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  1. #1

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!

    In Defense of Foam Swords

    I have been Reading this Forum a lot recently and I have seen a lot of derision towards what is known as "boffing" and "larping" but I dont buy it and this is why.

    I have loved and practiced the sword my entire life., I started with the sword in Karate, Studied Chinese Short Sword under Dr Yang, I did SCA heavy and light fighting, And trained German Longsword and French Rapier with HEMA guys, i also learned bayonet and military combatives as a Cav Scout in the army, and train Muaythai, and MMA currently. I Posit that Foam Swords can be a Valuable and Effective Full Contact training method. I have seen people who did nothing but foam swords absolutely school karate black belts, and stand toe to toe with Escrima and HEMA guys,

    So now my question is, if there is a group who practices with foam swords, all body targeting, shield bashing, grappling, everything at full contact and using techniques from the manuals. And also if this same group recognizes and acknowledges the vast difference between Live Steel and Cloth-Covered Foam and thus also works with Test Cutting and light Steel vs Steel work, would you consider their training to be "invalid" or "just a game"? and if so.. why?
    Last edited by Narimasu773; 11/25/2016 11:54am at .

  2. #2
    Kovacs's Avatar
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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    If they aknowledge the lack of realism with foam weapons, train around that and prove that their training methods work at the highest level to realism in their chosen art (steel on steel I assume?), then sure, it's all good.

    Like airsoft though, the majority of people who train solely with those platforms take it either too seriously or not seriously enough, hence the 'larp' moniker.
    Ne Obliviscaris

  3. #3

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Unfortunately there is no single "highest level to realism" yet in Weapon Arts., There are HEMA tournaments... but they are small, There are SCA battles, but the techniques utilized have no historical precedent, There are sports like fencing, kendo, but they lack in "realism". There is Supposed to be a Unified Weapons Master league starting in Australia, that looks like it may be the closest thing.

  4. #4
    Wounded Ronin's Avatar
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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I haven't used foam, but I've used hard wood and steel in free play with longswords.

    So the first question is why use foam when you can use blunt steel? Blunt steel will be the most realistic, if you're trying to emulate how a sharp steel sword would handle and bind.

    But to answer your question, I'll tell you why wood is bad. Many people start out free play with wood because they think it's safer and less intimidating than using blunt steel. However, with time, most people in my experience stop using wood entirely. This is because wood is a different material and behaves differently than steel. Wood bounces off of wood, but steel binds on steel. A wood sword is thicker and more round, so winding is different.

    Basically, wood lets you emulate certain gross movements with the sword, but when you get to manipulating things within the bind, which is where much of the historical material focuses, it handles differently than steel does. Remember, "the art is in the bind", so if all you're doing is chopping away at your opponent, or using materials that encourage that such as foam, you're missing or neglecting a lot of the historical reference material. Also, obviously foam didn't exist hundreds of years ago. So for maximum historical realism and exploration you'd want to use steel.

    This is also why test cutting is good, but by itself is incomplete. Steel swords are not only used to cut, but they are also used to bind and manipulate. So the feel of steel on steel and fighting for position with steel on steel is the other half of the picture you wouldn't get from just test cutting.

    If you spend most of your time with foam or wood, you're going to get good at foam or wood, which is different than being good at manipulating steel. The guys you mention going "toe to toe"; were they going toe to toe while using foam vs foam, or were they going toe to toe using steel vs steel?



    Quote Originally Posted by Narimasu773 View Post
    I have been Reading this Forum a lot recently and I have seen a lot of derision towards what is known as "boffing" and "larping" but I dont buy it and this is why.

    I have loved and practiced the sword my entire life., I started with the sword in Karate, Studied Chinese Short Sword under Dr Yang, I did SCA heavy and light fighting, And trained German Longsword and French Rapier with HEMA guys, i also learned bayonet and military combatives as a Cav Scout in the army, and train Muaythai, and MMA currently. I Posit that Foam Swords can be a Valuable and Effective Full Contact training method. I have seen people who did nothing but foam swords absolutely school karate black belts, and stand toe to toe with Escrima and HEMA guys,

    So now my question is, if there is a group who practices with foam swords, all body targeting, shield bashing, grappling, everything at full contact and using techniques from the manuals. And also if this same group recognizes and acknowledges the vast difference between Live Steel and Cloth-Covered Foam and thus also works with Test Cutting and light Steel vs Steel work, would you consider their training to be "invalid" or "just a game"? and if so.. why?
    Last edited by Wounded Ronin; 11/25/2016 3:38pm at .
    Best Vietnam War music video I've ever seen put together by a vet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDY8raKsdfg

  5. #5
    Wounded Ronin's Avatar
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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I think one question you should also consider is whether you're trying to be historically accurate, or if you're trying to learn weapon-based self defense.

    For example, since you mentioned bayonet, modern military bayonet combatives are very simplified and rudimentary from a historical perspective. This is practical for today. However, look at this historical bayonet manual: http://www.storymindmedia.com/angrya...20-%201862.pdf

    In contrast to modern bayonet fighting, that is covered in just a few pages, this bayonet combat manual from the 1800s is 171 pages long.

    If someone trained with pugil sticks, you wouldn't say that they were better at bayonet combat than the guy from the 1800s who trained much more seriously and for longer on bayonet using 171 pages with of material. You might say the pugil stick training is more practical for today, and that today it's more important to use the firearm than to use the bayonet, so the old ways of bayonet training wouldn't produce a good practical result today.

    But if you're just looking at bayonet combat in isolation or as part of historical exploration, of course the modern bayonet guy who trained on pugil sticks will suck at bayonet compared to the guy who focused exclusively on bayonet training taken from a time when bayonets were extremely important.

    Maybe the guy with the pugil stick training would be better at using a M4 with a bayonet on it, but will suck at using a musket with a spike bayonet compared to the guy who trained with that, and vice versa.

    So it all comes down to what your interests and goals from training are.
    Best Vietnam War music video I've ever seen put together by a vet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDY8raKsdfg

  6. #6

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I certainly understand and agree in the vast difference between padded weapons, wooden weapons, and live steel, and i certainly understand that realistically Steel is superior for practicing Steel., But what i dont understand is completely discrediting foam as a valuable training medium, especially considering that most of the steel on steel properties become less relevant if you are fighting with say, axes, picks, spears, or maces (historically more common than swords)

    But to answer your question of "why use foam instead of steel" i would say that there are advantages to foam, being, You can go 100% without fear of damaging your sparring partner, Price and Accessibility, A greater amount of safety which can contribute to scenarios like large battles with shield walls and spear phalanxes and such.

    Also it doesnt have to be a matter of "instead of" it could be a matter of "in addition too"

    Not to mention that while action in the bind, and response from parries and such will feel far different, there are many useful sword skills which are unaffected by the texture of the mock-sword such as reflexes, timing, footwork and maneuvering, reading telegraphs..

    I guess my real question was that i dont understand why sparring with foam swords (using real historical techniques, not just waving them around) its not considered martial arts but practicing Katas with live steel and never sparring is considered martial art.

    And i have seen People trained with Foam Swords/wooden bokken stand toe to toe with HEMA guys in HEMA Armor with HEMA Swords, under HEMA Rules. I myself found that many of the skills i had developed in the SCA and with fighting with Foam Swords helped tremendously when transferring to steel and i had a huge advantage over newcomers to HEMA without that prior experience.

  7. #7
    Wounded Ronin's Avatar
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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I suppose that if people are thoughtful about it there are certain things that could be learned well from a padded sword, such as estimating distance. You could have a bunch of inexpensive soft swords of slightly different lengths, and then use them as a training tool to practice estimating range, i.e. work on stepping or shifting your body so that your opponent just misses you.

    I think boffer type weapons sort of have a bad public image due to SCA. It implies a kind of fantasy point sparring instead of an effort to be historically rigorous. And, since most martial artists love to spar, I do think there would be a certain level of temptation, growing over the course of the training session, to just give in and have fun by going to town on each other with the boffer weapons. Before you know it everyone will be chasing each other around the park waving boffers. :)

    But, yeah, if people were disciplined about it and wanted to use them to train certain specific things like mass unit tactics or distancing, then why not use them?

    To address your fifth paragraph, I'd say orientalism. It wasn't till recently that people questioned the value or even the historical accuracy of one's entire training regimen being nothing but kata with live steel. Before that it was exotic and cool, and hence "martial art". So, yeah, that's pretty silly. It is neither functional nor historically accurate.

    At the end of the day I guess it's about individual and group goals. How historically do you want to train? Is the weapon training intended for self defense, or is it primarily a historical project? Is the idea to cultivate something very close to something that existed at a certain place and time in history and bring that to life in a realistic way? Or is the idea to kind of blend past and present to make something that still has some relevance today?

    Quote Originally Posted by Narimasu773 View Post
    I certainly understand and agree in the vast difference between padded weapons, wooden weapons, and live steel, and i certainly understand that realistically Steel is superior for practicing Steel., But what i dont understand is completely discrediting foam as a valuable training medium, especially considering that most of the steel on steel properties become less relevant if you are fighting with say, axes, picks, spears, or maces (historically more common than swords)

    But to answer your question of "why use foam instead of steel" i would say that there are advantages to foam, being, You can go 100% without fear of damaging your sparring partner, Price and Accessibility, A greater amount of safety which can contribute to scenarios like large battles with shield walls and spear phalanxes and such.

    Also it doesnt have to be a matter of "instead of" it could be a matter of "in addition too"

    Not to mention that while action in the bind, and response from parries and such will feel far different, there are many useful sword skills which are unaffected by the texture of the mock-sword such as reflexes, timing, footwork and maneuvering, reading telegraphs..

    I guess my real question was that i dont understand why sparring with foam swords (using real historical techniques, not just waving them around) its not considered martial arts but practicing Katas with live steel and never sparring is considered martial art.

    And i have seen People trained with Foam Swords/wooden bokken stand toe to toe with HEMA guys in HEMA Armor with HEMA Swords, under HEMA Rules. I myself found that many of the skills i had developed in the SCA and with fighting with Foam Swords helped tremendously when transferring to steel and i had a huge advantage over newcomers to HEMA without that prior experience.
    Best Vietnam War music video I've ever seen put together by a vet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDY8raKsdfg

  8. #8
    NeilG's Avatar
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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    How many people are using foam weapons in a serious way? All of the videos I've seen have been goofy.

  9. #9

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    The Users of Foam Weapons cover a broad spectrum just as the quality of Foam Weapons covers a large spectrum. On one end you have fat guys running around flailing noodles and yelling lightning bolt, and on the other hand you have practitioners of historic weapons arts using foam swords weighted and balanced just like steel as a safe sparring medium, and everywhere in between.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wounded Ronin View Post
    I think one question you should also consider is whether you're trying to be historically accurate, or if you're trying to learn weapon-based self defense.
    This is IMHO the main point.
    In the real, present day world, it doesn't make sense to train a longsword for sel defense.
    But also in the real, ancient world, people didn't actually walk all day long with longswords, so the use of weapons was relative to specifical social situations (war, duels etc.) that aren't really "self defense".
    Perhaps if we speak of middle ages self defense, as most people were farmers, probably rake-fu is the most realistic thing.
    If we take this "historically realistic" route, probably small cultural differences that we don't really get now caused differences in the use of this or that weapon in each situation, and the kind of weapon you use is the most important variable in how you fight with weapons, so applying this to "real self defense" doesn't really make sense, it's all larping of higher or lower quality (I'm totally ok with larping BTW).

    On the other hand, if you are speaking of a training method that might be useful for modern day self defence, you should explain why training with foam ancient weapons is betther than, say krav maga or something like it, since people in the real present world are unlikely to use stuff similar to ancient weapons for self defence.

    On the third hand, if you think that training with foam weapons is cool , healthy and funny, just go on with it, you don't really need to make up an excuse to justify it, expecially since all martial arts are mostly just a game (there, I said it!). When I was a young teen I did some fencing and I fantasized about using an umbrella as an epee for "real" fighting, but in indsight this wasn't very smart.

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