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New Beginnings, part 8

This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of this beginner’s course. Unusually for me I actually wrote out a class plan in advance. I wondered whether given what we had covered before, we could get through the first seven plays of the first master of dagger, and to the end of second drill. I also wanted to emphasise the ligadura mezana and its counter (the third and fourth plays of the first master), and of course make sure that the longsword cutting drill part one was in place. And even more unusually, I stuck to the plan. Here it is in all its glory:


We began with the salute and the usual warmup, in which I was sure to include kicking squats and falling, and then to the four guards drill. I then had the beginners on their own (so, the non-beginners stepped back) go through the four steps and the three turns: the steps were fine, but the turns were somewhat lacking, so we reviewed them in detail. Then with everyone together they practiced their footwork, while I put the stick in play.

I then demonstrated the first and second and the third and fourth plays of the first master of the dagger; then the third and fourth and the fifth and sixth; then the fifth and sixth and the seventh. Having thus surveyed all seven as a series, I asked them to choose the one technique they did not want to practice and practice that. It’s a pretty reliable guide to what you should be practising: the thing you dread is the thing you need.

They had already seen the flowdrill before, but I had them do the three disarms alone, then tie them together into the drill. Having worked the drill for little bit I had them choose to either practice the part they found most difficult, or break the flow. They self-selected with a remarkably accurate view of which group their skills placed them in, and tending to stick to the base rather than try the more difficult.

Then we all reviewed the third and fourth plays as we would need them to complete second drill. This took us to 18.50, and we took our swords and practised part one of the cutting drill. We then went through all four steps of first drill, then studied step three, then step four, in isolation. This took us to 19.10, and parts one and two of second drill. I then taught them step three, where the attacker yields to the parry, enters in and wraps the defender in a ligadura mezana and strikes with the pommel. Then step four, the counter to that, which is mechanically almost identical to the fourth play of the first master of the dagger. I demonstrated the action first with the dagger, so in its most familiar context, and then with the sword.

We finished with a drill in which the attacker throws eight mandritti fendenti, against which the defender alternates parrying from tutta porta di ferro, as in first drill, and then dente di zenghiaro, as in second drill. We concluded with my telling them that I hoped they would all continue to train, as indeed this course has been a pleasure to teach.

I will absorb all this for a while, then use the data from these two courses to summarise the key elements of how I think a beginner’s course should go, and highlight where and why these courses differed. Stay tuned!

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