Tonight’s class was an extension of the last couple of weeks’ classes, building upon drills we had done in those previous classes. The goals were twofold: work dynamic target acquisition and build up some sentimento di ferro.
Following the warm-up, students performed a drill “in the round.” I like to call it a “monkey in the middle” drill, but you may choose your primate of preference. Four students surround the voluntold in the middle, and present bucklers tilted at different angles to provide a target for a cut. The drill may be varied, with instructions to cut *to* random targets, or cut *through* by recovering to an opposing poste. Students can be told to go in a set sequence (circular, in a cross) or randomly as targets present themselves.
After the first few rounds, the drill was extended so that the students circle around the monkey, errr, student in the middle, providing not only a disorienting array of targets, but providing moving targets. This works spatial orientation, target acquisition, guard and cutting fluidity and distance management. It should be noted here that to avoid people getting dizzy and falling down, a simple call of “switch” had the circle of students change direction.
Some notes: in the rush to get to targets, students often forget to position themselves properly. Some of the cutting was not fluid, proper extension forgotten in the rush to move around – simply tapping with locked arms the buckler. More work will certainly help clear up these areas.
After this set of drills, we moved to some sentimento di ferro drills, designed to help build sensitivity in the bind. One of the major problems in any form of swordsmanship, and ours is no exception, is the rush to get to the next technique before the opponent. Rarely do people take time to feel the bind, feel the pressure. At first, this takes some time and effort. With practise, it becomes easier and more intuitive. The hope with the following drills is that some of that sensitivity will be transferred to freeplay.
Students began bound at the foible or tip of the sword. The goal is simple: hold the centerline and thrust or slice to your partner. NO CUTS. Students are permitted to move and slide around all over the sword, but must not close to grappling. Students could wind, take off to the other side, slip the tip out to the opposite side of the blade, but not beat the blade forcefully aside. The goal was to maintain as much contact as possible and only leave the bind when pressure was appropriate for them to do so.
Following this, a dynamic bind drill was practised. Facing one another, students were to take three steps to the right (yes, the footwork is funky) then cut to a bind. STOP. Examining the bind, the person who had “won” the bind finished his technique with a cut or thrust. In an equal bind, they were to fight for supremacy and attempt to complete a technique. No closing to grapple was allowed. The goal was to force them to stop and contemplate the bind, and not rush through to the next technique.
Moving along with this notion, they were again to face one another and take three steps before cutting. This time, both Players were to try to gain mastery of the bind. To keep it from degenerating, it’s best to keep it to one or two exchanges deep after the bind, since the objective isn’t to necessarily hit your partner (although ’tis fun!), but to “taste” the bind.
And that concludes today’s lecture.