Note: As is my habit, I will put headers on the sections of this post, so for example if you only want to hear about the “now what” part, just read the Preamble and the Breaking Down the Bout sections.
Yesterday was the Northern Region Academy of the Rapier. It was a small, but well-attended, event. Very well run (I was particularly amused and impressed by, and appreciated, the lady who ran gate running after those of us who arrived but ran to an activity before checking in.) I would estimate that we had 30-40 fencers, some who drove 4 or more hours to get there (and me, who flew in from AZ, but that’s a different matter). Fencing experience ranged from brand newbie to 20+ years. Personally I participated in two authorizations: one for a new-to-SCA fencer, and one for a reauth from many years prior.
The discussions I hosted
I ran four discussions. I hate to call them classes, because although I arrive with certain points I want to hit, I hope I am accessible and able to alter the direction of the discussion per the attendees’ wishes and questions. One was An Overview of Period Fencing Manuals, one was on “Practical Fabris”, which delved in more depth into that Master’s book, and discussed how to incorporate his style into SCA fencing, since it is not necessarily 100% applicable (and why). The third was “SCA Fencing For Every Body Type”, which is a new take on “Tailoring Your Teaching”, a class I used to run, but a similar ilk: how do you find the best style for different natural abilities and body shapes? I feel that the classes had really great discussions. Some people stayed for the whole thing, some drifted in and out. My favorite question that I was asked was “which period master would you suggest for someone of my body type?” In retrospect, it was a very logical question, given the discussions that I had been running, but honestly I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Or at least, not consciously. Certainly with certain students I have made suggestions and pulled lessons from different masters depending on their body and abilities, but I hadn’t thought about generalizing those lessons. At least, not yet. Stay tuned for a new discussion on exactly that topic!
Breaking Down the Bout
The fourth discussion was on “Breaking down the bout: How to make sense of flying metal and moving bodies”. Originally (see previous post) I thought this would be useful for marshals, to understand the bout. I also realized that it could be helpful for fencers, too….. you can learn a lot by watching others, if you understand what you’re seeing. Someone also pointed out that it could be useful, or at least of interest, to non-fencing bystanders, and I realize that with only a modicum of basic knowledge (e.g. the types of hits that are kills) that indeed this could be useful to the audience as well. As the discussion progressed, we started to draw in the fencers themselves, because being able to break down a bout even when you’re in it isn’t always easy. It really does go by fast and adrenaline messes with your long-term memory.
I am grateful to the attendees who stuck with the discussion, especially Alys (just got that spelling) who was there the entire time, as they endured my modifying the style of the discussion on the fly as we found what worked best, and the fencers who drew the straw that placed them in my list, and am incredibly grateful for their playing along and explaining the bout from their point of view (especially Camille, who is not only a pleasant and eternally cheerful person, but also very good at understanding bout mechanics, and freely shared her observations)
Overall, I think this went very well, and that those who took part walked away with a little stronger ability in breaking down a bout, including myself. I will type up my notes and prepare a (hopefully evoloving) list of things to watch for, as a starting point for those who want to learn/improve this skill and have a written list of reminders.
In the near term, I will try to take this type of discussion to as many events as I can. Next target: 100 Minutes’ War.