The take home message in his post, or, the one that I want to point out, is that there are some lessons of fencing that can only be learned by fencing.
Call it what you will: being under pressure, no thinking time, art vs. practice they all lead to the same thing: you need to spend time fencing in order to truly master its use.
Perhaps the hardest part of what Randy describes as “helm time” is realizing what you’ve learnt. It can be very difficult (if not impossible) to be able to describe even a bit of a bout (“I moved the find him/her … I got hit”). This sort of difficulty goes away the more you do it, as the stress of being in combat becomes less stressful. Then you become more able to figure out what’s happening.
I like to compare it to the first time I drove on the highway. I was used to speeds of 60 km/h, but 100 km/h was wild. My heart was racing and my senses were overwhelmed by what was happening. I honestly couldn’t describe anything other than “That was fast, I needed to get out of it”. Now 100 km/h is easy.
The same principle applies to many other things. I often tell my students that the only way to become proficient with cutting is to cut. I can tell you all sorts of things on how to do it properly but that will only take you a fraction of the way towards proficiency.
It’s just practice.