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Cole H

Joined: 20 Jun 2016

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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jun, 2016 12:58 pm    Post subject: Top Ten Combat Skills?         Reply with quote

I was hoping to compile a small list of things that accomplished fighters (whether sword, pollaxe, or other weapons) would consider to be essential skills to learn, even if naturally through sparring or other practice.

The end goal is to have a small but comprehensive list of things that an onlooker could score a fighter on while watching him. A top-score in every category would mean the fighter was completely flawless in his match. This may give both beginners and experienced fighters a way to target and score specific things, which they could keep track of and continue to improve on.

I have no experience myself on which things should be focused on, which is why I ask for help.

If you find 10 to be way too small of a number, feel free to add more, I just say 10 to get the point across.
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Craig Johnson
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Location: Minneapolis, MN, USA
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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jun, 2016 2:37 pm    Post subject: Wow thats a question         Reply with quote

Hi Cole

That is some question! In a way the whole history of human combative practice is an attempt to answer the very essence of what you are after. Many over the years far smarter than I have done their best to answer. Some have left books, others have left traditions or schools, while probably many of the very best have been lost to time.

It is really hard to answer without sounding flippant. IMHO the real answer is fundamentals, and practice.

To score a fight there are many approaches and none are perfect. The value of any given action is very dependent on the tactical situation and a judgement of that from the outside is by definition objective. With good guidelines/rules and experienced observers this can give one quite good results. But all one has to do is go to a tournament and see that this system is not perfect.

For me the qualities below would be a suggestion to start with.

Clarity of action

Anyway look forward to seeing what others have to say Happy

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Timo Nieminen

Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jun, 2016 3:32 pm    Post subject: Re: Top Ten Combat Skills?         Reply with quote

Cole H wrote:
The end goal is to have a small but comprehensive list of things that an onlooker could score a fighter on while watching him.

Things to look for:
  • Basic techniques - cutting, parrying, stances, movement, etc. should have a good technical base. What the particular techniques are depends on the weapon and the system. A good fighter might be lazy about technique, but technique should still be biomechanically excellent.
  • Relaxed.
  • Unhurried - the fighter should appear to have a lot of time to react to the opponent.
  • Preemptive - e.g., as soon as the opponent commits to an attack, they are hit (or at least forced to change their plans) by a counterattack.

"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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Mikko Kuusirati

Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jun, 2016 11:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Tri-Force! Happy

(Seriously, he's clearly talking about the Tri-Force.)

"And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That's what sin is."
— Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum
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Craig Peters

PostPosted: Tue 21 Jun, 2016 12:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo has hit a lot of important points. Here are some of the ones I consider essential. This post is focused around the long sword, but many of the ideas hold true for other weapons as well.

1) Precision and technical excellence in the technique

It’s very easy for your technique to go out the window the moment you start sparring someone. Therefore, it is essential to practice each of the cuts, thrusts, and actions from the binds thousands of times. This is where discipline comes in, because it’s easy to get bored. But keep going back, covering the same techniques, and seeing if there is a way to do the same cut or action more effectively, or more in alignment with the historical texts.

As a related point, spar slowly at first. If you try to spar near normal speed, all you will do is reinforce sloppy technique, and you will not have time to adequately respond to your opponent’s techniques. If you spar at slow speeds, even absurdly slow speeds, it will allow you to retain your precision and experiment with techniques you’re still learning.

Remember also that knowing more techniques is far less valuable than being exceedingly good with a smaller number of techniques. Bruce Lee is said to have commented “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” There is a reason he said this. A person who has truly mastered a technique and then keeps practicing it is exceedingly dangerous, while those who know many techniques moderately well are not.

2) Fine-tune your motions

In particular, any time you have an action that comes from a bind (where the weapons are crossed), there is usually a lot of practice to be done in making your actions shorter, tighter, more efficient, and more practice. Some of the most important practice work I have done involved placing my sword in the position it would be if there was a bind, and then simply practicing and refining the next action, over and over. If you spend enough time working on this, you will find that your actions when you bind become dramatically better and more effective over time.

3) Train yourself to close assertively

This is a big one. There are still lots of videos where you can see people hesitating when they are sparring, hoping to catch the other guy off-guard because they’re afraid he will counter attack if they assert themselves and step forward with a committed strike. Remember, with a weapon like the long sword, your sword is your shield: when you make your first cut as you close, your cut will cover the line of attack so that you are not struck. If the other guy tries to avoid you by stepping backwards to counterstrike, all you need to do is drive the point forward into his face. So there’s no need to be hesitant; if he wants refuses the bind, thrust straight forward and you will beat him. However, it takes time to develop this skill, so practice striking and closing over and over until it becomes natural.

4) Develop your ability to move and walk normally

For a while I used to be really hung up on whether my footwork was right or not. However, famed Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi indicates that you should simply walk normally and naturally when you sword fight. After all, if you were ever in a real fight, it is unlikely that you will be able to remember much by way of fancy footwork. There are times when you need to know whether to use a passing step, or whether to take a short step forward with the lead foot, and arguably times when you need to take a diagonal step, but that’s about it. I cannot speak for rapier or other sword forms of this nature, but certainly most earlier weapons should have fairly simple and basic footwork.

5) Stay in motion

This does not mean that you always move around, circle around when you spar. Nor does it mean you should switch from one guard to the next to try to catch you opponent by surprise. Both of these things are inefficient and ultimately not that helpful.

Instead, staying in motion means that you should train so that you are always driving towards the final action/actions that enable you to hit the opponent. It means being ready to spring forward and drive your next attack from the bind as soon as you know whether your opponent is weak or strong against you. Whatever strike or thrust you use to close towards the opponent is usually just the first action- you need to practice driving towards hitting the next opening when your first attack is displaced. The first attack is always leading to the second or third attack; you’re constantly in motion driving attack after attack so your opponent never really has a chance to respond effectively.

6) Learn to feel

You must be able to feel if your opponent is strong or weak in a bind from how much pressure they've got on your blade, and do so quickly and intuitively. The only way to develop this skill is to spend a ton of time displacing and binding with a friend or sparring partner. You can practice most of the various aspects of fighting all on your own, but feeling from a bind is one that must be done with a partner.

7) Practice cutting

There's really no way you can know if any of the techniques you are trying to perform really work unless you practice using them to cut things. So, find things to cut, and practice your test cutting. It's essential to keep doing this, because it's impossible to know how well you are performing your actions unless you put them to use. Be sure to practice both cutting and thrusting, and actions from the bind.

There are other things that could be said, but just working with these ones will go a long way to developing your ability.
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Karl G

Location: Australia
Joined: 25 Apr 2016

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PostPosted: Fri 24 Jun, 2016 4:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree with all of the above and will add a few, more along the lines of martial foundations which may help application of the others.

Physical fitness.

Grappling or Wrestling training- Develops the item above, increases combat speed, balance, teaches a great deal about human mechanics, ties in with a lot of what Timo says on that. You develop 'an eye' for what is correct when human bodies move with each other, and when movements are 'non authentic ' or innefficient. Importantly the techniques are directly applicable to the medieval style, actually being probably the only living connection to it, and are somewhat neglected.

Sports fencing- ok so this can stir things up but I see it as a useful background in a couple of ways. Firstly as an athletic endeavour- develops muscular speed, flexibility, reflexes, technique wise will drill some moves similar to at least some similar medieval techniques.More importantly than the individual parts is its a large structured competition which will expose you to very fast, extremely determined, gifted human beings at increasing levels. Good for personal adaptation.

The three will also develop ability to act under pressure or fatigue.

These are not a list that I would necessarily say someone needs to enjoy western martial arts, but if we went back to duelling and killing each other with swords they are a list that would become more attractive Happy
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