I feel like I need to get more practice in but I don’t have much time outside of the classes I do. What do you recommend?
I think the solution here is to strive for quality over quantity. That is, make every minute in class or open floor be devoted to practice. Here are a few ideas that I’ve incorporated into my practice:
1. Avoid needless conversation/action
I hear this frequently:
“Ok, do want to do role X or Y?”<pause while thinking>“Oh it doesn’t matter to me, which do you want to do?”Etc.
To me this is wasted opportunity. In every exercise, both sides are going to have the opportunity to practice both roles, so why discuss it? Here’s how it usually goes when I’m training:
“Ok, you want to d- ?” “X.”
If there’s a role I want to spend more time focussing on, I’ll just tell my partner I’m starting with that role. Also, in exercises where we move forward until we hit the wall I often see people stop, walk back to where they started, and start again. This is wasted time since you can just as easily turn in space (I do this via a tutta volta; see point #2), and keep going back the way you came. However, on occasion I will make an exception (see point #4).
2. Every role is an opportunity to practice something
We often do exercises where one party is standing still while their partner is striking them. This is an excellent opportunity to practice all sorts of things. For instance:
- Are you focussed on the posture you’re in? Go internal and make sure it’s just where you want it.
- How is your partner moving? Are they doing something really well (and can you perform that action just as well)? Do you notice something that needs improvement (and do you need that correction as well)?
3. Use non-verbal cues and/or the “language of fencing”
In many ways this incorporates points # 1 & 2. Through body and fencing language, I can communicate several things to my partner, among them:
- In a drive-back type of exercise I get into my guard while clearly avoiding eye (or mask) contact with my partner. When I snap to attention, looking at my partner, they know to begin.
- If the exercise starts with partner A finding partner B, then partner A’s first act should be standing in guard without finding. When I do this as Partner A, not only does this tell partner B when they should begin acting (so I’m not surprised), but I also get to practice good finding.
4. Take breaks
I take breaks when I need them. I want to make sure I can devote my concentration to what I’m doing so when I know I’m flagging badly, I take a break. And often during that break, I’m thinking about what I was doing and how it might’ve been different from what I want to do (or how it’s not)!
There’s just a few ideas of how you can concentrate your practice. Good luck.
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