I think we can all agree that a vast majority of excellent sword and shield practitioners win a very high percentage of their contests with a select few ³bread and butter² blows. Although this is true, that doesnıt mean that these combatants are limited in the angles of attack that they can utilize if needed. Learning these more sophisticated angles of attack usually takes year after brutal year of trial and error in full speed combat before the eyes, the mind and the arms are all working at total spark-level, i.e. full explosion mode. Of course, there are the occasional genetic freaks that have this ability long before they step into full armour but for the rest of us Ubergeeks, these are factors that take many years to refine. Well, Frozen Man targeting drills are the best way I have found to speed up the development of the combat computer of a novice or a mid-level combatant. Of course, these techniques can be applied to any knightly weapon style but we are talking here about relatively new or stagnating fighters so I will stick to the weapon and shield style throughout the piece. And besides, it is by far the most commonly seen style within the Lists. The shield styles of the two practicing combatants is of no consequence but I will add that if you have access to many styles of shield (center grip, large kite, bucklers) this will only help to fine tune your training. From time to time, preferably during small breaks in the drills, pick up another style of shield and continue- it will be fairly obvious why this is advantageous after you become familiar with the Frozen Man style of slow work. As far as weapons go, I would ask you to stick with swords or maces that are familiar to you and, most importantly, comfortable for your elbow! I canıt understand why, after all these years of the refinement of Society tourney combat, that there are still relatively new fighters running about wielding weapons that are twice the weight of their period counterparts. Itıs ridiculous. Knights and squires- inspect the weapons of your retainers! Some of these folks are not only being needlessly held back in their skill development by their outrageously heavy, bat-handled cudgels; some are doing irreparable damage to their bodies. Okay, enough ranting- letıs get on with the drill.
The basis of the Frozen Man idea is to foster quick development of target and angle recognition. At most weekly practices that you attend, you will see relatively new fighters shoved onto the floor to mix it up with the superhumanly fast monsters. This is (in most cases) a waste of their time for the first two years. We lose many, many potentially long-term playmates by not giving them a solid base to improve from. I mean, we may teach them the correct way to throw a Bellatrix snap and a wrapping blow but then we say- ³go get beat up!² Well, only the meanest and most headstrong can take year after punishing year of humiliating defeat before they start to see the Magic Angles. Itıs damn difficult to see every available target while you are being beaten into dog snot by a Super Duke. First, you have to become very familiar with most of the basic stances and attitudes that the opponentıs body will likely fall into during the course of a fight- and, as we all know, there are quite a few.
The drills require two combatants- both armed with a weapon and shield. One fighter of the pair will be called the Warm Man and the second will be called the Cold Man. I know it sounds ridiculous but I donıt feel like sitting here for twenty minutes trying to think of two terms that will appeal to everyone so hush up and listen. Oh I guess that before I go any further, I should explain whats wrong with most slow work done during paired weapons training. You have seen it a million times- while you are trying to display a complicated blow to someone, they instinctively start to block that blow at the exact same speed- as if to say, ³Well, Iıd just block it like this². That is damn goofy and wastes valuable training time. It screws up the whole point because during full speed combat, it is much more difficult to follow the complex movements of a multi-pivoting blow than at half (or super slow) speed which is exactly the speed you need to work with to learn the more complex shots. What I am saying is that, during slow work, the attacker is primarily the person who gains the benefit and the emphasis should be placed upon the muscle memory of the attacking partner. As a defender, you are learning the attack path of the incoming blow- donıt screw it up by interrupting it with your shield or weapon during this slow work. In other words, you need to FREEZE and WATCH the person who is practicing the blow. While his muscle memory is learning the path of the shot, your mind is learning to recognize the incoming path- when you are back to full speed, your defense will take care of the interception because you will instinctively know the incoming path and the body language, stance and angles that proceed it. So, DO NOT move to block the shot at slow speed because itıs useless, wasted energy.
So, decide who is going to be the Warm fighter and who is going to be the Cold fighter. Once this is decided, get just within weapons range of each other. Now, it starts with the Warm fighter beginning to throw a blow. After this blow is started, the Cold fighter is allowed to slip into a defensive move for only a second (count ³one-thousand one²) but then he must FREEZE. Okay, the warm fighter now looks very closely at all available targets and completes the shot (preferably in a new or rarely-used angle) very, very slowly. Remember, the Cold fighter is frozen and is not allowed to intercept the blow- he is only there as a poseable human pell. After a few runs, switch places and go back and forth this way until someone learns something new or until someone fine tunes a formerly shaky technique- this is what slow work is for!!
The whole theory of this exercise is that combinations of blows are just single blows taped together. Having the defender freeze in every conceivable defensive posture over the course of the session will develop total familiarity with many, many blows whose ³window of opportunity² during full speed fights are outrageously fleeting. A new fighter can really use the Frozen man system to analyze what is going on in fights that are usually happening too fast to consider at all. Also, after someone has been beaten for the 500th time that day, they tend to stop trying to figure out ³what happened². Start the practice off with a bit of real slow work and then break off, FIND NEW OPPONENTS and do your regular full speed fights for the day.
Frozen Man training can be used in other scenarios as well. For example, you can mix up offensive and defensive Freezing to get a good understanding about the body mechanics of throwing and blocking more complex blows. A novice fighter must learn the direct path of every usable blow before moving on to utilizing fakes, staging techniques, advanced footwork and other fancy tricks to get the job done. If we all agree that most fights are won with a direct and well-timed blow- this is the way to teach a fighter to recognize what blows are available when the opponent is in a certain attitude- it is during these little pauses that fights are won and lost. In my opinion, this is the best way to learn what blows are available during these often-missed pauses.