[Blackfriars' Journal -Bay Area Edition]

Bay Area Edition

Ephemeris de Conlegium de Ater Rosa

Ustentatio                                  Adrogantia                                 Sibi Placeri
Volume 6, Issue 5                                                                            June 1997

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From the Staff: Editor's Notes

It seems like we just get one issue out and Laura Nacorda is already "perched" to start the next.

"Arts in the Park" in Benicia, CA, was a great success and lots of fun. Proving that anything can be a weapon, the show opened with Shaun Allen and Laura Nacorda fighting with a putter and 3-iron. Anthony Hole, lead the "students", who ranged in age from seven years old to about 50, through the basics of stage-combat bladework, with assistant instruction from Ray and Laura Nacorda, Shaun Allen, and Matt Brodersen, with support provided by Lucie Magana and Theresa Nacorda. Amy Phoenix, with a great deal of natural talent, videotaped the show, and did the unspeakable - catching me on camera.

There was definitely some future talent as one young man, about twelve, "attacked" Laura Nacorda with an invisible sword, was disarmed by the ever-protective brother, Ray Nacorda, and died beautifully on center stage. As part of the instruction, how could we leave without teaching them all to die well? Hope to do a repeat performance there next year.

Up next, we're looking forward to performing at Buchanan Park in Pittsburg, CA on July 12 and 13 and hope our local friends and families can join us. We're also looking forward to working out some "gigs" with other guilds there. Black Watch, beware!

Finishing up the current training with Richard Lane (see Swashbuckling 101), the next project is with Tim Klotz from Williamsburg, VA. Tim will be here in August to do a smallsword and hand-to-hand workshop in San Jose on Sunday, August 10th. There is still space available in the class. Call 510.687.2634 for more information.

And, as ever, my thanks go to Laura Nacorda for fixing a variety of problems that my computer keeps spitting out at me.

-C. McMahan

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Quotes of the Month

"It seems to be a law inflexible and inexorable that he who will not risk cannot win."
-John Paul Jones

"Sure is for those who have nothing on the line."


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Swashbuckling 101

As we sat on the floor of the small gymnasium of the San Francisco School of Circus Arts, the barren room was suddenly transformed into a deadly scene. It wasn't props or costumes that were used for the trans-formation, but a demonstration of the art of performance combat, that, in moments, told the complete story of love, friendship, and death and was followed by stunned silence.

Note, I do not say stage-combat at this point because what we saw went far beyond that as Richard Lane and Bob Borwick, of the Academy of the Sword, set the stage for "Swashbuckling 101". The focus of the class has been the study of stage-combat moves, but it doesn't stop there as Richard emphasizes "acting the intent of the moment".

Richard Lane, an SAFD Certified Teacher and Fight Director, works with a relaxed style, an easy sense of humour, and an attention to detail and safety that make the whole process fun and successful while learning Broadsword, Rapier & Dagger, Smallsword, Quarterstaff, and Unarmed Combat with Rolls & Falls.

One of the unique aspects of his teaching is the use of choreographic "katas" or drills, so that everyone knows both sides of the choreography. This is very much different from studying only "your part" in the choreography as you face your partner, and requires a different kind of concentration.

The next set of classes are scheduled for the four Sundays in September (7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th). For more information on the class and its curriculum call the Academy of the Sword at (415) 957-3622 or call the School of Circus Arts (415) 759-8123.

-C. McMahan

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Guide to Successful Swordfighting - Part I

This series of successful swordfighting tips, stolen... ahem... researched by Gareth Thomas, should keep those of us on the end of the blade safe and laughing for the next few months. He found quite a few tips for Successful Swordfighting - though some may be a little extreme for the squeamish.

1.   My noble opponent who has just lost will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.

2.   Shooting is ALWAYS an option.

3.   The blade which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the sword which can defeat me.

4.   I will not gloat over my enemies' predicament at swordpoint before killing them.

5.   When I've captured my adversary and he says, ``Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?'' I'll say, ``No.'' and stab him. No, on second thought, I'll stab him then say, ``No.''

6.   One of my seconds will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.

7.   All slain enemies will be cremated, or at least run through several times, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff. The announcement of their deaths, as well as any accompanying celebration, will be deferred until after the aforementioned disposal.

8.   The loser is not entitled to a last kiss, a last cigarette, or any other form of last request.

9.   I will never utter the sentence, ``But before I kill you, there's just one thing I want to know.''

10.   I will not have a son. Although his laughably under-planned attempt to challenge my skill would easily fail, it would provide a fatal distraction at a crucial point in time.

11.   I will not have a daughter. She would be as beautiful as she was deadly, but one look at a superior duelist and she'd betray her own father.

-Submitted by Gareth Thomas

Editor's Note on Successful Swordfighting: At Epee Divisionals, Anthony qualified for Nationals which are being held in Santa Clara Convention Center this year. For any who wish to be a part of the Cheering Squad, Anthony will be competing Monday, July 7, at 8:00 a.m.

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Riddle Posed by Leonardo Da Vinci

Numbers of people will be seen moving one against another, each holding in his hand a sharp blade; but they will not come to any harm, except for tiring themselves, for as each man steps forward, the other will step back an equal distance. Still let no one run between the pair, or he will be cut to pieces.

(HINT: The answer is NOT Richard Lane's Swashbuckling 101 Fight Class)

To Riddle Answer

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The Rose (1568)

By Thomas Howell

Whenas the mildest month
     Of jolly June doth spring,
And gardens green with happy hue
     Their famous fruits do bring;
When eke the lustiest time
      Reviveth youthly blood,
Then springs the finest featur'd flower
      In border fair that stood;
Which moveth me to say,
      In time of pleasant year,
Of all the pleasant flowers in June
      The red rose hath no peer.


The Black Rose (1997)

(With thanks & apologies to Thomas Howell)

Whenas the mildest month
      Of jolly June doth spring,
The nonsuch news doth swiftly spread
      Their scattered swords to bring;
When eke the lustiest time
      Reviveth youthly blood,
Then musters the finest fighting flower
      On border fair that stood;
Which moveth me to say,
      In time of present year,
Of all the brawling blades in June
      THE BLACK ROSE hath no peer.

-Laura Nacorda

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Skirmishing and Theatre

Having begun to establish what is known here on the West Coast as Skirmishing, I have been approached by fencers and fight choreographers alike who all ask the same question: What are the benefits of such an activity?

Modern fencers regard the techniques as "unsafe fencing" i.e., moves too hazardous to be allowed on the strip.

Choreographers have asked how the seemingly unsafe distancing in Skirmishing could be beneficial to theatrical combat.

In the first case, I agree somewhat with modern fencers. It is an unsafe practice, where modern fencing competition rules are followed. Skirmishing returns the fighter to the rules and attitudes that spawned modern fence. With the protection required, Skirmishing is as safe for the fighter as modern fence is for the fencer. Granted, the two should never meet, as they are worlds apart. Skirmishing is designed for the student of Historical Fence, who wishes to experience the true feel of 16th-19th century duels, or at least as close as possible.

As to the theatrical standpoint, it was discussed briefly on the Stage Combat Mailing List that while I enjoy a good swashbuckling routine, I prefer to choreograph for historical accuracy when I am allowed to do so. If an offensive or defensive move (e.g., moves like running half-way up a tree and attacking in midair; doing a backward summersault under your enemy's thrust; or leaping over a blade more than once) would not have been accomplished in a historical context, I cannot expect the audience to believe it.

These moves have to be tried in unrehearsed combat to prove their validity. For example, in the movie "Rob Roy", I thought that grabbing the blade would have been ridiculous, until I tried it and found out how it would really have worked.

Skirmishing allows fight choreographers the outlet to explore just exactly what would have happened in a given situation at swordpoint with rapiers. For as long as I have been choreographing, it has always been a benefit to actually try the moves out, within distance and with proper protection. Not only does this help a choreographer find out how successful the moves are when done right, but also helps to realize the exact consequences when the moves are done wrong and fail.

Safety guidelines, in stage-combat, are designed to teach the performers how to SELL the move for itself, not for its historical accuracy. They have the defender moving out of line in anticipation, and the attacker aiming off-line or out of distance. While wearing protection and working in-distance, Skirmishing teaches how the move was supposed to have been done, successfully and unsuccessfully. My partner and I have performed moves, in-distance during sparring, with no warning, to test their validity under combat-like circumstances.

A good example of the translation of Skirmishing to Stage-Combat would be to practice period seizure/disarms in rapier play. Practicing in-distance with protection, my partner and I were "wounded" continuously until the exact footing and body placements were perfected. This is not the safe, out of distance, projected fighting of stage combat, but the actual in-fighting stance required to have performed it successfully in actual conflict. Then we developed the exact distance and angle to perform the movement safely in choreography, but maintain the "in-fighting" perception.

This is by no means a step to replace any type of choreographic instruction. It is an option for those who have the training to try their hand at better understanding the attitude and mentality of the duelist by stepping into their boots and facing off against an opponent who is intent on hitting you with a weapon of correct weight and balance. As a result, the choreographer can translate that understanding to historical performance through this type of practical application.

-Gareth Thomas

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Top Ten Signs of a Good Stage Blade

Recently I was working with someone who had purchased a weapon that was to be used specifically for stage-combat. The weapons maker knew this was the purpose and confirmed that the weapon was designed for that purpose, though he did say to parry with the flat, for which we couldn't find any supporting historical documentation.

It only it took a couple of "whacks" to realize that the blade was not going to withstand the rigors of stage combat. In researching the problem of purchasing a good stage-blade, Tony Soper, co-author of Methods and Practice of Elizabethan Swordplay, made the following suggestions.

1. A refrigerator magnet will stick to it.

2. It has the right sound to it when struck (not a dull thunk).

3. The seller is willing to stand behind his/her work and, hopefully, guarantee it against breakage.

4. The seller can respond to your questions about type of steel, hardness, finish, temper, etc.

5. The seller can respond to your questions about maintenance (what type of oil to use to store it, clean it, how and when to de-burr it, etc.).

6. If it seems way too cheap to be a decent weapon, IT PROBABLY IS!

7. The seller has replacement parts if you ever need them.

8. The pommel or pommel/nut arrangement has threads instead of being welded on the tang.

9. The blade can be bent "X" inches out of true and still come back to straight.

10. Get recommendations from others who have purchased weapons for the same purpose.

Thanks to Tony Soper for posting these on the
Stage Combat Mailing List. The Stage Combat Mailing List is a forum for folks involved in theatrical stage combat and historical fight studies to discuss various aspects of the art. In order to subscribe to the mailing list, send an email to:

Majordomo@ mattress.atww.org
with the phrase:
subscribe stage-combat
subscribe stage-combat-digest
contained within the body of the message.

-Submitted by Cecily McMahan

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This Month in History

It's the Mary month of June.