Interesting conversation going on regarding how to frame a set of rules for competitive sword sparring. In this case Bolognese style, which looks like great fun but I profess to know nothing about.
This post is inspired by the discussion about rules for competition, not as a critique about this particular set (that actually seems quite sensible), as I know nothing about their system, but more as a springboard to put forward my point of view on rules and sparring in general.
I for one am not a fan of rules .... the more you have the less realism and smart adaptation you get ... I mean you get adaptation ... but to the rules, and as the rules are there generally for safety, and dueling really is not a safe sport, the adaptions become silly, and purely focused on the rule-defined-win, which is often very far away from anything approaching realism.
For me, the first question, before any format is drawn up, should be - Why include free form sparring in the system at all?
My answer would be - Because what you train in a more formal/playful setting, should work, and be put to good use in a combative setting also. If it does not manifest, or does not work, the material should be revisited and perhaps revised. Sparring is a place to test this.
Sword sparring, in my opinion, should be integral to the learning process, the goal of which is to understand as closely as possible, the weapon you are using and the context you are using it in. Ideally, should some time machine or teleporter be invented that could throw you into a time and a place where you really needed to 'do your thing', the training should have given you as strong a chance as possible to prevail.
If this is the goal .... and for some it may not be (and of course there is also the debate as to the actual parameters of the skills we practice ..... but if it IS the goal) then the only rule I would want to instill in any free sparring scenario, is the acknowledgement of hits.
OK .... I also like The Dog Brothers - 'Be friends at the end of the day, and have both participants leave with the same IQ that they started with', AND 'Only you are responsible for you' ......
The safety requirements should be taken care of through the design of the training weapons used, and the protective equipment worn, which should be kept relevant to context, again to prevent stupid decision making.
But back to acknowledging hits ....
If you read the Facebook conversation linked to from this blog post, you will see a few different points of view on this.
Here is mine, and the reasons why I think it is a worthy skill, and an important part of sparring.
First off - Some strikes are more incapacitating than others, and I think it obviously valuable to practice fighting through hits, so I do not equate acknowledgement of a hit with stopping the play. It's perfectly possible to acknowledge with no break in play ... and if this is not possible, it means your forebrain needs more training to keep up, as it is what strategizes and makes the smart decisions, and SHOULD be on line and paying attention.
Some commented in the discussion that in the heat of the moment, you can't be expected to notice these hits, and leaving it up to the player can cause grief when they do not acknowledge being hit.
I understand this point, but would counter with the idea that the very practice of noticing should be part and parcel of the play.
IF, and I say again IF, the idea is to protect yourself and prevail with as little injury to your person as possible, the hits against you are hugely important to notice, acknowledge and work to try and avoid next time. I think that leaving the noticing to an external source ONLY hands over responsibility that should be yours and yours alone. By all means have an external observer as an extra set of eyes, or as a corroborating witness, but do not rely on them to stop the game or call the hits.
Acknowledge them, NOT so you can stop and run away/give up/roll over ... but because you want to avoid them in the future.
Another issue that came up in the discussion is what is disparagingly known as 'knife dancing' in some circles - This is when both parties dance about out of range and neither wants to enter. The feeling was that focusing on the taking of hits would prevent entries and 'real action'. Well, good. That's probably realistic. Who the hell in their right mind would want to engage an armed enemy if they did not need to?
Which brings me to ......
If you want to create a reason to engage, figure out a goal that is separate from 'winning' against the opponent. Perhaps there is an object that both sides try to get and take out of the arena? Or perhaps one is guarding the object and the other needs to get past them. Perhaps one has friends coming and one needs to escape before they show up?
Focusing too much on defeating the opponent is often a flawed goal. This "Monkey Dance" with lethal weapons is a mixed up set of circumstances, and the lethality of the weapons should dictate that this is a fight for survival NOT for dominance.
Learning how to do it better, and gaining this ability to prevail and get away, is far more sensible than the old Filipino story that describes the aftermath of a standard challenge match ..... One goes to the hospital .... and the other goes to the morgue.