Thursday, October 22, 2009

Upcoming quarterstaff workshop

This Sunday, from 1-5, I will be teaching a workshop on Swetnam's quarterstaff system, as a follow-up to the one I did at the beginning of September. Everyone is welcome to attend, as we will be going over all of the basics to start, and gradually work our way up to performing more complex plays, specifically integrating the blows, extending our exchanges, and executing some of the more interesting actions described by Swetnam.

The cost will be $40, and all of the equipment will be provided by AEMMA. I hope to see a lot of faces (new and old) there!

Class review: 22nd and 23rd of October

It's been awhile since my last update, and a lot of things have been happening in class lately. Very, very good things, I might add. The curriculum that Jared has passed on to me is beginning to bear some fruit, and I think it is worthwhile to discuss here some of the drills we have been working on, so those who are just visiting the site for the first time will get an idea about how and what we practice, and current students can review what they learned in class.

Strictly technical
One thing I had been struggling with for a long time was how to improve the fundamentals of the rapier in the Italian school, notably striking accurately and in tempo, all while staying completely covered. I have stuck with some of the older targeting drills to focus on one thing at a time - proper measure, order of the lunge, and accuracy - while introducing a drill inspired by what we had worked on with Jared, adding in the elements of time and proper defense.

1. Striking various targets: I usually adopt the same three every time - open hand, index finger and knothole - and occasionally add in a moving target, a second target, a sometimes target, etc. This is great to get people warmed up, and really have them focusing on the proper order of the lunge, and if done correctly, the accuracy that comes up with proper order.
2. Striking to the body on a cavazione: this is a drill I have borrowed from Jared, which forms a nice bridge between a strictly fundamental drill, and a drill rooted more in timing, or rather, the correct tempo in which to strike. The agente will start in terza at misura larga, and will change to seconda or quarta in order to stringere the patient's sword. The patient will take advantage of this motion and perform a cavazione and thrust to the opening created by the agent.
3. Cavazione and opposition drill: another mechanical, albeit essential, drill. This can start either in or out of measure, though I find the best instance is when the agente starts at the first distance (i.e. tip to tip, or larghissima), and steps in to stringere the paziente, who will immediately perform a cavazione. Agente will perform a contra-cavazione, and so on, and then they change roles, so they have practice doing a cavazione on both sides. To make this drill more interesting, the agente will oppose, i.e. exchange guards, on each of the paziente's disengages. The important thing in both of these drills is to ensure that the physical guard is always in a position to defend the threatened parts of the body.

Working towards fencing drills
We haven't yet reached the point of practicing combat specific drills, but a lot of these drills are in preparation for fencing, as they rely exclusively on the fencer's ability to act in the right measure, and in the right tempo. For some bizarre reason, I have decided to call these the true fusili drill and the false fusili drill; why I felt the need to reference a lovely pasta, I have no idea.

1. Striking via a contra-cavazione (i.e. true fusili drill): both fencers will start out of measure. The agente will create a threat to either the inside or the outside, and paziente will go to close that line with the physical guard in either seconda or quarta. During his motion, agente will perform a cavazione with a step in. Paziente will go to close that line again via a cavazione, and agente will perform a contra-cavazione and lunge. As we have noticed in class, a shorter person will have to take at least one more step to get within range.
2. Striking via an exchange of guard (i.e. false fusili drill): both fencers will start out of measure. The agente will create a threat to either the inside or the outside, and paziente will go to close that line with the physical guard in either seconda or quarta. During his motion, agente will perform a cavazione with a step in. Paziente will go to close that line again via a cavazione, and agente will interrupt by exchanging guards (i.e. going from seconda to quarta or quarta to seconda) and lunge.

The difference between the two of these is timing: in the first case, agente is acting in the middle of paziente's tempo, so he must go around his sword in order to strike safely. In the second case, agente acts early in paziente's tempo, so he is able to simply exchange guards (which actually takes more time than a cavazione) and thrust.

Starting next class, we will begin alternating freely between the two of them, and then gradually increasing the complexity by adding in some very specific factors: what happens if the paziente performs the "wrong" action? What happens if paziente doesn't react? How do I induce a tempo? Finally, and what I think is the most interesting, what if paziente attacks? Hint: look at the plates!

That'll be all for now; more to follow this Saturday!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Summary: Jared Kirby seminar

I realize I'm posting this well after the fact, but better late than never! On the 26th and 27th of September - just over two weeks ago - our rapier group at FAC had the privilege of hosting Jared Kirby for a two day seminar on Capoferro. Having met Jared earlier this year at ISMAC, I was eager to have him come up to spend some time with our group, but mostly for my benefit: during the course of ISMAC, I realized there were a few pieces "missing" in my repertoire - due in no small part to my lack of constant supervision - which I felt he would be able to help me fix. I was not mistaken.

Nine people including myself showed up bright and early on Saturday morning to study in detail Capoferro's system of Italian rapier, starting by a very, very (!!) thorough examination of his one and only guard, terza. Immediately I was thrown off by the small - though very important! - details I had neglected to incorporate, notably the exact positioning of the body parts in both the ordinary and extraordinary paces. I've been often asked why ____ sore, and now I have my answer: if we follow exactly what Capoferro wrote, nothing should be sore, save the burning you should feel in the legs. I caught myself several times putting stress on the knee, which I was able to immediately fix because of the feeling of the guard.

The entire first day was spent refining terza, and I couldn't have been happier. It feels much more... efficient than what I had been falling into, particularly concerning the vita; already bending at the waist makes is a small adjustment that makes a big difference during the fight. I was also struck by how much forward energy can come out of a lunge, even more than I had been training for the past three years.

On the second day, to my great surprise, everyone showed up (on time, even). That made matters much simpler for the purpose of drilling. In any case, we started with a review of the previous day's session, and then went right into discussing guadagnare and stringere, two very important notions which I had reversed; turns out it's not a huge deal because I had been doing the right thing all along, only my language had been in error. We managed to get through quite a few drills throughout the course of the day, and the wheels in my head have been turning steadily ever since. We have a lot of material to work on for the next couple of months. Excellent.

Overall, it was an excellent seminar, and I look forward to inviting Jared out again for a follow-up. We all got a great deal out of the weekend, and the fencing spark has been re-ignited in more than a few people's eyes. Next week will bring some good things.

Friday, October 9, 2009

UofT class update!

Yes! After several weeks of uncertainty, we finally have confirmation that rooms are booked for next week! I have yet to confirm with the person in charge of bookings which room(s) is booked, because it will change every week due to a host of other events going on throughout the St. Mike's campus.

As for content, a few things will change in the way I present the material since Jared Kirby's workshop. As of next week, I'll be starting from scratch with the new students, and really work the new things that I've learned. Specifically, I want to play around with the refined notions of guadagnare and stringere, and how to enter the fight safely. The idea of creating an opening as a way to get into measure is an interesting one; let's just see what non-fencers do about it.