Monday, March 18, 2013

Incidental Contact

Over the past many years there have been discrepancies of interpretation of one fencer touching another.  When the subject recently reared up again, Master Aedan resurrected the following policy statement he made in January 2007 when he was Society Rapier Marshal.  I agree with him, and am re-publishing it here to try and spread the news to a wider audience.  As noted below, Kingdoms can have stricter requirements, this is the Corporate standard.

Incidental Contact
Such contact was permitted ever since I can remember.  Like many things, some Kingdoms used such hand on wrist, or arm on arm type contact as a matter of course.  Other kingdoms were more restrictive and did not allow
such contact.  The problem came when something caused the then SEM to make a quick decision and draw a strong "absolutely no contact" ruling.  The latest rules rewrite including some (I had hoped) clarifying language to restate what was permitted and bring things back to where they were traditionally.

So let's start with what is and is not allowed.  Then we'll talk about what you as a KRM can allow (or not) for your Kingdom.

Keep in mind that pretty much any action that is currently allowed in our rules can also be done in an unsafe manner.  We obviously allow thrusts. But we should all be comfortable with being able to distinguish between a
good thrust, a thrust that was too hard due to circumstances (and there was an attempt to correct it) and a thrust that is too hard because the fighter doesn't have sufficient control.

Let's say you and I are fighting single heavy rapier and examine some scenarios:

1) Hand on blade parry

This is an accepted practice.  Whether I simply stop your blade from moving sideways while voiding my body to actually moving your blade off line, this is all valid.  In fact, I can push your blade around pretty much as far as I
want, as long as I don't get sufficient travel of blade on hand to deliver a valid cut to my hand.  The other thing to look out for is if I move your blade back such that your hand has to contort to the point of potential injury.  This is especially a concern if you have a grip where fingers are looped over the quillion block.

I can perform similar parries using my forearm, shoulder, or whatever to move your blade around (can anyone say "head parry"?).  As long as you don't turn the blade edge on and give it enough travel for a valid cut, I am
"unharmed".  For some kingdoms, any amount of blade travel is sufficient, so this doesn't work so well.  Other kingdoms have a minimum draw length, so it is quiet feasible.

Note that I said nothing about grabbing the blade.  This is allowed for heavy and C&T rapier but some kingdoms do not allow it.

2) Hand on guard parry

If we close sufficiently, I can place my hand on your sword guard, quillons, pommel or whatever to hinder your blade movement or prevent a blow.  Just like closing strongly opens up the chance for an overly heavy blow, this
type of action opens up more possibility for smashing a finger or similar injuries.  But this is like saying "be aware that your opponent has long arms".  Note that I can *NOT* grip, grab, hold or in any other way grasp
your guard.  But let's say we've closed and you are placing your blade for a draw cut.  I can put my palm or the edge of my hand against your pommel or the underside of your bell to prevent you from drawing your blade.  I could also push sideways on your guard to lift your blade off my body, thus preventing the cut.

3) Blade on arm parry

Just lik you can put your arm on my blade to parry, I can put my blade on your arm (for example) to hinder or stop its movement.  Yes, I would hopefully immediately turn it into a draw cut, but the cut may not happen for any number of reasons.

4) Hand on wrist/forearm parry

This is similar to me trying to stop your blow by contacting your guard. I've simply placed my hand on your wrist or forearm instead.  Again, this should be an area of caution.  Just like using case of rapier, if I am not comfortable doing it, I shouldn't until I've trained more.  If I grab your wrist, it's grappling and I am at fault.  If I strike your wrist with force, it is wrong and I am at fault.  But I can again use my open palm or the edge or back of my hand to deflect your wrist or your arm motion.

Just like you judge a thrust as "good", "too hard but we were closing so I understand" or "that was too hard and we need to have a talk", you can quickly learn to distinguish between when placing your hand on my forearm to deflect or prevent a blow was "good", "be careful there" or "that was striking me and we need to have a talk".

5) Arm on arm parry

Just like you can use pretty much anything to parry a blade, you can use more than just your hand to parry or deflect an arm.  Again, if you do it too hard, you are striking your opponent and are in the wrong.  But in and of itself, the basic act is valid.

Any of the above type actions can (and usually are) done completely safely. It's when you start affecting the torso, head or legs that things become more likely to go wrong.  So if you and I were closing fast and we bumped shoulders while moving past each other, I would be ok with that.  If you placed your hand on my chest and pushed, I'd say that was unsafe.

I see this like blade grabbing.  This "fleeting contact" type stuff is allowed at Society level.  You have three options as a Kingdom.

1 - allow it as is

2 - don't allow it at all

3 - allow it only with express consent of both parties (like some folks agree to do blade grabbing or whether or not to take tip cuts or bleed out)

Hopefully this makes more sense now.  Let me know if you have further questions.


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