Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Finally some elbow room

We're going to have a new salle! Guy signed the papers today to buy the bigger room next door to the current salle and we should be moving by June. The new place is considerably bigger than our current one, so the school will have more flexibility in terms of what to do with the three effective hours that we have each weekday evening.

Salle is almost empty...

Salle is full.
(The biggest class of all time with 45 students present.)

Fun With Swords

Every now and then - as today - I get into this weird state of mind when using a sword is actually fun and attending class is wonderfully energising. It doesn't happen often, maybe once a year. Perhaps that's as well, because when I'm having such fun, I tend to bounce around and become a bit manic; not always a good idea with swords around.

Today's crowded longsword class focused on posta di donna which breaks all guards with the great blows that it makes, can make and cover all seven blows, and can exchange thrusts. Unfortunately, due to the crowding, we had to do the actual exercises from tutta porta di ferro, which must have confused beginners no end. We did all sorts of stuff with rompe di punta and scambiare di punta, following preparatory unarmed and dagger exercises emphasising direction. And as I said, great fun was had :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The pain of training

Yesterday's longsword class focused on guards and how Fiore describes them. During the solo donna - longa - zenghiaro/tutta porta di ferro - fenestra-donna... -cutting drill he asked us to pick a guard each to practice and repeat to ourselves what that guard was for according to what he had just told us. I picked fenestra, "mistress of covers and strikes". By the way, Guy's ad hoc translation of Fiore tickled me with the double entendre and I can't help wondering if it also works in C14 Italian: "she [the window guard] is full of malice and deceit... she is mistress (nudge nudge) of covers (wink wink) and blows (nudge)... she argues with all the guards... she will often deceive the companion of all the guards..." Ah well, maybe that's just me :D

Here is the text on finestra from the Getty as transcribed by Sala d'Arme Achille Marozzo (their full text of the sword in two hands):
Questa si è posta di finestra che di malizie e ingani sempre la è presta. E de covrir e de ferire ella è magistra. E cum tutte guardie ella fa questione e cum le soprane e cum le terrene. E d’una guardia a l’altra ella va spesso per inganar lo compagno. E a metter grande punte e saver romper e scambiare quelli zoghi ella pò ben fare.

The topic of the rapier class was the lunge. Progress was on the slow side because we worked out everyone's maximum lunge with measuring tape and then tested whether they could reach it in a real lunge. We reviewed the correct length of a Capo Ferro lunge (the length of one foot) and of the guard position (as long as the sword minus said foot). Guy also corrected our guard positions.

Besides Guy, Maaret and I - i.e., the only girls in class - were the only ones who could achieve our maximum lunge. I strained my groin trying to recover from it. Ten minutes later my right forearm developed a violent cramp; Guy's torture-chamber-style massage released the cramp but left such bruising in its wake that only three hours and a hot shower and a dash of hot medicine later did the hand actually rotate.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Golden rule: don't make it up as you go along

I stepped in the salle door today bone-tired, depressed, fluffy-headed and very conscious of the four hours of paying work waiting for me at home, yet looking forward to switching off my brain and swinging a sword around. And look what happened: Guy informed me that I'd be leading they day's longsword class as he was sick. And what happened next was pretty predictable...

Guy decreed that I should run a class that first prepared the participants for variations on Third Drill and ended with doing said variations. This was a much more sophisticated class than I would have planned for myself, and what I should have done was say: "Guy, I can't do that yet. Can I just do regular Third Drill instead?" Of course I didn't, mainly because he seemed so confident that I could do it. This was a mistake on my part: now I think he merely looked confident that I should be able to do it.

The class started out well enough with ordinary footwork drills and guard position exercises, and although it moved along a bit slowly, I felt that I was actually making sense and (some) people were learning. Guy even complimented my effort. But predictably, once we hit actual training exercises and making real use of them, things started to slide downhill. It wasn't the usual landslide where one mistake engenders another, though. No, this was me repeatedly hitting the glass ceiling formed by my level of maximum competence - quite calmly and without panicking or becoming embarrassed. (That must count as some kind of achievement...) The class ended with me totally losing the thread of what I had been thinking of to do next, which I still can't remember, apologising to Guy and just getting them to do the end of third drill instead. During the process of reaching that glass ceiling, I had, for example, committed the stupidity of making up a practice drill because I couldn't remember any actual ones. It was an obviously silly drill, but Guy had to point out to me the silliness of it.

Well, failing actual useful training time, at least the class got some laughs out of me... I only hope I didn't scar the beginners for life.

Guy came to the conclusion that I needed to be more familiar with the techniques included in the syllabus. (Déjà lu? ;) He thinks to fix this with a session where we will go through the syllabus and I will write it all down. I have my doubts, because the only way I'm going to remember what the techniques are and how to execute them, let alone offer instruction in them, is to do them again and again and again. I'm thick, you see. I'm as thick as the big-print version of The Complete Works of Charles Dickens. (George, Blackadder IV). I don't learn anything unless it's beaten into me.

I've definitely bitten off more than I can chew with this class leading thing. The question now is, what do I do about it? Do I spit out the mass of stringy, grey, desiccated, chewed-up piece of tough meat that's rolling around in my mouth, in which case, it probably means no more meat for dinner ever again. Or do I grit my teeth and swallow it, risking choking and/or vomiting but ensuring a continued supply of meat in future? Does anyone (I know at least two people read this blog because they've mentioned it to me) have any thoughts or sage advice?