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1360Re: Eastern Martial Arts Philosophies meet the Rapier

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  • Staffan Arffuidsson
    May 3, 2007
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      Greetings Kaine,

      I'll answer your post as well as I can after Beltane.

      In Service,

      --- In RoyalGuildofDefense@yahoogroups.com, "Shane"
      <galadrial_kaine@...> wrote:
      > So these past couple of months I have been studying the art of the
      > rapier and still find it difficult to transfer over from my original
      > learnings of Karate and the Japanese sword. Some of you out there
      > may be struggling with that as well if you have ever taken any
      > martial arts especially those augmented with weapons training. This
      > essay is designed not only to put down on proverbial paper my own
      > plans for incorporation but to also put it up here in case it will
      > helpful.
      > Let me first begin by stating that the Rapier is NOT a Katana, but
      > not sure that should completely preclude the philosophical side of
      > sword study. The Japanese Samurai were some of the most skillful
      > warriors in the history of man. They had an extremely rigid code of
      > ethics that even today in the SCA ties very much in with our
      > code. (the reason I say ours is because there is no physical
      > in history depicting a knights code of conduct... it's a pieced
      > together philosophy)
      > The Seven Virtues of the *Bushido Code (bushido means the Way of The
      > Warrior) are as follows
      > * Rectitude (義, gi)
      > * Courage (勇, yū)
      > * Benevolence (仁, jin)
      > * Respect (礼, rei)
      > * Honesty (誠 makoto, or 信 shin)
      > * Honor, Glory (名誉, meiyo)
      > * Loyalty (忠義, chūgi)
      > The Accepted Code of Chivalry is as follows (this code is cited
      > 19th century French historian Leon Gautier)
      > * Thou shalt believe all that the Church teaches, and shalt
      > observe all its directions.
      > * Thou shalt defend the Church.
      > * Thou shalt respect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute
      > the defender of them.
      > * Thou shalt love the country in which thou wast born.
      > * Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy.
      > * Thou shalt make war against the Infidel without cessation, and
      > without mercy.
      > * Thou shalt perform scrupulously thy feudal duties, if they be
      > not contrary to the laws of God.
      > * Thou shalt never lie, and shall remain faithful to thy
      pledged word.
      > * Thou shalt be generous, and give largess to everyone.
      > * Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right
      > and the Good against Injustice and Evil.
      > So in essence similar codes of conduct.
      > Given the similarities in code... why could my personal training
      > structure of the Rapier not also use martial arts philosophies of
      > studying my art of the sword?
      > So I got to thinking about this a little further and started looking
      > up different Rapier philosophies and found one I like very much
      > because it is concise and for those of you that study him... you
      > it works.
      > Joseph Swetnam states his seven principles of which true defence is
      > grounded
      > 1. A good Guard
      > 2. True observing of distance.
      > 3. To know the place.
      > 4. To take time.
      > 5.To keep space
      > 6.Patience
      > 7.Often Practice
      > We will examine each of these an how I interpret them into Eastern
      > Martial arts.
      > First off
      > A Good guard. Anybody who has ever taken Tae Kwon Do, Karate,
      > Kung Fu or any other eastern martial art understands that a good
      > or stance as my sensei used to call it understands the necessity of
      > choosing a good guard. Anybody on here who has been to a fighter
      > practice or has been studying rapier long enough to know basic
      > knows how to get into one. but just in case I'll try and explain how
      > to do it and the why you do it. your dominant (sword foot as I wish
      > call it) should be pointed at your opponent or if you have no
      > target... err opponent simply point it forward.
      > Now your other foot should be pointing 90 degrees away from your
      > sword foot forming an L with your feet. Take that and move it in the
      > direction your toe is pointing approximately shoulder length apart
      > bend your knees slightly. For some this is difficult to do and may
      > take some practice. the reasons it should be about shoulder length
      > apart vary from teacher to teacher but here is how I percieve it(and
      > the reason it is how I percieve it is because I am not in a position
      > to teach Rapier, this is of course reserved for Journeyman and
      above I
      > believe) You should should have your feet shoulder length apart
      > because it makes for even distribution of weight on your body giving
      > you ease of movement when you begin advancing or retreating or any
      > other dirction for that matter since we work in the round. it also
      > makes your body a pretty small target. The toe pointed towards your
      > opponent is also most helpful for 2 reasons
      > 1. your sword point almost always heads in the direction of your toe
      > 2.this is a test I have conducted with the same results everytime,
      > Line up next to a wall with your sword pointed at it in a normal
      > that we have just outlined, tip just touch it in a full extension
      > without leaning or lunging. now take the sword point off of the wall
      > and turn your sword foot slightly inward towards your other foot,
      > try hitting the wall again... if you don't lean into and still fully
      > extend your sword tip should fall about 1/2 inch to and inch short
      > the wall...and let's face it... in rapier in the SCA an inch could
      > the difference between you or your opponent yelling "DEAD!"
      > Now that you have done that and feel comfortable with it (for
      > beginners it may be helpful to practice getting in and out of this
      > foot stance... the repetition will not only generate muscle memory
      > your body begins to do it naturally... but it will also help build
      > necessary muscles to maintain that guard, personally I practice just
      > getting in and out of guard position 10 reps at a time on a daily
      > basis) let's get into hand placement. the simplest way I can
      > this and I'm sure this essay will be corrected on some points since
      > am not the perfect fighter and each person has their own way of
      > explaining things is this: your sword hand for a basic guard should
      > bent slightly at the elbow and the space between your elbow and your
      > body should be large enough to to fit your fist into. your sword
      > should be in line with your dominant foot... or in some cases
      > to the inside as to cover your body better. for me I try and have
      > button of my pommel in line with my hip on my sword foot/leg. now
      > you have that down, practice that a few times each day. I will not
      > into what you do with your offhand because there are many, many
      > variations on where it should be. For me I try and have it up by my
      > head about equal length between my nose and my nipple, but that is
      > just one variation.
      > Next Let's look at Swetnam's second point.
      > True observing of Distance
      > Distance can mean several things. In the eastern martial arts
      > means the amount of space between your fist or leg and your
      > body(once you get past thier guard) or terms of a katana which is
      > slightly more relevant, the amount of space between your sword and
      > your opponents body. it also means between your sword and thiers.
      as a
      > katana is a cutting weapon with many large sweeps to effect the area
      > between the two it is different from the rapier in that distances
      > closer. but at the core of it... distance is still observed. when
      > advancing on your opponent you should not only think about your
      > distance alone... but thier distance as well. how many advances will
      > it take them to get close enough that your parry will be almost
      > When I fight with the katana I am a reactionary fighter. watching
      > opponent advance on me tells me almost everything i need to about
      > to beat them, the same can be observed with a rapier I believe. when
      > my opponent advances on me I think about 2 things, where am I the
      > vulnerable and how long is it going to take them to get there. If i
      > perceive their advances as quick and purposeful I find it wise to
      > throw a monkey wrench in their plan and test the waters... at this
      > point in the battle you don't want it to be over too quickly,
      > generally speaking you do something to spring the trap they have
      > out.(I'm not going to get into the debate of unless they are trying
      > trick you or springing the trap only springs half of it right now)
      > once the trap has been sprung think about distance again... are they
      > within range for you to do something other than playing games with
      > their sword? if you are in range and their body has a perceivable
      > opening, try for it.(which is somewhat amusing since we are covering
      > Swetnam who was notorious for creating openings that weren't really
      > At this time you must also take into account 2 distances, the
      > distance between your opponent being able to parry a thrust for
      > instance, and if they choose not to meet your blade.. the distance
      > will take them to be out of range of your weapon again. I have found
      > it useful to use distance at home with some trees I have in my
      > driveway, it helps me learn how many advances and retreats it will
      > take me to get in and out of range of a stationary target. This is
      > course no substitute for real people as opponents... but it helps
      > learn your own distance.
      > Distance in terms of a lunge. Eastern martial arts does not have
      > lunges... but we do have jumpkicks, both are powerful tools in each
      > thier respective worlds and both cover great distance rapidly.
      > Everbody has a different length of lunge and once you are aware of a
      > persons lunge distance... learn to percieve when a lunge will be
      > useful to them. on the field during a practice examine this point. A
      > lunge is a very powerful attack but it fully commits your body. If
      > opponent lunges at your prematurely you basically own them unless
      > can recover rather quickly. Generally speaking when an opponent
      > at you, you have left an opening that they see and you may possibly
      > not, unless you are creating that opening as a lure... but we will
      > come to that in perhaps a different essay.
      > To give you a distinct example of distance in terms of a lunge I
      > use a rapier fighter whom I deeply respect Seagdha Cameron, his
      > is 12 feet long from the back of his foot to the tip of his sword.
      > is 6 foot 4 with decently long arms. my lunge on the other hand is
      > about 8 feet at it's deepest and about 6 1/2 feet normally(haven't
      > quite got the muscles to execute a longer lunge at this time) In
      > of distance it would take me about 3 retreats or 2 passing retreats
      > get out of his lunge range.The distance between your opponents blade
      > and your body should be observed at all times. on to the next
      > 3.To know the place, I find this is very essential but can be
      > explained. In eastern martial arts I have never competed anywhere
      > a padded mat. I've gotten into a few situations where my martial
      > skills have thankfully allowed me to walk away unscathed. In the SCA
      > we tend to fight on a roped off field typically grass, although I
      > seen the field of battle be a parking lot or school gym. I think
      > Swetnam's mandate of knowing the place can also be associated with
      > senseis teachings of "mind your surroundings and be observant at all
      > times. That means observe the field... are there any potentially
      > hazardous items (there shouldn't be if the field has been properly
      > chosen and the marshall has inspected the field for hazards) how big
      > is the field (this goes slightly more with distance but it is still
      > good to observe the field size. and finally I will also add that
      > examining and observing the rapier field for me also helps with what
      > my fighting style will produce today... in a larger field I am more
      > prone to take more time to observe my opponents movements before
      > engaging... on a small field I tend to be slightly more aggressive.
      > which brings us to Swetnams next point.
      > 4.To take time
      > This should be a point ingrained in every good fighters head.
      > "NEVER attack your opponent until they have properly presented
      > themselves for death" examining that deeper is also make sure you
      > ready to follow through with your attack come what may. yes... you
      > break off your attack and parry... but at that point you have still
      > followed through. one of the things that I still struggle with when
      > using an unfamiliar weapon (and albeit it, it is getting more
      > familiar) is hesitating on making an attack... my attacks fall short
      > of hitting home. Take the time to make your opponent come to you on
      > your terms, that should be a philosophy every fighter should adopt.
      > Katana is a very aggressive sword form... it is designed for close
      > fighting and powerful cuts but you still want to make your opponent
      > come to you... if they attack at an angle you don't like because
      > body will become too exposed during your counter.... back the hell
      > of there. It will make them choose a different attack angle most of
      > the time, when they present an angle that is acceptable to you...
      > and only then STRIKE!
      > 5.Keep space
      > this somewhat is an emphasis on distance, but not completely,
      > space simply is that, make sure the space between you and your
      > opponent always keeps you out of their line of attack. for close
      > fighting to me would mean keep your head or torso out of the space
      > their blade will be passing through, lest the two meet and you will
      > dead. for further away fighting it means much the same thing...
      > keeping space to me says keep their blade away from you. I think
      > is all I can impart on this point. repliers are most definately free
      > to extrapolate.
      > 6.Patience
      > For many fighters patience must be learned through dying quickly a
      > lot, I am one of those. My patience factor is growing again, In
      > patience was a practice... my sensei used to tell me a good fighter
      > that has patience to meditate on the battle... even if it is at hand
      > will have almost a vision of pre-cognition that will see the battle
      > thier mind before it is played out. The best fighters I have ever
      > in a Dojo said they almost knew how the battle was going to go
      > the bout was even started. My advice is to meditate often about a
      > battle, for those of you who have been fighting for a while I still
      > suggest it... the benefits for and many others is that you will be
      > able to see much clearer not only how the battle will unfold... but
      > the end of it you will be able to remember more about the battle and
      > what you can improve on in the future. so patience for me is not
      > waiting for the right moment but also meditating on the moment and
      > choosing when I wish it to occur. The only thing I must make you
      > of however is that meditation is markedly different from
      > in daydreaming you almost always win... that is not so with
      > meditation... the goal of course is to see yourself win within your
      > minds eye and then execute it in real life... but I find being more
      > humble in your opinions of your own fighting style is much more
      > beneficial than not.
      > Finally the last point Swetnam wishes to impart on us is:
      > 7.Practice often
      > Is there a single art form out there,
      > Eastern,Western,Southern,Northern...fighting,sewing,drawing,
      > painting...horse riding... that says "don't ever practice"? I think
      > not. But in terms of practice and rapier there are many ways to do
      > I find that a balance of meditation and physical exercise in my art
      > have been helping me. of course I have only outlined today my new
      > exercise routine in preparation for della spada. not many of you
      > be up to this rigorous of a routine... but if you think you can and
      > you think my reasonings are sound then perhaps you will want to try
      > 5lb weights working both triceps and biceps as well as shoulders.
      > to increase forearm strength use a 5lb weight and do wrist curls.
      > 20 situps and pushups every day to be increased by 15-20 on a weekly
      > basis until 100 is reached. any more than 100 of either and you are
      > building bulk muscle which is good if you are practicing for a
      > weapon than a rapier which on average weighs 2 1/2 to 4 lbs.
      > the normal exercise without a weapon is to give more control over my
      > body when a weapon is in my hands.
      > for the weapon exercises... footwork, footwork, footwork... any
      > instructor of any martial art will tell you...if you do not have
      > proper footwork, the rest of your body will not work properly in a
      > battle... battle body mechanics always start at the feet. Now in
      > eastern martial arts the footwork is slightly different... but that
      > doesn't matter here. learn it, practice it, use it.
      > 40 parries in positions 2 and 4 on both hands. slowly at first..
      > go faster as you gain more control of your point... when parrying
      > move the point as much as necessary... the more stationary it
      > the less exposed your body will be.
      > 200 thrusts... that's right count them 200... this will be your main
      > attack... make sure you have absolute control of it... try doing it
      > different lengths for pure calibrations sake... we don't need real
      > holes punched in our opponents.
      > 40 lunges... now for me this is going to be difficult to do and i am
      > going to be pretty sore for the first week doing this... but i know
      > own body's threshold for this type of exercise thankfully.... but if
      > you are unsure of your own body... try doing 10 and then go from
      > Finally... here's where the eastern philosophy ties in a little
      > better... do 2 things.
      > 1.think about what EXACTLY can be transferred over... if you have
      > taken aikido...hand circles are excellent for the crossover
      > If you have taken tae kwon do, think about how you block straight
      > punches (now just make it less of a sweeping motion and you've got
      > your parry) if you have taken any martial arts that is meant to flow
      > instead of being a stiff martial art... and if you have taken more
      > than 1 eastern art you know what i am talking about (think about the
      > differences between kenpo and aikido) think about how to transition
      > your blocks/parries into thrusts/punches and also think in terms of
      > how your body moves. also think about your off hand at this point...
      > in martial arts there is no off hand.. only a rear hand the
      > takes longer to execute a move. compensate for that in rapier... use
      > your offhand weapon more often than your primary at first until you
      > feel you can balance the 2. in the instance of using an open hand..
      > remember you can't actually touch your opponent with your offhand
      > you can in martial arts... but a sword is an extension of the hand
      > it not? that extension can be controlled just as easily as if you
      > touching their body. I simply say think about it. testing it out in
      > real practices or on the field is of course the only way to really
      > know if it works for you... but for the moment try at home what you
      > 2. the second thing is to meditate on the battle. visualize yourself
      > on the rapier field... it doesn't matter who against.(we all wear
      > masks anyway) you are at opposites ends of the field which i know
      > rarely happens at the time "lay on" is proclaimed but just for the
      > sake of argument let's try it this way in the mind. Think about your
      > opponent... how long is their blade... how tall are they... how long
      > are their arms... where are they vulnerable... now meditate on how
      > wish to close the gap between you and your opponent... what will
      > do to try and counter this... after closing to engagement zone think
      > about the battle... it has been said that there should be no more
      > 3 exchanges between opponents before 1 or both of you should step
      > and re-examine the situation, in martial arts it is also 3... 2 for
      > your hands and 1 for your legs. meditate on the end game... where
      > would you like to strike them for a kill and how do you plan on
      > getting there. in martial arts my sensei used to have an exercise
      > where he would ask you to pick out 2 places on the body you would
      > to land shots and what hand or foot you would like to do it with. we
      > would then face off without any advice given and be asked to try. if
      > you failed to land either one he would tell you where you could have
      > changed things... if you succeeded he would tell you how to do it a
      > different way or ask you to pick new spots.
      > I suppose I have prattled on long enough and I hope hidden somewhere
      > in this essay there is something every fighter can use... if not...
      > well it helps me to think of it this way. In closing I encourage
      > anybody's input on this subject...constructive preferably. If you
      > would like further explanation of eastern fighting philosophies
      > don't hesitate to ask... there is much more to tell on that subject
      > than I can write in this essay alone. I thank you for reading all of
      > this. I'm sure it has been exhausting :)
      > Kaine
      > Scholar
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