Hurrah for the return of the blog! Since this blog got Johann thinking, I figure I might as well write out my thoughts here.
First of all I'm looking forward to the guides, they should both be useful given how much fun the pollaxes are, and the affordability of the padded jacket. Go go crafty fighter!
But I’d disagree that the classes have been ‘rubbish’. A bit unstructured perhaps, but they’ve been focusing in on the areas that as a group we’ve been lacking in – making committed attacks and getting more comfortable in distance last week for instance. Certainly the drills that we’ve been working with ( be they focusing on using hanging guards, or making use of timing and distance to get off hits), have been good. In the last post I put up some issues that I had with the last one, but only because I felt that the drill could be built on and improved.
More drills are good. Pete once sent me what, in his own words, was a 'nail-to-the-church-door rant' on HEMA full of good advice, and part of it was:
I agree whole heartedly, and would point people to the HEMA-Alliance forum, which has a stickied thread devoted to grabbing other people's ideas and running with them."Steal ideas. Steal drills for conditioning, for techniques, for applications of those techniques. Steal concepts for how to make the group function and succeed. If someone challenges you on the theft, admit it and offer them some other second-hand ideas in return."
But at the same time I feel that drills are much more useful when people know the principles or techniques which are being taught, where they come from and how to apply them under pressure. So, building up complexity, intensity and aliveness in a drill, but all the while hammering home what's being taught and why.
Jon's method was normally to pick a play from Fiore, or a couple of related plays, and first talk a bit about the context - when it's used in a fight and why, and then make sure that everyone present could perform the technique under the easiest of conditions. After that, he'd introduce the drill and build on it.
Perhaps that was the point that I was really trying to get across - I could work out what the drill in class was for and why we were doing it, but that wouldn't have been obvious to someone with less experience. To steal the drill structure from a very worthwhile article I was sent a while ago:
- Introduce (should only take a few minutes, if not it is probably to complicated for the participants) - Show everyone how an attack can be displaced while staying in distance, making a threat the other person, for example Fendente into a Fendente. Talk about it's application in a fight, and the advantage over running out of distance/staid block.
- Isolate (Isolation sparring in an Alive way) - Pretty much the drill that was run in the session, although perhaps the class size meant that the instructor could have observed and given guidance a little bit more to ensure that the drill was alive, and that people were getting from it what they needed to.
- Incorporate (Add into your total game) - Spar with it - although perhaps an intermediate stage where people got to spar starting in distance and forced to stay in distance, closely refereed (and perhaps stopping wrestling at the sword too.)
As you said, we're reaching the stage where most people know a reasonable repetoire of techniques. However, I think that people have forgotten some of them, or never learnt others, or don't include them when sparring. Sure, we should steal MOAR DRILLS!, but when using them we should make sure that people know what they're learning and why they should be able to do it, and that they are comfortable using it in sparring.
Now, for some random ideas on the areas that you mentioned:
- Fitness - None of us are in amazing condition, and IMHO it shouldn't be too much of a focus. So long as people are willing to try their best then I'm happy. Sure, I'd like to get fitter (between all the cigarettes and pints of beer), but we aren't a gym, and people don't show up to get fit as an end in itself. I enjoyed this week's warm-ups as a bit more intense, and some people dropped out after having had enough. Fair enough. To be honest, I just try and keep my work rate up and encourage other people to do things. If they need a break or don't fancy it, fair enough.
- Reactions - Well, these are more emergent, and I don't think you can teach them in the same way that you can a cut or a drill. We can try and teach people what is going on, so they can recognise it, and the correct response, so they can re-act when they have recognised it, but ultimately reactions are down to the individual.
- Offense - Hmm. I think we could all benefit from another lesson on how to make commited cuts (perhaps a bit before the next Swords & Cyder if we're going to be doing cutting then?).
- Defense - Perhaps going through the guards again, and analysing how each of them is used, and how to transition between them with cuts? I don't know - both Offense and Defense are tied to techniques used at different distances, and can be taught at the same time with the same drills (ie. How to Fendente, how to counter a Fendente, how to do a punta from the bind etc.)
So far I've concentrated on Johann's first point, because to be honest I don't know enough about paying for the hall, or people's situations to talk about what we need to be charging people. What do other people think?
As for the videos - we got a fair amount of thoughts on how we're sparring. I'll embloggen on them some time later, if I have time.