Thursday, May 31, 2012

What's My Motivation?

I have this habit drilled in from the years I've spent Filipino style dueling, of getting the hell out of range after a strike. The 'out' is absolutely built into the entry ... otherwise there is no time. I think I may have mentioned how training in a 15ft by 15ft living room which contained 2 couches, a TV, a work table, and walls slung with weapons, meant that there were really only a few 'safe' places to be in the space, i.e. out of range, and those were dynamic concepts more than actual places, as standing still for any length of time might bring you back into range if your opponent moved.
I have plenty of video footage of me, my teacher, or anyone else I was working with, walking round the floor. It's very funny speeded up - walk round, walk, walk ... ENGAGE ... break apart, walk, circle circle, walk ... ENGAGE .... break, stand, walk, circle, walk ... ENGAGE ... for hours.
Anyway, I was at my foil fencing class this week and my teacher tried to get me to hold position once I had the hit, not retreat out of range straight away ..... Wow ... Not easy to undo so many years of conditioning ... and thinking about it, did I really want to?
So we talked about it, and of course I asked why in hell would you want to stay put? I have no idea how many times I have been tagged or impaled in my (supposed) moment of glory playing Eskrima ... If I can reach them ... they can probably reach me, right?
Well ... of course, this is not Eskrima, this is foil fencing, a sport, so a good hit is all that counts, no need to back away, the ref has called a point.
BUT, there are other factors too. Fencing limits movement to a narrow field, which means you are moving pretty much straight back and forward, and as most will know ... moving straight back, i.e. on the line, is rather treacherous. Someone going forwards will always beat someone going backwards ... so, if you miss, or if your hit was weak, it becomes less of a smart option as they might close on you so fast you cannot react in time.
Also, it's often safer to be behind the tip of a weapon that is designed for piercing only, as the tip is the most dangerous part which is obviously not so for edged weapons.
So maybe there is some logic to this, and maybe it needs exploring further?
Perhaps, instead of seeing it as counter to conditioning I do not want to throw out, perhaps it's just another skill set, particular to the weapon shape and appropriate for fighting in a narrow space where moving off line is not an option?
I think it will be pretty easy to integrate if it turns out it's a good idea  - If I keep getting nailed  by doing what I've been doing, that will be all the motivation I need to change it to something that works better. I think my body is smart enough to connect the appropriate reaction to the appropriate context .. we will see .....


Maija said...

Perhaps related:

Jake said...

We do several drills in the PDR program where the Good Guy is explicitly not allowed to move off-line. The rationale is, at least in part, that assaults sometimes (often?) occur in places where angling off is simply not an option.

Obviously, dueling with blades is a slightly different context, but the same idea could apply, I think.

considerphlebas said...

related, from another discussion: "At any other range, retreating is generally a neutral or safe option- you're expanding the distance, so you get extra time to react, so you can usually create some space. but from the infighting range, taking a step back still leaves you in the range where hits can come faster than you can deal with them. Essentially, trying to try back out of close/very close range gives a free shot to your opponent, and trying to hit or move closer and past are much safer options, which is counter-intuitive to a lot of fighters."

I think another aspect of it is to enable your ability to choose. If you were only training in a limited way, automatically recovering after a hit might be the best choice. but if you're going to explore the entire tactical space, it makes more sense to have that moment be a place where you make a choice. instead of "in or out", you look at the total situation and evaluate what the best choice for this particular situation. Any automatic reaction is a potential weakness, and for any place where there is time and choices to be made I think it makes sense to make that a moment of relaxation.

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

Nice post. It is always good when one hears the words of the past coming up through modern practioners, without any direct link. Flying in and flying out wining/finding time and place... All to read in the works of George Silver..

regarding the holing ground thing. Foil is a teaching/learning construct. so in much the same way as things like "right of way" holing the lunge on the hit was IMO, to stop people being jabby, or hitting any old how.
regards what to do after the hit in duelling or actual fighting the older manuals are divided. however the most "sensible ones" advise moving off line or move forward or past, as you are then safer because you are inside and generally safe from the threat of their point. also many suggest controlling the weapon/weapon arm with your off hand as you go past... not sure you'd get away with that in a foil class though....

Maija said...

@ cp - I think that moment of choice is a subtlety that is absolutely worth exploring, we call it 'holding neutral'. However I will say that it's often a luxury as you need to have your body already to spring out AS you enter sometimes, especially if your margin of error is thin. I think it's situational, but of course as skills and sensitivity increase, so magically does time.
@ EHCG - Absolutely agree that there is reason behind the 'moment', as you say to make sure of the hit. And also agree with your options.
And thank you, to have the ideas of George Silver used as comparison is indeed a compliment. He is a fine example of a weapons master from history who lived to a good age, and I believe understood that there was a level of skill that could be trained above the mutual killings so often caused by dueling.