Developing Natural Mechanics

In September, I wrote Consolidate and Simplify, in which I argued that mechanics should be simplified as much as possible. Today I want to argue that mechanics should also be made as natural as possible.

One of the reasons people come to martial arts classes is to learn something new, and as martial arts instructors, it is important that we do teach new techniques and mechanics to our students. If we were just to let students do whatever they wanted to do when they first walked through the door, they would not become a very competent fighter. This will involve teaching some techniques that the students find counter-intuitive, at least at first. However once this initial hurdle has been passed, the students should start to find that the mechanics begin to feel more natural.

After some time training, a student may have problems performing a given technique or mechanic, and this could be for several reasons: they might simply need more time drilling that particular technique or mechanic, they are not being given the correct stimulus to make the use of that technique or mechanic appropriate, or it might be that that mechanic is simply an unnatural mechanic.

As an instructor, it is often easy to come up with certain pet theories about mechanics of fighting, but these mechanics can often be over-thought and divorced from reality. If students are consistently failing to apply a given mechanic, the instructor might need to accept that this is not because the students need to be drilled more in that mechanic, it might be that mechanic is simply unnatural, and so under pressure the students will naturally make use of a more natural mechanic.

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A Review of IGX 2015

A review of IGX 2015, written by Ben Hawkins.

It was a cloudy, drizzling New England day when I arrived at the Danvers Indoor Sports to attend the 2015 Iron Gate Exhibition. Over three October days, 2nd -4th, I competed, coached, judged and taught with a generous side of socializing. Though I failed to attend any classes or lectures myself, I have no regrets and greatly enjoyed my time. I want to give a very heartfelt thank you to Jeff Tsay and his staff that ran and organized the event; I very much look forward to attending in the future.

Like most all HEMA events, IGX 2015 held a series of tournaments this year. Said tournaments included dagger, mixed weapons, basic and advanced longsword and a women’s tournament that combined mixed weapons and longsword. I arrived too late to see any of the dagger but competed in the mixed weapons, coached in basic longsword and judged in the women’s. The tournaments ran quite well from my experience and as is the case where new rules are tried out, the judging improved as the event progressed.

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Go for the legs!

“The advantage of shifting the leg.” Or: what happens when you attack the leg with a stupid strategy. From Angelo’s Hungarian and Highland Broadsword posters.

It is a common piece of advice for shorter fighters who face taller opponents that they should “go for the legs”. I wrote about this unhelpful piece of advice in a previous article, “Myths of the Short Person in Martial Arts“.

However, with the correct tactical set up, the legs can be a very interesting target to attack, and it can be quite safe to do so. The important thing is to ensure that the opportunity is set up properly, and to recognise when it is not safe to pursue the target.

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A Chronology of Books by D.A. Kinsley

Cover of “Swordsmen of Britannia” by D.A. Kinsley.


D.A. Kinsley is a researcher and author who has been of tremendous service to the HEMA community. His area of interest is that of first-hand accounts of British military engagements during the 18th and 19th centuries, and his published works have compiled thousands of these first-hand accounts.


These compilations are immensely valuable for researchers and practitioners of historical fencing, as they provide primary sources to describe the use and effects of the swords that we study, along with significant amounts of context and supporting information to guide our study and understanding of our subject.


Kinsley has been extremely industrious in collecting and publishing these accounts, and this has led to a rather confusing chronology of his books as they come into print and then go out of print, becoming available or unavailable at the drop of a hat.


Personally, I am interested in how all of Kinsley’s books fit together in sequence, since the edition and version numbers appear to be somewhat arbitrary and are not straight-forward. Since in my own work I will doubtless be citing the book by Kinsley that is on my shelf (and probably others in the future!), I wanted to be able to provide a correct bibliographic information for it – but because it is the first book with that particular name, yet supposedly third in a series, that poses a problem that is not easy to solve!


At least if the chronology of his works could be set out in a blog article somewhere, then it would be possible to look at that article and timeline and work out exactly how best to cite any of his books in a bibliography. My intention is to do exactly this task in this blog article, and to suggest a possible bibliographic reference for each of the books mentioned.


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4 Rules for Assistant Instructors

One of the skills that is quite important for people who often help their instructors with the delivery of a lesson is being a good assistant instructor. An assistant instructor should be there to assist the instructor, as the name implies. However, I have noticed that many assistant instructors are not always good at being assistants. Many of them seem to want to compete with the main instructor for attention from the students. Some are desperate to tell the students how they would do things, while others simply want to add asides they think the students might find interesting.

Students can be left unclear as to who is the actual instructor, and they are often left trying to work out two slightly different sets of instruction from two different instructors, unsure which they should be listening to. Alternatively, if both the instructor and the assistant instructor are talking to the group, this can lead to unnecessary repetition. So with this in mind, I’ve written four rules for assistant instructors.

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