Epee versus epee (dueling and modern): a YouTube compare-and-contrast

Discussion in 'Western Martial Arts' started by Mitlov, Aug 11, 2010.

  1. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

    Epee duels, unlike many forms of dueling, (1) continued into the era where videocameras were readily available, and (2) were regularly filmed. I think it's interesting to compare and contrast these duels with the modern sport of epee fencing, to see the differences.

    I'm not sure if I have a point (har har), or an overarching thesis. I just think it's interesting to compare and constrast the videos.

    Epee duels:

    1958 Epee Duel Lifar vs Cuevas [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uL9BWkN-Wcg"]YouTube- 1958 Epee Duel Lifar vs Cuevas[/ame]
    1967 Epee Duel Deffere vs. Ribiere [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e68nuAcSuWQ"]YouTube- 1967 Epee Duel Deffere vs. Ribiere[/ame]
    1911 Epee Duel: Henri Chervet vs Leon Daudet [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QlUw1k0ItE"]YouTube- 1911 Epee Duel: Henri Chervet vs Leon Daudet[/ame]

    Modern epee:

    Beijing 2008 - Nishida JPN v Inostroza CHI [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAPenBwwuo0"]YouTube- Beijing 2008 - MEI - L64 - Nishida JPN v Inostroza CHI - 1 of 2[/ame]
    Beijing 2008 - Zawrotniak POL v Boczko HUN [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UP2cU2WOKQo"]YouTube- Beijing 2008 - MEI - L8 - Zawrotniak POL v Boczko HUN - 1 of 2[/ame]
    Beijing 2008 - Tagliariol ITA v Jeannet F FRA [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cpo7O8SVRVQ"]YouTube- Beijing 2008 - MEI - GOLD - Tagliariol ITA v Jeannet F FRA - 1 of 2[/ame]

    Some initial impressions I had:

    (1) Classical epee duelists tend to keep their arms at nearly full extension. The difference between their en garde stance and their attack is only a few inches of extension. On the other hand, the Olympic athletes vary the distance of their blade considerably, often taking the blade away entirely (although you see a little bit of the old school in Zawrotniak v. Boczko).

    (2) Modern footwork is very dynamic; the fencers are always moving back and forth, varying the distance. Very little footwork seemed to occur in the duels above; not sure if they were typical or atypical for dueling.

    (3) The bladework of classical dueling is VERY "busy," with the blades in continual wiggling cutting motions, whereas I'd refer to the bladework of modern epee as being much more "still" (particularly Jeannet, but overall as well).


    EDIT: One thought I just had is that the Olympic videos I'm posting are best-of-the-best, whereas the duels, I think, are not professional fencers but instead ordinary upper-class people who have a beef with each other but may not have decades of fencing experience. The differing skill levels is another factor at play besides the differing styles themselves.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2010
  2. lklawson

    lklawson Valued Member

    In Classic Pugilism (pre-Marquess) boxers were instructed to "mill" their fists (keep them moving and rotating) in order to confuse the opponent and not let them know when an attack is being initiated as opposed to just more random movement. The Dogbrothers teach somthing similar in their "snakey stick" concept.

    I've seen it taught in other weapons systems too, from FMA and on.

    I suspect that there might be a similar reason in this case. Just my speculation, mind you; nothing more than that.

    Peace favor your sword,
  3. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Molon Labe

    Also, remember that the consequences of incautious footwork in a duel with sharps are far greater, even with an epee. I wouldn't want to risk losing an eye or getting poked in the throat by charging in too quickly.

    Of course, there's the psychological effects of sharp weapons on the human ability to fight. Read the following example for an idea of what I'm getting at. Of note is the account of Aldo Nadi's duel.


    Best regards,

  4. LilBunnyRabbit

    LilBunnyRabbit Old One

    Being quite honest, the actual duels look to me like your average beginner fencer nowadays.
  5. Atre

    Atre Valued Member

    My money would be on duel swords being actually dangerous to take a heavy hit to the body from (looks like the tip is naked?).

    The stationary prattling could be a safety/ fear aspect.

    On the other hand, could the oldies be influenced by mensur? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_fencing
  6. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

    I think with anyone in a life-threatening situation there's going to be a huge adrenal dump and you're not going to look as masterful or pretty as you are in practice. I remember that same caution in a very anti-sport-oriented Shotokan dojo.

    What was interesting to me, though, is that when I read the description of his form during his duel, I didn't say "oh, that doesn't sound at all like sport fencing," I said "oh, it sounds like his form switched from high-level pre-WWII fencing to high-level 21st-century fencing."

    I absolutely disagree with the last two sentences analyzing the significance of the position he ended in. Here's photography of the Men's individual epee event from the 2010 Qatar Grand Prix...you'll see much of the same. People have huge doses of adrenaline surging through their veins are are doing whatever it takes to get their point on their opponent while preventing the opponent from doing the same:


    Or if you want to see the best of the best, here's photography from men's individual epee in Beijing 2008:


    Same thing. Many points are scored with that same form as the photo of Aldo Nadi from that duel.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2010
  7. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

    Another thought. What Aldo Nadi did in his duel is actually the opposite of what I was commenting on. Lifting the rear foot is a sign of overextension (from a technical perspective, though if it works, it works) or at minimum, extreme commitment. What I see among most of these epee duels, and what I was commenting on, is a refusal to commit to an attack or make any dramatic extension at all.

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