Classes are a great place to learn, but proficiency comes from learning in between sessions by practising on your own. Here are five ways you can make the most of your personal practice time:
Keep your commitment small
If you're new to home practice, make a commitment that you feel very confident about keeping. In the beginning, the goal is momentum, not quantity. I write about this a lot, so check out this article if you need to know more.
Keep your equipment accessible
If you want to do regular practice at home, especially if you're cramming it into free moments, make practicing as convenient as possible. Have your sword on the wall or against your mantle. Make a wall or door target that you can leave up or easily put up.
Years ago, I worked long hours at my job so I got permission to bring in both my guitar and sword to keep around for breaks. We had a long hallway to the bathroom that I used to practice footwork. The easier you can make regular practice, even small moments, the more practice you'll get and the more value you'll get from your formal training sessions.
Use a Timer
I'm a big fan of timers. Whether you use a stopwatch or a timer app you'll find that it's easier to stay on track if you have something to help you count reps and move between activities. I have found that shorter intervals allow for higher intensity and greater focus. Longer intervals build stamina and allow for lots of repetition.
Have a Plan
Create a program in advance of your training times. I recommend using a common template that you can plug different drills into based on the area of focus in your classes. For example, a 25-minute training plan for longsword might look like this:
5 minutes - Fundamental Cutting Drill Warm-up, in 1-minute sets.
10 minutes - Lesson Drill 1, in 1 or 2-minute sets
10 minutes - Lesson Drill 2, in 1 or 2-minute sets
Short training sessions are best thought of as a way of maintaining a mental presence with your lesson topics. If you want to have an effect on your conditioning, I would spend 20-minutes focused on one exercise (if I had the mental presence to do so).
If a solo aspect of your current lessons was not apparent to you, be sure to check-in with your instructor at the end of a class. In this way, you can plan in advance how you're going to spend your training time before the day arrives. The more clear your plan is before you start training the better use of the time you'll make.
Have a Buddy
Whether you have someone you train with or someone you check-in with, having someone on your side makes it way easier to stay accountable and on track.
If you're following our online Duello.TV longsword or rapier fundamentals programs, each lesson includes an outline for at least 10 minutes of exercises as well as guidance on ongoing training. Check them out!