About Me

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Either an author who fences, or a fencer who tends to write a lot. I found a passion for writing first, then I found fencing. I also found that the pen and the sword work very well together. The pen may be mightier than the sword but together they are much greater.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Sharp vs Blunt Sword: The Effect on Interpretation

Greetings,

These days the two prime places we see sharp swords are as show pieces hanging on someone's wall either as an antique or as a fancy weapon, or during test-cutting. The sharp weapons are not typically used during drills and certainly not used during combats. There are safety reasons they are not used during combats. After all, these weapons were designed with the specific purpose of injuring and killing people, and one slip could result in someone injured even if the intent is not present. This leads to people using blunt weapons for drills and combats. It must be acknowledged that we are using blunt weapons, not sharp ones, as there is a difference between the two.

Sharp Swords are Different

To begin with, there is a simple physical difference between blunt and sharp weapons when it comes to how they act against one another. A blunt edge reacts differently to a sharp edge when it comes into contact with another one. The blunt edge, the tends to slip and slide easily. Whereas, due to the nature of a sharp edge. it will tend to bind on the other one, actually biting in and stopping in some circumstances. This will account for some of the reason that certain actions described in treatises don't seem to work when using blunt weapons.

The blunt sword will make a difference to the interpretation of a treatise, more so when it comes into contact with another blunt sword, as has been described previously, simply because of the different physical reaction between the weapons. There are further places where the blunt weapon will make a difference to the interpretation to a treatise as will be demonstrated as this discussion proceeds. Much of this has to do with the reaction of the opponent who is threatened by the weapon that is being held by the opponent. Certain techniques which work in theory with a sharp weapon work less effectively when the weapon is blunt.

Threat of the Weapon

In his The True Art of Defence (1594) Giacomo di Grassi states, "For there are few nay there is no man at all, which (perceiuing himſelfe readie to be ſtroken) giues not back, and forſaketh to performe euerie other motion which he hath begun." Essentially, that a man who sees that he will be struck first will pull back his offensive action to defend himself, rather than completing his offensive action. This premise is used in later techniques, for example when an opponent is about to throw a cut, a thrust is extended; the threat of the thrust encouraging the other to quit his cut and to defend himself. This would work when the weapons are sharp, but not so much when the weapons are blunt.

The problem is that because the weapons are blunt, the people involved are wearing safety equipment, and are not supposed to be there to injure one another, the fear of the weapon has been removed. There is no fear of the weapon, and no respect for it either. This means that the individuals do not feel under threat by the opponent's thrust coming at them so they will continue their cut anyway, regardless of whether or not both of them are struck or not. This leads to bad fencing, the basic rule of fencing, to strike without being struck, seems to be thrown out; all that seems to matter is that the opponent is struck.

The result of this approach is more double-hits and more double-kills, of which I have already written an article. So I won't go into detail about my thoughts on that subject again here so soon, though I have no doubt that it will appear again. What does occur is that people become so focused with the impression that their skills are good, that they believe that the rules are wrong and not their approach, so they have long debates about tournament rules regarding "double-hits" and "after-blows" and how points should or should not be awarded. I will state clearly again, if you and your opponent are struck you have both failed in your defence. The culprit is primarily a lack of respect for the weapon.

Not All Bad

The news is not all bad, however, there have been some truly excellent things as a result of using blunt weapons. These come into two categories, though it could be claimed that the one leads on to the other. Aside from the legal and insurance nightmares that clubs would have from arguing the case for fighting with sharp weapons, unless there is a failure on the part of some aspect of safety, there is little chance that a combatant using a blunt weapon will be maimed or killed.

I am going to add a caveat here. The prime method of safety for using a blunt weapon has to be the control of the individual using the weapon, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) has to come at least secondary, if not tertiary, in regard to safety. This because they are objects which can degrade and fail, or even move without our notice. Blunt weapons can still do damage, they are still weapons that need to be respected.

All that being said, because fencers are not using their skills to kill one another, we have the chance to learn from our mistakes, unlike fencers of previous ages who died from theirs using sharp weapons. We must acknowledge the mistakes first, so we can learn from them. If a fencer does not acknowledge the mistake, they cannot learn from the mistake and they will keep repeating it, and they will not improve. Fencers in the contemporary era have the chance to make some of the greatest strides in our art if they only respect what they are doing, and learn from their mistakes.

The result is a "mixed bag" of positives and negatives. The lucky thing is that most of the negatives we can get past if we are willing to work on them conscientiously. We need to examine exactly how we are fencing see where our flaws are and move to improve them. We need to get back to the basics of fencing in many instances, focus on being safe, then strike in safety, rather than just striking at any opportunity that we see, disregarding our defence. Each person needs to do their part in this endeavour, are you ready to do yours?

Cheers,

Henry.

P.S. You will notice a lot of Wikipedia links in my posts. This is a great resource of free information which is now reliably researched, as you will note by the references which appear at the bottom of each page. I donate to the Wikimedia Foundation every year to keep this non-profit group operational, and I recommend that everyone do the same, you can do this HERE. Please give, and keep this free source of information alive, there are few of them these days.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

The "Female" Guard (Part 2)

 Greetings, 

Below is a discussion of what has been termed by students and myself as my "female" guard. This is a more in-depth discussion of the physiological basis of the guard, demonstrating the differences between males and females in the structure of their pelvises and how this affects their movement. Due to the breadth of this topic, it has been divided into two parts, this is the second part. If you have not read the first part, I recommend that you do so, as much of the foundation for what is explained here is laid in the first part.

Motion

          The movements of the human body are based on its structure founded upon the skeleton supported by ligaments, and tendons. The motion of the body is created by the action of the muscles on these parts creating the motion possible based on the structure beneath. The ROM for males and females is different in the areas of rotation of the hip and flexion.[1] This is in a passive state where the body is moved by an external force to see what ability the body is capable. It will be noted that the female hips have increased internal rotation which will be of significance as the discussion progresses, and indicated previously.

General motion

          There is a difference on the movement of the knee, where the female shows some rotation of the knee the male does not. There is also the notation of internal hip rotation. [2] The pelvic region affects many different actions, and quite a few studies have been made about the effects of this area upon motions of the body.

          There is again the turning of the hip, which turns the knee; the flexing of the knee outward, as major areas among others, in the landing and in a single leg squat.[3] The single leg squat and single leg landing would seem somewhat out of place, however there are actions such as the lunge, and other actions, which propel the fencer forward on a single leg, and land on a single leg. The weight-bearing aspect of all actions is of concern it is this aspect.

Risk of injury

          The main reason for this discussion is the prevention of injury. The “female” guard is intended to line up the knee with the hip and the foot to provide better support for the knee and reduce the chance of injury. The correction of actions which have the potential to cause damage are as important, if not more important, than their identification. Differences in motion create different injury risk patterns between males and females, simply because of the differences in structure.[4] These same issues can cause other issues in motion as well.

Power issues

          Females in martial arts often find it difficult to summon the power for their strikes when they need to; not because of bad training, or lack of diligence. Simply, the training is good training for males not females; for male bodies not female bodies. “Since all power comes from the core and the hips, this also explains why women in general will have a weaker striking mechanism then men”[5], if the training is taught from a male perspective.

The training is based on the shape and structure of the male pelvic structure, and so how male muscles connect to that structure and how they work. There is a problem. Females are different; their structure is different. If the female student follows the instruction, it is less likely to work. This is because the base is unstable; the body is not properly grounded, so it is not possible to derive power from the ground.[6]

          The same applies with a blow from a weapon. It won’t work because the structure is incorrect. The training needs to be rethought, restructured to the structure of the student, a female structure.

Gait

          When the term “gait” is used, it is referring to an individual’s method of locomotion. Primarily, this is used to refer to a person’s method of walking but can refer generally to a person’s method of moving on foot. This second interpretation of the term will be used, as both walking and running will be discussed.

          Research papers have noted that, “gender differences in hip motion also exist during walking”[7] and this affects the lower limbs. Further, these differences are primarily caused by the structural differences between males and females located in the pelvic girdle, and relate to the muscular activation around this bony structure.

          Hip adduction, in females, results in a turning in of the leg and resulting turning in of the knee when the leg is moved resulting in a different method of movement between the male and female. [8] This different motion resulted from the different ROM of the leg and associated hip joint in males and females in the study presented, and resulted in the  differences in gait for both running and walking.[9]

          The findings from the study by Chumanov et.al. (2008) are useful because they present differences in male and female movement all the way through the chain of movement in both forms of gait. They also present different movement in the hip and different activation of the muscle. This is interesting because these two work together. The result, there are different methods of walking and running between the genders.[10] While walking is more closely related to footwork performed in fencing, running is applicable as powerful and quick actions are performed, along with steps which involve the passing of one foot past the other. This captures the essence of fencing footwork.

Walking

          The way we move is directly related to the structures which support the muscles which make us move, it is also caused by those muscles which make us move; there is a difference in musculature between males and females when examining the pelvis and also other areas of the body. These structures of the pelvis affect the lower limbs as well, “gender differences in pelvic and lower limb kinematics during walking”[11]. This is the reason that we should consider the hips, knees and ankles all as a unit when examining the movement and guard for structural stability and correct movement.

          All the effects need to be studied; pelvic and lower. For the fencer, their movement should be like walking, even though fencing footwork is not the same. These differential factors based on gender-type factors are important as they result in different muscular effects, because male and female muscles operate differently and impact lower limbs.[12]

          The biomechanical differences exist not only in structural differences present but in the mechanical differences between the genders; these must also be taken into consideration when teaching. The result is that there are actions which need to be taught differently for males and females; one of them is the guard. Another could well be footwork, based on the position of the guard and the biomechanical support supplied by the muscles which surround the pelvis. The difference in how these muscles are used, and activated, may explain why there is a difference in pelvic, knee and ankle ROM.[13]

          The different activation of the muscles is a result of different developmental patterns due to growth and development of the structure underneath. This results in different actions between the male and female. Even in something as simple as walking, is different. The result of the wider pelvis of the female and muscles develop differently resulting in a structure requiring the individual to move in a particular way.

          The difference in shape of the pelvis at structural level results in a different gait between the male and the female, and a less efficient motion of the female from a structural perspective has been proposed. [14] The motion of the pelvis is of significance especially when it comes to the establishment of a good guard and good footwork. 

To halt the investigation and focus all on pelvic differences would be to restrict the discussion. The actions and restrictions placed upon the pelvis affect limbs and joints which are connected; those limbs and joints which are more likely to be damaged by some mismanagement of position, so the chain of joints must be completed. The whole chain, from hip to ankle, must be examined to see how the individual is moving; for the toe lines up with the knee and then the hip in a straight line for a good guard position, which is good for the joints. This is the goal of the discussion to save the joints involved in the guard and in motion.

Running

          The first question that will be asked is: Why is there a section about running? The simple answer to that question is that as fencers we move at an accelerated pace during combat, sometimes with passing steps, which are close to running. It is the accelerated pace and the explosive movement from running which are most pertinent to the discussion.

          A gender difference is revealed and a problem as this process of adduction turns the knee inward and crosses the legs over one another in the gait.[15] This is a significant finding as it demonstrates the action of running is not the same. The question would be: what is the cause of this effect? It goes back to the structure and the wider hip in relation to femoral length.[16]

          The entire individual must be considered when diagnosing an effect that is taking place. Especially when looking at something such as a lower limb which is connected to the hips, one of the most centrally located parts of the body. When examining an issue, a teacher must look at the entire student, and examine the whole-body effect; rather than trying to diagnose the symptom, go for its cause, which is something more central, a whole-body issue. In this case, the movement of the upper body as well.[17] This process is being applied to gait retraining in running.

          The same can be applied to examining our fencing students and preventing injuries related to the correct position of their initial guard, which will then lead to correct movement of their feet and bodies in other movements. We need to take a broader angle in our examination of problems and solutions for students. The focus should be preventative measures, rather than solutions once they have been injured.

We need to watch for differences in movement; then decide whether or not it’s a normal gender difference and can be left alone; or whether the movement is potentially injurious, and needs correction, with consultation.

 

“The new information, that the current study provides is that sex-specific hip movement is inherently linked to pelvis and upper body rotation, which confirms an assumption of previous investigators … There may be at least three factors to explain a sex-specific whole-body running movement: (1) anthropometrics, (2) muscle strength, or (3) whole-body dynamics, i.e., the interaction of forces and motion across all body segments.”[18]

 

          Fencers are not runners. Why is this information significant to us? It is important because, we use movements of velocity, not unlike running. We have members of all genders participating in fencing and they have different body shapes. Their movements are affected by the same reasons which have been presented, including that it is not only the hips that are of concern, but the entire body. These aspects become more important as the more accelerated the movement, the potential for injury increases.

Whole Body Motions

          Don’t just think about the hips, or the knee, or the thigh. Think about the whole packaged the entire kinematic chain that is involved.[19] This is important for those quick movements performed in fencing, such as the lunge and some other quick footwork motions. Hence the study was included; besides most of the footwork, at speed, results in such actions, especially when voids are added. This effect of the trunk on the lower limbs is of vital importance.[20]

          Everything needs to be considered when examining the individual not just their leg, not just their trunk, but the whole package. The advantage of examining the pelvic girdle is that it is central, and its correct position means that many of the other structures will align themselves with it. However, some attention also needs to be paid to other parts, especially the lower limbs which are connected; to ensure they are in correct position. The position of one will affect the position of the other, hence the reason that the fencing teacher is always concerned about the position of the toe and the knee.

Femur

          The acetabulum is where the femur connects to the hip and determines the ROM of the femur. Structural differences in the hip and how they affect the lower limbs are vital, as often a problem with a lower limb can be sourced to an incorrect position of the pelvis. This was the reason that the “female” guard was developed, due to the different exit position of the femur between the male and the female. Examining the structure is the key to understanding the reasoning.

          The male pelvic girdle is narrower, in general, than the female. This results in the femurs starting in a position which is further away from one another. [21] This results in a different position of the hip in relation to the knee and the knee in relation to the foot. A person’s individual situation also needs to be considered, because there can be extreme variations.

          Trainers need to be aware of differences as displayed in Figure 4, below, and modify both guard positions and other actions to make them suitable for the individual. This is one reason not to pigeon-hole people, not to assume that because a person is of a particular gender they need a particular guard.

 


Figure 4: Knee valgus variations - Source: Breaking Muscle (2017)

To understand the effect of the angle created by the position of the hip connection at the acetabulum to the knee, a comparison needs to be made between the male and the female skeleton to reveal the difference in angle. This angle is called the Q Angle, some of which has been indicated previously.

Q Angle

 

“One of the most significant biomechanics differences between male and female populations is the Q angle. Q angle refers to the relative angle between the patella [kneecap] and the anterior superior iliac spine (the lateral bony edge of your hip). Women tend to have a greater Q angle due to the evolutionary adaptation of having wider hips. The functional consequence of this fact is a tendency for the knees to shift medially during hip flexion.”[22]

 

Figure 5: Q Angle - Source: https://www.rudymawer.com/blog/female-specific-weight-training/

          The Q Angle is significant as it creates an angle which does not line the hip with the knee directly. For the male, to correct the angle this is much narrower, while for the female is much broader. This results in the different shape of the wards which have been presented. The importance here is the effect that such an angle can have on the knee.[23]

          Due to the position of the knee in relation to the hip, and the tendency of the female as a result to turn the knee inward, there is a cause for concern when there is pressure upon the knee. This is especially important when you consider things such as the actions in fencing and in relation to our discussion the guard position. Knee misalignment puts undue stress on the knee and can damage it.

          Males also have a Q Angle of concern, however “female athletes display, on an average, a greater Q angle when compared with their male counterpart,”[24] which is the reason this guard has been modified and referred to as the “female” guard to account for the wider hips and the greater Q Angle of the female. From this foundation, other actions can be changed to ensure joint-healthy actions being performed.

Correction

          While there is some use in pointing out a problem for people to notice, and leaving it for them to correct; it is more useful to present the problem, and then supply some correction for the problem. If a problem is indicated, a suggested solution should accompany an issue. The primary correction is to change from teaching everyone the typical male guard and consider the individual’s form.



Figure 6: Typical hip position allowing alignment with knee - Walker (2019)

 

          The correction using the female guard is a step in the direction of correcting actions presented from male-centric perspective to consider other body-shapes. The first step is to consider that there is this difference, and correction can be made.

Hips and Knees

          Due to the differing position of the male to female hips, if the position is not corrected there will be the issue with the knee being misaligned. It is necessary to change the position, to consider the greater Q angle present and modify the guard, as in the “female” guard, and movements as well.

          The presence of the Q Angle is clear when the skeletons of male and female are examined; it is even evident when a male and female are placed next to one another. The width of the hips on the female being wider than the male, in most cases, will present a broader angle to the knee. Strengthening the muscles around joints is always a good idea to prevent injury, to stabilise the joints which are being used, but the upper body needs to be considered, as noted in the studies previous, not just the lower parts.[25]

          The posterior train is the muscles which are at the back of the body; the instruction here is a method which is common for fencers, to dissociate the lower part of the body from the upper. [26] This so the legs can move efficiently and keep the body level in motion, it is useful for protecting the knees. The motion of the hips also needs to be examined, it is different for males and females and affects the gait of the individual.

          The fencer should be examined to ensure that their footwork is correct and their feet are landing in the correct manner in concert with other actions. This is important to ensure that the foot is landing safely and efficiently so the fencer can move safely, a closer examination of students is advisable. [27] Further, the same symptoms extend further down than just the hip and affecting the knee, importantly for fencing, the foot needs to be examined.[28]

          Fencing students are told to keep their toe and their knee pointed in the same direction, for safety. A close examination of their movements is the best way to ensure they are performing footwork in this manner. The foot should point toward the target adding a further importance of the examination of foot action.

Individual correction

          Everyone is different. They are built differently, and the more we realise this, the more efficiently we can train students and the better we will be able to help protect them from injury. We cannot carbon-copy ourselves on to our students or expect our students to copy our moves exactly. They are individuals and they will do things differently because they have different body-shapes, and it is not just the difference between the sexes. Correction needs to be made on an individual basis suiting the individual and considering whole-body analysis.

          Some analyses will focus on the knee or the hip or the ankle or some other part of the body, but the whole body must be considered because the part that is being spoken about connects to other parts of the body; it is a part of the body. Analysis and correction need to consider how the movement of that part of the body relates to neighbouring parts of the body, and how that part of the body is affected by other parts of the body; sometimes the answers are found there. Some knee problems are found in the position of the hips. This can relate to other factors, which are of importance, such as power generation.

Power generation

          Power generation is of importance in martial arts, especially when performing strikes or when defending against an attacker. These strikes are performed in a method based on the abilities of the individual who is performing the action. Power is generated from the movement of the hips, which explains why women have a weaker strike than men. Part of this is because they have an unstable foundation for their strike, because they are trying to strike the same way as men; they need to do it differently, according to a method suited to their body-shape.

          Regular training in a method can result in the individual overcoming the differences by drilling the motion, however those who do not will continue to have difficulty; this is entirely related to body-shape. A method needs to be devised for the individual, which is suited to the individual’s body shape, utilising this to its best advantage.[29]

          For the fencer power generation can be utilised for different purposes including speed, so long as they understand its application. It is a matter of utilising the body in the correct method applying the body-shape as it exists to the situation. Trainers need to be aware of the differences in body-shape between students and then apply their lessons in suitable methods to enable the students to gain the most from their experience and their training.

More to come

          There is more to come for this discussion. I hope with the information presented, there is at least some foundation for what I have proposed previously. The earlier presentation of my “female” guard was based on what I saw and what allowed my students to line their knees up more comfortably. This was based on the different shape of the male to the female, assisted by some experienced female fencers. This article presents additional research that I have performed; there is more to come. I will be discussing the subject with my female students and getting their views on the subject and hopefully getting some images to accompany the discussion. For now, I hope the information which has been presented is of use.

Cheers,

Henry.

Bibliography

Betts, J. et.al. (2013) “8.3 The Pelvic Girdle and Pelvis” in Anatomy and Physiology, OpenStax, Houston, Texas https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology/pages/8-3-the-pelvic-girdle-and-pelvis, [accessed 21/2/22]

Breaking Muscle (2017) “The Difference Between Male And Female Biomechanics In Strength Training” in Editorial, Breaking Muscle (22 Sept 2017), https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/the-difference-between-male-and-female-biomechanics-in-strength-training/, [accessed 21/2/22]

Chumanov, E., Wall-Scheffler, C. and Heiderscheit, B. (2008) “Gender differences in walking and running on level and inclined surfaces”, Clinical Biomechanics 23 (2008) 1260–1268, doi:10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2008.07.011

Graci PhD, V., Van Dillen PT, PhD, L., and Salsich PT, PhD, G. (2012) “Gender Differences in Trunk, Pelvis and Lower Limb Kinematics During a Single Leg Squat” in Gait Posture. 2012 Jul; 36(3): 461–466, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407338/, [accessed 21/1/22]

Hunt, D. et. al. (2010) “Gender differences in passive hip range of motion in asymptomatic adults”, 7th Interdisciplinary World Congress on Low Back and Pelvic Pain, Los Angeles 2010

Lewis, C. et. al. (2017) “The Human Pelvis: Variation in Structure and Function During Gait” in The Anatomical Record (Volume 300, Issue 4, p.633-642), https://anatomypubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ar.23552, [accessed 21/01/2022]

Lumen Learning (2022) “The Hip” in Boundless Anatomy and Physiology, https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-ap/chapter/the-hip/#:~:text=The, [accessed 21/1/22]

Mohr, M. et. al. (2021) “Sex-Specific Hip Movement Is Correlated with Pelvis and Upper Body Rotation During Running” in frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fbioe.2021.657357/full

Nakahara, I. et. al. (2009) “The Gender Difference of Normal Hip Joint Anatomy”, 55th Annual Meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society, Osaka, Japan.

Rahimi, A., Arab, A., and Nourbakhsh, M. (2020) “Gender Differences in Pelvic and Lower Limb Kinematics during Walking in People with Chronic Low Back Pain”, Biomed Journal of Scientific & Technical Research 28(4)-2020. BJSTR. MS.ID.004697

Šavlovskis, J. and Kristaps, R. (2021) “The Bony Pelvis & Gender Differences in Pelvic Anatomy” Anatomy Standard (12 Aug 2021),  https://www.anatomystandard.com/Pelvis/Pelvis.html, [accessed 21/1/22]

Steenerson, L. (2014) “Physical differences between men and women regarding training”, Life Assurance (9 Feb 2014), https://womenselfprotection.blogspot.com/2014/02/sical-differences-between-men-and-women.html, [accessed 21/1/22]

Tamon, G. (2011) “Difference Between Female Pelvis and Male Pelvis”, Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects (31 Aug 2011), www.differencebetween.net/science/difference-between-female-pelvis-and-male-pelvis/, [accessed 21/1/22]

Walker, H. (2019) Un-Blogged: A Fencer's Ramblings, Sword and Book Enterprises, Brisbane, Australia, p.268

Wang, S. et.al. (2004) “Gender Differences in Hip Anatomy: Possible Implications for Injury Tolerance in Frontal Collisions”, 48th Annual Proceedings: Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, September 13-15, 2004

Zidon, Dr. H. (2019) “Differences Between the Male and Female Bony Pelvises”, Complete Anatomy Community Blog, Elsevier,  https://3d4medical.com/blog/differences-between-the-male-and-female-bony-pelvises-anatomy-slices, [accessed 9/3/22]



Endnotes

[1] Hunt, D. et. al. (2010)

[2] Steenerson, L. (2014)

[3] Graci PhD, V., Van Dillen PT, PhD, L., and Salsich PT, PhD, G. (2012) “Gender Differences in Trunk, Pelvis and Lower Limb Kinematics During a Single Leg Squat” in Gait Posture. 2012 Jul; 36(3): 461–466, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407338/, [accessed 21/1/22]

[4] Hunt, D. et. al. (2010)

[5] Steenerson, L. (2014)

[6] ibid.

[7] Chumanov, E. et.al. (2008), p.1260

[8] ibid.

[9] ibid, p.1263

[10] ibid, p.1267

[11] Rahimi, A., Arab, A., and Nourbakhsh, M. (2020) “Gender Differences in Pelvic and Lower Limb Kinematics during Walking in People with Chronic Low Back Pain”, Biomed Journal of Scientific & Technical Research 28(4)-2020. BJSTR. MS.ID.004697, p.21881

[12] Rahimi, A. et.al. (2020), p.21881

[13] ibid, p.21884

[14] Lewis, C. et. al. (2017)

[15] Mohr, M. et.al. (2021)

[16] ibid.

[17] ibid.

[18] ibid.

[19] Graci PhD, V., et.al. (2012)

[20] ibid.

[21] Steenerson, L. (2014)

[22] Breaking Muscle (2017)

[23] ibid.

[24] ibid.

[25] Breaking Muscle (2017)

[26] ibid.

[27] Mohr, M. et.al. (2021)

[28] ibid.

[29] Steenerson, L. (2014)


Thursday, October 13, 2022

The "Female" Guard (Part 1)

Greetings,

Below is a discussion of what has been termed by students and myself as my "female" guard. This is a more in-depth discussion of the physiological basis of the guard, demonstrating the differences between males and females in the structure of their pelvises and how this affects their movement. Due to the breadth of this topic, it has been divided into two parts, this is the first part.

Why?

A while ago one of my readers (Curious Girl) wrote a comment asking for more information about the hip position in my “female” guard proposed in one of my earlier articles. I have finally managed to write that article, examining the pelvis and the differences between males and females in more detail, at least the first part of it. It has been an interesting time performing this research, especially considering there is not a lot using fencing-specific actions.

I hope that the information below answers some of the questions that you had about the guard which I presented. I have learned quite a bit since then, thanks to my female students who keep teaching and reminding me about the joy of our differences.

Disclaimer

I have said this before when I have talked about recommendations about how bodies should move, but just to be sure, I will say it again…

I am not a physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist, or any other health-care professional. I am a person who has done a bit of reading, as the bibliography will present, and I have been training people in fencing for about 25 years or so.

If you’re interested in the original post you can find it HERE, or you can find it in my book Un-Blogged: A Fencer's Ramblings, where I talk about the original female guard. I am a fencer with chronic health issues and so have a care for those a) with chronic health issues, and b) preventing others from gaining them. If you have a specific issue, talk to a health-care professional or your trainer about solving this problem, they are there to help. If you would like some general advice, please do contact me and I will give you what assistance I can.

A “sort of” Correction

          The title of this article is “The “Female” Guard”. It could just as easily be entitled the “wide-angled” guard, or several other names. I primarily teach this guard to female students due to the anatomical differences between males and females, and due to the ill-fit that most of the typical guards found in many treatises have with the female body. I do not claim that it will suit every female, or that it is only for females. If you find the guard useful, please use it.

Why is this important?

          Why is this important? This guard is important because it is a first step in the prevention of knee and hip injury, and the prevention of the risk of such injury. It is also a step toward making fencing more comfortable for the female fencer. Regardless of gender or body-shape, every fencer should be looking toward the prevention of injury, regardless of what kind.

          In the examination of hip position as it relates to injury risk, a person must examine the differences between male and female position of the hips both in a static position, but also in motion, because they will both affect the characteristics and potential of injury. The first thing that will be noted is that there is a difference in the structure of male and female hips, and it is due to this structure that males and females move differently. This results in different injury risks.

 

“Men and women have different passive hip ROM measurements, and as a result, require different degrees of force closure across the joint to maintain stability. Further, injury patterns and dysfunctions involving the hip and its affects on the pelvic girdle can be different in men and women.”[1]

 

          The range of motion (ROM) is different for males and females due to the different structure; the body can only move certain ways because of the structure. This results in different movement patterns during walking and running between. While walking is closer to footwork the same resulting differences in gait between the genders needs to be noted, as it relates to the same indicated injury risk if the body is not placed in an advantageous position.

 

“Gender differences in kinematics during running have been speculated to be a contributing factor to the lower extremity injury rate disparity between men and women.”[2]

 

          Simply explained, males and females move differently, and it is because of these differences in movement that females have a higher risk of lower extremity,  primarily knee injury, because of the way they move. This is because of developmental changes that occur within the body which change the muscular structure and control altering the action of the body. This causes the tendency toward injury.

Muscular Activation

 

“During puberty, females undergo bone and muscle changes that often create laxity, or joint instability, that limit neuromuscular control in lower extremities. To compensate for this lack of control, female knee joints tend to rotate inward as weight is applied. This places strain on tendons and ligaments, and increases the risk of tear and injury.”[3]

 

          The indicated tendency of the knee to roll inward results in an instability in the structure and excess stress on tendons and ligaments, and an increase potential for damage. Such strain is worsened during movement such as running, and even walking. This is partially because of the wider female hips and the increased angle resulting between hip and knee, but there is more to this explanation, such as patterns of muscle activation.[4]

          There has been a tendency to blame the issue present on this angle, which is created between the hip and the knee, known as the “Q Angle”. There is muscular involvement, which is important for the explanation of this weakness. The lack of alignment is only part of the answer, the muscular issue compounds this issue which leads to failure, they also have a job to do.

 

“no pre-activation of the posterior kinetic chain resulting in more force – both internal and external forces – applied upon ligaments and tendons surrounding the knee joint, ultimately resulting in a situation of stress that can lead to mechanical failure (failure equals injury, more likely than not involving the anterior cruciate ligament).”[5]

 

          The posterior kinetic chain is the muscles which are connected behind the legs and up the back, which help keep you upright. Without its pre-activation, force is applied to other parts of the body, the ligaments and tendons which are not used to such forces. This can lead to failure and injury; it usually occurs at the weakest point which is the knee.

Knee Injury

          Due to the variety of factors which have been presented previously, structure of hips, muscular development and activation, and movement style, females are more likely to suffer a knee injury. Such remarks concern about running, but other athletic activity involving similar active motions where stress is placed upon the leg could also be included.

This is a result of the way females move. The hips move differently to males when they are running, but also when they are walking. [6] The differences are important as they relates to differences in movement of the lower extremities. It is a caution that should be taken to heart as it is not just running that is an issue.

 

“This all means that women will be at greater risk for knee injuries while performing in sports or physical activities than their male counterparts, especially anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.”[7]

 

          Care needs to be taken when performing in all sports and physical activities to make sure that the knee is in the correct position, and the hip is in the correct position to do the best to prevent injury either to the knee or the hip. Females should not stop sports or other physical activities; there should be active preventions present.

Injury Prevention

          Preventing an injury is always better than rehabilitating after an injury and that goes for any injury. Here, the fencer should be paying attention to the position of their hip in relation to their knee. They should be paying attention to the position of their knee in general. The guard that is taught is meant to correct the position of both the hip and the knee to ensure that both are supported properly in actions. Part of this prevention of injury is in correction which will be spoken about later.

Generally Different

          Females and males are different, they are different on an obvious physical level; they are also different on the psychological level. It is something that needs to be acknowledged by teachers and trainers of all kinds, regardless of whether they are teaching physical or other skills. The way that the lesson is delivered and the methods which are described should be changed to suit the individual.



Figure 1: Drawing human body - female-anatomy-for-artist
Source: https://www.slideshare.net/EduMoLDeS/drawing-human-body-femaleanatomyforartist

 

          There has been a tendency, for a long period, of a “one size fits all” approach to fencing, which ignores physical differences, and gender differences among them. This has not been helpful, some will and have succeeded while others have lagged, “refusing to address the issues that differentiate men and women is not helpful either.”[8] Training should be modified to suit the individual so all may excel, and part of this is acknowledging the difference between male and female.

Motion

          Females and males will perform the same task, such as throwing a ball in a different manner, “Women and men perform many athletic tasks in a sex-specific manner.”[9] This is because of the structural differences between males and females. Females move differently because they are built differently, this will become clear as the focus of the discussion moves toward the pelvis and gait.[10]

          When gait is discussed, the primary discussion concerns walking, but running is considered, as it is a form of gait. In the case of the fencer, footwork is a form of gait, and the female will perform the actions of footwork in a slightly different manner due to the differences in pelvic structure. Another study evident differences in gender were present, as “statistically significant effects of “sex,” which were independent of running speed.”[11] So there were effects of gender on movement which were independent of running speed.

          Due to the different structure of the male and female, there is a different centre of mass, with the female’s being slightly lower than the male’s. Gait changes between male and female due to the different centre of mass.[12] There are differences between male and female on a physical and psychological form, and these need to be acknowledged so that both can be trained effectively.

Anatomical Discussions

          The focus of the discussion is the hips and their placement. To assist this discussion the structure of the pelvic girdle will be discussed, what is commonly referred to as the hips, “The pelvic girdle (hip girdle) is formed by a single bone, the hip bone or coxal bone (coxal = “hip”), which serves as the attachment point for each lower limb.”[13] This single bone is actually made up of several different parts, like the skull which come together to support one another, and most of the body. The structure is important for within these structures we find the differences between male and female that are so important.

The differences between the female and male pelvis will be presented and the reasons for their differences explained. We know that the pelvis is necessary, an essential part of the body but knowing some of the details on an anatomical level allows us to understand why the positioning of the pelvis is so important.

 

“the bones of the pelvis are strongly united to each other to form a largely immobile, weight-bearing structure. This is important for stability because it enables the weight of the body to be easily transferred laterally from the vertebral column, through the pelvic girdle and hip joints, and into either lower limb whenever the other limb is not bearing weight. Thus, the immobility of the pelvis provides a strong foundation for the upper body as it rests on top of the mobile lower limbs.”[14]

 

          There are elements of the pelvis which are universal, because they are necessary for human beings to function. Knowing these features of the pelvis familiarises us with the pelvis and allows us to be more familiar with the subject which is being discussed, and the form and reason for the pelvis.

Differences

          There are some obvious physical differences between females and males when we examine the sexual organs, however the differences between male and female go beyond these differences. They go far beyond surface appearances.[15]

To be more specific these differences are found in the structural elements. The differences can be found in more anatomical differences than simply organs. “There are many significant anatomical, structural and functional differences between the male and female bony pelvises.”[16]

          The human pelvis of the modern human homo sapiens sapiens evolved over millions of years to its present form. This evolutionary change can be followed through the archaeological record from our earliest ancestors who walked with a stooped gait all the way up to our modern selves who walk upright. This change in locomotion required a change in structure a change in our pelvis.

          A further change was required in our structure was needed in female bodies as our brains grew, “the female pelvis evolved to allow the birth of large-brained infants”[17]. The change in our pelvis is important as it is a change which took many millennia and changed our bodies to what they are now; the purpose of our bodies determined their structure.[18]

 

“The geometry of bony pelvis differs significantly between males and females – the phenomena caused by adaptation to the obstetric demands. Females have a relatively larger and rounder pelvic cavity, a shorter and more posteriorly projecting sacrum, a wider subpubic angle, and smaller acetabula with a larger distance between them.”[19]

 

          Female bodies are evolutionarily formed for the purpose of child-rearing. Adding our evolutionary changes toward walking upright and toward bigger brains, this led toward other developments in our bodies. Females have wider pelvises while, “Male pelves are not constrained by the issue of childbirth, and thus are narrower and more optimal for bipedal locomotion.”[20] This goes toward the evolutionary purpose of the male and female. From an evolutionary perspective and the perspective of the structure of the body, the male’s body is built to have stronger muscles, evidence for this is found in our skeletal structure.

 

“A male pelvis is smaller and narrower in nature which is designed to support a heavy body build and a stronger muscle structure while a female pelvis is wider and roomier and mainly serves for the purpose of childbearing.”[21]

 

          The heavier build of muscle in the male is seen in our evolutionary cousins the apes, especially in gorillas where the male is much larger than the female. We can see how the pelvis relates to the function of the individual, the power of the male requiring stronger muscles while the female’s purpose is primarily for child-rearing. It is not the “evolutionary purpose” of the structure, which is important to the discussion, but the difference in the structure. The evolution of the body shows the path to how we got here and the reason for the structures which we now possess. Figure 2 (below) depicts an image of a female pelvic girdle (above) presented with a male pelvic girdle (below) so the differences can be seen.


Differences are clear in the human skeleton, the wider pelvis of the female, for example. “The pubic arch is usually wider in the female pelvis at about >80°.”[22] Allows for a larger head on the baby, thus allowing for a larger brain, as shown previously; the male skeleton and pelvis does not require this structure, so it is narrower. “While in the male it is heart shaped, and narrow. A male pelvis has a v-shaped pubic arch that is approximately <70°.”[23] So there is a distinctive difference in the connection and angle between the femur and the lower extremities. Even the acetabulum, which the head of the femur sits at the hip joint, the socket, is of a different shape.[24]

          The biggest difference between the male pelvis and the female pelvis is the female is wider than the male pelvis. This is the simple difference; other differences have been noted, however this simple difference has a greatest effect upon the motion of the male compared to the female, as there are biomechanical considerations to be made. In its simplest form, the wider hips of the female make them more prone to torsion knee injuries, simply due to the form. The “female” guard addresses this by acknowledging this difference and working with it.

The Acetabulum and the Femur

          While the focus of the discussion is mostly upon the hips, we must not forget what is joined to the hips. So, there must be a discussion of the lower extremities. The position of the hips will affect these lower extremities.

          The female’s wider hips creates an increased angle between the hip and the knee and thus between the lower leg, which will be affected by the position the individual takes in their guard position. The “female” guard attempts to neutralize this angle. However, we must discuss those bony parts of the body which result in such angles of difference between the male and the female.

There is a very good image (Figure 3, below), very relevant to our study as it shows the pelvis in a seated position and shows the acetabulum of the male and female next to one another. The seated position is useful, in a correct guard position the pelvis should be almost in a seated position. The acetabulum will determine, in part, how far the leg will be able to move.


Figure 3: Pelvis in seated position - Source: Wang, S. et.al. (2004) “Gender Differences in Hip Anatomy: Possible Implications for Injury Tolerance in Frontal Collisions”, 48th Annual Proceedings: Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, September 13-15, 2004

 

          The acetabulum is where the femur connects to the pelvis and the shape of it will decide how the femur is able to move. The position of the pelvis decides the position of the acetabulum and possible movement of the femur and lower leg. There are some marked differences.

          The acetabulum is on the side of the pelvis and is part of the hip joint, the socket. There are variances between male and females in the shape of their pelvises. There are differences in the shape of the acetabulum between male and female. The position and shape of the pelvis results in further differences. The female has smaller acetabula with a larger distance between them.[25] The larger distance between them is caused by the wider pelvis and results in the wider valgus angle.

It is necessary to investigate the root cause of the position of the femur and the lower leg when examining this issue and difference between the male and female. The examination of the acetabulum tells us the reason the femur is positioned differently in females and that that there is different movement in gait.

          The male acetabulum faces more to the side while the female acetabulum faces more to the front. This simple difference has significance in the positioning of the femur and lower leg. It would be easier for the male to line their feet up with their knees with the narrower stance simply because their pelvis allows them to turn their legs in this manner, allowing them to line their knees up, while the female pelvis is less inclined to do so.

End of the first part...

The parts of the body involved in movement have been discussed and their differences highlighted, but in fencing, as with other activities, the body moves. This movement is related to how the parts of the body sit according to the structures which are found in the body. What will be found as a result is that males and females, based on their structural components, their body parts, move differently. This needs to be taken into account by the teacher and trainer, but this is a discussion for the next part, which will be published next week.

Cheers,

Henry.

Bibliography

Betts, J. et.al. (2013) “8.3 The Pelvic Girdle and Pelvis” in Anatomy and Physiology, OpenStax, Houston, Texas https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology/pages/8-3-the-pelvic-girdle-and-pelvis, [accessed 21/2/22]

 Breaking Muscle (2017) “The Difference Between Male And Female Biomechanics In Strength Training” in Editorial, Breaking Muscle (22 Sept 2017), https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/the-difference-between-male-and-female-biomechanics-in-strength-training/, [accessed 21/2/22]

 Chumanov, E., Wall-Scheffler, C. and Heiderscheit, B. (2008) “Gender differences in walking and running on level and inclined surfaces”, Clinical Biomechanics 23 (2008) 1260–1268, doi:10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2008.07.011

 Graci PhD, V., Van Dillen PT, PhD, L., and Salsich PT, PhD, G. (2012) “Gender Differences in Trunk, Pelvis and Lower Limb Kinematics During a Single Leg Squat” in Gait Posture. 2012 Jul; 36(3): 461–466, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407338/, [accessed 21/1/22]

 Hunt, D. et. al. (2010) “Gender differences in passive hip range of motion in asymptomatic adults”, 7th Interdisciplinary World Congress on Low Back and Pelvic Pain, Los Angeles 2010

 Lewis, C. et. al. (2017) “The Human Pelvis: Variation in Structure and Function During Gait” in The Anatomical Record (Volume 300, Issue 4, p.633-642), https://anatomypubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ar.23552, [accessed 21/01/2022]

 Lumen Learning (2022) “The Hip” in Boundless Anatomy and Physiology, https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-ap/chapter/the-hip/#:~:text=The, [accessed 21/1/22]

 Mohr, M. et. al. (2021) “Sex-Specific Hip Movement Is Correlated with Pelvis and Upper Body Rotation During Running” in frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fbioe.2021.657357/full

 Nakahara, I. et. al. (2009) “The Gender Difference of Normal Hip Joint Anatomy”, 55th Annual Meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society, Osaka, Japan.

 Rahimi, A., Arab, A., and Nourbakhsh, M. (2020) “Gender Differences in Pelvic and Lower Limb Kinematics during Walking in People with Chronic Low Back Pain”, Biomed Journal of Scientific & Technical Research 28(4)-2020. BJSTR. MS.ID.004697

 Šavlovskis, J. and Kristaps, R. (2021) “The Bony Pelvis & Gender Differences in Pelvic Anatomy” Anatomy Standard (12 Aug 2021),  https://www.anatomystandard.com/Pelvis/Pelvis.html, [accessed 21/1/22]

 Steenerson, L. (2014) “Physical differences between men and women regarding training”, Life Assurance (9 Feb 2014), https://womenselfprotection.blogspot.com/2014/02/sical-differences-between-men-and-women.html, [accessed 21/1/22]

 Tamon, G. (2011) “Difference Between Female Pelvis and Male Pelvis”, Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects (31 Aug 2011), www.differencebetween.net/science/difference-between-female-pelvis-and-male-pelvis/, [accessed 21/1/22]

Walker, H. (2019) Un-Blogged: A Fencer's Ramblings, Sword and Book Enterprises, Brisbane, Australia

 Wang, S. et.al. (2004) “Gender Differences in Hip Anatomy: Possible Implications for Injury Tolerance in Frontal Collisions”, 48th Annual Proceedings: Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, September 13-15, 2004

 Zidon, Dr. H. (2019) “Differences Between the Male and Female Bony Pelvises”, Complete Anatomy Community Blog, Elsevier,  https://3d4medical.com/blog/differences-between-the-male-and-female-bony-pelvises-anatomy-slices, [accessed 9/3/22]



Endnotes

[1] Hunt, D. et. al. (2010) “Gender differences in passive hip range of motion in asymptomatic adults”, 7th Interdisciplinary World Congress on Low Back and Pelvic Pain, Los Angeles 2010

[2] Chumanov, E., Wall-Scheffler, C. and Heiderscheit, B. (2008) “Gender differences in walking and running on level and inclined surfaces”, Clinical Biomechanics 23 (2008) 1260–1268, doi:10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2008.07.011, p.1260

[3] Steenerson, L. (2014) “Physical differences between men and women regarding training”, Life Assurance (9 Feb 2014), https://womenselfprotection.blogspot.com/2014/02/sical-differences-between-men-and-women.html, [accessed 21/1/22]

[4] Breaking Muscle (2017) “The Difference Between Male And Female Biomechanics In Strength Training” in Editorial, Breaking Muscle (22 Sept 2017), https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/the-difference-between-male-and-female-biomechanics-in-strength-training/, [accessed 21/2/22]

[5] ibid.

[6] Chumanov, E. et.al. (2008), p.1260

[7] Steenerson, L. (2014)

[8] Breaking Muscle (2017)

[9] Mohr, M. et. al. (2021) “Sex-Specific Hip Movement Is Correlated With Pelvis and Upper Body Rotation During Running” in frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fbioe.2021.657357/full

[10] Lewis, C. et. al. (2017) “The Human Pelvis: Variation in Structure and Function During Gait” in The Anatomical Record (Volume 300, Issue 4, p.633-642), https://anatomypubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ar.23552, [accessed 21/01/2022]

[11] Mohr, M. et. al. (2021)

[12] Lewis, C. et. al. (2017)

[13] Betts, J. et.al. (2013) “8.3 The Pelvic Girdle and Pelvis” in Anatomy and Physiology, OpenStax, Houston, Texas https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology/pages/8-3-the-pelvic-girdle-and-pelvis, [accessed 21/2/22]

[14] Betts, J. et.al. (2013)

[15] Nakahara, I. et. al. (2009) “The Gender Difference of Normal Hip Joint Anatomy”, 55th Annual Meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society, Osaka, Japan.

[16] Zidon, Dr. H. (2019) “Differences Between the Male and Female Bony Pelvises”, Complete Anatomy Community Blog, Elsevier,  https://3d4medical.com/blog/differences-between-the-male-and-female-bony-pelvises-anatomy-slices, [accessed 9/3/22]

[17] Lewis, C. et. al. (2017)

[18] A functionalist perspective to be true, but most of what is being spoken about is about the function of the anatomy.

[19] Šavlovskis, J. and Kristaps, R. (2021) “The Bony Pelvis & Gender Differences in Pelvic Anatomy” Anatomy Standard (12 Aug 2021),  https://www.anatomystandard.com/Pelvis/Pelvis.html, [accessed 21/1/22]

[20] Lumen Learning (2022) “The Hip” in Boundless Anatomy and Physiology, https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-ap/chapter/the-hip/#:~:text=The, [accessed 21/1/22]

[21] Tamon, G. (2011) “Difference Between Female Pelvis and Male Pelvis”, Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects (31 Aug 2011), www.differencebetween.net/science/difference-between-female-pelvis-and-male-pelvis/, [accessed 21/1/22]

[22] Zidon, Dr. H. (2019)

[23] ibid.

[24] Tamon, G. (2011)

[25] Šavlovskis, J. and Kristaps, R. (2021)