Saturday, December 3, 2016

Swords and Strategy

You are holding a longsword over four feet long with two hands. The pommel rests on your chest as both hands grip the hilt. Staring through a wire mesh as the sweat rolls down your brow and your breath is becoming labored, you warily watch a relaxed opponent as he holds his sword in a low guard just outside the reach of your blade.

As you move in and your blades clash, he quickly pivots his blade and it crashes into your unguarded hand, followed by a quick thump on your head. You were struck, for about the eleventh time in a row.

This was the experience I had last night at the Tucson Historic Fencing Club (

At the urging of the daughter's, she and our youngest son and I joined the class. We were met by Doug and Jay, who greeted us and began describing the history of, not only the club, but medieval fencing from 15th and 16th century Germany. Jay was kind enough to demonstrate the basic guards strikes and moves from the German system and they both gave a thorough description of the club's philosophy.

Doug, who founded the club, has obviously spent years pouring over ancient manuals and documents to learn about this fighting art and was able to answer all our questions about the art.

But, as I soon discovered, he is not merely a scholar, but a practitioner as well. He put us through the paces of some of the basics and then treated me to a few minutes of - well, I'm not sure what they call it. It wasn't full speed fighting that they usually do, with pads, gaurds and gauntlets, but some basic squaring off to practice some of the basic maneuvers in a real time environment. Let's call it"Sparring".

The training I usually do in "Krav Maga", which means "Contact Combat", had some glaring deficiencies in fighting with a long old sword at the end of your arm. Krav is designed for close in hand to hand stuff, while a long sword has a considerably longer reach. While some of the principles I applied seemed to translate well, the range, footwork  and philosophy of movement and defense was different enough that I was easily handled.

If you are at all interested in martial arts, consider checking out this art from Europe's past. We spent an interesting and engaging evening at the Club's new facility. It's fun, interesting and the people are truly passionate about this art.

Again, here is a link: