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Dominyk's Journal
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18th-Oct-2010 11:35 am

I find it amazing that SCA rapier has morphed so much in just the short time that I have been participating. "Short time" being a relative term, I started about 10ish years ago. And that is a long time to do anything, but a short time compared to how long some people have been playing.

The change from epee to heavy rapier has been the biggest and most traumatic change, at least for me, but lots of little things have changed as well.

And now I feel the whole game is shifting again. Sadly, it is orienting itself away from the things that I enjoy about it. The environment is moving away from being a competitive community that values achievement and is couched in a sort of warrior community, towards one that focuses on A&S and cut and thrust.

One might say that if I don't like the culture, then I should endeavor to change it. The problem is, I don't think that I can. I can't change how people want to spend their time. The fact is, gaining knowledge is much easier than applying it. And there is more physical pain involved in being an athelete than in being a scholar. So people are naturally gravitating towards activities that are easier and less painful. And I don't blame them, pain sucks.

C'este la vie, I guess.

Comments 
18th-Oct-2010 04:04 pm (UTC)
I don't see that so much, but that comes with a bunch of caveats. I do see Dante's vocal advocacy for HMA on the tourney field, but to an extent that's Dante being Dante. There could be some trend among the provosts that I'm not seeing, but that may be as much because it's a new thing they can try out and work on.

I expect that once the average level of competence with C&T reaches a certain point you'll see it turn much more competitive and C&T tourneys, while fought in certain period styles, will still be about mastery of combat. There's probably a point five or ten years down the road where C&T will usurp heavy rapier. Will that screw up your game? A bit, but I don't think it will break your game. A thrust will always be faster than a cut, and you will always be able to fight a C&T tournament without ever delivering a single cut. Tempo will always be tempo, measure measure, etc, etc

Also, there will always be scholars and free scholars who are thirsty for a win and need a sound beating.
18th-Oct-2010 04:13 pm (UTC) - My 2 cents
My prediction is that you gradually will see more people spending time studying and drilling in a particular system in the next few years. Over time, I think you'll be seeing those people kicking butt on the field, but in a style that is more historically correct than what developed before people had ready access to good translations and explanations of the fighting systems and swords that were any good for them. You can't do Capo Ferro with a foil or old schlager blade, and not many people can make sense of it without the help of a good translation and explanation.

Dante is a great example of a slacker who sits around and discusses rapier fighting styles while contributing nothing to training Atlantia's rapier army or earning war points, and is constantly getting his butt kicked on the tournament field because he insists on using a fancy-pants historically correct form. Oh wait. . . *grin*

Seriously, you've done some tremendous work in building Atlantia's rapier force, and research papers aren't going to change that. Keep doing what you've been doing and Atlantia's forces will continue to improve. Some people *are* interested in swordwork but not melee fighting, or they can't fight because of injuries - recruit those people as scouts and a support structure for the army. They can bring gatorade and help carry gear for people who are fighting rapier immediately after an armored battle. Isn't it Calontir that has the whole friggin kingdom turn out to support the fighters? Recruit every non-fighting-for-whatever-reason member of the Academie (and everyone's non-fighting significant others if they're interested) and you will see those people CONTRIBUTE to your efforts rather than take away from it. My warrant AND authorization are expired, but if a rapier warlord said 'hey - you're still a blue scarf - would you organize something for our rapier army at War?' - I'd say yes, and I am confident that many others would do the same. [/soapbox]
18th-Oct-2010 05:39 pm (UTC) - Re: My 2 cents
Studying a period style is great and wonderful. And many people could benefit from some hours of drilling. But what about studying all of the styles to learning concepts they teach? And then building your own style that fits your body, sword type and rules of our game. In other words, pretend like you actually had to apply your knowledge as a sword fighter(like they did in period).

I don't have anything against Dante, he has found what interests him and is able to dive in head first, and I don't begrudge him that one bit. But I will point out that the last tournament he won was the C&T tournament at Pennsic where people spent a whole lot of time bragging about their period style.

My point is that it is a cultural shift. There used to be a more intense vibe when I would arrive on site, like the gladiators were getting ready to enter the arena. Now it's way more of "so did you get the new Tom Leoni book?" or "can we have a pool for C&T too?"

Another example: I'm sure Dante gets asked many many questions about period study and forms, but rarely do I hear questions about how to improve in-fight recognition, improvisation, anticipation or exploitation of a specific style.

And, again, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with the shift. It's just a shift away from the things that I enjoy about our game.

19th-Oct-2010 01:15 am (UTC) - Re: My 2 cents
"But I will point out that the last tournament he won was the C&T tournament at Pennsic where people spent a whole lot of time bragging about their period style."

Well, that was also the only tournament I've done seriously since August besides the 5-Man, so I'm not sure how relevant that is. I did the Lochmere BB tournament as well, but avoided the HR side entirely. In the C&T list I fought mostly knights and white scarves.

I think you underestimate that environment, as well. To do well in the Pennsic tournament, I had to understand my own style, but also be able to implement it against a variety of not only styles but weapons. I had to beat Italian and German longsword, some Marozzo sidesword, some Silver, some German rapier, some Fabris, some Thibault, some SCA armored crossover, and so forth. Most of the people in that tournament were white scarves, warders, or knights. It was, bar none, the most intense fighting I have had in recent memory, and possibly ever. The marshals even adjusted the rules so that wounds to the arms were incapacitating; you literally could not risk a hit of any kind or you were done.

I don't think the tournament environment has changed, but I think that pickups have, a lot. People do pickups now as instructional tools, not as competitions. Pickups are treated like practice, and practice is for learning and improving, not winning. The purpose of practice is to experiment.

I think we essentially have 3 main practice/pickup mindsets:

1) This handpick works, so I'll keep doing it until it stops working. (I want to win practice.)
2) This handpick works, so I'll tell this guy how to stop it, and then try it again so it won't work any more. (I want my opponent to improve, even at my disadvantage, because both of us will improve.)
3) This handpick works, so now it's boring. I'll try something else, whether it works or not, and keep seeing what happens. (I am more interested in satisfying my curiosity than being competitive in this context.)

The first type is vanishing. The cultural shift, as I see it, isn't about A&S vs. C&T vs. HR, but about what fencing means to people. It has moved from a strictly competitive venue to one that is cooperative as well, where the purpose of combat is not to only defeat the opponent, but to learn from, teach, and defeat the opponent so that a bout is beneficial to both parties.
19th-Oct-2010 02:11 am (UTC) - Re: My 2 cents
"you literally could not risk a hit of any kind or you were done."

Good. I'm glad you had fun and that you triumphed so convincingly.

"The first type is vanishing. The cultural shift, as I see it, isn't about A&S vs. C&T vs. HR, but about what fencing means to people."

The focus on A&S and C&T has hastened this cultural shift.

"It has moved from a strictly competitive venue to one that is cooperative as well

This cooperative nature pervades the entire tournament environment at the expense of competition, even extending to the tournament fights themselves. Trust me on this, I actually ENTER the tournaments.

It seems to be what people want and enjoy, so I guess I have complained too much already.
19th-Oct-2010 01:48 pm (UTC) - Re: My 2 cents
I guess I remain firmly in the 'well this seems to work so I'll use it to win' column. Granted what worked well for me several years ago really did stop working several years ago and I am trying to redo my game to figure out what will work for me.
Based on this discussion I understand you question at practice last week. Currently I have no answer about the utility of Dante's teaching in my own fight. Honestly I don't think I ready to move much beyond very basic movement and attacks/parries. I expect I can use that information to get a proper lunge into my game and use it at the correct times, eventually.
19th-Oct-2010 07:36 pm (UTC) - Re: My 2 cents
"This cooperative nature pervades the entire tournament environment at the expense of competition, even extending to the tournament fights themselves. Trust me on this, I actually ENTER the tournaments."

I guess I haven't felt that. Actual tournament bouts are the same for me as they ever were. Well, actually, they hurt more since cuts to bone can be ugly even by accident. I've come back from events with my skin sliced open, though that is thankfully rare.

I do think people are developing better now, though. Think about how much work we all did in the last year, just from a fitness standpoint. I don't think you can fairly claim that people are opposed to pain when half the world is doing P90X.
18th-Oct-2010 04:14 pm (UTC)
Sorry you feel that way. Near as I can tell there is interesting in tournament fighting, period styles and recreating them and melee. Some do all, some do two, some do one. Each has it's draws and down sides. Each of us has talents and interest that lend themselves more to one than the others.

So, since I imagine one on one tournament is more your style, promote more tournaments. Sign on as the RMIC for an event and design the tournament format and prizes. Continue to teach one on one fencing as you have been doing to great effect.
18th-Oct-2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
That's funny - I thought he was concerned about the rapier army, not tournaments. :)

Congratulations, BTW.
18th-Oct-2010 04:32 pm (UTC)
I was interpreting from the 'warrior' comment.
Congrats?
18th-Oct-2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
Crud. I'm mixing up my Dragoons. Can't keep track of y'all. Haven't they given you all WSs yet? *grin*

I interpreted 'warrior' as member of an army. :)
18th-Oct-2010 05:08 pm (UTC)
The warrior comment was in no way referring to melee.
18th-Oct-2010 05:11 pm (UTC)
I sit corrected. :)
18th-Oct-2010 04:35 pm (UTC)
Ok, went back and re-read that passage. You are correct.
18th-Oct-2010 05:15 pm (UTC)
I am referring more to a cultural mentality thing as opposed to a lack of interest in any one area.

I am also not worried about a lack of RMIC's. But tournaments need competitors who want more than to lose gracefully(regardless of scarf color).\

Actually a good example of the shift in culture is the number of "feel good" tournies where the focus is on learning, giving to charity, or having White Scarves hold the field.
18th-Oct-2010 05:22 pm (UTC)
Ok, I missed a comma in your statement which certainly changes the reading/meaning.
I can certainly agree with entering tourneys with a will to win, not the desire to be nice about it.
As for your last statement, run a tourney with your idea rather than enter others. Not sure how you can encourage folks to fight to win or how you measure it though.
18th-Oct-2010 05:58 pm (UTC)
Get a really sweet prize and have it just for the winner, no other prizes.
18th-Oct-2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
Prizes really haven't been good in the past so I doubt they will negate the cultural shift. For quality competition you need quality competitors.
18th-Oct-2010 06:21 pm (UTC)
What will motivate the quality competitors to show up?
18th-Oct-2010 06:26 pm (UTC)
Other quality competitors. As I said, it's a cultural shift, not a logistical one.

What motivates you to show up?
18th-Oct-2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
A true swordsman shouldn't scoff at the changing of the tide, he should learn to out sail his competitors. I think part of this shift (which, in my mind is not as complete as you may fear) is that our regular rapier game constrains the swordsman to a somewhat unrealistic fight. Cut and thrust offers the closest approximation to actual swordplay you can find in the context of a Society like ours. The fact that we can't throw an edge blow leads directly to the "fencing" style that encourages people in our game to just charge in pell-mell against their opponents and then stand there and try and negotiate who got who first with their dagger thrust. You just don't see that on the C&T field, because if you rush in headlong, you get your head lopped off.

So (and understand that you know how much I respect you), I think you're whining. Go learn C&T. Go study the manuals and be orthodox about it for a while. Challenge yourself as a student of the sword, instead of merely a quick hand with a sword. Go out and do more than dabble in the way this sword was used by it's greatest practitioners in the period we re-create. I think you'll eventually find that the very best among them will lead you back home, into the comfort of the science you already know. Only you will have a lot more in your toolbox when all is said and done.

On a less important note, "feel good" tournaments are opportunities to compete in ways that involve reaching outside the self and your own glory for something bigger than yourself. It's also an opportunity to become a more complete rapier fighter, in the sense that we get to differentiate the animals with a sword from the educated, cultured warriors we are supposed to be. Look at it as yet another venue for competition and self improvement. You already know you can kick ass. Keep that ability honed, but try to look beyond that to the total package.
18th-Oct-2010 10:05 pm (UTC)
Matteo is smart. S.M.R.T.
18th-Oct-2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
I should have known this would happen.

Ok, first of all, I don't agree that C&T is necessarily more accurate simulation. But more importantly, it doesn't matter any more than the argument over whether boxing or MMA is a better simulator of a street fight. But there is a difference in the experience between being a boxer and being an MMA fighter. As crude as that analogy is, many people prefer one experience over the other.

Secondly, you are wrong to assume this post was about me being bitter that everyone wants to do C&T and therefore I can't win as much because I'm not as good at C&T as I am at heavy rapier, epee or tiddlywinks. For the record I have studied the works of the "greatest practitioners" extensively and have learned a metric ton. For instance the timing of body voids from Cappo Ferro or how to protect you face with your hilt(sans bent-over stance)from Fabris. You can believe that I am an animal with a sword if you want to, that is your prerogative. But I hope you can understand that it is the shift in mentality that has come with the focus on C&T and A&S that is less appealing to me, not the cut and thrust game itself.

You have also misunderstood if you think that I resent the A&S experts or the C&T enthusiasts. I don't. I just don't share their enthusiasm and I enjoy applying the arte in a different forum. It's all good, times change, I get that.

19th-Oct-2010 02:50 am (UTC)
Around here, we call your preferred forum "pwning n00bz."

At least, that's what *I* call it: my observation is that every fencer has their own degree of Art, and their own degree of Violence. Me, I try to rely on a bit of Violence, and a bit more Art; lots of my nearby friends eschew Violence altogether.

In an earlier comment in this thread, you suggested (by way of a "what's wrong with") that a fighter ought to be able to find his or her own amalgamation of Art, suited to his or her own body and mind. I've often argued that, indeed, any fighter who relies much on Art will *have* to do exactly that: you MUST own your own Art. (The fighters who rely mostly on Violence are the n00bz I refer to above). The things that help you to do that MUST include lots of self-study, and can also include modern sources, and/or cross-training (my cadet is a really good tango dancer, which is a huge influence on his footwork and body mechanics), and/or historical texts. Those of us who dig the historical texts have our own geek-circle about that, and we want more people to geek out with us about it, but obviously you're going to make your own adult decision about whether or not that's your particular bit of geek.

Five years ago, around these parts, when we wanted to get more people hooked into our geeky passion for old books about stabbing people, we sat around for a couple of minutes, pondering how to do that. "You know what would work?" said Adrian Flechyr. "Stabbing people. Stabbing people, a LOT, using valid historical technique. That'd get their attention."

So, in these parts, that's how the culture shifted a little more towards A&S (to the point that some non-Warders assume that you *have* to be interested in historical combat in order to become a Warder. This is demonstrably untrue, though MOST of the recently-made Warders realized, some where along their path, that it's a useful tool to develop their own Art.)

Locally, the pendulum of the apparently-dominant rapier culture has swung back and forth, a couple of times, in just those 5 years. Sometimes, a bunch of us get geeked out about just seeing who can be the best damned fighter on the block. Mostly, we're more relaxed than that, which leaves more room for study (which usually is a faster road to improvement than just throwing down-- that's part of its appeal...)

So, hang in there, and kick more ass, and do it so perfectly and cleanly than even the grouchy old snobs can't bitch about it. If you're not able to do that, well, then you have something to work on, don't you?
20th-Oct-2010 05:30 pm (UTC)
I guess that's a good way to look at it. I am sad that the culture is leaving my preferred geekspace(is that a word?).

But it's ok, I can geek out about other stuff.
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