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Two weeks ago the format for the  Melbourne Swordplay Guild Fiore class changed. The first 30 minutes of the class are now devoted to revision of the basic drills in the system, as well as a warmup. I suggested this change at a recent planning meeting and it’s the way I like to run my classes.

Which got me thinking about why I have the class format I have.

  • Students often fail to make it to class regularly
  • post-beginner students forget the basic drills and actions in the system
  • The fundamentals are the most important bits of a system to get right

Spending the first 30 minutes on the basic drills gauges the progress of the students for themselves and for me, which informs the material I teach for the rest of the class. For the irregular students the first 30 minutes reminds them of what they need to know to make whatever else I teach that evening work. The beginners get to join in the main class from the start, after the 30 minutes is up they can either continue with everyone else or, more likely, continue to work on the fundamentals with me or an experienced student.*

For Capoferro I feel like I have this well in hand, with simple footwork exercises, lunging practice, and basic drills 1-4. For other system and even other weapon combinations within Capoferro this is much more difficult – I don’t feel that I have a definition of the fundamental actions in Bolognese, for example.

The current core part of every bolognese class is footwork: pass & recover, pass & traverse, linear pass, and simple steps. I only added the simple steps and linear pass this week, when I noticed that the students without a rapier background didn’t know how to do them.

This focus on fundamentals is interesting in the Fiore context because basics in each element are required. Wrestling has its own fundamentals as does dagger, as does sword (thankfully the fundamentals of sword in one hand completely apply to sword in two hands). While each of these sets of fundamentals is important in the later elements; one still needs to work on the fundamentals to each element separately. Difficult to do with only a two hour class, ejspecially as the last half hour is devoted to freeplay.

One of the things we worked on the first night at MSG, after the planning meeting, was approaching measure; during which my partner taught me this nifty drill:

striking in true times drill

  1. P. wearing good head and hand protection waits in low guard.
  2. A. strikes fendente to the head.
  3. Patient looking only at A.’s feet begins to parry when A.’s feet move.
  4. If A. moves their feet first P. will parry and not be struck but if A. moves the sword first, in true time P. will be struck.

*Caveat about beginners, while beginners can join in with the fundamentals from the start it is much more optimal to deliver a dedicated beginners course first, or failing that a 20-30 minute introduction to the concepts and terminology of the system.