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R. Kolick





Joined: 04 Feb 2012

Posts: 111

PostPosted: Sun 07 Sep, 2014 1:43 am    Post subject: questions on western martial arts         Reply with quote

I've tried learning italian longsword combat from a school out here in Seattle and i haven't been able to go so much do to work reasons. but the few times I've had the chance to go i've found that compared to the more traditional eastern martial arts its more constricted in its motion in both guards and especially in the cuts and slashes. they only seem to use the arms to power the cuts and kept to close to the body to use the muscles in the back and the momentum from the hips twisting. most of the videos I've seen seem to confirm this and the guards seem to be pulled to close to allow full motion to react to most attacks other than a specific set of attacks. is it just me that feels this way or have i just found an odd school to learn at?
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Marik C.S.




Location: Germany
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PostPosted: Sun 07 Sep, 2014 2:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd like to comment more thoroughly but as I'm not familiar with eastern martial arts and thus can only guess at what you expect compared to what you experienced this might not be overly helpful.
If you could elaborate a little bit on what range of motion you are missing that would clear things up for me quite a bit.

As far as the issue at hand is concerned, it depends on what you are actually doing/training.

If you go through the motions of one attack more often than not (depending on the range the attack is intended to cover and the positioning on the line of combat etc.) you will take only one step while striking, with the occasional technique needing two steps.

If you however only train the actual cut and not the complete attack - so leaving all considerations for range and positioning out of it - that may well have no additional movement attached to it.

For the guards, most of them need to be very close as not to expose yourself (most commonly exposing the hands, wrists and forearms by keeping the guards too wide) and they are not to be seen as fixed positions meant to cover you but as stances from which both an offensive and a defensive movement can be launched.

While most guards cover a certain line of attack or at least put a significant risk on attacking into them, you will almost never find yourself in a situation where you can yourself safe in a guard and don't need an action to deal with an incoming attack - either an in-tempo offensive attack that forces the opponent to react/kills him outright or a purely defensive attack to keep you from suffering that particularly nasty fate.

You're right that most guards are harder to defend from against certain attacks, each guard has its soft-spot - either a natural one by leaving parts of you exposed though that may be a trap at any point or one you can force by attacking in a certain way - but that is only really an issue if your opponent is significantly more experienced than you and thus can take advantage of the particular disadvantages of your guard (at which point it's less about the martial art practiced but rather the time and amount of practice which isn't unique to WMA/HEMA) or you stick to your guard religiously.

Again, the guards are not meant to be something to stand around in on end, all that does is dull your reflexes to attacks from a direction you didn't anticipate and give the opponent time to find the breach in your defense.
The guards need to flow seamlessly into each other and at that point you get quite a lot of motion from them as changing guards (depending on the guards of course) without realigning your footwork is quite likely to leave you either unbalanced or so tensed up that you can't do anything from there.

Europe - Where the History comes from. - Eddie Izzard
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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
Joined: 24 Jul 2011

Posts: 328

PostPosted: Sun 07 Sep, 2014 9:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It sounds like you're at a type II school which means the people there are working on trying to figure out swordfighting from a book, you can't really draw any strong conclusions about traditional Western martial arts from that. Western swordsmanship has been different from the JSA I've seen in that Western sword arts don't directly use hip twisting they use stepping which incidentally draws power from the hips and abdomen in addition to doing things with velocity and weight distribution. It's not just swords that work this way either; you'll also see it in wrestling, ballet and at one time boxing but the kind of boxing you'll learn most places nowadays is totally different than what it was ~100 years ago. Another thing you'll often see at type II schools or among lower level type 1 fencers is that they cut close to their body almost exclusively. It's easier for people to generate power with a bent arm but many cuts should really be executed with the arm or arms extended, mostly for tactical reasons.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sun 07 Sep, 2014 4:20 pm    Post subject: Re: questions on western martial arts         Reply with quote

R. Kolick wrote:
they only seem to use the arms to power the cuts and kept to close to the body to use the muscles in the back and the momentum from the hips twisting.


They should use the body. If stepping, then the hip motion comes as part of the step, and if standing on the spot, the hip motion should still be there.

A longsword, and lightweight longsword trainers (e.g., under 900g or so) even more so, allows you to move it with arms only. So, they can get away with it. If they were to try the same thing with a 2-3kg two-hander, they would learn the error of their ways. (Depending on how they train, and with what protection, they might not see power as beneficial but rather as dangerous and therefore undesirable.)

But note that some Asian martial arts use exaggerated hip motion as a training method. This is most common in unarmed arts (especially karate and its descendents like taekwondo, and some kung fu//taiji), but might be the case in some armed arts too. A shorter body motion will give the same power, with the technique executed faster and with less telegraphing. The exaggerated motion is just basic training - and good for beginners who haven't done that kind of thing before - and the "combat version" should be a shorter movement.

"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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Ben Coomer




Location: Colorado
Joined: 06 Sep 2011

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PostPosted: Sun 07 Sep, 2014 6:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

May also want to keep in mind that many "schools" of longswordsmanship are highly reliant on closing the distance and grappling. So if the guards seem a little more closed, its often because you are supposed to be closing with an opponent and don't want your arms flapping all over the place.
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Mike O'Hara




Location: New Zealand
Joined: 10 Jul 2010
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PostPosted: Sun 07 Sep, 2014 11:30 pm    Post subject: Western and Eastern         Reply with quote

Hi

Please note the comments from Timo, Marik and Mike.

I have extensive eastern training and limited Western and would say that actually they are far more similar than dissimilar.

The posta in Fiore are meant to be moved to/through, just like the stances in, say, karate. Higaonna-sensei of Goju-Ryu is crystal clear on that.

The cuts are definitely powered by the whole body. From posta di donna, Fiore's first attack position, the first motion is pure hips, followed by drive through the lower body, the back then arms. the step closes the distance. Not dissimilar to reverse punch.

Not sure how much Eastern training with weapons (jo, sword, bo) but again you will find some positions (wards) work well and others don't. Some leave parts of you exposed, but not others. Unarmed guards are no different.

cheers
mike

MIke O'Hara
Location: Plimmerton, New Zealand
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R. Kolick





Joined: 04 Feb 2012

Posts: 111

PostPosted: Mon 08 Sep, 2014 12:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

thank you for all your answers they have mostly answered what i was asking even though i worded it poorly. my issues with the movement of the hips felt negated by the positions of the elbows for all the cuts and guards the elbows where supposed to be pulled as close to the body as physically possible which limited the control and power that made the cuts feel almost vestigial rather than a real attack meant to kill or injure. the videos seem to back that this isn't uncommon but again youtube is a notoriously unreliable thing even with people who study this kind of thing and post it. my issues with this is in eastern martial arts while the hips move when you step into an attack or guard but the arms have full range of motion rather than tucked against your chest and the swing was timed to flow with the step rather than swing them step mid swing which is why i felt that the hips and other supporting muscles in the back weren't being used in the attack.
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Mike O'Hara




Location: New Zealand
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PostPosted: Mon 08 Sep, 2014 1:33 am    Post subject: Eastern and Western         Reply with quote

Just following your post about arm position -

Look at it a little differently - with a longsword the tip moves first and fastest. The hands are designed to direct the tip of the sword, the arms line it up and the power that generates the cut comes from the body. You have a lot of force at the end of a long lever.

With unarmed, imagine instead that your elbow is the 'hand' and the forearm/hand is the sword. Again you want to move the tip first and it does move fastest

I was always taught to keep my elbows in close to my body in unarmed strikes - it maximises the link between the deltoids, lats, gluteus and legs to direct the power.

hope that helps
cheers
mike

MIke O'Hara
Location: Plimmerton, New Zealand
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 08 Sep, 2014 2:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The problem of inadequate power in strikes is surprisingly common in the reconstruction of Western martial arts. Some groups, such as the one you studied in, have poor power because of their bio-mechanics and the way they strike. Interestingly, we gain insight into how not to strike indirectly in the manuals. In Sigmund Ringeck's gloss on the schielhau, Ringeck notes that the schielhau can be used to break the attack of those who strike short. He clarifies by adding that if the opponent does not extend his arms when striking, the strike will be short. Thus, the Fiore practitioners who you trained with are striking short by Ringeck's definition, which will impede effective power, range, and commitment to the strike.

The other more common problem I see is that many groups prioritize attacking with speed and little power. The emphasis becomes striking on as fast as they can, and moving with similar speed at the bind, with rapid motions, and their swordplay can look "twitchy". This is fine so long as other people fence in the same way, but against someone who strikes with power and quickness, they will very rapidly become unbalanced and disrupted. I believe that this way of striking occurs because most modern swordplay is divorced from its historical reality of killing other human beings. In a life and death fight, you cannot afford to merely strike quickly but with weak power; you must decisively end the conflict. As this is a reality that no modern practitioner faces, the modern practitioner can afford to practice in ways that are not as martially sound and effective as they could be.
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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
Joined: 24 Jul 2011

Posts: 328

PostPosted: Mon 08 Sep, 2014 9:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree with a lot of what you wrote but there's different kinds of power. I've seen guys who can crush your bones through your fight gear but put them in front of a tatami mat and all they can do is knock the stand over. Velocity matters and it's also important to generate peak velocity as the sword contacts the target.

R. Kolick wrote:
thank you for all your answers they have mostly answered what i was asking even though i worded it poorly. my issues with the movement of the hips felt negated by the positions of the elbows for all the cuts and guards the elbows where supposed to be pulled as close to the body as physically possible which limited the control and power that made the cuts feel almost vestigial rather than a real attack meant to kill or injure. the videos seem to back that this isn't uncommon but again youtube is a notoriously unreliable thing even with people who study this kind of thing and post it. my issues with this is in eastern martial arts while the hips move when you step into an attack or guard but the arms have full range of motion rather than tucked against your chest and the swing was timed to flow with the step rather than swing them step mid swing which is why i felt that the hips and other supporting muscles in the back weren't being used in the attack.


Stepping mid swing is okay in most cases for reasons related to what I posted above... you don't actually need that much raw force if your velocity and peak acceleration are good but there are tactical reasons why you want to get your blade and guard out in front of you first.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Mon 08 Sep, 2014 10:35 am    Post subject: Re: questions on western martial arts         Reply with quote

R. Kolick wrote:
I've tried learning italian longsword combat from a school out here in Seattle


First: which school? Remember that HEMA is largely a matter of interpretation, so if we don't know which group you're training with then it'd be hard to find out other people's opinions about that group's methods and interpretations.


Quote:
but the few times I've had the chance to go i've found that compared to the more traditional eastern martial arts its more constricted in its motion in both guards and especially in the cuts and slashes.


Are you sure that you're getting an accurate picture of Eastern martial arts, too? A great deal of Eastern martial arts today has been modified to emphasise acrobatics and spectacular techniques, and even the ones that don't often favour wider movements that are more visible to competition judges in the interest of making sure that those judges saw the hit. On the other end of the spectrum, the traditional schools that try to maintain a more martial focus (and some people who want to return the more modernised arts to their martial roots) generally use tighter, smaller, constrained movements. I'll just take the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu and Scott Rodell's study of the Chinese long sword as quick examples:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0mo4CR7qJk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9VTu63NX5E


Quote:
most of the videos I've seen seem to confirm this and the guards seem to be pulled to close to allow full motion to react to most attacks other than a specific set of attacks. is it just me that feels this way or have i just found an odd school to learn at?


Quote:
. my issues with the movement of the hips felt negated by the positions of the elbows for all the cuts and guards the elbows where supposed to be pulled as close to the body as physically possible which limited the control and power that made the cuts feel almost vestigial rather than a real attack meant to kill or injure. the videos seem to back that this isn't uncommon but again youtube is a notoriously unreliable thing even with people who study this kind of thing and post it.


Now that does sound weird, since Fiore's plays include movements in a large variety of arm and elbow positions, both tucked close to the body and extended. Just check the illustrations in Wiktenauer:

http://wiktenauer.com/wiki/Fiore_de%27i_Liberi

And, in any case, this is why any decent HEMA school or group must eventually get every student into direct contact with the sources in one way or another; if all it does is teach the instructor's interpretations without allowing the students to perform a reality check with the original texts and/or illustrations, it doesn't qualify for the "H" part in HEMA. I'm not saying that the school you attend is necessarily like this, since it's perfectly understandable if they hold back on introducing the students to a direct examination of the sources until they've taught some basic movement habits and built a common frame of reference. It's also possible that you've been seeing only a very small set of techniques that do require tucked-in elbow positions.

On the other hand, you mentioned videos. Which videos? Would you mind providing specific links, since I don't recall seeing people or groups whose interpretations of Fiore universally have the elbows "pulled as close to the body as physically possible?"
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