Convergent Evolution in Fencing Styles   4 comments

Convergent evolution: n, the appearance of apparently similar structures in organisms of different lines of descent.

Essentially reaching the same solution derived from two different starting points. The advantages created by flight lead bats, birds, and butterflies to create wings.Visually the wings appear similar: large, thin shapes to help the creature fly, but structurally they have little in common and have developed from very different initial starting points. The development of flight in each of these creatures is vastly different, but the end result is successful flight

Ok that is great and all Letia, but this is a Fencing blog, not a biology blog….

So more on the Fencing:
As some of you know I have been studying Fabris for a bit. I also fought in the SCA for years before picking up any sort of historic fencing manual. (Historical fencing is challenging, frustrating, interesting, dynamic, crushing at times… but most of all it is game-changing.) The thing that has changed the most about my fighting is I “see” the fight differently than I did before. Some people seem to have an innate ability, some from strip fencing or other martial art forms, some from fencing long enough to discover it, and some from studying historical forms.

I went to Pennsic this year (Actually this happened at Pennsic 41, but I have been a slacker about posting and was reminded to post during a fight last week), and got to fight a number of excellent fighters, a few who study a historical style, and many who do not. Trapon is a fencer who does not fight based on a historical style. I did some pickups with Trapon the day after discussing Fabris dagger positions.

I threw a cautious shot towards Trapon’s shoulder he blocked with a beautiful high dagger fourth guard… and I thought “OMG Trapon just did a plate from Fabris, and Trapon is not a historical fight… there is convergent evolution in the movements of upper level fencers who study historical fencing, SCA style fencing, and strip fencing!” All this was thought as I was stabbed in the face.

Many of the concepts that people have taught me come from different disciplines and backgrounds of fencing. As I have studied Fabris I have found more similarities to theories that Percy (who has a strip fencing style) has explained to me, or Conner (who has a “gypsy” style) has demonstrated , or various other fencers who avidly claim “I don’t do historical fighting” have taught. The origin of the idea to use a specific hand positions or blade angle differs but the end result is the same position.

So while Trapon, to my knowledge, has never cracked open a historical fencing manual, there are only so many positions that give you an advantage in a fencing bout. He and many others have discovered the same motions and theories of historical fencing through other methods. I am curious how many fencers gain a mastery of, say, blade mechanics through a “these are the historical principles of fencing; I will do them” approach vis-a-vis discovering motions that work, and repeating them, vis-a-vis acquiring an innate understanding of what works through years of practice and experimenting. I think a combination of all three is most likely what leads to success, and everyone finds the combination that works best for their learning style. It seems that successful motions in fencing, like successful flight, can be reached through various different initial theories that in the end look very similar.

So, with the appearance of apparently similar movements in fencing from different origins of ideas, regarding practices and theories, can be seen as the convergent evolution of fencing.

Posted August 4, 2013 by Letia in Italian Rapier

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