Teaching a workshop for the first time – testing and last touches

Last week, I told you all about a first for me – teaching a small workshop at a small event outside of my school. The plan in the meantime was to do some testing with the planned lesson.

Teaching a workshop for the first time: Planning

As it was bound to happen, I did not get a chance to do a full 2 hour “general rehearsal” – basically, running a couple of our guys through the exercises I am planning to show at the workshop. It was simply too hard to fit this in with the training we have at the school, and I did not have the time to get some guys together for an extra lesson.

However, I did manage to test the drills separately, on different people, during a couple of different training sessions, so I do have some results.

15 minutes for a segment can be plenty, or not

My initial plan was to order everything into 15 minute blocks – 3-5 minutes to show and explain the drill, and 10-12 minutes for the workshop attendees to practice. This, I have found, would be a good average time for the group I will have, but not exactly optimal for every drill, so there will be some flexibility.

Meaning, I will do some math and planning on the fly in order to allow some drills to be practiced a couple of minutes more, and others – a couple of minutes less.

The good news is, I can explain each of the drills or exercises I will be presenting in under 5 minutes, even without a rush. I have chosen very fundamental exercises, so they are something I have been explaining numerous times a week for a big part of the last decade. I feel confident that I am not going to freeze or mess up something, as the order of the drills is very similar to the order in which they are taught in our curriculum.

Some additional information

The good news is I have extra time! As I am first for the day, I wanted to do a thorough warm-up, but I was assured by the organizers that the guys in my group (12 in total) will start stretching and warming-up before the starting time of 10 am. Which means I’ll add a simple 10-minute cardio exercise to get them really warm and have that blood pumping, and then I’ll dive right in.

I also got the names of everyone in my workshop, so I have a very good idea of the level of skill I am gonna have at hand. Lets say it like this – I won’t need to explain A and C, only a bit of a B (for buckler).

This helped clear up the plan quite a bit.

The buckler, the sword, the sword and buckler

Drill-wise, I will first start with some basics on how to hold the buckler. Swords will be set aside and we will talk about why roughly 80% of HEMA people hold the buckler wrong, what is the best way to hold it, and how to test that easily for yourself.

After that, we will set aside the buckler, get the swords out and do some basic cuts with them. This part is to set the mood and the tone of the next drills, and also to show the attendees what blows they will need to do for the exercises and explain how those will come to work optimally. When you are drilling, it is extremely important for the guy who is feeding the attack or the action to be precise and to know what he is doing – otherwise you can never become good with your responses to them.

What will follow are a couple of drills, based as a framework on the first play of Liegniczer, but in depth actually founded upon the whole of Liechtenauer.

Here is that first play:

The first play with the buckler from the Oberhaw. Mark when you drive the Oberhaw to the man: with the pommel go inwards, your sword close to the buckler and your thumb, and thrust in from beneath to his face. Wind against his sword and then go with a snap over and around. This works on both sides.

Andre Liegniczer, Codex Lew

It sounds simple, but there is a ton of information and key actions in these 4 sentences.

I am not going to reveal more about the drills, as some of my workshop attendees might be reading this.

I will, however, leave in the extra 20 minutes I’ve set aside as a buffer time. If the workshop is going well and I see that I have an extra 15-20 minutes in the end, I will have a bonus drill to put the cherry on top. If not, the workshop is still designed to work without it.

Video? Of course!

Naturally, I will have an assistant who will not only help with demonstrating, but who will also film a lot during the workshop, so I can check how I did afterwards with my own two eyes. Of course, I will upload it.

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