The article which follows is about drills, more accurately it is about "Hot" drills and getting the most out of your drills. Most people do not like drills as they feel monotonous and unfulfilling, however they do fulfil and important part of the training process in order that skills are learnt properly in a practical manner. The problem is that most drills which are performed, while they are effective, they are not as effective as they could be.
Most drills are performed at slow speeds, and for beginning drills this is important. The slow drill allows the body to understand the movement in a slow and controlled fashion. The slow drill also allows the teacher to correct any issues in the performance of the action before it causes any issues for the fencer. Once a drill is learnt then the drill is sped up, not much but it is. These drills are done at a comfortable speed often without armour and with out intensity. These will teach the individuals participating in the drills the mechanics of the action but it lacks something in the execution.
"Hot" drills are about taking the essential drills and adding an element of intensity to them in order that the drill can be performed under conditions which are closer to the performance of the action in a combative situation. This is designed to discover what the students performing the drill have actually learnt and what actually rests in their muscle memory.
First point, armour is essential for these drills as there is too high a chance that the face or another part of the body may be struck with weapon moving at a high speed. Second point, these drills should only really be performed with those students who are in a condition where they are ready to face an opponent in full-speed bouting. Third point, the focus of these drills is what the student has actually learnt rather than the perfection of form demonstrated. Fourth point, the drills must be kept simple in order that the participants still have suitable control remaining in order to perform the actions associated. Fifth point, the drills must be performed at combat speed to be true "Hot" drills and to be effective.
The best drill to start with involves simple footwork movements and the retention of distance. One fencer advances while the other retreats. The idea here is that the fencer who is retreating must not allow the fencer who is advancing to catch them, but should be doing their best to maintain good distance. Once the fencers have proven that they can do this you can move on to the second one. This is one is also useful for good pairing for students.
The second drill adds a parry into it. One fencer advances and thrusts to a single line. The other fencer must parry or be hit while retreating. Of course the parry with the hand should be made first with the retreat as a back-up. The retreat is also designed to maintain distance. This should be done against a single line only, but can be repeated with all four lines. The goal of this is for the attacking fencer to strike the defender, and of course for the defender it is to defend the line successfully. A successful defence is the goal.
The third drill and the most complex that should be used is to add a riposte to the drill. One fencer advances and thrusts, the other must parry and riposte while using a retreat. As with the previous this should be against a single line. In this the distance is vital and is a test to see about the maintenance of distance between the two fencers. Once again the goal of the attacker is to strike against the line, and the goal of the defender is to parry and make a riposte. The defence is the highest importance here, the riposte should be still made for a counter-attack in order to train the instinct into the fencer.
"Hot" drills should get no more complex than two actions of the blade performed by one fencer and a single action performed by the other. The simple advance and retreat mechanic is useful for those steps as they are simple. Adding other steps could over-complicate the drill. "Hot" drills are designed to be drills with real intensity added to them in order to reveal the true condition of the training.
"Hot" drills are a very useful training tool when they are utilised and performed properly. The important thing here is that they reveal in fencers what they will actually do under the pressure. They should only be used with fencers who have the skill capacity to perform them and also those who have or are ready to be performing at full-speed. For experienced combatants, "Hot" drills can be a useful warm-up before a tournament, or even a warm-up before training. Students in the performance of "Hot" drills should be only evaluated on the skills which are being used in order to refine training for them. They very rarely reveal perfect form. Use the drills for what they are designed for and they can be a very useful tool in the training arsenal.