Saturday, November 5, 2011


Pre-dawn Toyama-Ryu sword class was awesome again. Worked and talked on many things including how arcs meet straight lines and the deflection that creates.
Also the connection of the sword to the person and the person WITH their sword to the opponent - For power strikes, relative positioning (strong vs weak lines) is just as important as being able to reach the target ... especially when body checking comes into play.
Also looked at hooking and weight shifting, controlling space and creating distance, and choosing same side, or crossing of the center line. (Basically choose In or out? Left or right?)
Well, no surprise, but it turns out that all these elements require your feet to be under you and your body and feet working WITH the sword .. and by extension the opponent, to create 1) Safety and defensive line, 2) Advantage (angle and time) and 3) Power when needed.

Funnily enough, yesterday in Eskrima we were also looking at positioning, timing, set ups and moving off line. In Eskrima the only difference is that we were using single handed, shorter swords where power generation is less of an issue.The rest of the stuff - positioning, distance, timing, arcs ... all very similar.
And as far as the 'having your feet underneath you' part - absolutely crucial.
Now this is not a static thing. Steve Morris talks about moving the head and having the feet catch you, and especially in sword dueling, this is an essential skill - the head after all is a huge target, and taking it off line is a great idea in itself, and as a side effect is one of the fastest ways of having the rest of your body follow.
Sometimes though as a pre-set, if you are, say, setting your opponent up,  or creating an exit, it's wise to set up the feet and weight in a way to make the next step, and change of angle possible without telegraphing.
Sonny called this 'Puntaria' and is based on the very simple idea that if you point your toes at something, when you shift your weight to that leg, your hips will face in that direction. Point your toes at your opponent, and when you step on to that foot, you should be facing them.
Trick is to keep your knee and foot pointing in the same direction, and to let your body and weapon align above.
Note, it is REALLY important not to be flat footed. A firm footing is key for issuing power, but learn how to pivot, either on the heel, but mostly on the ball of the foot to move - you'll be much more mobile, and you'll save your knees into the bargain.
Also, learn how to hook step, and how to shift your foot even with weight is on it, and make sure you don't get caught with your legs crossed at an inappropriate moment :-)


Anonymous said...

In the Wing Chun world, there is a lot of politics that surrounds where us Chunners shift (ball vs. K1 vs. heel). I believe they all have their place but that the ball of the foot makes the most sense (all combat sports use the ball to their success).

Perhaps for here or another post: where do you personally see the different applications of ball pivot vs. heel pivot?

Thank you in advance for the insights.

Maija said...

I agree that they all have their place.
Weight on the ball of the foot makes sense due to the way your feet hold the rest of your weight up - it transfers to the ground better though the ball (check out barefoot runners). You are much more mobile and any force coming in to the body can be absorbed or returned easier.
Heel pivots work best IMO from the non weighted foot for hooks, traps and sweeps or to change direction of the power you are using. You can pivot on the heel with your weight on it too of course but run the hazard of having your center of balance taken backwards too far.
Of course you want a solid base regardless, so having more of your foot on the ground whilst striking, say, is a good idea, so stability has to balance with the mobility.

Tai Ji tries to have weight towards the ball of one and towards the heel of the other at all times, transferring like a cat kneading. Bagua and Hsing-I step, or catch the weight heel/ball, to ball/heel depending on what you are doing .. and sometimes the pivot is dead center too.

One way of thinking about it is that heel/toe is related to stepping forwards, whilst toe/heel is stepping backwards ... now this does not mean that having the weight on the ball sends you backwards, but it does imply that you can go forwards AND backwards easier than if your weight is on the heel, where forwards is OK, but backwards is much harder.
I think in essence the feet need to be mobile and 'alive'. I like the 'knee pointing same direction as foot' thing (as that encompasses all the ways to pivot) and being able to move your feet even when there is weight on them (without shifting weight off first) as basics.
Understanding which way your weight is moving, and where you want it to go next dictates alignments.