About Me

My photo
Either an author who fences, or a fencer who tends to write a lot. I found a passion for writing first, then I found fencing. I also found that the pen and the sword work very well together. The pen may be mightier than the sword but together they are much greater.

Friday, March 17, 2023

A Response to: "Can you wear medieval armour to a longsword tournament?"


The following article is a response to an article posted by Keith Farrell, Can you wear medieval armour to a longsword tournament? The reason being that I have found quite a few assumptions regarding the wearing of armour, and the SCA...

I have previously written about the difference between armour and PPE. So, I am not going to go over that old ground. I will summarise, the gear that people wear during HEMA is PPE it is not armour.  There is a distinct difference between the two sets of gear, and that is the point that Keith Farrell is making in his article, unfortunately he has also made some assumptions, and inadvertently pointed out some issues. My statements for this article...

1. It isn't about what a person wears, it is about how the person acts.

2. Take a better look at the SCA, at least it has standards; standards which do not exist in HEMA,  standards which HEMA groups are only just realising they need.

Beginning "Reasons"

"However, the vast majority of events would not. It could be for safety reasons (such as making sure there are no gaps through which a thrust could slip), for aesthetic reasons (at this tournament, we want everyone to look like modern sportspeople), for liability reasons (our insurers require that we mandate that every piece of equipment is CEN rated), or for whatever reason the organisers deem relevant."

The majority of HEMA events will not let a person wear armour to them, he states and then he gives reasons...

Safety, making sure there are no gaps; if the armour is fitted to the individual, and they are wearing the appropriate material underneath, there are no gaps. Considering there are no universal safety standards for HEMA, no established conventions, only rules established for each tournament, I disagree. Unlike the SCA which has such universal standards and conventions.

For aesthetic reasons "we want everyone to look like modern sportspeople"; where I say has the "Historical" gone from HEMA, let alone the "Martial Arts"? How HEMA has lots its way is another long subject which has certainly been highlighted by this statement, which I discussed in a previous article. This is a discussion which is controversial and ironically contrary. If people wanted to look so "modern" why is there such a popular line in medieval and Renaissance period looking equipment?

For liability reasons, equipment must be CEN rated; certainly a piece of steel has more resistance than any piece of cloth. Further, I refer forward and back to the SCA's standards, and it has insurance for each of its groups and its activities, which have a history going back to the 1960s. Again, this will be discussed in more detail below as it is a subject which requires further discussion.

The final one is the classic, "or for whatever reason the organisers deem relevant" autocratic rule at its best, a way for a person in charge simply to ignore the stated or printed rules and exclude by saying, "I don't like it." for whatever prejudices they might have. So much for being Inclusive (one of the reasons I went back to the SCA,), again discussed below.

Gear Inspection

"Without knowing the provenance of any given piece of equipment, it is probably easier just to mandate that people wear HEMA gear from recognised HEMA manufacturers, so that there is the best chance that everyone’s equipment is going to be fit for purpose with no nasty surprises."

What you need is experienced Safety Marshals, and to look at the equipment. If we want to play the like with like, let's look at Red Dragon gloves, or their old "gorgets", both by recognised HEMA manufacturers, both neither allowed in tournaments anymore. "Recognised HEMA manufacturers" do not guarantee against a) old gear, or b) gear in disrepair. A person still needs to inspect the gear to ensure there are "no nasty surprises." HEMA needs to train people to be Safety Marshals (Hey, like the SCA does, an idea which I tried to transfer locally, it lasted survived briefly until people realised a) they couldn't fight as much, b) it required them to do some extra work, and c) HEMA might have to look at standardising their rules. I keep saying that for some reason).

Armour and Assumption

"For example, the people who tend to wear steel helmets for sword sports tend to be reenactors, SCA people, and HMB people. The SCA and HMB people are certainly in the habit of hitting hard when they fight – the whole purpose of wearing the steel armour is so that they can do so."

Big assumptions made here, an assumption that SCA is like HMB, clearly Keith has not had a good look at the SCA. We don't all fight armoured combat. Yes, armoured combat, big difference. There is also period fencing, combat archery, and equestrian to play with. If you hit too hard in fencing, you get censured, and potentially removed from play, the same applies in armoured combat too. So you need to be specific. Apples and oranges, both fruit, but different. In period fencing, in cut-and-thrust we use longswords in much the same manner as HEMA (with many fewer injuries), so maybe armour works after all.

Wearing armour is not a sign of hard hitting, it is a sign of wishing to protect yourself. Nothing more to make assumptions about wearing armour and the calibration of the individual based on their kit, is the same as making an assumption about the skill of the opponent based on the value of their sword, or its condition. Such things are prejudices against the individual who is wearing or using the item, simply based on what they are wearing or using.

The SCA is a nice, easy, big target, that many people in HEMA will agree with. However the SCA at least has internationally-recognised and nationally-recognised safety standards. They don't change from group to group, or from tournament to tournament. I know that I can use the same kit anywhere around Australia, and with little modification, anywhere around the world. Further we have authorised safety officers, the system has checks and balances, that HEMA does not have. Issues that I have seen. Issues that I have witnessed  as a safety officer at more than one HEMA tournament. No, it may be a bigger target but it is also a safer target for those who play within its rules.


How would it feel if a person decided that:

"You shouldn't fence with those people because they do German longsword and that's all about wrestling and multiple strikes to the head?" OR "You shouldn't fence with that person because they are wearing pants from Leon Paul, so they will just whip their sabre about and flick your forearms?" OR "You shouldn't fence with that person because they are using a feder, because they are so light it will whip around and hit you too fast?" OR "You shouldn't fence against that one because his weapon is too heavy and so it will hit too hard?"

All of these arguments are false. All of these arguments are prejudices. They all pre-judge an individual based on what they study, what they are wearing or what piece of equipment they are using, and not by how they actually fence, not by how the individual acts. The same as judging person by the fact they are wearing armour.

If a person wearing armour was to scare people off, then why would the SCA be the largest organisation which participates in three different form of combats in the world? Hard hitting does not come from a person wearing a particular type of gear or using a particular type of weapon, it comes from the way the individual is trained, the individual's mind-set, and the individual's actions. Anything else is blatant prejudice, which a person needs to examine within themselves.

Signs and Symbols

I will state quite clearly that I have no idea about any other recreational group in the world, however I will state that the SCA has policies regarding anti-discrimination and Inclusivity which are stated in their organisational documents. The swastika is banned from display in the SCA, it has quite strict rules about Heraldry, which would be the symbols that are being spoken about here. So, there would be none of the stated issues from members of the SCA, at least.

"It is all a bit of a sliding scale. Does all of that apply if someone turns up with steel gauntlets because they want to keep their hands safe? What about steel knee or elbow cops, or a gorget with steel plates? There is clearly a reasonable end of the scale, and with some items the most reasonable explanation is that people want to wear them because they believe these items to be more protective than the more modern alternative."

Properly made and fitted gauntlet of steel protect properly and work better, why else would they have persisted with them for hundreds of years? Examine most of the gorgets available today and you will find that they are made of steel, as they were hundreds of years ago when they were used for real, little surprise. There are new ones made of hardened plastic, but their designs are the same as the steel ones. Previously there were no elbow or knee protectors for HEMA so people used skateboard pads. Later ones covered the front of the knees and a little of the side. Compare the modern ones and you will find they are copies of armour. So why wouldn't a person wear the steel ones instead? It would seem that the only unreasonable part is that people have assumptions or have double standards about aesthetics. I know the history, I watched it change.


"And of course, it is always worth revisiting some of our base assumptions every so often, to consider if the way that we are doing things or if the decisions we have made are still sensible and working well for us. It is always good to let people ask “why” or “why not”, and it is also important that if we feel strongly about the issue, we have a good explanation to offer in our answer!"

Yes, assumptions, there have been quite a few made in this article. I would have expected a little more research done about the SCA before making such grand statements about it. I would have expected there to be more interest taken in investigating the subject of what the SCA actually does rather than assuming that the SCA's armoured combat is all that they do. This is a big assumption. 

Go have a look at some actual armour. Go have a look at what is actually being offered. Go have a look at what people are actually wearing for armour in the SCA and outside. Make your statements based on some actual research done by some investigation of the topic at hand.

The aesthetic question is a double-standard. Make a choice. Either wear modern sporting gear or wear period gear. Admit that you are doing a modern sport version or perform it as a martial art. Pick which one you are doing. Plunder-hose for all those German enthusiasts belong to the sixteenth-century, many of the wonderful jacket designs which are coming out, likewise belong to the same period. The aesthetic question is an excuse, it is a lie. It might as well come under the autocratic organiser's "I don't like it."

I wear steel armour because I know it is not affected by heat. I know that it is not going to crack or degrade unless I allow it to rust. I know the state of the material. I know where my armour comes from, I know what it is based upon, the reason it was used. I know its history. More to the point it was made for me, so it fits me. This is my "why." More to the point I am doing an Historical martial art, so it is appropriate that I wear historical equipment or a reasonable approximation thereof, at least within my means.

If you're wondering about whether our art was practiced in full armour historically, examine Maximilian I tournament book, Freydal of 1515. These two combat with different weapons in armour, for sport, in much the same way we do, the armour is for protection, nothing more. Well not quite "nothing" there was a certain element of fashion involved, but that's another question.




Monday, March 13, 2023

On Teaching


I have discussed teaching from different perspectives, mostly the student-teacher relationship, and the differences between an instructor and a teacher, however it is a big step to go from student to teacher and there are many who stop at this precipice and look out and wonder if they have the wings to fly. I am going to tell you that you do. 

There are some simple things you will need to learn that will make you a better teacher. Just because you are a great combatant, and know your actions, doesn't mean that you will make a great teacher. The more interesting thing is that, if you've been fencing for a while, it's likely that you've actually taught before, maybe without knowing it. Newer students will learn from older students, this is how the culture of a school or organisation is built, implicitly. There are rules and regulations, but people learn more from the things that you do and don't do, more than from what you say. More directly, from the explicit aspect; if you've corrected, you've taught; if you've shown someone a trick, you've taught. 

Here are some simple instructions to follow to help with your teaching as you progress. Oh, one last thing, the best way to get more, and better, opponents is to teach them. This is how I started.

1. Everyone is Different

  • We have different bodies; this counts double when the student is of a different gender, and triple when they have a disability
  • We have different learning methods, because we have different brains

2. Preach what you practice

  • You know this method the best; teach how you fence, the only exception is when you are teaching a particular method, and don't do this your first outing

3. Say it, Demonstrate it, Get them to do it

  • This covers 3 out of 4 methods of learning
  • Encourage people to take notes to cover the 4th method

4. Don’t be Afraid to say “I Don’t Know."

  • Be honest about your knowledge; better to be honest than a found a fool
  • Go find the answer yourself – it makes you a better teacher; don't expect the student to find the answer alone

5. Enjoy it.

  • People want to learn; people who come to the classes come voluntarily
  • Critics are minimal annoyances; use them, take their criticism on board where it is applicable
  • You can have fun, and teach properly; there is no need to "act the drill sergeant"

6. Plan it.

  • Write a lesson plan; objectives, methods, and drills
  • Writing a plan is the best way to ensure you don’t miss anything
  • Take the plan with you; it's not much use if it sits on your desk

7. Update it.

  • Review your knowledge, keep learning; knowledge improves, the stagnant fencing mind is doomed to failure

8. Things will go wrong.

  • Sometimes this will lead to new avenues of research
  • Sometimes this will be something you missed
  • Sometimes you will get back to the plan, or not; depends on the way it goes

9. Practice it.

  • It takes practice to become a good teacher, always learn to become better

10. Encourage, and challenge, them to be better

  • Part of it is holding their hand, part of it is pointing the way and expecting to meet them there

These are my 10 points for teaching. They are a set of summarised aspects for the beginning teacher to get you started. The more experienced teacher will likely find some familiarity in the statements which have been made, and hopefully will find some use in what has been presented as well. Most important in all of this, always keep learning and improving your knowledge.




Some additions to the list from a good friend James Wran:
  • Keep learning.
  • Learn how to teach. Constantly seek out teaching and learning methodologies.
  • Teaching isn't the finish line.
The best teachers are also students, because they keep learning. They learn their art, but they also learn more about teaching and better ways to teach students. There should not be an end to your learning, your teaching should only be an able assistant to your learning process, now you can better understand what you do, and why you do it. One of the greatest advances to my learning and becoming a better fencer was becoming a teacher. Just keep learning.



Monday, February 13, 2023

Most important trait in swordplay...


What is the most important trait in swordplay? Is it courage, honesty, skill, or sportsmanship? The latter of which comes in many different forms. Indeed, each of these attributes could be considered to come in different forms, and there are other attributes that could be named as vital to a fencer who wants to progress. Maybe it is being inquisitive, having a sharp mind, the ability to analyse and question? Again, attributes which contribute to a fencer which will progress mightily along their path.

For our current discussion, I would like to look at the concept of honesty, and not just in regard to what belongs to you and what does not. I would like to look deeper into this concept as it applies to the training in swordplay and also the combatant using those skills in training and bouting with another. For without this trait, it is difficult to progress. A fencer who is not honest with themselves will stagnate,  cause their career to end much sooner than it could, and prevent them from attaining greater heights of skill and knowledge.

In Combat

Honesty is required for a combatant to acknowledge a hit against them. It is required to disallow a bad hit against an opponent when the blade may have landed flat or without the required impetus. Both of these allow the fencer to have an enjoyable bout with a fellow combatant as both will know what's going on. Both will know how effective they are being, and where their technique may need improvement, both in defence and in attack.

Being honest and acknowledging a hit against you, allows you to learn. It allows you to see that you have made a mistake in some fashion, and as such can analyse the action to find out where the mistake can be found, so you can fix it. If you disallow the hit, don't acknowledge it, you lose the chance to learn from your mistake; you lose the chance to grow.

Likewise, being honest and disallowing a bad hit against an opponent in the same way allows you to examine the technique and see where you went wrong. This allows for analysis where you can improve the technique so you can be a better fencer, so you won't make the same mistake again. If you don't acknowledge the mistake, you again lose the chance to learn and grow.


Away from the application of one weapon against another, there is still honesty to be found, and still honesty required of the combatant. This becomes even more important the more a combatant progresses. No fencer can know everything. The honest acknowledgement of this lack of knowledge gives the individual the opportunity to learn. Indeed, it opens the individual to learning.

The simple fact is, the more you learn, the more you will realise just how much there is to learn. The more knowledge you gain, the more you will realise just how much knowledge there is available, and the amount of knowledge that you do not have. This is a healthy attitude as it opens you to learn more, and keep learning.

The lack of acknowledgement of the amount of knowledge present demonstrates a person who is not interested in learning; it shows a person who has closed their mind, and is not interested in learning. A fencer who thinks they know everything they need to know, and really does not, as there is always more to learn. Knowledge is always growing and will never end, so the learning process must never end.


Learning is essential to the fencer so they can grow. The combatant should take the opportunity to learn from as many teachers as they can once they have their basics mastered; even before, as a different perspective of the basics is often useful. The fencer should take the opportunity to learn from teachers from outside their school of thought as this will broaden their mind and give them a better understanding of swordplay in general. It will give them an advantage against what other opponent's may use in bouts, but it is also useful for broadening their mind, and gaining the understanding of the universal aspects of swordplay.

The fencer who does not keep learning will not learn how to deal with new techniques that others learn, new weapon combinations that appear. Likewise they will be unfamiliar with approaches from other schools of thought and be taken aback, while they may have theories about how to deal with these approaches, learning from the sources is always better. Without consistent and constant learning and practice, the fencer is bound to fail.

Trained Instinct

Honesty must be a trained instinct that students within a school are shown and taught, as Seneca said, "No man’s good by accident. Virtue has to be learnt." They must be taught it by their teachers so they can understand its importance, and then have it demonstrated so the importance is shown from a practical perspective. For teachers this concept must be a consistent approach, so they must be aware of their actions. The students will learn everything from their teachers, both explicit and implicit in nature.

Students who are trained to call blows when they hit them are being trained in honesty. Likewise, they are being trained in honesty when they call bad blows on their opponents. The focus in these situations should always be on the progression of the students, not the outcome of the bouts. They need to be shown that it is better to lose with honesty than win with deceit; because they can learn from the loss. 

Win Focus

Unfortunately, this perspective is not the prevailing one in our present day; I can claim this for HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) as much as it is for sport fencing. As I write this I can already hear the arguments against what I have written, and against this I will ask some simple questions: 

Why are judges and/or electronic scoring apparatus needed? 

Why can't the fencers call the touches upon themselves?

The arguments I will get from the sport fencers are: the touches come in too quickly; they can't call the hits that quickly; they don't know whether the hit is clean or not; or they aren't used to calling the hits on themselves. If both combatants are being hit, then it is a double, simple. If you don't know whether it is clean or not, then your technique needs improvement. If you're not used to calling the hits, that's a mere matter of practice. The last argument is the prime one that the HEMA people give as well, the others sometimes fall in not far behind. In my opinion they are becoming like one another.

Simply put, this is a result of the result being more important than the journey. The focus here is on the win rather than the development of the fencer. Fencers are focused on what works rather than developing the Art and Science of Fencing, or Swordplay, they are both the same, just different weapons for different periods. The prime problem is that people refuse to be honest, because the win is more important that what they can learn - this is a failure.

In HEMA there are long arguments about "double-hits" and "after-blows" in regard to rules-sets. It is very simple to fix this problem. If both combatants get hit, it is a failure to defend on both their parts, they both are penalised, because both have forgotten the essential part of fencing, "to hit without being struck." Any gap of time in between is meaningless. The sport fencers solved this problem with electronic scoring, unless you want to go down this path, fix it quickly.

Honesty is Vital

Honesty is vital to a fencer's true progression in fencing. If a fencer wants to become truly skilled with a sword, or any other weapon for that matter, they need to be honest. They need to be honest in their practice. They need to be honest in their training, and the amount of training they are doing. They need to be honest in their study. They need to be honest in their combats, be it a bout with another student in a school or in a tournament. Every one of these situations is a chance to learn.

The teacher should encourage the fencer to follow a path toward honesty and responsibility. The important thing here is that the teacher can encourage, it is good for the fencing community and it is good for the community at large. Bringing things back to the fencer, it is also good for the fencer. The more honest the fencer becomes and the more responsibility the combatant takes for their actions, and their training, the better off they will be.

If you are not honest about how far you have come, how can you know how far you have to go? If you are not honest about how far you have to go, how can you dedicate yourself to that process?

If you are not honest in your combats, how can you learn from the experiences? This applies to both those fencers who under-estimate themselves as much as those who over-estimate themselves. You need to be honest about your level of skill and your current training, it is only with this honesty that you can progress further. 

The only trait which may stand a chance at being as important as honesty is courage. Regardless of the courage it takes to face an opponent, it takes courage to accept how far you have to go. It takes courage to accept a hit, be honest about it, and then keep going. It takes courage to honestly evaluate what you have learned realise you have made a mistake and acknowledge it. 

Ask yourself, how honest are you being?



Friday, January 13, 2023

Is Your School a Cult?


The following is a discussion of cults, as the title suggests, it is intended both to be useful as an identifying mechanism for highlighting elements, or even groups, where there are similarities to cults. There is also the intent to show that there are both positive and negative attributes which need to be noted, the positive which should be embraced, the negative which should be removed. There is a lot which has been said in the media about cults, most of it is misleading, it is hoped that the reader will peruse the following with open eyes.



“In modern English, a cult is a social group that is defined by its unusual religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or by its common interest in a particular personality, object, or goal. This sense of the term is controversial, having divergent definitions both in popular culture and academia, and has also been an ongoing source of contention among scholars across several fields of study.”[1]


The definition given above comes from the Wikipedia, on the page entitled “Cult” and as noted there is contention about the definition. There is different emphasis on what a cult is depending on who is talking about it. Some have a specific religious focus, some have a more general focus, historically the focus has been more religious, so that is where most of the definitions tend to lie. For the purposes of this investigation, the definition above is sufficient as it covers more interest groups.


Now we need to have a look at some types of cults to realise that not all cults are the Branch Davidian, People’s Temple, Aum examples. These are destructive cults and made headlines due to their destructive effects upon people’s lives, primarily the deaths of many people. Another that can be added to that list is Charles Manson’s family. These are not the only cults out there. We don’t hear about the quiet ones, with their different views of the world, who go along with everyone else, or sequester themselves away quietly, or the approximately 3,000 cults which are currently operating in Australia,[2] and that was ten years ago. The restriction of cults simply to the religious version limits our understanding of them.

According to the definition, any group which has a common interest in a particular object or goal can be classified as a cult. Fencing clubs have a common interest in the goal of learning how to fence, according to that definition, they can be classified as cults, and it is exactly why this discussion is being made. We unfortunately believe that cults are all like the ones seen in the media, but they are not.

Historically, cults have been around for millennia, they can be traced back at least as far as the Ancient Greeks and the cults of Gods who were not in the mainstream. Again, this is primarily religious veneration for a holy representative. Later in the ancient era we have the Imperial Cults, the cult of the emperor, a state-sanctioned cult, one that was supported by the empire because it venerated and deified the status of the leader. We see the same sort of thing if we examine the Kim dynasty in Korea, or the veneration of Mao Zedong in China; not so unoriginal. Not destructive for the people and state, but positive.


There are four recognised, identifying features of a cult, which can be seen in cults around the world, and in all the ones that we hear about. These four features are the four structural features to find first.


1.     Charismatic Leader

This individual is likely the originator of the idea that created the group. They are the individual who leads the group to their goal. Being charismatic, they can talk the group around into doing things for them, because it is good for the group. They convince members of the group that their way is the best way, and all the real power resides with them, they make the final decisions.[3]

2.     Belief

There is a belief system of some kind which the group follows believing that it will lead them to a better place. In a religious group this is obvious, even in a political group this can be their political agenda. For others it is what they believe in, where they are all striving to be in the end their goal.

3.     System of Control

There are ways that the group can control its members to bring them further and further into the fold. There are further study sessions required, more practice at a particular thing. The group requires more and more time, and the view of the group is adopted over previous views. The new worldview is used to cut people off from the past. More activity required to remain a member, less and less of the old life remains.

4.     System of Influence

Mechanisms in place in the group where an older member takes a newer member under their wing to show them how things are, and how to behave. They change the reality, show them that there is no achievement beyond what is found within the group. There are no other explanations beside what can be found within the group. The belief system of the group is the individual’s belief system there are no other answers.


These are the four recognised identifying markers of a cult. You may read some of these and find them familiar, you may find them eerily familiar in their description. If this is the case, you may have found yourself within an organisation which could be called a cult.

Through these mechanisms there are expectations of sacrifice and donation. The individual is expected to sacrifice time they would have spent doing other things to do it with the group, they will have to donate in some form or another, whether it is time, expertise, or actual money. This is also a characteristic, which falls under one of the systems of control, highlighted above.

The organisations that a person should truly watch out for oppose critical thinking, penalise members for leaving and having periods away for any reason, and deliberately separate them from their original communities. These actions are so the cult is the only answer. There is a list of other violations which may be present in such organisations, if you find these, leave.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

There is a long list of attributes of cults, and they need to be examined honestly without any sort of bias to colour a person’s impression. Without this all a person will see is, how cults abuse their members and keep them contained within them, how they recruit new members, how they are a threat to society. There are good elements which can be found in this sort of group organisation, but there are also the bad and the ugly.

The Ugly

First the ugly, there is the clear chance for an extreme abuse of power by a leader of such an organisation. If they have the power to control such a group and get them to do what they want them to do, then there is very little limit to what they can convince them to do, especially with the correct belief system to follow. Here we highlight evidence from every destructive cult there has ever been. Their ends have been the result of an abuse of power, and extreme delusions of grandeur.

The same abuses can be committed by the people who the leader puts in charge with their “will” due to the power bestowed upon them. They can act with the “will of the leader” and perform acts which may not actually be what the leader wants, but in his name, the same has been seen throughout history where many have acted with God’s blessing.

The Bad

If this is the ugly, what can the bad be? The bad are those things which will cause the group to fail, or to fail in achievement of their goal. In such a situation, power is not the problem, the problem is a lack of critical thinking. A dynamic group which is working toward a goal does not need mindless obedience, it needs individuals who can think for themselves. It needs individuals who can look at a problem and think creatively to solve the problem.

Likewise, the death-knell of the dynamism of such a group is sounded at the appearance of groupthink, where everyone agrees with everything, with no reason to do so. People should have their own opinions about things, they should disagree, argue, but also present alternatives to what has been presented. Groupthink has been the cause of some of history’s greatest disasters and moving past it has been the cause of some of its greatest achievements.

The Good

What can be found within the concept of a cult which is good, and useful? What can we use from the concept of a cult to make us stronger? For some, especially with the ugly and bad highlighted, it would seem that there is little left, especially with the highlighted identifiable attributes of a cult which have been presented. There is something to be found, you just have to look at things from the correct perspective.

Look inside to how the cult works, see how they turn their members toward a single project and focus them on it, this can be used to advantage. Think about a school which could focus its members on the training and education of its students, to the exclusion of everything else, wouldn’t this school be powerful, would they not gain a great advantage? The structure of the cult can be advantageous, if not some of the other overtones, or religious zealotry. The same is used in some small businesses.


You need to look within the structure, pull the emotion away, remove what the cult does, and see how they do what they do. They are effective at attracting a group of individuals they want. They are effective at convincing the individuals they want to remain with the group. They are effective at convincing that staying with the group will be to the advantage of the individuals they have attracted. If a school could harness these skills, they could gain the students and grow to become effective and powerful.

Part of this process is understanding how cults do what they do, how they gain and keep their members. It requires honest research, research to educate yourself on what’s going on really. Do some research on cults and their methods, it is well worth the effort to identify their techniques and methods.

If you suspect that your school is a cult, think whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. If it is a bad thing, then you should be making directions toward exiting. Ask yourself whether the school is giving as much as it is taking, whether it is destructive or not. These are the real questions that need to be answered. These are the questions that decide whether it matters if it is a cult or not.

This has been the briefest discussion on this subject, one that I hope provokes some thought in some people. Go do some research about cults. Do it with open eyes. Find out some real information. Go past the media and look deeper. There is information out there.





[1] Wikipedia “Cult” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation Inc., 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult, 17 January 2021

[2] McKenny, L. “Economic climate a breeding ground for cults.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 November 2011, https://www.smh.com.au/national/economic-climate-a-breeding-ground-for-cults-20111101-1mu6i.html, 29 August 2022

[3] Meyer, H. “What makes a cult a cult?” Tennessean, 2016, https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/religion/2016/09/15/what-makes-cult-cult/90377532/. 17 January 2021.
All four of the identifying elements come from Meyer, but are paraphrased, and somewhat changed to suit the current circumstances.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

What does failure mean?


The following article is about failure, a subject that some would like to avoid completely and deny its existence. These people do not learn from their mistakes and failures, they truncate their learning. Failure is important, it is an important chance to learn from the incident rather than some place to end. Depending on how we approach failure will determine the length of our fencing career, how much we learn, and the limits of our skill lists.

What is Failure?

Is a failure the end of the road or a chance to learn? This is an important question each fencer must ask themselves. If it is the end of the road, then they are not going to get very far because the process of learning fencing is all about learning from your mistakes and failures. This aspect of fencing does not change regardless of how experienced you are or how long you have been fencing, mistakes will be made and failures will still occur.  The truly lucky thing we have is that the weapons are blunt, so we have the opportunity to live and learn. How fencers approach failure is different to many different types of people and this is important.

The following is from a study by Koncul and Slatman concerning fencing for the blind, “for fencers this failure represents an opportunity rather than a dead end. And, as Halberstam writes, fencers ‘work with rather than against failure’ (Halberstam 2011: 96)." I wrote about fencing for the blind in a previous POST, and it is a topic all fencers should be aware of, especially if they are concerned about inclusivity. However in regard to our current topic, the important part that is present is the idea of working with failure rather than against it. We should learn from the failure, and move onward, don't close the door on the incident, or the idea, or technique, until it has been completely evaluated for the reason that it failed; further training might be required, always look forward.

There are those for whom failure is the end. If they fail, then there is no point going any further, they close the book on that thing and move on to the next thing. This shows a very narrow view of the world and these people will learn and experience very little of the world. Think what would've happened if some of the great inventors had stopped at the first failure, we would not have man of the simple things we take for granted. James Dyson, the inventor of the famous Dyson system for vacuum cleaners said, "Enjoy failure and learn from it. You'll never learn from success." Edison, the inventor of the light bulb had a similar approach to failure, he felt that he just took a long time to invent the light bulb, rather than 1,000 failures. 

Critical Evaluation

A fencer must look at their situation critically and without emotion, they must be able to evaluate their situation and find where things are working, and where they are not. They must also be able to critically evaluate their opponent and see where their opponent has things which are working and where they are not. This is the process of reading the opponent. The result of a bout is the opponent performing something and the fencer performing something, the two coming together for a result. The winner is usually the result of one performing better than the other. Lessons can be learned from the experience if they are examined analytically. Again, training may be required for correction.

A fencer only truly fails if they do not learn from the situation. A fencer only truly fails if they refuse to look at the situation an analyse the situation analytically and critically, with no emotion. Where the fencer simply throws up their hands and gives up, responding emotionally to the situation, the lesson is lost.  


Losing is important, because we have the opportunity to learn from the loss. We have the opportunity to learn about our skills and the opportunity to learn about ourselves. Both of these aspects are important. How we bear the loss is important, how we respond to the loss is important; excuses can be made, but the truth will remain. 

"I was not ready." Then why were you on the field facing the opponent? "This was not my sword." Why did you not have your sword, it is your responsibility to have your kit. The same goes for any excuse relating to equipment or weapons. "The field was unstable, rocky, too small, too large..." Clearly you need more experience fencing on different ground. The excuses simply do not stand. The fault lies with the fencer in all instances. Even in these instances, there are lessons to be learned in the failures, things to be taken away that can improve the fencer.

Learn from it...

Learn from your failures and your losses. Don't just relegate them to a the back of your mind, or even just remove them from your memories. Think about how you could've done things differently; learn from the experience; enact a plan to learn something from the experience; train more so the same will not repeat itself again. De-briefing after fencing is always a good idea, best done with a teacher, or even another fencer who was present at the tournament for an external perspective. This way you can learn even more from the experience.

The learning process for the fencer should never end, and every opportunity to learn should be seized. Failures are especially useful as they highlight areas where the individual needs improvement. Use these opportunities, don't throw them away because they are sometimes unpleasant. For the fencer who wants to excel, failure must mean an opportunity to learn, not the end of the road. 




Halberstam, J. 2011. “The Queer Art of Failure”, Duke University Press, 2011, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822394358https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Queer-Art-of-Failure-Jack-Halberstam/9780822350453

Koncul, A. and Slatman, J. “Rehab/ituation from a Phenomenological Perspective: The Case of Fencing for the Blind and Visually Impaired”, Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 21(1), 2019, pp. 67–77. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16993/sjdr.559

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Sharp vs Blunt Sword: The Effect on Interpretation


These days the two prime places we see sharp swords are as show pieces hanging on someone's wall either as an antique or as a fancy weapon, or during test-cutting. The sharp weapons are not typically used during drills and certainly not used during combats. There are safety reasons they are not used during combats. After all, these weapons were designed with the specific purpose of injuring and killing people, and one slip could result in someone injured even if the intent is not present. This leads to people using blunt weapons for drills and combats. It must be acknowledged that we are using blunt weapons, not sharp ones, as there is a difference between the two.

Sharp Swords are Different

To begin with, there is a simple physical difference between blunt and sharp weapons when it comes to how they act against one another. A blunt edge reacts differently to a sharp edge when it comes into contact with another one. The blunt edge, the tends to slip and slide easily. Whereas, due to the nature of a sharp edge. it will tend to bind on the other one, actually biting in and stopping in some circumstances. This will account for some of the reason that certain actions described in treatises don't seem to work when using blunt weapons.

The blunt sword will make a difference to the interpretation of a treatise, more so when it comes into contact with another blunt sword, as has been described previously, simply because of the different physical reaction between the weapons. There are further places where the blunt weapon will make a difference to the interpretation to a treatise as will be demonstrated as this discussion proceeds. Much of this has to do with the reaction of the opponent who is threatened by the weapon that is being held by the opponent. Certain techniques which work in theory with a sharp weapon work less effectively when the weapon is blunt.

Threat of the Weapon

In his The True Art of Defence (1594) Giacomo di Grassi states, "For there are few nay there is no man at all, which (perceiuing himſelfe readie to be ſtroken) giues not back, and forſaketh to performe euerie other motion which he hath begun." Essentially, that a man who sees that he will be struck first will pull back his offensive action to defend himself, rather than completing his offensive action. This premise is used in later techniques, for example when an opponent is about to throw a cut, a thrust is extended; the threat of the thrust encouraging the other to quit his cut and to defend himself. This would work when the weapons are sharp, but not so much when the weapons are blunt.

The problem is that because the weapons are blunt, the people involved are wearing safety equipment, and are not supposed to be there to injure one another, the fear of the weapon has been removed. There is no fear of the weapon, and no respect for it either. This means that the individuals do not feel under threat by the opponent's thrust coming at them so they will continue their cut anyway, regardless of whether or not both of them are struck or not. This leads to bad fencing, the basic rule of fencing, to strike without being struck, seems to be thrown out; all that seems to matter is that the opponent is struck.

The result of this approach is more double-hits and more double-kills, of which I have already written an article. So I won't go into detail about my thoughts on that subject again here so soon, though I have no doubt that it will appear again. What does occur is that people become so focused with the impression that their skills are good, that they believe that the rules are wrong and not their approach, so they have long debates about tournament rules regarding "double-hits" and "after-blows" and how points should or should not be awarded. I will state clearly again, if you and your opponent are struck you have both failed in your defence. The culprit is primarily a lack of respect for the weapon.

Not All Bad

The news is not all bad, however, there have been some truly excellent things as a result of using blunt weapons. These come into two categories, though it could be claimed that the one leads on to the other. Aside from the legal and insurance nightmares that clubs would have from arguing the case for fighting with sharp weapons, unless there is a failure on the part of some aspect of safety, there is little chance that a combatant using a blunt weapon will be maimed or killed.

I am going to add a caveat here. The prime method of safety for using a blunt weapon has to be the control of the individual using the weapon, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) has to come at least secondary, if not tertiary, in regard to safety. This because they are objects which can degrade and fail, or even move without our notice. Blunt weapons can still do damage, they are still weapons that need to be respected.

All that being said, because fencers are not using their skills to kill one another, we have the chance to learn from our mistakes, unlike fencers of previous ages who died from theirs using sharp weapons. We must acknowledge the mistakes first, so we can learn from them. If a fencer does not acknowledge the mistake, they cannot learn from the mistake and they will keep repeating it, and they will not improve. Fencers in the contemporary era have the chance to make some of the greatest strides in our art if they only respect what they are doing, and learn from their mistakes.

The result is a "mixed bag" of positives and negatives. The lucky thing is that most of the negatives we can get past if we are willing to work on them conscientiously. We need to examine exactly how we are fencing see where our flaws are and move to improve them. We need to get back to the basics of fencing in many instances, focus on being safe, then strike in safety, rather than just striking at any opportunity that we see, disregarding our defence. Each person needs to do their part in this endeavour, are you ready to do yours?



P.S. You will notice a lot of Wikipedia links in my posts. This is a great resource of free information which is now reliably researched, as you will note by the references which appear at the bottom of each page. I donate to the Wikimedia Foundation every year to keep this non-profit group operational, and I recommend that everyone do the same, you can do this HERE. Please give, and keep this free source of information alive, there are few of them these days.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

The "Female" Guard (Part 2)


Below is a discussion of what has been termed by students and myself as my "female" guard. This is a more in-depth discussion of the physiological basis of the guard, demonstrating the differences between males and females in the structure of their pelvises and how this affects their movement. Due to the breadth of this topic, it has been divided into two parts, this is the second part. If you have not read the first part, I recommend that you do so, as much of the foundation for what is explained here is laid in the first part.


          The movements of the human body are based on its structure founded upon the skeleton supported by ligaments, and tendons. The motion of the body is created by the action of the muscles on these parts creating the motion possible based on the structure beneath. The ROM for males and females is different in the areas of rotation of the hip and flexion.[1] This is in a passive state where the body is moved by an external force to see what ability the body is capable. It will be noted that the female hips have increased internal rotation which will be of significance as the discussion progresses, and indicated previously.

General motion

          There is a difference on the movement of the knee, where the female shows some rotation of the knee the male does not. There is also the notation of internal hip rotation. [2] The pelvic region affects many different actions, and quite a few studies have been made about the effects of this area upon motions of the body.

          There is again the turning of the hip, which turns the knee; the flexing of the knee outward, as major areas among others, in the landing and in a single leg squat.[3] The single leg squat and single leg landing would seem somewhat out of place, however there are actions such as the lunge, and other actions, which propel the fencer forward on a single leg, and land on a single leg. The weight-bearing aspect of all actions is of concern it is this aspect.

Risk of injury

          The main reason for this discussion is the prevention of injury. The “female” guard is intended to line up the knee with the hip and the foot to provide better support for the knee and reduce the chance of injury. The correction of actions which have the potential to cause damage are as important, if not more important, than their identification. Differences in motion create different injury risk patterns between males and females, simply because of the differences in structure.[4] These same issues can cause other issues in motion as well.

Power issues

          Females in martial arts often find it difficult to summon the power for their strikes when they need to; not because of bad training, or lack of diligence. Simply, the training is good training for males not females; for male bodies not female bodies. “Since all power comes from the core and the hips, this also explains why women in general will have a weaker striking mechanism then men”[5], if the training is taught from a male perspective.

The training is based on the shape and structure of the male pelvic structure, and so how male muscles connect to that structure and how they work. There is a problem. Females are different; their structure is different. If the female student follows the instruction, it is less likely to work. This is because the base is unstable; the body is not properly grounded, so it is not possible to derive power from the ground.[6]

          The same applies with a blow from a weapon. It won’t work because the structure is incorrect. The training needs to be rethought, restructured to the structure of the student, a female structure.


          When the term “gait” is used, it is referring to an individual’s method of locomotion. Primarily, this is used to refer to a person’s method of walking but can refer generally to a person’s method of moving on foot. This second interpretation of the term will be used, as both walking and running will be discussed.

          Research papers have noted that, “gender differences in hip motion also exist during walking”[7] and this affects the lower limbs. Further, these differences are primarily caused by the structural differences between males and females located in the pelvic girdle, and relate to the muscular activation around this bony structure.

          Hip adduction, in females, results in a turning in of the leg and resulting turning in of the knee when the leg is moved resulting in a different method of movement between the male and female. [8] This different motion resulted from the different ROM of the leg and associated hip joint in males and females in the study presented, and resulted in the  differences in gait for both running and walking.[9]

          The findings from the study by Chumanov et.al. (2008) are useful because they present differences in male and female movement all the way through the chain of movement in both forms of gait. They also present different movement in the hip and different activation of the muscle. This is interesting because these two work together. The result, there are different methods of walking and running between the genders.[10] While walking is more closely related to footwork performed in fencing, running is applicable as powerful and quick actions are performed, along with steps which involve the passing of one foot past the other. This captures the essence of fencing footwork.


          The way we move is directly related to the structures which support the muscles which make us move, it is also caused by those muscles which make us move; there is a difference in musculature between males and females when examining the pelvis and also other areas of the body. These structures of the pelvis affect the lower limbs as well, “gender differences in pelvic and lower limb kinematics during walking”[11]. This is the reason that we should consider the hips, knees and ankles all as a unit when examining the movement and guard for structural stability and correct movement.

          All the effects need to be studied; pelvic and lower. For the fencer, their movement should be like walking, even though fencing footwork is not the same. These differential factors based on gender-type factors are important as they result in different muscular effects, because male and female muscles operate differently and impact lower limbs.[12]

          The biomechanical differences exist not only in structural differences present but in the mechanical differences between the genders; these must also be taken into consideration when teaching. The result is that there are actions which need to be taught differently for males and females; one of them is the guard. Another could well be footwork, based on the position of the guard and the biomechanical support supplied by the muscles which surround the pelvis. The difference in how these muscles are used, and activated, may explain why there is a difference in pelvic, knee and ankle ROM.[13]

          The different activation of the muscles is a result of different developmental patterns due to growth and development of the structure underneath. This results in different actions between the male and female. Even in something as simple as walking, is different. The result of the wider pelvis of the female and muscles develop differently resulting in a structure requiring the individual to move in a particular way.

          The difference in shape of the pelvis at structural level results in a different gait between the male and the female, and a less efficient motion of the female from a structural perspective has been proposed. [14] The motion of the pelvis is of significance especially when it comes to the establishment of a good guard and good footwork. 

To halt the investigation and focus all on pelvic differences would be to restrict the discussion. The actions and restrictions placed upon the pelvis affect limbs and joints which are connected; those limbs and joints which are more likely to be damaged by some mismanagement of position, so the chain of joints must be completed. The whole chain, from hip to ankle, must be examined to see how the individual is moving; for the toe lines up with the knee and then the hip in a straight line for a good guard position, which is good for the joints. This is the goal of the discussion to save the joints involved in the guard and in motion.


          The first question that will be asked is: Why is there a section about running? The simple answer to that question is that as fencers we move at an accelerated pace during combat, sometimes with passing steps, which are close to running. It is the accelerated pace and the explosive movement from running which are most pertinent to the discussion.

          A gender difference is revealed and a problem as this process of adduction turns the knee inward and crosses the legs over one another in the gait.[15] This is a significant finding as it demonstrates the action of running is not the same. The question would be: what is the cause of this effect? It goes back to the structure and the wider hip in relation to femoral length.[16]

          The entire individual must be considered when diagnosing an effect that is taking place. Especially when looking at something such as a lower limb which is connected to the hips, one of the most centrally located parts of the body. When examining an issue, a teacher must look at the entire student, and examine the whole-body effect; rather than trying to diagnose the symptom, go for its cause, which is something more central, a whole-body issue. In this case, the movement of the upper body as well.[17] This process is being applied to gait retraining in running.

          The same can be applied to examining our fencing students and preventing injuries related to the correct position of their initial guard, which will then lead to correct movement of their feet and bodies in other movements. We need to take a broader angle in our examination of problems and solutions for students. The focus should be preventative measures, rather than solutions once they have been injured.

We need to watch for differences in movement; then decide whether or not it’s a normal gender difference and can be left alone; or whether the movement is potentially injurious, and needs correction, with consultation.


“The new information, that the current study provides is that sex-specific hip movement is inherently linked to pelvis and upper body rotation, which confirms an assumption of previous investigators … There may be at least three factors to explain a sex-specific whole-body running movement: (1) anthropometrics, (2) muscle strength, or (3) whole-body dynamics, i.e., the interaction of forces and motion across all body segments.”[18]


          Fencers are not runners. Why is this information significant to us? It is important because, we use movements of velocity, not unlike running. We have members of all genders participating in fencing and they have different body shapes. Their movements are affected by the same reasons which have been presented, including that it is not only the hips that are of concern, but the entire body. These aspects become more important as the more accelerated the movement, the potential for injury increases.

Whole Body Motions

          Don’t just think about the hips, or the knee, or the thigh. Think about the whole packaged the entire kinematic chain that is involved.[19] This is important for those quick movements performed in fencing, such as the lunge and some other quick footwork motions. Hence the study was included; besides most of the footwork, at speed, results in such actions, especially when voids are added. This effect of the trunk on the lower limbs is of vital importance.[20]

          Everything needs to be considered when examining the individual not just their leg, not just their trunk, but the whole package. The advantage of examining the pelvic girdle is that it is central, and its correct position means that many of the other structures will align themselves with it. However, some attention also needs to be paid to other parts, especially the lower limbs which are connected; to ensure they are in correct position. The position of one will affect the position of the other, hence the reason that the fencing teacher is always concerned about the position of the toe and the knee.


          The acetabulum is where the femur connects to the hip and determines the ROM of the femur. Structural differences in the hip and how they affect the lower limbs are vital, as often a problem with a lower limb can be sourced to an incorrect position of the pelvis. This was the reason that the “female” guard was developed, due to the different exit position of the femur between the male and the female. Examining the structure is the key to understanding the reasoning.

          The male pelvic girdle is narrower, in general, than the female. This results in the femurs starting in a position which is further away from one another. [21] This results in a different position of the hip in relation to the knee and the knee in relation to the foot. A person’s individual situation also needs to be considered, because there can be extreme variations.

          Trainers need to be aware of differences as displayed in Figure 4, below, and modify both guard positions and other actions to make them suitable for the individual. This is one reason not to pigeon-hole people, not to assume that because a person is of a particular gender they need a particular guard.


Figure 4: Knee valgus variations - Source: Breaking Muscle (2017)

To understand the effect of the angle created by the position of the hip connection at the acetabulum to the knee, a comparison needs to be made between the male and the female skeleton to reveal the difference in angle. This angle is called the Q Angle, some of which has been indicated previously.

Q Angle


“One of the most significant biomechanics differences between male and female populations is the Q angle. Q angle refers to the relative angle between the patella [kneecap] and the anterior superior iliac spine (the lateral bony edge of your hip). Women tend to have a greater Q angle due to the evolutionary adaptation of having wider hips. The functional consequence of this fact is a tendency for the knees to shift medially during hip flexion.”[22]


Figure 5: Q Angle - Source: https://www.rudymawer.com/blog/female-specific-weight-training/

          The Q Angle is significant as it creates an angle which does not line the hip with the knee directly. For the male, to correct the angle this is much narrower, while for the female is much broader. This results in the different shape of the wards which have been presented. The importance here is the effect that such an angle can have on the knee.[23]

          Due to the position of the knee in relation to the hip, and the tendency of the female as a result to turn the knee inward, there is a cause for concern when there is pressure upon the knee. This is especially important when you consider things such as the actions in fencing and in relation to our discussion the guard position. Knee misalignment puts undue stress on the knee and can damage it.

          Males also have a Q Angle of concern, however “female athletes display, on an average, a greater Q angle when compared with their male counterpart,”[24] which is the reason this guard has been modified and referred to as the “female” guard to account for the wider hips and the greater Q Angle of the female. From this foundation, other actions can be changed to ensure joint-healthy actions being performed.


          While there is some use in pointing out a problem for people to notice, and leaving it for them to correct; it is more useful to present the problem, and then supply some correction for the problem. If a problem is indicated, a suggested solution should accompany an issue. The primary correction is to change from teaching everyone the typical male guard and consider the individual’s form.

Figure 6: Typical hip position allowing alignment with knee - Walker (2019)


          The correction using the female guard is a step in the direction of correcting actions presented from male-centric perspective to consider other body-shapes. The first step is to consider that there is this difference, and correction can be made.

Hips and Knees

          Due to the differing position of the male to female hips, if the position is not corrected there will be the issue with the knee being misaligned. It is necessary to change the position, to consider the greater Q angle present and modify the guard, as in the “female” guard, and movements as well.

          The presence of the Q Angle is clear when the skeletons of male and female are examined; it is even evident when a male and female are placed next to one another. The width of the hips on the female being wider than the male, in most cases, will present a broader angle to the knee. Strengthening the muscles around joints is always a good idea to prevent injury, to stabilise the joints which are being used, but the upper body needs to be considered, as noted in the studies previous, not just the lower parts.[25]

          The posterior train is the muscles which are at the back of the body; the instruction here is a method which is common for fencers, to dissociate the lower part of the body from the upper. [26] This so the legs can move efficiently and keep the body level in motion, it is useful for protecting the knees. The motion of the hips also needs to be examined, it is different for males and females and affects the gait of the individual.

          The fencer should be examined to ensure that their footwork is correct and their feet are landing in the correct manner in concert with other actions. This is important to ensure that the foot is landing safely and efficiently so the fencer can move safely, a closer examination of students is advisable. [27] Further, the same symptoms extend further down than just the hip and affecting the knee, importantly for fencing, the foot needs to be examined.[28]

          Fencing students are told to keep their toe and their knee pointed in the same direction, for safety. A close examination of their movements is the best way to ensure they are performing footwork in this manner. The foot should point toward the target adding a further importance of the examination of foot action.

Individual correction

          Everyone is different. They are built differently, and the more we realise this, the more efficiently we can train students and the better we will be able to help protect them from injury. We cannot carbon-copy ourselves on to our students or expect our students to copy our moves exactly. They are individuals and they will do things differently because they have different body-shapes, and it is not just the difference between the sexes. Correction needs to be made on an individual basis suiting the individual and considering whole-body analysis.

          Some analyses will focus on the knee or the hip or the ankle or some other part of the body, but the whole body must be considered because the part that is being spoken about connects to other parts of the body; it is a part of the body. Analysis and correction need to consider how the movement of that part of the body relates to neighbouring parts of the body, and how that part of the body is affected by other parts of the body; sometimes the answers are found there. Some knee problems are found in the position of the hips. This can relate to other factors, which are of importance, such as power generation.

Power generation

          Power generation is of importance in martial arts, especially when performing strikes or when defending against an attacker. These strikes are performed in a method based on the abilities of the individual who is performing the action. Power is generated from the movement of the hips, which explains why women have a weaker strike than men. Part of this is because they have an unstable foundation for their strike, because they are trying to strike the same way as men; they need to do it differently, according to a method suited to their body-shape.

          Regular training in a method can result in the individual overcoming the differences by drilling the motion, however those who do not will continue to have difficulty; this is entirely related to body-shape. A method needs to be devised for the individual, which is suited to the individual’s body shape, utilising this to its best advantage.[29]

          For the fencer power generation can be utilised for different purposes including speed, so long as they understand its application. It is a matter of utilising the body in the correct method applying the body-shape as it exists to the situation. Trainers need to be aware of the differences in body-shape between students and then apply their lessons in suitable methods to enable the students to gain the most from their experience and their training.

More to come

          There is more to come for this discussion. I hope with the information presented, there is at least some foundation for what I have proposed previously. The earlier presentation of my “female” guard was based on what I saw and what allowed my students to line their knees up more comfortably. This was based on the different shape of the male to the female, assisted by some experienced female fencers. This article presents additional research that I have performed; there is more to come. I will be discussing the subject with my female students and getting their views on the subject and hopefully getting some images to accompany the discussion. For now, I hope the information which has been presented is of use.




Betts, J. et.al. (2013) “8.3 The Pelvic Girdle and Pelvis” in Anatomy and Physiology, OpenStax, Houston, Texas https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology/pages/8-3-the-pelvic-girdle-and-pelvis, [accessed 21/2/22]

Breaking Muscle (2017) “The Difference Between Male And Female Biomechanics In Strength Training” in Editorial, Breaking Muscle (22 Sept 2017), https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/the-difference-between-male-and-female-biomechanics-in-strength-training/, [accessed 21/2/22]

Chumanov, E., Wall-Scheffler, C. and Heiderscheit, B. (2008) “Gender differences in walking and running on level and inclined surfaces”, Clinical Biomechanics 23 (2008) 1260–1268, doi:10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2008.07.011

Graci PhD, V., Van Dillen PT, PhD, L., and Salsich PT, PhD, G. (2012) “Gender Differences in Trunk, Pelvis and Lower Limb Kinematics During a Single Leg Squat” in Gait Posture. 2012 Jul; 36(3): 461–466, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407338/, [accessed 21/1/22]

Hunt, D. et. al. (2010) “Gender differences in passive hip range of motion in asymptomatic adults”, 7th Interdisciplinary World Congress on Low Back and Pelvic Pain, Los Angeles 2010

Lewis, C. et. al. (2017) “The Human Pelvis: Variation in Structure and Function During Gait” in The Anatomical Record (Volume 300, Issue 4, p.633-642), https://anatomypubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ar.23552, [accessed 21/01/2022]

Lumen Learning (2022) “The Hip” in Boundless Anatomy and Physiology, https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-ap/chapter/the-hip/#:~:text=The, [accessed 21/1/22]

Mohr, M. et. al. (2021) “Sex-Specific Hip Movement Is Correlated with Pelvis and Upper Body Rotation During Running” in frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fbioe.2021.657357/full

Nakahara, I. et. al. (2009) “The Gender Difference of Normal Hip Joint Anatomy”, 55th Annual Meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society, Osaka, Japan.

Rahimi, A., Arab, A., and Nourbakhsh, M. (2020) “Gender Differences in Pelvic and Lower Limb Kinematics during Walking in People with Chronic Low Back Pain”, Biomed Journal of Scientific & Technical Research 28(4)-2020. BJSTR. MS.ID.004697

Šavlovskis, J. and Kristaps, R. (2021) “The Bony Pelvis & Gender Differences in Pelvic Anatomy” Anatomy Standard (12 Aug 2021),  https://www.anatomystandard.com/Pelvis/Pelvis.html, [accessed 21/1/22]

Steenerson, L. (2014) “Physical differences between men and women regarding training”, Life Assurance (9 Feb 2014), https://womenselfprotection.blogspot.com/2014/02/sical-differences-between-men-and-women.html, [accessed 21/1/22]

Tamon, G. (2011) “Difference Between Female Pelvis and Male Pelvis”, Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects (31 Aug 2011), www.differencebetween.net/science/difference-between-female-pelvis-and-male-pelvis/, [accessed 21/1/22]

Walker, H. (2019) Un-Blogged: A Fencer's Ramblings, Sword and Book Enterprises, Brisbane, Australia, p.268

Wang, S. et.al. (2004) “Gender Differences in Hip Anatomy: Possible Implications for Injury Tolerance in Frontal Collisions”, 48th Annual Proceedings: Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, September 13-15, 2004

Zidon, Dr. H. (2019) “Differences Between the Male and Female Bony Pelvises”, Complete Anatomy Community Blog, Elsevier,  https://3d4medical.com/blog/differences-between-the-male-and-female-bony-pelvises-anatomy-slices, [accessed 9/3/22]


[1] Hunt, D. et. al. (2010)

[2] Steenerson, L. (2014)

[3] Graci PhD, V., Van Dillen PT, PhD, L., and Salsich PT, PhD, G. (2012) “Gender Differences in Trunk, Pelvis and Lower Limb Kinematics During a Single Leg Squat” in Gait Posture. 2012 Jul; 36(3): 461–466, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407338/, [accessed 21/1/22]

[4] Hunt, D. et. al. (2010)

[5] Steenerson, L. (2014)

[6] ibid.

[7] Chumanov, E. et.al. (2008), p.1260

[8] ibid.

[9] ibid, p.1263

[10] ibid, p.1267

[11] Rahimi, A., Arab, A., and Nourbakhsh, M. (2020) “Gender Differences in Pelvic and Lower Limb Kinematics during Walking in People with Chronic Low Back Pain”, Biomed Journal of Scientific & Technical Research 28(4)-2020. BJSTR. MS.ID.004697, p.21881

[12] Rahimi, A. et.al. (2020), p.21881

[13] ibid, p.21884

[14] Lewis, C. et. al. (2017)

[15] Mohr, M. et.al. (2021)

[16] ibid.

[17] ibid.

[18] ibid.

[19] Graci PhD, V., et.al. (2012)

[20] ibid.

[21] Steenerson, L. (2014)

[22] Breaking Muscle (2017)

[23] ibid.

[24] ibid.

[25] Breaking Muscle (2017)

[26] ibid.

[27] Mohr, M. et.al. (2021)

[28] ibid.

[29] Steenerson, L. (2014)