Friday, October 31, 2008


Calibration has been on my mind recently, as you can understand. I don't think I calibrate higher than most of the folks in the southern region. I find when I go to Nutley or fight in Mudthaw that I have to hit at the top of my strength range to be assured of a kill, and on some days I don't have the strength to do it. This is a hard hitting region. I'm constantly landing blows on people that aren't good. I'm happy with this. This is a full contact, hard hitting sport and I like it that way.

But what is calibration really? Our standard is "hard enough to break mail." In my youth this is what I was trained to. We would lay shirts of butted mail over hay bales or pells and hit them with steel weapons and train ourselves saying "this is how hard you have to swing." It's really hard. It's almost impossible to break mail with the light swords we tend to use. Yet this is our standard.

Some places the standard is take any blow you feel. Some places the standard is take any blow you hear land on you, whether you feel it or not. Some places it practically has to dent your helmet to be good.

I agree with the poster who said that Calibration really has nothing to do with honor. Calibration is a completely objective standard that--whether we like it or not--is effected by mood, condition, fatigue, and body chemistry.

The best description (in that it is most humorous) I ever heard of calibration comes from Artos, who told me once that "a good blow is one that, while it doesn't necessarily hurt, should be so hard that you never want to get hit that way again."

In this formulation a blow is one that not only lands but forces you to notice it, stops you cold in your tracks and makes you go "wow." (if not "ouch"). But there is a problem here, I think. One, this leads to a very high standard that a lot of people would object to. Two, I suspect that it leads to a widly varying standard. If you have just finished a technique or are set and someone hits you with a blow you are certainly more likely to notice it than if you are in the middle of an attack. On the other hand, that's probably true no matter what your standard is.

What do you think?


Bill said...

RE: "If you have just finished a technique or are set and someone hits you with a blow you are certainly more likely to notice it than if you are in the middle of an attack."

It think this would have been historically correct too in real combat too. It is not uncommon for people to break bones and not feel it until later. Even in modern combat we hear stories of people getting shot and not feeling it. I have talked with one person who lost a finger and did not feel it while machining.

In the historical swordmanship that I study one of the concepts is that your always attack in such a manor that closes off lines of attack precisely because a person can still kill you after you have struck him. In a historical context, a good blow does need not immediately end the fight.

I'm not proposing we change the rules or anything. They work well enough. I think it is expecting too much for anything to work perfectly 100% of the time. Even in real combat weird stuff happens. People die who shouldn't and some people are very lucky.

Vassilis apo Monemvasia.

Bill said...

I thought about this subject some more and I think the best way to put it is...

The 11th to 13th century unmounted combat that we try to emulate allowed for a great deal of variance from person to person in their pain threshold. Because in the East Kingdom we hit with realistic force and calibrate on that, we have also inherited historical variances in what it takes to subdue a person.

Vassilis apo Monemvasia.

Ben said...

The "mail standard" is a myth. The handbook just says we are presumed to be wearing it, not that we have to assume some defined level of armor penetration. The exception to this is face blows, for which we are directed to take lighter.

What Uther taught me was "you must convince the other person they are bested". I call this rule zero. Corollary to rule zero is "some people are harder to convince than others".

The rules of the list are (intentionally) vague on this. And the last SEM clarified that a 'directed touch' for a face thrust implies a _minimum_ amount of force, not a maximum.