Deconstructing the Art and Science of Fencing - Posted

Discussion in 'Fencing Discussion' started by Craig, Nov 18, 2009.

  1. Craig

    Craig Administrator Staff Member

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    New article analyzing one of the points in the Art and Science of Fencing which is the positioning of the back arm.

    Michael Garrison provided the bulk of the points from a letter he wrote to me some time ago when I was contemplating walking through the entire book to sift out the things that the modern community would agree with vs. the anti-electric foil diatribes.

    Here's the first take:

    Art and Science of Fencing - the Free Arm

    Craig
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 27, 2010
  2. LordShout

    LordShout DE Bracket

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    I agree with your, and Mike's, conclusions. That said sprinters do in fact throw one arm back when exploding out of the blocks.

    A better thought experiment is to suppose you were standing on guard, on a skateboard, in a world where the board had no friction between itself and the floor. Throw one arm back. What happens? The argument that action/reaction requires a medium is as invalid and out dated as those of the luminiferous ether*. Is the motive force very large? No. Is the psychological force large? For some fencers yes, but the arm can be kept in the standard (for modern fencing) position and thrown back just as effectively.

    The answer to why some fencers truly feel more powerful lunges when they incorporate the arm probably lies in the realm of body mechanics and habit rather than pure physics. Anyone with some physiology training want to comment?

    *That was a rather harsh statement, while it is perfectly correct many times many people make that mistake. Smart people as well, one of my 300 level physics textbooks contains a discussion of it assuming that even some of the physics students reading it will still hold on to that belief.
     
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  3. migopod

    migopod Podium

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    I would posit that the relationship of classical fencing and modern fencing is more similar to chimpanzee and human. Both share a common ancestor, but humans didn't descend from chimpanzees.

    My understanding of the origins of classical fencing is that it was more of a reaction to the sportification of fencing. Not so much fencing the way it used to be as an attempt to return to fencing as people like Evangelista and Crown believe it to have once been.
     
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  4. erooMynohtnA

    erooMynohtnA Podium

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    That is definitely a point worth noting. Also worth mentioning is the forward impulse from the arm is only as long as the arm is actually moving back (at the end of which you'll receive a completely opposite impulse backwards from your arm), so for any long lunge it would probably be better in an absolutely theoretical sense to throw out the arm just before you hit to maximize the end speed of your lunge.
     
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  5. Degenmeister

    Degenmeister Rookie

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    From what I have seen, at least at the club level, the difference between "classical" and "modern" fencing boils down to aesthetics and training. It is certainly more aesthetically pleasing to me (admittedly an old fart) to see two fencers using "classical" form in a bout. Achieving good classical form requires dedication to training and discipline. "Modern" fencing, for beginners at the club level, often takes a free-form approach. Quite often beginners neglect training on footwork and form and just have at it, which is more fun than drilling for 30+ min. before fencing. This of course is not the case for college and international level fencers, who must train hard no matter which fencing form they prefer. And it is rare to see anyone using a purely "classical" or "modern" approach---it's always something in between. The important thing is to enjoy fencing and try to improve your skills.
     
  6. Mitchell

    Mitchell is a Verified Fencing ExpertMitchell hi Staff Member

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    evangelista has a historical slant in his classical fencing. or at least, a historical justification for the things he teaches. but classical fencing broke off when fencing started to become electric. a group of people didn't like the shift from fencing for the judges, which is to say, fencing in a more aesthetic manner, to fencing in a more athletic manner. so they splintered.
     
  7. Craig

    Craig Administrator Staff Member

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    I can take the "quote often beginners..." statement and apply it to 16th century, 'classical' (whatever that really mean), and 'modern/contemporary' fencing and it will hold true.

    Look at those fencers who have worked to perfect their economy of motion and you'll find actions that are pleasing to the eye. There will also be fencers that are supremely effective even though their games look "ugly".

    Craig
     
  8. migopod

    migopod Podium

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    I think it depends heavily on the club and coach. From my limited anecdata set, my experience with self-described classical fencers tends to be that their footwork is larger and slower, and often surprisingly less crisp than a practiced modern fencer.

    This example was recently referenced in another thread.

    My point in my initial response wasn't necessarily related to the benefit of classical vs modern fencing so much as I was challenging the timeline with respect to the two styles.

    My impression is that it was something more like:

    In the beginning there was Fencing as practice for duels.
    Dueling became increasingly rare, but people liked to fence anyhow.
    Fencing became an inherently competetive activity and evolved into the modern sport.
    Somewhere along the lines some people for various reasons (ranging from just liking it to seem more "realistic", sincere belief that the competetive sport wasn't true to the platonic ideal of fencing to just not being successful at the modern game) decided to diverge from the mainstream of fencing into an evolutionary cul du sac where they could practice and enjoy fencing as they imagined it to have been before the sport aspect took over in the 19th and 20th centuries.

    Because of this I actually wince a little at saying "sport fencing" or "modern fencing". It's really just fencing, and classical, historical and other subgenera are offshoots from the mainstream.

    As far as form among the classical greats goes, I've always found this image ammusing. Aldo's usually presented as crisp and classical looking, but when the rubber meets the road...


    [​IMG]
     
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  9. LordShout

    LordShout DE Bracket

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    Precisely correct of course.


    When I bother to think about my arm I usually have it mirror my lead arm, so if I'm doing a slow fast extension (probably paired with a slowfast lunge) than my back arm complements it.
     
  10. Degenmeister

    Degenmeister Rookie

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    Yes, those who practice "classical" form do seem to have larger, slower footwork. That is why many of us older fencers find ourselves in this general group by default. Right now I'm trying to work on my footwork and endurance so as to keep up with the more athletic undergraduates I fence at my university club.

    And as for Aldo's form, well, as usual, theory and reality are quite different.
     
  11. shlepzig

    shlepzig Podium

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    Different Goals

    Reading the article, I agree with the over-arching statement that classical fencing and sport fencing are different animals for very good reasons.

    Assuming Evangelista's premise that Foil Fencing evolved solely as preparation for a life and death encounter, not getting hit (or injured) at any cost, is a different goal than in sport fencing, which is not getting hit more than you can hit the other guy.

    Sport fencing allows the participant to take more risks in an effort to make touches more effectively than his opponent. Ignoring all the other obvious factors (ROW and Valid target), tactically I can give up touches on risky gambits simply to better understand my opponent within a 15 touch bout.

    In a duel my goal is to protect life and limb (oh and honor or something).

    In a bout my goal is to maintain ROW and put my point on target 1/3 of a second before the other guy 15 times before he can do the same to me 15 times.

    Not the same thing at all.
    -Shlep'
     
  12. Mitchell

    Mitchell is a Verified Fencing ExpertMitchell hi Staff Member

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    yes, well, don't push yourself towards classical footwork just because you yourself are slower and you want to learn something to keep pace with yourself. you're only doubly handicapping yourself. modern footwork patterns are still the thing to do, even if you're doing them slower.
     
  13. Degenmeister

    Degenmeister Rookie

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    No, I'm not pushing/committing myself towards classical. It's just that I'm in a transiton mode now because I've not yet developed the level of physical conditioning to use more "modern" patterns well. I don't want to keep pace with myself, I want to progress. I see myself transitioning into a more modern pattern as I continue to work on footwork, etc.
     
  14. migopod

    migopod Podium

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    The problem is that you can't assume Evangelista's premise. True, foil fencing was initially developed as a safe way to train for real duels, but it evolved into its own competitive/sport form very long ago.
     
  15. InFerrumVeritas

    InFerrumVeritas DE Bracket

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    Indeed, very long before he or even his teacher started fencing. In fact, why develop a system of scoring (RoW) if not to provide a means of competition in training? Lessons do not need such consistency, as the instructor can simply define the parameters of each drill as is necessary. The foil and foil fencing are very different things and once foil fencing developed, it became a sport. The sport may be used for training, but it was a competition none the less.
     
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  16. telkanuru

    telkanuru Podium

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    I'm not really sure why we would even justify the ravings of a nutjob with a response, nevermind a point by point rebuttal.
     
  17. VERITAS

    VERITAS Rookie

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    Cool article, thank you Craig & Mike. Point-counterpoint is a fantastic format for fencing discourse!

    Pardon me if you've discussed this already in an earlier thread -- but you might be interested in this video that I found to be relevant to the current conversation, about this particular prolific author's idea of "classical fencing."

    "Maestro Nick Evangelista and student, fencing in Springfield, Missouri (2009)"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdtRX7PSqbI
     
  18. pillow

    pillow Podium

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    Does Richard Cohen ever post here? One would think that he could give a definitive answer to these historical questions.
     
  19. prototoast

    prototoast Podium

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    Isn't this sort of like debating holocaust deniers? By engaging in this discussion, you're only giving him credibility.
     
  20. LordShout

    LordShout DE Bracket

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    Does this count as Godwin'ing a thread?
     
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