The Swashbuckler

Errol Flynn demonstrates the explosive thrusting of fencing.

I return to a theme I’ve talked about before. Suppose I give you a sword and you wield it as “an extension of the hand,” moving and cutting as the weapon effortlessly magnifies your reach and power.

Only you’re dead, because I gave you a rapier. Rapiers don’t cut; they’re only a thrusting weapon. (By the way, if the FMA are native Filipino arts, then why is thrusting called “estokada”? Like Filipinos can’t say the word “saksak”?)

Herein lies the problem. Each weapon has its own unique characteristics. Rather than use the weapon to amplify yourself, your proper goal is to align yourself with the weapon’s strengths. I spoke of the big stick instilling a spirit of raw power. The rapier is not a power weapon. Think of it as a yard-long needle. Try to power your way through a rapier conflict, and you’ll end up dead. The muscular Arnold Schwarzenegger is no more effective with a rapier than is Pee Wee Herman.

Errol Flynn, Swashbuckler

The feeling of the rapier is that of a cat, light on your feet. Or like a cobra, coiled, but suddenly exploding to full extension. Holding a rapier isn’t based on a strong grip, but one that is relatively light and sensitive.

Why would you train with the rapier? The rapier is an effective means of learning explosive, direct-line movement. Bruce Lee’s lead punch was based on his study of a famous European fencer named Aldo Nadi. If you train with the knife, fencing is a great means of learning important attributes. In my training with GM Maranga, he avoids the counter, trap, pass, parry, knife drills you see so commonly in the FMA. His style is like fencing, suddenly bursting in and thrusting, then darting out. It’s just too easy to get cut when you’re trapping, parrying, checking, etc.

But the catch for those who want to take the stick and apply it lock, stock, and barrel to all unarmed self-defense, each weapon’s characteristics makes it applicable to some unarmed techniques, but not all. As I said, the rapier has great applications for lunging and straight punching, especially the lead punch, or for knife fighting, but it’s useless when it comes to elbows.

In like Flynn: Forward movement, extension, elusiveness

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