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Tag: series post

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!

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.

I’ve been rushed off my feet with a plethora of interesting projects, including a card game version of Fiore’s art of arms, an upcoming trip to Oulu, and finding out the hard way that my youngest child is lactose intolerant, so time for blogging has been severely curtailed. I hope that the next few weeks have more free time!

First up, last week’s beginners course. This was week 5 out of 8. We are proceeding apace, and got them through to step three of first drill, as well as introducing the dagger disarm flowdrill. The class ran like so:

In the warm-up I introduced them to the plank, and as a couple showed up late, we reinforced the 20-pushups rule. I ran them all through the 4 guards drill, then the 4 steps and 3 turns, then added the stick. It was a slaughterfest, so I retaught them the aim of the game, and we did it again.

We then rechecked the correct placement of weight on the feet, using pressure, and had them pay attention to it in free footwork practice. Then I introduced them to their tailbones, using the same pressure test to establish the correct orientation of the tailbone relative to the pelvis to most easily transfer incoming horizontal force into the ground. Then I had them pay attention to either that or the weight distribution on their feet while moving around. I like giving students a sense of following their interests, and being engaged with the process of their training.

From there we reviewed the 3 disarms that they know, from 1st, 3rd and 9th masters. Then we put them together into the flow drill. THis went pretty well, and most students could see straight away which was the weakest link, so I then had them train that in isolation. Either the weakest individual technique, or the overall choreography, as they saw fit.

This lead us to 7pm, and swords, straight into the cutting drill, part one. Note that we have now dropped many of the preceding exercises, as a rocket discards empty fuel tanks. After letting them practise for a bit, I stopped them and demonstrated the negative effects of tension when striking, using the tyre. It tends to open their eyes to the Art when they see me strike hard with the sword, without closing my hand on the hilt. The mantra then: “long and low and smooth and clean”…

After some more cutting practice, we went over first drill steps one to three, and then to the book to show them how we justify step three academically. They finished off by going over steps one to three again. I promised them step four next week….

And delivered. Week 6 was a chance to review progress, and make sure last week’s lessons were still in place. After the warmup we did the four guards drill, then reviewed how to find the correct tailbone placement, and then back into the drill, paying attention to the tailbone. I then introduced them formally to our drill (for which I must invent a proper name- if you have any ideas let me know) in which you stand opposite a partner, and with minimum force make him move a foot, while he is trying to do the same to you. The point is to control his force and direct your own. After they had been doing it for a while I demonstrated with a young beginner, who was much smaller than me— and asked the question, how do I get useful training in that set-up? The answer being by using the barest minimum of effort, and letting her push me to the very edge of balance— and running it so close that I would sometimes be forced to step. Then had them seek out smaller, weaker opponents to practise this idea on.

From here I shamelessly plugged my new dagger book, a shipment of which arrived last week, by reading out the instructions for the flowdrill from it, which they then practiced. After which we reviewed the 2nd and 3rd plays of 1st master, then had them break the flowdrill with them.

I then showed them the 4th play, countering the 3rd, in the Book, emphasising the turn of the dagger to counter the lock.

This all took us only to ten to seven, but I figured their arms are getting strong enough for 40 minutes with the sword. Straight into part one of the cutting drill, then we stopped and went over the guards tutta porta di ferro and dente di zenghiaro in some detail, then returned to the cutting drill to practise them in situ. Sure enough the guards were much better.

Then 1st drill, steps 1-3, emphasising that it is “always my turn”: just because it is the partner’s turn to strike does not mean that we stop practising. In step one, if he is attacking with mandritto fendente, I am working on a perfect tutta porta di ferro.

Then the promised step 4, which I demonstrated with a champagne flute. Yes, really. It gave them a familiar mechanic to apply to the unfamiliar technique. Working on steps 3 and 4 took us to time. Only two weeks left, but I expect to have them through the first 7 plays of the first master of dagger, and all four steps of 2nd drill by the end. Watch this space!


Week 4 and we are half way through the course. We ran through a normal warm-up, including kicking squats, knuckle push-ups and falling. Then I had them remember as much as they could of the four guards drill, with minimal demonstration. A few of the attendees had missed last week’s class, and this really highlighted what they had missed. I made the point that we run the class for those who have been attending more regularly, but provide as much help in catching up as we can. We then reviewed the three turns, which string together nicely into a little drill (yes, I really do need to catch up with the wiki updates!).

They then had some free practice of the four steps (note, only a superficial demo, so they practice remembering), with the four guards and the three turns. And out with the stick- it was carnage! They had all forgotten how to get out of the way, so we reviewed the exercise. Then I made the point again that these steps and turns are natural actions, that you will do without thought when someone swings a stick at your head- but by classifying them, ordering them into a system, they can be studied and taught. And while the stick was in play, they had naturally done a particular combination, stepping the front foot offline, then passing across. So then we studied the accrescere fora di strada, passare ala traversa combination in isolation.

This brought us on to the third master disarm (PD MS), which we studied for a while, then the first and second plays of the first master (disarm, counter), then the third (ligadura mezana, aka wrap). So, a complete review of the dagger material they have covered so far. We broke for a moment for an intelligence test— I had them hit the ground with their fists. Sure enough, almost all used a hammer fist: but most had been doing the hand strike after the ligadura by straight-punching their partner’s mask. I made the point that striking hard targets with the knuckles of a closed fist is a high level skill, which they have not been taught. I may also have gone on a bit about how boxing gloves have degenerated the noble science into a sport, but heigh-ho.

Then the disarm of the ninth master. They don’t know it, unless they read this blog (as they should!) but the flowdrill is coming next week. All the pieces are now in place. We looked at the technique in the book, then they got to practice whatever dagger material they liked.

Thence to swords and the cutting drill. First just mandritto fendente from donna destra to longa to zenghiaro, and roverso sottano back up; then as a separate drill roverso fendente from donna la sinestra to longa to tutta porta di ferro, and mandritto sottano back up; then we strung together part one of the cutting drill. I also spent some time having them distinguish between tutta porta di ferro and coda longa.

Then to first drill, steps one and two, from last week; then we did step three, the only actually new longsword material this week. At the end I challenged them to find step three (yield to the parry and enter with a pommel strike) in the manuscript for next week.

All in all, good progress!

The third class of this beginner’s course was oddly attended, in that half the students present were not members of this course. Great for the true beginners, of course.

We started with the salute, of course, then the warm up, into which I incorporated the beginnings of knuckle push-ups— being able to create a stable platform on three (little, ring and middle) or two (first and middle) knuckles, then adding the actual push-up motion. We did not go the full Eurythmic push-up! We also reviewed falling, briefly.

Then review of the four steps, and three turns, done to command, then the four guards drill as a set sequence. This is by far the longest choreography they have been asked to memorise, so I incorporated some free practice of the drill so they could work on remembering it. While they were doing that, I then had them get to the ground and back up using no hands whenever I clapped (there is something magic about a room full of people falling down when you clap your hands!). Then out with the stick, again while they were working on remembering the four guards drill, or any of the other footwork drills they know. I made the point that in a room full of people training with weapons they must always retain awareness of their surroundings. The stick is great for that!

Then into the first master of dagger disarm, as revision. After which they had the choice to do a different technique against the same attack, or the same technique against an attack in a different line. They chose the latter, so I showed them the third master disarm from the flowdrill. I think it is vital that swordsmanship students are not trained to be passive consumers of a class— they must be taught to be actively engaged in their own training. After they were training that for a while, I took them to the Book— and lo! No such technique! So out with the Pisani Dossi MS, and sure enough proof that I was not making shit up. Having seen it in the book, they did it again.

Then I showed them all the dagger material that they had seen so far on the course: 1st, 2nd and 3rd plays of the first master, and now the 1st and 2nd plays of the third master in the PD. They then could choose the technique “that currently holds your interest” and train that.

This took us to 7pm, and we took up the swords. I had them do just mandritto fendente from donna destra through longa to dente di zenghiaro, and back up with roverso sottano. Then roverso fendente from donna la sinestra through longa to tutta porta di ferro, and mandritto sottano back up. We then put those together to make part one of the cutting drill.

From here they practiced cutting from donna to their partner’s mask, while the partner waits in tutta porta di ferro (aka step one of first drill).

And that brought us on to the parry from tutta porta di ferro, aka step two of first drill, or better yet, the second play of the master crossed at the middle of the swords in zogho largo.

We did it for a little while, looked at it in the book, then did it again. This brought us to time, where I showed them how to salute while holding their masks, and we were done. This course, like the last, is exemplary for the way they stay on to train after class, and for showing up also on Wednesdays. I have high hopes for them all!

The second class of this course (on March 12th) began with the warm-up, to which I added kicking squats, and basic falling. We then swiftly reviewed the four steps and four guards, which they then practiced on their own.

From there we tested where your weight should be on your feet for maximum stability, using our standard testing process. Once everyone had sorted out for themselves how their weight should be distributed on their feet, they practiced the steps again.

Then new material: the three turns, using Fiore’s definitions. We started with the meza volta, as the easiest, then the tutta volta. I then taught them the stick exercise, and they saw and did those turns naturally. This reinforced the idea of the Art as the ordering of natural actions into a system in order for them to be studied and taught.

Then starting with the swinging exercise that begins every warm-up, I taught them the volta stabile, which we then used to determine the ideal length of the guard position.

From thence to review of the first and second plays of the first master of dagger, before I taught them the third play, the ligadura mezana.

After that we took up swords (it was 7pm) and practiced swingnig it while paying attention to leading with the blade, then the lines of the blows. We noted that the blows create the guards, and looked at the guards we had created (donna, longa, zenghiaro and tutta porta di ferro) in the book, before repeating the drill, this time to work on the guards.

At the very end I demonstrated the first three steps of first drill, and promised to start them on that next week. Tune in again to see if I am a man of my word!

On Tuesday March 5th we began the 2013 Spring beginners’ course. The goal of the course is always the same: to provide a safe and approachable way for interested people to begin training in the Art of Swordsmanship. As usual, we start them off with Fiore’s Art of Arms, not least as this has the most real-world applicable mechanics and demands only normal range of motion. It also has a breadth of weaponry, which allows us several approaches to the same fundamental principles.

This course is unusually undersubscribed, with only 10 people in attendance by 6pm. So keen readers of this blog will find the content and organisation of this course to be quite different to the last one. As those that know me know, I never plan classes as such, as there is no way to predict the specific make-up of the class, in terms of experience, interests and aptitudes. As far as possible, I tailor all classes to the needs of the students present. One of the purposes of writing up this beginners’ course is to provide a second example of a correctly-done course that is totally different to another correctly-done course. I intend also to write up a full comparison of the two, explaining the reasons behind the differences.

We begin, of course, with the book, Il Fior di Battaglia. I showed them the book on the lectern, and made it clear that they were always welcome to check what we are doing in class against the source. Then the safety briefing, which boils down to one rule: Everybody must finish class healthier than they started it. And is followed by what we expect of all students: Behave at all times as a reasonable adult.

Then we got cracking on the warm-up, taking it gently. The group as a whole are reasonably able to make their bodies go where their minds tell it, just the usual assortment of weaknesses brought on by the 21st century lifestyles we all lead. Unusually we did not go through the basic falling practice, just did the roll-and-up exercise at the end of the warm-up. During the push-ups (taught swiftly from scratch) we separated the skills required into two: keeping the body straight, and bending and straightening the arms under load. We did them separately and then together, then let them practice whichever bit they found harder (arms, body or combination). The warm-up began and ended with the swinging exercise, and I was careful to point out why, thus introducing the idea of running diagnostics to assess the effectiveness of a given practice. Towards the end of the warm-up two more students showed up, having got the time wrong. We could not let them join in, as they had missed the safety briefing, but to their credit they stayed and watched the whole class, and we took them through much of the material during free training.

I then had them do the four steps, passare and tornare first, followed by accrescere and discressere. Then to the book to see the text where Fiore wrote about them. While we were there we went to the four guards, longa, dente di zenghiaro, porta di ferro and frontale, then did them, one at a time, with passing steps. Of course, I used our mnemonic “grab his throat, break his jaw, thumbs in eyes, head on floor”. (For a bookful of such poetic gems, see The Armizare Vade Mecum) Once they had tried them all, I gave them a couple of minutes to practice whatever they could remember, however best suited them, on their own. This done, I pointed out that they had just demonstrated to me that they could perfectly well practice without help, and so could train at home without supervision.

To illustrate the guards and transitioning between them as a way of describing motion and therefore time, I had the class stab each other gently with daggers— the one being stabbed could see the guards happening as natural elements of the motion of drawing and striking. After introducing them to the destroyed-by-medieval-weapons modern fencing mask, we then repeated the stabbings with everyone masked up. This lead naturally into the first play of the dagger, the 1st master’s disarm. First, they did it. Then we looked at it in the book, then did it again. I then smowed them how to check for lines of strength and weakness, and we did it again. The inevitable “wouldn’t you get cut” question duly was asked, so I demonstrated the technique using a big sharp kitchen knife, then they did it again. Then to the book for the second play, the attacker’s counter. Here I made the point that this is a knightly art, and so for professional warriors. There is no moral virtue in self defence here, this is for killing your enemies and gaining renown. So the attacker can counter the defence, and we are as versed in attacking as we are in defending.

This all took us to 7.15, so I showed them how to get a sword off the rack without blinding anyone, and we went through the salute a couple of times, and, as we had plenty of room, straight into swinging the sword from shoulder to shoulder, while passing forwards. After a few reps to get comfortable, I had them pay attention to leading with the blade. I always demonstrate this with a senior (in this case Ken), and have him stab me if I attack leading with the foot. All students were then issued with an imaginary homicidal Ken to strike against. After some more reps, we went to the book to look at the proper cutting lines (jaw to knee) and I mentioned forehand and backhand (mandritto and roverso). And it was back for more reps, before finishing with the salute.

Note that we only did 3 “techniques” but the first and last were done several times with the option of a different focus for the mind, such as leading with the sword, or the line of the blow. In this way a lot of information gets packed into a small number of physical actions. The first iteration is always just “do this action”, with no distracting instructions. Better ways of doing the action come later.

In all, we are off to a very encouraging start!

This is not the end. It is not the beginning of the end. And frankly, while the course itself may be concluded, it is not even the end of the beginning. But the last class of the current beginners’ course is now over, and while it was not as well attended as I’d have liked (only 17 of the beginners could come, though some of the missing 7 have been seen since), those that did come did a pretty good job of remembering the course content so far, and then building on it.

The class began with the warm-up, of course (remind me to post about warm-ups- practically nobody gets what they are for). Then we ran through the basic footwork elements using Fiore’s terms (accrescere, discrescere, passare, tornare; volta stabile, meza volta, tutta volta). Only the turns needed revision. Then I threw in the stick exercise, and the four guards drill.

We then ran through the first seven plays of the first master of dagger, before segueing to the dagger disarm flowdrill. That allowed the students to see a lot of material in a short time, and pick the worst bits to practise. The key is to pick something you can recall, but can’t do well yet. We then went over the 3rd and 4th plays of the 1st master (again!), picking up some extra detail, and referring to THE BOOK. I also made the point that while in the previous exercise they had practised what they needed personally, I had then chosen what was best for the class as a whole. The distinction between what one individual needs and what the group needs can be pretty stark; a further encouragement (I hope) for students to stick around for free training, or book private lessons.

We switched to swords at 6.45, and walked through part 1 of the cutting drill. Posta longa was the clear group weak point, so I pointed it out and had them emphasise it in the next round of part one. We then walked through first drill, step by step, making the point that Fiore talks about remedy masters (step 2) counter-remedy masters (step 3) and counter-counter-remedy masters (step 4). We the  repeated the cutting drill, as a mnemonic aid to first drill, giving them leave to act out the steps of the drill when the reached the appropriate point in the cutting drill.

I then taught them steps 1 and 2 of second drill, then added the third, then the fourth, pointing out the mechanical similarity with the 3rd and 4th plays of the first master of the dagger. In other words, after only two months, this group could as a whole pick up a new four-step longsword drill, without too much difficulty, and well enough that those that came along for the syllabus day seminar last Saturday could remember the drills having been shown them once.

I will leave a detailed summary of the content and structure of this course for a later post, but for now just notice that the whole thing, within each class and from week to week, has been intervalling up from super-basic solo actions to quite complex pair drills.

I look forward to seeing how many of this crop of beginners are still training a year from now: 50% is very healthy, less than 25% and I’ll have to reconsider my approach…

Last Tuesday I was still away in the USA, teaching a seminar for Lonin and doing some consulting for CLANG. Ilpo Luhtala covered the beginners’ course class, and this post is compiled from his notes.

There were 17 beginners attending, plus a few more experienced students, and overall Ilpo thought it went pretty well. I had asked him to prepare the class for second drill, which I intend to cover in tomorrow’s class (the last of this course), by taking them through the 3rd and 4th plays of the 1st master of the dagger. (They covered the 3rd play last week, so only the 4th is new.) He took the opportunity to tweak the class towards his own current training interests, without introducing inappropriately advanced material, by emphasising grounding and hip work in the dagger plays and in 1st drill. The exercises after the warm-up also focused on these issues. The message was: your hips are stronger than your arms. (Ilpo is currently working on remaining grounded while moving.)

Though the class did not go through 2nd drill, he demonstrated it at the end, underlining the connection to 1st Dagger Master 3rd and 4th plays, so when we do it tomorrow, they will at least have seen it.

The class went like this:

18:00 -18:15: Warm-up, introducing pair push-ups

18:15-18:27:  Four guards drill, emphasising what it is for. Grounding pair drill. Push hands game.

18:27-18:58: Dagger plays: 1st Master 1st and 2nd play; then 5th play; then 5th and 6th (note 6th play is new); then 3rd, then 3rd and 4th (note 4th play is new).

(For those unfamiliar with Fiore’s dagger plays; 2nd counters 1st, 4th counters 3rd, and 6th counters 5th, hence the pairing.)

18:58 – 19:12: Solo sword training: Mandritto fendente and back; roverso fendente and back; Cutting drill, part one.

19:12-19:30: Pair sword training: First drill: 1st and 2nd steps, then 3rd step added, then 4th step. (All familiar material.)

Free training ran from 19.30-20.30.


I'm writing this blog post in Seattle, sitting at a table in my friend's house, with a gorgeous view over Lake Washington. Tomorrow I'm teaching a two day seminar for Lonin, then staying on to work with the CLANG team for a couple of days. When I arrived yesterday there was a boxful of my new dagger book, hot off the presses waiting for me. Hurrah! So, back to those beginners…
Last Tuesday marked week six of the beginners' course, and we had a full turnout. As I mentioned regarding last week's low turnout, sometimes that is just a concidence- it's rare for everyone to show up, and sure enough, this week we had 22 out of 24, with the missing pair dealing with a flood in their apartment block (a fair and acceptable excuse).
We began with the warm-up, including the swinging exercise as a way to examine initiation (what moves first), and our favourite three point push-ups. I also included the exercise in which you stand on your left leg, and move your right foot in a clockwise circle, and your right hand in an anticlockwise circle- good for establishing balance and coordination. I also had them go into a push-up position on their hands, then shift to their knuckles, and back to their hands (no actual push-ups yet, just the knuckle position). This establishes a reference point for the right wrist position for striking with the sword, without putting too much strain on them.
We then revised the 3 turns, 4 steps and 4 guards, and the four guards drill, before falling practice.
We then looked at making our partner fall to the ground from posta longa by simply turning their wrist: essentially extracting the mechanics of the disarm that they know, and putting it to use to create a (very artificial) takedown. From here we went straight into the first master dagger disarm, and then the fifth play of the first master (an arm break, where you grab the attacker's wrist and elbow). We then did that with one arm, aka the third play (ligadura mezana), and then applied the same mechanics to the takedown (7th play). By stringing the techniques together like this, the common mechanical thread is clear, and so picking up the techniques as variations on the same idea becomes pretty easy. we then looked at The Book, to see these techniques in context, after which the students picked the one they found the hardest to practice.
this allowed me to notice and correct a common, general error (as opposed to a technique-specific problem): the way they were doing the initial cover. They practiced that correction, then we finished up this section with the dagger disarm flowdrill.
All this took only 55 minutes. I remember teaching a comparative seminar with my colleagues Kaj Westersund, Ilpo Jalamo and Petteri Silenius, years ago, while they had decades of teaching experience and I only a few years. The thing that struck me was that somehow they could get their classes to do much more stuff in much less time than I could. I don't mean that they crammed their classes, just that the students were able to absorb and use more material in less time. It feels like I'm progressing as an instructor to see how much faster my students are picking up the material. It has a lot to do with how the material is organised and presented, I think.
Anyway, the class now picked up swords, we saluted and got started on mandritto fendente (donna-longa-zenghiaro), then roverso fendente (donna-longa-tutta porta di ferro). One round of each, and then part one of the cutting drill. Once the choreography was re-established, we did the series of grip handling drills that I taught them in week 4, and then went back into part one to practice keeping a relaxed grip in a set solo drill context, so using the drill as a place to go to practice a specific skill.
We then went through first drill, step-by-step. This was revision. What with all the new dagger material, I felt their capacity for new techniques was already stretched far enough.
This crop of beginners is remarkable for their training attitude- almost all stayed for a while after class, the last ones leaving at about 8.45 having spent much of that time actually training. Some even had the nerve to ask me for specific help, which resulted in me working one-on-one with them, not biting their heads off (rest of class take note).
As I'll still be in Seattle next Tuesday, Ilpo Luhtala will be covering the beginners'class, and I've asked him to spend much of the time on revision, but to include the 3rd and 4th plays of the first master of dagger. This to prepare the class for my taking them through second drill in one go in their final, eighth, session.

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