Yesterday went swimmingly, I thought.

I was most impressed with the adeptness I saw in the performance of one of my favourite knife-fighting drills. The drill itself is quite simple; it is slow speed sparring with one partner armed and the other unarmed. The drill begins inside of attack distance and the intention is to have a constant flow of motion. If one person gets cuts or disarmed the drill just keeps right on going. Eventually both people will end up taking the knife away from each other constantly, trading it back and forth as they exchange slipping, grappling, parrying and counterattacking techniques. They move and circle around each other, never backing off and re-engaging. (That’s a different drill.)

The problem most students have with this drill is the same as with most slow work with weapons, especially knives. People have a tenancy to try and speed up to ‘beat’ the other person, or they fall into the habit of flinching and trying to shove or muscle their way out of difficult situations. When that happens the learning stops and it just becomes a desperate attempt to win. I also put an emphasis on aggressive sparring, but practice drills such as this are a different thing all together.

Slow, free form exercises that use a constant flow of motion help to teach the student to think quickly while moving, rather than jumping back out of measure to try and come up with a new plan. They get the brain and the body moving together at a relaxed pace so, when the tempo is increased, they can work together just as well at full speed. They are also a chance to practice specific techniques that have previously been taught in a way that lets the student figure out how to make it work for them.

And last night it went perfectly. For nearly ten minutes straight Holly and I were performing the drill at a constant pace. What was more exiting was that she started to pick up on things I was doing and apply them back to me. I would shove me knee behind hers to force her to the ground, and a few minutes later she would return the favour.

Learning is fun!


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