Intermediates class on Sept 3rd 2012 was run as a freeplay class. The goal of this class was to improve students’ freeplay skills, and to remind them of freeplay’s place in the practice of historical swordsmanship. It went like this:
The class ran for 90 minutes and was loosely divided into five sections. We began all kitted up.
1) One pair at a time fenced, while the rest of the class watched. Each observer was given a specific thing to look for, depending on experience level. From as simple as “who got hit?” to as complex as “what specific patterns does fencer x do that you might exploit when you fence him?”. After each hit, each observer (there were four) was asked for their specific answer.
This lasted about 45 minutes, and was followed by a series of three minute rounds:
2) Three minute rounds: Everyone paired up and freeplayed for one minute. They each had to identify a problem they were having. In the second minute one fencer asked for the specific context they were having difficulty with to be reproduced for them to learn to handle it. Then the other fencer got to ask for what they needed. Total three minutes. Then change partner and repeat. Given changeover times etc, each round actually lasted about 4 minutes.
Time spent: about 20 minutes.
3) Each student then had to identify a specific problem they were having with freeplay in general (not with a specific opponent). And in pairs or solo use the appropriate part of the syllabus to correct the problem.
Time: 10 minutes.
4) Each student then had to identify a specific problem they were having a specific opponent. Then with a different partner (not the problem opponent), explain it well enough that their partner could mimic the problem, so they had an opportunity to solve it. So one party had to understand the problem and explain it, the other had to be able to recreate a specific technical or tactical situation that was probably not in their natural repertoire.
Time: 10 minutes
5) We then spent five minutes doing form work (cutting drill etc.) in kit to re-establish correct movement habits that had eroded during the freeplay exercises.
In an ideal world we would then have done another round of freeplay to see what improvements had been generated, but we were out of time.
All in all this went so well that we decided that the first Monday intermediate class of every month will focus on either preparing for freeplay or developing freeplay skills.
Branch leaders etc. feel free to use this model for running freeplay sessions in your branches.