Monday, January 14, 2013

The First Defence: Control


Safety is the concern of all combatants regardless of the nature of their art. This applies to those pursuing both Eastern and Western arts, and regardless of the weapons chosen by the combatants. A lack of consideration for safety aspects will result in injury and the possibility of serious injury or even death. This entry discusses concepts of safety and investigates them to find a foundation from which they are based and one which they should be based.


Standards of safety in fencing, regardless of what form, are based upon what is an acceptable level of injury for the activity which is taken part in. For some this will be to the limit of bones being broken in extreme instances and for others the idea of severe bruising is abhorrent. It is upon this basis that their ideas of safety are built. Obviously there must be some safety standards set for the activity to be encouraged and continued.

This level of injury acceptance goes directly toward the three primary aspects of the safety standard, armour, weapons and performance. With regard to these aspects one will always be emphasised over the others. For some it is performance, this will restrict what actions are acceptable and legal within the system. For others the focus will be on weapons and as such weapons are stipulated with particular characteristics, and thus restricted, to be used within that system. Others it is the armour which determines the primary aspect of safety and for these the armour will be stipulated depending on the recognised limit of injury.

However in truly intelligent systems it is always an even balance of all of the aspects. Weapons are stipulated but only in comparison to the armour. The performance is then regulated to an acceptable level for the system which will allow the weapons and armour to do their respective jobs. What is important here is that it is the performance, and thus control of the combatants which must be most important. Regardless of the armour or weapon standards, a person who is uncontrolled and who does not understand the performance requirements will still be a danger. Thus it must be control which needs to be emphasised in training and also codes of performance which need to be enforced.

Armour and Weapons

With regard to armour and weapons there is always the question of how much of each. Should the focus be upon the weapons or the armour? This has a lot to do with the perceptions of danger on the parts of the combatants.

Should the weapons be light and reasonably forgiving then the armour can be much lighter. Should the weapons be heavier and less forgiving then the armour as a result needs to be upgraded. This is a sliding scale and the direction to which the pointer slides will determine what sort of armour and weapons are chosen as suitable for the activity. The result will also demonstrate which is the focus of safety, the person doing the striking or the person being struck.

Even with armour which is the safest and weapons which are the safest, relying upon the armour and weapons as primary is an issue. This is a fallible system. First, the material in the construction of the armour or the weapon may fail, this is something which we only have a certain amount of control over. Freak accidents will happen. Secondly, the appropriate weapons have to be used in the appropriate manner and the same with the armour should either not suit the purpose for which it is being used, this will cause issues. Finally there is the simple element that a person may forget to don a particular piece of armour, or inspect their own weapon. This can also lead to issues. Once again to comes down to the individual being in control of the situation.

Finally there is the question of armour versus calibration. If the system is designed that the person being hit needs to feel the impact and they cannot or do not the calibration of the blows will increase. At the point where this becomes an issue, due to injuries, the armour will be increased. This will increase the calibration, and so the process will go around. This can be stopped at the beginning with control on the part of both combatants, hitting and hit.

Weapons and armour are two different sides of the same coin. These are physical items which are used in the performance of the art. Much can be done to determine which armour and weapons are used and thus increase safety, but regardless of the stipulations of the armour and weapons they still only cover so much. It is the combatant who wears the armour and uses the weapons which should be the focus. Thus the control of the combatants.


Control which is an element which must come from within the student rather than being enforced externally. The way to do this is to have it trained into the students. This means that it must become an element in each lesson. Control must be emphasised in the curriculum that the students are learning. This is the only way that it will become an essential part of them as fencers.

While there does not need to be a specific lesson or lessons on control, it needs to be highlighted in the lessons which are taught. Even such simple elements such as footwork have an element of control to them. Feet need to be placed in the correct positions and the body needs to be moved in a particular manner and with control. This element is obviously required in any element of offensive actions to ensure that they are controlled and delivered properly.

The focus on control lays a better foundation for safety for the student and indeed the organisation of which the student is a part. What is even better is that the more that this is emphasised in early lessons, the more that it will grow. Control is something which increases with experience and practice should the trainers put enough emphasis on it.

The question of armour vs weapons and calibration is solved by control being an important part of the student's training. Should the students have control they will not have the issues of calibration as their attacks will be controlled in their delivery and thus for the most part should arrive with the correct amount of impact for the system being taught. Should the element of control become a normal and integral part of training a student with control can pick up armour and weapon failures and thus avoid instances of danger. Thus control should be the primary safety element.

Responsibility to the Art 

Whether it is recognised or not, each practitioner/swordsman/fencer has a responsibility to the art that they need to take very seriously. Each time a weapon is picked up this responsibility comes into effect. The actions of a single person wielding a weapon can have effects far beyond any single blow delivered, or gesture made.

Each individual who involves him or herself in fencing in any form be it sport, historical, Eastern or Western takes upon themselves the responsibility to see that the art survives. In this they take upon themselves the responsibility to represent the art that they are demonstrating in a good way. Should this not be adhered to they put under threat the entire community. A single act of an individual wielding a sword can have repercussions affecting not only themselves but the wider community.

Every time you pick up a weapon you must ensure that you do your best not to injure your opponent, yourself or anyone who may be standing by. To fail in this places the art under threat of extinction. Already forces have been put in place which restrict access to the weapons of our art and where we can use them This is the result of an individual using the weapons with no consider for the repercussions that will result from their actions. Do not be one of these individuals.

Keep it safe, keep it controlled. Control is the key to safety in the art that we practice. There is no safety measure, save not using the weapons at all, that has a higher degree of success and safety for yourself and your opponent. Ensure that your practice/bouts/meeting has no way of being interpreted as an offensive gesture to members of the public. Ensure that you are as safe as possible and you will fulfill your responsibility to the sword community at large.