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Thursday, December 10, 2015

More Bull Fighting and Less Running with The Bulls

“It’s one thing to understand the Arms and another to be a skilled man.”
Don Jeronimo Carranza

     Hello there!  This post will be a reflection with lessons learned from the Barony Beyond the Mountain (BBM) Yule rapier tourney I entered last weekend.  Let me start by saying that I am extremely happy that I went to this SCA event and entered the tourney.  I placed 5th and learned some important things in the process.

     The quote above seemed pretty appropriate in regards to the tourney for me.  Most of the time in his treatise when Carranza refers to “The Skill” he is talking about the actual practice of Verdadera Destreza.  He continues the quote above with, 

“A skilled man is he who is practiced in the practical aspects of the Arms 
or in things of the practical nature.” 

When he talks about “Arms” he refers more to the study of the theory of the practice.  I have been trying to balance these two studies recently and the tourney was a great chance for me to see how my skill is coming along.  So enough philosophy, here are my take home points: 

  •      It was NOT a hybrid, it was Verdadera Destreza
  •      A bad tournament mind can mess with you
  •      Everything I do with the Right, I must do with the Left
  •      Bonus lesson: Hand hits and sword hilts

     Last week before the tourney I mentioned at practice and on G+ that I was going to speed up my fencing for the tourney and that it would be a hybrid of my Destreza and my athletic/previous martial skill.   After putting it into action and some reflection I realized that wasn’t accurate.   What I put into use was far from perfect Destreza, since I am new to this, but it was the "Skill" and the moves I have been drilling for the past few months sped up and without conscious thought.   I was using the footwork, angles, and arm positioning as well as some basic combat theory.  What I realized is that if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it can be called 100% beginner Destreza, heh.  I now intend to go back to my footwork and technique drills and continue fighting folks slower and more intentionally, as I have been doing at practice, to ingrain the muscle memory more. Probably three quarter speed is my guess based on what the sped up moves feel like.  At the suggestion of a friend I will be speeding it up to tourney rate about once a month to see how the skills are porting over and being incorporated at full speed.  I do believe after watching the Puck and Romagnan bouts again that I need to slow down my tourney pace a bit and treat those full speed fights more as bull fights and less as a running with the bulls.

     I have been in a number of rapier as well as martial arts tournaments before and I can honestly say that headspace has never been a problem for me.  Last week was very humbling, as part way through I went up against some very good fencers who had my number and it messed with my mind in the moment.  Thanks to a bout that had me laughing hysterically (thank you Sorcha) and some good people, I was able to get out of it before the tourney ended.  Afterwards I did some reflection on how I ended up there, so I could avoid it in the future. I realized that in my previous tourneys I went into them without anything to lose and to paraphrase Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba, I was practicing with fierce joy.  This time around I was went into the tourney after months and months of practicing a new style and art.  I was truly wondering and some might say worried if I had wasted all of that time on something that wouldn’t actually work.  My mind got messed up in that moment when I started counting my fights won/lost as if those mattered.  The good news is I got out of it and my training did work and pay off.  Lesson learned that going forward I shouldn’t count my bouts at all and simply put, I should fight with more joy. 

     This next one isn’t as deep as the first points, but pretty important.  During the tourney I lost my right hand a number of times and when I switched to my left I was practically useless and as good as dead.  I am doing a few things to fix this.  1.  I need to think about my arm and hand position when I am fighting, 2. I am changing out my rig/hilt and going back to my first ring hilt which has more coverage than the clam shell I have been using, and 3. I have started drilling all of my techniques and footwork in my left hand as well.  Thanks to my arnis and previous martial training I am quite ambidextrous.  All of my standard warm up and technique drills are now going to be done on both sides.  Ta da! Let’s hope that works and is as easy as the paragraph sounds.  I am thinking it won’t be quick, but it should work.

     Bonus thoughts and research:  Getting my hand and forearm hit made me start to ponder the hilts/guards used most popularly within Spanish fencing and why.  Specifically the use of the cup hilt which adds more protection.  My very loose theory is that the development of the cup hilt and it popularly being known as the “Spanish cup hilt” could be directly related to Destreza and the stance that relies largely on the hand being held so far out.  Some evidence shows that they gained use (early to mid 17th century) at the same time that Destreza rose to popularity in Spain.  Yes, there are Italian cup hilts out there.  From what I found in a quick poke is that many of them are from northern Italy, which isn’t that far from Spain.  I also know that some Italian styles do have extended guards, such as Giganti if I remember correctly.  This is all a theory right now that I am starting to research and work out.  We will see if it turns into an A & S thing in the future, but either way I am finding all of it very interesting.

     Next post will be more philosophy as well as some reflections on the amazing Sebastien Romagnan Destreza book I just got in the mail and I am starting to read through.  You can find the link on my Destreza Resource page, but here it is again:  Destreza, Historical Fencing.

Thanks for reading.