We've been trying a little freeplay preparation in the last while at training. This isn't the usual "gear up and let's have a bash!"-type, but something a little different.
The idea is to move at quarter speed or very slowly. You can cut and thrust, but you must stay at largo distance. I stipulated this clause because we all have a tendency to close immediately to giocco stretto and start grappling and we don't train the largo distance enough. Also giocco stretto distance means shorter and shorter tempos so the play can simply devolve into a mess really quickly. More space/distance means more time, and this tempo is stretched further by forcing the players to move at quarter speed. So, the idea (at least) is that this becomes very good practice for people to:
-keep moving, even at slow speed, if you stop moving you'll get nabbed
-cut for the arms and hands if they are available
-protect the arms and hands
-remember that if all else goes pear-shaped, they can tornare backwards to safety
-maintain control and safety
-use Fiore techniques
-train at largo distance
The important thing is to realise that if you are going to get hit, you will get a light touch, but that's all. It's better to realise you made a mistake and take that tap, rather than speeding up in order to do something about it. This also lets people "spar" with just the fencing mask on and perhaps some gloves. As with regular freeplay, it allows people to realise that if they cannot make a technique work at slow speed, there's no way in hell it will work at higher speed.
Ok, so it is an artificial drill in many ways. Nobody moves this slowly normally. Also, certain blade actions like rebattere become less beats and more of a push. Still, it's a fun exercise and people seem to feel somewhat less pressure doing it slowly than by doing the regular speed freeplay. I gues that this approach is actually not freeplay per se, rather a form of freeplay preparation. Later on we can also start doing the same thing in giocco stretto. As well as doing the regular speed freeplay prep and freeplay itself.