Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Training new fighters

 Ah I am so stiff and sore!

A constant theme of this blog is how best to train your fighters. I'm a student of Paul of Bellatrix, As are, in a way, we all, but he was not my first trainer. Paul's training method, which of course emphasizes his style, involves a lot of slow work and pell work and a bit of kata. Paul maintains that fighters should practice unarmored for a year before putting armor on. This is not the way and we normally train, and it's really hard to get people to commit to that. People are here because they want to fight, not because they want to do slow work. I was put into armor at my first fighter practice and thrown to the wolves (literally: my second opponent was Elrik Scapvarger--my first was Eichling von Arum, which, I contend, is why I was able to win a crown eventually). The other unbleted fighters at that first practice were Rolf the Relentless and my eventual knight, Alfrik. So it kind of worked. However, the proof was in the putting: everyone who actually trained with Paul and his training method was good the day they strapped on armor. Very good: after one year of slow work they were always equal to or better than fighters who had been in armor for three years. In other words, they packed three years of training into one by not putting on armor.

This week I got to work with several new fighters at two fighter practices. I also got helmet time, which was great. I did not get to fight against any knights, which sucks for me, but was good for the people around me.

After Birka I decided that it was time to get back into my routine of doing push-ups every day. I intellectually knew what it would be like to take six weeks off of everything, but I could not really know until I experienced it. It sucked! Now, part of my problem is that fighting in Birka is the closest thing we do to running a marathon, and I probably needed a lot more recovery time that I gave myself. When I started doing 50 push-ups a day two years ago, I just started doing 50 push-ups a day. It was a bit of a struggle but I worked into it quickly. On 1 February, deciding that the first was a good time to start a workout routine, I started doing 50 push-ups a day. I was weak. Really weak. The second day I tried this I ended up not being able to complete my last set of 10. I had to stop and start over again. In every way I am tighter, weaker, and more winded than I was before my surgery. Not doing anything for six weeks is awful. I don't recommend it. After a week I took a day off, and then dropped down to 20 to 30 push-ups most days, although I did do 50 this morning, and on on Saturday. I did not do any yesterday. I'm building up to March 1, when I can start doing 50 push-ups a day again.

Nonetheless this is been a pretty good week for workouts. I'm getting back into it. I've been doing push-ups and squats. I never did stop walking. At the gym Saturday I did treadmill, push-ups, some warm-up weights, and some straight up full body work taking a bar from the floor to a military press and back in sets of 10. Monday I did yoga, Indian clubs, some shadow work with the clubs, and my polearm kata. Sunday and Tuesday I fought.

I was training people this week, and getting helmett time, not working on my own technique. The one thing I was truly concentrating on was edge work. I did not have a thrusting tip on the sword I used for most of my fights.


Counting myself, there were five people in armor. One of them, Raven  was brand-new.  I fought my usual style, sword and heater, mostly in A-frame, but also using the high open and high closed guards a bit. I had great fights with Auzer and Sam, I got to use interesting techniques, and I got helmet time.

Raven is a small thin girl who was in armor for the first time. I think she might have done a little bit of pell work in the past. I worked with her for about half an hour. I started out teaching her defense and doing slow work. I drilled her on several blocks. I taught her a proper stance.  I taught her three blows: onside head, off side head, and leg shot, and told her to limit herself to those. Then she went out and did slow work with another fighter as I watched. I would pause the fight and critique both of them as it went on. Then I let them fight two fights, just to get her used to swinging full speed and getting hit a bit. Her defense was very good for someone their first time in armor. after a rest break, I had them do Paul's offense /defense drill, where one fighter attacks, and one fighter defends, the defending fighter gets three blows only, and the fight is over once the third blow has been thrown. Gui worked with her on defending against left-handed fighters, and then after a rest break she did some light sparring with Sam.

This is not the way I would like to teach. I'd like to have a few days out of armor, doing slow work and drills, so someone can then work on it home for a few weeks, before putting someone in armor. But people crave the contact. They want to fight. So do I.

Gui and I have been wanting to get to the Middletown practice for a couple of years now to work with the unbelted fighters up there. We try to get around and do some training, especially where knights don't get to a lot. That practice is better than others, because at least one knight, Tanaka, who is one of the best trainers we have, gets up there on a regular basis.

That practice was excellent. It restored my faith in the future of fighting, and in the SCA.

There were 10 people in armor, and I am sorry but I don't remember most of their names. Two of them were brand-new, two of them were new at last hundred minutes war. There were two really good unbelted fighters, and Tanaka showed up. There was an equipment issue, in that for one group of three fighters they only had two helmets and two shields.

I worked with one of the brand-new fighters for quite a while. He had never done anything at all, not even pell work. He was using a Lucan style kite, so I taught him the Lucan stance and basic technique. Partially because that is such a strong defensive stance, he was pretty good right away. His biggest problem was starting blows too far forward and throwing low leg shots. Those are both easy to correct.

I began by teaching him the proper way to hold that shield. For those unfamiliar with it, it is a peaked kite, and you hold it with the peak guarding the left side of your helmet while looking past the front edge of the shield. This means you're using an A-frame. We discussed both the strong and of the weak stances – that is, shield foot forward and sword foot forward – and I explained to him why the weak stance is favored by most fighters who use that shield. As with Raven, I only discussed three blows with him. I showed him how to throw them and did some slow work with him. When he got into actual fighting, he was beginning to put those blows together in combinations. He was very good for a first-time fighter.

After some basic fun fighting (they are enamored of bear pits up there), I went back to training some of the newer fighters again. I discussed with them how to make and use pells (they all have back yards!) and pointed them to some videos they can use for pell work drills. Then I showed them my block/strike drills, which are a lot like those used in the Asgard school out of Trimaris.  After some more pick-up fights, we talked about footwork and I showed them my interpretation of the compass Rose. That discussion requires a lot more time, and video.

I did one thing that was probably not wise. For myself I mean. In order to teach people how to use the shields that they were using, I picked them up and used them myself. I don't know when the last time I used a Lucan kite was, maybe never: but I was totally slaying with it last night. Then, just for fun, I took Tanaka's small center grip heater into a fight against Hassan, the best unbelted fighter up there. I won all but one of our bouts. I was totally rocking it old-school: high open form, fakes and molinees, fancy footwork, long range sniping: total Bellatrix/Radnor stuff. That kind of fighting is the most fun I know. But I promised Jade and Lucan that I would stick with one shield type till I won another crown.

There was a lot of video shot of this practice, and Gui used a video coaching program that allows for frame by frame analysis. Some of that will be posted in the future.

It is 73 days until crown tournament. My next time in armor will be Saturday at Duke Timothy's adult swim fighter practice.

1 comment:

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