Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Book Review: Encased In Steel: Anthology I

Greetings,

This is a book review that I should have done not long after Swordplay 2015. What can I say? I took the book home, I had other stuff to research, I read it, I then almost instantly passed it on to a student, and now I have actually had time to sit down and do a book review of it. This in some way alludes to my attraction to the book once I finally managed to open the cover and actually start reading.

Farrel, K. (ed) (2015) Encased in Steel Anthology I, Fallen Rook Publishing, Triquetra Services (Scotland), Glasgow

First bibliographical details, above and, the book is a soft cover, just over 200 pages long. It is about the size of a large novel in area (15 x 23-cm). All in all the book is quite unremarkable by its outside. This is one of those cases where the book should not be judged by the cover.

The book is filled with great articles covering many different subjects. Many of these subjects would not even be considered by some members of the HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) community to be relevant to their studies. I would suggest this is because that their focus is more on the physical aspects of what they are studying rather than an holistic examination of the arts.

The editor, states that this is a selection of articles from the "Encased in Steel" weblog, plus some extra articles which have been added in. As stated previously it covers a wide variety of subjects clearly divided into five general areas: Chivalry & Christian Values, HEMA History & Research, Weapon History & Research, The Practice of Cutting and Practical Concerns for HEMA Clubs. All of these areas are pertinent to HEMA and also the wider sword-wielding communities.

The articles themselves are very well written and easy to read. Jargon is in most cases explained so that the reader does not get confused. All of the articles are well documented and researched and each one has a bibliography supplied at the end of the article for further examination of the sources for further research. While the manner of writing is more scholarly in approach, bringing up relevant details in the appropriate manner and also forming arguments based on the evidence presented, the articles are also presented in a way which is engaging. The multiple authors are respected in their various fields in the HEMA community.

Rather than focusing on the purely martial art and physical aspects of HEMA, it also has some especially interesting articles on the ethics of swordsmanship and other social aspects which are integrally related with the wielding of a sword and indeed other weapons. Needless to say this collection of writings, while not wholly may in single appeal to a much wider community, as such this book is recommended for reading by all those interesting in swordsmanship, regardless of their interest or skill level.

Cheers,

Henry.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Virtues Gained From Swordsmanship

Greetings,

Based on some of what I said in a previous post on the ethics of swordsmanship, I had a request from one of my readers to write something about what virtues are gained from studying and performing swordsmanship. For your interest, the original post called "A Question of Ethics" can be found here: http://afencersramblings.blogspot.com.au/2015/11/a-question-of-ethics.html. So, what I am going to do is have a little chat about these virtues gained from swordsmanship. To begin with I will have a look at some primary sources. Then I will have a look at some of the things from my own point of view, some of which will refer back to the post indicated above.

Primary Sources

Call me biased, I am only going to be using manuals and masters which are written in English because I only speak/read English. This makes for much easier translation on my part. First we start with one of my own favourites, di Grassi.

"For this cause I beseech the gentle Reader to show himself such a one in the reading of this my present work, assuring himself by so reading it, to reap profit and honour thereby. And not doubting but that he (who is sufficiently furnished with this knowledge, and has his body proportionally exercised thereunto) shall far surmount any other although he be imbued with equal force and swiftness."
Giacomo di Grassi 1594 His True Arte of Defence

In essence, first thing that Giacomo di Grassi focuses on is profit and honour from following what is written in his book. This is the result of training. Further that the reader will be able to defeat any other opponent who is of equal physical ability. So, in essence, di Grassi claims that his method will give you honour through defeating your opponents if you study hard and this will result in profit of some kind. This is not particularly specific.

"I speak not against Masters of Defence indeed, they are to be honored, nor against the Science, it is noble, and in my opinion to be preferred next to Divinity, for as Divinity preserves the soul from Hell and the Devil, so does this Noble Science defend the body from wounds and slaughter. And moreover, the exercising of weapons puts away aches, griefs, and diseases, it increases strength, and sharpens the wits. It gives a perfect judgement, it expels melancholy, choleric and evil conceits, it keeps a man in breath, perfect health, and long life. It is unto him that has the perfection thereof, a most friendly and comfortable companion when he is alone, having but only his weapon about him. It puts him out of fear, & in the wars and places of most danger, it makes him bold, hardy and valiant.
George Silver 1599 Paradoxes of Defence

George Silver, as I have noted previously, is a character and a half, and his claims about his method are just as characteristic. He claims that the swordsmanship will "defend the body from wounds and slaughter", as one would expect, but then he goes on to list a long list of health benefits of swordsmanship. These health benefits which he lists are not just physical, as one might expect, but they are also mental. The significance of the idea of the benefit to both mind and body is often passed over by many.

“This irresistible power of practice does not only master and overcome the unflexibleness of our bodily members, but also affects and prevails very much, even over our more dull and ignorant judgements.”


Sir William Hope 1707 A New Short, and Easy Method of Fencing: Or the Art of the Broad and Small sword Rectified and Compendiz’d

Sir William Hope, much like Silver also highlights the benefits of swordsmanship to the swordsman as being to both the mind and the body. This idea of swordsmanship being as much a mental pursuit as a physical one is something which must be realised for the greatest benefits of it to be attained.

“[Fencing] which justly forms part of the education of persons of rank; giving them additional strength of body, proper confidence, grace, activity and address; enabling them, likewise, to pursue other exercises with greater facility.”
Domenico Angelo 1787 The School of Fencing With a General Explanation of the Principle Attitudes and Positions Peculiar to the Art

Domenico Angelo, is focusing on an address to a particular clientèle, thus insisting that it is an important part of their education. Further to this he also explains further health benefits much like the previous examples which have been presented. Angelo expands his list to include benefits to the social sphere and interactions with others.

My Stuff

Physical

The first thing that will be easily noted is that fencing does supply health benefits. It does improve cardio-vascular fitness, it does increase musculature (even if it does this in some interesting spots), in general it will improve your general health overall. From my own point of view, if I had not taken up and continued fencing my own personal health issues most likely would have rendered me to a wheelchair for a period of time. But this is not really what this is all about...

The virtues which really need to be talked about are those which cannot be seen directly but their effects can be felt in other ways. They can be felt personally by the fencer and felt by others by the actions of the fencer, these are the more important virtues which we should really concern ourselves with. While the physical attributes allow us to perform and live longer lives and thus enable us to learn more it is the other virtues beyond the mere physical which are more important.

Fencing and learning has been related to the treating of depression and other mental illnesses, and indeed physical illnesses. Increased levels of adrenaline and endorphins from the victories, be they large or small can be related to an increase in positivity in the student. This can be only beneficial to a student's well-being. Such heightened positivity also increases the yearning in the student for more knowledge, which can only be a good thing. Fencing, done properly, is a thinking man's game.

Broadening Thought Processes

Fencing broadens the thought processes. What? Fencing allows you to think about things from different perspectives rather than thinking about things only from a single perspective. The primary source for this in fencing is in tactical thinking. Each opponent is a tactical puzzle and you must solve that puzzle. One way to do this is to figure out what they are going to do against you. This same process can be applied outside of fencing to allow you a different point of view on all sorts of things, and not just arguments.

Similarly the idea of awareness comes from a similar source. While fencing, you do not have time to check around you, but you become familiar with things around you, including your opponent's position. This can also be useful in other situations. This awareness can be applied to situations outside of fencing also, and not just finding your keys in the dark.

Not only can fencing teach you about these things but it can also teach you about problem-solving. The obvious one is in dealing with an opponent, as above. This is a purely tactical idea, which can be applied to all sorts of other situations, but it can also apply to ourselves and our own problems. We can look at different ways to get around problems that we all have as opponents, and thus look at ways to defeat them.

Increased Capacity for Thought

Next we move on to the idea of the increased capacity for thought. Once again, I am going to expect people to look at their screens incredulously. A fencer who looks at fencing as more than just a game of physical actions performed can really miss out. The other fencer who is willing to read and learn more can open a door to a much wider world where there are more possibilities than they ever realised, this fencer has a true relationship with the swordsmen of the past.

Most of the time when fencing manuals are read the first parts are skipped over for the "good" parts, the parts where the action starts. The problem is that in these earlier parts of the manuals you will find the author's thought processes, what he was actually thinking as he was assembling the manual. This can lead you into the reasons why he produced the manual and thus the reasons why or why not certain techniques may or may not be present. Our two English Gentlemen George Silver and Joeseph Swetnam are perfect examples of this.

As martial artists carrying weapons the concept of ethics must come up somewhere along the line, and thus must come up in the thought process. For many, as soon as they have done the safety brief they think they are done, but it should stretch further than there. We are carrying weapons, we are delivering blows and thrusts which have the potential to do serious damage and even kill. The concept of ethics is vital. In carrying any sort of weapon, you have a responsibility to others, and you also have a responsibility to yourself. This actually goes for all martial artists and all weapons. Any time either is seen in the media in a negative way, it is a black mark against us all.

Cultivation of Virtue

Most of all the virtues which have been discussed must be cultivated. They cannot just grow on their own. We must teach patience, we must teach honour. These virtues are gained through teaching and combat. Sure some of the thought processes can be learnt through the student engaging in reading but we must all teach them also. "But I am not a teacher/trainer/master." Doesn't matter. How you act, what you do, what you say, will inform newer students and people around them how they should act, and there is always someone newer than you.

The Renaissance period, through which we find many of our sources for rapier and longsword combat, was the time of Humanism and Humanistic thought. This is of great benefit to us. It is because these thoughts are imprinted in the pages of the manuals. You will find these thoughts in the so-called "boring" bits at the beginning of the manuals. Humanistic thought believes in the capacity for the individual to grow and become something better, and it is something which we need to embrace, regardless of in which particular period our particular weapon preference is found.

The virtues of honour and the Gentleman or Gentle-woman (Yes, an anachronism), need to be emphasised. We need to find the highest standards found here and push these to the limit and beyond. We need to push these ideas and make them our own and present ourselves as we would wish ourselves always to be seen. I believe that once we have done this then we will truly be on the way to performing our Arts as the Masters we so dearly cling to would have, and then we will truly find that the virtues gained from swordsmanship are vast, and beyond anything we thought possible.

Cheers,

Henry.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

... An Additional Note

Greetings,

I feel that I need to add a special note with regard to the language which I use in my blog posts. This applies to all of them future and previous. I tend to use the male form, i.e. "he", "man" and so forth. In no way should my female readers feel discouraged in that these posts do not speak to them. I use the original Latin root forms of these words with their original intentions. Thus in the case of words such as "chairman", the "man" part of this comes from "manus" to operate rather than any indication of a male form.


I am a firm believer in the quote presented in this marvellous picture from Esfinges. As will be noted from my previous posts in three parts about "Females and Fencing" I believe that women have the capacity for excelling in HEMA as much as men do. I feel that it is necessary that I state this as a special mention at this point in time as I believe that I have attracted some new readers and I would like to keep their interest and not discourage them.

Cheers,

Henry






Saturday, February 13, 2016

Study of the Smallsword

Greetings,

Most of you know that my posts mostly focus on Renaissance rapier, and other Renaissance weapon forms. Well, I must announce something of particular interest. Over the past months I have been doing study into the Smallsword, with the aim of learning how to use it, based on research from manuals left behind.

Now some will go, "Well that explains that." Especially if you are on Facebook and have seen my posts about my new smallsword which I had made by Tim Harris. It is a beautiful weapon. The weapon is light and moves wonderfully. It was exactly what I asked for. Tim, I thank you for your excellent work, again.

I have, as per usual, been focussing on manuals which were published in English in their time. This means that I am not using any modern translations of manuals from the period. In some ways this was to limit my options as to what I was looking at. More to the point, it was designed so that I could look at manuals in their as close as possible original form with the author's words in as close to the original form as possible. This allows for the least amount of "noise" in examining the works.

In my study of the smallsword so far I have found that, much like the rapier, the weapon is not ubiquitous. There is no one smallsword which covers the entire period in which it was used.  This is not only by the design of the weapon, but also going by the use of the weapon. As a result, when discussing the smallsword, one needs to be a little careful. From my research it should really be divided up into "early smallsword" and "classic smallsword".

With this being the result of a small part of the research that I have done, it looks like that should I decide to include the entire weapon into my own curriculum, I will not be studying one weapon but two. This also poses a very interesting situation for discussions of the weapon, and its use in that we should really be specific about the weapon being used, and also the period which it came from.

I had intended this post to contain some of the curatorial information about the smallsword that I have found, but that would make this post much too long, so I will save that for another one. Needless to say the information and research that I will present about the smallsword will divide the weapon into two parts, maybe without a clear line, but it will demonstrate two different weapons, called the same thing.

Cheers,

Henry.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Females and Fencing (Part 3)

Greetings,

Welcome to Part 3! If you have not perused the previous two instalments of this subject I would strongly advise you to do so. The previous ones have looked at the Physical and Psychological differences between male and female combatants in Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA). This was based upon a lesson which I presented at an event known as Swordplay '15. It was based upon some of my observed findings of the female combatants at the event and their interactions and fighting at the event. This post really will get to some of the really important stuff, which we all need to take note of.

You Are Not Alone

While the numbers of female combatants in HEMA may be smaller than those of their male counter-parts, the important thing for the female combatants to realise, and even the males to realise is that, you are not alone. Without a doubt there is another combatant out there going through the same problems as you are having, and working through them just like you are. The feeling of loneliness is one that can kill your fighting spirit in no time at all and it is one that you need to purge. You are not alone, there are people out there to help you.

So, the first thing that you are going to tell me is that you are the only female in a class of all males. You are still not alone. Your first point of call should always be your trainer. If they cannot help then you can find help elsewhere. So, you are not a member of any formal organisation and you are studying as a singular individual. You are still not alone. Thanks to the internet there are multiple sources to consult and people often are more than willing to help people and share their own insights and research. In fact, for the most part the harder task is to get us to shut up so you can get a word in. Below you will find a list of links to various Facebook groups where you can link up with other women in HEMA.

Ostensibly, I began the class at Swordplay to demonstrate to the group of ladies that they needed to move differently to the male fighters who were competing in the competition. Something more grew from the conversation that I had with the ladies who were there (Yes, I am calling you all ladies). It was the realisation that most of them had not talked to one another about HEMA and how it worked for them, and how it affected them. This was actually quite a shock to me. Guys tend to sit and chat about technique, this master over that master, and what armour suits and protects us better, so I assumed that it would be the same with the ladies. I was wrong, for this I apologise. I just hope that the class which turned into more of a discussion got people talking and that this series of posts will also get people talking, and especially the ladies. Oh, and in case you are wondering, Yes, I will be checking up on you.

Facebook Links

AUS/NZ HEMA/WMA ladies group
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1732046537016304/
Started by Evangelina Corona it is a place for AUS/NZ HEMA/WMA ladies to share their thoughts, meet new friends and change the face of women in Australian and New Zealand Sword play groups. "I began this after SP15 [Swordplay '15], feeling there was a need for we ladies down under to be able to share things solely with each other."

Esfinges
https://www.facebook.com/groups/esfingeshema/
The worldwide group, this group was made for women who practice fencing, to unite them and let them get to know one other. 

Ladybits
https://www.facebook.com/groups/565948176761635/
A group where ladies share.. Well, they are ladies, doing ladies things!

What You Can Do (Conclusion?)

Note that there is a question mark after the word conclusion. This is there because I am not actually sure that this is the end of the subject at all. I would not be surprised if there are further posts on this subject, possibly inspired by future events or comments. Another thing is that this process is one that needs to continue. Some of what follows will question the way things are done and I expect a certain amount of contention, but I believe that lively intellectual discussion and argument is healthy.

As combatants we all have a role to play to ensure that our female combatants are included and not side-lined in any form. This will begin with a change in attitude. We need to remove some of the negative expressions which we have grown up with such as, "You hit like a girl." and "Stop acting like a girl." All of these put our female combatants in a negative light and this is not healthy for us and definitely not for them. Rather we need to promote a the positive nature of their participation in HEMA. Further to this we also need to promote the levelling nature of martial arts in general.

With regard to this I need to approach our first contentious issue the idea of the "Ladies Tournament". I would question whether or not this is actually a healthy idea or not. Is having such a tournament an inclusive or exclusive thing? Sure it is inclusive as it involves the female combatants in a tournament, but it is also exclusive as it side-lines them to another tournament, and almost makes it feel like that they are not welcome to participate in more "general" combats. In my own opinion the nature of HEMA provides a level playing field in which all can compete, thus there is really no need for this separation, but this is a question that no doubt will be debated for some time to come.

Trainers. You are at the forefront of including individuals in HEMA regardless of whether they are male or female, or indeed of their physical nature. I have already written on the nature of bio-mechanics and body-shape, and indeed already on disabilities and fencing. Now we need to look at the male-female dichotomy. These posts are as important for you to realise the differences between the male and female student as they are for the female student to realise their own differences.

You need to approach these differences as simply that, differences, not problems. You need to consider the differences in body shape and approaches to combat. The benefits for taking this into consideration will outweigh the extra work that you will have to put in to making sure that you get it right. Take note of how your female students' bodies want to move and adapt their training to suit that, not the other way around. They will be much more comfortable, and much more successful.

Well, this series of posts has been a lot longer than I ever thought it would have been. I thank those ladies who participated in my class for the information which they gave me. It has enabled me to further understand how the female combatant operates and thinks and thus allowed me to produce these posts without you, this would have been a lot more difficult. So thanks go out to: Eva, Sam, Lois, Bec, Sharon, Emma, Rosie, Tristyn and Jessica (if I have forgotten anyone I apologise). I also need to send a big thank you to Zebee Johnstone for putting me on the right path.

I hope that all of my readers are able to pull something useful from the information which has been presented here. I apologise if there is anything here which has offended you, but I have attempted to do something which I thought needed to be done. I also apologise for some of the rambling nature of the information as I tend to write it how it comes, but then you needed to expect that considering the title of the entire blog.

Cheers,

Henry.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Females and Fencing (Part 2)

Greetings,

Welcome to Part 2, this is the second part of my discussion on females and fencing based upon a lesson which I delivered at Swordplay '15 this year. It is designed to highlight the differences between the male and female combatant and bring these into the light so that both the trainer and student may realise that they are differences not problems. The previous part dealt with physical differences this one will start with the psychological ones. I would advise you, dear reader, that if you have not read the first part, that you should as it will give and explanation of my approach to the subjects which follow.

Psychological

After dealing with the physical differences we need to look deeper and have a look at some more mental differences. This means having a look at the psychological differences between males and females and seeing how this will affect them in training and also in a combative situation. These need to be taken into account as they are deeply embedded in our minds and are not easily dealt with.

To begin the so -called "feminine characteristics" portray the female as passive and shy. I know this not the case for everyone but it is the general outlook and for some it is true. Added on top of this is that from the beginning, for the most part, females are given nurturing roles. This means that they are not supposed to hit people, this idea is, in many cases driven from their make-up.

What is the result of this? It means that the female trainee and combatant will often have difficulty starting and often continuing with training as the idea of striking someone else with an object is foreign to their internal make-up. For the trainer this will take time to encourage them that it is fine for them to do this and it is actually what is expected of them. No trainee should be discouraged, male or female, because this is part of their make-up. More so, it should be emphasised not just by trainers but by other members of the class that it is okay to strike their opponent and partner at the right time and place.

Now we need to discuss the "jitters". That horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach that comes up during training, and especially at tournaments or examinations when the pressure is on. This is the feeling that you do not belong here, that all the training you have done has been a waste of time, that all the other combatants hit harder and are better than you, and that there is nothing you can do about it. First thing that I am going to say is that everyone has had this feeling, and that anyone who denies ever having had this feeling before a tournament or training session is either lying to other people, or lying to themselves which is worse. The question is how to deal with them.

Each person has their own way of dealing with this feeling, and you need to find a way for dealing with your own. I will give some suggestions that may help you, but it is a personal process that you must think through. First we will start with Pre-Tournament, then Tournament, and then Post-Tournament. Each one is slightly different to suit the different situation. In this I will be using the word "tournament" to signify what ever event is being discussed, be it a training session, examination or tournament.

Pre-Tournament

On the way to the location of the tournament I like to listen to music that either puts me in a good mood or music which is appropriate to the tournament. I am a bit of a metal-head but I have found that Iron Maiden's "Flash of the Blade" or "The Duellists" works for me. If you are looking for something a little slower Dire Straits "Brothers in Arms" also works. I have also found that anything classical with some "drive" behind it works, Beethoven, Bach, Tchaikovsky for examples. 

Once I have arrived, I make a point of finding someone I know and saying "Hello." This is to realise that I am not there alone. If you are at an event for the first time, be sure that you are not the only one. Go and find someone to say "Hello" to. This is a great way to release some tension. Following this, go and do all the mundane things, signing in and all that business. Go find the Officials of the event and introduce yourself and thank them for being there, they will be happy about it, trust me on this one.

Unpack. Find a comfortable spot. This may be with others, it may not be. It needs to be comfortable for you. Have a good look at each piece of gear as you take it out. Get it all out and have a good look. Then walk away for a little while. Come back and in a relaxed fashion put your armour (safety gear on). Start internal and work external, start from the ground work up. Start from the body and work out to the arms. Gauntlets last, trust me on this one. Once you are in your armour, move about and get used to being in the armour, without your weapon. Next pick up your weapon and go through some simple solo drills, finally go find someone you know to warm-up with. By this time you should be suitably warm and much more comfortable.

Tournament

Regardless of the result of a round, examine how you fought and what you did in response to the opponent's actions. Have a look at you did well and be happy with this. Breathe. Next examine where you did not do so well, remember this because you can ask your trainer about it at your next training. Breathe. You should always look at crossing blades with an opponent as a chance to learn something about yourself and your opponent. Do not miss this chance. Breathe. Victories fade the lessons live on.

In between rounds, if you have time, make sure that you take off your gauntlets, mask/helm and gorget. This will let a lot of the heat out. Breathe. Drink liquid. People say drink water, I say liquid as you should also be concerned about your sugar levels dropping too low. Go for a little walk if you need to, but not too far. Breathe Watch the other opponents for what they are doing and learn from what they are and are not doing. This is a prime time to learn. Listen to what other combatants are saying. Breathe. Do not think about the next round until it is announced, and even then do not focus on it unless you have seen the opponent and learnt something useful about the way they fight. Did I mention Breathe? You need to stay analytical about the process, this will help you calm yourself. Remember all the things you did right and celebrate them.

Post-Tournament

Why? The tournament is over, why would this be the case that you get jitters? This would be the case that you still have a lot of adrenaline running through your system and also probably endorphins as well. Once again it is a matter of settling yourself. Breathe. Take your time. Have a drink. Get rid of the mask/helm, gorget and gauntlets as before. Put the weapons down with your gear. Go for a little walk. Breathe. Have a chat to some of the other combatants. Breathe. The most important thing here is to relax. If there is a presentation made after the tournament and you have placed high enough to be a part of this enjoy the experience, you deserve it.

Well, this has turned out to be a lot longer than I expected it to be. I only planned for this to be two posts at most, but I think that keeping them relatively short is important for better absorbing of the information which I have presented. Once again, if the information presented has continued to interest and inform you, be prepared as there will be a third, and hopefully final, instalment of this subject.

Cheers,

Henry.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Females and Fencing (Part 1)

Greetings,

The following post is based on a lesson I delivered this year at a "local" event and I use the word "local" very loosely as it is becoming recognised as a national one. That event was Swordplay '15. Essentially it was designed to get all of the female combatants together and have a chat about Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), tournaments and the whole gambit of things and the simple thing that they are not alone and that they needed to talk more to one another to share their experiences, more on this later.

While at the event in the position of Safety Marshal I was in a great position to see a lot of fighting at the event and see how everybody was doing. One of the things that I noticed was that the female combatants were attempting to fight like the male ones, with some achievement it has to be said. The obvious problems associated related directly and indirectly to the method and approach to the fighting is what sparked the idea for the lesson.

Before I go into much detail there are a couple of things that I have to say. Firstly, I apologise to those people who have been waiting since the event for this post to come out, part of this has been slackness and part of this is other factors. Secondly, I know that this post is possibly going to cause some issues that I am talking about females in fencing and I am a male, but this is all from my point of view and based upon my training and my experiences training females. I hope that this post will help rather than hinder women in HEMA. Thirdly, I know it is a little arrogant to be speaking on the subject, but please bear with me. Finally, this is probably going to be a pretty hefty sort of post so get ready for a solid sort of a read.

So we have the situation that women most often taught by men and men most often do not know how women work physically and mentally. This is simply because most of the more experienced members of the community are male. This presents problems in training for the women who are participating in the training and, for the most part, these problems are kept to themselves. I would like to highlight these "problems" and demonstrate them not as "problems" but as "differences" and differences which trainers need to take into account. The following will be divided up into various sections so that areas can be highlighted for discussion.

Physical

So men and women are different physically. Well done, Captain Obvious! Tell us something we don't know. This simple fact is something we need to take into account when training. It is something which I have indicated before in a previous post (http://afencersramblings.blogspot.com.au/2009/10/bio-mechanics-and-effect-of-body-shape.html). This post was mostly indicated at different body shapes as in short versus tall, broad versus thin and so forth, for this discussion we need to go more deeply into the discussion and examine how the male and female form differ and how they move differently.

To start with we need to examine hip shape, the hips control the centre of mass and also control the legs which makes them essential for movement. If you do not have free movement through this you are bound to have problems. Well, males and females are markedly different here, especially the way that the legs join up with the hips. The way that the leg joints are positioned in men and women are different and this can be seen in the on guard position. Let us take the generic terza (third) guard.


The right foot is forward the left is to the rear, many guards in HEMA will begin like this. Many will actually be a little more broad with the rear foot a little further outward and a little more forward. This will immediately put the hips in a diagonal position if this position is adopted, which for a male suits them perfectly, due to the way their leg joints are shaped. For the female she will have all sorts of trouble keeping her front foot pointing at the opponent, this is because her hips do not want to do this. So what we need to do here is make a change in position to make it more comfortable and more moveable for the female. It is not radical it is a change in position from diagonal to horizontal, from the male position to the female position.
In the case of the image above it is from the lower image to the upper image. In the first instance you do this you may need to physically move your hip into this position. In the case of a trainer you may need to move the student's hip into the correct position, make sure you ask permission to do so first. The change in position may require a broadening of the stance, and a slight withdrawal of the foot, that is fine. The ease of movement will have its own reward.

While we are on movement, we might as well stay there for a while. The female combatant will also move differently from the male combatant. This you will see in their actions with the weapon, but also in their movement across the ground. The woman can also access a lot more mobility in their hips and waist than the male can for the movement of their body for voiding and other actions than most men will be able to and this is a great advantage, and one that should be used.

As a female, in general, you will simply not be able to compete with the raw power of the male, so you should not try to. However there are different ways to approach the combat through movement and being lighter on your feet. Against the stronger opponent use their strength against them, slip off their attacks, redirect their power to other directions. Use the lightness that you have to simply avoid the power that your opponent possesses, and with the extra movement indicated already, this will be even easier.

Now we come to one final attribute of the female form which most trainers often forget to take into account in their training, the female breast. The Parry of Fourth, the Parry to the High Inside Line, any time your arms have to cross your body close they get in the road, and the trainer often will not take it into account because he doesn't have them.
Parry of 4th
Breast protection just doesn't help the situation, in fact it even often makes it worse. How do I know? First, I listen. Second, I wear a chest plate myself. How do we get around this particular problem? We look at the assets again and see what we can use to our advantage. Once again it comes down to the hips and waist. In the case of the Parry of Fourth, or High Inside Line, turn your body at the same time you make the parry. This will give you some more clearance for the parry and also some more room. In fact, as far as this "problem" goes this is the primary way around it, use the other attributes of mobility to get around it.

So, this is the end of Part 1, if I have not insulted or bored you too much, Part 2 will be along soon. Part 2 will start with a look at some of the psychological aspects which have to be dealt with and go from there, depending on how things go and how deep it gets will see how long it goes for.

Cheers,

Henry.