Monday, 26 December 2011

Armizare book and 1.33 video from Agilitas

With my rekindled enthusiasm for fencing I decided to treat myself to a swordy book and a how to video. I purchased Robert Charrette's book "Armizare" and the Agilitas video on 1.33 sword and buckler.

First impressions. Both are excellently produced and quite slick. I have not heard of Mr. Charrette previously but he has put together a concise book on Fiore, which runs through the plays of the various sections and includes black and white photos to accompany the descriptions. While some of his interpretations of the plays differ somewhat from what I'm used to, they do make sense. One of the best features of his book for me are the pages which show the various plays in nequence on a single page. I always have trouble remembering the order of the crossing of the swords at giocco largo/stretto with the sword in two hands, let alone the sword in one. With "Armizare" you can have just that page open in front of you and work through the plays in order. Also, each individual play is named and  numbered at the edge of each page. Very handy! Particularly fetching are the pictures of fighting in harness! Lastly, with this book, I remembered how to do the sword disarms "tor di spada" using the sword hilt. I had been shown ages ago and could only remember the first and third, but not the second. All in all, a very useful book and one I would recommend getting.

The Agilitas DVD was put together by Hammaborg members and sword and buckler afficionados Roland Warzecha and Tobias "Toke" Wenzel. I've had the pleasure to take classes with Roland at previous Swordfish events and have seen both gentlemen spar vigorously with each other and others in this the oldest treatise-based sword system in Europe. The DVD is clear and gives some very good tips as to how to approach the system. I was particularly impressed by the clear repetitions of actions and attentiuon to small details I had previously overlooked when practicing 1.33. In particular, the extension of the cut/thrust using an extra hip rotation rather than an over extion of the arm. I liked this so much I will incorporate it into longsword also. I guess I should be doing it already but the hip extension gives at least 5 cm (if not more) reach on a cut/thrust. Combined with other modifications of cutting this should snap the sword tip out at high speed and land from a farther distance than i could previously get. So, although this is a basic thing, I will need to work on this to maximise the effiiciency of my cuts. Also, the Hammaborg interpretation of the Stichslag is very interesting. I had previously just thought that it was simply a thrust. Instead, they see it more as a push-cut. If the point is on line, thrust, but if slightly off, thrust anyway cutting with a pushing motion of the sword. Nice! Although the DVD includes some plays and tactics, i.e. what to do when in the first ward and you are beset by habschilt, etc. it does not deal ward by ward with the various besetments/obsessio shown in the manual. Instead it gives you a basic intro and some exercises to do in both solo and pairs. As such I believe it gives a superb foundation for further work in this fascinating fighting style.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Training update and random ramblings

I've been really enjoying training of late. I've been taking a (for me) pretty laid back approach to it. I train fairly hard and really enjoy looking at the details of what we do. I'll probably head to the syllabus day next weekend and although I may not learn anything new, I'm pretty sure I will get new insights into the material. As one of the more senior students, I have no doubt that we'll be pushed a bit mentally and physically, perhaps even do some freeplay. I used to not enjoy this type of stress and always performed pretty badly at freeplay prep and freeplay itself. My poor performance led to me worrying about it, which somehow turned the whole business into something a bit negative. This isn't a reflection on the excellent training we were given, more a view on how my own mental process goes. If things don't go well, in my mind, everything just goes to shit. I guess I am competitive after all.

However, I think I've finally got my head around not trying to be the "best" in this hobby. By this I don't mean trying to be the "best of the best" and other crap that sounds like US Marines-speak. Frankly, while possibly achievable, it's realistically improbable. I think I'll settle instead for being more competent and less competitive. Is this a cop out? Some might think so, particularly in light of the increasing interest in tournaments within the HEMA world, where despite claims that people take part to test their skills and improve their fencing, there is a clear desire, even need for some to win, win, WIN! Nothing wrong with this per se because hell, it's nice to take part and win things occasionally, but is someone who wins a longsword tournament really a representative of the "best" for that weapon? It may be so, but could it also be that they had trained specifically to be very good at tournaments, as well as being an all-round swordsman? There seems to be quite a lot of prestige and kudos for tournament winners. This is nothing new and is true for every type of competition ever held. After watching the tournaments at Swordfish for the past few years, I just sometimes wonder....Is the increase in interest in tournaments (with the attendant arguments about how different rule sets promote realism or reward buffalo-style fighters) less about being an acid test for one's skillset and really about gaining kudos from one's peers? I realise of course, that you do need to have some competitive spirit, or indeed "fighting" spirit to effectively compete against another, be it at the club level in free sparring or at a tournament. Ths is a necessary requirement. But is there a limit? Do we need to win at all costs? If the answer is yes, does this still encompass using proper historic technique, meisterhau, control and respect for the other competitior? If not, then IMO, someone who wins a tournament like this is not the best swordsman and ultimately, a poor representative for HEMA.

Just my two sents.