Monday, 17 January 2011

17/01 Training.

Ok, given that this blog concerns getting lernin' across, it seems reasonable to reflect on how are training sessions go, rather than it just being rants or drama-stirring. Let's also try and be honest - we'd only be deceiving ourselves otherwise. Ultimately, it's worth gauging them in terms of 'Was the session worth the money?', as it's a more immediate meter than 'Was the session the best it could have been?'.

So, the first session since the blog's been up. Here is some contemplation:
The turnout was quite small, with just six of us. A bit disappointing given the numbers that we've been getting recently, and it would have been nice to see a few more of the regulars, but it's enough to break even on the rent.
Thing's kicked off by doing a fairly unusual warm up that just grew from doing a 'sticky swords' drill with one of the guys while we chatted before class, progressing through a bit of dagger faffing to warm up, and ending with guys running from one side of the room, doing a couple of cuts against a pillar 'pell', running back and repeating. It was only a brief burst at the end, but people seemed to like it, and it's the kind of intensity I enjoy.

The drill that Johann enigmatically warned us about was an exercise that involved an attacker and a defender; the defender trying to stay in distance (but not too close for wrestling at the sword techniques), and protect themselves from cuts coming from the attacker. It had quite a nice internal progression in terms of intensity, from slow speed (lacking in aliveness?) through to full speed with masks.
I guess the drill would have allowed absolute new-comers to get comfortable with the training tools (had there been any), and I found it enjoyable to play at the 'Edel Krieg'. Certainly as a group we lack comfort at that kind of distance, and much prefer hand-sniping or rushing in, to our detriment.
That said with a more critical eye to the drill it was perhaps a little bit two dimensional, without much structured progression in terms of the depth of techniques or concepts introduced to the drill. I guess different students bought different skill sets to the drill, and I tried involving thrusts to force people to wind, displace and so on, rather than static blocking.
Which I think is my main criticism of the drill - that unless properly supervised it encouraged the wrong response to that situation. I think in the future, if it's re-cycled then it could be the culmination of some more basic drills on how to behave in the bind ('zorn-ort'/'fendente and punta', 'Volta'/'Abnahmen' etc.) and possibly ending in some structured sparring? As it was, it encouraged static blocking (or waving the sword back and forth) - as the defender I tried alternating between Pflug-s to Absetzen incoming cuts, to keep up the pretense of always having a threat, but really it was a token gesture.

In any case, what followed was sparring. I took the opportunity to give one of the guys some advice on relaxing more as he cut, since I noticed he was a bit tense when doing a practice 'kata' at the beginning of the session. By his own admission, he was shattered from work, so I have no idea whether or not it helped, but he seemed amiable to it.
Sparring was a hodge-podge of longsword sparring against Johann and another couple of guys. To be honest, I don't think that I was on top of my game, partly due to lack of physical fitness, and partly because things just didn't flow. I tried to concentrate on using the German guards and the meisterhau-s that I'm not comfortable with (Shiel and Sheitel, and to a certain extend Krump), and also work on my basic footwork.
In any case, I managed to keep up a decent work rate, but I did manage to hurt (but hopefully not injure) one of the guys by making an upwards cut from Alber into his hands while he cut down. Uncool - the first rule is not to break your toys, because then they won't play with you any more...
He seemed OK, and we did some mucking about with a dagger for the last twenty minutes or so, but still, the synthetic swords that we use can break thumbs very easily. Safety comes first.

After the session, pub as usual. I had a chat with Johann about things, and it seems that I didn't jump the gun making this blog. There was a toast and everything.

Conclusion: Worth the £5 for the regulars, but I'm not sure how much a total beginner would have been able to get out of it. Fortunately, not an issue.

I took some videos of the sparring on my phone's rather terrible camera - I'll try and get them online soon. But in the meantime, how does everyone else think the session went? Am I being too harsh? Have I forgotten about anything important?


  1. I'd say it was a reasonable assessment of the evening. Although you are correct in preferring not to "break your toys' there needs to be sufficient encouragement to avoid developing bad habits in our form and technique. Case in point, B has pointed out that I am relying too heavily on my reach...I know this, but thus far the rewards have out weighed any penalty.

    hmmm...this has got me thinking.

  2. So I should try and penalize you for relying on reach when we spar?

  3. Well at the moment I think you should concentrate on not falling over.. ;p

    I certainly need to work on a few things, from paying attention/technique, to not falling into linear 'rapieresqueness'/running away.

    There are things we should all watch out for, and working on greater fullness of understanding of some of the things we already 'kinda know' can only help.

    Huzzah for and roll on everyone I think is the main point.