Discussion in 'Western Martial Arts' started by Cosmo Kramer, Aug 1, 2005.

  1. Anomandaris

    Anomandaris New Member

    I want to know if anyone has studied any of the things that John(?) Silver was going on about?

    he seemed to be saying that the perfect fight is one in which either neither party is harmed or only the offending party is and then seemed to go off on a tangent about how Italian masters are imperfect in their methods and how Spanish masters are perfect fighters as long as they can keep their rapier point to your face but if its not then they are imperfect.

    its in one of his texts on the smallsword. The Paradox of defence or something.

    a final point about the rapier and small sword it birthed. My theory on why the rapier came to replace other weapons like the longsword and similar is due to its obvious efficacy in a real fight, I can only assume that people were still using longswords and broadswords(they are different) and that people armed with rapiers were beating them often enough for these other weapons to be seen as obsolete for unarmoured combat.

    I want to know if this idea is supported by anything.
  2. Matt Anderson

    Matt Anderson New Member


    "I think too many people hear words like rapier and longsword and assume Renaissance".

    Well yes, that's because that's when these arts were at their zenith, being practiced in deadly earnest as a real means of self defense. Certainly any connection with the effective, lethal, and martially sound practice of renaissaince longsword fencing died out long ago. Anyone doing it today is doing a modern reconstruction IMO.


    "Personally, I'm not that wowed with Ren. rapier styles when compared to the later ones. I'd much rather use the Cabijos style in a tournament than a 'pure' 17th c. style"

    So you really think the system taught by your modern fencing master is superior to that practiced by renaissance masters of defense who used these weapons in deadly combat? Perhaps this is true for tournaments with epee or foil, where scoring points is the goal and the rule set prohibits grappling, striking, use of the off hand, etc., but certainly not for a real duel with the deadly weapons of the period?
  3. Chris Umbs

    Chris Umbs New Member

    Right now, most of the treatises I'm looking at are 19th or 20th century - cane, knife, rapier and dagger. I don't do much longsword, most of my interests are later, but I'll need it to pass my IMAF test someday. Right now it's all from M. Martinez and a little bit from M. Macdonald since I haven't hit the books on it aside from Mark Rector's Talhoffer translation.
  4. Chris Umbs

    Chris Umbs New Member

    George Silver.

    Silver disliked rapier for a number of reasons. It can't be used for battle, to defend one's country. It's only good for young nobles to kill each other with and if someone insults you, just insult them back. It's impossible to capture someone with a rapier. If the user of the English short sword can make a cross with the longer rapier - then the time of the hand can beat the time of the hand and the foot (short sword only has to use the hand to make a cut, but the rapier must pull the hand back and step back to re-offend). Again, too early to be my main interest... Ran or Shane can answer this better.

    As to the rapier and smallsword over the older weapons... Silver tells of examples where rapier users were defeated by folks using quarterstaves or boat oars as well as by the native English sword and buckler tradition. Silver feel the rapier is an imperfect fight - to a great deal I agree which is why I prefer the later 19th c. rapier styles with shorter blades. The best you can say for the rapier and smallsword is that they are more specialized, they are fine for dueling, OK (IMHO) for civilian self-defence (though I'd say the short sword is better suited for it) and useless for war.

  5. Chris Umbs

    Chris Umbs New Member

    Zenith is a matter of opinion. Were the 19th c. rapier and dagger duels in New Orleans or Mexico any less lethal than the 17th c. ones? People have this strange idea that martial practice went out the window at some point.

    I'm talking about WMA style rapier tournaments. I've also won Filipino espada y daga tournaments using that styles - off had use allowed in both. I'm not saying tournament victory = practical skill, but winning against different styles of uncooperative opponent's dont hurt none either.... and both 17th and 19th c styles were used in fights to the death.

  6. Chris Umbs

    Chris Umbs New Member

  7. Matt Anderson

    Matt Anderson New Member

    Chris: "I don't do much longsword, most of my interests are later, but I'll need it to pass my IMAF test someday. Right now it's all from M. Martinez and a little bit from M. Macdonald since I haven't hit the books on it aside from Mark Rector's Talhoffer translation".

    So you were taught longsword by Martinez, who was taught by Rohdes, and no one knows where Rohdes learned it? Does it seem similar at all to the Talhoffer material in Rector's book? I notice on the Martinez Academy of Arms website, there is no mention of instruction in longsword, does Martinez still teach it?
  8. blackpuma

    blackpuma New Member

    The rapier was a civilian street weapon, not a battlefield weapon. It was a devastating development over the single-handed sword. (Longer swords were rarely encountered as street weapons.)

    You could kill or mortally wound me before I'm even in striking range. When the rapier became a common weapon, the dynamics of the fight changed, with the ambush by larger numbers being typical. (We're talking street fighting, not the later courteous bouts in nobles' salons.) Calling the rapier a weapon "only suitable for murder" was not unearned.

    Another factor behind the rapid adoption of the rapier on the street was that the rapier was also easier to learn. That statement will probably offend the sensibilities of those of the salon fencing extraction, but rapier really is a straightforward weapon compared to double-edged swords.

    Like the battlefield-oriented longsword, rapier gave way as a civilian street weapon to the firearm. Always conscious to do what the rabble wasn't, the nobility picked up the smallsword &c. in a big way when the gun became the preferred street weapon. Here the stylization and rules became normal.

    Yes, the non-foyning longsword sword continued to be the highly effective battlefield weapon. Only a suicide would take a foyning sword to war. :eek:

    Do consider that the most common weapon on the battlefield was not the sword but the pole weapon (I mean any long-hafted weapon, including spear). It's hard enough to fight against any pole weapon with a longsword. I personally prefer a solid dagger to a rapier when facing a pole weapon.

    If you've not done any fighting against a pole weapon (with various weapons), give it a go. It's a very enlightening experience. It can be frustrating because the end is so nimble and can strike very hard.

    Being primarily foying weapons, pole weapons do have one thing in common with the rapier. Once you get past the point, you're pretty much home free. That's the (very tricky) key to defeating rapier with another weapon, including unarmed. Void or deflect the blade, rush in, and your opponent is toast. :)

    This statement is over-broad, not distinguishing between civilian and military use. The rapier never replaced the longsword on the battlefield, regardless of whether it was harnischfechten (harness, or armored) or bloessfecthen (unarmored).

    As I mentioned above, the rapier was more effective in street fighting than the single-handed sword prevalent at the time of the rapier's advent. In that you are correct.

    * * * * * * *

    Terminology Note: I'm not trying to create a fight here. You make a distinction between "broadsword" and "longsword" where I don't. "Broadsword" is a later term. Because of the imprecise terminology, using something like Oakeshott's Typology is normally more useful. Like I said, I'm not trying to fight you on terminology, only explaining why I glossed over the term while quoting you.
  9. blackpuma

    blackpuma New Member

    Yes, yes. Good point.

    The English word "fence" is an abbreviation for "defence;" it was known as the "Art of Defence." This term also encompases the battlefield swordfighting with longsword, sword and buckler, messer, dagger, and hand-to-hand combat as it integrates into weapon use (e.g. "ringen am schwert" or hand-to-hand from the sword).

    In other words, historically it applies to more than just the foyning fence that remains today.

    In the "full" sense of the word, "fencing" is a hard-core martial (i.e. war) art... and a boatload of fun. :love:
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2005
  10. Stolenbjorn

    Stolenbjorn Valued Member

    I've learned Fiore di Liberi, Talhoffer, Ringek, Mendoza(boxing) and I'33 from Colin Richards, and currently I learn it to others, but I don't call that a living tradition in my definition of the term. The way I see the WMA(fencing) community of Europe, I see a lot of more or less MA-trained/studied fellas that have an open mind and that are willing to learn from eachother, so I definately would say that the weastern fencing-community is alive today, BUT IMHO; IT'S BEEN RESSURECTED.

    We seem to agree, then; I have no problems seeing that some WMA's have traditions that are unbroken from the 1700's and upwards (Boxing and Epee/rapier for instance)
    But my initial statement that the WMA's that we find from renissanse/medieval times have been Ressurected -that they at some point have been dead -unknown -not practiced, but that they now enjoy a ...renissanse :rolleyes:

    Now this has both good and bad sides. The bad side is that you have no "Maestro" that can kick your butt if you do somthing crucially wrong, and who knows the intent of the manuals and can explain what is just bad drawing in the manual and what is proper technique. The good side is that you have no "Maestro" that will tell you that "you're not ready for this yet", etc. The lack of herarchy in (most) of the weastern fencing communities, lack of conformity and (silly) rules is what I like the most about it :Angel:
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2005
  11. Matt Anderson

    Matt Anderson New Member

    I agree completely. I don't think anyone can trace a "living lineage" to earlier weapons such as long sword as practiced in the 15th century. Anyone doing it today is either working it out from old manuscripts or learning from someone else who did.

    Agreed on all counts here as well. I am learning longsword and other old weapons from the material that Talhoffer, Ringeck, and Meyer left behind and of course, learning from other historical fencers who have been doing the same thing.
  12. Chris Umbs

    Chris Umbs New Member

    Rohdes was also a ballet teacher as well as a fencing master and toured Europe, working with different fencing masters. In addition to Cabijos, we know he worked with Barbasetti and Greco. Barbasetti, certainly had an interest in older weapons.

    Now before someone complains about Barbasetti's level of scholarship - read this first

    The relevent quote is "It has become fashionable among those who prefer the "martial" approach to swordplay to the arduous life-long process of working toward a status of mastery that can only be bestowed on by other masters to discount or patronize the masters of the foil...and their take on fencing history.

    Barbasetti, trained in the military and civilian uses of foils, duelling sword, and saber, was steeped in the rigid traditions of honor and satisfaction as practiced by Austro-German bluebloods. (In fact, his expertise was accepted so widely, that his 1898 Ehrencodex (Code of Honor) was the leading guide through matters of honor until World War I.) He probably attended more saber Mensuren, saber and pistol duels than any other non-German fencing master. And his observation as to what kind of cut typically terminated a cut-and-thrust duel indicates that he had a pretty good idea about the psychological mechanisms that come to bear in a life-and-death encounter. Which, in my opinion, elevates him and his judgment far above those Johnny-Come-Latelies who so loudly proclaim to be practicing The Killing Arts with Padded Steel."
  13. Chris Umbs

    Chris Umbs New Member

    You can divide WMA between HES and LT. Since WMA covers everything from Roman combat to modern gun-fu, some are made up, some are re-created and some are living systems. Because of the net and the availibility of treatises, you see a lot more self teaching study groups. If you want to do 'the longsword of Fiore', you can go that direction. If you just want to learn 'Italian Longsword' you could study with M. Sinclair who learned from his teacher.

    Now let's say that you learn from Colin and begin teaching - at what point do you consider it a LT? How many generations does it take. It's silly to think that Cabijos made up his historical fencing out of scratch or even directly from the treatises with no teacher - but even if he had, that would mean that I'd be inheriting the study of 3 masters for over 80 years. I'm not interested in re-inventing wheels until I understand what my lineage is trying to teach me.

    Well I do have a Maestro who can kick my butt in all weapons... I'd be willing to learn from any teacher who is a good teacher. The fact that he can mop the floor with me - and I'm no tournament push-over - is a real added bonus. I feel his understanding of the treatises for the weapons he teaches is at least as good as any HES teacher (and I haven't heard anyone outside of ARMA members claim otherwise and not even them for years).

    Just about all WMA groups have some kind of hierarchy. Even ARMA has Scholar, Free Scholar, Provost and Master (even though they aren't currently using the last) with testing done for those ranks. Hierarchy is impossible to avoid in any facet of life. Groups that claim to have none, usually just have an informal sometimes hidden one. It's like Catholics and Protestants - Catholics have one Pope who can guide them. Protestants claim to have none so instead end up having dozens of people who all claim to be the final word. Some HES groups turn out just fine, but there's obviously a lot of slag out there as well. We'll never agree to any kind of standards and there is no vast conspiracy where any group is trying to force their rankings on others. By the same token, groups like the IMAF that do have very formal rankings and testings should be respected as well.

    In a slightly more ideal world we could all get together at an event and have some good tournaments except we can't agree on rules or even agree on the value of tournaments. A lot of us are looking for different things from WMA as well - street level defense with modern value, the enjoyment of re-creating a specific Master's style, the continuation of a lineage, gaining renown in tourney. We aren't even all going to the same big seminars anymore - some folks go to WMAW, some to ISMAC and others boycott those events because they don't like the tournament rules or the teachers and organizations involved. So I'm not sure we are ever going to solve these problems, but I'm damn sure they won't be solved on-line.
  14. Matt Anderson

    Matt Anderson New Member

    Chris, that's an interesting post but I'm still really fascinated by this idea of a "living lineage" of longsword fencing that is "not from treatises" and you didn't answer my questions (maybe you missed them).

    Does Martinez still teach longsword? I don't see any mention of it on his website although he says he actually does study old manuscripts and teach his interpretations of them:

    " He has also done extensive research in historical fencing. Many of the most prominent masters of the past centuries left elaborate, highly detailed treatises of the systems and styles which they taught. Maestro Martínez has spent years carefully and thoroughly researching these treatises (see bibliography) in an effort to accurately reconstruct these varied styles. These ancient and historical forms are then taught as authentically as possible to those of his students who are interested. Maestro Martínez' goal is to teach, promote, and preserve this rare martial art".

    This makes it sound like he is doing pretty much what the rest of us in historical fencing are doing. Can you clarify?
  15. Matt Anderson

    Matt Anderson New Member

    And here's a slightly different take on Barbasetti for anyone who is interested:


    Not sure who you're talking about here, but out of curiosity, do you do any longsword bouting? What type of weapon or simulator do you use? What type of rules do you have regarding target areas and contact force?
  16. Ran Pleasant

    Ran Pleasant Valued Member


    I have not read Barbasetti writings. However, an article on the ARMA site, The Art of Well Meaning Error gives the following quote from Barbasetti:

    "We have almost no evidence concerning their weapons; and that which we do have is so vague that it is difficult even for one in the profession to decide from their structure and form how they were manipulated".

    It appears very clear from the above quote that Barbasetti did not believe there were any living traditions of the older weapons. Was Barbasetti completely in the dark compared to Rohdes?
  17. blackpuma

    blackpuma New Member

    I'm not trying to be facetious here, just trying to understand.

    So what you're saying is that (for example) the name "Italian Longsword" along with the teachings and mythos of the system is more branding than any descriptive nomenclature. It may borrow liberally from various ideas and sources, but I'm not necessarily buying anything beyond the culture, padigms, and traditions of the organization.

    Like I say of SCA heavy fighting, whatever your goals are... go for it, have a lot of fun, and make it your passion. Just don't confuse the martially-inspired sport with historic battlefield fighting. (Hey, I'm not knocking SCA heavy fighting. I've done it, and it is one hell of a sport. :) )

    Again, I'm not trying to be a jerk, but I still don't get the answer to "who cares?" :confused: But I'm having a tough time buying into the aura of living traditions...

    On the other hand, maybe I do. I used to be heavy into SCA. When we really got into the role play it was a lot of fun, and until I started to dig into my own independent research I have to admit buying into it for quite some time. I have a lot of really pleasant memories, and get testy when people mock the SCA unjustly. It simply lights my fire no longer and I've moved on to other endeavours.

    I guess the master to student "living tradition" shtick, whether EMA or WMA, could be equally pleasant if that's one's passion.

    (My reservations regarding the value of such tradition is not really relevant here.)
  18. blackpuma

    blackpuma New Member

    Not trying to be offensive. I have no idea who your or your instructors are.

    Is that because it's a tired subject or because of newfound respect? It's a fair question since you're putting it out there as supporting evidence.

    I stopped criticizing the living traditions of an old group I belonged to just because I was just repeating myself, not because they reformed anything, got better, or were able to address my questions. We're still friends and I go back once in a great while to say hello, and invariably join in a few bouts for old times' sake.
  19. demivolte

    demivolte New Member

    Fencing - Los Angeles

    When I first started fencing I never thought of it as a martial art. I also never thought of it as being classical, historical or sport either. My teacher simply taught fencing. He started in the thirties when fencing was still taught with form. Not being hit was more important than scoring more touches than the other fencer. I've recently given in to calling my club a "classical" fencing club as I think my ideas lie more in that direction that what is called sport or Olympic fencing. I don't judge. I just enjoy what I do and appreciate other forms and styles.

    I also have been told by many other martial artists that fencing certainly is a martial art. I feel now that it probably is although if I wanted to find the nearest fencing club in a given town that I'd turn first to the sports section of the phone book first.

    A very thought provoking conversation though.

    Classical Blade Society
  20. Chris Umbs

    Chris Umbs New Member

    Sorry, been away for a few days.

    Just about all of these questions have already been talked about to death elsewhere, often leading to locked threads. Since I really don’t like re-inventing wheels, I’m just going to direct y’all to a few threads so you can see both sides of the debates.

    Martinez Longsword


    A lot of these questions are being asked by ARMA members which is kind of odd, since they all know these arguments by heart. Just so the rest of y’all can understand the background this is coming from



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