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#1 2007-03-03 08:41:39

wleckie
Member
From: Soest, Germany
Registered: 2006-06-24
Website

Rules

A version of this posting was submitted to CFML just now (3.3.07) in reply to Kim Moser's 2.28 reminder of the upcoming AFH tournament, which referred readers to the AHF rules (see http://www.ahfi.org), which until very recently had the same brevity and rationale as our own (ours when finalized will be even briefer).  I refuse to even get into another. third organization's 75 pages of rules!  At the outset, let me make very clear I am not carping about AHF rules, rather, I hope to show I think they and we have a common concern and are perhaps  on adjoining pages if not the same one.
............................................................................................................
Klassisches Fechten Soest (KFS) has been working out revisions of rules for all foil engagements.  Until recently, our rules closely resembled those of Association for Historical Fencing (AHF).  In fact, with one exception they were drawn from the same and other, contemporaneous sources, and we also found Walter Green’s compendium of early competition rules highly useful.  Like AHF, we work on a 20-foot strip, for instance, but have come to think that differing circumstances require a rather wider one than three feet, and will base our final decision on observation and analysis, not historical authority. 

Later this year, a formal statement of rules and their rationale will be posted on our website.  We will take a stronger position against disarms, and do so because—following 19th century French dueling thought (see below)—we think they would actually be reckless in a real duel and irrationally disadvantage their target in non-lethal bouts. 

I should add I was (and still am) uncomfortable with a tendency to equate “classical” fencing with rules, not theory, based on a very questionable assumption that the two are harmonious when the former are demanded by the apparent failure of the latter.  Worse yet, the rule-based definition is dependent on rules developed for organized competition and for what seems to have been a radical change in fencing’s constituency, a move begun in the late 19th century from the duel and formal salle to the continuing failed effort to make fencing a mass sport in an era of bureaucratically administered, nationalist popular mobilization.  That's the context of the FIE. The Olympics weren’t just about celebrating ancient Greece and sports. That nationalist-mobilization era came to a close toward the end of the Cold War, precisely when a “classical” fencing movement appeared, and the Olympic endeavor became semi-professionalized corporate-sponsored spectacle.  That latter is the context of current FIE internal disputes and its persistent quest for a flashier show on TV. 

So while we certainly make critical use of historical authorities, in particular mid-19th century French theorists such as Prévost the Elder, who sought to eliminate the distinction between the jeu de fleuret and jeu de terrain, we are proceeding from fencing theory, and view the post-1880 development of rules as a response to uncertainty in competitive environments that has led to dilution of the meaning and purpose of theory (yes, an implication of this is that the director and judges, the scoring light, and the earlier point d’arret—which we ban—are symptoms not causes).  We have been deeply influenced by a mid-19th century French debate about abandonment of theory and technique by romantics on one hand and too elaborate actions in the salle on the other.   Indeed, while not wishing to start a big argument here, an emphasis on reconciling the paradoxical treatment of the double hit in the AHF rules reflects not only the difficult problem we’re trying to solve today, but also our view that today's problems are a variation of those older ones.  I’m with AHF all the way in trying to resolve a very difficult problem.  Maybe theirs remains the best-so-far solution?

Our rules have emerged from training incentives to ensure that practice and preaching are in conformity.  The proper initiation of extension alone resolves much uncertainty and should produce a bent foible.  Neither nullification nor accommodation of the double in favor of one fencer, it seems to us though, actually address the issues.  We even have adopted with modifications the older Prévost’s simplification of doctrine to clarify things—anyone who claims this is “sport fencing” hasn’t read him.  Slavish imitation of the past isn’t “classicism,” it’s antiquarianism at best, decadence at worst. But I don’t claim total success, things ain’t perfect and we have a long way to go.

So, until the summer of 2006, we happily used rules of engagement that were quite conventional despite persistence of ambiguity in foil assaults.  Please note KFS is at this writing only 20 months old, this shouldn’t be surprising among a group of beginners, and I’ve seen and experienced the same problem elsewhere and with highly trained opponents. When I introduced epee to the group in mid-2006, however, sharp questions arose. This was not unexpected, since our curriculum is based on analysis of the encounter with fundamentals of theory firmly in place and on step-by-step “problem solving” activities.  The epee was rejected unanimously, by some as “too difficult” (contradicting the usual reaction), and our membership strongly expressed a determination to focus on foil indefinitely.   

There was also a question raised about the rationality of epee conventions.  I did not hide my delight at this. The double touch especially—since all KFS fencers are imbued with the concept of right-of-way from the first lesson even if it’s still imperfect in execution—seemed to make no sense if we adhered to the ideas of “as if they were sharp,” and “hit and not be hit,” which we take very seriously, indeed.  They rightly felt it would detract from working on correct  technique. (I wasn’t just delighted, I was thrilled.)  But just because it’s been around over a century as a legacy of sport fencing is no reason to keep the epee double by continuing to reward both fencers for it. We agreed that the double should be penalized if ever we took up epee. But this immediately put pressure on foil rules.   

The details of these discussions, and the historical and philosophical backgrounds, will be incorporated in a series on fencing theory and its development in FQM.  Health issues have delayed my working this series out fully by now.

Our rules will be even more minimalist than AHF’s laudably brief ones and include departures from convention that some may find disturbing. Visitors to our sessions will be expected to adhere to them, but they will not in any way affect our conduct or technique on the road.  If you visited us, you'd think I was a broken record, always saying, "Immer fuehrst du mit deiner Spitze!"  ("Always lead with your point!") The most important revisions will be: an enforced requirement that a parry must be sufficient to be acknowledged but also its corollary, a penalty for both fencers in the event of double hits not clearly and distinctly separated in fencing time.   After all, if you cannot attack or defend against a reckless or weak (e.g. presenting in tension) opponent with sharps, or rather, do not deploy an adequate parry and riposte leading a full extension with your point, both of you will bleed. This we intend as giving real meaning to the mantras “as if they were sharp” and “hit and not be hit,” and provide ample incentive to make a genuine parry and riposte, beginning one’s extension before the advance. Our treatment of the stop and time thrusts is identical to that of AHF.   

For emphasis: That just properly leading with one’s extension before the advance usually, but not always, produces clarity of action and a perceptibly bending foible is still a fingers-crossed assumption without sanctions. Basically, we hope to bring the foil encounter much closer to the actual duel in the spirit of misread or neglected--well, why not come out and say unread--19th century French writers on foil concerned both with theory and with the duel as fought with epée du combat.   

It might not be possible to entirely eliminate that question, “Whose touch is it?” as two fencers scratch their heads and a director conjures up a narrative and then one of them shakes his head.  But we’ll try.  Our rules also put a heavy burden on training, certainly lengthening the period before a beginner can consider facing real opponents in competition.  “Beide sind tot” (“Both are dead.”) is now a very common call here, even as the reprise is very diligently practiced—defense is the focus of our first two years of study:  But there's more.

A third provision, that any designated observer can request either fencer to explain how he or she gave or received a hit, will have an impact on the juried bout, since a moment’s thought and it ought to be obvious our intention is to restore the second, getting rid of the cumbersome and often arbitrary apparatus of director-president and judges at least in Soest (after all, it’s a legacy of organized competition’s uncertainty, and opportunism, too) and encouraging fencers to think.   This departure from the “rule of silence” enforced by AHF has always been a part of our practice, and we intend to take its implications further. 

Finally, I want to point out that fencing has never in its history been without debate; a wonderful study could be based just on why it seems to have always been a story of squabbling masters, and it could offer a case study of resistance to change and maintenance of incoherence—such as that “Tower of Babel,” as Maestro Gaugler calls it, of fencing terminology—but still has in fact always been in a state of change.  Recall the fate of Guillaume Danet's attempt in the 1760s to rationalize fencing terms, yet Danet's other ideas laid the groundwork for French fencing's development in the 19th century.  Fencing’s coherence is supplied by only fundamental theory, expressed by the parry and riposte and that straight arm.  There's nothing sacred about the "standard model" of rules that emerged from almost three and a half decades of controversy before Camille Prevost codified it for the Olympics on the eve of World War One. Appeals to some lost mystical virtue or some long-dead writer’s doctrine as it's assumed to have been spring from the uninformed imagination.  That’s anything but “classical.”  It’s romantic nostalgia for what the great Victorian historian of Greece, George Grote, writing about the first ancient Olympics, called “a past which was never present.”

Bill Leckie

Last edited by wleckie (2007-03-04 02:32:18)


Klassisches Fechten Soest

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#2 2007-03-04 02:41:01

Linda Wyatt
Prevost d'Armes
From: Danby NY
Registered: 2006-03-26
Website

Re: Rules

I'd like to offer brief comments on a few things.

> Like AHF, we work on a 20-foot strip, for instance, but have come to think that differing
> circumstances require a rather wider one than three feet, and will base our final decision
> on observation and analysis, not historical authority. 

We work in whatever space we have. :-)
Our decision is based solely on practical matters.  You can't have a 20 foot strip in a 15 foot space.

Maybe some will find this shocking, but we don't pay much attention to the size of the strip, we just avoid pinning someone against the wall like a bug. 

I don't feel a need to have a rule about the length of a strip.  I see it a lot more like old neighborhood baseball games where first base is that tree, second base is the garbage can, third base is the stump, etc.  The length of the strip isn't something sacred; it has very little bearing on anything, really.

Besides, who would want to win a bout because their opponent took an extra step?

>  We will take a stronger position against disarms, and do so because—following 19th century
>  French dueling thought (see below)—we think they would actually be reckless in a real
> duel and irrationally disadvantage their target in non-lethal bouts. 

We'll have to agree to disagree on this one.  We've had this discussion before.  I believe we may be looking at different disarms and different behaviours, that you are seeing something where you are that I do not see here, but there is no way to know without a fair amount of travel and observation, which, although it would be fascinating, is a bit financially daunting. :-)

> the earlier point d’arret—which we ban

Another thing we disagree on. 

I strongly prefer using a point d'arret on an epee blade.  It allows the blade to behave (and therefore feel) far more like a sharp blade.  We often used epee-bladed foils in order to have a stiffer blade.  However, it should be noted that we do not hit each other with great force, and we wear jackets that have more padding than anything commercially available.

I find both the stiffer blade and the point d'arret to be very useful learning tools.


>   But just because it’s been around over a century as a legacy of sport fencing is no reason to keep
>  the epee double by continuing to reward both fencers for it.

??  I'm puzzled over what you could possibly mean by this.  If a double touch is counted as a double defeat, I don't see how that is "rewarding" anyone.

Are you saying that you score touches in favor of the person delivering the touch, rather than against the person receiving it?

> It might not be possible to entirely eliminate that question, “Whose touch is it?” as two fencers
> scratch their heads and a director conjures up a narrative and then one of them shakes his head. 

Again, I'm not sure what you mean by this.

Knowing which fencer has priority is very simple if the director understands the phrase d'armes.  We keep it posted on the wall, where all our fencers can read it every day, and where it is handy in case anyone should ever have a question.

Besides, even without memorizing any rules, it seems like most of our fencers have a pretty good idea when they've just done something stupid.  They know when they should have parried but didn't.


> A third provision, that any designated observer can request either fencer to explain how he or she
>  gave or received a hit, will have an impact on the juried bout,

This is the bit I most wanted to comment on.

I absolutely disagree with this idea.  Asking a fencer to explain anything during a bout will immediately remove that person- and most likely everyone else in the room- from feeling and being in the moment, to thinking and analyzing.  It is difficult enough to help people learn not to think, not to intellectualize.  Asking for verbal explanations during a bout is jerking them back and forth for no good reason.


> since a moment’s thought and it ought to be obvious our intention is to restore the second, getting rid
> of the cumbersome and often arbitrary apparatus of director-president and judges

Arbitrary??  How is it arbitrary, unless what you are saying is that no one is trained well enough in how to direct and judge to be able to do so.

I'm beginning to suspect that you have never seen a good director. You seem to have very little confidence in or respect for directors and judges.  With a good director and well trained judges, I find it neither arbitrary nor cumbersome.


> at least in Soest (after all, it’s a legacy of organized competition’s uncertainty, and opportunism, too)

I'm sorry to hear that you have this experience.

>  and encouraging fencers to think.   

Again, I STRONGLY disagree.

Think at home.
Think (and talk) about the bout later.
Discuss theory during a theory class.

But while fencing, it is imperative to feel, not to think.
I can't stress the importance of this strongly enough, and I'm somewhat surprised that it would be necessary to say it at all.

Perhaps I lead a sheltered life. :-)


> This departure from the “rule of silence” enforced by AHF has always been a part of our practice,
> and we intend to take its implications further.

I'm certain that you will.  I'm just not sure that you fully understand what those implications are.


Linda

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#3 2007-03-04 08:04:41

wleckie
Member
From: Soest, Germany
Registered: 2006-06-24
Website

Re: Rules

Linda--

Well, I have to say I’m bollixed by how anybody could want a little barbed stickamajiggy on the end of their epee blade.  Maybe it’s just my lack of understanding here, but I always thought a good solid hit producing a distinctly bent foible felt more real and was a signal of good fencing, too.  My sense is they--stickamajiggies-- reassure.  About what, well, maybe other things  than fencing.  Linda, the point d'arret was and is a primitive scoring device.  In actual practice used  widely not all that long. If you fence properly, why use one today?  Something to think about.

“Feel” all you want.  This is sincere not sarcastic, Linda. I’m happy when others are happy.  However, my teacher says students should develop into thinking, autonomous fencers. Nick Evangelista says fencing is “based on universal principles based on the way people think and move.”  He says nothing here about feeling, but instead starts with thinking. He also says, “Thinking stops with the touch.” 

I am, as readers of this list know, a passionately loyal Evangelista disciple. I think that thinking has been vital to modern fencing since some very serious thinkers participated in developing it centuries ago.  For example, sitting on my desk is a recently-arrived manuscript photocopy from the British Library of a mathematical analysis of the sword by Thomas Hobbes.  I mention this because it’s just one current project involving a thinker.  He did it for his patron, William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle, who wrote an unpublished text critical of Renaissance ideas in favor of “practical” swordsmanship which I’m going to edit and publish.  Newcastle knew from fighting with swords.  For real. Read about him.Though they didn’t get along well, Hobbes--who hated confrontation--and another thinker, Rene Descartes, who dueled and wrote a lost or rather missing fencing treatise, it seems may have talked about fencing theory over dinner back the 17th century.  They surely did know of each other’s ideas about it. 

I wrote about spending a lot of time reading and reading about mid-19th century French masters, and how one in particular, the elder Prevost, got me thinking about how to incorporate effective new rules in training.  Our rules, though, are not his.  I’ll bet he’d like them, though.  Read about him and you'll maybe see. One of the problems he dealt with was too much feeling on the part of some fencers in his day. Another was elaborate prancing around in some salles.  By inference, on your apparent premises (and on those of some others we know with ideas about the period) one of the greatest French masters of the 19th century was wrong.

You can get a short approach to this master and others in that era —though I think it best to actually read them and their contemporaries in historical context--in a little 1894 essay by H. A. Colmore Dunn, happily online at http://ejmas.com/jwma/articles/2003/jwm … _0403.htm.  You’ll also maybe learn a bit about what 19th century thinking on the disarm was, with Domenico Angelo as the…perfect foil, pun intended.  That way, you and others don’t have to take my word for anything.  You can get a whiff of  the authorities who inspired the devil's handiwork!

By implication, though, I’m wasting my time on study and working out to fence more or less well and keep up with 30-somethings and younger aspiring fencers whom I'm warping.  Instead of laboring to ramp up my rusty French, I ought to have been humbly deferring to those who know better than I.  Instead of spending hours daily training and preparing for class, I should simply accept my inferior lot.  I should not encourage my students to ask questions and make sense of what I tell them anyhow. I should realize my authorization from a master to teach is not up to your standards and live with it.

Still, when I read a few reactions from elsewhere to the inquiry to fencers by designated observers (seconds we hope in the future), I shuddered, Linda.  “You have the right to remain silent….”  I then stopped and thought, “Hm.  Just what are people afraid of?”  Fencing has always been a subject of intense debate.  It has not—what we call “classical” fencing—been frozen in a “correct” doctrine.  Never.  Never, Linda.  I wish people would stop feeling so much and actually read, learn, and think for a bit about what fencing history really has been.  Yes, I think there is more to doing history than opinion.  My impression is people out there, some, feel they know more than I do.  That's okay.

Instead of feeling humbled upon my reflections when I read your reply, I thought.  I thought, where did these other people--not you-- beam down from? They don’t think, they seem not to read much or well, they seem to only feel.  I started to wonder how they actually fence. I'm not judging that here, just asking, which is fair.  Do they try to fence with all their students?  I do, but can't always get to all of them in a single session.  Am I thrilled with each really wonderfull executed defense or attack they make?  Yes.  I want them to hit me.  With ever-improving technique. Should I? Inadequate that I am, am I only feeding innocents delusions? 

The real advocates of a truly altered fencing world, one distinct from the past, are those who claim it must be oh-so-just-so today and want to tell other people what to do or condescend like Fox News talking heads to those they disapprove of.  As I wrote in my post, the common thing, the fundamental substrate of fencing, is theory. It has remained very much the same for almost 400 years. I try to think of ways to elaborate that theory with reason, efficiency, and grace. Oh--modelled lethality, too. Somebody's precious version of fencing political correctness, I am not interested in.  In fact, I find it inherently uninteresting; it's not personal at all.

I suggest a test of our opposing ideas to see who is actually right.  And the invitation is open to all readers of this list:  In about two years, when my students will be ready, I hope, let’s meet.  I’ll bring some of mine, you yours.  Say, four each. We can even use the jury method to administer the challenge, since as I wrote, we don’t expect anyone to follow our procedures and it practically makes no difference when or if we go elsewhere because our rules are designed to produce good fencing, and if they work for us and someone wants to adopt or adapt them, that’s okay.   I have no interest in imposing our rules on anyone else.  Let’s just select our director and judges from other than our organizations.

Let’s see who fences best overall, and with your adjudication method.  But no disarms, no prickly little jiggers. Believe me, my students will be able to tell if a director and judges are competent and fair, and will let you know if they are not because I will have trained them to do so. The proof will be in the pudding.  If we-- a group of three- to four-year intermediates and a skinny sick old man against whomever you bring as your champions--bat .500 with elegance, courtesy, and discipline, I’ll feel happy. Old as I’ll be, I’ll fence anybody as gracefully as I can, and happily win or lose focused on fencing the best I can.  If we're whupped, we can go home and learn more by...yes, Linda...thinking about it.

I could care less about anything else. Now I'll gather whatever I can from responses and think about them, too.

Bill

Last edited by wleckie (2007-03-04 10:38:50)


Klassisches Fechten Soest

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#4 2007-03-04 18:55:29

Linda Wyatt
Prevost d'Armes
From: Danby NY
Registered: 2006-03-26
Website

Re: Rules

> “Feel” all you want.  This is sincere not sarcastic, Linda. I’m happy when others are happy. 
> However, my teacher says students should develop into thinking, autonomous fencers. Nick
>  Evangelista says fencing is “based on universal principles based on the way people think and move.”
>   He says nothing here about feeling, but instead starts with thinking. He also says, “Thinking stops
> with the touch.” 

We can't even have a discussion, Bill.  If you believe that thinking stops with the touch, that you should be thinking until that point, we are so far separated in understanding of fencing that we have no way to communicate.


> “You have the right to remain silent….”  I then stopped and thought, “Hm.  Just what are people
> afraid of?”

Has nothing whatsoever to do with being afraid of anything. Has to do with interrupting focus, with fixing your mind, with intellectualizing- all of which are antithetical to fencing in the moment.

>  I wish people would stop feeling so much and actually read, learn, and think for a bit about
> what fencing history really has been.  Yes, I think there is more to doing history than opinion.

I don't really care all that much about what fencing history has been, other than as an academic curiosity. It is history.  What we do is NOT historical.  It is absolutely right now.   I'm far more interested in what fencing IS, right now, in this moment.  A sword is a sword.  Its nature has not changed in hundreds of years.

> They don’t think, they seem not to read much or well, they seem to only feel.

I question whether the people you mention feel, in the literal sense of the word, which is the way I'm using it.  Tactile.  Tactics.  Feeling.

Not feel like "I feel good about myself" or "I feel it shoud be..."


> Let’s just select our director and judges from other than our organizations.

Why?  Are you implying that someone from our group would cheat or be biased?

Can you tell me where you would find well trained directors?

>  If we're whupped, we can go home and learn more by...yes, Linda...thinking about it.

YES!  THAT is when you think about it. Later.  At home. Reflecting.  Remembering.  Discussing.
I'm all for thinking before and after fencing, but not while fencing. 

Linda

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#5 2007-03-04 19:01:18

Linda Wyatt
Prevost d'Armes
From: Danby NY
Registered: 2006-03-26
Website

Re: Rules

> Well, I have to say I’m bollixed by how anybody could want a little barbed stickamajiggy on the
> end of their epee blade.

Wide epee blades with wide points sometimes slide or bounce off when they are covered with tape.  Tape is slippery against jacket fabric.  Sword points are not.  POINTS fix.  Swaddled nail heads don't.

Most of the time, with foil, it doesn't matter much because most of the target is perpindicular to the point when hit.  But hitting the wrist, for example, where the surface is horizontal, it's good to have something that will fix.  Also, with very stiff blades, the pressure required to make a large bend in the blade is significant, and can be uncomfortable.  With a point d'arret, there is very, very little pressure required for it to be easy to see a distinct touch.  The point stops, as it should (hence the name), as it would were it sharp.

Just my personal opinion.

Linda

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#6 2007-03-04 19:08:25

Linda Wyatt
Prevost d'Armes
From: Danby NY
Registered: 2006-03-26
Website

Re: Rules

>Nick Evangelista says fencing is “based on universal principles based on the way people think and move.”

Hmm.  I've been taught that fencing is based on the principles of combat, on the self-defense reflex.
That what you think might be true, but what you feel is always true.  Like a mirror cannot reflect something that is not present. You can't feel something that is not happening.

The way my opponent thinks is of very little interest to me. I'm far more concerned with what he DOES.  Not what he plans, or what he might do, or what he is thinking of doing, or what he thinks about what I'm doing.

Linda

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#7 2007-03-04 22:56:05

wleckie
Member
From: Soest, Germany
Registered: 2006-06-24
Website

Re: Rules

Well...uh...."...what you feel is always true."  Or something like that.  Okay.  But I must point out two things:  If one's feelings are always right, then others who feel or think differently must always be really wrong or everything is relative and the only way to deal with them to make things right--deal with those others--is to silence them, drown them out or, as has been done on a rather large scale in the last century, eliminate them.  Discussion requires reason, thinking, give and take, acknowledging the other has something to say.   The second item is that this "feeling thing" isn't new and had  great impact on 19th century French fencing, especially on the duelling ground.  The masters I am reading were not pleased. It was called "romantisme" and it got a lot of people hurt and killed--including one General Georges Boulanger, leader of a proto-fascist mass movement, who got his throat torn out in 1888 because he failed to extend his right arm, among other things.  He fenced like he felt and since he lived so felt one big lot of hurt. The old, gray-haired radical who did fence properly on that occasion, Charles Thomas Flouquet, is one of my heroes.   

Just one thought: Our points here don't often slide, but we've always thought that was because we try to extend properly with good footwork.  Oh...I utterly forgot to mention yesterday that  the little Hobbes MS has been published by an English prof at Carelton College, Timothy Raylor, in the journal Seventeenth Century,  in 2000 I recall.  Good piece of work.  Always having the original is wisest, though.  But 17th century script is a bear!

Bill

Last edited by wleckie (2007-03-05 00:10:31)


Klassisches Fechten Soest

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#8 2007-03-05 00:35:55

Linda Wyatt
Prevost d'Armes
From: Danby NY
Registered: 2006-03-26
Website

Re: Rules

> But I must point out two things:  If one's feelings are always right, then others who feel or
>  think differently must always be really wrong or everything is relative

You are using the word feel to mean emotional "feelings," I believe.

I mean it literally, physically.  Touch. 

I did not say that one's "feelings" are always right, but that what one physically feels is currently present and true.  Similarly to the mirror example, that a mirror only reflects what is currently physically present, it does not anticipate or linger.

If I feel blade contact, there is blade contact.  I cannot feel blade contact when there is none.
If I feel absence, there is absence.  I cannot feel absence if there is blade contact.
Has nothing to do with being "right" or with things being relative.

If I "feel" that that means I must do one thing or another, that's emotional crap and consequent thinking that has no place in fencing.  This is not what I am talking about, but it appears to be the definition of "feel" that you are using.

You are missing my point entirely.
Whether it is because you lack context, or for some other reason, I couldn't say.

As I mentioned before, I don't believe we can have a useful conversation unless you have a paradigm shift.

>Just one thought: Our points here don't often slide, but we've always thought that was because we
> try to extend properly with good footwork.

Perhaps it is also because you are not using tape on the points of very stiff weapons that will slide rather than bend, as I described the issue. Didn't you say that your students have chosen to focus only on foil?

Linda

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#9 2007-03-05 10:08:22

wleckie
Member
From: Soest, Germany
Registered: 2006-06-24
Website

Re: Rules

Gosh, Linda, if you can only have useful conversations with those who share your "paradigm" (a much-abused word, and the historian who came up with the phrase "paradigm shift," Thomas Kuhn, regretted its abuse), well, I dunno.  My "paradigm" is a near-400-year-old theory of fencing, elegantly I think expressed by the two-beat parry-riposte, and full extension ahead of an advance or lunge.  I am perhaps uncomprehending here, but I thought that was what we mean or is what we mean by "classical" fencing theory and we both understand it is fundamental. Please help me understand, and tell me how your "paradigm" differs.

We do tape our foil tips.  Yes, my students want foil. 

When a point slides or more usually an off-target occurs, and it does--we aren't perfect, we've been around a short time--what you hear from them--among the French-foil fencers, anyhow--is, "No supination!" and usually, "Ach! Footwork!...Too much (arm or lean or both)!"  You can even hear: "I didn't extend before my advance," too.  Usually in both German and English.  Alas, they have learned to analyze.

Points also can slide when even I forget that an opponent is wearing a plastic chest protector, a piece of body armor I have been given to understand is now fashionable for male sport fencers, among whom sloppy technique is near-universal and some coaches calculate the percentage of failed hits it generates.  I once fenced dry against a man wearing one, and can't recall a slide, but then I was using a 0" blade (see below). It can make hash of mediocre technique. 

My hunch is that your fencers think they are, say, performing a French parry quarte (if with epee they parry at all) when what they are actually doing is using too much arm, leaning some of them probably, rotating their hands into a sloppy prime.  Suspect, I do, the footwork needs a bit disciplining.  Do their feet get close together with a step?  If they lunge, do they actually just take a big step, a half-lunge, really, throwing an arm back, instead of pushing off with the left foot, and do they complete with the right foreleg extended, foot inward, maybe tottering a bit out of balance if they are actually beneath the trajectory, barely, of their opponent's blade, as they ought to be?  Extending late and without supination, so there's that shoulder making their points drift out of line? Just  guesses, I'd have to see them.  I'd also guess they often end up after they've gotten an advance underway with an undeveloped extension angulated into a continued attack, because then they have to disengage from a position in which their points are out of line because they bind.  It may be they're into wide attacks anyhow.  My hunch is they are not drilled in the reprise to extricate themselves and redouble. Protectors need that bit tighter execution.  If their technique is typical of beginners, who shouldn't use epee anyhow, well, without instructional attentiveness it tends to plateau out after about a year.  That's when a teacher should really work hard with them.  The above are all reasons for off-targets and sliding points.

With epee, the same considerations should apply as with foil, and here I follow 19th centry masters' ideas rather more highly regarded than you seem to be aware (I won't run up the Evangelista colors here, but you can read my assessment of all this in FQM)  whose goal was, as I pointed out, to unify  classical doctrine as applied to the foil and the epee simply because too many idiot French politicians and journalists were getting hurt unnecessarily: the way it's (epee) regarded these days, my hunch is your guys initiate simltaenous assaults quite frequently, their footwork puts them off-balance or whumperjawed enough to make a straight extension iffy,  and you do not instill the utility of theory-based defense.  That's very close to the way reckless Frenchmen got themselves in trouble. A well-trained foilist should overwhelm an epeeist untrained in foil.  He or she will not need a stickum. Unless they're into some delusional machismo.  Yours is the most creative justification for the stickumajig I've read so far, I'll credit you that!

My position is quite conservative, Linda:  If you practice, practice, practice, analyze and practice more, then, after those "long years of study and practice," to use my teacher's words again, you might actually feel the way you suggest and not need a stickumajig.  I think it's weird you want a stickum to get that special feeling of good technique without thinking and working.  Whatever makes the dopamine flow? Anyway, that effort should be devoted to perfecting--and nobody gets it right all the time, and most beginners and intermediates never do because they are not taught properly so I ought to write striving to perfect-- technique based on the parry and riposte and the full extension ahead of the advance, the advance with correct footwork, as an integrated suite of actions based on the two-beat "architecture" demanded by the parry-riposte.

Finally, I simply cannot see why when technique clearly fails your fencers, you encourage using a long-ago-discarded crude scoring device as a prosthetic (a comparison with the rationales in the FIE after about 1980 for the orthopedic grip is inevitable from someone, so I'll raise it).  I really don't get it.  The other night, when my point slid after what I thought was a perfect extension ahead of a lunge, my opponent and I laughed.  "I gotta get it just right now, don't I, Jutta?"  I hadn't  adjusted for the breast protector. I settled down, it slid one more time. I was using my favorite weaponl, a cut-down that's very stiff and demanding, for which I still bless someone you probably think I love to yell and scream at but really don't.  A  standard foil  would never have made those two slides, at least in my hands, Linda.  I use that little puppy because it's demanding. I had fenced all night.  Last workout of the day.  Pooped, with a resting sergeant-at-arms detailed to let me know if my right foot deviated a hair from straight ahead, because I am always analyzing and correcting myself, too. Only occasion that happened. That's called adapting.

We welcome visitors, Linda.  If the need for the stickumajig persists, well, if you take a European vacation, please drop in.  Soest has some great places to eat....besides being a really pretty town.  In good weather, we work out on the green of a lovely park flanked on one side by a medieval town pond (where they dipped miscreants you can still see) and the other by a rather elegant outdoor cafe.  By summer, our workshop program will be underway.  If you let us know you're coming, heck, bring some others along, too.  Our dedicated, bi-lingual instructional staff will do everything it can to assist you.

Bill

Last edited by wleckie (2007-03-05 13:19:08)


Klassisches Fechten Soest

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#10 2007-03-05 15:29:25

Linda Wyatt
Prevost d'Armes
From: Danby NY
Registered: 2006-03-26
Website

Re: Rules

>Our dedicated, bi-lingual instructional staff will do everything it can to assist you.

Thank you kindly, but I already have a Fencing Master with whom I work daily.

Linda

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#11 2007-03-05 16:19:07

Adam Adrian Crown
Maître d'Armes
From: Ithaca, New York
Registered: 2006-04-04
Website

Re: Rules

I regret that I'm obliged to weigh in on this discussion.

Here's the problem, Bill: you're assuming a lot about Linda's students (which is to say MY students) based on what you've seen other people do. 
Thus you're assessment of US is wholly inaccurate.  Your guesses, and hunches have NOTHING to do with properly trained fencers and I conclude from your comments that you may never have actually seen any. That part's not your fault; they're few and far between.
But until you see my people cross blades, you're commenting on something you know nothing about and that doesn't speak very well of you.
Henceforth I must insist that you keep your "guesses" and comments about my students to yourself or address them to me privately, preferrably as questions and not as accusatory presumptions, if you expect an answer.  Of course, once you actually SEE how my students fence, you're free to comment as you please. You may still be wrong, but at least you won't be making a complete fool of yourself.

"Technique clearly fails...." MY students.??????? !!!!!!!! That'll be the damn day!
How dare you make such a comment sight unseen!
I'm very disappointed in you for this.
The things you accuse my students of, are direct indictments of and insults to  ME.
I don't think you really want to do that.

Likewise, kindly do not presume to tutor anyone on this forum on matters of pedagogy -- CERTAINLY not MY PREVOST!!   Those questions should be adressed to one of the fencing masters.  If someone asks your opinion on that subject, best to make it a private conversation.

On the matter of thinking v. feeling, the point is this: you THINK in practice. You plan, assess and adapt. But when you fight you FEEL. This has to do with being in harmonious synchrony with your opponent, being in the present moment and KNOWING not guessing.  It is, to be sure, an advanced level, but one to be cultivated from the beginning as much as possible. There is simply NO TIME in the fight to think, analyse and reflect and it's THINKING that will most often get you into trouble while FEELING gets you out.
Trying to turn combat into an overly cerebral "intellectual" exercise is a big mistake.

THE POINT D'ARRET makes the blade behave like a live blade and that's why we use it.  Please keep in mind that the FOIL was/is a practice weapon. Dedicating yourself exclusively to it is not unlike mastering the speed bag and heavy bag, but never actually stepping in the ring.

That's all I have to say at this moment. Please do not post anything further on this subject. In fact, don't post anything more about anything. Your arrogant attacks are unworthy of what we're trying to accomplish here, and I simply won't tolerate them.  I wouldn't have thought it of you.



AAC

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#12 2007-03-06 08:15:41

LimerickArms
Member
From: Limerick
Registered: 2006-09-20
Website

Re: Rules

On the subject of the pointe d'arret I would like to quote from Jean Joseph-Renaud's 1928 Traite d'Escrime Moderne.

Some background. Renaud was a champion foilist who went over to epee and went on to be referred by the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica as the foremost proponent of the epee. He claims to have officiated at up to 200 duels and wrote a treatise on street defense.

The following quote beings at the second paragraph of the first chapter, which should indicate how important he felt the pointe d'arret to be.

<< Avant d’indiquer comment il faut la tenir, je préciserai seulement qu’elle doit, toujours, être munie d’une pointe d’arrêt Sazie - courte, c’est-à-dire ne dépassant que de peu le bouton de fil poissé - et cela que la leçon soit donnée au corps ou aux avancés. La surface ronde d’un bouton sans pointe glisse sur la surface polie de la veste et il en résulte soit que le coup passe complètement, soit qu’il ne touche pas exactement à l’endroit visé.

<< On admet généralement que les avancés ne peuvent être atteints avec précision par un bouton sans pointe. Mais un certain nombre de maîtres et d’amateurs croient que le bouton lisse suffit quand la leçon est donnée au corps, sous prétexte que la cible est plus large. Erreur! La cible est plus large, oui, mais il faut y atteindre le point que l’on vise et non pas, à la suite d’un glissement du bouton, un autre point. Sinon votre coup risque de se trouver découvert. Par exemple: une finale en quarte, dangereuse en principe pour l’attaquant, peut néanmoins être couverte en étant plus longue que la tension éventuelle, si la pointe touche bien au défaut de l’épaule droite. Mais si le bouton glisse jusqu’au sternum, elle sera découverte, étant alors plus courte que la tension.

<< D’autre part, sans pointe, on prend la très mauvaise habitude de tirer en cavant aux avancés afin que le coup, arrivant perpendiculairement au bras, touche d’une façon évidente et nette. Or, en règle générale, il est imprudent de tirer aux avancés en cavant. >>

My apologies to those without French but I prefer to read from the original where ever possible to keep those traitorous translators at bay.

I shall paraphrase:

The core of the second paragraph sets down the issue that with the button one may attempt to hit and slip <i>beyond</i> the point you intended to hit, placing you in danger of receiving a touch even by the sloppy technique of the tension.
He goes on to state in the last paragraph that those using the button who believe that they may increase the chances of landing a touch to the arm by increasing the angle of their attack are quite simply imprudent because attacking en cavant is not at all advised.

Regards,
Neville Gawley
A rather rainy Limerick

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#13 2007-03-06 08:51:35

Linda Wyatt
Prevost d'Armes
From: Danby NY
Registered: 2006-03-26
Website

Re: Rules

Neville-

I must get back to studying French!  I agree that reading things in the original language, without relying on a translator is by far best.

I ran what you posted through babel fish... as usual, the translation itself requires translation!

One thing I was able to glean from it was this:

...The round surface of a button without point slips on the polished surface of the jacket and it results from it either that the blow passes completely, or that it does not touch exactly at the place concerned....

which makes sense to me.

I had some trouble at first understanding your paraphrase because we don't generally use the term "button" for a covered point here. I've mostly seen "button" referring to a practice of using an actual button over a sharp point- thereby creating something similar to the point d'arret.  Almost the opposite of what it means here.  Seeing the translation describing a "button without point" made it more clear to me.

Thank you for your post of this information. It not only describes some of what I've experienced, it also hints that the source may be useful to me for some unrelated research I've been doing.

Linda

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