Saturday, December 12, 2015

Drill time!

(Note: I edited this on 1/6/16 to clean up the description and add a dimension that I'd forgotten.)

Earlier this week at the Monday practice, Ken Mondschein showed a couple of us a really interesting drill. It stuck with me as really worth adding to my regular rotation for a few reasons: because it happened to focus on some foundations that I've been trying to work on anyway, it scales in scope, and you can potentially focus on a few different things if you want.

Essentially it's a decision drill, but after we see it in it's basic form (at least as I remember and/or perform it), we'll start to add breadth to it!

  1. Fencer A and Fencer B start just outside of measure. Fencer A approaches and finds B's sword to the inside.
  2. As A finds B's sword, B extends toward A to cue the action. As B extends, he also does one of three things:
    1. Nothing - this cues a normal lunge in Fourth from A.
    2. Steps out - this cues a passing step and a strike in Fourth from A.
    3. Steps in - this cues a girata and a strike from A. (Blade position can vary based on a few elements here, but try to be consistent.)
That's it! To start off the drill, I really like doing each one of those three possible options three times each, and then one of each in sequence, and then starting to mix it up. It'll help get things settled into your head before you just dive in.

Pretty simple in theory, but I've found that when you're paying that much attention to doing the correct action in response to the cue, all sorts of mistakes will just start showing up. Overthinking does that; it'll work itself out. Things to keep in mind include:
  1. Take your action in the tempo of the cue. Don't wait for B to Completely Apply All The Pressure, or to take a full step before you move. As they apply pressure and start to step, you should be reacting.
  2. Good blade position is important.
  3. Don't over commit on that last step with the finding; you'll need to react out of it, so keep it small.
  4. When you're first doing this drill, you'll make mistakes. Concentrate on the things you do right - if you do an incorrect action in opposition and yet survive? Great! Just do the correct one next time.
  5. Slowing down to start is a good idea. Just do it in the right time, and it'll work out. If you do this, slow down the cue as well; it'll make it easier to keep things consistent.
To add breadth, you'll want to start by working the outside line just as you do the inside. You can switch it up on the approach, and just find on that line instead.

From there, you want to expand to Fencer B cuing with a cavazione, and have A respond in that tempo with a contra-cavazione, strike, and footwork as normal. Then work the other line with a contra-cavazione.

Finally, Fencer B can cue with pressure on A's blade, and A responds in that tempo with a cavazione, with all the footwork as normal.

Then mix them all up, and go to town! You can focus on moving in tempo to start, and also good opposition, clean steps, balance, different girata or voids, stepping into the blade instead of away, working from different stances or guards, whatever you like. It's a framework to work inside. You can keep it limited to work on things, or expand it to a full 3 measures, 3 actions, 2 lines drill. 18 options! All at once!

I think that the explanation is pretty straightforward, but if you catch me at an event, I can run through it (or any other drill I've gone over) in person pretty readily.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Random practice thoughts

Practice was... eh? Fine, I think?

Things I need to keep working on:

  • Footwork. (Yeah, seriously.) When I do passes, I step farther than I want. I want shorter, more controlled passes. Same with girata.
  • Lunging in proper order. When I get rushed, I think I keep screwing this up.
  • Opposition - I keep running into problems on the outside, and I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's easier for me to find the blade when it's higher on the inside than the outside? That seems like it could be right. Also, in general.
  • Fabris. Voids. Mezzo-tempo actions.
  • After all that, just fighting my fight.
I have a mad thought of trying to get people on board with doing a month of All Drills, No Bouting at practices. I mean, I can do that kinda, but it'd be inefficient in the extreme. Rather than asking around and halfassing it, I want to do full practices of just straight, focused drilling. With pre-planned drills and time and stuff.

I think it'd be amazing.