WMAW 2017

With apologies to Lerner and Loewe…

There is a legend of a magical realm, known as WMAW, that rises from the mists on the Wisconsin shore of Lake Michigan. Inhabiting the grounds are valiant women and men, from locations near and far, learning and engaging in the fighting arts of times gone by. It is a place of chivalry and camaraderie. From early in the morning, when the sun rises over the lake, until late in the evening, the halls and grounds are filled with the sounds of clashing weapons and lively discourse about said weapons and their proper usages. Armoured knights compete in the lists in the afternoon sun. If you are lucky enough to stumble upon this legendary event and its denizens, you may be witness to even more mystic arts, such as Pangean rapier and Spoonfechten. Sadly the appearance of WMAW is all too fleeting. There are tales of attendees who return year upon year to experience it once again, knowingly risking the heartbreak of the farewells as WMAW once more recedes into the mists.

My sincere thanks to the hosts, instructors, and volunteers. You truly do make this a magical event and I look forward to the next.

Arlington Community Learning

We are pleased to announce that ACMA will be hosting a three hour lecture/seminar “Historical European Martial Arts” with Arlington County Public Schools Community Learning.  We will be discussing and presenting historical techniques and weapon systems and the texts upon which our practice is based.  Students will also get a chance to handle some of the practice equipment and learn about how they can get started training in the chivalric martial arts.

The class will be held Tuesday, September 26, from 7-10pm at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia.

You can register online:

https://registration.arlingtonadulted.org/CourseStatus.awp?&course=17FGI187

or by phone:

(703)228-7200

Watch this space!

ACMA will be presenting a lecture class “From Text to Practice” for Arlington County Public Schools Continuing Education.  We will post registration information here as soon as the fall course catalog becomes available.  Mark your calendars!

Historical European Martial Arts

The martial arts of medieval Europe were sophisticated systems of combat, in armor and without. Two opponents might engage with spear, sword, sword and buckler, dagger, or even unarmed.  This unique workshop will focus on the martial arts system of medieval Europe.  In addition to the weaponry and skills of the time, students will learn about the surviving documents from which these techniques are based.

 

Details:                 1 class of 2 hours

Time:                     7pm to 9pm

Date:                     Tuesday, September 26th

Location:              Washington Lee High School, 1301 N. Stafford Street, Arlington Va. 22201

Practicing without a partner

All by myself, don’t want to be all by myself…

But sometimes it is inevitable.  For whatever reason, you find yourself without a practice partner.  What to do?  Solo drills.  But solo drills are boring!  Yes, they can be.  But any training practice can be boring on occasion.  Remember why you started training in the first place.  Going solo can serve you well.

One nice thing about solo drills, minimal equipment is required.  You can certainly go without a mask and gambeson.  Gloves are only needed if you are prone to blisters.  If available, a full length mirror (or a glass sliding door at night) provides excellent feedback.  You can also record yourself for immediate feedback.

How should you structure a solo practice?  Any way you want. It is all about you.  Some people prefer to keep it completely freeform and spontaneous, moving from one drill to the next without necessarily planning ahead.  I prefer to set up my solo practice the same way that I would teach a lesson, first identifying a training goal or concept on which to focus.  The practice itself starts with a warmup exercise, transitioning into a technically oriented drill, followed by more spontaneous freeplay.

For a warmup, you can perform any sort of aerobic or conditioning exercise.  Most often I practice specific footwork associated with that day’s goal and save jogging or toning for off days.  I find footwork to be an important part of my solo practice.  When I am having difficulty making a technique work with a partner, the majority of the time it turns out that the fault was in my footwork and not the bladework.  Employing footwork as an integral part of my solo training has a positive effect on my partner training.

The warmup is probably the hardest part of my solo practice, I am trying to get motivated and overcome inertia.  Once I have started moving around, I am eager to pick up my sword and move into cutting drills.  Easy to construct and of definite value for improving technique are drills involving performing the same cuts over and over.  Examples include following the Meyer cutting diagram, repetitions of the Meisterhaue, or simply performing basic cuts from above or below over and over again.  Feedback is a little more important for bladework drills than for footwork so employing that reflective surface or camera is invaluable.  Another method for feedback is to use a target or pell.  Thrust into an old throw pillow hung on a wall.  Get creative finding something around the house which you can hit repeatedly without damage to it or your sword.

Now that you have those creative juices flowing, it is time to move on to shadow fencing.  So I lied when I said the warmup was the hardest part of my solo practice.  I find fencing an imaginary partner is akin to playing rock, paper, scissors against yourself.  As a result, my shadow fencing is not perfectly freeform.  I tend to script both my imaginary partner and myself, though not beyond the first movement or two.   Those scripted initial moves target that practice session’s training goal.  After that, it becomes somewhat easier to let the sword take me where it wants to go.  Visualization is important.  I have to ask myself why I would respond or act in that fashion.

Though being able to play with a buddy is inherently more fun, once you have finished your solo practice session, your body should be comfortably tired and your brain comfortably full.

Practice, practice, practice!

I am back from a fantastic event, the Vancouver International Swordplay Symposium 2017, and feeling rejuvenated.  Practices will be resuming!  As it appears the weather seems to be on a warming trend we will be training at our outdoor venue.  For now, practice will take place during daylight hours on Saturdays and/or Sundays.  Newcomers are always welcome.  Use our contact page or send an email to AcademyChivalricMA@gmail.com for details.

All I Need to Know in Life I Learned from Master Liechtenauer

“Practice knighthood and learn
the Art that dignifies you.”
Be chivalrous. Be studious.

“Be a good grappler in wrestling;
lance, spear, sword and messer
handle manfully,
and foil them in your opponent’s hands.”
Find the right tool for the job, there’s plenty to choose from.  Learn to use them all.

“He who follows the strokes,
should rejoice little in his art.”
Don’t simply follow.  Be proactive.

“Do not fight above on the left if you are right-handed;
and if you are left-handed,
on the right you limp was well.”
Work from the areas where you are the most capable.  Always start from a position of strength.

“Before and After, these two things,
are to all skill a well-spring.”
Timing is everything.

“Four openings know,
aim:  so you hit certainly.”
Watch for and take advantage of opportunities.

“And test the attacks
if they are soft or hard.”
Never fight force with force.  Go around, yield, find another way.

“Learn the feeling.
The word Instantly slices sharply.”
Don’t take too long to make a decision, but make sure you have all the data before you act.

“Whoever conducts the Failer
from below he hits at his will.”
Even if you know your first attempt will likely not succeed, attempt it anyway, but have a fall back plan in mind.

“The Squinter breaks into
whatever a buffalo strikes or thrusts.”
Bullies need to be stopped.  Sometimes all it takes is a dirty look.


Verse credit:  Christian Tobler’s translation of the Van Danzig Fechtbuch as published in his book In Saint George’s Name available from Freelance Academy Press.

Musings by Pamela Muir

Vor und Nach: Breaking guards, feints, provocations, and invitations

by Pamela Muir

Vor, Nach and Indes are translated and interpreted as timing in the fight.  When you strike first, you are in the Vor, the before timing.  If you are reacting to your opponent, you are in the Nach, the after timing.  Indes is the instantaneous moment in which you have to react in the bind.1  These can also be viewed as describing initiative or who has control of the fight.  In the Vor, you are fighting offensively, in the Nach, defensively.  We are explicitly told in the texts that we should fight in the Vor, and if we should find ourselves in the Nach, we should work to regain the Vor.

Being in the Vor means to make the first strike.

“With the word before [Vor] as has been told before, he [Liechtenauer] means that you with a good first strike [Vorschlag] shall close in without fear or hesitation and strike at the openings [Blossen], to the head and to the body, regardless whether you hit or miss you will confuse the opponent and put fear into him, so that the he does not know what to do against you”2

This leads us into the concept of breaking guards.  We know making the first strike is a good idea, but how to do it safely and effectively? Most likely your opponent will be standing in one of the four primary guards, so launching the appropriate one of the four Versetzen, strikes which counter the primary guards, is the logical choice.  Either your opponent will get hit or they must perform a defensive action.  You are in the Vor and your opponent is forced into the Nach.

Breaking their guard with one of the four Versetzen is not your only choice in the Vor.  You could also perform a feint.  A feint puts your opponent on the defensive, in the Nach, and it opens up another line for you to attack.  An example of a feint in the Lichtenauer system is the Veler, the Failer.  Start a cut towards your opponent’s open high line to draw out their parry.  As they parry, change your attack to a Zwerchau to their low line, on either the right or left side.  Both your feint and your follow up to the low line have you in the Vor.  Your opponent must remain on the defensive and is stuck in the Nach.

When breaking a guard or performing a feint, Vor and Nach are easy to identify.  It starts to get a little hazier as we move into provocations.  Let us take a look at the Sprechfenster, the Speaking Window, which is a provocative use of the guard Langenort, or Longpoint.

“Do Thus From the Speaking Window
When you come to him in the Zufechten, whether with an Unterhau or an Oberhau, always let your point shoot long from the stroke to his face or chest.  In this way you will force him to either parry or bind against your sword.  And when he has bound, then remain strongly on his sword with your long edge and stand calmly and see what he will execute against you.”3

The text goes on to explain your next step according to your opponent’s actions.  If they do nothing, you work from the bind.  If they pull away, you attack to an opening.  In these two cases, you are still the one who has the Vor.  However, they may also strike around to your other side in which case you are instructed to bind against their sword.  It appears that you have given up the Vor and must therefore act in the Nach.  That is not exactly the case, the initial action belonged to you and you set up your opponent in such a way that you know all of his possible reactions and are prepared to take advantage of whatever they do.  You have the initiative.

What about fighting from an invitational guard such as Alber, or the over the head version of Vom Tag?  Which fighter has the initiative?  The one inviting the attack, or the one who attacks?  That was a trick question. Though you may be standing in an invitational guard, you should not simply lie in wait for your opponent to take the bait.  If you do, you are most definitely fighting from the Nach.  You will be forced to defend before you can re-seize the Vor.

In the case of Vom Tag, we are fairly certain that our opponent will attack with a Zwerchau if we wait.  So we are instructed to strike first and provoke that Zwerchau.  “Note:  when you stand against him in the guard Vom Tag, then strike bravely to his head.”4  We are then given instructions on how to respond to the Zwerchau that our opponent uses in the Nach.

Even if you take the guard Alber, the advice given seems to indicate that it is better if you strike first.  “When you…stand against him in the guard called Alber, and he falls upon you with his sword before you come up, then remain thus with your sword beneath his and lift upwards.”5  The assumption is that you still intended to strike first, and you are instructed how to act if that plan fails and you were forced into the Nach.

As stated above, we know that all guards can be broken.  If we simply wait for the attack, even if we know what form it is likely to take, we have lost the initiative. “Therefore Liechtenauer does not hold the guards in such a high esteem; he is more interested in that you try to win the first strike [Vorschlag].”6  Assuming an invitational guard without intending to strike first leaves you in the Nach.

Which brings us back to the beginning of this post.  In order to control the fight, you must be fighting in the Vor and you accomplish that by making the first strike.  That first strike should be carefully planned as a feint, a provocation, or a breaking of a guard, so that you can limit and predict your opponent’s reactions in the Nach.

 


1 I would argue that Indes is a point in space and time, but that is fuel for another post.

2 Lindholm, David, trans. Cod.HS.3227a (n.d.): n. pag. Web. <http://www.hroarr.com/manuals/liechtenauer/Dobringer_A5_sidebyside.pdf&gt;. 21r.

3 Tobler, Christian Henry. In Saint George’s Name: An Anthology of Medieval German Fighting Arts. Wheaton, IL: Freelance Academy Press, 2010. Print. p. 129.

4 Tobler, Christian Henry. In Saint George’s Name: An Anthology of Medieval German Fighting Arts. Wheaton, IL: Freelance Academy Press, 2010. Print. p. 117.

5 Tobler, Christian Henry. In Saint George’s Name: An Anthology of Medieval German Fighting Arts. Wheaton, IL: Freelance Academy Press, 2010. Print. p. 124.

6 Lindholm, David, trans. Cod.HS.3227a (n.d.): n. pag. Web. <http://www.hroarr.com/manuals/liechtenauer/Dobringer_A5_sidebyside.pdf&gt;. 32r.

Additional resource:

Tobler, Christian Henry. Fighting with the German Longsword. Wheaton, IL: Freelance Academy Press, 2015. Print.

Modern students practicing the knightly arts