The perennial discussion of whether one should free-play or spar is doing the rounds again on some of the HEMA fora.
Obviously there are a number of ways can approach developing the degrees of aliveness and spontaneity in how one trains. However in this case I am referring to free-play and sparing as the model of people wearing some kind of mask, generally following an unscripted format.
The usual arguments, mainly in favour of this kind of training have surfaced.
However there have been a few more people arguing for other ways to achieve the same goals without following this particular route. It has also been refreshing in the acknowledgement that not only that this may not be the only way, or even the best, but that not everyone wants to engage in this type of activity and that teachers job is to maximize the process and enjoyment of the students rather than enforce training models upon students.
However I am still, surprised and a little disappointed by the fact that many people view free play as the only or often, the best way to pressure test techniques or ones skills. Also that any kind of scripted or prearranged training sequence is at best, a way to aquire familiarity with the basic movements or is a form of moving meditation. This is generally because from my observations is that people have not explored the true depths of that kind of training. It is also because, people mistake the excitement and intensity of free-play/sparring for the truth of a real fight and can not wrap their heads around how something that is pre-set can reflect or prepare one for the multiple options and chaos of a real encounter.
8 months ago