Table of Contents
Sparring with Rory
May 15, 2015
I sparred with Rory Cullen, the Italian Rapier instructor for the Triangle Sword Guild. This was the first time I ever sparred with an experienced weapon martial artist. Rory has been practicing with the Italian rapier for four years and the longsword for six months.
We did a lot of different weapon combos: double sticks vs rapier and dagger; single stick vs rapier; padded stick vs padded stick; staff vs rapier and dagger; staff vs longsword; and single stick vs long sword. With many breaks in between rounds, it was an hour and a half session.
I, as I already knew, have several bad habits picked up from years of drilling without actually live sparring. Also confirmed for me is the necessity to build up my stamina through sprinting–I was out of breathe almost immediately into the first round.
Double Sticks vs Rapier and Dagger
An Italian rapier is about 48 inches long, pommel to point. My arnis sticks are 28 inches long. Rory had (and used) a serious range advantage. It was my hope and expectation that a simple and direct application of double sinawali would allow me to easily close the distance and do my close-in work where I knew I had both an experience and weapon advantage. Rory proved skilled at retreating, moving the threat of his weapons and employing his dagger for closer in defense.
For this first encounter I managed to break all my basic rules. I looked at his weapons rather than him; I over extended my body and put myself off balance; given the seemingly extreme exertion I was under, I could not maintain even breathing. I waved my weapons wildly rather than maintaining a proper pattern of either block-strike or block-check-strike. Fear and nervousness certainly played a role in my failings. Rory is also clearly well-practiced and has, despite training in his art for half the years I have, no doubt hundreds of hours more time engaging in fully-resistive sparring.
I was not entirely without success in closing the distance and landing hits. As I had presumed prior to our fight, if I can trap his weapon with both sticks, maintain control, and successfully close the distance (his fast foot work made this challenging), I was able to get unobstructed hits to the head or thrusts to the body. But even when I could close the distance, his dagger still managed to prevent me from landing strikes at least half the time.
Single Stick vs Rapier
I'm writing this two days after the actual fight and my memory has already faded. But if memory serves, I was not able to fair much better single stick vs rapier. I believe I know why. While I had the same problems as in the previous bout (range disadvantage, personal failings), I basically gave up a weapon (in my left hand) to no advantage. I, for some reason, did not feel confident about grabbing his weapon and utilizing my well-honed skills of control of my opponent's weapon. This combined with my inability to close the distance where my active hand would've been most useful meant I basically spent this round getting poked and flailing about.
It was frustrating and disheartening, but in hindsight I can clearly see my mistakes and know what to work on and what to do differently next time.
Padded Stick vs Padded Stick
We shed our helmets and each took up a padded stick (ones that I constructed out of PVC, pipe insulation, and duct tape) for our third engagement. Rory was clearly unfamiliar and uncomfortable with such a short weapon and working at such a close range. I was able to actually apply my skills against an equally-ranged weapon and landed many good hits while only taking hits to my hands and arms. I may be mis-remembering, but I'm fairly sure this is where I did the best–as should be expected. I was working with weapons I am familiar with and my opponent was not. I was working at a range I am comfortable with and my opponent was not.
Rory, who freely admits he has no grappling experience, went for a grapple at one point and I was able to smoothly counter–I, too, am of limited grappling experience, but I applied the same technique I've used against Alec (a fellow arnis student) many times and did so to great effect.
Had I done poorly here, I may have needed to completely reevaluate my entire Martial Arts experience.
That said, perhaps it was the physical exhaustion or the nerves, but even where I did the best, I was not able to really move in and get any direct applications done. No disarms, locks, or throws. This leads me to believe that in class, I have spent too much time working on learning these applications when I should have been learning how to get to the point where I can apply them.
Staff vs Rapier and Dagger
I am wholly unconfident of my staff skills. It is the weapon we train with the least at Safe Skills. I tend to find myself struggling to make strikes and blocks flow together; I often trap myself. It is the weapon where, I personally believe, other skills do not translate as well (e.g. stick to knife translates much more directly than stick to staff). On top of this, it is the only weapon where we simply do drills–no disarms, nor randomized strikes nor counters are practiced. Only silat and arnis drills.
This was the first engagement with Rory where I did not necessarily have the range disadvantage. Most of the staff drills I know have minimal hand movement along the staff, so I have not exactly trained to use that length to my advantage. Fearing being poked again, I quickly learned to take advantage of the staff's length, wielding it much like a spear many times.
I employed the last two winning moves from silat staff drill number 5 to land several excellent hits to the head. There's even a black, dashed mark on the end of my staff, left from Rory's fencing mask. The sliding swipes from silat drill number 4 I used to remove myself from the range of his rapier but still managed to stay within striking distance for myself
We both walked away from this fight surprised at how well I did.
Staff vs Longsword
I believe my memories of staff vs longsword are mixed in with staff vs rapier and dagger. I maintained and used my range advantage as well as moved in for some closer control attempts. Rory, being less experienced with the long sword, did not do as well, but he did land several good thrusts.
Single Stick vs Longsword
A combination of Rory's inexperience with the longsword as well as the disadvantage (in my view) of requiring both hands to wield it, allowed me to do much better against it, despite a significant range advantage of about a foot or more.
As I already knew, I absolutely have to spar more to improve at this point. Advanced techniques are well and good and there are plenty I do not know, but I do not see them as giving me any particular advantage. What I must do at this point is learn how to apply the basics I already know in actual fully-resistive fights.
I must condition my body better. After the first round I was struggling to breathe. I became so tired my form fell apart. After an hour and a half, probably half the time or more spent resting, I am sore all over. Particularly my lower back and glutes and my forearms. This is the most sore I've ever been from anything. I don't think I'd be able to walk were I not on powerful anti-inflammatory drugs. The muscles that are hurting the most are the ones that get exorcised by the strike-the-floor variant of double sinawali. I will practice this with my striking dummy every day.
I must conqueror my fears of pain and failure–the solution to this is also to spar more.
I must change how I drill with my fellow arnis students; I seem to lack an awareness of where my opponent's strike is going to land and I repeatedly “blocked” a strike with my hand rather than my weapon.
Next time, I will confirm that I will use my active hand proceed to actively use my active hand.
I have noted in many fencing and FMA sparring videos a lack of V-stepping. I found in sparring that often times I needed to make up so much distance I had no choice but to move linearly forward. I did very little v-stepping because I was out of range where v-stepping would be useful.
While something my sensei has reminded me and my fellow arnis students many times, I need to work on removing pauses from my drills and from my sparring. I noticed in sparring with Rory, I would make a series of blocks and strikes and then just stop–and that would be when I get poked. I already know the disarms and counters. My focus should no longer be doing those right, but responding quickly.
Sparring with Greg
May 23, 2015
After Jun canceled on me and it was looking like I would not get to spar this week, I asked my friend Greg if he would be interested in sparring. He has a background in multiple martial arts: Hung Gar, Hapkido, some HEMA, as well as Combatives from his time in the military.
Our sparring was a lot more casual than last week's event. Greg has not practice regularly in a while, but he certainly held his own.
Double Stick vs Rapier and Buckler
Greg started with a rapier and buckler. After Rory, I was very much mentally prepared for a rapier. I did not over-block (My blocking and checking was so aggressive with Rory that he thought I was attacking his weapon) and did my best to be casual in flowing from blocks to strikes. Greg did not maintain nearly as large of distance as Rory and this was definitely to my advantage–I could easy always reach his weapon with one of mine. X-blocking to trap his weapon and follow up strikes the body and head came easily.
I absentmindedly took several hits to the face-mask from his buckler, but there was little force behind them and they felt safe to ignore. I probably would've been more wary and would have blocked had my face not been protected–it's a bad habit to get into, but I was landing, I felt, better strikes while this was happening.
I did, oddly enough, directly attack his buckler. Initially I was failing both to strike with a conscious target in mind and to be more creative with my strikes.
Double Stick vs Han Bo and Buckler
Greg did a bit better with the Han Bo over the rapier, or perhaps I did a bit worse. The more familiar swinging blows came in, which I knew how to block and counter. But he certainly handed more hits with the Han Bo than the rapier.
We continued to spar with different weapons, and eventually switched to single weapons, but my focus was low and memory's weak, so I'll sum up observances.
I gradually started deviating from just straight-forward 1, 2, 3, 4 static or flowing strikes (ala double sinawali) and pokes both when single and dual wielding. A distraction strike, usually a 12, followed up with a 5, 6, or 7 proved to be a very effective means of landing a hit. Also effective was a tentative tap, a strike or check to the weapon hand and then a follow up strike to wherever there was an opening, usually the head or side.
I, unintentionally, was more-or-less pulling off the espada y daga drill with double sticks–scissor block, abanico to the wrist for a strike and check, follow up strike with the other hand, either a poke or a nice unobstructed strike to the head.
I made a very conscious effort to V-step and try and use the inside and outside as appropriate to moderate success. This was made easier by the fact that Greg did not make any obvious efforts to keep a greater distance. My deltoids and triceps are quite sore, indicating to me I was relying on my arms far too much for swing strength, rather than stepping and using my whole body.
I kept presenting my stick while closely engaged which led to me losing my stick quite a bit–very bad! A good part of the time I was actively making the decision, once my stick was in danger, to let go and take Greg's weapon. More often than I'd like, what happened was me being weaponless and Greg having his or both weapons.
Judging from the state of my body and after seeing the immediate welts that appeared on Greg's torso. I'd have to say I received no major body blows where as I landed several powerful (though certainly not full force) body shots and head shots.
The worst hits I received were to my left knee (wow, I am bad at blocking my knee / presenting it as a target), right hip, and right elbow. I believe Greg admitted all of these were luck/accidental. Though I do recall a couple times a strike came in for my hip and I simply failed to block well. I'm going blame this on bad defensive foot work. For this fight, I made an conscious effort to improve my offensive footwork but almost entirely neglected my defensive foot work.
The most glaring loses I faced were when being grappled. I only successfully fended off one attempted grapple by moving my cane to be against Greg's windpipe before he managed to take me to the ground. The other 3 or 4 attempts ended up with me on the ground under him. He went for an arm lock multiple times that did not work on me due to my flexibility. From the ground I struck at his mask/face; I tried going for pressure points which failed miserably due to my hands being gloved and Greg's mask and body fat protecting him. I tried to break free, shifted my weight around. And while I did manage to get out from under him once or twice, he was able to transition to an equally strong position bracing an arm against my throat. I will definitely be taking up his offer on some grappling basics–getting into and out of grapples. I know better then to let myself get grabbed and I even know how to break out of them, but it's not something I practice with any regularity and my inability to react in time clearly and painful demonstrates this weakness.
I, without having proper footing or grounding, attempted to throw Greg by putting the back of my knee over the back of his neck. He immediately stood up, lifting me. Realizing my mistake, I immediately tried to put all my weight onto his neck. He also did not have a good footing and was not in a good position to throw or grapple me. He just let me fall to the ground. I consider this a draw.
I need to start running to wear myself down and THEN practice maintaining my form. Repeatedly demonstrated now is my inability to maintain form when exhausted.
I still have a fear of moving in and doing my best work. When I did move in, I neglected my blocks and did not maintain control. I did notice that it was easier this time to pull from my drills and muscle memory.
Granted for this encounter, I was not giving 100%. I took many hits I knew I could and should have block. I did not take many openings that were presented. I did feel like most of the time I was in control of the over all fight, setting the pace and distance of the fights even if I was not directly controlling/manipulating my opponent.
Grappling is very much a glaring weak spot for me. In this fight, I broke form and made myself extra vulnerable. I did not sense and retreat when I should have. I did not keep myself grounded. I was barely in a fighting stance the whole time. I can tell I wasn't staying low as, writing this the next day, my lower back is not sore at all, just my glutes.
It seems with continued sparring I will gradually find and feel my way to the combos I've spent the last eight years practicing and learning.
Much of the same conclusions from my initial sparring attempt with Rory can be made here–I need to spar more. I need to condition myself better
I need to be sure to return my weapons to safe and ready state, not leave them dangling like a gift to my opponent.
The basics are the most import thing there is. Foot work: offensive and defensive; Return to center; keep your weapons close.
Planning makes a big difference too. Expecting the most likely attacks and planning accordingly, simply thinking about what will happen ahead of time better prepares me.
I think I need to focus much less on landing strikes and much more on maintaining control. If I have control, opportunities to strike will present themselves. If I have control, I will not need to worry about blocking or parrying nearly as much as the incoming strike will be something I felt or let happen.
Todo before next fight
- Sprint before working out / practicing
- Consciously work more stepping into drill work in Arnis class as well as when working with striking dummy
- Sprint Intervals
- More strike-the-floor double-sinawali against the striking dummy
- Memorize your checklist; go over it multiple times a day; go over it before and during fights
- Research some grappling basics; preferably dumog, but Judo or Jiu Jutsu will do.
- Pay extra attention to work your active hand in class and drills
Todo during next fight
- Be sure to step as much as possible. With every strike and every block
- Move in; do your work. Sense if and when you need to move out
- Keep your weapons close if they are not actively striking, checking, or otherwise manipulating your opponent.
- Work to control your opponent, rather than simply hitting them and blocking strikes. Maintain control and opportunities to strike will present themselves.
- Actually use your active hand!
Sparring with Triangle Sword Guild
July 2, 2015
I went to the weekly open sparring session that the Triangle Sword Guild runs. The focus of TSG is the German Longsword system Kunst des Fechtens which incorporates not only longsword, but grappling (with and without a weapon), dagger, (I believe messer), and staff/spear. It's a good match for Modern Arnis which has corresponding topics.
My first match was against Ben (TSG's instructor). He had a composite longsword and I had a staff. I got it on the head. A lot. Better than a dozen strikes to my head. Other parts were hit as well, but it was like I wasn't even blocking the head strikes. I was not blocking fast enough and more importantly, I WASN'T STEPPING. Ben has been an instructor for quite a while from what I've gathered. He's quite aggressive with his movements and has very well timed and aimed strikes (and slashes and stabs). I was pretty rattled by how effortlessly Ben was landed straight down head-shots. I didn't even start moving into taking advantage of my staff's length. I landed a few light blows, but nothing to really claim I held my own about. My main takeaway–surprise, surprise–is I need to step more.
The next match I participated in, I went up against a messer. I cannot recall if this was with Rob or Dan. This was a much more even match. I didn't take too many blows and landed some good ones. There was a mutual disarm where we traded weapons. We continued to spar and then did another mutual weapon disarm and traded again. I finally managed a disarm where I kept my weapon (yes!) There was also a point where we fell to grappling and I managed to into a good position to do a diving throw but the Ben called a halt and had us reset. I would not have fully done the throw as we were on concrete, but I'm 90% confident I can say I won that particular engagement. I had the better footing and was in a good position
We did a circle sparring-drill. A circle of roughly 3-4 meters in diameter was drawn on the ground. The rules were something along the lines of one person in, one out, Once you step in you cannot step out until you land a blow. It's a somewhat confusing set of rules. The main point was to break yourself of directly retreating and to instead circle your opponent. It was very effective in this specific task.
I went up against Ben within the circle, this time he was armed with a messer. I did much better than longsword vs staff. I was able to land several hits without taking any hits. Though I was getting pretty walloped in between. Ben was wary of my close-in game and that did seem to be where I did the best. If I could get in close enough, I could sufficiently lock or jam and then get a strike. I think I successfully negated a few
When I made a super conscious effort to step (when attacking) it was almost effortless to block, counter, and/or strike. I very distinctly remember a successful sequence of v-step right, a v-step left, parry, and strike.
also within the circle, I did double stick versus a longsword and did piss-poor. Final score was 0-3. The only times I landed hits were when I also let myself get hit (thus earning no points). Longswords are tricky to go up against, especially when I'm trying to abide by some rules I'm not familiar with.
I did double-messer vs double stick and I don't think that went so well either.
Stepping is important. Let me repeat. Stepping is important. Even when I know I need to work on stepping, even when it's at the forefront of my mind, even when I immediately successfully use stepping, I still fail to remember to step with every block and strike. And I'm including turning my torso as part of stepping–it's a given.
I didn't fight as long or as intense as my previous sparring bouts, but I'm definitely not as sore muscle wise as previously experience. I am sore from all the bruises from all the strikes I failed to dodge or block. I spent a good amount of time winded, but I have not been doing sprint intervals like I know I should. (It's been too damn hot and humid for that!)
My game really is best close in. I need to close the gap. I'm too worried about blocking every strike–which I'm not doing successfully anyway. I'm too busy worrying about defending. My experience at TSG's open sparring was that I really did best when I was aggressive and when for the hits. I need to attack and be prepared to turn that attack into a block or parry, rather than waiting for an attack and trying to meld that into a parry but instead continuing the losing battle of defending.
My head got hit a lot because I was not stepping, the incoming strike was faster than I expected, and I was failing the most basic rule of defense–move the target out of the way.
Aside from the lacking of proper stepping, most of my form was pretty spot on. My nerves are getting better / easier to deal with. I'm not getting overly emotionally about being so easily defeated (I can't recall if it was was 5 or 6 bouts total, but I'd say I only really did decently in one of them) and that in and of itself is making it easier for me to relax. As I relax I can tap into more of my skill and knowledge. It's a frustrating problem–I'm nervous about losing and that causes me to lose.
I will definitely be back next Thursday to spar more. I'm taking the month off from Arnis class so I can spend my time with the TSG folks.
I'm going to simplify what I focus and work on between now and then. I want to step more. I want to work on getting in close. Next Thursday I will really try to focus on trying techniques I know, even if it means “losing.” I need to take “risks” in order to improve and figure out what works and what I need to adapt to make it work.
Sparring with Triangle Sword Guild: Week 2
July 9, 2015
I sparred with the TSG folks again. There were some new faces there, and I worked with one of them. I was little late and the heat was a little more than oppressive, so about half the people cut out early. I only worked with single-stick and only went up against messer. A couple times against Ben, and once against Casper.
I definitely can feel myself improving, but I'm displeased at the slow rate of progress. I'm still very trapped in a primitive moveset, despite knowing how to do a lot more. I'm still stepping very poorly. I think stretching and pose-holding will improve some of these problems (e.g. holding horse stance) so I can get lower more comfortably and instinctively. I may need to start working through forms and shadow-fighting while in full gear. It would seem there's a certain effect being in gloves and helemet, with weapon in hand. I tend to freeze up and not use my hands like I should–this seems to be related to the limited moveset I've been facing. It's as though I'm forgetting I have a weapon in my hand; it's more like I'm holding something fragile or some other distraction, rather than a tool that will aid me in the task at hand. It's a peculiar problem that I noticed in my very first sparring bout with Rory.
I do seem to be making more progress towards resolving the (what I'm calling) occupied hand problem. It's slow and gradual, like everything else. I was able to close the distance a few times with Ben and once with Casper and I think, most of the time it worked out in my favor. Somewhat ironically, I think, despite my protective gear causing me psychological problems, I think if I had more padding (like on my chest) I could commit to closing the distance more confidently and grapple better.
There was one instance with Casper where I managed to block a strike and get a good grab on his weapon. I placed (or so it seemed) my stick into the right position on his hand and tried a number 7 disarm (hedge-clippers) but it did not budge out of his hand. Surprised buy this, I did nothing to follow up, lost the bind, and took a hit while disengaging. Things like this are very curious and frustrating–I know I could've confidently and smoothly handled a situation like that while drilling in Arnis class, but the combination of gear, opponent, and 'situation' strips away 95% of my instinct.
I keep telling myself at the end of every sparring session–don't worry about anything, just do what you know and do what comes to you. Against the air my hands and body move properly and smoothly without thinking. I don't have to remind myself to step. I don't have to remind myself not to retreat. But that effortlessness leaves me at the start of every sparring match. Then I find myself “playing it safe” and doing stupid-simple blocks with very few follow ups and not a lick of finesse.
The solution is the same as always. Practice more. Spar more. I should also keep in mind most of the people I've been going up against (Rory, Ben, Casper) are instructors who very clearly know what they're doing. They may or may not have been studying their arts as long as me, but they've all been sparring since day one.
On another positive note, my stamina does seem to be improving greatly. I could tell my exhaustion was affecting my form, as it normally does, but it was not as heavily impacted as previous times. When I noticed I was slipping I was usually able to self-correct (except for the stepping). I was winded and drained after each match, but I could tell I had more in me after every engagement–and it was my opponent who called the end of each match, not me. Granted, they were all wearing heavy padding in 90 plus percent humidity and 80 degree weather and I was just in a tank top.
Ben did note that when I could predict his movement (the way the TSG folks move is somewhat alien to me, but it's becoming less so) I had him completely. Depending on his initial hand position and initial movement, I could (amazingly!) read what he was going to do and react fairly instinctively. A quick check to his weapon to interrupt his flow and then a counter strike to the hand or arm. Had I been stepping properly those all would've been head or body strikes. I distinctly remember a instance of perfectly block-checking and landing a solid, powerful counter to his hand. One small step in with that counter strike and I would've been smack center on his head.
I also did manage a few clean disarms.
No profound lessons here. Just more of what I already knew. Practice stepping. Work on maintaining the flow. And otherwise Keep At It.
Sparring with Triangle Sword Guild: Week 3
July 16, 2015
I only had four bouts this week. Three of which were against someone wielding a leather wrapped plastic-core dussack. The dussack was essentially the same length as my sticks and my god it is nice not to be at a range disadvantage. I would say I held my own or did better than my opponent in those three matches. In addition to not being at a range disadvantage, a combination of practice, stamina, and decreased nerves contributed to my better-than-previous performance.
The fourth bout was against Ben who had a messer. I did not do quite as well here, as I was already tired. But in discussing with Ben afterwards, inquiring about a distinctly lower number of strikes to my head, he said he was not taking it easier on me, I was just not presenting the target and effectively blocking.
He asked what's changed or what am I doing differently. To which I answer, STEPPING HELPS. Also, I've realized I really need to stop letting my weapon/arms hang out so far from my body when I'm at a range disadvantage. Keeping everything close in really helps. It also lets me get better grapples/follow ups. My static blocks are actually useful when I keep my weapon in close and stay in a ready-to-block position.
In the last bout I took only a couple shots to the head and I don't think I took any shorts to the body (hard to recall, but I didn't have any body bruises afterwards). I did take a pretty bad shot to either forearm, near my elbows. The one to my right put me out of commission, couldn't maintain a grip.
Most of the time when I failed to counter is when Ben was stringing together attacks. This goes back to one of the largest problems I have doing this cross-discipline sparring–the weapons and techniques are somewhat alien to me and reading and predicting movement is new for me, compared to reading and anticipating a stick. I think the more I spar (and watch) these guys, the better I'll be at reading their movements–I think this is definitely part of why I've gotten better against TSG members so far.
I have bemoaned many times what I feel is my slow progress. But I am clearly improving. Multiple opponents have commented to me that I am fast in my reactions–to me I feel molasses slow and every shot that I fail to block seems infinitely faster than what I can react to.
I will continue to focus on stepping and more specifically committing. Multiple times I had openings and successfully took them–landing a hit to a hand or arm–but had a taken even a tiny step, I would've landed a hit to the head instead.
As I spar more, more of my training does shine through. I may never be a master, but I clearly have not hit my zenith yet.
Sparring with Triangle Sword Guild: Week 4
July 30, 2015
As a slight departure from my regular assessment I thought I'd discuss my sparring/training injuries.
I have not been documenting the injuries I've received. To be honest, the most painful ones tend to not really show up. The above injuries are actually not painful at all. My finger looks really bad, but it doesn't hurt at all. I do have several non-visible bruises on other fingers that actually do hurt, but you can't see them.
On my bicep is a friction burn over top a bruise caused by a thrust from a composite messer. I felt the thrust as a shot to my armpit. I'm kind of surprised there's so much dis-coloring where it is.
I mysteriously injured my pinky-toe on my left foot. I don't recall hitting it, getting hit on it, or stepping weird. My best guess is my foot hit the ground when I got thrown after botching a grapple. With the rest of me hitting the ground, I can see how I missed the fact that my foot hit hard enough to bruise.
I took many shots to my forearms again. They're nice and lumpy and tender. I did not really take any bad body shots save for a thrust from Ben with a messer almost at my throat, slightly below my collar bone.
Amazingly, this time and the last time I sparred, I have had no muscle soreness. Legs, arms, and back are all fine. I do not feel as though I've been put through the wringer (well, my arms do from the bruises).
This was more or less a repeat of the last time I sparred. I'm getting better and better. I was not the least bit nervous and that helped. I did notice that as soon as I starting getting a little winded, I started retreating rather than stepping to the side.
I successfully did a few disarms, one of which was perfectly clean–I didn't get hit, kept control of my weapon. It was actually a disarm that I had made it my goal to accomplish this week. It was a Karl's Snake (from the outside, snake around with the tip to come behind the opponent's weapon hand; use your wrist against their weapon and your weapon against their wrist to curve your weapons around and get the opponent into either a lock or full disarm). It's a disarm that works very well against a single edged weapon (such as a messer).
Not only am I not getting hit as much, but I'm landing better hits. I managed a good block, control opponent's weapon with my active hand, and then landed a really solid number 1 strike to the head.
I think Ben tried at least a dozen combos / chains against me and I successfully blocked and countered all but a couple.
My practice between sparring has been pretty limited and light, but I'm still seeing pretty remarkable improvement. I would guess the vast majority of my improvement comes from getting over my nerves and learning and adapting to the way TSG moves. Reading range is something we practice in Arnis class, but it takes on different meaning and importance when messing it up means getting hit.
Given this, I have determined I have a lot more room for improvement if I can find the time and motivation to actually practice outside of sparring and regular class.