For all the literature and discussions out there about coaching and teaching, the most critical element to this is a willing and eager student. As a student of the tournament arts it is up to you to be in control of your own training and progress. No one is going to make you get better except you.
This may be as simple as having the commitment to turn up every week and get out there and practice. It may be doing 100 cuts on the pell or hitting the gym. These are all things that you alone need to commit to; no one can do it for you.
As often happens, you can receive conflicting or different advice from more experienced combatants. One knight advises to use one type of shield and another tells you to use something totally different. Are they both right? What you should be asking is which kernel of advice is right for you.
Knights (and other people wanting help) will give you advice filtered though their own skills and experience. It is often what works for them or what the common fighting style in their group is. They are trying to help you but sometimes it is too much information or you get too many different options.
It does not hurt to shop around. Find a training mentor, someone who is able to assist in your training and has a good understanding of the combat arts. Ask them to provide some guidance and direction. When you get conflicting advice, run it past your mentor and see what they think is best for you.
This does not need to be a formal relationship such as becoming a squire. Fine someone whose skills and abilities you wish to emulate and begin the conversation. Remember that often these people have their own commitments and do not always have the time or capacity to be of direct help. Sometimes you need to show that you are not wasting people’s time, by displaying your own commitment and dedication to training.
The internet is also an amazing resource. Spend time watching video of some of the best combatants in the SCA or other combat forms. Observe what they do and how they do it. Read some combat or martial arts related blogs. Email, Messenger, Skype and other things are great way of staying in contact with people and asking questions.
To advance in the tournament arts it often helps to follow someone who had been there before you or a very good map, but in the end it is you who are in the driver’s seat.