European Fencing Compared to Oriental Fencing.

Discussion in 'The European Art of Fencing' started by Old Warrior, Jan 12, 2003.

  1. Old Warrior

    Old Warrior Guest

    I am an expert in Epee Fencing, but my 3 months in Kumdo, hardly gives me the right to comment. However, I have already formed definite opinions on this subject.

    A comparison lies, first, with an understanding of the weapon. An Epee is a triangular shaped blade whose serious part is only the tip. A 3' piece of triangular steel would pentrate the human body with virtually no force and would easily kill. The sport version is somewhat more flexible and has a blunted tip, about 1/4" wide that is a round plunger type electrical switch (like a door bell).

    All of the techniques take into consideration the flexibility of the blade, the physics of the interaction of wider parts of the blade on the tapering end and the fact that only the tip is dangerous. Of course, in a real fight, grabbing the blade would be an obvious choice and using the unarmed hand, knees, elbows etc. excellent choices when in close. The one rule that puts the sport in touch with reality is that the entire body is an acceptable target. Clearly if a Epee went though your hand the pain would effect your ongoing ability to fight.

    The only comparison to Kumdo is that the weapon and the rules create the same issues. The Katana (sport version a Jukdo /Shinai) is both a slashing and thrusting weapon. But, the only target areas are the head/throat, wrist and abdomen. This means that there is no proximity to real combat where a strike to the arm, shoulder, leg etc., would end the confrontation.

    The two arts do share some similarities. First, the speed and precision to deliver the weapon to a desired point is the object. Second, the techical proficiency in handling the weapon would give an enormous advantage to the one who trained. And lastly, experience in sword combat (even non lethal) allows you to learn to conquer the emotions of fear and flight. The calmness with which I approach an Epee bout and the ability to focus intensely on my opponent is a learned skill. The tactics are ingrained and my body moves without conscious direction. The same holds for skilled Kumdo practitioner.
     
  2. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    Thread split from Description of Fencing Forum thread.

    -Arnisador
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  3. yilisifu

    yilisifu Guest

    In kenjutsu, any available target is fair game. In kendo (the sport version), only the targets you named are kosher. There is a great deal of difference between the two.

    I have practiced some limited fencing as well as Japanese and Chinese methods (I teach the latter).

    The European method moves along a straight line for the most part and emphasizes the thrust. It is very quick and the swordsman must be very agile in using his lightweight sword.

    The Japanese method tends to move in straight or nearly straight lines, but it emphasizes the cut. The blade is substantially heavier than the epee or saber and the approach is entirely different in that the Japanese stylist trains to kill in a single blow, focusing his entire physical, mental, and spiritual energy on that single task at the right moment.

    Chinese methods differ; their blades are lighter than the Japanese and usually will not cut through bone. Therefore, they aim for vital targets, but also utilize kicking and grabbing techniques as well as using the scabbard as a sort of shield or striking weapon.
     
  4. Old Warrior

    Old Warrior Guest

    Yilisifu

    "In kenjutsu, any available target is fair game. "

    I presume this is a study of swordplay for combat purposes rather than sport. I wonder why the Kendo targets have evolved in the manner accepted today. It seems to me that a well placed strike to the arm or leg would end a confrontation and therefore the target area should be the whole body.

    I guess Kendo is somewhat like eating with chopsticks. They may not work as well as a knife and fork but Japanese food wouldn't be the same if not partaken with the appropriate implements.
     
  5. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    Kenjutsu was the combat version, and Kendo is the modern, sport version.

    A comparison of Western fencing, based in large measure on dueling arts, and Japanese fencing, which presumes wooden armor and hence heavier swords, is of course unfair...but interesting.

    I studied iaido and enjoyed it greatly. Western fencing differs noticeably to me in how much they get out of relatively small arm/hand movements (vice the larger arm motions of Kendo), the largely linear--limited--nature of the (sophisticated) footwork, and the greater number of available targets (vice Kendo).

    I wish I knew more about each!
     
  6. yilisifu

    yilisifu Guest

    Yes, the original "combative" arts are referred to as "jutsu" while those that have evolved into sports or stress the development of oneself spiritually as well as learning combatives as called "do." Kenjutsu is the art of swordmanship that is designed only for actual combat. Kendo came out of kenjutsu, but is really just a sport.

    Kendo's whole approach, it's bouncing around and quick, light strikes are not ofund at all in the original jutsu methods. I imagine kendo allows only certain targets for safety's sake. In kenjutsu, they do not "spar"; they have two-man katas.
     
  7. Old Warrior

    Old Warrior Guest

    Arnisador

    "I wish I knew more about each!"

    I have taken private Epee lessons from a Polish maestro for about 15 years. He is a silver medal olympian with numerous gold medals in other competitions. His mindset is that of a sports competitor. He is a gentle man who has no interest in fencing as a martial art.

    Epee fencing derives from "dueling"; which was a real custom that claimed the lives of an estimated 3500 European "nobles" who believed their honor had been slighted. Some duels were to first blood, others to the death.

    A skilled swordsman worries, first, about defense, which is why foil is usually taught first. Parrying is the centerpiece of foil combat. Since it is lighter and more maneuverable than an epee the point can be kept off line (not pointing at your opponents chest) and still brought on line to deflect a thrust. In foil only the torso is a target and there is a Rule which allows the one initiating an attack to complete it and thus be the only one to score. An attack is deemed over if a parry occurs.

    In epee there is no right of way rule and the entire body is a target. This means you can attack into an attack and the hand is a prime target because it is the closest part of an opponent to you.

    If you were fencing with sharps the mindset would be totally different than sport. You would always want to be a distance and you would never advance unless you were relatively sure your opponents blade was off line so you could advance without getting hit. Clearly, the mindset of a sport fencer is much different as the only penalty for an ill advised move is the scoring of a "touch" for the opponent.

    When I have some more time I'll continue the thread.
     
  8. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    I'd never heard a number put on it before!

    This is interesting; I wish I had more to contribute.
     
  9. Old Warrior

    Old Warrior Guest

    Nothing resembling a "sport" weapon was ever used in combat. The reason is simple - it takes time and training to learn to use one. While a saber is a loose, light weight, interpretation of a cavalry saber it is so light that none of the techniques could be performed by a normal person using a military issued weapon (it would be too heavy to wield).

    The above does not mean that an epee is not deadly. It clearly could take life but it could also be defeated by basic inexpensive armor. No, the epee was the weapon of a gentleman. In its day it was the 9mm, weapon of choice. I once wrote a poem on the subject.

    Ode to Epee

    Between my thumb and forefinger

    I embrace a shaft of tempered steel

    Whose shape is older than any I can recall.

    It’s cold and lifeless, yet comfortable in my hand.

    It’s an old friend and familiar companion.

    When I hold it firmly, with respect,

    I can sense the thoughts of unknown souls

    That once, held one like it, in their grasp.

    It was not always an antiquity, an object for display.

    Once, it was worn like a timepiece and prized for its beauty and utility.

    It was the symbol of power and the force behind the diplomacy of nations.

    It was the champion of one's honor and the symbol of class and achievement.

    It was the judge of judges, the final arbiter of disputes, - be they large or small

    There was no appeal from its decisions, and

    In a world without fission or fusion,

    If you possessed the power to wield it

    You commanded the respect of kings.


    But time has advanced technology, and

    Now, even the poor and disreputable can acquire tools

    That give ultimate power to those who hold them,

    Regardless of their ability to use them or the motive that brings them to hand.

    There is no honor or achievement in learning to use them.

    Those who simply hold them can frighten kings or presidents,

    Yet, they gain the respect of few and the adoration of none.

    There is but one place where the advance of technology is without effect and

    A moment can still be shared with souls from the past.

    Where the new tools have no place and

    My old friend and companion is still prized and revered.

    As time passes skills wane

    Despite efforts to keep them sharp.

    There is no respect for what one may have been or could have been.

    And all that is left is memories of what once was or might have been.

    Still, I cherish those ongoing times when

    I embrace that shaft of tempered steel and

    Once again stare at an apparent foe.

    Although the joy of exceptional skill has ceased

    The memories still return with a step on the piste.
     
  10. Yari

    Yari Master Black Belt

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    Yes, but I think that part of it was also honor. You wanted your oppenent to die in a honorable (sp?) way, thus honoring yourself too.

    There's no honor in dieing from a wound that couldn't heal. Better at clean nice cut that took your life directly.

    I'm not 100% sure here, so correct me if I'm wrong.

    And I think it's the same for Kendo. The area's evovled since there isn't any "honor" in stricking the other areas.

    Just my thought ...

    /Yari
     
  11. zen_hydra

    zen_hydra Guest

    The kenjutsu techniques that I learned from Yoseikan aikido targeted all parts of the opponent. One of the primary targets for many techniques was the wrists or hands. It only makes sense to target them since the protrude from the body, and they control the opponents weapon. I have also studied Hungarian style sabre (with my father) for as long as I remember. A fencing sabre may be too light and flexible to properly represent a combat sabre, but it can certainly help you understand (and defend against) multiple lines of attack. Sabre targets the body from the hips up, but I have seen more touches to the hand/arm than anywhere else. I hope to combine my studies of sabre, katana, and chinese broadsword into a unified style.
     
  12. What type of gumdo are you studying Old Warrior? Sport or other versions such as haidong gumdo?
     
  13. Old Warrior

    Old Warrior Guest

  14. twinkletoes

    twinkletoes Guest

    great thread guys. nothing else to add?

    (I wish I had more to say....I did so little kendo, and only a few months of fencing......)

    ~TT
     
  15. Randy Strausbaugh

    Randy Strausbaugh Master Black Belt

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    If you check out some of the books on European medieval swordsmanship, you'll see a strong similarity between the European broadsword techniques and those of the Japanese katana. What works, works- regardless of the culture.

    Trying to avoid life's potholes,
    Randy Strausbaugh
     
  16. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    That surprises me a bit given the difference in armour, but makes sense as far as the basic size and shape and weight and of the weapon.
     
  17. Old Warrior

    Old Warrior Guest

    I return to this forum 10 months into my Kumdo studies. About 6 weeks ago my Kumdo instructor (who speaks almost no English) came to me and took away my weapon and returned with 2. One called a shoto (about 18") and a second about 2" smaller than my original. He said "You learn 2 swords - Nito". There was no discussion, no conversation, no nothing. Apparently he decided I could and would learn Nito. No one else in the school does it and I had no idea why he picked me. If you think learning one sword technique is hard, 2 is even harder. Remember folks, I'm a 55 year old former epee fencer. My mind is still plenty agile, but the old body ain't what it used to be. But I am intellectually curious and a dogged learner.

    So, here I sit with the ice pack on my left arm reporting the status of journey into Nito. The most interesting part is the fact that the Master was right. To my surprise, I defeated a Shodan today and I am a lowly 6 geup (it goes from 9 to 1). For whatever reason the Master could see that I had the mental agility and the willingness to tackle something no one else was doing. Now, I am far from even being fair, but the journey into Kumdo has taken a fascinating turn that has me looking forward to every class.
     
  18. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    Keep us posted!
     
  19. I have had the good fortune to learn the use of both the Katana and the western longsword from masters who inherited their teachings and the two are almost nothing alike.

    The longsword is used two handed, but it is has much more mass and thus takes longer to get from zero to sixty. But when it hits, it can bounce a guy around even if he is encased in armor.

    The katana is much easier to start, stop and switch directions.

    The point of the longsword is also much more usefull than a katana's. When the armor in Europe could not be pierced, the point was used to try to get in between gaps in the armor. A common tactic was to grab your own sword and drive the point in when you were in grappling range.

    Both swords had edges, both could be used two handed. So there are some superficial similarities. But get deep into their use and you find that the differences are more important than their similarities.
     
  20. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    Thread moved.

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