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Thread: Article: On The After-Blow

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    Article: On The After-Blow

    On the After-Blow
    Matt Galas, Copyright 2010


    Grieve not greatly if thou be touched a little;
    for an after-stroke is better if thou dare him smite.

    -- The Play with the 2 Hand Sword in Verse, Harleian MS 3542, late 15th century


    Over the past five years, HEMA researchers have uncovered a series of historical rules for playing prizes with various weapons. The richest sources of information come from Belgium and France, where the statutes of fencing masters and the internal rules of the civic fencing guilds provide a great amount of detail on how prizes were played. These rules, which deal with the use of the longsword, rapier, and rapier & dagger, were in effect from the early 1500s until 1791, when the French Revolution put an end to the fencing guilds. It is likely that these rules were in effect for much longer, but were undocumented.

    One of the common elements that has emerged from these documents is a special rule on the so-called "after blow." This term is a translation of the Flemish term naerslag (after-blow) or naersteek (after-thrust) found in Belgian fencing guild rules. In the after-blow rule, a blow struck by an attacker is not considered to be a valid hit unless he escapes unscathed. Thus, a successful attack is negated by the after-blow, which is a blow struck by the defender immediately after he is hit. The defender has a limited number of steps he can take with his after-blow. One step appears to be the norm, but some guild rules allow as many as three steps to be taken when delivering the after-blow. Double hits (i.e., simultaneous hits by both fencers) are not the same as an after-blow, but also negate a successful attack.

    To make the effect of this rule clear, here is an example of its application: My opponent deceives me with a feint, then hits me with a blow on my shoulder. As he retreats, I pursue him with a passing step, striking at him. If I hit him with this after-blow, his earlier hit is nullified. If he evades or parries my blow, then his blow is counted as a clean hit, and is valid.

    The after-blow rule is not unique to France and Belgium. It can also be documented in Italy, where it is discussed in Manciolino's manual of fence, the Opera Nova of 1531, as well as in a work known as the Anonimo Bolognese, a manuscript written in the 16th century. The concept appears to have been used in England, too, where the term "after stroke" can be documented in the late 15th century, and the term "after veny" in the early 17th century. (The word "veny", which had many variations in English, is taken from the French work venue, and meant a blow given while fencing.) Thus, this rule appears to have been a broad phenomenon in fencing circles in Europe during the 16th century. It remained current in Belgium until the French Revolutionaries disbanded the guild system in 1791.

    The after-blow was a feature of European fencing in quite a few countries for several hundred years, during a time when the sword was a relevant weapon. Considering that these competitions were run by fencing masters, presumably it had martial value. The following paragraphs discuss the martial significance of the after-blow. Annex I contains primary source material on the after-blow. Annex II contains a selection of medieval proverbs reflecting how ingrained the concept was in the medieval mind.

    Making Sense of the After-Blow Rule


    This was a pass, 'twas fencer's play, and for the after veny, let me use my skill.

    -- The Two Maids of More-clacke, 1609


    From the source material cited in Annex I below, it appears that the after-blow was a phenomenon that was wide-spread across Europe. What are we to make of this rule? To make sense of the after-blow, it needs to be examined from two perspectives: That of the attacker, and that of the defender.

    From an attacker's perspective, the after-blow rule is extremely demanding. It requires him to display consummate swordsmanship in attacking his opponent, since the slightest fault will negate his attack. He must not only close distance and strike the opponent without receiving a double-hit, but must also escape unscathed, without allowing the opponent to land a blow on him -- a very high standard indeed.

    This high standard makes eminent good sense from the perspective of training a swordsman for earnest combat. Recent research makes clear that there is no such thing as a guaranteed sudden kill. Books such as David Grossman's On Combat (PPCT Research Publications, 2004) and articles such as Frank Lurz's "The Dubious Quick Kill" (http://www.classicalfencing.com/articles/bloody.php) provide extensive evidence showing that human beings are capable of functioning after taking tremendous amounts of damage. Numerous accounts survive of swordsmen fighting on after sustaining terrible wounds that one would ordinarily expect to be debilitating. History is replete with examples of swordsmen striking back effectively even after receiving a mortal blow. One illustrative example, from the Peninsular War, follows:


    "Just then, a French officer delivered a thrust at poor Harry Wilson's body, and delivered it effectually. I firmly believe that Wilson died on the instant; yet, though he felt the sword in its progress, he, with characteristic self command, kept his eye still on the enemy in his front, and raising himself in his stirrups, let fall upon the Frenchman's helmet such a blow that brass and skull parted before it; and the man's head was cloven asunder to the chin. It was the most tremendous blow I ever beheld struck; and both he who gave, and his opponent who received it, dropped dead together." Source: Reminiscences of a Light Dragoon, in The United Service Journal, 1840. Cited in Sword Fighters of the British Empire, D.A. Kinsley, 2009.)

    With this in mind, requiring a fencer to show that he is capable of parrying or evading an opponent's retaliatory strike before awarding him a point makes excellent martial sense. As a fellow instructor put it, we should always assume that our opponent's blow will stop us, but that our own blow will not stop the opponent. This is eminent good sense, and I believe is the underlying reason for the custom of the after-blow. Compare this to the rule in modern sport fencing, where a thrust by an epee-fencer is counted as valid, even though it arrives a mere split-second before the opponent's counter-thrust, which also lands.

    From the defender's perspective, the after-blow rule also makes good martial sense. In a real fight, if your opponent has struck you, what is the proper response? Is it to shut down and remain passive? Or is it to retaliate, striking the opponent in turn, while he is still within range? Clearly, the answer is the latter.

    Phrased another way, the after-blow is what you do after your defenses have failed, and you have been hit. What else are you supposed to do at that point? Striking back at the opponent makes good sense in that situation, since at least it prevents the opponent from getting away unscathed. There is something very martial about this, considering the context of a real fight. This attitude says, "I'll fight the best I can; but if he gets through my defenses, I'll have my revenge on him."

    The following example, from a knightly epic known as Willehalm (ca. 1265), shows that this notion was appreciated in the warrior classes in medieval times:

    He struck through Halzibier's helmet
    So that he was nearly dismounted by the blow.
    Halzibier was no slouch either;
    he did not forget to deliver a blow in return.

    (Source: Ulrich von dem Türlîn's Willehalm, stanza 44, verses 28-31, ed. S. Singer, Bibliothek der mhd. Litteratur in Böhmen, Vol. 4 (Prague, 1893))

    More recent examples of this can be found as well. In "Swordsmen of the Raj" (D.A. Kinsley, 2009), there is an account of a sword fight written by an English officer who fought in the Sepoy Mutiny. In this mounted encounter with cavalry sabres, the Englishman began to deliver a cut at his Sikh opponent. The Sikh struck at him at the same time, so he aborted his cut, converting it into a parry at the last moment. The incoming blow collapsed his parry, and he was cut through the face. He said, "However, my guard having been hurriedly made, and my opponent a stronger man than myself, my sword was beaten down and my cheek laid open. After the blow, I had my turn, and gave my 'friend' one over the head." The officer later collapsed from blood loss from the cut to his face, which was a severe one.

    Accounts such as these make clear that the after-blow happened in real life, fighting with sharps. In my view, this attitude is something we should seek to cultivate, rather than the opposite. ("Oh dear, I've been hit. Time to stop.")

    Training martial artists to strike an after-blow in retribution after they are hit amounts to training and honing a natural response. Doing the opposite -- forbidding a fencer to strike after he has been hit -- is potentially a very dangerous thing to do from a training standpoint. Training habits (good or bad) have a way of showing up in real combat. If a martial artist is trained to stop upon receiving a first hit, there is a very real danger that such behavior will manifest itself as a training artifact that surfaces when it is most harmful -- in real combat.

    Viewed from this perspective, conditioning a fighter to stop immediately after a hit is maladaptive in the extreme. Remember the story of the cop who practices his disarms multiple times, always giving the weapon back to his training partner -- and then automatically does that in a real life situation. Not using the after-blow leads the successful fencer to drop his guard while still within striking distance; likewise, it conditions the unsuccessful fencer to stop fighting as soon as he is hit. Neither of these are behaviors which we should encourage in martial artists.

    On the contrary, training the after-blow is a method of developing what old English pugilists used to call "bottom" -- the ability to take a hard blow and continue fighting nonetheless. The idea is to foster the same attitude and fighting spirit captured in this inscription on a German sword from the early 16th century: Haust du mich, so stich Ich dich. (If you cut me, I will stab you in return.) The fact that the after-blow was used in fencing practice for centuries, under the watchful eye of fencing masters, would suggest that they found martial value in the rule as well.

    The concept of the after-blow is inherent in human nature. If we are struck, our natural reaction is to lash back. In medieval German law, this was recognized to such an extent that it is reflected in a legal proverb: "One cannot forbid the after-blow." In medieval German, the term widerslac was not used in a strict fencing sense, but rather was used to describe a blow struck in retaliation by the victim of an attack. This notion was reflected across Europe in proverbs; Appendix II (see below) presents examples which give an idea of how prevalent this concept was across medieval and Renaissance Europe.

    For the reasons stated above, the after-blow rule has been incorporated into many HEMA tournament rule-sets in recent years. Experience at major HEMA tournaments, such as the 2010 tournament at Apelern, Germany, indicates that the better fighters are able to effectively deal with the after-blow. For the rest, this is mainly a matter of training.

    One easy way to train for the after-blow is by using drills in which the training partner gives an opening; the swordsman strikes the open target; and the partner delivers a half-speed after-blow, which the swordsman parries as he moves back out of distance. Many variations of this kind of drill can easily be created with a little imagination. Simply remember Joachim Meyer's adage, in his section on the Zornhut: "Thus, in all techniques you should go from the sword to the body, and from the body to the sword."

    Matt Galas / HEMAC, Belgium

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Appendix I: Primary Source Material on the After-Blow

    The following paragraphs provide a sampling of primary source material documenting the after-blow in Italy, France, Belgium, and England. It spans the time period from the late 15th century to the mid-18th century. (Thanks for Italian translation assistance goes to Ilkka Hartikainen, Caroline Stewart, and Mario Quarta; thanks for Flemish translation assistance goes to Eli Steenput.)

    Italian: Excerpt from Antonio Manciolino, Opera Nova (Venice, 1531), 6 recto:

    "After being hit, it is only allowed to strike back once with one step, as it is in this way that the honor is recovered."

    Italian: Excerpt from the Anonymous Bolognese (manuscript, 16th century, para. 62):

    "The art of fencing with blunt weapons is called giucare (playing), and it is not permitted for a fencer, after he has received a blow, to pass more than one step forward to strike at his enemy. The reason is this: If he were free to take as many steps as he wanted, that would no longer be fencing, but would instead be as if he were fighting for real. Because quite often it occurs that a fencer steps forward as many times as he likes after receiving a blow, throwing himself upon his enemy because he is overcome by anger. And he runs towards his enemy, trying to strike at him anywhere he can on his body, in order to hit him again. Because of this, those who are watching [i.e., the judges] cannot tell what happened, due to him running at his enemy in such a bestial manner, taking more than one step.

    But why do I say that when one has received a blow, he must not take more than one step, while another might say that he should take as many steps as he likes? To him I would respond that such an action happens in the art of combat when one has received a blow, and one can decide to step forward and retreat as much as he likes. However, it often happens that one receives a blow, he is motivated by a desire to throw himself upon his enemy to take revenge, but the blow was of such a nature that he is unable to move and in fact falls to the ground. For that reason, in the art of sport-fencing one cannot step forward more than one step after receiving a blow. Because if you want to take more steps, I will tell you the reason given above: that if the sword was sharp, the blow could have been of such a nature that you would be unable to run forward, but might instead fall to the ground.”

    French: Excerpt from the longsword rules of the fencing guild of Lille (manuscript, late 16th century):

    "Item: In order to maintain order in the game, and to prevent those who are accustomed to run after their opponents, despite having been previously hit, it has been resolved that one will have but a single step after having received a blow; and if one does not deliver the said blow on the first step (such as if one takes two steps), that blow will not be counted for good nor valid."

    Flemish: Excerpt from the longsword rules of the fencing guild of Mechelen (manuscript, 17th century):

    "Whoever fights the defending King at the Knightly Sword must strike him with a valid hit, on the head, shoulders, back or chest, above the elbows and above the belt, as shown by the [chalk] marks, remembering that the King has his after-blow, which must be delivered at once, without following the challenger or opponent more than three steps to give this after-blow, on pain of losing it."

    Flemish: Excerpt from the longsword rules of the fencing guild of Brussels (manuscript, dated 1617):

    "Whoever is fighting against the defending King with the Noble Sword, and strikes him a valid hit (to wit, above the belt, or from the bend of the elbow upwards; because anything below that shall not be counted, either for the Defender or for the Challenger) and then departs from the King free and untouched, then the same one that struck the valid hit shall stand in place of the King. All the others from the Guild shall then play against him, who haven't yet played; and they shall fight him to see whether they can hit him with a higher valid hit. Because whoever strikes the highest valid hit shall remain King, bearing in mind that the King still has a step with an after-blow."

    Flemish: Excerpt from the rapier rules of the fencing guild of Brussels (manuscript, dated 1716):

    "If the challenger can give the champion a thrust without being thrust by the champion above the belt or elbow, then he is rewarded by taking the champion's place (his thrust being registered); he must then try to defend against the other challengers. [...] The champion has the advantage that he can give an after-thrust, which the challenger is not allowed. And for him [ie, the challenger], an after-thrust will not be counted as valid."

    English: Excerpt from Harleian Manuscript 3542, folios 82-85, The Play of the 2 Hand Sword in Verse (late 15th century):

    "Greve not gretly thou yu be tochyd a lyte
    ffor an aftr stroke ys betr yf thou dar hym smyte"

    Note: In the following two excerpts from England, a "veneye" or "veny" is defined in Bullokar's English Expositor (1616) as follows: "Venie. A touch in the body at playing with weapons."

    English: Excerpt from Sloane Manuscript 2530, with the rules of the London Maisters of Defence (manuscript, late 16th - early 17th century):

    "And at anny prize Whether it be maisters prize Provosts prize or fre schollers prize who soever dothe play agaynste ye prizor, and doth strike his blowe and close withall, so that the prizor cannot strike his blowe after agayne, shall wynn no game for anny Veneye so geven althoughe it shold breake the Prizor's head."

    English: Excerpt from The Two Maids of More-clacke, 1609:

    "Can ye warde your selfe? This was a pass, 'twas fencer's play, and for the after veny, let me use my skill."

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Appendix II: The Proverbial After-Blow

    The concept of the after-blow is inherent in human nature. If we are struck, our natural reaction is to lash back. This notion was reflected across Europe in proverbs; the following examples give an idea of how prevalent this concept was.

    Daniel von dem blühenden Tal (ca. 1220), verses 7696-7703, by Der Stricker, ed. Michael Resler (Tübingen, 1983)

    The after-blow has never been forbidden
    to a wrathful man;
    for if he is to survive,
    he must defend himself.
    If he is to preserve his body,
    then he gladly strikes back
    before he lays down and dies;
    we did the same, and rightly so.

    (Widerslac wart nie verboten
    einem zornigen man,
    swenne er niht genesen kan,
    er muoz sich wern.
    ob er den lîp wil genern,
    sô sleht er gerne widere
    ê er gelige dâ nidere.
    rehte alsô tâten wir.)


    A variety of other examples follow, primarily from this source: Thesaurus proverbiorum medii aevi, by Samuel Singer, (New York, de Gruyter, 2000) p. 118-19

    German proverbs:

    Swer sleht, der sol umbe sehen, Waz im da wider muege geschehen (He who strikes should beware what might happen to him in return.) Freidank, Bescheidenheit (ca. 1220), 127, 14.

    Als her Fridank gesprochen hat: Ich geloub, den widerslac Niemen wol verbieten mac. (As Sir Freidank said, 'I believe that no-one can forbid the after-blow.') Heinrich der Teichner, Karajan, 32.

    Latin equivalents:

    Non interdictum fit verber post prius ictum. (It is not forbidden to strike, having been struck before.) Laele 676.

    Lex que plagavit nullo plagare vetavit. (It is the law that he who has been struck cannot be forbidden from striking.) (Freidank Lat. (Graz) 90.

    French equivalents:

    Colée demande son per. (One blow calls for another.) Chast. 26, 118.

    Qui cop reçoit, colée renge. (He who receives a blow, gives a blow in return) Roman de Thebes, App. 3, 10943 (II, 194), (13th century)

    Se tu fiers mi, jou ferrai ti. (If you hit me, I will hit you.) Jehan, Les Mervelles de Rigomer, verse 3714 (13th century)

    English equivalents:

    For he that smytys, he shal be smyten. (He who strikes, he shall be struck.) (Towneley Plays 20, 699) (Also remember the common turn of phrase, "To give as good as you get.")

    Spanish equivalent, using fencing terminology:

    A tal tajo, tal reves. (For such right blow, a reverse blow in return.) (Nunez I, 137)
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Galas View Post
    ...forbidding a fencer to strike after he has been hit -- is potentially a very dangerous thing to do from a training standpoint.
    Bravo, Matt! This is the way our group trains. To outsiders, our fencing can sometimes be seen as "ungentlemanly", but once I explain it to them, they get it immediately.
    Shay Roberts
    Academy of Arms

    One may not be called perfect in this art, as it is likewise in others, if he does not know how to teach somebody else.
    Antonio Manciolino, 1531

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    This is most excellent Matt - thanks so much for posting it!!

    Yours,

    Christian
    Christian Henry Tobler
    Selohaar Fechtschule

    The Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Author, Captain of the Guild, DVD: The Poleaxe, In Saint George's Name

    "Though I love the stout blow and the cunningly placed thrust, my greatest joy when crossing swords lies in those rare moments when Chivalry herself leans over and takes one into Her confidence."

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    This is a great resource, Matt. Now to read through it two or three more times!
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

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    I recall something from a troubador poem on it... looking for a cite.

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    Excellent point,It's easy to relax& think "I've hit him/her"

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    Cool thanks for putting all of this info together there have been tit-bits before but this is great.

    Matt, may I ask, with respect to the rules you have seen is teh after blow concept always used with in the context of a king of the hill type format? Or is it sometimes used in an 'equal' setting?
    Context is everything

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Sellars View Post
    Cool thanks for putting all of this info together there have been tit-bits before but this is great.

    Matt, may I ask, with respect to the rules you have seen is teh after blow concept always used with in the context of a king of the hill type format? Or is it sometimes used in an 'equal' setting?
    The Bolognese (i.e. the original sources in Manciolino and The Anonimo Bolognese) don't say anything about king of the hill--I think it is in an "'equal' setting"

    Steve
    Founder of NoVA-Assalto, an affiliate of the HEMA Alliance

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    Thanks for putting this together.

    As I noted with David's quote earlier in the week, I find it telling that the rules/commentaries in many cases are to limit the number of steps a person can take after being hit. As in the after blow was assumed.

    I have follow-up questions: you note that the after-blow will nullify the attacker's point. Do you mean that neither party will score a point?

    And since a double is handled differently is there a standard for how to score those?

    Lastly, the areas where these rules aren't used - are they places that use different rules that we know about or do we simply lack info for those other areas?

    Thanks again.

    Cheers,
    Steven
    Athena School of Arms - Longsword & Highland Broadsword
    Fight with All Your Strength
    Swords of Chivalry - Youth Swordsmanship in Acton, MA

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steven H View Post

    I have follow-up questions: you note that the after-blow will nullify the attacker's point. Do you mean that neither party will score a point?

    And since a double is handled differently is there a standard for how to score those?
    There are a variety of ways you can use the after-blow:

    1) Traditional Belgian Rules: This is a "King of the Hill" format, where only the King (defender) gets the after-blow. This kind of tournament is run as follows: Draw numbers to see which order the fencers fight in. Then each fighter comes up, according to his number, and tries to de-throne the King by hitting him with a valid blow and getting away without being hit by the after-blow. A double-hit or an after-blow negates the challenger's hit. No points are scored; the goal is just to see who can de-throne the King. Once the King is de-throned, the fencer who did it takes his place as the King. (The King is dead! Long live the King!) Each fencer gets 3 tries to hit the King. This can be done either all at once, or by going to the end of the line after each try.

    To keep the article simple, I omitted the fact that the Belgian rules only allow hits above the waist and above the elbow. (That is, no blows to hands, forearms, or legs.) So an after-blow to these areas would not count at all, presumably.

    2) The Bolognese rules used differential scoring (head =3, legs = 2, body/hand/arms = 1). They also appear to have allowed the after-blow to both parties. Other than that, we don't know much. It may well be that they required the after-blow to be to a more valuable area than the original hit. (E.g., you hit me on the leg = 2, so my after-blow must be to the head =3.) Alternately, they may have simply scored the differential between the two hits: You hit my head (3), but I hit you on the arm with an after-blow (1), so the adjusted score is 2 for you. Alternately, you hit me on the leg (2), but I hit you on the head with an after-blow (3), so the adjusted score is 1 for me. Hard to say, but the end result is the same: A more fluid fight that is more representative of what happens in reality, and which requires the swordsman to look to his defense even after he scores a hit.

    3) Simply fence as in normal tournament rules, adding the after-blow. The after-blow gains you no point, it just negates the hit you just received. You shouldn't be rewarded for an after-blow, since you shouldn't have allowed yourself to be hit in the first place. However, the after-blow lets you undo the damage that has been done by "giving as good as you got", returning the score to what it was before.

    4) Another way of incorporating the after-blow is to use differential scoring. At one tournament, we gave 3 points for a clean hit (ie, no double hits occurred, not hit by an after-blow). If you hit the opponent, but got hit on the way out, you only got 1 point. This has the benefit of rewarding the attacker for hitting, but not as much as if he made a clean hit.

    As far as double hits, I prefer to count them as 0 points for either fighter, but to impose a penalty at some point. (Such as, after 3 or maybe 5 double hits, the fight would end, counted as a loss for both fencers.) In some cases (France, earliest ruleset, prior to 1547), a double hit was counted in favor of the King.

    Overall, I think I prefer Option 2 for its simplicity. But all of these work.

    - Matt Galas / HEMAC, Belgium
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steven H View Post

    Lastly, the areas where these rules aren't used - are they places that use different rules that we know about or do we simply lack info for those other areas?
    The rule-sets for Germany, Italy, and England are all pretty vague. It's a question of piecing these together. Really, we don't know a lot about these areas. France and Belgium are the most complete, and offer the most corroboration. For Spain and Portugal, the information is next to nothing at this point. No doubt, more info will be uncovered over time. I have a line on the statutes of the fencing masters of Lisbon, so perhaps will find something there...

    I have very limited evidence of an after-blow in Germany, coming from the Federfechter rules for testing masters. Will post this later, and allow folks to reach their own conclusions.

    Regards,
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Mondschein View Post
    I recall something from a troubador poem on it... looking for a cite.
    That would be great if you could find that, Ken!

    - Matt
    Matt Galas
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    On a different forum, someone asked: "How do you prevent people from not caring too much if they make the parry, since they know they'll get an after-blow? How do you prevent people from just training their retaliative strike reflexes?"

    My response: I think it's unlikely that people will neglect their parries, since there's no guarantee you will be able to actually hit the opponent with your after-blow. The other person may parry your after-blow, they may evade you, or they may just catch you flat-footed and unable to step to the attack in time. (I've seen many instances where this was the case, been a victim a few times myself!) Remember, the afterblow doesn't win you the fight - it merely negates the other guy's advantage.

    Also, there is a difference between an after-blow and a double-hit. Double hits should be penalized by eventually counting it as a loss for both fighters. Also, the rules people currently use (double hits = 0) already allow you to simply do a double-hit to negate your opponent's hit.

    Final thought: Yes, I suppose I could be lax about my parries, since I know I will still have an after-blow. But after a short while, I'm going to get really beat up from taking all those hits. In a tournament, I will pay a big price for that accumulated damage. Also, I will look like a noob who can't defend myself. Bottom line: I think most fencers have more self-respect than that. Appropriate use of peer pressure (= mockery) can also help avoid that...

    Regards,

    - Matt Galas / HEMAC, Belgium
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

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    Agreed w/Matt regarding the motivations NOT to rely on the after-blow. Although we had limited success in its use at the 600, because fighters forgot to use it, when it was applied, it really worked more as a way to prevent "poke and prey" (or "cut and hope?") or "stopping to admire your handiwork". Holding the field is exhausting, and because you aren't trading hits - this is not a double-hit - the idea of just taking one and then hoping to skunk him as he recovers just didn't seem to come into play.

    We uses a simpler version of the Bolognese scoring convention, making the sword arm = to the head. Next time I might try the scoring system Manciolino recommends, or keep the higher cost for arming sword. But it seemed like the combination of a weighted scoring method that could end a fight very swiftly if you weren't paying attention, the after blow, and rewarding double hits to the higher blow/penalizing players if the blows were equivalent had merit. It's not many rules to keep track of and it seemed to lead to a good combination of vigor and caution in the bouts.

    I need to figure out who videoed the normal tournament bouts so we can get them online and critique - not so much the fighting, as the conventions as they were applied in the moment.
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

  15. #15
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    German After-Blow?

    Greetings, all!

    This is an excerpt from the Federfechter statutes from 1607 which appears to describe something similar to an after-blow rule when playing a master's prize. Essentially, this rule appears to say that a double hit counts in favor of the master candidate, as long as he draws blood with the strike. (Remember, German Fechtschule rules provided that the winner was the one who struck the highest bleeding hit.) This would make it similar to the Franco-Belgian rules, which made a double-hit count in favor of the one playing the prize. Here is the relevant line: "If he is immediately struck, and he also strikes the other a high bleeding wound, this shall not hinder him from being made a Master of the Longsword..." Full translation follows; bolded text is the relevant portion.

    Regards,

    - Matt Galas

    ========================
    Excerpt from Federfechter Statutes, Prague, 1607:

    "Third, so that the imperial privilege shall be held in good repute, no unskilled master shall be allowed to take part or be eligible for it. And whosoever wishes to enjoy such an honor, must report to the general assembly in Prague, which is held each year the Sunday after St. Veit’s day (or when that falls in Easter Week, 8 days thereafter), and show through credible documentation where he studied and who granted him his privilege, and also that he is of legitimate birth. Thereafter, he must allow the leader and captains to submit him to a test in the use of the sword by opponents. If he is immediately struck, and he also strikes the other a high bleeding wound, this shall not hinder him from being made a Master of the Longsword and being inscribed as a bearer of the imperial privilege of the Feather. "
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  16. #16
    Hi Matt,

    Do you have the original German text ready? It would be interesting to read the rest of the context.

    I am not surprised by that ruling, given the fact that in the German Fechtschule dealing a bleeding wound counts as victory, regardless of other hits being dealt/recieved (except for those that simply cause one party to give up)

    Regards, Thomas
    Erschrickstu gern /
    Keyn Fechten lern.

  17. #17
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    Hi, Thomas!

    Here it is:

    "Zum Dritten, damit solche kaiserliche Freyheit in Acht genommen werd, soll nit ein jeder ungeschickter Meister dessen theilhaftig oder fähig werden, und soll der, der solcher Gnad genießen will, auf die Generalschul, so jährlichen Sonntag nach St. Veitstag, oder wo er in der Pfingst-Wochen gefiel, 8 Tag hernacher zu Prag soll gehalten werden, erscheinen und durch glaubwürdig Urkunden darthun, wo er gelernt und von wem er gefreiet, auch ob er ehrlich geboren, darnach sich vom Obmann und Hauptleuten im Schwert vom Gegentheil probiren lassen. Wann er gleich geschlagen wird, und er einem Andern auch steil Blutrührn schlägt, soll er zum Meister des langen Schwerts unverhindert gemacht und ein kaiserlicher Gefreiter von der Federn geschrieben werden. Jedoch sollen diejenigen Meister, so alt und erfahren, und ihrer Kunst halben vorhin wohl bekannt sein, ihre Proben an Fürsten- und Herren-höfen, auch fürnehmen Städten verricht, vom Obmann und Hauptleuten ohne weiter Proben zu Meistern des langen Schwerts gemacht und eingeschrieben werden."

    Regards,

    - Matt
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  18. #18
    Thanks, Matt

    Regards, Thomas
    Erschrickstu gern /
    Keyn Fechten lern.

  19. #19
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    After-Blow Video

    Okay, here is a video of a fight with a few clear after-blows from the recent tournament in Apelern (July 2010). I've made a few comments below on how I see the action; no disrespect to any of the judges is intended. I know how hard judging is; it's a thankless task, and video footage can be very deceptive.

    Arnoet Stahlenberg - Netherlands (in white) vs. Dennis Ljungquist - Sweden (in black).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVoPGCh3P94

    At 1:07 to 1:08, White hits Black (head). Black strikes an after-blow, which hits (according to the judges). It looks to me like White parries the blow, but videos can be very deceiving. He probably just barely missed the parry.

    At 1:17, Black appears to hit White with a one-handed blow to the arm. White moves in for an after-blow, but Black moves out of distance, successfully evading. (The judges don't notice this; but the sound of the blow to the arm seems pretty clear on the video.)

    At 1:30 to 1:34, White gets a hit on Black (head). Black strikes an after-blow at White, who parries the blow.

    At 1:57, Black gets a hit on White's arm. (Apparently; but sounds like it hit the blade to me.) White strikes an after-blow, but Black parries it.

    At 2:12, White gets a hit on Black (side), but Black hits White with an after-blow on the shoulder. White just misses the parry, but you can clearly hear the blow hitting.

    At 5:12, Black gets the final hit of the fight (to the arm); White steps in with an after-blow, which Black parries.

    Regards,
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  20. #20
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    Avoiding the After-Blow

    There are essentially 3 ways of avoiding the after-blow:

    1) Hit, then get out quick.

    2) Hit, then bind immediately.

    3) Hit, then crowd him, closing into pommel or grappling distance.

    If you look at the article, you'll see the English actually forbid #3, since it prevented him from taking his after-blow. The Belgian rules also disallowed corps-a-corps. So the effect of the rule is probably likely to encourage closing, once people understand the rule. Hard to say, but will be very interesting to see the effects on our fencing practice...

    Regards,
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  21. #21
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    I would like to dwell a bit on the first way of avoiding after-blows that mr. Galas advises (by the way, mr. Galas, thank you for the article: it's another fine show of scholarship and fencing knowledge shared by you with the historical fencing comunity)

    Most after-blow rules allows a step for the defender, so, IMO, an attacker should not thrust only in retreating further and faster than the advancing defender(*) in order to avoid the after-blow, but he also has to go back covering himself from the shortest-path posible after-blow that the defender may attemp given the position of his sword after the (un)successfull parry. That is, the retreat's aim should not be to get out of reach from the after-blow, but to buy enough time (=distance) for the defense.

    IMO, the greatness of the after-blow rule is that removes from the fencer's mind the notion of the "definitive attack" as a preconceived act. Obviously, there is allways one definitive attack in each fencing bout, but note that is a post hoc fact. If the fencer thinks that the attack he is going to execute will surely hit the opponent, he will tend unconsciously to overcommit himself to that attack, disregarding his future defense ("after all, i'm going to hit him, isn't it?"); and if the fencer thinks that the attack he is going to execute will surely hit the opponent, he is deceiving himself : a bad combination. So, when working with the afterblow, instead of being "the thing that ends bouts", attacks become that they should be: another fencing action on par with the rest of them, all of them suject to the primary aim of keeping the defense.

    Why, then, don't we use the after-blow in our school? Because we feel that there isn't an urging need of it, as the notion that in fencing there is not such thing as a definitive attack is one of the first principles we teach to our students(**), and it is enforced continously, so I think that the average AEEA fencer would feel confortable in an "afterblow environtment".

    (*)It's a biomechanical fact that one steps foward faster than backward, so in order to thrust merely on the distance for the defense of the afterblow, we have to be really swift with our backward stepping and the opponent should be really clumsy with his foward stepping: only if we have observed that both conditions are met, we can try to void the afterblow.

    (**)That's another of the Destreza "easter eggs": when analizing fencing actions as described in the treatises, we found that many of them ended going back to the mean of proportion (a.k.a. "defensive distance"): in our naiveness we asked ourselves why to go back to it if the treatise clearly stated that you should do that after hitting your opponent, untill we understood that that was another implementation of the "don't assume nothing that can't be really assumed" core principle of the Destreza.
    De vencer cada uno deseoso,
    buscaba nuevo modo, industria y arte
    de encaminar el golpe de la espada
    por do diese a la muerte franca entrada.

    Alonso de Ercilla

  22. #22
    The only issue with the after-blow rule I have is that a tagged person is effectively invulernable (albeit for just one step), for that reason I consider the option of another successful hit before the retaliation as additional means to prevent the after blow.

    IMHO in both cases you would have anything that qualifies for an "ippon" rating, i.e. demonstrating one flawless action.

    For the german method I´m thinking about taping a destructible target to the upper third of the fencing masks, to simulate a bleeding wound - just like the Japanese did with clay disks as Matt pointed out.

    I´m just unsure which material would work best.

    Regards, Thomas
    Erschrickstu gern /
    Keyn Fechten lern.

  23. #23
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    Hi, Miguel!

    Quote Originally Posted by Miguel Palacio View Post
    I would like to dwell a bit on the first way of avoiding after-blows that mr. Galas advises (by the way, mr. Galas, thank you for the article: it's another fine show of scholarship and fencing knowledge shared by you with the historical fencing comunity)

    Most after-blow rules allows a step for the defender, so, IMO, an attacker should not thrust only in retreating further and faster than the advancing defender(*) in order to avoid the after-blow, but he also has to go back covering himself from the shortest-path posible after-blow that the defender may attemp given the position of his sword after the (un)successfull parry. That is, the retreat's aim should not be to get out of reach from the after-blow, but to buy enough time (=distance) for the defense.
    I agree with this. My #1 assumes that you will cover the line as you retreat, or at least be prepared to. The retreat gains you distance, either breaking measure (ideal) or at least buying you time to parry if required.

    You also wrote:

    Quote Originally Posted by Miguel Palacio View Post

    (*)It's a biomechanical fact that one steps foward faster than backward, so in order to thrust merely on the distance for the defense of the afterblow, we have to be really swift with our backward stepping and the opponent should be really clumsy with his foward stepping: only if we have observed that both conditions are met, we can try to void the afterblow.
    Is this really true? I tend to agree with George Silver on this, who wrote that the initial step backward is faster than the initial step forward; but that the continuous backward motion of the feet is clearly slower than the continuous forward motion of the feet.

    Regards,
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by T. Stoeppler View Post
    The only issue with the after-blow rule I have is that a tagged person is effectively invulernable (albeit for just one step), for that reason I consider the option of another successful hit before the retaliation as additional means to prevent the after blow.
    Very interesting point, Thomas, and not a bad suggestion. Will have to think about this, perhaps not a bad rule. I suppose if there is a double hit or an after-blow on the second hit, then it could simply negate the second hit (not the first).

    The only problem is getting judges to actually see the second hit. In my experience, even when there is a rule that a fencer can gain 2 points for successive hits (such as a double Zwerch), it's difficult to get enough judges to see the second hit and agree on it, so that the fencer gets credit. And yet, I think we should clearly be trying to encourage this kind of fencing...

    Regards,
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by T. Stoeppler View Post
    The only issue with the after-blow rule I have is that a tagged person is effectively invulernable (albeit for just one step), for that reason I consider the option of another successful hit before the retaliation as additional means to prevent the after blow.
    On the other hand, I wonder if there is a danger that it could lead people to simply charge in with multiple strikes, hoping to get a score for at least one of them, and ignoring their own defense...

    Regards,
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

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