Sunday, July 15, 2012
The Four Oppositions
Looking at what all of the masters wrote (those to whom I have access, anyway), and boiling them down to the root level, I found something I consider interesting, namely, that these ideas can all be grouped into pairs of opposing ideas. Based upon that idea, here are what I call “The Four Oppositions:” Before vs. After; Strong vs. Weak; Hard vs. Soft; and, what may be less intuitive, Fühlen vs. Indes.
Some may think that the Vor is always to be preferred over the Nach, but that is a misconception. Many people believe Liechtenauer instructs us to always act in the Vor, but von Danzig calls Long Point the best of all positions from which to fight (talking about waiting in it for the enemy to act), and, of course, the plays of the third halfsword guard are all waiting techniques in the same way. Sometimes it is very dangerous to attack a skilled, prepared opponent in the Vor from the Zufechten. No, the real idea is to take the Vor and then keep it, but there are plenty of times when it is far preferable to allow your opponent to start in the Vor and then take it from him when he acts. Again, the important thing is to know what to do in either situation.
Likewise with the strong or weak of a weapon. We shouldn’t care where the bind occurs as much as we should be concerned with knowing how to act in either situation. Granted, there are times we must select one or the other, such as in the Zornhau Ort when we have to make the initial bind with our strong on our opponent’s weak, but if he prevents that from happening we have to know how to act. The same with whether the bind is hard or soft, you simply have to know how to act in either case.
Thus, Fühlen and Indes are opposed, but that opposition simply tells us how to use them together.
I am not trying to develop any new ideas through this analysis—any readers of my work will know I completely reject any attempt to “improve” Liechtenauer’s art. Instead, I’m simply trying to find a different way of looking at what we’ve been told in order to better understand it and to find better ways transmit it to my students. So the next time you do a technique, in any form, be it longsword, dagger, pollaxe or grappling, analyze it according to the Four Oppositions.