Episode 35

Analysing sword science and technology with Myles Cupp

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Show Notes:

Myles Cupp is an instructor at South Coast Swords, in California. You might have seen him on the History Channel’s Knife or Death show, and he’s a contributor to swordstem.com. SwordSTEM is a website dedicated to applying science to sword martial arts, which analyses martial arts with rational, evidence-based methodologies. In our discussion we talk about some of the articles on SwordSTEM, and how looking at the numbers can influence the rules of tournaments, the gear we use, and the most effective ways to fight.

Myles’ day job is as an engineer at Disneyland, and we talk about working on rides like the new Star Wars Rise of the Resistance. We also chat about driverless cars, and speaking Italian like a native, but the episode is really all about swords! One of Myles’ guiding principles is about sharing knowledge, and his work on SwordSTEM is bringing fascinating information to light on really understanding what is going on in tournaments, the swords themselves, and our training methods.

Useful links from this episode:

Store Webpage:
https://southcoastswords.com/

Club webpage:
https://southcoastsword.com/

YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCM5BmY0WSmMUq6dskeIUluQ

SoCal Swordfight:
https://socalswordfight.com/

And of course, SwordSTEM:
http://swordstem.com/

GW: Hello sword people, this is Guy Windsor, also known as The Sword Guy, and I’m here today with Myles Cupp, who is a social group instructor at SouthCoastSwords.com. He’s an engineer who works at Disneyland, and we’re definitely going to be talking about that. You might have seen him on the History Channel’s Knife or Death Show, and he’s a contributor to swordstem.com. And it was actually Brittany Reeves on this show who put me on to swordstem.com. And when I went and I saw that Myles has articles like Why N00bs Fling the Sword and a whole bunch of science stuff about that, which I’ll ask him about in a minute, I thought we must get an engineer onto the show. So without further ado, Myles, welcome.

MC: Hey, I’m very happy to be here. Glad to be on your show.

GW: So if we could just orient everybody, where in the world are you?

MC: So I am currently living in Anaheim, California. I live about as close to Disneyland as one can live without actually living in Disneyland. So hopefully that gives a good enough geographic marker for where folks could find me if they so choose.

GW: Excellent. And you live near Disneyland, I assume, because you work there?

MC: That is correct. I am a Control Systems Engineer at the park.

GW: OK, now I don’t think anybody who doesn’t work at parks like that will know what that means. So what does a Control Systems Engineer do?

MC: So I am specialised in show control systems. Specifically in the theme parks and entertainment world, there are two different aspects to an attraction or what would commonly be called a ride. There’s the ride part, that is what carries you from point A to point B as you get on a vehicle and you go through and experience it. And then there’s the show part. That’s the part that you see on the ride. And it’s typically the reason people go on rides like those at Disneyland. So as a Control Systems Engineer, I am responsible for the control of the whole show system. So that includes the audio animatronics, those are the robotic figures that you see, like the auctioneer on Pirates of the Caribbean, or it could be control of the audio visual system, like at Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. Or it could be control of laser special effects, like on Peter Pan’s flight. My latest project was the very new, but very shortly open before it closed again, Star Wars Rise of the Resistance at Galaxy’s edge.

GWL: Oh, my God. Oh, so have you been on that? You must have ridden on it, right?

MC: I have ridden it at least a thousand times. I may be exaggerating, but not by much. I have written that so many times and it never, never gets any less exciting than the first time, any time I ride it. That attraction is so spectacular and it pains my heart that as of this recording, the parks are closed right now, because there are so many people I wish could experience it.

GW: Yeah, I have to get back to California. I’ve never been to Disneyland and I have kids, so I have a golden cast-iron excuse to take them there. But, yeah, at the moment, it’s not a practical proposition. We are recording this in December 2020. So, yeah, coronavirus is raging and whatnot. So are you mostly on the programming side, or are you actually building these robotic things?

MC: So what I do is I typically do most of my work at the park itself. So I’m in charge of maintenance and sustainment of these attractions, to a large extent. I do get to be involved with installation and commissioning. I was in on the Walt Disney Imagineering Project team for building Rise of the Resistance because the idea was let’s embed an engineer in the project while still being built by the geniuses up at Walt Disney Imagineering. And then when the park receives the attraction, it’s delivered. OK, Walt Disney Imagineering builds the attraction, delivers it to the theme park. Then it’s operated by the park and their engineering team, which I am a part of. So the idea was embed me in it so I learn how it works, so when it opens, because it’s so complicated, we’ll be able to keep it running and reliable, so there’s never any issues or problems with the system. It will just work. So I have built these attractions. I have maintained them. People like to say that Disney has the latest technology. And while that’s true, and it’s certainly true in the case of Rise of the Resistance, it’s also true that Disneyland has every technology because I have downloaded software on floppy disks to 30 year old computers that run some ancient attraction. But you know what? Some stuff just works. And we keep it working.

GW: You know, in Helsinki where I live, there’s this fantastic theme park called Linnanmäki, which is tiny compared to Disneyland. But it’s fantastic. And my kids’ and my favourite ride there is a roller coaster that’s built out of wood and it’s been running basically unchanged for about 55, 60 years now. And it has a brakeman at the back. So there’s actually a human being on the back of the roller coaster, controlling it as it goes round the curves. It is fantastic.

MC: So it’s a human ride control system? That is amazing that they’re still like that. I’ve seen some fascinating videos, not to digress too much into theme park trivia, but I’ve seen some fantastic theme parks and carnivals. In specifically, Southeast Asia is where I saw these videos where they were a miniature Ferris Wheel and it was operated by like a team of guys. And they were like monkeys climbing all over this thing, like a jungle gym, spinning the thing up. And they would then catch it as it comes around again, after they got this thing going super fast with the guests right in it. When it was time for it to stop, they would grab it and then, run up it in the opposite direction as it was spinning to slow it down. So they were both the human motor system as well as human brake systems. And these guys were so skilled at what they were doing, they had it choreographed to the millisecond. I would never want to do that. But boy, those guys were impressive, if we’re talking about an attraction run by a human being. The videos are out there on the Internet somewhere. It was amazing.

GW: Yeah, the risk, you know, if you slip or fall or something, it just doesn’t bear thinking about. You could lose limbs.

MC: Yes, that’s the thing. It’s impressive when it works, but it is certainly very dangerous. And safety is one of the things that I do take very seriously at the same time.

GW: Well, I mean, you have to. It’s like swords, right? They are so obviously dangerous that they’re actually relatively safe because they’re obviously dangerous and so we take precautions.

MC: Absolutely. And “you always have to be smarter than the equipment” is a phrase I like to say. It’s very, very easy to fall into a false sense of security or safety because you always just assume, oh, well, the system will just take care of it and people can become complacent. That’s one of the difficulties. Again, I’m starting to digress into so many things. But when you look at self-driving cars, is one of the big challenges with that, because what if the human being does need to input some kind of correcting stimulus to something that’s happening? But if the car is driving itself and you don’t really have to do anything unless there’s an emergency, well, by then it’s too late because your human reaction time will not be there to react if you need one second, two seconds to respond to something happening that the vehicle’s not going to take care of, which is why they have driver assist technology is what the current trend is, where you need to keep your hands on the wheel and you need to still pay attention. But the car is still driving itself more or less.

GW: My ultimate car safety tip would be you get a big stainless steel spike and you stick it in the middle of the steering wheel pointed at the driver, and that will compel a degree of caution and attention that no amount of driver assist will do. Or we make the cars fully automated, so, yes, computers will eventually make mistakes, but they make fewer mistakes and people do and they will actually learn from them the way that people tend not to. And we would probably save thousands and thousands of lives a year. But it’s this intermediate phase where the cars feel super safe, the cars make you feel like you can just switch off. And so you do just switch off. I mean, a guy got killed in a Tesla about a month ago because he was playing a game on his phone, letting the car drive. And there was a dodgy intersection and he ended up ploughing into a crash barrier. And he died because the car isn’t built to ram into things at 70 miles an hour.

MC: No, and we’re not at the point yet that cars are truly autonomous. We may get there someday, hopefully in our lifetimes, but it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of engineering to make that happen.

GW: Yeah, and again, you’re always going to have people who want to drive because they like cars and they like driving, but for most people who, it’s just a way of getting from one place to another. They will switch, I would think.

MC: Absolutely. Well, and especially if you live in an area with super congested commutes. In Southern California at eight o’clock in the morning, I can assure you no one is driving for the pleasure of it.

GW: OK, I think we probably should start talking about swords at some point. Otherwise people might think they are on the wrong show. OK, so Myles, how did you get into swords and historical martial arts?

MC: So I started in Olympic sport fencing when I was in high school. My oldest brother actually took me to a club meeting at Cal State Fullerton, my alma mater, and in his as well. And I attended the weekly practises with them doing foil for a year, then switch to Epée when everyone told me I sucked at foil and I should do Epée instead and did that until college. And then I got busy with college, stopped fencing. Then when I went back to Cal State Fullerton, not to complicate the story, I went to a community college and then went back to Cal State Fullerton to finish my advanced degree, I saw a flyer posted on the hallway walls of the Computer Science building that said Medieval Swordsmanship Club. And there is a picture of Paulus Hector Mair, though I didn’t know it was Paulus Hector Mair at the time and saw it and thought, hey, that sounds really cool. All right, I’m going to go there. So I went there. I went to the booth, talked to a gentleman by the name of Brian Frick, who was the first person I ever talked to about swords or anything HEMA related, I should say swords related but HEMA related specifically. And I asked him, what’s this club all about? And he looked at me, cocked his eye and he said, swords. I said, great, sign me up. And he handed me a Rawlings arming sword and a buckler. And we put on some fencing masks that they had there at the at the booth. And we fenced with sword and buckler. And I had the time of my life. When we came to a clinch and he wraps my arms and I look at him like you can do this? and he’s like, yes, you can grapple. And I say, sweet. Then I hit him in the face with the buckler, which was a lot of fun to do. And then we tried out longswords. I was back at the booth the next day because we did it for maybe about ten minutes. But oh my gosh, it felt so exhilarating to try out such a different kind of a thing that I was used to with Olympic sport fencing. So I attended the classes that they had in the recreation centre that was founded by the late Jason Taylor. He was my first HEMA instructor. He came from both a kung fu background. He was a kung fu instructor, women’s self-defence instructor, and was also part of ARMA during that period. He left during the many exoduses from ARMA, I guess I should say, founded the HEMA Alliance with Jake Norwood and a bunch of other great guys who started that organisation. So I was brought up in that really early HEMA Alliance culture, because that’s what we were all about, sharing the knowledge, freedom of study, freedom of practise. Nobody should tell you you’re doing it wrong. But keep your mind in the source as kind of a philosophy. So that was a really influential background for me and a lot of us down here in Southern California. That influence is still felt to this day and how we organise ourselves, organise our events, organise our practises, share knowledge, we’re not trying to hoard anything. We’re not trying to keep anything secret. If we make a great discovery or if we find some new technique, let’s share it with whoever wants to learn it. And, you know, just be cool. Just be cool about it.

GW: A rising tide lifts all boats.

MC: Absolutely.

GW: There is a thing in some traditional martial arts where you’re not supposed to disseminate things, you’re not supposed to show people stuff. It kind of makes sense if it’s state of the art, cutting edge technology, like I don’t think the specs for the latest fighter planes should be publicly available necessarily, and how they are training fighter pilots should be broadcast, because that’s cutting edge military technology and it would give an advantage to an actual enemy who might actually shoot you. But yeah, I mean, this stuff is medieval or Renaissance. It is hundreds of years old, it’s completely obsolete. The idea of hoarding knowledge about it is just weird.

MC: It is a strange phenomenon. And it’s also doubly strange when you’re talking about trying to represent the art in the best way that you can. So if somebody looks around and they say, oh, the fighting sucks, or whatever, and then I’ll say, OK, so what are we going to do to make them not suck? What pearls of wisdom can we share with our fellow sword fighters so we can get the greatest enjoyment out of this art? Because you’re absolutely right. Four hundred years ago, yes, this stuff would have been stuff that would have been guarded quite zealously, just like Maps of the Americas were as closely guarded as nuclear submarine secrets today, such that I have questions about who maybe even knew about America before there was an America, because it would have been a state secret if there was a continent on the other side of the ocean. I’ve thought about that. Is it possible? Maybe. I don’t know. Most people think that wasn’t known yet. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, because it would have been a secret. So it’s sort of like asking a question in five hundred years, what today would be a secret, that’s just not public knowledge. But with sword fighting, who cares? It’s because we’re all just here to have fun and hit each other with swords.

GW: Precisely. But we also care about doing it better, like better than we did it last week. And you come at this from an engineering background, and I know you’re involved with the SwordSTEM website, swordstem.com as in science, technology, engineering and maths, if I get that correctly. I don’t really have enough engineering knowledge to ask the right questions, so how about this? What is that all about and why do you care?

MC: All right, so the whole concept of SwordSTEM started when Sean Franklin said, wouldn’t it be more fun if sword fighting was like my maths homework? I’m just kidding. It didn’t quite start like that.

GW: Well, I can imagine him saying that.

MC: No, but he did. I have to say that in preparation for this discussion, I talked to Sean and I said, hey, Sean, what do you want to make sure I say? And he said that. So, Sean, I stole your joke. There you go. But I gave you credit, so it’s fine. But now I’ll get serious for a moment. So Sean is a mechatronics engineer. I’m an electrical engineer by training. And there are other people of technical backgrounds who support what we’re trying to do. The true genesis of what we’re doing started with Longpoint 2014. And at that event, Sean was there and he was watching a pool fight and somebody leaned over to him and said, wow, this is the cleanest fighting I’ve ever seen. We’re doing so great. You know, HEMA is coming such a long way, isn’t this amazing? Somebody else watching that same fight later said to Sean, boy, wasn’t that just garbage fencing, oh, my God, this is the worst fencing I’ve ever seen that was so ugly and unclean. So there is a quantifiable question there. What makes a “clean fight”? How does one analyse the data so we can actually determine, is the fighting getting better? Because we’re running tournaments. There’s data that comes out of those tournaments because of the scoring metrics that we use. We award points differently if somebody got hit on the head and then they delivered an afterblow, or they both hit each other in the same instant and that is a different record, a penalty. And if you get three doubles, you both lose. So there’s data that can be mined and extracted for analysis to determine are people fencing cleanly. Now, as it turns out, Longpoint 2014 was one of the uncleannest Longpoints ever. So the person who said the fighting wasn’t really great ended up being correct. But that is the idea of SwordSTEM, not just in analysing tournaments, but using it to facilitate and develop and disseminate knowledge of swords using STEM, using science, technology, engineering and mathematics. So getting the anecdotes and the squishy knowledge out of HEMA and replacing it with analysis-based understanding of what’s going on with the swords, our tournaments, our training methods. How do you quantify things like psychological pressure? How do you quantify things like reaction times? How do you quantify even going drilling down a little deeper? How do you quantify things like a question such as, well, my Feder has a fuller in it. Does that make it takes sets more easily than if it didn’t? Or I want to describe how motion is affected and changing direction. Does it change direction? Can I guide my sword in its arc to change direction, or do I need to stop, redirect? Breaking down point control and thrust accuracy, breaking down how do people’s behaviours change using game theory based on how we design different tournament rule sets. All of this stuff falls under that SwordSTEM methodology. And when you go to the website, you’ll see articles going back to 2018 analysing all of these questions that I’ve talked about. Every single one of the ones I’ve talked about has been addressed in a SwordSTEM article. And if it hasn’t been, let us know if you want us to analyse it and we will write an article and address that topic because we have the tools, we have this thing called science that we can use as a method to analyse these questions and get some, maybe not the answers, but give us a clear perception of what’s going on so we don’t have to rely on anecdotal myths, if you will.

GW: Sure. Can you give us an example of something you have done differently because of one of these articles? One of these investigations has demonstrated that something that you thought was correct is actually not?

MC: Oh my gosh, there are actually quite a few of them. One of the more controversial articles that Sean has published is the article from April 2nd 2020, A Win is a Win: how weighted point values don’t affect match outcomes. That one is certainly a thought-provoking analysis that compares what the point values were versus how do fencers actually perform, and what ends up coming out from the article and everyone should read it in case I am misquoting the findings.

GW: I’ll link to it in the show notes.

MC: What the article discusses is that ultimately whoever hits more is who wins, which makes some degree of sense because the fencer who is better is the one who will hit more. So if a person can hit the hands four times, that’s better than somebody who could maybe only hit the head once. In the So Cal swordfights ruleset a headshot’s worth four points and hands are worth one point. So if you’re a competent fencer, you’re more likely to get more of those hand shots in than the less competent fencer is to land a single head shot. Does that make sense?

GW: I think I get it. But then I have quite a lot of experience in fencing tournaments. So let me just recap what you just said and make sure I’ve got it right so that the listeners can follow on. So what we’re talking about is a tournament rules set where different targets have different point values associated with them. So in your example, four points to the head, one point to the hand, that will encourage people to go for the more valuable target rather than just sniping at the hands all the time.

MC: Yes.

GW: And yet what the analysis actually suggests is that those rule sets don’t have that desired effect.

MC: We’re not saying that. What we’re saying is that ultimately what ends up happening, is that the more competent fencers, regardless of whatever the point values are, will end up winning regardless of how the points are weighted.

GW: Ah OK, so it’s not about what targets they’re going for, it doesn’t privilege the less skilled fencer.

MC: That’s what the analysis points towards, that the better fencer is going to perform better, regardless of whatever the ruleset is. Now, there is value in point weighting because it will affect the type of fencing that you see from the people who don’t rise to that upper echelon level, like the people who win are going to win no matter what. So, if you’re not a competent fencer, you’re not going to score a headshot on, I’m going to pick a name out of a hat, let’s say, Ties Kool. I’m picking his name. I don’t have any affinity, I’m just picking a name of a great fencer randomly, for anybody listening. OK, just saying if you’re that calibre of fencer you’re going to win pretty much regardless of whatever the rule sets are, because you just trained that well. But the other fencers in the lower tiers, let’s say the more average fencer who can percolate up to that level with training and practise, they will still change their behaviours for how the fencing is going to be, based on the ruleset. So they know that the heads are worth four points and two average fencers face each other, their behaviour will change because they are fencing to those higher target values. But if you drop an A-list fencer in there, they’re going to win no matter what the ruleset is. That’s the finding. And that is one of the surprising, counterintuitive results that you would get from analysing the data.

GW: I don’t understand why that is surprising. I would expect the more experienced fencer or the higher level fencer to win no matter what the rules are.

MC: Because initially you might think that if somebody was fencing competently, that there’s that chance that because a headshot can change the outcome of the match so severely in, our rulesets, at least, because a headshot is worth four points, then you would think that, well, that person may have tagged the hands four times, but fencing is fencing and it’s a dangerous endeavour. Random things can happen. A person might be able to get that head strike in and change the outcomes of the match if it’s a lower skilled fencer facing a higher one because there’s chaos and in battle, if you will. But that doesn’t really tend to happen.

GW: OK, and you said that was sort of controversial?

MC: I would say, when I first saw the headline of that article come out, it was controversial to me, because I did talk about it with Sean. So when I say controversial, I mean to people who are following SwordSTEM religiously. When I saw that article drop, I went to Sean, I said, Sean, is this really true? And he says, yes, look at the numbers. They’re all published right here. I said, oh, my gosh, you’re right. So what do we do? Do we get rid of weighted point values? Does none of that matter? And through our conversation, it was no, it still matters because you’re still going to change the way people behave. We’ve certainly seen changed behaviours in tournament participants based on whether or not you have fully weighed afterblows versus not fully weighted afterblows. By that, I mean if two fencers strike each other at the same time and let’s say the head is worth three points and the leg is worth one point, one person gets three points, one person gets one point. If it was a head and a simultaneous hit, that is going to be a different behaviour that’s encouraged versus if it’s a deductive afterblow rule where if one person gets hit in the head, but then a moment later delivers a strike to the leg, OK, if you do one point substraction now the person who hit the head gets two points instead of one, that will be a different kind of analysis in terms of a fighter’s game theory than a fully weighted afterblow. What’s really weird, and I think Sean has another article about this, and I don’t remember the details of it, but in our sword and buckler tournament, at So Cal Swordfight. He’s actually done some number crunching that shows that the fully weighted afterblow fencing in the sword and buckler tournament was cleaner than our longsword fencing, which was really weird to me. I did not think that was going to happen, but apparently the numbers show that it did. So to me, that would be another kind of controversial thing, not controversial as in like there’s thousands of people in the community discussing it, but I’m a tournament organiser. I want to know quantitatively how do the rules that we make affect the way that people fence? Because there’s so much out there that people sort of have this intuitive understanding about how people behave in tournaments or they see one pool and they say, oh my God, the fencing here is garbage or the fencing here is great. But when you look at the numbers across the whole tournament, you’re like, this is the cleanest tournament we’ve ever had or it’s the most garbage tournament we’ve ever had. The question is you have to use some data to quantify it.

GW: OK, so you can use rulesets to encourage the kind of fencing you want to see.

MC: Yes, you absolutely can, which is a practise that Longpoint pioneered initially. And we’ve taken that and run with it at the tournaments I organised at So Cal Swordfight, I primarily am involved in that tournament, but I will happily help anybody who wants to get my input for any of the other tournaments that they run about certain behaviours that are encouraged by the way you weight the points versus how much time you give people. I’ll give you an example. I’ll give you a perfect example of how rules can radically change the way people behave. Have you ever seen the two second Hail Mary?

GW: No.

MC: You wouldn’t, unless you watch a lot of tournaments or go to a lot of tournaments, so I’ll describe to you and the listeners what I mean by the two second Hail Mary. Really, it’s a three second Hail Mary because two seconds is not enough time. I have been in tournaments where I am down by maybe four points. There are three seconds left on the clock. And so the ring is maybe about 10 metres in diameter. So what I will do with a long sword, I will sprint as fast as I can at my opponent and swing wildly for their head in the hopes that I land a hit just before the director calls time when the buzzer goes, that’s the three second Hail Mary. I call it a three second Hail Mary, because if it’s two seconds left on the clock, you’re not fast enough. You won’t be able to cover that 30 metres fast enough to make it there. I’m talking like you line up on the edge of the ring, like you’re at the starting line and you’re waiting for the gun to fire. OK, I have seen this done and I have done it myself and I have won matches doing this. And it is the craziest, most unmartial thing that you will ever do. And I say this is somebody who has done it and won with it. What we did at So Cal Swordfight and various other attempts have been made to sort of solve the three second Hail Mary problem. Our solution was when you hit that last exchange. So you fought in exchange and have three seconds left on the clock. We will let the time continue to tick after the end of the match. Let’s say it’s 90 seconds regulation time and you have three seconds left. We will say fight and let the fencers fight until the next exchange is called halt by the director. What this does is it lets the fencers fence and it lets them just decide because the person who’s defending, they are up points, so they do have an advantage. Let’s say they’re up by a whole head shot, whatever that’s worth. So they just need to defend and not get hit in the head or if it’s an afterblow ruleset maybe they’ll get hit in the head. But if they deliver the afterblow, they’ll still win. Whatever needs to happen, they will not be charged at recklessly by a guy from the other side of the ring. And the person who is attacking them has to go for the head because they know that if they don’t hit the head cleanly, they will lose the match. So that is what weighted point values can do for change in your behaviour and not just point values. There’s so much that goes into creating a tournament ruleset. Just how you count down the time changes the difference of a match. And I’m a big advocate for, if the fencers are that close, just let them fence out that last exchange, even if it’s another 10 seconds, 15 seconds. My experience has been it never really causes the tournament to run over significantly more than not doing it. And it’s way better than somebody who loses because, oh, there’s two seconds left on the clock. And maybe if I had one more exchange, I might win, might not win. I don’t know.

I’d rather they fight it out and discover.

GW: Sure. Would, for example, red carding the Hail Mary for a dangerous fencing not also work? Does that have an effect?

MC: So there’s a whole lot I could say about red carding that might get me in trouble.

GW: You go for it.

MC: So what I would say is, I’d say that there is not a strong enough incentive in the community to penalise our friends. That’s what I think it ends up coming down to. And it is possible to do the Hail Mary safely. Like if you just put yourself in Pflug, in Plough, or long point and just charge with your point forward at your opponent, that’s not really that dangerous. You’re just running as fast as you can and you’re going to try and tickle them with your point. Am I going to red card somebody for doing that when it’s not technically against the rules? But then I have to say, well, it’s reckless fencing, like you just said. And in some cases it certainly can be. And I have seen it done recklessly. But people I don’t think have the gumption to look at their friends and say, you get a red card or even a black card or whatever the penalty needs to be for how egregious the offence was. I’m not sure that the whole community is at that point yet, because I’ve seen instances where things that were obviously red cards get bumped down to “verbal warnings”, which nobody pays any attention to. And it’s not even a mark that I’m trying to give against anybody for not doing that because it’s a hard thing to do. Speaking as somebody who has had to give warnings and ejections to fencers who are my friends, and then afterwards still go to the bar and have and have a beer with them. That that is a difficult thing to do. And as long as our community is so volunteer driven, that is always going to be a difficult thing to do until we codify what that is and make hard rules and hard guidelines for what those things have to be. So that way it’s not, hey man, why are you being so mean to me, aren’t I your friend? You can point to the rules and say, look, dude, I’m not your friend right now. I am enforcing these rules in this tournament. It’s nothing personal. That’s a difficult thing to do by any metric.

GW: Yeah, I’ve never had that problem really, because I’ve always been a professional instructor who is not interacting with the fencers as a peer, because I’m mostly not a peer. I’m somebody they are paying to do stuff for them. So I’ve managed to avoid that. What I always say when I’m presiding in a tournament is you must expect the judges and the president particularly need to be drunk, blind and biased against you. Basically expect me to be an arsehole and you’ll come out thinking, actually, that went, OK. But yeah, I mean, if people are late coming up to scratch, I’ve binned them straight away. If they give me any lip or talk back in the slightest, I just disqualify them. I’m mean, because I don’t have to show up the next week and fence with them.

MC: Exactly, and that’s going to be a challenging thing for the community. I think we’re getting better about it. There are a lot of initiatives people are pushing for, a lot of things people have already talked at length about on this very show. Judge training, codified rulesets for maybe geographic regions, leagues, ways to make it a little bit more formal. So that way, when people are penalised and the rules do come down, they know that at the end of the day they can still be friends. Nobody is saying you’re a terrible person, you’re just saying you broke the rules. In the context of this game there’s a penalty.

GW: Yeah, it’s like being a good DM when doing Dungeons and Dragons or whatever.

MC: Absolutely. And some of the best directors I’ve ever had were really good DMs.

GW: That doesn’t surprise me. That was sort of data driven analysis. Have you done much in the way of physics and physical engineering regarding swords?

MC: Yes. So there is a lot on SwordSTEM right now about the physics of how swords move and work. For example, there’s an article that Sean wrote about the concept of “I fence with control”. Somebody says “I don’t need to use equipment because I fence with control and fencing with control is the same thing as if you fenced with equipment, because if I need to go hard in a martial situation, I will just do it.” And Sean wrote an article to that effect discussing what does that really mean, “I fence with control”? Well, it means that you are going to accelerate your strike, but you have to decelerate it, otherwise you will actually hurt your opponent. So you’re training a very specific muscle memory when you do that. That’s going to be not there if you need it to be there. So the example might be somebody who only trains that type of fencing, you know, so that slow work, which is useful, we’re not knocking it, but we’re saying that it’s not the whole picture of how a sword needs to move, because if you train yourself to slow down at the moment of impact, when you go to cut a tatami mat, your sword will not make it through. You will get buried halfway through because you’ve trained yourself to decelerate your strike at the target and not carry the sword through the target, which is the whole point of swords, is to go through things, whether it’s a cut or thrust. So that’s one way that we can use physics to break down what is really happening when you train a certain way. Or there’s an article that Sean wrote about the old adage, you need so many pounds of pressure to penetrate a target. And he delves into all of the things that go into that expression. I think it’s so many pounds of force. And the whole idea is like, well, pounds of force doesn’t really even make a whole lot of sense, to say that.

GW: I’m not an engineer, and even I know that.

MC: No, force is measured in Newtons and you just gave a measure of gravitational acceleration weight. That doesn’t make any sense. So he wrote an article about that. Without just listing all the fantastic articles, those are some of the ways that we’re trying to use physics to analyse how do swords actually perform when they’re used? How do swords move and even analysing some of the interesting ways that swords can move, such as the different degrees of freedom of a sword, talking about cutting versus rotation versus translational motion, what can those things mean? So basically rotating, how spinny something is, translating how side to side something is as it moves through space and how much does that pass through an arc. Those kinds of questions are things that SwordSTEM is used to tackle.

GW: So how do you measure how hard a sword hits?

MC: So that, I believe, is the subject of yet another article, but there are some different ways that you can talk about that, though, because I don’t want to get into what really should be the subject of an article. And Sean wrote the articles on those things. What I can talk a bit about is that there’s the concept of the pressure. How narrow the sword comes down to a point is a measure of how hard something can hit, which is why, in my experience, some synthetic swords have to me felt more painful than being hit with a steel sword sometimes, even though the synthetic will never cut me. But being hit at such a high velocity with something that has a wide surface area really can hurt. Some of the worst bruising I’ve ever gotten is from synthetics, and there is quantifiable ways that we can discuss its tip velocity is the same versus the metal sword, but it’s happening over a wider surface area, so there’s going to be more pressure, which is going to hurt. That kind of stuff can be discussed. You can also talk about how much flex a sword is going to have and then how much that flex is going to transfer energy into the body when it hits. So, obviously speaking, that’s not even non-intuitive. If you get hit with a stiff sword it hurts a lot because all the energy is being transferred into the person versus the sword is a little bit more flexi. That energy goes into the bend and hopefully you don’t crack your friend’s ribs.

GW: Right. If you’re striking to actually hit stuff, you have to organise your skeleton behind the blow so that the force coming back from the target doesn’t move the sword backwards.

MC: Yes. Which is of another sort of counterintuitive principle of physics. That was a question in one of my physics courses, a thought experiment, that asked, you’re in your bedroom and it’s dark and you need to close the door, but you don’t want to get out of bed. So next to you, you have a rubber ball and you have a piece of putty. Which do you throw at the door to close it?

GW: I would probably throw the putty.

MC: Right, that’s the correct answer, because the putty is going to smush against the door. And all the energy is going to get transferred into the door, whereas if you throw the rubber ball at the door, it’s going to bounce off. And so the energy that would get transferred to the door gets bounced away. So there’s your physics lesson for the day.

GW: You know, I really need to get over to the States and maybe with you and perhaps with Sean, because I do a bunch of stuff that is difficult to teach in terms of conventional engineering language, because I’m not an engineer, but I tend to be able to hit hard and fast without much effort and I can stop the sword, even though it’s moving very quickly because I don’t try and stop the sword, I just put an obstacle in its path, so it stops against a bit of my skeleton in effect. And I do these things and I teach them, and I can get people to do them, but there are some students who really need a proper intellectual understanding of what they’re doing to be able to do it properly. Which is not me. I do it because it feels right, which is not intellectual at all. But yes, it would be really interesting to pick apart what exactly it is I’m doing and be able to explain it in terms of physics and engineering.

MC: That’s a very good point, that you bring that up, because that is the subject of the articles that I published on Why N00bs Fling the Sword and why I thought those articles were necessary. I have trained students who, and nothing against them, but it’s just their experience in life, students who, in my estimation, didn’t really even understand how they walked, and they will stand that way. And I was like, OK, bend your knees. No, bend your knees now. Bend your knees. OK, that’s kind of close. All right. Now take a passing step forward and they’ll like fall over themselves onto the ground doing a passing step. And I say, wait a minute, OK, so we need to take a step back and we need to look at what are the things about your body that your body is capable of doing using kinesiology. And it’s like, OK, what does your knee do? Your knee is a hinge. It can flex and extend. OK, great. What can your hips do? They can do lateral flexion, they can do all those motions that are there. What can your elbow do? Pronate and supinate, and show them and really break it down into how does your skeleton move. When students click with that it is such a wonderfully liberating thing to see them discover what their body is capable of doing. And then after six months, a year, two years, however long they want to invest in it, then they’re out there fencing. Their friends are in a tournament and doing well. That is when the engineering and mathematics really will start to pay off.

GW: I find that when I’m teaching people to do basic actions, I start with something they’re already doing, like walking or standing or whatever, and I just modify it bit by bit until it’s in the desired direction. Because I find that using too many verbal instructions, like if you tell somebody who’s standing to bend their knees, they might do something absolutely horrible to their bodies because they put their weight in the wrong place.

MC: Absolutely. And even when you’re demonstrating it in front of them, they may not understand how we make the neural pathway connection from the brain to the muscles, because the neural pathway has never been developed because maybe they didn’t need to, then that can be a challenge. So learning the language of kinesiology, I will just put it out there, I think is essential for anyone who wants to profess to be a professional at this art. I think it’s so essential to be able to communicate intelligently and quantifiably about how do the muscles in the joints and the bones and everything move. And it’s a language that I’m not even sure was necessarily available to the original fencing masters. But the further you get into their periods, you know, the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries on, the more scientific they were able to become because the language was developed for them, the more that their fencing could be discussed in such a sophisticated language. But by that point, swords were not nearly as relevant as they once were. So I wonder, what could Fabris have said about rapier? What could Liechtenauer have said about longsword if they had the linguistic tools that we have today?

GW: Yeah, that’s an interesting thought, because one thing we definitely see in the fencing literature is, I mean, you can take pretty much any 18th century smallsword manual and anyone who can read that language can reproduce what the text is telling them to do. It takes work and attention and practise. But Angelo, for example, he says that between tierce and quarte is three inches, or is it four inches? I haven’t read it for a long time, but I think it’s maybe four inches.

MC: He gives a number.

GW: He gives a number. It’s like you can do that and you can take a ruler and you can actually just do it. So that’s how big it’s supposed to be. And it is super specific about all these details, which you just don’t get. You certainly don’t get it in any of the Liechtenauer texts. Fiore you get some details, like how to step and the images are really consistent about where your weight should be and that sort of thing. But yeah, imagine Fiore writing like Angelo. That would have saved me probably 10 years of my life.

MC: Right. What if Fiore had the tools of SwordSTEM at his fingertips? And that’s what is so great about that. And I certainly don’t want to discourage anybody by thinking there’s some great barrier to this knowledge. When I make a statement like kinesiology should be something everybody should learn, I’m simply saying that the information, if you need it to help you teach better, is out there. If you’re teaching just fine and you and your students say they don’t need it, great that you’ve already gotten most of the way there. But if you are encountering students that you think, how can I get through to this student, there are tools that can help you quantifiably explain what is happening with the human body, because science has spent centuries figuring that out. Don’t reinvent the wheel. The knowledge is there.

GW: Yeah, it gets kind of interesting when you’re dealing with a martial art from a different culture and any historical martial art, no matter what country it comes from, is a different culture to that same country today because cultures change. There are examples of medieval texts referring to humours, for example, or if you are learning a Chinese martial art and the instructor tells you to sink your chi. If you say sink your chi to an engineer, they will quite rightly look at you and go “what?”. But within that art, as an expression of the culture it comes from, if you understand the intellectual structure, basically the paradigm that the instructor is actually referring to, then it can actually be a useful instruction because it will lead you to make the necessary changes in your body.

MC: Absolutely, and if it’s not necessary or desirable to communicate in that language, you can use your new language to communicate those same ideas. For example, one of those idea is that there’s a fantastic book out there that I’d like to recommend. It’s called Fight Like A Physicist. I don’t remember the author, but he’s an MMA guy who studied physics and wrote a book on MMA. But he talked about it from a physics point of view and he said something in there.

GW: Oh, I’ve got to buy that book.

GW: It’s a fantastic book, highly recommended. And it’s a really quick read. You can read it in three hours. It’s really short. And in the book, he talks about the connection between the upper body and the lower body and that the only connection that exists between the upper torso and the lower torso, basically the shoulders and the hips, is the spinal cord. That’s it. That’s the only thing connecting the two. So when you go to deliver a punch, the best punches are delivered when there’s synchronisation between the shoulders and the hips. But how does one make that one solid compound body when there’s all squishy bits there? It’s just the spinal cord and the spinal cord doesn’t clench. It doesn’t do anything except rotate about its axis. And you don’t want the spinal cord to rotate when you throw a punch. That’s how you herniate a disc. You want your whole body to be in synchronisation. So how do you achieve that? And what he talks about is what’s known as the martial “kiai”. When people sharply inhale or exhale when they throw a punch, what that does is it locks your diaphragm rigid, so your squishy bits become solid bits. So then your shoulders and your hips become one unit when you deliver that punch and you hit with the full force of your body weight. And that is how those really amazing boxers that you watch, like Tyson is one of them, one of the strongest hitters I’ve ever seen, is able to deliver such cohesive strikes and synchronisation between their shoulders and their hips. So when a martial artist from an Eastern culture, and again, I don’t know what how they would describe that, but I’m not sure they would describe it in that same physical terms. They would describe it in the holistic terms that they’ve been using for hundreds of years from their tradition. But when I read that in the book I said, wait a minute, this is that thing that I’ve seen Asian martial artists do when they cut tatami and they’re really great cutters and are able to do some amazing things with tatami cutting that I wish I could do. And when I fence, I will sometimes do it just instinctively and I will hit my opponent and they’ll say, wow, you hit me really hard on that one. I said, I didn’t think that I did. I didn’t swing any harder. I just clenched in my diaphragm and my torso when I delivered the strike. But in doing so, I linked all of my muscles and all of my joints, tendons, everything together to deliver that strike. So Fight Like a Physicist talks about concepts like these and they really help to quantify again, because it’s all about data driven analysis of what we’re doing to make ourselves better martial arts. Well, that was a long digression, but there you go.

GW: That was an excellent digression. OK, we have talked for a little while and I have a feeling that this could go on for hours and hours and hours, and that would be great. But if we talk for three hours, then I’m going to get in trouble with some of the listeners.

MC: Yes. I’m looking at the time right now, and it’s already been an hour and we’ve covered only half the things I wanted to.

GW: That’s great. We’re just going to have to get you back.

MC: That’ll be fantastic. I’d love to come back.

GW: OK, so let me skip over the items on my list and cut straight to the questions that I tend to finish off with. And the first is, what is the best idea you’ve never acted on?

MC: So there’s not an original thought in my mind on this one in terms of what I wish I could do. I really admire all the translators in the community, particularly some of the ones who are just machines like Rainier van Noort and Chris Holzman, who just churn out book after book after book of treatises. I just gobble them up. So that’s something that I’ve admired about a lot of people in the community because they make what we do possible, bringing it from languages I can’t read into languages I can. I want to translate a treatise. There’s one that I have my eye on right now is the 1579 Ghisliero I think it is a wonderful little book. I would love to see that rendered into English. Lots of people say they’re working on it and I hope that they come to fruition. I’d really like to translate that one. And I’m also working on… I’m going to get in trouble with some of my classmates for saying this, but I’m working on an Italian rapier book and I have been working on it for admittedly a few years now. And I really just need to follow my own advice and quit talking about it and just do it. So maybe during this furlough period from Disneyland, I can lock myself in a cloister for a month or so and just crank that out and just finish it.

GW: So how is your Italian?

MC: It’s piccolo. It’s very little. It was passable enough when I went to Italy such that my taxi drivers did not know I spoke English. So I considered that a win when I was there.

GW: That’s a huge win.

MC: I’d learnt Duolingo for about three months, that that’s the extent of my Italian. When I went to Rome to go visit Francesco Loda and visit Florence and attend his event in Rome, which was lots of fun. I wanted to not have to rely on sign language when I was there to communicate with people. I’m going to share this story because it’s amusing. I went to Pompeii with my wife. We got there very late in the day because, and I’m going to share this part too, Ton Puey is an excellent conversationalist. If you’ve ever met him, he’s a rapier fencer from Spain. He is a wonderful conversationalist. He is the image of the Spanish fencing master from every story you’ve ever read, but he’s a real guy. So we were late getting to Pompeii because we got sucked into conversation with him at breakfast after the event. Made it to Pompeii. And we made the mistake of not getting a tour guide. So we wandered Pompeii looking for the sights. But the city is a ruin. We finally find one of the famous landmarks, which is the Lupenare. That’s the famous brothel from Pompeii. But we get there and they just locked the doors. And I was upset because I didn’t get to go in and see it. So we’re about to dejectedly walk out of Pompeii. And I see this old man coming up the road jiggling these really old looking keys. And I look at him and I walk over to him, and I’m like, “Senor.” And he says, “Si?” and I was like “Lupenare apero”, or “abierto”, I can’t remember the name. I knew the words better then. And he looks at his watch and is like “Cinco, ciuso”, you know, it’s closed. And I looked at him and I was like, “Due minuti per favore”. He looks up the road one way, looks up the road the other way, makes this grunt, walks up the road, lets us into the brothel and we get to take pictures and save the day because I could barely speak Italian so we could experience that. So I’ll have to improve my Italian. I’m sure I butchered it in my rendition of the story, but that’s where I’m at.

GW: OK, when it comes to speaking Italian, I have one absolute cast iron way for everyone to think your Italian sounds great. If I’m hanging out with people who are Italian speakers and they don’t know me I always start out by saying something like [speaks in really strongly English accented Italian] “Parlo italiano come un italiano e tutti i miei amici pensano che io sono italiano.” For those who are not familiar with Italian, that is just the worst, strongest, most English accent. And what I said was “I speak Italian like an Italian man and all of my Italian friends think that I am Italian,” which is obviously completely not true. So everybody falls about laughing. And then when I start speaking Italian, compared to what I had just sounded like, I sound amazing. So I have an accent, my Italian isn’t that great. I’ve taught a class in Italian once, but if you start out like that, you set the bar so low, then everyone thinks you speak really good Italian after that.

MC: Because if you can do it that well badly, then imagine how you can do it when you actually try and attempt. It’s sort of like actors who are tasked with acting badly on purpose. It’s actually quite hard.

GW: Very hard. Yeah. But it also breaks the ice and everyone laughs and it just makes everything flow. Also, of course, you’ve got to drink wine, lots of wine. That really helps my Italian accent, too.

MC: And that was something I enjoyed a lot about my time in Italy. I couldn’t find any water, so that was the only thing left to drink.

MC: Well, I’m reliably informed that there’s a lot of water in wine, so you were fine. OK. All right. My last question is somebody gives you a million dollars or a similar amount of money to spend improving historical martial arts worldwide. How would you spend it?

MC: So, of course, in the usual sense, I would say I want to invest it in the school South Coast Swords. I would want to grow it because it’s not just a martial arts school, but it’s also a business that provides fencing equipment to students all over North America. So I would certainly want to see that business grow and get more inventory and get more employees and really crank that up. But there is one thing that I would use that for, which I think the community is missing right now, speaking again about the purposes of SwordSTEM, I didn’t mention this earlier, but one of the other purposes of SwordSTEM is to inform the conversation about safety in fencing, coming back full circle to what we talked about at the beginning. Safety is such an important thing because we want to be able to do what we do for a long, long time. Now in terms of hand protection, hand protection is way better than it was 10 years ago. I remember fencing in lacrosse gloves and every night you were risking a broken finger. Let’s be honest. Every night you fenced, you were risking a broken finger. And I know people, friends of mine, who got broken fingers at our practises. It was not a great way to go. Nowadays, you can get a SPES Heavy, it’s a tank. Pro gauntlets are starting to come down the pipe and once they start to get variable sizes, I think that’ll be really great. The Thokk Weapon Master gauntlets are on the way, so there’s lots in hand protection that was not there a while ago. But what is still missing in HEMA is a properly fitted fencing mask for what we do. So if I could invest some R&D money into determining what can we do to improve the traditional fencing mask and make it more fitted and suited for what we do, that’s what I’d like to see next.

GW: So why would you start with a fencing mask? Why don’t you start with something like a helmet?

MC: I’m not even sure it would necessarily be a fencing mask or a helmet, just something that is purpose built and off the shelf in various sizes and still as affordable as a mid to high range mask is what our community is missing right now.

GW: We do have something like that. It is the Terry Tindall mask. It was originally made by that guy’s products, it is now produced by Horse Bows. So I have mine for ages.

MC: The issue that I have with those, they do a lot that is great, I’m not taking away from the helmet, but I’m saying it in the same way that steel gauntlets existed in the HEMA community before the pro gauntlets did, before the SPES Heavies did, it’s the same issue that I have with that guy’s masks I have with the metal gauntlets is that they’re expensive. They’re at least five hundred dollars. It’s five hundred dollars to invest in it which is far outside the range of most ordinary fencers. And a lot of them have to be custom fitted or they just don’t fit properly. And they’re maintenance intensive. Anything made out of metal you’re going to have to oil and polish unless it’s made out of stainless steel, which has its own difficulties.

GW: Well, that guy’s product, I have never done any maintenance of any kind to it and I’ve been using it as my only longsword mask for about a decade.

MC: That’s good.

GW: But in the same time, I would have bought probably two or three fencing masks. Because think they get damaged quite easily.

MC: Exactly, and that’s what I’m driving at. I’d like to see a fencing mask that you can get that’s suited for what we do for about two hundred dollars. Because the fencing masks that we have, they have no padding on the side, most of them, unless you add your own and the suspension on the top, I’m not sure and this is a thing that SwordSTEM would have to turn its attention towards investigating what the money would be used for. What are the force transferences? What are the impact characteristics of being hit on the head with a longsword when wearing a fencing mask? Maybe it’s fine. Maybe Olympic fencing mass are perfectly suited for what we do.

GW: They’re really not.

MC: But you get what I’m saying. I’m saying that as a scientist, right? I don’t know. I can’t say that I know. I can make an educated guess that they’re probably not. But as a scientist, I don’t know one way or the other because I don’t believe the data has ever been gathered on that subject. So when you say if I had a million dollars, I would like to spend maybe half a million on to find out. And I think our heads and brains are worth at least half a million dollars. Let’s investigate, how are our fencing masks good? How are they deficient? And devising a product that is suited for what we do so one doesn’t have to spend five hundred dollars on a fencing mask to do what we do long term. And maybe somebody doesn’t like the aesthetics of a steel helmet. I mean, that’s another thing too. Some folks just don’t like the appearance of anything that looks, “Garby”. They don’t want to look like they’re dressed like a knight or whatever. They just want to look like an athlete and sport fencing, they do have that aesthetic. They just look like sportsmen, athletes, and that’s fine. That’s what they want to do. There’s room in the market for everything. But you have to dedicate quite a bit of research and funding into finding out for fencing masks, just like the folks over at Pro Gauntlets. They got started with a seed contract. So many tens of thousands of euro, I think it was fifteen thousand euro. But they have spent far more than that just to get to where they’re at right now in R&D and investment money. And it’s great what they’re doing. Same thing with Thokk, same thing with the SPES Heavies. I’d like to see that sort of attention turned towards fencing masks next.

GW: OK, but with gauntlets, I’ve always used steel and I wouldn’t touch the plastic ones, I went to Prague in about 2005. I got an armourer there to start producing steel gauntlets in sizes small, medium and large. So they would fit pretty much anybody and I was selling them to my students, if I remember rightly, for about two hundred euros, something like that, which is reasonable. So, I think a lot of the cost issue is simply tooling up for mass production and then making sure there’s a market to sell those to, because the person producing those gauntlets also produced all the armour or their company produced all the armour for the movie A Knight’s Tale, and they were geared up for supplying the movie industry. So they were a big operation. And that that meant they could do these gauntlets for us at a really, really reasonable prices.

MC: Yeah, that’s the challenge with any kind of operation is you have to achieve volume and you have to have a working design that you can scale appropriately. And since the confines of the question was if somebody dropped a million dollars in my lap, I’m not worried about turning a profit with this. I just want to see people’s heads in HEMA get protected and have this available for them to do. And personally I have received a pair of Pro Gauntlets. I think they show a lot of promise for what they are, particularly just the weight, steel gauntlets may offer equivalent levels of protection. But in terms of the weight comparison the Pro Gauntlets don’t even feel like I’m wearing gloves.

GW: Really?

MC: Yes. I’m here to say that the hype is real in terms of you put on Pro Gauntlets, assuming they fit you, because it’s crucial that they fit you. I was doing the demo videos with South Coast Swords. We did an unboxing of the Pro Gauntlets and there were points during the filming of those of that unboxing where I forgot I was wearing them and I’m not even exaggerating or fan-boying or anything like that. I was as sceptical of them as anybody else when I pulled them out of the box. I certainly had to fight my instincts to fan boy over the gauntlet. But I’m also an engineer and I have to look at what’s in front of me objectively, or I’m not fulfilling my personal oath to myself to be objective about what am I getting. Is this a piece of crap or is this really something? And in terms of the weight of the Pro Gauntlets, they don’t weigh very much at all and that is an advantage they would have over steel gauntlets. I still have to do more sparring with them to test them and pulverise my hands through additional wear and tear testing and not babying the gloves. I throw them in my gear bag. I treat them roughly. I’m like, you know what, you are not special. You are just another piece of my gear. If we’re going to find out if you’re any good, I’ve got to just abuse you to find out if you actually stand up to the hype.

GW: Sure. I have a question. I’m under the impression that the mass of a piece of armour is a significant part of its protective effect because the mass absorbs the force. So a lighter piece of armour will absorb less of the force than a heavier piece. Firstly, is that correct? And secondly, do you foresee any issues with having very light gloves? How are they going to get over the fact that there’s less mass there to absorb the force?

MC: So that’s an interesting physics principle. And I’m going to illustrate it by describing a bridge. You can make a bridge that supports quite a bit of load weight, but the bridge itself does not have as much mass on it as, let’s say, London Bridge. Think of a big, heavy stone bridge. But you could maybe with far less massive materials, make a suspension bridge that spans the same distance or even a longer distance and yet still support more weight, but with less mass. The answer is how is the force distributed when the load is applied? That is one of the things that the Pro Gauntlets gloves I think are attempting to achieve. I’m not going to say achieve because I don’t know yet, because I haven’t tested them fully. I have to be sceptical.

GW: I’m the same, when I’m talking about my interpretations, it’s like, well, yes, but on this page and on that page, and we’re not quite sure yet. You stick to your engineering guns, sir. I shouldn’t have interrupted you. Carry on.

MC: No, no, it’s fine. It’s fine. So when you look at the Pro Gauntlets very up close. You will see that they have thought about every single angle, every single divot, every single curve. Nothing is accidental. Nothing is there by mistake. Everything is there on purpose. And so where you choose to put your mass, how you’ve shaped the materials such that when it’s impacted and where the force is transferred makes a big difference to what you feel and what will cause injuries. My experience so far with the Pro Gauntlets when I took hard, hard hits as I felt them, it hurt, there was pain, but my hand was fine. It would feel like I had been bruised, but I would look at my hand and my hand was fine because the force had been transferred around my fingers rather than into my fingers, or the force had been transferred up the glove and into my wrist instead of into my hands. And that is one of the advantages that the Pro Gauntlet could have, again, could have over steel gauntlets, is that a steel gauntlet can create a mashing surface between the plate above and the base grounding underneath it, the handle of the sword, so you could have a lot of mass around your hand, but if you get hit hard enough, your finger is just going to get smashed. With a Pro Gauntlet, what I think they’re trying for is to transfer that force away from injury points and into areas where it will not injure you. You will still feel it because the energy has to go somewhere. It’s conserved, but it won’t transfer in such a way that your bones are the things that end up receiving the energy and begin fracturing.

GW: So I guess it’s similar to the difference between being slapped and being slapped by someone who has a razor blade between their fingers.

MC: Exactly. Where that energy goes makes a big difference, in the same way that a good civil engineer building a bridge will send those heavy loads into the earth. The load is still there, but it’s put in such a way that it doesn’t cause any catastrophic failures. It’s doing what it’s supposed to do.

GW: OK, well, if I had a million dollars, I’d have already given it to the first person that came on the show because her idea was brilliant, too, and it was not far different to yours actually. Well, it was Jess Finley who was my first guest, and I know we talked about head protection a lot. It could be she was more into putting the money into a centre or schools or something. But anyway, you’re not the first person to say we need better head protection and I would spend the money on that. So the money may already be gone, but it’s imaginary money anyway.

MC: Well, and competition is the best thing for HEMA, both in the tournament hall and in the gear because what people are achieving with gear is phenomenal just in the last 10 years between Purple Heart Armoury, South Coast Swords, all the vendors, even the old timers like Albion, who have been around forever, making swords, just the sheer amount of off the shelf stuff is incredible. I can’t wait to see what we have in five years.

GW: Yeah, I’ve been doing this since about 1993 and for the first decade you could not buy a sword off the shelf that was worth anything. Everything was custom.

MC: I can believe it.

GW: We have come a very long way.

MC: Just like the manual scans were custom, according to what I’ve been told about those days. Yeah, you wanted a manual. You needed it to ask somebody.

GW: Absolutely. Yes. There were no manuals on the Internet to speak of. We didn’t see really high resolution scans of the Getty manuscript and Fiore until 2006, by which point I had been tinkering on and off and working seriously with Fiore for 12 years. So, yeah, suddenly to be able to see that actually that line is drawn on the other side. That was a game changer. It was amazing. So, yes, we have come a long way and with the help of people like you doing the sciencey stuff, hopefully we will come even further in the next 20 years.

MC: Oh, there’s one there’s one other thing I would spend that million dollars on, and I would hate to take up too much more time at this podcast with it. So maybe a teaser for next time, if we I get to come back, I would certainly invest some of that money in my cutting robot.

GW: All right, OK, yeah, so, OK, you’re going to have to come back and tell us about cutting robot.

MC: Yes, because if you want to talk about applying engineering to sports, oh boy, I have stories about our cutting robot. It’s even tried to attack me. So it’s good. You have to be smarter than the equipment or robots will even take over HEMA.

GW: All right. OK, we will schedule that sooner rather than later.

MC: Very good. There’s your teaser, there’s your hook for the sequel. Just like any good marketing ploy. I’ve learned from Marvel. That’s one thing I’ve learnt from Marvel, hook ‘em with the sequel.

GW: Excellent. Well Myles, thank you for talking to me today. It’s been a delight.

MC: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you very much.