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Correct Sword Stances


Errors in sword stances feature on this, the third of our series on common errors in Chinese sword fighting. Some of the children in our swordsmanship program provided the information for this page. I asked them to tell me which things I most frequently corrected them on. They then demonstrated the errors for the camera. Of course, some of the demonstrations are a little dramatic but at least they get the point across. This page includes:

  • No get away room
  • Wrong foot direction
  • Distraction

Common Errors Part 1
Common Errors Part 2

Click on the thumbnails below to see the bigger picture

Wrong Sword Stances - No get away room.

 sword stances errors - no get away room
1. Get away room

 sword stances error tripping yourself
2. About to trip

 sword stances errors tripping
3. Own enemy.

Picture 1 - Aled is demonstrating a fairly good basic sword stance. If you look closely, you can see there is marginally less lateral room than there ought to be between his feet. This is one of the most common errors in Chinese sword stances. If he is attacked from the front and needs to pull back, he becomes his own enemy.

Picture 2 - Aled is drawing his foot back during an attack. He needs space to deflect easily and return a good strike. You can see the lack of get away room becoming more obvious. If he's quick, he may still be able to draw that foot around the heel of the other one to get it back out of the way. Even a small error takes time to correct. He is likely to recover from this one, but it was close.

Picture 3 - Emily is having real trouble with her sword stances. She had so little get away room, she has tripped over her own back foot. You wouldn't believe how common this is in Chinese sword fighting. Emily staged this, of course. She's a lot better than that now that she's in her third year of training.

Wrong Sword Stances - front foot alignment.

 sword stances - front foot
1. Right direction

 sword stances front foot alignment
2. Front foot

Sword stance incorrect foot position
3. Twisted stance.

 sword stances wrong foot position
4. Poor direction

Pictures 1 and 2 - Fiona and Emily are demonstrating correct front foot alignment. Generally speaking, most sword stances aid strike precision if the front foot is pointing in the direction you want the blade to go. If your front foot is turned, it is fairly likely your sword will be off centre in the direction your foot is misaligned. Chinese swordsmanship uses the whole body, not just the arms. When one thing moves, everything moves. If your front foot points towards your intended target, the body alignment will be better and you are more likely to hit exactly what you wanted to. Try this out the next time you are working on your basic cuts.

Pictures 3 and 4 - Emily and Fiona are demonstrating badly twisted front foot positions. The whole stance is wrong. It seems that one error leads to another in order to compensate for the misaligned front foot.

The Problem of Distraction

 Sword fighting errors distraction
1. What was that?

 sword fighting advantage distraction
2. Advantage

 sword fighting errors
3. End of fight

Picture 1 - This is Fiona's favourite. She's only ten years old and life is very distracting at that age. There are birds to look at, friends to reply to, loud noises to investigate and other students mucking up with shields in the background. We adults are more likely to be distracted by internal matters such as thoughts and emotions. When you are sword fighting, you must be in the moment. Embarrasment from a badly executed previous strike is a distraction. So is whatever you think someone else might be thinking about you. Then there are the stresses of life and the analysis of what you or others are doing. Get over it, let it go, and don't be distracted in the middle of a sword fight.

Picture 2 - Emily is just waiting for the opportunity. As Fiona turns to look at whatever it was, she strikes accurately, right on the head. I've seen my own teacher distract a student on purpose by telling him his shoelace was undone. The student didn't even have laces on his shoes but we are used to believing our teacher. The student looked briefly at his foot and learnt the lesson of not letting anyone distract him in the middle of a sword fight.

Picture 3 - Fiona is staging this, of course. This is an exaggerated demonstration of the results of distraction. It's a good lesson though. You might have all your sword stances correct but the slightest distraction in the middle of a bout and it's all over. The other guy wins.

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