Yesterday, the dominyk issued an invitation to rapier fighers to get in shape for Pennsic.
I have seen his plan, and his plan is good. So if you haven't signed up for that, I would recommend that you do.
But going back to our topic of training and rapier. At the time the topic came up on the list, I was very busy with work and other issues, and I did not post anything in that forum. Besides, there were very many worthy contributions so I did not feel too guilty about not posting mine.
Today, I have a little bit of time before another week and a half of madness at the salt mines strikes out. So here go my pearls of wisdom. Take them or leave them.
(Or at least here goes my story and I'm sticking to it.)
In my opinion, training for rapier involves several elements:
a) Physical training (both strenght and stamina)
e) Mind preparedeness
The first element, physical training, is something that many fighters neglect. Yes, showing up for practice every week is definitely worthwhile, and it will help your game. However, rapier practice alone does not constitute a whole exercise plan, and there is only so much you can do with what you have if you don't train otherwise.
You may notice that athletes in other sports workout and train in order to be able to train in their respective sports. Cardio and strenght training are on the menu for swimmers, football players, hockey players, gymnasts, members of the Cirque de Soleil, etc.
Just think about it. If all those athletes are working out in order to excel in their own sports, what makes you think that rapier fighters should not be doing precisely that?
I do not intend to post here an entire workout plan. There are books, websites and forums entirely dedicated to this. However, I would point you to two of my favorite places: Body for Life, and Bodybuilding.com. Both are good starting points.
Or you can contact Dominyk and ask nicely for a copy of his "Get Fit for Pennsic" plan.
Believe me, you do not need to belong to a gym to get stronger. You only need to get motivated enough and get on with the plan to do this.
Once you are working out, you will need to properly fuel your body. Notice that I am not using the dreaded word "diet." Diets don't work because most of them are not sustainable. Once you are done with your diet from hell, it is very likely that you will go back to your old eating habits and will be back in square one. What I am talking about here is a change of eating habits which will last you a lifetime.
Again, I do not intend to write an opus on nutrition here. Instead, I would recommend the Body for Life and Eating for Life books by Bill Phillips, or Eat Clean by Tosca Reno as a starting point. Suffice to say that when you are working out, nutrition is even more important than ever. Quality protein, carbs and fats are critical for your plan.
My rule of thumb advice? You want to begin by cutting alcohol, tobacco, junk food, non-diet sodas, and start drinking more water, swapping white bread and pasta for whole grains, and choosing lean cuts of meat instead of a burger and fries. Use Splenda instead of sugar in your coffee or tea. It makes a difference.
Oh, and six small meals a day do wonders for your metabolism, as opposed to three square meals a day. Or worse, one humongous meal a day.
Just make sure that your six small meals do not consist of donuts :-)
A rapier figher does not survive on sparring alone.
So okay, maybe you are a natural and you take to the blade like nobody's business since day one, and you think that sparring alone will do it.
The question is, do you really want to take your game to the next level?
If the answer is yes, then it's time to brush up those basics, and to pick up new tricks. And the best way of doing this is to drill it into your muscle memory by repeating the movement over and over.
Getting a cheap whole-body mirror (I've seen them for $20 at Wal-Mart) will help you correct your posture and form. Heck, sometimes I practice my moves in the bathroom at work -- praying that no one steps in when I am doing my annoying Matrix moves. (There would be a lot of explaining to do!)
So go ahead, drill those moves. Teach them to others. After all, teaching will force you to do the moves correctly and you will not only be helping others, you will be helping yourself too!
This is what all of us like to do, and where everything comes together.
Do not worry if your sparring is not that hot at practice. Usually, by the time we get there we are tired after a full day of work and our energy levels are not the same as if we were doing this first thing in the morning.
But show up for practice all the same. Sparring will allow you to test all those moves you have been drilling for all week, and think of new ones.
Once upon a time, when I had been fighting for about a year or so, I asked Giacomo Vincenti: "What can I do to improve my performance on the list field? It seems that I can do fine at practice, but as soon as I enter a tournament field, all that I know seems to evaporate."
And Giacomo, in all his wisdom, told me: "I cannot help you there. You will have to figure that one all on your own."
He was right.
The mind game is the most difficult thing to teach -- and to learn.
All I can tell you is that exercising the mind should be approached in the same way as exercising your body. If you keep telling yourself that you cannot win, you will rest assured that you will not win.
If you go with the mentality of winning at all costs, you will probably piss off everyone because you may end up having callibration issues.
But if you go out thinking that you can do this, and that you will do this, and that you will give your best fight, then your chances of doing great will have improved 150%.
And also remember this: Somewhere, someone is training to get better. It is your own responsibility to do the same.
Also, there will always be someone better than you, and someone worse than you. And not because you were able to beat the snot out of someone last year, that means that you will be able to do the same now. After all, you never know if this is the same person who has been training all year to beat you.
So remember, never underestimate anyone, and always give your best fight. Be a gracious winner, and remember that losing a fight does not make you a bad fighter. Having a bad attitude does.
And there will always be another tournament . . .