The European Historical Combat Guild

Investigating Europe's Historical combative methods and behaviours

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Staying engaged or switch on and off.

I was just watching some video of HEMA practitioner, one whose skills and understanding I respect, engaged in some free play with two practitioners of  a Japanese Weapon Art (JWA) in this case Kendo. It was as always interesting to see the differences techniques being applied against each other.
However the main thing I was remaindered of was something I have been aware of now for years when I observe JWA and HEMA. That is the marked difference between how JWA and HEMA consider the Approach and Exit to the engagement and the Approach to the next engagement.
The text below is a direct copy of the post I made on Facebook below the video. I plan to expand on this at a later date, however having written quite a lot I thought it was a reasonable starting point.

An observation of a generally major difference in the practice HEMA and JWA which I have noticed over a long period.  HEMA Practitioners whether in set plays or free play, at the end, win or loose, "switch out" and turn their backs most of the time and often spend a long time looking away from the "threat" Where as JMA practitioners tend to stay oriented on the opponent, or when the final action leaves them off target they turn to face and stay facing the opponent whether they win or loose and then stay orientated on the opponent until the next bout/exchange.

Again, these are not 100% occurrences, however there is a clear divide in methodologies/application. I do also think that it is significant. I know that many of the older Ryu in Japan emphasise dealing with the aftermath of an encounter as much as the build up and the actual exchange. That being aware that the threat may not be finished so to stay oriented or at least aware of them is vital.

Also to be aware of other possible threats beyond the technique. One can also note that in modern "combative" firearms training that it is now generally drilled that after shooting a target etc that the shooter scans  around and only then chooses to holster/lower the weapon once there are no threats. Rather than older practice methods where this was not done and which generally lead to people to be conditioned on the range to just holster the weapon automatically with out awareness of the environment and other threats. This was found to be leading to negative situations in actual use, where conditioned rather then appropriate responses took over and people would automatically lower/holster the weapon once an immediate threat was neutralised and not check for more threats and then being shot by someone else.

Also training/learning research indicates that staying focused beyond the completion of an immediate task or exercise leads to better/faster retention of skills and actually helped in the correction of mistakes.

This is something we ingrain into students and  have seen an over all improvement with its application.

I find that this is a very "Western" approach, we as a culture tend to be more goal rather than process orientated. And even when we think we are focused on the process, we still tend to focus on the immediate frame of the specific thing we are in the process of doing, rather than on the whole process including how we come to the place where the "thing" happens and how we leave it.


  1. I blame the training 'style' in the hall... if people walk in at any time, have a chat then do a few moves, it is done for fun only. If you 'switch on' to the fact the room is full of dangerous swords and these can hurt you if youre not careful, your awareness will start when you walk in. Long term this becomes a good habit.

  2. Yes and no, The problem is the whole package, The style of the group is partly responsable, but also the mind set and attitude the person brings in to the training. Some people are less aware and will not adapt or adopt so easily... There sometimes a point where one should say... "seriously consider your attitude and if you don't adapt and adopt, then don't bother coming back"