How do you keep your form true when you do freeplay?

NoVA-Assalto is an organization based in Northern Virginia with the goal of organizing events and information involving 16th century Bolognese swordsmanship.
mackenzie cosens
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How do you keep your form true when you do freeplay?

Postby mackenzie cosens » Fri Mar 30, 2012 11:39 am

I did some freeplay yeaterday, and is preditable my form went out the window up to the point that I may even have thrown a wrap (SCA heavy technique that hits with the false edge) :oops:
Currently my approach to fix this is to drill assalto more and try to focuse on form in free play.

How do you keep your form true when you do freeplay?

mackenzie

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Re: How do you keep your form true when you do freeplay?

Postby Steven Reich » Fri Mar 30, 2012 1:50 pm

Ha! What makes you think I keep my form? ;)

Actually, this is a difficult problem and there isn't really a simple solution. However, I find the key is to try to get your drills such that they reinforce what you'll do in freeplay--that is, the speed, intensity, and specific actions. It's not a quick fix and not a consistent fix--that is, some opponents bring out the best in your fencing while others do the opposite. Rather than attempt to get better at everything at once, I'd recommend starting by focusing on a reduced set of techniques. Learn the 4-6 most fundamental parries (those are what you'll use 90% of the time anyway) with two or three good ripostes from each of them with special attention paid to the footwork. Learn how to execute the fundamental attacks (Mandritto, Riverso, Stoccata, etc.) with varied steps, and then practice combinations of them.

In general, you want to practice everything enough that you minimize the number of situations you encounter in freeplay that you haven't seen in practice (footwork is particularly important).

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Re: How do you keep your form true when you do freeplay?

Postby RJ McKeehan » Fri Mar 30, 2012 2:44 pm

I find that if you attempt to use good form and don't concentrate on "winning" the fight, I am able to keep my form as true as possible. It's when my focus switches over from trying to use things you've learned to a more primal "I must beat him raaaaaaaaa" mode that stuff gets ugly.
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Re: How do you keep your form true when you do freeplay?

Postby Myles Cupp » Fri Mar 30, 2012 8:33 pm

I usually limit myself only to those techniques I know I can execute at speed against a resistive opponent in drill.

It may make your freeplay predictable and rather boring if you don't know many techniques or principles but over time you find yourself choosing different things as the tactical situation requires.
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Re: How do you keep your form true when you do freeplay?

Postby Jeffrey Hull » Sat Mar 31, 2012 2:02 pm

Everything I had to offer was already stated nicely by Steven. :)

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Re: How do you keep your form true when you do freeplay?

Postby Richard Cullinan » Sat Mar 31, 2012 3:50 pm

Fence with a plan!

Don't just stand there and react to your opponent, actually take the fight to them using the techniques you know. If you have the initiative it is easier for you to maintain form.

For example, throw a provocation with a thrust, and follow it up with a redoubled cut, then get out. Rinse and repeat, possibly with different footwork.

The other side of this is to insist that your drilling partner does their technique with intent and correct lines etc. You can't learn to do the right thing in free play if your opponent doesn't do the right thing in drills. Bring up the intensity of your drills as well. Start at a good comfy speed, and bring up the speed as you practice. Basically, 3 times at comfy, 3 times at 3/4 speed, 3 times at full intent.

Oh and don't try to stay in measure slugging it out, that way leads to poor form. That's generally the biggest killer of form I know.
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Re: How do you keep your form true when you do freeplay?

Postby Steven Reich » Sat Mar 31, 2012 4:05 pm

What Richard said.

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Re: How do you keep your form true when you do freeplay?

Postby Kevin Murakoshi » Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:08 pm

First of, what Richard and Steve said.

I'm going to be the modern fencer here and offer that bouting isn't the place to 'fix' or worry about your form. Form is a byproduct of training, you fix form during training and then use bouting as a tool to check how much you have learned. I would avoid concentrating too much on form during a bout. More likely than not, while you're thinking about what you're trying to do, you're getting hit by the other guy.

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Re: How do you keep your form true when you do freeplay?

Postby Bill Carew » Fri Jun 22, 2012 1:50 am

FWIW, you can also impose rules on your bouting, rendering your bouting closer to alive drilling rather than free play, bridging the gap by eliminating some of the pressure and chaos of free play. For example (assuming you are already drilling effectively, and able to perform your core techniques, guards, blows and parries with excellent form in arranged drills and alive drills):

Free play in slow motion: 25% speed, before slowly increasing the pace to 50%, then 75% etc. Try and keep the form clean. If it gets sloppy at a higher pace, bring the speed down again to regain the form, then begin to speed it up again. This is a great way to warm up and warm down too.

Free play to a set number of blows, before the fencers must withdraw under guard and start again. For example, in the first exchange, each fencer only gets two attacks, then they must withdraw out of distance and begin again. Then increase it to three attacks each etc.

Have each exchange begin with a designated attacker (Silver's agent). This frees up both to focus on either attacking or defending in the first intention, rather than both at once. You can also have each exchange end with a designated attacker - so someone knows they have to land the last blow before the fencers separate.

Insist that a designated defender (Silver's patient agent) must parry the first attack before counterattacking, so that double-time parry and riposte skills are developed prior to trying to master single-time counterattacks with opposition, which are generally more difficult (this depends on your system - something like longsword requires a good mix of double and single-time IMHO).

Designate the type of opening attack that must be used. E.g. the opening attack must be a cut from above, or a thrust from below, or an attack from the right side etc. This allows the attacker to work on a particular type of attack (useful if there are areas of known weakness) and allows the defender to concentrate on a canonical defence to the impending attack, at high intensity.

Give each fencer a set number of attacks, before they must switch to defence. E.g. each fencer can attack twice, then must defend twice, then attack twice more. Vary this, one attack, followed by defence, then attack again. Then three attacks followed by three defences. Then mix it up (agent gets two attacks but only has to defend once, patient agent must defend twice and attack only once).

In most of these cases, it will help to have an independent 3rd person observing and giving verbal guidance to slow things down or gradually speed things up, keep to the rules or vary the rules etc.

If you are a fairly new student (i.e. less than 2 years in) I would also strongly suggest only free playing with much more advanced opponents or an instructor. Two novices free playing is usually going to be a mess (two experts fencing can also be a mess, as matched skill levels can degrade form due to the pressure). A novice and a more experienced fencer can work together, the more experienced fencer holding back just enough to give the novice a challenge without having to overwhelm them as another novice will often feel the need to do.

There are heaps of other things you can do. Basically, keep it simple, reduce the options and complexity, and this will remove some of the random chaos that tends to make free play messy. There is a place for out and out free play with a bare minimum of rules for safety, but in most cases (and for the first several years of most of our fencing careers) there is more value in carefully controlled free play picking up where alive, decision based drilling leaves off.

Most importantly, if you want to retain your form and move within your system, guard yourself against the 'must touch at any cost' mentality. Aim to ensure that your cuts and thrusts are delivered with the kind of form (rather than power) that would be required to finish a fight in earnest with a real weapon, rather than settling for tippy, snippy taps that merely tag the opponent as if the weapon was a light sabre. Be prepared to lose with good form rather than win with poor form.

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Re: How do you keep your form true when you do freeplay?

Postby John P » Fri Jun 22, 2012 8:28 am

I like the suggestion of having a 3rd person observing that can jump in and make adjustments. For me personally when I started longsword I found it helpfully to have 2 preplanned moves form what ever guard I was in. Then before the engagement I would decide if they did X I would do Y. You may not be as effective at first as you where before but it will train you to act and respond in system. After a while it will become more natural and reflexive.


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