Monday, 27 September 2010

Spreading the word..

The first part of training last Saturday was interesting and fun. We went through some of the basic stuff of dagger, footwork and unarmed posta. I never get tired of doing this material because it's ALWAYS relevant and never time wasted. One of the other trainees had done about half of the beginner's course and then had to quit because of shoulder surgery. Although there was loads of stuff to digest, she remembered an awful  lot and did really well with good humour throughout. I hope she enjoyed it and will continue to come to training. Our club needs people like this. Quite inspiring!

I took along some tennis balls and a bunch of slings to Saturday's training and after the first part we had  a line of four people slinging tennis balls at the wall. Some got it faster than others. Interestingly, although it was only supposed to be for about 10-15 minutes, people were quite happy to continue for much longer. Another thing I noticed was that no-one complained about being cold, so it actually could be quite a good warm down exercise. I made sure to apologise for "hijacking" the latter half of training but I don't think the others minded too much. Perhaps I could lead training with an occasional warm-up using tennis balls, skipping ropes, clubs and sticks etc.  to work on things like hand-eye coordination skills, etc. ? Hmm, food for thought...

In future, one thing I should stress though is not to try to use full power when starting off with the sling. As we are so often told in training: go slowly, concentrate on good technique, speed/power comes later. This is just as true for slinging as for swordsmanship. Tennis balls are a fun alternative to golfballs or stones to train with. They are very close to the same size and weight so this constistency is good if you want to work on technique and particularly, accuracy. Well and good. However, tennis balls are light, lack mass, and the fuzzy surface tends to increase air drag, which means they can curve quite a bit in flight and just don't travel as far as golf balls or stones. This means that there is a tendency to use a lot of power to make them fly long distances because they tend to have quite a curved trajectory and drop onto the target. In my experience, this added power without good technique can result in quite painful joints, specifically the elbow joint.

So, if you find your elbows hurt after slinging say for an hour or for 100 casts (whatever your training regime), something is wrong and I'd recommend a review of cast technique, what level of power is employed, and what type of projectile is used. Concentrate on getting the cast as smooth as possible. A smooth fluid cast can also generate a surprising amount of power so try to keep the arm and shoulder relaxed. Remember also that the whole body can be used, not just the hand, arm and shoulder. Unlike weapon-based arts where the weapon leads, in slinging, rotational force (centrifugal or centripetal, I can never remember which is which) is first generated from the hips and flows domino-like through the shoulder, arm, hand and finally the sling itself.

Happy slinging!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Slinging at a wall

Took my slings to sword training today. I thought it would be fun for the others to have a go and for me to gauge to some extent how people might react when they have the chance to use slings for the first time.  Well, apart from me there were only two others at training but they gave it a go and were soon able to pelt the tennis balls against the far wall (30 feet away). Tennis balls are definitely a safe option for indoors provided there is enough space. Result! It's also a good way to take a break between classes on saturdays because the session runs to 3 hours. It could also be a fun warm-down.

I initially got the idea because on the far wall are two squares measuring about 30 x 30 cm, made from duct tape. In Finland they call this Jesus tape (jeesus teippi), because of its multiple uses. I guess these have been used by people training basketball or baseball or something like that. Anyhoo, I figured these squares would also offer perfect targets for slinging as they really stand out clearly and the tennis balls are also clear against the silvery grey square edges. The centres of the squares are about my eye height.

Before sword training began, I managed to get the ball at least three times into the squares but as we were finishing up, I tried several more casts using Greek style and was bang on target three times in a row! A nice way to finish off the day! Following this experience, I think I may apply a couple of the duct tape squares to the tarp I bought as a back stop and start working more on accuracy from shorter distances.

I was so pumped at this mini-success that as soon as I came home I made yet another woven pouch sling!

Here's a chap using different versions of greek or byzantine style slinging. Enjoy!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Back to training

Was back at training tonight and it was a lot of fun. We went through fairly basic stuff such as the unarmed flow drill, which is always good to practice. I've described this before in my blog but it always surprises me just how versatile this drill actually is. The concept of tempo and how to break the other's timing, using power derived from the hips and volta stabile rather than the hands and arms leaves the latter more relaxed to better feel what the partner is doing. Finally, pushing elbows and arms by driving the power through the back leg as the passing step is made. One thing we noticed tonight though is that the roles of the right and left hand are reversed in the ligadura soprano, which we normally practice against a dagger strike from the right, with the left hand making the initial block to the wrist and the right hand threading the figure-4 lock. It still works! Neat!

Sling training yesterday wasn't so good. I finally got around to bringing a tarp which I set up about 25 metres away. The golfballs made a lovely sound when they hit it too. The operative word in the last sentence though is "when". They went over, under left and right of a nearly 3 m2 surface. Pathetic! Oh well. Just a bad day, I guess. Next time will be better!

Although I've been making slings, mainly ones with a woven pouch, I thought to start collecting others as well. This week, 4 new slings arrived from a very nice chap from the US called Glen Moore. His sling design is wonderful and is particularly suited for round projectiles like golf, tennis or baseballs. Glen's blog is here. And here's a short vid of the man in action, with eggs!

Man, he uses long slings! All of the available literature I've read says to start with a short sling and a short distance and go longer with time. I've also found myself that a short sling is more accurate. I guess it's something like if your hand-eye coordination is good when you throw a stone accurately, the compensation involved when extending your coordination beyond the reach of you fingertips is commensurate to the length of the sling. So it's a trade off initially between accuracy and added power to the projectile.

Ah what the hell, it's just loads of fun!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Sling song

Training with the sling continues apace with a definite increase in control and accuracy. Ok, the balls or stones i use to shoot with still go all over the place but I can at least usually hit the target 10% of the time. For the last couple of days I've swithced back to using golf balls and minimum force to get them to the target. previously, I've been using tennis balls which are light and have a higher air resistance, meaning than more effort is required to propel them any distance to a target. As a result, I can usually feel it in my elbow after slinging 100 balls, so I should really concentrate more on short range accuracy using little power.

Each training session I try to shoot a minimum of 100 shots and rotate between 4 styles: underhand, figure 8, Greek and a cross-body sidearm cast. This last one is probably best shown by this chap on youtube.

Pretty, isn't it? He makes it look really easy. I find I'm most accurate with this style and the Greek, followed by the underhand cast. Whichever casting method, my projectiles tend to be more lobbed into a target rather than a nice horizontal almost flat trajectory. I'm having some problems with the figure eight cast, notably the projectile is being released too early resulting in a really high trajectory and/or it tends to go to my left. More work is needed.

I may get the chance to take some slings and tennis balls to Swordfish 2010 and offer, well not a class exactly, let's call it an "opportunity" for people to come along and give it a try. I got the ok to do it so I've been thinking a bit about how best to organise things. Think I'll keep it really informal once I've got the basic safety stuff taken care of. Should be a laugh. I've been busy making different kinds of slings as well as ordering them on the net from other slingers. I'll have to get my ass in gear if i want to have enough made for Swordfish.

Right, time to log off, switch off the computer and brave the elements for a little slinging practice in the great outdoors.