By Andrew Dionne
While not a full time member of The Knights Hall, Andrew is a frequent participant in the New Hampshire school, staying and training up to a month at a time. He also trains at Knights Hall New York.
He has held the office of President with the Washing DC Juggernauts Chapter team and is currently the Regional Commander of the Atlantic Region. He is also the Captain of The Atlantic First Swords. Andrew has fought overseas in Spain, Poland and Portugal, bringing home Silver and Gold.
by Andrew Dionne
There is the added issue That we are a social creature. While armoring up (a tedious exercise) we are prone to use that time to talk, which slows down the armoring process further. This further compounds the problem of the limited time we have to work on our skills, especially if the region you pull fighters from is vast.
The answer? soft or padded kit practices. using sparring equipment found in other combat sports like MMA, or boxing, you can raise the intensity of your practice. I recently bought, along with a couple of the other Juggernauts a soft kit. you get a pair of MMA Gloves, forearms, torso, knee, shin and instep, and head protection. You also get a 'baton' and a shield simulacra. To my mind, this has been the best purchase we've bought.
In DC, we've had several months of practices with not much protection, and only 2 practices with the kits. those 2 practices were more productive than the other months combined. We were able to not only go harder than previous (to my mind, 90% rather than the tentative 50% before) but we have been able to get some new people into our harder practice faster.
While these kits are great, one must keep in mind that this isn't steel we are dealing with, and we are not in our steel kits. Punches can and will hurt through the helmet if the intent is there. An ill fitting mask, as in helmets, will surely spell injury. The whole point of these kits is not to get the complete full contact fight experience, rather it is to allow you and your team to practice at a higher intensity. Higher intensity practices can and will translate to higher intensity on the field.
For us, a practice covers the following:
- Discuss the particulars we'll cover over the day (grappling, brutality work, technique, etc etc)
- fitness needs to be on everyone's own time, practice is to focus on steel fighting specifics
- slow work on whatever we are covering (step by step grapple, drills for intensity, a specific shot that works)
- gear up in soft kit
- speed up the action, still controlled with stoppages to correct
- Full speed drill
- Free form fighting, with modification of rules to emphasize using the technique
- Free fighting
- Cool down, gear down.
I can honestly say we would lose people right after the full speed drills either to injury or to exhaustion if we were in full kit. We've considered adding in our gambesons and using a firmer foam sword substitute in future practices, so that the weapon is properly respected. Also, we are replacing the MMA Gloves with boxing gloves, to remove the finger dexterity one might not have in combat.
I would talk with your regional or chapter lead to ask about where to **purchase this equipment. If you work in an MMA gym, they will probably have most of it already available. I think the team will still get into steel every so often to apply what we've learned in soft kit to full steel fighting, but now with this option, our practices are much more productive.