, which can be found translated in "In St. George's Name" from Freelance Academy press. I have read material from a lot of other people training in Leichtenauer's system, and my interpretation is of course different from each of theirs, and theirs are different from each other. I'd also recommend that you choose a specific source as your central basis, and consider everything else as support only.

If I'm having difficulty with something from von Danzig, I read the relevant sections in Ringeck or Dobringer, and then look at interpretations by people like Christian Tobler, Hugh Knight, etc, or watch videos online. I then try to consider why each person says what they say and does what they do. My interpretation ends up being different.

Also, remember that often the information we have from other instructors is often dated. Interpretation is an ongoing process, and books are often out of date by the time they are published. Even online videos are often out of date. Most of the people who publish stuff are happy to explain why they did something, and even sometimes explain how they've modified what they said way back when.

The other thing that is important to understand is that while you may get some interest from the people doing foam LARP combat, some of them are happy being nerds bashing randomly with foam swords, and won't value the benefit of training. And that is okay. Some of them will be interested. It is also likely that their rules won't support using historical techniques, so training with you will not be as helpful to their game as it might be to a real situation, and that is okay. Keep open, friendly communication with them. If someone approaches you who just wants to swing wildly and not actually train, direct them to the LARP group, Hopefully, if someone approaches them who wants to train seriously, they will direct them to you.

Ottawa Swordplay
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R.M. Henson




Location: Honolulu Hawaii
Joined: 14 Feb 2008
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Posts: 49

PostPosted: Wed 05 Sep, 2012 6:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for your recommendations Craig. I have noticed that many videos that were posted online years ago have since been amended to show that they are outdated, I'll be sure to take note when rehearsing that interpretations can and will evolve. Also thanks for your recommendation for "In St. Georges Name", I've looked it up and will order it soon.

As far as that club goes, my goal isn't to become a change agent for the club, but I'm sure most people joined the club because they believed what they were doing is medieval combat when in actuality it isn't. If they were truly interested in medieval combat they'll want to practice it. If learning the actual combat style isn't what they had in mind I have no place to judge them, they can continue with their current activities. I have talked to several of their members and at least 5 have expressed interest. They have told me usually only certain members do any good because of their size and reach advantages, and as a martial artist I tend to balk at the thought that only the biggest win. Learning a codified swordplay system will help them close the gap so to speak.

Any other good manuals I should look up as a resource?

What sword analogues should I use? Right now I'm planning on just planing out some wasters with cross guards.

Any anecdotes anyone wants to share with their experiences when first learning?
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Scott Hanson




Location: La Crosse, WI
Joined: 19 Jul 2006
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Reading list: 6 books

Posts: 154

PostPosted: Wed 05 Sep, 2012 7:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi R.M.!

You are in such a better position than I was back in 2005 when I started. There are a lot more good books out there, and a lot more experienced practitioners to work with. Also, given your location, you'll probably have plenty of interested parties if you try to host a seminar sometime. Happy

I have and can recommend the following:

http://www.myArmoury.com/books/item.1891448455.html many beginners like how Tobler laid this book out

http://www.myArmoury.com/books/item.1581606885.html I'm a fan of this one, though a bit outdated

http://www.myArmoury.com/books/item.1581604998.html ditto

There are many, many more out there, and some probably quite a bit newer. Some of the authors are members here and I'm sure would be happy to help you out. You can also check out the HEMA Alliance or ARMA forums for more guidance.

As for practice materials, I'd recommend New Stirling Arms wooden wasters if you want to start inexpensively, or perhaps Rawlings synthetics (though I've heard mixed reviews). Steel is best, and I'd go with a well known maker. Albion and Arms & Armor are what my group uses. I've also seen good reviews of Pavel Moc and Ensifer.

As for experiences, I think you'll find it's similar to starting a new program in an Oriental martial art. I'd watch out for people wanting to win in drills and going outside the parameters of what the drill is trying to teach, sparring fearfully or too aggressively, etc.

I think this is an good article on advice. http://www.thearma.org/Practice/training.htm There are some veiled attacks against other practitioners in there, but I think there is enough sound advice in there to pass it on anyways.

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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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 408

PostPosted: Wed 05 Sep, 2012 7:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would recommend that you start by choosing one source and sticking to it for a few years. Many of the manuscripts from the Germanies are related, and its almost necessary to pay equal attention for multiple sources for some weapons in the German tradition (mostly staff weapons), but the problems of relating them are very complicated and they are not all the same. If you are just starting out, understanding one source (ideally one with lots of text and good pictures) is a hard enough intellectual challenge.

Your choice of source will help determine what forms you need to study: for some the sword in two hands is set up as a self-contained unit, other manuals expect that you study several forms at once and apply movements and principles from one to the others.
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Craig Shackleton




Location: Ottawa, Canada
Joined: 20 Apr 2004
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Posts: 307

PostPosted: Wed 05 Sep, 2012 8:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Following up on what Sean just said, whatever source you work with, look at how it is laid out and consider why it is that way. Fiore's manuscripts mostly start with wrestling and then build from there. To understand the sword techniques, you really need to understand the wrestling and dagger techniques. Liechtenauer sources tend to the opposite; unarmoured longsword is the weapon that provides the core principles that then get applied to other weapons and situations.

I also think that it is best to develop your training in the structure it was historically presented. For example, Liechtenauer's verses don't really address the four guards until after the material on the secret strikes. Many modern practitioners treat this as a poor layout choice, but I teach all of my students in this format, and it works much better than when I used to teach teh guards in detail and then try to teach the strikes. This is a small point, but it's an example of something that can have bigger repercussions, depending on your main source material. Fiore and Meyer are sources where you really need to understand the early material before you can apply it to the later stuff. In the earlier Liechtenauer sources, the same is true for looking at the alternate weapons material.

Ottawa Swordplay
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: Wed 05 Sep, 2012 10:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

R.M. Henson wrote:

Any other good manuals I should look up as a resource?



I would recommend the training manuals by Hugh Knight as they are very clearly written and the photographs illustrating the techniques are very helpful and easier to understand than many other modern sources/interpretations of the Liechtenauer tradition.

This Topic thread has a link to where you can purchase the various books in his series on Longsword and also other weapons like dagger and wrestling, poleaxe, sword and buckler:
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...highlight=

Read through the various posts and comments in the Topic.

Link where you can buy these books: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/hughknight

Another Topic on his poleaxe training book: This is a long multi page Topic and worth taking the time reading the various opinions, questions and answers from Hugh.
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...highlight=

Great site for books and DVDs on the subject: http://www.freelanceacademypress.com/

All very well made DVD's and I recommend the Part 1 and the Part 2 Longsword DVD's :

http://www.freelanceacademypress.com/ochslongsworddvd.aspx
http://www.freelanceacademypress.com/ochslongsworddvd-2.aspx

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 408

PostPosted: Wed 05 Sep, 2012 9:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Let me also put in a plug for the chapters on how to train in In Service to Mars Vol. 1 (by Sean Hayes, Guy Windsor, and some others) and my list of HEMA websites and blogs. The list is only 'dynamic' sites and not static resources, but it should lead you to resources on whatever art you chose to start with.
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R.M. Henson




Location: Honolulu Hawaii
Joined: 14 Feb 2008
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Posts: 49

PostPosted: Thu 06 Sep, 2012 3:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you all for your generous advice and recommendations. As far as what school of fencing I'm thinking about, I prefer to begin with the Liechtenauer tradition, as it focuses on the Longsword first, and there's a wealth of interpretations of that art online.

For now while I'm waiting for my manuals in the mail I'll begin carving out my homemade wasters out of a readily available hardwood. I'll post pictures of them when it's complete.
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