Development of a "new" european swordmanship

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Development of a "new" european swordmanship

Postby OdinoSenzaOcchi » 21 May 2015 18:33

Hi everyone!

I studied martial arts for 10 years and HEMA for 5 years, then 3 years ago I had to stop because I wanted to study in a drama school and it ended taking all my free time. Now I'm getting my degree and I'd like to start again my studies in the HEMA world.
I was thinking about all the things that have been discovered in these years and I think we can all agree that for almost every style we are by now able to recreate a decent interpretation of it. And then a question came out: "But what about now?"
I mean, the historical research is going fine, but what about the development of the knowledge we are studying? I'm well aware that when you are studying a particular author, you have to stick with his teachings; otherwise, it wouldn't be a precise and accurate historical research. But I'm personally starting to think that all this knowledge about different authors and styles should translate also in an attempt to create something new. An european swordmanship, heavily based on the original sources but tweaked to adapt in this age and mixed taking all the useful things and discarding what is not relevant anymore.
This is my thought in these days, probably a useless thought; but I really want to know what you guys think of it. The vast majority of you has years of experience and studies more than me, so I really need your POV! :)
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Re: Development of a "new" european swordmanship

Postby MEversbergII » 21 May 2015 21:15

Well, I presume the first place to look is at tournaments: How are they actually fighting, and what are they using to win?

That is, really, the most practical place for a new system of swordsmanship: Write for those who spar.

Otherwise, the other side of the coin is people who are in it largely for a particular system. Thus, you can't really market something towards them like that. At least, I wouldn't expect them to be a primary market.

McLemore has a few books that take old style weapons and presents them in a modernized system. This is his one on swords: http://www.amazon.com/The-Fighting-Swor ... XG1Q3B1BRY

I read his one on staff a while back. I remember it being pretty well written, but I didn't scrutinize it. It's less traditional techniques and more analysis of time and space, really.

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When I was a fighting-man, the kettle-drums they beat,
The people scattered gold-dust before my horses feet;
But now I am a great king, the people hound my track
With poison in my wine-cup, and daggers at my back.

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Re: Development of a "new" european swordmanship

Postby swordflasher » 23 May 2015 08:32

Its an interesting idea, so some questions.

Firstly, by European, do you mean that one would be using weapons based on historical European weapons [longsword, sidesword, backsword, sabre, rapier, smallsword, messer] as opposed to ones based on Eastern ones [banana, ninjato, jian, tulwar, etc.]?

Secondly, and from the above point, If this is a new swordsmanship, are we talking about learning to use historical swords as listed above, or modern types of swords on the market now, and if the latter, which ones? Are we looking at modern production longswords, tactical bananas, high end custom short swords, zombie-slaying machetes, when-the-bullets-run-out gladii, sport fencing weapons, or modern tournament feders?

Which leads us to my third question - do you mean -
a] sparring with practice weapons made of modern materials or blunt steel in order to win tournaments, or
b] learning to fight with sharps for real life-or-death scenarios based on the modern world, or based on an alternate fantasy version of the modern world where sharps are habitually carried?

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Re: Development of a "new" european swordmanship

Postby Sean M » 30 May 2015 11:11

OdinoSenzaOcchi wrote:I was thinking about all the things that have been discovered in these years and I think we can all agree that for almost every style we are by now able to recreate a decent interpretation of it.

I am not sure. I figure that in 50 years what we are doing today will look just as quaint as what historians and recreationists were doing 50 years ago look to us. For some of the vaguest sources, like I.33, I suspect that as long as geeky people are interested, there will be people who can read well and fence well who interpret the manuals very differently.

OdinoSenzaOcchi wrote:But I'm personally starting to think that all this knowledge about different authors and styles should translate also in an attempt to create something new. An european swordmanship, heavily based on the original sources but tweaked to adapt in this age and mixed taking all the useful things and discarding what is not relevant anymore.

Useful for what? Relevant to what? If you can clarify that, I am sure that you will find many groups which want to achieve the same things as you do.
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Re: Development of a "new" european swordmanship

Postby Dave B » 30 May 2015 13:23

swordflasher wrote:Which leads us to my third question - do you mean -
a] sparring with practice weapons made of modern materials or blunt steel in order to win tournaments, or
b] learning to fight with sharps for real life-or-death scenarios based on the modern world, or based on an alternate fantasy version of the modern world where sharps are habitually carried?

Best wishes,


And that cuts right to the heart of the matter.
Currently people who do tournaments seem to fall into two ill-defined groups. People who see it as a way to test their study of 'real combat', and people who are taking part in a fencing sport, but using different and perhaps more interesting weapons that foil, epee and sport sabre. If you start developing new systems specifically to win fights under a modern tournament ruleset than for me there is nothing wrong with that, but it's not for me a martial art, it's purely a sport. Neither historical nor martial, a sport, albeit a new and interesting one.
Your option B is interesting to me. My initial thought was that this is essentially a fantasy scenario, so not a martial art. But after all, how many of the people who study Krav or whatever will really have to use it on the street? I suspect not many.
I do doubt that there are many useful techniques to be developed or discovered that are not already in a treatise, so I imagine that developing any new system of swordsmanship would be a Barton-Wright exercise in picking bits from different sources that seem to work together.
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Re: Development of a "new" european swordmanship

Postby MEversbergII » 31 May 2015 02:34

It's the Group B that makes up, or will eventually make up, the bulk. Years ago I used to watch tournaments, and it was largely gamesmanship - light taps and extended thrusts, cuts that hit with the flat pretty often. It wasn't all the fights, but if it was an A and a B going at it, the B's usually won out.

I experienced exactly this in my early endevors starting a WMA group. I'd invite new people and demonstrate what I knew to be longsword, dagger, etc. I would be thwarted in sparring almost every single time by a lightning fast bop on the leg or arm somewhere. Doubtful it would stop a fight, but it was enough to satisfy them, and any arguments against this method boiled down into three things:

1) Nobody's going to really use this for real anyways
2) You're just sore because you lost
3) This style is crap

Puts a damper on the whole thing; the thought you may be wasting your time/efforts starts to lurk in the back of your mind. Eventually I got a group together that wanted to study dagger, but quite quickly they wanted to move onto sparring, and it ends up as either 1-3 above, or outright suicide tactics to increase overall chance of victory.

I did end up creating a hybrid sword-tag ruleset after a while, not wanting to completely abandon the group, but nothing came of it. It's a lightweight system, made to be one page long; I can send you that if you want to go that route.

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When I was a fighting-man, the kettle-drums they beat,
The people scattered gold-dust before my horses feet;
But now I am a great king, the people hound my track
With poison in my wine-cup, and daggers at my back.

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Re: Development of a "new" european swordmanship

Postby admin » 08 Jun 2015 11:27

The big problem of course is that people aren't fighting with swords for real these days. What works in tournaments is very different to what is sensible for real and tournament rules can have a big impact on technique in tournaments. Most successful fighters will change their game to win to the rules - just as we've ultimately seen in sport fencing or kendo.

My parting thought though would be that there is never one 'ultimate style' of anything. There isn't an ultimate style for Formula 1 driving, or Marathon running. Top level competitors/fighters tend to devise a few different styles that all work equally well, in varying ways and with varying strengths and weaknesses. What we see from the historical record of fencing treatises are a variety of styles, a few of which rose to prominence - I'd expect a similar thing to happen now, should sword combat become a real thing again.
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Re: Development of a "new" european swordmanship

Postby OdinoSenzaOcchi » 21 Jul 2015 20:15

Sorry for the delay and thank you for your answers. I think that by reading them, I understood better what I meant at the beginning.
First of all, I don't have anything against the sport part of HEMA; in fact, I really like it. Beacause of that, like most of you I suppose, I watch a lot of competitions (both HEMA and modern fencing) and I too see what all of you pointed out: swordmanship essentially being simplified for sport use. I don't think that this point is necessarily a bad thing, but of course there are a lot of cons. Both in historical and modern fencing for example, you can see a lot of double blows, often scored because of a reckless assault. In fact, now all HEMA competitions are trying in their own way to discourage these things creating new rules, aren't they?
Of course we can't use sharp swords for competitions, but IMHO there lies the problem: if people adopt in tournaments those attitude and techniques (more efficient in the realm of the sport rules), it's because they trained themselves like that. It's effcient sportwise, but what about the origins of what we study?
"European Swordmanship" was IMO a martial art in which you fought other people using all kinds of weapons and styles; subliminal text: "without being hit, possibly". My thoughts go to all the famous duelists that could survive more than 2 duels (of course blunt weapons are different, but still). What I'm saying is that I personally see a lot of people training the HEMA more like a sport than a martial art and that creates all the aforementioned "problems". It's a common thing actually, you can see the same thing in Karate, Tae Kwon Do, ecc. For example, you can see in every athlete a good "step in", but most of the times there isn't a "step out", almost as if it isn't a requisite for every safe technique (of course this is my personal opinion).
Well, in the end I personally think that training the HEMA like what they were instead of what they are becoming could have all sorts of benefits, both in studies and tournaments.
What do you think?
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Re: Development of a "new" european swordmanship

Postby swordflasher » 24 Oct 2015 11:27

One route might be stick fighting without any kind of rules - just minimum protection [nose-protecting goggles and a box] and short, medium or long sticks. Kind of like Dog Brothers. But a hard stick - nothing annoys me more than a mixed martial arts bout in body armour with a pointless stick that's not as effective as the punches and kicks.
But even with this approach, when adrenaline's pumping no hits with a stick will end a fight, only getting someone to the ground and sitting on them. Maybe ..cattle prods? :)
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Re: Development of a "new" european swordmanship

Postby Cosmoline » 25 Oct 2015 08:14

I think if you want a real-world HEMA, Bartitsu and La Canne are the places to look. They were formed with the backdrop of pretty much modern law and concepts of self defense. Obviously there were some differences, but nothing as significant as the legal differences between now and the Holy Roman Empire. And their emphasis on disarms and retreat is useful.
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Re: Development of a "new" european swordmanship

Postby swordflasher » 25 Oct 2015 18:17

I like la canne and have trained in it, and agree it could be a good starting point, but would have to be a street version for our purposes - the sport version is fast and beautiful to watch but more of an aesthetic spectacle IMO. Bartitsu also a great suggestion. I would add backsword/ backswording for any medium sized sword with some hand protection.
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Re: Development of a "new" european swordmanship

Postby ChrisBear » 26 Oct 2015 09:56

I think that rather thank trying to devise a single style or teaching system to incorporate all the different aspects of HEMA would it not be better to take a similar approach to MMA? A lot of MMA clubs bring together skills from multiple sources but teach them individually. The BJJ class is different to the wrestling class and the Mu-Tai is different to the boxing class. At my old MMA club there were classes from 6pm to 10pm most days but classes would only be repeated a few times a week. So for this HEAM club a Monday could look like:

6pm - 7:30: Side Sword
7:30 - 9:00: Rapier
9:00 - 10:00 free Spar

With the 2 earlier lessons focussing on technique and theory and the last hour free spar with different weapons to test what you have learned. You could have classes specifically for tournament training where you look to combine the different skills together and other classes on using sharps and how it changes the way the sword behaves.

(I accept this is not a fully thought through idea yet but it's first thing Monday morning and I've only just had my first coffee)

Ignoring the logistical and financial issues that would be the biggest barriers to setting up a club like this I think it would be the best way to create a modern highly skilled HEAMist whilst still studying from the original texts. Teach each thing individually but then provide opportunity for people to use them together or to train for tournaments or whatever that particular student wants to learn.

As for the whole not getting hit part, I believe that would be easy to do as long as you made it key to all your teaching. In all your sparring make the focus on not getting hit, stress defence over offence at all times. You won't totally remove the problem but would probably produce HEMAists with a better understanding of how not to get hit.

(Now I'm going to spend the rest of the day daydreaming about a dedicated HEAM school with it's own building that runs classes every evening and all weekend. All I need now is the money to buy the building, people to coach in every possible style and enough students to make it viable, how hard can that be right)
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