Common misconception of Sword-fighting.

Discussion in 'Historical European Swords and Sword Arts' started by Bob Hubbard, Nov 24, 2011.

  1. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    I agree with the qualifier of relevant experience in other martial arts. Being a kendo instructor, I can tell you that experience in most other martial arts is almost pointless in kendo. When I learned kendo, my instructor taught what I would call 'kitchen sink' kenjutsu; legit techniques, but simply a mishmash of what he learned. I was also taught solo kata. With that little exposure to kenjutsu I can see huge differences in the way that a katana is used as compared to a shinai.

    I just took my first steps into a Koryu kenjutsu/iai art and can see even more differences (going to my next class on Monday). Kendo is more relevant to that than taekwondo or karate is to kendo, and kendo's relevance to kenjutsu is just enough to take you in some very wrong, but seemingly right, directions if you had no living tradition.

    So when you say, 'other martial arts,' I would only consider them relevant if they involve a similar weapon. I worked with a guy a couple of years ago who was essentially a three weapon fencer and an SCA fighter who wanted to collaborate on a project.

    Nice enough gent, but there was so much wrong with what he was doing with a two handed weapon that I would be writing several paragraphs if I were to sum it all up. He was very quick to talk about studying with other historical fencing guys and working from historical documents. It was very evident that he had both a lot of training in three weapon fencing (saber in particular) and absolutely no training of any value in the historical stuff.

    Reconstructing something that has essentially died out excepting the manuscripts is hard and I do take my hat off to people who do it in earnest. But I also think that a lot of training with people who train in a similar weapon with a living tradition is essential. Not being a reconstructionist, maybe I am mistaken, but that is how I see it.
     
  2. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Naturally. :)

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  3. MA-Caver

    MA-Caver Sr. Grandmaster

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    Good common sense videos.
    The thing I really hate is what I call "The Hollywood Twirl". That spinning the sword over and around your shoulders as if to gain momentum for... looking cool.
    I do know that when sword edges touch, it's because the "defender" was actually able to block and prevent himself from becoming into pieces.

    One of the reasons why I loved the Kurosawa samurai flicks was that he put as much care into the sword fighting choreography as he did with his cinematography.

    [yt]WOunibdB0YY[/yt]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOunibdB0YY&feature=related

    But of course this gal makes the twirl look pretty dang good...

    [yt]6ZuQpRcAvf8[/yt]
     
  4. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    She looks great until the very end when she cuts with the back of the blade.
     
  5. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Master Black Belt

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    That's the deal IMO. SCA types tend to be technically lazy (on average, but there are some excellent fighters out there), and sport fencers tend to have no background in proper body mechanics for using a two-handed cutting weapon. This tends to skew their interpretations. A fencing lunge is very different than a longsword-style passing step. However, a longsword passing step is VERY similar to those used in kenjutsu. In my interpretation of German longsword, they are somewhat different than what I was shown in JSA, but the idea of using the hips is the same.

    In my experience, wrestlers and classical jujutsuka tend to make impressive swordsmen with very little training. They already have the right body mechanics in place. They know where their hips are. Where sport fencers do well is range and timing, and do very well as rapierists.

    I do encourage any and all HEMA practicioners to get involved with JSA, ideally kenjutsu. However, I would be ecstatic to have my students do iai or kendo as well. For someone who is starting in HEMA without a background in other sword MA, I'd say to them "you don't know what you don't know, so go find out what you're missing." Do some JSA, it's good for you, and it's fun. :)

    I suppose my dream student would be a stand-up grappler who's studied Jogo do Pau and koryu kenjutsu of some kind. Any takers out there?

    Best regards,

    -Mark
     
  6. MaxiMe

    MaxiMe Brown Belt

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    I'm not a sword guy, but at least my eye is getting better. I noticed it :)
     
  7. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    From link-browsing after watching the above two clips, I came across this for the entertainment of all and the critique of our WSA skilled members:

    [yt]YB3nN8j4BF8[/yt]
     
  8. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    It's fascinating to see sword action at such slow speed, altho it does show the choreography of striking at the blade rather than the man rather plainly.
     
  9. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Blade? You mean there's a sword in that video? ;)

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  10. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    :chuckles: Well I wasn't going to mention it but I reckon she'd beat me in a duel no problem regardless of whether she used the edge or the mune :D.
     
  11. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    Given that the SCA's primary purpose is not to teach technically accurate swordsmanship, I don't fault them. I do not, however, consider SCA fighting to constitute a relevant sword art.

    Given that a katana is a 'long' sword, that is not surprising.

    Each brings something useful to the table as a student and nothing at all to the table as a reconstructionist of longsword styles with a line of transmission that has been broken for hundreds of years.

    Can't argue with any of that! :)
     
  12. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    From a Sword Fighting perspective, there was, quite literally, almost nothing right about that. They had basically the right grip on their swords and their cuts followed a classical pattern. That's pretty much it. The Measure, Tempo, and Intention were all out of whack. They telegraphed so badly that a man blind in one eye who couldn't see out of the other would have no problem parrying. They violated every one of Silvers True/False Time rules.

    From a Stage Combat perspective, that was a darn near perfect performance. The set was very well choreographed, the actors knew their parts down to exacting timing, the action was continuous, the audience could follow each and every "phrase" of the sequence, and the actors distancing, timing, and targeting were perfectly performed to give an illusion of danger without actually endangering the actors.

    Stage Combat ain't fight'n. It's only supposed to look like fighting. The primary rule of Stage Combat is that everyone stays safe. The goal of Stage Combat is to tell a story that a audience, not necessarily composed of experts in the field, can follow while being interesting and exciting.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
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  13. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Most European swords have a back-edge (or a "False" edge) so it would have worked with a Longsword, Rapier, Saber, Arming-sword, Broadsword, etc.

    Heck, the "Back Cut" is all about cutting with the spine-sided-edge of the blade. It is so important that it shows up in at least two Euro stick arts (three if you include Singlestick - though I don't).

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  14. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    90% of the Kurasawa duel scene above is identical to established Longsword. Heck even the base "stances" used looked nearly identical.

    Example: http://www.thearma.net/essays/StancesIntro.htm

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  15. MaxiMe

    MaxiMe Brown Belt

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    Question from a non sword guy. So the finger wraped over the hilt guard(fighter in red) is an ok way to grip your sword?
    Just seems like a good way to lose a digit to me.
     
  16. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Master Black Belt

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    I couldn't watch the whole thing. It definitely shows the idea of movie swordsmanship is to NOT hit the opponent. Note at 2:43 when they are crossed at the tips (a perfectly reasonable thing), one guy disengages, brings the sword back around his head for a cut while the other gent has the tip pointed at his face. This second gent, rather than skewering the guy who is removing his sword, ALSO removes his sword (monkey see monkey do?) from threatening his opponent to block, 90 degrees, edge to edge (ick, not for medieval blades, fine for later period swordplay) and then lets his opponent strike around AGAIN. Rather than fall on his painfully exposed wrist with his long edge thus stifling the second cut, chooses to block again. After being blocked, buddy goes for the legs, leaving his head exposed. Rather than slipping back his lead leg and bopping him on the head, he chooses to block one more time to no effect. He could have at least counter cut putting the point online and gutting him, etc. At 3:51 longhair deliberately misses his cut by a mile and spins like a ballerina. And then they decide to NOT cut each other in the neck (failing to set up a decent bind because they didn't claim center during the cut) and kneel down for a kum by ya moment. Priceless. And don't forget the dodgy dodging. In rapier it's called a sottobotta or s'basso (my rapier is really rusty) and is fine with vs. a thrust, but it's not done like that.

    Fighting with single-handers should look like this:



    Note the one dodge is vs. a thrust.

    But expecting movie sword play to be like real swordplay is silly anyway. :)

    Best regards,

    -Mark
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 24, 2014
  17. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Master Black Belt

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    Yes, it was done historically. Risky to be sure. Sometimes people added a finger ring to the ricasso to make that safer. That being said, being a in a sword fight at all is a good way to lose a digit. :)

    Best regards,

    -Mark
     
  18. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    No false edge on the spine of a katana. A reversed blade just 'doesn't cut it.' Unless you're Kenshin Himura. :p
     
  19. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    Not at all surprising. It comes down to the simple fact that the human body has two legs, joined at the hips, attached via a spine to the shoulders, which join the arms to the assembly. Their just ain't but so many ways to move the body to generate effective and efficient motion. Restrict those choices further by using a two handed sword, and by necessity, the solutions are going to be rather similar. There'll be some differences due to local conditions, philosophies, and the like -- but, by and large, it's all going to be recognizable.
     
  20. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Well, like our friend Langenschwert says, it was historically done. I don't particularly like it, but that's just me, personally. it should be noted that the only blades I work with that have a traditional cross-bar like these are Bowie knives and I don't loop the finger on them. The swords that I use are all either basket-hilted or have a knuckle-bow and a tear or heart disk guard.

    Well, yeah. However, it does offer a great deal more control over the weapon. As our buddy L. says, there was, sometimes, hardware added to account for this. But not always. There are ways to use Technique to mitigate the danger to the hand. They're not too dissimilar (in concept anyway) to ways a JSA practitioner would use his sword were it absent a tsuba. Which brings us around to the Russian Shasqa.


    [​IMG]

    (from: http://www.sanmai.com/RUSSIAN-SOVIET-UNION-SHASQUA-COSSACK-SWORD-FOR-RED-ARMY-10015.html)

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     

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