Monday, July 13, 2020

On Respect for the Point


The following article discusses the respect given to the weapon which is being used in a martial context, something which seems to be being lost in some HEMA (Historical European Martial Art) situations. The original weapons, and the idea of the original weapons, is being lost the result is this art is beginning to turn into another sport which happens to involve swords. Of note, originally this article was going to discuss the "fear" of the point, but fear is not what is required. It is a healthy respect of the weapon that is being used.

The fencer needs to respect the weapon that they are using not fear it.

If the fencer has fear of the weapon they are not likely to engage with the opponent with their full being and thus actions will be performed sloppily and without intention. This will result in inaccurate actions, bad form and bad practice on the part of the fencer. Further, the same actions engaged with fear are actually more likely to get the fencer hurt than if they engaged with them properly and fully and not holding back.

There needs to be respect for the weapon that is being used. This means that the original use and capabilities of the weapon need to be acknowledged and kept in mind when performing actions with the weapon. Having a sharp point of a sword pointed at a person will change what they will and will not do as compared to having even merely a blunted one, let alone one which is blunted and has a tip on it, regardless of whether protective gear is worn or not. The fencer must acknowledge that the weapon and techniques that they are using were once used to decide life and death struggles.

The lack of respect for the weapon is demonstrated in actions of "exchanged thrusts" or "double-kills" or "trading targets" in each of these instances the fencer is not respecting the weapon of the opponent. A person facing an opponent's sharp weapon would not willingly allow them to strike them just so that they could strike their opponent, especially with the state of medicine when these weapons were originally used. A fencer should be aiming to avoid being struck at all, thus "striking without being struck" as is the aim of all fencing.

The "double-hit" and "double-loss" in a bout today resulted in injury and death in the past. "Double-hits" should not be accepted as good fencing in any way shape or form. In all instances the safety of the fencer, thus the defence of the opponent's action should be most important, followed by the striking of the opponent; this demonstrates respect for the weapon being used. Having tournaments run in a single-kill, single-elimination format, begins to make people realise the importance of this, having people carry their wounds through the tournament also emphasizes this as well.
"For there are few nay there is no man at all, who (perceiuing himselfe readie to be stroken) giues not back, and forsaketh to performe euerie other motion which he hath begun." - Giacomo di Grassi (1594) His True Arte of Defence
Here di Grassi states quite clearly that a person who is about to be struck will give up the idea of striking to defend himself, rather than being attacked. So one of his defences against a slower action of the cut is to present the point to the opponent, who seeing it will not complete the cut. This does not work in many current HEMA bouting because there is no respect of the point which is being directed at the fencer. So, the cut will be completed and so will the thrust, resulting in a "double-hit".

If fencers are supposed to recreate these texts as they were performed. Is it not also required that the individuals who use them also have the same sort of respect for the weapons which they are using? Is it not also required that they have a healthy respect for the point and edge of the weapon, regardless of whether they can actually do damage, but what they are simulating? If this is not the case what is the difference between what is being performed with these weapons and those of sport fencing aside from some electronics, history and formalisation?

In any form of weapons use, be it swordsmanship, archery, or shooting, there must be respect for the weapon. This is necessary because the capabilities of the weapon must be recognised by the person using the weapon, regardless if the person ever actually wanted to use these capabilities. This respect is necessary for safety to ensure that the weapon is treated properly and that those around them are kept safe. In the case of fencing it is also necessary so that the art of fencing can be performed properly with the intent of the treatises that the art is based upon kept intact through its practice.