More on Drills

Hi folks.

A few people have been requesting a list of various training drills that I have. So Instead of emailing stuff out I will put it all here. I wrote another post about drills and that can be found HERE. Anyway – let me know if you have any questions or would like to share your own drills. I may do a quick post about how to design useful drills for your own training.

So to start off with some strength exercises.

Strengthening/physical (armoured combat specific) You may want to google these to get the form right.

Pell Squats (core, legs, arms)- Throw two shots to the pell do a squat. Variation – side squats/lunges.

Helm sit ups (core, arms)- Start in a sit up position, holding a helm above your head. Do a sit up keeping the helm in the air (you will need to push the helm towards your knees as you come up. Do not secure your feet).

Turkish get ups (core, legs, arms)- Lie on your back, holding a weight (your sword) up with a straight arm. Stand up and then lie down again keeping your arm held straight up.

Mower pulls (core, legs, arms) –Stand with legs wider than shoulders. Hold a lightish (your helm) weight in one hand. Reach down to your opposite foot. Now come back up and quickly reach the arm diagonally up and out to were you are reaching up at 45 degrees.

Kettlebell swings (core, legs, arms) – Hold a helm (or heavy weight) in front of you. Now let the weight drop down between your legs, bending your knees. Let it then swing back up over your head and then let it drop back down. Keep the weight moving.

Helm rotations (core) – Sit on the ground with your legs in front. Hold your helm on the ground next to your hip. Move it to the other side, touching the ground.

Wind ups (wrist strength) – Using a strong cord tie it to your helm and to your sword. Hold the sword in front of you in both hands. Now ‘wind up’ the sword to lift the helm up to the sword and the unwind it. You can always make this up with a bit of dowel and a half brick.


And now fighting drills

1-6 Pell Drill – From Duke Jade of Starfall – strike the pell in two cut combinations (1-1, 1-2, 1-3 etc)


4-5 Drill – Squire cuts 1,6,1,6 stepping forward at each cut. (4 steps) Knight maintains distance by stepping back and correctly blocking each cut. Squire then cuts 1-6-1-6-1 moving backwards (5 steps) with the Knight following and blocking.

-Variation. Change the cuts eg 1-4 or 3-6.


The Tower (this can hurt, so pull the power down) – Squire holds the field and must defend. Knights line up and in turn attack with a set number of attacks. Squire works on defence and Knights work on continuous attacks (they must not let their from go to crap). Number of attacks should be between 6-10.

Openings – Stand on the edge of measure. Knight moves shield to provide opening. Squire must cut to that opening.

This is about seeing opportunities to attack and acting on it. The Knight should close the opening if the Squire takes too long. The time here depends on the experience of the Squire. Limit the possible openings dependant on experience. Openings (keep it simple)-lower shield cut 1, lift shield cut 3, open shield cut 5, cross shield wrap.

Response Drill –Squire holds the field. Knights form a line. Nominate a standard opening attack. The knights will step in and throw that attack and the squire must deal with it in some way of their own choosing (parry, dodge or displace) and counter. Keep the line moving through. For newer people you may want to nominate the response.

Progressions – Start with the Squire making a single attack from the edge of measure. Do this several times to get the footwork and technique working. The Knight can block this. Next, the Squire adds a second attack – hopefully exploiting an opening due to the Knight defending the first attack. Work this though a few time and then add a third attack. You can build up counters from the Knight if you want. The idea is to build up a short attacking sequence for the quire. The Knight is working on defending and looking for opportunities to make a counter.


The main thing to remember is to keep things reasonably simple. Chose one or two techniques and work on them. Start slow and build up the pace. When you form starts to go, slow it down and rebuild.

I am going to admit drills can be boring, free fighting is more fun. But you MUST spend the time working on the basics. You need to do things 1,000s of times, not just a few times every now and again…


The Friday Sessions

This is just a follow up on the training theme. I am trailing a more dedicated training session for a small group of people. The sessions are every fortnight at this stage and are all out of armour.

The first part of the session was circuit work were everyone rotates around various exercises. You perform the exercise for one minute with a 20 second rest to change stations. We went through this twice.

The stations were:

  • Boxing
  • Turkish get-ups with a 2kg weight 
  • Squat presses with either 2kg or 5kg weights depending on your level
  • Step jumps/step up
  • Kettle bell swings

Most of us simply do not do enough physical training outside of running around in armour. This little circuit is not going to do much but a number of people were talking about having to do some extra training.

We then did some basic pell work, running though all the basic cuts with a focus on maintaining good form, distance, flow and foot position/balance.

The main part of the session was working though thrusts. Firstly I explained about direct thrusts and then cut, rolling returns and thrust.

We worked though these on the pells first and then paring off, worked though the basic forms and then a number of pays involving thrusts.

The idea of the session is to focus on only one or two ideas and do a LOT of repetitions to ‘hard wire’ the movements in.

As the students get used to this format I will probably make the starting work out harder (skipping rope is your friend) and up the repetitions.

For the pell drills we used our usual training swords of rattan with a cross hilt and the training round shields. For the partner stuff we moved to soft swords (Action Flex, expensive but they work well) and shields. The use of the soft swords means we can do a lot of striking without armour and waring people out.

Now looking forward to the next session.

Not just a post

One of the fundamental tools for training is the pell. This humble post of wood (or anything else that will work) is one of the oldest sword training aids we know of. It was used by the Roman legionary all the way to today’s swords men and women.

The pell is ideal for practicing at home or when you cannot get to the practice session. Here you can work on your distance, footwork/position, and your cuts. Like many training tools, the humble pell is often overlooked or used poorly. Like all aspects of your training and practice, pell work should be done in a considered fashion. Always make sure you are at the right range. Check your feet to ensure they are correct.

 Stay aware of how you are striking the pell.  Are you sticking with the right part of your sword? Is the cut along the line of the blade? Are you stepping and moving correctly to be in the right position and power your cut. It is sometimes useful to have someone observing or spotting your pell work. This spotter can pick up and correct any lapses in form you may have. Another thing you can do is video your pell work for later review. You need not spend all your pell time just hitting it as hard as you can. Move smoothly and concentrate on form. Only work in power as a part of your practice.

 There are a number of pell drills you can find on youTube. Some of them are useful and some of them are a good way to destroy your shoulder and/or elbow.

 Here are some good places to start-

Pell Work

Movement and Pell, The Perfect Circle

The Modern Medieval – Episode One, The Pell


Just to convince you how important peel work is to building the foundations of your technique, here is a 15th century poem about using the pell.

Interesting points to note are the mention in lines 6-9 that the practice shield and mace are to be of double weight, a technique that many combatants have found to be very good for training. It also emphasises the importance of this form of practice in 12-14, where it says that no man “is seyn prevaile” in battle who has not spent time practicing at the pell. Poem of the Pell Cotton Library: Titus A, xxiii fol 6 and 7.

Of fight the disciplyne and exercise,
Was this. To have a pale or pile upright (pell)
Of mannys light, thus writeth old and wise, (man’s height)
Therewith a bacheler, or a yong knyght,
Shal first be taught to stonde and lerne to fight
And fanne of double wight tak him his shelde, (practice shield)
Of double wight a mace of tre to welde. (wood)

This fanne and mace whiche either doubil wigt
Of shelde, and swayed in conflicte, or bataile,
Shal exercise as well swordmen, as knyghtes,
And noe man, as they sayn, is seyn prevaile,
In field, or in castell, though he assayle,
That with the pile, nethe first grete exercise, (hath not)
Thus writeth werrouris olde and wyse. (warriors)

Have eche his pile or pale upfixed fast
And as it were uppon his mortal foe:
With mightyness and weapon most be cast
To fight stonge, that he ne skape him fro.
On hym with shield, and sword avised so,
That thou be cloos, and Preste thy foe to smyte, (ready)
Lest of thyne own dethe thou be to wite.

Empeche his head, his face, have at his gorge (attack, throat)
Beare at the brest, or sperne him on the side,
With myghte knyghtly poost ene as Seynt George (power)
Lepe o thy foe; look if he dare abide;
Will he not flee? wounde him; make wounds wide
Hew of his honde, his legge, his theys, his armys,
It is the Turk, though he be sleyn, noon harm is.

And forto foyne is better than to smyte;
The smyter is deluded mony [ways],
The sword may nat through steel & bonys bite,
Thentrailys ar cover in steel & bonys,
But with a foyn anoon thi foe fordoon is
Tweyne unchys entirfoyned hurteth more
Then kerf or ege, although it wounde sore.

Eek in the kerf, thi right arm is disclosed,
Also thi side; and in the foyn, covert
Is side & arm, and er thou be supposed
Redy to fight, the foyn is at his hert
Or ellys Thus better is to foyne then to kerve;
where, a foyn is ever smert;
In tyme & place ereither is tobserue.


A further discussion on the history of pells and some notes on the poem can be found here.