Training Martial Arts is a painful process
At first it seem like a great fun, then it start to feel like a tough and monotonous job and finally after a while it feels like trying to achieve impossible…
But it works, slowly but surely you will gain all the skills necessary. It requires you to became fit and agile which is great, it will develop a great balancing skills and the twitch reflexes least but not last, it will develop a confidence in your skills and abilities which will allow you to progress even further…
So here is how it works: martial art is all about bio-mechanics. It’s about undertaking a certain action in the most efficient manner which usually means: simplest and fastest move.
All techniques can be broken down into 3 elements but in order for the technique to work you need to be able to execute all three elements correctly:
1. Measure (distance) – am I too far or too close?
Most (if not all) techniques will work only with a certain distance. This means if you try to use a technique designed for medium distance in a close measure, your opponent should be able to defeat you easily with a close technique and vice versa.
2. Speed (tempo) – was the technique executed in a right moment? Was it too late or too early?
Pretty much self explanatory, but extremely important! Timing will decide on the success or the failure of the attack. There are lots of core fencing principles (Vor, Nach, Indes – winning and regaining the initiative in a combat) that can relate to that. Attacking in a tempo is the most crucial skill that you will need to develop before you will be able to progress any further.
3. Configuration (biomechanics) – was your technique executed properly? Was the footwork correct? Was the alignment of your body correct? Was the angle of your blade correct?
This is probably the hardest of all as you need to combine multiple elements in one fluent move. However, if the technique doesn’t work be prepared to break it down to a simple pieces and analyze 1 by 1 with utmost precision as sometimes it’s the very small things that can make a huge difference (eg. thumb grip for certain moves)
Next thing that you have to train is footwork – this may sound simple enough but it’s not – footwork is the crucial part of any martial art as both speed and strength lie in your legs. You may be able to swing your blade faster but the body has to follow the movement with the adequate speed – if not, you will get hit, loads of times (double hits are usually result of the inadequate footwork).
Practise as much as it is possible with all possible variations: passing step forward and backwards, then mix it with small steps/lounges, then add some offline stepping in a triangle pattern, then keep repeating it over and over again. Use these drills at home, at work, while walking with the dog etc., on average you need 50 000 repetitions for each single move in order for your body to create a neural connection (muscle memory).
Solo drills are also the way to get proper body conditioning – practise moulinets, series of cuts made in circular motions, then practise multiple cuts done in one go and guard transitions. All these simple things will accumulate in time and give you the basis that you need for learning more complicated techniques. Remember about this and you will learn quickly.
And now, if you’ve read all of the above heed my warning: training martial arts can change you in many ways both physically and mentally. Mostly for good, but as it’s a big change so are the potential repercussions. Please read through the following excerpts from 2 different treatises (XVI and XIX Century) and reflect about them:
George Silver, Paradoxes of Defence, 1599:
”And moreover, the exercising of weapons puts away aches, griefs, and diseases, it increases strength, and sharpens the wits. It gives a perfect judgement, it expels melancholy, choleric and evil conceits, it keeps a man in breath, perfect health, and long life. It is unto him that has the perfection thereof, a most friendly and comfortable companion when he is alone, having but only his weapon about him. It puts him out of fear, & in the wars and places of most danger, it makes him bold, hardy and valiant.”
Treatise on the Art of Arms FBy M. La Boëssière, 1818:
”Upon the advice of the better sort of doctor the exercise of arms is health giving and can avoid young men of long and cruel maladies; primarily as it opens their chests and makes their natural weaknesses disappear; secondly it makes them more vigorous, more supple, more agile and more able to bear the fatigue of war, finally it gives them the grace and ease which has come to be the mark of a well-studied man”
Also, check the HEMA Study page for more information!