Ringen Training: How Training for Sport Assists Understanding of Combative Application

By Tim Hall

Every wrestling must consist of three things. The first one is skill, the second one is speed, and the third one is the proper application of strength.” – Ott Jud, medieval wrestling master

The second Schlosringen (Lock Wrestling) from Fabian von Auerswald. This technique is presented in it's safer "sport" version, but can easily be turned into a vicious elbow break.
A Schlosringen (Lock Wrestling) throw from Fabian von Auerswald. This technique is presented in it’s safer “sport” version, but can easily be turned into a vicious elbow break.

Joint locks. Strikes. Gouges. Slams. These and many other debilitating techniques are found throughout the medieval sources detailing unarmed combat. The brutal yet efficient nature is what draws many people to practice the medieval and Renaissance art of Ringen (the German term for “wrestling”). Historically, many of the techniques were used to maim or kill in both self-defense as well as combat on the battlefield. On the other hand, our martial ancestors also trained techniques that could be used safely against a resisting partner at full speed, often for recreation. Today, practice of these safer “sport” techniques is sometimes criticized by modern practitioners for not reflecting “real life” fighting. This is an unfair criticism, as the combat techniques (i.e. the more destructive actions) require that a partner be cooperative in order to perform safely. This means that a student who focuses purely on the combat technique cannot practice against a fully resisting partner, which leads to an incomplete understanding of the art in terms of speed, timing, Fühlen and required force. Students of Ringen, much like the medieval practitioners, need to practice both combat and sport techniques together in order to develop fully functional fighting ability. Continue reading

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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

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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.

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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