I’m not happy with my longsword unit. It jumps around too much, doesn’t focus on core skills as much as I like, and requires someone who half-way knows what they are doing to lead.
What’s worse is any mistakes the leader makes gets repeatedly drilled into the students until they start teaching the same bad practices. I see this in my current instructors, and if I’m being honest, myself.
Usually it goes down like this:
- One student stands in a posture or throws an easily defeated attack. Often without masks or other protective gear.
- The other student performs the desired action, often intentionally doing it wrong to avoid actually striking the other person.
- The instructor tells the students they are wrong unless they exactly matched the body position the instructor imagines to be the best. Since neither student is making an earnest attempt, there is no way to evaluate the instructor’s judgment.
Dissatisfied with this, I scrapped my lesson plans and started over with two workbooks. These workbooks get away from fully scripted drills and lectures. Instead they encourage the students figure out things for themselves through guided experimentation.
I call these workbooks because the there are blanks all over the place for students to record the outcome of the drills. They are free to take really detailed notes, or simply check off the actions as they become comfortable with them.
The drill are designed with some basic precepts.
The students must be able to run the drills by themselves.
Class shouldn’t be cancelled just because the instructor isn’t unavailable that day. And in many cases there simply isn’t an instructor to be had.
An instructor can get things started and help solve problems, but in the end the students must take control of their education. And the first step towards that is being able to learn independently.
The drills rely on the students to judge success.
I can’t stress that enough. The student, not the instructor, decides whether or not the action was done correctly based solely on factors such as “Did they complete the action?”, “Were they hit in the process?”, and “Did they feel safe throughout the action?”.
If it didn’t match the drill exactly, so what? As long as the student can reliably reproduce positive results while sparing the goal has been achieved.
The concept of Indes must be in every partner drill from the beginning.
We often shelter new students from having to think. We tell them exactly what each actor in the play is going to do and then make them repeat it over an over again until their brain turns to mush.
I’ve been working with a complete novice. She isn’t afraid or confused when I don’t tell her which line she will need to parry on. In fact, it’s the opposite. My student wants to make instant decisions using only the information she can get from watching my body and sword.
Drills are open to interpretation.
There are countless variables that come into play during sparing including height, reach, power, speed, terrain, etc. An overly ridged drill that controls for all variables is often a useless drill because the student cannot setup the exact circumstances he practiced.
Overly ridged drills are also susceptible to misinterpretation. If the instructor demands the students always step wide when a narrow step is preferable, the error will never be caught. No one will even attempt the narrow step. This is why the student must be allowed to play with the variables and determine for himself which is correct.
Level 1 Workbooks
The level one workbooks are about the basics. They only look at guards and primary attacks from those guards. That said, there is a lot of work to be done. With 9 lines (including the thrust) to learn how to defend from nearly a dozen guards, this will take some time.
German Longsword Workbook – Level 1 – Added review questions for each lesson