Big fish, small pond?

As of tonight, I have a new challenge in my life.

Sifu Dale announced tonight that next year he plans to send a team to next year’s Quoshu, a national-level martial-arts competition held every year in northern Maryland in late summer.

I told Sifu I want to go and compete in weapons, at least. He was like, “Well, of course,” as though he’d been expecting it. Which is maybe a little surprising and flattering considering I’ll be pushing 60 then.

It’ll mean serious training for the next year, and maybe a pretty humiliating experience if it turns out I’m too old and slow. But I want to try, because it’s national-level competition against fighters from dozens of different styles, and…frankly, I’m tired of not having any clear idea how good I am. Winning would be nice, but what I really want is to measure myself against a bigger talent pool.children tracker

The thing is, on the limited evidence I have, the possibilities range from “Eric is a clumsy goof who powers through weak opposition just by being a little stronger and more aggressive” to “Eric is a genuinely powerful and clever fighter who even national-level competitors had better take seriously.” It’s really hard for me to tell.

I’ve tended to look pretty good at schools where the style matched my physical capabilities. I was a duffer at aikido and undistinguished at MMA, but me in a style that’s about hitting things or swinging weapons and I shine. You really, really don’t want to be in the way when I strike at full power; I never do it against my training partners because I don’t want to break them. On one occasion at my MMA school when I was practicing short punches against a padded structural beam I vibrated the building. Not kidding!

I also take hits very well when they happen. My sifu often tells new students “Hit him as hard as you can. You can’t hurt him,” which claim is funny because it’s largely true. By the time they can put enough mv**2 on target to make me flinch they’re well beyond being newbies. Generally if he doesn’t say this the student has trained in another striking style before.

On the other hand, I’m only tested against a relatively small population, and it’s not clear that my upper-body strength is the kind of advantage against genuinely skilled opponents that it is when you’re, say, trying to vibrate a building. I’m slow on my feet and my balance is iffy because cerebral palsy. And there are lots of people who can do technique better than me.

If I’m really good, then it’s because (a) I’m strong and tough, (b) I’m aggressive, and (c) I have a kind of low cunning about fighting and do things my opponents don’t expect and aren’t prepared for. I know where my tiger is. An awful lot of people who are better martial technicians than me don’t, and that is a fact.

But I don’t know what percentile this puts me in if you could match me against a hundred people who have also been training for years and are among the best at their schools. In a year and change maybe I will. It’s worth the effort to find out.

58 thoughts on “Big fish, small pond?

  1. @esr –

    Reading this gets me even more excited about SWR in a couple of weeks. I know that as a total n00b I have a very tall mountain to climb on learning technique, etc. But I’m eager to find *my* inner tiger, and to match my potential skill and spirit against you and the rest of the company.

    :D

    (I’ve told several people when describing this great adventure-to-be that I’m going to come home as “the baddest-ass 61-year-old knife fighter you’ll have ever met. Probably because you don’t know any other 61-year-old knife fighters.” Obviously, none of them have ever met you.)

    May I wish you the best of skill and luck in your training towards this challenge!

  2. So … will we see you at WBC this year? Because it’s the same question, just a different arena.

  3. Hm. There’s another factor in here you’re not exploring. You are able and skilled at mixing elements from many different styles. How common is that in the high level martial arts world? If not very, that gives you another advantage in being able to come at someone out of left field with something they’re not expecting.

  4. > You are able and skilled at missing elements from many different styles.
    > How common is that in the high level martial arts world?

    I think more common than most would believe. Almost everyone I know who is at a high level in one art has studied seriously at least one other.

    I have belts in 2 (Doce Pares Escrima, Bujinkan), have spent probably thousands of hours on pistol and rifle ranges (with at least 100 hours of documented training), and am currently a “Novice” in the Italian HEMA descended from Fiore.

    Heck, tomorrow my wife is testing for her 2nd level (whatever) in Krav Maga, has a belt in Escrima and trains along side me in the Italian stuff.

    She needs to spend more time with a gun in her hand though.

  5. >So … will we see you at WBC this year? Because it’s the same question, just a different arena.

    Yes, I’ll be there.

    But about boardgaming I more or less already know the answer. Have taken trophies twice, a third at Ticket To Ride and a fifth at Power Grid; I’m championship-caliber but only just barely so far.

  6. >You are able and skilled at mixing elements from many different styles. How common is that in the high level martial arts world?

    I don’t know. That’s another thing I’ll have a better read on after Quoshu.

  7. Well, for starters, success in a fight always comes down to the rule set.

    In a case like this, a regional TMA light contact tournament, since there are no submissions or knockouts, that means that it comes down to points, and what the judges consider to be points.

    That spectrum ranges from

    a) something like The Dog Brothers ‘competitions’ where the judges are primarily the fighters, secondarily the spectators, and there aren’t any points

    to

    b) Olympic Tae Kwon Do, which is (IMO) people playing foot tag.

    So if this is your first time doing it, then a major part of your learning will be how the judge’s opinions of effective fighting map on to yours.

    And whatever the outcome I think you’re very likely to walk away wondering how that outcome might have been different under a different rule set, or a different set of judges.

    The neat thing is that there is no way out of this problem in martial arts. Some more than others, but every single fighting milleu has disputed victories. From 5 year old karate kata contests to professional MMA to street fights. Every single one.

  8. I remember reading from one of your earlier posts that your first style was TKD and that was around 2 or 3 decades ago. You’ve come quite far from that. What’s your opinion about TKD now? I ask specifically because I recently got a black belt in TKD and while there was some physical and mental benefit, I found the whole affair rather… toylike and quite divorced from actual combat. I feel that this is partially due to a general trend to reduce martial arts into just sports but that’s just my thought.

    I’d like to know your opinion on the issue and about TKD.

  9. @Breeze

    Sean’s comment about TKD highlights what I think make this martial art one that is difficult to pin down. Because it is an Olympic sport it enjoys much more attention in the U.S. than it otherwise would get. This in turn creates a commercial drive or pressure that isn’t there in other arts. So you end up with some schools that focus on sport competition and rapid advancement. But you also have some schools that downplay the sparring competition and emphasize more traditional aspects such as poomse and weapons. And then there are schools that teach TKD as a means to develop self-discipline and philosophical enlightenment. Perhaps there is an ideal school that balances all of these, but schools also have to have some degree of commercial success just to stay open. The local market will determine the degree to which way a school leans.

  10. “frankly, I’m tired of not having any clear idea how good I am. Winning would be nice, but what I really want is to measure myself against a bigger talent pool.”

    A friend’s mother once admonished her “don’t compare yourself to people who suck.” I thought it was an admirable philosophy. And I’ve more than once lamented that just because I can beat everyone I know at game X doesn’t mean I have any real competence at X; the competition may just be terrible.

    The last time I tried to resolve that question, it ended pretty firmly in the Humiliating Experience category. I hope things go better for you.

    (and this reminds me that Go is still in the “unknown skill level” category, which I have no real excuse for not fixing given the existence of IGS…but fuck I hate timers)

  11. >What’s your opinion about TKD now?

    It depends entirely on the quality of the school. Many TKD schools are complete crap – Joe’s House of Kicks at your local strip mall. But there are a few really good ones, like the one I trained at back in the 1990s. You have to use care in selecting one.

  12. >Do you know what sort of training you’ll be doing?

    Lots of blade work. Daggers, swords, butterfly knives, that sort of thing.

  13. “He was like, “Well, of course,” as though he’d been expecting it. Which is maybe a little surprising and flattering considering I’ll be pushing 60 then.”

    Not so surprising, given the nature of our school His best students include the two of us (both pushing 60), Ann (probably close to same) and Bob (ditto). Doug, his strongest instructor, though younger than we are, is into middle age. Sifu prefers to judge people by their attitudes and abilities, not the calendar.

  14. Craig: Yes, we’ll be at WBC. We’re heading out to Seven Springs tomorrow, because there’s a tournament I want to be in that starts Monday morning.

  15. It depends entirely on the quality of the school. Many TKD schools are complete crap – Joe’s House of Kicks at your local strip mall.

    This was your chance to drop a Rex Kwon Do reference — guess that movie (Napoleon Dynamite) was a bit after your time.

  16. I just competed in my very first HEMA tournament yesterday (Longpoint in Baltimore), in the open longsword division, the largest HEMA tournament on the East Coast, if not the USA.

    Being aggressive, in and of itself, is not enough to win a match. Probably a third of the fighters you meet like to fight aggressively, and be super aggressive at least once during their match.

    Being strong, in and of itself, is not enough to win a match. Practically half the swordsmen around me are obviously strong, and at least half of those are lean too. And the strong, lean guys are super fast, particularly in the feet, but usually in the hands too.

    As a newcomer to the sport, I ended up doing the lifting and dieting routine, to get as strong and as fast as possible, to give myself as much advantage as possible, but looking around, it’s obviously that at least 25% of the attendees did the same thing.

    I suggest you go and have fun, and set a goal of making it past the first round (hopefully a round robin group), but don’t be upset if that doesn’t happen.

  17. >I suggest you go and have fun, and set a goal of making it past the first round (hopefully a round robin group), but don’t be upset if that doesn’t happen.

    I’m pretty egoless about this sort of thing, especially in the last two decades. Another commenter here once described me, echoing Lois Bujold, as “post-ambitious”, and there’s some truth to that. It’s not like I don’t have a lot of other achievements in my life, and if I wash out quick, well, I will have learned something.

    But my sifu, who has been to Quoshu before and fought there, isn’t behaving like he thinks I’m going to wash out early. Nor is Tyler, who actually won medals at Quoshu years ago. They’re not making noise about how I’m going to destroy the competition, they just seem to quietly take it for granted that my presence will be a credit to the school.

    I’ve only done a few minutes of long-blade sparring with Tyler, but that’s encouraging too, He’s got tremendous reach (he’s one of those lanky six-foot-lots types with long arms), excellent speed, and excellent technique. And two problems, one of which I’ve discussed with him – his moves are too large and he tends to telegraph. Another is that by my standards he’s a bit short on the killer-focus thing top fighters need to have, and clearly does not have as much stress inoculation as I do.

    (I would have been slightly surprised if he matched me in either way; those are qualities my sword school in Michigan is exceptionally good at developing and he simply hasn’t had the opportunity. I plan to import some of Polaris’s toughening techniques when Sifu brevets me as an instructor. I’ve discussed this with Sifu and Tyler; they’re agreed that it’s a necessary thing.)

    Overall I think we net out as roughly equal in ability; I may even have a slight edge. He didn’t touch me during two bouts, I tagged him twice, but I don’t think he was trying as hard as I was. The reason I’m going into this much detail is because I think that anywhere Tyler’s constellation of strengths and minor weaknesses can take a medal, I am probably not going to do too badly.

  18. @esr –

    Testing to see if more comments are getting eaten.

    This _shouldn’t_ trip a spam filter, nor have anything else objectionable.

    Anyone else seeing issues like this? TomA???

  19. I have no idea what quoshub is like with weapons, but if you do well against your classmates, go to the event and compete.

    I just finished my first HEMA event, and there was much more than just tournaments. They held a ton of classes in all sorts of relevant subjects, mostly taught by really famous names in the HEMA community, many of whom traveled from Europe where the sport is larger.

    Additionally, there’s plenty of time to free spar against dozens of other competitors, particluarly in the evening. I got some of my best instruction after a sparring match, finding out afterwards that they were long time instructors themselves.

  20. I just watched kuoshu weapon sparring videos and the big things I noticed, which are definitely in your favor, were (a) the rings were small, much smaller than any HEMA ring I’ve seen, which really disadvantages fast footwork fighters, (b) the floppy foam weapons harshly limit your parry/riposte, your ability to thrust, and your ability to fight from the bind, and (c) hand hits were never counted. These 3 points definitely advantage aggressive, stronger fighters much more than in HEMA.

    Comparatively, HEMA has a larger ring (probably 3 times larger), hardened spring steel federschwerts, and hands as valid targets, all of which are used extensively to counter aggressive attackers in longsword. Sniping at your opponent’s hands/knees, along with high thrusts at throat level (which provides a natural guard position to defend from counter attack) are probably the two most common methods to deal with aggressive opponents to force them to slow down, along with a retreating/circling footwork while you try to find the proper opening.

  21. > A friend’s mother once admonished her “don’t compare yourself to people who suck.”
    > I thought it was an admirable philosophy.

    I was at a (the?) wall/rock climbing gym in St. Louis back in mid 2010 and stated to my wife that “I suck at this”.

    A complete stranger–one of those young (I was 43 at the time) wiry bastards that floats up a wall was coming down the stairs and said “We all suck at our own level”.

    And I was, well, if not exactly enlightened, the darkness eased a bit.

  22. >the floppy foam weapons harshly limit your parry/riposte, your ability to thrust, and your ability to fight from the bind,

    Aaargggh. I hate those things.

    The style of simulant I’m used to has a rigid core and closed-cell foam cladding. You can parry, thrust, and bind with it. My base style doesn’t use the bind a lot, but the inability to parry and thrust with a poor simulant bothers me a lot.

  23. > The style of simulant I’m used to has a rigid core and closed-cell foam cladding. You can parry, thrust, and bind with it. My base style doesn’t use the bind a lot, but the inability to parry and thrust with a poor simulant bothers me a lot.

    I’m not sure what type of simulant you use, but the latex LARP style weapons I’ve seen are way too sticky in the bind, especially compared to blunt steel which ranges from slightly slippery (edge to edge) to very slippery (edge to flat) in the bind. This stickiness removes some common ripostes from the bind since you cannot slide your blade during the bind.

    For example, it is common to thrust in a bind, as the blade on blade contact lets you control your opponent’s weapon during the thrust. Releasing contact risks a double hit during the thrust, which tends to be either no score or a penalty in most HEMA events.

    Another common reaction is to let your blade slide off during the bind, you don’t release contact early, but instead continue contact until the last possible moment until your tip slides past your opponent’s blade before going into a cut riposte. Again, this lets you control your opponent’s blade for as long as possible, to minimize the time spent in an exposed position.

    > Which HEMA tradition are you studying?

    German longsword and Scottish broadsword, the latter of which greatly resembles British military sabre from their 1850s army manuals.

  24. Realistically, you’re going to under perform just because, regardless of your skill or natural aptitude you haven’t competed at this level before. If you want this to be a real marker of where you are, you need to do it more than once and see how you improve.

  25. >I’m not sure what type of simulant you use, but the latex LARP style weapons I’ve seen are way too sticky in the bind

    Yes, indeed they are. I used that sort of thing once, when I ran into a bunch of boffer-LARP aficiondos at an SF con and requested a couple bouts to find out if they were any good. Sadly, the answer was “not very” – the guy running their demo had a few rudiments, but their moves were primitive and way too influenced by stage combat. I rapidly discerned that I could go through the whole crew like a laser through candyfloss if I chose, kept my thoughts to myself, and moved on.

    What I’m used to is a long step up from those LARP simulants. Yes, the blade shape is closed-cell foam, but the core is schedule 40 PVC pipe and the foam is surrounded by duct-tape cladding. The resulting surface is not as slick as blunted steel, but you can thrust in bind with it; I have done so.

    Part of our build technique is to weight the hilt by pouring a measured amount of a slurry of lead shot and fast-setting epoxy down one end. If you do this properly you get something with an overall weight and balance remarkably like a steel sword, but you can hit people with it all day long without injuring them.

  26. > What I’m used to is a long step up from those LARP simulants.

    If you have a build manual, or a maker’s recipe for your boffer, write it up or link it up. I’d love to make a set for my nephews, as none of my current gear is remotely safe for kids.

  27. I too would be interested in reading your build manual for your simulants. Our local HEMA club (like many others) use either this nylon federschwert or this nylon long sword, but neither has any binding properties to speak of. Many of us use skate board tape along the edges to add surface friction but this is not very effective. I’m considering going all Bubba on mine and Dremeling (totally a word) a groove down the length of the edge and applying some as-yet-undetermined brand of pick-up bed coating to test that for durability and binding qualities. I’d like to try your method before I go to that extreme.

  28. >I too would be interested in reading your build manual for your simulants.

    Unfortunately, the full technique isn’t documented anywhere I or my wife know of. Students at Polaris (and Aegis, a related school) learn it by seeing and doing. It would take a video; there are some subtleties like how to construct a safe thrusting tip that are not easily described in text.

    Skill level varies. I’m not very good at it, except for one specialized part. My wife is extremely good at all of it except for the same part – shot-weighting the hilt. Working together we add up to one expert.

  29. > What I’m used to is a long step up from those LARP simulants. Yes, the blade shape is closed-cell foam, but the core is schedule 40 PVC pipe and the foam is surrounded by duct-tape cladding.

    I’m curious what other kind of LARP weapon is being discussed here. PVC / foam / duct tape (the foam sourced from pool noodles) was what I had always thought a LARP weapon was “supposed to” be.

  30. Do you get hit in the head? Seriously, that is pretty dangerous at 60 years of age.

  31. What I’m used to is a long step up from those LARP simulants. Yes, the blade shape is closed-cell foam, but the core is schedule 40 PVC pipe and the foam is surrounded by duct-tape cladding.

    I find this description hilarious, because this is a very close description for what I am used to seeing in the trunk / closets of my tabletop gaming friends who LARP. [Tried it once; not my flavor of fun storytelling.] I don’t think those games ban latex weapons [never cared enough to ask], but the bulk of weapons used in them match your description pretty well.

    There are two obvious differences: (1) None of the gaming simulants use weighting — either that is a very delicate technique, or the rules committee for these games view that as a safety hazard. (2) While most weapons use PVC, I have also been told some of these are “magic / mithril” weapons constructed using “kitespar” — some sort of carbon-fiber or fiberglass rod which they get from a specialist kite-making store.

  32. @Random832:

    I’m curious what other kind of LARP weapon is being discussed here.

    If you search for “latex replica weapon” you will find there is an entire industry devoted to creating realistic looking foam weapons. I can see them being good for costuming purposes (eg. either movie-making or conventions) but I find it hilarious that they aren’t actually good training weapons…

  33. @Alex K.:

    I worked for several years training with “training weapons” in Japanese arts. Wooden bokken, shinai, foam.

    The first time an instructor laid a piece of steel on me the whole dynamic changed. It was blunt, we weren’t moving at at even 50% speed, but it’s just *different*.

    Which brings us to what a good “training” weapon is. For Kata/form/movement drills and for *study*, IMO nothing beats dull steel. You wear gloves and a mask and accept the fact that you’re not in a knitting class (well, unless you want to consider yourself the yarn). But you move at *study* speeds and you work on form, flow and smoothness.

    The guy I train under in the Bujinkan uses a padded shinai for evasion training because it lets him move at greater speed to push us harder. However occasionally he’ll bring in a dull katana and have at it at slower speeds because shiny steel brings a different mindset. You get thumped with the padded shinai. You get *away* from the sword. Your lizard brain just *knows*.

  34. @ESR

    Sounds a lot like a natural boxer who tried everything but boxing. Subcultural diff?

    Fighters hovering around 60, y’all are inspiring. I am merely pushing 40, but don’t like to go my local dojo and train with 17 olds, my hip flexibility is shit, no roundhouse kicks to the head and cannot stretch it due to the wrong kind of pain, joint, due to computer use caused anterior pelvic tilt.

    Back to boxing.

    The reason boxing is so limited is that it is not unarmed fighting at its essence. It simulates sword and shield – with gloves.

  35. The reason boxing is so limited is that it is not unarmed fighting at its essence. It simulates sword and shield – with gloves.

    Boxing surely predates sword and shield as an original form of fighting – people had fists before they had swords. And you are wrong, boxing is much, much more refined than sword fighting will ever be, because in terms of pure agility, there is a limit to what you can do with a sword while there is basically no limit with just fists. Look at boxers like e.g. Sugar Ray Leonard and Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker to appreciate the beauty of motor skills, not just of the hands but of the whole body, that would be impossible with a sword.

  36. @Moten Bo

    You’re kind of right here but wrong in the context he is speaking. Surely, the game of punching an opponent without being punched is as ancient as they come.

    However, the sport of Western boxing, which evolved from fisticuffs’ origin come exactly from european fencing in the medieval ages. fencing itself was part of the sportification of the knightly fighting manuals along with wrestling.

    Martial arts evolved almost along the same path in the east, where judo, their take on sportive wrestling, and various striking arts evolved out of the jujitsu manuals of the samurai.

  37. Also, interestingly enough, the extra complexity and refinement in western boxing as compared to fencing only developed after the gloves came around and opened the game wide open. Before that, fencing would have been the much more detailed technical art.

  38. @TheDividualist on 2016-07-26 at 13:43:58 said:
    > Fighters hovering around 60, y’all are inspiring. I am merely pushing 40, but don’t like
    > to go my local dojo and train with 17 olds, my hip flexibility is shit, no roundhouse
    > kicks to the head and cannot stretch it due to the wrong kind of pain, joint, due to
    > computer use caused anterior pelvic tilt.

    Maybe you should train to your weakness and fight to your strength?

  39. >PVC / foam / duct tape (the foam sourced from pool noodles) was what I had always thought a LARP weapon was “supposed to” be.

    Probably. Pool-noodle foam doesn’t have enough mass or endurance to be used in a real trainer. We use closed-cell pipe insulation, which is denser. We have to, because we swing and thrust considerably harder than LARPers do (at least the ones I’ve seen). Another difference is the shock tip designed to make hard thrusts safer.

  40. >There are two obvious differences: (1) None of the gaming simulants use weighting — either that is a very delicate technique, or the rules committee for these games view that as a safety hazard. (2) While most weapons use PVC, I have also been told some of these are “magic / mithril” weapons constructed using “kitespar” — some sort of carbon-fiber or fiberglass rod which they get from a specialist kite-making store.

    Yes, I’ve fenced with people using the latter. They’re not too bad as simulants, when used in a slippery thrust-centered style. I’m a little doubtful about their endurance, though.

    You don’t grasp how different our trainers are from LARP boffers because you haven’t seen or swung one. I’ve used both, so the difference is obvious to me. Hm…heavier, more durable, shock-tipped, weighted so they balance more like a steel weapon. The latter is really important; there are lots of techniques you can’t do with a LARP offer simply because the moment of inertia is wrong.

  41. > You don’t grasp how different our trainers are from LARP boffers because you haven’t seen or swung one. I’ve used both, so the difference is obvious to me.

    Well, sure, but the primary difference you originally described was surface texture, which you described yours as “duct-tape cladding”. This made me think the LARP boffers you were comparing to were very different from the ones that I was familiar with, and radically different in construction rather than simply made from inferior materials.

  42. > You are able and skilled at missing elements from many different styles.
    > How common is that in the high level martial arts world?
    I expect that pretty much anyone who trains with the intention of getting better at fighting will practice multiple styles. MMA has shown very clearly that you need to be decent at both striking and grappling, or anyone who does will wipe the floor with you. And weapon styles should always use unarmed as a foundation. Since few styles are great at everything, that makes for 2-3 you need a decent level in, at least (mine are Weng Chun, Modern Arnis and Ju Jutsu). But you probably had to try a bunch of styles and schools that didn’t fit your taste (or were just plain useless) before, and it always helps to have at least a little practice in a style if you fight against someone who uses it. That way, I’m counting about a dozen styles I have at least a few months to a year of experience in. And I’m still quite young, and not competing at any tournaments – so I don’t think that level of experience is unusual. It’s probably more like the minimum you should expect from any serious competitor. Good Luck!

  43. > And weapon styles should always use unarmed as a foundation.

    This is not true for European fencing treatises. They teach fencing, more fencing, then grappling. Although, the joke about Fiore’s treatises is that the longsword is there to parry until you can grapple.

  44. >This made me think the LARP boffers you were comparing to were very different from the ones that I was familiar with

    Well, they are. Using a typical LARP boffer feels like swinging a sponge on a stick. It doesn’t handle even remotely like a steel weapon because the mass distribution is all wrong. It’s not that I’m claiming ours are perfect that way, just much closer. The difference is very clear in any movement like (say) a wrist turnover that depends on using the center of balance as a pivot point, and the weight of the blade.

  45. >Sounds a lot like a natural boxer who tried everything but boxing. Subcultural diff?

    Probably. Or a class thing, though I never thought of it that way until I meditated on your question. In the U.S. boxing has a shady image with low-class and criminal connotations (doubtless due to a long history of fixed fights and sleazeball promoters). Proles box in sweaty gyms; upper-middle-class people go to dojos or kwoons.

  46. > Well, they are.

    Uh… I think you might have parsed something wrong in my post

    I was saying that the ones you were comparing yours to (i.e. the ones you consider crappy) didn’t even sound like the ones I was talking about, since you highlighted PVC and duct tape as points of difference between your good ones and the bad ones you were talking about.

  47. Was this the USKSF (US Kou Shu Federation) tournament in Hunt Valley a couple weeks ago? How did it go? We’ve never been…usually did the US Capitol Classics in DC. The martial arts world is fairly segmented to maximize the number of possible trophies available to schools. :)

    I watch the local HEMA folks train at the local fencing club and there is a kumdo studio around the corner so this little section of Howard County has a far higher density of folks that can swing steel (or facsimiles of steel). My college friend did pretty well at the HEMA tournament last month while her daughter had to skip because she was at a dance competition instead.

  48. >Was this the USKSF (US Kou Shu Federation) tournament in Hunt Valley a couple weeks ago?

    Same thing, next year.

  49. >So what were the results, Eric?

    The school is planning to send a team next year. I didn’t compete this year.

  50. Isn’t the deadliest sword the one which never comes out of his scabbard, and the most powerful fighter the one who never throws a punch?

  51. >Isn’t the deadliest sword the one which never comes out of his scabbard, and the most powerful fighter the one who never throws a punch?

    Nice work if you can get it. Unfortunately, reality is not always so obliging.

    This line of thinking and rhetoric developed particularly in Japanese martial arts during the Muromachi period, as the successful centralization of government by the Tokugawa Shogunate was rendering the samurai obsolete. You can see parallel developments in other historical contexts where a warrior class is using its actual function, practical martial arts morphing into claims about “do” (self-development).

  52. esr:

    This line of thinking and rhetoric developed particularly in Japanese martial arts during the Muromachi period, as the successful centralization of government by the Tokugawa Shogunate was rendering the samurai obsolete.

    Wasn’t that the Edo period?

    You can see parallel developments in other historical contexts where a warrior class is using [emphasis added] its actual function, practical martial arts morphing into claims about “do” (self-development).

    Did you mean “losing”?

  53. > This line of thinking and rhetoric developed particularly in Japanese martial arts during the
    > Muromachi period, as the successful centralization of government by the Tokugawa
    > Shogunate was rendering the samurai obsolete. You can see parallel developments in other
    > historical contexts where a warrior class is using its actual function, practical martial arts
    > morphing into claims about “do” (self-development).

    I understood that line of thinking to mean that, given a sufficiently clever (or insidious, or both) person, that person can be far more dangerous and far more powerful using politics and leadership than just physical force. Another way to interpret that would be to be so clever as to never find oneself in a situation where physical force would be required, which isn’t trivial, but has been done many times before.

    After all, the physical manifestation of a do (way) is but a tiny reflection of the mind upon the reality.

    I saw the original Tokugawa letters, written in his own hand: after he manipulated his way out of predicaments and became taisei shogun, he only had to come out in a physical fight once thereafter, and it was almost by accident. He was 70 years old. Although he had not lost that fight, it was to be his last.

    He was far more powerful and far reaching with using politics as the tool of his mind, than he was with his weapons and physical force.

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