Guest Post: How to Train – Sir Christian

[Our guest contributor this week is Sir Christian von Nuremberg, Knight and Provost of Atlantia]

This is an individual sport – YOU are the one who has to learn how to fence – nobody can learn it for you. I fight the way I do in order to maximize my advantages and minimize my weaknesses. My fight is constantly evolving. Also, as I get older I find my style is changing to reflect some of my limitations (not being in my 20s anymore chief among them) So realize that in learning from other people, you need to put it through the filter of your how your body works because I cannot be you and you cannot be me.
There is no endpoint to our learning. We never hit a stage where we truly get it. Every time I feel like I’ve got something down, I learn something else that ends up changing what I thought I knew. Ours is an Arte that is never really mastered. Which in my opinion makes it all the more worthy. So the key here is to understand and accept that you will NEVER truly be 100% happy with your fighting. There is no such thing as being good enough.

If you compete against your opponent, you are limiting yourself. To shed a bit more light on this I don’t think about a fight as “me vs my opponent”. I think about it as me vs a complex equation that I have to solve. I found my fighting got a LOT better (on both the armored and rapier fields) once I got that bit of ego out of my head. Also, I want to beat EVERYBODY and beat them ALL THE TIME. I know this isn’t possible, but I don’t have an “Oh, it’s just a newb” fight in tournament. Everybody should get the same level of attention. And it’s never personal. If it is, then I fail.

There is an old saying “You have to dance with the girl you brought to the party” – The reality is that sometimes you just have a crappy day. And other times you have a great day. You can’t always control which kind you get. However, you can generally find a way to win. For me, this really comes to the front when I fight during the summer months. I hates me the heat. So I find my fencing changes in the summer and I am willing to burn more to get the mask off quicker. In the fall, winter and spring, I don’t mind drawing a fight out cause I’m not red lining myself on the field. Also, I’ve done a lot of damage to my wrist. Some days it feels strong and I can do a fair amount of binding on my opponents. Other days it hurts and I’m forced to only rely on winning through control of timing and distance and a simple attack.

Watch the fighting – if you are a marshal you should be able to tell the fighters what happened in the last exchange. (if not, then you shouldn’t be a marshal IMO) If you are watching, you should be able to tell what happened in the last exchange. This also goes back to the fact that everyone must take responsibility for teaching themselves. You never know, you might learn something that can help you.
Just cause you read it in a book doesn’t mean that it will work for you. You need to remember the context of our game in relation to our source material. Unless you’re doing cut and thrust – we don’t land percussive blows. Also, our rules call that we take any hit that has positive pressure in line with the blade… so a light touch has the effect of rendering our arms useless or “killing” us outright. This is a bit of a break from reality, but it’s the rules we agree to play by. That being said, Period Masters didn’t have explosive tipped rapiers so their styles aren’t built around our rules. Keep that in mind as you train. Another thing, just because someone publishes a book does not mean they have mastered all things combat. When I see something I want to explore, I try to understand it in the context of how it was written (usually for murder in the street) and then think about how this fits to the rules we have agreed to play by. In training with Rawlings synthetics and no rules, I have discovered a love of DiGrassi’s work. The plates make sense to me when we fight to a standard that more closely mimics a “real” fight (that’s in quotes because having not actually murdered anyone with a sword, I can only guess what a “real” fight is like) All that being said, I think it’s pants for SCA rapier.

There is more to this game than just fighting. Get into the SCA. Not just the fighting but all the other stuff too. Stay for court and feast if you’re able. Do something artistic – even if, like me, you suck at it.

Finally, make sure you’re having fun. If you’re not, then you need to ask yourself why…. If you’re fighting isn’t getting good enough then ask “why not” – it’s not a condemnation, just a problem to solve. At some point in everyone’s career in the SCA they are just sticking it out through grit. Whether they want a belt, collar or medallion – they’ve set themselves a path to follow and they’re stuck in a rut – we’ve all been there. But you just have to get through it and if you can just enjoy the ride and not worry about the destination you will be much better off in the long run. That’s why we all joke about the worst advice (“just keep doing what you’re doing”) is both frustrating and true.

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