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New Beginnings, part 7

I should warn you, reading this, that my experiments in the land of data entry have shifted to a new phase. I am boldly going into Star Trek territory, and dictating this to the computer. This experiment has yielded some astonishingly weird results, including one mini shit-storm on Facebook, but it is very interesting (to me anyway) to have to think clearly about what I’m going to say, to articulate clearly each and every word, and to speak the punctuation. It does change several things, not least speed, and word-choice. Typing is somehow more formal. Anyway, on with the course review…

This week’s beginners course class, the seventh out of eight, was oddly attended, with relatively few beginners, and relatively many more experienced students. We started with the warmup of course, including squat push-ups, then went on to solo falling practice, before the four guards drill. After this we looked at the mechanics of the takedown, starting with one student standing in posta longa, and the other making the takedown from there. We looked at the idea of the takedown being to create a situation in which your partner must take a step to keep their balance, but you have arranged things such that they cannot step. We also looked at creating a spiral twist in the back, by pulling the right hip and pushing the left shoulder, and vice-versa. From here we went into a gentle and cooperative version of the seventh play of the first master of the dagger, emphasising falling without using your hands. The image I used was of using your left hand to grab an imaginary dagger from the thrower’s belt and stab him in the femoral artery with it.

We then looked at this play of the first master, using both hands to break the attacker’s arm. This went very well, so we went swiftly on to the sixth play, which counters it, by grabbing the blade of the dagger with the left hand and jamming it in the defenders right elbow. We then went to the Book and saw the first seven plays of the first master of the dagger in order: disarm, counter, lock, counter, break, counter, takedown. We then looked at memorisation strategies for keeping these seven plays in memory. After which we reviewed the flowdrill and i had them break the flow with the third, fifth, or seventh play of the first master. This was a step too far for most, but I think it got the idea of how the terminology is used and why it is useful to have these plays in memory. As I have said many times before: you remember that which you are ready to learn. If you can’t remember it, you can’t study it.

From here we took up swords and went through part one of the cutting drill. Again. This time though, I pointed out the relationship between the mandritto fendente from posta di donna, and the guard tutta porta di ferro, to the one long sword pair drill that they know, First Drill.

As last week we took a moment to look at the guards tutta porta di ferro, and dente di zenghiaro, (I don’t believe it, the dictation engine recognised both those guard’s names!) and then resumed the cutting drill. After a few more rounds of that, we began pair practice. I pointed out that the primary defensive movements in medieval combat are beating the enemies weapon up or down. In first drill we beat it up. We then did steps one and two. After they had practice that for a while, I described Fiore’s hierarchy of four Masters or Kings, and then we did steps one to 3, pointing out the remedy and the counter-remedy. After working on that pommel strike for a little bit we added step four, the counter-counter-remedy. This was revision from last week.

We had just enough time at the end (about 8 minutes) to have a look at what might happen if you ended up trying to defend from the “wrong side”: i.e. From dente di zenghiaro. So I demonstrated the whole of second drill, and they had a go at steps one and two.

Attentive readers of this blog will have noted that we are covering a lot more material in this beginner’s course than in the previous one. This is mostly an artefact of the smaller number of beginners in a given class, and the larger number of more experienced students available to pair up with them. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that these beginner’s have an excellent record of attending Thursday’s basic class, and staying behind for free training to practice. I have been using that time to work with many of them on individual issues such as pre-existing knee problems, and on the various aspects of the training they may be having difficulty with, such as falling, or sword handling.

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