Being lazy can be good

B and C duel

 

I would like to present some notes on power generation. In Oplomachia we refer to Frame Weight Transfer, or just moving the body into the cut or thrust in order to provide the power required to hit hard with a weapon. This is a subject for another post.

What I want to address here is the idea of power without effort.

Throwing a good cut is much like firing a gun. Once the initial explosion has taken place in the barrel the bullet flies of it own accord. It accelerates naturally and does not need to be push along. While this is technically not quite correct I would like you to keep this analogy in mind.

What is important to realise is that you will never be at your best when trying your hardest. That is you will be able to move and cut more efficiently if you are going at less than 100%. Almost universally, experienced combatants hit their hardest a around 80% and almost as hard at 50% of their effort.

Think to your own experiences. Have you ever delivered a cut with natural movement thinking it was way too light, only to have your opponent stagger and say that you do not have to hit them that hard? This is now the realm of good technique.

Try this experiment at you next training. Have someone hold out a shield for you to hit. Now hit it as hard as you can several times. Have your partner note the power of each strike. Relax. Take some deep breaths and shake out the arms. Now throe the same cut but at 80% of your effort, stay relaxed yet focus on delivering a smooth cut. How hard was it?

Now experiment with a dozen or more strikes going up and down randomly: 50%, 80%, 30%, 90%, 70%, 50%…Loosen up between strikes. Again ask the person holding the shield how hard the cut were. You may be surprised.

You may need to experiment with dialling the ‘volume knob’ in on the desired settings to find your personal optimal setting.

Another aspect of cutting with power is to applying force to the weapon as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Think again the bullet analogy. We must move the body forward to apply forward motion to the weapon and these needs to be a focused movement. If you are tight or stiff it will be hard to accomplish this smoothly. If someone is trying to go at ‘100%’ they are often too tight.

Imagine a video of your swing that is broken down into ten frames. For how many frames are you applying frame weight transfer? At what point do you squeeze the hand to make a solid cut? A new swordsman engages their muscles too long and then too soon in the movement. They are self-conscious about the attack. They are trying to remember technical details. They are using all sorts of energy to move and direct the sword through all ten frames. A more advanced practitioner, in contrast, stays loose and relaxed kicking off the sword in the first few frames and then not tightening until frame seven or eight. At higher levels this last phase may only occur at frame ten.

This efficiency is not soft in anyway. Efficiency does not slow down or weaken the power movements but limits the duration.

Do not confuse speed and power with effort.

A question of numbers

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Calibration is an often hotly discussed concept. Being about to ‘take’ a good cut or thrust is central to our honour system of governing the outcome of tournament combat.

We have adopted a numbering system in order to gain a common frame of reference when talking about the perceived impact power of an attack.

I need to emphasise that this is an entirely arbitrary system and is totally subjective. A combatant needs to take into account many different factors in a very short space of time. What was the armour in the way? What was the target location? How were people moving etc etc…

So we can describe the power on a 1-10 point scale. It is not a precise measure but an only an attempt to provide a short hand descriptor.

5 – This is a ‘good’ cut or thrust. The minimum level required to make an effective attack. Remember face plates need to be taken lighter.

8 – is getting on the hard end of the scale.

9- This is about the hardest you want to be hit.

10- Excessive.

Most people should be aiming to strike in the 5-7 point range.

 

Ok, remember that this is an objective rating. One person may ‘read’ a cut at 8 while the person making the cut may think it is a 5. What the rating scale gives you is a common vocabulary.

We will use this to compare were we are in power levels. After each bout the person hit gives a number of what they perceive the power was at and the person making the attack also gives what they think the power was. This allows you to work together to reach a consensus on what is a good level of power.

This schema is only a tool. Good communication and constantly talking with your training partners and all the people you fight with is essential.

Have fun, train hard.

 

 

 

 

Spears!

While I was in Perth I can a quick introduction to Spear work in the Oplomachia style. Several people have asked me for the notes so I’ll provide them here.

This should also go along with Count Gemini’s video on spear and the first spear form.(will add links soon).

 

Terms

Aggressed Stance – stand with body square and feet shoulder with apart. Move the back foot two ½ steps back. Weight on the balls other feet and knees bent. The back foot is the one on the same side as the hand holding the butt end of the spear.

Grip– Forward hand halfway along spear. Back hand at the butt end, this hand is then as far back as you can (point or long guard).

Thrusts are lined off the back shoulder

Greek Thrust – Extend Forward Hand. Bring Back Hand to armpit. Half step forward. Point stays level.

Sliding Thrust – With either a ½ step or passing step. Extend both hands forward, letting the spear slide through the Forward Hand. Do not let the hands closer than about a foot.

Swiss Thrust – Lift spear over head and slide spear forward as per the Sliding Thrust.

Parries must be quick ‘beats’ snappy and return to guard

Outside – push heel of hand out.

Inside – Volta to beat opponents spear away but keep point on line.

High – lift spear straight up, keep point on line (Swiss Thrust).

Low – Squat and beat. Do not drop the point

 

First Spear Form

Aggressed Stance

Face north, left hand leading. Outside, ½ step, Sliding Thrust. Inside, passing step, Sliding Thrust.

Turn to face south, right hand lead. Outside, ½ step, Sliding Thrust. Inside, passing step, Sliding Thrust.

Face east, left hand lead. High Parry, Swiss thrust. Low Parry, passing step, Sliding Thrust

Face west, right hand lead. High Parry, Swiss thrust. Low Parry, passing step, Sliding Thrust.

Face North and come to parade rest.

 

Some thoughts for beginners

A few posts ago I talked about some things experienced combatants need to consider when working with novices. In this post I will provide some ideas for the beginner about what to expect and what to focus on to help your training.

Many times, one who pursues the martial arts expects to see results too soon. You cannot expect to move, strike, block ar attain any understanding of the art before you know how to stand. Syr Gemini.

 

This is all a bit complicated.

Armoured combat is a complex and sometimes difficult art to learn. There is a lot you must take in. The complexity lies in the many different actions and movements you must master to be able to attack and defend. To add to this difficulty there is also an opponent trying to block your attacks and hit you.

I suggest that it is it important to remember that this is a complex art and that you will not get it all right immediately. True progression in a martial art can take years. Take it one step at a time and focus on getting your basics right. Do not worry so much about not winning a bout, focus on getting your body in the right position, hold your shield between you and your opponents weapons and cut cleanly and with good form.

 

Good form is more important than winning.

It may seem odd to say this. Are we not training to be able to claim victory against our opponents? This is true but as a beginner (and I would say all combatants) you must focus on maintaining good from in training and practice.

‘Good form and technique will eventually lead to frequent success. But frequent success will never lead to good form and technique’

This quote is spot on. I see too many beginners sacrificing good form for the sake of immediate success. While these people often do well in the short term. At best they only go so far and then their development plateaus in the mid ranks. At worst they build up bad habits like striking with the flat of the weapon which is cheating or using poor power generation and getting injured.

You are at a beginning. Nearly everyone you will fight against will be more experienced in armour that you are. This is fine and the only expectation that you have is to keep working on your basics. As I mentioned, at the start of your armoured combat career the aim is not to win bouts but to keep good form and do all the basics right. No one is keeping score, so it does not matter who ‘wins’ any given bout.

I know it is hard to take the long term view but trust me that focusing on technique is the best thing you can do.

 

Learn from what is happening.

When you are doing free sparing, always ask the person you are working with what they are doing and how they are making their attacks work. How are they blocking what you are doing? Always always ask for feedback.

 

Not all feedback is helpful.

This is sort of counter to the pervious comment. While you should always ask for some level of feedback, understand that it is not always useful. It is common for everyone wanting to help the new combatants. Everyone has some suggestions and wants to help. While good intentioned, this advice is often too much, contradictory and confusing. Make note of what people are saying and take on what is making sense to you. If you walk away from a training session with one or two ideas than that is a good thing. If you are getting confused with different feedback, and you will, talk it through with your main trainer and follow their advice.

It is also important to remember that there are many philosophies and attitudes in the armoured combat community, and not all are compatible. Just because a particular Duke likes a particular cut or move does not automatically mean that it is something everyone can or should do. Different styles do not always work well together. Some techniques may be fine for a big guy weighing 130kg but it not going to work for a small person pushing 70kg in armour…

 

‘The student of everything is the master of nothing’

I see many new trainees look for the magic weapon combination. They think two swords is the One True Way. Or that a particular shield type will make them untouchable. I also see people trying every new trick they can find.

At the beginning it is important to keep things as simple as you can. Stick with one weapon combination for at least your first two years. Learn how to move, strike and defend with the basic weapons of the tournament (sword and shield). Only after you start to understand the basics of armoured combat should you venture to playing with other things.

 

Armour must fit you

It takes time to get used to being in armour, and moving in it. I guarantee your first few times in borrowed harness you will not be that comfortable. Getting your own kit to fit and work with you can take a bit of time and fiddling around to get it right. Loaner armour will vary rarely fit you well. If something does not work or you are getting hurt you need to talk to your trainer about it.

 

Wearing armour is a skill

Getting into armour will often cause you to unlearn or forget all that you’ve trained. Work on moving techniques from the pell, to pad-work, to slow-work, to full speed. Do not be afraid to go back to the pell and work though the fundamental moves while in harness. Do a lot of slow to medium speed work. Again, do not rush your development.

 

Don’t’ be afraid to talk to people about concerns and issues, be it with fighting or armour.

Finally, keep talking to your trainers or mentors. Yes sometimes things can be confusing even with the best intentions. Ask questions, discuss options. Do not make things too complicated.

 

 

So there are a number of things to keep in mind. Many of my points apply to all of us following the path of swordsmanship. In many ways we are all novices. We keep learning new things and gaining a greater understanding of what we do and how to go about it. If I am making this sound all a bit hard or complex I remind you it is not. Remember, swords are cool and so are sallets.

 

 

Setting Goals

Setting goals is an important way of progressing your training. Setting goals will help guide your training and give you distinct techniques and actions to focus on rather then just going out there and fee-sparing.

One way to approach this is to set a goal that you can achieve in a few months. The more specific this is the better. Then use this goal to inform smaller, short term goals than can be achieved within a few training sessions.

These goals should follow the SMART format.

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Attainable – attainable, agreed upon, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Here is an example:

Main Goal- Do well in Baronial Championship
Specific – target a specific area for improvement

 

Get to fifth round of the Baronial Championship

Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.

Win at least three rounds.

Attainable, agreed upon, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

I am letting my training partners know about this and get there OK to help me train.

Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.

I am my trainers thing this is realistic, but getting a good draw may affect the outcome greatly.

Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

The Tournament is in September. I have six months to train for this.

 

As you can see the goal here is a bit generic and does not have specifics. That is fine as this general goal then gives you the broad schema for working out how to add the detail.

In the example you have six months to prepare. Break this now down into monthly segments and also work out specific techniques you want to work on.

Example of things to work on to achieve Main Goal:

Get shield defence better, get pendulum cuts to work, make wraps better, fix helm strapping and work on fitness.

 

 

Short Term Goal- get pendulum cuts to work
Specific – target a specific area for improvement

 

Be able to throw a pendulum with power and speed.

Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.

I will be able to hit my opponent with a pendulum with good power and speed

Attainable, agreed upon, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

I need to practice this on the pell and then in training. I need to work with training partners to drill this technique.

Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.

I can do this but will also have to work on setting up the placement and timing.

Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

I will work on this for the next four weeks.

 

We now have a short term goal that is reasonably specific. You now break this down again into single ‘micro’ goals that are achievable over a single training session or week.

For the pendulum example the first week goal may be to get three 20 minute pell-work sessions practicing the cut. The second may be starting to use the attack in pad work and drills. The simpler you make your short term goals the easier it is to work on them.

Remember that achieving your goal now becomes your victory conditions for free-sparing. So at a practice, you are working on pendulum. Even if you get ‘killed’ most of the time, as long as you are getting pendulums to work then you have ‘won’.

How formal you want to get with your goal setting is up to you. I keep a training diary and keep notes of what I am working on, what is working and what is not.

The important thing is to go into each week with a good idea of what you want to do. This then will also guide what you do at training in armour (or out of it).

 

 

Main Goal-
Specific – target a specific area for improvement

 

 

 

 

 

 

Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.

 

 

 

 

Attainable, agreed upon, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

 

 

 

 

Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.