At the end of the month I’ll be taking part in some workshops and competitions as part of the Dimicatores Austry Partes V.
I’m a little nervous as I’m very aware of how good the competition is in Rosa e Spada. Anyone who has read any of my blogs will know full well how much I admire the students and instructors here. As such, I have been preparing as best I can.
The competitions for which I have signed up are the longsword, sword and buckler and renaissance side-sword. The side-sword is something I’ve been training with the Rosa e Spada on Saturdays in which we practice plays based on Marozzo’s treatise, and so the rest of my week is dedicated to studying the longsword and the sword and buckler.
It’s very hard to motivate yourself to train after getting home late from work, so there are likely those of you who will look at this regime, shake your head and disregard me a bit of a wimp. That’s certainly fair enough as I know there are people out there who can dedicate a lot more time to their art, but for others I hope it will be useful.
In the morning, Melissa and I spend about 30 minutes practicing plays and techniques from I-33. This might take the form of light free sparring, or parry-repost exercises, fighting from the bind or focusing on moving in true time.
After that, we do about 30 minutes of longsword training. This will normally take the form of sparring. I will use a short sword with a two handed grip while Melissa will use a long pole. The reason for this is to allow me to practice going for deep targets despite being out pointed by my opponent.
Then shower, lunch, work and other grown up stuff which demands my attention.
Once I’m home, I get started on exercises that either build strength or stamina, work on cutting mechanics and perfecting plays. I usually work up more of a sweat doing this than sparring in the morning.
I build strength by doing weighted push ups, weighted sit ups, and weighted squats as well as doing cutting drills with a dumbbell rather that a sparring sword.
This is interspersed with skipping to build stamina or cutting with footwork at speed with a sparring sword to practice changing direction quickly and moving with bursts of energy. I do an exercise called the Buckler Game, which I learned from Guy Windsor’s Longsword Manual, where one partner hold the buckler and either moves it up or down, the partner moves back and forth for measure, or a combination of the two.
I will also work on more technical parts of the training which include fighting from the bind, practicing plays, reflex exercises, footwork, meisterhau and a few more.
Sometimes this will be done slowly to ensure the movements are correct. Sometimes I will focus on isolating the movement of one part of my body. Other times, this will be done quickly and at full speed to practice applying power to my strikes and cuts.
One thing I don’t do in preparation for a competition is start practicing anything new. It’s not like an 80s movie where some secret technique like the Crane Kick will be the one thing that will save the fight. You need to be able to do what you know as well as you can without confusing yourself. My Krav instructor used to tell me that there are three pedals in a car, not seventeen. When the chips are down and you need to act quickly, the more complicated and unfamiliar something is, the slower you will think to perform it.
Maybe you disagree. Maybe you like to have a few moves in your pocket which you can pull out at the last second. I’d love to hear what they are and what your training regime is before a contest.