Bouting, also known as "sparring" is a very important part of many martial arts, especially historical swordsmanship. Full contact, unscripted exchanges in a charged environment are an extremely valuable way of testing interpretations and gauging your mastery of the material. We bout virtually every week. Be advised, however, that there are a host of safety requirements you must follow. You must have earned a free play certification, taken classes in the weapons you want to bout with, have the required safety gear for the weapon, and be supervised by an Instructor.
Earning your free play certification takes around 1-1.5 years of work in the Techniques Class, depending on your attendance. It is important to wait for this landmark in your training before doing bouting, both for safety and for proper form. However, long before that, there are a series of aggressive drills, both scripted and unscripted, that prepare you for all-out bouting. Essentially, you will learn the various pieces of the fight individually, and then put them all together when you begin bouting. The drills that prepare you for bouting are intense enough to satisfy most students' thirst for adventure, but only a disciplined student who attends class regularly will ever reach that level of training. Anyone can grab a stick and go fight, but without proper training, it won't be a very artful display! So be patient, disciplined, and most of all, do the work.
When the Instructors feel that a student is ready for their Free Play Certification, they will be introduced to a specific set of free play drills that they must master. After one month of practice, the Instructor meets with the student to do a Pre-Certification. Here, the student gets advice on things they need to improve. After another month of practice the student meets with the Instructors for their Final Certification. Here they demonstrate their mastery of the free play drills and are introduced to bouting for the first time. If the student proves themselves competent and safe, they receive their Free Play Certification and are free to begin bouting with others who are certified.
Because of the safety and liability risks, and to help ensure quality standards, we must be very strict with regard to bouting. Any AoA student who engages in unsupervised bouting, or bouts without a free play certification faces suspension or expulsion. Some exceptions can be made (if, for example, you are playing with foam weapons). Once a student becomes a Scholar they can engage in unsupervised longsword bouting, but free play with other weapons must remain supervised. When a student becomes a Free Scholar they can engage in unsupervised free play with all of the AoA weapons.
If you have questions or require clarification, please check with an Instructor prior to engaging in any extracurricular activities.