Capoferro has always been the father system. Marozzo is our grandfather. SCA rapier fencing was a mess, a Darwinian hot pool that ate the weak and pitted the strong against each other, but it was too hot to allow the truly good to solidify out into teachable style. It creates strong individuals, but eats any style away like acid on steel. My first attempts at teaching were attempts to cool the system a little, and introduce a crystal into the mix in hopes of it seeding.
When that, to a degree, failed it made sense to try again with the same idea when it came to teaching at a proper martial arts school, with dedicated students. The idea was to start with rigid development of the ideal. We would teach the perfect lunge, and restrict students to it until they had shown mastery of that line. The plan was to have the students branch out after mastery of the one line, and learn to master a wider movement. We’d start with a single crystal, and then carefully break it to create many new seed crystals, to allow a new mastery in many lines.
Part of my general dissatisfaction with how I was teaching back then stemmed from that approach. It simply wasn’t working. Once a student had been conditioned to the line, they tended to stick to the line. That’s not a bad thing but it violates one of my first principles of martial excellence…universality. Specialization implies weakness, openings to be exploited. An excellent student, a unique individual, will still survive the process and become an excellent well-rounded fighter, but there is no teaching involved there. All that there is is simply a more evolved weeding out process. Like the early styles I trained in, it’s not about actually creating a martial artist. It’s more about fostering those who are already martial artists. It denies the benefits of change to the wider community of students.
Much to the frustration of first the Nova Spada students, and then the Scatha Combat Guild students, and now the Valkyrie WMA students, I’ve developed and am sticking to a different approach. I’m working now on building a different foundation. Before we specialize, we improve. I want to first increase the overall capability of my students before I allow them to harden into their final form. I’m using a hotter solution to allow for a higher concentration of building materials. The plan is to introduce just the right crystal at just the right temperature to get the correct growth. Austenite to Martensite, without the Cementite. Or just enough to allow for a good hammering afterwards. I aim to forge students instead of cast students.
So the question for me is when is the right time, the right temperature? I measure by balancing ability against frustration. Ability has been growing by leaps and bounds, earned one degree higher in each class. It looks like it will never stop. But frustration grows as well. There is always the craving for technique, for rigid rules that one can claim and call one’s own. Too soon though and the wrong pattern, or worse a single pattern will be set. Too late and you ruin the potential for the whole batch.
So now I think maybe I have students ready for the first seed. It’s been a brutal process for all of us, but now we can start working towards the next step. Sadly, it’s going to incorporate all new problems. The only students that are ready are the ones who’ve made it long enough, regularly enough, to be the right hot saturation. Everyone else is still too cool and thin. Now begins my real trial as a teacher: Make the change for those who are ready, but don’t allow the ones who aren’t to cool and brittle early.
If I’ve done my alchemy right, a new seed crystal will be born. I just have to marshal the solution now to let it happen.