Sunday, January 31, 2010

Capoferro, Capoferro, wherefore art thou Capoferro?

With a longsword seminar coming up the next weekend, this seemed a perfect time to offload some thoughts on Italian Rapier.

Capoferro. Much more of a workout ever since my posture and stance was corrected. (I may thank you, Don Emrys, but my legs are not so sanguine about the whole affair)

Things I am finding as my body adapts to the new knowledge:
1 - movement at this stage is not as fluid as I had previously been with the erroneous (aka Lazy) stance. In fact, while my muscles and tendons are getting used to it, I find my movements are rather slow and difficult by comparison to my rather lazier 'fence like a drunken dandy' approach. But that is gradually improving. Discipline. It's all about disclipline. And not posing or showing off, or pretending to be Inigo Montoya.

2 - balance is GREATLY improved with the more correct posture. This alone is worth a bottle of 12yr aged-in-oak tawny port should I get to spend time at another event with Emrys.

In related news - lunge footwork is improving as an individual unit. Now I need to focus on drills incorporating other footwork leading up to the lunge. Also, I need to return to the retreating lunge. It was always a boon to me and I've been neglecting it atrociously in favour of prancing around like a fop at a ball. For shame.

Blade control is improving. Beginning to get a feel for the lines and vectors of the blade in attack and defense. (By 'beginning to' I mean exactly that. Still rank novice stuff as yet. Very much hit and miss at times.)

PARTE THE SECONDE: Adventures in the mysterious realms of teaching.

So, with the blessing of Jason/Everard, I have been working with the odd newcomer on rapier basics. I'm still disorganised and feeling my way, as I am yet to be confident that I can teach things 100% correctly.

Still it has been going well, and I have been learning a lot in the process.

Some thoughts from the most recent experience:
- It is easier, in comparison, to explain the concepts of controlling the blade (where to strike and apply pressure to control the line and deliver the point) than it is to physically demonstrate them when one's own skills are still woefully insufficient. That I somehow succeeded to do both to some extent is a sign of hope for my own progress.

- Committing to solely defensive footwork and bladework to allow the 'student' to get a feel for attacking and finding weaknesses is bloody hard work and quite a workout. It is also good practice for me. I now realise how sloppy my defensive blade movements are.
(I'll need a lot more control and economy of movement if I'm going to face certain Dons with something resembling even odds. This, I think, is going to take a lot of work.)

- Taking turns to be wholly defensive and offensive had its advantages, but seemed to encourage the person in the role of attacker to get a bit sloppy and leave massive openings while trying to make a hole in the opponents defense. Tried a variant where, if an opening was too large, I'd feint towards it to create an awareness of the opening without overly disrupting the offensive flow for the 'student'. Seemed to work. Will experiment more with that, as I certainly got benefits out of being the defender and would like to work with this a bit more.

- Footwork teaching and drills are becoming easier to work with. I think I am becoming a bit more adept at explaining and demonstrating the basic movements.

Somewhat proud of myself: created an ad hoc drill to help someone develop better footwork when stepping offline for the sloping pace, or in the manner of the Spanish curved and mixed steps. At the start, the 'student' was unable to make it work, either completely crossing himself over, or not completing the step. Neither explanation nor demonstration were helping, so I had to try and figure out which biomechanical principals were at work, and build some kind of drill.

What I came up with was a progression of the basic forwards-backwards and side-to-side drills we do. I started with a repetitive drill of a simple diagonal step, both advancing and retreating. Once the 'student' had that down comfortably whilst maintaining a consistent stance, I added the final pivot/adjustment to allow the fencer's stance to 'face their opponent'. The drill turned out to be a bit time-consuming, but it worked well. The 'student' was able to take a slope step and maintain a consistent stance whilst having their front toe lining up with the target.

In the future I will likely continue to use it for similar challenges.

All in all, while I have too many areas to count which need improvement, at least improvement is occurring.

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