• Sidesword Diva

Gimme A Break: How to Navigate Gaps in Training

‘Tis the season! That means holiday parties, family get-togethers, and a little well earned time off work (hopefully!). What does all that mean for training? Usually, it means gaps in class time and training which, while good for the spirit can sometimes feel like a hurdle when you do get back to the grind. How do we navigate these little hiccups in progress? Well, it isn’t easy and does require some self-starter energy, but it definitely doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking that is overwhelming. Even so, designing your own training program is difficult with so many options and no clear starting point. This blog will act as a guide for those who have never done anything like this before as well as those who have experience. It’s good to get other perspectives to freshen up the training regiment you already have in place or if it’s all new, a jumping-off point. There may be a lot of what seem like obvious statements in this blog, but it’s nice to know you’re on the right track!

Step One

Decide what your goals are. Be realistic.

There is a rush at the end of the year to make big, sweeping changes to self in the name of improvement, but be real about it. Are you are just trying to maintain a level of engagement and knowledge or is there one concept you want to focus on? Don’t make your choice based on what you think you -should- be doing. Honestly, pick the option that sounds more fun. It’s important to choose a thing that is sustainable so don’t select something that will be difficult to maintain an interest in for long.

Step Two

Make a plan of attack. (see what I did there?)

Now that you know if you want to just keep your finger in the pie, so to speak, or if you want to become the master of a specific drill, you can set out your routine. Set aside a manageable amount of time a day such as fifteen minutes. It doesn’t have to be an intense workout. It’s just about keeping it in your system so a small, manageable chunk at a time you feel it’s best is all you need.

Here are some examples for a review based workout:


Meyer figure



Posture (practice belly button to spine engagement, spreading out through shoulder blades like wings to engage lats rather than trap muscles, parallel position feet under the hips and then wider)

If you’re looking to focus on one concept, do a little homework first. Let’s use the basic cut from vom tag in longsword as an example case. Do a little scan from top to bottom of your body at various points. As you stand in your prep stance, where are your arms, shoulders, core, hips, feet all supposed to be? Note it. Move on to the action. As your arms move, do the scan again for placement. Rinse repeat until the end of the action. Find your trouble spots. Is it holding your core engaged? Is your hand to foot movement timing off? Find your bumpy spots and repeat, repeat, repeat. This approach is definitely more for the technique nerd who loves to hyperfocus.

Step Three

Accountability. Consistency.

This is the hardest part. Duh.

Don’t be afraid of a reward system for yourself. Stickers. Treats. Finding a buddy to report to. Something I find useful for consistency and accountability is to find ways to incorporate training into my day where I have moments I can cross-pollinate. I call them toothbrushing moments. You’re standing there at the bathroom sink brushing your teeth for the recommended two minutes so why not make use of it? In that time, you can practice posture, footwork, or stance.

In all of this, remember that your instructors are your partners in your training. Even with this little guide, it can be hard to know which things to focus on or what your trouble spots are. Teachers love it when students say things like, “Hi. I would like to increase my understanding of technique with practice. What can I do?” Usually, their eyes light up and they get pretty darn animated. Be prepared. You might be in for an enthusiastic discussion about weight shifting or timing, but in the end, I guarantee you will have things to work on.

These bite-sized tasks can absolutely help you keep up to date during breaks from consistent training whether they be short stints or longer absences. All that being said, there is nothing wrong with taking a break that’s filled with cookies, Christmas movies (any other Hallmark fans out there?), and restorative downtime. This is meant more of an example to show how five or fifteen minutes can be integrated relatively painlessly into a daily routine.

Enjoy your holiday season however you choose to pursue swords!

(Messers might make great chestnut roasters)

HEMA on, Wayne.

HEMA on, Garth.


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