Deconstructing the Art and Science of Fencing - Posted

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

  1. gladius

    gladius Podium

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    Wrong interpretation

    (emphasis added)

    The bold part is not what Vezzali says.

    As you and others noticed this is a "lesson" by Vezzali to a bunch of very little kids (my guess is <8) in a promotional event for Kinder +Sport, the sponsor of the Under 14 Italian Kids National Fencing Circuit.

    In the video "lesson" she talks and covers these 4 topics:

    1. Salute

    She says this is the first thing to learn because fencing is based on fair play, i.e. respect for the opponent, the referee, and the public. She says few words to always respect the referee's decisions even when we think he is wrong (because other times he is also wrong and helps us with his mistakes).

    2. On guard position

    She stresses the importance of the on guard stance and position showing how she sits quite low because this is how her coach taught her and it is an effective way, when done correctly (not leaning forward or backward) to be ready to move forward or backward. As a little kid herself she did not like the long practice sessions for this stance because they caused her pain in the legs (as is the case for all young kids) but she came to realize how important this is.

    3. Hand/grip position "pugno"

    She describes the importance of the hand/grip position which protects specific parts of the target according to where it is held and she shows some examples. Footworks, she says, is important, but handwork is even more so.

    4. Lunge

    She talks about the great importance of the back hand and the proper way to execute a lunge. She explains in simple terms and with examples the dynamics of a correctly executed lunge.

    In all this, remember she talks to kids who are 8 or younger and she seems to have a captive and alert audience.

    Another idea we could copy to attract young fencers...

    :)
     
  2. telkanuru

    telkanuru Podium

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    Even someone as dense as yourself has heard of argumentum ad absurdam.
     
  3. epeeslasher

    epeeslasher Made the Cut

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    First of all, thanks for doing a translation of the video now to prove your point even though no one would when it got posted on its own.

    Sidenote; Glad to hear someone with cred finally said this, distance is very important but so is the blade, good distance usage is not the sole determining factor of a bout.

    I'm actually of the opinion that the back hand is important in the lunge and helps develop the feel of the action, however I don't think it's fair to force a specific style on a student which I feel the linked article is trying to do. There is no 'proper' way to fence, I've met scorpion tale fencers who do very well against their competition and vice-versa. It's really not that big of a deal what you do with the arm.
     
  4. Inquartata

    Inquartata Podium

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    Wut's yer point? :huh:

    BTW, Gav closed the Obama thread in the WC before I could point out that it's not possible for you to "get angry" when that is your normal state of existence. :)


    Even when the Nazlymovs said the exact opposite to me in Moscow?

    SOMEone has to be wrong about this, I suspect. ;)
     
  5. Ken Mondschein

    Ken Mondschein Rookie

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    It's been another 14-hour day of teaching fencing and such, so I'm not going to write a long reply on this (though of course, I have my thoughts). However, I would like it if we could get some cogent opinions on the matter sent to me for Swordmaster.
     
  6. telkanuru

    telkanuru Podium

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    This varies from weapon.
     
  7. gladius

    gladius Podium

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    Comments

    To post a translation without the benefit of a transcription of an interview is a bit of a pain which I do only when I see something of relevance. In the case of the Vezzali's Youtube video which you kindly posted I considered the visuals much more interesting than what she was saying to the little kids. This was clearly not a real "lesson" by Vezzali, but it was interesting to see how many little kids were following her at the promotion sponsored by Kinder +Sport.

    When I read the comments here I felt a correction was due.

    Please keep in mind that this is a "lesson" to 8 year olds or younger...so don't take it all too literally. However, Vezzali's message to the little kids is "footwork is good, but don't forget your weapon hand" ('pugno') which is different from 'blade work.'

    I am not qualified to enter the discussion of old v/s new fencing styles, but I asked a real expert, Maestro Giancarlo Toran, to comment on the various points made by many and he promised he will. When he does, I'll post it.

    I hope you too noticed the age of the students and understood the general message for that particular audience...

    :rolleyes:
     
  8. Gav

    Gav is a Verified Fencing ExpertGav Moderator!!

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    Hm. While it's never the sole deciding factor, mobility in combination with good technique (by which I mean a combination of arm action and foot coordination) is very important at all of the disciplines. At the very highest levels all of the disciplines have this in common.
     
  9. Bill

    Bill Rookie

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    Sporties ain't fencers

    I am forever amazed that sport fencers are so fascinated by my teacher, Nick Evangelista. A couple of preliminaries—first, he is by no means dogmatic. We do not always agree. A good teacher, he has remarked more than once, should be confident enough to accept questions and acknowledge the limitations we all have as human beings. But to the second—I am also forever amazed that many fencers, sport and “classical,” do not actually do any homework but ramble speculatively, or ask things like O where is Richard Cohen when we need him?

    Let’s now look at a point Craig raised: the lack of clarity in the idea of “classical” fencing. He is surely correct. I should add that Nick has been critical of “classical” fencers, or “klassikals,” as he calls them. So what is this thing, “classical” fencing? Well, one “classical master,” Adam Crown, has written he coined the term in the 1980s, which is, well, a bit of a stretch. The Martinez Academy of Arms/Association for Historical Fencing has wielded a malign influence on the internet, defining “classical” fencing as that in the late-19th and early 20th centuries by misreading the sources. Ironically, the Martinez idea is similar that of a naturally decreasing number of older fencers in Europe—some of whom I am in contact with--who think if only today’s rude, thwacking and grunting ignoramuses raising fists or glowring at referees (reverse evolution? did chimps descend from humans?) on those “high-level” strips adhered to FIE rules, sport fencing would be “classical.”

    But there are problems with that. The first is that the period in question (say 1850-1920 to be nice) was one of intense, usually nationalist conflict over fencing technique, driven by the imperative to win, both within and between countries, especially France and Italy after about 1880. By the way, that was what Nadi’s duel—and a later one fought by Giorgio Santelli against the same fascist newspaperman, Adolfo Cotronei—was about: fencing and nationalism. My epee technique would suffer, too, if I were publicly defying the demand by Il Duce that Italian fencers always beat the French.

    As a term, “classical fencing” was used even then—the Belle Epouque and after the First World War-- by fencers such as Rondelle, Nadi, Pini, Greco, who looked back to a more disciplined and elegant practice before the age of international competition. For Baron Bazancourt, who was an early innovator, the hope was in the late 1850s and early 1860s that a new style the Victorian fencer Colmore-Dunn said was “to hit any way you can” could remain “classical.” Bazancourt defined “classical” fencing as that which followed what he called “Moliere’s dictum”—to hit and not be hit. Had he known what was to come, he would probably have stuck with Grisier.

    The dirty secret in the FIE is that it is riddled by disputes. It always has been. At the heart of them is the imperative to score points within a limited time period and so resolving the double. Recently, efforts have been made to disallow the bent-arm attack on one hand, while requiring an attacker to remove his opponent’s blade from the line of attack, weirdly shifting the parry to the attacker. (I teach in Germany, so I refer to DFB Ordnung: Technik 56.) Whatever happened to the old fashioned feint? It has dissolved into any change of line when you make an attack! What has happened to the well-developed counterattack? Lost in time, like the real meaning of fencing Tempo—let’em make doubles and let the light sort’em out! (A modern, improved take on “Let there be light?”) One contributor to this forum has admitted this is the case. That, gentlemen, is not fencing. It is high-speed electrified tag, pioneered for political reasons in the old East Bloc after the Second World War. Your “modern” fencing, gentlemen, is an artefact of nationalist fencing as a mass sport, and now a Cold War fossil, though the avant-garde ideas behind it come from the 1910s and 20s. 1989 was 20 years ago. We can do better.

    Now about the free hand. This is a subject for legitimate debate, although I am with Nick on it. I work through it with my advanced students using historical texts. We begin with Capo Ferro and Fabris. It is false (certainly here in Germany) to assign a general ascendancy to the elevated left hand until the mid-18th century. The majority of Capo Ferro’s plates in the Gran Simulacrum show the free hand held by the temple or slightly forward even after execution of the lunge. It is there for the obvious reason that it was used to parry in stesso tempo. But most important here is the final position of the elevated free hand regardless of era. Fully extended, parallel to the ground, it is an artefact of Italian swordsmanship from 1610 to the 20th century. French fencing at least from the 1750s displays it parallel with the left leg (a notable exception from 1690 is Labat). It is there after achieving with acceleration what the French called the extension. No one’s free knuckles drag the ground.

    Believe it or not, the development of behavioural conventions has been subjected to intense study. If the rearward projection of the left arm from a raised position lacked a survival value or failed to provide another rational reward, it would have been abandoned. It has been abandoned by Fencing for Dummies Seeking Instant Gratification, like Pavlov’s dogs. I think Nick has the kinesthesiological argument on his side. Doing practical work deploying the speed of the full lunge—not the half-lunge that passes for one today, and I require the lunge for most attacks—my students arrive at the same conclusion.

    Craig, I am embarrassed for you that you posted those video clips. Yes, the “fencers” were very quick. But the footwork was in fact undisciplined (my God man! Those right feet!), and only strenuous bladework made up for it. The action was erratically timed, no sense of Tempo, just tease and swat, and “hits” achieved by arcing “thrusts” that would have been disallowed here in Soest as inadequate. I doubt any of those fencers could give a coherent explanation of how they made a light go on—here we require fencers to give just such an account. Most tellingly of all, I saw no “lunge” that would pass muster here in Soest. A few tries, yes, but we have beginners who execute more slowly what I saw, they hear my voice call their names across the Sporthalle, and they hang their heads. Why? Because they want to learn to fence, not run up points playing tag and shake their fists. Those “fencers” would be treated as beginners in my classes, Craig.
     
  10. downunder

    downunder is a Verified Fencing Expertdownunder Podium

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    ... then goes on to post 6 paragraphs of ramble.


    I'm in contact with international level fencing many times a year. My experience is that it's only mediocre fencers/coaches that work themselves up about this or spend any time on it. All the coaches I know that are producing international quality fencers are analysing top fencing for their development. Directly teaching good hand position, leading to good blade technique enabled by good footwork and indirectly or directly developing bout/competition/training strategy.

    The only thing I can really take out of this thread is that Nick claims that a pistol grip promotes "power and a vicelike hold" but french grip is "light, flexible style of fencing". The video we saw earlier screams of hypocrisy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdtRX7PSqbI). Why are we wasting our time with this?
     
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  11. Mitchell

    Mitchell is a Verified Fencing ExpertMitchell hi Staff Member

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    how can you read his books and say that you're surprised at the reactions by sport fencers, and that he is not dogmatic?

    i don't think i have a copy of his book on me, but once i do (or perhaps craig will oblige), i could point out quite a number of quotes that indicate both dogmatic thought and blatant, direct insults to sport fencing/fencers.

    in addition, how can you say that you, yourself aren't dogmatic? you just clearly stated that you think some of the best modern fencers are in fact terrible, undisciplined, and should be treated as beginners in your class. you lose almost all credibility you were trying to build up in doing so.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2009
  12. piste off

    piste off Podium

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    That's it. I'm bringing my sharps to Pittsburgh.

    Good day.

    R-
     
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  13. Bill

    Bill Rookie

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    Oh, well....

    I love it! Simply love it! I even agree with Craig that "classical" fencers have hardly a clue about where the phrase comes from, these comments show utter obliviousness from most sporties, and that is rambling? That you did not see that your enterprise is a product of nationalist "Massensport" propelled by outdated ideas about technology and ideology says volumes. To expect a good lunge from students is not "dogmatic," unless you think a salle is a playpen and just let'em poke, but then, perhaps some do. Learn what the word "dogmatic" means. That fencers at the rarified international level are not bothered by larger issues also says volumes. They should be. They are concerned about audience, or didn't you know? Over here, the audience the FIE wants so badly thinks its product is awful. We fence in public, get regular feedback. As--God help me he really does--Richard Cohen writes, if people fenced classically they would understand it and perhaps watch it more. You are commiting collective fencing-suicide. There will come a time when there will not be fencing in the Olympics. Fencing was dead in Britain, revived at Oxford preciely for nationalist reasons in the 1880s. It is there only because it played such a propaganda role in Europe for the mobilization of middle-class manhood, especially for the Italians and French, before World War One. Even then, getting them to agree on rules was a chore--find out about that on your own, or are you so utterly lacking curiosity about the real foundations of what you claim to do?
     
  14. migopod

    migopod Podium

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    Bill, Have you watched this video?
    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdtRX7PSqbI[/youtube]
    Being a student of Nick's, would you say that this is representative of his fencing?
    If so, can you describe the metric by which this fencing can be deemed good?

    Thanks!
     
  15. I_luv_saber

    I_luv_saber Podium

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    Bill,

    The point is though that the sport of fencing is constantly evolving and changing, just as any other sport does. The period of fencing most classical fencing groups cover is simply not combat-centric. It is nothing but the sport fencing you so disdainfully refer to, simply at a frozen point in time. At the time from which most classical fencing harks from, fencing was already a sport, and most people practicing it never encountered a duel (nor were they really expecting to). Classical fencing and sport fencing are one and the same - just one changed with the times (as is usual) and the other remained stuck to a certain way of doing things.
    Now this is certainly fine, and there's nothing wrong with this. However it in no way makes "classical fencing" superior. I wouldn't give a classical fencer much better odds than a sport fencer if you were to put sharps in their hands. I mean, have you ever really fenced a faux-duel before? With real, but blunted swords? It's no where near the same, my friend, and I've done both. So why is it you feel classical fencing is superior? It's obviously not a combat simulation, so it isn't preserving the art of combat. So why do you feel it's "better"? Because it's more aesthetically pleasing? In the eye of the beholder and all that, I say...
    Also, I find it a little disturbing you come here to rant and rave and pick a fight with "sporties", whereas most "sporties" here have been very accepting of classical fencing and do not resort to the classless insults you do here. It seems classical fencing has much less class than it should these days. Perhaps you should ponder awhile on the phrase, "Live and let live"? This fixation you seem to have with sport fencing is nothing but detrimental. The world is big enough for both, believe me.
    In the future, a little less hostility and a little more civility will get you a lot further with the upstanding folks on this board. Just a friendly suggestion.

    -Jared
     
  16. Bill

    Bill Rookie

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    Happily comment on the Evngelistan "metric"

    Nick is working with a student, for crying out loud, having fun doing it. Would you care to comment on the fist-pumping, scowling, ape-like behavior of "elite" fencers on the strip? Run Craig's videos and check out the actual form and technique. By what "metric" (alas, like "deconstruction" a misued word) can you say that is good fencing? But this kind of crap gets us nowhere. Read the real issues I am trying to raise--today's sport fencing is about "fencers" so-called watching other "fencers" with the products of high-speed color photocography or video. What does sport fencing mean today? A useless medal for turning on a light? I am reminded of the old song, "Rollin' Stone:" "We keep gittin' richer/But we cain't git our pitcher/On thuh cover uh thuh Rollin' Stone." For fencing to have relevance and so survive, it has to have to have content. It can, it's a big project, but neither sporties nor most "classical" fencers go much beyond this clueless narcissism. Many "classical" fencers preen and strike poses they imagine they get from peering at say Domenico Angelo. (I kid you not, I have tracked their allusions to old masters and often found those texts unread.) They are as isolated from the world at large as sporties. That folks seem not to get this, that fencing is onanistic, yes, I thought something stronger here, is why they cannot understand Nick's video. Here is your "metric" (bwah! I feel like Donald Rumsfeld now, double-bwah!) about it: Nick's enjoyment of a session with a student is totally the opposite of that. He's having a good time! He's out there saying sporties and "klassikals" have lost something. Oh, the horror! Does that mean you do not teach your heart out seriously? No. It means you also have the confidence to enjoy what you do. Fencing today is far from being a confident enterprise, or you would understand that.
     
  17. downunder

    downunder is a Verified Fencing Expertdownunder Podium

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    Speed, athletism, hand position, footwork, anticipation, adaptability at high speed?
     
  18. Superscribe

    Superscribe Rookie

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    If I ever had to encounter this type of fencing in a competitive tournament, i would say to myself, "good".
     
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  19. Bill

    Bill Rookie

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    Amazing!

    Hey, Jared, I didn't pick this fight, Craig did, as he has one before, and I have not been uncritical of "classical" fencers. Whatever "classical" fencing is, and it--the adjective--refers to something that goes back a long way before today's "classical" fencing.

    Downunder Expert--To be honest, not sarcastic, on all counts those video sport fencers would have a hard time here. I suggested a few reasons why. If you can convert your categories to numbers, which "metrics" denotes, I assume--maybe I am wrong--it would be in terms of points scored. I look for good fencing.
     
  20. migopod

    migopod Podium

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    Fair enough. %s/metric/standard/g

    So in essence he was just goofing off? I'd be very interested in seeing any video of him fencing as he normally fences. Youtube seems lacking in this respect.

    As far as what you describe as apish behavior, that kind of thing happens in nearly every competitive sport, more so at the highest levels. I'm a minimal fist-pumper in specific contexts, but I don't yell or any of the other things. Some people like to and some don't, but it hardly diminishes the sport.
     

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