Prowess and various topics (was: Re: Prowess- Is that a

Heidi J Torres hjt at
Mon Dec 16 10:37:08 PST 1996


On Fri, 13 Dec 1996, Lenny Zimmermann wrote:

> On Fri, 13 Dec 1996 10:42:48 +0000, Antoine wrote:
> >As a sport, SCA fighting is fine.  We get out there and learn and 
> >have a good time.  You get hit in one place over and over and you 
> >eventually learn to fix it.
> >
> >But people of period NEVER saw their sword work as a game.  They 
> >built games around it, because it gave them a way to keep in practice 
> >without having to have a battle and kill people.  (Killing people for 
> >sport was a sin, you know.)
> Who says we see our sword work as a game? If I got mugged on the
> street and were in danger of my life, I would sure hope the things I
> have learned on the field here would help me to save my life, even if
> it is only with a knife or some stick that was handy.
> And I don't agree that my persona would not have seen tournaments and
> sparring as a sport/game/enjoyable-form-of-entertainment or that
> people of the time "NEVER" saw it as such. We certainly see flight
> simulators as games, as we do hunting, target shooting, archery
> shooting, karate, kickboxing, etc. All of these people often practice
> with the idea that their skills may have to be used against another
> person for defense. Does that make us see them as any less of a game?
> Not for me, it doesn't and these sound similar to what people were
> doing in period for the same reasons.
> >We don't tend to have a good respect for that side of things.  We 
> >tend to be focused on the sport part.  That may be healthier for us 
> >as 20th century folk, but I think we miss something.  We don't fear 
> >the sword.  I've seen men fighting with rapiers run at each other and 
> >play a "close game" where the blades are slashing and dashing while 
> >their hands are flailing trying to get a good grip.  I've seen people 
> >feel that the entire length of a blade is a suitable minimum draw 
> >cut.
> I will admit to having known folks who would not readily accept the
> reality of what a sharpened weapon would do to them when all they wear
> is a shirt and pants/hose. (Any of you ever cut yourself with a
> kitchen knife? Just how much draw and how little pressure did you
> need? Now think about that in context of what Antoine mentioned and
> think how much deeper a cut with 3 feet, or more, of steel would be.
> Now you see why I would agree with his statement that a full blade
> draw cut is ludicrous. Even 10 inches would be far longer than needed
> to discourage me from continuing the fight if you ask me!) To get back
> on topic... I would say, however, that ancient man had no real
> problems with tournaments as sport, not combat.
> Most professional football players put themselves at great risk of
> being hurt in their sport and they KNOW it, but it's still a game.
> Same for us if an epee were to break with a very sharp point on a
> strong lunge or any number of other accidents. Same for any martial
> art. There are risks, but if I were in a martial arts tournament the
> foremost thing in my mind is not that the other guy can kill me or
> that I have to kill him, it's that we are there to score points based
> on what could have been killing or maiming blows. Humankind has done
> that for as long as we've been around and I doubt people of our
> studied time were that much different from us in this respect.
> Tournament was still a sport.
> I personally feel that sparring and tournaments were seen as just that
> and if a renaissance man knew he would not be "hurt" by a bated-blade
> or some other foil he would not face that weapon with the same fear
> and adrenal rush he would face a real weapon with. Part of the
> training would be to constantly confront the fears so they are not
> novel and to more easily deal with them should you face the reality of
> a real combat situation. Tell me the first time you picked up a sword
> that you didn't have some of that fear of it. How about in heavy
> weapons (they are all just weapons if you ask me, just slightly
> different rules and armor to wear) where you think "My God that is a
> BIG stick and I really don't have a lot of protection on my.... THAT'S
> gotta HURT!!!" Get my drift? Some of the fear is there, but we
> acclimate to it, just as I think our ancestors did.
> >I believe that Knights and other men who faced a sword in period 
> >feared the sword.  But they ate their fear and faced them anyway. 
> >They didn't have long drawn out discussions about how they could do 
> >this in a way that no one could get hurt.  I think tournaments were 
> >pretty damned scary to them as well.  (Although I'm sure the 
> >masters called that exhileration.)
> Indeed, the same fears that many who are heavily into modern day
> sports face, despite safety measures.
> >If you allow yourself to accept that you are exercising death when 
> >you pick up a sword, you pass into another dimension of how they 
> >looked at life.  When you stop to think that every strike that you've 
> >ever received and said "good" could have been stone cold death for 
> >you if the circumstances were different, you begin to see more from 
> >their eyes.
> And that IS where I'm coming from, at least as far as calling blows.
> The difference is that I simply cannot believe that Lionardo would
> have seen the world so differently in facing a period foil/stick then
> Lenny does. (Other things we certainly would have seen differently,
> but this one I just can't see.) 
> Remember that a cork and a blunt blade WAS, to their way of thinking,
> as "safe" as a modern Epee is for us. It was a practice weapon that
> wouldn't "hurt" you. If you got bruised or sprained or broken... well
> I think most of us, certainly most men, know quite well about having
> to "suck it up". I see it as though fighting with any of our baited
> weapons is pretty much just how Lionardo would have felt facing the
> same baited weapons of his time. We talk about our Heavy Rapiers being
> stiffer and having the chance to cause a few more bruises, after I
> started getting used to it I couldn't fear the weapon the way I did
> the first time. Their definition of "safe" and "hurt" was just a
> little different then ours. I'm sure a 22nd century person in a VR
> environment for combat would think that what we do is pretty darn
> scary too. We just don't think anything of it because we DON'T have
> that kind of technology.
> It seems human nature to me to never REALLY have a sense of our own
> mortality. We just always assume we have a good chance of getting out
> alive. "It won't happen to me." It's like not understanding why some
> cultures live in what we would consider slavery, when they just don't
> know anything different. 
> >We do have a sport, but it's based on some stark realities for people 
> >we are trying to understand.  I think you might enjoy what you learn 
> >about yourself if you accept death as a part of the equation.  Those 
> >who only know the sport, are missing a lot.
> Indeed, and I will gladly miss having to walk on the field with a live
> blade against as equal an opponent. If my life depended on it, then
> yes, I would feel that way (and I know what it is like to feel death
> close by and I am sure many here have as well). My persona, if he had
> existed, would have had far more opportunity to face death if honor
> demanded it, but more often he would have faced scarring, more so than
> death if it came to a duel. (I can't speak for the French on this one,
> they never did figure out that duels didn't have to end with someone
> dead at their feet! ;-)) That was assuming he could not find a
> diplomatic solution to the disagreement, and Italians were known far
> and wide for their diplomatic abilities. 
> I guess that is where I feel a closer companionship to my persona,
> compared to Antoine, for example. His persona probably would have had
> to face death more so than mine would have. But I WANT to be closer to
> the persona I have chosen in the ability to attempt to work problems
> through. It's just that for an Italian of my time there was always the
> threat of pain and POSSIBLY death, should an agreement not be met.
> Methinks I am beginning to ramble and many may have no interest in my
> viewpoint on this. I do want to reiterate, however, that I cannot say
> for certain how ancient man thought, only how I conceive they thought,
> colored by my own experience and beliefs. This also means that anyone
> else's paradigm, as far as I am concerned, can be just as valid as my
> own as long as it has value for them.
> And either way I still think I can get on the field and show honor and
> chivalry despite the fact that I think of what we do as a sport.
> Honos Servio,
> Leonardo Acquistapace, Bjornsborg
> (mka Lenny Zimmermann, San Antonio)
> zarlor at

More information about the Ansteorra mailing list