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This is how we built a two-handed 3-headed flail trainer with parts you can find at your local hardware and sports store. The method described here isn’t the only way to build a flail and the training weapon here is experimental. If you build it there is every chance you could injure yourself with it if you get as crazy as my brother might. So… I warned you.
The parts list:
- 6-foot closet pole (1.8 meters)
- 2 matching screw-mounted rope hooks
- 2 bolts with matching nuts
- Nylon paracord
- Duct tape (of course)
- 3 racket balls
Flail parts laid out
Our flail has a 3-foot handle and three approximately 3-foot “chains” including the heads.
1. Cut the closet pole down to size. (For our first flail we tried a length of 3 feet (0.9 meters). It worked fine but we’re thinking of making the next handle slightly shorter by about 4 inches for a total haft length of 32 inches (0.8 meters).)
2. Use the rope hook as a guide for marking your drill target. We chose to bring the hook as far down into the pole as possible to increase the strength of the trainer.
Use the Rope Hook as your Stencil for your Drill Guide
Marked and Ready for Drilling
3. Slowly drill all the way through the pole and remove any frayed edges.
4. Align the two Rope Hooks facing each other to form the “chain’s” looping anchor point on the flail. At this point you may want to remove some stock from the pole to ensure a snug fit by marking the end of the shaft and using a round file to remove the extra.
Marking the Head of the Flail to Remove Extra Stock
We will file that out
Filing out the Extra. (It’s easier if you use a vise.)
Stock Removed. Also, now it looks like the Bat symbol. (Batman would be proud to train with us.)
4. Now that you’ve created a perfect fit, fasten both Rope Hooks onto the shaft with the bolts so that they face each other to form a looping “chain” anchor point.
Two Rope Hooks makes a good loop.
Fastened Down Tight.
5. At this point you have created something dangerous with the exposed metal bolts. I recommend using a hacksaw to cut the exposed bolts off and then cover anything with sharp edges with a layer or two of tape. You want to minimize the possibility of cutting yourself if you accidentally hit yourself in the head.
6. Next, drill a hole through each of three racket balls.
Yep… That’s a hole clean through a racket ball.
7. Run your nylon paracord through the hole. To do this, we used fishing line.
Push a loop of fishing line through the holes and then insert your paracord into the loop on the far side. Pull it through and, “Tada!” it is threaded.
8. Tie the cord just underneath the flail head using a bowline knot. ( Click here to see how to tie this knot! )
Tie it with a bowline knot.
9. Tie it to the anchor point using the same bowline knot. (Repeat the process for all three flail heads.)
10. We used duct tape on the edges of the Rope Hook to avoid any grab on the nylon rope “chains”.
It doesn’t have to be beautiful.
The Completed Flail Trainer
Congratulations… you have given birth to a baby flail with a 3-foot shaft and 3-foot chains.
This is much lighter than an actual flail when you swing it around but you still get a scary amount of force with it such that hitting people is probably a terrible idea. While exercising the flail we found that swinging it at high speed didn’t seem to cause any problems with the racket balls but striking solid targets caused cracks around the drilled holes which would be eventual failure points.
Still, not bad for flail 1.0.
“Montante, Montante, how will I learn to understand?”
Montante says, “Walk a mile of the rules with me in your hands.”
“Montante, Montante, how will I learn still more?”
Montante says, “When you’ve done a single mile then walk another four.”
A Collection of Greatswords
The Montante Mile: Martial Challenge
There is an aphorism that states, “You do not know another person until you have walked a mile in his shoes” and in this case we want to know the montante in the same way. There will be no partner or adversary. There will be no one keeping score or time. There will be you, your weapon, and one mile of work to be done.
The goal of this martial challenge is to gain personal knowledge of the forms and the usage of the weapon beyond merely an academic level. It is our hope that at some point during the challenge you and the weapon will find common cause and greater understanding through physical action as a form of learning and meditation.
The organizers will lay out a measured course and be available to teach a few simple traditional montante forms that will allow the challenger to move forward along the course. After that it’s merely a matter of the challenger using a few forms to travel a mile in laps on the course. You can use traditional forms, you can alter or combine forms, or you can use techniques from another tradition entirely. The challenge is in the doing.
The course will have laps measured at 60 feet. You will pass a mile with 90 laps and complete the challenge. If you break your laps out into 3 days then 30 laps per day will accomplish the goal. If you cannot reach the full mile you could aim for the Montante Medio at 45 laps.
What happens when your conscious mind relaxes and you can listen to what the Montante is telling you? Perhaps you will find out in the Montante Mile.
In July 2014 the Sacramento Sword School held its second student examination. The exam consisted solely of Scholar candidates, it was open to the public, and it was judged by a board of fencing masters with Dr. Mary Curtis acting as a special advisor to the board. In addition, this was the first time the Scholar’s examination was offered to a candidate from an external school and our we extend our fellowship and congratulations to the Elite Fencing Club in Mexico City for their candidate’s attendance and excellent performance.
To provide some context the Sacramento Sword School Scholar’s test is a La Verdadera Destreza examination derived from both the classical fencing examinations and material outlined in Don Luis Pacheco de Narvaez’s “Easy Method for examining Masters…” published in 1625. At the Scholar level the test is intended to qualify that a student has competence reflecting six months to one year of training and study. The process includes preparing and receiving feedback on a example lesson, an oral examination, the candidate receiving a lesson, and the candidate teaching a lesson. In addition, the board may ask to observe free fencing or for the candidate to teach specific fencing actions if time permits.
The Board of Examiners:
- Kevin Murakoshi (Master at Arms)
- Eric Myers (Master at Arms)
- R. E. “Puck” Curtis III (Master at Arms)
- Mary Dill Curtis (PhD – Golden Age Spanish Literature acting as an advisor)
Scholar candidates in alphabetical order:
- Evans, John
- Kalleen, John IV
- Pacheco Ancheyta, Jorge Luis
- Smith, Eric
- Smith, Olivia
- Welsch, Michael
- Minor (name withheld)
Each of these candidates passed the examination in good order with some performance occasionally reaching beyond Scholar level towards Freescholar level. The Sacramento Sword School is pleased to extend our endorsement of each of these candidates based on their performance during the examination.
A complete list of Scholars examined by the Sacramento Sword School alphabetically by year:
- Murphy, Dan (2013)
- Wright, Tyson (2013)
- Evans, John (2014)
- Kalleen, John IV (2014)
- Pacheco Ancheyta, Jorge Luis (2014)
- Smith, Eric (2014)
- Smith, Olivia (2014)
- Welsch, Michael (2014)
- Minor (name withheld) (2014)
Mr. Pacheco Ancheyta examines the guard of Mr. Smith
Mr. Smith examines the guard of Mr. Pacheco Ancheyta
Atajo, transversal, and thrust
Mr. Wright and Ms. Smith
Mr. Wright and Ms. Smith
Mr. Smith and the Board
Mr. Pacheco Ancheyta and the Board
The General Tretas
The General Techniques (or Tretas) carry or capture the opposing weapon by creating a spiral with your own weapon.
Half Circle Spiral
General Technique of Narrowing
(Thrust by Glide)
General Technique of Weak Under
(Thrust by Detachment)
Full Circle Spiral
General Technique of Weak Over
(Thrust by Detachment)
General Technique of Line in Cross
(Thrust by Glide)
NOTE: All the descriptions below assume the opposing weapon is carried by the spiral instead of captured.
General Technique of Narrowing:
From an atajo on the inside line at MdP*, carry the opposing steel in a half
circle counterclockwise to the outside low line and terminate by stepping to
the right to deliver a gliding thrust to the chest.
General Technique of Weak under Strong:
From an atajo on the outside line at MdP*, carry the opposing steel in a half
circle clockwise to the inside low line and terminate by stepping to the right to
deliver a thrust by detachment to the chest.
General Technique of Weak over Strong:
From an atajo on the inside line at MdP*, carry the opposing steel in a complete
circle counterclockwise to the inside high line and terminate by stepping to
the right to deliver a thrust by detachment to the chest.
General Technique of Line in Cross:
From an atajo on the outside line at MdP*, carry the opposing steel in a
complete circle clockwise to the outside high line and terminate by stepping to
the right to deliver a gliding thrust to the chest.
Addition: The Generals can be combined together in such a way that the end of one may form the beginning of another without breaking the spiraling motion.
*MdP = Medio de Proporción or the Defensive Medio\Place.
Don Luis Pacheco de Narváez
He is acerbic, often dogmatic, and difficult to like. Pacheco’s work at first glance would not seem to be an ideal metric by which to unify a tradition. Many people reading Pacheco for the first time have a strong negative reaction to the trollish way he jibes at the works of others. He does not resist the urge to throw punches in his prose and perhaps it makes him an early species of today’s internet troll who pokes and annoys others for his own amusement. Reacting to his tone, we might quickly dismiss him but the problem is that Pacheco is also an incredibly gifted technical writer and theoretician who is perhaps the most prolific fencing author in history. Most of the technical information we currently have about La Verdadera Destreza is a direct or indirect result of Pacheco’s work.
Carranza’s work does not contain enough technical material to describe a complete system. Thibault’s work is both extensive and technical but appears to be out of sync with the other authors. Most of the other La Verdadera Destreza authors available are derivative of Pacheco’s core system which means they are in some sense accountable to his examination standards. For this reason I often find myself presenting or defending Pacheco’s position as a common point of verifiable evidence even while I acknowledge that the tradition is broader than a single author.
The classical tradition that trained me enforces a core standard of practice with meticulous care. As an example, the hand in the invitation of second shall be held at a certain height and angle; to do otherwise is incorrect. However, if we examine the historical record, we see a multitude of different examples of the invitation in second and it might seem that this insistence on uniformity would be a compulsion which also borders on trollish antagonism towards the students. Why? What purpose does it serve?
By reducing scope in the school and during the examinations it creates right and wrong answers. That brief state of artificial purity allows students to develop their core skills and to carefully climb within a demanding system from ignorance into technical competence. As the students develop understanding and ability their own questions naturally arise which challenge the purity of the right and wrong answers.
An Instructor candidate should be able to recite the answers in the textbook and teach most of the actions described. The Provost candidates teach at a higher level and might qualify their answers, delve into difficult and broader theory, and occasionally explore concepts outside the textbook. The Master candidate is expected to not only be able to teach the textbook in its entirety but to also know when to leave it aside and justify the reasoning. The mastery of the lesson and execution becomes a personal expression which realizes the tradition as an act of creative art. An answer outside the scope of the book can become correct when good reason and judgment are applied.
William Gaugler’s fencing master’s program was not cloning human versions of his textbook but rather creating a common language and understanding by which a community could work outward to achieve nuanced understanding which could be both broad and deep. This might best describe the position from which Figueiredo wrote his Oplosophia; he has enough knowledge and expertise to master a tradition and yet uses his ability to provide critical expertise on the elements involved which challenges the canon of the tradition itself.
It is within this textbook form that Pacheco’s work shines. We have his proposed testing criteria and a large body of work which we can use to create a uniform standard for examination. A student citing Pacheco in his examination works from a defensible place of canonicity which provides a textbook of right and wrong answers. It forms a common core of theory and practice from which the students may safely learn in an elegant simplicity and ultimately transcend into multi-hued complexity.
Pacheco is not the only voice in our tradition but he is one of the great LVD authors and just as the textbooks in the classical program provide a beginning, mastery involves internalizing the work and seeing beyond the rules into the deeper and changing causes from which they are derived. Studying Pacheco diligently can become a Carrancine exercise in the search for verifiable science which can be taught and demonstrated.
For a Carrancine teacher Pacheco serves as a brilliant starting point, as a tool for teaching and examination, as an exercise in application, and as a historically uniform standard for evaluating knowledge and practice. Pacheco is a ready-made roadway from ignorance, through competence, into mastery. When that path is paired with Carranza’s instructions about teaching, science, art, and ethics we move from creating builders into creating architects.