Journal, 5/30   4 comments

Heyyy… so, yeah, it’s only been like 2 months since I did one of these journally thingies.  Not entirely sure why.  Some of it has to do with a certain amount of introspection and focusing on maintaining my current performance level for the time being (that performance level is “Pretty damn good”, though my form will get some rework in the near-ish future.  More on that when I examine a certain video in another post).

More on that performance level thingie

At Sapphire I was gassing really hard towards the end of the day on Sunday, which reminded me that I had to bust my ass into shape if I wanted to fully hammer the Iron Man at Pennsic and leave it bruised and battered.  Of course, I want to do that.  Saturday I was good, because I parked my ass on a chair in the shade when I wasn’t actually fighting, so my stamina held out through the tournament.

But, what with the whole “Being in armor and running around trying to kill people” thing not permitting sitting in the shade, Wednesday saw me out running again (speaking of things not done in 2 months).  Friday was going to be day 2, but Saturday, Sunday, and Monday were “canoe out to a barrier island, walk for miles on the beaches, and canoe back” which meant I felt okay not running on Friday.  Wednesday (er, tomorrow) will be more running, and that will pretty much be my afternoons for the next… how long am I supposed to live?  Anyway, it’s the damnedest thing that the more unbearably hot it gets, the more I feel like going for a run.

Hotter’n Hell

Also, 95 degree temps make me want to run the full suite of Hell Drills.  What are those?  Form a start line (not a column) and set an end line some distance away.  Do one exercise out to the end line, then jog back, then do the next, and so on.

High Skips (Peter-Pans)
Forward Lunges (exercise lunge, not fencing lunge)
Backward Lunges (exercise lunge, not fencing lunge)
Pogos (ankle-powered jumps)
Bunny Jumps (quad-powered jumps)
45o Leaping Step
Zig-Zag Skips
Zig-Zag Bunny Jumps
Zig-Zag Pogos
High Knees
Low advances/retreats
2 pass fwd, 1 pass back

For some reason, the people at practice hate me, but I offer them the opportunity to take it out on me immediately thereafter, with swords and all, so people keep showing up (15 people at this week’s practice)

Don’t Fear the Blade

Did your brain just say “All our times have come”?  Mine did.

I find myself giving this advice to lots of beginning and intermediate fencers.  It seems like the instant they learn about disengages, their attacks all begin with a disengage.  No feint, no nothing, just disengaging around my blade.  What does this do to stop my sword from pointing at them?   Absolutely nothing.  Which means they then close range and I stick them without moving.  Some days I really want to say “That thing, that you’re thinking, that ‘Wistric is good!’ thing?  It’s totally wrong, it’s just that you suck.”  But I’m a better person than that, usually.  And instead I try to teach them not to fear the blade, but to embrace it: TAKE THE DAMN BLADE, CLOSE THE DAMN LINE!  Don’t disengage unless you’re not on line.  And if you’re afraid I’ll disengage, then close the damn line without over-committing and be ready to close the line I’ll change to.  So Thursday we ran a drill set to work on this, working from the bare fundamentals (we had 4 new fencers to incorporate).

Don’t Fear the Blade Drill

We didn’t do the whole suite below, but this is the full and complete plan:

Two lines, line on right Agente.  “on the call”
Start out of measure, in guard (Agente and Patiente to hold each other to it, make sure they’re both in guard)
Agente extends and steps in to measure
Patiente closes the line
Path A
Agente extends and steps in to measure
Patiente closes the line while counter-lunging
Agente extends and steps in to measure
Patiente closes the line while counter-lunging against Agente’s resistance
Agente extends and steps in to measure
Patiente closes the line while counter-lunging and disengaging Agente’s resistance
Agente extends and steps in to measure
Patiente closes the line while counter-lunging and disengaging Agente’s resistance
Agente counter disengages

Path B
Agente extends and steps in to measure
Patiente closes the line while counter-lunging
Agente disengages
Agente extends and steps in to measure
Patiente closes the line while counter-lunging
Agente disengages
Patiente counter-disengages

The ultimate goal: Fencers develop a good direct attack, and a sense of when to disengage and counter-disengage and how to re-establish control when your opponent disengages.

Yeah, I’m thinking of including the full details of the drills run in these things going forward.  Mostly because it makes it look like I’m actually being informative.


He’s joining the Air Force, and I do love me and support some veterans for various reasons (yes, I am a pacifist long-haired liberal who gets choked up on Memorial Day), but that means we’ve only got him for about two more months.  Which means time to work diligently on his skill, and send him off to whichever military installation gets him with decent skill (and the ability to train fencers up wherever he lands).

Instead of the usual “work on this one thing” fighting that we do, I set about providing constant feedback, which actually seemed to work pretty well.  His motions got tighter, and he applied the lessons of the drill and launched some excellent snap lunges that caught me with my pants down.  We also added a new skill to his repertoire: circling his blade (the German concept of “winding the blade”) to turn large motions into small motions and bring his point back on line.  And now that he has all these skills to use, I may be a bastard and make him do pushups every time he throws a huge parry.


The young lad comes along quickly and applies his engineer’s mind well.  However, on Thursday that led him to set up so that my entire target area was entirely to the outside of his blade, and his attacks were limited to attacks in line or off-line to my outside, both of which were already well defended by my sword.  And since, from his position, he couldn’t throw off-line lunges to my inside, he was protecting me without him realizing it.  So we worked on fixing that, keeping the thinking that led to that strategy without limiting his own potential attacks.

And then, of course, it was melee time:

Stay Together/Act Together

We ran 5 vs 5 (did I mention there were 15 fencers?  Not all of them fought melee).  The big take-away, as always, was “He Who Seizes Initiative Wins”.  When you force your plan on your opponent, you win.  That whole “The first casualty of war is the plan” thing?  That’s bullshit.  If your plan doesn’t survive first contact, it was a shitty plan, or you were a shitty commander.  And I can now say that Letia has moved up to the ranks of “Awesome planners”.  Her usual plan, in the past, has been “stay together” which doesn’t do much to seize initiative.  Thursday, I watched her goat-rape her enemies by “acting together”.  Her unit didn’t stay in a line, but hit hard on both flanks, a large C, and crushed them in glorious chaos, the kind where you get to see three fighters collide as they retreat in to each other.  I now like, and may turn in to a rule, the principle of “Acting together doesn’t require sticking together”.

Sharks vs. Minnows

We had Giovan, Letia, Percy, and me, which made 4 Free Scholars/Provosts, to 8 scholars/proto-scholars, and that seemed like a great opportunity to play “Whack-a-scholar”.  The plan of the 4, in this case, as always, was to create havoc and chaos, break apart the cohesion of the scholar unit, and destroy them in detail.   The first run through, it worked beautifully.  We obliterated them, because we forced our plan upon them and made them react.  Initiative, it is a beautiful thing.

The second round, we paused to see what they’d do, and they actually took initiative.  It was moderately successful: two or three of them survived.  As we ran it again, they took the initiative more and more, and were more and more successful.  We began implementing counters (their plan amounted to either pushing left or right, so we hung back to stomp the lead fighters of their push) to re-take the initiative, and thus force them to think harder and react/re-establish initiative on the fly.


As practices go, it was a really good one, and I’m thinking how to replicate it.

Posted June 7, 2011 by wistric in Journal

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