A Short Study of the Smallsword

Posted in Fencing, Styles, Swordsmanship, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2015 by chencenter

smallSword_AngeloThe small sword (or court sword, l’épée courte) is a weapon that began to spread across Europe as early as the 1630s.  This weapon, effective in both attack and defense and designed for the thrust reached the height of its popularity in the late 17th-early 18th century; particularly in England and France.  Due to it’s practicality, lithe & lethality, it became the weapon used to dissolve disputes.  Also known as the ‘Dueling sword,’ it can be argued that the small sword was also favored for its cleanliness in the kill.  Even though other weapons existed at the time, the small sword duel was deemed the most civilized.

Goodbye Rapier

The rapier, a popular image of today due to its use in movies (Zorro, The Princess Bride, The Three Muskateers, etc) quickly fizzled out in the late 17th century.  There were many reasons for this, the chief one being the rapier’s bulkiness/ un-suitability in confined quarters, and changes in men’s fashion.  Richard Cohen, author of By The Sword wrote,

In 1663 the “suit”- the first piece of menswear to fasten in the front – made its appearance.  The rapier, easy enough to carry and draw in the days of the doublet and hose, did not sit well with the brocaded jackets, breeches, and silk stockings.  So popular in the 1640s and 1650s, it had become antisocial, “an infernal nuisance to passers-by.”

Description
Small Sword trainerAlmost essentially a thrusting weapon; although records exist of its occasionally being “sharpened as a razor” for dueling, the major French small sword instruction treatises focus solely on the thrust.  The sword is easily recognized by its shorter blade (29-35in.), Pas d’ane, quillon and knuckle bow.

*The picture to the left is of a small sword trainer made by Triplette Competitive Arms (Elkin, NC)

The small sword gave rise to a new school of fencing, “escrime francaise.”  Author Cohen writes:

In 1653 a book by Charles Besnard of Rennes, a leading master showed conclusively that the French had finally improved on the Italians, whose masters had never allowed for purely defensive movements -every parry had also to be a thrust.  Besnard (alleged to be the first to use the word “fleuret,” the French word for “foil) saw that always trying to do two things at once was a mistake and separated attack from defense… Besnard also introduced the formal salute, a symbol of courtesy and good form.

What’s better?

Are all swords equal? No.  Each of the various weapons of the past and present were/are constructed for specific purposes. What remains true (like all martial arts) is that skill (in this case, wielding the sword) is paramount.  The evolution of weaponry has always been based on the necessities of battle (in other words, what tool is need to overcome a foe(s)), it’s intended use and trial and error.  Fashion and practicality aside, the small sword was designed for the thrust – which as always been the most lethal of blows.  It’s shorter length, gave the fighter more agility and control over the blade.  Even though a dagger was often needed for close-quarters, the small sword carried on strong until the Napoleonic Age.

The Beginning of the end

In 1799 a coup d’état brought General Napoleon Bonaparte to power in France.  A formidable fencer by the time he reached military school, Bonaparte relished fencing, but despised the duel.  His thoughts were that “A good duelist made a bad soldier.”  By the time he had seized power, although there were still no laws banning dueling, Bonaparte had seen too many great fencers die or become disabled due to this reckless pastime.  Being a superb weapon in the battlefield, especially on horseback, the thrust-centric small sword was not.  Through Napoleon’s battles across Europe and into Russia, the only bladed weapon was the cut-centric saber/sabre – which he used to great effect in his heavy calvary charges.  (more on sabre’s in another article!)

Small Sword vs. Basket-Hilted Backsword

This is one of my favorite choreographed sword fights of all-time [movie fight review: click here]

True Combat

One of the most realistic scenes involving the small sword can be seen in the first fight in the movie, The Duellists.

More Information

For small sword and bladed weapon enthusiasts everywhere, you’ll be happy to hear that the CombativeCorner will be conducting an interview with Jeannette Acosta-Martinez, possibly the foremost expert of the Small Sword and the French School of small sword combat living today.  She is one of the main instructors at the Martinez Academy in New York.  Read our interview with her husband and fencing maestro Ramon Martinez.

OTHER FENCING LINKS

FENCING LANGUAGE IN “THE PRINCESS BRIDE”

FENCING LANGUAGE IN “I LOVE YOU, MAN

10 QUESTIONS WITH MATT EASTON

FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND INSTAGRAM

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Do you yield coach joyceCoach Michael Joyce teaches classical foil fencing in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Mr. Joyce got his training at both the St. Louis University (1998, 1999) and University of NC-Greensboro (1999-2002) Fencing Clubs.  He has been teaching (fencing) professionally since 2005 and enjoys fencing with the French Smallsword, the Chinese Jian (straight sword) and Shaolin Rope Dart the most.

10 Questions with William Wai-Yin Kwok

Posted in 10 Questions, Kungfu, Wing Chun with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2015 by Combative Corner

CombativeCorner William

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Master William Kwok has been studying martial arts since 1979. He is Practical Wing Chun Kung Fu founder Grandmaster WAN Kam Leung’s first Closed Door Disciple that has both completed the martial art system and taught professionally outside of Hong Kong. He is also the first Regional Director and official instructor of Wan Kam Leung Practical Wing Chun Kung Fu in America”

Master Kwok established his martial arts school, Gotham Martial Arts, in 2007. His goal is to develop better individuals to serve the New York community and provide precise and attainable instruction where more people would benefit from the mind and body integration for which martial arts training is well-respected. Master Kwok’s contributions to Wing Chun Kung Fu and the traditional martial arts culture have been well recognized and respected. He has been profiled in numerous newspapers, periodicals and television networks such as New York Daily News, Sing Tao Daily, Wing Chun Illustrated, Next Magazine, Sinovision, China Central Television, and etc. In September 2014, he was honored by the Martial Arts History Museum in Los Angeles as a recipient of the Museum Honor Award for his excellence in the martial arts and his contributions to the local community. In December 2014, Master Kwok was honored martial arts title “Grand Master in Wing Chun” and rank “7th Dan Menkyo/ Grand Master in Martial Arts” by World Personal Martial Arts Federation, a non-profit and voluntary organization. In January 2015, he received the Silver Lifetime Contribution Award at Action Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Honors in Atlantic City.

Outside of the Wing Chun Kung Fu world, Master Kwok’s experience was quite varied. He is a direct student of traditional Taekwon-Do Grandmaster KIM Suk Jun and has achieved the rank of Master Instructor. Master Kwok has also earned Post Graduate Degrees from Harvard University and St. John’s University. Prior to teaching martial arts professionally, he was an adjunct professor of Managerial Studies at The City University of New York and was a member of The Asian American/Research Institute. He also served as Market Manager for a major telecom provider.

What attracted you to Wing Chun (over other martial arts)?

Kwok WingChunI have been training in martial arts since 1979 when I was seven years old. My father was a Physical Education professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. As a young martial arts fan, my father sent me to the Aikido club at the university, where I trained with college students. When I was 14 years old, my father introduced Wing Chun to the university as an after-school extracurricular. This was my first exposure to Wing Chun. I liked the Wing Chun principles of not using force against force and maintaining good body structure, but I couldn’t get into it because I didn’t see the practicality in that particular system of Wing Chun.

I was a third degree blackbelt candidate in traditional Taekwon-Do in 2000. I remember sparring with a much larger classmate. During one sparring session, he kicked me square in the chest, lifting me into the air and sending me several feet backward. It was then that I realized that, no matter how much I trained, I would not be able to defeat someone bigger or stronger than me. I began to feel that I was missing something in my martial arts training, and I remembered my early introduction to Wing Chun.I tried studying Wing Chun again in many different schools, but was still not satisfied with what I learned.In 2005 I went back to my hometown of Hong Kong to do research for my Master’s thesis project. My research had nothing to do with martial arts, but I knew it was a perfect opportunity to search for answers in Wing Chun. After I met my Sifu, Grandmaster WAN Kam Leung – Founder of Practical Wing Chun, I finally felt I had found the answers that I was looking for in a style of Wing Chun that was more suited for today’s world.

Everyone should find the style that suits them the best. To me, I like Practical Wing Chun because I can do it well and it makes a lot of logical sense. I know I can practice Wing Chun even when I turn 70 because it is not taxing on the body. It is a very scientific and practical martial art that gives me a lot of room to develop and think. All techniques in the forms serve like different building blocks that can be combined in many different ways. It is interesting to find the most effective and efficient techniques in any given situation. Some people like Jujitsu and should focus on Jujitsu. Some people like Karate and should focus on Karate. It is not best to be jack of all trades but to be great at one style or system. I like most martial arts systems but I choose to focus on Practical Wing Chun because it gives me room to think and grow, as well as improve upon the current system based on original Wing Chun principles.


How did you come to start a school in New York City and why is it named Gotham Martial Arts and not something like “Kwok Wing Chun.”

Gotham MAI moved to New York City in 1991 for college education. Although I had a successful career path in the corporate world after I graduated from college, I found the most satisfaction from my martial arts training and teaching. Being a teacher is quite rewarding when you see students’ mind and body improve. With the encouragement from my teachers, I decided to dedicate myself to martial arts education. My goal is to develop better individuals to serve our community. To me, martial arts is education, not just an activity or hobby.

When I first established Gotham Martial Arts in 2007, there were two other master instructors involved. Therefore, it did not make sense to name the school after any individuals. We preferred a name that gave people a “traditional” feeling and represented New York City. That was the reason that we chose the name “Gotham”. Besides Practical Wing Chun, Gotham Martial Arts offers instruction in traditional Taekwon-Do. While the other master instructors are no longer with the school, I have decided to keep the name “Gotham Martial Arts” because the name is well established in New York City. Today, I see Gotham Martial Arts as a channel to introduce and promote excellent martial arts in New York City.


Did you, or do you feel the need to combine other martial arts to your arsenal? Why/why not?

No, I don’t feel the need to combine Practical Wing Chun with other martial arts. Even though I embrace most traditional martial arts, I don’t support the idea of mixing different martial arts styles. Even though my school offers both Practical Wing Chun and traditional Taekwon-Do, we teach them separately. Martial Arts practitioners should not focus on too many styles simultaneously. It will confuse their mind and body. It is very similar to choosing a major when we attend college. We cannot just take numerous introductory courses and claim to be an expert of all. Eventually, we need to choose a major and focus on it. Colleges and universities have such academic structure for a reason. Great doctors and scholars spend years focusing on a few aspects of their specialty. Once we achieve a higher level on one subject, we can then appreciate other subjects more profoundly.

I enjoy studying Wing Chun because it suits me well at this stage of my life. It offers me a lot of room to develop and think. Every practitioner should do a lot of research, find the martial art that suits them best, and stick with it. At a higher level in their martial art journey, they should also have a basic understanding of what other martial arts offer, which will improve their understanding of their own martial art style. All martial art styles have their strengths and weaknesses. No martial art style is perfect and so I encourage my advanced students to keep an open mind.


When you train with someone more experienced, what typically impresses you?

Kwok Chi SauTraining includes developing the body and mind. The theories supporting their training and techniques have to make logical sense. He/she has to be able to prove the effectiveness of the training/techniques by demonstrate it. We need to keep in mind that “more experienced” doesn’t mean “better”. Martial arts training include many techniques. We should view these skills and techniques like technology that is always changing and improving. If a person keeps on practicing the same way for many years without thinking about it, it limits the person’s improvement. To me, one’s attitude and approach toward training matters the most.

When I train with someone more skillful like my Wing Chun teacher, Grandmaster WAN Kam Leung, I am always impressed with his fluidity of movements. A person has to possess an excellent control of hardness and softness in order to move and respond the way he does. Despite his 50+ years of training, he is still learning and improving. I admire and respect that tremendously.


In a market heavy with Karate, Muay Thai and Jiu-jitsu gyms, what obstacles do you face opening a Wing Chun school?

In America, “Wing Chun” is not as popular as names like “Jiu-jitsu”, “Karate” and “Muay Thai”. When most American people think about martial arts, they probably associate the movements with Karate, Muay Thai and Jiu-jitsu, or what they have seen in movies. When my prospective students visit my school, they usually have prejudgments about Wing Chun and some certain expectations about martial arts training. Some of them may have watched the movies about Grandmaster Ip Man and expect to learn how Donnie Yen fights in those movies. Some of them see martial arts training as an alternative of their workout.

It is very important that my prospective students understand that Practical Wing Chun is primarily a self-defense system. It is a system evolved and developed by my teacher, Grandmaster Wan Kam Leung, based on the traditional Wing Chun he studied for many years and the many fights he had. I usually suggest prospective students take a trial lesson before they join the school. It is important for them to choose a martial arts system that suits them the best. After trial lessons, they usually feel surprised by what Practical Wing Chun offers. Most of them choose to commit to the training and others continue to search for the martial arts that satisfy their expectations and needs.

Gotham Class Pic


Growing up, what martial arts/martial artists did you look up to for inspiration?

There were three people that really inspired me as a teenager growing up in Hong Kong. The first person was Bruce Lee. The first movie I ever watched was “Way of the Dragon”. The movie was rerun in 1983 in observance of the 10th anniversary of Bruce Lee’s passing. Bruce Lee’s on-screen martial arts skills were unlike anything I had ever seen. His movements were so fast and his kicking skills were incredible. He definitely inspired me to train harder perfecting my own kicking skills and to research more about his fundamental martial arts, Wing Chun.

The second person was Jackie Chan. Although I really enjoyed Jackie Chan’s movies as a youth, I didn’t consider him as a martial artist but an excellent stunt performer. I admire Jackie Chan not because of his physical abilities, but the vision and approach to making action movies. When everyone wanted to be the second Bruce Lee after Bruce Lee’s death in 1973, Jackie Chan had a very different approach. He didn’t want to be a copycat. He was almost a complete opposite of Bruce Lee. Jackie was one of the first to successfully combine great physical skills with comedic talent. He was such a great performer. Jackie Chan kept changing his approach and improving his style. That made him a pioneer of action movies in Asia for many years.

The last person was late Grandmaster WONG Shun Leung. When I was young, one of my father’s friends knew that I was into martial arts training. He liked to tell me stories about martial arts legends. There were many stories, but one story impressed me the most. He told me that there was a martial artist with amazing skills. He had won countless rooftop martial arts challenges in Hong Kong back in the 50s and 60s. I was very impressed and inspired by the stories. Many years later, I discovered that his name was Wong Shun Leung, a Wing Chun warrior. Therefore, when I later searched for a Wing Chun school, I narrowed down my search to only the WONG Shun Leung lineage.

What are some common misconceptions in the Wing Chun world?

Kwok teachingI find that many traditional Wing Chun schools are too focused on traditional teachings that were passed down to them, and are unwilling to adapt to modern times.  While I fully appreciate Chinese tradition, history, and culture, I also think that we live in a different world and environment these days and Wing Chun needs to adapt and evolve in order to remain a high form of martial arts while maintaining the core of the Wing Chun philosophies. We wouldn’t use cell phones from the 1980s the size of our heads to follow tradition, so why practice the obsolete techniques when we can modernize it? When we study martial arts, we should look forward instead of looking backwards. A common misconception is that traditional Wing Chun is still very effective in today’s world. What is wrong with that statement is that many people don’t realize martial arts techniques and teaching methods need evolved and can be improved without losing the core Wing Chun principals. When we watch Olympic events, we see new world records set every four years. It is because sports coaches and athletes always research and discover better ways to perform. Martial arts should be the same. The schools that follow a “traditional” Wing Chun approach stubbornly adhering to the martial art as passed down to them from their teachers. This is a great thing that the martial art system and culture can survive for centuries. However, even those that claim to be teaching traditional Wing Chun, you will find different ways of doing the same forms and techniques. It is natural for any instructor to interpret a detail-oriented and complicated martial art such as this with a different viewpoint from the next, and so the quality of instruction and training, as well as the techniques themselves, can be very different. Every lineage will have its own specific focus. Then there are some like my teacher that have attempted to evolve the art form based on practically and suitability for modern times but keeping the core discipline the same. I am not saying it is definitely better but just more logically in my opinion.

Another misconception is that when many practitioners focus on Chi Sau practice without fully completing Siu Lim Tao (the first Wing Chun form) and intensively practicing San Sau (techniques and partner drills) from the form. Chi Sau should be a partner drill practiced to learn how to change the San Sau techniques, not just to practice sensitivity which is the usual explanation. To me, it does not make sense for students to practice Chi Sau after studying Wing Chun for a short period of time because they have no techniques to practice and respond with. Some even think that the Wing Chun forms have not much to do with Chi Sau. I find it unacceptable. Every single technique in Wing Chun should have a practical application. In my school, students need to learn part one of Siu Lim Tao and then practice extensively before learning part two of the form, and so on. After they learn and practice San Sau, they then learn Chi Sau. Students should practice Siu Lim Tao and San Sau for a few months before they practice Chi Sau. In order to understand Chi Sau, the student must first understand San Sau; to understand San Sau, they must understand the form. When we practice Chi Sau, we should be able to demonstrate what we have learned in the forms and drills, not only about developing better sensitivity.

Speaking of Chi Sau, I would like to remind Wing Chun practitioners that it is NOT appropriate to visit a Wing Chun school,without any serious commitment or intend to learn that school’s system, and request to “touch hands” with someone. In traditional Chinese culture, this approach is considered rude and shows disrespect to the school.

Chi Sau 1


Is there a form, set of exercises, weapons etc, that you enjoy the most and why?

I enjoy practicing the basics. The basics are the core and foundation of any martial arts system. If our foundation is weak, the advanced techniques are less effective. Moreover, even after learning a technique, we should relearn it some point during our training because we will be able to analyze it from a different perspective. And when one graduates to become a teacher, he should relearn it again because again it is viewed from a different perspective. The more we practice the techniques, the more we may discover about them. In Practical Wing Chun, I practice my forms every day. The more I train and perform the form, the more I discover the insights about Practical Wing Chun.


Do you stress competition of any kind? If so, what kind? If not, why not?

Competition is good practice. I occasionally send my traditional Taekwon-Do students to competitions because the experience can benefit their training. Each martial art has its advantages and disadvantages and strengths and weaknesses. If a beginner wants to learn a martial art discipline mainly because he/she is into competition, I would not suggest Wing Chun.

Wing Chun is not meant for competition. It is a martial art created by a woman thus intended for a smaller person in size to finish a fight as quickly as possible. In competitions, there are always weight divisions and rules. Wing Chun does not observe those rules as there are no weight divisions when you are walking on the street and encounter a threatening situation. Therefore, the techniques we practice may not be suitable to use in competitions. In addition, Wing Chun specializes in short distance and is very effective in constrained environments such as elevators and on public transportation. It is extremely difficult to judge fairly in competitions. Although some Wing Chun organizations prefer to promote Wing Chun and create a sport version of it so that more people are interested in the style, I do not believe Wing Chun is well suited for this.

Many teachers find competition a good training experience for some of their students. Although my school does not participate in Wing Chun competitions, some Wing Chun practitioners may find occasionally participating in competition beneficial. Everyone learns differently. Competitions can provide a platform for schools and martial arts friends to exchange ideas and develop friendships. However, participating in competition should not be the primary training aspect for a Wing Chun practitioner.

What do you like to do in your spare time (when you are not teaching or practicing the martial arts)?

I enjoy spending time with my family and disciples. We go to movies, dinner gatherings, tea lunch with dim sum, etc. It is important that we communicate and share the joys and challenges in our lives. I also enjoy reading non-fiction books and thinking about different aspects of my life when I am alone. Like Confucius said, “Knowledge from reading without thinking is soon forgotten; thinking without reading will make you self-righteous.” Reading helps simulate my mind and think more clearly. I am also interested in researching and developing more efficient ways of conducting classes and teaching my students.

BONUS QUESTION

If you could meet one martial artist, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Bonus Q Huo YuanjiaIt would be an honor if I could meet with Master Huo YuanJia, a famous martial art master and a co-founder of the Chin Woo Athletic Association in China. He passed away in 1910. Despite of his heroic status in China, Master Huo was one of pioneers that embraced and supported different styles of martial arts. He has been portrayed in many timeperiod martial arts movies include Jet Li’s Fearless. Chin Woo Athletic Association was one of the earliest associations that accepted different martial arts and physical activities other than those taught by the master. I respect Master Huo’s open mind and support towards other martial arts systems. Many people still cannot do it today, but Master Huo did 105 years ago in China.

Master Huo tragically died before he turned 43. I am turning 43 this year. It would be interesting to see how much he had achieved at my age. If I could meet him in person, I would probably ask him the challenges of founding his association and what he would do if he could live a long life.

For more information on Master William Wai-Yin Kwok visit his website at: GothamMA.Com

Gotham Martial Arts

328 East 61st Street, 3rd Floor

New York, NY 10065

(212) 326-9510

FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM & TWITTER

 

10 Questions with Matt Easton

Posted in 10 Questions, Fencing, Swordsmanship, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2015 by Combative Corner

Matt Easton ScholaGladiatoria CC Interview 2015

Matt Easton is fencer, weapons historian and researcher and runs Schola Gladiatoria in Ealing, West London.  We’ve been following his Youtube channel (which to this date has nearly 50K subscribers) for a few years now and we’ve always been impressed with Mr. Easton’s knowledge, enthusiasm and scientific approach.  Now, for your reading pleasure you can hear the top 10 questions posed to Mr. Easton from you (the reader), us (the Combative Crew) and from myself (the fencer).  Enjoy!

How did you get into sword-play?

As far as I can remember, I was born interested in swordplay; I can’t remember an age at which I was not obsessed with swords and everything to do with them. Like most kids I played with wooden swords, but in my teenage years I started modern sport fencing at school and also started trying to work out how real swords might have been used. I got a weekend job and saved up for my first real sword (a replica longsword), which I then used for lots of solo practice, just working out what could be done with it and how such a weapon should move. I also managed to find an instructional video by Mike Loades on renaissance swordsmanship for stage and screen and while I was at university I heard about Terry Brown’s English Martial Arts classes. I became a student of his for a couple of years and that was my proper initiation into historical fencing, from which I branched out to work on various other historical swordsmanship sources and eventually to become a teacher.

How would you mark your evolution as a martial artist?

I think that when I started studying various different martial arts, be it kung fu and kendo, or different Western historical swordsmanship treatises, I was first struck by all the similarities across different systems. Then as I started to focus more on specific systems and teach them I was struck by how some things are done so differently from one system to another. Some people talk about doing ‘German longsword’, or ‘Italian longsword’, for example, but actually there are a lot of significant differences between sources like Fiore dei Liberi, Filippo Vadi and Achille Marozzo – despite the fact that they all teach the longsword and are all Italian. Even more notable are the differences between a German source like Paulus Kal and an Italian source like Fiore dei Liberi – whilst there is a lot of common ground, the differences are really significant as well. There are some quite basic things that they did differently, despite both being in Europe in the same century and using the same weapon. Now I have been studying these systems for over 15 years I start to look beyond similarities and differences and I feel like I’m starting to understand the reasons for the differences more. Not the simple principles – anybody who has been fencing for a couple of years understands the basic universal principles of time, distance, line and so on. Rather I feel like I’m starting to see more complex patterns across various martial arts. So I would say that I mark my progress in martial arts through depth of understanding, but I’m sure that in ten or twenty years I’ll look back and realise I didn’t understand much at all. I think that the main purpose for depth of understanding is to enable more acute transfer of knowledge to students. Someone can become a competent fighter in quite a short period of time, but most competent fighters are not able to transfer their skills without a long period of teaching experience.

As a collector of various weapons, what 3 are closest to your heart?

That is a very difficult question for me, as I own a rather large number now, of which I have probably 15 swords which I am very attached to, for various reasons. I’ll give the first three that come to mind: A non-regulation infantry officer’s sword, by Wilkinson and dating to 1858, which has a special extra-long wedge-section blade and steel hilt covered in gilding to make it look like a brass regulation guard. This was owned by the adjutant of the 61st regiment of foot, who survived the siege and fall of Delhi during the Indian Mutiny – I also have his diaries. Secondly a non-regulation steel-hilted Royal Engineers officer’s sword, by Wilkinson and dating to the 1860s, which was owned by an officer who was a sort of Victorian James Bond. Officially an Army officer, he used to travel to areas which the British government had interests in and act as a spy, reporting back details of geography and defences, also trying to broker alliances. He was eventually killed in the Egyptian desert whilst trying to secure the alliance of the Bedouin prior to a British invasion. Lastly a current favourite of mine is a ‘Lead Cutter’ made by Robert Mole of Birmingham in around 1890. Lead cutters were over-sized, over-weight cutlasses, made specifically for sword feats, whereby various objects such as a lead bar or whole sheep carcass would be cut through with one blow. Sword feats were designed to improve cutting skill and also for fun and exercise. This example weighs 3.5lbs and is great for training with – it’s also in fantastic condition and still sharp.

When did you start putting videos on YouTube and how has the process been?

I started putting HEMA-related videos on YouTube several years ago to represent my club to a HEMA audience and potential new students, but around 2 years ago I decided that there was an un-filled niche for information videos about historical fencing, arms and armour. Most other people making HEMA videos were doing it for a HEMA audience, but I saw that there were a couple of popular multi-topic YouTube channels that had started to branch into HEMA. I saw them making some basic errors and realised that YouTube really needed a HEMA person to talk about HEMA – we shouldn’t be leaving it up to other people to represent us and nobody else in the HEMA scene was really doing it, at least not with regular videos. So I got a camcorder and started filming – I never had even the slightest sense that they would become anywhere near as popular as they are now. I genuinely wanted to do the videos to get the information out there and at first I wasn’t thinking about how to make them popular. Now I have nearly fifty thousand subscribers I’ve started thinking about it a bit more as a job and thinking about scaling it up – I’ve actually started editing my videos slightly now! The process has been very rewarding and I have been really amazed at how large the response has been, but also how positive it has been. We have had a really tiny number of negative responses and having run a discussion forum for many years I can say without doubt that there has been a lot more peaceful and civil discourse on the YouTube comments than there is on an average forum. As well as really positive input from the viewers I have also received a lot of positive feedback from other HEMA instructors and I know that many groups have now got more students thanks directly to my channel, which is hugely satisfying. YouTube really is an incredibly powerful medium for spreading information – more so than TV documentaries, publicity events, newspapers or any of the other mediums I have worked with over the years. And that is really what the channel is about – spreading the word of HEMA and getting more people into it.

What is your current view on the way they teach (modern/sport) fencing today?

I actually have a lot of respect for modern sport fencing and I think it has some very well-established and effective teaching methods. Some of how we train historical fencing is taken directly from sport fencing. What I have criticised about sport fencing are some of the rules and some of the equipment – I think it has led to a sport that is further and further removed from swordsmanship and therefore is less and less like what most people actually want to do when they start fencing. A huge proportion of historical fencers are former sport-fencers who started because they wanted to learn how to use a sword – some people do both historical and sport fencing, and the two need not be exclusive. I myself did sport fencing for many years and would recommend any child to do it as a basis for historical fencing. In the future I expect that historical fencing will become more like sport fencing in its attitudes to professionalism, teaching and athletic excellence. I certainly hope that historical fencing will learn from some of the mistakes of sport fencing though and not repeat them.

We know you as having a fondness for the saber/sabre. Why do you think you’ve developed such a fondness for this weapon above others?

My love of the sabre comes essentially from three motivations; firstly that I like the way it is used and systematised in manuals. It is a very developed fencing system, with everything named, numbered and codified. It works very well as a system against any other and is scientific and logical – so much so that as a system you can apply the terms to other systems (for example numbering the cuts and thrusts for ease of teaching). Secondly, I love that antique sabres are still numerous and therefore cheap enough to be easily collected and handled. Nobody except the super-rich can afford to collect medieval longswords, which in good condition go for £20,000 and more. Even 17th century rapiers start at around £1,500, so 19th century sabres at £150 upwards are much more accessible. Lastly, I am really interested in the period that sabres mostly relate to – particularly the British and French colonial wars, which saw very diversely-equipped opponents and far more hand-to-hand fighting that was usual in the 19th century. I find the written experiences, written in basically modern English, by men who fought in India, China, the Crimea, Afghanistan, Persia, New Zealand and elsewhere fascinating. These men only lived 4 or 5 generations ago and were photographed, yet they faced hand-to-hand conflicts every bit as brutal and sometimes more bloody, than medieval warriors.

In teaching students, what are some of the core principles that you try to instill?

Firstly control. With weapons you need control before you can progress. Control is mostly about mind-set I think – learning to respect the weapon, your capabilities and be respectful of the training partners. Next is how to move – the students generally don’t realise they are being taught this, because they think they are learning techniques of attack and defence. For the first few months though what they are really learning is a new way of moving their bodies. In everyday life we just don’t move our bodies in these ways. At first even strong and fit students exhaust themselves in an hour class because they just aren’t moving right. Learning to move is all about efficiency of course and once a person knows how to move with a given weapon then they only use a fraction of the energy to do things that used to exhaust them. Once a person has learned control and how to move, then they really effectively start to learn about attack and defence, time, distance, judgement, line and the other basic themes of fencing.

From when you first started till today, what does your family think of your love for the sword (and fighting arts)?

Growing up I suppose that my parents were fairly supportive of my hobbies, though it was not an interest they shared and it was something I pursued avidly under my own drive. I met my wife through HEMA and she is a co-instructor of another HEMA club, so of course she is very supportive and I hope I am of her also. My brother-in-law runs the club that my wife trains and teaches at.

What advice would you have for a student who wants to learn historical fencing?

Join a HEMA club as soon as you can and go regularly. If you can only get there once a month, or a couple of times a year, then do. If you can’t get to any club then try to travel to HEMA events – they always have classes catered for beginners. Contact with an experienced teacher and other students is invaluable – you learn so much quicker from other experienced people than you will from books or DVDs. If there are no HEMA clubs near you then starting a related activity such as sport fencing or jujitsu is good. It will help you progress if you are trying to learn HEMA from books or DVDs. Lastly, don’t be afraid to start a study group. Be clear with people that you are learning as well and that you can all learn together – this is how most HEMA clubs started, mine included. Once you have one or two other interested people then you can look at pooling resources and maybe having an instructor visit for a weekend, or all travel to an event together to learn.

What does Matt like to do when he is not teaching, training, or making YouTube videos?

Outside of working, HEMA, antique collecting, filming videos and other sword-related things, I like going to pretty historical places with my wife and daughter, I play computer games a little, I shoot black powder firearms and I spend far too much time browsing the internet. I also cycle on a daily basis and intend to get back into mountain biking at some point.

BONUS QUESTION:

It’s the Zombie Apocalypse and you have only one type of sword to choose from – what specific type would wield?

In the Zombie Apocalypse I would choose a cutlass out of all swords, as it is better in confined spaces due to the length, it’s easy to carry, has a good hand guard, but also packs a lot of punch.

Interviewed by: Michael Joyce

For more information on Matt, check out:

Youtube Channel

SwordFightLondon

And from all of us at the CombativeCorner, thank you Matt and to our readers, we sincerely hope you enjoyed the read!

FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK & TWITTER & INSTAGRAM

5 Ways to Choose the Right Gym

Posted in Martial Arts, Miscellaneous, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2015 by Combative Corner

The tree has been taken down, the decorations have been packed away, the presents have been exchanged, and the last Gingerbread man has been eaten. Yes, the hustle and bustle of Christmas is over, and after all the holiday parties and eating at 14 different relatives houses, its time to get back in shape for the new year. New Year’s is by far the busiest season in the Wellness and Martial Arts industries. Everyone is ready to change their ways and get in shape, but before you make those changes you have a choice to make, which gym is the best ?

Eight Points GymFirst of all that question can be answered in a few different ways depended on what your goals are. For instance, if you want to become the next great Muay Thai Champion or fight in the UFC you might not want to sign up at the local YMCA and expect to go places, but no matter what your goals are (get in shape, learn self defense, or become a fighting champion) there should be some basic things that all good gyms who want to see you succeed have in common. Choosing the right gym and trainer is the MOST important step a person can make to actually reaching their goals and making LASTING changes that go from whimsical new years resolution to concrete lifestyle change. Below are 5 simple things to look for when shopping around for a gym. It doesn’t matter what kind of gym (Fitness, Muay Thai, Jiu Jitusu, Gymnastics, ect), these 5 simple things should be present.

1 Good Gyms and Trainers have Nothing to Prove: *I see this one all the time in the “MMA” gyms. Some guy with 2 amateur fights and a closet full of “skull” T shirts opens a “gym” out of a store front or someones basement. He has no real experience to speak of, so when new members come to class he goes hard on them to try and prove (to himself and to the prospective member) that he knows what he’s doing. It can also occur in the fitness industry. The so called “personal trainer” you hired who just got their PT certificate in the mail after taking a 4 hour class, doesn’t really understand how the human body works or how to invoke real change so he just screams “One More” or pushes you way past your limit to prove to you that his work outs are hard and he knows what he’s doing. This is an extremely dangerous situation and a HUGE red flag. If you are at a gym with this problem you are basically risking your health every time you come to class. A good trainer and gym who are well educated in their craft should have NOTHING at all to prove and their focus should be on building members up not on using members as dummies, showing off how much they know.

2 Good Gyms and Trainers have a Clear, Repeatable “Roadmap” to Success: *When going on any trip you need clear and precise directions on actually how to get there. When you get in your car to go somewhere that you aren’t quite sure of, you plug in your GPS and it guides you and gives you the road map for the destination. Gyms are no different. When you walk into the gym and sit down with the trainers they should be able to lay out a road map detailing how they will help you get from the starting point to reaching your goal. They should have a repeatable process that they have done with clients and members in the past to help reach goals. If you go into a gym and some guy is teaching head kicks one day to complete beginners, then showing those same beginners crazy 8 punch combos the next day, that is a red flag and you should probably look else where. You definitely should be able to see a system in place to build people up from complete beginner to advanced practitioner.

3 Good Gyms and Trainers Actually Charge People: * This is a no brainer. A real business that is good at what they do charges for its services.

4 Good Gyms and Trainers have a Credible Resume: * The person or gym training you should know what they are talking about and have a credible resume you can actually fact check. In this high tech age of Smart Phones, Ipads, and Google, its easy to type in the name of a potential gym or trainer into the search bar to see if claims they make on their website actually exist. If a guy says he is a 15-0 Kickboxer who has fought in the UFC 3 times, then when googling his name nothing comes up but old pics of him and his Frat brother “Leon” hanging out on the beach during spring break, chances are he’s lying. Always do the research so you know exactly what you are paying for.

5 Good Gyms and Trainers Believe in You: * Making changes is hard, reaching goals is difficult. There are times when you will want to give up, times when you will wonder if its worth it. In those times, you need a support system, someone who believes in you and believes you can reach the goals set before you, even when you don’t believe it yourself. A good coach and good gym family will have a positive uplifting atmosphere that inspires people to be their best and reach for their goals. If you are always surrounded by negative energy or an overbearing trainer that always points out what you doing wrong but never tells you when your doing something right, its not going to be to long before you give up on your dreams of ever getting in shape or learning something new. When you choose a gym your choosing a partner to come alongside and invest in your life to help you make lifelong positive changes, so make sure you choose a gym that wants to see you succeed and believes in you instead of just looking at you as a paycheck.

KRU CHRIS CLODFELTER

EIGHT POINTS MUAY THAI

FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK & TWITTER

Bring Tai Chi into the New Year

Posted in OFFERS, Products, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , on December 30, 2014 by chencenter

Hunyuan Tai Chi DVDThe art of Taijiquan is a big part of my life.  It has helped me to eradicate my low back pain.  It has helped me become a relaxed and patient jiu-jitsu practitioner.  Taijiquan has certainly helped me to manage stress, and channel these stressors effectively.  In 2010, I remastered my dvd on the Hunyuan 24-Posture form of the late, Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang.

Being December 30th… just a short time till our New Year begins… I’d like to offer this dvd for a low price (U.S. only).  If you are interested, please click on the above image.

(or search “Hunyuan dvd” on Ebay.Com)

Enjoy,

Coach Michael Joyce

ChenCenter.Com

This is Push Hands

Posted in Internal Arts, Taijiquan, Training with tags , , , , , on December 28, 2014 by Combative Corner

For the first time, there is a complete video on YouTube regarding a martial, practical form of Push Hands (they way it was meant to be*).  Of course the late, great Erle Montaigue has dvds, and video clips on this extraordinary method, however now, his son Eli has put the movements together in one video whereby we can observe the progression and gain insight on how and why certain things are done.

Obviously many taijiquan practitioners are going to differ on this, but this important video is for those students and instructors who wish to impart an approach that more closely resembles the realities of combat, while at the same time testing your balance, posture, technique, etc.

For Eli’s in-depth article on Push Hands, click: Push Hands: Learn to Fight, not Push

* This summary was written by and reflects the opinion of taijiquan instructor Michael Joyce.

Push Hands: Learn to Fight, Not Push

Posted in Martial Arts, Training, Self-Defense, Teaching Topic, Internal Arts, Techniques with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2014 by Combative Corner

Eli Montaigue Mountains Push Hands

By Eli Montaigue of WTBA ©2014

Push Hands, is probably one of the most misunderstood training methods in Taiji.  Most schools of taiji teach push hands for the sake of doing push hands, to beat other people at push hands.
Taiji is about learning how to defend yourself in a fight. Pushing is not fighting.  No one is going to come up to you in the street and try to push you over. They are going to punch your face in, then kick you while you’re down.

I know people who have been training in push hands for many many years, and they are very good at “push hands”. If I play push hands with them, we are of equal skill etc.
However, I have been taught to hit from push hands. With these same people, when I start to put in any kind of strikes, they have no idea what to do. Because they have only trained in how to push. They might for example push me a little off balance, which makes me react with a strike. Followed by “you can’t do that, we’re doing push hands!” This only applies to a beginner doing push hands. Of course they must do it in a certain way, to learn certain principles. But if two advanced Taiji practitioners are doing push hands? You can do what you want. You can stand there and kick me in the groin, or head but me in the face. If I cannot stop you? My push hands is not good.

Eli Push Hands 1

picture 1

Ok, so how and why do we train push hands?

First up, stance!
Most schools of Taiji teach Push Hands from the same stance as they would use in the Taiji form. See picture #1.
This is a big mistake! The large stances in the form, are there for 3 main reasons. 1, to build heat in the legs to help the flow of Qi. 2, to strengthen the legs. 3, to stretch the legs. It is for health and exercise, and is in no way meant to be used for fighting.

The big stance in push hands teaches us many bad habits.  My father Erle Montaigue, use to teach big the stance to beginners, then he would advance them onto the small stance later on.
This is how he was taught.
However, after years of teaching, he found that the big stance, although easier to learn, was teaching the student nothing but bad habits. The big stance gives you a false sense of balance. What use is it to be able to hold your balance in a big stance, when you can’t fight from a big stance. In a small stance, you are more
mobile, you can protect your groin and knees, and you are
training yourself to be able to fight from the stance you’re already in when walking down the street.
The only way to deliver force from a small stance, without losing balance, is to use the same muscles as you would to strike. Via twisting of the waist, compression and release of the spine.
Thus training your body how to strike with power.

Eli Push Hands 2

picture 2

In a big low stance, you will be more likely to be training your body in the best way to push.

There are no pushes or pulls in Taiji, as they do not have a place in self defence. Unless your opponent is standing on a cliff edge!
{See picture #2}
It’s like if you were doing 500 squats every day and
hoping it would make you a faster runner.
You have to train the muscles for the work you want them to do. When we hold a big stance, this causes us to get into a forward backward weight change.
The pusher comes forward, the receiver evades by sitting back. See picture #1 again.
What’s the first thing you learn in self defence?
When someone attacks you, don’t sit back! You are
putting yourself in a vulnerable position. See picture #2.
In a small stance, when we shift the weight, this causes us to evade to the side, maintaining our forward intent. This now changes the intent of the pushing, from you attack and I defend, to you attack and I defend by attacking! In every attack there is defence, and in every defence there is attack. Basic Yin and Yang. See picture #3 and #4. Notice the closer proximity of the players, and that in Lu #4, it is applied with an intention of sitting to the side, rather then sitting back as in Pic #1.
This means you can maintain forward intent, and truly evade the attack. Sitting back does not get you out of the way of an attack. The closer lateral evasion also puts you in a
position to re attack.
The mind set is most important in Push Hands. Even if you are doing a pushing movement, you should have the body structure and intent of striking.

Eli Push Hands 3

picture 3

Eli Push Hands 4

picture 4

Hard or soft?
Ok here is where a lot of people get things wrong. Ever heard the quote “Steel wrapped in cotton?”.
This means we should seem soft on the outside. It does not mean we do things in a soft manor.
Anyone who tells you that you can defend yourself without using any substantial force, has clearly never been put under pressure.
What we do however is to structure the body so, that we have to use very little strength to get great effect. This is what P’eng training is all about. We learn this first in single Push Hands.

For example, when I do Push Hands with a beginner, but someone with much bigger muscles than me, their arms will get sore before mine. To them it seems like I have really strong arms, not that I am all soft and jelly like. But in fact my muscles are not stronger, it’s just that I am structuring my body so that I only have to deal with half the pressure.

The pressure of the incoming push, should start soft for the student to learn. Too much pressure in the
beginning can cause the student to use bad technique. But be sure to increase this to as much pressure as you can develop, as someone attacking you is not going to do so lightly!
From the receiving part, well you should use as much pressure as you need to. As you get more advanced, this amount will get less, as you will learn to move your centre around the force coming in.
Very soft training has it’s place, this teaches us to “listen” with our hand.
But to have this as your only practice? Well that would be like learning to kick without being able stand on one leg.

When I was learning push hands, if I did something wrong, lost my balance, or opened my guard etc,
I did not get pushed over. I got punched in the side of the head! Or kicked in the groin!
Two advanced Push Hands players should look like they are having a fight, not like they are dancing.

Eli Push Hands 5

picture 5

Ok now onto attacks.
In the beginning, for students learning the ground work for Push Hands, we do some “pushing” attacks. This teaches the beginner how the hold up a strong guard, stay grounded and move their centre out of the way of the
incoming force.
Then the power speed and aggression of the attacks are increased gradually, till they are full real attacks. Any type of attack can be put into push hands, from a practical cross punch, (see picture #5) to a silly back spinning kick to the head. It is most important not to see Push Hands as a competition!
It is a training method. Yes you try your best to hit the other guy, so you could say that you are trying to beat him. However, what you have to do in your push hands, is to use all types of attacks, not just the ones you’re best at. For example, if I was competing, I would only use the techniques that I knew were best for me. But this would not give my partner a very rounded training.

I would never throw a back spinning kick in a competition, because I know it is not my forte.
Same with grappling, I would not use this if I wanted to beat the other guy.
But I will use them in training, so that my partner gets to train against them. I still throw the attack as best I can, trying to catch my partner out. But knowing that due to the fact that I am throwing an easily defeated attack, I will most likely be the one to get hit. I have tested this one many people. They only train practical attacks, then they get hit by the silly attacks, because they are not use to them.

Eli Push Hands 6

picture 6

In defence though it is different. You see if you attack, you are not reacting, you have made a conscious choice to attack. But if you are defending, you are reacting to
something your partner is doing. And when you are training your subconscious to react, you want to train it in the most practical way that will be best for protecting yourself in the street.

Your first reaction in a situation should be to strike.

It is the quickest and most likely way to protect yourself. See picture #6. In my opinion, other methods such as arm/wrist locks, sleeper holds etc, should only be used when you know you have control of the situation. Perhaps there is a drunk guy in the pub, you have some mates there, you know there’s no real danger. So you would try to take care of the guy without doing too much damage.
But someone breaks into your home and catches you off guard, you have to protect your family. So your first reaction should be to strike. This is why we practice our locks and holds from the attacking part of push hands.

So to consolidate, if you have been training in push hands for anymore than a year, but don’t feel comfortable when someone is throwing punches at you, then your push hands has not done its job.
As I said at the top, what use is a training method that only makes you good at doing the training method.

Eli Push Hands 001

Eli is a guest writer for the CombativeCorner.  If you enjoyed this article, please check out the others that he’s done for us.

10 Questions with Eli Montaique

Standing Three Circle Qigong

Special thanks to Francesca Galea, Leigh Evans, and Lars-Erik Olsen, for appearing in the pictures

Proof read by Francesca Galea
Written by Eli Montaigue 04/12/2014

© Eli Montaigue 2014

____________________________________________________________________


eli montaigue profileEli Montaigue is a man of many talents.  He’s the chief instructor of the World Taiji Boxing Association, inherited from his late, legendary father-teacher Erle Montaigue and also the lead singer of the band Powder Monkeys.  Originally from NSW, Australia he currently resides in London, England.  Intent on spreading quality martial art teaching, he conducts many workshops throughout the year, locally and internationally.  For more information, visit the WTBA website at www.taijiworld.com

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,572 other followers

%d bloggers like this: