The 3 Rules of Sword Fighting: GLECA

When I formulated a new lesson plan for what would become the DNA of the Glen Lachlann Estate College of Arms (GLECA), I summarised my understanding of every fight under three rules. That was almost a decade ago and those three rules are now an integral part of the culture of GLECA. Thinking back, and thinking forward, I still believe they are the best summary of a martial art I have to date. Here is a brief summary of those rules and why I think they’re important and why I think they summarise the shared experience of every fighter. I’m sure you can find some other reasons as well.

Rule 1. Don’t get hit.

Void, block or choke your opponent’s attack and whatever you do, don’t get hit. If you get hit, you lose a point. Or if it’s AD 1433, a limb. So don’t do it.

Not getting hit can demonstrate an exemplary understanding and application of footwork, distance, measure, timing, line of defense and self-respect. If these are not exemplary, then it can show the smarts to keep yourself safe while you find an opportunity to reduce or remove the threat some other way.

Rule 2. Hit your target.

Let’s face it, hitting your target is what you’re trying to do. You want to win a point, win a prize, perfect a play. Or if it’s AD 1433, neutralise that brightly coloured bozo in front of you. So do it.

This simplifies the fight so much. It’s not about being fancy (I’m thinking about Indiana Jones on that bridge). It’s about hitting your target. This is the concept of martial intent. When you strike, strike with the goal of hitting well. You may feint, you most certainly will have to change your plan, but do it with the intent to hit.

Consistently hitting your target can show exemplary understanding of Rule 1. It can also show some great understanding and application of footwork, distance, measure, timing and self-respect. It can show your ability to take advantage of the moment, and your confidence in your own ability to control your weapon safely. It can show your training, both at skills and at physical conditioning.

Rule 3. Look damn good doing it!

Firstly, because it looks cool. We might laugh at van Damme and his splits on the chairs today, as well as that hair, but let’s face it — he looked cool doing it and he had muscles that we all envied. Except maybe Arnie.

Secondly, it shows our dedication to our craft. It shows the hours of practise, thought, learning and visualisation we have put into the art. We cannot look cool if we haven’t practiced looking cool.

Thirdly, you can only consistently look damn good when fighting with weapons because you have conditioned yourself to look that way. The fighter who looks great more often than not is the fighter whose body is efficient, with tension only where it needs to be. She is the fighter that has trained her body to withstand the rigours of combat over time, to the point where the body just does it. He has the physical conditioning necessary to fight at that level. Her muscles are both strong and full of endurance, her joints are supple and powerful. His movements are gracious and beautiful to watch.

The fighter who looks that good does so because they have dedicated themselves to training such that their body is conditioned and skilled enough to do it consistently.

Fourthly, we are talking martial arts. Arts. Where is the art? It’s in the fineness and precision of the technique, the discipline and creativity of the mind, and in the beauty of the movement. And these are the result of appropriate training and discipline. If it were AD 1433, you’d be the dude in the manuscript that no one can beat, but who’s got the coolest shoes on the block.

So there are the 3 Rules. Perhaps one day they’ll make a crazy rhyme about them that generations from now will be translated into Future High German and people can argue about whether I meant you should Look At The Good Dam I Built While Fighting, or if it really was a system for archery where you aim the arrows in your own direction. They can call them the Chocolate Verses because, well, it’s my weakness. But whatever happens, I still think the 3 Rules are a great summary for the various things that make up a great fighter fighting.

P.S. I read somewhere that post scripts are to be avoided. Really? Oh well. It’s important to remember that Rule 3 can apply to anyone at any level. There is no absolute rule for what constitutes Rule 3 in everyone. It’s a relative experience and one that I’d expect to change for everyone the longer they train well. So a novice’s Rule 3 will be different to someone trained in a system for 15 years, and that student’s anatomical structure over there will mean their Rule 3 is different to your’s. You will see broad brushstrokes of change such as relaxed shoulders or a neutral spine (tail to head), aligned knees and hips, and relaxed grips at the right time. I am genuinely curious to know what others would consider a damn good look in a fighter.