Using "the Force" in Longsword

"The Force is strong with this one." - Darth Vader, 1977

"This knightly art is grasped with the fist and practiced with the application of the entire body" - Meyer

I've been thinking about this, on and off, for a long time but only recently I've decided to really try and nut this out so I've been focusing on working out what Meyer's stances tell us about how he generates force and in my head I've broken it down as follows: 
  • Just the arms - generating power from just the arms, this is broken into swinging from the shoulders, elbows and wrists to generate power by rotation: i.e by cutting by just dropping from Day into Longpoint would be a great example of a shoulder cut by itself. It's also composed of leveraging the handle which contributes significantly to the acceleration. 
  • Twisting the torso - allows you to generate power from the hips. This often appears to involve holding your guard out to your left or right side and then bring it back across your center line. This generates power by rotation.  Shifting from right Plough into Longpoint would be an example of this.
  • Shift weight forwards and backwards through stance - allows you to generate power from the legs, without having to step. This generates linear force. 
When considering actions where you do not step or pass it's also worth considering that striking with the same side arm and leg forward (weight shifting) will deliver a very powerful linear action, i.e. a thrust. Whereas striking with the opposite leg to the hand enables the torso to rotate thus increasing speed for rotational actions, i.e. cuts. Same hand and leg is called ipsilateral, opposite hand and leg is called contralateral.

I think however Meyer is using different combinations of the above: swinging from the arms, twisting the torso and shifting weight. I tend to view stepping and passing as variations on weight shifting that are more concerned with measure/time. Obviously a long pass will generate more momentum or a furious lunge acceleration and thus significantly add to force. 

One of my biggest learning's over the last couple of years has been understanding how to generate power not just in terms of stepping. Considering that a lot of the really hard parts of fencing are about getting to the right positioning, or "place", it's useful to generate power in your strike without moving from that spot. It's more about picking the foot up and putting it down or twisting the foot around to cock/uncock the hip. This requires using a series of concerted small body movements together such as the arms, hips, weight (or cutting with the "whole body"). Also I imagine there will be defensive benefits, such as cutting from the hips will move your center line offline and allow you to keep straight arms for absorbing/delivering force.

Anyhow, practically I'm now breaking down the images from Meyer and matching them with the plays to see if I can ascertain which of these mechanical actions he is using to see if there are patterns/rules around how he generates force. Tell tails from the images would include but are not limited to:
  1. When you twist the torso you shift your feet. Theoretically if your hips and shoulders are perfectly square to you opponent and you have your feet in a linear fashion towards your opponent then your feet should be facing in a straight line towards them. I think the idea is if you are right foot forward and twist your torso so your right shoulder is facing your opponent then your back foot will want to point out to your left. 
  2. When you twist your torso away from squared then one arms will bend.
  3. When you shift your weight forwards or backwards one leg bends. When your weight is evenly distributed either both your legs are straight or both your legs are bent. Straight legs can't generate much power so unless you goal is relaxing off your legs then you want to have bent legs to power out off. If you shift your weight forwards your front leg bends and your back straightens and vice versa.
  4. When you shift your weight right onto one leg the heel on your opposite foot want to rise high off the ground.  
  5. Leaning the torso forwards to contribute to forward velocity
  6. When you are leveraging the handle one arm will be almost completely bent while the other pretty straight.


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