Last weekend saw an enjoyable day clashing bucklers at the Helsinki salle, with a review of some aspects of the 1.33 system. Most of the material covered was already familiar to me but I welcomed the chance to review it, particularly since I haven't done anything with 1.33 since the workshop with Scott Brown at Swordfish 2008. Guy covered the wards and rolling exercise, half shield vs. first and fifth wards, second ward vs. second ward, and first ward vs. first ward. Of course there are other combos but this provided us with a good basis to work with. One of the highlights of the seminar for me was the light freeplay bouts with wooden bucklers and hickory swords. It became immediately obvious to me that I really need to practice this stuff more often as my first reaction was to hop around in what looked more like a boffer fight than anything we had just covered. Then again, iirc, nobody else successfully did a schiltschlac, a durchtritt or a mutacio gladii, most of us concentrating on trying to strike or thrust to the opponent's body but without first controlling their weapons. This reminded me that a good grounding is necessary in martial arts before attempting freeplay, or at least, before we might expect to be any good at freeplay. The lesson learned is that it's back to the training!
As a class leader, I had the extra bonus of learning the next step in the chi kung health form, which is part of our syllabus. It was't too difficult and I also got the chance for Guy to check out the previous steps to correct mistakes and tweak the form into shape. The breathing part is still the hardest task, as it's supposed to be I suppose. If you know the choreography of the form you can transition fairly smoothly from one position to the next. This smoothness helps the breathing to stay relaxed. However, if you fluff the movements and stop, the breathing also tends to stop with the results that you are left gasping for air and not cool, calm and collected as you are supposed to be. I guess one complements the other, calm breathing leads to a calm mind and the movement is smooth. Fun stuff, and I'm only half way through the form! Many thanks to Guy for a very enjoyable seminar!
At training last night I incorporated the crane form into our warm up. If we're supposed to have these things in our syllabus, I need to work them in somewhere on a regular basis so that we can learn them properly and derive benefit from the exercise. Recently, I had been talking with T about using our current footwork to avoid being hit. So, I decided to use the old pair drill of having one partner with a stick strike a committed fendente mandritto/roverso and have the defender use the footwork to avoid being hit and get behind the striker as well as getting to wrist, elbow, shoulder and back distance, both to the outside and inside of the attacker. This seemed to go quite well so the attackers could now also strike mezzani and finally also sottani blows, making the exercise into a low-pressure drill, meaning that if the avoider tried to anticipate the attack, they might get lucky one time in three if they voided to the outside. However, this option is practically impossible against anything other than a fendente mandritto. It feels horrible stepping right into a mezzano strike, even if it's done with a stick! A nice exercise, it works footwork, distance awareness, timing and adds a little pressure, so that it also warms people up nicely. We'll have to do it more!
After a half hour of this we switched to cutting mulinelli (40) and through cuts (30 per side). Again a sword tip hitting the floor means an automatic 10 pushups. It was nice to see that the practice is paying off. The cuts are smoother, the arms are more extended and the swords are passing nicely through posta longa. We still need to train more though! With cutting as with anything else, footwork, abrazare, dagger, anything, I try to look on everything as a mini-form. Get the details right, correct, neat accurate, and they are like gems. Add the gems together and I have a lovely necklace, something beautiful, long lasting and invaluable.
My last thought for our training was that I HAVE to jump in and also train more for myself. I noticed a tendency in myself to just do the class leader stuff and then train in the German style in the following class with the WSK guys. I need to remeber to train harder and prioritise in Fiore first, as well as enjoying other styles.
The German class was a lot of fun though and I particularly enjoyed the sword section. We trained moving from Ochs-Pflug-Pflug-Ochs with steps and I learned how this apparently simple movement can be used both offensively and defensively. Against an incoming thrust, I transition (absetzen) my pflug from right to left side, while stepping forward and to the right. I am more used to doing the accressere fora di strada/passo combo with a frontale, so it felt a bit stragne to step in the "wrong" direction. We then trained the fuhlen (with a winden) exercise and I had to admit it was very difficult because it had to be done slowly enough that you can feel through your blade what the other intends. Also it is a feedback exercise, not one that one or the other must "win". Fuhlen or "sentimenti di ferro" as I would know it, is not something you pick up in five minutes, or maybe even five years. Still, I admire the subtlety, and indeed beauty of the principle, regardless of what name or style in which it is practiced.