Tuesday, December 13, 2016
This was going to be a post about finding a local group and what consists of a good group with local contacts in my local area, but I changed my mind. I figured that there is a lot of information out there about how to find a local group for doing Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) in what ever particular flavour you are looking for. Less, on the other hand, is said about the solo practitioner and how a person is to go it alone. Luckily we have the internet and faster communications which makes things easier, but there are still times when it is necessary to do things solo.
Sometimes a group is not convenient to get to. Sometimes the group does not mesh well with you, or is not studying what you are interested in. There are lots of reasons for going it alone. Sometimes it is just necessary for you to start the research into a particular form on your own to get a handle on it before involving other people. Every one of these is a valid reason for going it alone and you should not be ashamed for any of them.
The first thing that the future solo practitioner should note is that it is a hard road, but it is also rewarding as well. Groups have some support mechanisms which are absent when studying or practicing alone. All of the work falls to you, but in the end so do all of the rewards of that work. You can stand there at the end and say that you did it. Each advance is something that you did on your own and each advancement is an achievement in its own right.
In studying alone or practicing alone there are many choices to make, and all of them are open. There is no one to sway you from one path to another or make any other determinations. In the same way there also equally as many chances to be distracted. This is where you need to keep with what you are doing. It will be most easy to be distracted in choices when things become harder in your studies, these are the times when you must stick to what you have chosen and proceed onward.
The most important thing is that you must keep your focus, it is very easy to get off-track. You need to set yourself a program to follow and then follow it and not be distracted by other things. Elements of life will get in the way, when they do you need to get them done and then get back to what you were doing. Unlike in a group you will not have others to keep you focussed it is up to you.
In my own experience, I spent the early years of my rapier career as a solo practitioner. For my part I spent much of my time studying anything and everything I could get my hands on. This meant the history of the weapon, curatorial elements, social elements, the lot. At that time period manuals were somewhat rare and as such I only had a few to look at, and whatever pictures from others that I could scrounge from other sources. They say that a picture tells a thousand words, well, sometimes it is the wrong ones.
Studying just from pictures can lead to some really interesting interpretations. These days, knowing what I know now, I look back at my interpretations and a lot of it is just plain wrong. Learning just from pictures is difficult, but it does give you some idea of movements and positions of the fencers as well.
Most importantly, read. Read a lot. Find information about what you are studying and read it, note it. Study the subject to death. Find actions which fall in line with what you are doing in the mainstream and do exercises which will complement it. Walking is always good for building your cardio-vascular health. If you can get drills out of your manual, even better. This is even better if they are based on the plays which are in the manual. At least then you are using the movements which are described.
The study of the solo practitioner is a hard path. Remember about the wider community which is easy to contact via the internet. Ask questions, get suggestions and help. Most people are more than willing to assist you in your studies. Don't give up. It will be worth it in the end.