Today's article is from guest contributor Master At Arms James A Keating - ed.
Use of the "BEAT": The Comtech Perspective
The subject of this piece is the fencers tactic known as a "beat". It is defined as: A simple preparatory motion. A sharp controlled blow to the middle or 'weak' of the opponents blade, with the objective of provoking a reaction or creating an opening. The action should knock the opponent's blade aside or out of line. Found here (wiki) for future reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_fencing
The action of the "beat" can be employed as a probe to test the opponents defenses and to gain critical knowledge of how they fight. In this case the beat is done lightly. Just barely making the action itself. A non-commital testing, harassing and sniping. How does the opponent respond? Is his energy soft or rock hard? Is he aggressive or is he defensive? All questions that can answered silently, swiftly when the beat is used as an information gathering probe.
Italian - Battere / To beat aside your adversary's blade with rapier, foot or hand.
(Pallas Armata p.7) The beat is a prompt in some cases. You apply the beat and they angrily return it harder with an attack backing it. You wanted this response. Your "prompt" has worked. Now apply the beat once again, allow them to come back as before, but this time remove your blade. Circle under just as his blade touches yours, ride that direction & energy and strike him down from the other side.
In the instance of the beat and the use of stage magic principles it is often done to distract and is mixed in with other aspects like threats and attacks. While the beat is being performed the next phase of the encounter is the angle (this involves the spanish guard). This shows the psychological side of the beat tactic where distraction will cloak the true intent of your attack. The blade suddenly "disappears" and the "appears" again from the opposite side. This now presents you with four basic elements of the magician that you may employ in your overall assault. There are more to be sure, I limit myself from further discourse on magic since our topic is the "beat" not the creation of illusion.
When you apply the beat concept it is done fast and sharply. In Wing Chun the slap or pak sao is similar to the fencers beat. It is a short, snappy action much like we also see in kung fu's "Fa Jing" training (Example: the now famous one inch punch of Bruce Lee). In this case where blades are used the energy is swiftly directed laterally to clear the line for attack. To learn more about fa jing energy try here: http://www.kungfumagazine.com/forum/showthread.php?10964-the-definition-of-fa-jing
In the case of smaller knives instead of the larger blades the beat tranforms into a hand cut. There is not enough blade (length) to apply a beat on the small knives. So the beat logically becomes an attack to the limb. But retains the same energy of the beat, it's in and out fast with a snapping cut. With knives the timing also changes due to the lack of of leverage that is normally provided by the longer weapons. With small knives none of that counts. Small knives dictate a far more primitive method of blade usage that is more likely akin to simply fist fighting (pugilism) than knife fighting proper. Stubby blades are sure handy, but for fighting they are unfit for many reasons. But in today's world it is the small units that are legal to carry so they have become popular, not due to their functionality mind you, but for their convenience and legality.
The beat can act as a bridge or bridging action too. When done in the range some call "medio" it effectively serves the role of closing the distance safely. Done with a bowie knife or sword a double beat can be accomplished - I like this because it's unexpected, deceptive and implicitly violent. If the right conditions occur one may even try a triple beat followed by a reversed backcut. If you use a checking hand in your knife fighting style then this is also where you would possibly add the check simultaneously as the blade applied the beat (as a bridge).
Once you connect with the beat then you can swiftly strike. We have spoke about this aspect at length now. But at that very same moment you may otherwise attempt a secondary concept and move. You might adhere to his blade instead of speeding away from it. This is suppresion of his steel via contact of blades through the beat action. Join with him and mirror his actions (mirroring is a skill like any other, it oft comes naturally and is one of the easiest to teach or learn). As before, the checking hand or binding hand might be inserted during the supression of his weapon.
Just some thoughts shared with you loyal readers on the use of edged weapons and the concepts that govern them.
M.A.A. James A. Keating
Master At Arms James A Keating - Well known for his knife fighting skills, especially the bowie, is also well versed in many other martial arts including FMA, Wing Chun, Silat and many others. He has appeared in numerous major publications and books and has a popular DVD series on his Comtech method. He offers seminars and private lessons virtually year round out of his school Combat Technolgies in the Walla Walla, WA valley. You can find him on his web page at www.jamesakeating.com as well as his instructional series on youtube.