I went to class last night and we got to the rapier practice part of class. We are encouraged to work on something specific each time and I had notes from last week so I was ready. This week's exercise: Taking smaller steps, making irregular steps.
This may seem like an easy task but it works against a lot of my instincts since I have spent so much time in a drilling environment where "random" is not one of the things we work on. At first it was a lot of getting hit while I was working hard on thinking of changing up my foot steps but I finally got into a comfortable rhythm (ragtime). I then looked up and noticed that in making my footsteps smaller I was making much more subtle movements and I was in a strong position but my opponent had no idea. I then proceeded to strike over and over in a clean line right up my opponent's center. This was a definite change to my style leaving me plenty of time to think of the next action. In short, I calmly kicked some butt!
The next challenge came when I faced an opponent who had a heavy hand like me. I have a bad habit of pressing a little too hard on my opponent's sword to muscle them out of the way so I have the center line. This is what gets me into a lot of trouble with experienced fencers and even gets me hit hard to boot. My teacher was watching me have a lot of trouble that even with my subtle footsteps I was no match for someone bigger and stronger. He gave me a challenge... don't touch his sword...ever.
It was like having to erase my entire concept of fencing and rewrite it all over again. I did remember however that there were methods I could use such as disengages and using my opponent's desire to touch my sword against them by not being there. I began by taking my guard and attempting to constrain. When my opponent went for my sword I quickly disengaged to the other side not allowing them to touch. I made the disengage tight at first and then threw wide then I came up on the other side. When he went for that wide shot I did the tightest disengage I could manage and trust home. Only when my opponent had sprouted my sword from his chest did I allow the swords to meet. It was a tough assignment but I overcame the challenge of having to turn my fencing style on it's head and going in a different direction.
In short, it has been a good week and I look forward to where I will go from here.