This weekend I got to go back to the Northwest Fencing Academy and have a marathon training session - which was nice! The day was spent on abrazare and dagger materials. The most pleasant surprise of the whole day was trying out a few wrestling jackets made by various companies/persons. While I will not go into a detailed review of each jacket, I did just want to say that I now not only have the intellectual understanding of why such a jacket is necessary for abrazare, but a very visceral understanding as well. I am not usually one for claiming that it is impossible to understand medieval combat techniques if one is not wearing medieval clothing - I practice in sweats, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes (I won't get into the shoe issue here, maybe I will have another entry in a few days to discuss it). I honestly don't believe that wearing hose or turnshoes will drastically alter technique; the reason being that the techniques do not depend upon what type of foot-wear or leggings I am wearing. With abrazare, however, the case is different. I have felt (and so has Sean and many others) that it is inadequate to practice abrazare in t-shirts. It can be done (I've done it for almost 6 years now) but the practitioner will be left feeling like something is missing or like some techniques "just don't work". The two big issues with grappling in t-shirts is that:
a) two bare arms, when in contact with one another, will slide and slip around due to a lack of friction and sweat.
b) there are some techniques which require, or are greatly aided by, gripping your opponent's sleeve, jacket, or belt.
Not only are long sleeves, IMO, necessary to medieval wrestling, they also provide a greater understanding of dagger techniques. I have had more than one friend or acquaintance who has commented on the "silliness" or "stupidity" of attempting some of the disarms (Fiore's 1st Remedy Master of Dagger for instance) against a knife. Usually after a discussion of how sharp a rondel dagger really was (see point number 2 today) I also make a point about the type and amount of clothing worn. Sean will sometimes quote Bram Frank, from a seminar years ago, saying that "teaching knife defense in Florida is different than teaching knife defense in Maine." How true! I would be hard pressed to attempt the 1st master disarm against a sharp knife (even a rondel) in a t-shirt, but while wearing a heavy flannel long-sleeve shirt? You betcha! Cloth is amazingly good body armour. So, whether providing a little extra grip or protecting the arm, I think a wrestling jacket a necessity. In fact, I wouldn't mind seeing a decent quality, inexpensive ($150 or less) wrestling jacket as the top half of the Academy uniform.