Training was a good laugh tonight. I've recovered from my flu so we had a somewhat heavier warmup than last Tuesday. As on the previous session we started the warm up with the crane-form, followed by some of the usual exercises and some others I threw into the mix just for fun. One of my faves right now is a combination of a squat and a push-up. It's taken from Ilkka's falling seminar. Basically, squat until the palms of the hands rest on the floor. From here push both feet backwards until you reach the push-up position, with the body and legs straight. Push up. Pull the feet towards the hands until back in a squatting position. Finish by standing up. This is one rep. Repeat 10 times. I like it because it works the legs, abs and back and if done as smoothly as possible, it has no impact on the joints. Lovely!
After this we followed up with the abrazare flow drill. This was fun but pretty tough as you have to time it just right or a correctly-applied technique makes it very difficult to recover from. I guess it's also a question of the minimal distance and therefore time. I noticed that the plays feel a bit like san shou (sic.) in kung fu: as soon as first contact is made, it never really breaks, although the hands can do various things like posta longa, ligadura soprana and elbow hyper-extensions. There is also the aspect that although the hands lead, i.e. once the counter has been initiated by the hands, it is completed by the actions of the hips and footwork. It's a technically difficult drill at first but with practice it does begin to flow and it's great fun!
Paranoia. This is one of my favourite games. We play it with daggers. Everybody masks up and forms a ring. In the centre of the ring are a number of daggers, usually one or more less than the number of players. Players can "kill" each other either by getting a clear strike on the mask with a dagger or by slapping another player between the shoulder blades with their hand. Players are told to trust no-one, then I shout "GO!" and the game begins. There is a tendency to get tunnel vision and go straight for the dagger, so that the sneaky bastard will stand back, let everybody else rush for the weapons and as they do so, he/she rushes in and "kills" five or six straightaway by slapping them on the backs. It's evil, but great to watch people's expressions when they realised they've been duped. Once "dead" you're out. Once there is a clear winner, everybody else must do 10 push-ups, while the victor watches. On the second and subsequent rounds, people are MUCH more careful about moving in to the daggers, or moving in any way that might expose their backs and their level of awareness is noticeably better. After the first round people's tactics also begin to evolve. One sneaky one is to simply wait in a corner, so that no-one can get behind them and let the others "kill" each other willy-nilly, then pick off the survivor. Alternatively, two players with daggers gang up on the others before the "partnership" dissolves and they turn on each other. An additional variant is that when attacked with a dagger, players can defend themselves and try to disarm/counter attack the attacker. This is useful because it tests whether players can perform a disarm under a "stress" situation. A nice game!
After this we did some dagger disarm flow drill with masks on and after a bit introduced a break in the flow using a wrap/lock. The more advanced students could perform the technique against an attack in any line, while the beginners only had to do it against a fendente mandritto, as this is the most familiar attack line so far. We finished of with syllabus form and had a look at polishing up specific techniques.
Naturally, there will always be room for improvement when leading a class, but I'm slowly getting the hang of doing it, while incorporating some training for myself as well, making the whole experience satisfying, rewarding and fun. Damn, it's a shame that this was the last class of 2008, just when I was starting to get all fired up!