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.
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
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.
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. 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.
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. 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
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
These same issues can cause other issues in motion as well.
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”,
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
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.
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.
have noted that, “gender differences in hip motion also exist during walking”
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
think about the hips, or the knee, or the thigh. Think about the whole packaged
the entire kinematic chain that is involved.
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
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
“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.”
Q Angle - Source:
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.
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,”
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.
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)
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Further, the same symptoms extend further down than just the hip and affecting
the knee, importantly for fencing, the foot needs to be examined.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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,
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/,
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/,
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,
Lumen Learning (2022) “The Hip” in Boundless Anatomy and
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,
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
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,
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/,
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
Zidon, Dr. H. (2019) “Differences
Between the Male and Female Bony Pelvises”, Complete Anatomy Community Blog,