Fencing, martial art or no

Tez3

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I am in agreement that Olympic fencing fits the definition of martial art, and to exactly the same degree as the current derivations and evolutions of combative systems continue to enjoy uncontested entitlement to the label. I would also offer that I believe rigorous training in swordsmanship cultivates a strength of character that little else will address.

In the interests of fanning the flames of discussion, I would offer my article titled To the Point and a recent additional item, A Sabre's Not For Rattling.

Try riding horses. A sword doesn't have a mind of it's own, it's takes great stength of character to become a top class equestrian. I'm not even getting into all the other occupations/pursuits that will give you strength of character, swordsmanship is only one of many. Swordswomanship too I imagine.
 

Large Fierce Mammal

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I agree that horsemanship can be a wonderful character builder. I myself am a dog behaviourist specializing in resolution of aggression cases. Believe me, I understand what constitutes a healthy, stable bond between human and animal. With all due respect however, the issue addressed by this thread is not whether horsemanship or dog handling are martial arts - the issue is fencing. From that perspective, I agree with you that the sword doesn't have a mind of its own, but in fencing, your adversary does. Riding is an art based on harmony with another creature; fencing on harmony with yourself, expressed through the weapon.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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I see no reason why even sport fencing shouldn't be considered a martial art. If you take away the blunted tips or edge, then your learning to stab/cut the other person without getting stabbed/cut yourself. And just because with the safety precautions its not lethal doesnt mean it cant be lethal. Take people sparring with headgear chest protectors and sparring gloves. Still learniing how to fight, just without hurting people.Whether its effective or not, no one would dare say its not a martial art, and its the same for fencing
 

lklawson

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I see no reason why even sport fencing shouldn't be considered a martial art. If you take away the blunted tips or edge, then your learning to stab/cut the other person without getting stabbed/cut yourself.
You sure about that? It's already been discussed in this thread (back in '07).


And just because with the safety precautions its not lethal doesnt mean it cant be lethal. Take people sparring with headgear chest protectors and sparring gloves. Still learniing how to fight, just without hurting people.Whether its effective or not, no one would dare say its not a martial art, and its the same for fencing
I've actually seen people say exactly that. And they've been saying it for centuries.

"Some said he was an argument against the Ring: that he should'nt be let loose against a fightin' sportsman. That he fought like wild beast. That he never knew when to lay off. He hated gloves. Why go to all the trouble to pickle your hands in Tom Sayer's brew of turps, whiskey vinegar, horse radish and saltpetre, if ye were goin' to cover them up? Ye were supposed to use your hands to hurt him, not protect him."
-"Claret and Cross-Buttock" by Joe Robinson

Tom Sayer was a bare knuckle boxer who died just after the U.S. Civil War ended.

The point is that this is not exactly a new debate. ;)

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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You sure about that? It's already been discussed in this thread (back in '07).


I've actually seen people say exactly that. And they've been saying it for centuries.
"Some said he was an argument against the Ring: that he should'nt be let loose against a fightin' sportsman. That he fought like wild beast. That he never knew when to lay off. He hated gloves. Why go to all the trouble to pickle your hands in Tom Sayer's brew of turps, whiskey vinegar, horse radish and saltpetre, if ye were goin' to cover them up? Ye were supposed to use your hands to hurt him, not protect him."
-"Claret and Cross-Buttock" by Joe Robinson

Tom Sayer was a bare knuckle boxer who died just after the U.S. Civil War ended.

The point is that this is not exactly a new debate. ;)

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
Oh, i know its not a new debate, figured I might stir it up again :angel: And I should probably clarify: people would dare say it's not a martial art, however, no one can (IMO) CORRECTLY say it's not a martial art
 

Daniel Sullivan

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I see no reason why even sport fencing shouldn't be considered a martial art. If you take away the blunted tips or edge, then your learning to stab/cut the other person without getting stabbed/cut yourself. And just because with the safety precautions its not lethal doesnt mean it cant be lethal. Take people sparring with headgear chest protectors and sparring gloves. Still learniing how to fight, just without hurting people.Whether its effective or not, no one would dare say its not a martial art, and its the same for fencing
Having spent a number of years fencing foil and epee, practicing kendo, some kenjutsu, and practicing rapier fencing with and SCA group, I will say that protective gear or it's lack is not the issue.

The fact that sport fencing does not require you to cut or thrust correctly in any manner whatsoever (you can score in sabre with the flat or even the back of the blade and you can make a modern foil or epee whip and bend in ways that you would not want a dueling weapon to) and has been noted earlier in the thread, strategies that would be suicidal in an actual duel are utilized to win matches.

While kendo certainly is removed from actual dueling, it requires you to cut correctly, with the correct part of the sword, and incorporates other elements that keep it tied to its martial roots that sport fencing does not. While kata do not make something a martial art, the kendo kata are certainly 'martial' in their methodology, mindset, and execution.

While SCA fencing is also removed from a 'real' duel, and I have no opinion on it being a martial art or no, it does use dull steel weapons and the weapons are treated as actual weapons.

Finally, sport fencing is based on civilian dueling, not military (martial) sword work, on a semantic level, it would miss the mark as well.

Personally, I have no opinion on the matter. Sport fencing is fun, athletic, and has a wonderful history, and it is one of the first sports in the Olympics. However, sport fencers overwhelmingly say that it is not a martial art. Those that do not say it isn't are indifferent. I used to post on f.net and every time anyone made mention of it being a martial art, the overwhelming response was disagreement. Given that those who practice sport fencing do not consider it an MA, I think your statement in your follow up post,
Oh, i know its not a new debate, figured I might stir it up again :angel: And I should probably clarify: people would dare say it's not a martial art, however, no one can (IMO) CORRECTLY say it's not a martial art
Is incorrect; it can be correctly said that it is not a martial art, and is said by the majority of those who practice the art in question. The fact that a counter argument can be made doesn't change this.

Classical/historical fencing, however would in my opinion fall into the category of martial art. This fact does not make it superior to sport fencing; simply a different flavor of fencing. I once saw it said on a classical fencing forum that a modern sport fencer does have all of the essential tools to fight a duel.

Take that for what it's worth.
 

Dirty Dog

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While SCA fencing is also removed from a 'real' duel, and I have no opinion on it being a martial art or no, it does use dull steel weapons and the weapons are treated as actual weapons.

Any 'combat' that doesn't use real, sharp weapons to inflict real wounds is going to be removed from a 'real' duel. That being said, I'll say that SCA rapier varies widely from one area to another, and within a given area there are those who make a serious study of period manuals and attempt to use real techniques, and those who just hold the big end and try to poke their opponent with the small end.

In areas that use schalger and both the edge and point, I think a legitimate martial art can be practiced.
 

Daniel Sullivan

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Any 'combat' that doesn't use real, sharp weapons to inflict real wounds is going to be removed from a 'real' duel.
Of course. Just as much as two sweaty guys in a dojang/dojo/cage/ring/octagon are going to be removed from a "real fight."

That being said, I'll say that SCA rapier varies widely from one area to another, and within a given area there are those who make a serious study of period manuals and attempt to use real techniques, and those who just hold the big end and try to poke their opponent with the small end.
Pretty much true of every art. You will always have people who seek to learn the fine detail and try to use authentic techniques or to continually improve their technique and deepen their understanding of the art, and there will be those who will just aim their striking surfaces at their opponent and hope for the best.

In areas that use schalger and both the edge and point, I think a legitimate martial art can be practiced.
Edge and point or just point, given that not all fencing swords were cut and thrust weapons.
 

lklawson

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H(you can score in sabre with the flat or even the back of the blade
Umm... Backcut?


Is incorrect; it can be correctly said that it is not a martial art, and is said by the majority of those who practice the art in question. The fact that a counter argument can be made doesn't change this.
We'll just have to disagree on this. The fact that you say it ain't or even claim that "most" who practice it say it ain't doesn't change the fact that the vast majority, if further asked, will happily agree that boxing is quite effective as a self defense "system," "tool," or whatever. Just because the verbiage changes doesn't mean that they intent does. Heck, for generations boxing was considered the art of self defense, even by the time gloves were commonly used. I can point you to any number of boxing manuals (many of which I've republished) which say as much.

Whether you name it "martial art" or just use the functional definition is irrelevant.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

Daniel Sullivan

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Umm... Backcut?
Not thinking of any specific cut; only that a touch with the blade scores. So far as I know (correct me if I am wrong), the refs will not penalize you or negate your point if you touch with a part other than the edge or point or with any portion of the blade, so long as the cut or thrust lands on the torso, arms, hands, or mask.

We'll just have to disagree on this. The fact that you say it ain't or even claim that "most" who practice it say it ain't doesn't change the fact that the vast majority, if further asked, will happily agree that boxing is quite effective as a self defense "system," "tool," or whatever. Just because the verbiage changes doesn't mean that they intent does. Heck, for generations boxing was considered the art of self defense, even by the time gloves were commonly used. I can point you to any number of boxing manuals (many of which I've republished) which say as much.
Fully agree. That wasn't what I meant in my response to Kempodisciple. What I was getting at was that you can "correctly" argue both sides.

Whether you name it "martial art" or just use the functional definition is irrelevant.
Absolutely, which is why I am of no opinion on the matter. :)
 

Dirty Dog

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Edge and point or just point, given that not all fencing swords were cut and thrust weapons.

Not all, certainly. But my comments were specifically about SCA rapier, and I don't think the smallsword was in common use during the SCA period.
 

Dirty Dog

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Not all, certainly. But my comments were specifically about SCA rapier, and I don't think the smallsword was in common use during the SCA period.

Not sure on that, but probably more at the tail end.

Quick check of both my memory and the SCA website says their time period is Pre-17th Century. Smallswords seem to have been in common use from about the mid-17th Century. Of course, being in 'common use' implies at least some degree of use prior to that date, but how much prior I have not been able to discover (in an admittedly brief search for answers...).

How about I amend my statement and say that when training with the rapier (a cut and thrust weapon), practitioners who use schlager blades and employ both the point and the edge can certainly be considered to be practicing a martial art. :)
 

lklawson

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Not thinking of any specific cut; only that a touch with the blade scores. So far as I know (correct me if I am wrong), the refs will not penalize you or negate your point if you touch with a part other than the edge or point or with any portion of the blade, so long as the cut or thrust lands on the torso, arms, hands, or mask.
I wasn't so much speaking to the rules which allow any touch but rather saying that hitting with the back of the blade shouldn't be considered evidence of lack of martial skill because the Backcut was a standard technique, even with Dueling Sabre and the razor edge on Dueling Sabres would ensure that even a light touch would be sufficient to draw blood. I agree that scoring with the flat is a step away from usefulness in a duel.


Fully agree. That wasn't what I meant in my response to Kempodisciple. What I was getting at was that you can "correctly" argue both sides.
Then I guess I misunderstood what you were saying. My mistake. Carry on. :)

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

Daniel Sullivan

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I wasn't so much speaking to the rules which allow any touch but rather saying that hitting with the back of the blade shouldn't be considered evidence of lack of martial skill because the Backcut was a standard technique, even with Dueling Sabre and the razor edge on Dueling Sabres would ensure that even a light touch would be sufficient to draw blood. I agree that scoring with the flat is a step away from usefulness in a duel.
Not a lack of martial skill; simply a lack of emphasis on the quality of the cut inherent in the scoring system. I think that Olympic sabreurs have tremendous athletic and martial skill, and could easily adapt to a more historical/classical set of rules.

My comment was more about the focus of sport fencing being to score a touch than to retain authenticity of technique. Lets face it; the flexibility of modern blades allows one to score by whipping the blade into a u-turn and score with a touch that would not only not injure an opponent, but would likely not penetrate even a light jacket, even if it were sharp. I'm not being critical of this, by the way; simply pointing out that strategies have evolved to take advantage of the realities of the rules and equipment as they are today.

My opinion is that FIE fencing is FIE fencing. If you want something different, there are other flavors of fencing out there. Classification as a martial art or not a martial art is an academic argument that few, if any FIE fencers even care about.

Personally, I find FIE (sport) fencing very enjoyable,physically challenging, and full of good people that are fun to be around. The cost of entry into the sport is fairly low; you can get a Leon Paul FIE rated Olympic quality set of electric gear for the cost of fairly low end kendo gear, and entry level fencing gear is well within the reach of people of any economic background.

In all, I think fencing is a wonderful sport/art/pastime/science/whatever else it can be classified as, regardless of what flavor one chooses. :)
 

Sharon Bennett

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This is a SUPER old thread, so forgive me for bringing it back...but I thought it was pretty interesting so I wanted to comment.


No argument there.



The first use of the phrase "Martial Art" in the english language refers to the rapier, actually. It's a European term to begin with. Fencing orginally meant fighting in general, derived from the word "defence". Also notable is the german word "fechten" (fighting, obviously) and its apparent relation. So one could "fence" with staff, sword, knife, bare fists, ale tankards, etc.

I don't think the issue is whether fencing in general is a martial art. Anyone who thinks that my longsword fencing isn't a martial art is welcome to spar me with his/her jian/katana/shamshir training and see for themselves. :) The issue is whether modern fencing (by which I think the OP means sport fencing) is a martial art. I tend to think it isn't because it isn't effectively martial, even in its own context. Sport fencing will not help you win an earnest encounter with sharps the way training with an actual smallsword will. With sport fencing, the goal is to score points, not to train to kill one's fellow man. Some of the techniques are positively suicidal, and the goal of western swordsmanship has always been survival, not mutual suicide.

That said, I'm not trying to denigrate sport fencing. It's a worthy and awesome activity. Some sport fencers go on to become fine swordsmen, since the basic motor functions are already instilled for "fencing for real".

But it is a hazy distinction, I'm willing to admit.

Best regards,

-Mark

I disagree with this, mainly because there are quite a number of martial arts that are not going to help you win in combat, because they are so far removed from actual combat that practitioners aren't going to be able to effectively use them. For example, martial arts that only use katas and never spar.. they are fun, and they certainly teach you principles on how to best do a specific technique, use a weapon, etc. But, you aren't going to be able to use it on your feet in a real fight unless you have some kind of sparring in there. And I don't mean to offend anyone who just does katas but, katas don't teach you how to improvise or think quickly on your feet. It's like having book smarts but not having the ability to apply them. And then there are other weapons systems that, while once useful historically, don't really exist anymore except within the martial art that practices them. Certain weapons based martial arts use what used to be farming tools. Those farming tools are probably not used anymore.

I think you could make an argument for a certain respect for historical authenticity in technique. For example kendo tries to make sure you cut the way a real sword would be used. Fencing, well I don't know as much about it but from what it sounds like, its got less respect for historical accuracy, technique wise.

Having spent a number of years fencing foil and epee, practicing kendo, some kenjutsu, and practicing rapier fencing with and SCA group, I will say that protective gear or it's lack is not the issue.

The fact that sport fencing does not require you to cut or thrust correctly in any manner whatsoever (you can score in sabre with the flat or even the back of the blade and you can make a modern foil or epee whip and bend in ways that you would not want a dueling weapon to) and has been noted earlier in the thread, strategies that would be suicidal in an actual duel are utilized to win matches.

While kendo certainly is removed from actual dueling, it requires you to cut correctly, with the correct part of the sword, and incorporates other elements that keep it tied to its martial roots that sport fencing does not. While kata do not make something a martial art, the kendo kata are certainly 'martial' in their methodology, mindset, and execution.

While SCA fencing is also removed from a 'real' duel, and I have no opinion on it being a martial art or no, it does use dull steel weapons and the weapons are treated as actual weapons.

Finally, sport fencing is based on civilian dueling, not military (martial) sword work, on a semantic level, it would miss the mark as well.

Personally, I have no opinion on the matter. Sport fencing is fun, athletic, and has a wonderful history, and it is one of the first sports in the Olympics. However, sport fencers overwhelmingly say that it is not a martial art. Those that do not say it isn't are indifferent. I used to post on f.net and every time anyone made mention of it being a martial art, the overwhelming response was disagreement. Given that those who practice sport fencing do not consider it an MA, I think your statement in your follow up post,

Is incorrect; it can be correctly said that it is not a martial art, and is said by the majority of those who practice the art in question. The fact that a counter argument can be made doesn't change this.

Classical/historical fencing, however would in my opinion fall into the category of martial art. This fact does not make it superior to sport fencing; simply a different flavor of fencing. I once saw it said on a classical fencing forum that a modern sport fencer does have all of the essential tools to fight a duel.

Take that for what it's worth.

I think this is the real reason why it's not looked at as a martial art by some people. Because a lot of people who practice it just don't want to see it that way. I don't think there is a good reason for not seeing it as a martial art. No matter how much the rules have turned fencing into a game of tag, it still originates from a fighting system, and is hence martial in my opinion, even if it's varied in accuracy for what would actually work in real life. The best argument I think the "its not a martial art" camp can come up with is that it's not trying to stay true to its historical roots and has varied too much from that. However, how can we say that the same hasn't happened to other martial arts, to some extent or other? (There are certainly moves in kendo that I highly suspect would not have been used in actual combat. The footwork has definitely had to have changed somewhat, because if you're on a battlefield, or outside, you aren't going to be able to slide your feet like you do on a wooden floor. You may be able to hover your feet over the ground, but certainly not the required slide that suri-ashi/the footwork requires. You need a wooden or other hard floor for that).

But if the people who practice it themselves do not want to see it as a martial art, then they are going to have a big influence on that. I think it also lacks the mindset of a martial art, from what I can tell, in that it's not concerned with staying true to its original combat form (but is open to changing to better accommodate the point system and other rules that are in place.) Also I think it is European in origin, and thats another reason. I think martial arts are often seen as having to be from another culture or country, even if it's not Asian. (I'm thinking for example of Capoeira, which is still considered a martial art even though its African/Brazilian in origin).

So my argument is that, if something came from some form of fighting system, combat system, etc, even if it's changed a lot from its original form, it should still be considered a martial art.
 

marques

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I have seen many things called martial+art, even when missing the martial or artistic side of it, or both, without much questioning.

So, a yes from me to fencing. It can be martial art as well (or as bad).

What about archery? I would say yes, too. More martial than many stereotype styles.

Fire weapons? More martial than Eastern farming tools. Art? There a skill, at least, if not an art.
 
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