Newbie Philosophical Query of the Week   14 comments

Greetings, all, from sunny Bjornsborg, Ansteorra.

I’ve met up with the Bjornsborg crew and found them most welcoming. However, for an astoundingly wide variety of reasons, I’ve only been able to attend two practices. While my sword arm has certainly suffered as a result, I’ve been trying to keep my mind sharp on things fencing through reading manuals and tossing ideas back and forth with Wistric.  I’ve found the last few posts on WWW to be particularly thought-provoking, as we get to watch Wistric de/reconstruct his game (I only wish I could be there to stab him while he’s all discombobulated).  During a recent conversation with him I began mulling over the implications of fighting an opponent versus executing technique and it brought some questions to mind.

First, a bit of background: my brother-in-law studies a Filipino martial art (Pekiti-Tirsi Kali) which, like many historical martial arts, spent some time disguised as something else (in this case a dance) to avoid detection by those it was to be used against. According to him, there’s been a schism within the art between those who adhere to the traditional teachings, which include the dance technique, and more modern interpretations, which eschew any extraneous moves for ultimate efficiency. Of course, modern-style practitioners routinely take the traditionalists to the cleaners in the fighting ring, and the traditionalists decry the modern style as ‘untrue.’

“Well that’s just peachy, Dreya,” you say, “but what does it have to do with fencing?”

It makes me curious as to whether or not the same sort of conflict happens with historic martial arts as practiced by the rapier community. In order to become the most effective fighter possible, it makes the most sense to me to follow the track I believe Dante has espoused: there is no opponent, only  the proper execution of technique. If you  develop your judgement, perception, and physical skill to the utmost, it really won’t matter who you’re fighting, because you have learned to anticipate and counter whatever they throw at you. I believe this phenomenon is common at the highest levels in most martial arts.

However, is it historical? Can we know what past masters of the blade were thinking? Did they carry that sort of objective observation into their art? At what point did rapier become systemic, and at what point must we stop refining the system in order to remain true to historical accuracy?

This line of questioning leads to ever-larger questions, such as, “Which is more true to a historical art: practicing it exactly as it was practiced in the past, or following the precepts developed in the past to their logical conclusion?”, a question that goes hand in hand with the whole reenactment-versus-reconstruction debate  and ultimately asks, “Is there a difference between being the best rapier fighter you can be and being the most historically accurate rapier fighter you can be?”

I look forward to reading your thoughts.



Posted December 15, 2009 by Dreya in Newbie Question of the Week

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