Monday, October 29, 2012

3 Hours

It has occurred to me over the years that there is much in common between learning dueling and learning life drawing (drawing from a live model). Many people say they 'can't draw', but that's only because they have not learned how to see what's there. Perhaps they have tried to learn by tracing other people's pictures, but once confronted by a real model they are totally intimidated. The whole process can seem a mystery, and some might start to believe that only artists with innate talent can do it ..... Of course, this is not true.

When you first look, you may not think that the hand, or foot, or ear can possibly be that big in relation to the rest of the body, or be able to perceive how one piece can seamlessly join to the next, but once you understand that the geometry does not lie and how to be part of it, your drawings start to look like real people.

First step is learning how to see what is actually there ... as opposed to what you THINK is there.
Of course there are many pieces to this 'seeing', and many things to be seen, but it is not infinite, and the first step is to learn HOW to do it, because it is a skill that needs training like any muscle in the body.

And what of individual style and artistic flair?
This is the alchemy that happens once the 'seeing', and the mechanical calculations are absorbed by the practitioner and are expressed through the drawing implement, and that is singular and not really teachable. What IS teachable is this seeing from which all else comes, and I'd much rather do that than handing out a color by numbers book and a box of crayons.

I only have 3 hours next weekend to introduce my view of sword dueling to a new group of folks. These are not necessarily people interested in learning my style or training for any length of time in the sword arts, but are mostly curious about the flavor of Filipino dueling and learning some more about edged weapons in general.
Generally my goal in these short introductory workshops is to open up imaginations and perhaps inspire a few to take up the engaging pursuit of working with swords, but perhaps more importantly,  to start delving into the fascinating world of tactics so they can troubleshoot themselves.

So, 3 hours .... not a great deal of time to learn or practice, in fact only enough to skim the surface and dip into a few of the concepts and play a little.

Here's what I think we will do:

Spend some time looking at how edged weapons differ from others, how they move, how they cut, and the different ways they can be used. Then talk a little about context, and narrow down the way the Visayan Style of sword use dictates the tactics and the flow.

Spend time with recognizing range, looking at the line between safety and danger, and playing with the margin. Also practice seeing planes and angles, and working with weight shift and body angle to gain advantage. Then move on to how to use this information to see the empty spaces, and use this to steal range and thus the timing.

We'll definitely look at hand targeting and avoidance, and the tactics this engenders.

From there, probably a deeper look at the space between the players, how to calculate the geometry, define center line, left right, and forward, back, look at the meaning of 'neutral' and start some basic flow with the pendulum stepping.

Play some 2nd flow within the pendulum stepping and half body pendulum and look at the 3 main openings possible + exits.

So basically we will be comparing pencils with charcoal and pen, and looking at their relative qualities, learning how to frame a composition, divide up the paper and understand how to use the body to measure the space we are drawing in, and the object we are drawing.

Perhaps even make some art ..... :-)


Jake said...

Interesting. I've never thought of fighting in terms of visual art...but then, I'm not a very visual person. (I blame poor eyesight, but who knows?)

I think in words and stories, and am starting to look at fighting from that perspective.

How much of how we view the art is determined by how we view the world?

(Session sounds like fun.)

Maija said...

@Jake - Drawing a real, live, human being, and have it actually look like a real, live, human being involves looking, and measuring, and noticing what is ACTUALLY there. I thought it a good comparison as many feel they cannot do it, but it's a great deal closer to reading a tape measure and recognizing triangles, than some mysterious art, province of the naturally talented .... much like dueling. And if you are accurate, you are far more likely to be able to play the game, than if you trust to luck, and assume you know what you are seeing. Takes practice and process, but all the info is there to be seen if you know how to look .... But yes, you are right, I won my school's Maths and Art prize, so obviously I have an affinity for pattern recognition and a visual ability to connect lines and points :-)

Jake said...


Not saying you're wrong...I just never thought of it that way. (Side note: I would never have noticed this before now, but I did write never "thought", not never "saw")

I was a history and English geek who went on to earn degrees in teaching and editing. Visuals aren't my strong suit (my wife will attest to this). I'm sure I could learn them, I just haven't.

I've been told that I have a talent for writing, but I think I just like doing it, so I do it a lot. Funny how you get better at the things you do.

Good stuff. :-)

Maija said...

It would certainly be interesting to 'see' how you 'view' sparring in your art, and with your different background and interests/talents ... I have written before of flow as the "Art of Conversation", so can understand the 'story' perspective too.