Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

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Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby MEversbergII » 30 Nov 2014 21:49

Well, not 100%.

I did Wallerstein's dagger section for a while with my club. After they got bored with drills we moved on to aliveness sessions and pretty quickly concluded that it is pretty much entirely Bullshido. The "rushing" part invariably brings way too much mass and energy into contact for the defender to do much of anything except dodge a bit. Grabbing them brings it to the ground, where it stays until someone gets "stabbed". If they don't rush, there's a big snipe match that, once again, goes to ground. Hope you studied BJJ.

I'd been meaning to bring this up since I stopped doing dagger with my old club, but I came across one of Skallagrim's vids and it reminded me I hadn't: http://youtu.be/usnMkEkC0-Y

So it's not entirely crap. Most of it only works when there's a degree of compliance and readiness. So rarely does the catch-n-grab stuff that forms a lot of the early advice actually play out - typically they glide out of your grasp and you get stabbed anyways.

Related: I've been meaning to open a discussion on the degree of Bullshido and questionable advice present in our field of study, but that's a complex question and I'm no where near experienced or educated enough to make any assertions. I can't help but notice that tournament fights tend to look quite similar - and nothing like what the treaties tell us. Since it gets some results, we can't say it's just sloppy luck. Of course the equipment is a factor, but the system needs to be scrutinized as well. It would be unfortunate if our pioneering scholars were left holding the bag, relegated to the equivilent of Aikido status in the MMA world.

Just some observation. Maybe my lack of actual training groups colours my observation; maybe I should heed the advice in my own signature!

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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby Mink » 30 Nov 2014 22:22

I've thought about it a lot, but never got around to do much knife or dagger outside Aikibudo. Which is relevant as it looks so much like what has been written down, as you said :)

The key point is that this sort of stuff cannot really be approached by a symmetrical sparring scenario as can be done for sword vs. sword for example. If you take two equally trained individuals, give a dagger to one and tell them to fight, the guy with the dagger should win the vast majority of the time. That's why people pull daggers in the first place :) In order to have more even chances you need to have a major skill disparity or some sort of pressure on the dagger guy, to force him into the sort of commited attacks that are easier to defend against.

The question these techniques adress is, what is the best things to try to enhance your chance of survival. People tend to look at them as sure fire ways to defeat the opponent, which they are not. They outline the best you can hope for. Even if it just raises your chance of survival from 5% to 10% that's something! This is why they are almost invariably trained with some compliance. Otherwise you just train to fail the majority of the time. The armed person has to adapt and give a chance to the unarmed person.

Many people say that the traditional methods do not work. Not many propose better solutions. If you find yourself in this situation, having something to try that has the best chance of success, no matter how slim, is better than just thinking "well I'm done" and giving up.

It's as if I claimed that Judo was bullshido, while having only sparred against Teddy Rinner and witnessed the utter failure of everything I'm advised to do. The advantage afforded by a dagger is that big.

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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby Dave B » 30 Nov 2014 23:28

I do wonder if the scenario they envisaged was an attack where the guy walks up looking innocent, then whips the dagger out to stab you and run. It isn't a rushing up with the dagger ready scenario, because then you'd have had time to access your own dagger or sword. Nor is it the take your time and snipe attack because the attacker needs to do you and run. This is why it's so often the icepick grip. He also needs to make a committed attack to the body because of the tough clothing.

You don't have enough warning to access your own weapon, but you do have some warning because you see it drawn.

Under those circumstances I think there is more of a chance.
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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby SteelCat » 01 Dec 2014 00:31

Interestingly we did this kind of thing last week.

As a woman (=physically considerably weaker than any possible male attacker) I see my only chance in redirecting/blocking the knife long enough that I can kick him in the nuts. And then run.

Still better is, avoiding lonely streets and public parks at night as well as violent guys as partners. As someone who has been seriously harrassed by a guy (unarmed) once, I personally decided to be more careful and simply never come into a self defense a situation again and certainly won't start to carry my steak knife in case someone tries to jump me.

But from a theoretical POV, I think it makes a huge difference if the attacker is someone who specifically trained knife/dagger fighting or if it's some random aggressive guy who flips out and grabs a large kitchen knife. Because the first will know how to overcome defensive techniques, looking out for them, the latter will not.
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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby KeithFarrell » 01 Dec 2014 12:14

Mink wrote:The key point is that this sort of stuff cannot really be approached by a symmetrical sparring scenario as can be done for sword vs. sword for example. If you take two equally trained individuals, give a dagger to one and tell them to fight, the guy with the dagger should win the vast majority of the time. That's why people pull daggers in the first place :) In order to have more even chances you need to have a major skill disparity or some sort of pressure on the dagger guy, to force him into the sort of commited attacks that are easier to defend against.


I definitely think our modern propensity for symmetry and "fairness" is a major problem when dealing with the historical dagger vs unarmed sources.

I believe the key to applying some of that stuff is to apply it in the correct situation. That could be that the guy with the dagger is already quite close to you, he draws it from his belt in an icepick grip, and tries to stab downwards into your breast. That is a completely different context and situation to someone holding the knife in a forward grip and approaching slowly, looking for good opportunities to cut you across the hands or arms before moving in for the kill.

For example, in the Codex Guelf 83.4 Aug.8º, there is an unarmed vs dagger treatise (without illustrations unfortunately!) where both you and the attacker are sitting next to each other at a dinner table. He takes his knife and tries to stab you; from that seated side-by-side position, you must defend yourself. Most of the suggestions seem eminently reasonable (in my opinion at least), although they would be unreasonable techniques if the attacker was not sitting immediately to your side at a table.

MEversbergII wrote:Related: I've been meaning to open a discussion on the degree of Bullshido and questionable advice present in our field of study, but that's a complex question and I'm no where near experienced or educated enough to make any assertions. I can't help but notice that tournament fights tend to look quite similar - and nothing like what the treaties tell us. Since it gets some results, we can't say it's just sloppy luck. Of course the equipment is a factor, but the system needs to be scrutinized as well. It would be unfortunate if our pioneering scholars were left holding the bag, relegated to the equivilent of Aikido status in the MMA world.


Speaking entirely for myself here, I can pull off really technical stuff from the sources maybe half the time in friendly sparring. That drops to perhaps a tenth of the time in competitive fighting, because of the stress and the greater difficulty of the situation. All it means is that I simply need to get better. With only around five or six years of longsword experience under my belt, it's no wonder I'm not displaying the art perfectly all the time ;) in my experience, people can't do anything properly (or even well) until they have spent enough time studying the system seriously and undertaking the requisite practice.

So, to conclude, my suggestion is that it's probably not that the Codex Wallerstein grappling is bullshido, it's probably just that your group requires more practice at it to be able to apply it correctly. Also, trying to apply it in an asymmetric situation that is as close to the correct context as possible will probably help to boost the success rate.
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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby MugginsToadwort » 01 Dec 2014 17:54

I used the chance to have a class of 40 people in WWOC this year to roleplay some dagger scenarios, especially since we had a good mix of sizes and a number of people with no dagger experience. I've been trying to work out why symmetrical dagger encounters occurred, so I took the chance to experiment. After going through some background, we played a few games:

1) Random assasin, random target: everybody circulates, I tap a person and they attack a nearby person
2) Allocated target, random attackers: the target knows who he is, but I tap people to turn them into attackers

The attacker won most times, but not all the time. None of the targets managed to draw their dagger, but those who saw the attack and moved into the threat generally did better. In a crowded area, the attack generally went in three directions: the attacker won, the defender came in and performed a disarm/takedown relatively quickly, or there was a push-back and space opened up, i.e the two opponents ended up out of distance and I called a halt. In game 2, the defender did a bit better, but the number of "disengagements" increased.

Now, in most of our sparring, we tend to treat the disengagements as a prelude to more sparring, but in real life, this would be the moment to flee, or the chance for somebody else to get involved. Unfortunately this we can't roleplay safely!

Game 3 involved looking at dagger vs. dagger dynamics (sort of), basically playing with the monkey dance ideas a la Meditations on Violence. Getting to groups of people to throw inventive insults at each other and then watch it explode into (controlled, friendly) violence really emphasised how surprising and shocking the explosion of violence is when one side decides to get violent. No dagger vs dagger fight ever erupted, unless the two sides already have their knives out- when one side decides to draw their dagger and attack, the opponent rarely gets a chance to do the same. Thus, dagger vs dagger fights generally seem to start when both sides have their weapons out, or after a disengagement (see above).

After this we played some close confines games- put one unarmed or dagger-wielding person against the wall, and have another person attack, forcing the "walled" person to stay in distance. After the "walled" person had experienced things, I finally added some techniques from Meyer- circular blocks and parries in the main. And back to the wall they went, and generally found themselves doing better.

We ran out of time about then, but there was plenty to learn, since a lot of the work was unscripted and surprise was achievable. Techniques from the manuals need a basis of defence and control to work- parrying with windmilling arms and controlling the dagger arm is essential before a disarm or grip is attempted. Most defenders will die against a committed attacker unless they have a lot of training. Even then, a disengagement is more common than a technique, which could lead to withdrawal.

Not terribly scientific, but a fun class which I'd love to run again. Hopefully the observations help the discussion.
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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby Monzambano » 01 Dec 2014 23:49

I am shocked - SHOCKED - to learn that an event where my little innocent children participated was abused as an experiment! I hope that at least they did well.

I remember doing a dagger workshop with Alwin Goethals - he was asked whether in his profession as a policeman, he'd use the dagger defence techniques. HIs response was: First, he'd run away; second, he'd pull his gun; third, he'd use his stick; if he had no other choice, he'd use the techniques.

Christian Brandt, also a policeman, said something similar.

Having seen the various videos and reports, it's clear that knife/dagger is one of the most dangerous weapons. So I would not refer to the techniques as bullshido in the Ameridote/Master Ken sense, but clearly, you need to know very well what you're doing if you hope to apply them properly.
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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby MugginsToadwort » 02 Dec 2014 08:24

Monzambano wrote:I am shocked - SHOCKED - to learn that an event where my little innocent children participated was abused as an experiment! I hope that at least they did well.

I remember doing a dagger workshop with Alwin Goethals - he was asked whether in his profession as a policeman, he'd use the dagger defence techniques. HIs response was: First, he'd run away; second, he'd pull his gun; third, he'd use his stick; if he had no other choice, he'd use the techniques.

Christian Brandt, also a policeman, said something similar.

Having seen the various videos and reports, it's clear that knife/dagger is one of the most dangerous weapons. So I would not refer to the techniques as bullshido in the Ameridote/Master Ken sense, but clearly, you need to know very well what you're doing if you hope to apply them properly.


Your pair did seem to have fun...!

I agree completely. My standard line when teaching daggerwork: "A note about distance. The ideal distance for a knife fight is 3 km away". Even doing a technique successfully you may well take some damage. The other issue that often comes into things is the willingness to actually follow through to the logical conclusion of a dagger/knife encounter- to maim or kill the opponent. Knowing that "this move culminates in an arm break" is very different from actually breaking the arm. There are a few articles out there about "permission to do harm", basically talking about how people, even well-trained people, may not feel they have permission to actually cause harm. It's different knowing that the ideal finisher is stabbing the man repeatedly, and actually doing so!
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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby SteelCat » 02 Dec 2014 12:38

One question on historical knife techniques.

Can we assume that at this time in history everyone is all the time wearing a dagger so if it came to a conflict both people involved had one?

And is a knife/dagger fight inheritently more dangerous than for example a sword fight (assuming both are similarly armed)?
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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby Dave B » 02 Dec 2014 15:09

SteelCat wrote:One question on historical knife techniques.

Can we assume that at this time in history everyone is all the time wearing a dagger so if it came to a conflict both people involved had one?


I think so, yes. But many knife vs unarmed techniques are shown in treatises, that suggests to me that people were concerned about an 'ambush' situation where they did not have time to access their own weapon.

SteelCat wrote:And is a knife/dagger fight inheritently more dangerous than for example a sword fight (assuming both are similarly armed)?


I don't know about more dangerous, but more unpredictable maybe as you have to be very close, and the dagger is much better at offence than defence. So perhaps a bigger danger of getting killed even if you are more skilled than the attacker, perhaps a bigger danger of both getting killed.
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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby Michael Chidester » 02 Dec 2014 15:42

Jay Vail has tracked down and compiled dozens of videos of actual knife attacks (from prison security cameras, cell phones in the street, etc.), and when you watch them back to back it becomes clear that A) untrained knife attackers attack in basically the same fashion regrdless of context and culture, and B) when people practice dagger techniques in HEMA they do not move or strike like "real" attackers do.
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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby Jonathan Waller » 02 Dec 2014 18:48

Because a technique or action is shown, in whatever context, unarmed, dagger sword etc. means nothing, the application of it in the specific context, and those involved will determine whether or not it works.

Of course distance plays a large part, as it relates to time, and times effects on options, working at dagger distance less time less options.

To loosely quote Rory Miller, "what you can use in true self defence, is a slim range of options, that may work, when you are already screwed."

Another quote applicable in this context.
Many people treat knives and daggers like little swords, when really they are sharp fists.

It often seems that there is an at least subconscious assumption, that the techniques illustrated or described in the MS will work, in an of themselves and yet when they do not work under some form of pressure, that the technique is to blame.

As mentioned already anything that increases ones chances even by a small degree is a good thing, so going from 0% to 10% etc is great! Also because of the nature of what we do for understanding the subject being misleading, sparring competition etc, we view "fighting" as a good thing. Fighting is not good. If you are fighting you have already blown it. It should not be about fighting it should be about winning, winning comes about from stacking the cards in your favour was much as possible and in as many ways as possible if you can't win, walk away or find something else to get out of it, or have somehting that again, increases your chances
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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby Mink » 02 Dec 2014 19:17

Michael Chidester wrote:Jay Vail has tracked down and compiled dozens of videos of actual knife attacks (from prison security cameras, cell phones in the street, etc.), and when you watch them back to back it becomes clear that A) untrained knife attackers attack in basically the same fashion regrdless of context and culture, and B) when people practice dagger techniques in HEMA they do not move or strike like "real" attackers do.

Yeah they are good, here are the links:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLRmtTbNWe0
http://www.youtube.com/v/DNOP3X9OyzM

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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby Monzambano » 02 Dec 2014 23:36

Thanks for posting, i remember watching some of these at the time.

Also, reports from historical to contemporary say that the person being stabbed took a long time to even realise he or she had been stabbed, especially in ambush situations. So it may not be just "idiots" reacting the way they did, but just the result of total incomprehension about what is going on.

Incidentally, this is also an argument against the "first touch is a kill" class of tournament rules, mercifully rare nowadays.
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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby MEversbergII » 03 Dec 2014 16:17

Monzambano wrote:
Incidentally, this is also an argument against the "first touch is a kill" class of tournament rules, mercifully rare nowadays.


How is it typically done? Swords and staves are still first touch kill though, right?

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With poison in my wine-cup, and daggers at my back.

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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby Monzambano » 03 Dec 2014 21:41

MEversbergII wrote:Swords and staves are still first touch kill though, right?

M.


The rules I've fought under this past year have all had some element of afterblow, and ideally fully weighted afterblow - so that as an attacker, you still have to end the action fully protecting yourself.

Also, blows were weighted; on one hand by target area, on the other hand, strikes with the flat or mere scrapes were not counted.

Each ruleset has/had a slightly different emphasis, but none of them went by the "first touch = kill" principle.

Don't know about staves.
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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby Michael Chidester » 03 Dec 2014 22:09

There are still lots of ideas about whether the person who lands the second blow deserves points or not, but every tournament I've heard of for the past few years have included some mechanic to penalize a person who compromises their defense to land the first hit. That seems like a facet of HEMA tournaments that's here to stay.
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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby Reinier » 04 Dec 2014 10:22

I don't think there are tournaments with staves, right?
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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby MEversbergII » 04 Dec 2014 14:54

Michael Chidester wrote:There are still lots of ideas about whether the person who lands the second blow deserves points or not, but every tournament I've heard of for the past few years have included some mechanic to penalize a person who compromises their defense to land the first hit. That seems like a facet of HEMA tournaments that's here to stay.


Good! A lot of the earlier vids I've seen (stopped following at all when life got too busy a couple years back) had quite a bit of after blow and mutually lethal assaults going on. Not all, but enough that it was a turn off.

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With poison in my wine-cup, and daggers at my back.

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Re: Unarmed vs Dagger is Bullshido

Postby Martin Greywolf » 05 Dec 2014 13:47

I did quite some research on this topis recently, ranging from Fiore to Applegate, so here are my two cents.

1) Attacks aren't made equal
Three main types:
* ambush - guy walks up to you, draws suddenly and stabs, keep in mind that ambush for an army is considerably longer than ambush for an individual (a guy can get ready in a few seconds, army needs at least a few minutes)
* duel - there's two of you, and both know that fight is coming, this was much, much more common in medieval times, what with fighting in barriers and judicial duels, you don't get this nowadays
* fight - between the two, you saw the fight coming and had time to get your weapon ready, but the other guy (or, ideally, you) could and maybe did bring friends, fights in the field fall under this

While you should have techniques that work under all three types, how they will be applied depends on the type of situation. You can get an armbar from the first strike if you see an ambush coming, but in a duel? Not likely, you will have to go with the opponent's movement as he withdraws his hand to grab it, and then he needs to draw back.

2) Techniques aren't techniques
No, really. Too many people look at a technique and see it as a frozen, static thing. You should look at them as if they were options to respond if the situation is right. Maybe you know scissors from Lichtenauer german school as a defense against an overhead stab, but that doesn't stop them from being an effective defense if someone grabs your hand from the outside, as Fiore shows.

Will someone whine about you "not doing Fiore" if you do the german version? Well, so bloody what? You get to live.

Not to mention there are hints towards this: if you have Fiore, consider how you can get into a third master from the second play of the first master. Does it correspond exactly to the pictures in the third master? No. Is it effective? Yes.

3) Techniques tend to be gentle nowadays

There are many techniques that show throwing an opponent by pressing your forearm against his throat. Many of these would be probably done as a follow-up to a throat punch. I don't think even russians are crazy enough to do it for real...

4) Keep in mind what isn't said in the manuals

This is a big one. Fiore, for example, shows us 75 (give or take) plays of the dagger divided into 9 masters, and only four ways to attack. He doesn't discuss footwork needed to get a blow in. He doesn't discuss (much) target areas, or that you can use second hand to give your dagger extra punch. He doesn't discuss a lot of things, because paper is expensive, and you (a trained knight looking to bring his stuff to the next level) probably know all of it already.

I mean, why even have the fifth master? If someone grabs me be the throat/shirt, the best way to deal with it is a stab into the face/chest or hand and then face (if I'm short). Fiore doesn't so much as mention this. Because he thinks you know enough to do it, if you have your dagger out.

You can't just look at the pictures and do the techniques for a while and expect them to work, whether they are dagger related or not - I'm seeing quite a few people in HEMA preaching to return to the basics and find out, for example, how to properly fence in and before giocco largo/zufechten, and that's for a longsword, which has been the most researched weapon by far.

5) Grabbing is situational

First thing to do with any dagger source is to look at grabs, and if they're necessary for properly executing technique. Some can be done without them (Fiore has third play of first master precisely for a situation where your opponent got out of a grab by drawing back), some can't.

Also keep in mind that no medieval treatise ever said you must rush into the first possible attack. Dodge and observe, people tend to fall into patterns. I got some pretty nice hits when I countered the second or third attack.

Also, you don't have to wait. You can, and indeed sometimes should, go after your opponent if he isn't attacking. Many binds and throws are a lot easier to do from this situation.

6) It's still pretty bad place to be in

When someone has a dagger and you don't? Yeah, a bad place to be. Look for a weapon. You could say that dagger vs. sword is bullshido too, but what you gonna do when you break your sword and your enemies, seeing the tactical advantage, come for you?

No, you won't win most of the time, especially not against someone who knows what he's doing, but at least you'll have a chance.

7) No technique is worth anything under pressure unless in muscle memory

I don't think I have to explain this one. Thing is, we don't train several hours a day like the people who routinely used these techniques, and it shows.
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