The first thing that is going to be said by my regular readers is "Didn't you not so long ago write a blog about the importance of footwork?" The answer to this is "Yes." Am I going to deny the importance of footwork to normal modes of fencing, not at all. This blog is more a reinforcing of a much earlier blog about disability and fencing.
The question arises, just because you cannot walk for some reason, either permanent or temporary, does that mean that you should stop fencing, or fencing training for you is not possible? Not at all. There are ways around this. From the point of this particular blog so long as you can sit up and hold a sword you can still fence in a form.
The first part of the process is replacing the bits of the body that don't work. In this particular case it is replacing the legs that are not working. To this point the chair is used. This has some advantages over legs actually. The chair is more stable as it has four legs and is thus less likely to fall over. Your legs do not have to be used and thus any injured joints do not have stress placed on them. Finally sitting in the chair means that footwork in its normal form is not possible.
Of course there are some disadvantages as well. With the increased stability also comes the lack of footwork and thus the inability to move as far as you otherwise might. This means that you are a stationary target for the most part, though as will be explained, there are some options available for the sitting fencer. The final disadvantage is the possible increased luggage when you travel, but this is more of a side note.
Choosing a Chair
Choosing the chair needs to be done carefully, just any chair will not actually do. While your favourite laid-back chair may be awesomely comfortable, it may not be the most appropriate for fencing from. The first thing is that the chair must allow you to sit up straight in the chair's normal mode of operation. This means that it should have a straight back or none at all.
The second thing is that the chair must be stable when you are sitting on it. For this particular purpose, four-legged chairs are the best option. Remember for those Renaissance fencers you are not always on concrete or otherwise stable surfaces, so the potential for the chair to sink in needs to be considered as well. The next thing, is arms. Arms on the chair will limit your movement so it is better to have them be able to fold away, or not at all.
Height is also an important consideration. For the most part it is better to have the chair too low than too high. A chair which sits high will not necessarily be the most stable and stability is a vital concern. The other thing is that it is best that the lower limbs are able to be placed upon the ground comfortably and flat footed.
From the above ideas you should get the impression of a relatively low-sitting chair or stool with four legs. For some a back on the chair will be a help and for others it will be a hinderance. For some the worry of falling off backward will be more of a consideration thant the advantage of the back not being a distraction or annoyance.
The Sitting Wards
Now that your chair has been selected it is time to start the process of learning to fence from it. As with all forms of fencing the ward is important to the fencer. For the sitting fencer, the position of the lower limbs is just as important as if they were standing. Your legs should be lined up with the front legs of the chair. Make sure you have the chair turned so your dominant shoulder is closer toward your opponent. This will profile your body to them slightly. The top half of the body should assume the normal position for your ward of choice.
In selecting a ward when sitting in a chair you should consider your position and what you have to protect. Selecting a high ward may place the blade across the line of the opponent, but it will also allow them easy access to it. This is beside the fact that it will be tiring. A low ward is much preferable as the arm can relax more and the blade is withdrawn more. This means that the engagement can be chosen by you at the correct time. The other thing is that a low ward may lure your opponent into easy striking distance.
What? How can you do footwork when sitting down? When sitting, remember it is possible for you to lean your body forward, backward and sideways. The forward and backward will serve for your advance and retreat. The sideways movement will serve for voids. In this way you can actually change your distance, however so slightly that you do. Sit in your chair, see how far you can lean in each direction.
With this in mind, it is actually possible to do a lunge from a chair. It works the same way as it would if you were standing. Extend your point toward your target and lean with your body. Just as with the standing version the hand should always lead the body. Especially when performing this action from a chair, you should lift your hilt in to protect yourself.
Other Fencing Actions
For the most part, the other actions in fencing work much the same as they do when you are standing up. Parries are the same for the upper part of the body. Parries for the lower parts, if used, will just have to be a little more shallow than when you are standing. As stated you can lean your body to the left, right and rear in order to void, though this will clearly demonstrate the advantage of going perpendicular to the opponent's attack.
Actions using the blade of the weapon will work the same as they have previously. This is because the hand actions are not changed. You just have to remember that you don't have to go so low with many of them and if you do you may run into problems.
Tactics for the Seated Fencer
Where the two fencers are seated in chairs, they should be placed an extension and a lean away from one another. This allows for some movement and use of distance. Where there is the normal situation of a seated fencer against a standing one. The standing one has the advantage of movement and a much greater use of distance and height. The seated fencer has the advantage of having a set distance so has one thing less to worry about.
The only way that the seated fencer can get the advantage in distance is to lure their opponent in so an attack may be made. This is the primary method that the seated fencer has to use. This can be achieved by body position, arm positon, sword position or all of them. Blade engagement is one way in which this can be achieved.
Fencing without footwork is possible, not advised for the individual who has the option of movement, but for the fencer without that option, it is. Fencing from a chair is an option for those individuals with a mobility impairment. In this way they can participate, and quite effectively, in fencing. This idea is not actually new, as can be seen by the wheelchair fencing at the paralympics, as has been mentioned in a previous blog. For the Renaissance fencer a suitable period-looking chair is even an option. Fencing is something which many can participate in, with the right attitude and approach. This has been a rather short guide to fencing from a chair, but it should give some ideas about where to approach this particular problem from.