Thursday, November 22, 2012


My system of FMA assumes the sword is the first, and primary, weapon. Learn the sword, and everything else will follow.
Other systems leave the sword until last, or separate it into it's own special section. Most FMA styles start with stick, move from there to empty hand, and then to edged weapons, maybe, last of all.

There are many reasons for the order in which things are taught, and each series has it's pros and cons. It's taken a long time, but I can understand, finally, why it is the way it is in my style - sword first .... well I should say I 'might' understand, after all it is only my opinion ....

I've written before that the sword is a singular weapon, it really is! Disregarding all the variations in usage due to shape and size, edged weapons have one thing in common - if you are holding one, your opponent will think twice before entering into your space. Even if they are twice your size and they can break you like a twig, even if there are more than one of them, you still have time, and the possibility, of averting taking damage if you are skilled enough and smart enough.

So, it follows that if holding a sword takes power and force out of the equation ..... what else is there?
Well, obviously a more tactical game, and given the presence of swords there is now the space to explore these other universes, a space much harder to find when there is no real threat to keep an aggressor out*.
So, a place to discover tactics for when you are faced with an overwhelming force, when you are at a disadvantage, or seem to be facing loss.
A space to learn about psychology, hooks, triggers, and threat, of danger and cost and the price of victory. None of which is possible if you are too big and strong to contemplate needing it, or too small and weak to even imagine that the possibility exists.

Sonny said: "Accuracy first, then power, then speed" - A recipe for upping anyone's game, even those who rely first and foremost on power and speed, but especially for those that have neither.

*The other great forum to practice tactics without power and speed is in the grappling arts, but they are limited to the tactile variety as they work from contact.


FSD said...

Although I have some issues with edged weapons for modern self defense, your point about them making an opponent think twice is dead on in my opinion. There's nothing like a blade, of any size really, to make a person stop in their tracks.

And your point about what becomes visible when power and force are removed from the equation, and the skills you can gain as a result, is excellent.

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

Also a point worth making in the context of modern SD, is that you are likely to be facing a weapon of some description, quite possible an edged weapon, to train with against such weapons, is vital to the understanding how to deal with them regardless of context.

The Hackademician said...

I'll admit that I mistrust FMA systems that teach the stick as a stick rather than teaching the stick as a safe training substitute for a sword. The mistrust comes from knowing that mistaking a stick for a sword usually results only in not hitting hard enough to be effective. Mistaking a sword for a stick blinds you to the need for precision, distance, and evasiveness. A blade fighter can simplify and remove nuance to become effective with a stick and has a bit of a safety margin built in to survive the learning curve. A stick fighter will be maimed or dead before s/he ever realizes the error of her/his misidentification.

Maija said...

@ TEHCG - Agreed

@ The Hackademician - Also agreed.

The difference in the options that a stick vs an edged weapon give you can cause all kinds of problems if one is confused for the other, and it is very easy to tell from someone's movement if they know the difference.
I think a stick can be used as a blade substitute, but only if the blade is so familiar in the hand that the it really works just as a substitution - Venezuelan Garrote is pretty successful at this, but is mostly practiced by those that carry machetes all day. Here's a pretty bad quality clip, but especially the targeting practice on the tree shows the guy assumes his weapon is a sword, definitely not a stick:
I agree the bast practice weapons should feel and look like what they are meant to represent as closely as possible. Sonny hand made all his aluminium trainers by hand to closely resemble real Visayan sword designs. Even his padded weapons looked like swords, with an 'edge', a handle, even covering them with silver or gray fabric/plastic to look closer to the real thing.

Jake said...

Interesting line of thought. The vast majority of my experience is with empty handed systems right now, but...

I think there's something to the idea of basing a system around the primacy of a particular weapon. Get really good with one thing, then start to extrapolate outwards.

Maija said...

@ Jake -
There are pros and cons to this. For instance, what you learn with the stick does not necessarily transfer directly to empty hand. It CAN make certain body mechanics clearer (fist/elbow connection for instance), certain angles, leverage ideas etc etc
OTOH, the tactics of fighting with a stick vs empty hand are different, between sword and empty hand even more so.
My teacher thought of each and every weapon as a tool for teaching certain things, it's 'personality' if you like, would bring out different problems and solutions to discover.
A baseball bat and a sickle - totally different threats, so therefore totally different solutions to fight them .... but if you can see WHY, then you can use the concepts to transfer skills to other things.
Edged weapons, and swords in particular and singular in what they give you to play with - they are unmitigatingly unforgiving of error, and thus are thought of as the primary gate into our system.