Swordplay from the Ground: Cutting Mechanics & Timing
In previous posts I discussed the eight lines and the three points of origin (shoulder, elbow and wrist) of cuts. To make your cuts effective, however, you need proper body mechanics and timing of hand and foot.
Timing of Hand and Foot
A cut is most powerful when it lands on its target at the same time as your footstep meets the ground. This is easy enough to do when you are focussing on your timing. However, you will want to practice the timing of your hand and foot until it becomes a natural part of your swordplay, and you no longer have to think about it.
Common errors include allowing the sword to finish its cut before finishing the step, or conversely, moving the body before the sword. The first diminishes the power of the cut and may make it miss its target. The second not only weakens the cut, it puts the swordsman in grave danger, by allowing his body to come to the opponent before his sword.
Always begin by moving your sword first, putting it between you and your opponent: the foot will catch up to land at the same time.
Shoulder and elbow cuts involve not just the shoulder and arm, but the turning power of the hips and torso as well. As you turn your hips, your shoulders and arm follow, driving the sword forward. The leg is almost pulled forward into its passing step, and your foot lands as your sword does.
Although we use the term ‘mechanics’, you want your cuts to be anything but mechanical. To make cuts flow smoothly from one to the other takes practice, and a good connection through the torso to the sword arm.
If you find your movements are becoming disordered or choppy, go back to moving without the sword. Practise swinging your loose arm like a tetherball, using the power of your hips and shoulders, stepping at the very last moment. When you have regained the fluid connection of your body, pick up your sword again and continue to practice flowing in simple ‘X’ patterns, until you no longer have to think about the individual components of your cut.
This video from Duello TV illustrates sidesword fundamentals and some very simple exercises to start with.
(If the video doesn’t play for you, sign in — membership is free).
For the Green Spur you will need to demonstrate cutting with a sword in two hands as well as in one, but the basic principals remain the same.
next week: crossing the sword in front and behind