Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Same Same, Part 2: The Target

In this day and age of practice weapons we forget that one of the hazards of inaccurate sword technique is getting stuck during the cut ..... Anyone who has split wood with an axe can probably imagine the consequences of getting the axe head jammed had they been on a battlefield and the log had been an adversary holding a blade ..... and it had friends .....

So when you are using a sword, you must have to have an awareness of anatomy - where the bony bits are and where they are not, also of what your opponent would have been wearing in the context you are playing, and importantly what kind of sword you are using - Single or double handed? Strong or weak materials? How sharp? Thin or wide? Primarily for cutting or poking? Curved, straight or combo .....? 

Sword designs have all evolved from the type of fighting they were expected to do and the environment* they were used in - town, open field, jungle, cold climate, hot climate, at sea, etc.
The environment dictated clothing and movement too ... and clothing and movement, and sword design dictated how to cut, and at what targets.

In the end, whatever the strike, and whatever the target, the blade must travel through it, or into it and back out again. Basically, the strike must have a possible exit in mind as it enters and the parameters of the sword will dictate what is possible.

For example, a thin, long, stabbing, blade can exit fairly easily along the same path as it went in, but the longer the blade and the further it goes in, the more this becomes the only option. Conversely, the shorter it is especially if it has sharp edges, the easier it is to pull out on a different line.
Power cutting blades must cut through the target using a single blade angle - change the blade angle in the target (twist, lift or drop), and the blade starts to bog down, and may have to be pried out. The wider and longer the blade, the more important this is.

None of this is an issue with short pokes, slashes and gouges, but is a very important piece of the puzzle for the play to bear any resemblance to it's origins.

Make sure your 'in' is sensible, accurate, and in context, and most importantly, that is has an 'out' ....The 'out' is really important and often forgotten.

* - Thanks to Mac for getting me to think on this.


Randy Packer said...

One of the best things we did for our students was to have special workshops were we would buy a side or two of freshly slaughtered pig. We'd hook it and hang it, and then let the students at it with a variety of weapons, from bowie's to two-handers, with a little cane and mace thrown in for fun.

We learned that nothing stops a sharp blade. Fresh (not dead and stiff) bone doesn't even really slow a blade down on the cut...and a thrust feels like hitting smoke. Even a thin rapier blade will go through a rib instead of around it, and do so with ease. Most of the research done on penetrating weapons says that only the skin makes any resistance, ans accounts for about 4lbs. Once the skin is opened at one point, resistance drops to zero.

Anecdotal evidence points to fat deposits creating some drag and stick on blades, but I haven't encountered that myself.

Armour works damn well, though. :)

Maija said...

Thanks Randy,
Indeed, great practice!
Really cutting into something gives a whole new appreciation for what one is actually doing ... And, like you say, little stops a sharp, accurate cut ... done with a good blade.
However, like you also point out, armor and clothing play a role, as does the quality of the sword itself. Many blades I have seen from the Philippines (and elsewhere) have been less than sturdy to say the least, and many people fail to take this into account when playing with their training versions.
A look at the traditional targets, or numbered strikes in FMA styles can give clues to how they were used, and will often give an idea whether the art is primarily for sword or for stick. The main targets in my style, a sword art, all avoid cutting into bone, though do poke and gouge ... this is somewhat dependent on sword type used, but it is interesting to note.

At the other end of the equation, a thrust which can feel like smoke, may penetrate much further than intended or a cut through a limb say, may need way less power than was expected causing an over swing ....
Cutting too hard, getting caught up or missing are all possibilities that need 'tactical consideration'.