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Dealing with the double hitter

By Kristian Ruokonen
Photo by Timo Toropainen

When fencing, people often get frustrated if their opponent does not parry and instead just strikes with their eyes closed at the closest possible target. It is often said that this person “fenced wrong” or “isn’t doing proper martial arts” et cetera, which is true in the sense that this sort of fencing is not desirable. However, as fencers, we also must understand what level the “discussion” in the bout is happening. If this is the response your opponent thinks is appropriate, we need to learn how to deal with it. The superior fencer is responsible for ensuring that there is only one hit given in the exchange. In this article, we examine how to make sure that this is the result of the action.

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Rivalry drills

By Kristian Ruokonen
Photo by Timo Toropainen

Rivalry drills are great way to practice certain aspects of fencing. They work as a very good reality check on whether you can actually pull off a technique, and if you understand how it’s supposed to work. In rivalry drills, you have a pair of fencers with either opposite or identical objectives they are trying to achieve, and the drill is done in a very competitive fashion. Both fencers should at all times work hard to execute their assigned actions.

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Swordfish 2013 award ceremony. For winning competitions one usually needs many years of hard work at regular trainings.

Your first time in the steccato

By Eliisa Keskinen

Steccato (ital.), fence, fencing ring

The first of this year’s Nordic Historical Fencing League tournaments, Helsinki Longsword Open 2015 is in less than a week. As there are many first-timers coming, I decided to write a short article on getting started in competitive HEMA. There are many great HEMA competitions these days, and if you haven’t competed yet, you should. There is no need to make them your goal in training, but fencing with stress and pressure in competitive environment is a great experience with lots of learning value.  Beyond that, tournaments are usually really fun and challenging. I have personally learned a lot in every single match I have attended, whether I have won or lost.

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Counterattacks without opposition

By Kristian Ruokonen

An example of counterattack  without opposition in German longsword is the krumphau on the hands of your opponent as he strikes an oberhau. The krumphau is not my strongest technique, but in this article I will present some ways I get it to work. Counterattacks without opposition are extremely tough to execute successfully and in my experience the most common result of an attempted krumphau to the hands is a double hit.  It is clear that it cannot be done as a reaction to a committed vorschlag that is in measure. If you want to strike a krumphau to the hands safely, I think it should done in such a manner that when you hit his hands, you still have time to parry afterwards so that the initial strike does not reach you. Thus, krumphau is based on a victory in time difference. Your strike has to land clearly before your opponent’s strike even has a chance to hit. I think there are 3 main ways to do this:

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Second intention

By Kristian Ruokonen
Photos by Timo Toropainen

In this post I will examine second intention attacks, and how to deal with them. A second intention attack is an attack consisting of two actions, the second of which is intended to strike the opponent. They can either be preplanned, where you assume or know based on observation that the opponent will parry, or “open-eyes”, where you observe your opponents reaction to the initial feint and then act accordingly. A third category is a so-called switch-over reaction, where you attack in the first intention but change intention during the execution of your attack based on your opponent’s reaction. A simple right oberhau followed by a left oberhau to avoid a parry can fit into any one of these categories; the difference is in initial intention: did you plan all the way to only land the second attack, did you observe his reaction, or did you spontaneously change intention during the action.
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Beginners’ courses in historical fencing

By Eliisa Keskinen

I have attended a decent amount of beginner’s courses as a participant, an assistant and an instructor. The majority of them have covered different types of HEMA but I’ve also taken beginner classes in mixed martial arts, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and savate. I’ve developed a good general idea of what makes a good beginner’s course, and I thought it might be worth sharing some ideas. Continue reading

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Deep and shallow targets

By Kristian Ruokonen

I teach that there are two kinds of targets: shallow and deep. I consider the hands, forearms and legs as shallow targets, and the torso and the head as deep targets. A complete fencer should be able to attack both kinds of targets at will. Attacking only deep targets makes your fencing extremely predictable, and only going for shallow targets will cause your opponent not to respect your attacks. Continue reading

Helsinki Bolognese Open 2013 tournament. Photo by Ilkka Hartikainen

Judges are worth your money

By Eliisa Keskinen

Organizing judges for any tournament event is vital for their success, and one should very carefully mind the varying quality of the judges they hire. I have never seen any tournament marketing that they have this or that judge working for them, like one would market an event’s instructors. I know many fencers who avoid certain tournaments because they know that the judging is unacceptable. If you are organizing a tournament, judges is key; only the venue is more important to your success. Continue reading