Monday, November 16, 2015

Glittering Eyes and Nylon Swords

Two weeks between posts.  I'm getting better.  It's not a year long affair.

One of my main sources of billable hours within Duello is teaching birthday parties.  Kids aged 8-14 come in, they get an hour lesson in longsword (usually), we salute out, get pictures, and then the hosts sugar up a dozen children and loose them upon their parents.

People ask me "How do you teach kids?  It must be nightmarish."  Not at all.  When I'm teaching kids, there is a social contract in place where if the kids want to learn from me, they are keenly aware that I'm allowed to say "You.  You're being a jerk.  Stop being a jerk and gimme ten push-ups."  More than that, THEY DO THE PUSH-UPS.  When I realized I had push-up authority over my students, my job became infinitely easy.  

Well, the parts of my job related to keeping order in my class.  Seriously, I don't know how my homeroom teachers did it in elementary school.  A friend once asked me to babysit his son while he took the wife out for dinner and a show, and I jumped to accept because they're good people.  But on the way over, I thought to myself Oh no, I probably can't give this kid push-ups if he's gonna be disagreeable.  Now, to my great surprise, the boy was a delight, but I was definitely sweating on the way there.  

But I digress.

I love teaching these parties.  This is exactly what I would have wanted when I was a kid.  I tell the people I train with about them, and about knight camp and usually hear "Man, I wish I had something like that when I was a kid."  I know all about it.  I love seeing the unfiltered joy that comes across some of those little faces when they pick their swords up for the first time.  A select few ask about getting to hold the sharp museum swords, and if their folks are okay with it, they all get the chance.  The look on a kid's face when the gravity of holding a real sharp sword after they've been taught to respect it is wondrous.

Not much more to it then that.  I get to be part of a kid's special day a few times each month.  Life is good.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Instructor Intensive

I had the distinct pleasure of taking part in Academie Duello's first Instructor Intensive last week from October 26-30.  In brief, it was fantastic, and I can't recommend it strongly enough.  Seriously, it gave me material for my own fencing, and a great deal to think about as an instructor.

Where to begin, though?  Perhaps with the structure.

The days started at 08:00 with warm up and grappling for 30 minutes, and rapier for three (yes, holy shit, three (3)) hours.  A half hour break comes at 11:30, and then class resumes at noon with another half hour of grappling, and an afternoon of longsword training for another three hours.  Following yet another half hour break, there was a two hour methodology section where we learned about the nuts and bolts aspects of teaching, training, philosophy, and knowledge retention.

It was an infinitely wonderful experience for me, because I've spent this year away from training.  In large part, due to my job as a security professional.  Ten hours a day is a holy-mother-of-god lot of training, but it has been immensely useful for me.

First, for my own training, it gave me a deep and thourough examination of all of my basics.  It's not enough to know the shape of the guard, but also it's utility and context.  What are the core movements?  Why are you making them?  That shape is wrong, here's not only the specific fix, but how to make it stick, and how to recognise it.  Want a good reason to do the thing beyond "the Maestro said so"?  Here's several corroborating sources from a variety of manuscripts, all combining to form a single cohesive set of martial principles.  Got it?

Holy cats, I get it now.

I have a much deeper understanding of my core mechanics now.  My findings were too big, and I lost my gainings all the time.  I didn't just see my mistake, I finally had a full contextual  understanding of why it was wrong.  Now, I find my opponent's weapon a palmo down the blade (as Capofero advocates) and gain at the point of my crossing (as Fabris advocates) and HEY IT ALL WORKS RELIABLY AND WELL NOW.  That was probably my biggest fencing lightbulb for the week, but rest assured, there are many others.

I don't want to give away any of the knowledge without Devon's express permission, so I'll just have to say that the methodology section was singularly enlightening for how I plan to structure my lessons.

The instruction from the teachers is top notch, Devon and Clint deliver their content cleanly, effectively, and most importantly, animatedly at all times.  Their engagement with the material and the students is superb, and I recommend the course to anyone that's looking to deepen their understanding of fencing at all of it's levels.

I'm inspired as hell, and I'm just now realising how desperately hungry I am to get back to my training.  It's been a long year, and now the story can pick back up again.

Thanks for reading, and stick em with the pointy end.

A Happy Ending; A New Beginning

I am returned after a very long hiatus.  Content to come once a week at a minimum; perhaps more.  Stay tuned for more excitement.