Thursday, June 24, 2010

Stand Up Straight and Relax


Most of the time when we are told to stand up straight relaxing is not going through our heads. This is usually someone telling us to improve our posture or stand at attention. In these particular situations the body goes rigid and upright. For fencing the two need to be accomodated in order to achieve the most effective on guard, or ward position.

Being rigid in the on guard position is detrimental to your fencing. When you are rigid, your muscles are already burning energy and are already tensed. This means that they are not ready for movement which leads you to slower movement, which can decide whether you are struck or not. In order to fight this you need to relax your body, so only those muscles that need to be working are actually working.

Standing up straight means that you are standing tall. Your chest is expanded and you have an air of confidence about your stance. Both of these elements are important in the on guard stance. With the chest expanded it is much easier to breathe, this means you have more energy due to the increase in breath. Your muscles are also not tensed as much if you were slouching, this goes especially for those which are over the shoulders.

So, the trick is to combine the relaxed but upright position into the on guard position. This may sound like a contradiction, but it is not. First of all, spread your feet to shoulder width, remember to keep the front foot pointed at the opponent. Bend your knees somewhat, but not so much that they become tensed. You should still be able to move your feet easily. Your body should be in an upright position, with your spine vertical. Push your chest out, and roll your shoulders down and in. This should expand your chest and make it easy to breathe. Keep your head upright. Now, breathe deeply in and hold it, then let it out slowly. Do this a couple of times and mentally relax all of your muscles. What you should find as a result is that the body is relaxed and ready for action and is also upright.

The common mistake that is made in the on guard position is that the shoulders are slouched forward. This pushes the shoulders forward, and also the head forward. The position that results also constricts the breathing of the fencer and makes it more difficult for them to breathe. Standing in this manner also tenses muscles, tightening them and making it harder to move. This is usually found in beginners, or fencers who face up against a more experienced opponent. What they are tying to do is shrink themselves into a smaller package and hide. Needless to say, this does not result in good fencing.

Stand up straight in your on guard stance, you will be able to breathe better and move more efficiently. The other thing is that standing up straight gives you an air of confidence and makes you feel more confident, neither of which is a bad thing in fencing. A relaxed but upright position is advantageous for all the reasons above, but the same principles can be applied to any on guard position that is found in fencing. Expand the chest, keep the head up and relax.



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fabris From a Chair?


Many in the Western Martial Arts (WMA) community examine manuals from their own points of view and in order to understand what the author is saying about fencing. For the most part it is purely so that the individual can understand what the author is on about and possibly put some of what the author has said into practice. The question happens to come to mind about what happens when such information is examined and then attempted only to find out that there is some physical impediment to completing the action, what now?

Performing most of the actions of Fabris is a simple impossibility for me due to my physical condition. My body simply will not allow me to bend in the ways that Fabris would have me do so. For the most part, I will admit, I bought the manual in order to extract as much information out of it about his blade engagement and counter positions (contra-postura) as possible, and this has been most useful. This is somewhat limited as it does not take into account much that could be used from this most informative manual. So in order to lower my the position of my body without having to damage myself, I thought, what about a chair?

One of the prime principles of Fabris is that the lower position of the body is safer than the taller. Sitting in a chair sure lowers the position of the body, and it also allows for the bending of the body as well to make it even smaller. Of course sitting in a chair and fencing, while possible, as I have already discussed previously, does remove certain aspects from being possible. Any form of major footwork is removed, but it can be compensated for in part by the movement of the body. Approaching the opponent is also not possible due to the seated position. However, even with these limitations, there is a great deal that can be done.

The most interesting discovery that I made while experimenting with the actions of Fabris is that a form of his girata (a turning void) is actually possible from a seated position. This is so long as the movement is based on the movement of the body rather than the feet. The ability to do this particular technique opened much more of the manual as possible from the chair.

All of the actions of the seated combatant are made at misura stretta (narrow distance). This is simply because the seated combatant cannot lunge from the chair, nor can they approach the opponent. What this means is that the seated combatant must wait until the opponent is within the misura stretta before launching any offensive action. This means that the seated combatant will be more passive, but does not limit them to only reactive or defensive actions, far from it.

The seated combatant is limited for distance, yes, but this does not stop them from being the first to initiate the action once the opponent comes within their distance. Sure, the opponent may launch an attack from misura larga (wide distance) but the blade of their weapon must enter into the seated combatant's distance before it can strike them, and it is here that the seated combatant can act.

There will be two versions of "The Seated Fabris". The first will be more of a discussion paper describing what can and cannot be done from a chair. It will also discuss Fabris' theory and other aspects which are applicable to fencing whether the fencer is seated or standing. The second version will be more lesson-like, actual instruction about how to use Fabris' techniques from a chair and how they are applied in a combative scenario.

I am not sure whether I will publish these two versions on my blog as they will both be quite long. On the other hand, for those who are interested, I should be able to make them available by some other method. I will hopefully remember to keep you all updated with my progression as I move through both versions. I have already started the discussion paper, and will move on to the lesson version once that is completed.

The most important thing about this particular discussion is that we should take a more broad view of the period manuals and see how they can work from different points of view. This particular idea can be broadened even more to take into account how different weapons are similar in their uses and how the different techniques may be used. An holistic view of swordplay is most useful to the researcher and a great asset in the understanding of different authors.