Monday, February 13, 2017

Relax and Fence

Greetings,

We all know that muscles need oxygen, so we need to breathe when we are exercising, so this would be the reason why some time ago I wrote a post about the necessity of standing up straight in the on guard position (http://afencersramblings.blogspot.com.au/2010/06/stand-up-straight-and-relax.html). What you will notice about this post is that there is an element of the relaxation point in here as well. This element will be the focus in this post.

First point, when you are tense, your muscles tense unconsciously. This burns energy, so you are burning fuel without even doing anything. Relaxing will increase your endurance when you fence. Further, when your muscles are tense before action they move slower, when they are relaxed before action they move faster.

When people tense up one of the first things they stop doing when they make an action in fencing is breathing. When you relax, you will breathe properly, this means that your muscles will become oxygenated properly this also means that you will have more endurance. When people tense up another thing they stop doing is thinking and this is never good. The physical elements lead to the psychological elements.

Relax, take a breath and just fence. "Well that's easy for you to say." Why? What is so important? Are you going to die if your opponent hits you? Most of the pressures that are built up, we build up ourselves and it is up to us to remove them. It is not easy and it will take time.

Practice is for practice. This means that you are supposed to try new things. This means that you are supposed to make mistakes. The most important thing is that you learn from those mistakes. If you are not getting hit while bouting at practice, then you are not learning, and you are not progressing. If you have just learnt a new action or skill in a lesson, you are supposed to be trying it out in bouting. Talk to your opponent and tell them what you want to practice; maybe they will want to practice something too and then you can help them.

Release the pressure. Find out what is causing the pressure in your fencing. Find a way to release it. Talk to your teacher. Talk to other fencers. Sometimes a little pressure to push us forward is good, but when it restricts what we are doing then it becomes a detriment to our fencing, and can even become a detriment to our character. It is great to be focused on a goal, but not to the exclusion of all of life that goes on around you.

Fencing will improve when you relax. Your actions will become smoother and more natural because you are not forcing them to happen. A relaxed attitude in your fencing relies on your confidence in your skills, this means that you also need to practice what you have learnt. This relaxed attitude and form of fencing can also be passed along to your partners and this will improve your experience.

There is a nice feeling between two fencers when they are both relaxed and are able to perform their skills. This can be seen by those watching. The bout can still be very technical and also very intense, but because the fencers are both relaxed with what they are doing it will also have a good feel to it. This will be different to two fencers who just go at one another, simply trying to be first to strike the other one. The bout will also be intense but for different reasons.

A relaxed attitude and relaxed nature and approach to fencing will lead to better and more comfortable fencing. This takes time. You need to be comfortable with what you are doing. You need too be comfortable with who you are fencing with. You even need to be comfortable with the equipment that you are using to a certain point. The most important part of this process is that it has to start with you. You need to relax and just fence.

Cheers,

Henry.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Broadsword: A Curatorial Discussion

Greetings,

So again, this is one of my more formal discussions on a subject. This means that it is long-ish. The subject of the broadsword is one which has been of interest to me for a while now, and was prodded along more recently by studying the smallsword, and also the workshops at Swordplay 2016 given by Keith Farrell. There are various arguments that you will find going through this post, some of which will be of interest and some, I hope, will clear some of the myths away. Thanks goes to Keith Farrell for his editorial assistance with this piece and correcting me on a few things.

Cheers,

Henry.

Abstract

          Most curatorial examinations of weapons are dry and give little detail as to their origins or development. What follows examines the origins and development of the broadsword along with some of the issues which have accompanied this weapon through history to this era. This examination is a close look at the broadsword to demonstrate that previous methods of classification need to be corrected and that the history of a weapon is important as is its development. Only through the assembly of all the data about a weapon can a person have any idea about how the weapon would handle.

Introduction

          What follows is an examination of the broadsword. It is indicated by the title that this will be a curatorial examination, but this will be a little broader than most curatorial examinations as they are most often concerned with hilt construction. This has often led to this misclassification of weapons. Thus this investigation will concern itself with the entire weapon, but also more than that.
          To begin with there is the question of what is and is not a broadsword, to this point a definition will be examined and argued for and against, then another proposed. Following this will be a brief history of the development of the broadsword. The word “development” is used here and not “evolution” as it was a process which was affected by external and internal factors, and also had an effect upon other weapons of similar make. Next will be a discussion of the broadsword and the backsword, two weapons which are often confused, usually as a result of one or both not having a clear definition. Getting even more specific there is the question of the claymore and what is and is not one, a question which has been argued to and fro for many years.
After all these preliminary arguments have been established and some of the background has also been established. Then the weapon will be examined. The previous is necessary so that both writer and reader understand what is being discussed. The broadsword will be discussed in order of hilt, blade and then the weapon in general. This will give the differences in different nationalities of broadsword, specifically, English, German and Scottish and the differences between them.
There will be mentions of other weapons of similar classification. The backsword has already been mentioned above, and will feature in different placed in the investigation. The sabre will also be mentioned in the discussions, but more in passing rather than in any sort of detail. Finally, with regard to use considerations, this can only come from the knowledge of the weapon as a whole. This discussion will only barely scratch the surface of that and give some very vague indications. The focus of this investigation is more about the form, origins and development of the weapon. 

Definition


“a broad-bladed sword used for cutting rather than stabbing. Also called backsword” (Collins English Dictionary, 2016)

          The definition supplied by the Collins English Dictionary (2016) is rather broad and covers quite a few weapons, it could even cover some forms of medieval sword as well, especially as the definition above does not in any way take into account the form of the hilt. What this means is that the definition needs some refining. The broadsword is most easily defined as a straight-bladed, double-edged, relatively broad-bladed sword with a basket-hilt that protects the hand. What needs to be noted here is that the previous definition did not take into account the hilt of the weapon which is a mistake often made in the curatorship of swords in that often all the weapon is not taken into account.
          The change in hilt is significant where the cross-guard was changed to a basket-hilt and is similar to that which is found with regard to the development of the rapier, and for similar reasons. The civilian rapier’s hilt developed to protect the unarmoured hand of the civilian. The more military broadsword hilt developed as armour declined as a result of the introduction of effective firearms to the battlefield.

The Broadsword Story


“they [basket-hilted broadswords] are most closely associated with the 18th-century Scottish Highlander.” (Holmes, 2010:106)

          When the broadsword is thought of, it is the Scottish Highlander which is first thought of wielding the weapon. The history of the weapon will reveal that they were not the only people to use the weapon, and indeed it could be claimed that they were not even the first. The discussion which follows will follow the development of the broadsword, for the most part, in chronological order. It will start with a more general introduction to the history and then examine the three important centuries of development, the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. While this is not really designed to be a curatorial discussion, there will be curatorial elements present.
          To begin there must be a brief examination of the weapon which came before, and to understand that this was primarily a military weapon, rather than a civilian one, even though it found its way into civilian hands. Its history starts with the knightly sword of war, as armour was lessened the hilt had to develop to protect the hand. These developments are primarily noted in England, the result being that the English hilt is the common ancestor of the basket-hilted claymore and English military pattern (Oakeshott, 2012:176). More of this much-argued weapon will be discussed later on.
          There is a lot of argument about the dating of weapons and where they came from. This is for a multitude of reasons firstly weapons are difficult to date due to similarity in design and references found for the pieces themselves (Oakeshott, 2012:177). To accurately date something a design needs to be in print in some form to compare to and when the designs are common across an expanse of time this makes the dating even more difficult. This situation can be complicated even further in the case of many swords not just the broadsword with regard to the idea of re-hilting. In the case of the broadsword re-hilting was common, an old blade would be placed in a new hilt, or rarer old hilt and new blade would be put together (Oakeshott, 2012:179). Needless to say, this results in a weapon, if it manages to date both parts with a date for one part and a date for the other.

Sixteenth Century

          Previously it was noted that the broadsword was primarily a military weapon. It was also noted that it was a modification of the knightly war sword, answering the need to protect the hand. After 1520 the knightly war sword acquires a more complex hilt, changes at end of the sixteenth century to the proto-typical forms of broadsword of 17th and 18th centuries (Oakeshott, 2012:126). These developments were in answer to a changing situation on the battlefield where armour was being reduced in answer to its lack of effect against firearms. The speed of which the development came is impressive.

One of the earliest basket-hilted swords was recovered from the wreck of the Mary Rose, an English warship lost in 1545. Before the find, the earliest positive dating had been two swords from around the time of the English Civil War. At first the wire guard was a simple design but as time passed it became increasingly sculpted and ornate. (Wikipedia, 2016)

          In a relatively short amount of time, the hilt of the weapon became more and more complex resulting, by middle of century hand protected and surrounded by plates, bars lined with leather or fabric (Coe, 1996:73). This is not a simple operation as can be told by anyone who has assembled a sword of such complex parts. What needs to be noted here is that the earliest hilt here is not Scottish, but English.
          Rather than being nationalistic about where it was invented at this point in time, the important thing to note here is that, the ancestry of broadsword hilts found in those that evolved by 1570s and survived (Oakeshott, 2012:156). It was this pattern of basket-hilt which was spread around and resulted in developments in other places. It should be noted that the beginnings of broadswords of 18th and 19th centuries in German experiments of c.1600 can be seen (Oakeshott, 2012:156).
          What is most interesting is that the weapons which were developed by the English would have to wait until toward the end of the century to cross over the borders of the closest neighbours, and thus would gain a new name, and not the one expected. As in the last years of the sixteenth century basket hilts associated with Highland Scots, known as ‘Irish hilts’ in early seventeenth (Oakeshott, 2012:176). More to the point many of these would be sourced from Continental swordsmiths.

Seventeenth Century

          In a typical Victorian fashion many have attempted to classify the broadsword hilts of the seventeenth century to try and see if there are any patterns of development, but not with much success, “Any attempt to specify prototypical patterns for the broadsword hilts of the seventeenth century would be doomed to failure,” (Oakeshott, 2012:173). This is for two clear reasons the first of which is that the broadsword hilt spread to different nations and was thus changed and developed as according to their own requirements. The second is that, “Basket hilts underwent various changes during the course of the [17th] century.” (Coe, 1996:74), and when these two are combined, there are too many variables to be tracked.
          What is known is that, “Basket hilts continued to be used during the seventeenth century, especially in England and Scotland” (Coe, 1996:74), which is of little surprise due to the origins of the hilt itself in the sixteenth century as indicated above. More to the point it is also here where most of the fame for the broadsword is found. While the Scottish hilt seems to dominate in popularity and in form and construction, English hilts of same period are often of fine construction (Coe, 1996:74). The other thing that should be noted with regard to this is that with regard to the origins of this weapon, it has a distinctively English heritage.

“Scottish it was, even in the seventeenth century, and exclusively Scottish it became, but England has good a claim to it, for it originated in that country. However, since it is always called the ‘Scottish’ sword ... it is necessary to observe the distinctions.” (Oakeshott, 2012:170)

          One of the most useful things about the popularity of an item in the historical record is that sometimes it makes it easier to track through the historical record because it was more likely to be recorded, and also because it was more likely to be researched and thus the information brought to light. In the case of the Scottish broadsword both are the case.

“The 1881 Ancient Scottish Weapons had this to say: The broadsword first appears in formal record in Scotland in 1643, when, along with the Lochaber axe and the Jedburgh staff, it constitutes part of the equipment of the levies then called out by the Convention of Estates, From 1582 to 1649 a "ribbit gaird" often appears as the "essay" of the armourers of Edinburgh, but in 1649 it was changed to "ane mounted sword, with a new scabbard and an Highland guard."” (Scottish Tartans Authority, 2016)

          This clearly dates the first official record of the appearance of the “Highland guard”, clearly what was to be known as the Scottish hilt later on, and fills in another piece of the puzzle of the history of the broadsword which otherwise would have remained unfound. The seventeenth century served as a kind of formative years for the Scottish hilt in which it developed and took its shape. Needless to say that there were many variations of hilt through the period, as a curatorial discussion will find, but eventually will settle on a single one.

“The Scottish basket hilt, with its traditional heart-shaped piercings and large square plates, seems to have appeared in the second half of the century [17th] and remained in use for over a hundred years.” (Coe, 1996:74)

Eighteenth Century


"During the 18th century, the fashion of dueling in Europe focused on the lighter smallsword, and fencing with the broadsword came to be seen as a speciality of Scotland. A number of fencing manuals teaching fencing with the Scottish broadsword were published throughout the 18th century." (Wikipedia, 2016)

          While the Wikipedia (2016) is not the most reliable source the information presented above is accurate. Most of the Continent was focused on the use of the smallsword and thus most of use of the broadsword was left to military matters. Being a more “native” weapon to the Scots, manuals for the use of the broadsword were also published alongside those for the smallsword.
In the case of the broadsword, the stage of full development had arrived, “The basket-hilted sword, in which the entire hand was protected by a leather-lined cage of bars was made in many variations throughout the eighteenth century.” (Coe, 1996:85). The complete hand was protected and the weapon was established. In the end, the broadsword would serve more as a military sword rather than a civilian sword and, “The variety of basket hilts found on eighteenth-century military swords is enormous,” (Coe, 1996:86). One thing that can be said is that the Scottish type was the more dominant form later due to its developmental stages.

“As for the ‘Scottish’ sword, in its earliest forms it as uncompromisingly English, and remained a standard English pattern far into the eighteenth century; only very late in the century did it become exclusively Scottish.” (Oakeshott, 2012:170)

          The Scottish form of broadsword was to dominate in form and function and became the more dominant form of hilt for the military. Even in the backsword form, the “basket-hilted backsword of about 1766. Swords of this pattern were fashionable for officers in the last quarter of the eighteenth century.” (Coe, 1996:86). The effect of the popularity of this form of hilt type can be seen in popular culture as for the most part when a basket-hilt is seen it is compared to the Scottish form. Instantly the broadsword is associated with the eighteenth-century Scottish Highlander, and also the Highland Regiments of the British Empire which followed.

Broadsword or Backsword?

          To delve into the question of the broadsword is also to come up against all sorts of different questions and be confronted by different weapons which may claim to be the same thing when in fact they are not, and sometimes they are. One of the first stops along this path is the backsword. This is the first question that must be answered, what is the difference between the broadsword and the backsword, where is the line drawn between the two, or is there one to be drawn? The answer to this is actually relatively simple, but some other things have to be taken into account.

“The Basket hilted sword was also called the Scottish Broad Sword. There was also a version called the claidheamh cuil which means back sword. The back was blunt with just one sharp edge.” (Watterott, 2016)
         
What can be seen here is that the concept of the backsword is actually quite found quite far afield. In this case there is Scottish Gaelic for the term backsword meaning a weapon which has only one sharp edge, so in essence the idea stands on firm ground. When it comes to the broadsword it is the Scots who would seem to be the experts, as for questions about the “claymore”, they will be answered later on. In our contemporary society ideas of curatorial differences in weapons based on form rather than function still hold true, “Where the blade has only one cutting edge it is known as a backsword.” (Akehurst, 1969:8). This does not take into account the use of the weapon merely the form of the weapon.
          One of the more interesting discoveries which came out of this research is that the weapons, both the broadsword and backsword were claimed as cavalry weapons (Wagner, 2004:20). This is most interesting as it is the Scots Highland Regiments which were primarily infantry units where the broadsword is most known from, not to mention all of the evidence from manuals which points to using the weapon on foot. Further in the same discussion he claims that the weapon, “had a straight blade, originally two-edged, later only one sharp edge. These weapons were uniform in character,” (Wagner, 2004:20). What should be noted is that it is the two-edged broadsword, of the infantry version which will be the primary focus of this study and that in the sources which describe the use of the weapons both terms were used to describe the same weapon meaning the difference is more a question for curators, rather than those interested in its use.

What is a Claymore?

When the word “claymore” is said two weapons are immediately thought of, a two-handed weapon of medieval origin and also the basket-hilted broadsword more associated with a later period. The question remains as to which is the “claymore”. Of course it would be simple just to use a modern definition.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a “claymore” as “a large 2-edged sword formerly used by Scottish Highlanders, also their basket-hilted broadsword” (Merriam-Webster, 2016). This is rather confusing as it actually indicates two weapons a large one and also the basket-hilted broadsword. What this means is that the common confusion as to what a claymore actually is continues. The aim of what follows is to bring some of this discussion out and find a solution to this question.

“Perhaps the most famous version of the broadsword is the Scottish claymore. Though claymores were originally two-handed swords usually with simple cruciform hilts, their most famous incarnations were fitted with basket hilts, these swords became iconic weapons of the Highland Regiments that fought for the British Empire.” (Soud, 2014:53)

          Soud (2014) would indicate that both were named “claymore”, both the two-handed version and also the basket-hilted version, and that the name was carried through from one weapon to another. Thus for this author it would seem that it is not a matter of naming convention which is the problem, merely that it is a problem with naming the correct era which is being spoken about. For him there would be a “medieval claymore” and a “basket-hilted claymore”. Unfortunately, this does not take into account the origins of the word or where the weapon came from.

“The long two hander was called a claidheamh dà làimh, translated it literally means two handed sword. … In the romanticised period after the Jacobites the term Claymore was then applied to the long medieval sword.” (Watterott, 2016)

          Watterott (2016) examines the native language from which the term “claymore” came from, Scottish Gaelic, presenting the name of the two-handed sword in the language and giving the reason that it was changed to the more familiar one in the later period. This would seem to give more evidence than the previous explanation of giving both weapons the same name. Further to this he explains why the basket-hilted weapon is correctly named “claymore” using similar evidence.

“The Scottish version [of the basket-hilted sword] was broader than similar swords of the time. This sword was called a claidheamh-mór. This is Gaelic and translates into Great Sword due to its larger size than its contemporaries. It is well accepted that Claymore is derived from the Gaelic claidheamh-mór.” (Watterott, 2016)

          Watterott (2016) uses the original language and demonstrates through history the naming conventions of why the basket-hilted weapon should be called “claymore” and the two-handed weapon should not. Oakeshott (2012) being a respectable historian and curator of weapons gives a much simpler reason and evidence for why the basket-hilted broadsword should be called a “claymore”. One based on the weight of history.

“the familiar basket-hilted broadsword was called a ‘claymore’ by the Scots from early in the sixteenth century, and with such respectable contemporary usage behind it, the name may well be allowed to stick.” (Oakeshott, 2012:175)

Hilt

          The broadsword hilt was not first developed in Scotland, but England, in fact Scotland was last on the list of places for the broadsword to arrive. “The idea of a basket to protect the hand first came to England and then Scotland from Scandinavian and German sword makers.” (Scottish Tartans Authority, 2016). What this does is it explains the origins and spread of the broadsword around Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as has already been indicated previously, and will also explain the foreign blades found in many Scottish hilts.
          What should be noted in the hilts of the weapons are the similarities between those of the late sixteenth century and even those of much later periods, the ancestry of broadsword hilts are found in those which evolved by 1570s and survived (Oakeshott, 2012:156). This is because the foundations were laid by these early weapons and developed over time. One of the more important things about these broadswords is that they were made to last they were often japanned or oxidised to prevent rusting (Oakeshott, 2012:181). These are common methods so that the weapon can be passed down and thus have multiple owners.

German

          The German hilts are clearly influenced by the English hilts. In the experimental forms of basket hilt that were being tried around c.1600 and can be seen the beginnings of the broadswords of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Germany (Oakeshott, 2012:156). The most contention however comes from the discussion of the differences and similarities between the English and Scottish hilts.

English vs Scottish Hits

          There are differences between the English and Scottish hilts and enough that some time needs to be spent examining them. Oakeshott (2012) states that there are three features that differ between the Scottish and the English hilts in the sixteenth century, pommel shape, addition of pair of bars on rear of guards, small linking bar between third and fourth bars inside and outside (Oakeshott, 2012:177). What will be noted from below, as the hilts are examined separately that there are common areas and also some areas where they differ, along with these three which have been noted above.

English

          The history of the broadsword notes that the English hilt was in use by the mid-sixteenth century, and a curved quillon form as dated as early as the 1560s (Oakeshott, 2012:175). What this tells us is that the dating for the English form of the broadsword is very early and this needs to be compared to the Scottish form of the broadsword, which will be noted to be somewhat later in the history of the weapon. The fact that the Scottish claymore took over, and the military pattern was designed from the English hilt, or is at least a common ancestor (Oakeshott, 2012:176), places the English hilt as one of importance.

Pommel

          Starting with the pommel, it is quite distinctive, it is described as, “a large rounded pommel” (Akehurst, 1969:8). This description of the pommel is not particularly descriptive. It implies that it would be spherical in shape. Luckily there is some more specific information which states that it is apple or bun-shaped (Oakeshott, 2012:177). This means that it is not quite spherical, but more of a slightly compressed sphere.

Guard

          With all the focus on the Scottish hilts, being the more famous, English hilts of same periods are often neglected, but are often of fine construction (Coe, 1996:74). This must be the case as has been noted that they formed the bases for many of the guards which followed them. To address the guard more directly, it had, three vertical bars either side, connected by diagonally crossing bar with small circular plate at the join (Oakeshott, 2012:177). This formed the basis of the basket toward the front of the weapon. To the rear there was also protection toward the wrist. This rearward protection consisted of bars which slope sharply from pommel to where rear quillon would be (Oakeshott, 2012:177), noting of course, that in some instances that quillons may still be present.

Scottish

“By the mid 17th century, ribbon baskets were being made in large quantities and by the turn of the 18th century, the Highland basket was reaching its full pattern. With the addition of the final rear wrist guard at the time of Culloden, it had fully matured. All basket hilt swords after 1746 were of military pattern.” (Scottish Tartans Authority, 2016)

          What appears above is a quite truncated history of the Scottish hilt and broadsword. It does take into account some important parts of its development, which is true, but also leaves out its origins. What can be said is that there is a pattern for the broadsword’s development and, “The traditional hilt-pattern, so very well-known, seems to have developed during the late sixteenth century, from an English-designed ‘basket’ hilt” (Oakeshott, 2012:175). Of course, usually for nationalistic purposes, this inconvenient piece of the history of the hilt is often neglected. What cannot be denied is the link between the hilts.

Pommel

          The Scottish hilt has a different pommel. The “Scottish basket hilt with its flattened conical pommel.” (Akehurst, 1969:8), is obviously different from the English hilt. This changes the profile of the weapon, even when it is slightly different and is formed as a double cone round (Oakeshott, 2012:177). The conical shape of the pommel remains the same.

Guard

          When examining that famous Scottish guard it is best to examine the basic elements and then the more specific ones. The differences between this and the English hilt will be clear. The Scottish guard is constructed of a rectangular plate at where the bars cross on the English hilt, these are decorated; further the rear bars are closer to vertical and an extra shorter one is added to the back of the hilt with an added linking bar (Oakeshott, 2012:177). It is the combination of all of these Elements which gives the Scottish guard all of its characteristics.
          The ‘beaknose’ in which the “basket is formed from a series of welded, flat, ribbon-like strips of metal and is drawn into a kind of beak in front.” and is one of earliest Scottish guards c.1600 – 1680 (Oakeshott, 2012:177). This element of the guard remained on the guard for most of the history of the hilt. It could be inferred that this is the remains of the protection for the finger which may be used on the ricasso of the weapon.
          The design of the rest of the hilt with regard to the plates on the sides and front of the hilt, were standardised in a fashion. There were exceptions to this, but the mass produced weapons did follow form. Coe (1996) places the appearance of the openwork of hearts and circles on Scottish hilts in late 1600 (Coe,1996:85) or then previously stated that they appeared somewhat later.

“The Scottish basket hilt, with its traditional heart-shaped piercings and large square plates, seems to have appeared in the second half of the century [17th] and remained in use for over a hundred years.” (Coe, 1996:74)

          What is known for certain is that he states that after 1710 the hilt changed to have rectangular linked bars, pierced and edges filed into serrations (Coe, 1996:85). This denotes a change in the decoration of the hilt. The change in decoration of the hilt can be useful in dating the weapon, at least to before or after 1710, if it follows the standard pattern.

Lining

          One thing that is known about the Scottish hilt is that they were lined. This was no doubt for comfort in the use of the weapon. The hilt was most often leather-lined, with thin chamois, covered with velvet or felt and edged with braid, and the base had a thick lining of deer skin (Oakeshott, 2012:181). Examples of these linings can be found on museum examples and good modern reproductions of the weapons.

Blade

“The chief modern varieties of the curved blade are the Broadsword, the Backsword, the Hanger, and Cutlass, the Scymitar and Düsack, the Yataghan and the Flissa.” (Burton, 1987:123)

          Burton (1987) classifies the broadsword under a large family of weapons. What is most interesting is that he says that they are curved which they is clearly not the case, however in comparison with the smallsword which would have been the basis of comparison for him at the time of his writing in 1884. There are further issues with the classification of the broadsword, some of which have already been noted. Oakeshott (2012) states that they were mostly double-edged, though back-edged blades were not uncommon (Oakeshott, 2012:178). Clearly there is confusion here between the blade of the broadsword and the backsword, however on the basis that they are both mentioned simultaneously in the manuals this is less of an issue. Similarly the cavalry weapon is similarly confused by Wagner (2004) “It had a straight blade, originally two-edged, later only one sharp edge. These weapons were uniform in character,” (Wagner, 2004:20). The cavalry weapon is for a different purpose, so is a different weapon, even if it has a similar hilt. This is the reason why it is important that the entire weapon needs to be taken into account rather than just hilt forms. A similar issue has often been found with the classification of the rapier and similar weapons.
          The blades themselves were carefully selected, “preference was given to blades of older origin from workshops of well known blade-makers.” (Wagner, 2004:20). Clearly when considering the weapon to be constructed the blade had to be trusted thus an older blade would have shown its worth previously, and well-known blade-makers likewise would have proven their worth. Occasionally the curatorial details will allude to the use of the weapon, and thus give descriptive ideas about the blade, “The blades of such swords were almost invariably for cutting rather than thrusting.” (Coe, 1996:74). This would imply a blade which is shorter rather than longer and broader rather than thinner. Soud (2014) gives some detail with regard to this, “Long hacking and slashing blade” (Soud, 2014:53), rather than being short it was long.
          With regard to particular nationalities or types of broadsword, Scots weapons have broad blades, often with three fullers (Oakeshott, 2012:178), thus a definitive statement of a broadsword. In comparison, “The British army and many other armies had similar hilted swords but the blades were more slender.” (Watterott, 2016). This is an important consideration when considering use characteristics and method of use. The Scottish weapon would have had a heavier cut, based on this description, and it must be remembered that these blades were of some quality, “The Scottish broadswords or backswords have fine springy steel blades, mostly imported from Germany and bearing the ‘trade mark’ Andrea Ferrara.” (Akehurst, 1969:43). This also supports the idea of the broadsword coming to Scotland after having been to the Continent.

Weapons

          The following will discuss the weapons themselves, and examples of them. There are curatorial issues with regard to dating the weapons, due to similarity and references (Oakeshott, 2012:177). The weapons are often of similar construction and made over such a broad period that reference to a style of hilt or even maker is not necessarily helpful. Further to this, re-hilting was common, old blade with new hilts, and rarer old hilts and new blades (Oakeshott, 2012:179). This means that a blade from an older period can be placed in a newer hilt which means that there is actually two dates, one for the blade and one for the hilt. What can be said about the broadsword, and this often causes problems with dating them is that there was eventually a uniform shape and ornamentation for whole armies by mid-eighteenth century (Wagner, 2004:20). This is useful for general dating, but not specific.

English

          Two examples of broadswords will be presented the first a sixteenth-century basket-hilted sword, the second an eighteenth-century cavalry sword. The first weapon is English and dated to c.1540. It has a full-encompassing hilt which is older than the broad German blade, it weighs 1.36kg and is 1.04m long (Holmes, 2010:104). The second example is English and is dated to c.1750. It has a full- encompassing hilt, a straight broad single-edged blade. It weighs 1.36kg and is 1m long (Holmes, 2010:104). It is most interesting that the weight is consistent as is the length, for the most part, even over the broad expanse of time.

German

          This is a single example of a proto-basket hilt sword. What this means is that it is one which would have been copied from the English hilt design. This sword is dated c.1550 and is German. It weighs 1.59kg and is 0.96m long. The blade is double-edged, and the weapon has a simple guard design, which is a “significant improvement over earlier Swiss weapons.” (Holmes, 2010:105). Clearly by the weight and length comparison the Germans were in the early development stages.

Scottish

          The Scottish hilt of the broadsword is the most well-known of all, and well-developed, “The characteristically Scottish basket-hilt guard was designed to protect the swordsman’s hand.” (Holmes, 2010:106). There is a single example from the same source which has been used for both the English examples and the German example above, of a Scottish weapon. This broadsword is Scottish and is dated c.1750. The basket is lined with felt-covered leather. It has a wide double-edged blade for cutting and thrusting and a basket-hilt for hand protection. The sword weighs 1.36kg, and is 0.91m long (Holmes, 2010:106).
If the weapons are compared, the Scottish weapon is the shortest of all the weapons which have been described. The Scottish and two English weapons are of equal weight. This would imply that there is more metal in the hilt of the Scottish weapon than the English. This is actually no surprise as in comparison the Scottish hilt would actually cover more of the swordsman’s hand and wrist.

Conclusion

          The broadsword is a weapon which is well-known by many, but often misrepresented or even presented as the wrong weapon. From medieval swords to swords which have similar characteristics but are not the same, each one has been called a “broadsword”. Often this is because of the definition given for the weapon. For convenience a definition has been derived as, a straight-bladed, double-edged, relatively broad-bladed sword with a basket-hilt that protects the hand. The definition needs to be specific enough to take into account all of the weapon and not just the hilt. This one is a beginning.
          After defining the weapon an examination of its history was made. For some it would sound quite familiar. Due to armour around the hand being reduced, and armour in general being reduced due to the presence of firearms, the hilt was increased. This is actually quite accurate for the broadsword as it was primarily a military weapon, unlike the rapier which was a civilian one in which case the hilt developed to defend the unarmoured hand of the civilian.
          More specifically, the English forms of hilt developed first, followed by the German and European, and then the Scottish. In the eighteenth century Scotland became the broadsword fencing centre of Europe, while most of the rest of the nations focussed on the use of the smallsword. Military weapons of the same and later eras were based on the Scottish and English hilt designs.
          In the case of the broadsword and the backsword and their differences, the broadsword has two edges, and the backsword has one edge. The mistake of classification of one as the other is usually a result of classification by hilt design. The backsword saw some service in the hands of the cavalry but this was a different weapon again, the problem again being classification by hilt design. For the most part manuals of the period did not discriminate between the broadsword and backsword in use, and it is here where the real definition of the weapon lies.
          Next is the question of the claymore and what it is. In Scots Gaelic, the two-handed weapon has a different name as was indicated, meaning that even in the native language of the origin of the weapon it does not mean the larger of the two weapons. More to the point in contemporary usage the Scots themselves were calling the basket-hilted broadsword a “claymore” from the sixteenth century and it results in there being little argument left. The other weapon was only referred to by this name as a result of some romanticised notion of revival after the Jacobite Rebellion.
          In the case of the actual curatorial notes which have been made, much of the foundation for the evidence has been laid in the history, with the English hilt influencing all which followed, but the English using the Scottish hilt for the military weapon. Notes about the blade demonstrate more errors of classification due to being based on hilt forms, but demonstrate that the Scottish weapon had the broader blade, and that all had quite long blades even though they were cutting weapons. The weapon examples are more there for interest as they provide not enough information for any real idea about the weapons, even with images if they had been added. It is most important to look at the entire weapon to get idea about it. To classify a weapon by its hilt only is erroneous.
          A weapon needs to have a lot of data given about it to give any idea of how the weapon would be used. This is an investigation into the development of the weapon. It is also designed to clear up exactly what weapon is being discussed and to clear up some historical issues with regard to it. The easiest method to do this was a curatorial examination, to look at the form and construct of the weapon.

Bibliography

Akehurst, R. (1969) Antique Weapons for Pleasure and Investment, Arco Publishing Company Inc., New York

Burton, R. (1987) The Book of the Sword, Dover Publications Inc, Mineola, New York (originally published 1884)

Coe, M. (et. al.) (1996) Swords and Hilt Weapons, Prion Books Ltd, London

Collins English Dictionary (2016) “Definition of Broadsword”, http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/broadsword, Harper Collins Publishers, Glasgow

Holmes, R. (2010) Weapon: A Visual History of Arms and Armour, Dorling Kindersley, London


Oakeshott, E. (2012) European Weapons and Armour: From the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution, The Boydell Press, Woodbridge

Scottish Tartans Authority (2016) “Highland Weapons”, http://www.tartansauthority.com/highland-dress/highland-weapons/

Soud, D. (2014) The Illustrated History of Weapons: Swords, Spears & Maces, Kingsford Editions, Heatherton, Victoria

Wagner, E. (2004) Swords and Daggers: An Illustrated Handbook, Dover Publications Inc., Mineola, New York

Watterott, H. (2016) “Is it a Claymore or a Scottish Basket Hilted Broadsword - History Police 3”, http://slaintescotland.com/blog/history-police/item/41-is-it-a-claymore-or-a-scottish-basket-hilted-broadsword-history-police-3.html

Wikipedia (2016) “Basket-hilted sword”, Wikimedia Foundation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basket-hilted_sword


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Solo Training: For the Solo Practitioner


Greetings,

This was going to be a post about finding a local group and what consists of a good group with local contacts in my local area, but I changed my mind. I figured that there is a lot of information out there about how to find a local group for doing Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) in what ever particular flavour you are looking for. Less, on the other hand, is said about the solo practitioner and how a person is to go it alone. Luckily we have the internet and faster communications which makes things easier, but there are still times when it is necessary to do things solo.

Sometimes a group is not convenient to get to. Sometimes the group does not mesh well with you, or is not studying what you are interested in. There are lots of reasons for going it alone. Sometimes it is just necessary for you to start the research into a particular form on your own to get a handle on it before involving other people. Every one of these is a valid reason for going it alone and you should not be ashamed for any of them.

The first thing that the future solo practitioner should note is that it is a hard road, but it is also rewarding as well. Groups have some support mechanisms which are absent when studying or practicing alone. All of the work falls to you, but in the end so do all of the rewards of that work. You can stand there at the end and say that you did it. Each advance is something that you did on your own and each advancement is an achievement in its own right.

In studying alone or practicing alone there are many choices to make, and all of them are open. There is no one to sway you from one path to another or make any other determinations. In the same way there also equally as many chances to be distracted. This is where you need to keep with what you are doing. It will be most easy to be distracted in choices when things become harder in your studies, these are the times when you must stick to what you have chosen and proceed onward.

The most important thing is that you must keep your focus, it is very easy to get off-track. You need to set yourself a program to follow and then follow it and not be distracted by other things. Elements of life will get in the way, when they do you need to get them done and then get back to what you were doing. Unlike in a group you will not have others to keep you focussed it is up to you.

In my own experience, I spent the early years of my rapier career as a solo practitioner. For my part I spent much of my time studying anything and everything I could get my hands on. This meant the history of the weapon, curatorial elements, social elements, the lot. At that time period manuals were somewhat rare and as such I only had a few to look at, and whatever pictures from others that I could scrounge from other sources. They say that a picture tells a thousand words, well, sometimes it is the wrong ones.

Studying just from pictures can lead to some really interesting interpretations. These days, knowing what I know now, I look back at my interpretations and a lot of it is just plain wrong. Learning just from pictures is difficult, but it does give you some idea of movements and positions of the fencers as well.

Most importantly, read. Read a lot. Find information about what you are studying and read it, note it. Study the subject to death. Find actions which fall in line with what you are doing in the mainstream and do exercises which will complement it. Walking is always good for building your cardio-vascular health. If you can get drills out of your manual, even better. This is even better if they are based on the plays which are in the manual. At least then you are using the movements which are described.

The study of the solo practitioner is a hard path. Remember about the wider community which is easy to contact via the internet. Ask questions, get suggestions and help. Most people are more than willing to assist you in your studies. Don't give up. It will be worth it in the end.

Cheers,

Henry.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

My Treatise

Greetings,

The idea of putting your knowledge in words is somewhat of a scary prospect. When it comes to fencing and especially the use of the rapier it becomes a little larger due to all of the previous work which others have done. Some of my readers may know of this particular project. I have indicated toward it once or twice in various posts previously. This particular post is designed to have a bit of an examination of the reasoning behind it and the process that I went through to write it.

A Little History

My real official fencing history starts with my local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) and the use of the sword and shield to become a "heavy" fighter. I would go to practice, loose some arrows at a target to keep my eye in, and then spend an hour or two throwing blows at the pell with a rattan sword. This was to learn how to throw the blows properly, and it felt right.

My parents then moved and I moved with them. Luckily I found a fencing club at the university I was attending at the time and started with the foil. I spent six months doing footwork and trying to learn how to parry. The footwork ended up passable, the parrying was very rudimentary. My lunge on the other hand seemed to be something I was good at. It was long, accurate, and fast. I had to leave the university and lost contact. I came back later and things had changed.

The weapons had changed all of a sudden, they were longer and made out of fibreglass rods glued together and then wrapped in tape. I asked what was going on and was told that they were doing a SCA rapier practice and asked if I would like a go. It looked like fun, sure I said, here is where my love of this weapon truly started. This was some 20-odd years ago.

Treatise Foundation

Since then I have spent the time learning all that I could about the rapier and how it worked. This was sometimes a matter of learning it "on the job" and sometimes learning it from manuals of the period. My two favourite manuals are Giacomo di Grassi's True Arte of Defense (1594) and Vincentio Saviolo's His Practice in Two Bookes (1595). I find myself always going back to these two and always finding something new when I do.

Taking the influence mostly of Saviolo my particular method is a compilation of various elements of various masters compiled into a single work, much the same way he did. I found what made sense and worked for me and developed my own style out of it. This means that while my rapier techniques and method are based on period sources, they are not all from a single source. This means I have the adaptability to change to what is required as presented by my opponent. This is the method which I have developed over the past years and it is this method which appears in my treatise.

Now there will be some who will claim that I am merely butchering what I have researched and then calling it my own. They will also claim that I am not doing "true rapier" of any "style" because of this method. To these people I ask, what is what I have done any different from any master previously? How many times do we hear in manuals a master stating that he does not do a particular technique because he does not like it or does not think it is effective? What is the difference?

The next claim will be that I am plagiarizing and not giving due credit to where I have taken my research. To this I will merely state that fencing theory is very much in the common knowledge arena and anyone who claims a right to it is fooling themselves. To say that I am a plagiarist is to also call most of our previous authors who wrote the manuals the same, and also modern ones to boot. I am taking a series of well-known actions and explaining and assembling them in my own fashion. To claim plagiarism here would be to claim plagiarism on a new piece of music written because none of the notes, times and tempos are different.

(Congratulations dear reader for getting this far.)

Reasons

Why would a person go to the effort of attempting to write all that the know and put it into a book? The challenge of writing a book in the first place would be one. The attempt to codify years of knowledge so that a person can see what they have done is another. To present to others their own ideas about the use of a weapon is another reason. Some of these reasons are mine, but not the main one.

Reading from period sources scares some people because they are unfamiliar with the language and do not understand what's going on. My first reason for writing this treatise was to break down this barrier for some people. This is the reason why it will be presented in Modern English and also a dialect of Elizabethan English. By having the two side by side the language will be less frightening for some people and may encourage them to reach out an begin to read primary sources themselves rather than relying on secondary materials.

The Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) community now has a history which is at least 20 years old, if not 30. This means that there have been people out there studying period manuals for this extent of time. There have been some wonderful productions of period works made available to the public and I thank those who do this for us. There have been some wonderful interpretations of period manuals made available to the public and I thank those who do this for us also. What I have not seen is anyone grow the gumption to put their name on the line and do what the masters did and write their own treatise. Not a translation. Not an interpretation. A treatise of how the individual fights. In this way I hope that my treatise will stand as a sort of a challenge to these people to put their pens to paper and write their own. It would be better that we write these manuals and have them in print than have these knowledgeable individuals pass on and not leave what they know to the rest of the world, as so many did previously.

Not a "master"? Neither were many of the people who produced manuals in the period in which the weapons were used sharp. If you have at least 10 years start planning, if you have 20 or more, this challenge is aimed at you.

(Almost there reader, really you are.)

Writing

Where do you begin? The beginning you say. Actually no, I didn't. I started with the format of the book. Because I knew I was going to be translating it into Elizabethan English (EE) and having it look as close to the real thing, the modern one needed to be formatted in a similar way so that the various chapters and bits and pieces matched up. This gave me some ideas about parts that I should be writing at least. Most of it is based on a combination of di Grassi and Saviolo, you should not be surprised.

The next bit was to sit down and plan my chapters so I could organise things a bit better. Theory first, practice second, demonstration of the combination of both as a third, with sundry notes as the final bit. This was the process I went through chopping things down into little bits until I had a structure that I could use, then re-organising the structure so it made sense. Then re-organising things again because this bit needs to be before that bit because you haven't mentioned that bit yet. Please note this was only the "first book". The "second book" was going to be just like Saviolo's about duelling and other more social subjects, and only to appear in the EE version.

Once it is organised then I wrote. I started with the theory element. The hardest part about writing a book based on stuff that you know is filtering out stuff which isn't stuff you know. I made the determination on this one that if I could not explain it and give the "why" answer it would be left out. This was made all the harder because of my training as an historian which was saying "Document it!" all the time. It all also applied all the way through the practical bit as well.

Explaining physical actions is not easy, try it sometime and you will see that it is not as easy as you might think. This is further compounded in the earlier sections of the book where you cannot use jargon which you have not introduced which would explain things simply. I spent sometime at my desk waving a stick, and standing up, and sitting down and writing, and standing up again to repeat the action and so forth. Eventually all of the practical stuff got written.

Next was the "second book". This was based much on Saviolo's Second Book "Of Honour and Honourable Quarrels", thus a sort of code book for duelling. Surprisingly it was actually much easier to write this bit than the previous bit once I managed to get my head straight about what I was talking about. Honour is a sticky subject and it can tie you up in knots really easily. Keeping it all straight was rather a challenge and I can tell you that I still think that I missed something.

Done? Nope. Now we go back and write all the introductory bits. Most of this is tooting your horn about how wonderful fencing is and how awesome the book is. Easy, right? Once you get on a roll it can get easier as you go along, but you do feel like that you are saying the same thing over and over again, especially after doing the "second book". This bit was actually easier to do in EE than it was in Modern English.

Speaking of which, then once all of this is done it all needs to be translated into EE. Or at least the bits which you haven't already because it was just easier to write it that way the first time. If you want to have a look at the process of learning EE that I went through and a bit deeper into this process, have a look at my other blog http://oldewordes.blogspot.com.au/. This is where I have documented my delving into the interesting thing that is EE. One thing that I will tell you, after doing this, it makes Shakespeare a breeze.

Finally comes all the "book" stuff. The bits where you assemble the two together, some of which I have started, others which I have not. At the moment I am doing more edits. I was hoping that this was going to be out in 2016, looks like not to be.

Conclusion


There is the process and some information about my treatise. I will keep people updated and posted as things progress, as much as I can remember to. Just know that it is progressing and it will come out at some point in time. This is one of those projects where you just have to keep plodding along, knowing that in the end, it will be worth it all.

Cheers,

Henry.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Renown Versus Notoriety

Greetings,

Renown and notoriety are two words which some may have heard and some may have not. They are how different fencers are talked about, even if the people doing the talking do not even know the words or what they mean. This post is designed to bring these two words into the light of examination and show how the actions of a swordsman can determine the reactions that he will get from other swordsmen and even non-combatants.

Definitions

The first thing to do is to define these words and to do that definitions have been taken from www.merriam-webster.com. Thus the definitions of the words are:
Renown: a state of being widely acclaimed and highly honoured
Notoriety: the condition of being famous or well-known especially for something bad: the state of being notorious
Clearly they both have something in common in that in both cases a person with renown and a person who has notoriety are well-known. This is the common element that links them. The difference is that one is respected and praised while the other is known for something less than positive. It is in this difference where the importance lies. Now that we have the definitions and the beginnings of an explanation, we can begin to relate them to the swordsman.

For the Swordsman

"How you win is ... important, if not more important, than any individual victory. You must win decisively, cleanly, and gallantly." (Evangelista, 2000:301)
These are two sides to fame. We all know of celebrities who are famous for doing good things and staying that way, but we all know of celebrities who are good at what they do, but are known also for bad things. The former have renown, the latter have notoriety.

In relation to the swordsman, the swordsman who has renown is respected on and off the field regardless of the result of his bouts or tournaments, or even whether he even participates in tournaments. When he fights he fights with grace and skill, acknowledging the skill of his opponent, a truly positive influence on the community. The swordsman who has notoriety is respected on the field for his skill and his ability to defeat opponents, but there is as far as it extends. His influence only lasts as long as his victories do. What is interesting about renown and notoriety is that, like fame, it is in other people’s hands.

Public Acclaim

"At the end of every bout, whether you win or lose, salute, shake hands, smile, and say, "Thank you." No one should be able to tell from your expression, tone, gesture, or manner, whether you have just won or lost." (Evangelista, 2000:302)
The most interesting thing about renown and notoriety is that you cannot seek either one, but you will gain one or the other. There are things, however that you can do to sway your chances one way or the other. What this will come down to is considerations on the field and how you act when you are fencing. It will also be how you act when you are not fencing as well.

For the most part the part off the field is merely being of good manner and treating everyone in a friendly manner and at all times. This is regards to spectators, officials and also other swordsmen. All of these people are important to allow you to compete with other swordsmen even if you do not see it. Each one of them will have an influence on how all the others will see you.
"When you get hit, instead of taking it personally, acknowledge the skilful maneuver and congratulate your opponent on an excellent bit of fencing." (Evangelista, 2000:221)
The part of the actual combats is a little more interesting for some, and can be quite difficult for others. It may even require a slight shift in thinking. In this case it is to focus more on the process of fencing rather than the result, making each action precise and clean. This will also help anyone who has to marshal your combat as well. This process is also acknowledging the validity of the hit of the opponent if he strikes you. Don’t focus on the hit, acknowledge it, congratulate him and move on. Talk with your opponent, converse with steel and words. It makes for a much more relaxed bout for both of you.

Out of Your Hands

Regardless of what we do, there are certain things which we must acknowledge are out of our hands. Public opinion about us as swordsmen is one of them. Of course, as has been indicated, we can shift the flow of this one way or another to see that our side is seen a little better.

Renown is a word which is not used much in the modern world and should be. Notoriety is a word which is used much more and should not be as a good thing. The fact that we have so-called celebrities happily stating that they are notorious for particular acts and go out of their way because of the publicity it creates for them is not a good thing. For the swordsman there should be no choice he should always attempt to gain renown where he can, thus increase the respect for himself and his school.

Think about what you are doing and how this reflects not only on yourself but also on your school, your teacher, and other swordsmen. Be a good ambassador for what we all love and do. Bring renown to what we do and not give others the image we are merely thugs with swords.

Cheers,

Henry.

Bibliography


Evangelista, N. (2000) The Inner Game of Fencing: Excellence in Form, Technique, Strategy, and Spirit, Masters Press, Illinois, USA

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

On Practice


Greetings,

Practice is important. It is something which we hear and something which we are told again and again. This post is going to examine some of the details with regard to practice, how it is performed and why it is performed. Many will just skip over this one, but I suggest that you do not, as practice really is that important.

1. Importance
Everyone needs to practice. It does not matter if you are the newest swordsman or the most aged practitioner. Skills decay if you do not use them and thus practice is important. This also means that you should also practice everything. When you do not use a skill, it will decay and will not be as sharp the next time you try to use it.

2. Regularity
A post has already done a blog on this one, so why are we back here again? Simply because it relates to the subject at hand. More to the point it is important. You should practice every day, an hour is best, 30 minutes if it is all you can squeeze in. It does not have to be anything complex merely using some footwork and making some attacks will do.

3. Muscle Memory
There is a thing called "muscle memory". When you practice something enough, you will get to a stage where you can do the action without thinking about it, naturally this is a great advantage in any form of swordplay. It takes about 500 repetitions of an action to put it into your muscle memory, but you must practice it accurately. Any mistake you make in the action will also be practiced into muscle memory as well and it will take 50,000 repetitions to remove a mistake from muscle memory, so it is best to do it right the first time.

4. What to Practice
In a word everything. This being said some elements need more focus than others. Foundation elements should always be practiced more than peripheral elements because they form the basis of the peripheral elements. There is little point in practicing a counter-disengage if you cannot do a disengage, or practicing a punta riversa if you cannot do footwork properly. Things which are new will always require a little more attention when they are fresh because they are new, but this does not mean you should ever neglect your foundation elements.

5. How to Practice
Most importantly, with a sharp focus on practicing and what you are practicing. We are often distracted by what is fun or what is more engaging. If we are engaging in bouting with the purpose of working on a particular technique then both swordsmen need to work on that technique and not get distracted by other things. Likewise during drills we need to focus on what the drill is about and what each person's job is, if both do not do their jobs the drill will not be effective. Even when practicing alone the same focus is required. Pick a technique and work on that until you have completed practicing it and not before.

6. When to Practice
Practice should be like sleep for military-types in field, whenever you can. You may not have access to an opponent, but there are still skills you can practice. You may not have access to a sword, but there are still skills you can practice. You may be stuck on a plane or a bus, but there are still things you can practice. If you are serious about your practice, there is always something that you can be practicing at almost anytime, anywhere that you are. Naturally, you will get some odd looks, but at least you are getting practice in.

There have been six headings which have been presented with regard to practice and statements made with regard to each of them. Each is as important as the one before it and the one after, they are in no particular order really. If you hit a spot where you are having problems, go to your instructor or teacher and ask them how best to practice a particular skill or even set of skills. Better yet, I would advise you to sit down with them and work out a training program. This way you will always have a goal to work toward. For some the motivation is internal for others it needs to be external, most of all find your own and practice, it is the way to be a better swordsman.

Cheers,

Henry.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Fencing and Music

Greetings,

There is no doubt that music has an effect on us all. Indeed that one odd body fact that I read somewhere, and have been meaning to fact-check, is that the human heart will beat alongside with the base of the music which is being played, or something similar. Music can inspire us toward different feelings and also emotional states, this particular effect is used in movies all of the time. So, I did some reading and had some thoughts and decided that it was time to look at it in relation to fencing.

Conveniently, not long after this little gem popped into my head I came across an article entitled, "Western Composers and Western Martial Arts" in  Encased in Steel Anthology I. Interestingly enough there were aspects of what was said in here which lined up quite well with what I was going toward. While Keith Farrel's article deals more with the comparison of the dates of music with the dates of treatises to understand their social context and also for a better understanding of their footwork and movement (Farrel, 2015:87), mine was more toward asking questions of how peoples bouts compare to music and what influences it can have on training.

Toward the avenue of my own thoughts I stumbled across an article in Australasian Scientist called "Turn Down the Volume?" which studied the effect of music on study and the performance of students. Needless to say, this article was more along my own lines of thinking as I was also wondering if the playing of music would enhance my students' training or detract from it. Some of it was most helpful with regard to this, as it stated with regard to gene expression and "changes also inferred potential benefits relating to memory, learning and general brain health." music possibly aids in protecting and improving the brain (Flavel, 2015:15).

Clearly there is evidence that music being played is a good thing and can be an aid toward the student's learning. The question next was what music should be played during the practice? Going back to the two useful sources of information there is an examination of the relationship between the manuals and the music in Farrel (2015) as indicated above, Medieval Music is reflected in style of fighting, rhyming method presented in manuals and in music as well (Farrel, 2015:89). This would make medieval music perfect for this kind of fighting. Similarly, Renaissance Music was more complicated also found in music, repetition found in manuals also found in music (Farrel, 2015:90). This meant that the first choice for music should be from the Medieval and Renaissance periods as this should help with ingraining a thought about the sort of feel of the fencing in the students as they listen to the music.

Of course, this was all a place to start, and to start only. For myself it is also an examination of how music relates to the bouts we fight. What sort of music is your bout like? What sort of music should it be like? We often imagine that our bouts should be musical with one person playing off the other, like a dancing madrigal from the Renaissance period. How often does it turn into something that belongs at a death-metal concert? This is the reason why I wanted to play music at practice, to see the effect of it not only upon their learning but also their bouts.

Personally, I have found music to be a boon when I study. I use it when I write. I use it when I read. I have found that the right sort of music is most useful in keeping my brain active in the right sort of way and focused on what I am doing. The hope was to find the key to this and give it to my students at training and thus give them the advantage of the right music to train with.

Flavel (2015) states that  music beforehand to make you feel good improves performance, the choice of music is up to the individual (Flavel, 2015:15). This can also work for practice and also tournaments also. The trick is selecting the correct music for what you are about to embark upon. For myself, I have a selection of music which I used to like playing before tournaments. Much of it was metal and mostly very up-beat. This was designed to get my heart pumping and also my mind focused on what I was doing. This is one that you can do for yourself, find what works for you.

In the not too distant future, I hope, to be running an experiment as to the effect of different types of music on training. This experiment will be given details as to what I hope to achieve and will stretch over an extended period of time. My students have already been subjected to the unofficial start to this experiment as I have been taking my laptop to the hall and playing different music with training. My very rough and very initial findings are that Classical and Renaissance music seems to have no effect, whereas Metal and other "heavier" styles seem to be highly motivating. Needless to say, I will be giving the details as to the results of the official when they come in.

Cheers,

Henry.

Bibliography

Farrel, K. (2015) "Western Composers and Western Martial Arts" in Farrel, K. (ed) (2015) Encased in Steel Anthology I, Fallen Rook Publishing, Triquetra Services (Scotland), Glasgow


Flavel, M. (2015) "Turn Down the Volume?" in Australasian Scientist (Vol. 36, No. 7, Sept. 2015) Central Publications Pty Ltd, Wattletree Rd, Australia, pp 14-15