Sunday, 16 November 2008

Back to basics

Yesterday's training saw a poor turout, with only five people in attendance. Following up from Thursdays class, I had people go through the second drill, specifically the rememdy. In going through this exercise, I noticed several things. One person had never really noticed that the footwork was different from the first drill and was using an accressere fora di strada instead of a passare alla traversa. Naturally, this had made them wonder why they were so far away from the attacker when they followed up with the disarm. I was feeling sort of creative, in other words, I hadn't prepared anything for the class and so was winging it. I asked them to repeat the drill to the remedy point, but instead of doing the passare alla traversa, just do a passo stright up the line, then a very weak alla traversa, then a clear alla traversa. The point was to show the difference in the relationship between the swords, if the intent was to disarm, as is the point in the drill. In the first case, the cover must be made properly, or the attacker can simply cut through the defense. Even if the attacker's sword is collected, it's point could still be wound around the point of contact, i.e. a thrust with the hands high (posta saggitario??) The correct and clear pass across the line takes the attacker's sword point well out of danger, and allows you to grasp their sword hilt and complete the disarm. Some other details we noticed were that if you grab the fingers of their sword hand, particularly the ring and small fingers, as you do the disarm, the twisting effect on the wrist of the sword arm may become acute, so be careful with that. Secondly, this twisting effect is using a fulcrum action. As the defender covers frontale and the swords make contact at mezza spada, the attacker's sword was often collected against the defender's cross, i.e. the strong part of his sword. When the defender continued the action, grabbing the hilt, he could push his sword down and pull the attacker's hilt up, so that the attacker's sword is rotated anti-clockwise (from the defender's viewpoint) out of his grip, somewhat similar to the tora di spada actions. I'm not 100% sure this is correct but it seems to work. I'll have to add it to the list to ask Guy.

So then we took the drill in steps to the end before switching the second drill into a three person pressure drill. I then noticed that occasionally people were attacking out of measure such that rather than attacking with a fendente mandritto, they were entering more with a thrust coming in to the side of the head, or their stance length was so short, they were always really close during the drills. This is one of the main reasons, according to Guy, that 4th drill is so damned difficult for a lot of people. So we talked about stance and stance length and we did some cutting practice with stepping, paying particular attention to the length of our stances or if we were sliding on the floor, etc. For the finish, I used the ropes in the gym to give us all targets to practice cutting on. The idea was to adopt any guard out of measure of the rope. Slowly and carefully, we moved towards the rope using accressere steps until we got to the point from which we were sure we could strike the rope with a step, i.e. close measure. From there we cut with a step. Then, the idea was to take one step back and see if we could lengthen and/or lower our stances, tweaking them a bit so that our close distance increased, we could make the same cut with a step but from a little farther away. Then, we would start over with the exercise. Most of us found that we could increase our cutting range by a centimetre or two.

Finally, for a bit of fun, and because we don't practice them much, we did 50 thrusts at the hanging rope. A hit had to be clean to count. Of the 50 thrusts, 10 were from the high right, 10 from the high left, 10 low right, and 10 low left. The final 10 were done by adopting rear-weighted posta di Donna, volta stabile to bichorno, before thrusting with a step. I got something like 14 clean hits out of 50. The easiest thrusts overall people found were the low thrusts. The high ones from fenestre were made more difficult by the hand rotating the sword. Pell work (even if it is only a hanging rope) is fun and a very useful tool.

So, an interesting class. We covered basics but stuff which isn't actually all that easy. This material though forms an important building block which helps all the rest come together. From a class I hadn't prepared for, I just kept noticing things which called for us to take a step back and re-examine what we think we "know".

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