Fitting everyone into tournaments

I want to talk about tournaments for a bit. Specifically, tournaments and segregation. The ideal of any martial art is that skill will win out over natural advantage. At the hobbyist level of martial arts competition this ideal is reflected in open tournaments, where everyone fights everyone. As long as there is a large disparity of skill, and an average disparity in size, there will be a tendency for skill to dominate. On average, tournament wins over time will be divided between the skillful and the naturally blessed. This has been reflected in my experience. When we start to deal above the hobbyist level, into amateur and professional sports, the assumption is that all participants will be skillful, but with different levels of natural ability and experience. The truth of any skill is that the big gains are made in the initial learning and polishing; the skill gap between experts…

Continue reading

Stripping Down To The Real Basics

I was looking over an old notebook about a month ago, from back when I started rapier fencing. One day I had taken a bunch of notes after talking to a bunch of the really senior fencers, and watching them bout against younger and newer fighters. One of the things I wrote down stuck in my head, and this weekend I saw even more examples of it. We just wrapped a lovely weekend workshop run by Cst. John Irving on knife fighting. It was a good opportunity to expose some of our newer students to shock knife work, and a chance for everyone to get exposed to John’s finely tuned stress environment training. The thing I had written down in my notebook years ago, was that experienced fighter tend to be very still, while new fighters are all over the place. At first I thought that must have been a…

Continue reading

April 9 Tournament Wrap-up

Valkyrie had it’s first tournament just a little less than two weeks ago. Results can be found on our facebook page, and I talked about the format in a previous blog post. It’s been enough time that I’m able to put together some thoughts about how it went, and what we will change with the next one. We had 214 or so fights, and no injuries beyond the usual colourful bruises, scrapes and occasional bit of blood from a scratch. There was no conflict or bad feelings to be noted in the entire tournament. We only had three problems surface around the bouts themselves. Two where resolved on the spot to the satisfaction of both the fighters and the audience, and the third caused some mumbles afterwards but didn’t affect the fight at the time. One fight missed being tallied and included in the fighters totals at the end, and…

Continue reading

Blow Calling and Context

When I started in the SCA, lo those many years ago, things were great. We had what felt like a unified approach to dealing with how to acknowledge hits from rapiers, and it had been tested out over time and found to be good. The context was first blood duel, assumed light shirts/clothing worn, and a sword pointed and sharp on both edges. You call the shot landed on you if you felt it, regardless if you thought it was good or not, and the other guy would tell you if it was actually good or not. Honourable and adult conduct was to be assumed at all times. The idea behind this is that you can’t always tell how you’ve been hit, especially with a sharp. People who have been stabbed for real can back this up, as they mostly think they’ve been hit with a very light punch or…

Continue reading

Dying at the Hands of Babes-in-Arms

I thought I would start this post off with a link to a funny video or two of people failing at chi/ki/energy flow martial arts, but I got pretty depressed looking through the available samples. I’m going to skip that. No one needs to start their week off with that sort of thing. The point I was going to make was that with the best of intentions, and sometimes even with the best kind of training, we can still wind up training in what Ameri-do-te would describe as “Bullshit.” Sparring is usually seen as the real test of a martial art, but even schools that invest heavily in sparring can wind up doing nonsense. There was a video not to long ago of a black belt exam in a large martial art school that featured some of the worst body mechanics ever seen, and some truly atrocious sparring…mostly flailing. A…

Continue reading

Fighter 2.0

Now it’s time to get better. For better or for worse, today, you are the fighter you have made yourself into. It’s time to get better. Or else maybe consider taking up cello, or calligraphy or something. To improve, you need to understand precisely where you are now. The most common flaw in fighters is the flaw of assuming what you are doing is just fine, and that your development is great. When I say assume, what I mean is that there is a tendency to evaluate yourself based only on your feelings and perceptions. If I have two fighters spar for a few moments, and then individually ask them how they did, it’s not uncommon that their impression of their own performance will be wildly out of line with the touches that I took note of. Winners think they lost, and losers think they only ceded a few touches.…

Continue reading