Mar. 4th, 2010 11:40 am
grauwulf: (Default)
This was a matter of some discussion the other night, along with EVERYTHING else, and seemed to really be worth sharing.

Lose with some grace. Seriously people, this is important. We all have bad days. We all come up against a new or different kinds of fights. We all plateau when we're learning something new, or working on something different. All of us, from Don Uber Badass to Joe Schmoe cannon fodder. Try to regard it as a learning experience. Try to get better from it.

Most people who are competitive at all seem to fall into one of several categories on this; they either shift the blame to something else, or bury themselves in their own faults. Neither is terribly productive.

Everybody has room to improve, room to grow and get better. You will have days when you just get dominated, in fencing or in business or in relationships or what have you. You can't wallow in your own short comings, but you have to accept responsibility as well.

Be reasonable. Look at the situation. What was causing you to fall behind? What can you do to improve? Examine the conditions you 'can' change and not the ones you cant. My knees suck. They just do. I haven't been nice to them and they remind me of it from time to time. My neck is sore, my back is sore. These may all be very true, they are also very much excuses.

In fencing as in life. Accept responsibility for your actions, or in-actions. Focus on the things you can change, and do your best to accept with understanding the things you can't. Observe the whole battle field not just you're individual place in it. Do these things and, more often than not, you will find yourself rising rather than falling.
grauwulf: (Default)
Since the various "Snowpocolypse" and "Snowmagedion" and "Snowtorious BIG" occurrences have kept use away from practice recently last night was the first fencing practice of any notable size in a while. Smaller than usual but in many ways I feel far more effective. "Why is that?" you say. Well, we'll get to that.

How many of us did any training over the winter, show of hands. Nobody? well don't feel bad, I've been right there out of it with you. So as we start to pull our selves out of our winter caves and back into the salle, I've noticed a few things that are pretty consistently 'rusted up' by a long lapse in fencing, such as winter.

Foot work. *groan* oh my word, does foot work look bad after a few weeks/months off. Why is this and what can you do? Well aside from being out of specific practice, most people tend to be less in shape after a break than when the have been fencing twice a week. So working out and staying in shape (pear is a shape, but not the one you're after) certainly helps. Let's just assume, *cough* you haven't been keeping up at the gym. !STRETCH! try to do a really good thorough stretch the day before practice or at least a few minutes before you start actually fencing. This will really help you to move better, to fight better, and to not get hurt.

Blade Work OK this one is an up and a down. People tend to go for the much faster, flashy, blade work and do OK with that since they are running on 90% instinct, but completely fail at the basics. Stay tight, 3 point line, maintain aggression of the point.

One final thing that I'll mention. legs. Why don't people defend their legs at all. ever. *headdesk* it's a valid target people. 2,5 and 8 folks, Seconde Quinte and Octave. If you need a refresher -> ( ).

So back to the original statement. Why is the smaller practice better? I think that you get more from a good small group than a large one because you get the change to work with everybody. Not only that you have the time to actually do some drills and not feel like you're missing out on the stabbing. Fencing drills are important learning tools and they really do make you better, do drills.

Finally, you don't get saturated at a smaller practice. Usually. There are the few odd practices where you only have 5 people and they "ALL" want to be the "teacher" and they all want to do things "My" way. A very common complaint among newer fencers, in particular, is that there are so many people trying to teach them to do things so many different ways. At a more condensed practice those people have a greater probability of receiving a less fractured message.

Until next time,
grauwulf: (SCA-Fencing)
Ahh that lovely time of year when everybody forgets about fencing and focuses all of their energy on stuffing their face and lazing about in food comas. Joy. What I want for Christmas is to stab people in their face. A lot. An advent calendar of fencing and joy.

The holiday slump is hard for a lot of people, so how to keep your edge through the holiday system? Here are 3 things that can really keep you ready to go for when the season comes back.

  1. Obviously drilling will help, so if you actually remember to do that (you wont :) then you are an awesome ninja of epic legend quality.

  2. Think about fencing. Ok this one is a bit more reasonable, and it sounds like a bit of a jip but it really does help. think about the fight, think about what you will / would do and how. think about the motions. Play it out; work through in your brain, a perfect perry. A perfect lunge. A well placed shot.

  3. Exercise. So we had the ends of the spectrum there now we'll shoot for the middle. Over the holidays try to keep in shape. Stay healthy. do some pushups. do some pull ups. STRETCH. Keep your body in fencing condition. It makes all the difference when you get back to it.
grauwulf: (SCA-Fencing)
Wednesday, December 9, 2009, 11:00 AM

... is that aggression is not always the key, it is just another useful tool. It is not uncommon for fighters to go through a period of fencing where everything is aggressive and very high energy. Pure explosiveness on the field will give you a shot against just about anybody, once. Even with better fencers, you might get away with it a few times. For the average joe shemoe you will probably take about 45-55%, which is pretty good, and the primary reason that so many people get stuck in this 'stage'.
"It's working on 50-60% of everybody and I occasionally get a WhiteScarf, why would I change?" and there are two related answers. #1 you need to improve because the longer you ride that one trick pony, the more likely it is that people will figure you out completely then your game is _dead_. #2 if you never train, never get any better than you are, you'll never _BE_ any better than you are. Is your goal to be a Maybe +/-60% fighter, or a solid 80-90% fighter?

You can ride aggression a long way, but 0-60% is all you're ever going to get.

(P.S. : really aggressive fighters tend to have HORRIBLE form; which when they do decide to finally upgrade they have to re-train. A process that sucks. If you have time to do it twice, why not do it right the first time?)
grauwulf: (Default)
Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 01:32 PM Fencing Talk

Recently I attended a practice where somebody was trying to run a foot work drill.

Mel says "AWESOME"!

The drill was pretty shoddily run, but that happens.

Mel says "GOOD EFFORT"!

The drill finished without errors being corrected or even addressed. People stumbled and bumbled and tipped and tilted and it was not enforced to and how to do the motions correctly.

... Rant v9 activated ...

Question time with Mel!
"Why are drills valuable? Why do we do them?"

Correct answer: "We drill to reinforce the proper way to perform actions, through repetition, so that in practice the correct actions are more easily executed."


:: reaches for a paper bag :: hyperventilate :: breath ::

... Rant deactivated ...

OK so now that that is over with I encourage you all to take a moment when you're doing a drill. Ask yourself "Am I doing this right?" "Am I balanced?" "Is this a clean action?" Don't learn it wrong if you can possibly avoid it. Mel's Rules of fencing #10 is "Teach it right, and they will learn it right." because it is of absolute importance to the future quality of your fencing that you learn it right the "first" time. Otherwise you will have to "un-learn" and then "re-learn". If you have time to do it twice, you have time to do it right the first time.
grauwulf: (SCA-Fencing)
Friday, September 25, 2009, 08:54 PM

Nobody is exactly the same as you for any given fight, but within the realm of reason there is a margin of variance where really the differences are insignificant. As Dante would say, "you might as well flip a coin." So what is the difference between the victor and the victim in such fights?

Will is a very important part of the psychology of combat.

Professional athletes will often call it "heart".

When all things are equal sometimes you have to look beyond your technical training to get the edge you need to survive. It's not "blood lust" because it's controlled. It's not anger because it not emotional. You don't 'Rhino', cheat or otherwise play foul because that defeats the value of the victory. You simply decide that you will control the fight. You set in motion a sequence of events that is of your design not because you are "better" but because you seize all initiative.

When all things are equal; sometimes you just have to know that you can win and you will win because the will is just as sharp a weapon as your sword and if used effectively, even more deadly.
grauwulf: (SCA-Fencing)
Thursday, August 27, 2009, 12:18 PM
Most of us are self aware enough to know what we are doing most of the time at that time. "I'm typing a blog entry". It's when we start to look back that things get a bit muddled. This holds true for fighting the rapier. It tends to be a very quick exchange in which you act and react to that which you observe. But _many_ people seem to have a hard time "breaking down" a fight.

Being able to translate
"AH! crap-oh wait! EEEK! >STAB>"
"I saw an opening to center line, but your footwork neutralized that. As I was retreating I noticed your leg moving into line but as I was shooting for that you lunged, causing me to void which opened a line to your inside hip so I stabbed you"
can be very difficult because it required a presence of mind during the fight "about" the fight.

We all learn this particular skill in our own way but I encourage you all to spend a little time watching other people fight. Pick a person and break down that fight. Think about the fight. Play it out in your mind. What would you have done better? Why?

Think about your own fights, video tape them if you can. There is a wealth of knowledge yet to be found in your very own footsteps.
grauwulf: (SCA-Fencing)
Thursday, August 13, 2009, 01:04 PM

The Lochmere practice had a few newbies this week and it got me thinking again about the learning progression. If you're just starting out what do you need to learn and in what order? Well there are of course as many different answers to this question as there are people teaching the use of the sword. I take the following approach:

1) Stance: Just knowing how to be balanced and well distributed in you physical positioning is SO important, and so many people just really ignore it.

2) Footwork: Good footwork drives your lunge, it facilitates measure, it sets time and tempo, voids, volta's and even all the crazy stuff like pasatasotos all live and die around your footwork.

3) Basic parries: you don't _need_ to know the difference between pronation and supination, you don't need to know the difference between a parry in opposition and reposte imbrocatta. You NEED to know how to not get stabbed when somebody is trying to stab you. Basic simple precise efficient parries.

4) Basic blade control: If you can stand, walk, and keep yourself from getting stabbed you are already about 60% on your way to winning the fight and you haven't even picked up a sword yet. Seriously, think about it. With: good efficient blade control, thrust, lunge, a simple disengage and the ability to hit what you aim for, you can easily find yourself as a 75% fighter right out of the box. Not too shabby, not to shabby at all.

If you have that all of the tangible pieces are in place, beyond this you start getting into more advanced concepts like mechanics time manipulation range and angulation... All of which really improve your game and you can use them to supplement a weaker area. For example if your footwork is a little weak, but you can out angle a geometry teacher, you'll probably be fine. you need all of the parts but at a certain point you can fill in the gaps with a little bit of crafty.

Build a strong foundation and you can take that with you as far as you choose to go.
grauwulf: (SCA-Fencing)
Thursday, August 6, 2009, 12:40 PM Fencing Talk
Pennsic was short but fun for me this year. I didn't do as well as I had hoped to but I didn't horribly disgrace myself either (no wins but I did go pretty deep into each list *sigh*shrug*).

Moving on.

I'll try to get a nice full post on recapping pennsic but I just want to quickly touch on one thing.


Attitude is everything. I had a fight the other day with a particular Cadet from Ansteorra who I was fighting; when I offered a suggestion on a manner in which she could close the opening I had been exploiting in her guard of case. She responded rather excitedly that "Oh I think I know what I'm doing, if I needed advice I'd have asked for it."
So I hit her in the mask on the next three passes. After that she rather, rather nicely too, if I could offer any ideas for improvement.

not a bad person, she just had a bad attitude

If this was a matter of "ego" she would not have been able to admit to herself that maybe yes she could use a few pointers. It was attitude. She approached our simple pickup fight as if lowly me (an Atlantian White Scarf) simply had nothing to offer her in the way of instruction. ... *sigh* Mels Rules of Fencing (see link to left)

#1 There is always something you can learn, from anybody.

Do not expect defeat, do no anticipate failure, and do not for one minute think that you are unbeatable. We are all constantly learning and to think that you are beyond that is to set yourself up for a world of disappointment. I have been taken to school by the newest of newbs, and I have executed with precision the best of the best. That is the way of life. Learn from both and move on.

I was knocked out of two consecutive tourneys by the same guy this Pennsic. Because I suck? No. I can hold my own just fine. Because I did something wrong? Maybe. Hind sight 20/20 and all that but in the end on those days on those lists, he was better, and having experienced those fights which he executed with such deft prowess I would like to think I am a little better too.

Come into the game with the right attitude and you won't need it adjusted.

So to sum up, relax. You took up this activity for fun. If that fun is found in winning 500 Tourneys, or if it is found in executing 1 single *perfect* lunge. Remember that attitude is everything.
grauwulf: (SCA-Fencing)
Thursday, July 30, 2009, 10:41 AM Fencing Talk
Let's take a minute to talk about blade length.

In period it seemed that every fencing master had their own particular psydoscientifical formula for determining weapon length and construction. One of the prevailing notions, and the one I personally think makes "sense", is that when dualist and weapon are both perpendicular to the ground the weapon should come to the base of the sternum (solar plexus). This seems to be a pretty good ratio that actually "works". This is not to say that different lengths of blade are bad, not at all. This ratio is just a good indicator of what a nice all purpose weapon should be sized at for you. Weight is a completely different beast altogether and will be discussed after Pennsic in a follow up blog. I like a heavy pommel because I like to use short distribution angulation in my parries to maintain point aggression. Sometimes I need a "quicker" blade and so I keep a variety of pommel weights on hand everything from a ~1lb basic lock to a 3.5lbs block. On it's own that is a fair topic and we'll get back to it... promise :)

Ok, the previous paragraph is not secret knowledge that was passed down to me in the super-secret-white-scarf-meeting-caverns (oh noes, I've said too much). If you think about it, it's really just a good common sense.

I imagine that right now some of you are starting to think about those 40"+ blades you have lurking in your gear bags, or maybe you're thinking about my 28" katzbalger... "Hypocrite!" you name me, but not so fast! First let's break down what the blade length buys you (advantage) and where then we'll look at the basic size groups. As a disclaimer, these groupings are "my" groupings you will almost certainly run into others.

Right then, lets talk geometry for a minute. 9th grade math class taught us that the area of a sector at any given degree is proportional to the length of the radius. Another way to think about is that you fight in 360 degrees, right? And your opponent is also fighting in 360 degrees, right. the point at which these two circles touch is the sector of potential danger. As you move closer to each other the size of the sector increases as the radius decreases. Sector of overlap increases as the intersection of the opposing arcs increases. In simple terms, the closer you get to each other the shorter the functional radius(sword) length within a arc(places you can stab). By increasing the distance between the centers of the two circles you reduce/eliminate the intersection of those circles. when the distance between the two centers is greater than the combined length of the radius' then you are effectively out of target range. So increasing your circle's radius(sword length) gives you a greater arc length and thereby more available intersection(you're able to extend your range and you can cover more of the same opposing arc). So if you get close, a shorter blade is to your advantage and if you stay far back a longer blade is to your advantage. Got it? See, math is power!

Average (optimal) Weapons
These are the weapons we have been talking about already. This is, what I would consider to be, a must have. This is your all around use weapon. This is the one you should know and love. Not ~LOVE~ but really love. Got it? But Melchior! I don't like my 'optimal' length weapon. That's fair, but I would not exceed .05 +/- of the optimal length.
40" * (+.05/-.05) = 38-42"
So generally speaking, obviously depending on your personal tastes and abilities, you should be looking for a weapon that has a blade length of 38-42"

Short Weapons
I consider anything "short" that is less than or equal to 85% of the optimal blade length. So for the sake of discussion lets say that a generic weapon has a 40" blade.
40" x .85 = 34"
So, for somebody that would normally fight with a weapon that has a 40" blade: any weapon that is 34" or shorter would be considered "short".

Long Weapons
Technically speaking, I consider any blade to be "long" that exceeds .05 of the optimal length.
40" x .05 = 42"
Practically, it is prohibitively difficult to use a weapon that is more than .15 of the optimal length.
40" x .15 = 46"

This is getting a little more long winded than I originally wanted it to. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the differences between "Long", "Short" & an ideal weapon length.
grauwulf: (SCA-Fencing)
Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 09:12 AM Fencing Talk

OK let's ignore that fact that the Rapier is not a melee weapon. At all. Not even a little bit.

Melee's are big confusing, loud, and if you're not used to it it can be a bit overwhelming. It's not terribly uncommon to get separated from your unit, get conflicting orders from two different runners, or (some times even worse) to receive orders so confusing and obscure that you have to run them through the Spidey-Decoder Ring to figure out that you need to be holding the left edge so a flanking unit can skirt you at high noon to sneakup on the enemy! ~this is Mel looking at you skeptically~

Here are some tips to help the rank and file get the most out of the melee experience.

Weapon Choice and use:
Leave the daggers out. Case and ridged parry are the weapons of choice. Why? That's a good question. Fact: melee fighting is different than tourney fighting. you will not be throwing deep lunges or planning deeply complicated actions & blade density is important. A killing cup works because there are a LOT of points all in one direction. So if you're fighting in the line you want the most points you can bring or an effective defensive item (shield) that your friends can use to get a good shot.

more points on the line = better odds for team success

you having better defense = you staying alive longer = better odds for team success

So what else do I need to know?
COMMUNICATION. If the next person in your team/line/unit can not hear you issue a command, they are too far away. If your unit can not decipher the commands they are given those commands are worse than useless, they are detrimental because they keep those fighters out of the fight (or in the wrong one) while they run the newest set of orders through the enigma machine. Keep it simple "Left Edge! Reinforce!" is far better than "Hey! they are coming in on the left and I can't hold them!" Short, Simple, Effective.

Don't be clever, be effective

If you're a grunt: LISTEN TO YOUR ORDERS
If you're in charge: ISSUE CLEAR ORDERS

go out and stab something!
grauwulf: (Default)
Tuesday, July 28, 2009, 11:25 AM Fencing Talk

Keep It Simple
I keep talking to people, in particular people trying to "ramp up" for Pennsic, and hearing the most crazy notions of practice and drilling (which be honest, you don't really do). Knowing the difference between imbrocatta and sotcatta won't help you if you have a badly balanced stance, lame blade control or no parries. These are the simple things.

Practice your point control. Refine your range. Stand in an en guard stance every day. Pick up your sword everyday. Think about fencing. Think about the things you know how to do and try to work out the things that you don't.

The lunge is the most basic and most elusive skill that you can perfect.

Economy of Motion
grauwulf: (Default)
Wednesday, August 29, 2007, 10:36 AM Fencing Talk
Well the fencing world has been kind of quiet for me these past few weeks. I've been getting back into the swing of school (bummer) and dealing with some really fun (sarcasm) mundane life issues. But I did want to leave you all with a little nugget that recently was gifted to me by the ether:
"Leadership is the reduction of uncertainty."

Have you been put in charge of a unit at Pennsic?
Are you MIC for an event?
Are you in a 'political' position which requires you to 'lead'?

be prepared, be informed, be ready, and when the time comes act with certainty and conviction. Even if you "don't" have the answer, have a way to get the answer.

F1: that draw cut was a pull, then, a push, so the draw doesn't count!
F2: yes it does you got cut, deal with it. Marshal resolve this issue!
M1: _____________________ ?

lets assume that you don't know what to do here. (obvious misuse of rules to gain a technical advantage, big no no.) Instead of saying "well I don't know, work it out for your selves." you should be firm and consice. "my ruleing is that you're being a dumb-head. the rules say treat the blade like a real blade. if it was would you be disenclined? after the fight today we'll sit down and review the rules together if you wish. you may refight the bout if you both wish to do so, with the understanding that 'tiggering' is bad, don't do it."

you don't have to always be right, but you do have to be confident and willing to seek out the answers.
grauwulf: (SCA-Fencing)
Preparing a Heavy Rapier Tip
Monday, July 30, 2007, 12:10 AM Fencing Talk
So I was thinking about it and I realized that although we tell everybody that they need to have a properly constructed tip on their heavy rapiers nobody has ever really spelled out exactly what that is (at least not to my knowledge) so this may grow into a full page how to but for now here is the skinny.

start with a standard archery bird blunt. these can be found at hunting supply stores for about a dollar +/- a piece and usually come in packs of five or ten.

next you're going to need the metal disc to prevent blow through. galvanized steel flat washers are my weapon of choice. you're looking for something that will snugly fit into the bird blunt so size is an issue. as a basic guide you're looking for a washer with about a 5/16" external diameter and the smallest internal diameter possible. I use a #6 metric washer which is available from most home improvement stores at about $2 for a hundred.

Now use a screwdriver or whatever else you have handy to push the washer to the bottom. A large Phillips head seems to work the best for me. Now here is the really really REALLY important part. MAKE SURE IT IS ALL THE WAY DOWN AND _FLAT_FLAT_FLAT_

Okay got that? now to finish it off I recommend using a first wrap of strapping tape to affix the tip then a good heavy layer of colored electrical or some other durable colored tape. Be sure to tape from the edge of the face of the tip (don't cover the face) to at least two inches below the tip onto the blade. give is a few layers to assure your self that it is well in place.

Thats it, see told you there was nothing to it.
grauwulf: (SCA-Fencing)
So I had lots. and lots. of really useless posts in my sca fencing blog that I've decided not to migrate over here. Some were worth keeping around for one reason or another and here they are for your reading pleasure.

Selected Blogs Back-up '04-'07 )
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