Our first official sponsor for 2019 has come forward. Jesse Belsky has made a generous donation of an object for the prize pool at our tournament. (Not BTW the sword shown below.) Check out his work. He brought some to the event last year and attendees were blown away by his fine work on weapons and accessories.
A preliminary Schedule has been posted.
The I realize that Girard, Themes and Variations may seem a bit vague so let me give you a taste of some of the particulars that you can expect.
Part One will start of with an introduction to Girard and his method. We will consider his perspective and some of the core principles and considerations that form the basis of his text. This would include his key attacks, parries, often assisted by the off hand, ripostes and movement.
Part Two will look at Tempo and Girard's ways of taking Tempo from the opponent.
Part Three and Four will look at how Girard handles opponents who stand still, rush in or retreat with different tactics.
Peasants and Germans and Flails OH MY! will address Girard's advice for opposing mixed weapons. These include rapiers, spadroons/sabers, pikes, bayonets, two-handed smallsword and the deadly and often misunderstood flail.
All these classes will be taught by Mr. Crawley with the assistance of many of our usual collection of top rank international instructors.
Yours truly will offer a warm up suitable for a Sunday morning after a Saturday night focusing on how period dance exercises can improve performance and understanding of smallsword technique.
The Tournament will as always be structured to test the ability to fence in the style of the featured theme i.e., Girard.
Looking forward to seeing you all there.
Since there was a very positive response to our dedication of the event to a single subject last year this year the event will be concentrated on P. D. F. Girard's 1740 Smallsword treatise "Traité des armes"
We are especially excited to announce that joining us as an instructor will be Philip Crawley. Phil is the translator of Girard into English, and an internationally recognized instructor in Smallsword and a variety of other martial arts. Phil is also one of the forces behind our sister event the Original Smallsword Symposium held annually in Edinburgh.
Registration is open and the early discount is in effect.
We have more exciting plans in the works so keep an eye on this site of on the American Smallsword Symposium FB page for announcements
Keep an eye here for BIG ANNOUNCEMENT in the next week regarding AmSS V. June 1&2 2018.
Only a couple of days to go till the 4th American Smallsword Symposium! Just a couple of last minute details.
Please come to join us Friday night after 7:30 at Baltimore Fencing Center for a bit of meet and beat freeplay courtesy of Chris Amberger.
The Saturday Evening Social will be at An Poitin Stil . 7:30 til? There are also dozens of other food possibilities in the immediate area so feel free to visit them and join us for drinks after.
Please arrive promptly on Saturday morning at Towson Dance Studio so we can get everyone signed in and start on time.
I want to make a suggestion about how I think one should approach this event in particular. The goal for us is to present you all with an opportunity to learn a very specific fencing style and method that represents the apogee of Smallsword technique This style and the method of teaching it is really the highest level of refinement before the slow evolution into a more but not exclusively recreational exercise. La Boëssière also represents the genesis of Classical Fencing before pragmatism replaced principles and a sport grew out of the art.
This weekend will provide an immersion in the this style famously practiced by the most celebrated fencer of the era Saint Georges. I am not going to say that at the end you will fence as well as he but you will understand what it means to fence like him. What principles and reasons guided the development of this style. How were these skills taught and practiced?
The best way to answer these questions this weekend will depend on your commitment to keeping an open mind and learning by teaching. The ideal approach is to suspend your prior experiences, preconceptions and training and give La Boëssière a chance.
Give yourself to the exercises and the drills and find the underlying logic, elegance and effectiveness therein. Be a good and responsible partner in order to help others to find these qualities too. You will also be asked to take the role of teacher guiding and critiquing others. This great and humbling activity is integral to La Boëssière's method. This is not a gimmick or diversion. Partners will be literally in your hands and you in theirs. Please respect their desire to learn as much as your own . Be observant and treat them as you would like to be treated.
Please do not be obsessed with competition in or outside of the tournament. Again the goal of the contest is to put into practice the lessons learned and to fence in the style taught. You should feel better losing and managing to fence a La Boëssière than winning and fencing the same polyglot win-at-all-costs style that you use back home. If you don't want to progress into new territory and increase your range and options than why did you come here?
Finally please remember that all of the organizers, staff and instructors are volunteers and provide this venue, the classes and the event as a whole at their own expense motivated solely by a desire to share their understanding and enjoyment for the art of Smallsword with you all. They are worthy of your attention and respect while you are here. A word of thanks to them would , I am sure , be gladly received.
If we keep these ideas in mind I am certain that we all will gain immeasurably as swordsmen and women from this weekend and have a damn good time as well.
We are giving out some mighty fine prizes.
American Smallsword Symposium 2018.
Dominico Angelo print. Artwork by Rui Ferreira.
Only one month till the American Smallsword Symposium IV. I have a backlog of announcements to post so keep an eye on this spot for updates.
Notice, I will allow the discount to run until the day of the event!
Our theme this year is . . . . .
Introducing Monsieur La Boëssière
Arguably Smallsword had reached its zenith by about 1800. Most of the influential instruction manuals such as Angelo, Girard and others had been published years before. By the time "Treatise on the Art of Arms" is published in 1818 daily carry for civilians was passing out of style. However the memory of those we would think of as icons of the Golden Age of Smallsword lingered. Chief among these would be the legendary Chevalier Saint Georges.
We are fortunate to have in this text not only a detailed account of his longtime friend but the full course of training that Saint Georges undertook at the hands of the elder La Boëssière, the fencing master mostly remembered only as the inventor of the mesh fencing mask. La Boëssière’s method of teaching and the elegance and effectiveness they create has long deserved more attention as the beginning of Classical Fencing. He emphasizes adherence to principles, speed and precision, opposition, attacks from distance, and taking advantage of your opponents lost time. It is that refined and demanding style and unique interactive method of the elder La Boëssière that we will explore in this class. I can guarantee that by the end of the class you will know what it means to fence in the style of La Boëssière. I just cannot guarantee you will fence as well as Saint Georges.
In order to facilitate a more authentic experience we are requesting if at all possible that attendees wear standard fencing attire and protective gear to cover all exposed skin. No shorts for example. Period appropriate attire is allowed and appreciated. Please dress modestly. Doing so avoids undue distraction, demonstrates the seriousness of your intent, respects your fellow students and instructors, and enhances the reputation of the event.
Again let me remind you that your instructors are all highly skilled volunteers who attend at their own expense. Please refrain from impolite behavior. Do not converse while the instructor is talking. Please do not dispute with the instructors or their assistant. Do not offer alternatives or change the drills. All of the instructors are happy to debate after their class, especially if it is over a blade or a drink.
The tournament will emphasize the style taught at the event as found in the manual. Please make an attempt to follow the spirit of the game and fence in that style. Rules have been crafted to encourage restrained civilized encounters. Target will be front torso only. Contact the head of the opponent, forfeit the bout. Grab the opponents blade, loose a point. More than two thrusts in succession without returning to guard, loose a point. Additional points will be awarded for a successful attack delivered with "Style" as taught in the manual. (High Hand, Opposition and etc . . .)
Are you ready to get in the spirit?
Why you belong at the 2018 American Smallsword Symposium!
Two months till the Event!
Tournaments are an important part of all martial arts. This is no less true of Western Martial Arts. Tournaments fulfill several function which coexist on a continuum.. Which function is most important is the subject of much debate. Tournaments serve as tests of skill which serve to educate and provide experience to the participants. They allow participants to see and interact with other practitioners and compare the skills and styles of others to their own. There is a social aspect in that casual interaction "around the water cooler" provides a chance to gain access wide variety of ideas and opinions. Finally there is certainly a thrill to competition and a satisfaction to victory. It is confirmation of one's own skill to be able to rank one's self with the status of a winner among one's peers. The agony of defeat is a powerful motivator as well.
As an event organizer it is most important to me to have a contest which displays and reinforces the ideals and or the theme of the event. At American Smallsword Symposium the ideals and the principals have been consistent but the theme has changed every year. I will admit that this has been problematic.
My belief was that one could go to any number classical fencing tournaments and smallsword tournaments where the rules were all very similar. To my mind these were to tame and too tied to a very narrow context of smallsword fencing i.e., salle play. There was very little to test the skills that one would need on the field or honor or the mean streets.
So I consciously chose to push the envelope and to introduce a tournament or an "exercise with a prize" as I like to think of it, that demanded one exercise different skills than those of the salle. These early American Smallsword Symposia tournaments did reflect the themes and the techniques that were taught in the classes at the event. I modeled a scenario based contest on Cowboy Action shooting events. Pressure was increased by adding a second opponent after a set time period in each bout. In addition to multiple opponents we threw in mixed weapons. I was sadly disappointed that virtually no participants were up to the challenge to engage in snap tactical analysis and performance under this kind of pressure. Form and principals were thrown to the wind and the finest technicians resorted to "run and gun" tactics. It was not fun to review the videos of these contests.
But these tournaments did serve a purpose. I got a good sense of just how little tactical analysis and breadth of technique most smallsword fencers could display . That is to say that most attendees only had one "game". They had one style and a couple of "tricks" that worked for them but when these were not usable they had nothing left. This informed me of the need to work much more on developing those skills that were missing in myself and my classes. Participants either learned the same things or were disappointed that the tournaments were not what they were expecting or comfortable with. That however was the point! That comfort was the enemy of understanding and progress.
Now we are at year four of the event that will deal exclusively with the style of the fencing that represents the apogee of smallsword practice just before it began a slow decline from weapon for the defense of honor and self into foil play and solely for recreation. In keeping with that theme we will try to emphasize that refined style by adding some subtle rules to push participants into a period style. Rules will encourage style as taught in the classes and documented in the text and plates of M. La Boëssière'e "Treatise on the Art of Arms". This includes clean attacks from distance as opposed to machine gun thrusting; Thrusts and ripostes in opposition with the hand high; Target area torso only and a penalty for hitting the head; penalties for blade grabs of any kind. Yes we will give style points too.
I know that this represents a radical swing from our past tournaments and is even more conservative that normal but this is designed to serve the purpose of getting participants to experience as much as possible fencing of the period in which the text was published , and to see the style and the challenges that some of the most legendary swordsmen in history such as the Chevalier St. Georges faced. I hope you all will come out and test yourselves against each other with in this challenging context.