Food for Thought

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Mike Cartier
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Food for Thought

Postby Mike Cartier » Mon Apr 18, 2011 1:03 pm

Looking at some of the tournaments which are all the rage these days in HEMA it got me to thinking about several things. Buffalos in Freeplay and Tournaments, and the meaning of the word Hau. 2 distinct topics really that diverge at the critical point which makes them worth performing a join on. The purpose of this discussion is to clearly outline several critical components of HEMA and how they relate to tournaments and freeplay in general.

Lets start with the words and what they mean Buffalo and Hau. Buffalo is the buffeler, buffel is to whack so they are the whackers. I forget which master describes them but the content of the description was “a buffalo strikes without care for their own defense” and they can be dangerous (hell even in later Rapier focused times it was known amongst fencing masters to be careful of wild young crazies who could stab even a master through their wild ways). So a buffalo is a person who whacks strongly without thought to their own safety, in other words they have no defense, they just charge in and strike, often times this works but all of the fencing we learn in this Kunst Fechten is not about how to whack hard really, that’s the easy part, it’s a chopping weapon for cleaving opponents. So given the attention by the manuals to this term and the way we are warned to not be like them it begs the question. How do we avoid being buffalos in this modern HEMA world? See I think it was frowned upon for obvious reasons to whack people hard without control, it shows a lack of drilling time and effort put into being able to maneuver your sword deftly. This control BTW is absolutely critical to the development of a sophisticated fencing system like the Kunst Fechten. Take a look at the content of the manuals, how much time is given to everything but cutting, Meyer himself says that “Zucken (Pulling) is the beginning of all deception” Zucken is damned close to the concept of control by using the half cut. If you cant strike fast and hard at a target and pull it sufficiently with control to not injure then you have no chance of applying a list of many handworks which require that control. So I am saying that control IS the art, without it there is just buffaloing and pure athleticism applied without any real science to it. Now I am not trying to say its across the board here. Guys like Axel Patterson and the other Swedes show a lot of the art in their fighting. I am talking about a trend I am seeing that I would like to think through enough to try to reverse in some manner in our attempts at a tournament.

To further deepen that problem I am seeing a trend in tournament fights that’s disconcerting to me. After all the idea is for Tournaments to serve as a tool of the learning of the art not as something that should transform the art. I think these tournaments are not close enough to what they did back in the 16th century for us to let that happen without some thought on it.
So I think the hitting in the tournaments is out of line with some of the skill levels, some folks should clearly not be moving the sword that fast and hard if they can’t control it. Now that means perhaps some form of a qualifying bar of control to get into a tournament i think. I dunno maybe I am being a wuss about it. i like to think we play pretty hard around here but the only way to get to safe hard play is through the crucible of learning control through hard work drilling and training.

This is contributing to another factor of concern in the tournaments, lack of actual Lichtenauer –esque technique in the form of guards, cuts and handworks. Why is it that we see maybe 2 types of guard in your average longsword bouts? The arts clearly have more, so what’s the deal? Why is that happening? I think the power element is a factor in forcing people down into only the safest most comfortable elements of the art. Again a lack of actual experience in training the art over years may contribute to this.
Warping the art this way is unwise IMHO. Tournaments must be bent to the task of bettering the art or at least allowing for a full expression of the art not subtly altering the art by how people train for it.

What if that very act is what was called buffaloing. If it were not buffaloing we would see far more defensive actions after the attacks, but it seems to have evolved down into a pure speed and athleticism competition, which BTW is not bad. Natural increases in the speed and power are highly desirable for us, but not in the place of technique which we are told makes the real difference. The two must come to the party as one to keep the whole show on target. At least that is how I am seeing it and a few people seem to think likewise.

Not sure I have an answer to this tournament issue, honestly it may have to be fixed on an event by event basis, we will certainly try to address it in some manner for our Oct Dixie Krieg event. This discussion is part of the preparation.

Take for example the Dusack tournaments, they seems to be even worse as examples of visible aspects of the art, this is probably due to less familiarization but still I expect some gleaming of what we see in the books to come out more. But we see very few guards and precious few other easily identifiable techniques that could be used to point at a particular fechtbuch or master.

Now maybe I am just being a big baby about this and the art might get applied slightly differently from how its taught, or maybe it skims itself down to the essentials when directly applied. This can be seen in modern Filipino arts BTW, the art taught in somewhat of a vacuum and once implanted over here the Dog Brothers began pressure testing what they had learned and found a lot of the stuff just fell by the way side as hardly ever used once push came to shove. I dunno, that was more about transition from a sword art to a stick art I think (takes more effort to kill with a stick )  :roll:


Which brings me to my other issue of related interest. HAU.
The meaning of the which is in English Hew. The proto-Germanic origin of the word Hew from old English Hewe, old German Hauw . The meaning of this word in English is to cut through or cleave an with a heavy cutting instrument. Mostly usually used in connection with the Axe but also applying to other heavy cutting instruments. The implication of the word is IMHO filled with hidden meaning to our practice of HEMA.

For example we have Meyer’s Zornahau the Wrath Hew, this can be done exactly as Meyer describes by going from Zornhut to Langeort to Wechsel or what we generally call a Full Cut. That is a cut which goes through the target. Different from a Half Cut Zornhau which would be a hew to the center of the target. Still devastatingly effective if not blocked but not of the hew variety of strike in that it seeks to cleave into 2 parts the object at hand. A half cut is really akin to a Zucken or pulling which is the beginning of all deceptions (Meyer). The opposition cut of Meyer being the combination of the two cuts into one. A hew is a very particular kind of cut, one cut with a knife but you cannot hew with a knife. This to me means this was a full bodied art seeking to gain maximum power when into strikes when needed, the instructions behind this initial aspect of the art is all the handworks, devices and other techniques which teach redirection, pulling, changing, rounding, looping etc etc. All which arrest the cut at the target to send it to another target. Another reason why buffaloing alone is not the art, the art is the other stuff that sits on top of that basic ability to cleave or thrust, all the many facets that make up the art of fencing.

So there it is, in a nutshell I am saying I think there is not enough control in the longsword tournament bouts, not enough of the art visible and relied upon as it should be perhaps these things are related to one another or not. And I also think we need to see the art of cleaving or the Hew as a full bodied, everything you have got type of cut. But not necessarily in freeplay or tournament, some folks can get mighty close to doing it with great control though and they should use it. That’s why the federschwerts were created I think, to allow us to go faster and harder and thereby that much closer to the real art. But pushing your weapon through the target (full cutting) is a dangerous thing to do in freeplay unless you break it somehow or use control.

I am mulling over the idea of perhaps a control calibration test to enter into the steel tournament, if you cannot Zucken well you really have very little business swinging steel at that level. BTW this also applies to plastic , wood and even padded, there is really no part of the Kunst Fechten where freeplay and technique does not require control. I think the safest tools are the lighter feders which allow a greater degree of speed and athleticism in the freeplay but there is no tool available that does not also require control to weild safely.


So there it is, hope I havent offended anyone forgive me if I have it was not intended.

So I am open to some ideas on how to counter these trends in a tournament or freeplay in general for our purposes.
-mike cartier
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Jake Norwood
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Re: Food for Thought

Postby Jake Norwood » Mon Apr 18, 2011 1:52 pm

Hey Mike!

There’s a lot to talk about here, and there’s a lot that I agree with in here.

The first thing I want to say is that the caliber of fighting—tournament or otherwise—that I saw at FechtAm this year was the best overall I’ve ever seen. More and more fighters are doing more and more impressive things, and the fights are looking more and more “correct.”

I see a tightening of the shot group, so to speak, as the competition gets increasingly fierce. I think that what’s going to happen is that as skill levels increase, the need and the opportunity to use “good” or “proper” technique is going to increase. The specific examples and anecdotes I’d share are numerous, but it would also be super laborious to write them all here. We’ll have to chat about it at Dixie Krieg or something.

Anyway, here’s what I’m seeing. Some time ago, in tournament fighting and elsewhere, the one-handed sling to the legs (gayszlen) was king. While one can still “score” using this technique now, it’s risky and often results in an unhappy result for the user. People have learned how to counter it, and it’s been in front of us all along: uberlauffen, nachreissen, and, for the tournament side of things, the after-blow.

There are ineffective guards, but most of them are now “lethal” to use in competition. They’ll get you hit. I saw more of ochs, more of plow, and more “chambered” vom tag positions this year. A lot more. Folks that last year could get away with some sloppy technique and buffalo-style behavior didn’t even make it to the elimination phase this year.

Axel’s fight with Nathan Grepares in the longsword semifinals was a stunning display of good technique. Axel’s combinations we furious and fierce, as always, Nathan fought a tighter, more controlled, more “correct” fight. He controlled the center line, didn’t fall for the zucken, and applied the right principles. Nathan later lost to Anders, who used the schaytler and schiller repeatedly to overcome Nathan’s too-low hanging and ochs defenses.

Check out my fight with Dakao Dao or Hal from Therion Arms (on Fechtschule America’s channel or on my Facebook page), and see lots of solid technique right from the books. This gets to my next point. Opportunity.

Previously, frankly, the quality of opponents for all of us hasn’t been that good. Why defeat a guy with a zornort when a simple oberhau will do? Why wind when you can use nachreissen? Why use a schnitt when umbschnappen works just as good and is easier?

This is beginning to change. I was able to beat Hal **exclusively** through my use of “textbook” technique. I couldn’t have done it otherwise—he’s too big, too strong, too fast, and no stranger to fighting. However, doing those techniques also **required** that caliber of opponent. It could not be performed against a lesser opponent, because the opportunity wouldn’t have presented itself.

Tools get in our way, still. Nylon, even good ones, aren’t steel. Flat play is, and is awesome, but it has some dynamics which aren’t quite “there” either. Both tools/methods reward certain techniques while limiting others.

Lastly, regarding this subject, our training is still a work in progress. I think we, as a community, still have a very, very long way to go. It’s like folks that ice-skate once or twice or thrice a week complaining that they can’t do a triple sow cow. Well…duh…

You bring up a few other good points, concerning control, etc. I will say that concerning steel edge-play I’m with you. We’ve got to figure out how to calibrate this before it goes “live.”

This is a problem that the ancients dealt with, too, and it’s all over their tournament rules (something else we’ll talk about more at DK). Flat play and nylon play are a little different. The Buffaloes don’t last long—it’s not a “winning” strategy. This is encouraging to me. The good fighters are also the good tournament fighters. Also encouraging. I hope we get to run through a full Franco-Belgian at DK. It’s fun and very, very informative as a training exercise. More than I thought it would be, certainly.

One last comment—and please don’t take offense. You haven’t been there yet. You’ve seen video only, and it’s not the same as being in it or next to it, even. The DK tourney was fun, but it was still mostly an organized exercise in friendly sparring, amongst people who spar each other on a semi-regular basis. That made it the perfect “first time,” but it isn’t necessarily the best place to stand when making a larger judgment call on how to improve the system.

FA’s rules this year were much, much better than last year. They encouraged more good technique and punished more sloppy technique than last year, too. I hope you’re looking at those videos, especially the fighting in the elimination phase when it comes out.

Don’t get me wrong…it still needs a lot of improvement, and I’m stoked to see that you want to be part of that.

Jake
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Re: Food for Thought

Postby Mike Cartier » Mon Apr 18, 2011 2:10 pm

yes your right Jake I haven't been there, so to speak. Thats a very good point, video just aint as real.

Your examples are very thought provoking. Great perspective on it as usual thanks.
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Re: Food for Thought

Postby Jake Norwood » Tue Apr 19, 2011 4:16 am

Winkelfechter = spaz...awesome.

@Kevin,

I think I understand Mike well, actually. Mike definitely knows fighting, kaos, and the lot of it. My comment was more directed to his observations regarding tournaments, not observations regarding the hau, buffaloes, and improving training, etc. (with which I generally agree).

You also hit on a golden point about the masters training us to deal with buffaloes. There are techniques from Dobringer to Meyer and beyond that cover what to do against fighters like that. If we're not using the right techniques in the right context...well, that's our problem!

Your point about the MFFG having commonly accepted practices and understanding lets you, as a community, do stuff that is more difficult across disparate clubs, etc. That's a strength in a lot of ways (and one of the areas where the ARMA did well). Where you'll really make your money on that is as you export your method and cross swords with other folks...and, having whooped up on 'em a little, bring them to your way of doing business.

Ack, too much to talk about. Good stuff. I've got tons of cool fechtschulen stuff that we got from Matt Galas this year that I really look forward to sharing with you guys. Preview: Freihut, gloves, wooden vs. leather dussacks, and Hans Talhoffer holding a fechtschule in Switzerland.

That's right, people! Hans Talhoffer, Mr. Ernstfechten himself, endorsed competitions. Suck it! :twisted:

(Not that I can cite a source, of course. I'm just freeloading Matt's research...)

Jake
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Re: Food for Thought

Postby Mike Cartier » Tue Apr 19, 2011 4:35 am

wow some bombshells there Jake , head is a little bit dizzy from those previews. We want to try to do some Belgian rules at the next Dixie Krieg.

awesomeness

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Re: Food for Thought

Postby Jake Norwood » Tue Apr 19, 2011 5:45 am

I'll make you a deal. You put on a "freestyle" tournament that I can fight in (any weapon), and I'll run a Belgian for you.

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Re: Food for Thought

Postby Mike Cartier » Tue Apr 19, 2011 6:41 am

you got it buddy
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Re: Food for Thought

Postby Jayson May » Tue Apr 19, 2011 7:39 am

In my opinion what Mike is saying is something that I agree with whole heartedly, that the tournaments should always be a tool to train with and not the end goal of our training.

I think that tournaments have the potential to teach all of us quite a bit about the art that we practice. They are great for showing our strong points, and for setting a high bar in athleticism, speed and competition. However, at the same time if we look critically at the fights they will also so us our weak points as well. Which as Mike pointed out might be a narrowing of techniques and a lack of control. This is not a bad thing, but instead an opportunity to train harder to improve the art overall. Winning a tournament is great, but showing one’s art and winning a tournament is fantastic.

Tournaments can be not only exciting and fun, but if used properly will be a key tool in propelling HEMA forward. The thing we must not forget is that they are a tool to help us perfect our art, just like cutting practice, drilling, research, ect. It will be a sad day for HEMA if the tourney becomes the goal, instead of a path and we devolve into stick whacking instead of displaying the true noble and knightly art that the masters have handed down to us.

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Re: Food for Thought

Postby ashultz » Tue Apr 19, 2011 8:00 am

I think tournament rules have a lot to do with this. At the recent FA tournament doubles were pretty solidly penalized instead of just being a no-point. When doubles are a no-point, after I get one point ahead being an aggressive nut is no penalty to me - I can go into an exchange expecting to take a blow while giving one.

The afterblow is also important. I negated a lot of points on one guy who would basically mittelhau to my hands leaving his head open and get the blade dropped on him for his trouble. I wish I could say I beat him afterwards, but he had actually good techniques as well... I just forced him to stop trying to quickly get through on cheese shots.

The rule about if you put someone out because you don't have enough control is also important. The one time it got applied at FA was a bit of a fluke, a strike going between armor pieces... but I'm pretty sure a lot of the people I fought with personally would not have messed me up that badly even with a similar hit - my group was an excellent and controlled group.

My compatriot from Forte was in a group which was much more buffelesque, had several double-outs, and he took some hits which shattered plastic plates on his gloves. So obviously we still have a long way to go before the community has control in general. One thing I would like to see is every time someone gets all excited about intent and hard training another person gets excited about control. It's great that collectively we're training harder - I think the battle for intensity is frankly won, the groups that don't want it now are never going to. The next big community push needs to be to train and compete hard, but also train and compete controlled and safe.

I second Jake's excitement about Matt's Fechschulen lecture - it was pretty amazing stuff.

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Re: Food for Thought

Postby Charles Murdock » Tue Apr 19, 2011 8:37 am

Well said all....well said indeed.

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