How To Sharpen Other Knives And Not Lose Your Own Edge

(Or - How to Teach)

OK, its a long title for a fairly simple topic, but “How to Teach” is so boring. This article is written for instructors who have the same problem that I do; how do you instruct novices and still maintain your own skill level? This is especially true when you are the only instructor in the area. Basic footwork drills and teaching the standard attacks and parries have to be learned by repitition, so leading these helps your own skills. Also, remember that there is no such thing as too many footwork drills. However, drills are not much fun, and that’s primarily why we do this. Making the one on one instruction fun and designed to help you maintain your own skill level is today’s topic.

Incidently, if all we did at fighter practice is drill, we would have some great fighters, and a really boring time. If your fighter practice is like most, you have an (hopefully) hour of drilling and then people tend to break off into sparring partners. I often seem to spend the rest of the practice on individual instruction. This is fine, but I like to spend some time sparring, and/or improving myself.

I have found it is very easy and instructive to combine sparring and drills. After all the formal drill work is done, I will take a student and start sparring with them. Within a minute I can spot a bad parry, an off line attack, or some other mistake. At this point I stop the bout, and ask the student what went wrong on that last attack. If they can’t explain it, I do. We then spend the next few minutes repeating the same attack and parry-ripost. This is done somewhat free form so it includes footwork as well as varying the attacks and parries slightly. The student now has to concentrate on one particular attack or parry until the get it right. During this time, I am concentrating on making my attack or parry perfectly and at speed. This is what helps maintain my skill level since it combines footwork and other variations. After a few minutes, we begin sparring again, until the next mistake. Then we repeat the correct movement again. Your student will improve because they are drilling, even though you are technically sparring (and I hope having fun).

Lord Kirk Dragomani
Provost, Ad’E