Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cutting drill trouble solved!

I was not able to control my sword in a specific part of the donna-longa-zenghiaro/tpdf-punta-sottano-fenestra exercise (as stated in the Current annoyances post which, I just noticed, erroneously describes the exercise as ending in posta di donna), namely, the sottano cut was floppy and all over the place. The reason was that I could not conceive of that cut as a an action - neither a whole action nor an isolated action. During last night's solo training I decided to get to the bottom of the trouble.

My first line of reasoning was that the drill was slightly ageing - not ancient by any means, but ageing - considering all the new stuff that Guy has been figuring out recently and incorporating into the system. So I tried to substitute other cuts or insert new postae in between the current ones, as my main beef with the exercise was that starting from longa to make a sottano cut could not be done by moving from posta to posta. After a while I realised that changing the drill was not the object of the exercise but to learn the drill that was being taught. D'oh.

Next I decided to try to elaborate the footwork a little in order to find a way for the sottano cut to make sense. Since the oblique accressere-passare combo appears to be a central building block in the system and Guy has been emphasising it heavily, I started with that. After some trial and error I applied the steps thusly: cut from donna to longa with an accressere off the line and continue to zenghiaro/tpdf with a pass; thrust with a pass; cut sottano (aiming for an underarm opening) with an accressere off the line the other way. And lo and behold, it worked! Next I took away the new fancy footwork but held on to the sense of it - and the cut still worked!

PS. Before she left the salle, I asked Maaret to troubleshoot the drill for me. She told me that I was turning too far back, and that my intention was already moving back while I was still cutting forward. She was absolutely, literally right - but those words didn't happen to hold my key to the solution. However, the road I travelled took me to the very execution she had specified: keep the point forward and make the sottano cut directly from the longa - but only trying to cut more forward just led to my leaning too far that way. I had to see the sense in it, and for me personally, the sense was in the footwork, not the blade.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I accressere'ed, I passare'ed...

...I won! (Or victory'ed?) I got my weight moving right in class today in the accressere-passare combo. The rear foot pushing thing was just a hitch in the mechanics of my foot. The correct way to push with a foot is not to bend any joints to load springing power but, d'oh, to extend the toes to use the springing power already there. Funny how this insight happened to occur just as I've spent a week training the muscles in my feet!


Apparently Ilkka only just made the decision to aspire to be a Man In Black (i.e., SESH instructor). He'll be a great instructor AND a good swordsman one day; he already is good :) I've told Guy privately and I will now say publicly that for me, right now, Ilkka is almost as important as Guy as far as training advice goes. From Guy, I learn what works in the outside world; from Ilkka, I learn things that work inside me - things like intention, motivation, position. Hard to explain, really.

But being me, I have to bitch. Because I'd love to have a choice about whether to aspire to do swords for a living. Instead, I have to make eventually make a living out of using a sword (or rather, these days, some combination of brain and sword and MS Word), because one human lifetime of 24 hours a day isn't enough to contain a job, a passion and a family. And if I either don't practice swordsmanship OR don't earn any money, my children and my husband have to put up with their mother/wife being either insane or a parasite. (And unfortunately it looks like the balance is tipping towards insane.)

So I give Ilkka one piece of advice: Don't get married or have children until you have a salle of your own and a couple of published titles under your belt. Or if you accidentally do, for heavens' sakes don't care about spending time with your family.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Physics 101

Properly supported things require no effort to hold up.
Helping moving things along is easier than starting them moving.
Time is a dimension that is unlike the other three.
Things move in a straight line unless prevented.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Current annoyances

  • In the donna-longa-zenghiaro/tpdf-longa-donna solo drill there is always a moment when I'm not in control of my sword. The problem is that I'm not able to comprehend that last sottano cut, after the thrust, as one movement. And the problem is also that something in my right shoulder prevents me from being strong there.
  • I have a natural hypersensitivity to being touched. This would be great if I didn't have to learn to do set drills in a predictable way, but I do. Unfortunately it just puzzles the heck out of people when they can't get a technique to work on me and it takes a few rounds for me to remember to stop countering. A few weeks ago, it so frustrated Ilkka that he got upset and insisted that I wasn't aiming my cuts properly. I was, it was just that every time I felt his counter hit, I stopped my cut, remembered that I wasn't supposed to do a counter yet, and failed to continue in any way whatsoever. A week ago Guy told a fresh basic-level student that because it was me, it would be hard to get a particular technique to work; it wasn't that I was making a mistake, just that my partner's technique needed to be really good and clean for it to work. That was good to hear.
  • I need more muscle strength. You can tell I'm desperate from the way I gazed with envy at Demi Moore's muscles in G.I.Jane. Particular problem areas are arms (although strength projection exercises would do worlds of good there) and the "tower" area, that is, stomach and back.
  • I have difficulty getting my weight to move only forwards in the oblique accressere-passare combo. My rear foot wants to push.

Iron door - all ways open

Today's lesson was inspiring for two reasons. Firstly because it opened up a new metaphor that perfectly connects to the castle metaphor in Fiore; and secondly because apart from the new metaphor, the language Guy used in teaching us old concepts in new ways was almost identical to how I've looked at swordplay in my head for the past year or two. So I'm not a total flunk at this after all and my head-pictures actually make sense!

The metaphor Guy used was that of the door. He made us walk through doors, open them and close them, and rated our performance. (FYI, I used too much force to open and shut the door and was unstable - a thoroughly unsurprising analysis.) It sounds a bit, well, eccentric, and certainly felt eccentric at the time, but Guy had a point as usual: that anything can be a training tool. In fact, he had two points, the other more obscure, and started us thinking about the motion (and notion?) of a door.

Now for the metaphorical bit that fits in so well with the castle imagery. Here it is, as I understand the matter (Guy didn't say this this way, this is my own summary): Fencing is about closing your door and opening your opponent's. Open yours enough to invite him in, then close your door and open his. You can use a wedge to widen a small crack. You can break the door with force. You can make the door fall off its hinges. Or if you have a key, you can operate a lock. (Disarms - breaks - takedowns - locks. Pretty, ain't it? So pretty that it's too rigid to be true in any sense of the word.)

In any case I was wrong about the iron door being a straightforward reference to a portcullis, which moves up and down. In fact, the iron door can open in all directions. You cannot move without opening your door at least the tiniest bit, but you should choose where to open it with care.

The door, then, turns into a hugely complex metaphor, or at least a pervasive one, one that centres around porta di ferro, the guard of the iron door. (As indeed do humans, because postae (sp?) are defined by the position of the hands and in unarmed pdf the hands are in front of the balance point of the human body.)

(The castle in the Vadi "segno" has a swinging door. I puzzled over this fact a year or two ago - if the iron door is just a portcullis, then why does Vadi's castle have a swinging door? I concluded that his segno must be illustrating different things from what Fiore is on about, as indeed it does (looks to me like body mechanics rather than The Art of Swordsmanship). But while puzzling, I came up with a nifty theory about hip movements: when the hips are facing forward, they are "open"; and when they are turned sideways so that the hip of the lead leg is forward of the other, they are "closed"; and hence they are a door. And of course, the unarmed porta di ferro has the hands exactly where a door would be if you were an elephant with a castle on its back, i.e., lower edge of the castle facing forward - right in front of your hips. All strikes, I reckoned, might logically pass through the door either coming or going. With closed hips you would only strike defensively, with open hips you might strike offensively which could also be a defense. I forget the specifics of how I arrived at all these conclusions and I don't want to remember because it's a tale full of leaps of illogic and specious conclusions leading to a dead end - in a word, I no longer subscribe to that silly old theory - but look how neatly it fits in with this new pervasive door imagery.)