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Mike West




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PostPosted: Wed 07 Sep, 2005 2:41 pm    Post subject: How well do sport fencers do at historical rapier play?         Reply with quote

How well do sport fencers do at historical play? I have read many comments over the years that many sport fencers do things that would get one killed if they were actually using rapiers, and fighting a duel, but I would think that spport fencers also have strong senses of timing, distance, etc.

Does anyone have any experience bouting with sport fencers, or do any of you sport fencers out their wish to share your experiences with historical rapier play?

Thank you.
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Nate C.




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PostPosted: Wed 07 Sep, 2005 3:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I can't say that I've ever fenced anyone in "historical" fencing. I've mainly done Classical fencing (the pre-electric style aka the right way Razz). In my experience, classical vs. classical I can hold my own quite sufficiently (at least in class). Classical vs. "sport" (sport = WTF?! Eek! WTF?! pointless antenna waving) it's less fun but easier for me to win as long as I don't start doing all the bad stuff they do [attacking with a bent arm, etc. WTF?! Mad ]. I'd say a modern fencer would have to make several adjustments to rapier/historical fencing. First, the weapon is heavier. Second, you aren't on a finite strip and can circle as well as move forth and back (correct me if I'm wrong there). Third, you could conceivably be using a weapon/shield in the off hand. I'm sure there are others but I can't think of them right now. I'd say sport fencers would die a lot initially [OPINION] until the learned not to throw themselves onto the opponent's weapon while claiming to be "in motion" Razz . A classical fencer should fair better IMHO. How much better I don't know.

Hope that helps,

Nate C.

Sapere Aude
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Don Stanko




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PostPosted: Wed 07 Sep, 2005 5:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not that I want to be roped into a "Samurai vs. Knight" discussion but I would venture to say that any Epee fencer rate "C" or higher could hold his own against many historical fencers but possibly not against the elite historic fencers. An Epee fencer is typically very patient and waits for the right opening where foil and saber rely heavily on priority. With different rules and weapons, it would be challenging for anyone to just jump right in. The same could be true for historical fencers going to Olympic style. In the end, anybody who shows talent in one, if given the right instruction, could be successful in the other.
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Sam Barris




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PostPosted: Wed 07 Sep, 2005 6:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I started out as a foil fencer and switched to epee years later when I joined my college team. It wasn't until after graduation that I began to lose interest in the sport aspect of western swordsmanship in favor of the historical western swordsmanship that was once a viable and formidable martial art. From that admittedly limited background, I have to say I agree with Don. An epee fencer might hold his own, but a devoted foil fencer would not have a chance with a rapier in hand. All fencers develop an instinctive grasp of timing and distance, but the weight distribution, flexibility and dynamic properies of the weapons themselves are simply too different. Those differences are enough that foil fencing evolved several moves exclusive to a weapon with a foil's properties. For example, I can't imagine cracking a rapier like a whip in order to bend the blade over the shoulders of an opponent and prick him in his back. Yet that is a very popular technique in foil fencing.

An epee feels very different from a rapier as well, but the heavier, stiffer blade makes it an easier transition. In addition, the techniques and rules for epee are closer to the reality of rapier combat. For one thing, the entire body is a target, as opposed to just the torso. If I can end a duel by stabbing the wrist of my enemy's sword arm, more power to me. Also, the rules of right-of-way are not codified and enforced like they are in foil. Granted, it usually makes good tactical sense to establish right-of-way, even with an epee or rapier, but if you don't and still execute a successful rapier attack, nobody is going to contest it or try to take your "point" away. I have also noted in later study that epee fencers are taught modern varients of stezzo tempo and finding the sword, although I didn't call them by those names back then. Still, I had a shock the day I picked up a rapier for the first time and realized that most of what I knew would have to be adapted to be useful.

There's more that I could say, but I think that Mr. Grandy or someone with similar experience (that is to say, more than me) will pop in here and settle it at some point. And although I held my own back in college with my epee, my skills with a rapier are still in their infancy.

Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Wed 07 Sep, 2005 7:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Years ago I started right off with the sabre. I was never interested in that pokey-pokey stuff. Big Grin I have to say, however, that whenever I entered an epee tournament I always did very well.
"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Martin Wallgren




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PostPosted: Wed 07 Sep, 2005 11:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

http://www.thearma.org//forum/showflat.php?Ca...mp;fpart=1

Martin

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Randolph Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep, 2005 3:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I had fenced with sabres for about 4 years when my then Biology teacher (and sealed-knot fanatic) brought in some replica Civil War-era cavalry rapiers. I was having great fun until he thrust his sword, hard, dead into the centre of my breastbone. I fell over.
I've got a cool little dent, but I imagine that would put me into the class of fencer who wouldn't last too long in a rapier duel. Big Grin

"A collision at sea can ruin your entire day."
-Thucydides.
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Pamela Muir




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep, 2005 5:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Does anyone have advice for a middle-aged housewife that is starting to learn Italian rapier?

I've done foil for a couple of years (purely recreational, not competitive) and I have put those classes aside in favor of rapier lessons. Some of the rapier techniques feel extremely familiar and that actually has me worried. I'm afraid that I will sub-consciously stick with some of my foil habits (but no, I don't do the "flick thing" to the back) and that will get me in trouble in a rapier bout.

So far, my biggest difficulty is remembering to keep my arm extended, and when I do remember, I'm still not used to the heavier weapon. (And yes, Coach Bill, I am practicing and trying to build up that forearm muscle. Happy )

Pamela Muir

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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep, 2005 3:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I second the idea that talent (plus experience) would have a lot to do with the outcome. I actually witnessed a match up of a talented "historical longsword" fighter against a mediocre rapier/ buckler style fencer almost exactly one month ago.

Last month I went to an ARMA training seminar hosted by Jake Norwood. Jake is an experienced teacher and reportedly one of the few U.S. people who can give John Clements (fairly well recognized internationaly for skill and authority in several forms of fencing) a good challenge with a longsword. Jake had never tried a rapier and buckler before. A visitor (I will not name) had been training rapier, plus historical rapier and buckler. Jake easily adapted to the rapier and buckler and won hands down from the first match on. Next, Jake took the visitor on Longsword versus rapier/ buckler and won. It was a case of good talent, experience, and adaptability versus mediocrity.

I would not criticize any historical fencing style, and most of the ARMA instructors actually encourage taking on mixed style opponents (two handed versus shield and buckler, etc.) to help both students learn how to adapt and improvise their style.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Sep, 2005 5:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I suppose this is one of those unanswerable questions to a degree. Maybe a good comparison rather than putting a historical fencer next to a sports fencer immediately, would be to take someone who had trained as a historical fencer for 5 years and a sports fencer of 5 years experience (of broadly equal ability if that's possible) and then get them to swap training for one year and then compete in both forms against each other. That might illustrate the benefits of one form of training and the basic skills it teaches you versus the other more clearly.

It's interesting that people cite epeeists rather than foilists as being more potentially successful against historical fencers because of the more free-form duelling style and I think I agree (still thinking). But it's ironic in a way that foil rules of priority and target area were, I understand, developed not only as a sport but as a training method to help students not to get killed in real duels/combat. The defend first-then counter method was I think developed at least substantially to avoid the problem of double hitting in a blood-thirsty and emotional duel - you hit your opponent first but he's also hits you because you didn't deflect his blade correctly before your attack - so a Pyrrhic victory you can enjoy on your death bed. ironic in a way that this is now seen (per above) as a less effective school against historical fencers, but i think people above may be right because the rules on foil have become so strict.

The rules on double hits in epee wouldn't probably help you much in that real combative sense as it wouldn't matter practically if someone hit you a fraction of a second later, particularly if your hit was to their arm and their's was to your heart. Points would be academic.

Another comparison problem i guess is that the above comparisons are between rapier and modern fencing rather than small-sword and modern fencing. Give each party a small sword, or the historical fencer a rapier and the modern fencer a smallsword and you've got a whole new set of considerations. The rapier is long but it's slow. Simple time and double time.

But then i think it comes down to ability, speed and training as people above mentioned. A good sports fencer would probably thrash a poor historical one and vice versa. If both sides have good timing and distance and hand speed - who knows. And some of the great duellists of the 18th century used prototype modern fencing techniques to train, I believe. Personally I wouldn't rate my chances terribly highly against D'Eon in a modern foil match or against Nadi or Gaudin with a point (like zero) ! !

Daniel
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Sam Barris




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Sep, 2005 7:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That’s a really good idea, and you bring up some excellent points with regard to foil and epee fencing. I admit that I might be biased there. The accursed flick lost the foil a lot of points in my book, and I can be honest about perhaps selling other, more valuable features of the weapon short because of things like that. My problem was that I wasn’t born with the mindset to be a sport fencer, and that colored many of my attitudes towards the sport. I’ve always preferred my martial arts to be practical and suited to earnest combat, even when the inexorable tide of history has already buried them under a mountain of more modern weaponry. I will always side with what I feel strikes closest to that mark. But I think that you’re on to something in suggesting that this question may be unanswerable.

Back in college, a kendoka friend of mine and I had a series of bouts that were vaguely intended to address the Eastern vs. Western question, but they ended up having no value beyond providing the immediate pleasure of fighting with swords. My epee was longer than his shenai, which translated into a solid advantage in striking range when the dynamics of the fencing lunge were factored in. However, every time I attacked he simply brought his blade down on my head for what amounted to a succession of simultaneous kills. My epee did not have the blade mass to beat or parry a committed cut from him, but it was agile enough that I could always disengage and attack in a different line with ease when I went on the offensive. After many bruises and healthy quantities of beer afterwards, we concluded that certain styles of fighting are simply too incompatible to provide a reasonable assessment of comparative effectiveness and that styles of fighting are usually designed to answer certain threats that may or may not be the ones a warrior actually encounters in battle. Especially during times of transition or during the meeting of different cultures. In sport fencing, these waters are clouded further by removing the necessity (from both the blades and the techniques) of being able to cause enough physical damage to the enemy to remove him as a threat. An epee thrust to the wrist can do that, even with a rapier or smallsword. However, a foil flick to the shoulder blade cannot, and would be impossible with those weapons in any event.

Perhaps we could take the aforementioned swordsmen and put them in activities that have nothing to do with swordsmanship (like entering them in a marathon or sending them to BUDS or something) and see which style creates the most formidable all-around fighter. That idea is riddled with difficulties as well.

In the end, that mountain of more modern weaponry renders the question academic. Styles of weapons, armor and tactics come into being through countless technological, cultural and historical factors. They exist and thrive at a certain point in space-time. I’ve begun to think that they can only be removed from that point to a certain degree before we stop seeing them for what they were, and begin seeing them only for what we would like them to be in the modern world. Now that I see it written, that thought actually makes me a little sad for some reason. Cry

Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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Sam Barris




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Sep, 2005 7:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For those who don't know why I'm so bitter towards the foil, I offer the following:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A940196
Big Grin

Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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L. Stacy Eddy




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Sep, 2005 8:00 am    Post subject: Re: How well do sport fencers do at historical rapier play?         Reply with quote

Mike West wrote:
How well do sport fencers do at historical play? I have read many comments over the years that many sport fencers do things that would get one killed if they were actually using rapiers, and fighting a duel, but I would think that spport fencers also have strong senses of timing, distance, etc.

Does anyone have any experience bouting with sport fencers, or do any of you sport fencers out their wish to share your experiences with historical rapier play?

Thank you.


Interesting question, perhaps a little academic. None the less interesting. I am a Fencing Coach, Club owner and an Epee fencer. I also choreograph stage combat as well as teach this skill. There are many similarities in modern fencing and the historical martial art of Western Sword work. The most significant difference are in the field of play, yes we no longer circle or execute Passato Sotto, but as another mentioned, Epee is a truly unique weapon. Its origins are in the Rapier, of course a touch on the wrist would not end a duel but it takes a great deal of skill to execute that type of touch. Timing, distance and skill are crucial to all weapon work. As another mentions, given preparation a Historical fencer with an Epee and a Modern fencer with a Rapier might perform quite well.
Looking at Stage Combat and the improved quality of performed fights in cinema and on the stage one has only to look at the credits and see the name of William Hobbs. Who was an Australian competitive fencer, I believe Epee. To understand why fights are better and more in touch with the "historical' style as opposed to "swashbuckling" films of years before. I believe all forms have their place, Modern (Olympic) Fencing is the product of evolution, of steel making skills, of tactical technique, and athletic ability. Fencing in the United States is finally on a competitive standing with the rest of t he world and we continue to flourish. (Sorry for soap boxing.)
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Nate C.




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Sep, 2005 8:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sam Barris wrote:
For those who don't know why I'm so bitter towards the foil, I offer the following:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A940196
Big Grin


Amen! And what about the "He was in motion" method of determining right of way WTF?! Mad . I don't care what they say, if someone removes their blade for me, I'm jolly well going to stick him. Even if he IS "in motion".

Nate C.

Sapere Aude
"If you are going to kill the man, at least give him a decent salute." - A. Blansitt

If they ever come up with a Swashbuckling School, I think one of the courses should be Laughing, then Jumping Off Something. --Jack Handy
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L. Stacy Eddy




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Sep, 2005 8:25 am    Post subject: How well do sport fencers do at historical rapier play?         Reply with quote

Nate C. wrote:
Sam Barris wrote:
For those who don't know why I'm so bitter towards the foil, I offer the following:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A940196
Big Grin


Amen! And what about the "He was in motion" method of determining right of way WTF?! Mad . I don't care what they say, if someone removes their blade for me, I'm jolly well going to stick him. Even if he IS "in motion".


Here, here!
Epee is truth!
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Don Stanko




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Sep, 2005 8:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I must add that the flick is no longer practical in foil since they changed the timing of the scoring machines. It is nearly impossible to land a flick these days and have for the most part been abandoned in serious competition, although there are a few diehards who still try. In my opinion, it was a great improvement to foil!
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Sam Barris




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Sep, 2005 8:54 am    Post subject: Re: How well do sport fencers do at historical rapier play?         Reply with quote

L. Stacy Eddy wrote:
Here, here!
Epee is truth!


Agreed! And I should perhaps clarify that epee/wrist comment. First, it was my coach's favorite attack, so he had us drill on it seemingly without end. Obviously that alone won't win a bout, unless you execute five of them in rapid succession. What I meant by my comment was to say that skewering an opponent's sword arm with a sharp blade (rapier or smallsword) could very well end a real duel, whether it was to first blood or continued to the death. I know from (painful) experience that it is very difficult to maintain full mobility in a muscle after something sharp has been stabbed into it. An enemy so wounded would be at a significant disadvantage, unless he could transition to his off hand.

I apologize for my lack of clarity.

Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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David Black Mastro




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Sep, 2005 9:38 am    Post subject: The value of modern combat sports in relation to WMA/HEMA         Reply with quote

I would like to offer a different perspective on this issue.

My original background is in modern sport fencing (foil & saber) of the French school. Since then, I have trained in FMA (Inosanto blend) and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

One thing I have noted about those folks in the WMA/HEMA community who criticize sport fencing is that their grievances focus on only a few main things:

1. The "bastardization" of the sport--which has manifested itself most notably in thinks like the "flick attack" (a "bastardized" coupe, actually), and "cutting" with the flat of a saber blade. Other people here have already mentioned other things, like bent-arm attacks, etc.

2. The "winning mindset" of sport fencers, who are willing to take a hit--this obviously contrasts sharply with classical fencing's duel-inspired "to hit and not be hit" maxim.

Now, maybe my fencing experience is different from that of other sport fencers. I mean, yes, I experienced (and sometimes participated in) all of the above. But, I was also taught things like passata soto and inquartata by my coach. There was a weird blend of classical and modern, when I trained at BCAF in the 1990s.

My feelings on sport fencing are essentially this: despite the above problems with the current state of the sport, I feel that modern fencing still offers a great deal to the practitioner--material which can translate to other combat sports and martial arts. My fencing background, by and large, only helped me in FMA stick and knife fighting. The emphasis that fencing places on drill (for proper form and technique) and bouting (to work timing and distance) is most certainly an asset. Combat sports in general (fencing, boxing, wrestling, judo, submission wrestling, etc) have this great advantage, training-wise.

There is also the issue of basic athleticism, and this is an area where sport fencers certainly aren't lacking. Modern fencers are typically lean an sinewy--there movement is fast and dynamic. This reminds one of the physical requirements for Roman Army recruits, as listed by Flavius Renatus Vegetius in his Epitoma Rei Militaris.

I have worked reconstructed singlestick with a fellow who only had a sport foil fencing background, and he did just fine. His supreme point control transferred over to the heavier cut-and-thrust weapon perfectly, and his ability to execute stop-cuts to the swordhand, wrist, and forearm of his opponents was impressive, especially considering that he had never trained in saber.

When the "bastardized" elements are tossed out of modern fencing, one is left with what I refer to as a Functional Cut-And-Thrust Template (FCATT), in terms of both technique and training methodology. This is a tremendous benefit.

If anything, functional combat sports are more sorely needed in the current WMA/HEMA scene. Maestro William Gaugler, of the Italian School, even went so far as to state that:

"The very design of the Italian foil and épée is based on the rapier prototype. Moreover, the Roman-Neapolitan system of pedagogy reaches back, through Rosaroll and Grisetti, Parise, and Pessina and Pignotti to the eighteenth century, and perhaps beyond. If you want to comprehend how the variety of counterattacks and their contraries are correctly used, you must learn the method of the Scuola Magistrale. Like my Italian colleagues, I believe that anyone wishing to practice and teach rapier technique should first complete at least one year of fencing instruction in the system of the Roman-Neapolitan school."

The entire article is here:

http://www.swordhistory.com/excerpts/hacareply.html

The above goes for other aspects of WMA/HEMA as well. There has been at least one recent attempt at reconstructing Medieval wrestling, that contained numerous basic mistakes--a lack of knowledge regarding biomechanics and how they relate to combat was evident, and the errors could have been avoided, had the folks in question consulted knowledgable Western wrestlers, judoka, BJJ players, etc.

So, in the final analysis, I would have to say that the current WMA/HEMA community would do better if there was more solidarity between the various groups that engage in the task of reconstructing long-dead arts. The modern combat sports--like fencing--may have "bastardized" elements, but these can be eliminated or corrected. What is left is extremely valuable for all of us.

Best,

David Black Mastro

"Why meddle with us--you are not strong enough to break us--you know that you have won the battle and slaughtered our army--be content with your honor, and leave us alone, for by God's good will only have we escaped from this business" --unknown Spanish captain to the Chevalier Bayard, at the Battle of Ravenna, 1512
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Don Stanko




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Sep, 2005 11:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well said David. I also think the closed minded "US vs. THEM" mentality does nothing but harm. Both pursuits have something valuable to offer and should not be judged on a few elements. Afterall, sport fencing does promote a strong strategy mindset and encourages the fencer to think several moves ahead of their opponent. Sometimes in order to learn we have to place vanity and ego aside and open our eyes to a different point of view.
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 13 Sep, 2005 9:50 am    Post subject: Re: The value of modern combat sports in relation to WMA/HEM         Reply with quote

Sorry I'm coming into this a little late, just got back from WMAW and haven't had access to a computer.

A good sport fencer should be able to pick up another weapon and learn it fairly easily. Distance, timing, raw athleticism, it's necessary for any combat art.

David Black Mastro wrote:
My feelings on sport fencing are essentially this: despite the above problems with the current state of the sport, I feel that modern fencing still offers a great deal to the practitioner--material which can translate to other combat sports and martial arts.

<snip>

The emphasis that fencing places on drill (for proper form and technique) and bouting (to work timing and distance) is most certainly an asset. Combat sports in general (fencing, boxing, wrestling, judo, submission wrestling, etc) have this great advantage, training-wise.

There is also the issue of basic athleticism, and this is an area where sport fencers certainly aren't lacking. Modern fencers are typically lean an sinewy--there movement is fast and dynamic. This reminds one of the physical requirements for Roman Army recruits, as listed by Flavius Renatus Vegetius in his Epitoma Rei Militaris.


Fantastic points, David. I wholeheartedly agree.

Now, on the flip side, sport fencing IS different from historical fencing. Because it is a large and heavily regulated sport, people play to the rules to win. It's only logical. A perfect example: In epee, a double touch means you both score. If you're fencing to 15 touches, and you have 14 while your opponent has 10, do you honestly care if you get a double touch? Of course not, you win regardless. If you look at smallsword stances, they are very reclined, as the first time you are hit could very well be the last, but in sport fencing you have a different stance as just because you are hit does not mean you are even close to being done yet. This is extremely relevant when you compare the two genres, as one is about ultimately winning the most points, one is about training for a realistic application. Both have the potential to build off of each other quite nicely, but they are still two different worlds.

FYI, epee isn't really a derivated of the rapier, though they are related. Nor is it exactly directly evolved from the smallsword. Sharp epees were once used for duelling, so classical epee is in fact simulating epee, not another sword.
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