A methodical approach to using tournaments as part of your strategy to improve your fencing skills

Many people have written their about thoughts regarding participation in tournaments in the pursuit of historical fencing or even martial arts in general. One broad school of thought states that tournaments are a good thing, another broad school of thought states that tournaments serve only to pervert and debase the art.

It the purpose of this article to suggest a method whereby you might include participation in tournaments as part of a structured and well-considered strategy for improving your fencing skills and martial arts abilities.

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Scottish Sword Project – The Design

Hey Folks,

First let me apologise for the delay in posting this week, in preparing the various graphics for the post sadly my laptop decided it had had enough and I had to fight it to get the work back.

This week we are looking at part 2 of the Scottish sword project, the Design. In the first article in the project (http://encasedinsteel.co.uk/2013/11/02/scottish-sword-project-the-sources/), we considered the source material and now it is time to put that understanding to use. Before I begin though I would like to clarify a few points:

1)      I did the design for this on paper first and then moved it to the computer using a series of CAD programmes and photoshop. As such I am aware that some of the lines don’t match up perfectly but I have gotten them as close as possible to the original paper design.

2)      The design method is based on the research undertaken by Peter Johnsson and although my understanding of this research is nowhere near as good as his I have tried to apply the spirit of the method as much as possible.

3)      In the spirit of Peter’s method I did my best to design only with a pencil, eraser, compass and a straight edge and after a bit of trial and error found these to be the only tools needed.

4)      I aspire to be a cutler and not a blade smith, as such the blade for this project was bought in from Albion, it is a type X bare blade. I had them heat treat the blade and then I polished it myself. Contrary to popular opinion it would be unlikely many swords were made from start to finish by the same person and so by focusing on the hilt work rather than producing the blade myself I feel I am taking a more historical approach…plus I really dislike making blades.

So here is a small graphic to show off the process, I will in this post hopefully explain the process correctly and with decent detail, although it is honestly probably more worthy of an in-person lecture than a written description.

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Technical variety, and the end goal of training

A few weeks ago, Keith posted an article on “attribute fencing” and why this presents a problem. Broadly, he argued that coming to rely on particular attributes is detrimental in the long run. A tall fighter who relies excessively on their reach may then not know what to do when they come up against an even taller fighter.


I’d like to suggest that there is a wider issue than becoming something of a one trick pony who can be taken advantage of in sparring. It is obvious though that not everyone can fight the same way. A smaller fighter is likely not to going to have as much success with grappling as a larger fighter, so it would make sense that grappling would pay a much more important role in the fighting style of the larger person than it would in the smaller’s person’s fighting style. The Liechtenauer tradition offers a broad enough corpus of techniques that a fighter will have lots of options in how they fight, and they do not need to fight in the same style, using the same techniques in the same ways as other fighters.

In the discussion about Keith’s post on the AHA Facebook page, most people agreed that people should play up to their own personal strengths when fighting, but that being too limited to too small a repertoire of techniques makes fighters predictable, and so they can be taken advantage of in sparring. Seen in that perspective, the only real downside to relying on a few techniques is that your sparring suffers.
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How to run a bakesale

As a group, we like to keep our membership costs low, to stop the costs from being prohibitive. This means however that we need to draw in money from sources other than membership to help us cover the cost of things like equipment. One of the easiest fundraisers to run is a bakesale, and one of our members, Ellie, has written a few words on how to run one.

Last year I decided I wanted to run a charity fundraising bakesale for the AHA and people were enthusiastic about helping out or at least eating the products.  However, these things tend to get put off because when you start thinking about how to put it together it can seem complicated, and suddenly it’s next year.  Then there was a recent initiative to return to the days when fundraising events were a staple of the club, so I revisited the idea of running a bakesale.  This was partly to raise money for the charity to which our university society is affiliated, but mostly because I like making cakes.  Despite a couple of blips, we ran a very lucrative bakesale earlier this week.  (Thank you to everyone who took the time to bake and help out with this.)

If you are thinking about running a fundraising event for your own club there are exciting alternative charity events, but bakesales are amongst the easiest and most popular.  So, here is some basic information on setting one up, including a couple of easy peasy recipes suitable for even the kitchenphobic.  

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