Thursday, September 30, 2010

A drill for all ages...

I mentioned in my last post that I was looking for some drills that will be useful for new fencers and that I can use to instruct them while also improving my own fencing. Mattheu and Connor lent me a few suggestions about ways to do this that basically boil down to working on the basics while also forcing myself to use perfect form, perform perfect attacks, and keep myself perfectly safe.

Purpose: The general idea is to learn to identify both your own and your opponent's openings. For more advanced fencers, really focus on using proper form, properly gaining and controlling your opponent's sword.

The concept: If we break down the lines, we basically have high, low; inside and out. At any given time, we can protect 2 or maybe 3 of these with our rapier and off-hand, but our guard necessitates leaving one line open.

If we understand this, then we can do a few things:
1.) Identify that opening in our own guard
2.) Be prepared to defend that opening
3.) Use that opening as an invitation

We can also use this knowledge to help identify our opponent's openings which will allow us to:
1.) Identify the openings in our opponents guard
2.) Use this information to direct our blows
3.) Use this information to understand how our opponent must parry
4.) Use this information to engage in useful feints
5.) Control the fight by controlling our opponent's defense

So, we want a drill that will teach new fencers points 1 and 2, while allowing more experienced fencers to work on 3, 4, and 5. This drill is performed with the understanding that if pairs are at different skill levels, the fencers will be playing completely different games.


A pair of fencers take their guard against each other (in armor). The first fencer (A) identifies the opening in their guard, then enlarges it. The second fencer (B) uses that information to strike. While performing this attack, fencer B MUST be sure to gain the blade, close the line, and deliver a good lunge (or pass, etc). Fencer B gets only one attack and fencer A must properly defend and may deliver a blow if B leaves an opening.

After each attempt, fencers/instructors may provide feedback before switching roles.

Variations: change the guards around, add secondary weapons/parrying devices

Newer fencers will probably be focused on finding the hole, exploiting the hole while more experienced fencers can focus on creating an invitation, feints, and on using perfect form.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Armored, sharpened, and ready to go...

I managed to get most of my armor strapped up for practice last week, but I still have a few pieces left to go (helm included). I took a shot to the thumb last week and considering how much it still hurts, I think that fighting tomorrow night is probably a bad idea, so no heavy for me this week.

Last weekend was Midnight at the Oasis, and that went pretty well. I made it to the final round in the single elim tourney, but then lost to Ilaria. Due to the number of people in the bracket, it was a 3-way final, so we did something a bit different. After the match with Ilaria, she and I took on Connor together. We ended up losing 2-1 (it was best of 3), but it was a fun bout.

After the tourney, Letia fought her prize (congrats!)

Melee in the afternoon was a pretty cool scenario, but almost everybody was wiped out from the heat. We did a few runs before people really started dropping out, and so we ended a bit early.

I talked with Mattheu afterwards about some things to work on while doing slow work drills with new fencers. His advice boiled down to making sure I'm doing everything perfectly while I fight them. One of my main problems has been actually using appropriate footwork/staying in the guard I want while fighting, and so I have been working on making sure I do that while fighting newer fencers, but Mattheu suggested I do the same with attacks and parries. That is, that I should be sure to attack safely (i.e. from their blade), force openings.

I also got some suggestions on how to simplify teaching new fighters to attack from Connor. Basically, all guards cover some areas and leave others open. Fighters should be aware of where their own openings are as well as the openings of their opponent. Perhaps for this week I'll come up with a drill to make use of that.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Drills for New Fencers

We've had quite a few new fencers at practices these days. With the 40 for XL thing going on, their Excellencies, Master Nikulai, and Master Eldred have all picked up a rapier. On top of that, we've had a few other new fencers with Jason, Sean, and Jlona all coming out to practices as well. Last night we had 6 new fencers and 7 authorized fencers. Giovan started everyone off with some drills, while Wistric gave Sean the "first practice run-down" of how everything works.

After drills I did a few passes with Jason before moving on to work with Master Nikulai. He wanted me to write up a few drills to help with basic stance and footwork, so here they are:

Drill 1:

Purpose: to learn to assume guard in a single motion
Optional Equipment: rapier, dowel/stick
(instructions are for right handed fighter)

First stand upright with feet parallel and together. Turn your left foot 90 degrees so that your right toe is pointed forward and your left is pointed to the left.
Optional: place stick or dowel between the feet pointing forward. You can use this as a guide to keep your
feet in line and maintain separation.

Place your right hand (with or without sword) on your left side like you would if you were to be holding the sword while its in its scabbard.

Now, in a single motion, extend your arm as if drawing the sword, placing your hand in guard and step forward with your right foot to assume an appropriate fencing stance. Be sure to do this in a single motion and to make sure you are balanced immediately. You want to be settled into guard immediately without having to shift around.

Notes: Appropriate fencing stance

Right foot should be straight forward, left foot turned 90 degrees towards left. Feet should be approximately 1 1/2 foot lengths apart. Legs should be bent slightly and weight distributed roughly evenly between your legs.

Upper body should be upright as if your spine is being suspended from a string. You don't want to be leaning forward. The right shoulder should be towards the front with the chest turned in the direction of your left toe. Right arm should be out in guard as if holding the sword. Head should be facing front.

Drill 2:

Purpose: Practice advance, retreat, dissociate hand and foot movement
Optional Equipment: sword, dowel or stick to place between feet to keep them in line.

First assume your guard. Then, carry out the following movements:

Extend your arm, advance
Recover your arm, advance
Extend your arm, retreat
Recover your arm retreat

Friday, September 10, 2010

40 for Pennsic XL

At Pennsic this year, I got a little drunk at the Baron's Beer Bash and came up with an awful idea. Next year is Pennsic 40, and so I thought it would be awesome to have 40 fencers from Windmaster's Hill. I proceeded to tell their excellencies this idea which ended up in the plan being 40 fencers, 40 heavy fighters, and 40 A&S exhibits for Pennsic XL. 40 for XL as it were.

Since this is all my fault, I'm going to be doing all three. Fencing has pretty much been my thing in the SCA, so I've got that one covered. While I do dabble in making things and have managed decent garb in this last year, I'm going to need to improve my sewing and brewing this year in order to make something I want to submit for an A&S exhibit next year. Perhaps that would be an opportunity to make the buckler I've been planning? As for heavy fighting, I already have most of the armor I need, and I've started showing up on Tuesdays to let his Excellency beat me with a stick for coming up with such a crazy idea.