Reasons to Watch Scholagladiatoria

Matt Easton of the YouTube channel Scholagladiatoria recently posted a video thanking those who’ve spread the word about his channel to bring the total number of subscribers up to over seventy thousand.  Those of you who’ve clicked on my Guide to Becoming a Scholar of Swords and Swordplay page know that I place this channel above all the rest in terms of the accuracy of information one finds there and the breadth of Matt Easton’s knowledge.  But, let me do my part here by sharing some awesome videos of his with you, and I hope that many of you who have an interest in the Middle Ages or fencing will subscribe if you haven’t already.

The following video explains how to accurately grip a Viking sword.  More people grip a Viking sword incorrectly than any other blade.  While one can often get away with a wrong grip in the case of other blades, doing so with a Viking sword will cause the pommel to jab into one’s wrist when cutting, which leads to the user hating a perfectly good sword.  One cannot but admire the facility with which Easton shows that he can wield the blade when gripped correctly.

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Medieval Otaku’s First (and Possibly Last) Quick Takes

Nami of the Budding Philosopher’s Quick Takes have given me the inspiration for this kind of post.  As I understand it, the object is to quickly apprise one’s readers of the things uppermost on the blogger’s mind, which works for me.  You see, I won’t be writing another post until February because of a certain project I have underway.  But, I hope that these tidbits will tide you over until I am able to write a more polished article.  I’m even departing from my usual modus operandi by typing this out without relying on a prior handwritten draft.  At any rate, here are my seven quick takes for the week.

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Only five days separate me from the deadline for revisions in Athanatos Christian Ministries’ Novel Contest!  The other finalists promise to give me some stiff competition in my quest to take first prize, but I shall give it my all.  Since the Christmas season began, I’ve procrastinated because work has gotten busier, but I finally feel that I have the urgency necessary to dedicate enough time to the novel.  Pray for me and wish me luck!

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How Not to Animate Sword Fights: Episode 8 of Akame ga Kiru

I have remarked on Twitter that watching Historical European Martial Arts and Oriental Martial Arts videos has made it more difficult to enjoy anime sword fights.  Either the fight needs to be outlandish enough for me to completely suspend my disbelief–like the fights in Jubei-chan II–or bear a significant degree of realism–like those of Carried by the Wind: Tsukikage Ran.  (No, I’m not going to spoil any of the fights for my dear readers.  You must watch the show if you haven’t seen it!)  On the other hand, the eighth episode of Akame ga Kiru went to neither extreme, which left me cringing at their bad techniques and scientifically impossible feats.  The bad techniques went far beyond General Liver and Bulat standing in place and exchanging lightning fast cuts and parries in a manner reminiscent of the later fights in DBZ.  I know that Akame ga Kiru is fiction and that I should not expect moves out of the Codex Wallerstein–as awesome as that would be; but, bad swordplay will detract from anyone’s enjoyment of the fights.  A friend of mind who cares nothing about HEMA even noticed that the fight was badly done!

Face-off

But, let’s start here in my highlight reel of bad swordplay:

Three on OneIf you remember the fight, Bulat takes out the fighters behind him with kicks and bisects the opponent before him simultaneously.  There are many problems with this nonsense: 1) One does not stay in the middle of multiple opponents, but attacks the closest one and attempts to tangle up his foes by out-positioning them (e.g. 4:40 into this video); 2) Two side kicks delivered simultaneously would have no power; 3) the bearded enemy to Bulat’s front, being closer, should have been struck down first no matter how you look at it.  Tatsuki ogles at Bulat’s awesome technique, but I look at this scene as pure laziness by the animators.

Next one’s a doozy:

Ridiculous High JumpRemember how high Tatsumi jumped to deliver this strike?  Akame ga Kiru loves showing these ridiculously high jumping attacks, but they should all be epic failures.  Remember when you caught fly balls in little league?  Essentially, that’s how devil kid should have approached this situation and taken Tatsumi out with a strike to his back.  Who in their right mind would block a strike that started a hundred feet high?  Also, Tatsumi misses his first chance at slicing off devil kid’s fingers.

The third one stands as the worst shot of the whole fight:

Bad BlockIf you watched the footage carefully, you’ll notice that Tatsumi blocked well ahead of the strike, and the devil kid obligingly attacks his sword.  Why?  Tatsumi’s arms are actually ahead of his weapon and a much easier target!!!  This was just wrong, I tell you!

And we have a good parry from Tatsumi, but…

Great Parry…he neglects the obvious counter-cut and the fight continues.  Nevermind, this is a terrible parry.  See how far Tatsumi needs to extend his arms?  They’re even locked, which is a huge error!  How much easier to simply draw back a little, let the strike pass, and deliver a solid cut in the opening left by devil kid’s attack?

Three things need to be said about this picture:

If Tatsumi was competent, that awed expression would be the last one on that villain's face.

If Tatsumi was competent, that awed expression would be the last one on that villain’s face.

Lindybeige has an excellent video on this very common position which we see in movies and TV shows.  There’s an additional point to make here that the devil kid’s fingers have no protection whatsoever.  Tatsumi could easily slice them off!  Then, let me reiterate two more points Lindybeige makes: 1) This is a very bad and unnecessary position to be in–whoever moves first wins; and 2) Tatsumi should have half-sworded into his foe’s neck.  Yes, you can grab a sharp sword with your bare hands–you really can!

The following pictures suffer from the same defect:

vlcsnap-2014-08-24-15h29m03s250 vlcsnap-2014-08-24-15h29m38s89Neither of the fighters’ swords have proper hand guards.  Bulat’s cut should have traveled down the blade and through Liver’s fingers.  In the second, either opponent has that option.  A guard of some kind, even a simple cross guard, must be part of a sword if one means to bind with it.  Ancient swords had no guards because they were always used in conjunction with a shield.  And no, it is not unchivalrous to cut your opponent’s fingers off!  We see it in European manuals, and the world of Akame ga Kiru has no chivalric code to speak of!

What the...?  Send that sword back to the Kung Fu movie set where you found it, Bulat!

What the…? Send that sword back to the Kung Fu movie set where you found it, Bulat!

That concludes the glaring defects I found in this battle.  Did anyone like the fight?  Sheele’s final battle in episode six is so far the best fight in the series.  It followed my rule of being so outlandish as to suspend my disbelief.

Terrifying words, but at least one character believes in having a proper guard on their weapon!

Terrifying words, but at least one character believes in having a proper guard on their weapon!

Cool Sword Channels on YouTube

As you know from my handle and previous posts–especially this one, I’m fascinated by medieval swordplay.  I’ve discovered several great channels on YouTube by enthusiasts of Historical European Martial Arts and figured that I should share the best of them here.  Some of my dear readers are no doubt curious what the difference is between real Medieval swordplay and what Hollywood portrays.  Medieval swordsmanship had been been lost until people in the latter half of the twentieth century began to try to reconstruct medieval swordsmanship from old manuals and the ergonomics of the weapons and armor.  There is a particular degree of ignorance in the study of the long sword and other weapons–as Skallagrim admits here; but one of the virtues of this community of enthusiasts is that they correct each others’ misconceptions.  You may watch this video where Skallagrim points out some errors in a prior video.  The other nice thing about that video is that he links to other channels which he considers valuable resources.

Naturally, I place Skallagrim at the top of the list.  He easily runs one of the most entertaining channels.  Though he calls himself a beginner, his videos make it obvious that he’s studied swordsmanship for a long time.  I disagree with him on religious issues–as you saw here; but his videos on swords, fencing, guns, gun rights, and various rambles make for informative viewing.  Many medieval sword sparring videos on YouTube make it seem like the opponents are trying to ding each other with the weapon rather than cut each other down.  Skallagrim’s videos show good technique based on the historical manuals and practice, which reveals that Europeans of the Middle Ages did more than just bang at each other with their weapons.

Next, I would place Matt Easton on the channel scholagladitoria.  He’s practically an encyclopedia on warfare and swordplay from medieval times to the 19th century.  His memory for original source material on his topics is rather amazing.  Also his demonstrations of sword techniques are quite good.  I found myself rather impressed by his skill with the broadsword.

About as entertaining as Skallagrim is Lindybeige.  His specialty seems to run from ancient to medieval weapons (good man 🙂 ); yet, as a history buff, he’s fluent in most areas of European history through the 19th century as far as I can tell.  As with Skallagrim, I disagree with him on religious and philosophical topics.  (He’s a determinist, for example; but, freely admits that the knowledge that he does not have free will does nothing to change the way he interacts with society.)  Other than that, his videos are very entertaining and informative.  His rants can be particularly fun and cover every topic under the sun.

Lastly, I just discovered ThegnThrand, who’s a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism.  This rather long video reveals that his knowledge of the history and use of medieval and ancient weapons is astounding.  Also astounding are the demonstrations with sharp weapons involving a partner.  They do seem to have great awareness in regard to what their doing, but I myself would not trust anyone less than a master, e.g. Nidar Singh, to demonstrate a technique with a sharp blade on me.

There you have it.  I hope that you enjoy some of these videos on medieval swordplay.  I’ll get back to writing about anime pretty soon.