Deconstructing the Art and Science of Fencing - Posted

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

  1. Wafath

    Wafath DE Bracket

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    (Your question was probably intended as hyperbole, but let me address it seriously anyway.)

    There is a philosophical divide in American fencing. Sooner or later most fencers & coaches will encounter questions in some form as to the difference between these two schools. Knowledgeable fencers may want to be familiar with the debate.

    This debate on the internet approaches a classical "religious" internet debate. (eg, Win vs Mac vs *NIX, Coke vs Pepsi, Fortran vs C, vi vs emacs, etc.) Thus it tends to be more emotional than factual.

    It is easy to mock classical fencing and fencers. It is often reasonable to ignore them. But... if you will stipulate for a moment that classical fencing is based on historical research and there are differences in core technique, it is valuable to us to ask first "why are they different" and "are we sure our way is better".

    W
     
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  2. Dev

    Dev DE Bracket

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    Musically, I think "Yakety Sax" would be a far better soundtrack to this piece.
     
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  3. Gav

    Gav is a Verified Fencing ExpertGav Moderator!!

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    When I saw this on facebook I wrote this:

    Good article. My main criticism is that it states that "classical" is the parent of "modern". It's not. I don't see a solid point where one ends and another begins. "Classical" fencing seems to spring from nothing. Like all evolution what you see is a set of changes which accumulate over time to turn one thing into another. In fencing we see the myriad of changes from when we started using swords to the point where it became a sport then further progression after that. Every rule change, every piece of new equipment, every discovery in sports science - all of these change the environment and the current version of fencing is a simple product of that.

    Your author rightly points out that a definition of "classical" is hard to pin down. This is correct because it doesn't exist except in the mind of the person coining it. The problem for these people is their refusal to accept that times change. I cannot see a duellist refusing othopedic grips or modern training methods and techniques just because it offends him... and I largely blame the romantic nature of many of the stories these people hark to. Their view of history appears to be somewhat jaundiced.

    In my opinion there is only fencing. People can balkanise it as much as they like but at the end of the day the problem still lies inside their cranium. They are refuseniks. They see something that doesn't fit their ideal and so they reject it. That's an illustration of human nature.
     
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  4. the ancient one

    the ancient one DE Bracket

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  5. migopod

    migopod Podium

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  6. ysbadadden

    ysbadadden Made the Cut

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    1) OMG, look at the video -- Evangelista's fencing isn't classical. In any sense.
    2) This thread didn't start out about classical fencing per se, but about Nick's arguments for the scorpion back-arm position. These arguments can't be defended unless they can explain why classical foil uses a different back-arm position than classical saber. Either position, BTW, helps effacement of the target, which, all things being equal, is a good thing -- but all things are rarely equal. And in any foil position except full classical effacement, throwing the rear arm backwards will produce a twist which will harm accuracy.
    3. The argument that foil, with its developed ROW rules, is preparation for a duel, is wrong. Foil developed into an art form in the early-to-mid 19th century. In reaction against art-foil, epee developed as a more practical preparation for an actual duel under the conditions of the time.
    4. My foil training is as "classical" as almost anybody's: my first master was a student of a student of Italo Santelli, while my second was Santelli's colleague. I learned the rear-arm position and its rationales. And this leads me to a final point:
    5. The lesson is one thing, the bout is anothr. Many masters will still teach precise actions and fully controlled footwork. To me, that's what constitutes "classical." But under the exigencies of a bout, neither bladework nor footwork will be quite as pretty. And whether in competition, or duelling, or street fighting, the object isn't to be pretty, but to prevail.
     
  7. Gav

    Gav is a Verified Fencing ExpertGav Moderator!!

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    What's obvious, if you look at actual real footage of fencing circa 30s and up, is that the "scorpion" wasn't always used anyway. Then as now people put their arm where they felt comfortable. I recommend looking through news reel footage on British Pathé for those interested. In addition advances in materials and electrical scoring equipment were quite popular changes...
     
  8. Mihail

    Mihail Podium

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  9. Bazul

    Bazul Rookie

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    I don't think you will get an opposite impulse from your arm unless you contract the biceps to bring it back to its pre-lunge position. (In fact, this movement would actually help you get back on guard faster.) As long as it stays put at the end of its extension after the lunge, no impulse will be generated form the immobility, and you will have gained momentum (speed). How much? I don't know. May be it's not worthwhile. It would be interesting to have the same group of athletes perform lunge attacks on a speedboard to precisely measure reaction time, with and without the arm, and with different arm deployment techniques to see what the real gain is there. I guess even a tiny 5 ms could be an asset. Also, is there any regulation that would prevent the fencer from wearing a wrist weight during a bout? I would bet that a 500 g bracelet on the non weapon arm would translate into some speed gain while lunging. Heck, we could even trace the function (weight/speed) and identify the utility point if there is one. (But then you have to carry that weight all the time...) Still, I can see it: "Leon Paul FIE adjustable Men's foil weighted bracelet (S,M,L) $70." One good thing however, as of now, it cannot be patented.
     
  10. erooMynohtnA

    erooMynohtnA Podium

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    That is wrong, you will get an opposing force as soon as the arm even starts to slow. There is no discussion.
     
  11. Chafunkta

    Chafunkta Rookie

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    I'm finding it surprising that to hear that a lot of people don't think throwing the back arm back is useful in modern fencing. If you watch the first attack in the Vezzali clip, the lunge made from her opponent involves a huge throwback of the arm. In fact, I can't remember seeing a modern fencer that lunges without throwing the back arm back.

    In either position (scorpion or modern), you're able to throw the arm back as a counter balance; and you should, both in the lunge and, perhaps more importantly, with the recovery. There were a couple of people that noted the throwback of the arm puts out an only minimal amount of force to the lunge. But isn’t it the small things that separate a good fencer from a great fencer?

    My problem with the scorpion is that it puts your body in a “slim profile” position, which Evangelista cited as a benefit, because you’re a harder target to hit. You may reduce your target a bit, but what you lose in mobility is not worth it, in my opinion. Plus, any fencer worth their salt is going to be able to figure out a way to hit your slimmer target. I find that when I teach beginners, having them hold their arm up in the air tenses their shoulders, and causes them to fence with a stiff upper body, which can be detrimental to any mobility as well as bladework.

    I think the back arm as a counterbalance is necessary in both modern and classical fencing; it’s whether you want relaxed or stiff fencing that’s the difference.
     
  12. jeff

    jeff Podium

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    I enjoy this, not only because it mirrors my signature statement, but because when you point out Nadi's lapse in form or his insistence that unessential and irrelevant traditions be stripped away from fencing, the CF response has been "well, he's only a sport fencer". That despite his being a dominant champion in an era often held up as a Golden Age of fencing, and having fought and won a duel. Much more than can be said for those who try to discount his evidence.

    I was trained in classical style, and to this day I still usually keep the rear arm raised (but not all the way up), but don't think it makes a difference once way or the other. If it were meaningful for performance, there should be some stronger evidence (and of course, Evangelista's red herring pictures prove nothing except his need to stack the argument in his favor). People should give much more attention to the weapon arm and worry less about the unarmed one.
     
  13. Wafath

    Wafath DE Bracket

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    When I encounter this in new students, this is perhaps the most important, and most plausible reason not to do it. I suspect that elite fencers, if for some unknown reason, were forced to hold their arm that way they would very quickly adapt, and fencing would look the same as it does today, just with hands in the air.

    But when we are concerned in a developing fencer, I find it detrimental to good form for the exact reason you give.

    W
     
  14. K O'N

    K O'N Podium

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    I am sympathetic to this idea, but it's not right.

    To see why think of a weight, a sphere I guess since this is physics and they like spheres, hanging immobile in space. Now propel, say, 10% of the sphere's weight 'backwards'; that 10% is the 'hand', the rest of the sphere is the 'body' of the fencer. The 'hand' is connected to the 'body' by a string, which is the 'arm'. Ok. So you fire off the 'hand' backwards by pushing off the 'body', so that each is the other's reaction mass. It moves backwards pretty quickly, which provides acceleration to the 'body' which moves forward, but more slowly due to larger mass. But what happens when the 'hand' reaches the end of the 'arm'? Then the 'hand' stops, the 'arm' goes tight, and the force along the 'arm' pulls back on the 'body'. Assuming no loss of energy due to any friction or anything, the 'hand' and 'body' will end up unmoving, as they started, but at the end of the 'arm' from each other. The 'hand' accelerates the 'body' forward at the beginning of the action, but it accelerates the 'body' back via the 'arm' when it reaches the end of the 'arm'.

    Now, if you detach your arm and somehow throw it backwards as you lunge, then you get to keep the 'push' it gave you. Only works once, though...

    K O'N
     
  15. Fiat Slug

    Fiat Slug Rookie

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    However, if the backward acceleration happens after the end of the lunge, then the lunge does get the benefit of the forward acceleration, right?

    .
     
  16. Superscribe

    Superscribe Rookie

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    You raised an interesting point about benefits of when you should throw out the arm. One thought is, throw it out at the end, to increase the speed of the final action, making your attack harder to get away from or parry. There’s also the idea of using at the sticking point.

    If you’ve ever benched, or seen someone bench, you might notice that there’s a point between the “bar on your chest” and “fully extended arms” that seems to be the most difficult for your arms to deal with. Often times you’ll lift the weight some, and then get stuck at this point. Professional benchers work on getting over this sticking point with specialized excercises. Why this sticking point exists, I don’t know. Could be the leverages your muscle works with as your bones are unfolding, could be a function of muscle fibers at a particular length, whatever. It happens.

    There might be something similar in a lunge. There might be a point between enguarde and fully lunged out that is a sticking point. I leave the implications to you.

    Also, i never realized the moment i was generating from my back arm hanging by my side until i did a few lunges scorpion style.
     
  17. the ancient one

    the ancient one DE Bracket

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    It is easier to understand the reactive momentum effect on your lunge if you hold an object ~2 lbs or so in your hand as you rapidly extend the arm during the lunge or the recovery.

    Seriously--try it!

    For either style the hand will end up in more or less the same place so the further issue is the predominantly horizontal motion vs the vertical motion of the "scorpion" position and what it contributes to the lunge.

    BTW I knew a polish epee fencer in the late 70's who would put on a lead wrist weight for certain bouts where he felt could exploit the more dramatic acceleration changes that became possible during his lunge.
     
  18. Chafunkta

    Chafunkta Rookie

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    On what are you basing this?

    The initial surge is the most important part of a lunge, and I'm pretty sure that when I lunge my legs are pushing and my back arm is being thrown backwards at the same time. We teach that back arm to communicate with the legs, so that the two can be used in unison to get the fastest lunge. When my lunge finishes, my back arm is just getting to full extension.

    Is that not how you lunge?
     
  19. Superscribe

    Superscribe Rookie

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    It's not your form that is wrong. It's your understanding of physics. Specifically, mechanical dynamics.
     
  20. telkanuru

    telkanuru Podium

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    If you were throwing a weight away from you, you would be correct. However, unless you detach your arm from your body, you're just wrong.

    If you are detaching your arm from your body, I would really like a video.
     

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