Okay. Here's the plan. It's Garry's last session for a while, and I think that we should give him an opportunity to spar/free-play everyone. It'll be entertaining. Still, the beginning of the session will have a bit more structure than that.
I like free-play. I think it's great. Branston pickle and red Leicester cheese sammich levels of good. But I also don't see it as the end of what I do - getting good at freeplay isn't what I'm training towards. It might happen as a side effect of getting better at Historical Fighting though.
Now, let's consider what we normally free-play at to to be the 'Standard model'. Not fencing at maximum intensity so we can try out new things. Kitted out with gloves, mask, for-arm protection and perhaps some extras, but not swinging at maximum force, because we're not gits. It's good, fun and helps. But it isn't all it could be in terms of improving you different levels of "freedom" and intensity.
On the one hand, you can change the force levels people use, from tippy-tap fencing to Conan-swinging. Another variable you can adjust is the intensity - from T'ai chi free-flow stuff to 'Swordfish finals' intensity. Adjusting those in training allows people to practice and test themselves to a greater degree.
Another thing that you can change are the options open to each fighter - forcing them to focus on one aspect of the fight. From the simple 'No closing to grapple' to 'Begin the fight with a Schielhau'. The epitome of this would be the 'robot fencing' drills on the HEMAA forum. The opposite end of the spectrum would be sharp-longsword-fight-to-the-death-with-sharps scenario.
Finally, the value of freeplay with a wide open choice table is greatly enhanced by having people watching/videoing and coaching actively what's going on. Let's incorporate that. I wish people did it for me more often! If you're in a 'coaching' role, then please video everything that you can.
10 mins: Meet, Greet.
10 mins: Warm up. Hopefully led by the great Gazza.
10 mins: Stretch. Discuss what the plan.
5 mins: Minimum intensity, minimum force fencing. (10%/10%) With no protection what-so-ever. No hits to the hands or the head. No thrusts above the shoulders. Be bloody sensible. I trust you guys.
2 mins. Regroup. Feedback. Discuss.
10 mins: Put on masks and gloves. Now, form into groups of three, with at least one 'experienced' or motivated guy in each group (JP and Dan should be good at this.) Begin 'standard' sparring at exactly the same intensity as before. Take the guys out and give them advice. Then increase the intensity, but not the force levels. End up at something like 40% intensity, 10% force.
5 mins. Re-group. Discuss what we've noticed.
10 mins. Now, let's change everyone around, and increase the levels somewhat. People can try more protective kit if they'd like. Something like 60% intensity, 40% force. More coaching. Go back in there!
10 mins. Now, the final burn. Let's ratchet the intensity up to the most that people can muster at this stage. 100% effort to win the fight. The coach's job is to keep an eye on how much the fighters' skill is degrading, but also on the force levels being used. If they creep too high (say, above 50%), then get them to tone it down again. If needs be, do a Mikael and jump in there with a rear-naked choke.
5 mins. Now, this is where we mind fuck with people. Remove all the kit. Now, reset back to the minimum intensity, minimum force levels we talked about before. You can only Vorschlag with an Oberhau. See how well people do.
That's what, an hour and a quarter of physical activity? We can do this guys.
Rest of Session - Beat on Garry with Sticks. The rest of the room coaches the guy fighting Garry. Not only looking at the fighter's weaknesses and how to overcome them, but also for any holes in how Garry is fencing, and how to punish him for them.