Roger Norling wrote:I do understand your position here and you are of course absolutely correct in stating that proper harness is ideal for practicing harnischfecthen. But, as you mention, historical accuracy is not as important as is the fact that it hinders you similarly. But isn't this topic even more complex?
Historical accuracy of the harness is important, don't get me wrong, but most people can't afford the $20K or more (much more) such a harness costs. If we were doing living history demonstrations that would be one thing, and that's why I have a harness designed for living history activities (although I don't do LH any more), but from a pure martial art standpoint there's little reason to require that kind of attention to detail as long as the harness *functions* like a real one, or at least close enough.
For instance, I could imagine a combatant that weren't wearing full harness but different types and combinations of armour while still using halfsword techniques and other techniques suitable to attack an opponent in full harness? Range of motion must have varied with the specific armour worn by each combatant. A brigandine, jack chains and other light armour does not hinder you in the same way. Of course, in judicial combat we usually see full harness or none at all, but for the battlefield I can imagine that things were different.
The vast majority of FechtbÃ¼cher are concerned solely with Kampffechten between gentlemen of coat armor, at least in so far as the Harnischfechten is concerned. Lower-class soldiers in partial harnesses did not participate in such contests. To the best of my knowledge, most of the FechtbÃ¼cher don't address battlefield tactics at all, excepting a few of the odd RoÃŸfechten plates in Talhoffer 1459 and 1467, and even those seem to apply to the phase of battle wherein the lines have broken down.
And, using simulators is also problematic. You both really need to use properly weighted and balanced weapons with proper intent to fully understand the characteristics of the type of fighting you are engaging in. Overhand grip with a sliding spear thrust is quite risky with a heavy spear and a steel spearhead, but works well with lighter simulators.
I'm not sure what you've been working with, but I have ash spears with steel heads that work quite well for all of the techniques I find in the FechtbÃ¼cher. I do not, however, use them for free play because they are too dangerous. If you use good ash spear shafts and put some solid foam on them for a spear head they are quite safe, and handle very realistically. May I ask, which Fechtbuch did you see that suggested a thrust single done overhead with a spear, by the way? I thought I'd seen all of the spear sources and none of them suggest such a technique. All of the sources I've seen show the majority of thrusts being done from the lower guard except in the Winden, and there you wouldn't want to do a thrust single because you'd lose the leverage of the Winden.
Incidentally, if your spears don't work too well, may I suggest they may be unbalanced? When you look at really well-drawn medieval depictions of spears you will see that the spear shafts are tapered from the butt to the point. Part of the reason has to do with the way long, linear objects tend to break, but another part of the reason is to balance the spear so that the head doesn't seem heavier than the butt in use.
As for swords, balance simply isn't an issue, since you'll be using it for halfsword thrusts or for Mordschlagen. They're just too short to be a problem when used that way. I recommend rattan or hickory shafts with a lightly padded thrusting tip and a heavily padded "pommel" end.
Pollaxes are somewhat more tricky: Every attempt I've seen to make them handle perfectly has led to shattered shafts; this happened just two weeks ago at a seminar I gave. Someone wanted to weight his shafts more accurately, and his shaft shattered and sent jagged pieces across the gym. I'm trying to work out a way to wrap heavy rubber behind the rubber axe head to create a stronger sense of "unbalance" in them. Still, just using rattan shafts with rubber heads and foam tips has created weapons that balance about one third of the way down the shaft, which is just where my steel axe balances.
But, using properly weighted polearms with proper intent is too dangerous for most people's taste of course, so a compromise has to be made. Also hookings and thrusts to exposed areas are still often too dangerous to perform even in full harness, when used with intent. A compromise has to be made here as well.
See above; and I agree with hooking to the legs, but hooks to the neck are fine as long as you take them only to the point of "setting" the hook so you don't wrench the victim's neck. It's not perfect, but it's reasonably close; if you can set the hook, you can probably do the technique. But as for thrusting into the gaps in a harness, I disagree, and have been doing it for many, many years. As I wrote in my previous post, simply building up a foam point makes the weapon safe enough to stab an armpit with. It might hurt like hell, sure, but that's life.
So while I agree in general, I do think we all have to compromise since few of us actually want to risk serious injury while practicing. What those compromises are varies, but as long as we are aware of the consquenses of those compromises I do think we can learn a lot from any type of practice, even if we might have to revise our understanding when we change the compromises in another type of practice.
With respect, I don't agree with your conclusion. Your argument amounts to saying "well, we have to compromise on some issues" (and I think I can show you that you need less compromise than you believe), "so it's fine to compromise on others." That doesn't follow. Just because you can't hook someone's legs out from under him without a serious risk of injury doesn't justify doing free play in protective gear that doesn't simulate armor; two wrongs don't make a right, as they say. As I wrote before, doing so simply doesn't reflect the reality of armored combat. A good harness isn't the "ideal" for practicing Harnishcfechten free play, it's the *minimum*, or else you're wasting your time.
It's kind of like someone who wants to do car racing but can't afford a car: Building a wooden box with wheels that you roll down an incline isn't going to teach him *anything* at all about racing a car. He may have fun rolling his box downhill, but he should be aware that it has nothing to do with car racing.
Certainly you can practice without good armor at the beginning; I think people really need at least several years worth of very heavy and escalating drills to learn the basics of Harnischfechten before beginning any thought of free play. Without that, the "moves" people do have little resemblance to those taught in the FechtbÃ¼cher (they start making up their own, which defeats the purpose of recreating a historical martial art). But even there, the armor needs be added in fairly early, piece by piece. I have some students right now that are really ready to move on to more loose drills with real hitting involved, but they're having trouble getting decent helmets and gauntlets. It's a shame, but at least they can do pell work and continue to work on memorizing the techniques.