A matter of manners.

Sometimes we can become a little lax in displaying proper courtesy and etiquette during our training. Remember that you cannot train without other people to practice with. They are giving up their time for your training as are the instructors running the session.

So here are some ideas to govern your conduct during training sessions. Some may comment that this is overly formal. In some ways this is true, but it is partly the intent. We should be training with a level of seriousness. We only have a limited amount of time to train and practice, so it is important that we make the most of it. A degree of formality helps in the smooth running of a class. It is also important to extend respect and courtesy to those you train with. Remember we are all armed…

Turn up with enough time to be ready at the start of the training session/class.

Be ready on time and always move quickly throughout the class.

Stack all your personal items and gear neatly against the wall or at the side of the area.

Treat your sword as you would a real weapon. Do not lean on it or throw it.

It is extremely rude to talk during a class. If you need clarification on any point then ask the instructor directly.

Keep your harness in good condition (wax steel to prevent rust, fix straps and points and keep clothing laundered).

Do not step over anyone’s equipment — including your own.

Do not touch anyone else’s equipment (even to move it out of the way) without first asking permission.

If you MUST take a break during class, politely salute out. Take a moment to catch your breath or cool down if necessary and then work your way back into class. If you have to leave the session for any reason, please let someone know.

Respond with ‘yes’ or ‘sir’ when given and instruction. This lets the person running the session know you have understood what is required and/or you are ready.

Salute your partner at the beginning and end of any exercise.

Drills are not a game of tag. Focus on doing the movements correctly and always reacting appropriately so that you and your partner both benefit from the drill.

A Sword of Life and Death

One of my students has recently brought up an excerpt of martial philosophy taken from Munenor’s Life Giving Sword. This was in the context of developing your martial skills as opposed to just looking for the set group of things that will score you victories.

The Death Dealing Sword – one meets an opponent head on, bringing death to his sword.
The sword is poised to strike first. You strike your opponent down with no consideration for his offensive play. You deal death to his sword, stopping it dead in its tracks. And then with your sword you deal death to your opponent. The path of the death dealing sword ends only in death

The Life Giving Sword – one gives life to the opponents sword, leading the opponent to a place where he gives up the sword, hence giving life. An opponent should be subdued without killing him.
Your guard is open, your sword is poised neither for blocking or striking but able to do both. You allow your opponent to strike, and in giving life to his sword, you give life for your sword to take any opportunity you so chose. The path of the life giving sword has no end.

A death dealing sword is effective, but can not resist the life given from the life giving sword. And in doing so, it will come alive and present its weaknesses like a normal sword.

So is this just more ‘listen carefully grasshopper’ commentary? Looking through this I think this idea has something to tell us about tournament combat. To put it into our context then-

‘Death Dealing’ is brute forcing through your opponents. Presenting no gaps, and driving your own sword into/through the gaps of your opponent before he can react. This is the combatant that has a few effective moves and then seeks to use these no matter the opponent or circumstances. While effective such an approach will reach a point where these techniques can be countered and the combatant is unable to adapt to the new contest. This person tries to impose their own will on how the fight should evolve. This is often the path of what I have called ‘the 80%’er’, this is the person who is effective and can win 80% of their bouts but lack the range of skills and/or willingness to risk the outcome to try something different to defeat the top 20%.
The ‘Life Giving Sword’ is to present the openings/fakes/feints/movement, which causes your opponent to present their own openings, to which you can then exploit. This is the combatant that controls themselves and the bout as a whole. They invite their opponent to reach too far or step in the wrong direction. They are not reliant on any one master cut. They can adapt to whatever the fight brings to those involved. By allowing the fight to develop on its own accord the combatant is not trying to force an outcome but allowing the moment for action to present itself and be in readiness to act.

And now a step in the right direction

Last year I was pondering my performance in the Rowany Fighter Auction Tournament. The quick summary was that I had muddled my way though the list relying on tenacious defence and fitness to win though. I was not happy with this performance and challenged myself to do better. Since then I have been working steadily in improving my technique and other tournament skills.

I played around with going back to a big shield (24 inch half round). This was too big and just got in my way so I have been cutting down the shields and am now using a 20 inch diameter half round. There has been a bit of advice to switch to a small heater or wankle, but the half round is what I have been using and comfortable with. I know that I should mix it up a little but I think at the size of shield I am using the shape is not that critical.

Most of my training has been working within the Oplomachia School of combat. Here I must give full credit to Count Syr Gemini and Duchess Sir Mari. There support and encouragement has been essential. I will also thank all the combatants I train with. They put up with my schemes and training ideas.

Improvement in the tournament arts is often slow and gradual. It also requires a level of commitment to getting it right and not being lazy. These things are hard in this Kingdom as the pool of high level combatants are scattered over and entire continent.

So in this year’s Fighter Action Tournament I entered with high expectations and under the eye of Sir Mari, who had been running classes in Oplomachia all week. It was time to put what we have been teaching to the test.

My first few rounds progressed well. I had a novice first round who I tried to encourage and have some fun with it. My opponent had already been talked into his own death by his friends…

Second round I drew another newer combatant but they had a lot of other martial arts experience. I could not draw them into any fakes or misdirection’s and had to play a waiting game for them to close in and present an opportunity. These sore of opponents are dangerous in a way as they have very different reactions and timing. It was still early and I could not afford stuff up at this stage.

I do not recall many of the middle bouts in much detail. A few bits did stick in my memory. I stuffed about too much in facing a smaller quite mobile Knight. I was probably showboating too much in matching their movement and position. In doing this my feet were all over the place and I was not fully controlling what was going on. A bout against a tall Count ended quickly as I managed to keep control of the measure and keep them on the back foot. There was also a good bout against a Knight who tends to fight in a variation of A-frame with a big ‘cheater heater’. I gave them an opening to my leg which he took and thus opening him to a moulinet.

One of my favourite encounters was against a Knight from the southern island. I had been working with him the previous day and he had learnt quickly. This was a fast furious bout with him trying to overwhelm my defence and push me back. Not sure how I managed to get out of this but I do remember only just keeping calm and countering.

After all of this I managed to get to finals without dropping a bout. Finals were best of five against a Duke who has a style that is difficult to counter and our bouts often were long drawn out encounters. As it was best of five I think the Duke convinced himself that he did not have the stamina to last though. Anyway it was a solid final with both of us work to be crisp and clean. It was probably one of the best finals in this regard I have been in for a long time.

So, that was a bit of a long winded recount of my tournament for this year. Considering the poor performance last time I am very happy with this improvement. I still have a lot to work on however as there is always room for improvement. So it is back to the pell and the training ground. Remember –always face the weapon.