More inspirations Here

So you want to be good at something. According to Malcolm Gladwell it takes 10,000 hours  to be an expert. I think even with ten + years behind Fenix and I we still haven’t hit the 10,000 hour mark of any particular performance.   We try to emphasize to new folks that although it may be intimidating to see people with a lot more experience-they will reach that point as well. But we like to think that putting in our time gives us the ability to speak with authority on some matters.

When someone joins the troupe it tells us quite a bit about the individual performer when they simply won’t come to practice. Some folks have natural ability and that is great but without discipline and commitment, well that’s going to be short-lived with us.  And the person with not great skills who will come every week and improve, that is the person we’ll have who will do good work with us because every Sunday is another drop in the bucket of craftsmanship.  And we make sure it’s a good workout with 360 critique because there is no point in doing a skill badly with repetition. (See above)

I joke with our newer members that the first stage fight they learn will be their most enthusiastic, well-remembered fight.  It takes up all their time, they practice until it is perfect,  it is focused and very enthusiastic.  Plenty of brain space to slosh around.

It is when someone is holding 10-12 fights in memory that it frays a bit and often practice is MORE important because brains are tricky and can suddenly swap out one bit for another and performance is the worst place for it to happen. I freely admit that I have to practice just before each show because dividing between each set lets me focus and be in the “now” of what we have to do. Other members have taken up my habit of having a fight/set list safety-pinned somewhere on my person. (We have stopped with notes in a hat because certain members would snatch it off my head when they were unsure and I lost too much hair, painfully)

Two examples of extremes:
Naturally Gifted people are great…BUT. We had a friend with another troupe who regularly sparred with Olympic level fencers, good fitness, terrible stage tactics. When on stage for the first time, he reverted to targeting to hit. Fortunately his partner was fairly agile and it’s one thing to use a two-pound sword instead of a fencing foil so the audience never knew what went on and the partner simply nixed the movements that caused instincts to take over in the adrenaline rush. But one of his flaws was NOT PRACTICING, which when the crunch hit, went poorly.

On the other side of that we had someone who joined the troupe only to work as a “booth babe.” (We are gender-neutral in our ‘babe’-ness and think even if you are a Senior, we use this monniker and it’s so much nicer than “tent monitor”) She saw us using the weapons, eventually grabbed one and hasn’t looked back. What is great about her is that she attends regularly-even if she is firing on half cylinders some days, she maintains a certain level of memory and movement.

Practice allows the following:

If the ground is limited, we can tailor our fights to be bigger or smaller in coverage. Big difference between a basketball court, joust arena and a dance floor in a tavern.

If we have to share spots with other performers while still doing our regular fight sets, we can maneuver around others.  We do an exercise we call “driving” where one partner relies on the other to “steer” the fight away from obstacles. One member sighed and demanded to know why we bothered until the first time he had to work with (around) another fight team out-of-state, after that he agreed that it was good to have that level of control as others might not.

Things happen.  Our more senior players have a fight or skit with everyone else and we have, as nearly as up to a minute before show, had to swap out performers. The audience did not know because it was seamless and we had a backup plan.

Practice means a greater span to ad-lib if necessary. Sometimes the audience makes moments for you and if you are confident and well-practiced, you can go off-script and it will make a better show.

More skills, more stage time. You would think this is fairly intuitive but it isn’t.

I like our members to look at their first fight videotaped and then, compare it with the work they do a year later.

And that’s when it makes an impact, that is what practice does.