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Author Topic: The untrained duelist/combatant?  (Read 1362 times)


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The untrained duelist/combatant?
« on: June 23, 2006, 01:29:19 PM »

Mark Twain once said something like "The greatest swordsman in the world has nothing to fear from the second greatest swordsman.  No, the man he has to fear is the untrained man, who, with no training, has no idea of what he is supposed to do, and therefore, does something that cannot be anticipated.".  I don't remember the exact quote, I hope you all will forgive me on that.

I was thinking about this when a friend and I were playing together with foam swords.  I would make a movement, and he would counter. We would stay in contact with our weapons, just as if we were really fighting, and he would make his swing at me.  Thing is, based on how he countered, I knew what his swing was going to be, and I was able to counter him, no matter how fast he was swung.   We were going kind of slow, but with training, the principle seems the same when you are really going at it.  However, he never picked up on the same pattern that I was giving him.

However, when I played the same game against another guy, I didn't even know how he was going to counter, and when he did counter, I had no way of anticipating his next swing.  All this because he had no training whatsoever.  Just a desire to play, and an instinct to go for the most obvious target, my torso. 

What is it about training that makes a person predictable?  You see the same thing in the UFC all the time.  Its almost like a formula that people just put together.  How do you make yourself unpredictable? 
At the same time, given that most criminals are untrained, and not interested in dueling, how do you prepare to face these folks, blade to blade?  I know, I know, cheat, fake, curse, scream, bite, all that.  But is there something I'm missing?  This experience has opened my eyes to yet another difference between trained and untrained.  What am I missing?

"Specialization is for insects."-Robert A. Heinlein

Escrime Anglais

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Re: The untrained duelist/combatant?
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2006, 02:28:28 PM »

The great Elizabethan swordsman George Silver had some interesting thoughts on this very topic.  When commenting about Italian rapier masters who were teaching their craft in London without having to be tested by the local London Masters of Defence, Silver suggested a very practical test:

"And this is the trial: They shall play with such weapons as they profess to teach withal, three bouts apiece with three of the best English masters of defence & three bouts apiece with three unskillful valiant men, and three bouts apiece with three resolute men half drunk. Then if they can defend themselves against these masters of defence, and hurt, and go free from the rest, they are to be honored, cherished, and allowed for perfect good teachers, and what countrymen soever they be. But if any of these they take fail, then they are imperfect in their profession, their fight is false, & they are false teachers, deceivers and murderers, and to be punished accordingly, yet no worse punishment unto them I wish, than such as in their trial they shall find."
"Perfect fight standeth upon both cut and thrust." --George Silver, Paradoxes of Defence, 1599


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Re: The untrained duelist/combatant?
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2006, 07:33:19 PM »

This speaks to the myth of the duel.
Fighting outside the rules, subliminal or otherwise, of the fight.



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Re: The untrained duelist/combatant?
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2006, 04:14:18 AM »

I know exactly what you're talking about kent, you get used to training with your buddies and you're doing well against disciplined techniques, then you get some untrained guy and you do have to be on your toes with them because they throw some crazy messy punch or kick at you and all of a sudden you don't know where its going to go anymore.

That trial of ol' Georges sounds like a fair way to test yourself and your skills properly.