Författare Ämne: Interview with Axel Pettersson in AMHE bulletin  (läst 12090 gånger)

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Interview with Axel Pettersson in AMHE bulletin
« skrivet: 2013-05-20, 16:54:22 »
The French HEMA Federation (Fédération Française des Arts Martiaux Historiques Européens) hs made an interview with GHFS longsword instructor Axel Pettersson:

Bulletin des AMHE – Hi Axel. In a few words, could you tell us about your path in HEMA and in the competition circuit?

Hello Gaetan and the French HEMA community! I started HEMA in 2002 with a local ARMA group, at that time of course tournaments were frowned upon, and I think also that at that time that was a good point of view, we were simply not good enough to make any use of tournaments. In 2006 I moved to Gothenburg and started to train with GHFS, in 2007 I also started to teach longsword there, and do so to this day.

I won my first tournament in 2008, a small local one. In 2009 I won the Dijon tournament and I guess it was then I started to be recognized outside of Sweden. In 2010 I won several tournaments in Europe and in the US, this was also at a time when HEMA tournaments were just becoming more professional and accepted as a part of HEMA, and I hope that my performance to some extent helped legitimize tournaments as a vital part of the ressurection of our martial heritage. Since 2010 I have won or placed in the top 3 of other tournaments, though unfortunately I was injured for almost all of 2012.

BD- AMHE – How do you see the evolution of the international competitions? Where do you the trend is going?

Both as a tournament organizer and as a competitor, the three main areas of development needed are firstly; tournament administration and procedures, secondly; improved skill of judges and thirdly; rulesets. These three areas are also seeing alot of attention. The two main trends are increased professionalism in how tournaments are run, and the increased awareness of how rulesets affect the fencers behaviour. Here we are split between having rules with as few limitations as possible in order to provide a free arena with few variables, but that also allowes fencers to use "cheaper" tricks like hand sniping and single hand "whip" cuts (in longsword), and on the other hand rulesets with more limitations, like disallowing hands and legs as a target, which was done historically in order to see more technical and spectacular fencing.

I really love both formats and I think we will end up with these two "tracks" in tournaments. The modern format is more like a real fight (relatively speaking of course, it will never be exactly like one, but that is not the goal of a tournament) but it is also more rare to see really beautiful techniques since fencers want to stay safe. The Traditional, "Franco-Belgian" format makes it more easy to perform longer exchanges because of the limited taget area making you safer and forcing you to come up with advanced tactics to break through your opponents defence, but also removes the need to learn to protect the hands, close in for grapple and developing a warriors mentality of standing up in a scrap. In this we are also in agreement with the sources, many of them mention that in a real fight you should use simple techniques, but that the Art consists of much more than that and should be practiced as a teaching tool, to use in display fights and tournaments and if nothing else for its own sake. I do however also see more and more advanced techniques even in the modern format (because they work so well!), so maybe it is simply a matter of where the collective skill of the community is at the moment.

BD- AMHE – What do you aim for in a competition? Is victory the sole goal or to you want to portray a given style (say J. Meyer’s longsword)?

My aim is to win my bouts and to test myself and my skill against others, an important part of anybodys life that most of us don't get to do at work. When I fence in tournaments I do not think about which "style" I use, since I work both with Meyer and also the earlier sources like Ringeck as well as gaining skills from training with other weapons. Trying to hit the other person and not being hit yourself must be closer the the orignial "style" than anything else.

Subconsciously though, I know that I often avoid what I personally dislike, like too much hand sniping or striking without a tactic or taking too many chances. This is an ideological thing, firstly because even though I have my own personal goals of winning a tournament, I also strive for our collective goal to ressurect historical european martial arts, and I don't want to act cheap and have other people emulate that behavior. Secondly, fencing for me is a form of self realization, it is the ladder on which I strive to climb higher and develop my personality, my understanding of myself and the world and my strength of character. As Ilkka Hartikainen has said, fencing is my way to express myself, and I want my fencing to be beautful and true. I think this is true for many of the top competitors (but certainly not everyone), once you ask yourself the question of what you want to accomplish in life and you try to seriously answer that question, winning by faking it beomes meaningless.

BD- AMHE – Is there a difference between the way you fence in the walls of your school and how you fight in competitions? I heard several instructors say that some techniques do not work in competition; do you share this point of view?

not really, except that in my school I fence to train and not to win, so I dare do more advanced techniques , but I train them under more and more pressure until I can also perform them in a tournament. Of course, some techniques are forbidden in tournaments, like striking to the achilles tendon or striking with the crossguard, as well as joint breaks, but those who say some techniques are impossible have not internalized those techniques enough yet in order to perform them under pressure against an unknown opponent. That is another reason why we don't see so many advanced techniques in tournaments as we think that we should, we don't train enough and not in a functional way.

BD- AMHE – Could you describe a typical week of your training?

When i wake up I either do some Indian Clubs, florysh or make some sprints up a nearby hill, then some stretching before I have to go to work. After work i go to the club, I have longsword practice 3 times a week and do explosive strenght training 2 times a week, I also train in other disciplines, wrestling and Meyers Rappier, 1-2 times a week. For fun I do rock climbing.

BD- AMHE – Do you work with a individual coach/instructor?

No unfortunately there is none as I am one of the instructors myself even though Anders Linnard in many ways is a mentor and older brother to me. We have to do this ourselves as pioneers but I hope that I one day can do this part time or full time and help new young fencers and be their personal coach. However we work very hard to both encourage every member to learn to be a good coach and comrade, in our sparring we always train in groups of three so that there is always someone to give feedback and pointers so that the sparring does not become mindless bashing or informal competition. We also make sure to foster good bonds of friendship and a sense of a common purpose and identity in order to make everyone feel like part of a team, this creates for our fencers an environment where they can get feedback and also ventilate their thoughts, hopes and fears as persons and as fencers. When it comes down to it I think this is the secret behind the succcess of GHFS.

BB- AMHE – Do you have any advice for aspiring competitors who would like to seriously get in the circuit ?

Take it seriously. You might think that it is more fun to practice fencing if you don't take it seriously and you also don't think that you risk anything, but it is not, that kind of fun is of the shallow kind. In order to really have fun you must immerse yourself in it, dedicate yourself and not be ashamed of this dedication. In my opinion, only in this way is it possible to understand the deeper aspects of what it means to be a fencer and how it will help you grow as a person. This is where the real fun is, that euphoria if realizing you have reached a higher level of understanding and skill. Anyone who has become really good at an instrument, at math or some other discipline knows what I mean.

Also, do not be afraid to loose. It is not your goal of course and you should never excuse yourself when loosing, but you will guaranteed loose several times, no one only wins. The art of loosing and knowing how to turn that into a positive learning experience is something very valuable to have.

You can find the interview in French here: http://www.ffamhe.fr/archivesNL/Bulletin_des_AMHE_05_2013.html
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