The Lone Swordsman

Solo Training – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

You want to be a swordfighter. You show up to all the classes. You want to be a swordfighter so much that you want to train more. Still there are whole hours a week free you could be training in. No-one else shares your passion enough to come drill at 5:30am on Thursdays. You have to train alone. What’s the best use of your time, and what are the risks? Yes, more training time is definitely a good thing, but solo training comes with issues. Especially for beginners. Read on and learn more…

Martial arts is about fighting. Fighting is not a solo activity. It takes two to tango. It’s also not like a tango, because celebrities wearing love cartier bracelet
you’re not working pre-set choreography. Instead you’re freestyling based on what the opponent discount cartier bracelet feeds you and how they react to your movements. Sure, we’ll drill with pre-set sequences but the aim is to be able to fight. That means fighting cartier love bracelet
against a resisting and independent minded opponent. Not a punchbag or even a choreographed partner.

Training solo, you lack not just their physical presence, but also that aliveness. The unexpected variation in movement, timing, energy and pressure is irreplaceable. Every technique has a goal based on interaction with the external world. You are hitting an opponent or you are blocking their strike, etc.

Training solo removes these tactical contexts, so you train the movements in isolation. This can encourage or conceal distortions.

Don’t worry about what this practice will be lacking, focus on what you can do in it. Work on you. Think of developing martial skill as building a pyramid.

First of all you want a stable and strong foundation. That means your body. If you’re not physically able to train HEMA, you won’t get much out of training HEMA. You’re better off using your limited free hours to get strength, mobility, and endurance up to scratch. Then they stop holding you back hermes bracelets in class. As a coach, I’d rather have a blank slate of a student who can train well for two hours in class than someone who knows the basic cuts but can’t last a class.

Secondly, you want to work on you and the weapon. Start with the fundamental movements of attacking. This will vary by your specific art, but start with simple attacks. They don’t need anything from your opponent, except “not reacting until hit”. You can’t train defence effectively until you know what it’s like to be attacked, and it’s impossible to get attacked in solo practice. You will struggle to simulate compound attacks until you know what it’s like to have your attack dealt with. You can practice simple direct attacks most easily- go cut some air, whale on a tyre or stab a tree. Whatever you feel like.

Still, beware mis-training. Don’t waste your time by developing bad habits. When training alone, there’s insufficient feedback. You lack both skill in the art and proprioception to notice it’s wrong, and no-one else is there to tell you. Fast forward a month and you’ve spent hours learning how to attack in false time, telegraph, make a ‘parry’ that doesn’t cover the attack etc. When it’s pointed out to you, you now have to unlearn it and relearn the correct movement. Which takes longer than it would have taken to save the technique for class. Where you would be corrected as you learned it. Take it slow, work on what you think you know, and keep the purpose of the technique in mind. If it’s an advancing entry attack like a Zornhau as Vorschlag, then leading head before sword is a bad habit! Preferably use a mirror and/or video to check your form.

Some HEMA traditions are lucky enough to have solo forms in the sources. Montante is a great example – here’s some GFFG folks working on one.

If you’re lucky enough to train such a tradition, pester the instructor to cover it early so you can do it at home. If not, consider making up a new solo drill from the movements found in your tradition, like Guy Windsor’s Iron Butterfly:

As you become more proficient then you can expand the technical repertoire that you training solo.  Think of an experienced boxer shadow-boxing. He’s not just throwing punches, but simulating a whole fight. Nevertheless, it makes sense to use solo time to polish what you have, instead of trying to self-teach new material.

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Author: Chris Bear

Chris got into HEMA in 2015 when he joined School of the Sword Reading. The main focuses of his training are sidesword and rapier, but he also enjoys fighting with sabres. One day he will take the plunge and start training in longsword.

Chris is the owner and editor of AfterBlow which makes it all his fault.

One thought on “The Lone Swordsman

  • This article is “Solo training as a supplement to regular class training”. I’ll be writing a follow up to suggest a structure to fully solo training – “I’m marooned on a desert island with a copy of Wiktenauer and a training sword”. Unfortunate truth is that there aren’t many steps before you have to get off the island, or at least find a Man Friday to train with you.

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