(Found this post lying around as a draft, and decided to finally let it see the light of day.)
Some time ago I was reading one blogger’s lamentations about the physical impossibility of doing squats. I remember thinking: “Isn’t it nice that there’s at least one thing that I’m naturally quite good at? Squats are easy!” In fact, they were a welcome chance to catch my breath during the otherwise difficult warm-up session.
Well, not long after this I was pulled aside for a while after training. It turned out that I was absolutely, horribly wrong about squats. Continue reading →
So, it’s been a while again. The awful truth is, I’ve half finished a post or two, but have never managed to muster the courage to edit and publish them. I might do it now though (better late than never) so that the work doesn’t go entirely to waste.
I had a half-voluntary training break again, hence the lack of updates. I think I only attended one class after the last post before coming up with excuses to slack again. Eeh, how embarrassing. Slinking back to the salle after another month or more of absence is a great exercise in humility and not imagining that the world turns around me.
Speaking of the world not turning around me: I opted out of an exercise last week and the week before that. As mad as it sounds, this was kind of a big deal. Despite safety and health being absolute priorities at the salle, till now I’ve been loath to avoid any exercise, even if it was pushing my limits a tad too much. Turns out everybody does not stop and gape at my laziness if I stand aside for a while. Thank goodness.
In all seriousness, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was for me to decline an exercise. Go me! It’s a step (though tiny and silly) closer to humility
The most interesting exercise to share is one we did in the first half of the lesson, which we spent training with daggers. After having gone through the four basic attacks and defences of the dagger, we were split into groups of three and told to practice. The goal was to have a continuous rotation of random attacks and appropriate defences; you were not supposed to stay stationary for one moment.
Needless to say, it was a chaotic experience! Lots of attacking the wrong person and messing up the defence. Though usually I’m pretty terrified of such exercises (uncertainty is not fun), this one was quite enjoyable as well as useful. Once you remove the rigid frame (or “scaffolding”, as our teacher called it) of the carefully set starting positions and instead put the fighters in a changing, more complex situation, you can see how much they really know. In my case, as it turns out, it’s not too much, but not nothing either. While a determined fighter would beat me every time, I was happy to see that it wasn’t that difficult for me to react appropriately to the different attacks. My defences weren’t worthless either. Recognizing an attack quickly and defending myself without conscious thought is still something I need to practice, but it’s nice to see that I haven’t forgotten everything.
The fact that I went to training with my father made things considerably less stressful. The presence of a friend helped me to laugh at myself more and relax a bit. I do hope that in the future I’ll be more comfortable going to training again. The only way to achieve that is to train more. I can’t promise that I’ll go or update every week, but I’d like to try.
I’m not proud of having neglected this blog for so long – I’ll confess that I haven’t dared to look at the date of the last post to figure out exactly how long it has been. But it’s difficult to update here if I don’t actually go to training.
Although I have gone to the salle a couple of times during this blog silence, every time I visit feels like the first because of how long I’ve been absent. Other things have been taking up my time and attention, and even when I could have gone, I was afraid. I was – and am – afraid of failing, of exposing my weakness in front of strangers, of being the ridiculous, awkward, wanna-be swordswoman.
Today I’m going to training again. I expect to feel ridiculous, clumsy, weak, and clueless. But I also expect to go unnoticed. Whatever my brain is telling me, training is not about me. Not only will no one judge me half as harshly as I do, but I don’t expect them to be thinking of me at all. They’ll be too busy paying attention to the exercises and swords – as I should be.
What’s more, I expect to feel happy. For all the gut-wrenching nervousness I’ve always felt about going sword fighting, there have only been a very few times I’ve honestly regretted it. I only wish I wouldn’t forget that.
Last time I ended up in the weird guard pictured below. I don’t actually have any idea of what it’s called, but I suppose it might be related to dente di cinghiaro. You’ll notice that this time we’re holding the sword in our right hand only. That’s because this next part of the cutting drill – and indeed another big theme of this lesson – is sword in one hand.
Once again I’m defending. The attack is a simple mandritto fendente, a cut down from right to left. The defendant blocks it by swinging his sword up and to the right, while at the same time shifting his weight to his front foot (volta stabile) and taking a small step (accressere) to his off-right (off the strada). The way of defending here is similar to the second drill, only it feels a lot cooler. The huge smooth sweep of the sword is quite something to experience – I really felt in charge of the action, but at the same time could feel the sword doing the work. Continue reading →