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.