Getting a Grip on Chapters 2, "The Hand" and 4, "The Hip"

corby's picture

I've tried to understand this chapter, but after listening to the class, seeing the demonstration and reading the book several times, I'm left still shaking my head and thinking either "so what?", "Huh?" or "no no no."

I look at all the photographs of men's and women's fists, and all I can think is "So what?" These pictures don't have anything to do with where your hand is when ending about 95 1/2% of the blows fighters throw. Now and then someone brings their face toward the sword so fast that you never have to open up your hand, but these "punching" blows are very very rare for most fighters.

When I look at the opponent's-eye view of the male and female flat snap, my first thought is "Huh?" That's because as I look at those two blows, what I see are two different blows. I throw both of those blows, and in fact, in my experience, the "female" version of it is the one most common among men. The "female" example (I'll call it the second one from now on) is an extended, reaching flat snap, the classic definition of the blow and one that looks more or less like its illustration from the Fighter's Handbook circa the 1980's.

The "male" blow (I'll call it the first example now) is a crossing flat snap. It has less range than the extended snap, but better ability to move to the inside of a same-handed opponent's shield.

The second thing I think when I look at these pictures is "no no no", but I will admit that this reaction may be to a lack of clarity in the picture, and in all fairness the problem seems to be gone in the later pictures. Nevertheless, in both examples, the flat snaps displays one of the most basic problems new fighters have with this blow: it is too low. Beginners need to practice this blow's full extension at eye level, not the chin level displayed in the pictures.

But the critical thing here is that these are different blows which get past shields in different ways. Fighters who want to be successful at range need to be able to throw both of these blows.

Though I can't say I recall exactly, I remember that when demonstrating the part of the grip discussion at her class, the example of the flat snap shown as the kind that hurts a woman's hand was the most extreme, short range punching version of the blow. Around here in Atlantia, we don't even call that a flat snap. That's because the sword never snaps out. We call blows where the wrist and fingers stay in a fist "short stem" blows because they have very short range.

These same problems occur in "The Hip" chapter, pages 47-49, illustrations 16 and 18. While these may show differences in physiology, they absolutely show different blows. Duke Stephen's weight is more forward, his hand has crossed the center line of his body, and he is clenching his fist. By doing these things, he is "cheating" himself of a foot or more of range with the tip of his sword. Maybe he doesn't throw long range flat snaps. That doesn't mean that men can't throw exactly the blow being shown by Mari. Finally, I wish I could tell, but it really looks to me like Stephen has risen onto the ball of his sword foot. I hope not. Sword foot heels need to be on the ground at the end of a blow.

Both of the models in the section on the hip make significant errors with their elbow while posing for the camera, in the pictures mentioned above and in the mini-movies. In three examples: Bottom left and center of page 46 and 48 and Figure 1 on pages 125 and 127 the fighter allows the elbow out from the body far to early. Speed and momentum are gained by holding the force of any blow close to the body for as long as possible. By swinging the arm, and thereby the sword so far out away from the body so early, tremendous amounts of energy are expended and wasted and the blow is slower because the sword must travel in a larger circle around the fighter throwing it.

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corby's picture

Hip Rotation in Men and Women

After looking more closely at Chapter 4's illustrations 16 and 18 I was puzzled enough to get up and check something. I can't see Duke Stephen's heel well enough in his picture, but my personal test confirms it: He's come off his back heel in his picture and that's what lets him rotate his hip "more" than Mari does in figure 18.

How can I tell for sure? The same way you can confirm what I'm describing: Stand up and try it.

Get in the "male" stance and make sure you keep both your heels on the ground. Now, rotate your hips as far as possible around. I'm middle of the road in terms of flexibility, and even trying several different stances, I can't manage to get my hips to rotate more than about 1 degree past 90 while my sword heel is on the ground. But it gets easy to rotate past 90 once I lift my heel off the ground.

Conversely, when I look at Figure 18, Mari seems to be making the opposite mistake. Though not as clearly as the previous problem, her weight seems to be back on her rear foot, inhibiting her ability to rotate her hips fully.

I've personally never noticed a difference in men or women's abilities to rotate their hips correctly for a blow, if they maintain good stance.

corby's picture

This isn't Golf

In golf, it's perfectly acceptable to bring your back heel off the ground when you swing. In fact, it's mandatory for good results. But doing so is very bad in heavy fighting. You can tell heavy fighting isn't golf in two ways:

The balls don't hit back in golf.
You aren't supposed to hit the balls in this activity.

But seriously, that first reason that the two sports are different is the fundamental reason why it's bad to bring your back heel off the ground when throwing a blow. Since you have to react to what your opponent does, having your heel off the ground when throwing is bad. It slows your blow cycle down and reduces your ability to move in unpredictable directions.