Ambidextrous Sabre Fencing

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Ambidextrous Sabre Fencing

Postby Ulrich von L...n » 04 Nov 2014 08:43

I have found this interesting clue in Longsword Training with Off-hand

Andreas Engström wrote:Not so much with longsword (apart from occasionally being the training partner of a leftie), but quite a lot with sabre and dussack. I find it helps develop the dominant side as well, apart from the fact that the Swedish sabre manuals explicitly calls for equal amount of training with both hands. The right might get injured, or tired, and where are you then?

What are other - military or civilian - sources that recommend the same?
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Re: Ambidextrous Sabre Fencing

Postby Phil C » 04 Nov 2014 10:09

F.C. Lang's sword method is based on Vigny's cane system and requires the use of both or either hands
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 04 Nov 2014 13:50

After browsing the first three chapters of the "Walking Stick Method of SD it seems that it is more about the use of a walking stick.

Could you tell me in which chapter Lang talks about ambidextrous use?
Or is there another book about sword?
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Re: Ambidextrous Sabre Fencing

Postby Phil C » 04 Nov 2014 14:36

That's H.G Lang- different fellow from the same set.

F.C. detailed in an article which was cited on the Bartitsu website which is sadly not playing today- developing a sword that combined all elements of hand protection, dagger, sword and lance in one to be used with the same method; a key feature of which, and a common defining issue between sabre and cane methods in general, was the use of both/either hand in combat.

Edit: found it
http://www.swordforum.com/forums/showth ... ight=lance
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 04 Nov 2014 14:50

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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 04 Nov 2014 14:53

Phil,

Thanks for suggesting an interesting link.

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Re: Ambidextrous Sabre Fencing

Postby Dave B » 05 Nov 2014 23:06

Several smallsword texts mention lefthandedness. Mcarthur (A naval officer, writing in 1780) thinks it's useful to learn to fence with both.

We find in ancient history, that in the cultivation
of military exercises, the right hand or left were em-
ployed as occasion might require, without partiality
to either; particularly in the Grecian and Roman
armies, select parties of the most expert soldiers were
formed as ambidexters^ fit to act upon any emergency.
It is a matter of wonder, that a custom from which
many advantages might result in clofe attacks, should
in modern times be entirely abolished; when, by con-
fining our observations only to the navy, we may at
once perceive the utility of cultivating ambidexterity
amongst the company of such ships as are liable to be
boarded, whether armed with pikes, cutlasies, poll-
axes, pistols, &c.
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Re: Ambidextrous Sabre Fencing

Postby Dave B » 06 Nov 2014 15:28

Oh, and Angelo of course:
OBSERVATIONS ON LEFT HANDED FENCERS
IT often happens that the right handed fencer is much embarrassed in defending himself against a left handed one occasioned by the constant habit of fencing always with right handed fencers which gives the left handed fencer a considerable advantage You seldom have occasion to fence with a left handed man because the number of these is but small and for the same reason when two left hands meet they are equally at a loss with one another To obviate this inconveniency I am of opinion that a fencing master should accustom his scholars to fence with both hands that is to say that when the pupil has learnt to handle his foil well with the right hand he should be exercised with the left hand This practice will be found hard to every body but with a good will and by taking pains you may attain to a degree of perfection which will be advantageous to yourself and will do honour to him that teaches The master should not only use his scholars to take lessons with both hands but should likewise use them to fence loose called assaulting this method would enable them to defend themselves themselves with both hands and they would never be at a loss against an adversary who might present himself to them in a different position than their own When a right handed and a left handed fencer are together they ought to be attentive both of them to keep the outside of the sword this side being the weakest they have both of them the facility of beating or making a glizade or press on the outside of the blade If the beat is given properly it is almost impossible that the sword doth not drop out of the hand except the adversary takes the precise time of the beat either by disengaging or by turning his wrist in tierce You must observe also that the right handed fencer ought to thrust carte instead of tierce to the left handed one and tierce instead of carte that is to say that he ought to thrust all the outward thrusts within and the inner thrusts without The fame rules also are for the left hand to the right handed fencer by this means the band will always be opposed to the sword and the body and face will always be covered
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 07 Nov 2014 07:08

Dave,

Thank you for the two interesting excerpts.

It is good to have access to Angelo's thoughts about the use of left hand. I read about it in an article written by Zbigniew Czajkowski (Domenico Angelo - Great Fencing Master of the XVIII Century, Champion of Fencing as a Sport, 2005).

From the article: "Angelo was of the firm opinion that an efficient fencer ought to practise and skilfully yield the weapon both with his right and left hands. Perhaps under the influence of his opinion, the Earl of Pembroke advised his son, Herbert - who took fencing lessons in Paris from the famous master Monet - to "practise fencing everyday using, as often as possible, the left hand".
Angelo would give some lessons left handed and also insisted on his pupils practising various strokes left handed. A fencing master giving a lesson with his left hand allows the pupil to adapt himself to bouts with left-handed opponents. Exercises with the left hand by the pupil have also very positive influence: improvement of motor co-ordination, prevention of one-sidedness and scoliosis, it provides active rest and ensures transfer of skill (perfecting certain movements with left hand leads to better execution of them with right hand)
."
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Re: Ambidextrous Sabre Fencing

Postby Dave B » 07 Nov 2014 10:13

There's another one I can't now find, Recommending that if your salle has no or few left handers then you have to all learn to assault left-handed, in order to have left handed opponents because otherwise a left-hander from another Salle can turn up and make you all look like chumps, but I can't remember where I saw it.

As an aside, I'm normally a left handed fencer. Although naturally right handed I have some old damage to the right wrist - it's actually mostly better now but when I learned to fence I had to learn left handed and never converted back.

Now I do some teaching I tend to end up swapping hands quite a bit to suit the person I'm working with, and I think it's been very useful to me, learning everything with both hands has helped force me to understand the mechanics of an action rather than just learn them, and to understand the advantaged and disadvantages of left vs right and right vs right in each situation. It's hard to force yourself to do it because you have to face going from being competent at an action to looking like a beginner, but I think it's a worthwhile exercise to learn with both hands . Handy when you get tired too!
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Re: Ambidextrous Sabre Fencing

Postby admin » 07 Nov 2014 11:57

The 1859 British Cutlass Exercise tells you to practice everything equally with the left hand and the right. Manciolino said the same back in 1531.
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Re: Ambidextrous Sabre Fencing

Postby Carletto » 08 Nov 2014 19:48

Ulrich von L...n wrote:I have found this interesting clue in Longsword Training with Off-hand

Andreas Engström wrote:Not so much with longsword (apart from occasionally being the training partner of a leftie), but quite a lot with sabre and dussack. I find it helps develop the dominant side as well, apart from the fact that the Swedish sabre manuals explicitly calls for equal amount of training with both hands. The right might get injured, or tired, and where are you then?

What are other - military or civilian - sources that recommend the same?



I, for one, recommend it. It's been monthes now that I have to play mostly left handed. It seems to be way easier to learn sabre left handed than most other weapons, by the way.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 12 Nov 2014 08:29

Yes.
There is no doubt that a certain amount of fencing (10-30% of the total training time) with your non-dominant hand is definitely good thing: it provides rest for your tired dominant hand, exercises your body in a more symmetrical way, etc. And also it is good fun!

Anyway it would be good to know what Swedish sources actually say about it.
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Re:

Postby Andreas Engström » 13 Nov 2014 16:44

Ulrich von L...n wrote:Yes.
There is no doubt that a certain amount of fencing (10-30% of the total training time) with your non-dominant hand is definitely good thing: it provides rest for your tired dominant hand, exercises your body in a more symmetrical way, etc. And also it is good fun!

Anyway it would be good to know what Swedish sources actually say about it.

I could give you verbatim translations, but not immediately. AFAIK all the manuals mention it as an important point, although not all give a detailed motivation. The reasons given, if I collect them in one place, roughly ordered by the importance they are given:

1) To promote a healthy and symmetrical body and avoid health problems
2) If you get tired or injured in your dominant arm you need to be able to switch
3) If you switch hands during training you can train effectively for much longer periods of time without tiring

In 1880 a Swedish team of gymnasts/fencers made an official visit to London (they put on displays and visited among others the Angelo fencing school), got a lot of press attention and were much admired both for their athleticism and for their ability to fence equally well with either hand. The team was led by Viktor Balck, who shortly after became one of the members of the original International Olympic Commitee along with de Coubertin and known as the "father of Swedish sport", who also personally demonstrated sabre combat without protection, and Gustaf Nyblaeus (at the time 64 years old) who was also among those performing in the public displays, displaying rapier versus dagger.

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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 15 Nov 2014 09:57

Andreas,

Thanks for the explanation. Verbatim (partial) translation would be great!

It seems that Swedish military sources regarded ambidextrous fencing as an important mean to ensure symmetrical body development, and the whole thing wasn't based on some kind of battlefield evidence.

Swedish sabre manuals explicitly calls for equal amount of training with both hands.

Should we take literally this passage from the OP as 50-50%?
What is your personal preference, ie what percentage of the whole sabre training do you do with your left hand?

Regards,
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Re: Ambidextrous Sabre Fencing

Postby Dave B » 16 Nov 2014 16:15

This thread has prompted an experiment.

I'm very much a left handed fencer, and only normally fence right handed for the purposes of demonstrating to right handers, or drilling with a right hander. On Saturday I did Sabre with my right pretty much all day, only picking it up with the left for a few minutes at the end. Having only previously dabbled with Sabre, I'm going to be doing more, and am going to try doing at least 50% with my right, just to see what happens.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 17 Nov 2014 06:33

Dave,

Keep us updated about your experiment.
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Re:

Postby Andreas Engström » 18 Nov 2014 12:57

Ulrich von L...n wrote:
Swedish sabre manuals explicitly calls for equal amount of training with both hands.

Should we take literally this passage from the OP as 50-50%?
What is your personal preference, ie what percentage of the whole sabre training do you do with your left hand?

It differs a bit. The oldest manuals (that are most in tune with the origin of the system in Ling's gymnastics and fencing) prescribe exactly the same amount of training for both sides.

Some of the later ones are more ambiguous and only say that both sides should be trained, but they don't explicitly say that equal time should be spent.

Personally, in my current training curriculum I have the students (and myself) at least doing all cutting drills equal amounts of time on both sides.

When someone is learning a new technique I first let them get comfortable with doing it with their dominant hand, then encourage them to try it with the other, and also to switch partners so that left-handers and right-handers mix.

In sparring I encourage people to switch hands now and then, but I don't strictly enforce it.

Let's charitably say that I spend perhaps 15-20% of the time on the non-dominant hand, which is far too little, really.

I have plans to alter this for the next term and enforce more switching around, both for myself and others.

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Re: Ambidextrous Sabre Fencing

Postby Chris Holzman » 21 Nov 2014 05:41

The rather...... odd... book by Leonardo Terrone, published posthumously in 1959, called "Right and Left Handed Fencing" is an absolute advocate of equal practice. Terrone was a pretty interesting character. Given the illustrations and the foreword, it seems to have been written many years before his death. He was a graduate of the Scuola Magistrale under Parise.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 21 Nov 2014 08:14

Andreas,

Thanks for the clarification: older Swedish manuals (50-50%) and newer ones (unspecified proportion).

It seems that 50-50 is definitely too much, but spending some amount - somewhere between 15-20% and 30% - of training on perfecting fencing with non-dominant hand is a sound idea, especially if your dominant hand is too tired or prone to injury.
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