Monday, September 24, 2012

Losing the Plot

 There is a big difference between reading how to do something, being told how to do something by someone that knows, and finding it out for yourself through a 3 dimensional, real time, experience.

There are few places in the world where actual dueling with swords still takes place, and where learning how to do this is still regarded as a valuable skill set.
This means that we are all pretty much learning from books or from 'someone that knows', where 'someone that knows' tends to be someone that just knows the training experience, not the actual experience, of dueling with live blades. Some of us have been luckier, but the older generation will soon be gone, and what do we have moving forward from here?
Students that have no idea what they are doing, learning from people that have been told what to do from those that, perhaps, maybe, really knew, but were also perhaps fighters with no concept in their own minds of what it was like NOT to know ....

The risk of misunderstanding through just a few generations cannot be underestimated ....

However .... when you really look at it, dueling is not a great mystery, there are no big secrets or magic techniques, and the abilities one needs to prevail are purely a consequence of necessity. All the answers are there to see ... IF you can learn how to look.

So where to start?

By understanding the basic premis of what is going on - 2 people with lethal, pointy, sharp, metal objects are trying to prevent each other from leaving the field.
Why this is so is another question, but let us assume that engagement has become a necessity and one must defend their life against the other.

Given this scenario, what else do we know, and what can we assume?

- We can assume that at least one of the two wants to live, or at least get away as unscathed as possible (I know if it was me, I certainly would).

- We cannot assume that the opponent cares whether they live or not, but we can assume that they would like to prevent the other from leaving the field, and if we are lucky, that they too would prefer to live.

- We know that edged weapons cause severe damage with little power, so we can assume that at least one of the two does not want to be touched by the point or the edge if at all possible (That would be me).


Then there are some geometrical, physiological and psychological factors that are also useful to know.

- There is a safe space called 'out of range' the parameters of which can be practiced and understood.

- There is also a concept called 'Being off the line (of the attack)' which has the same effect.

- Each sword has a way of moving and cutting that can be predicted, and there is a certain time that cutting and recycling the blade takes. Each sword will be different, but each does have parameters to it's possibilities depending on length, weight, blade design, handle design, and these can be understood.

- Movement changes the range - time and space are interchangeable.

- The fact that humans have only 2 arms and 2 legs limits movement options, and these can be predicted over time with practice.

- The sword is held in the hand(s) and as such any cut that can reach a target will always expose the hand/arm to danger. A cut to the hand/arm, because it holds the sword, is to be avoided.

- Human are fairly predictable as we are social animals. We are not all the SAME, but we have general parameters to our interactive behavior that can be understood. The fact that an opponent wants something, in this case the defeat of the other, means that there is a point of contact that can be played with.


I will say that pretty much everything that I learned about dueling, and everything that I do when I practice is because of this list of parameters, possibly coming down to an even more basic overarching concept -

"Hit them but don't get hit yourself" or even better "Get away alive".
That's it.

That's the whole plot.

And how you do that is what a system is.

Now, how you teach that, the method that you use, is the tricky part. And in my opinion the method has to follow the plot to understand the system. Lose the plot, and it all becomes just disconnected objects. Keep the plot in mind however, and it all falls into place.

Of course, the only way to keep the plot the least bit realistic is to have the protagonist interact with the antagonist, with both playing their roles to the completion of the story arc. But ..... and this is a big BUT ....
REMEMBER ..... your opponent ALSO thinks they are the protagonist, and thus should win. 

Forgetting that is the downfall of many methods, regardless of the quality of the system.


FSD said...

I love this post Maija. Everyone who trains with the goal of being functional would benefit from reading it and keeping it in mind.

Jake said...

I really like this as well. I've got this whole thing on the martial art as story that I need to write up, but this fits into it pretty neatly...