Stuff to watch: fencing bouts and free play

Before I get to the videos, this must be said: (mounting upon Soapbox):
The only way to learn martial arts is from an instructor. This way, you see the art in motion, you see movement as a response to an incoming stimulus. The instructor draws your attention to important details and helps you correct details which are perhaps unnoticeable to you, but are crucial to your success with the art form. If you learn martial arts solely from a book, your comprehension will be incomplete and your practice will suffer. The exceptions to this are, of course, those who are spending years, nay decades, pouring over specific texts in order to draw out all the information left to us from the old masters (Although, even they seek other scholars and martial artists with whom to test their theories and improve their interpretation of the material). Otherwise, you must seek out an instructor. Or in the case of stage combat, many instructors. Understandably, not everyone has a local martial arts school they can attend to learn the foundation aspects of martial arts. But if you have opportunities to learn from a person, and you never take advantage of them, you are cheating yourself of an opportunity for growth and development. You are restricting yourself from your highest potential.
(dismount from Soapbox)

Please enjoy the following fencing matches and free play. But please, don’t recreate one and call it a fight scene. Remember that the purpose and circumstances of a bout are different than those of a fight scene. In fencing matches, there is a referee, there are agreed upon rules. These people are looking to score points, not trying to defend their lives. In the best fencing bouts, the people fence as though they are defending their lives, but still there’s the critical matter of no one is going to die at the end of this. Your subconscious tends to react differently to that information, and therefore we can’t look at this match and say “that’s what all fight scenes should look like”.

Instead, observe many aspects:

  • how the weapons move: you may have moments where you go “whoa! that was beautiful!” and those are probably the moments where human and machine worked together most efficiently and in harmony.
  • how the fencer’s body supports the action of the sword: human and sword are one machine. One rarely moves separate from the other.
  • how the sword moves in response to the fencer’s impulses. “Thought is action”
  • how the fencers respond to each other: It’s a physical dialogue, a “violent exchange of information” (my apologies! I forget whose quote that is!)
  • observe the qualities of movement: each person has their own manners and rhythms of movement.

N.B.: I know there’s a genre inequality here. I know as well as anyone that gender doesn’t make you a better actor or martial artist. These just happen to be the people I have studied with and the videos I stumbled across. Gender, age, race, etc. have nothing to do with my evaluation of them as martial artists or teachers.



Thank you to the Bill Grandy who posted commentary. It’ll help the stage fighters see what is happening.

Note Guy’s movement (Guy is the slightly shorter fellow with the badged sewn onto the left arm of his uniform). See how Guy is more grounded and appears calmer, but he is still completely mobile and able to move as soon as his impulse requires it. On the other hand, Bill’s centre of gravity is a bit higher and it reads differently to the outside observer.

Skip to 1:38 for the beginning of the combat.
Again, very different movement style. Nice to see a take down in the midst of a match (1:57).

Start at 0:20 for some brief warm-up actions
Start at 0:37 for the engagement

Sword and Buckler

Beautiful fluidity in the blades.


Again fluid, and with moments of sharp and direct action.

Same bout, different angle.

This next engagement covers more floor space with more energy. This is not a judgement on the quality of the match, but very interesting for we performers to explore the varieties.

I have posted only Longsword, and Sword and Buckler videos, as those are what I’ll be teaching at the 2014 Nationals. If there is popular demand, I’ll post other disciplines, too.

Daily Routine/Workshop Preparation Suggestion
See how much movement there is? Now that you’ve had a few days to work on your lunges, cover more ground. Don’t recover to the centre of the compass anymore. Take every step in a different direction. Continue keeping your core strong and your upper body calm while you do this.  Once that gets comfortable, add in the breath exercises.