Drill Bits: Simple Parry-Ripostes, Part 1 (Longsword focused)

by Bill Grandy

Drill Bits” is a regular series of articles on drills for various HEMA styles. These drills can be worked into existing lesson plans and most can be easily modified for multiple weapon styles.

Weapon style: Longsword or similar style cutting weapon
Difficulty: Beginning to Intermediate (Fencers should already know basic footwork and simple attacks)

A two-time parry-riposte using the Krumphau from Hans Talhoffer. (Codex Icononografico 394a, 11v)
A two-time parry-riposte using the Krumphau from Hans Talhoffer. (Codex Icononografico 394a, folio 11v)

It is commonly said in the Historical martial arts community that medieval and Renaissance fencing consisted purely of single time counterattacks when defending. In other words, the saying goes that every time you attempt to parry it should always be simultaneously done with an attack and never as a simple parry first followed by a riposte as a secondary action. Time and again the treatises contradict this belief. Even worse, never practicing a two-time defense and counter will only hinder your ability to perfect the single time counter attacks. Continue reading

Why I hate tournaments…

… and why they are the best thing that has ever happened to my training.

 

By David A. Rowe

DSC_0050
Team VAF regularly competes at Longpoint every year

 

I hate tournaments. I really do.  I hate sloppy fencing. I hate ugly form. I hate awful judging. I hate crappy attitudes. I hate silly drama. And I really hate the politics. Most of all, I hate losing. I’ve lost because I was tired and exhausted.  I’ve lost due to bad judging. And I’ve lost because the other fencer outclassed me.

What I really hate is losing to the guy who is better at playing the game than me.  Everyone knows who I’m talking about; he’s the guy who probably never drills, has probably never seen a manual, let alone read one. He’s good because he’s an athlete.  He wins not because he is a better martial artist, and not because he has a better grasp on the sources.  He wins because he is better at winning tournaments.  He is better at the playing the game.

For a long time, the only views I had regarding tournaments were negative.  I thought they polluted the art. I thought they were silly. I thought the people competing in them had no idea how to fence in a so-called real sword fight.   Having never really tested myself before, I thought I was pretty awesome. And then Longpoint 2011 happened.

Continue reading

BladeFit: Balance and Stability

by Dagi Johnson

BladeFit is a reoccurring article showing quick fitness exercises for Historical European Martial Artists. These exercises can be worked into a fitness routine, used for your pre-class warm-ups, or just inspire you to start moving. Some will be modern-made exercises, while others will be more historically inspired.

Warrior Pose 3
Developing core strength and stability doesn’t have to mean doing a thousand sit ups.

The majority of martial arts actions require proper core movement and strength. The core muscles are used to power a strike with a weapon or to make a hip throw. Here are some quick exercises that will challenge and train your stabilizing muscles, core strength and balance. All you need is your body and your sword, or any other type of weight. In the beginning you might actually find yourself doing these without any weights at all.

Each exercise is a combination of several movements strung together without a break in between. Try to do each part for 30 seconds and then transition right into the next part without a pause. If you find this too easy then look for the section at the end for some suggestions to make it more challenging. Continue reading

Drill Bits: Vor and Nach (Longsword focused)

by Bill Grandy

Drill Bits” is a regular series of articles on drills for various HEMA styles. These drills can be worked into existing lesson plans and most can be easily modified for multiple weapon styles.

Weapon style: Longsword or similar style cutting weapon
Skill level: Intermediate (Students should already understand basic footwork and cutting)

The idea of vor, or the “Before Timing”, and nach, or the “After Timing”, is a fundamental concept of the Liechtenauer tradition. In short, the person in the vor is the person who seizes the initiative, and the person in the Nach is the person who is forced to respond to the opponent. For example, if Fencer B waits for an attack, and Fencer A strikes, then Fencer A is in the vor while Fencer B is in the nach. If Fencer B makes a purely defensive action, he remains in the nach. However, if Fencer B defends successfully and counters, he is seizing the vor away from Fencer A. Ideally, a fencer should attempt to remain in the vor when possible, and if forced into the nach, that fencer needs to regain the vor.

The problem arises when people become so focused on a very narrow understanding of the vor, believing they are supposed to be attacking at all costs. This leads many to forget their own defense, causing double hits on both sides. A fencer in the Liechtenauer tradition needs to understand that the position of vor and nach will naturally flow back and forth between the two combatants, and students need to develop a sense of who is in control of the initiative at any given moment. Merely being the first to attack is not good enough; a fencer must feel when the opponent attempts to regain control and therefore respond to it.

Continue reading

That NY Times Article, Outreach, and Public Image

by Bill Grandy

A couple of weeks ago the New York Times published a wonderful piece on Longpoint 2014. The article included a well done video showing off the longsword event. Within a day, the article went viral, appearing everywhere from MTV to the front page of Reddit, and was being re-posted and shared by many other news sources and blogs. Celebrities such as Lucy Lawless (of Xena Warrior Princess fame) and even the MythBusters were linking to the article on Twitter and Facebook.

If you have not seen it yet, it can be found here. You can also see a direct link to the video (minus the article) here:

The overall effect of this article was overwhelmingly positive. Public visibility was high and HEMA was shown in a professional and exciting light. HEMA groups all over the United States were reporting that they were being contacted by people who saw the Times video and started searching out groups in their area. My own school has seen numerous people seeking us out, and I myself ended up on the air of the east coast radio show Elliot in the Morning discussing the event and HEMA because they had seen the article. All in all, this was great publicity for those of us practicing historical fighting arts.

So… what now? Continue reading

BladeFit: The Sword Ladder

by Bill Grandy

BladeFit is a reoccurring article showing quick fitness exercises for Historical European Martial Artists. These exercises can be worked into a fitness routine, used for your pre-class warm-ups, or just inspire you to start moving. Some will be modern-made exercises, while others will be more historically inspired.

Is there ever really such a thing as owning too many swords?
Is there ever really such a thing as owning too many swords?

To start the Sword Ladder, lay out as many swords as you have available onto the floor, parallel to each other, so that you have a “ladder” that you will do exercises with. This is a good warm up for a full sized class where everyone puts down a weapon. You can do this with as little as four or five swords. Alternately, you can use dowel rods or even sticks and branches if you train outdoors.

Once you have your ladder, the first and simplest exercise is to jog through it, making certain to never step on any of the swords. This exercise can be done with a commercially available running ladder, which is certainly a worthwhile purchase. However, having swords on the floor forces people to be much more careful about how they step so that they don’t trip, which is part of the exercise.

Continue reading

The Art of Translation, Part 1: What Makes a Good Translation?

by David Rowe

“The Art of Translation” is an ongoing series of articles covering translation as it pertains to HEMA source material. It will feature tips, resources, original translations and more.

At least it’s better than Google translate.

Scholars and practitioners of Historical European Martial Arts, unlike other forms of martial arts, are reliant on the historical treatises which document the fighting styles that we study. For most of the arts that are practiced within HEMA, we lack the direct, extant living tradition handed down over generations, passed on from master to student as you can find in classical Asian sword arts. Because of this, HEMA practitioners are at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding the arts that we study, as most HEMA treatises appear to have been intended not as how-to guides for beginners, but as study aids, teachers’ notes, or advanced instruction for competent fencers.  Attempting to learn to fight solely from a book is already nearly if not entirely impossible, and most practitioners will find it necessary to borrow from living traditions to fill in or inform the gaps that exist within the treatises. While that topic is worthy of its own article, the goal here will instead be to discuss what qualifies a translation as being an accurate representation of the original text in the study of HEMA. Continue reading

Longpoint 2014: VAF Highlight Video

by Bill Grandy

longpointhighlights2014-2

Last month, from July 17-20, the fourth annual Longpoint tournament was held in Ellicott City, Maryland. This amazing event is one of the largest in North America, with tournament events covering a wide variety of HEMA styles. This year Longpoint hosted over 150 attendees and featured world class instructors, workshops, and multiple tournaments, including three Longsword competitions (Open Steel, Women’s and Synthetic), along with Singlestick, Messer, Ringen, Paired Forms, and a Longsword Cutting Tournament.

Continue reading

“Say it Right!” Common German HEMA Terms (Part 1)

by Dagi Johnson

“Say it Right!” is an ongoing series to help English speaking HEMA practitioners pronounce foreign terminology. Voice overs will typically be native speakers of the language. It should be noted that, just like in English, there are multiple dialects within any language, but this series will give students a starting place so as not to completely butcher another country’s tongue. It should also be noted that historical spellings are often different than modern ones, and sometimes multiple spellings can be found of a single term. For the sake of consistency, we have chosen to use modern spellings whenever possible.

Continue reading

BladeFit: The Sword Burpee

by Bill Grandy

BladeFit is a reoccurring article showing quick fitness exercises for Historical European Martial Artists. These exercises can be worked into a fitness routine, used for your pre-class warm-ups, or just inspire you to start moving. Some will be modern-made exercises, while others will be more historically inspired.

The Sword Burpee is a simple variation on the standard burpee. A burpee is performed first by squatting down, placing your hands flat on the ground and kicking the feet back so that you end in a plank position. It is optional whether or not to do a push-up from there. Then you quickly push your feet towards your hands and jump upward with your hands held high. This is an excellent exercise for explosive movement and cardiovascular development. Continue reading