Practice Log, 6/9   16 comments

After a month of demos, meetings, and events eating up my Sundays, Elvegast practice resumed yesterday. As usual, most of my time was dedicated to teaching. This is fine; I’m learning enough on my own time.

What’s Good Enough?

First, a question for all the other longtime teachers out there: at what point do you consider your student to have sufficient mastery of a skill or concept to profitably move on? Obviously the fundamentals of fencing (guard, footwork, lunges, finds, cavazioni …) are something that we all can constantly work on honing, and it seems unreasonable to expect constant (or even consistent) perfection from a relative newcomer. But leaving specific instruction and analysis of those fundamentals too early can cause bad habits to persist and calcify, and lead to further errors down the road. Finds, cavazioni, etc all require a fairly solid guard before they can be performed correctly.

Because the SCA tends to spend too little time on the basics (I still have some awful, awful habits I internalized years ago), I think I might be overcorrecting with my own students. Is there a good measuring stick?

Giganti’s 9

This is the framework we’re building from for our students: once we’ve gotten them in a good basic guard (usually with stick drills, which will come in a later post) and moving reasonably well, we tackle Giganti’s first nine plates (lunge, gain inside/outside, cavazione inside/outside, contracavazione inside/outside, and feint inside/outside).

After five months of close instruction, our students are beginning to reach the feint, after which we may move on to more complex things. But I don’t think we’ll ever stop doing these drills – they are the fundamentals, after all. I anticipate devoting at least 15 minutes of every practice to one or two of these, perhaps allowing students to build up to choice drills once they perform consistently.

Yesterday we focused on a simple variant: agente finds, patiente cavares and lunges. As agente I added resistance quickly to be sure that the student was properly counter-finding with the cavazione.

Footwork Drills

Our usual approach to these sorts of drills, in the SCA, is to have everyone get in a line and follow the instructions of a single caller. One wonders if this hails from strip fencing. I’m not sure I like this. Playing around with Fabris’ 4th has made it obvious to me that we can’t think of footwork as monolithic (any more than any other action is monolithic). We must be ready to turn an advance into a lunge, or a pass, as the situation dictates – otherwise there’s not much point to the back-weighted stance.

I think I’m going to try something different: keeping the basic structure intact, but giving commands in mezzo tempo (so shouting “lunge!” halfway through their advances). The response will be either to complete the footwork, then perform the next step, or go straight into the next step if balance permits.

Experimental Tip

I put a new tip on a loaner blade yesterday – a small strip of mild steel folded over the point, wrapped in leather and taped on. Legal by all the rules. It has about half the surface area of the usual bird blunts or Darkwood tips.

– Does not easily get tangled in guards or clothing
– Cannot be used to arrest attacks by stop-thrusting at guards (a chumpy, ahistorical tactic)
– Can be drawn from a narrow, period-looking sheath instead of the ugly PVC pipes some people use

– Hits slightly harder

Less so than you’d expect, actually; strikes to the head and neck are actually lighter (the point does not stick as much on rigid armor). To the body, the extra stiffness was quite noticeable when taking static hits, but the shots I took in active sparring were barely harder, if at all. I’m not sure if adrenaline is to blame.

I’m going to continue to experiment with these.

Posted June 9, 2014 by Ruairc in Journal

16 responses to Practice Log, 6/9

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