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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

King's and Queen's A&S Championship LVD Paper

Hello again,

So I have some very interesting and exciting news to share with you in this post.

Last Saturday Feb 10th, 2018 I entered the the King's and Queen's Arts and Sciences  (A&S) Championship for the East Kingdom.  I submitted a research paper I wrote on La Verdadera Destreza.

If you are interested in reading the paper you can click the title:

I will jump to the conclusion very quickly to avoid any stupid suspense and just tell you.... I Won!  

For people not familiar with the SCA A&S championship it goes like this.  There is a competition held once a year and the winners hold the position for a year.  There are 2 champions selected, 1 King's and 1 Queen's.  In some of the East Kingdom championships the King's is considered the overall winner, but in the Arts and Sciences competition the Queen's is the overall winner.   Well, not only did I win Queen's A&S, but my Lady Elena Hylton (who has helped me with my work more than you can imagine) won King's Championship.... yup, speechless.

It is an insanely difficult competition to judge to say the least, as you are not just comparing apples to oranges.  You are evaluating scribal art, fiber art, leatherwork, painting, research, brewing, blacksmithing, and another dozen or so types of SCA period artistry.  There were about 37 entries I believe and each one was beautifully unique.  The Minister of A&S, his deputies, and last year's champs have done an amazing job of standardizing the judging rubrics, but I do not envy that job in the least.  

The quality of the works at the competition left me in awe and beyond humbled.  I loved so much of what I saw and was so excited to talk to people and not only learn about what they did, but to see the joy and excitement in their eyes as they geeked out with me about the thing that they put SOOOOO much time into and that which gave them joy and passion.

I want to, but will not spend this post thanking everyone that made it an amazing day, but I did post a G+ thank you  that got some of it across I hope.

One thing that should be mentioned, and many folks in the rapier community are very excited about, is that this is the first time a Martial research project has ever won champs.  It is an amazing thing to have this recognized as an art worthy of the name and study and just so COOL!  It is a testament to all of the martial researchers in the East who made this possible, such as Master Donovan and Don Lorenzo and all of the other fencers and fighters who shared their passions for period martial research with each other. Thank you!

Part of the job of being one of the kingdom champions is to represent the East in the coming year and spread the message of A&S.  I will be working hard with Elena to do this together.  Her intelligence and passion for A&S is beyond compare and she will also be getting her well deserved Laurel in just about a month.  Her mind is boiling over with ideas on how to get more people involved and we are both so excited.

The main message I personally want to get out this year comes down to:
  • More people should and can study the Martial Arts and Sciences in ALL forms
  • Spread the joy of ALL our A&S passions to others and remember THIS IS FUN!
  • A&S is a process and takes time so just try something and learn

If anyone wants to see more about the process and falls I went through to get this paper to its current shape, I made 2 other blog posts in the past year to try and document my journey.

A&S LVD Research Paper Experience  3-28-17 (contains an older version of my paper)

Remember that we are doing all of this because we find joy in sharing our crazy geeky hobbies.  This isn't our full time job, but it is a full time passion that we must all cultivate by sharing with each other.  

Thank you!


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Importance of Drilling a Research Paper

Hello Again,

This past weekend inspired me to get another post up a bit quicker than usual.  Since this isn't a catch up post like my last one it will be a bit more focused I hope.  I will be talking about what I have been learning in the process of writing fencing research papers and compare that to the act of fencing itself.

First, at Barony Beyond the Mountain (BBM) Yule on Saturday I was honored with the East Kingdom Silver Brooch for my fencing research and teaching of La Verdadera Destrea (LVD).  I was extremely surprised and left speechless.  I do what I do in LVD because I have fun.  The combination of learning history and another mindset, placing it directly into action to see if it works, and getting other people excited about the same thing, gives me a sort of child like glee. Having this research and passion recognized as being useful to other people is beyond awesome.

The Future Paper:
Next, as I mentioned briefly in my last post I have been reading Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics in preparation and research for my next paper on Destreza.  Specifically I am looking to discuss how the ethics and Catholic religion of Carranza was responsible for how LVD was created.  There is no doubt that if you have a Catholic lawyer who writes dueling books during his free time, there is a very good chance that his fencing style and philosophy will have some heavy outside influences.

The Past Mindset:
That being said I have been going back and forth in my head about how I should move forward with my A&S activities.  While I WILL be writing the ethics paper soon, I have been considering if writing a NEW paper is the right thing I should do for Kings and Queen's Arts and Science competition in February.   I wrote a paper last year for KnQ, but due to some bad stuff happening in my life I was unable to enter it there. I did get feedback from some judges who read it and I also submitted it to the Laurel's prize tourney a month or so later and received some awesome feedback from Mistress Lissa on how to improve my paper in the future.  Here is a blog post I wrote in March about that great experience: LVD Research Paper Experience.

After that last event I thought I learned what I needed to from that paper and pretty much shelved it and started thinking about my next work.  After several discussions with my Lady Elena and after getting some great advice and consultation at the A&S research table last weekend, with Master Magnus and Lady Raiza, I am now rethinking things a bit. 

In my education and research paper experience prior to the SCA, once you submitted them and received a grade, you moved onto the next work.  Sure, you can get some advice and have reviewers help you before you submit the paper and make changes then, but you didn't submit the same paper to two different classes and that is how I think I have been viewing my work. 

The Advice to Drill First:
Based on feedback and wisdom from the folks mentioned above, that mindset does not need to be the case when writing papers for the SCA.  Most crafts people will submit their work to multiple competitions to get feedback and figure out how to improve their craft.  In fact, as I was reminded, it would be considered very rude to not listen to advice you were given and show how you incorporated it into your future work or how you took that into consideration as you moved forward.

This is where the comparison of the process of SCA research papers to Fencing competitions and drills came into the consultation conversation with Master Magnus.  When you enter a competition and/or fence someone better than you, they will sometimes give you advice on how to improve your game.  You then take that information and alter what you are doing, practice/drill , practice/drill, practice/drill and try and put it back into action in another fight or tourney.  For those that don't know, fencing drills are repeated movements, frequently done with a partner, that you do to train your brain and body to learn how to fence better.  If you value the opinion of the person who gives you the advice you do not just ignore it and go about your business making the same mistakes over and over again.

Now to bring it back to the paper.  It would be possible, but not very efficient to enter a tournament (read: A&S paper), receive some good advice, and then just move onto another tournament (read: new paper) without practicing and drilling the previous material first to make sure that what I learned is ingrained in my brain.  Sure I could do it, but the more that I thought about it, if I want to get the most out of that original paper I need to change my previous mindset and see my research paper and tournament entry as more of an opportunity to drill my academic skills and paper writing abilities to get the most out of them.  This way, when I do get to my Detreza ethics paper, I will have that much more time with the pen/sword in my hand and brain.

SO, what I will now be doing is breaking out the previous paper and drilling the you know what out of it.  I want to get the most out of that experience and also try and get it out to as many people as possible to share the fun that I have with Destreza.

I hope my insights and experiences as a fencer and fencing researcher in the SCA can help other people.  Each path is unique, but it is very much a journey and a fun one if you take the time to look around and listen to folks.

Thank's for reading.

Bonus picture of my Silver Brooch.  Squee!!  :-) 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Catching Up: Seminar, Tournaments, Teaching, Injuries, and Have Fun

Hello Again,

I have returned and I am trying my best to get back on the fencing blog horse, which I seem to have somehow fallen off this year.  I have still been active with my Destreza even though my blog might not be the best reflection recently.  I hope to use this post to catch everyone up on what is going on  since the last big post on my LVD research paper.  I will also continue my trend of trying to use the blog as an educational tool to share some of the lessons I have learned while walking this path.

To break down what I am covering to some bullet points:

  • Attend Seminars on fencing whenever you get a chance, they are pretty rare and awesome
  • Challenge yourself and Fence in Tournaments, you will always learn something
  • Share the joy by Teaching and Talking to Others about La Verdadera Destreza 
  • Injuries Suck big time, but there are lessons to be had in those as well
  • Have Fun with what you do since that is what will make you want to do it again
A bonus point that I will also cover briefly something that means a lot to me personally is:
  • Research is the Key to what we do, so go out there and learn and study
Let's begin!

Attend Seminars
In May I had the amazing opportunity to go to a Spanish Martial Arts Weekend in New York hosted by the Martinez Academy of Arms.  Classes in LVD as well as the Spanish knife called the Navaja were taught by Maestro Ramon Martinez, Maestro Jeanette Martinez, Maestro Jared Kirby, and Maestro James Loriega.  They host this event every 2 years and I just missed the one in 2015.  Thanks to a friend of mine who studies at their school, Matt Pius, I did not miss it this time around.  

I could write a whole post on just this and not have enough time or room to cover all of the things I learned.  I can't do that though so I will say that one of the greatest highlights for me was to have the opportunity to not just learn new things, but also to have the things I have been doing on my own, without a professional's feedback, corrected and refined.  I have been unable to attend some of the larger fencing conferences and seminars like KWAR, VISS, WMAW, Destreza Days, etc. for various reasons and to have a chance to study with some recognized Masters of this art was awesome. 

All of the Masters and students at the seminar were wonderfully welcoming and open about sharing their knowledge.  What I found staggering though was how I believe I was the only person from outside of the academy to attend the seminar.  There were only 8-12 different attendees there which also confused me.  Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, since I know that LVD is a very small sub group of the historical fencing community.  As someone that has had difficulty finding and attending events, I know that time and money do not always align with the stars to make such things possible.  That being said, I can not express with enough emphasis without writing it in all caps, ATTEND SEMINARS WITH THE MASTERS WHEN YOU CAN!!!!  The value of their knowledge and time is beyond compare.

Fence in Tournaments
This one is pretty simple and I have always been an advocate of challenging yourself through competition to assess your progress and the effectiveness of what you are studying.  Over the summer I had the opportunity to have this experience kicked up to a new level when I was chosen to represent the SCA East Kingdom at Pennsic to be on their single champions team.  

For background, there is a very large (12,00 or so people) SCA event held in PA each year with 2 armies.  One of the events pits a group of chosen champs against another.  There is a melee fencing battle and singles champs battles.  For the singles, there are about 10-15 chosen, they pit you against a person from the other team for a single bout, win or lose.  To say the least it was a HUGE honor to be chosen to represent the East Kingdom in this tournament as a fencer and even more what I felt was a representative of LVD. 

I will summarize some of highlights/lowlights and lessons learned from this.  
  • My opponent was a Master of Defense and thus has more experience than I do, but the ones who selected my opponent for me felt I was a good match.  I did not know my opponent and had never fenced him before and he had not fenced me so we were on equal ground there.  I had little knowledge so I went with the game plan of patience
  • The good:
    • I stuck to my game plan of patience and did not rush things
    • Tournament head space for a single bout is much different than a longer tournament, this was very new to me and I kept my spirits up and kept in a good mind so this was a huge success under this kind of first time single champion tourney bout pressure.  I taught an LVD class that morning and also Heralded for the heavy list fighters right before my fight.  That could be wrong for some people, but was perfect for me.  Lesson learned is find what works for you and stick to it.
    • I fenced my game with good control of distance
    • I was freaking chosen for the team as a practitioner of LVD.... That is a win right there, lol.
  • The bad/ lessons learned:
    • I lost, lol.  Yup, but according to folks that keep stats first time singles champs only win about 20% of the time.  I wanted to win, but not this day and that is ok. :-)
    • I was possibly too patient and there were opportunities that I could have taken advantage of it I was more aggressive
    • I need to watch the pattern of my feet as well as my blade.  Some folks said that after such a very long bout, I dropped into a footwork rhythm that my opponent possibly took advantage of
 So overall I kept my cool and stuck to my plan.  I lost but learned.

As another tournament note, I also participated in the By the Book Tournament a few days later where there are a bunch of fencers that fight only historical styles.  I was one of several LVD fencers in there.  I won my sub group and over all I tied with another person for Second Place.  That is seriously a huge honor and win for me right there.

So, get out there and compete and put yourself and what you do on the line. You might win and you might lose, but overall you will learn and hopefully have fun doing it.

Teach and Talk to Others
At Pennsic I taught another class on Destreza.  This is the third year I have taught there and this year it was a research class designed to teach people about what is out there to read on LVD and where to find it.  It was 2 hours long and the audience stayed the entire time and seemed pretty engaged in the material and what I had to talk about.

Do I know everything there is to know about LVD? Hell no, but I have learned enough in the years I have been studying and writing about it, to be able to share some of this passion with others in an organized way.  I have high standards for teaching (I have a degree in it) and think that if you are doing it, you need to prepare, prepare, prepare and know what you are going to share.  You also need to be willing to admit that you do not know everything since spreading lies because you are too prideful and want to appear all knowing is much worse than not knowing at all. 

The main message I have about this is that if you are studying LVD and you are excited about it, don't be afraid to talk to people about it.  You do not have to teach a class to spread the good word of what we are doing and the fun we are having.  Education comes in many forms and you can educate folks by teaching a practical class, teaching a research class, or just by talking one on one with someone about Destreza and what it is.  The more folks that know what it is the better, and maybe a few of them will decide to drink the historical fencing juice and come and join us. 

Injuries Suck
In April I sprained a finger doing another martial art.  In June I sprained the thumb of that same right hand.  All of the above tournaments were fought with a wrist brace and with my first 2 fingers taped together.

You heard about my spring and early summer, well after Pennsic my life has been full of injuries.  I hurt my back in a minor way moving stuff just before war.  At Pennsic I seriously hurt my back to a very bad degree with sciatic nerve and leg pain that put me on the side lines for most of that war week.  After I got back I had a limp, numb feet, and something that is called foot drop.... let me just say that it is not good and kind of scary.  I stopped fencing for a couple of months and went to physical therapy, got an MRI and I am now healing up slowly.

BUT, around mid Aug. my shoulder started hurting pretty bad too.  I ended up getting that diagnosed as an injured Biceps tendon which can possibly be torn or if I am lucky it is just tendinitis that will heal.   I loved when the doctor said the movement that causes this isn't that common and went on to show me that is was in fact the arm extended right angle position that is required for the practice of Destreza, lol.  Yup, I am seriously left wondering if I have in fact come down with a 100% period injury to my style of fencing :-) .  

Have I let these stop me, no.  They have slowed me down a great deal and depressed the heck out me though.  I am back to fencing practices, but currently using only my left arm with my right arm behind my back to avoid any accidental misuse.  I am getting stabbed in new and unusual ways each week, but I am also learning so many things as if it was the first time.  I am hoping to fence in a couple of weeks in the Kings and Queen's SCA rapier championship with my right arm, but we will see how things go.

My message to everyone is that getting the momentum back to fence has not been easy, but it is very much worth it.  Sadly I think getting injured is almost an inevitable if you study any kind of martial art.  You need to care for yourself, but not let it stop you from moving forward or at the very least circling around the problem like a good Diestro.  

Have Fun
As I said I am now fencing at practice with just my left hand for the past few weeks.  I can honestly say that this is perhaps the most fun I have had fencing in a very long time.  It is a little frustrating and also humbling, but I am not afraid to get stabbed as that is what learning in this martial art involves.  I have fenced on an off with my left over the years, but this is the first time I am ONLY using it with no exceptions.  As a friend said it is kind of cool because your off hand does not have all of the bad habits that your right or main has developed, so it is a blank slate.  

One of my tattoos is the Japanese kanji for Shoshin or "Beginner's mind".  This is a term from Zen Buddhism and it refers to an attitude of openness, and lack of preconceptions when studying or learning.  I got it as a tattoo years ago to remind myself to always have an open mind when learning as there is so much joy in that.  I seriously think that all of the body pains and mental pain that I have gone through during the past year, and the current use of my left arm have helped me remember that I need to clean my slate and just approach things with this attitude.  Maybe I am overthinking and rationalizing all of the crap I have had to deal with, but either way I am going to make the best out of it and try and remind myself and everyone out there to just HAVE FUN doing what we love to do.

Bonus: Research is the Key
This one is short and more of a teaser.  At dinner after fencing last night some of us were chatting about what we are studying and doing with our styles.  Well, it was kind of fun to tell folks that I am now in the process of reading Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.   I felt like such a proud geek to tell my friends this and then have them get so excited when I said that I hope my next Destreza paper will be on the development of certain techniques within the style and the ethical reasons for their creation.

I guess where I am going to leave this post is that historical fencing is a VERY deep pool in which you can swim.  There are so many directions and depths that you can go to.  I really just want to encourage folks to learn more and have fun with what they are doing and swim as deep and as far as you want to.

It is good to be back and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Arts & Sciences: La Verdadera Destreza Research Paper Experience

(If you stick through to the end you get a peek at me in my epic period Elizabethan kit that makes me look like I stepped out of a Spanish painting, hehe) 

"Life pleasant, the enemy a strong man, danger ordinary, defence natural, the science to achieve it infallible, its study obligatory and practice necessary."
Don Luis Pacheco de Narvaez, Nueva cienicia

This past weekend I had the privilege of entering a La Verdadera Destreza (LVD) research paper into an SCA Arts and Sciences (A&S) event.  The event was called the Laurel's Prize Tourney and involved more than 20 challenges that were issued by the Laurels of the SCA (peers of the A&S community).  The challenges included those in weaving, brewing, heraldry, performance, and many more crafts.

The challenge that I entered was called "Research, Research, and then Research Some More" offered by Mistress Elysabeth Underhill.  It involved submitting a research paper on the topic of your choice, as well as displaying and presenting this information to those at the event in a creative and informative way.

The paper I submitted was originally written for King and Queen's A&S Championship that was held in February, but due to some things in life beyond my control I was not able to attend that event.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to enter my paper into another event that I could actually attend, where I could receive additional feedback, learn how I could better myself, and hopefully spread the good word of La Verdadera Destreza far and wide :-)

If you would like to just jump to the paper I am providing a direct link below this paragraph.  Beware though that it is 13 pages of research paper and 27 overall with all of the extras.

by Doroga Voronin

Other than giving you the link to my paper I wanted to do a little bit more here.  Similar to how I have told folks who read my blog what I have learned from applying LVD in practice and tournaments, I will do the same thing regarding my research and display.

It is a fine line I will walk though because while I don't want to beat myself up for what I feel I didn't do, I DO want to be honest and share with everyone what I learned from this event, how I am going to use this knowledge to move forward, and most importantly show that there is a process of growth that occurs from A&S experience like there is from fencing drills and competition.

To Begin:

To paraphrase a conversation and discussion I had with Mistress Underhill, I did not spring fully formed from the A&S womb into what I am today to compete in this competition, lol.  This was not my first Destreza related A&S event and I have been building up to this point with more than 2 years of research and slightly less than that entering events.  In the fall of 2015 I entered and won honorable mention at St. Eligius for a demo of a period technique (old blog post on that here).  Last spring I displayed an annotated bibliography (link to that older document here) at KnQ A&S champs that taught me a ton about displays and gave me a bunch of ideas for my research.  Last summer at Pennsic I hosted a Destreza meet and greet, and taught a class on footwork and theory that incorporated much about the history and context of this period style (lesson plan and blog post linked here).  All of that lead up to me writing and displaying this paper.

The Display:

Part of the competition was to "think about how you can present your work to those who are at the event and who may not have the time to read your entire paper"  Here is what my display looked like.

Sadly I forgot to take a picture of it at the event, but I recreated it for you on my kitchen table :-).

My display at last year's KnQ was much different.  One thing I learned from that was to use WORDS, lol.  My display last year was nothing but a board with various Spanish circles on it, along with my annotated bibliography printed out and displayed below.  What I found out was that the Spanish circle can in fact be used as a Rorschach ink blot test.  People had a hard time figuring out if I was showing examples of celestial navigation, map making, alchemy symbols, or fencing.  Those were all actual guesses that came up when people stopped by to look at my work.   So this year I made it clear with a title, summary points, and some fun quotes from my paper, such as the Pacheco quote at the top of this post, along with the plates I used and cited.  I also used as my table cloth the folded up full size replica Spanish circle that I created this past year (blog post on that linked here).  I actually got the idea to pursue and create that circle after a conversation I had with Master Magnus hvalmagi at last year's display.  That circle table cloth this year was't fully visible, but it was a really great conversation starter for folks walking by.

To summarize my A&S display growth, you can't share your passion with someone if they can't figure out what it is.  :-)

The Paper:

Let me say that I am so appreciative for the feedback that I received from Mistress Underhill at the event.  Not only did she take the time to read the paper and look at it with an academic's eye, but then she spent approximately an hour discussing it with me and how I can better my research and myself in the SCA.   I must also thank the judges from KnQ A&S champs who read the paper and gave me their feedback even though I was unable to come and speak with them in person at the event.  All of these conversations have helped me frame this and future research projects.

I am very proud of the work that I did.   There are many things that I did well, such as the quantity and quality of the sources that I used (8 primary sources and 6 secondary sources), but I am also looking at it critically so that I can grow as an academic studying and sharing this art.  It was said to me that no one will know what I left out except myself.  That is very true, but I also want to help other people along this path by showing the process of growth that occurs through academic reflection.

Things I can improve upon:

1. A Better Purpose or Argument: 
I knew this was a weakness going into the paper, especially when I wrote it for the KnQ champs competition.  The main purpose of this piece was to help clear up what La Verdadera Destreza actually is, at least in a general sense.  I wrote this paper to be informative and to be a summary of the main concepts of the style.  One of the accurate and main points of feedback that I received from multiple sources was that I could have better tailored the paper to have a more focused argument or purpose rather than a general summary of the material.

2. Narrower Focus for the Topic
Simply put, the scope of what I was trying to cover was too large.  I could have written 4-5 separate papers or an entire book on the material I was trying to cover.  By being general in my informative paper rather than more focused I had to leave a great deal of information out and in doing so I might have left the reader with more questions than answers.  I am idealistic and hope that I encouraged them to study more LVD to find those answers, but I know that is the wrong way to do it.  Going forward I shouldn't be afraid to write a shorter paper that is a closer look at only a part of the art.

3. Don't Generalize
In my excitement and passion for LVD, it was pointed out to me that many times I made very general statements throughout the paper.  This might be permissible in another format, but in an academic research paper, these generalizations are very big holes.  Frequently I compared Destreza to the Italian styles of fencing and since my paper was not on those styles, at best I left the reader hanging and not fully understanding the comparison I was trying to make, at worst my comparison might have been inaccurate or full of research holes you could drive a bus through.  If I am going to prove a point I need to do it more clearly and with less generalization.

I will keep the main summary to the big three take homes for now.  There are other pieces of feedback I received that are just as valuable and that I will always need to be aware of in my studies.  These include:

  • Watching out for the over use of jargon or terminology that people might not understand.  
  • Do not use or overuse quotes without explaining the point they are proving
  • Be aware of my audience and not talk over them with my language
  • Use pictures, data, and graphs effectively to prove my point
  • Stay closer to SCA period when I am writing for this audience

I believe that these items are things that all researchers need to do as they study and write about their topics and I feel very lucky for the guidance and feedback that has been provided to me.  I hope that my reflection on this can help other folks that are interested in researching and writing about a topic understand that this is a gradual process of growth and refinement like the study or practice of any art.

My Reward:

Along with the education and feedback I received, the other take home from this event was a gift from Mistress Underhill.  She rewarded each person who entered one of her challenges with chocolate covered pretzels along with one of her amazing hand made beads.  I am keeping the insanely beautiful bead on my desk at work to remind me to keep chugging along in the art and science of Destreza. I should note that she did in fact give us more pretzels than the one in the photo, but that was the only one left.
Destreza research never tasted so good.  :-)

The Bonus Photo:

Huge thanks to Jeanne Clifton for my period Elizabethan Outfit.
I even have the angry dour period Spanish face going on and everything.
If you want to learn more about this outfit you can check out her write up at Elena's Threads.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Tournaments and Encouragements with Destreza


This past weekend I went to an SCA event where some wonderful friends received well-earned awards.  I also participated in 2 fencing tournaments where I was very pleased with how I performed (understatement).  I placed 2nd in the single rapier tournament, where only single rapier was allowed as the name implies, and 3rd in a mixed styles tournament, where you had to pick from a hat for each bout to find out what your off hand weapon would be (dagger, case, soft parry i.e. cloak, ridged parry i.e. buckler, single rapier, or opponent's choice).  The caliber of the competition was probably some of the most qualified that I have fought and the take home message for me from the day was that I am on the right path with my La Verdadera Destreza (LVD) practice.

Other than the results of the tourney, one of the things that stuck with me was a conversation I had with a fellow fencer after the tournaments.  This person told me that he was very happy to see someone succeeding with Destreza.  He said that when he started fencing, he originally tried practicing Destreza for about 6 months.  During that time he was continually told by other fencers that the style did not work and that was why most of the people in the area practiced an Italian style or Olympic off shoot instead of Spanish.  Eventually he became discouraged and started practicing Italian instead of Spanish, but still tries to incorporate some of those early ideas when possible.  I told him that I was sorry he encountered this and in fact I heard the same thing when I started along this historical path.

I vividly remember the day at practice that I was told by someone that exact thing and how an experienced fencer told HIM that he shouldn’t practice Destreza because it didn’t work and that I shouldn’t waste my time on it.  Thanks to my previous knowledge of how muscle memory is built and the words and help of some other experienced fencers whose opinions I valued, I completely ignored this guy and used his words to fuel my desire to practice harder.  Those friends and also my own experience in the martial arts are what kept me going.

What I want people, especially those just starting out along this path, to get from this post is:

La Verdadera Destreza DOES WORK! 
(If practiced correctly of course) 

If you want to follow this art (or any historical art) you need to ignore those doubters, keep your head high, and keep chugging along.

I told this person I met over the weekend that my experience with LVD fencing was very similar to my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) experience.  For those not familiar with that martial art, it is a grappling / wrestling style of fighting that is one of the foundation styles for mixed martial arts (i.e. UFC fighting).  While some of the martial arts I practice use forms or kata, BJJ was like fencing in that it is results driven.  You drill first, then practice full out with your opponents and either what you drill works or it doesn’t.  The learning curve for that art is very similar to LVD.  I tell people you spend the first 6 months of BJJ tapping out to just about everyone, wondering how on earth did that 200lb. Brazilian man just get on your back.  “Tapping out” to your opponent is what you do when you are being choked or locked and it is how you indicate you lost and are about to possibly lose consciousness or have something broken.  I say, “You know what the sound of learning is…. Tap, Tap, Tap”.

LVD is very similar to BJJ in that I spent at least the first 6 months getting stabbed a lot.  Each poke was like a tap in BJJ… it was the sound of learning.  I was drilling like mad, be it footwork or blade work. I was working on standing straight, holding my arm straight, moving fluidly or at least on a circle and in angles when attacking, and integrating the concepts of distance and blade work into my head slowly.  Eventually some of that training became instinct and I could disengage those parts of my brain to focus and refine other movements.  When that started happening, I noticed I was getting stabbed less and less.

Just like I remember the day that I tapped someone out in BJJ, I now vividly remember the day that, without conscious thought, my blade was able to execute one of the 4 generals of LVD in a bout (it was the general of narrowing or “General del Estrechar” to be exact).  It was euphoric and it felt like Christmas morning when it happened.  For the rest of the practice I was stabbed repeatedly in new and unusual ways, but you know what… you couldn’t take that moment of an actual result away from me for the world.

I will not lie.  It is not easy to practice an art done by very few people that has very little information translated into English.  This is also why I run the LVD Resource List to let people know that they are not alone and that there are masters and materials available to help guide their journey.

I am also very happy to tell you that Destreza, both the Verdadera and the Comun styles, are getting more and more popular as time goes on and there is more material out there each year.  At Pennsic 45 this past summer the “By the Book Tourney” had to have a separate Destreza pool because there were so many of us (7) studying the art.  This warms my heart and hopefully it will help others understand that this is a growing field and we who walk this path are not alone in our practice and study.

Keep practicing.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Lesson Plan for La Verdadera Destreza: Spanish Fencing Circle Use and Footwork

Hello again,

I am very happy to get another post up here.  In my last one on the Creation of a La Verdadera Destreza Fencing Circle I mentioned how I was going to use the circle I made to teach a class on footwork at Pennsic 45. I am very happy to report that the class went very well, even with multiple hurdles. No lesson plan ever survives first contact with the enemy and that was very true when they had to shut down my battlefield tent 15 min. into the class due to lightning.  I turned it into a walking lecture on the history of the Spanish circle on our way through the food court to a much smaller classroom.  Sadly due to the size of the new space I wasn't able to use my big canvas circle, but we were still able to cover all of the information and improvised while walking around a center tent pole.

It was a 2 hour class and I had a great group of folks taking it for various reasons. The participants included fencers for the obvious content, academics trying to understand the social context of the art, and heavy list / rattan fighters looking to apply these concepts to their own style of fighting.

Below are my internal class notes. I considered posting just the external material, but I thought that my personal notes would be more useful to understanding what I covered. The internal personal notes are in italics and are VERY extensive as I am a firm believer in being over prepared when teaching.  I typically want my external handouts to be a general outline and place for folks to take notes, not a book or essay for them to read while we talk and learn.  These notes on the blog are more comprehensive to allow you to see behind the curtain since you are just reading and not listening to it as well.

I also handed out a set of pictures of various Spanish fencing circle interpretations by the masters.  Instead of posting those here I updated my other post on The Spanish Circle Through the Years with the new circles I found, so anyone interested in those can click over there for a more comprehensive view.

Here you go:

La Verdadera Destreza: Spanish Fencing Circle Use and Footwork
Lord Doroga Voronin
Pennsic 45 / Aug. 10, 2016 / 3pm-5pm

  • Ask Questions as we go through the class
  • I will be covering concepts and strategy at the same time
  • Brief intro about me and why I got into this
  • The Spanish circle is not mysterious unless you consider balancing your checkbook a mystery
  • Format I am following today is on your handout.  
  • Spanish Masters suggested learning the theory first and then the skill or practice
  • I am going over the style of fencing, the footwork, the parts and use of the circle, LVD concepts and how they can be applied to other fencing and fighting styles
  • All of what I am going over needs to be practiced slowly and applied gradually to ingrain it as an instinct, then it can be made to move fast
  • Use your surroundings as you do not need a formal circle for training, basketball court layout, pieces of tape on the ground, etc.
  • It is a dance, 8th grade dance analogy on how at your first dance everyone looks and feels awkward

George Silver 1598 said:
"They stand as brave as they can with their bodies straight upright, narrow spaced, with their feet continually moving, as if they were in a dance, holding forth their arms and rapiers very straight against the face or bodes of their enemies"
  •  My knowledge is based off of both historical and modern master's analysis 
  • Carranza was father of the style, treatise written in 1569, published large scale in 1582
  • Lasted formally for almost 300 years with manuals being published up to the mid 1800’s 

La Verdadera Destreza (LVD)
    History and Masters
o   Jeronimo de Carranza,   Luis Pacheco de Narvaez,   Gerard Thibault d’Anvers
o   Luis de Viedma,   Franciso Antonio de Ettenhard,    Francisco Lorenz de Rada              

          How LVD differs from other fencing styles
o   Upright Stance & Sword Position
o   Circular Stepping and Distance                  
o   Concepts / Techniques (i.e. Atajo, 4 Generals, Defensive, Right angle, Movements of conclusion)

Types of Circles:

Historical Examples (see handout)
Size of fencer can influence size of circle, steps, and blade length

 Ettenhard talks about how Pacheco details exact distances 3 feet single step, double step 5 feet, but also talks about his own philosophy on setting fixed distances.
“I consider determining a fixed distance for the steps to perform the proposed actions as extremely difficult (and even impossible)… Only in one case could a fixed distance be obtained, and that would be if one of the combatants did not move from his spot…"
  • Ettenhard says to measure distance proportionally and if your opponent takes a long step you take a short one
  • Describe Thibault's measurements and the concept of the vara
  • The circle is a training tool not a battlefield.  It is imaginary, moves with the fencers, can be recreated or changed mid fight.  It can also be rotated to make a cylinder in front of you as a targeting tool

 Parts of the Circle:      
(Most Translations from Puck and Mary Dill Curtis)

  • Greater Circle              Círculo Mayor                  Large circle between the fencers
  • Diameter                      Diametro                          Line that separates the fencers on the greater circle
  • Lines of Infinity           Linea Infinita                   Parallel lines perpendicular to the diameter
  • Minor Circle                Círculo Menor                 The circles around each fencer

LVD Concepts of Distance:·         
           Measure of proportion                    Medio de proportión       
              Defensive location that defines the circle and where the fight begins
  • This is where you can recognize and react to your opponent’s movement
  • Where swords meet each other’s hilt
  • Just like the circle, it changes based on your opponents size, blade length, and stance
  • Some like Rada specify distances for this 8ft., 7-5, 3, etc.
  • Judge the distance by what is there and what is their POTENTIAL reach (DEMO)
  • DEMO of Measure of Proportion (possible drill)
  • Strategy of gaining distance and goals, Puck suggests
    • If you have a longer reach or blade, you want to violate their space, medio
    • If you have a shorter reach or blade, you want to keep them outside until you want to move
  • Puck says, “Walking the circle without a reason gives your opponent a tempo and an advantage” 
  • Always have a reason when you move in and out of the circle of death 

      Proportional measure                    Medio proporcional                      
             Middle distance (referenced by Alvaro Guerra de la Vega and Francisco Lorenz de Rada)
      Proportionate measure                  Medio proporcionado                   
              Offensive location or place of termination 

Types of Steps:
                     Forward                          Compás Accidental / Recto          
           Backward                       Compás Extraňo
           Lateral                            Compás Trepidante    
           Transverse (diagonal)     Compás Transversal 
           Curved                            Compás Curvo              
           Mixed (combination)      Compás Mixto  
           Spanish Gaining Step     (Puck Curtis)   Crosses to gain distance

  • Feet are equally balanced, no further than shoulder width apart 
  • Sword arm foot forward, line up heels
  • Which foot steps first?
    • GENERAL RULE of thumb is the one closer to where you are going
  • How far you should step? 
    • Varies depending on the Master you read and your size, no lunging in traditional LVD
  • GENERAL RULE, do not cross the feet on stepping, but there are times you do i.e. gaining step
  • Transverse Steps
    • Closes the distance more rapidly and aggressively than a curved 
    • Closest thing to a lunge, front foot points at opponent on the step
  • Transverse angle can vary, Viedma says step from A to B for both transverse and the curved
  • All Actions are a combination of movements, common Examples of mixed steps – back lateral, movement of conclusion
  • A step in the Spanish style starts and ends in the stance, always recover to exit and defend
  • Ettenhard says          
    • Forward is superior to back
    • Transverse defeats the forward
    • Transverse and curved defeats transverse and curved

Concepts and Reminders:
  •        Misconception:  the opponent is always in the center and you never get closer
    •          Truth: there are many circles and they are dynamic and changing
  •       Misconception:  Spanish fencing is only with a single sword   
    •          Truth: they use dagger, buckler, shield, cloak, etc ,      
      The circle is a training tool and is imaginary, moves with the fencers, can be changed mid fight
      The style of fencer you are facing (i.e. Italian, LVD, Destreza Vulgar/Comun) will change how you fence
Learn slow, drill slow, gradually increase the speed, learn the moves before you dance fast     
Remember to train to circle and attack in both directions (right and left) and with both hands
      Strategy and use can be applied to other styles of fighting

Drills and Final Questions
  • Drill setting measure with hands 
  • Mirror Drill - Forward, Back, Lateral, Transverse, Curve both ways, one leads, then swap

That is about it for the internal version of my lesson plan from the class that I taught this past summer.  Perhaps I will teach this again some day, but until then....

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Creation of a La Verdadera Destreza Training Circle

Hello again,

Below you will see photos of several stages of the process and the final version of my historical recreation of a La Vedadera Destreza (LVD) training circle.  This one in particular is from Luis Dias de Viedma's work "Metodo de Ensenanza de Maestros" (Method of Teaching of Masters), 1639.  The translation of the manual was done by Tim Rivera and is located here: Spanish Swordsmanship Society of St. Louis.  I posted Viedma's original circle from the manual at the bottom so you can compare it to my final circle.

I have been wanting to do this for a while and selected Viedma's circle for a few reasons.  The primary being that it seemed to be the easiest to start out with and contained most of the needed parts (major circle, lines of infinity, etc.). I intend to recreate Carranza's circle next or perhaps Ettenhard.  While Thibault has the best instructions for creating his circle, it is by far the most complex and I will hold off on that for now.

I am using this as a training tool to teach my "LVD footwork and use of the Spanish Circle" class at Pennsic 45 this year.  I will emphasize that the circle is an imaginary construct you create in your head as you fight.  It is in no way meant to be an actual battlefield or used like a fencing strip, BUT having an actual circle to train upon certainly has many benefits.  I also will go into how you can mark out places on the floor with pieces of tape, as my training partner Xavier showed me.  I have also used the circles on the basketball court where we hold our practices.  In the end the circle can be a very valuable tool for training and learning to judge distance and movement in LVD.

I wanted to stay as close to Viedma's measurements as possible,

"This whole circle must be twenty-four feet around, all of which is divided into steps of three feet, makes eight steps in all its circumference."
Method of Teaching of Masters, Luis de Viedma, pg 11r (1639)

Before making the circle, I also was curious what my personal measurements would be, as defined by Thibault's work.

"..one end of a large compass is placed at the navel and the other at the toes or against the soles of the feet, and the circumference is then drawn all around, it forms a circle, the center of which will be the person's navel, the diameter equal to the height at full extension."
Academy of the Sword, Gerard Thibault d'Anvers (1630)

Thibault says the radius of your circle should be measured from your navel to the sole of the feet.  As discussed in my previous post Blade Length in La Verdadera Destreza (Part 1 of 2) I am very tall at 6ft. 5in. and my navel to the floor (without shoes) is 46 and 1/2 in.  Since I use a 45 inch blade I decided to round down to 46 inches (3ft. 10in). Low and behold my personalized Thibault circle comes out to 24 ft. 8/10ths of an inch circumference.

My personal measurement is so extremely close to Viedma's defined 24 ft circumference or untranslated "veinte y cuatro pies de circuito".  Since I am far taller than most people in period, this lead me to ask even more questions regarding what the period size of the circle should be. Viedma does not use the measurement of the vara in his work, but actually uses the word "pies" or feet.   I have read that the actual formal modern measurement of the foot was not established until much later than this work and there was significant variation in its definition at the time.  For example, the Roman foot came out to approx. 11.65 inches of the modern foot, which would make his circle translate into a modern measurement of approx. 23ft. 4in. circumference.

Did Viedma measure his circle using a different period foot size?  Did he actually intend his circle to be larger than the average man, as defined by Thibault's measurements which were published less than a decade before him?  I do not have answers to these questions at this time, but they have given me something to think about as I move forward with my studies of this art.

My Viedma Circle
I decided to go with the 46 inch radius or modern measurement of 24ft 8/10th of an inch circumference as I felt that it was staying true to Viedma's work.  I did not create this alone and need to thank my girlfriend Elena Hylton for assisting me with this entire process.

We started out with a 9ft. by 12ft. canvas and drew out all of the lines with a pencil.  It was pretty dark in our driveway at the end of the first night and it might be hard to see the lines in the spotlight, but they are there.  I had also kind of lost my mind at this point, as you can see here with my Destreza Man pose.

The 24ft. circumference I refer to above is the outer circle and the inner circle is 6 inches smaller or a 40in. radius. The inner circle can also be used for a shorter person if needed.  Each of the lines was created using a 1 in. wide painting sponge.  Here is a partially painted circle.

 Here is the final product.  I attempted to recreate the handwriting and placement of the letters as well as all of the angles.  I left my car in the photo so you can have a concept of scale for the work.

Lastly, here is Viedma's actual circle from his manual, pg. 9r.

I did not have enough room at the top of the canvas to add both of the opponent's feet, but I did add a half foot up there so my training partner can have a reference point.

I am very proud of how this turned out and I found all of the work to be very much worth it.

As mentioned earlier, I was left with a number of questions regarding what the measurement of the period "foot" should be, but that is the fun about researching and recreating something like this.  It is a great tool as both a physical and intellectual exercise.

I look forward to experimenting with this circle, and possibly others, while training and finding more questions / answers along the way.

Thanks for reading.