Last week I gave an overview of the Mounted Combat portion of the Green Spur program, which includes Swordplay from the Ground, Swordplay Knowledge and Mounted Swordplay Knowledge. For the next little while we’ll look at each of those checklist items in a bit more detail, starting with
Swordplay from the Ground: Stance and Posture
Demonstrate proper stance and posture
If you’ve practised rapier or sport fencing you will probably be used to a narrow stance, where the back foot is in line with the front. For mediaeval cut and thrust swordplay the stance is more natural, with the feet on parallel lines or ‘railroad tracks’. It is a stable and centred way to stand, useful with many different weapons (spear, polearm, sword), as well as for grappling.
Feet: a comfortable width apart, so that you could roll at least a 10-pin bowling ball between them. Imagine a square, with your front foot in one corner, toes pointing straight forward, and your back foot in the opposite corner, toes pointing slightly outward. If you’re right-handed, the most natural starting stance will have your left foot forward.
Knees: both bent, lowering your centre of gravity, making sure the knees bend in the same direction as the toes point.
Hips: facing forward and level. Think of your pelvis as a bucket full of water you don’t want to spill by tipping either forward (swaying the back) or back (tucking in the tailbone).
Torso: upright, with your weight distributed more or less equally, chest lifted, shoulders relaxed and back.
Note that this is a starting posture. As you deliver a cut or thrust your feet, hips and shoulders will all move to control direction and generate power. However, you should maintain the balanced, grounded feeling of your stance throughout all your movements.
To improve your stance, simply practise standing in it every day. When you’re in line at the grocery store, standing in class listening to the instructor, or even watching tv, sink into a correct, balanced stance and train your muscles to remember it. Check in a mirror whenever possible, or ask a friend to critique and correct your posture.
When you’ve established your stance, practise moving one or two steps forward and back to change your lead foot. Does your posture fall apart as you step, or can you maintain it as you move?
For video instruction, check out the DuelloTV video on abrazare posture and movement:
Next week: movement