It’s time for the next episode of Interviews with Fencers.
Victor Lavialle may not be the biggest fan of fencing manuals, but this doesn’t mean that he isn’t a fierce opponent on tournaments. He’s an avid student of the art of fencing, but above all, he’s a fantastic person.
And one more thing – let’s all wish him good luck on his Ph.D.!
P.S Have you noticed his white sparring pants? You’ll find out why he’s wearing them throughout this interview.
Don’t forget to follow Victor on his Facebook page.
Let’s enjoy in his story.
Table of Contents
- When did you begin studying Historical European martial arts and how old were you then and who was your first teacher?
- What made you want to do HEMA and not Olympic fencing or any other martial art? Were there any special circumstances surrounding your discovery of HEMA?
- What are your thoughts on fitness and how do you stay in shape?
- What is your favorite strike and why? If it’s not a secret.
- What is your favorite fencing manual and why?
- What is your greatest achievement? Tell us about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
- What is the one piece of equipment you can’t live without?
- Has practicing HEMA benefited you in everyday life as well?
- What do you do when you are not practicing HEMA?
- Who’s your idol, someone that gives you motivation?
- As a professional, what advice would you give to a beginner interested in HEMA?
- Final thoughts
When did you begin studying Historical European martial arts and how old were you then and who was your first teacher?
I started HEMA in 2013, I was 20 years old.
My first teachers were the duo Alexander Pierre and Gaëtan Marain. They had been practicing HEMA for more than 10 years at the time and had an enormous amount of experience to share, both from a historical point of view, their knowledge about the sources and for fencing.
I more recently joined La Salle d’Armes – Escrime Ancienne and follow the teaching of Jean-François Gilles.
What made you want to do HEMA and not Olympic fencing or any other martial art? Were there any special circumstances surrounding your discovery of HEMA?
I did some Olympic Fencing as a child and then gave up for other sports (rugby, then American football). I was looking to get back into fencing when I stumbled on HEMA, which I was extremely surprised existed as a separate activity from stage fencing. I discovered it by pure luck when a friend told me he used to fence with a longsword. From that moment my only objective was finding a HEMA club to join.
I have since taken up modern saber fencing as well, which I love as it teaches all the fundamental techniques, tactics and strategies for HEMA fencing, but also forces you to think and act extremely fast and trust your gut feelings. Fencing in longsword is often slower-paced, which can make you lazy if you don’t work to take the vor.
What I like in HEMA and specifically longsword is the wide technical possibilities: the two-handed grip allows for very fast blade actions, as well as techniques that are absent from modern fencing weapons. The diversity of rulesets, weapons, and styles of fencing in HEMA is also a great challenge and positive point.(DLC 2018 16th finals Victor Lavialle vs Brian van Nunen)
What are your thoughts on fitness and how do you stay in shape?
Obviously, physical fitness is extremely important to compete in tournaments: you need good stamina, as well as some amount of physical strength to support the heavy equipment and weapons and still be explosive and reactive.
Intense HEMA fencing and training can be quite traumatizing for the body, and it is important to not overlook physical preparation and reinforcement to prevent injury. In addition to HEMA and fencing practice, I attend the gym twice a week for general physical preparation.
What is your favorite strike and why? If it’s not a secret.
I’m not sure it’s my favourite strike as it is a bit lazy tactically, but one I use often is the counter-attack to the hands or arms. When I started HEMA, a lot of fencers I faced had poor distance management and often came too close without a plan, or lacked the proper coordination for an attack.
In this situation, it is easy to sanction this mistake with a well-placed counterattack.
As the general level is rising, it is rarer to see fencers make such obvious mistakes, but it is still possible to work tactically to distort the distance and create a favourable situation for such a strike.
What is your favorite fencing manual and why?
I am not as knowledgeable about the sources as most HEMA practitioners: my main interest is the fencing. However, I was amazed when I first read the translation of the Liechtenauer Zettel as it contains all the elements of an intemporal fencing system, still relevant today, and proving a deep understanding and theorization of the fight.
What is your greatest achievement? Tell us about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
I have had some success in the Parisian tournament scene, as well as traveled to a few international tournaments, but my most memorable achievement was my first tournament in Paris, just a few months after beginning HEMA.
I faced really tough opponents, and the tournament was a challenge in itself with an unusual ruleset (including a form of continuous fighting, and the score was only announced at the end of the bout), and that really motivated me to continue competing in HEMA.
What is the one piece of equipment you can’t live without?
The throat protector! Our club has a heavy focus on thrust actions, and most of the feders used for longsword fencing are really stiff.
Has practicing HEMA benefited you in everyday life as well?
Yes, as a way to stay physically fit, but also as it made me meet with a lot of great people and friends.
What do you do when you are not practicing HEMA?
I’m currently finishing my Ph.D. dissertation in Industrial Economics, it takes most of my non-HEMA time.
I also play the guitar in a band with friends. Badly covering classic rock songs helps release the pressure.
Who’s your idol, someone that gives you motivation?
I’d say the double Olympic champion in saber Aron Szilagyi (*hence white pants*). His competitive results are impressive, and he has a very clean, perfect technique both in attack and defense. His parry-riposte actions are out of this world. I think as HEMA fencers we still have a long way to go and I hope we can reach this level.(Aron Szilagyi: A Little Sabre Compilation)
As a professional, what advice would you give to a beginner interested in HEMA?
I think the best thing to do as a beginner (and also intermediate/expert!) is to work on the fundamentals: footwork, distance and arm-leg coordination. I see a lot of clubs teaching advanced techniques (meisterhaw, attacks/counterattacks with opposition, fuhlen and complex blade actions) to beginners, and I don’t think it’s the best way to improve.
That’s it! We’re delighted that Victor decided to do an interview with us. His story is amazing, and I think we all need to appreciate the work he is putting into studying and promoting historical fencing arts. Many Thanks, Victor for this fantastic interview and we wish you good luck on your Ph.D.
We’ll be back next Sunday, with a new interview!
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