I'm going to take a short break from Fabris (and the next entry on guards in Second is about half done, sitting in the drafts queue even now!) to kick around ideas about how to change your existing fight to a more period one. This is intended more for the existing SCA fencer who can generally perform pretty well in that context, but who wants to evolve their game to one much more rooted in historic rapier rather than the sport/historic/Olympic/raw athleticism mishmash that characterizes a lot of SCA fencing.
There are a couple ways that you can do this. The first way, and the one that I expect almost nobody to do, is to entirely stop free-fencing for a year, and do nothing but pick up a manual and work on footwork, body posture, and looking exactly like the plates. Do nothing but solo drills, and paired drills where you carefully go through the scenarios presented, increasing speed while maintaining accuracy. Do this for a at least two extended practice sessions each week and fill in the other days with some solo time. No freebouting. You're trying to completely rewrite how you fence from the ground up.
On the one hand, this will totally rebuild your fight from the ground up. If you seriously work at this, you'll become a terrific period fencer. On the other hand, a lot of people won't find this particularly fun - doing pickups and fighting in tournaments are where a lot of people find their enjoyment, and it can really suck going from competitive fencer to nonexistent for a year.
The second way to evolve your game requires a lot more attention to your time, and it can get frustrating at points, but you get to keep fencing through it so that's just a lot more fun overall. Plus, you get to see how your performance changes over time, so that's also pretty great. In short, when you're at a practice, drill period technique. Drill it a lot. Be sure to make forward progress, but don't neglect anything, no matter how basic. Footwork? Make sure you're doing it correctly. Guard postures? Check them. Blade contact? Do it or don't do it, but be sure you're doing it correctly. Build on each skill as you grow in mastery, and keep working on them constantly. Paired drills are great for this, because it lets you work in collaborative partner drills, adversarial drills, and everything in between. (It's also nice because you can keep checking progress with your partner.) Do this for a good chunk of each practice.
For the last part of practice - maybe the last quarter or so - shake off the drills, and then go freebout. Remind yourself how to just fight your fight. Don't try to force the period actions you've been working on. Do them if they work (and things like footwork and guards are always easy to work in) but I've found that it's really easy to try and focus far too much on doing whatever it was you were drilling earlier, regardless of whether it's the appropriate action. Just fight, and remember your fights and think about what actions you could have taken instead. Don't worry about being super period here, that way lies frustration. What you'll notice happening over time is that more and more of the period system that you're drilling with start to filter into your fight. You'll notice that your guards are just shifting a bit, or that your bladework is changing. A reflexive defense will look like a plate you were studying. As this happens, if you're deconstructing your bouts with your opponent, and you think about how you should have handled an attack that they landed on you, your solutions will start to look like the system you're working on. (Which is the best feeling - a few months ago, I thought about how I should have handled an attack deep on my inside by someone who's very good with his twohander, and when I got home that evening and cracked my copy of Fabris to write a blog entry, right there on paper I saw the response I came up with. Awesome!)
The more your fight shifts to become the period system, the easier it'll be for you to begin to actively adjust your fight rather than letting aspects filter in, and then the process accelerates dramatically.
For established fencers, I'm really a fan of the second process. It'll take longer, and it'll be messier, and it can be frustrating, but I think it's important for the community as a whole to be able to see this process happening. It shows that even experienced fencers can study, learn, and perform new skills. They can see how winning isn't everything (but it is pretty great and yeah, you saw me say that winning isn't everything), but developing yourself as a fighter, a student, and a teacher matters so much more. It can help other fencers undertake similar processes, and help everyone up the quality of their fight and also increase historic fencing's visibility in the whole community, which is all really great.
But mostly it means that you can keep fighting lots of people while you learn, and that's a really big deal.
Next up, getting that entry on Fabris' guards in Second out of the draft queue and posted!