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Old 4th October 2005, 06:46 AM   #61
Robert Gray
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Chris

Throughout this thread and the other one you seem to be of the view that
there were not set techniques for knife fighting. Obviously you have given
this matter some thought. My question: In your opinion, are there or were
there any knife fighting systems that worked any better than improvisation , anywhere?

Reagrds
Robert
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Old 4th October 2005, 01:07 PM   #62
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Hi Robert,

I suppose it all depends what you mean by knife fighting, after all, it can cover a very wide variety of sins - And then there is also the question of what you mean by knives which comprise everything from a diminutive "tactical" folder to a Gaucho's facon with a 20" long blade.

Knives have been used throughout the ages, especially by men at arms, as:

a) Weapons of ambush (assassination);
b) backups to weapons of longer reach such as staffs, swords and guns; and
c) general weapons of last resort.

A detailed discussion of the above is beyond the scope of this thread and are well covered by extant literature, especially military manuals. In general, these applications are more about tactical considerations than knife specific skills.

However, in discussions such as this, most people associate knife fighting with dueling. In fact, the lores of the navaja and facon are inextricably linked with dueling, as attested to by the attention paid to the Manual del Baratero and the views that I have expressed on this thread and others in the past have to be understood in this context.

We must not lose sight of the fact that knives offer no advantage of reach and lack "stopping power". This means that a successful hit does not guarantee immunity from an equally damaging counterattack - As a result, knife dueling, if in earnest and it seldom is, tends to be a very uncertain undertaking in which both combatants are likely to end up seriously injured. There are any number of reported incidents that bears witness to this.

Also, in a technical sense, because of its short blade (compared to a sword) there is only so much that can be done with a knife. For example, the English renaissance swordsman, George Silver, wrote at length about techniques for the sword, but could give precious little instruction on the dagger, when used alone. Similarly, I have seen Asian masters of various martial arts demonstrate their usage of knives and their techniques came down to some very simple moves, but executed with extremely finely honed sense for timing and distance. One such master expressed the view to me that there wasn't all that much to it, except for understanding a knife and being able to move with speed and finesse.

So to sum up, neither the Spaniards of old nor others of European origins, have left us anything in writing that we could construe to be a system over and above what anybody with some thought could devise and the Far Eastern Asians have adopted the knife as an adjunct to complex unarmed or sword arts - However, when used alone, as say when dueling, I have not seen anything resembling a system from even those quarters. In South East Asia there are a number of blade arts, but on closer scrutiny it can be quickly discerned that these are derivatives of more comprehensive combative systems and outside of carefully choreographed demonstrations do not amount to all that much. What I have seen though, is a large number of tricks that can be devastating to the unwary, but only the unwary, and these must be seen in the same light as the "botta segrete" (secret thrust) of the old fencing masters, that is, very simple and easily countered basic moves, but set up with an unusual preliminary sequence and relying disproportionately on the surprise factor for success. Richard Burton, for one, was of the opinion that they were useless (with swords).

Cheers
Chris
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Old 4th October 2005, 06:52 PM   #63
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Any comments on this one. I bought it with several Moro swords, all said to have purchased in the Southern Philippines. It opens rather easily with one hand flick but is very hard to close, needing both hands & then pushing blade on hard surface. Well made and could be used quickly.
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Old 5th October 2005, 03:03 AM   #64
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Hi Bill,

You got a good one there. That lock is what the Spaniards would describe as a `teat-lock', the teat being the little stub on the heel of the blade that engages with the hole in the spine spring. This type of lock was comparatively rare in Spain and much liked by the French and Italian cutlers who use them to this day. It provides great security and as you say, on some models, a very fast opening - For this reason the Spanish authorities did not like them nor did their cutlers because it required precision fitting by highly skilled labour, which was scarce in their country.

A near identical navaja is shown on plate 140 (pg 131) of Forton's "Antique Clasp Knives" and is described as probably made during the 19th century in French Rosellon (a border region near Catalunia). Depending on its overall state, it would fetch around $US500 on the open market and more if sold by a dealer.

Cheers
Chris
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Old 5th October 2005, 03:42 AM   #65
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Thank You, Chris
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Old 5th October 2005, 07:51 AM   #66
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Helo Robert

I agree completely with Chris. I am a senior black belt holder and have recived instruction in the knife and other common weapons. We use them as extensions of the body movments that we already mastered and back them up with our unarmed skills. This means that should somebody get past my knife they still have to face my kicks and other blows. But with all this knowledege I could not be sure to win aginst another knife in a fight (I tried this in the gym)

Bill

Thats a relly cool knife. How much did you pay for it?

Chris

It looks from Bills navaja that the idea of fliging a pocket knife open did not start with the tacticals. How comon was this idea?

Good wishes
Frank
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Old 6th October 2005, 04:14 AM   #67
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Chris

Thank you for your reply - Again it makes good sense, though I am still
intrigued by knife fighting systems derived from fencing. Any comments?

Regards
Robert
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Old 6th October 2005, 04:18 AM   #68
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Frank

Thanks for those comments. It supports the views of Chris

Regards
Robert
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Old 6th October 2005, 08:15 AM   #69
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Hi Robert,

When you ask about knife fighting systems derived from fencing, you have to stipulate what type of fencing you have in mind.

Sword play has two distinctly different forms, technically known as that of `single time' and `double time', `time' meaning a distinct phase or movement. Spanish knife dueling, indeed most knife dueling, parallels early sword play . What has to be kept in mind however, is that unlike with swords, fencing with knives will not deliver a victory through the application of mere techniques, as there is much left to chance and other factors. To a lesser extent this also applied to early sword play and was the driving force behind its eventual evolution towards the more scientific `double time' play, which provides a more reliable fight; One that is less dependent on luck and tricks and also less prone to the mutual double hits, entanglements and bloody wrestling matches that plagued rapier and broadsword fights.

For a brief explanation of the two styles I reproduce here an extract from a paper that I wrote some time ago on the rapier. I also would like to draw attention to that early rapier fencing was technically fairly simple relying greatly on the preparation of attacks and attendant deceits and for parrying on a left hand implement was used. Later rapier play was still conducted in `single time' but became a good deal more reliant on the use of the blade for other than just delivering thrusts or cuts. Nevertheless, sword play only attained its current complexity and sophistication with `double time' play.

"The great demarcator in the history of sword play was the transition from fencing in `single' to `double time'. In the former, the preferred tactic was to provoke an attack and counter into the opponent's offense, and (if necessary) blocking the path of the incoming blade with one's own, also known as `covering'; These days this type of counterattack is usually referred to as a `time hit', a `time hit with opposition', or a `covered time hit'. In contrast, in `double time' fencing, the incoming attack is first parried with the sword blade and then followed up with a counter attack, the `riposte'. Of course, the above description is of single swords opposing each other; With left hand parrying implements, as was the rule with rapiers, the action became more complex but still retained the same essential character described above."

It should be noted that full `double time' swordplay became possible only with the advent of the very much lighter and faster purely thrusting small-sword of the late 18th century; Its fight was characterized by leading with the sword arm and leg and the frequent use of the lunge. In contrast, early rapier consisted of leading with the leg opposite to the sword side, holding back the sword and delivering attacks by taking a step forward, called a `pass', with the sword side leg and extending the sword arm. The lunge was rarely used.

Spanish knife play, according to the English fencing authority Egerton Castle, was based on early rapier play, and of course `sans covering', with attacks being delivered on the `pass' and leading with the leg opposite to the sword side. It has to be understood clearly that later sword play, that is, in `double time', cannot not be adapted to knives because they cannot parry on account of their short length. Even the very long, short sword like Gaucho facons and Spanish left hand daggers could not parry reliably for being too heavy and or too short and for this reason were used in conjunction with a cape.

Over the years there were numerous attempts by fencing masters to incorporate sword techniques into knife usage, but inevitably these were reiterations of early rapier or left hand dagger play, as exemplified by the section dealing with daggers in Alfred Hutton's `Cold Steel'.

There were also a few questionable, and in my view unsuccessful, attempts to introduce modern fencing elements such as leading with the knife hand and leg and primarily attacking the opponents knife hand, as done in epee and sabre duels. These techniques are not likely to work against a fighter who does not oblige by leading with the knife hand and in any event such an on-guard position is very risky because of the ease with which the extended knife can be displaced, trapped or by-passed. In fact, the majority of the self defense moves taught assume that that is how the attacker will behave.

I should close with the observation that the majority of movie knife fights are based on re-hashed `double time' sword fencing moves and are intended to be mere entertainment rather than a exposition of a sound way to duel with knives.

Cheers
Chris

Last edited by Chris Evans : 6th October 2005 at 12:09 PM.
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Old 6th October 2005, 08:29 AM   #70
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Hi Frank,

I have seen numerous antique large folders that could be flung open, but these had rather loose blades at the hinge to permit this action. Old navajas had riveted pivot pins and unlike the modern tactical folders, the tightness of the blade could not be finely adjusted, at least not easily in an age when few had the necessary tools - And a folder with a loose blade at the pivot pin is a very weak knife - So, it is a matter of guesswork if many were opened that way.

In any event and as we have seen, the Spanish authorities did not take well to locks of any kind and it is safe to assume that those that could be opened quickly on account of a fast action and lock would have been even less tolerated in most jurisdictions. Most lockers that can be opened quickly, like Bill's, are of French origins from the late 1800s, an era by which the navaja in Spain was in decline.

Cheers
Chris
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Old 6th October 2005, 12:04 PM   #71
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The mechanics on the blade seems to be rather simple; folded, the hinged end is squared resting against the lock, holding the blade in. The blade is large and heavy. With momentum, the weight, makes the swing rather quick. The other side of the hinged end is curved, bringing the teat under the lock. I am surprised, that with the craftsmanship involved, that there is no makers mark, but I am unfamilar with navajas or french work. Frank, I don't recall the price, as I recall, I bought a couple of 19C Moro barungs with this one, all being described as Indonesian barungs, brought back by a WWll vet. It is possible that it once belonged to a Spanish soldier who served in the Philippines.
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Old 6th October 2005, 12:19 PM   #72
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill
I am surprised, that with the craftsmanship involved, that there is no makers mark, but I am unfamilar with navajas or french work.
.... It is possible that it once belonged to a Spanish soldier who served in the Philippines.


Hi Bill,

1. Is there a logo stamping anywhere on the blade?

2. You could be quite right in that it was a knife that belonged to a Spanish soldier, probably one of Catalan origins.

Cheers
Chris
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Old 6th October 2005, 02:58 PM   #73
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No logo, it does have the sign of the Cross near the tip, on one side of the blade, & another on the lock.
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Old 7th October 2005, 02:14 AM   #74
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Hi Bill,

Any chance of a photo of those markings? Forton gives several pages of logo-brand stampings in his book, many French.

Cheers
Chris
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Old 7th October 2005, 04:29 AM   #75
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Hi Chris, You can see the Cross on the 1st & 3rd pics, I already posted, made out of a series of dots. Not to clear, but they are there.
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Old 7th October 2005, 07:01 AM   #76
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Chris

I should have never asked! You ovewrhelmed me with technicalities - It will take me a long time to get my non fencing mind around all that, but many thanks all the same.

Keep up the good work
Robert
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Old 7th October 2005, 07:26 AM   #77
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Hi Bill,

I could not see the cross on the first pic, but on the third it looks like mere decoration.


Hi Robert,

Sorry about my rather longwinded answer. This article by Stephen Hand, a historical fencer, may be of some help in better understanding `single/doubletime' fencing:

http://www.stoccata.org/stoccata.ns...A2567E300827FA2

Cheers
Chris
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Old 14th October 2005, 05:56 AM   #78
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Chris

Thanks for that link to that article on fencing. Realy intersting. Now I understand the diference between Japanese/Asian and European sword fighting.

I know that small knives cant block another knife but what about the biger ones? Surely witha 20 inch blade something can be done?

Have a good one
Frank

Last edited by Frank : 14th October 2005 at 11:33 AM.
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Old 18th October 2005, 06:02 AM   #79
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Hi Frank,

1. I presume that what you mean is that European swordplay evolved into double time play whereas the Orientals, never quite having discovered the science of the point, stayed with what we may call single time sword play in which defense was primarily by voiding (evasion). This a was also the case in the West, where the heavier military cutting swords, when fenced with, continued to be used in single time. Whilst a few double time moves can be made with a heavy-ish sword, only the very light small-sword and its descendants can be fenced consistently in double time.

2. Re Parrying With Knives: The 18th and early 19th century Gauchos, in keeping with Spanish tradition, used very long knives/daggers. After that time, their knives became shorter for a variety of reasons, but we need not go into this here. These long knives were made from cut down swords and bayonets - A good many had blades somewhere in between 16" and 20". Now, if we remember that a small-sword has a blade around 30", it is not hard to see that with say a 20" blade, some kind of blade to blade interaction is possible, indeed probable, but as we shall see, not necessarily beneficial. For parrying to be of use, the defender has to gain an advantage of leverage against the attacker so as to reliably displace his blade's point and thus open the way for a safe counterattack. This is achieved by the defending sword's first half (forte) engaging the attacking sword's second half (foible) - If this advantage of leverage is not attained, then the parry is largely a dengerously wasted move. Now, once the blade length decreases to less than that of a sword parries become increasingly unreliable and below some critical, but undefined length, completely unattainable. In addition, parry/riposte fencing also requires effective handguards, which apart from specialized left hand fencing daggers, knifes did and do not have.

Something else to keep in mind is that to use a knife for parrying, a knife side hand and leg forward stance is required, akin to that of a modern swordsman. However, this stance has the following disadvantages:

a) Prevents effective parrying with the left arm implement (cape etc);
b) makes it difficult to attack without resorting to the lunge, a move that is completely impractical with a knife;
c) the fighter that leads with the knife is vulnerable to be either cut on the arm, or worse still, rushed should his arm be displaced sideways.

For the above reasons, the Spanish style knife fighters lead with the left leg and arm defending (usually with a cape), whilst the knife arm and leg are held back, attacks being delivered on a "pass" or a step forward, as the knife arm is at the same time extended.

To sum up, any attempt to defend (parry) with a very long knife is fraught with disadvantages and with a shorter weapon completely impractical. And in my opinion, this is why knife systems derived from modern fencing, that is in double time, are ineffective and perilous in the extreme.

Cheers
Chris
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Old 22nd October 2005, 06:08 AM   #80
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Evans
Hi Frank,

1. I presume that what you mean is that European swordplay evolved into double time play whereas the Orientals, never quite having discovered the science of the point, stayed with what we may call single time sword play in which defense was primarily by voiding (evasion). This a was also the case in the West, where the heavier military cutting swords, when fenced with, continued to be used in single time. Whilst a few double time moves can be made with a heavy-ish sword, only the very light small-sword and its descendants can be fenced consistently in double time.


Mr Evans,

I must respectfully disagree with what you state above.

George Silver, in describing the use of the "short sword" of his day (a basket-hilted broadsword or backsword, that actually had a rather long blade of 37"-40"), said that one of the main defensive options was to "ward, & after to strike". This is what modern fencers call a parry-riposte, and thus we are talking about a double-time action.

The parry-riposte remained a staple for cut-and-thrust swordplay with the broadsword, backsword, saber, & cutlass.

Best,

R C
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Old 22nd October 2005, 06:37 AM   #81
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Everyone,

I'm not trying to jack this thread, but I felt compelled to respond to some of LabanTayo's comments below:

Quote:
Originally Posted by LabanTayo
so, did the spanish steal filipino techniques, or vice versa?


The influence was possibly mutual, as is so often the case.

Quote:
the malay / indo / philippine archipelego was a blade oriented society before spanish/dutch/portugese/british arrival. the philippines may have adopted some spanish fighting techniques and terminology, but i have never seen a spanish fencer/fighter move like filipino arnisador/fighter.


Given that there are no surviving schools of Spanish fencing (either civilian or military), I would be most curious to know how many actual "Spanish fencer/fighters" you have "seen".

There are, of course, modern classical fencers who are working on reconstructions of the civilian Spanish school of rapier fencing (the destreza of Carranza, that is), but that is not a method which was likely to have seen much (if any) use in the Philippines. No, the Spanish soldiers serving there would have made use of a more practical form of cut-and-thrust swordplay, with corresponding weapons like the bilbo (a type of broadsword with a rapier-like shell hilt). It's also worth noting that British officers observed Pampangan troops in Spanish service equipped with such swords.

As for a possible relationship between the Spanish military esgrima (fencing) and native Filipino blade methods, the similarities are certainly there. FMA's redonda resembles the moulinet (or molinello) of Western saber work. FMA's "wing block" looks like saber fencing's #1 parry (prime), while the "dropstick" appears equivalent to parry #2 (seconde). In FMA, attacks to the leg are met with what European broadsword and military saber men call "slipping" or "shifting the leg". In both FMA and European cut-and-thrust fencing, cuts are categorized by angles--vertical, horizontal, and diagonal. Are these things the result of cross-cultural influence, or parallel evolution?

As for "terminology", it's interesting to note that about 65 percent of the technical terms used in all eskrima styles are Spanish-derived, which seems somewhat odd when one considers that most Filipinos do not speak Spanish.

Then again, perhaps it's not so odd after all--Romy Macapagal, the current archivist for Kalis Ilustrisimo, has declared that Kalis Ilustrisimo is a full 40% Spanish-derived.

And other FMAists, like Dr. Ned Nepangue and Celestino Macachor, are postulating new theories concerning the origins of eskrima and arnis--the crux of their argument is that they are a result of a synthesis of Spanish military fencing, and native blade arts. The main goal for creating this hybrid form was to help defend the Spanish-occupied areas against Moro piratical incursions.

FWIW.

Best,

R C
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Old 22nd October 2005, 06:52 AM   #82
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Evans
There were also a few questionable, and in my view unsuccessful, attempts to introduce modern fencing elements such as leading with the knife hand and leg and primarily attacking the opponents knife hand, as done in epee and sabre duels. These techniques are not likely to work against a fighter who does not oblige by leading with the knife hand and in any event such an on-guard position is very risky because of the ease with which the extended knife can be displaced, trapped or by-passed. In fact, the majority of the self defense moves taught assume that that is how the attacker will behave.


Many knifefighting methods make use of a strong-side (weapon-hand) lead. It can be seen in FMA, as well as modern Western military knife combat. In regards to the latter, the most obvious example would be the USMC "Biddle System" of Lt. Col. A.J. Drexel Biddle, and that of his protege, John Styers. Keep in mind that the original Biddle system was intended for use with the '03 Springfield sword bayonet, with a 16" blade.

As for the "fighter who does not oblige by leading with the knife hand", his weak side therefore becomes vulnerable instead, and he has sacrificed a good deal of reach with his own weapon.

No single guard position is going to be the right answer for every situation, but for knife-on-knife duelling, the strong-side lead clearly has its benefits.
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Old 23rd October 2005, 05:09 AM   #83
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Hi RC

1. Welcome to the discussion and thank you for the very interesting points you make.

2. RE FMA: Whilst I do not wish to bite into this one, as such discussions rightly belong to MA forums and here we are collectors. But I agree that there are no surviving traditions of old Spanish fencing, save with the later small sword/epee, which in any event were adaptations of the French school, with Hispanic touches added.

2. Re Double Time & G.Silver:

Several issues here:

a) The notion of what we mean by double time (DT) has to be defined. In modern fencing it is generally understood as being able to parry with the sword's blade in all four lines, something only possible with the light weight smallsword and its descendants.

b) If you read my post again, you'll see that I did say that some DT moves are possible with a heavy sword. But only some - Do read that article by Stephan Hand as to why (link given in an earlier thread). The old fencing treatises dealt with fencing in DT with a heavy sword and were unanimous in condemning the practice. A heavy sword just cannot be moved with sufficient speed to intercept all incoming attacks and to successfully riposte.

c) Re George Silver: After having been dismissed by generations of fencers as a reactionary who obstinately refused to see reason and preached mostly fallacies, Silver has found new favour with English speaking historical fencers and has gained quite a following. A lot of his writings, as all historical treatises, have to be interpreted with considerable caution and in the light of expertise. To be sure, he made many valid observations worthy of our consideration, but he cannot be uncritically accepted, otherwise totally unwarranted conclusions may be drawn.

Silver used a sword and buckler, or dagger, or cloak for parrying, as did everybody else in his day when fencing with either broadsword or rapier. Despite Capo Ferro, upholding that the rapier alone was sufficient for defense, the practice of using an auxiliary parrying implement persisted right into the nineteenth century, at least for brawls - Obviously, it was more reliable than relying on the blade alone.

All the fencing treatises of the Renaissance era allowed for the possibility that one may have to fight with sword alone and a good deal of their advice, including Silvers', has to be understood in that kind of scenario. Using the sword to parry with had some merit in such a situation, as was parrying with the left hand, but these methods were far from being the preferred option.


3. Re Leading With The Knife Side:

a) This topic can be debated endlessly and I have my opinions on the matter, which I have already given and my reasons. With that said, we have to distinguish whether we are talking about dueling or general combat situations - My remarks were in the context of knife dueling.

b) One can use whatever stance one wishes, but the Spaniards of old led with the left side because they dueled with parrying capes. To do otherwise would mean largely negating the benefit of the cape and eliminating the possibility of advancing with a "pass".

c) As for the military, generally they are not into knife dueling, neither are they particularly consistent in what they advocate nor are they to be considered as the final arbiters on knife usage - The knife, as the pistol, ranks very low in their priorities, even with special forces. As I am led to believe, the US army currently advocates leading with the left arm and leg, but the Argentinian army prefers a hybrid stance in which the left arm and right leg lead. What is significant in both of these systems is that the free arm is there to parry with.

That said, I take your point about Biddle, though it is held that Applegate did not think much of him and he (Applegate) advocated leading with the left arm and leg.

I read Biddle and he gave me the impression that he had no hands on experience other than in fencing and this was reinforced by his recommending the very questionable Passata Sotto. He gave precious little in terms of technique, except to emphasize that the "scientific" knife fighter attacks the knife hand of his opponent and that there were many advantages to be obtained from using fencing moves - He used the bayonet in the manner of a dueling sabre, which it is not, though even he had the good sense of advancing the unarmed arm so as to be ready to parry.

We have to remember that Biddle was a wealthy socialite schooled in sport fencing who turned soldier; He was enthused, perhaps over enthused by all manner of close combat arts, and much of what he advocated did not reflect military realities or needs. Here is a link to a rather interesting article on him:

http://ejmas.com/jnc/jncart_Svinth_1201.htm

Military men are forever writing about this and that, with the aim of furthering their careers; Some of their material is sound and a lot not so sound. Also a lot of the stuff in army manuals was put there primarily to build confidence and raise morale, and must be read as such, rather than as definitive technical statements.

Cheers
Chris
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Old 23rd October 2005, 05:48 AM   #84
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Chris,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Evans
Hi RC

1. Welcome to the discussion and thank you for the very interesting points you make.


Thank you.

Quote:
2. RE FMA: Whilst I do not wish to bite into this one, as such discussions rightly belong to MA forums and here we are collectors. But I agree that there are no surviving traditions of old Spanish fencing, save with the later small sword/epee, which in any event were adaptations of the French school, with Hispanic touches added.


According to maestro William Gaugler, modern-day Neapolitan fencers maintain that there is a Spanish element to their fencing, though they don't know what the element actually is. Aside from that (which obviously isn't much, given the sheer lack of details), there is no surviving Spanish swordplay of any kind.

Quote:
2. Re Double Time & G.Silver:

Several issues here:

a) The notion of what we mean by double time (DT) has to be defined. In modern fencing it is generally understood as being able to parry with the sword's blade in all four lines, something only possible with the light weight smallsword and its descendants.


Broadswords and backswords are actually well-balanced and responsive. Double-time actions (parry-ripostes) are quite feasible with them. As a collector yourself, I would have thought that you would agree on this.

Quote:
b) If you read my post again, you'll see that I did say that some DT moves are possible with a heavy sword. But only some - Do read that article by Stephan Hand as to why (link given in an earlier thread). The old fencing treatises dealt with fencing in DT with a heavy sword and were unanimous in condemning the practice. A heavy sword just cannot be moved with sufficient speed to intercept all incoming attacks and to successfully riposte.


Keep in mind that I'm not talking about the German longsword school. I'm talking about Anglo-Scottish broadsword/backsword, as well as later military sabers and cutlasses.

Quote:
c) Re George Silver: After having been dismissed by generations of fencers as a reactionary who obstinately refused to see reason and preached mostly fallacies, Silver has found new favour with English speaking historical fencers and has gained quite a following. A lot of his writings, as all historical treatises, have to be interpreted with considerable caution and in the light of expertise. To be sure, he made many valid observations worthy of our consideration, but he cannot be uncritically accepted, otherwise totally unwarranted conclusions may be drawn.


What about later manuals of broadsword and saber, then? The parry-riposte is a standard method.

Quote:
Silver used a sword and buckler, or dagger, or cloak for parrying, as did everybody else in his day when fencing with either broadsword or rapier. Despite Capo Ferro, upholding that the rapier alone was sufficient for defense, the practice of using an auxiliary parrying implement persisted right into the nineteenth century, at least for brawls - Obviously, it was more reliable than relying on the blade alone.


Swords were used alone as well. Basket-hilts are especially suited to this.

Quote:
All the fencing treatises of the Renaissance era allowed for the possibility that one may have to fight with sword alone and a good deal of their advice, including Silvers', has to be understood in that kind of scenario. Using the sword to parry with had some merit in such a situation, as was parrying with the left hand, but these methods were far from being the preferred option.


Nobody is discounting counteroffensive actions, body voids, "slipping", etc., but the parry-riposte was a greater part of the arsenal of these weapons than you are leading people to believe.


Quote:
3. Re Leading With The Knife Side:

a) This topic can be debated endlessly and I have my opinions on the matter, which I have already given and my reasons. With that said, we have to distinguish whether we are talking about dueling or general combat situations - My remarks were in the context of knife dueling.


Indeed--a knife vs knife scenario.

Quote:
b) One can use whatever stance one wishes, but the Spaniards of old led with the left side because they dueled with parrying capes. To do otherwise would mean largely negating the benefit of the cape and eliminating the possibility of advancing with a "pass".


That's fine, but what about fighting with a knife without the use of a secondary?

Quote:
c) As for the military, generally they are not into knife dueling, neither are they particularly consistent in what they advocate nor are they to be considered as the final arbiters on knife usage - The knife, as the pistol, ranks very low in their priorities, even with special forces. As I am led to believe, the US army currently advocates leading with the left arm and leg, but the Argentinian army prefers a hybrid stance in which the left arm and right leg lead. What is significant in both of these systems is that the free arm is there to parry with.

That said, I take your point about Biddle, though it is held that Applegate did not think much of him and he (Applegate) advocated leading with the left arm and leg.


Why should we favor Applegate over Biddle? Applegate designed a nice knife after the War, but I don't see what makes him "more of an authority" on the subject of knife combat than Biddle.

Applegate was a student of Fairbairn, and you should consider that Fairbairn's curriculum has met its share of mixed reviews (see Robert W. Smith's critique in Martial Musings).

So, to infer that leading with the weak side is better simply because Applegate said so, doesn't mean all that much me.

Quote:
I read Biddle and he gave me the impression that he had no hands on experience other than in fencing and this was reinforced by his recommending the very questionable Passata Sotto.


I'm not a fan of passata soto for knife fighting either, thought it's at least more feasible with a 16-inch '03 bayonet than a smaller fighting knife.

Quote:
He gave precious little in terms of technique, except to emphasize that the "scientific" knife fighter attacks the knife hand of his opponent and that there were many advantages to be obtained from using fencing moves - He used the bayonet in the manner of a dueling sabre, which it is not, though even he had the good sense of advancing the unarmed arm so as to be ready to parry.


You said yourself that much of the material on knife combat doesn't amount to a great deal, in terms of technique--Biddle was hardly unique in that department. Look at Applegate's Combat Use of the Double-Edged Fighting Knife and you'll see what I mean.

Quote:
We have to remember that Biddle was a wealthy socialite schooled in sport fencing who turned soldier; He was enthused, perhaps over enthused by all manner of close combat arts, and much of what he advocated did not reflect military realities or needs. Here is a link to a rather interesting article on him:

http://ejmas.com/jnc/jncart_Svinth_1201.htm

Military men are forever writing about this and that, with the aim of furthering their careers; Some of their material is sound and a lot not so sound. Also a lot of the stuff in army manuals was put there primarily to build confidence and raise morale, and must be read as such, rather than as definitive technical statements.


That should be considered with ALL "military men", then.

Including Applegate.

Back to the subject of the strong-side lead in a knife vs. knife situation, I would recommend what Cold Steel head honcho Lynn Thompson does--spar it out.

The results will speak for themselves.

Best,

R C
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Old 23rd October 2005, 09:35 AM   #85
Chris Evans
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Hi RC

....Aside from that (which obviously isn't much, given the sheer lack of details), there is no surviving Spanish swordplay of any kind.

I don't think that you read my post fully. But any kind? That's rather broad isn't it? Just what do you mean by Spanish school? For example how would you classify maestro Carbonel?

Broadswords and backswords are actually well-balanced and responsive.

a) For what application? Cutting? Thrusting? Dueling? On horse back or afoot?

b) Responsive is very subjective, but balance can be measured. Where would you say that their point of balance is in relation to the quillons or end of the grip (not the shell or forward parts of the guard)? And where should it be for (i) cutting and (ii) thrusting? (iii) fencing in ST and DT?

Double-time actions (parry-ripostes) are quite feasible with them... Keep in mind that I'm not talking about the German longsword school. I'm talking about Anglo-Scottish broadsword/backsword, as well as later military sabers and cutlasses.

I already conceded twice that SOME DT actions are possible with them. If you mean full DT play, in all four lines, then please say so and quote your historical sources.

What about later manuals of broadsword and saber, then? The parry-riposte is a standard method.

Standard? And what do you mean by saber? Even then, in which century and which country? Again, please quote your historical sources.

Swords were used alone as well. Basket-hilts are especially suited to this.

I already acknowledged this. If you disagree with the context that I gave for such usage then please state your alternative understanding, otherwise you assertion does not add up to more than a tautology.

....but the parry-riposte was a greater part of the arsenal of these weapons than you are leading people to believe.

Are you suggesting that they parried and riposted in all four lines as in say the stage fight in the film Prisoner of Zenda(1937)? Again your historical sources please.


That's fine, but what about fighting with a knife without the use of a secondary?

I already wrote what Castle in the late nineteenth century wrote about knife usage by the Spaniards. If caught without a parrying implement the Gauchos used a stance very similar to that of Applegate and tried to protect the torso with the left arm and hand. Of course, there being no schools as such, it is and was every man to himself, but that was the general approach 50 years ago. These days all sorts of arts have found their way there, so there is no way of predicting what anyone would do.


Why should we favor Applegate over Biddle? Applegate designed a nice knife after the War, but I don't see what makes him "more of an authority" on the subject of knife combat than Biddle.

I think that you misunderstood my words. I did not uphold one over the other. I only quoted those two to illustrate my contention that the armed forces are not entirely consistent in their approach and therefore cannot be used to support one view or the other as being more valid.

So, to infer that leading with the weak side is better simply because Applegate said so, doesn't mean all that much me.

I never quoted Applegate or any other knife teacher in support of my views. Throughout all my writings I consistently upheld the view that all this talk about knife fighting schools and techniques is much about very little. In real combat with knives, luck, aggression, agility, timing and surprise over-rode the advantages of mere technique. We have ample historical evidence for this and indeed Castle said as much himself. In short, knives make for poor dueling weapons and if used as such, deliverer either stalemates or bloody and uncertain results for both combatants.

I'm not a fan of passata soto for knife fighting either, thought it's at least more feasible with a 16-inch '03 bayonet than a smaller fighting knife.

Amen to that.

You said yourself that much of the material on knife combat doesn't amount to a great deal, in terms of technique--Biddle was hardly unique in that department. Look at Applegate's Combat Use of the Double-Edged Fighting Knife and you'll see what I mean.

You quoted Biddle in support of your views. I never upheld either of those gentlemen as the purveyor of the ultimate truth. Of course, I have my opinion of each, but it is irrelevant to this thread, which is about the navaja and associated themes.

That should be considered with ALL "military men", then.Including Applegate.

After re-reading my original post, I think that we got yet one more tautology here masquerading as an argument. I cannot understand your point, as you seem to be merely repeating what I already said.


Back to the subject of the strong-side lead in a knife vs. knife situation, I would recommend what Cold Steel head honcho Lynn Thompson does--spar it out. The results will speak for themselves.

I fail to see what that would prove, after all, for a combat system to be validated it has to be tested for real and even then by a large number of people to give a representative result - Not very feasible these days. In any event, sparing always contains an element of unreality and whilst it has its uses, it cannot substitute for actual combat.

Nevertheless if Lynn found a better way than the Spaniards or others, then good on him. All sorts of things have been improved upon with the passage of time - For one, he makes far better folders than the Spaniards of old ever did.


Cheers
Chris

Last edited by Chris Evans : 23rd October 2005 at 12:06 PM.
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Old 23rd October 2005, 12:36 PM   #86
Robert Gray
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Hi gentlemen,

What a fascinating and superb thread!

Renegade Conquistador, you sure raised some really good points, but may
I suggest that you read Chris's replies with a little more care. Sorry to
say this Chris, but he writes in a rather academic or legal style. Long
sentences that have to be read several times over before the full significance
of what he says can be taken in.

I know nothing of this subject, but I greatly enjoy learning from all
of you. Keep it up fellows.

Best Regards
Robert
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Old 23rd October 2005, 12:50 PM   #87
Frank
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Renegade Conquistador

I just came home from the country and this tread has grown like grass.

I tell you ufpront that I know a litle about Jap swordsmanship. I studied it a bit for my MA gradings. Not much only enough to know the basics. What Chris wrote made alot of things clear for me.

If you were to block a cut with a european sword like a saber, which part of the blade would you use?

Have a good one
Frank
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Old 23rd October 2005, 03:45 PM   #88
Renegade Conquistador
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Robert,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Gray
Hi gentlemen,

What a fascinating and superb thread!


Yeah, this thread was pretty darn compelling long before I arrived.

Quote:
Renegade Conquistador, you sure raised some really good points, but may
I suggest that you read Chris's replies with a little more care. Sorry to
say this Chris, but he writes in a rather academic or legal style. Long
sentences that have to be read several times over before the full significance
of what he says can be taken in.


If I have "misread" anything Chris has written, I apologize.

Quote:
I know nothing of this subject, but I greatly enjoy learning from all
of you. Keep it up fellows.


I'll do my part, and I'm sure the others will too.

Best,

R C
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Old 23rd October 2005, 03:47 PM   #89
Renegade Conquistador
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank
If you were to block a cut with a european sword like a saber, which part of the blade would you use?


Parries are made with the forte (strong base) of the blade, which is typically blunt.
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Old 23rd October 2005, 04:24 PM   #90
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Chris,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Evans
Hi RC

....Aside from that (which obviously isn't much, given the sheer lack of details), there is no surviving Spanish swordplay of any kind.

I don't think that you read my post fully. But any kind? That's rather broad isn't it? Just what do you mean by Spanish school? For example how would you classify maestro Carbonel?


By "Spanish school" I mean just that--a distinct Spanish school of fencing. None, to the best of my knowledge, have survived.

Forgive me, but I am not familiar with maestro Carbonel.

However, I can say that recent Spanish fencing masters have taught from the surviving French and Italian schools (Julio Castello, who used a saber to defeat a kendoka in the early 20th century, comes to mind).

Quote:
Broadswords and backswords are actually well-balanced and responsive.

a) For what application? Cutting? Thrusting? Dueling? On horse back or afoot?


For all of the above.

In my own experience, I have handled numerous original basket-hilted broadswords and backswords from the 17th and 18th centuries, and they certainly fit Silver's description of a "short, sharp, light sword".

My old maestro from BCAF noted the same thing when he receive a special tour of the Tower of London Armouries many years ago--he told me how much lighter the originals were, when compared with so many replicas today. "You could fence with these," as he put it.

Quote:
b) Responsive is very subjective, but balance can be measured. Where would you say that their point of balance is in relation to the quillons or end of the grip (not the shell or forward parts of the guard)? And where should it be for (i) cutting and (ii) thrusting? (iii) fencing in ST and DT?


Obviously the POB is further down the blade that with a purely thrusting implement like a smallsword, but that doesn't change the fact that these weapons can be used for double-time actions.

Quote:
Double-time actions (parry-ripostes) are quite feasible with them... Keep in mind that I'm not talking about the German longsword school. I'm talking about Anglo-Scottish broadsword/backsword, as well as later military sabers and cutlasses.

I already conceded twice that SOME DT actions are possible with them. If you mean full DT play, in all four lines, then please say so and quote your historical sources.


By "all four lines" I assume you mean inside and outside, high and low. Parries with the point up, and parries with the point down. If this is "full DT play", then yes, I don't see a problem there (though, FWIW, many broadswordsmen took all their parries in pronation).

Quote:
What about later manuals of broadsword and saber, then? The parry-riposte is a standard method.

Standard? And what do you mean by saber? Even then, in which century and which country? Again, please quote your historical sources.


By saber I mean the military saber. No specific country. We're talking largely about a "pan-European cut-and-thrust method" here.

Of course, there's also the "Radaellian" duelling saber--the sciabola di terreno of the late 19th century. That weapon is lighter than the military types, and likewise can be used for double-time actions.

Quote:
Swords were used alone as well. Basket-hilts are especially suited to this.

I already acknowledged this. If you disagree with the context that I gave for such usage then please state your alternative understanding, otherwise you assertion does not add up to more than a tautology.


Am I being repetitive? I am genuinely sorry if I was.

In any case, you stated:

Quote:
Silver used a sword and buckler, or dagger, or cloak for parrying, as did everybody else in his day when fencing with either broadsword or rapier.


In reply, I simply stated what you left out--i.e., the fact that Silver also taught the use of the sword alone.

Quote:
....but the parry-riposte was a greater part of the arsenal of these weapons than you are leading people to believe.

Are you suggesting that they parried and riposted in all four lines as in say the stage fight in the film Prisoner of Zenda(1937)? Again your historical sources please.


I don't have them in front of me (I'm at my gal's house at the moment), but the manuals I have seen list a slew of parries, so let me get back to you on that.


Quote:
That's fine, but what about fighting with a knife without the use of a secondary?

I already wrote what Castle in the late nineteenth century wrote about knife usage by the Spaniards. If caught without a parrying implement the Gauchos used a stance very similar to that of Applegate and tried to protect the torso with the left arm and hand. Of course, there being no schools as such, it is and was every man to himself, but that was the general approach 50 years ago. These days all sorts of arts have found their way there, so there is no way of predicting what anyone would do.


I was talking about knife vs. knife in general, not from a specific culture.


Quote:
Why should we favor Applegate over Biddle? Applegate designed a nice knife after the War, but I don't see what makes him "more of an authority" on the subject of knife combat than Biddle.

I think that you misunderstood my words. I did not uphold one over the other. I only quoted those two to illustrate my contention that the armed forces are not entirely consistent in their approach and therefore cannot be used to support one view or the other as being more valid.


I see.

Quote:
So, to infer that leading with the weak side is better simply because Applegate said so, doesn't mean all that much me.

I never quoted Applegate or any other knife teacher in support of my views.


Perhaps your original post was unclear. Or perhaps I misread it.

Quote:
Throughout all my writings I consistently upheld the view that all this talk about knife fighting schools and techniques is much about very little. In real combat with knives, luck, aggression, agility, timing and surprise over-rode the advantages of mere technique. We have ample historical evidence for this and indeed Castle said as much himself.


Indeed, he did.

Quote:
In short, knives make for poor dueling weapons and if used as such, deliverer either stalemates or bloody and uncertain results for both combatants.


I think that's why various Southern states chose to outlaw the Bowie knife--as one legislator put it, "a sword can be parried", but the knife cannot.

Quote:
I'm not a fan of passata soto for knife fighting either, thought it's at least more feasible with a 16-inch '03 bayonet than a smaller fighting knife.

Amen to that.


I figured that one out by "sparring it out".

Quote:
You said yourself that much of the material on knife combat doesn't amount to a great deal, in terms of technique--Biddle was hardly unique in that department. Look at Applegate's Combat Use of the Double-Edged Fighting Knife and you'll see what I mean.

You quoted Biddle in support of your views. I never upheld either of those gentlemen as the purveyor of the ultimate truth. Of course, I have my opinion of each, but it is irrelevant to this thread, which is about the navaja and associated themes.


I quoted Biddle because it is a good system for its intended application.

Quote:
That should be considered with ALL "military men", then.Including Applegate.

After re-reading my original post, I think that we got yet one more tautology here masquerading as an argument. I cannot understand your point, as you seem to be merely repeating what I already said.


The only "tautology" will take place right now--I'll repeat that, either your original post wasn't clear, or I misread it. No big deal either way, and things seem clearer now.


Quote:
Back to the subject of the strong-side lead in a knife vs. knife situation, I would recommend what Cold Steel head honcho Lynn Thompson does--spar it out. The results will speak for themselves.

I fail to see what that would prove, after all, for a combat system to be validated it has to be tested for real and even then by a large number of people to give a representative result - Not very feasible these days. In any event, sparing always contains an element of unreality and whilst it has its uses, it cannot substitute for actual combat.


It's not the same, but it's as close as we can practically get. Sparring is actually a pretty good indicator of what will and what will not work. It must be used in conjunction with other training methods (drills, test cutting, etc), but it is certainly a crucial component, and has been at least since Roman times, if not earlier.

Quote:
Nevertheless if Lynn found a better way than the Spaniards or others, then good on him. All sorts of things have been improved upon with the passage of time - For one, he makes far better folders than the Spaniards of old ever did.


LOL.

In any event, I have no problem with a weak-side-lead in the Spanish context, when a secondary is used. Without a secondary, however, the weak-side-lead is distinctly at a disadvantage in a knife vs. knife fight.

Best,

R C

Last edited by Renegade Conquistador : 23rd October 2005 at 06:09 PM.
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