GIVE YOUR STUDENTS HISTORICAL OPPONENTS
Mike from the Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship is ready to be bad.
Who are the Historical Opponents?
"Note how in general all fencers, or all men who hold a sword in hand, even when ignorant in the art of fencing, make use of these seven guards, on which we have seven verses:"
Another example is the Flower of Battle. Fiore de Liberi's students did not fight one another. We know who they fought- he tells us. These were not novices either, but known military men, some of which, like Boucicaut, had books written about them.
Throughout the manuscript, Fiore teases the opponents for knowing little of 'The Art'.
Looking at Liechtenauer's Recital (Zettel), yes it can be applied against another who knows it, but, that may not be its intent. The glosses of Sigmund Ringeck imply as much when he says,
"By the grace of God he had let the Recital be written with obscure and disguised words, so that the art shall not become common."
"Take care not to act as some do, by delivering the imbrocatta all the way to the ground..."
"...a gallant man who can thrust, and pass well, but is flawed in countering them, can be said to know nothing."
Fabris takes it a step further by showing standard rapier guards and techniques, but, he also shows improvements on the system, giving insight how 'most' use their sword, and how his way is better.
That is not the purpose of this article. Instead, it's to get everyone to understand that the source material isn't always meant to fight itself and the opponents aren't always just wild brutes.
There are techniques in most treatises on how to handle the 'bestial man' though he may go by some other name. Additionally, some sources discuss what to do when fencing someone who is skilled. Meyer's longsword, for example, can be seen as a system that is meant to oppose itself- with the context being both opponents are aware of the Fechtschule culture, rules and tools. Giganti has advice on what to do when fencing someone who is superior.
Clubs need to teach how to fence against brutes and masters of the art, and they also have to fence someone not using their own system.
This is what most clubs do though. They learn a system then have the members fence one another using that system.
There is nothing wrong with this and there are many upsides, but, there is some context that is missing. How can students best learn their system if they are always fencing someone who knows it?
Yes, they can get trickier and better at it, but, I use another way, as well as free-fencing and line drills, to accomplish this.
Fabris' depiction of the third guard, which was commonly used by others, but, he found to be imperfect or improperly formed.
Fabris' depiction of the third guard formed properly. While Fabris' work was quite rapidly adopted by many others and he was lauded in his lifetime and beyond.
However, at the time he wrote his treatise, he believed he was teaching something new in comparison to what was widely done.
The bad guy stays in the ring and will fence all of the students one by one. My bad guy is a competent, but un-knowledgeable opponent. When it comes to longsword, the bad guy will perform proper cuts and thrusts and at the close will try and push in, seeking to run through their opponent. The bad guy will perform dedicated parries. The bad guy will be plenty dangerous and it's amazing how well they can do!
The students need to try and apply their techniques against the bad guy. This isn't a normal drill, because it is still competitive. The bad guy is trying to win, but, he can only use basic techniques to do so.
This bad guy knows just enough to be dangerous and can easily double with the students if they don't fence with caution and apply lessons the masters have for those who don't understand tempo, measure or gaining correctly.
Students have to use their basic techniques successfully against an earnest, if not entirely knowledgeable opponent.
If we were doing Fiore's wrestling, I would have the bad guy attack first and seek a standard a back-hold grapple.
If sword and buckler, I'd have the bad guy throw blows and thrusts and avoid any binding.
You get the idea.
To get the most out of this way of training, be sure to have a competent bad guy. That means the bad guy is not throwing crazy hard blows, charging madly, or purposefully seeking the double. They are trying to win and stay alive, they just don't have as many tools to use as the students.
Hopefully, the students get to apply their system as it was intended against an earnest and not entirely unskilled opponent!
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