On Saturdays I usually spend my afternoons at longsword class drilling movements and technique based on Medieval German sword fighting manuscripts.
Because I've been teaching belly dance classes on Sundays, I have never gone to a sparring class-- a day where you put theory into practice and hope your gloves don't break!
I also don't have a full sparring kit--a set of equipment including gloves that are $200 (and still, you have to HOPE they don't break!).
I took the plunge yesterday now that I have a decent helmet, and my HEMA friends lent me a hodge-podge of pieces.
Here are the three major lessons I learned during the session.
It's not the body blows; it's the breathing
A HEMA kit is extensive: Padded helmet, gorget, jacket with plastic chest guard and padding, clamshell gloves, arm guards, elbow guards, shin guards, and knee guards.
The armor does what it's designed to do: absorb blows from an opponent who is strong but restrained.
It also weighs down on your chest and restricts breathing while you're in an adrenaline inducing situation that involves intense bursts of aerobic activity.
As an asthmatic, I've wondered how I would do. I went through two fights before I felt the tell-tale twinge in my chest that told me I needed to bow out.
Now I know where to focus gym activity: more cardio and more weights (as one does at the gym).
Practice in a partial kit (that fits)
My practice sword has a fairly long handle, but it's not long enough to accommodate the clamshell gloves, so I had to switch to a tournament sword.
The gorget and helmet both restrict neck and shoulder movement, and I borrowed a jacket that was slightly too small, making it difficult to raise my hands above my head--you know, to PROTECT my head!
Most of these issues will be solved by practice in the armor--and by buying a larger jacket!
Learning is through doing
A fight isn't the same as practice. That's obvious!
There's no way to think yourself into experience: you have to take the initiative, seize the vor, and have someone taller, faster, and more experienced than you thwack you on the head multiple times to feel the need to defend and attack.
Now I know how to practice better because I've been in the ring.
Now practice will make more sense and take on greater urgency.