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Three of you, fifty of them... FIGHT
May 1, 2014 7:30 AM   Subscribe

Have you ever wanted to see three expert fencers fighting fifty novices? Of course you have, even if only after you read that question. (via kottke)
posted by Etrigan (65 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
With those big ass red buttons strapped to their chest, I kept expecting the trio to whip off their masks and reveal themselves as the Beastie Boys and then start the music video.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 7:39 AM on May 1 [6 favorites]


If by "fight" you mean "try to pop the balloons on each others' chests," then OK. Otherwise, there's a lot of not-actually-trying-to-stab people going on.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:41 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


The idea of fencing always appealed to me, but trying to watch it as an outsider, I always found it impossible to tell what the hell was going on. Two masked people in white lunge at each other, something inscrutable and fast happens with bendy swords, and then they stop and one of them yells.

This video actually helps a bit - you can see the precise skills of the experts. They pick off those balloons like it ain't no thing, knocking the amateurs' swords aside and tapping their chests easily.

Curiously, they're also pretty good at some other strategy. They immediately took the high ground, and they were pretty adept at isolating individuals from groups - when they're taking on two or three, they manage to set it up so they deal with one at a time.

On the flip side you can tell that those amateurs might actually be completely untrained. Some are standing around without any sort of prepared, active stance.

Neat video - thanks!
posted by entropone at 7:47 AM on May 1 [5 favorites]


I went to fencing class in my youth. Even with my mediocre talents I found it nearly impossible to follow the action at regional competitions. The main problem with the amateurs is that they are impetuous in attack and do not know how to parry (block). The high ground thing is to give the newbies one more thing to look at, difficult to fight if you are looking at your feet.
posted by epo at 7:55 AM on May 1


I once got invited to an education class for a demonstration of differences in the way an 'expert' thinks of something compared to the way a beginner thinks through a problem. The mode of demonstration was to have me (a not-quite expert) play a game of chess against a beginner chosen from the class, trounce them, and discuss our thoughts about the game in real-time as we go.

It was probably more fun for me than for the volunteer beginner, to say the least. And it did a decent job of demonstrating that I (over many years of playing chess) had internalized lots of strategic thinking, and was watching how different moves branched into different strategic outlooks, while the beginner was mostly concerned with not losing their queen. I ended up having a good audience for a talk about how Go made me a better chess player, at the same time, which I think was a bit more interesting than the intended content of the class...

In any case, yeah, experts gonna pwn.
posted by kaibutsu at 7:55 AM on May 1 [7 favorites]


Yes. Yes I have always wanted to see this. How did you know?
posted by Think_Long at 7:57 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


That was really cool, but it seems like it would've gone very differently if they hadn't been required to only defend a small area on their chest. Lots of times there were like six novices standing in a semicircle in front of one competent guy, five of them just waiting for the remaining one to get out of the way so that they could have their shot at the small area on the competent guy's chest.
posted by Flunkie at 7:59 AM on May 1


That the target is limited to the balloon in the center of the chest as opposed to typical foil target has got to be immensely helpful to the expert. That said, as the novice, all you gotta do is go for a simultaneous hit! But maybe they don't know that.
posted by furiousthought at 8:01 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


My initial reaction to this was simply "meh", and here's why - on reading the description, I DID want to see this, but the execution left me disappointed. For the reasons already mentioned (balloons? all the experts have to defend is a balloon on their chests?) as well as that, as a non-expert myself I don't have a frame of reference sufficient for me to determine what is going on, and whether or not the experts are really doing that well or if the non-experts just aren't very good at all. Since the only narration is in Japanese, I got no additional information in that regard. Finally, I have also seen a few other "Japanese Game Show" videos that promise breathless excitement and amazement, but often seem to actually just be an interesting premise that doesn't really work when put into action. To me, this was another instance of that.

(Yeah, I know how this is how it's supposed to work. I won't just say "meh" next time).
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:10 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Why didn't they encircle the experts and then just attack en masse?
Martial Arts films, that's why.
posted by fullerine at 8:14 AM on May 1 [6 favorites]


Maybe I'm too unjaded . . . but I thought it was pretty fun.
posted by Think_Long at 8:15 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


Tous pour un et un pour tous!
I only tired it once, at night, outside under a streetlight. I couldn't see a thing.
Seriously, why don't they make a modern face protector with plexiglass or lexan to see through?!
So were the "experts" using the "orthapedic (?)" (pistol) grip? I read on here or somewhere that this can be an advantage--that the best of the best use it if they want to compete at the highest levels.
posted by whatgorilla at 8:16 AM on May 1


The 50 should have been able to take them.
They were acting skittish (or stage directed). They need to charge forward as a group. Attack !!
Fewer of the 50 would have died if they did the mad rush. Their own fear got them all killed.
posted by Flood at 8:17 AM on May 1 [7 favorites]


Why didn't they encircle the experts and then just attack en masse?
Martial Arts films, that's why.
No, because it's extremely difficult to hit a small balloon on your opponent's chest when you are behind him.
The 50 should have been able to take them.
The fifty did take them. The experts lost.
posted by Flunkie at 8:22 AM on May 1


If this had been properly staged there would have been a chandelier hanging by a thick rope that one of the experts could swing upon.
posted by Think_Long at 8:22 AM on May 1 [22 favorites]


I fenced in high school, primarily epee.
If memory serves, simulataneous hits are only acceptable when fighting with an epee. These look like foils (although the image quality is horrendous on my phone). When fighting traditionally with foils I believe you still need right of way, which would preclude a simultaneous hit.
We used a word for it, which must be simultane (with an accent over the e that I can't be bothered to deal with right now). I never saw the word written, though, so I'm not sure.

My heart hurts to watch the form of the amateurs, and most of them look barely trained, if at all.

Lastly, whatgorilla, pistol grips were basically all we used, and this was 15-20 years ago. For my moderate skill level the control vastly exceeded french (traditional) grips.

(Actual) lastly, I was passably good at high school level fencing, but unfortunately my coach retired after the first year and his replacement was a total novice (literally, unfortunately). Anything I learned after that was from upperclassmen and self-teaching. The only really cool outcome was that I got to teach myself basic electrical wiring whenever our weapons went on the fritz.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 8:23 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


Reminded me of this age old question.
posted by Kabanos at 8:24 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Needs more William Hobbs.
posted by valkane at 8:27 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Oh, and my buddy and I used to engage in awesome free form fights after dark under streetlights by his parents' house. So much fun to be more relaxed with form, but it made the fundamentals all the more important. Our fighting styles were wildly different, though, since he fenced sabre and I was epee, as noted above. Sabres involve way more of a whipping motion (blade contact), and epees are more like stabbing (requiring point contact). The latter is a little bit like foil but with a much stiffer blade and fewer rules.
We both had to learn the other's discipline, and I learned that sabre welts make for well earned badges of honor.

My last anecdote, if you'll indulge me, involved a local tournament. The points of epees get a bit dinged up over time, not surprisingly, and an opponent got a point on me right around my clavicle. The helmet includes a neck guard but the point went squirrely on me and somehow slid up underneath it. There was just enough of a rough spot on the point to cut my neck in a vertical line, at a length of about two inches. Scary as hell, but thankfully it was just a superficial cut.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 8:32 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Yes fencing is all blocking and footwork which reminds me I really need to get back to class my form is all awful now.
posted by The Whelk at 8:32 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Related: The final scene in Harakiri (my favorite Japanese film).
posted by jsturgill at 8:37 AM on May 1


If memory serves, simulataneous hits are only acceptable when fighting with an epee. These look like foils (although the image quality is horrendous on my phone). When fighting traditionally with foils I believe you still need right of way, which would preclude a simultaneous hit.

True, but they're using balloons to determine hits – they have no way to call it, so...
posted by furiousthought at 8:37 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


No, because it's extremely difficult to hit a small balloon on your opponent's chest when you are behind him.
The ones behind are to attack them when the experts turn away or around.
posted by fullerine at 8:39 AM on May 1


My favorite three-against-many fight scene.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 8:40 AM on May 1 [10 favorites]


Why didn't they encircle the experts and then just attack en masse?

If they had a commander to tell them to do this they probably would have and had to sacrifice a few on the way, but individuals are looking out for themselves. Superior numbers would have ended the bout earlier. They could have rushed them and then popped the balloons while sitting on them. Maybe that is not in the rulebook...
posted by asok at 8:41 AM on May 1


The ending wasn't what I expected.
posted by codacorolla at 8:45 AM on May 1


My name is Yuki Ota. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
posted by Kabanos at 8:47 AM on May 1


Once the mob gets used to the idea of 'being poked with a sword does not equal death or much pain' the tables start to turn. At the start, the experts were able to divide the mob up by advancing on them, but once the newbies learn to hold their ground, like with Red's death, they start to get the upper hand.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:48 AM on May 1


No, because it's extremely difficult to hit a small balloon on your opponent's chest when you are behind him.
The ones behind are to attack them when the experts turn away or around.
I really don't think that matters all that much, and in fact I think it might even hurt. When the turn occurs, the expert is going to get a much faster fix on the balloon of the person behind him than the person behind him is going to get on the balloon of the expert. And of course be able to defend his own balloon better, too. Being behind the expert is at best a very minor advantage, and quite possibly a detriment.
posted by Flunkie at 8:48 AM on May 1


Next week: one man with a hammer versus a hallway of thugs!
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:48 AM on May 1 [15 favorites]


Clearly a ladder would have been a far superior weapon for the smaller team.
posted by The River Ivel at 8:51 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Ok, valuable data. But, this still doesn't address the primary question about how many five-year-olds they could take in a free-for-all.

I'm afraid I can't take this seriously until they ask the really hard research questions.

(on preview, I see others, above, share my concerns)
posted by bonehead at 8:58 AM on May 1


We used to do this in fencing camp.

It would have been a hell of a lot easier if we only had to defend a big red button on our chest rather than the entire legal target area.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:04 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


The problem with most of these kinds of things is that in most martial arts systems the rules are kind of a defensive structure. I made the mistake of playing with some boffer fighters at a science fiction convention and got all kind of bawled out for hitting them in the head. But every time they attacked, they'd do so head first, using their head as a shield. I'm sure there's a strategy that let's one defeat a man with an indestructible head, but I've never needed to learn it.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:08 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


"Oh, and my buddy and I used to engage in awesome free form fights after dark under streetlights by his parents' house."
This must be a fencing thing, cause that's exactly what we used to do. No gloves or mask with sabers...after drinking...bleeding.
posted by boilermonster at 9:09 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


People, just pretend that everyone involved were part of the Z Putty Patrol, so the only way to destroy them is by striking the emblem on their chest.

Actually, life is better when you just assume that everyone is a putty.
posted by Think_Long at 9:11 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


This kinda reminds me of British Fight School, (previously on MeFi).
posted by ephemerae at 9:14 AM on May 1


Needs more William Hobbs.

Oh heavens, yes. Even the Cardinal's Guard would have taken the whole lot of these guys.

And Christopher Lee as Rochefort would have not only beaten all of them, he would have looked wearied and slightly disgusted as he did it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:17 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


The idea of fencing always appealed to me, but trying to watch it as an outsider, I always found it impossible to tell what the hell was going on. Two masked people in white lunge at each other, something inscrutable and fast happens with bendy swords, and then they stop and one of them yells.

This is basically right of way, in a nutshell. The yelling is the most important part, of course. /epeeist

I only tired it once, at night, outside under a streetlight. I couldn't see a thing.
Seriously, why don't they make a modern face protector with plexiglass or lexan to see through?!
So were the "experts" using the "orthapedic (?)" (pistol) grip? I read on here or somewhere that this can be an advantage--that the best of the best use it if they want to compete at the highest levels.


There actually has been visored fencing masks...but weapon by weapon, they have been banned for being unsafe.

As far as pistol/orthopedic grip usage, the basic reason everyone in foil uses it is because there's finer control, more strength in parry (and, conversely, your weapon is less likely to fly out of your hand if someone parries you) and in contrast, the french grip doesn't have any relevant strengths for foil.

But in epee, french grips have some popularity. Because epee has the entire body being target (with places like the hand or the toe being cool places to go for...if you can get it), there's an advantage to having a longer reach. Obviously, if you're taller or have longer arms, that'll work, but even if not, one of the things that applies to the french grip but *not* the pistol grip is that you can "post" or "pommel" with a french grip...that is, whereas there are rules about how you can hold a pistol grip, it is perfectly acceptable to hold a french grip from the very end and get a little bit more reach.

In many of the tournaments I go to, this has gotten kinda ridiculous, with people using epees with grips that look more like...I dunno, tennis rackets.
posted by subversiveasset at 9:18 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


My favorite three-against-many fight scene.
posted by knownassociate at 9:35 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Kid Charlemagne: Having fought with a few of the local boffer fighters (from Belegarth) I'm surprised that would even be a strategy. It seemed awfully rare that someone would be able to guard their shoulders and not their head. The trick I did see was blocking body shots with an arm that was already "hit" since you needed hits on two different limbs to count as a kill. But at some point you can't really simulate the effects of serious bodily injury in great fidelity.
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:39 AM on May 1


My heart hurts to watch the form of the amateurs, and most of them look barely trained, if at all.

Really? I was thinking the opposite, because the post called them "novices". At least a dozen of those folks weren't novices at all, even if they weren't particularly good. I assumed they'd just put masks and plastrons on fifty people off the street, which would have been a completely different and much shorter video.

I bet fatigue was the only real reason the score wasn't 50-0.
posted by gurple at 10:06 AM on May 1


This is one of those things that I watch and wish I'd rounded a corner and just stumbled into the middle of.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:31 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


Have you ever wanted to see three expert fencers fighting fifty novices?

Have you even heard if 'kill bill'? That was like 1 vs 88+.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:14 AM on May 1


There was just enough of a rough spot on the point to cut my neck in a vertical line, at a length of about two inches. Scary as hell, but thankfully it was just a superficial cut.

"So, young lady, that's where the scar comes from... why, thank you, Johnny Walker Blue and I'll take it neat."
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:15 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Showing off like this does not serve goals of the left-handed cabal.
posted by Free word order! at 11:18 AM on May 1


Curiously, they're also pretty good at some other strategy. They immediately took the high ground, and they were pretty adept at isolating individuals from groups - when they're taking on two or three, they manage to set it up so they deal with one at a time.

Perhaps they were using Bonetti's Defense.
posted by aloha at 11:23 AM on May 1


Nah, there weren't really eighty-eight of them. They just called themselves "The Crazy 88." I guess they thought it sounded cool.
posted by valkane at 11:28 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


My favorite parts of that video were the huge goofy grins each expert had after getting eliminated. They were clearly having a blast.
posted by nicepersonality at 11:35 AM on May 1


Goofing around, I once fenced 2-3 fencers at once. It was hard - unlike these novices, they knew how to fence - they knew that the moment my blade was engaged with another was their time to strike. But I was more experienced, and was also figuring out ways to stay ahead of them nonetheless. We only did it once, but in hindsight it would have been interesting and fun to continue it into an arms race of developing new tricks and techniques.

That's one way in which video games beat fencing - fencing is ancient (and even the electric apparatus is old), so the best techniques have emerged over time, making it more like chess - you spend most of your time learning what others have already learned. Video games come out every few months, and so every few months it's a free-for-all to devise and invent the best techniques - anyone can have a chance to be on the creative cutting edge of developing the great techniques.
posted by anonymisc at 11:44 AM on May 1


Perhaps they were using Bonetti's Defense.

Perhaps. They've clearly studied their Agrippa.
posted by entropone at 12:24 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


This would have been completely different in the 50 had pistols. Yeesh.
posted by Atreides at 12:40 PM on May 1


Seriously, why don't they make a modern face protector with plexiglass or lexan to see through?!

OMG SWEAT. So. Much. Sweat.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:48 PM on May 1


Similarly: 100 Japanese Children Playing Against A Professional Soccer Team
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:48 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


One thing to consider is that the 3 fencers have a lot more options for attacking than the novices. While 80% of the hits seem to be simple straight attacks, those straight attacks are faster and more frequent than the novices. The other 20% of the attacks are more complex moves that the novices don't know how to defend against. And it does seem odd that the 3 experts are all left handed and the bulk of the novices are not.

The plexiglass masks are for the TV, not the fencer. The traditional mask provides perfect vision - I typically don't notice I'm wearing the mask unless the lighting is poor.

Fatigue and not expecting that guy standing behind you is what caught up to the experts.
posted by Farce_First at 2:07 PM on May 1


I think this would have benefitted from subs.

That music playing in the background for the first half was very familiar, somehow.
posted by aroweofshale at 3:02 PM on May 1


Fatigue and not expecting that guy standing behind you is what caught up to the experts.
None of the experts were taken out by anyone who was or had been behind them.
posted by Flunkie at 3:34 PM on May 1


And it does seem odd that the 3 experts are all left handed and the bulk of the novices are not.

Beginner fencers are overwhelmingly right-handed, because society is.
Expert fencers are mostly left-handed (or an even split) because when learning to fence, being left-handed is automatically a large advantage due to the rarity, and the people who initially do well at a sport (for any reason) are the people who tend to stay with a sport, and thus eventually become experts. (By the time they're experts, being left-handed is no-longer an advantage among other experts, and is probably more of a disadvantage)
posted by anonymisc at 4:53 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]


Watching this, I realise I am one of nature's villains. All those cobblestones ...
posted by Catch at 5:05 PM on May 1


I think this would have benefitted from subs.

For a moment, I thought you wanted to work submarines into the fight....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:12 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


speaking as a former fencer, I'd say these three are foilists: the guards on their weapons are too small to be anything but, and the technique they sometimes use (like a few seconds after the 2:00 mark) to get close for a second and third and nth attack are only ever useful in foil—they hunch over slightly, to use their leading arms to shield their chests, and foil is the only weapon where this is even remotely thinkable since foil is the only weapon where the arms aren't legal target. this makes it very odd indeed that they're using French grips, since I've never, ever seen a competitive foilist using a French grip.
posted by spindle at 5:34 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


For a moment, I thought you wanted to work submarines into the fight....

Oh goodness, that would have been glorious. (And I don't think I would have batted an eye at the video if it had happened.)
posted by aroweofshale at 5:45 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


I also noticed the pros were left-handed. You can see the pros use this to their advantage constantly: they duck their left (weapon-side) shoulder to their right, facing their back towards their opponents weapon (which is on the pro's left), covering the balloon. This wouldn't work if their opponents used the same hand as them (as the opponents' weapons would be on the pro's right, and could get around the pro's shoulder), and it wouldn't work if regular foil, epée, or sabre target area were used, as the hits to the back would be fair game. The first pro gets hit when he rushes an opponent, preventing the pro from doing the shoulder-duck.

We used to do a similar thing in my fencing club once in a while: everyone against everyone. It was often (especially towards the end) a many-against-one affair, as weaker fencers teamed up against stronger ones. Good times.
posted by samw at 6:56 PM on May 1


they duck their left (weapon-side) shoulder to their right,

Yeah, there was some balloon guarding going on, for sure. And for all you guys with the "folks in back" in the real world, you could plunge through and hit the balloon from the rear. For some reason, that has a Dune vibe for me.
posted by valkane at 7:56 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


That music playing in the background for the first half was very familiar, somehow.

That was Spybreak by The Propellerheads, most famously used in the slow-mo 'guns at a security checkpoint' scene in The Matrix. Great music, very pumpy.

It took me a while to realise about the balloons, especially because the start was much more of the experts running around and finding places to fight before they started knocking out their competition. That said, by the time the first expert was out, I was surprised, because they'd been dispatching their foes with such seeming ease. I figure the first guy got cocky, and the other two then had to face off against opponents who were less tired, knew that it wasn't impossible to get a hit in, and had begun to work towards just getting the balloon hit rather than any other form of swordfighting. The last few especially made sure to go around in pairs, proving that 50 vs 3 is one thing, but 2 vs 1 was in some ways harder.
posted by gadge emeritus at 3:36 AM on May 6


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