One of my favourite TV series is Sharpe based on a series of book by Bernard Cornwall about a British soldier in the Napoleonic Wars who rises through the ranks.
There’s a great scene in an episode called Sharpe’s Revenge when Shapre has a rematch with a Captain after getting soundly beaten by him in a fencing hall. In the hall with foils, the Captain runs circles around our boy, Sharpe. But, when they fight out on the road with live blades, Sharpe gives the Captain a lesson on the realities of combat. The captain loses his footing for instance and makes some ineffective thrusts that lightly pierce Sharpe’s shoulder. Sharpe shrugs them off having fought out in the open in battle fields across India, Spain and France. It’s a tremendous scene and if you haven’t seen Sharpe, then hurry up and get on it before they reboot it!
There are a lot of advantages to training in a hall: It’s not dependent on weather, you don’t have to shout over the wind to be heard, you can sometimes store things in the hall if the owners are accommodating and of course there are bathrooms. From a martial standpoint, training indoors can teach you a great deal about fighting in enclosed areas. Fighting with your back to a wall is a good way of training yourself to stand your ground. It’s also much easier for instructors to keep an eye on people and see where they’re going wrong rather than having people spread out over great distances.
But what are the benefits of training outside? For one thing, it teaches you to pay more attention to your environment. When you’re fighting in snow or mud or on uneven terrain, you start to develop a level of sensitivity you just don’t get in a sports hall. In a hall, you can trust that the floor won’t slip and slide beneath your feet.
Yes, some people will get turned off by the idea of training in rain and drizzle, but again it teaches you how to overcome that environmental obstacle. The hiss of the rain can deafen you to an opponent’s approach, but you know they’re there anyway due to some preternatural senses you have acquired over a long course of fighting out in the open.
When the field is uneven and you’re fighting as a unit, it teaches you to take the high ground or to occupy choke points or to set traps. Best of all it teaches you how to plan an attack on other groups who have claimed these places.
Once you’ve spent a couple of training sessions sliding around on the gravel, trying to avoid getting tangled in the tree branches as you run a full half a kilometre trying to escape a hunting party or trying find a weakness in wherever your opponents are held up, you may find fighting in a hall a little stuffy.
You’ll probably end up flying around the room which is what I always do after a good session in the woods.
And there’s always that most dishonourable, disreputable, despicable tactic of kicking dirt, twigs or leaves into your opponent’s eyes as while you’re fighting them. That’s one of my favourites.
It all depends on what you’re aiming to achieve. If you are aiming to perfect a technique and boil your training down to its most basic elements, then training in a sports hall will probably suit you best. If you are looking to apply a wider range of manoeuvres to your training and learn to fight in more open areas, then fighting outside will serve you well.
But, which do you prefer? Do you like fighting indoors or outdoors?