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The Pace of Navigation
Adam's 35th Birthday Bear Pit (Part 1)
© 2020 James LaFond
Below is my review of my brother Adam's adventure in combat weaponry with a Virginia HEMA group.
Once a week I'll be looking at one of these engagements of about 14 minutes and giving Adam some coaching perspectives that should help him and his training partners grow.
The conduct of this group has a high level of civility and should maximize participation.
As we discovered as far back as 2005, having officials call strokes is not very functional. Hell, Don and I had four judges watching us for a kill and I stabbed him so neatly in the face twice, that they missed it and he said, "You better do it again so they see it." I'm no better at judging these things. But this does seem to be a good entry level path to contact weaponry. I would love to spar with this group. They seem like real good guys.
The first two encounters with the young man and the big man were desultory, due to the use of slow step-and-drag foot work. This contributed to the mutual strikes in the first bout. Adam, you have a tendency to level up and down with your opponent, as demonstrated by your smart shift footwork against the third man at about 4:15, a man who uses a nice hanging guard with the basket hilt waster. In future encounters, amp you footwork up against novices and keep your weapon hand close so that they don't get overwhelmed and you navigate the combat space with more positional aggression.
At 5:02 the strike to the leg you delivered was countered to the head.
Train that leg stroke as a feint—most of the time and then do a pass cut to his wrist. Don't restore range after a parry—though your high guard is very good—but exploit laterally with a beat. Do more sparring with this guy and switch from the high Redondo to a lateral beat to Redondo.
I suggest getting a pair of heavy, 36 inch rattan rods and doing a lot of slow light sparring with anyone who will do it.
I have a training engagement tentative for Virginia this spring or summer. I will make sure I get down to you for a lot of sparring. You just need to work with someone who moves like a crack-head on heroin and everything will start clicking better. In the meantime do 20-minute continuous shadow sword and shadow stick without ever stopping in one spot. Do it slow for flow.
A nice long sword bind at around 6:08. That weapon plays to your judo strength. Practice using it with one hand to help with your arming sword and saber work.
6:42, this is your weapon, so use it to expand your other weapon sets and interpret from it. Don't try to make it a safe place, but start pushing the angles, especially highline neck attacks.
In the bout with Nathan that ends at 7:52, you had nice weapon work and you guys just stood there. You have to dedicate your training to movement, even slow and languid is better than standing there and stabbing each other. Nice sub-clavian kill. But you would have been better served leaving his shield and hand on the turf and shifting out with a slash. Looking at the next bout with Nathan, I'm starting to sense with him waiting and you creeping that this weapon set brings out the worst in everyone. To counter this tendency, never be satisfied with 1 cut or thrust and always deliver a second while existing the strike zone.
At about 10:20, I don't know if this flies in the face of club convention. But these poses and stops after contact, that's where you'd get killed in a fight by a dude you wounded. Even swords are not stopping weapons unless you shear or thrust deeply and with power. If it's okay, when you get initial contact, zone out and stroke again into the highline as a follow-up stroke and guarding measure. Keep in mind, that against weapons like bats and machetes, this kind of point stopping is going to set you up for hurt just like the epon style of karate fighting set those guys up to get done dirty in the cage and the ring. If it is not cool to touch him again, still zone out to a high guard. Don't stay in the pocket.
Nice kill at 11:50. That is your weapon, so work from there and see if you can get permission to move off of a point at least even if second strokes are against the honor code. You guys are training in such a way as to invite the bum rush in a survival situation or battle.
13:30 beautiful hand cut. Should have been done with passing movement so you could follow with a decapitation to him or use him as a post against a second foe.
Good work, just move more.
I'll review part 2 this week coming up.
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