Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Das Federschwerter: How the Hell Did That Happen?














Apparently the now ubiquitous term “federschwert” (feather-sword) used in reference to the foil, particularly that of the longsword, is an entirely modern, a-historical term. Not entirely unbefitting, but improper nonetheless. I decided to delve into the roots of this term after having used it often enough myself; but I never, ever found its use in any piece of historical martial arts material in reference to the foil.

Much could be written on this, but apparently the term “feder” used in regard to the sword came about as a derisive term for the rapier/slender, long, thrust oriented sword (oddly, often now called a “cut & thrust” sword, as if others weren’t), apparently helped along by the very name of the Federfechter guild who championed them. The Federfechter were so-called due to the feather in their heraldic insignia, but combined with the new “feder” term used to make light of the rapier, and their use of said weapon, it could also be taken to have meant “feather sword fighters,” “feather-fencers,” etc. to their opponents. Presumably the term was used for the rapier because of its lightness, relative harmlessness (infinitely arguable, of course), and not to mention that the feather is the traditional symbol of cowardice and flight. There were no shortage of contemporary detractors of the rapier, alongside derisive terms for it in England, for one (just ask Master Silver).

As far as I have been able to surmise, the lineage of the current misuse of the term stems to the misquoting and faulty memory of a certain practitioner whose primary source material is apparently old Egerton (Castle), rather than the primary martial arts source material. Egerton speaks a bit about the term in his Schools and Master of Fencing, but not inaccurately. Though on reading this, one could see how the memory could play tricks; perhaps even thinking that “Federfechter” meant something more akin to “foil-fencers.”

Anyway, the origin of our misuse is irrelevant in the face of that misuse. So here’s a new policy on how to not be an ass-hat: everyone stop calling foils, blunts, I.e. rebated swords “federschwerter!”

Special thanks to Mike Cartier (http://freifechter.com/index.cfm) for confirming this research, particularly with his expertise of Master Meyer’s material and context.

-C

Copyright July 2009 “Casper” Bradak

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Masters on the Art



I can't believe that I didn't remember this! It's been a few years since I last looked at Döbringer's treatise, and with my admittedly rather poor understanding of archaic (or modern) German, it was a quite a task the first time. However, I recently came upon this from the dedicated people of the Schola Saint George. Right off the bat, Döbringer reveals to us in his introduction:

Here begins Master Liechtenauer’s Art of fighting with the sword on foot and on horseback, in and out of armour.

First, know that there is only one Art of the sword, and this Art may have been developed hundreds of years ago. This Art is the foundation, the core of any fighting art. Master Liechtenauer understood it and practiced it in its complete depth. It is not the case that he invented the Art—as mentioned before—but he has travelled to many lands, seeking to experience and to learn the real and true Art.

This firmly establishes that, 1: the Art was ecumenical, and 2: it developed organically over a long period. Thus, artificial distinctions will not serve us. This sums up our position on this blog rather nicely. Döbringer is unambiguous here, leaving no room for any other interpretation, and his words are echoed in those of Fiore:

Here starts the book on dueling and fighting called the Flower of Battles with harness and without, on horse and on foot, composed by me Fiore de' Liberi of Cividale d'Austria in the Diocese of Aquileia, son of Sir Benedetto of the noble house of the Liberi....

...Thanks to God, I received all this knowledge from various teachers and from lessons from expert masters from Italy and Germany, and in particular from Master Giovanni called Suveno, who was a scholar of Nicolo' from Metz, and from many Princes, Dukes, Counts and many others in diverse places and provinces.*

"From expert masters from Italy and Germany...and from many princes, dukes, counts and many others in diverse places and provinces..." That's revealing, and Vadi later says much the same in his own treatise, (and one ought to consider Döbringer's words regarding "new arts" when considering some of Vadi's claims. Hype is extraordinarily old).

There are some that make the case for Fiore having never left Italy - and thus making his Art "pure," presumably - even though he alludes very strongly to have done so. It doesn't matter, of course: even if he never left Italy, he learnt his Art from an international set, who likewise had learnt theirs in a similar fashion. That was the nature of feudalism. For example, we know that one of Fiore's students faced off against an English knight in tournament, and another - it eludes me at the moment if it was actually the same student - presided as marshal over another tournament, in which Italians, Germans, Englishmen, and Frenchmen (and likely others) participated. So, even if Fiore remained like a fixture in Italy (highly unlikely, as he was a knight and had feudal obligations), the techniques he learnt would have been eclectic, and founded upon universal principles. From this foundation, he chose those techniques which he deemed best, and presented them in his treatises in the manner which he deemed best, and that's all. The "core," as Döbringer so aptly put it, was the same.

It should go without saying that it was the same with the English longsword material.

Now, let's go back to Döbringer, whose treatise is rapidly becoming my favorite German source. He goes on to say:

There are some Leychmeister who say they have invented a new Art, thinking that the Art of fighting will be improved day by day. I, however, would like to see one who can come up with a fighting technique or strike not part of Liechtenauer’s Art. Often they try to change a technique by simply assigning it a new name; many do this as they see fit...All this because they seek the praise of uneducated people! They practice wide and pretty parries, swinging at the start of an engagement just for show, executing very long strikes slowly and clumsily. By doing this they miss and cannot quickly recover, thus exposing themselves easily. This is because they have insufficient control and measure when they fight; and this is not really a part of serious combat, but is rather for fighting in the school; but serious fighting moves simply and directly, straight and without hesitation

This is, of course, the quote a certain "fechtmeister" levelled against yours truly, though misrepresented. Fiore provides some further insight:

I have seen a thousand people calling themselves masters, of which perhaps four were good scholars, and of those four scholars not one would be a good teacher.*

Fiore and Döbringer are talking about the same thing: false masters (and thus nothing to do with Meyer, as he is firmly ensconced within the Liechtenauer Lineage).

Lastly, to make our point all the more strongly, we turn to the less well-known (one might even say sadly neglected) treatise of Master Mertin Siber:

Whosoever will earn honour before princes and before lords in fighting with the longsword, he is good and rightful, who follows my lore, he is blessed evermore. The six goings hold wards which are quite preciously good, wherein is wealful comprehension of the cunning of quite many goodly masters: from Hungary, Bohemia, Italy; from France, England and Alemania; from Russia, Prussia, Greece, Holland, Provence and Swabia.**

Three sources, all telling us more or less the same thing: there was only one Art of the Longsword. And it was pan-European. Yes, there existed differences in the different traditions, lineages, and schools. These were, however, largely matters of presentation and simple preference from one master to the next. But the Art, the foundation, was the same. We discuss this in more depth in the links listed below.

*Translation by Hermes Michelini.

**Translation by Jeffrey Hull.

See also Codex 5278, The Scope of the Sword, and A Pan-European Art Revisited, (Again).

-B.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Reexamination of the Life and Death of a Medieval Knight



(Wielder of the English Longsword?)

Here is a link to an interesting archeological find (brought to my attention in a post by Jay Vail (apologies) at the Pendant RMA Forum):

From this individual’s place of burial, injuries, date and physicality, there is probably a very good case to be made that he was indeed a knight. But was he Sir Robert Morley? Well, without knowing anything about Sir Robert, let us take it as fact that Sir Robert died in a tournament.

It is said that our man in the grave died from a cut injury from a sword akin to a face-ectomy that was delivered while he was lying on the ground.

Firstly, tournaments were rough and tumble affairs; martial sports that helped warriors keep themselves both financially viable and physically prepared for war. However, during the time this man was alive, there were no tournaments where sharp swords were allowed to be used; much less tournaments where a man could be taken advantage of on the ground, pinned down or incapacitated, stripped of his helmet, and killed by a cut to the face. Well, at least not without the perpetrator being brought up on charges of murder. Tournaments where knights used swords at this time were generally fought either with cudgels or special rebated steel swords, and the knights wielding them wore a great deal of protection; armour specially suited to the tourney. The goal of such a tourney was generally to unhorse or sometimes capture the adversary. In the event of such a feat, the victor would have the prize of his opponent’s horse; a very lucrative exercise if one could emerge victorious, not to mention better watching than football.

So, let us rule the hypothesis put forth by the archeologists out entirely. If Sir Robert Morley met his fate at a tournament, then this warrior could not have been Sir Robert. Unfortunately then, this knight’s identity will likely never be known.

Continuing to address the fatal wound, it is said that reconstruction of the skull leads them to believe that the blow was delivered while he was on the ground. We’ll take their word for it, which was probably figured by fracture pattern. This wound would be a coup de grace delivered in the heat of battle. Perhaps his helmet was torn from his head by one opponent as he was thrown to the ground and pinned, while another delivered the deadly stroke. Perhaps he was wearing a visorless helm, a kettle helmet, or perhaps he chose to wear no helm at all. There is always the possibility, however, that the stroke was delivered while he was still standing. The wound is consistent with others, such as a skull from the Battle of Wisby that does not show signs of having been wounded while on the ground. It could always be a matter of archeologists trying to figure out how they would strike someone at a certain angle to deliver the same wound; something they all too often fumble with.

Then we have the assumption that the cut was delivered with a sword. This could very well have been the case, but there is simply no way of knowing. Cutting weapons were a preferred way of dealing death in the old days, and there was a wide variety of sharp-edged people-killers at the time. If we assume that he was cut while lying on the ground due to a fracture pattern, we might also assume that the fractures were caused because a cutting weapon with more mass than a sword at the point of impact was used. A sword is lightest at the prime cutting portion, whereas something like a battle-axe, though still light weight, has much more of that weight positioned around the prime cutting area of the blade, which would thusly be more likely to cause fractures than a sword, which cuts more through velocity than mass.

They say the he suffered several other serious wounds in other “contests.” Well, we know that his death wound was from no “contest.” It was from combat. So, let us examine his other wounds to see if they could have been from contests.

He appears to have survived for some time with a large arrowhead lodged in his chest…

Yes, no doubt from the ever-popular William Tell contest. We’ll throw out the archeologist’s theory on this one and say that this professional warrior received this wound from combat, as well. Like the death wound, however, it begs the question: what was he wearing? A knight from his era could have certainly had a very well protected chest. There was a variety of very protective body armour in his time. By “large,” we’ll assume that the arrowhead mentioned was not a bodkin, but a broad-head. I’m also going to dispense with the idea that a broadhead pierced a steel breastplate. And while I’m at it, I’ll say that it didn’t hit a brigandine or coat of plates just right, in all probability. Furthermore, for good measure, we’ll also assume that he did indeed receive this wound in war, rather than on his way down the road in his civies.

Many knights, even in his day and age, often chose to wear the more flexible protection of a mail hauberk, depending upon the circumstances. While mail has a bad reputation among many a modern know-nothing, it was really excellent protection; it was virtually immune to cuts, as well as providing excellent protection against many a piercing attack. For example, we have the accounts of the Arabs in the Holy Land, which speak in great frustration over their inability to harm the Europeans through their stout mail shirts - often making the Crusaders look like hedge-hogs - the mail shirts bristling with arrows, but the men beneath unharmed. But of all armours, it is the most likely to have succumbed to a well placed arrow. Particularly for this man, being an English or Scottish Knight who died thereabouts. He could well have been wounded by the powerful Welsh bow. We know this weapon can put a broad-head cleanly through a man. A mail hauberk could have slowed the arrow down enough to stop it in his chest. Though the arrowhead was left inside by the surgeons, his mail, if it indeed played out in this way, saved his life.

It is also worth noting his likely medical care for this wound. If an arrow was lodged in someone’s chest, but the head had emerged from the other side (or very close to it), a surgeon would generally have made the call to gently cut off the fletching and draw the arrow through the wound, rather than bringing it out the way it had come, compounding damage from the barbs of the broad-head and drawing more material into the wound. An arrow being lodged in this man’s chest, not deeply enough to draw through, but too deep to withdraw without causing more dangerous tissue damage, would have been left inside just as his was (having just had the shaft extracted). He in all likelihood had access to the top medical care of his day, particularly seeing as he survived the wound.

…the regrowth of bone around a dent in the front of his skull indicates that he had also recovered from a severe blow from an axe.

Well, let us again throw out the archeologist’s explaination, this being that he was brained by an axe during a “contest.” Let’s also look at the type of injury by comparison to the stated weapon. Now an axe, the battle axe in particular, is generally assumed to be a cutting weapon. We often figure that it is a cutting weapon due to the large, sharp, thin and light blade that defines it. Generally that sharp cutting blade inflicts a cutting injury when it forcefully strikes a human skull. This fellow has a dent. A dent from which he recovered, as opposed to a linear cut wound, which would almost invariably result in a head bisection, or full frontal lobotomy. We will again assume that he received this injury in battle. We’ll also assume that by “dent,” they mean a relatively rounded, smooth depression. Such a dent would probably have to come from a like-shaped object if it impacted his unprotected head. If his head were unprotected, given that he recovered, this would have to have been a relatively light or weak impact. In the press of combat, particularly war, any weapon with the given features could have delivered such a light blow in the haphazard confines of fighting bodies. It’s possible that a smoothly-rounded mace could have done this, but such weapons were relatively uncommon, with far more harmful and nasty looking designs being the popular. It seems to me, were he unprotected and received a relatively light blow from a smooth object, that it could very well have been the pommel of a sword.

But then again, let’s assume that he had his helmet on when he received the blow. With a helmet on, the blow would have to have been far more forceful to put a depression in his skull. But, it also means that a far greater variety of weapons could have struck him, as the injury would be caused by the indentation of his helm rather than a direct indentation from the weapon itself. This means that he could very well have received a strong blow from a war-hammer, mace, or even that axe, though less likely than the former. He is unlikely to have received it from the thrust of a charging lance or other piercing weapon, as it would more than likely have glanced off of the popular headgear of his day. The same can be said for blades. Again, a sword is unlikely to be able to deliver such a percussive blow, and blades have much more tendency to deflect from plate-steel as opposed to the coroneled and spiked gripping surfaces of percussive weapons like the mace and war-hammer. Another possibility is the longer kin of the hammer and axe: the pollaxe.* A very popular and noble weapon of the time, often used by knights for dispatching other men-at-arms with such protection, it is not an unlikely candidate.

…the knight had lost teeth, probably from another blow or from falling from his horse.

I have known more than one man to have his teeth kicked out by a horse, but I’ve never known one to fall from his horse face first and lose his teeth in the dirt. Let us leave the theorizing on this one to Sir Roger of Hoveden, who knew a thing of two about the differentialistics of the punchitizing.

A youth must have seen his blood flow and felt his teeth crack under the blow of his adversary and have been thrown to the ground twenty times. Thus will he be able to face real war with the hope of victory.

But what would he know? Here's more from the archeologists:

His sturdy upper body and upper right arm are consistent with wielding heavy swords, and his injuries suggest a hard life of hunting, jousting and foot tournaments.

Well, anyone who knows anything about real swords knows that, unless you are still stuck in the world of Victorian Twain-esque fantasy, swords of the late 14th c. were not heavy. In fact, my wife regularly works out with 2-3 lb. dumbells; individually the same weight as any sword this warrior wielded. I wouldn’t call my wife heavily muscled, but I wonder what some archeologist in Futurama would say about her. And apparently, the said suggestions of his injuries pointed to a hard life of hunting (while being accidentally shot in the chest), jousting (having his head dented in), and foot tournaments (being thrown down, getting his helmet ripped off, and getting a murderous face-lift).

Not a likely hypothesis for a professional warrior elite. The sturdiness of his body and the wounds he received are signs of the hard and chosen life of a warrior. He deserves better respect than to be called an accident prone tournament jockey. Knights were brave, skilled, hard-living, scarred men. As that evil Chinese guy said in Enter the Dragon, “We forge our bodies in the fire of our will.” This man’s sturdy body reflects the discipline and fitness of an elite fighter and the life of a soldier, and his successive injuries reflect his courage to repeatedly face death for whatever it was he held dear, and his final moment of violent conflict. His times were no more troubled than ours, but he was one of the few to face the troubles head-on.

I salute this anonymous knight, and give him a thought next memorial day.

-C.

*Poll being an archaic term for the top of the head, or brainpan. The head being the main target of the fearsome pollaxe.

Copyright July 2009, "Casper" Bradak

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Value of Sparring?


What is the real value of sparring in traditional weapon arts? After all, those such as the Art of the Longsword were once legitimately extinct. They died out because they were of no practical value; surpassed by more effective weaponry and different societal context.

Opinions exist throughout the spectrum of thought on this topic. There are those such as the pet enemy of my colleague, who say that not only is there no value in sparring, but that it in fact detracts from the art. Then there are those, including the largest RMA organization in the world, that primarily focus on sparring, with all else as a means to that end. The reasons for these extremes can be expounded upon but are not within the context of this article.

To keep the Art of the Longsword as my example, this art no longer has a realistic combative role (zombie apocalypse not withstanding). So why then should it not be practiced entirely as many an obsolete East Asian sword art? Why shouldn’t it simply be practiced as a collection of rote technique and forms practice now that it has no combative role? Well, I certainly believe there is nothing keeping that from happening if it is a certain individual or schools cup of tea. After all, there is no longer the crucible of natural selection in the ancient weapon arts to point out or to correct any oddities, anomalies or mistakes in the way the art is so performed. The way the art is performed, and the inclusion of sparring in our present day depends largely on the goals and background of the individual and/or school as well, and thusly, without any requirement for actual self-defense in the art, there is really no wrong way to go about it.

While we know that sparring was an important part of the curricula in most, if not all schools of such martial arts in their prime (and every fighting art since), and have ample evidence for it, why should it be the same now? Why should we test ourselves antagonistically without the applicability to the crucible of self defense or war? We could just practice the techniques and leave it at that.

Firstly, regardless of to what degree you use this ancient training exercise, we must ask ourselves exactly why our ancestors sparred.

Let’s get this one out of the way first. It’s fun. It can be an enjoyable part of the class. Though it should be conducted in a safe and effective manner for learning, and always with a third person perspective, it often gives students a chance to cut loose and relax.

It hones the art. It refines realistic movement by forcing it to be responsive via adversarial circumstances. When one performs the rote repetition of techniques, and then attempts to perform those same techniques when sparring or in sparring drills, both exercises incrementally build each other up to a level of effectiveness not possible with one alone, or with too heavy a focus on a single aspect. This ties it in to how sparring helps eliminate poor interpretation/execution of techniques. One can easily notice how our source material depicts dynamic movement, extension of the weapon, etc. Then, we can see how modern practitioners look in comparison. Some are closer than others. What do they do differently?
While drills and techniques can help introduce and partially gain the senses of leverage, pressure, timing and range, they certainly cannot do so to their fullest extent without sparring. Again, the antagonistic circumstances and differing attitudes of the opponent force them to become reactive, responsive and adaptive. Martial arts are arts of deception, but in rote training, there is no room for deception. The most “apparent” forms of deception; feinting, changing, and combination attacks, are things either not found at all in rote training, or if found, are only performed to a limited and primitive, non-antagonistic degree in drills. They are, however, some of the most fundamental and essential elements to the art, and their use and the ability to defend against them can only be honed through sparring.

It gives and keeps perspective. Just as practice cutting gives perspective to modern students who have misunderstandings about what a weapon will and will not do, sparring gives perspective to practitioners on their techniques, skills, abilities and repertoire. Not only in how well they can apply them, but in how well others can apply them in a much more antagonistic context. Not only this, but sparring gives input on the interpretation of techniques. I.e. if a technique never seems to function under adversarial circumstances, it is a strong hint that that interpretation needs revision.

It is one of the most valuable aids in class for honing the requisite athleticism required for performing the Art at its peak and requisite athleticism under antagonistic circumstances; the circumstances for which it was developed, and thusly the way in which it was intended to be performed. Fitness, athleticism and strength have always been some of the most touted benefits of the martial arts. I believe that Master George Silver put it better than any man before or since. Presently we have things such as the athletic but martially useless “Tae-bo,” and the un-athletic and martially useless Tai-chi and all their kin claiming to promote athleticism and self defense skills simultaneously. Honestly, who are they kidding? A true martial art, traditional or otherwise, performed vigorously, with real speed and energy, pushed by the antagonistic circumstances of sparring, particularly with a two pound lever in the hand, surpasses them all in this regard.

It holds our Art apart and helps to keep its meaning and cultural context. Given the benefits of sparring and the part it played for our ancestors, removing it from the equation not only deprives our art of a unique and important traditional aspect, but it makes it overall less effective (allowing it to be sloppier and less representative of what it truly was) and less distinct, putting it in the midst of formation with other traditional Asian arts out there, most of which perform nothing but rote training for which they have lost most, if not all of the application thereof.

In summary, sparring can be performed in many ways. It can be focused into drills to hone certain skills, or it can be performed in a very free fashion. Some use it as one of many training tools, and some use it as nearly their only training tool, if not their end and focus. Differing ways of going about sparring have as many good points and detriments. It is not a perfect tool, which is why it is part of the practitioner’s arsenal of tools. It does not perfectly simulate combat, and no knowledgeable practitioner in history has ever posited that it was a close approximation. But it is a part of the whole of a good training methodology, and by itself, it is the closest approximation of antagonistic circumstance that can be used in the school. Without other means of training and a properly balanced curricula and focus, it can indeed be a detriment, but done well, it is an ancient and essential aspect of the traditional Western fighting arts.

-C

Copyright July 2009, “Casper” Bradak

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Grasping the Blade, Part 1.5


Casper's take:

This topic is old hat for anyone who has been studying the Art for some time, but it is something that must be addressed for every beginner, so it still bears repeating. As far as grasping of the blade is concerned, I'll primarily be addressing the most vigorous examples, such as those used for armoured fencing, rather than those of sparser techniques with wider blades and unarmoured techniques.

Techniques that utilize a grasp of the blade are a major part of the Western Art of the Sword. They are represented in nearly every personal martial arts work from the middle ages/Renaissance in the West, in both armoured and unarmoured techniques. Now we moderns, using only utility and/or fighting knives, having never had a use for the grasping of a blade, only know of blades as the half of a knife that cuts or pokes a bad guy, or otherwise separates and pierces things. We also know that we have all cut or pierced ourselves with them accidentally, probably on numerous occasions, which only reinforces our somewhat irrational idea that the metal beyond the handle is only a realm of death and destruction for all that touches it. On top of that, we have the old villain of the media telling us what would happen. Take the movie Rob Roy for example. In poor Rob's final duel, he decides to bite the bullet and grab the blade of his nemesis (a rapier blade, no less) in order to buy the moment to deliver his own strike. As soon as he (statically) grasps his foe's blade, the blood flows from his palm, as if he were a hemophiliac with a stick of butter for a hand.

Well, the edge of a blade can only cause injury by percussive impact or slice. In truth, we have only ever injured ourselves by accidentally slipping and slicing ourselves while trying to do the same to something else, thus providing the lateral motion or forward force to harm ourselves in the first place. It stands to reason that you can simply pick up any sharp kitchen or utility knife by the blade, hold it firmly, and even smash something with the handle while doing so that you would normally cut with the blade, and remain unharmed so long as the blade does not slip, resulting in another accidental slice. A slice is the only way it could harm us, because aside from that, we only have a percussive impact. So unless you're attempting to somehow catch a blade in the midst of a cut, that simply isn't going to happen, and a firm, solid hold will prevent a slice.

In our martial arts source material, the vast majority of practitioners are depicted as grasping the blade with bare hands. This is not artist's license, or any other mis-depiction. They were indeed doing so. One does not require gloves or gauntlets. Even the naive argument that one would do so with "armoured gauntlets" to prevent self-injury is erroneous, as most gauntlets of the time were worn in such a way that the hand (fingers and palm) inside was bare, without so much as a leather glove to cover it. Manual dexterity was an important thing. In fact, even gauntlets with integral leather gloves never armoured the inside of the hand.

Another factor that simplified the grasping of the blade is that the majority of techniques for doing so were designed to be used against a man in complete plate armour. The ideal blade for fighting against such a foe is a sharply tapered one that facilitates piercing cloth and entering small areas and links of mail. Such a narrow blade is far easier to grasp in such a way than a wider cutting blade. Therefore both the blades and the techniques are products of the need to circumvent the protection that such armour provides, and everything falls neatly into place.

But this topic inevitably brings up the question of sharpness. How sharp were the blades of European swords? Well, they were as sharp as their blade geometry allowed without being so sharp that they became too weak to handle their intended function. The late E. Oakshott, the worlds preeminent handler of and educator on European swords, said that they were "razor sharp." An exagerration, but not a big one. What he meant was that they were very, very sharp. A bit more accurately, he also said that they were about as "sharp as kitchen knives." In my more limited personal handling of antique European swords, I'd say that is a fairly accurate comparison. They were generally about as sharp as a good, sharp kitchen knife. Such a sharpness in conjunction with a proper blade geometry allows the weapon to easily cut and slice through flesh, bone and cloth, while remaining durable enough to survive inevitable impacts with metal and wood without being unduly damaged or destroyed. But to our point, it can also be firmly grasped in the hand without causing injury to a stationary hand.

To sum up, there is always the possiblity for an accident, but apparently it was considered safe and useful enough by our ancestors to make it a staple of their Art. You shouldn't even be surprised if while attempting such techniques you get the equivalent of a paper cut, and if anything, it fell under the good trade category when compared to a useful, fight winning technique. For us, however, having no need to fight anyone in armour with a sharp sword, there is no need not to play it safe and eliminate the possibility of accidental booboos altogether by using proper foils, and wearing gloves if we do feel like practicing our solo half-swording with a sharp weapon. Needless to say, just because we talked about it doesn't mean we take any responsibility for your irresponsibilities.

-C

Copyright July 2009, Casper Bradak