CaidRapier.org

Your Information Source for Rapier Combat in the Kingdom of Caid


Leave a comment

The Spark Project: What Brings Us Back to SCA Rapier?

Informal Researches and Contemplations by Donna Mora Ottavia Spadera

Recently, I reached out to the Caidan Rapier community to ask everyone a question which is often in my mind. I have so far spoken to about 20 different people, with a good distribution of genders, experience levels, and involvement levels. I asked:

What is it about fighting or swords or partaking in the rapier community that makes you most passionate?

What intrigues and excites you, what puts a sword in your hand, a hat on your head, a smile on your face, on the field or next to it or at practice or on this Facebook group?

What is that ineffable spark for you, or alternatively that warm satisfying glow?

If you’ve never quite found it, what had you hoped it would be?

If you’ve lost it, what was it, once upon a time? Is it elusive? Is it reliable? Is it the fight itself, or something peripheral? Is it a bit weird?

Bonus question, or alternative, if Sparks of Passion ain’t your thing: What is the thing that frustrates you most about your personal fighting experience? What’s the problem you need to fix?

 

Why, Mora??

I had a three-fold intention in asking everyone these questions:

First, I’m a combat teacher for whom a principal focus is to help fighters overcome the mental and emotional blocks which hold them back. I aid combattants in developing  their understanding of who they are on the fighting field, and I teach both physical and nonphysical tools which help fighters bring their full capability to each and every combat encounter. The more I know about others’ Sparks and Passions, the more I’m able to leverage those powerful, passionate energies to open up the learning process and bring out the strongest fights in others. I wanted to know if most fighters experience the same positive feedbacks, or if there were significantly different categories of motivation and positive feeling which affect different people.

Second, I hoped that by asking such questions, fighters who might not otherwise contemplate the matter might do some thinking about what they loved within the experience of fighting. I suspected that simply pondering such things would bring positives to the forefront of our minds, and spur us to seek more of what we like, whatever those things may be for each of us.

Third, I suspected that if I could identify the commonalities in what brings us back to this game, it could guide our community’s focus in building up activities which support the experiences we’re looking for. If there are common frustrations, we should also address those as a community.

You gave me very generous and well-thought-out responses. You all left me intrigued and inspired, and have given me insight into some issues that are affecting our community in deeply personal ways. I don’t have room in this article to cover everything at once, so I will start with my favorite, your Passions! Here is what I have found, in vague hierarchical order:

Top Ten Awesome Things Rapier Fighting Provides:

  1. Competition against others, OR, a consistent Internal Challenge to better oneself.
  2. Chaos, Camaraderie, and Excitement in Melee.
  3. A Unique Zen/Meditative/In-The-Moment Headspace, a specific sense of freedom.
  4. The experience of the Artful or Joyous Fight, whether you win or lose.
  5. An excellent Adrenaline Rush.
  6. A chance to be a hero or Emulate a Heroic Archetype, like the Swashbuckler, Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Zorro, etc.
  7. The simple, Satisfying Feeling of a sword in your hand.
  8. Constant Opportunities to Learn new things, and the Pleasure of Success at a physical, mental, or competitive activity.
  9. A Martial Art which is Accessible to those less physically able to do armored fighting, or who don’t wish to risk the injuries heavies entails.
  10. A Martial Art which more Closely Resembles our understanding of Historic Combat than armored SCA fighting does.

Our people keep coming back to the Caidan Rapier Community because they find:

  1. A Welcoming, Fun, and Safe Social Community, and a chance to hang out with friends.
  2. Participants who are Intelligent and supportive of one other’s personal transformations.
  3. Connective Opportunities for both extroverts and introverts, on and off the field.
  4. Greater Acceptance Within the SCA because they are a ‘fighter’
  5. Consistent Opportunities to Teach new things to new people, and take pleasure in the success of those they teach.
  6. That Late Period Fashion is Appealing, as are Late Period Swords.
  7. Pleasure in the Pomp and Circumstance.
  8. Joy and Inspiration in a Consort who emotionally supports them coming out to Fight.

If some of these points resonate with you too….know that you’re not alone.

Each of these could probably be an individual article in itself, and I encourage anyone inspired by this list to consider writing one of those. (Her Ladyship Roisin will be very grateful, and I would be happy to help you, just drop me a line!)

However, I’m going to focus the remainder of this article on the two points which surprised me the most, due to the frequency with which they popped up, and the fact that they weren’t things I expected to hear. Then I’ll conclude with thoughts about where I’m going next.

 

Unexpected Point One: We Like to be Heroes

A statistically significant number of fighters spoke up about how rapier fighting makes them feel like a heroic character. These are folks who rock very different persona types, and yet, many of them love the idea of the swashbuckler, the musketeer or Robin Hood. They relish the feeling that they can ‘save the day’ with a sword in their hand. Some find that their consort is impressed and honored by their fighting, and this makes them feel powerful and more likely to come out and play. Rapier fighting makes a significant chunk of us feel larger than life, part of an exciting story. I enjoy that part of the game too, and I’m glad to know that so many of us are out there for similar reasons. I’d love to discuss ideas for capitalizing on this particular communal passion. So many different heroes, so many possibilities! So much Awesome Epicness possible!

To bring this back to a headspace teaching opportunity, fighters can capitalize on this desire as a way to improve their fight. If you can step into your hero’s mindset, you will fight more like one. Then all that drilling and practice you do will really begin to display itself. (Just remember, with great power comes great responsibility. 😉 )

And if you’re -not- one of those limelight-loving heroes, or maybe even if you are…we have quieter subtler types, too! What about them?

 

Unexpected Point Two: Introverts Feel Safe Here

A notable number of the people I spoke to identified as introverts. Some were folks you might expect, and some weren’t. These people found that the rapier bout, or interaction within the community, gives them a safe space to connect with others in ways that make them feel comfortable and less overwhelmed.  This observation may be true of many sports and organized activities. It’s definitely at play for Caidan Rapier in specific ways:

On the Field: A one on one fight can be a fairly intimate space. Some fighters find that the kind of connection one can have with an opponent on the field is unique and moving, especially when the fight is particularly artful. This mental rapport can be deep and intense, and allow individuals who would not otherwise share something that powerful with others to come together in a mental and physical connection. This feeling uniquely walks the line between the creative (like a partnered dance) and the destructive (there is going to be an end, and a winner). It seems to make for a special kind of alchemy which is compelling to a number of fighters.

If this is where the Joy of the fight is for you, seeking that rapport whenever possible can make your fight stronger and more artful, and often more fun than it might otherwise be.

Off the Field: The prescriptive nature of our tournament routines, and our pomp and circumstance, are helpful for those who have difficulty feeling socially savvy. The court environment has clear expectations for behavior, and the standard format for tournament interaction provides an easy template for  fighters to interact and be a part of something bigger in a way that feels socially safe. Some in this category found that the spotlight of court appearances and group attention was more comfortable because the SCA has known scripts, for receiving awards, for being a tournament winner or champion. Others, however, found that, as more attention was placed on them as their skill and involvement rose, they had a harder time enjoying themselves. Mostly they wanted a safe place to just unassumingly enjoy their friends and their swords.

In either case, whether you enjoy the theatre of court or just want to relax with your friends, consistent rituals built on our common activities can provide another tool to help you hone your fighting ‘zone’ as well as ease and relax you into a familiar and friendly space.

Chat me up if you want to try and leverage any of these suggestions for yourself, or if you know of situations which get in your way when you try to do this.

 

What’s Next, Mora?

This study was fascinating for me. I was already cognizant of the range of ages, genders, shapes, sizes and body types which our art/sport supports. The interpersonal aspects prove to be yet another facet where our appeal crosses boundaries very well. As someone who has grown increasingly aware of the introverts in my life, I’m incredibly grateful and inspired that a sport like SCA Rapier proves itself to be a good environment for so many. Whether people prefer to be quietly active, or explore being larger than life, we have a versatile platform for exercise, competition, growth, connection, and community. When we can support the unique synergies of rapier, it allows a wide and varied range of gentles participate in our activity. We in Caid are the richer for it. (Mmm, synergy…)

There were also several things that people found frustrating about fighting Rapier in Caid and I feel that an exploration of these issues will help enrich our community and personal games as well. I also want to expand on my discussion of what we can do as a community to build up the positives and what we can do to promote activities and forms that will most feed our Passions. Since I cannot ever make anything I write sufficiently short (there’s so much interesting to observe!!) I shall provide a follow-on article with discussion of these matters anon.

I’m very much looking for more conversations on these subjects. Especially if my list misses something that’s a major motivator for you, I’d love to hear about it! And if you want to talk about tournament or event ideas that cater to these drivers, that would be great, since I’m writing an article about that very soon!

Here Endeth Part I. I thank thee for thy attention. ~Donna Mora the Inquisitive

Mo_avatar_testDonna Mora Ottavia Spadera has been living the the Shire of Isles and fighting rapier since 1999. She is particularly passionate about ambiance and headspace in the SCA, working to understand the whys, hows, and history of many courtly arts, including swordplay, performance arts, and the arts of hospitality, as well as the role of the SCA as a welcoming social community. When not on the rapier field, one is likely to find Mora running her Salon at the sign of the Sable Hart, enjoying conversation and company, baubling and philosophical discourse…or you may possibly locate her tailing a passel of village children and reminding them to play honorably with one another.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

A Cutting Drill

By THLady Meala Caimbeul, Caid Cut & Thrust Marshal

Hello again. There was a quite successful Cut & Thrust workshop at Collegium Caidis, and I thought I’d share the drill we worked on.  It is fairly simple, but there are many options for adding complexity.

Short description:
Both partners are in a neutral third guard. They are just within measure, sword points crossed, but not much more. The active partner opens the line, inviting a thrust (if not a lunge) up the middle. As the passive partner thrusts, the active one cuts the thrust away, and returns a cut to the passive partner’s head.

Lesson one – the dissuasive cut. By delivering a good cut to the oncoming thrust the Active partner gains more time than if he simply gained the line by positioning, or sliding on the Passive partner’s blade.

Lesson two – the return cut. Try to use the true edge and make the turn as abbreviated as possible. Deliver a good cut that connects with the middle of the blade.

Lesson for the Passive Partner – Good guard and thrust/lunge. Make sure your starting guard is as perfect as is it can be; your weight starts back, hand is extended, and your are pointing at, if not above your opponents head. Deliver the thrust or lunge as if it was your practice; start with your hand, include the body, and only step if you need to.

Advanced lessons
Timing and Distance. Start the drill out of measure and let the Passive partner approach. The Active partner will invite when he feels the Passive partner is at lunging distance and would have to take a step to make contact.  If Passive is not close enough the dissuasive cut will fail, if too close the thrust will land or there won’t be space for the return cut.

Keep them honest. Passive partner attempts the second intention as the Active person makes the return cut. If the Active partner does not make a good dissuasive cut, the passive partner can counter-attack. If the Return cut is not delivered from a protected place, there will be a double kill.

This drill can be done on both inside and outside the Active partner’s sword.

Good luck and happy cutting!


Leave a comment

More on Cutting

By THLady Meala Caimbeul, Caid Cut & Thrust Marshal

Cutting is a very basic thing. Most blades were designed to do it with only a modicum of direction from the operator. As you can see from the different diagrams, there is much similarity even among very different fencing manuals.

Sword cuts according to:

Achille Marozzo – 1536
AchilleMarozzo1536

Joachim Meÿer – ~1570
JoachimMeòer1570

Salvatore Fabris – 1606
SalvatoreFabris1606

Gérard Thibault – 1628
GÇrardThibault1628

I have found one of the foundations to a good cutting game is to cut from one guard to another traveling through a very specific middle guard. (To give proper credit, this is not my own concept; it is prescribed by a few masters in our time period.) That middle guard is called by more manuals than not, Long Point. It is formed by having your sword extended, mostly from the shoulder-line, with the tip higher than the guard, usually pointing at your opponent’s head. By moving through this position your cuts are forced to move from one plane to the other, from high to low, left to right, or even on the diagonals. Look again at the diagrams – these lines achieved easily when moving through this middle position.

(There are exceptions to everything, and this is meant as a basic lesson. But one must know the basics before one can deviate from them.)
Though this is a simple position, there are many subtleties that make it successful. In solo practice, and even in controlled partner drills, I recommend adding an artificial pause to check this guard and confirm you are forming it correctly. Another advantage of this brief pause it that even though this guard happens in the middle of a longer action, it is a neutral position; you can use it to change your plan or direction depending on the actions of your opponent.

• The body is mostly upright, if not leaning a bit forward from the hip.
• The arm is extended, pushing forward from the shoulder, but not locked.
• The sword point is higher than the guard; pointing at, if not slightly above, your opponent’s head.

Special note – because this is a middle guard, happening in the middle of a cut, I am not prescribing any specific foot positions. They will depend on the methods and guards you are using.

A good way to test this guard is to have an opponent attempt to cut at your center line from long measure. As they enter with the cut, your head and upper body should be well behind your guard, and your trunk should be just out of range. You might have to direct your strong toward the assault, but you should be pretty well defended in the middle.

Once you have a good idea of what this guard is, practice cutting from one guard to another, pausing in the middle to check your Long Point guard. Remember to keep your hands soft and let the sword to most of the work. You don’t need much additional power for a valid cut; you just need to direct and control the weapon’s path. As you practice, that pause can get smaller and smaller until it is almost imperceptible. But don’t let it completely disappear and start rushing your actions. I find having a position in the middle of a large action where you can change your mind is quite useful. In fact, another fun drill is to have a partner call out a starting guard, and just as you get to that middle guard, call out a second one for you to finish with.

Good luck and happy cutting!

P.S. Don’t forget there is a Cut & Thrust Workshop at Collegium, May 17th – starting at 11:00 am
http://www.collegiumcaidis.org/2015/schedule.html
http://www.collegiumcaidis.org/2015/catalog.html#Rapier


Leave a comment

Capo Ferro 101 – Diego de Palma

By Ld Diego de Palma

Capo Ferro 101: A practical approach to the basic philosophies and techniques from Simulcro Dellarte Edelluso Della Scherma – “Great Representation on the Art and Use of Fencing”
Original Text by Ridolpho Capo Ferro (1610)Translation by Jerek Swanger and William E. Wilson

Class and Handout by Lord Diego de Palma

This class goes over some of the basic techniques and ideas from Capo Ferro’s work including attacking in defense, tempo and measure, and basic form. The handout also contains some advice for those who are looking into exploring the text in depth including what to expect from the various sections of the text and some alternative ways to look at the plates.

CapoFerro101_DiegoDePalma


Leave a comment

Connecting Sword, Hand, and Heart

By THL Mora Ottavia Spadera

This class handout presents the perspectives of historical texts, modern sports psychology, the science of perceptual motor learning, and observations from successful fighters in the SCA.

If you’ve been practicing for a long time, and can’t quite break through to the next level, or to the next round in tournament, it may be your head that’s holding you back. This handout, and the class it was written for, will provide you with vocabulary and tools to look at how your brain is helping or hurting your fight, and how to train it alongside your body. There is a long list of ideas to help you make your practice time more effective, enabling you to advance the application of your Art in whatever way inspires you.

The Fighting Headspace Questionaire will help you look at your tournament head-space as well. After answering honestly, if you find an answer you don’t like, it’s worth looking at ways to reframe that part of how you approach your game.
 While coming primarily from a rapier fighter’s perspective, this handout is applicable to any martial art or life activity you pursue.
Lady Mora is incredibly happy to spend time with individual fighters looking at how their brains are operating in their fight and looking for potential opportunities to improve. Please don’t hesitate to seek her out, at an event or electronically.

Connecting Sword Hand and Heart Handout

Fighting Headspace Questionaire


2 Comments

Introduction to the German Rappier of Joachim Meyer (1570)

By Don Lot Ramirez

This class has been taught at a number of Events, including Practicum of the Sword and Talon-Crescent Festival.  I created a video after a similar class taught at SoCal Swordfight 2013 (http://www.socalswordfight.com/), a non-SCA HEMA event as an addendum to the class.  This is not an exact replication of the class that may have been taught, but is a great add on and reminder for the basic information from the class.


Leave a comment

A Quick Lesson for the Use of Secondary Devices

By Don Lot Ramirez

Being able to utilize your sword and secondary in combination is the key to fighting effectively. If you have to spend time concentrating on using both hands simultaneously, you’ll react more slowly and have a harder time focusing on controlling the fight. Situating yourself in a posture, or guard, and being prepared with the most appropriate defense will speed up your decision-making and allow you to react quicker to your opponent’s actions.

There are a multitude of systems that can help this process, but I find the easiest and most flexible to be the ones presented by the Italian Masters of the early 17th Century. After distilling the works of Ridolfo Capo Ferro (1610), Nicoletto Giganti (1606), and Salvator Fabris (1606), we can find that all of these masters present a system that is fundamentally based on a quadrant defense. In these systems, more often than not, the secondary device (often a dagger) parries the incoming attack and a simultaneous counter attack occurs with the sword. The simultaneous action and reaction in this system allows for the secondary to be used primarily on defending the opponent’s attack and frees the sword to make the counter attack safely. The simultaneous attack and defense also cuts down the time the opponent has to react to your strike.

The quadrant defense:

The fundamental concept of this system is to break down your own target zone into 4 quadrants:

  1. Outside and above your secondary
  2. Outside and below your secondary
  3. Inside your secondary, above your sword
  4. Inside your secondary, below your sword

In each case, the defense is enacted to close the line of attack with the secondary and support the action by counter attacking with the sword. We are not simply impeding the arriving attack, but pushing forwards to actively disrupt and deflect the incoming attack. Also, by pushing forwards instead of sideways, we do not open a space between the sword and the secondary that the opponent can take advantage of.

Note in the examples below how the arms are portrayed moving forwards to defend the incoming attack.

The following images present examples from Capo Ferro’s 1610 treatise (Gran Simulacro…)[1] and a 1644 German-French reprint of Giganti’s 1606 (Scola overo teatro…)[2]:

Defenses in quadrant 1, outside and above your secondary:

– Giganti with sword and dagger

– Capo Ferro with sword and cape

– Capo Ferro with sword and Rotella

Defenses in quadrant 2, outside and below your secondary:

– Giganti

– Capo Ferro

Defenses in quadrant 3, inside your secondary, above your sword:

– Giganti

– Capo Ferro

Defenses in quadrant 4, inside your secondary, below your sword:

– Giganti

– Capo Ferro

The general idea of this system is that by simplifying everything into one of four defensive actions, you short cut your decision making of ‘how do I defend this attack?’, and move quickly into defending yourself. Wherever your opponent’s point goes, you counter with a deflection from your secondary, putting your sword to an opening in their defense, usually just inside of their sword arm, and pushing forward with a counter attack.

Try this with a friend:

  • Set yourself in guard with your secondary shoulder loose and as extended as possible without straining or rotating your back hip forwards.
  • Your partner approaches you in guard and aims their point where they see an opening, stopping just at the edge of their lunge distance.
  • Determine which quadrant they are pointing at and prepare the appropriate defense with the secondary.
  • Your partner attacks the opening with a lunge. You defend the attack with your secondary and extend your sword arm to where they are not defended.
  • Note: the key to this action is that both hands move forwards together, one defending and the other attacking. Leaning forward with your torso (and not moving your feet) will also help.
  • Repeat and practice defending against attacks to all 4 quadrants.

If you find that your partner is attacking the same quadrants over and over again, and not attacking others, then you are probably covering the un-attacked quadrants in your guard. Try situating yourself in a different position that will create a new opening for your partner to attack.

With practice you should find that you can easily respond to a predictable, straight-line attack, and can quickly assess where your opponent’s attack is directed. Also, you may find that if you situate yourself in specific postures, your opponent is more prone to attacking you in one spot more than another, making them more predictable and easier to counter.

1.Capo Ferro, Ridolfo. Scans of illustrations. Gran Simulacro della Arte e dell Uso della Scherma. Siena, Italy, 1610.

2. Giganti, Nicoletto. Scola, overo, Teatro : nelquale sono rappresentate diverse maniere, e modi di parare, e di ferire di spada sola, e di spada, e pugnale; dove ogni studioso portra essercitarsi e farsi prattico nella professione dell’ Armi. Herzog August Bibliothek. 2009.