Finished the first draft of our assessments over the weekend, and applied it to myself, Squeak and She-Hulk. We track thirty-six points of improvement, split over four categories. Each point is rated on a scale from 0-10, for a score range from 0-360. We consider a zero student to a be an average person with no interest or motivation, having their very first physical art class ever. A three-sixty student would be someone at the beginning level of being able to compete on a professional level in MMA, swordwork (if such a thing existed) and having the perfect fitness and mindset to go with that skill development. For professionals, we have a different scale.

So running myself through the assessment, being assessed by my co-conspirators, the results were not unexpected. Harsh, but not unexpected. My martial skills reflect someone who has been training a very long time, but is not putting in the work to make the jump to the next level. My lunge attacks in particular show a weakness. I know why this is, and it’s reflected in my high scores for tactics and counter-attacks. I’m comfortable with trickery, and it works for me. But it’s made me lazy and that shows in a weakness in a primary sword skill. My fitness levels reflect an older guy with some natural ability and hard work to speak of, but not as balanced as I could be. I need some energy level work, and some range of motion work.

My mindset assessment shows my real weakness. I lack confidence and motivation in training. No surprise for me there. A rough life leaves you expecting rough things, and it takes ongoing practice to get over that. But it does highlight one of the chief values to be found in assessments: I know the issue, but I haven’t been working on it as I should. Without feedback, we can start to coast on things we should be burning hard.

So taking my assessment in hand as if I was a student, I see a number of things to improve. We are only going to improve one thing per category per assessment cycle, and in this case, for me, I have chosen to bring my low scores up. For someone else, I may have chosen to bump their high scores to the next level, or a combo of high and low scores. Let’s focus in on my Thrust section from the swordplay category. I am weak on my structure, what I build my lunges up from. I score a little better on my engagement, which is what happens when I try to actually use my lunge against an opponent.

Now it’s time to build up a lesson plan. Structure is weak, so we’ll focus on that to start. I could build a plan of various solo drills, but since I know myself, I know I wouldn’t get much out of those. I’d be too inclined to think I was doing well and blow off actually working on getting better. I need more motivation. The plan I have in mind is to have me work on landing lunges against a resisting opponent, presenting the most difficult possible target…one that requires me to have excellent form to actually land a touch.

It seems weird, but the hardest person to land a touch on is an unarmed person. Have a look at this video clip, showing the power of decades of martial arts practice:

Neat, huh? Well, not really. Bad science is when you do an experiment without a control. In this case a control would be to have an untrained person and someone with a bit of martial arts training also try to evade the modern fencer. If they had done this, they would have found that most people can avoid a thrust without to much trouble. I’ll be adding some commentary on that video in my next post, believe me…

Anyway, moving on. Since the other assessments showed a weakness in area control, this dovetailed nicely with my need to work on lunges. I could make up a lesson plan for the whole class that let everyone work on a general weakness, while allowing me to work on my weakness. The class formed into two lines, and one half lunged. The other half had no sword, and worked on evading the lunge. We learned some good lessons on trickery, speed and deception.

I worked on those things until I realized I needed more speed to land the shots I wanted, at which point I started to tighten up my posture a little…and oh! Look at that. I was working on my structure for lunges. Tricked myself.