Batleth Basic Concepts
This is the Academy of the IKV Melota.
This is where you will find useful information on HOW TO to many of the things that we assume are regular processes for our ship.
The First Thing to remember when starting Batleth competition is to HAVE FUN!
Some of this file is going to sound scary, dark, and otherwise grim. But have a heart! We have been doing this for 5 years and are just trying to offer 5 years of observations and experience in a text form.
The next thing to remember in starting or participating in any form of martial arts is this:
You are embarking on the bear edge of the legal system. You must make sure that everybody understands and follows the rules to avoid injuries and police issues.
Since email addresses and website addresses are subject to change over time, remember www.janissaries.net . Even over time, as websites move, domains should still point to them. Stowalkor Studios and www.Janissaries.net have been offering the only Batleth Combat video that I am aware of on the Internet. The ships in the DFW area are about to start filming practical film sequences to explain the operations of Batleth Practice and Tournament. These will be available at www.janissaries.net and its related ftp site as they become available starting Summer 2002. It is intended to start with a video on padding weapons.
And so we begin....
We have had a solid weekly Batleth practice for 5 years as of this writing. We have had only minor injuries because we remember Rule #1. The object is to HAVE FUN, but in a manner that everyone will return next week for a rematch for the fun of it. Thus we must remember to always be Honorable, always courteous, and always careful about the combat. Likewise, we have had various police units and EMT units come and observe us; but since we are running a structured, fun, safe event, there is nothing present to attract their official attention. (Dueling, regrettably, is illegal in Texas.)
Some of the items to consider while setting up a weapons event are:
attitudes and Honor
Batleth Practice Concepts
Batleth Tournament Operations
Waivers: True, a waiver is worth the paper that it is printed upon, but it is more of a written warning that "you are asking for pain and possible injury". The purpose is do discourage those who really don't have the strength of will to take the hits. It is also to discourage those without Honor who would get emotional or possibly litigious. Finally, if a dishonorable Worrier does file suit, it is a de facto "Statement of Informed Consent that Force was going to be used". The waiver that was presented to the IKV Melota May 1998 has the required legalese, but then at the signature line, puts it in plain English. "I am (wo)man enough to accept the responsibility and liability for my own actions instead of trying to blame someone else for what I got myself into."
I/We are NOT licensed or qualified legal advisors.
Consult with your own legal counsel.
judges: Whether at practice or in a defined Tournament ring, judges must be present. Security Officers usually run this part of the practice. Their mission profile is to insure that the weapons are safely padded, the fighting is safe, and that the bystanders are safe. They are also to remove or cool off any hotheads before they become a problem. At this point, the Security Office ceases being a pretend title and become very real service role. They will have the commission granted by the club to perform these functions with the penalty ultimately being disciplinary action by the club. It helps if your Security Officers are commissioned or licensed agents, peace officers, or Conceal Handgun Licensees of your State. At this point, they have the legal backing and/or training of the State to support the club.
As a side note, having commissioned officers, EMT's, and other licensees present, we are a trained body that reacts well to real emergencies. We have identified and cleared a burning apartment building before anybody else could arrive. Our local Warriors were a First Response when a child fell out of a tree. The motions of the members looked choreographed as each Warrior (including real world civilians) fell into his/her role during each crisis. The character training that comes with Batleth practice has its practical applications.
Off-limits: To keep the costs down and make the fun available for everybody, we do not spend tons of money on armor. Most of our Warriors fight "naked". Only a few of us actually wear armor outside of gloves. There are just certain parts of the body that should not be hit because they will cause serious problems. The list of illegal areas is the head and three knees. (left, right, wee) Any headshot is an immediate cause for concern. Even accidental headshots will result in expulsion from combat due to the seriousness of this rule. The patellas are easily dislocated and are off limits for that reason. The groin is off limits for its own reason. Women complain about their chests being legal targets, however, the upper torso is a target according to our rules. To give women a "protected class" would be unfair to the men who would fight them. Their complaints fall under the "wear armor" category.
In a similar category, but not actually "off limits", hands are considered a NON-target when using anything other than DaQtag. The reason is that they are too easy to hit and likewise too easy to hurt beyond the ability to continue. If a Warrior takes a hit in the hand, they are expected to ignore it from a scoring point of view. Even in Tournament with formal judging, the hands are ignored. When using DaQtag, however, they count because of the personal nature of knife fighting.
Physical Contact: The fighting takes place reminiscent of Dune whereby you struggle hard to defeat the opponent's weapon, but slowly make the body contact. In this manner, we are pulling blows to avoid injury. Likewise it is illegal to "break the plane" of the shoulder when drawing back for a swing. This avoids Sammy Sosa class swings that are more likely to cause injury. In the real world, events occur and now and then somebody takes a pretty brutal hit. Before stepping in front of an opponent, the prospective warrior must be (wo)man enough to accept that they can and will suffer pain and possible injury. Anybody that has not sign a waiver, and does not understand what they are doing does not need to be handling a weapon. Basically, if you cannot take the hits, don't pick up a weapon. In five years we have had a broken nose, broken glasses, dislocated fingers, and I personally have had both thumbs dislocated. After each accident, the opponents got up, shook hands (if they could), and were at the beer keg for pain relief shortly thereafter. Normally, practice runs until each combatant is too tired or bruised to continue. There is always the "celebration of first blood" when we discover that somebody is bleeding. If anybody is of the temperament to sue or get mad, they don't need to be allowed to pick up a weapon. The object is to have FUN, but there will be pain and the occasional injury.
Attitudes and Honor: This is a very important consideration as has been mentioned in the prior paragraphs. If they can't, don't. If they are litigious, don't. Some types of combat must be on the Honor System with the combatants accepting their "injuries" and "deaths". The DaQtag is so close and personal that judges cannot see the action, for example. Any dishonorable combatant who is "immortal" wrecks the fun for everyone. We have judges in Tournament, but practice is more real world and less structured so it is important to concede your "injuries". Also, it takes a special attitude and frame of mind to stand up after being knocked down and tell your opponent what a good shot that was. It takes a really special attitude if you are hurting to do the same. These attributes are very important for the fun aspect of the combat.
All the combat must be in a FUN sense you must fight and play for the enjoyment. Everything that Yoda taught you about giving in to the Dark Side really fits here. Never give in to anger or hate. It ruins the FUN for the others.
The grounds: Choose them. We started doing practice at a parking garage so that we could fight day or night (seasons affect light availability), rain or shine. The problem with asphalt is that it is hard. Also there was not much natural terrain to fight with and for. Later, we moved practices to yards and parks so that we could have more variety. The grass is easier to fall on and park structures are objects to fight over. "This is my bridge and you may not cross." Some parks offer actual fortifications to fight in and through. For the Tournament, we are out in BFE on the acreage of a shipmate. This allows us to have 3 day events with camping, fighting, bonfires, and kegs, the whole works. Tournament rules have a set ring that must not be violated. We use a 20-foot circle for our combat ring. Regrettably, this puts the bantams at a disadvantage against larger warriors. There is no room to maneuver or run. But then, that is why there is the Ringout Rule.
Weapons: If it is not properly padded, somebody will get hurt. The next thought is the same as in paintball and BBgun competitions. "If you cannot tolerate being on the receiving end of your own weapon, why would you use it on somebody else?" Padding is critical and shall be discussed in the next section. And there will also be evolutionary details in order to avoid having to re-invent the wheel. I will detail the evolution of the weapons themselves, as well as their padding. Hopefully it will keep a new combat group from wasting time and money experimenting with known weak concepts.
Batleth; since metal weapons are cost prohibitive for most, we use plywood. The original MarkI's were half-inch plywood. Obviously the design must be modified otherwise the tips will break off it you look at them too hard. Contacting the
IKV Melota will get you a cardboard template of the current Mark's design. We used the MarkI's for about 2 years. But after the effort it takes to pad one out properly, it became a real pain to break one and have to start all over again. We found that the 1/2 inch plywood would also cut the padding from the inside out. The weapon was its own worst enemy. To counter this I started putting a layer of garden hose on the blade surfaces in a manner that it extended one inch past the wooden tips. This provides a false tip that is a final shock absorber if the rest of the padding fails. The true padding was pipe foam from our local home improvement stores held on with duct tape. The Batleth is padded along all front surfaces and up to the grips on the back. The back is important because of the intended or accidental back swings. There is also the obvious Rule that only padded surfaces are eligible to be considered "sharpened" areas.
We later evolved into 3/4 and now full inch plywood. After spending a minimum of 30 minutes, 1+ hours in my case, padding a weapon, they needed the survivability. Also the heavier weapon weighs in closer to our metal "service weapons" that we use for display and security at cons. We are therefore training with weapons of the same weight as what we might use in the real world if an incident should occur.
Mekleth; The MarkI mekleths were direct copies of the TV props. On inch plywood, the attrition rate was horrible. We broke 7 meks in our first Tournament and were down to the last surviving pair. We were facing canceling the Mek portion if one more broke. There was also the issue of having to pad the hell out of the "axe point". Our current Mark's are a simple mild curve of wood from the handle. This is safer and easier to pad. The "points" are made of padding material that adds safety as added padding. Again, templates are available from the IKV Melota.
DaqTag; We did not waste time with this one. We went straight to a military supply and purchased military training rubber Fairbairns.
Freestyle; Hmmm, this is harder to explain. Freestyle is any weapon that you can justify from the history of the past or the future. Justification is providing a picture from the book, TV, movie or other source. This prevents somebody from just inventing a weapon. If you bring a lightsabre, it is justified by Star Wars. Cross-universe work is legal, provided that you can prove the weapon's existence in the other genre. There are a few limitations, however, on freestyle.
1) 5 foot max size    7 foot max starting Fall 2004
2) no ropes, chains, projectiles   we kinda let this one slide Fall 2004, also
3) the justification clause
An interesting offshoot is this is where the Halfleths are used heavily. When a Batleth is broken, the larger piece is padded out along the "cleaned" break. Thus the Halfleth was born. These are legit freestyle weapons. A person who breaks their Bat in Tournament might borrow a Bat for Bat competition, but use their own Halfleth in freestyle.
padding; Another evolutionary study. With the MarkI's, we were using closed cell pipe foam (gray stuff) and finding that the weapons themselves were cutting apart their own padding. We were simply spending too much time repadding the ship's armory. Later came the garden hose idea and it dramatically increased the survivability of the padding. However, it was noted that barring broken weapons, there was still a lot of repair after fighting. Over time, we switched to the later Marks of the weapons. As we progressed through the MarkII and MarkIII series, we were no longer facing internal damage as the primary cause of repair. By the MarkIV's, we were finally having weapons last long enough without breaking to have the padding fail over time. The most common failure of padding starting with the MarkI's was to have a point break through and need repadding. That point would also quite often damage the opponent's padding job. Likewise, the edge of the wood itself was cutting the foam padding from the inside. One of the items that was noticed was that most padding jobs were completed in about 15-30 minutes on average and looked pretty grim. They were functional, but not exactly esthetically pleasing. These quick pad jobs also had very high maintenance time requirements. Again, there was research into another method of padding. The goal was to increase the survivability of the padding, as well as making repairs to the padding less time consuming. It is no fun to be pulled out of a fight to repad a weapon.
I devised a high survivability / low maintenance padding for my MarkI which I recommend. At this point I will state that now there are some absolute works of art in personal armories. But when I devised this padding method that is about to be described, my padding concept for my privately owned weapon was unique and the ship's armory did not have a visual equal. The padding concept apparently worked as I was still using a MarkI (1/2 inch) when the MarkIII's (3/4 inches) were being phased out in favor of the MarkIV's (1 inch). This padding method required over 1.5 hours padding each weapon, the MarkI, later the MarkIV. That is a lot of time to pad, and you don't want to do this very often. But the repair time when the padding was pierced by a point or damaged in the trunk of a car went to near zero. So what is this padding system?
Glad you asked. This padding system was based on the steel belted radial tire. After painting the Batleth your color and with your personal symbols, cut the garden hose to run the length of the interior blades from interior tip to interior tip plus that extra half-inch on either side as a crushable point. Each wing time gets the same garden hose false point with the hose ending after the interior tip begins. Once duct taped to the wood solidly using small strips of duct tape, cut pipe foam to match plus a quarter inch past each garden hose tip. Tack down the pipe foam at intervals with small strips of duct tape to hold it in place. Once the pipe foam is taped, it will pass the garden hose tip on each side of the interior tips. Same concept with the wing tips. This will create a quarter of duct tape for the pipe foam. These are nearly long enough to touch the handgrip holes. This is where the radial tire concept starts to make sense. After wrapping the tips heavily to reinforce them from being crushed or sheared off, start with a series of tape radials. Look at any tire store for a cross section of how a radial tire goes together and you will understand the radial concept. Overlap each strip of duct tape halfway across. This causes every inch of that pipe foam to be covered in at least two layers of duct tape. This is done for the wing tips also. Then cut a 1-inch wide leather belt to fit from interior tip to interior tip. Once tacked with short pieces of duct tape, again use long tape strips to cover it in the same radial format. Then put pipe foam on the backside of the wingtips. Tacked with small strips, then really planted with radial strips. All of the tips must be heavily reinforced on all planes with duct tape to prevent being sheared off by force. Do this before the final radials at each tip.
So what do these 1.5+ hours of effort give you?
You now have a weapon that looks much nicer than any bias ply taping. All of its tape lines are smart and organized. The tips are hard to shear off. Wingtips have multiple layers of duct tape over the foam for shear resistance and penetration resistance. The interior curve is a work of art and survivability. This is the curve that takes the most brutal force during the combat. The interior curve's padding is protected from penetration or blunt trauma damage to the foam by the leather belt from outside. It is protected from blunt trauma from the inside by the garden hose. The leather belt and garden hose offer the false (padded) tips shearing resistance while still allowing deflection for your opponent's safety and comfort. Not only does this thing look awesome, it is really hard to tear up. And if it is damaged in any manner, simply covering the damage with fresh radials means a minimum of tape and time make it look like it was never damaged. Hard to damage, quick to repair. The cost is time up front. But well worth it.
Still in the padding category, there needs to be a quick discussion of pipe foams. There appear to be two basic kinds. The gray closed cell foam, and the black super squishy foam. The differences do matter. The black foam shear rips very easily. The gray closed cell foam is harder to tear so it would appear to be the better choice. However, the black foam does not lose its integrity over time and compression. The gray foam, for all of its tear resistance will collapse over time and repeated crushing. So why this discussion? If you are padding in a hurry, or do not intend to follow the radial concept, use the gray closed cell. Yes, it will crush out over time and need replacing, but without the radial taping concept, the black foam will take shear damage very quickly. If you have the time and inclination, though, using the black foam with the full belted radial will actually provide the best combat life. The multiple radials provide the shear and penetration resistance to protect the black foam that does not crush to death with time. Next important comparison, on the Mekleths or smaller freestyle weapons, the black foam is much heavier. So it would be recommended to use the gray closed cell on anything smaller than a halfleth. Smaller weapons don't usually face the same crush forces anyway.
About padding Mekleths, it was described earlier that the later Marks of the Mekleths did not have points. To pad a Mekleth, follow the same basic guidelines as with a Batleth. However, unless you do have a point, the garden hose is not necessary and over padding adds weight to a single-handed weapon. By using the gray closed cell over the blade, but the heavier black foam over the knuckle shield, the heavier foam helps to balance the grip against the blade. Being a bantamweight, I even use automotive water hose filled with BB's on my grips to counterbalance my blades. My Mekleths have a balance point one inch in front of my hands to make up for the fact that I have no wrist strength. Another thought for your smaller Warriors. Use additional slices of padding taped down with radials to emulate the "points" of the weapon. On some Mekleths, the "axe point" is the fourth of four layers of padding for the opponents comfort and protection.
Another weapons consideration is private ownership vs. ship's armories. In the beginning, the IKV Melota had a ship's armory of about 20 Batleths and a matching number of Mekleths. One of the pro's about a ship's armory is that everybody can check out a Batleth and participate. One of the con's is that some poor bloke (Weapons Officer) has to spend time (and possibly their money) repairing these things all of the time. Privately owned weapons are generally taken care of and better padded for this reason. The IKV Melota has been moving away from a massive armory to private ownership courtesy of the monetary and labor donations of some of the membership.
With the new padding concepts that have been developed since this original writing, maintaining a ship's armory is not as much work. At this point, the IKV Melota, has an armory of about 5 Mark IV's for guest use. Otherwise, we all use our own private weapons.
armor: We are not the SCA, but the idea of personal protection can be reasonably and affordably covered with a little bit of effort. Since our weapons are padded and our combat style delivers less kinetic energy, our armor requirements are less. Most Warrior fight with nothing more than gloves on their hands. But for those who are interested in personal protection, here are some points to consider.
Eyes; Depending upon a person's eyesight, or opinions, they may are may not be able to fight without their glasses/contacts. These are suggestions about how to deal with the eyes. Against heavy weapons such as the Batleth, Mekleth and most Freestyle, glasses are in danger and should be removed. The well-padded tips are not likely to do more than a shiner. Preferably, goggles of some form should be worn. Even a legally blind person can fight without glasses, with goggles (or without) because the weapons can be seen at the ranges that we are fighting. (Personal experience. -10.5 diopter) However, against the Daqtag's, glasses, goggles, something must be worn. The rubber blade tips are just too dangerous to the naked eye.
Head/face; Most Warriors wear nothing on their heads. Some wear baseball caps whereby the bill is an early warning system. Some actually wear helmets and/or face protection. Needless to say, it would be recommended to wear headgear.
Hands; The hands are really abused. First Blood and most bloods are from the scratches that hands receive. Gloves are a really good idea. Especially armored gloves.
Arms; Oddly enough, heavy weapons don't generally hurt the arms. It is the Daqtag fighting where the bone on bone blocking causes the real bruising. Bracers should be worn for Daqtag at least.
Torso; For our fighting style, most Warriors won't wear torso armor. It is not really needed except for the women of exceptional beauty. Even so, though they might complain now and then, none of our local women Warriors wears torso armor.
Acquiring; The best place to acquire armor is your own closet. Somewhere in the closets are helmets from other sports, gloves, leg pads, and arm pads. All of this can cross over to our sport. For torso armor, wear your klingon uniform. Besides, it looks better on camera. You can really armor up for minimal latinum by raiding your own closets. Next stop is the thrift store. Within our local klindom, some of the uniform armor is functional. Thus the uniform is worn in the ring as a safety device. If your group does not yet have uniforms, or as somebody retires and acquires a new uniform, they might entertain the idea of making functional imperial armor. It looks better to see the Warriors in imperial armor than it does mundane clothing when showing photographs or movies.
la'Hom Salek Sutai
Commo Officer IKV Melota
Batleth Practice Concepts
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