Sparring: How Important Is It for Swordfighters?

Discussion in 'Misc. Sword Arts' started by arnisador, Jul 20, 2006.

  1. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    A thread on MartialTalk has turned into a discussion of the value of sparring for those seeking to train themselves in practical sword-fighting. One side says that sparring is essential to develop and show speed, timing, ability to feint/draw/counter, and so on; the other side says that one merely trains to pull blows, strike at not quite the right distance, trade blows, and count ineffective blows alongside effective ones.

    I see both sides. On the one hand, I see people stick-sparring to train the sword who end up using hacking stick-style strikes and trading a light cut for a killing stab because it's a 'wash' in their minds; yet, I also see people avoiding sparring who could use to have their preconceptions of their own great abilities put to the test.

    For me, it helps to have good training partners. When I spar with Mr. Hartman, we acknowledge blows that we feel would be effective. If someone gets in a clearly debilitating blow, we don't throw in a weak cut as they withdraw when we know our head would be on the floor already. (Of course, we tend to focus on the stick as stick over the stick as sword.) An honest training partner with more concern for practicality than his own ego is a real benefit.

    I wouldn't want to not spar. But I also wouldn't want to develop habits of point-sparring with the sword, where I might teach myself to settle for a weak cut as it scores a point rather than getting in a good cut. Any cut is better than none if there is no chance of having to take one in return...but who can count on that?
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2007
  2. Inayan Boaz

    Inayan Boaz New Member

    That's a good question, Arnisador. What immediately came to mind for me was a quote off that "Minimal padding means lessons learned". In my limited sparring experience I have found it is a must to acknowledge when you have been "cut" seriously and also to be able to see with what "cuts" you could still continue to fight. By not wearing padding I have found that I am less likely to take a lethal "cut" to land several non lethal "cuts" as I am more aware of what blows have actually landed.

    Thanks for bringing this up Arnisador.


  3. lhommedieu

    lhommedieu Senior Member

    Sparring: How Important is it for Swordfighters?

    I think also that when you look at the sparring segment in the "Extras" section on the 2nd DVD of "Fighting with Sabre and Cutlass" (I read on another thread that you just purchased this one) you will see that snap cuts and draw cuts from a presumably sharp weapon to the fingers, hand, or forearm do not necessarily have to be "hard" to do much damage - just "hard enough." Indeed, the strikes from the heavy aluminum trainers that they are using are pulled considerably to avoid serious injury to each other.

    Although we can presume that you need to hit harder with a blunt trauma weapon than with a sharp weapon, it remains true that speed and precision are just as valuable attributes as hitting hard. For example, I may hit hard but if it takes me a long time to transition between hits or if I am inaccurate in my targeting, then I'm not going to be as effective. This is especially true if you like to hit with the end of the stick in order to take advantage of the smaller area on the end as well as the full length of the stick to utilize it's function as a simple lever.

    What's interesting to me is that the very same attributes (speed and precision) are considered valuable in swordfighting as well - only the targets change from bony ones to fleshy ones. I don't think that learning good swordfighting skills through sparring is going to take away from your ability to fight with a stick as long as you keep in mind that fighing with a bolo, for example (or a sabre, for that matter), is going to be very different than fighting with a hardwood stick The respective weights of the weapons plus the speed at which they are travelling plus the contact area plus the amount of time on contact, etc. are all factors that will contribute to different styles of fighting - but every or style has merits within its respective culture.

    Indeed one might clarify the issue of whether one should study different styles of martial art by considering that one is actually studying different weapons.


    Steve Lamade
  4. JohnJ

    JohnJ Senior Member

    You hit the nail! Without fighter integrity, bladed simulations revert back to an over exchange much like stickfighting. It is the responsibility for the players to engage in a manner wherein true respect for an edge weapons hazard is present. A greater sense of awareness and utilization of range with well executed and placed slashes and thrusts.
  5. Cruentus

    Cruentus Tactician

    I am of the opinion that without some sort of "sparring" or work with a resisting unpredictable person, your not really learning how to fight.

    Just maintain integrity by the goal being self/skill improvement rather then 'winning' within the peramiters of the rules, and your sparring will be a benefit rather then a hinderence.

  6. Matt Lim

    Matt Lim New Member

    IMHO sparring can only be beneficial if your partner or opponent is better than you are. That way, sparring can be a learning experience. If your opponent is your equal or has less skills and ability, you are just courting unnecessary injuries for nothing.
  7. Sheldon Bedell

    Sheldon Bedell New Member

    Timing, speed, movement in/out, etc. can all be improved with training.
    The acknowledgement of a good strike, is always a show of sportsmanship an comrades
  8. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    Sportsmanship, yes--but here I think it goes even deeper than that! It's necessary--indispensable--for developing solid technique.
  9. JohnJ

    JohnJ Senior Member

    Absolutely! Proper handling of this type of weapon ensures the effectiveness of that particular technique. By sparring with weapons that have an edge, precision and economy of motion is essential.

    There is NO counter for counter for re-counter etc. If done right the first time, the counter ability is nullified.

    "the sword is less forgiving" - JGJ
  10. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    Yes, movies condition people to want to "cross swords" but it's so much better to get in a quick cut with no sword-to-sword contact. I thought that Charles Mahan said it well here:

    The context is iaido, but the principles are much the same! Those of us who are "stick jocks"--like me--must always remember that the sword is more different than we sometimes admit. Much is the same, but some strategies change.
  11. kellygemini12

    kellygemini12 -== Banned ==-

    Sparring? Most Of You Believe As I Did That It Is Oh So Important But My Guro Has A Way Around It That Works And You Are Now Saying Im Crazy But His Drills Are More Important They Help Build You In A Different Way I Have Gone Over A Year Or More Without Sparring When I Fight My Level Shows And Instinctive Movement Comes On Its Own I Just React. Kelly
  12. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    Sparring has its place, but part of the point here is that one- and two-person drills also have their place! Since sparring has rules, it 'misses' some things.
  13. Douglas

    Douglas New Member

    Too often, I have seen free sparring turn into a brawl and potentially techniques fly out the window. A man who trained me in western sword showed me the value of “focused sparring”, where indeed there are rules, leading to an effective conditioned response. For instance, you attack me from any 12, and I try to void and cut to head or belly as you come in.

    Of course, there’s a time and place for free sparring. Throw a new student in the ring against one of the more experienced students and he quickly becomes humble and eager to learn. ;)

    There’s a guy in Hong Kong who makes realistic sparring weapons: The weight and balance are the best I’ve seen, and the amount of padding on the blades is just about right.
  14. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    Video clip (seen on MT).

    Demo. of German sword fighting. Note the disarms starting about halfway through. There's nothing new under the sun!
  15. ricthedic

    ricthedic -== Banned ==-

    Very nice sword way to long and heavy,still stuck in linear movement. Pass and slash,blindside! Just a thought!!!
  16. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    I'm still waiting for the BJJ version of sword-fighting. Training with a resisting person who is trying to win works well in boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, Judo, BJJ, etc., and even in (Western) fencing with its limited rules, but in so many FMA sparring sessions I've seen the rules are such that it sometimes pays to have your hand "cut off". Yes, that could happen in a real fight, but it's mighty rare! Why does it work for fencers but not us?
  17. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    Seen on MT.

    Here's a sparring partner for you:

  18. Armorer

    Armorer New Member

    [FONT=&quot]The question is referring to the importance of sparring to "swordfighters" and not necessarily martial artist. After all not everyone who has ever fought with a sword was trained to be a sword fighter.

    I'm not convinced that martial artist need to learn how to learn how to use swords instead of less potentially lethal weapons such as sticks.
    For the purpose of self defense a stick seems the more logical choice than the sword since one would have a difficult time explaining to a judge why they had no choice but to chop someone up with a blade instead of just knocking them out with a stick.

    I'd have to say sparring with swords is not important at all unless one is a soldier intending to fight in a real war with a similar weapon and even then it makes a lot more sense to spar with sticks since doing so with blades weighing around three pounds will restrict the attacks so much that the combat would become unrealistic even if armor were worn.

    I have seen people spar with dulled blades and they all pulled their shots or lighten up their blows to the point that it didn't seem much like a true contest to me.
    I also don't agree that it is possible to safely simulate thrusting attacks with blunted steel or aluminum weapons of legitimate weight to their real counterparts. A thrust from a sword can still glance off an intended target even if the opponents weapon has been negated so if one stops short with a thrust attack it still does not prove the strike would have landed in a way that would have done something.
    For example when I sparred with opponents who had padded surfaced on the end of their sticks in most cases even if their weapon got past my deflection or parry I could still turn my body or head at the last instant causing the blow to glance off to the side.
    I don't agree that it makes sense to spar with training tools that weigh less than two thirds of the actual weapon being simulated. Being that the average sword weighed two and a half or three pounds to me it makes little sense to pick up something like a kendo shinai and claim it is a test of who is the better swordsman.

    In my opinion the sparring rules used by the most popular groups that do so with weapons such as the WMA or the SCA don't allow the fighters to determine who is the better combatant except within the framework of their limited rule set.

    Also I would say that the sparring rules of these types of groups do not always make sense mainly because the damage profiles that these groups go by in order to determine what one type of strike might have done to the intended opponent had it been a real sword are not scientific.
    The WMA people I spoke with for example seems to overlook the fact that sword blows can also do a considerable amount of percussive damage to a target even without cutting through certain types of armor.[/FONT][FONT=&quot]
    In my opinion the fact that axes and maces do more percussive damage than swords does not in any way mean that swords can't also cause blunt trauma on armored opponents. If blunt injury can take place through plate armor using rattan sticks then switching to real swords only increases the potential for injury from blunt trauma. I'm sorry but I have already seen rattan sticks hurt people including myself even when wearing plate armor so I happen to know the WMA people are wrong. In the fist place all medieval armor was not plate and just because a person armed with a sword in a medieval war could see that they were going to fight opponents in full plate armor it would not mean that they would have had the option to run back and obtain a mace or axe.
    My overall conclusion is that sparring is only useful to determining if a certain types of defensive [/FONT][FONT=&quot]techniques can be used to counter or defeat particular types of offensive techniques and vise versa but it remains to be proven if sparring can be used to determine if one fighter is the better combatant than the other because the groups that engage in sparring use the wrong rules.

  19. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    Good point--people often forget the weight difference. It can mae a real difference to which techniques are viable.

    Yes, and even without armor they might deliver a non-lethal cut that results also in a disabling bone break.
    There's certainly value to it in that regard--trying things out initially!
  20. gagimilo

    gagimilo Member

    Well...if everybody had such an attitude then nobody would be sparring, or at least nobody would be making progress. I believe that it is possible to make something useful out of every sparring session, provided that people/partners involved are aware of the fact that sparring should be another learning mthod, not a contest, especially with egos at loose.

    I remember Rickson Gracie once saying that when sparring with a less experienced partner, he makes point out of trying to use some particular technique or approach that he feels is lacking. I try to follow the same path when sparring with baginner fighters, i.e. I focus on trying to apply one or two particular technique(s) that need work, but cannot be pulled successgully against an experienced opponent right away.

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