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Fencing and History Nut Extraordinaire. While I am tending toward 16th century at the moment, I am and have been interested in history for a long time. Hence the fencing focuses more on the Renaissance period than the modern. This explains two out of three of my blogs. The third is a more personal one focusing on fibromyalgia. What I write in these blogs, I hope will be of use to people.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bio-mechanics and the Effect of Body Shape


Bio-mechanics is something that as fencers is often ignored. What is important is that there are many elements of bio-mechanics which can be very useful to the fencer if they are understood. Being that fencing is the actions performed by the body and this is affected by bio-mechanics. This blog will be addressing some of the elements of bio-mechanics from a very basic point of view which affect the fencer. It is more designed to encourage the fencer to consider bio-mechanics and their effect.

Bio-mechanics is something which most fencers will not take into account in their fencing, but it is something that really cannot be ignored. This particular element effects all of the actions on fencing and needs to be considered, even if it is only to examine in from a personal point of view about how the individual moves. For the teacher, bio-mechanics becomes more important especially in dealing with students of different body shapes. It is important to realise that a brief study in the elements of bio-mechanics can greatly assist in fencing, and also the teaching of fencing. The awareness of bio-mechanics and how it can affect your fencing will greatly enhance the fencer's ability to perform.

There are some supposed advantages and disadvantages in body shape when fencing is considered. The tall fencer with the long arms, in general, is supposed to have an advantage over the shorter individual with shorter arms. This is due to the range that the tall individual has and their ability to move because of their long limbs. Even with this taken into account it does not mean that the shorter individual has no hope of excelling in fencing, actually quite the opposite. While the longer limbed individual has an advantage at range this can be taken away, thus both the advantages and the disadvantages must be taken into account when considering body shape and its effect on bio-mechanics. Each fencer needs to be able to use their body shape to their advantage, and needs to consider how bio-mechanics can enhance their advantages while compensating for some of the disadvantages.

It has already been stated that bio-mechanics will have an effect on all the movement elements of fencing, but it also needs to be realise that it will have an effect even on the individual's on guard position. In the on guard position, especially for Renaissance fencers, there are choices to be made with regard to the on guard position. Even when considering the basic on guard position with the weapon held in the natural on guard position of third or terza, there are elements which can come into effect which will affect the way the fencer moves. The first choice is with regard to the feet, sword foot forward or off-hand foot forward. This will affect the body position in the on guard position and change the options available, and affect those options which are available. The refused stance promotes the off-hand for use in defence. The forward stance promotes the sword. The refused stance withdraws the body, the forward pushes it more forward along with the weapon. Next is the consideration of whether the weapon is extended or more withdrawn, this will affect the way the weapon will be used and also the timing of the actions. All of these elements, even in the on guard stance, are affected by bio-mechanics.

Bio-mechanics also has an effect on the actions of fencing. This is because all of the actions are the result of the movement of the body and therefore are reliant on bio-mechanics for their effect. If a person understands how bio-mechanics affects their actions they can learn how to do them better, and one of the keys to this is flowing through the action. The action performed needs to be moved through and completed in a fluid motion. Some fencers will attempt to use their strength in the performance of the action, it is important that where the action is performed fluidly and accurately there is very little strength required for the action to be effective. This is a perfect example of how bio-mechanics affects the performance of an action, and how it is the body movement of the fencer that really needs to be considered in the action. This needs to relate to the fencer and how they move naturally.

The choice of which action to perform against the action of the opponent will come down to personal preference in all cases, but if the bio-mechanics of the individual are understood this choice can be more informed and thus more suited to the situation and the individual. The choice of how to approach a particular situation should be dependent on what the individual knows works best for them. This is mostly based on bio-mechanics and what actions they will prefer to perform against an opponent. In the performance of an action the fencer should consider what will give them the greatest advantage over the opponent. In all cases a mechanical advantage should be gained, this is also based on bio-mechanics. It does not rely on strength, in fact the use of a lack of strength against a strong opponent can be very effective. This particular effect can also be seen in the choice of measure. The shorter individual will need to get closer to the opponent in order to strike, thus there must be a consideration of how they can get there safely. The taller person will want to keep the opponent at range. These two choices are purely based on bio-mechanics.

Some of the effects of bio-mechanics on fencing have been discussed. What is important is that the actions can be modified to suit the individual. Each teacher will teach actions in a particular way, these are the base elements that need to be considered in the actions. Where the bio-mechanics of the individual have an effect on the action is where a consideration needs to be made as to how the action can be changed to suit the individual. It is important to utilise the advantages that you have and minimise the disadvantages. If something does not work for the fencer they need to consider why and how their own personal bio-mechanics will affect the action being performed. The action should then be modified to suit the individual in order that they can be more effective in their movements. One of the most important things here is that the fencer needs to fight the game that suits them and not let their opponent dominate what is happening. The fencer needs to move and to perform those actions which will give them and advantage over their opponent. This will take practice.

Bio-mechanics affects all the actions of the fencer and this needs to be considered, even if on the most basic level. A person who can utilise these particular principles will have an advantage over the opponent who has not considered them. Fencers need to examine their own movements and consider how they move and why the perform the actions of fencing in the way that they do. Once this is done elements can be considered as to how they can change this to suit their own body and thus move more effectively. Teachers need to take bio-mechanics into account in their teaching in order that they can teach their students to be more effective in their movements and also teach each student to take the advantages that they have and increase them. While it is often not considered on any conscious level, bio-mechanics is important to the fencer and needs to be considered.