Thursday, September 8, 2016

Getting Killed Second is Still Not a Win

Sometimes I get asked "What do you think about this drill or technique"?

My standard answer "What happened to get to this point so this could happen"?

Here are 2 exercises that will find you answering this question yourself.

1 - Reverse engineer the moment the drill/technique starts, using the logic of an opponent with a known motivation to get to this freeze frame in the action ... and see if you can pull it off, or put a different way - What needs to happen with them and you, your relative positions, the range, the timing, the targeting, and the scenario in general (location, purpose, numbers of individuals etc etc) for this moment to come about? Can you make it valid?

2 - If I was on the receiving end of this, how would I avoid having it happen to me?

There are very few techniques that are really just plain wrong. It's just that every technique has edges past which it won't work. You need to find the edges more than you need to master the drill.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Wave Returns

I'm not sure if this will make any sense in words, but here goes -

If you stand still the range between you and your opponent can only shorten. This also applies to orbiting around them, because the range is still constant if they keep turning to face you.

The action can only get faster (space shortens, so does time to do stuff) because you are both in range straight away if either moves. Not so much a problem if you don't mind fending off some blows and maybe taking a little damage, but much more of a problem if you want to avoid the double death.

Create distance however, and now you have essentially made time. I'm talking here of the backward half of the pendulum, not imbalanced backpedaling.

In general going backwards is a bad idea because someone going forwards will always be faster, but if you can sneak step, angle off, and slide, to subtly change the range they think they see they will have to recalibrate whether they do it consciously or not. The more you can do to screw with their PERCEPTION of where your actual position is, the more chance that you can catch them in an error.

This requires motion.

Basically you have created a target moving in 4 dimensions (3 +time) and this means your opponent must move too if they want to hit you. And they want to hit you. Remember that.

Be there, and then take it away.

RELATIONAL movement means you can freeze, entice, and maneuver your opponent much more easily.

Of course you must be the one leading this dance, not the one following, so move first.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Concrete Boots

The other day, I found myself watching a martial arts video purportedly showing defensive tactics against a short sword or long knife.

I tried to tell myself that what I was watching was taken out of context, but try as I might, I could not rationalize the idiocy of what was being shown.

Everyone has had this feeling, it is the downside of the internet where everything is on show to be critiqued. And I really do try not to diss other styles or opinions. I try to be generous. I try to be understanding, and I try my utmost to avoid laughing and pointing at things I know little about. It annoys me when others do it, and it is lazy and counterproductive to the whole community.

Still, I was left with this video by a well known teacher, showing something I completely disagreed with. In fact not only disagreed with, but think is absolutely horrible advice to give anyone learning swordplay.

So, I started thinking more about why.

WHY was it bad advice?

WHY was this the best solution to the problem presented?

And it came to me - The problem ITSELF was 'wrong'.

In a static interaction, when the feet don't move, and when both players are facing off, the problem presented was actually a real one. A static target is an attacker's dream come true, and the defense shown at that point was an absolute possibility. Technically nothing was 'wrong'.

The defender then counters, but the counter only works because the attacker ALSO stands still, did not move their feet, did not angle off, did not use their other hand, and did not switch the weapon hand. So again, technically, in the situation presented, the counter worked. Add any of the changes however, and the defender would be taking a long nap in a pool of his own blood.

The whole premis was nonsense ... I had basically spent 3 minutes watching a guy standing still strike at another guy standing still, who's counter only worked because the first guy was standing still.

Sigh ..

So, what was the REAL lesson?


[There are other lessons too -
Don't think stick techniques always transfer to edged weapons.
You can learn something from anything.]

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Epee Tactics

Here's a radio piece from yesterday. Transcript also included.

My favorite part:

" I want to suck people into my motions so that they get desensitized. They don't notice when I creep distance and then finish the action. You know, in and out so that when they think, oh, he's coming in and then they jump, and no, that's the moment when I'm leaving. I want all the motions like my chest and my hips and my hand all moving independent in this sort of weird, flowing, jerking motion that, you know, is really in your face."

Nicely put Jason Pryor :-)

Friday, June 3, 2016

Brain Shift to Exit

They say that our internal dialogue is very important in how we view the world and our place in it. Language and words can be used to change the way we see things ... not necessarily how they are, but how we see them, and thus relate to them in real life.

Therefore I propose stopping using language that insists on 'stopping the fight', 'ending the duel', or 'winning the altercation'.

'Prevailing' is better, as it lends an expansiveness to the method and outcome that I like, but how about thinking of swordplay/dueling/fighting, as something even more radical? How about seeing it all as - 'Creating an Exit'?

It adds a real goal to the whole, and frames the solutions to the problem at hand (how to deal with an adversary) in a very different manner.

It flows past and through rather than stops with one, predefined ending.

It gets you to see space and time differently, both before and after potential contact ... and indeed, it's the 'after', the exit, that matters most.

Perhaps it might even lessen the human tendency to come to a mental halt within training, in range, and with nothing certain achieved?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Pretty much everybody has some idea about how to prepare food.

As one generally uses knives to prepare food, it's fair to assume then that most people have used knives at some point in their lives, to slice tomatoes or apples, chop vegetables, maybe carve a roast. Some may even have cut up joints of meat before cooking.

(I actually know this is not 100% true from a first hand account from friend Toby, of a young lad who had lived on prepackaged, pre sliced, food all his life and had no idea that a knife often had a non sharp side, but I digress)

Put a sword in people's hands though, and suddenly this memory is lost, I guess because it's a different shape and not in the kitchen? Who knows ...
Anyway, what happens is that many students use the sword like they are holding a crayon and trying to write on their adversary, instead of trying to cut, slice, gouge, or stab them.

You will never understand why sword play looks like it does and moves like it does if you don't use the weapon for what it was designed. Everything is based around that.

So here's a hint (I know it's weird but ... ), to gain a better understanding of edged weapons, start thinking of your opponent as food.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Throwing It Out There

People think feeding is something you do so your partner an practice the techniques. It's the boring part you have to do until it's your turn to do the real stuff that matters.

Instead, why not start thinking of feeding as making your partner do things.

I want them to close distance.
I want them to back out
I want them to move left.
I want them to block high right.

Start thinking of every feed as a way to control what happens next.

How would that change how you feed to achieve this?