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How long to train someone in sword fighting?

I'm curious about how long it takes to achieve any accomplishment in weapons mastery when the motivation is purely to have competency as quickly and efficiently as possible. At the moment the club I'm involved with is revising and putting together an updated training regime with the idea to bring a more organised program of development for the members, rather than the ad hoc instruction that had been the norm for some years.

One of the many interesting parts of this discussion is hearing the many views around how long a course of basic instruction should take to bring someone up to competence. Based on my experience I've been putting forward the view that we should be looking to produce a good level swordsman after a year's training.

Out of curiosity I also did a little research about training in the military and interestingly there seems to be a fairly consistent time periods for "basic" training from the Roman army to the modern military:

2-3 months for basic instruction
Up to 6 months - 1 year to complete training
1-3 years (or a few months in the field) to be fully competent/senior level
3+ years competent at instruction

For example in the modern British army basic training lasts six - seven months in total by which time you will are expected to be competent in shooting and with all the skills required of infantry. This training appears to breakdown into 3 months of skills instruction and then another 3 months of reinforcement and practical application. It's impressive when you consider that within the first three months they can teach a soldier to shoot from zero experience to passing the marksman exam.

Although these guys are training full time and the club is only training 1 or 2 nights a week I think there is transferable expectations for HEMA to be gleaned from this. Mostly because military basic training is teaching a huge variety of skills while club instructors are only teaching what would be a single element of a military education.

Of course this is dependent on a few factors: such as consistent attendance at training and a minimum basic level of fitess/coordination. But provided that people turn up and do not have to significantly improve their fitness I think this timescale is a good framework for HEMA studies: after a year most people should know/be trained enough to be average at fencing. If they've trained very hard they should be in the top 85 percentile.

It's also dependent on the body of knowledge available. However I would argue that even 20 years ago the body of knowledge for basic historical swordsmanship was well understood. As a minimum picking up a military sabre manual will impart the basics which are contiguous among all styles. While studying and recreating a specific style can take an indefinite amount of time, learning the basics of swordsmanship shouldn't.


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