This week, we stepped away from the sword for a bit. We’ve (or rather, I’ve) been focusing very much on longsword of late, and thought it would make a refreshing change to do some basic grappling and revisit some fundamental principles. It turned out to be one of the best classes ever, in terms of flow and structure. And my classes are *all* good, so that’s sayin’ somethin’! For the humour impaired, yes, I’m being facetious.
We began class with our basic abrazare poste drill to warm up our collective footwork. Next, we did some combined footwork drills. Before I get into those drills, let me just address the “why’s.”
Every training session allows us to work on certain aspects and improve them. During these training sessions, there are individual problems that we work on, and there are problems that are more widespread. This more often than not provides me with material for a later class, unless i stop on the spot and address it immediately – which is more rare, since it interrupts the flow of class, and I prefer to leave it until a later class; unless, of course, it is so fundamentally wrong that they are training in bad habits, then yes, of course, I correct it then and there.
One of the problems that I find arises frequently is a lack of balanced and measured footwork. First step is fine, second step is fine, drills are generally fine, but when we speed up ever so slightly, or go at full speed, footwork goes out the window. Simultaneously, it emerged in my mind that the manuscript is laden with footwork patterns. The same steps recur over and over again, and mastering some basic footwork patterns at speed would help solve the problem by ingraining a series of steps that should become innate. Most of these patterns are no more than four or five steps long, and so easily remembered. Finally, one of the criteria was that they be symmetrical, and so sometimes a last step in inserted into the drill to ensure this symmetry.
So with this in mind, I set about developing some drills incorporating the footwork patterns of the different remedies of the manuscript. No, not every play, just certain “bookmarks”, if you will in the plays. These are the remedy master of abrazare, the first remedy of dagger, the first remedy of the single sword, the attack with the longsword, the second master of largo, and the master of stretto.
We then practiced the remedy of abrazare and the remedy of dagger footwork. The drills follow:
- Begin right foot forward.
- Shift back slightly with an acressere.
- Pivot the trailing (left) foot back, and perform a volta stabile.
- Pass forward.
- Pass forward. You should now be left foot forward.
- Begin left foot forward.
- Make an acressere forward and slightly along the diagonal.
- Pass forward.
- Volta stabile back.
- Pass forward. You should now be right foot forward.
These simple drills were done first on a count. Then they were done as fluidly as possible, connecting the motions and trying to keep all interruptions in movement to a minimum. They were then repeated at speed, and finally at speed with the onus on fluidity. It went surprisingly well, and they performed the drills well. Good job!
After this, we continued with some basic grappling and the application of principles. As a practical matter, we usually practice the ligadure from the dagger plays, with an attacker entering and offering the appropriate opening to perform said keys. I wanted to examine how these could be applied from a grappling standpoint. for this to happen, we needed to go back to basics.
By basics, I mean something as simple as breaking a grip. The first few minutes were taken up by a simple exercise to break a grip on the wrist. Grip the partner’s wrist as hard as possible, and by simply raising his hand along the diagonal to his opposite shoulder, he can lever the grip away.
Continuing along this line, I then had students reverse grips from the inside. Same basic principle: Grip the wrist, begin to raise the hand along the diagonal, but then “snake” it over in a circular manner, reversing the grip and gripping his wrist. Do this first one-handed, then with both hands.
We then practised reversing grips to the outside. Once again, the same basic principle is at work, just in reverse. With your wrist gripped, drive your hand down along the diagonal and to the outside. Circle around the arm, rising into boar’s tooth and grip the partner’s wrist, thumb to the inside, effectively reversing the grip.
These three basic drills formed the basis for the rest of the class, where we practiced the ensemble of locks and keys.
Beginning on the outside, I had them perform a reversal, but by trapping the partner’s hand to our wrist with the off-hand, we have the makings of a wrist lock. Drive your hand back and the same time, making his elbow bend somewhat. The arm should begin to form a “z” shape. Ensuring that the partner’s hand is perpendicular to the ground, pinky finger pointing up, continue the rotational movement or your hand over the wrist and back down. This is a painful lock that will send your partner to the ground with a grimace. Go easy, folks. Wrists are hard to replace.
Say you attempt the same manoeuvre, but measure is off, you pull back slightly, or you over-rotate the arm as you perform the technique. Never fear. Simply slide your hand off the partner’s wrist (your other hand keeps his hand trapped) to his elbow, and perform an arm bar. Step through and take them down. If he tries to remove his arm by bending his elbow, take him into the lower key.
We then moved to plays from the inside. The first was a wrist lock from the inside (notice, we’re playing with links in the chain, progressively going up the chain, from the wrist to the shoulder. Start at the weakest available link in the chain to enable techniques.) Begin the grip reversal, bring your gripped hand palm up and into boar’s tooth from the inside. Trap your partner’s hand to your arm, and move towards the outside diagonal. His arm should be in a boar’s tooth position, with torsion on the wrist. Complete the takedown by pressing back and down while continuing to apply torsion.
Next was the ligadura soprana. Once again, raise your hand, palm up into a boar’s tooth position. As his elbow comes up, grip it with your off hand, continuing the upward motion. At this point, his grip should be next to nil, and so simply reverse the grip, gripping his wrist from underneath now, and continue the takedown either by torqueing the shoulder out to the side and up, or in a more gentle manner by simply continuing the upward motion, which will turn into a downward motion, taking the partner to the ground.
The ligadura mezana figured next, and is similar in nature to the rest of the inside breaks. Bring your hand palm up, but not too far. The partner’s arm should now be bending somewhat, collapsing to the body, with the wrist bending towards the inside. This may require a slight shift forward and out to get the proper angle. From here, simply drive forward and out towards the partner’s bicep, as though you would punch it. Once past the elbow, hook over and rise into boar’s tooth, completing the takedown.
Finally, the ligadura di sotto was applied from a a wrist grab. Utilising the same mechanic as above, bring the palm face up. Rather than shoot to the outside along a diagonal, shoot directly in and between the elbow and body. Rise into boar’s tooth to effect the key, then down into porta di ferro to complete the takedown.
Next week will see these applied more antagonistically, and we will complete the takedowns on the mats (for those capable of making the falls.) Then we’ll progress up the chain and apply techniques from the clinch (collar and elbow hold, or even an over/under hold), collar/lapel grip, etc. Further, we’ll see how we can enter for a reverse takedown or a gambarola utilising these principles. Then into breaking holds using poste, and… ok. Enough for now.