Friday, June 15, 2012

McCarren Park Practice, 6/14//12

I just realized that I haven't posted anything in two weeks! What a slacker I have been! I need to be more diligent here. It is Friday the Ides of June. We had a small practice last night. Really small, but it was useful and fun. We need more fighters.

It is hard to say where I am with this. My elbow stiffens up, it loosens. I do rehab, but I seem to have plateaued. On days when I lift my elbow complains. Sometimes it complains after I fight. I have an appointment with an arm specialist in July, mostly because I want to see an expert and have him say what i already know: that my body is in good shape but has been mightily abused and I have to nurse it along more. :)

I have been training for that 5K mudrace on the 30th, but not by running very much. My Achilles keeps me down (I have an appointment with a foot guy too: unfortunately, it's two days before the race). But I have been very good at working out. I got a one-month trial membership at New York Sports Club and have been taking their Total Body Conditioning classes. I went three times last week but only once this week. Other days I have been biking, doing a set of aerobics and a set of weights at the gym, yoga, or WODs--not the crossfit WOD but one I get from an I-Pad ap of the same name. Wednesdays, which I did, was tabata sets of standing broadjump, pushups, situps, and squats. Strained an oblique on the broadjumps, had to do crunches instead of situps, was totally wiped at the end of twelve minutes. Tuesday I missed workouts because I had a virus, but otherwise I've been working very hard. I log them all at Map My Fitness and post them to FaceBook.

Last week Gui and I showed up with armor, and the only other person there was a new fighter from Australia named Joe. He is a grad student, has his shit together, and has some martial arts experience. He's got a lot of potential. I taught him my kata, and a few basics about sword dynamics. Then Gui got into armor and let him hit him a few times.

Last night Gui wasn't feeling well and left his armor at home, but we actually got good training in with both Joe and Tormundr. the things we did demonstrate the difference between training a new fighter, even one with some martial arts experience, and one with experience.

I warmed up both Josh and Tormundr with stretches and swings and such. Then I worked with Joe. We ran through the Kata again a few times, and then I taught him about sword grips. There are two that I use: one is the Belatrix grip, where the sword his held in the crook of the thumb and with the pinkie, power is generated by closing the hand, and all direction changes come from curling the wrist. This works best with the belatrix style, which generates power from the hips with a tip-heavy sword but can be used with a pommel heavy sword as well. Then I showed him the Gendy grip. In this style you hold the sword with the thumb and fore-finger. You close the different fingers and move your elbow in different ways depending on the blow: close the pinkie while pulling the elbow across for a snap, the ring-finger pulling the elbow down for a leg shot, the middle finger, throwing the elbow up, for an off-side and the fore-finger, throwing the elbow out, for a wrap. This grip you can't use with a tip-heavy sword. I worked with him a few times on this.

During this period Gui worked with Tormundr on his power generation. After this I took over working with Tormundr and Gui started working with Joe. Gui is mostly a Gendy fighter and I am mostly a Belatrix fighter, so our styles are diametrically opposed, and the things I say to do he says not to do and vis-versa. This is a tough issue since we are the only two knights at practice, and he is the Viceroy and I am the Marshal. We need to work through this, but in twelve years (most of the first nine with Gendy himself involved) we have never been able to, other than to respect each other and say "I do it differently." (It helps that we are really good friends).

When I took over with Tormundr I didn't worry about grip or hips or power generation. He has been fighting long enough that he has all that worked out for himself. With him I can work on blow-placement, target recognition, distance, footwork, etc. Last night it was target recognition.

We started out doing slow work and then two passes of just fighting. Then we rested. After that I ran him through one of Sagan's attack drills, just to see where he was. The main part of the evening was doing a bit of Block/Strike and Trigger Drills. In Block/Strike, I would attack and he would parry and counter attack. Then we would re-set and do it again.  We did this at slow speed. For much of it, like Sagan used to do with me, I would throw the blow and just stop, waiting for him to figure out the best attack. In the trigger drill, which works the same, I showed him the principle of striking before the opening appears. I would move or start an attack, always opening a target as I did so, and he was supposed to recognize the target and throw at it on the first movement. The way I teach this is by starting with the walking attack. I step forward with my right foot, changing to a right-foot lead, and he is supposed to hit me in the leg. Most people don't register the opening until it appears, when the foot plants. Sagan and Gyrth taught that you trigger of the step, as soon as the back foot moves forward, so that the blow is landing as the foot plants. That is a much harder blow to defend. I then use the same principle for the the slot that opens when you start a blow from a hanging guard, the leg with I shift my shield corner up, the shoulder when i throw a wrap, and the off-side head when I start to throw an off-side body. The drill is a lot like Block/Strike, except that he is triggering off of my movement *as* I strike instead of counter my blow after it has landed. After that we did Paul's Offense/Defense drill with the attacker standing and the defender kneeling. This is the one where the defender has three blows to throw and the attacker is unlimited. Finally after that we did some more slow work and then just did some rock and roll. He showed marked improvement from the beginning of the evening to the end.

Cornelius von Beck from Lochac is one of the best trainers I know. Yesterday he posted a great blog about training drills, which includes the three drills above (under different names) plus a few more.  I've added his blog to the links section on the right.

I will be fighting at Southern Region War Camp next Saturday and at the Riverfest Demo in Riverdale next Sunday.

It is 41 days until Pennsic!


andrewjlowry said...

Thank-you for the post. There is a lot of good material for me to use here for my own fighting here in the Kingdom of Ealdormere (I live in Niagara Falls, ON). I enjoy these. Some of your material such as sword grip is rarely taught in my experience so it is good to read about it. Regarding your conditioning have you looked into moving away from sit-ups and crunches towards core exercises that do not involve back flexion. Google Dr. Stewart McGill (he has some stuff on You Tube) who has done a lot of research on back health and sports. Consider planks, mountain climbers, spidermans etc to strengthen the core. For your elbow consider lifting with dumb bells as a barbell spreads the load and can overload the weak elbow. Again thanks. I value your post. I need to visit NYC and attend one of your training sessions which are better than a practice.

M.A. Cramer/Valgard said...


Most of my elbow read is accomplished with Indian clubs. My occasional use of dumbells and kettle bells is for strength more than any thing else. I do more plank than I do sit ups by far. I do them only in the conditioning class I take, or if I am doing a WOD that requires them.

Thanks for your post. Come to Brooklyn sometime.