Monday, May 18, 2015

AEther Salon: Fencing! (Edited Transcript)

((Unfortunately, the Baron was unavailable, and I was chased offline by ill-timed thunderstorms.  My thanks to Dr. Jekyll for saving off the transcript!))

Dr. Cyberusfaustus: Good evening ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to Aether Salon and the Classical Fencing Society Salle d’Armes.  The publising house of Prezdigitation will provide a printing of this evenings talk at:

My name is Doktor CyberusFaustus and I thank you for allowing a continental such as myself to speak to the noble art in this great kingdom.  Tonight's discussion is "Personal defence in the age of steam: with discourse on the preservation of natural mechanical defence in the face dehumanizing artifice.

We begin with the origin of personal defence as a proper study, rather than mere instinctual scrapping...fencing as martial art.  For those of you who frequent the Museum of Natural History in New Babbage you will be well acquainted with some of the more recent finds in Egypt.  Archaeologists have uncovered numerous reliefs and wall paintings depicting two individuals fighting using what appear to be practice weapons rather than actual lethal weapons.  The art appears to have been formed as early as 2000 B.C. as a distinct form of combat.  As the Roman Empire came and transitioned to the Holy Roman Empire, the weapons changed.

As we are quite aware of on this Isle, fencing as a practice developed along with the practical weapons of the field.  During the Medieval period, wooden practice weapons were fashioned to mimic the broadswords of the time.  Schools, guilds and various fraternal organizations were founded in this time to provide training to their members in the art of defence.  Various Masters proposed more effective means of using the weapons as well as devised new weapon types for training and use.

In the Renaissance period, the sword took the form closer to the personal weapon we know today, rather than the battlefield cousin.  This was apparently due to the use of gunpowder making armor obsolete.  As such soldiers, and later, civilians, began to utilize the sword.  With improvements in metallurgy, the blade grew thinner and lighter and one could keep one’s opponent further from them.  The dominant centers for this development were in Spain, France, and Italy, while, as Sir Richard Burton has written, this land clung to its earlier forms of sword with some degree of pride.

As the use of the sword was studied and taught more for personal defence rather than battlefield war, the emerging sciences applied their opinions as well.  In Spain, geometry and the human form and its movements formed the center of Destraza, the Spanish Circle, which taught precise distances and foot movements for evasion, threat and offence.

The Italians developed athletic styles utilizing two weapons and not far distant from some of the grappling arts as well... always practical more than artful.  The French continued to refine and subdue the body and the steel to more and more efficient lines... minimizing,target, and movement.  Soon the open war, Bellum, shifted entirely to the war of two - Duo bellum or the Duel.

Over the same period the technology of the sword improved... smiths perfected a very light, sturdy and flexible blade with a triangular cross section, which allowed the entire weapon to be shorter.  This led in the last century and the start of this to the creation of the smallsword, which appears still in reports of duels today.

As mentioned before, there has always been equipment available to make the practice of the art safer.  The baited blade... a blade which has been dulled or had its tip covered was common in addition to the use of wooden weapons.  The French would apply a leather tip wound with twine to the smallsword... this button looked like a small flower or florette/fioretto, which then lent the name for the practice sword devised by the french masters to practice the smallsword safely

In addition in the last century, we gained the fencing mask which allowed even greater range in practice and has made fencing popular for the general populace.  The Italians took a different route, refusing to use a different sword for practice and practical fighting.  Some Italian masters felt the lighter French practice weapon was a disservice to those using it to train for actual combat, and as such we have seen a growth in what is oft termed academic fencing, something of beautiful form, but of questionable use in actual defence.

This is often muddled with Classical Fencing, which some English writers have equated with the academic.  The primary element to consider is that while national schools and weapons have merged, the actual training is subject to the master running a particular school or salle, aside from artifice of exercise for young people.

Fencing remains in this age in reputable salles in all countries as an excellent means of preparing for self defence against ruffians or even the duel itself.  The duel being frowned upon by both Church and State, proponents of this form of justice have even devised forms of 'safe' dueling.  In this century we have the French invention of the Epee du combat... a larger weapon than the fleuret, it is afixed with a point which while preventing a lethal puncture, can 'prick' the skin to draw blood... in the salle, with appropriate clothing, it also fixes the point well to the heavy  cotton to improve the students form

The Germans continue to perfect the University duel called the Mensur with heavy protection to allow only the cheeks and sometimes the nose to be cut.  It has risen in the Teutonic society to such repute that to have a scar from such an encounter is a surer indication of education than a diploma which can be more easily forged.

Beryl Strifeclaw: German dueling sabers look a bit different
Dr. Cyberusfaustus: indeed, they have both a straight and curved form... the Degen (straight) and the Sabel (curved) both with overlarge hilts to protect.  Also the action is taken in a static distance measured  (mensur) to be around the desired strike to the face/head, but disallowing a thrust.  In this land it is most similar to the singlestick.

We continue to this day with an influence from all quarters... including France and Asia.  Indeed in London we have seen combinations of French Sabot, Cane fighting and Juijitsu under one Master pugilist to the British crowd as Baritsu.

As for the future, while the french play at forming it to a sport, it is clear that single combat and defence on our streets continues to be a concern.  We should heed the scientific musing that soon there may be the ability to annihilate our enemies far across the globe without seeing them... in this cowardly and inhuman advancement, fencing and the modern martial arts provide a means to respect humanity while protecting oneself from those who have depraved themselves to offend the innocent.

So, fence... it s a good tonic to remind us of our frail mortality and to respect our brothers and sisters. I thank you all.

No comments: