The seminar had the usual length of our one-day seminars, running from 10am to 5pm with an hour of lunch break in between. The difference to a usual weekend seminar this time was the fact that it was the first assistant instructor test we’ve had. As noted before and elsewhere, Ilkka did very well despite Guy throwing various curve balls in his direction, and passed easily. When he didn’t know the answer to something he didn’t get flustered and just said he didn’t know (with the implication of a “yet” in there). His teaching was straightforward and effective… he talked a lot, but that’s normal and required when teaching the basics of a new weapon system. The pace was pretty good; while it seemed fast in the beginning, in actuality it turned out to be just right, I never felt we were really going too fast. I would assume the pace would be lighter when teaching a room full of beginners, instead of the semi-intermediates the class mostly consisted of this time.
The system he was teaching was based on the teachings of some-random-Italian-dude (sorry, my memory for names is as lousy as ever), with some examples from other-random-Italian-dudes. The style emphasised a natural posture, and for once “natural” here actually meant something close to actually natural. I love the rapier as a weapon, but that stance in that (well, at least in Capo Ferro) is a leg-killer. None of that here, the guards were quite relaxed ones. The way the sword moved was a mixture of the natural and the unnatural (for me, that is). Some basic techniques felt easy and fluid, while others felt very, very hard to do correctly – one specific false-edge blade deflection in particular. One technique was extremely close to a rapier technique, and it was no surprise that it felt easy and natural – I guess rapier training has had some impact, since it wasn’t easy and natural to a lot of my training partners. So it goes.
I really like the sidesword as a weapon and this style of using it seems to suit me pretty well; the techniques either feel kinda sorta natural or feel like something that I can get to feel natural, with practice. Of course, the same could be said of any style, but some are easier than others. I get the feeling that the real difficult part is yet to come with this weapon, here we just focused on the basic moves – tactics are a different kettle of fish entirely. This feels like a weapon and style I’d like to learn better, here’s hoping we’ll see some more seminars etc on it in the future. Many of the moves still felt very clumsy and… well, unpolished, when I did them. Can’t find the proper word to use here… there’s a very specific feeling I get when I do a physical tehcnique and what I do is sort of right but not quite right, my body and muscle memory are still working on the details. It’s like rapier in the beginning, you do things but they don’t feel natural, your body doesn’t snap into them on autopilot. That’s what you aim for, of course, in the long run. It’s a nice feeling when you get there, even part of the way.
Ilkka has matured as a teacher. I remember when I first met him he was a nice guy (as he is still) but very gung-ho and pretty extreme in the physical training department; his warmups got a semi-legendary reputation of being killers. That has shifted into an emphasis on smart use of excercise, on doing warmups that are useful for the specific thing you’re training instead of going for raw power all the time. He has also gotten a lot better at explaining concepts and in figuring out why something isn’t working out for someone else – an essential martial arts instructor skill.
The day was made a slight bit more difficult for me because I had a pretty serious ache in my lower back (started some days back), which hurt my concentration and technique at times. I ate some painkillers to handle that but it was still a bit of a bitch. It’s mostly gone now; no idea what I did (wrong) to cause it, but I think I’ll go to swords training next week. Maybe (or actually: more than likely) I just need more/better muscles in my lower back and abdomen regions. That’s a nicer thought than “I’m getting old” :)