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I am in Poland at the moment and I have taken the opportunity to get in touch with some local HEMA types here and learn about what they do. Tonight, I attended a class on Polish Sabre taught by Silkfencing Team; The style is aggressively cut focused and flowing and I had a good time learning about it and about the teacher’s sword fighting philosophy.

This post is somewhat rough but given that I haven’t posted in while and the number of rough drafts awaiting completion I thought it best not to wait. I have written up a run through of almost the entire class and the points I found most interesting.

The class started with a warmup based on runnning around the room (a very popular warmup style in European classes I have attended). It included: high knees, heel to glutes, hip kicks, sideways skipping, and grapevine.

Followed by dynamic stretching and then a body motion/ power generation exercise. The stretches included were: shoulder rotations, stepping lunges, hip flexor stepping lunges, static tricep stretch, static pectoral stretch, static lat stretch, and four wrist stretches.

Body motion striking

standing in something like true guardant – we didn’t get into guard names so I am using George Silvers here even though it is not exactly the same – push forward from the hips and lean with a straight spine, i.e. from bending the knees, while allowing the hand and arm to flop out in extension palm up. Then recovering back by bending the rear knee and squaring up to the imaginary opponent.

The advice given to me when doing the exercise was to pin the shoulder and drive the motion with the body instead of the arms. It should feel like work in the legs and not the arms.

The next step is to pick up a sword (actually a rather nice plastic waster) and do the exercise twice in row as before, sword in hand and then strike pulling as fast as you can all the way through so the sword ends up tucked behind you and then repeat.

The advice I was given for this part was to imagine that there are two dots on either side of your sternum and try to make them touch when you pull through strongly.

After that we did some thematic drilling using the same wasters and focusing on Meyer’s concepts of Provoker, Taker, and Hitter. We took turns as agent and patient, with agent provoking, then taking and hitting, while patient responded had their sword taken and was then struck.

There were no strict prescriptions about what blows to use just that they should follow the correct order and correct fencing principles. This was done at slower than full speed and without masks. Ideally the three actions should flow in one motion.

This was followed by switching partners and also changing the action order to Take, Hit, and Provoke while withdrawing. The drilling finished up with Take, Provoke, and Hit.

The teacher, whose name I can’t spell, explains the differences between the three actions differently to what I am used to. He says that the Provoker is a larger action that is not intended to make contact with the opponent’s sword, that the Taker strikes to the sword (i.e. a mezzo cut), and that the Hitter strikes through the opponent’s body (i.e. a full cut). This difference was interesting as it applied to the centre of rotation, Hitters were expected to come from the wrist, Takers from the elbow, and Provokers from the shoulder; there should also be more body extension with the Taker and Hitter than with the Provoker, perhaps unsurprisingly.

We then moved on to targeted bouting in two king of the hill type stations, one where the head was the only target and the other where the forearms and legs are the target. Interestingly, we used rigid core cloth covered boffers, with masks and some padding for protection. Finishing up with full target freeplay in the same equipment.

The boffers work surprisingly well for this system and the local freeplay context. Blows are expected to land well and with some follow through to be counted and the boffers have a little more weight to them than what I am used too; which seems to avoid the major issues of tippy tappy quick crap that I would usually expect with boffers.

The cool-down was a glove fighting game and the ceremonial end of training involved lining up to exchange bows with our instructor followed by a curious looping line of hand shaking that resulted in everyone shaking hands with each other.

Glove game

Hold a glove from one end and slap your opponent anywhere with the glove, without allowing your body to touch theirs. It is fun, uses almost no equipment and allows students to practice striking using only footwork and distance..