Every Thursday I get together with a few of my senior students and we work on drills, sparring exercises, and body mechanics. Generally I have us stick to fairly fundamental exercises. I personally just love working on fundamentals and have found that this is always where the greatest opportunity for improvement lies, no matter how long you’ve been fencing.
I’ve decided to start using the opportunity on these occasions to capture some of the drills we practice for DuelloLearning and Duello.TV.
One of the main focuses I’ve been bringing to our drilling sessions of late is the concept of “collection”. This is the idea of keeping yourself well balanced and not overextended with movements that are crisp and appropriately sized. I find that in combat in particular it is easy for many students to overreach to their opponent to try to squeeze out that extra inch in a lunge, or to desperately turn a bad situation into a worse one by barrelling forward or taking large bounding steps. Exercise one is a straight forward exercise that emphasizes stepping to misura stretta as the opponent approaches measure, and striking as they retreat. It’s important in this exercise to step crisply and at the right time and then not overreach as you strike at Larga (in spite of some of the huge lunges I make in the little summary video!) You’ll also see in the video some times that I step to find (sword is held low in terza and then extends to strike) or step to gain (sword extended in quarta or seconda). Both are worth practicing.
The second exercise has a similar beginning where your opponent comes to find you at misura largissima (one step outside of misura larga) and you step and find them at larga in the same tempo. They then disengage and come to strike and you use your dagger (or sword) to gain and strike in contra tempo. You’ll see a couple examples of how your partners timing can change to make the drill more varied and challenging.
We practiced these drills with masks and gorgets and at speed. If you are practicing these exercises I recommend practicing them only as fast as you can maintain good form. As ou get comfortable at a particular speed then push the speed up to your new technical limit.
I’m a big fan of sparring games and other exercises that help bring a skill from drilling into a more fluid and combative environment. The Five Things Exercise is a sparring game that allows you to focus on five different techniques or ideas with just this goal.
The route from learning a new skill to pulling it off in combat is not a simple process. Though you can take many skills immediately into combat and make some progress, it is more effective to follow a formal process that targets the skill in a focused manner at each stage of its development.