remote learning and solo practice

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remote learning and solo practice

Postby Mobius » 17 Jun 2015 12:32

I have been a long time gone but I return with a question.

The basic question is: Is it possible to learn to fight with the longsword using remote learning and solo practice?

At some point any theory or training will inevitably have to prove itself by the act of tournament, sparring or competition. However the majority of practice of any art will also be dependent upon personal commitment, self assessment, self awareness and the perfection of solo drills.

I have been of the opinion that an individual can go a long way down the path of learning without having a study group, training partner or class.

I am also thinking that in general I doubt any one would recommend it - for many, many reasons - but how far can that sole practitioner go?

I am putting together a website to document my accounts dealing with that question and I would welcome your thoughts.
By what measure canst thou know thyself if thou hast ne'er engaged in combat? - Tyler Durden
http://www.barebones-company.co.uk
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Re: remote learning and solo practice

Postby David Kite » 17 Jun 2015 14:32

I have been practicing HEMA since 2001, and have been solo for the better part of that time. Although I have been a member of ARMA that entire time, geographically I have been pretty isolated, and training partners have come and gone.

Regarding your question, I think the answer is yes, to a certain degree. How far you will get will depend on the quality of your resources, personal commitment, and your individual mental and physical abilities.

As you are aware, there are obviously certain fundamental things that can only be learned with another person: Time, Measure, Fuehlen, etc. So, nothing beats having a regular group or partner. The next best thing, if you can't get a local group going, is travelling to as many workshops and seminars as you reasonably can, or even just travelling once in a while to a distant group. Then, take your experience and what you've learned from those encounters to augment and refine your solo practice.

Up to a few years ago, I would say that a solo practitioner could get quite far on their own, relatively speaking. But, our understanding has increased so much, and so much of that understanding hinges on being able to work with other people, that, relatively speaking, you can't get as far now as you once were able to.

Being solo, though, is no reason to not get involved.

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Re: remote learning and solo practice

Postby KeithFarrell » 17 Jun 2015 14:59

I think you can do quite well with only solo practice - you can have fun, train your muscles, develop some knowledge on the subject ... but most of what you train will probably be wrong in some fashion, in terms of mechanics, distance, timing, structure, that sort of thing. If you are missing certain critical details, then the slightly incorrect movements may end up giving you severe long term damage to your joints.

Where solo practice is most beneficial is if you can participate in a lesson with an instructor, to learn what to watch out for in your solo practice. Then you can go home and work on that for the next few weeks, bearing in mind what the instructor told you to watch out for, so that you get all the benefits of regular practice, without the downsides of practising in a vacuum without helpful pointers.

To give two examples:

1) when you step, your knee MUST track over your heel. It should NOT collapse inwards, under any circumstances, no matter what you are doing. Your body weight should go in the direction of the movement of your body, not necessarily in the direction of your cut. Your toes should always point in the direction of the movement of the body, and then each part of the leg can bend in a healthy direction to soak up the impact of landing. If you break this rule, you risk injuring your knee for the rest of your life.

When practising solo, it is all too easy to forget this rule, and so it is easy to damage yourself. There are many other examples of this sort of basic structural and mechanic rule that a competent teacher should be able to point out for you, that you can then go home and work on for weeks until you can do it perfectly every time.

2) striking mechanics. If you don't know what to look for or what you are trying to achieve when you practise your striking mechanics, then your strike will probably be: a) ineffective; b) short; c) wrong. Furthermore, your strike may not engage the necessary muscles across the body; or worse, it may extend in such a fashion that you damage your wrist or elbow, or that you damage muscles or tendons.

Unless you have a reasonably good set of striking mechanics, then at the very best, your strikes will not be good; at the worst, every technique you throw will add to the overall damage your body takes.

So, in summary, solo practice is a wonderful way of internalising a technique or a set of motions, it is an excellent way to build strength and speed and fluency with the sword, and I do at least an hour a day of solo practice. However, you should make sure that what you are training has some basis in reality (by ensuring it works against a partner) and that you are not damaging yourself as you train. Taking a lesson from an instructor once a month or even once every two months would be a good way to make sure that you are not damaging yourself with your practice, and can help give you the motivation to keep going and to keep improving.
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Re: remote learning and solo practice

Postby Mobius » 29 Jun 2015 16:46

I have given these comments much thought and found them very helpful. In the large part I agree wholeheartedly and whomever I speak to gives the same reservations. That one may train up to a certain point but that at some point all training would stall without physical force and resistance being involved. The embedding of poor technique is also a problem that is difficult to avoid when solo.

Given that none of the advice here is doubted and considering a state where any solution possible, what solutions would bring about success?

Video and photographic analysis would provide some level of fix, in that it may be possible to record an ideal to aim for and compare against. Using video tools to overlay or photographs to analyse. The iPad app 'Ubersense' would be well used in this context - it allows for group sharing of video and direct comparisons in slow motion. I'm on there as 'Barebones Company' if anyone else wants to find me.

I would welcome the assistance and feedback in my training from any instructor who would have the time and inclination to critique me, but I can see that that may be an odd request; not quite a class and not quite a casual passing response.

A solution to that issue would be to have a larger group of experts and students feeding back, so that changes are discovered through the group discussions. To me that would be the equivalent of posting regular videos of one's progress in this kind of forum and gathering the responses from anyone to get a consensus of major problems. The downside of that is that it would be an imposition on this forum to expect people to give their time and it would not be scale-able.

I mention all of this as a thought exercise. I am keeping a blog to document my attempts, both as a solo practitioner and to whatever ends it leads to (http://www.barebones-company.co.uk). I have restated my plan there. I did this mainly because I had seen old posts I had made, here and elsewhere, some time ago and realised I had got nowhere. I felt that starting with 'something' was better than waiting with nothing.
By what measure canst thou know thyself if thou hast ne'er engaged in combat? - Tyler Durden
http://www.barebones-company.co.uk
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Re: remote learning and solo practice

Postby KeithFarrell » 29 Jun 2015 19:14

Sounds like quite a healthy step forward! Best of luck with advancing your programme :)
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