Guard Flow- Transition through guards smoothly. Do first while standing, then moving forward through the guards, and then backwards through the guards. Start with each foot leading to practice both sides through all stances. (Ex. Middle Guard, pull up into High Guard, relax into Open Low Guard, pull up into Hanging Guard, roll back down into Middle Guard, repeat sequence)
Ghost Drill- One person has a weapon, the defender has none. Going at half (or less) speed, the attacker makes cuts and thrusts at the defender, who avoids being struck only with movement. Use footwork and body position to avoid attacker’s blade. Make sure the defender moves as slowly as the attacker, do not falsify the drill with overly fast footwork that could not happen at speed. Don’t forget that strikes can be avoided my moving offline and IN, as well as away.
Ghost/Counter- Same as above, but now the defender has a weapon. The defender is trying to move in such a way as to avoid being struck, but is still able to touch the attacker with their weapon. This develops the ability to void attacks that still allows for counter attacks, instead of just backing away. For an extra challenge, give the defender a shorter weapon than the one used by the attacker.
Distance Drill (follow the leader)- Opponents face each other in their stances at optimal distance. One is designated “leader” who moves around (forward, back sideways, etc) practicing perfect footwork. The follower is trying to read the movement of the leader and maintain the same distance throughout the drill. Also, the follower is trying to maintain the same orientation between the opponents, do not let the leader step offline, break the follower’s center, or end up behind them. Switch rolls. This should be done at half speed at first.
Balloon Drill- Similar to the above drill. The two opponents face each other with their lead hand palm out, pinning an inflated balloon between their palms. Practice moving around, closing and opening the distance of engagement without squishing or dropping the balloon. THIS IS NOT A COMPETITIVE DRILL.
Hanging Guard Step Under- Starting in middle guard left foot forward, step offline to your right while pulling into a left hanging guard. (Your guard should be there as your right foot touches down.) Allow your left foot to pivot around until you are facing your opponent 45 degrees from where you started. As your pivot completes, you throw a return from the hanging guard (onside). You should now be right foot forward, having just smacked your opponent a mighty blow. Now reverse: step offline to the left while pulling up into a right H.G. Pivot as you throw a return to the offside.
Hutton’s Moulinet- Cuts 1-6 moving forward and back, using Alfred Hutton’s Moulinet drill from “Old Swordplay”.
Frozen Man- One designated attacker, one defender. For Defensive Frozen Man; The attacker throws a single blow, which the defender blocks/parries. The defender then freezes, allowing examination of what targets have become open. The attackers throws the next blow, the process is repeated, etc. For Offensive Frozen Man; the attacker throws a blow and freezes. The defender blocks/parries the attack, and then the examine the attacker, looking at openings for counter attacks, and identifying what the attacker is best able to throw as a follow up attack from their current position.
One for One's- Slow work where you take turns throwing blows. This is not static, so move, use range to avoid blows. This drill uses variations with the numbers of blows. Do two for two's and three for three's. These help with combinations and defending. Go slow, exaggerate your movements. If a block is missed, fix it, then move on. Keep the speed between the two fighters at the same level. Avoid speeding up to catch a block. If you are in a bad position to defend yourself (say, after strike two in a three for three) stop and figure out why. It's not about winning. Keep your moves realistic; don't throw funky blows or angles you could never generate power on at speed. (Can be done in armor)
Slow Work- Slow motion free play. Most in the SCA are probably familiar with slow work already. Again, don't speed up. Exaggerate your movements, since moves get shortened up at speed naturally. Make sure your feet are also moving slow, I often see fighters swinging the sword slowly but moving much to fast, especially with non matched forms. Be aware that slow work with bastard swords can have a tendency towards artificial ranges. Almost everyone I see (me included) can end up doing much of their slow work from the inside range. (Can be done in armor)
“A” frame vs. Hanging Guard- Paired drill. Attacker throws cut 1 (onside head), then recovers into right hanging guard to receive counter attack. They throw cut 2 (offside head) from hanging guard and recover into left hanging guard, where the throw cut 1 again, and the sequence repeats. Defender defends first cut with left “A” frame block/parry, then throws cut 2. They recover into right “A” frame block/parry, and throw cut 2, recovering into original “A” frame, and the sequence repeats. Throw a set number of blows, then switch roles. (Can be done in armor)
"1-6" drill. The pell is divided into 6 targets, being the onside and offside of head, ribs and legs. Onsides are odd, offsides are even. Practice striking 1-1-1-2-1-3-1-4-1-5-1-6. Repeat the sequence starting with 2: 2-1-2-2-2-3-2-4-2-5-2-6. Repeat the sequence starting with each number, this will encourage fluidity in striking and the ability to strike any target from any position. Hit the targets from various angles, use back edge strikes and MOVE YOUR FEET! Get in the habit of stepping with each strike.
Tennis ball- hang a tennis ball at face level and start thrusting it. Don't let it settle between thrusts, you're trying to develop fast and accurate thrusts. Change levels and practice body thrusts the same way.
Practice gathering, and passing forwards and backwards without a sword
Practice stepping offline and pivoting without a sword
Practice combination footwork without a sword. Combo's I use:
1) gather forward, step offline and pivot to clear the body
2) gather forward, pass forward/ same backwards
3) pass forward, gather forward/ same backwards
4) gather backward then quickly forward
5) pass backward then quickly forward
6) practice stepping and pivoting around your pell/opponent to the various angles on the footwork diagram
The 5’s- Attacker throws 5 onside head blows at defender. Defender chooses which defense to use. Switch roles. Same is done for offside head, onside leg, etc. Then partners alternate, throwing blows, 5 onside head blows, 5 offside head blows, etc. Now do the 5’s while moving clockwise. Then repeat sequence while moving counter-clockwise. Keep the blows honest. If the defender misses a defense, they should get struck. You can go fast, but there is no need to go super hard.
“Now” Drill- Attacker is in high guard, prepared to throw cut 1 (onside head). The defender is trying to read the attacker. The attacker throws cut 1 at random timing. The defender is trying to yell “now” when they perceive that the blow is about to be thrown. If the defender is correct, the attacker checks their blow and starts again. If the defender does not read the blow, make sure they block. This should be done in armor so that the attacker can throw full speed blows. Switch roles.
Fendente Tag- Both partners are in high guard, and only allowed to throw a vertical downward blow to the top of the head. No blocking is allowed. The point of the exercise is to use timing and distance to strike the opponent without getting struck. Opponents are not allowed to purposefully bring their sword into contact with their opponent’s sword. They must use timing and distance to defend while trying to strike their opponent.
Rounds- 3 versions, all versions done for 1 minute nonstop, then switch roles.
a)Cuts 1 and 2 only. Attacker throws cuts 1 and 2 full speed and power. Defender only defending using “A” frame.
b) Cuts 3 and 4 only- Attacker only throws cuts 3 and 4. Defender uses low line blocks
c) 1,2,3 and 4. Attacker uses all 4 cuts. Defender uses “A” frame and low line defense.
20,20,20 Drill- Attacker throws 20 slow speed, 20 half speed and 20 full speed attacks at defender. This is to help defender get more comfortable defending, and begin to recognize what attacks are coming. This can be made more difficult by adding restrictions, such as no foot movement, no sword blocks, etc. Switch roles.
Marc de Arundel (Mark Hollingshead) 2011