Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

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Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby admin » 18 Sep 2013 22:01

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6MwO73W-dg

It makes me sad to see it so much. Sure Posta Breve is a historical and important guard position in longsword fighting... but not THAT important.

It seems to me that lots of longsword fencers are relying too much on Posta Breve in tournaments and for all the wrong reasons.

What are your thoughts?
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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby Chiron » 19 Sep 2013 07:49

(keep in mind because of work-settings haven't watched the video so I'm going )
What you're calling a poste Breve is I assume a Pflug or Pflug Hänger. From what I've seen it's a natural clutch position, a lot of new fencer latch on to it and they feel safe because they can grab the sword tight, the really low guards make them feel exposed (even if you're not) if they're already nervous The other side of it is that you can do two interesting things, a flying thrust/Absetzen and a Zwerch combo from below pressing the enemy blade upwards, these are two things that people are currently bad at defending against. It's also a really good position to do Oberhau-Hängen from. These things are also easiest to do in combination with shuffling steps. Poste Breve is a tool to solve a problem, until the problem changes or the tool is no longer sufficient for the job it will continue to be used. If people start learning to defend against thrusts and "the way of the rising helicopter" then you'll suddenly see new techniques being used. I prefer to having as many techniques at your disposal as possible rather then specialize in one or two, the trade off being that it takes longer to perfect your repertoire.
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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby Angantyr » 19 Sep 2013 10:14

Well. The "Von Danzig" does tell me to use the sprechfenster when approaching a man.

"the window breaker is also a guard with which you can stand securely, and this guard is the long point, the noblest and best sword ward out from which you can fence that forces the man so he must let you hit as you please and make the point come forward again still to hit and to stab"

http://wiktenauer.com/wiki/Pseudo-Peter_von_Danzig

The Posta Breve as in the video tough I never use because of the danger to the arms. But an extended "pflug like position" I use a lot when in close. It lets me dominate the center line, position myself (or force my opponent to reposition himself) into a better dominant zone etc.
When further out I just find it makes it way to easy to take my center, so there is a certain finesse needed to use it effectively. When "out there" use a Von Tag or other more orthodox stance.

-It's a tool. Use it. ;)

Considering the PB: A bad Posta Breve I do not like, especially when beginners in my club hold the hilt right next to their groin and let the point face the ceiling. (I usually call this Posta de Fallos).
There's a huge difference between this and the sprechfenster, and should not be counted as the same.
-This you should not use, as it is just a tool for the opponent to kill you with.
I think they do it because they feel safe behind the weapon, or just have watched to much Conan.
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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby admin » 19 Sep 2013 10:18

I think that a major reason it is more popular in modern tournaments than it evidently was in medieval practice, is that people these days are getting lots of un-noticed little cuts and thrusts to their hands and ignoring them. The latest generation of really good gloves is, IMO, perpetuating this problem.
Hand hits are incredibly hard to judge and I know that many fighters honestly do not notice them, but without gloves, or just with leather gloves, lots of these little hits to the hand might do enough to disable in a real fight with sharps.
For hundreds of years the guard positions used with weapons have been heavily influenced by keeping the hands as safe as possible. I think this factor is getting ignored to some extent in modern HEMA sparring.
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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby KeithFarrell » 19 Sep 2013 11:13

One thing that I notice is that beginners who come with no martial arts background, or perhaps with some LARP or re-enactment background, will tend to assume a ready position with the sword held in front of the body, sort of like an extended Posta Breve or an extended Pflug. Then when they learn a little bit more about how to do things properly, they move to a Vom Tag or Posta di Donna sort of position, where they become much more comfortable with launching attacks. Then, a bit later, they realise that they can do some quite nifty stuff from that point forward guard with which they began, so that becomes the default position for a while. Then they realise that they can do stuff better if the cuts originate from the shoulder, so they start to use the Vom Tag sort of position as their default position again. Then they realise that they can do some quite skilful work in the bind if they hang out with the point forward, so they go back to that...

People tend to move back and forth between these two default positions as they gain in experience, as their new skills allow them to do something better with the other one.

When under the pressure of tournaments, people like to go with what is relatively safe and easy. Putting the sword in front of you does *feel* safer, even if that feeling is wrong. It is also what we see a lot in tournaments at the moment, so people try to mimic what the top competitors do, without understanding the reasoning or rationale behind it. One of the biggest problems in my opinion is that people don't understand the reasoning or rationale behind things, and just try to shoe horn them into sparring without any idea of what, why, when, how, or even against whom it should be used (or not used, as the case might be).
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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby KeithFarrell » 19 Sep 2013 11:22

Angantyr wrote:Well. The "Von Danzig" does tell me to use the sprechfenster when approaching a man.

"the window breaker is also a guard with which you can stand securely, and this guard is the long point, the noblest and best sword ward out from which you can fence that forces the man so he must let you hit as you please and make the point come forward again still to hit and to stab"

http://wiktenauer.com/wiki/Pseudo-Peter_von_Danzig


The glosses do describe other things that should be done as well though. People tend to focus too much on one or two things, and use the justification that "it's in the sources" - but it might just be *part* of what the sources are trying to explain, and there is a lot of other options that are not being explored because people are too happy to sit in their comfort zone and not expand outwards. Sure, people go out of their comfort zone in terms of pressure, speed, level of opponent, length of sequence of exchange, that sort of thing - but not enough people challenge themselves to go out of their comfort zones by using other parts of the art.

For example, using the right Ochs guard instead of the left, integrating Durchwechseln into the fight, working from over the head Vom Tag instead of the shoulder Vom Tag, working with the Zwerhaw as an opening strike rather than a generic Oberhaw... The sources talk about all of these things too, and it is important that people work to improve their ability with all of these things, rather than sitting in one or two comfortable positions and justifying it because "it's in the sources".
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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby admin » 19 Sep 2013 12:02

KeithFarrell wrote:The glosses do describe other things that should be done as well though. People tend to focus too much on one or two things, and use the justification that "it's in the sources"


Exactly.
British sabre sources usually mention Quarte (Inside) as a possible engaging guard, but if I fenced from Quarte all the time I would certainly not be representing British sabre method very well... in fact I would be closer to representing French sabre method.

As I have said several times above and in the video, I don't have a problem with Posta Breve. What I have a problem with is people using Posta Breve as the default longsword guard, when it was clearly NOT a default (or even very common) longsword fencing guard in the period we are supposed to be basing our fencing on.

Then I ask myself why it is so common now and not then. Clearly our tournaments are encouraging un-historic practices, somehow.
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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby admin » 19 Sep 2013 12:12

Maybe it is also something to do with landing tip -hits- in sparring/tournaments, as opposed to -cutting- with the cutting portion of the blade in 'real life'?...
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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby Batfink » 19 Sep 2013 12:20

Just wrote a long reply to this topic which my computer ate :(

Trying again- Breve feels safe because it's a short movement to close line and you have an immediate threat. But it makes it easy for opponent to find blade (and hands). I prefer fighting against someone in breve than someone with good distance who keeps to a withdrawn guard like di Donna or vom tag- the threat from there is very unpredictable and hard to find safety against.

Hands: although breve makes hands vulnerable it's also great for attacking the hands, either for interrupting a cut with a half cut to the hands or feint-volta to the hands, which seems to be one of the most popular attacks atm. Agree that lots of 'incidental' hand cuts are ignored. One that's almost impossible to spot is cuts hitting blade/cross guard AND hand at the same time. This can happen easily if people try to parry from breve while keeping their point on line- the blade runs over crossguard to the hand. I tend to parry from there by bringing the point higher (And by having side-rings :P ), which works better, but requires turning the hands right out with crossed wrists on the right which is difficult in bulky gloves.

Feet: We're not very good at it yet... breve has some nice attacks that can be done without passing (hand snipes, thrusts to face). Passing requires a bigger commitment as you're covering more ground before you can change direction/withdraw. I do passing attacks from di Donna but usually I've already decided to continue forward after the initial attack (unless they withdraw completely).

Hypothetical power levels: popularity of breve over dD/fenestra may also relate to power. Can generate ++ power from dD with a step very easily, likewise, almost unintentionally, if pressured in fenestra. Can control this into tight, light, fast cuts but those are much easier to displace and from dD a lot of the techniques I want to use require committed power to eg displace and strike at the same time, drive through an unsound opposing position, displace a powerful cut from the opponent. I'm a bit nervous about delivering that kind of power to the head anyway and more so if people are sparring in light gloves and their hands may get in the way by accident.
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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby admin » 19 Sep 2013 12:29

Agreed with all of the above, Jon.

Batfink wrote:Agree that lots of 'incidental' hand cuts are ignored. One that's almost impossible to spot is cuts hitting blade/cross guard AND hand at the same time. This can happen easily if people try to parry from breve while keeping their point on line- the blade runs over crossguard to the hand.


I definitely think so - I think at the moment in tournaments there is a slight move towards complacency regarding the hands, as a lot of people are getting away with incidental (rather than deliberate) hits to their hands that we definitely would want to avoid with sharps.

I'm a bit nervous about delivering that kind of power to the head anyway and more so if people are sparring in light gloves and their hands may get in the way by accident.


I hadn't thought of this, but yes I think you're right that people trying not to damage their opponents too much may also play a part. It's nice to know that some of us are tyring not to hurt our partners too much!

I guess the answer in the last regard is better and better safety gear, though in my mind this brings its own problem of people not knowing they've been hit, or taking a lot more risk in their fencing tactics than really represents good fencing sense.

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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby Chiron » 19 Sep 2013 13:24

An awefull lot of German interpretations I see tend to not protect the fingers enough (classic one being 70% of Zwerchaus), gloves and the fact that the hits to the hand don't get seen are mean that most people aren't worrying about it, the Schilts on the Feders don't help either. The hand hits are a) hard to judge and b) judges subconsciously aren't interested in hand hits, they would rather see the "sound" technique get the point then the hand snipe, so they unconsciously give the benefit of the doubt to the guy doing an Absetzen or XYZ because he wants it to work. I'm waiting for people to get their Schielhaus down and start murdering people, it'll happen just you watch...
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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby peterdk » 21 Sep 2013 09:32

i cant say much about the stance with the right foot forward, but with the left foot forward it is a great stance against a lot of the vom tag strikes and especially against a lot of the manicure cuts that has been so much in vouqe for years.
i seen a lot of tecniques where the opponent goes for hand snipes leaving his head completly unprotected, and i for myself will take a cut to the hand, over a sword point through the head any day.
i think the reason that these hand snipes have been so used is that when hit the ref stopes the match, where in a more real life setting it would be the fastest way to lose the match by death.

the way we use, and teach it here, is keeping the cross guard horisontal and the sword pointing straight for the upper face/eyes making it harder to evaluate the distance, keeping the hands moving slightly back and forth.

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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby KeithFarrell » 21 Sep 2013 09:48

admin wrote:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6MwO73W-dg

It makes me sad to see it so much. Sure Posta Breve is a historical and important guard position in longsword fighting... but not THAT important.

It seems to me that lots of longsword fencers are relying too much on Posta Breve in tournaments and for all the wrong reasons.

What are your thoughts?


Another thought that comes to mind is that a lot of people participate in tournaments who should still be concentrating on their lessons and not ingraining bad habits in stressful conditions. If people don't have the wherewithall under pressure to use more than one or two guard positions, then they shouldn't really be competing until their skill-base expands.

That being said, competing at an early stage against other beginners or inexperienced fighters is maybe not such a bad thing, as long as everyone understands that it is a low level tournament to build experience and winning isn't worth anything like winning a Swordfish competition. I'm all for inexperienced fighters gaining that experience in low level competitions - what I have issue with is inexperienced fighters going into high level tournaments, for a range of reasons, and I think this is one of the contributing causes of seeing so much by way of "point forward" middle guards.
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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby Mink » 21 Sep 2013 21:49

I don't think it's just a matter of experience. It does not seem to be the case in kendo where a similar evolution took place. I genuinely believe that this posture is worth more than described in the sources in the specific context of tournaments: one on one, ideal surface, safer lighter weapons etc. Note that while kenjutsu styles have a lot of passing footwork and "retracted" guards, in kendo the posture you describe (chudan I think it's called) is dominant, and the footwork is very much right foot forward. It's not entirely impossible that we have a convergent evolution here.

It's true that without hand protection people would probably try to keep their hands further back, but realistically this can't be done at the current level of power. It seems that it's not significantly easier to score a clear hand hit on that guard position; perhaps because the hands get clipped so much in binds anyway that fighters and judges learn to neglect unclear hits. Perhaps also because it is actually possible to learn to defend the hands quite well even from that position. If you are able to defend your hands (through skill, complex hilts or judging) then this position really has a lot of advantages.

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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby CPenney » 22 Sep 2013 01:31

KeithFarrell wrote:Another thought that comes to mind is that a lot of people participate in tournaments who should still be concentrating on their lessons and not ingraining bad habits in stressful conditions. If people don't have the wherewithall under pressure to use more than one or two guard positions, then they shouldn't really be competing until their skill-base expands.


Absolutely - I find that if people without enough knowledge/training are put into that situation, many if not most will begin to 'invent' things, because they are too committed to trying to 'win' the bout.

That being said, competing at an early stage against other beginners or inexperienced fighters is maybe not such a bad thing, as long as everyone understands that it is a low level tournament to build experience and winning isn't worth anything like winning a Swordfish competition. I'm all for inexperienced fighters gaining that experience in low level competitions - what I have issue with is inexperienced fighters going into high level tournaments, for a range of reasons, and I think this is one of the contributing causes of seeing so much by way of "point forward" middle guards.


I look at this slightly differently - I try to have inexperienced fencers initially fight against more experienced opponents away from a 'competitive' environment. I try to stress to people that the object here isn't win or even to 'give as good as you get', but to try and put techniques from class into tactical application. It's only when someone can do that, IMO, is when they should be trying to be more competitive.

Regarding the whole 'hand' thing, I totally agree that the lack of fear of taking a hit leaves people careless. Besides good hand protection, I've fenced in a lot of places where strikes to the hands are discouraged, if not actually off-limits. I get it's an extension of the idea of being safe, but it creates a huge artifact.
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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby Ran Pleasant » 22 Sep 2013 09:11

admin wrote:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6MwO73W-dg

It makes me sad to see it so much. Sure Posta Breve is a historical and important guard position in longsword fighting... but not THAT important.

It seems to me that lots of longsword fencers are relying too much on Posta Breve in tournaments and for all the wrong reasons.

What are your thoughts?


Matt

That is an extremely good analysis! Do you think the right foot forward stance and the heavy use of Posta Breve and Pflug are in any way related to many people holding Vom Tag extremely low with the hilt at their waist? Do you think this might be related to trying to score points (gaming rather than fighting)?

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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby admin » 22 Sep 2013 18:32

Hi Ran,
Yes certainly I think that the very frontal and low Vom Tag (or Posta di Donna) is related in this. Though I don't personally have such an issue with it, because it doesn't inherently endanger the hands as Posta Breve does/can.

I suppose my main concern, as highlighted by Mink, is that in the current development curve of longsword tournaments, all we might be doing is reinventing kendo, but with longswords.. I hope that doesn't happen.
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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby Barca » 22 Sep 2013 21:51

I don't think using pflug or langort is a massive problem, if they are used properly in addition to all the other guards. At one point long ago everyone in kdf only seemed to drill and therefore fight from vom tag, which was really limiting and boring - now it seems to have been replaced as the go to guard by pflug. So the problem for me isnt use of point fwd guards (langort/sprechtfenster is supposed to be among the best guards you can use according to old man Liechtenauer and his fan club), it's the reliance on bouncy, twirly games with the point, punctuated with the occasional short, weak snipe cut with the tip.

What I'd like to see is more deep and committed thrusts (ansetzen or planting the point as the opening attack being a key Liechtenauer tactic way under utilised today) and if people want to cut from point fwd guards, more proper molinelli that actually provide the potential for fight stopping cuts. One way I've thought about trying to clean the sloppy, short amplitude flick cuts up is having a blanket rule that to score, a hewing cut must travel at least 90° uninterrupted to the target - cuts from a proper alber, boars tooth, vom tag or posta di donna, and molinelli will be fine, but the 20° snap cut is out. If a cut travels less than 90° it will have to be completed as a full schnitte with forward pressure and significant contact along the edge in order to score.

I also concur with those observing that many kdf fencers employ techniques that don't reliably protect their hands. Many versions of the schielhau and zwerchhau we still see today in tournaments and YT instructional videos don't keep the hands safe at all. People seem to have brushed this off with bravado, saying in effect that minor injuries to the hands are a fine trade off for landing a killing blow. I prefer to keep working to make the techniques as safe as possible for me in addition to deadly for my opponent. I don't know why people accept routinely getting their hands hit when delivering techniques - gloves or no gloves - when this to me is a sign of failure and requires going back to the drawing board.
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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby Mink » 22 Sep 2013 22:06

You could argue that people were not that good at protecting their hands in period too, which would be why complex hilts were adopted on a wide variety of weapons...

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Re: Why so much Posta Breve in HEMA tournaments?

Postby Barca » 23 Sep 2013 02:26

Mink wrote:You could argue that people were not that good at protecting their hands in period too, which would be why complex hilts were adopted on a wide variety of weapons...

Regards,


Yet people managed just fine without complex hilts for centuries. I think there is more to it than that. Partly fashion (a complex hilt provides far more real estate than a simple cross bar for the kind of OTT decoration wealthy courtiers and merchants desire on their goods), partly changes in the context of the weapons (more civilian contexts where people wouldn't be wearing gauntlets or even heavy gloves) and partly changes in the systems of fencing (more thrust centric fencing where the sword is left out front means people start looking to protect the sword hand more). Obviously these factors and more are all interelated and influenced one another.

One thing to bear in mind is that even when rings and complex hilts were starting to be added to longswords in the C16th, the training 'feders' depicted in so many well illustrated sources such as Mair and Meyer still had simple crossguards and no side rings. The one thing they did have was the schilt and I've started to consider whether the sharp and pronounced 'schilt' on these feders was actually supposed to crudely and cheaply represent the simple finger rings that might be found on a sharp longsword of the period (not to say the common theory it was for weight distribution is wrong, just there may be more to it). But even a schilt or the simple finger rings they may be representing doesn't provide much protection to the hands - good fencing skills are still paramount for that.
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