“El Conoscimiento que se adquiere con el uso”
“Knowledge is acquired from use”
The Treatise of the Philosophy of Arms
Don Jeronimo de Caranza
The above quote kind of summarizes my practice yesterday nicely or at least I am hopeful that it does. This post will go into my take home lessons from that fencing practice, but before I start I will give some context to the above quote. Prior to practice I was reading a couple of essays on Destreza to get into the mood. One of them was from Ramon Martinez and can be found on his site here Martinez Academy of Arms . He references that quote as from Carranza’s treaty with a partial translation that can be found here: The treatise of the Philosophy of Arms and of the true Skill and of the aggression and defense of Christianity.
It is a great small paper where Martinez goes into a brief analysis of the treatise. One of the many criticisms of Carranza in period was that he was accused of saying that an analysis of motion should come before the activity. Martinez uses the above quote to show how it was not true, although he does admit that Carranza can be crazy flowery and verbose and hard to understand at times (which I agree with fully).
I hadn’t been to practice in about 2 weeks due to life conflicts so I have been taking some time to really dive deeper into the historical material, treatises, manuals, dvds, essays etc. to a much greater degree. While this has been wonderful in helping me formulate concepts, context, techniques, etc. what I found last night was that while the research can be amazing it REALLY needs to be paired with the practical use as well. I know big surprise, you can’t learn martial arts only by thinking about it, hehe. I always knew that, but due to the way I was previously taught the fighting arts (from in person lessons, classes and such) I have never had to experience the actual work that it takes to learn a new physical activity in this way. I know that in the end my study will enhance my practice exponentially, but in the immediate it is kind of breaking my brain to learn this way. I went home a little frustrated, but I know this is part of the process of learning a new skill set. I am feeling better now that I have processed the practice and figured out what I did right and wrong and what I need to do better next time. So in the end I am gaining a better appreciation for why people blog about fencing, lol.
Here are my take home summary points. The story portion of the take home is below:
- Drill first then fight, when I am able to get in the techniques it is because they are muscle memory
- Get my Romagnan book and work on his material since it seems awesome and useful
- Work on counter to Remy’s spiral into my leg
- In conclusions keep my sword farther back when I engage the person’s hilt with my left hand
- Figure out why my hand kept getting hit
- Work on blade control and getting the atajo
- Arm conditioning
- Practice moving to the right and get comfortable with it, drill this
- Footwork, footwork, footwork, just because
- Angle, angle, angle and do that more naturally
After a brief conversation/drill with Lupold about his new Sebastien Romagnan book I jumped right into some fighting against him. To put it simply, I was sloppy as all get out. I did ok and worked out some kinks, but honestly I felt like I was a mess and thinking so much about the techniques that I couldn’t get one off to save my life. I was in my feet mentally and thinking about angles and such, but getting little actually done. I should not be surprised really, but this helped me understand better how I should structure my practices for now. In previous practices I have started out drilling the material from Puck with Pacheco’s 4 general techniques. These are what I am really trying to make my bread and butter and put into my muscle memory. Big take home from this is drill at least briefly first then fight. I also asked Lupold if I could fight him in his competitive style next practice since I know it differs from his Spanish greatly. I know I will get my Destreza butt kicked, but I want to try fighting him in a different game as well since I would like to be prepared for other styles.
Next I fought Remy who was working on his own historical style. I dropped my right angle guard to a lower point on his chest which helped a great deal. As a result he wasn’t stabbing me in the stomach/ upper leg as much and ended up getting my right shin and calf more, lol. He was nice enough to try this out slowly with me so I could figure out what was happening and how I could stop it. We drilled that a bit and it was great. I did get a couple of moves off that were the spirals and hits and when I did it was because they were the ones I trained into my muscles. I need to do this more. We also both seemed to be getting into situations where we had double conclusions with each of us holding onto the other one’s hilt. It was hysterical and we had to break before turning things into a ground game. My take home from that was if I am moving for a conclusion on someone keep my own sword back farther. Lastly he was stabbing my sword hand more than I liked and next week I have to figure out why. I was sloppy, but not as sloppy as my first fight.
My last major opponent and training partner was Xavier. I am so happy that he has been learning this stuff with me because I couldn’t have gotten this far so fast without his help. Like previous weeks we went over some footwork and distance stuff, then moved to the 4 Pacheco general spiraling drills (thank god because I missed these, lol). We then moved onto fighting a bit. What I found against him was that I was yielding to his atajos and blade pressure quite a bit and rolling my wrist transitioning to tajos and reves cutting attacks (when I was able to). According to Puck this is useful if done on purpose, but also might be the 3rd and worst case solution if you weren’t able to stop it in the first 2 steps which is what was happening to me. I am glad I am doing it, but I need to work on my blade control and atajos more so I don’t have to get to this third spot or, if I want to do those, I need to do them on purpose from the start. I also need to work on my conditioning and arm strength. By the time I drilled with and fought Xavier my arm could barely stay up in the right angle guard. My last major revelation was that I like going left to the outside line and I am not as comfortable going to the right. Xavier was great and pulled out a couple of beanie babies to put on our shoulders (not kidding, but it is a great way to work on stability and smoothness, lol) and we drilled moving to the right a bunch of times. I need to do more of that.
I was also able to go over some of the Godhino slashing techniques I was reading about. Donovan was able to show me what they look like. I am glad that I could see someone actually do them. Again a fine example of how words alone do not teach a technique very well. While potentially useful they seem to be more designed for cut and thrust.
So that is about it. I am glad I am not as frustrated today after processing this stuff. Looking forward to next week to see what happens and in the mean time I am going to try and read some more material and see about keeping that balance between knowledge and use J
Thanks for reading