Book review: Understanding and developing footwork - Luis Preto

Understanding and developing footwork - Luis Preto.

"Footwork has always been regarded as one of the most important elements to the success of a Martial Artist's performance. However, almost all comments heard about this topic are, usually, generic at best: "great footwork", "amazing speed", "better footwork", thus failing to build a better understanding about what makes up effective footwork. This easy to read book with over 100 photos looks to shed some light on this issue by analysing and systematizing: * The variables that make up effective footwork * The difference between offensive and defensive footwork * The relationship between footwork when using weapons of different length * How to learn footwork so as to have it transfer into sparring"

I ordered the book from Preto's website and by HEMA book standards it was relatively cheap. Postage was reasonable and it arrived in good time with recorded delivery.

Pros

It's a relatively quick read but with enough detail that I've found myself dipping into it again since finishing it. This is going to sound strange but I don't feel like I've learnt anything new from reading this book (apart from a few busted myths!) however I do feel like the author has taken a lot of knowledge that was sitting in my subconscious, or in the instinctive part of my brain, and has transferred it onto paper and made it explicit.

I really like the authors explicit focus on the function of technique rather than the biomechanics of technique. He clearly outlines that it is not important exactly how you place your foot or exactly how far to step, but to understand what function the action is trying to achieve. For example in footwork he does not name steps as "gathering step" or "single step" but rather as "advancing step" or "withdrawing step" as this focuses the mind on the purpose of the action. I think this is a valuable mindset which moves people away from trying to find a single proscriptive way of what an action should look like (like the infinity detail of trying to "describe"  a Zornhau) which is impossible but instead to understand how it is used so it can be applied to a variety of situations.

What I really like about this book is that it is a meta-analysis of the theory underlying the treatises rather than another translation or another straight forward "this is what I think Y special move is." The author has clearly studied the treatises hard and is beginning to put together a general theory, explained in concise modern language and informed by his professional sports knowledge. I hope to see more works like this, as true understanding is the step that will take HEMA towards true mastery of the Arts.

Cons

The photos in the book are not always entirely clear what action is being performed and I would have appreciated a footwork diagram to go with it.

The author makes it clear that it is not his intent to get more technical than necessary but I would have enjoyed even more detail, hopefully the author will publish that book at a future date.

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