01 Reconstructing the Martial Art

Hi It is said, that every martial-art is a way, and how our way of reconstruction works will be the topic of this episode of “Messerfechten aus Mainz”
(messer-fencing from Mainz) Enjoy! “Concepts and Procedures of Reconstruction” Well, this is a path And you’ll have to stay on this path As you can see, you can fall into the water or get lost in the woods. We can’t even see our destination, it’s hidden somewhere behind the next curve. I find this is rather fitting. And today we’ll explain our way of reconstucting how to fence with the Messer. Let’s start with the goals. Goals: The goal, one might think, is very simple. Fencing with the long Messer. But, at least in my opinion, this is not so easy. Because you can have different goals. For example: Reconstructing one particular source. Or fencing with the Messer according to one particular source. Or to try to reconstruct the martial-art, which is problematic, because: when the source is not complete, and you want to stick to the source as close as possible, you can’t add random stuff to your interpretation. In other words: It is troublesome to add something that is not written there. Our goal has allways been to reconstruct the martial-art. And it has to be said, that I regard techniques not as the art itself. But I have allways regarded techniques as a way of teching the content of a martial-art. So techniques are like a facade, or put differently: Techniques are artifacts of what is behind the techniques. But now let’s start at the beginning. (The slides are in English, so they don’t interfere with the subtitles) Well We train: Techniques There’s something like: Sparring And we have the free fight. The decicive thing is, that between these three elements there may be no difference. This means we train one and the same thing. What we train must be a characteristic of Messer Especially regarding the free fight it is important that it is safe and reliable which means: no double hits. It should be realistic which means it should finish the fight. And it should be as realistic as possible. Which means, that it should match the sources and use the techniques described in them. Question: Why are there different interpretations and which one is “right”? Different interpretations exist because the interpreters are different. They have different backgrounds, different goals, and they’re using different methods. Next question: What is “right” ? What is historically accurate can’t be known to us at least not until we invent a time-machine. On the other hand, one can put this question into another perspective. What IS right? What’s the “right” karate? Is it Okinawa-karate? Is it Shotokan? They are just different styles. Subjectively “right” is, what takes me further as a fighter. Simple as that. Objectively “right” is, when you call it a martial-art, what works. These are criteria you can use. And of course: Diversity is a good thing. Since we now defined our goal it is now the question how we get there. If we take the word “reconstruction” literally, we see that it contains “construction”. In other words: We have to “re-engineer” it. We have to rebuild it, from scratch. In order to do so, there are process models you can use. We use a method which resembles the “scrum” development framework Which means, that we know the properties of the goal. We accept, right from the start, that the result is unknown. This means, I don’t know what it looks like and I have to abandon the notions on how it might look like. Because if I don’t, I start fudging it. This also means, iterative procedure, step-by-step improvements and testing, testing, testing. Comparable to software development. This is our way. And in order to walk that way, one has to know how he’s able to build what he wants to build. Usually. martial-arts have a specific characteristic, a stucture. Let’s have a look at this structure. To reach our goal of reconstructing something with said properties, let’s look at the structure of martial-arts in general. Mostly, they have something like a “core”, which can be called “basic school”, and is repeated in training over and over. Built upon this core are more complex techniques and deal with the compensation agains these basic techniques. However, they do not diverge from the principles of the “core”. Since people like having fun there is something, that I called “playground”. This contains all the techniques that may look good, but should not be used in a life and death situation. Mostly, because they were never intendet to. What interests us the most is the core. This core is the foundation of a re-construction as we said earlier. Which can then be compared to the original sources. One more additional look at the structure of a martial-art. Primarily, there are entities, I call “concepts”. These concepts describe (for example): Balance, distance, timing. power, angles, and, of course the stuff known to us from the historical fencing manuals, such as strong and weak, hard and soft, “vor” and “nach”, “indes” etc. p.p. In our case, the properties of the weapon we use play a not inconsiderable part. Since we are looking for the “core” we don’t look at a specific shape of the Messer, but at a general form. It is a one-edged, approximately arm-long weapon, with a crossbar, a nagel or both. The next, and probably crucial step is to develop a methodology from the concepts and the properties of the weapon (respectively properties the human body). From this point of view a martial-art is nothing more than a methodical course of action. This offers us the opportunity to differentiate between “methodologically right” and “methodologically wrong”. “Methodologically right” “methodologically wrong”. A technique can be performed “methodologically right” if all the parameters are straight. If you leave out something it’s “methodologically wrong”. Here’s a little example. We recorded this while using sticks not Messers Messers are not always nescessary when a stick is completly sufficient to demonstrate what’s going on. Let’s go. The “simple displacement” or “pogen” (according to Leckküchner), starts out with the actual displacement. Then the weapon, respectively the hand is secured and then the opponent is hit. If you simply leave out the securing of the hand then you will receive a blade to the neck, which is not cool. This is what it should look like. Back to the chart. Methodology put into action means eventually movement pattern for the body. Please don’t confuse a “movement pattern” with a specific movement. A “movement pattern” is used to perform various movements in the most effective way. It is not a specified move. Obversely, this means that movement patterns, like the figure eight, hide behind some specific movements without being notable at first glance. Nevertheless. They are there. All of what we’ve seen things like “concepts”, weapon properties, a methodology stemming from those, movement patterns, all of this culminates in techniques. Techniques are realizations of everything we just heard. Techniques Now you may ask: “Where are the techniques?” Well. As I said earlier I regard techniques as a way of explaining something, a way of passing something on, and of course as something applicable But I don’t regard techniques as the “core”. On the other hand it is a matter of fact, that it is techniques, what is described in the manuals. We have to ask ourselves: How can we go the reverse path? How do we get from the techniques to the principles? Unfortunately, there is no such way. In order to do so, the techniques would have to be documented as a whole. This means, one would have to know how they are correctly executed. What is “correctly executed” ? If you ever did martial arts you know, that you learn techniques. You train them. And then the Sensei comes over and tells you: “Wrong! Train harder.” This goes on and on and on Until one day you finally get it right. In all martial-arts that have something like Randori or Kumite free fight or sparring. You quickly realize, that there is a huge difference if you are training a technique with a cooperative partner. Which is mostly the first step. Or if you really want to apply it. Against somebody who, firstly knows the technique and secondly, since it’s a fight, will not be compliant in any way! The techniques still work despite of this. If they are “correctly executed”. This means, that the principles the design characteristics methodology the concepts of the martial-art, have been correctly applied. And then it’ll work. A summary. At the top, there are the techniques as described in the manuals. At the bottom is everything we have to construct. Concepts, methodology movement pattern and so on. Lets look at this from the techniques point of view. Techniques can be regarded as artifacts. Which means they did not appear from nowhere or are random. They are a tangible occurence of a methodology. This means on the other hand, that they stop working outside of a set of strict parameters. What is also noticable that most sources only contain a small subset of techniques the master knew. Also, it doesn’t help much, that the description is rudimentary in most cases. This leads to following questions: 1. Which steps are missing? On the one hand: Which steps have been left out within the technique? Which actions of the opponent are not there? On the other hand: Which techniques have not been recorded? 2. How are all these techniques interconnected? These connections should be there from a systematic point of view. For the reason of solving the problem of predictability alone. Now the reverse way from the concepts, methodology, movement pattern etc. towards the techniques. What are techniques when we regard them as results of what’s written down below? Ideally techniques are best practices. “Erfolgsmethoden” in German. This means optimal and reliable procedures to end specific problems or situations with a favourable outcome, to you. Of course they are implementations of concepts, methods, movement patterns etc. pp. They never deviate from the fundamental conceps. And last, but not least: They are a way of passing on the knowledge and the experiences if, and we have talked about this, they are done correctly. In the end, all of this has to fit together. In one expression: Equality of outcomes Or put differently: The techniques we find in the manuals must match the system we use perfectly, there may not be contradictions and they have to be applicable in a free fight. Well… I have to admit, that was a lot One question remains: Why all this effort? Why are we doing this? Can’t we just interpret techniques? Of course you can, but (and this is why we use the constructive approach) there are gaps, from our point of view. There are gaps in the manuals Meaning, that some things are not shown or explained. This is a real problem. Since there are actions, resulting from methodology that nescessarily have to exist. It can’t be, that you’re so stupid, not to see it. And we assume that, the ancient fencing masters where anything, but stupid. Therefore: There must be hints. Luckily, those hints really exist. Partially they are pretty straight forward, if you know what you are looking for. Partially they are allusive. They are allusive, and the reason for that is simple since the manuals often show complex techniques. And those complex techniques have the use of compensating basic techniques. This means, to defend oneself, in an elegant way, against what is going on. Usually. If you actually know what’s happening. If you don’t, the more complex technique is not nescessarily better, because actually the basic technique would have done the job quicker and more efficiently. If your opponent doesn’t know it it is fully sufficient. I don’t need a complex technique. The basic technique is simple, safe, quick, reliable… Case closed. I need complex techniques… when things become complex. In the end, we’ll show you a little example of this. A short one, with sticks again. A quite well-known technique that works like a charm if you add a little something, that is missing in the manuals. Here’s the technique, executed at slow speed, distinctly and visibly. Displace – wind through Blade to the neck – done. As you can see, relatively complicated. And since it’s so complicated, it’s so extremely easy to break. Which is irritating. If you now just add what is missing. Then suddenly you have something completly different in which the dynamics are correct, too. That’s all for today, we hope you enjoyed it. See you soon!


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