Martial Exchanges

Loud, spooky post-punk music by The Soft Moon.

In the Cateran Society, earning mentor rank requires a “certification bout” with an opponent from another style or school. We’ve been doing this since the Society was founded, and Cateran Society president Chris Thompson has bouted with opponents from a number of different styles, including German longsword, Italian saber, English backsword, Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, Tai Ji, Hung Gar, Praying Mantis, Kali and several others. Some of these styles are not usually known for being open to this type of bout, but they are often more willing to give it a try if you propose a “martial exchange” instead of a challenge.

What is a martial exchange? Simply a bout where you don’t keep score, and where the emphasis is on exploring and displaying your art rather than on winning or losing. When you’re hit, you just say “touch” or tap the spot to acknowledge the hit. This video provides a few examples of the concept to help our members understand it.

The first bout is Highland broadsword against Highland broadsword, but is still fought according to the martial exchange concept. You can see a range of techniques from the Cateran System in this bout that you might not see as often in a bout fought for points.

In the beginning of the bout, Chris makes a number of aggressive probing attacks against Matt. These are intended to draw a response and expose an opening- an example of the Provoke strategy from our Seven Words. This is the primary strategy Chris uses throughout the bout, while Matt relies more often on Wait.

At :51, Chris switches to Old Style broadsword, Level II of our curriculum.

At :54 and 3:20, you can see the Bind. This technique can be found at several points in our Core Curriculum, as the Turkish Disarm in Lesson 5 of Levels I and II and as the Bind in Level III.

At 1:50, you can see McBane’s “cut outside, thrust inside” feint- one of the most effective feints in the art of the broadsword.

At 2:24, Matt pulls off a Whirling Feat from Level V. It doesn’t look exactly like the Whirling Feat in Lesson 10 of Level V, but it’s the same idea. Matt spins to avoid the attack and thrusts to the face, stopping the attack dead in its tracks.

At 3:30 you can see the Elbow Lock from Lesson 8 of Levels I and II.

The second bout is Highland broadsword against messer. There are several long exchanges of attack and defense in this bout, examples of the Overwhelm strategy in action. These are followed by an interesting example of “listening” at 5:13, in which both fighters use their weapons to try to feel the opponent’s intentions through blade pressure. This is also an example of the Wait strategy- when Seth attacks, Chris is able to sense the attack through the blade and counter with a strong cut to the shoulder.

The third bout features unusual weapon combinations. Matt uses double broadswords (referenced in Gaelic folkore as an option for unusually strong fighters) and Chris uses the broadsword and dirk. It’s hard to see in this video, but if you look closely you should be able to spot several parries with the dirk, as well as several Binds. This bout is an example of Level IV in the Cateran System, the MacGregor Method.

This is what we mean by a martial exchange- a bout where you don’t just try to win but to demonstrate your skill in the Cateran System, including our fencing strategies and some of the techniques from the Lessons. If you’re planning to fight a certification bout, we want to see the art displayed to the best of your abilities based on your current level in the system. If you’re certified through Level IV and working on earning your Cateran rank, we want to see martial exchanges with a range of techniques and strategies comparable to what you see in these bouts.

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