First. A little history.

img_4265Thanks to the prolific writing habits of Richard Marsden some of our history has been chronicled elsewhere.  He, Greg Hinchcliff (Gydion) and other members of the group got together several years ago to document the fighting style and tactics of the Loyal Order of the Sword as instructed by the Maestro.

While many of the techniques employed by Hinchcliff are his own, his techniques can be seen in the works of other Historical European Martial Arts masters.  You just have to know where to look.  Some techniques I would say are common, are any master that teaches about attacking off-line (not head to head – Capo Ferro doesn’t treat this subject very well and his guards aren’t especially designed to bring you offline with some exceptions like plate 19).  Meyer teaches this extensively.  Gaining and keeping the bind is also taught by Meyer and called stringere by Capo Ferro. You can see that reference here.   Today’s post isn’t about elaborating on the corollaries but rather just a reference to what Marsden had to write about the group that he trained with first.

Here is his post from 2010 is dated and still accurate for the most part.  What is changing is the fact that as instructors we are comfortable with what the historical masters are doing and, for the sake of HEMA, will identify which techniques work the best from each Western Martial Arts master.  From a modern perspective binding ourselves to any single discipline is to decide in obsolescence at the start.  Warning: the links to Facebook and Myspace are dead.

And the multi-source approach of Loyal Order of the Sword here.

A word from the Maestro

Greg ProfileI see people asking at times “what kind of sword should I get?”… the sword in question could be of any “period” or “model” from rapier to broadsword to sabre, etc.. My thoughts on this, which are basically as important or useful as opinions and we know the old saying about opinions, are as follows:
It is my thought that if you are going to buy a sword, buy one that can be sharpened and used in a real fight. What does that mean… well if you are going to “cut” someone with your rapier for instance, be sure that rapier will actually be able to cut.. as opposed say to a cut and thrust type blade. I have both, a rapier that is thin and pointy but is also very, very sharp. My friend Alex can attest that I used to slice wedges from lemons still on the tree with the tip, so tip cuts to unprotected body part, say like a face, would be very effective. And as my roommate Joe can attest, as he grabbed the blade one day (it was hanging on the wall of the staircase) as he stumbled on the stairs, the length of the blade was also sharp enough to almost make him lose two fingers. And I have a cut and thrust from Darkwood which Scott sharpened for me. It is strong enough to chop down a small tree or split a head or easily sever tendons, ligaments, fingers, etc..now will it cut through heavy clothing or leather jacket.. mm not really, at least not on he first cut and draw and unless there is something solid beneath. But unprotected flesh…yeah.
So I like to buy stuff I can practice with then sharpen and use real if I have to. Now if your goal is to fight and win tournaments..that is a different story.. realism and usefulness become two different things, although “judges” at tournaments will make judgement (haha) calls regarding what is a good and effective cut, the blade being used probably is not actually able to make that cut, if it is say a 45 inch rapier striking a leg with the last 25 inches or so of the blade. You will get a point but realistically.. not much damage probably.
So buy something that can be used for real, or get a really good guard then switch in a tournament winning blade for the real one when you want to do some make believe.
So it has been my thought over about the last 25 to 30 years always to strive to be as realistic as possible when sparring, over the years we have gravitated to more and more actually usable swords. For me that means a blade length which I might be comfortable with in a true combat situation.
For me that is about 35 to 38 or so inches. And a width and heft sufficient to chop into, say …a head. A couple of my favorite actual weapons are “modern era” sabres such as the Patton sabre. A double edged and pointy sword with a nice big bell guard. So some awesome hand protection. In fighting with any sword, hand protection is of BIG importance so I love bell guard sabres. Plus this particular sabre can be used ambidextrously. All that being said, and somewhat on topic, go realistic and functional, but scale the weapon to you. If you are unable to heft a cut and thrust type sword, get a smaller one and focus on speed, agility, and finesse. All of which can be taught

And on a side note, winning tournaments does not make someone a good fighter, or even knowledgeable, it just means they know how to get points to win a make believe situation. What we in Loyal Order of the Sword want to do is create good fighters, who can apply what they learn in a combat situation. Not just someone who can “outpoint” an opponent in a tournament.

EDIT:  A note here from Shawn Fackler about blade widths from Castille.  “I decided to make a little figure for referencing Castille Armory blades because it can be difficult to compare blade sizes. Definitely don’t go with a “Basic Rapier Blade” since they’re basically the same as the old schlager blades we used years ago.”

castille-armory-blade-widths

Capo Ferro lesson; partnered drills a key to success

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One of the common sayings in the HEMA community and in other martials arts is that technique always goes out the window during sparring or in tournament.  Some of that may be true and could be due to the tournament rules and focus on how points are awarded or how certain things are handled.

One of the techniques that helps reinforce good technique is the partnered drill with critiquing and guidance from the instructor while practicing. This is just one approach we use at Loyal Order of the Sword Augusta.

The Four Openings by Meyer

In this chapter Meyer introduces a key principle. This is in chapter 10 of his treatise incidentally; and a curious place to put it. Apparently Meÿer’s idea of study was to consume his treatise whole because the preceding techniques cannot be applied with cohesion without this and some other particular sections being adhered to as an overarching doctrine or methodology.
 
The idea here is that all preceding stances and strikes should be approached in the context of only these four openings and in such a manner that the vor, mittel and nach moves are copacetic to each other.
The Four Openings
My interpretation of this diagram follows:
Looking at the upper right quadrant and the outermost rectangle we start with the first opening or strike that comes from this part of our own body; following the red arrow, this would be executed with something like an overhead/vertex strike or oberhau. Since the cut takes us across the body we will find our stance and footwork naturally taking us to having our weapon point at the lower left opening of our opponent. We then re-position our weapon with the appropriate step forward or to one side along with moving our blade quickly to the 3rd opening on the outer rectangle and thus we would execute an unterhau from something like the changer stance and end up in something like left Ochs or Unicorn and arrive at the 4th opening.
 
The other sets of arrows simply indicate alternate starting positions depending on how the Fencer wants to begin.