Training needs less Ego and more Leggo…

I have been in a number of discussions about how to teach/couch people to develop a range of skills.

I have been doing some reading around various sport and martial arts pedagogy and there has been one very important thing that stands out. The key to advancing in any activity is ‘simple practice’ or practice that focuses on gradually building higher level skills through constant practice and refinement of the fundaments.

One of the biggest challenges I face as a trainer of the tournament arts is how do I get a student to develop a range of necessary skills to succeed in armoured combat. It is one thing to get someone to be able to strike the pell correctly or to run through a pad drill but get them to be able to move and cut to an opening in an opponent’s defence while moving the shield into a good position is another.

What should be obvious at this point is that any time you run into a problem teaching a high level skill to someone there is a problem with one of the fundamental skills that supports it.

If all of the fundamental movement skills are there it shouldn’t take much coaching from me to get someone doing a pretty good version of what I want them to do. If it takes me more than five minutes to get someone to start grasping what I’m asking them to do then I start to think there may be something more than “bad technique” at play.

Here are a couple of examples to illustrate my point. On the right are High Level Skills we all want to do and on the left are Fundamental Level Skills that are often lacking when someone runs into problems with them…

High Level Skill Fundamental Level Skill
Throwing a pendulum Warm up motion
Striking with power Body movement and position
Flourishes (combination attacks) Body Position and foot work
Thrusts Returns and grip

So this list is just by way of an example but you should get the idea. You could even have another column to the right of the fundamental level skills of Foundation or Body Movement Skills such as body weight squats, lunges and Kettle Bell swings, but that is another post.

Now the problem many people run into is that we all want to focus on the left hand column but it is right hand column that holds the keys to real progress.

This means that often when we want to improve a high level skill you don’t want to look to a higher level skill or technique, you want to look back at the fundamental skills and techniques and improve on them.

Again, this gets tough when the Ego tells us that we’re too advanced to go back and work on the basics or, worse yet, that we’ve gotten this far without mastering them so they can’t hold the key to going even further.

This mindset comes from protecting the image we have of ourselves as a “good” combatant and not from a sincere desire to master our art at a higher level.

The funny thing is that by focusing on your fundamental level skills you’ll improve your high level skills without really trying.

“If you continue in this simple practice every day you can attain something wonderful.” – Shunryu Suzuki

The key is a “simple practice”, one that focuses on gently nudging our high level skills up through a constant study and refinement of the fundamentals.

 

 

Going without GPS

So here we are again, writing on this little blog.

Back at Easter I was in Melbourne for the National Kendo Championship and grading. The main aim of this was to go for my first Dan grading.

I had been preparing for this exam for some time. I was attending every training session I could. I spent time at home revising kata. I was going to ace this with flying colours.

I failed.

The study of any martial art or combat sport will always have its ups and downs. There will be time were we have a crap training session. There are time that, despite all our training and efforts we get knocked out of a competition a lot sooner than we would have wished. We have bad days were nothing goes right.

Now I could give you some nice hippy stuff about ‘we all have bad days’ and ‘setbacks build character’. I won’t. These times suck. Sometimes they suck total ass, and there is nothing you can do about it. Life can be like this. Not everyone can be a winner.

It was a long drive back from Melbourne.

So what can we do when we have failed at our goals or not reached our expectation?

I am not sure I can answer this. Sometimes we only need to wait until a new day and things will be different. Sometimes we need to take a deep breath and go again. Each of us will have our own share of disappointments and failures. I suppose that is just the nature of things.

What is important is that we do pick ourselves up again. Maybe we will walk away; maybe we will look at what we need to do next time. Each of us has to answer this stuff in their own minds and hearts. It is because we hazard the chance of failure that makes the pursuit of success something worthwhile.

So after the bitter disappointment of the Melbourne exam I took a bit of time out of the dojo. I got some feedback from my teachers, all of whom told me of their exam failures. Some perspective was gained and maybe some humility learnt. Training began anew.

So after a very short time I was able to test again, this time in Sydney in June. I passed. So here I am, kendo first Dan. This is a big thing for me. I have had support form a bunch of wonderful people to get here. But this is just another step. In time the disappointments will be forgotten except as some dim memory as will the successes. There will be new thing to do, new challenges. I will both fail and win through. This is just the way of things.

Conditioning for Beginners

 A while back someone asked me what a good set of exercises would be for someone starting out in armoured combat. I am a bit late in responding to this request as the person was looking to get into some shape for Easter (and this is next week). Anyway if anyone is interested you can always come and find me at an event.

So beginning conditioning.

Most SCA combatants do not come from a sporting background. I was defiantly typical in this regard. Role playing games and painting miniatures do not prepare you for the physicality of armoured combat.

One of the most important aspects of fitness you can work on is your short to medium term endurance and recovery. I wrote post about this here. While I think high intensity intervals are awesome for armoured combat you do need to have a minimum level of fitness to not totally kill yourself doing these. Remember this is supposed to be enjoyable…ok…mostly.

So look to building up a base level of aerobic capacity first. Rowing machines, bikes, elliptical machines and treadmills are all good. If you are capable of running then this too is good and the “couch to 5km” program is an excellent place to start. Be able to sustain 20-30 min of constant effort. Your breathing should be such that you can talk but not sing. This is a heart rate of about 50-70% of your maximum heart rate.

From here you can start doing some HIIT or sprint training. Or a very effective way of building your fitness is to stay in armour as long as possible. Go to the stage you would normally stop. Have a short break and then fight 3-5 more bouts. Just make sure you are able to maintain form and not cause injury.

I would also suggest doing some resistance work. This is more about building up flexibility and your joints to protect them from injury. Body weight exercises here are fine. Squats are king for fighting. So make sure you warm up, just get your heart rate up and your body warm. Now do one complete round of the following. If you can have a break and do another round. Aim to be able to do three rounds.

  • 20 Squats – make sure you are not leaning forward and the weight is on your heels.
  • 10 push ups
  • 20 walking lunges (that is 10 leach leg)
  • 10 dumbell rows (use a big milk container as a weight) or 10 incline pull ups
  • 20 second plank
  • 30 star jumps

Do this two or three times a week but not on consecutive days. Once you can get through this three times then you should be moving onto other routines.

So this is probably a good plan for those wanting to work on their fitness for fighting.

What I do however need to mention is that any conditioning work MUST be backed up by a good diet. Quit smoking. Do this now. Stop drinking all that coke. Eat a lot more vegetables. Avoid processed food. What you eat and drink is the main contributor o your long term health.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On working with novices

On of the more difficult thing we must due during our training is work with and spar against novices. There are a number of things you need to be aware of and due when working with new or lesser experienced people than you. It must be a good experience for the novice, not just blasting them out of their socks every time. To help people with this part of our training I am attempting to write some notes to acknowledge and assist with this process. Any comments or suggestions are going to be well received.

 

Working with new combatants

Understandably, novices who are in armour and fighting for the first time will be anxious at the thought of being hit and or looking awkward. Getting hit is an adjustment that most people need time to get used to as is hitting someone back. It is totally normal to feel nervous and a bit overwhelmed when it is your first time in amour. For some people it takes a long time to get used to what is going on in a full paced bout.

 

Start light

When you are sparing with a novice who is just recently in harness it is important to start with light contact and build you up to harder contact. Make sure the novice is ok with what is happening. Take care that you are targeting decent armored areas. Most novices are in loner amour that is not made for them and will not cover everything or may not work that well. You also need to be aware that most people have no amour fitness when they start, do not run them into the ground.

 

Play against experience

In general I would not get new people sparring with other new people for a while so they can get used to what is going on against an experienced person who can demonstrate good form and control. It takes time to build trust with somebody and know what level of contact they are okay with.

 

Communication

Nobody can read minds so make sure to check how they are feeling. There is no shame in asking for lighter contact. When people get quiet during sparring it often shows that they feel either afraid or they are becoming angry. If somebody lands a good shot that you don’t mind, it’s always a good idea to tell them, “Nice one!” or “Well struck.” You are letting them know that you are okay with the level of contact by giving them those constant little verbal cues.

 

Fight to their level

It is no good just one-shotting new people, It does not teach them anything. The trick is to fight at just above their level. If they do everything correctly then they should land an attack. It is important to let them succeed to show them that a technique works.

Do not use techniques that they have not yet been taught. An example of this is thrusts. We do not show our novices thrusts until after they have been fighting for a few months, thus we do not use thrusts against them until they have reached that stage in their learning.

It is also important that you do everything you do cleanly and with clean and perfect form (treat this as an excellent training opportunity). The novice will copy what you do, make sure it is worth copying…8-)

 

Do not overload them

Novices have a lot they need to think about. This is a complex game for the new person. By all means offer some pointers but keep it clear and simple. I generally will only remark on one thing. Any more than this you are likely to create confusion and frustrate the novice who is trying to take it all in.

You must also be aware of the training the novice is receiving. If they are being taught A-frame style DO NOT try to show them something from a different style. This only causes confusion. Just because you have a particular style or move does not mean it is universally applicable.

 

When does a novice stop being a novice?

Tricky question. Everyone is different and will progress at different levels. As the new combatant grows in skills and experience you can begin to up your levels against them. This is something the more experienced combatant has to judge. Remember, as the senior combatant you are in the position of responsibility and control. Your job is to encourage and demonstrate what good swordsmanship is like. If the lesser experienced person walks off the training field believing they have gained something and want to do more, you have won.

 

Some thoughts about training etiquette

I thought I would jot down some of my thoughts about etiquette and behaviour during our training sessions. This is in addition to the points I made in an earlier post here.

Be ready

This should be straight forward. Be ready to go. Do not leave your training partner/s waiting for you to get your helm on or for you to do whatever. If you are running late or are delayed, let the people running the session know and allow them to proceed without you. Remember that we often do not have large numbers and some drills and exercises need several people there to make them work. In short, do not make people wait for you.

There is one teacher in the room

Again this is a basic piece of courtesy. There is one person running the class or session. Follow their instructions. By all means ask questions but this is not the place to start a long discussion or demonstration of your take on things. Offering correction is fine (if you know what you are doing) but do not start instructing other people.

 

Keep things short and concise

We often have to break for a quick check about the effects of an attack or something that happened. Most of the time this should be very short. We are here to train not to talk. So, if you strike someone and they ask if it was good give them an immediate answer. I thought it was good/not good/flat/whatever. Then they can decide. Remember it is always the person receiving the hit that calls the result.

We use some short hand to let people know what is happening. Anything more than a few words and you are taking too long and waffling. If you need to long discussion then wait until you take your helm off.

Shield-the weapon hit the shield and the shield hit you, please do not take it.

Traffic- the weapon hit stuff on the way in, please do not take it.

Not face – the weapon did not go into the face but has hit the helm, unless it is a good hit, please do not take it.

Not good/crap/etc-I do not think I got enough power in the attack, please do not take it.

When calling something be clear – a simple yes or no/light is all you need.

If there is ever a doubt then the strike is probably not good. Your job is to deliver an attack as to leave your opponent in no doubt.

Giving and receiving feedback

During feedback/critique sessions keep your feedback concise. In general keep your comments to one or two points. Be specific. “Your foot work needs work” is not a useful comment. “As you enter range you plant your feet and stop moving” is useful. Be mindful about other people lerning styles and progrssion.  Your feedback should be constructive and this includes an awareness of how different people interact.   

When receiving feedback accept it gracefully. Yes you may be working on something specific and this is a good thing, but listen to the comment, note what you need to, thank them and move on.

Understand that you will not always receive positive comments. People are trying to help you by spotting things you need to work on. If you want positive reinforcement on how awesome you are watch Oprah reruns.

(I know I will offend some folks with my Oprah comment, I very much understand that it is important to receive positive as well as constructive feedback. Training  is more likely to be a situation where you get feedback about where you can build on your skills.  Use tournaments and wars as the basis for ongoing positive affirmation.)

If you are not getting something out of it…

Training will at times be hard, sometimes it wil hurt, particularly if you are struggling with learning or developing a particular skill, however it should contribute to your overall enjoyment of your martial art.   If you are not enjoying the training, take the time to talk with your trainer at the end of the session about this.

Basics basics basics

I thought I would share a conversation I am having with one of my students (Ben the Undersided). He has been very focused on his training and is reaching a point were other people are starting to take a little notice. This notice then comes with offers of advice, “you should do this, have you thought about the other thing…”
In the meantime I have been trying to get my students to stick to the basics or fundamentals and not been too keen to branch out yet.
What is also interesting is Ben’s subsequent comment about this realisation has moved from something he knew in an intellectual sense to now being able to now comprehend at a deeper level.

So anyway here is B’s thoughts on focusing on your basics.


I know I’m flogging a dead horse on this, I sort of had mental/physical epiphany this morning and I needed to share it (and thus understand it better).

If you can’t get the basics to work properly, you’re wasting your time trying to do anything else. Especially in practice. I think too many people are overlooking this.

Years, and years, our sensei (previous Japanese martial art) yelled at us basics basics basics. Because his sensei yelled at him the same. It’s a fact of life. But sensei said it took him years to genuinely understand the importance.

When I joined the SCA, by rote, I sort of knew to focus on basics. So I have, even more so recently.
We have to train these basics to a point where we no longer need to actively think about them.

Now, we all know this is because footwork, timing and technique are basis of all fighting, blah blah martial arts 101. These are what keep your alive, and guarantees the other guy will die.
What occurred to me is the importance of having these for learning capacity, as a beginner.
If you are having to concentrate on the footwork, measure, timing, technique (guard positions & striking) – you leave little mental capacity to concentrate on learning anything more complex on top of this. The moment you try to concentrate on something more complex, you’re having to let those basics run unconsciously. If you stuff so much as one little thing up, whatever is you’re doing will probably fail. That could be the basics, or what it is you’re trying.

As a beginner, 99% time one of your basics are going to fail if left to their own devices. i.e not get the frame-weight transfer on the shot, drop your shield, not get the line etc. If your opponent’s basics are working properly (due concentration or practice) – you’re ‘toasted’ as Count Felix says. Because if I’ve faced the weapon, sitting in a good guard, in control of the measure, I can cover that attack and fire a shot in to whatever gap/line/timing you’ve left open by mistake – potentially without even thinking.

That idea that in the fight, I’m looking to exploit the mistakes (or weaknesses) of my opponent as are they. The more mistakes I make and then offer to my opponent, the more they have to exploit. And the sooner I die.

I can force those mistakes (by misdirection) or encourage my opponent to take actions that are susceptible to mistakes – this is however more advanced. But all that is futile if I’m presenting a mistake from the engagement – because he’s going to toast me from the get go with something basic.

So for us beginners, we need to be getting that focus and training with respect to our basics. Without that solid foundation of fundamental basics skills which can function autonomously – we’re not able to apply the more advanced stuff in combat beyond luck.

Most of this was has been provoked by something (another combatant) was trying to show me. I immediately understood what he was up to (effectively fighting from the bind, but with sword & shield), but it occurred to me that it was a waste of time to practice at my level – there’s other more basic things I needed to focus on. If I did that to you, I’d die in a heartbeat.