Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fundamentals: Overswinging A Sword

So, overswinging a sword isn't a fundamental, but recovering from a swing properly is. It is a problem that many newer fighters face. An overswing happens when a swing misses a target altogether. Now, the obvious problem here is that missing causes you to generally be in a bad position, either with your sword low or arm extended well past the target.  Perhaps less clear to newer fighters, is that recovering an overswing both takes longer and more effort than recovering a swing that hit a target.

Recovering from a single swing that hit the target is fairly straightforward.  Once your sword hits, it will naturally rebound back in the direction in came from.  This natural bounce helps fuel your recovery, and sort of refunds some of the effort put into the swing.  By doing the opposite motions with the muscles that got the swing there, recovery should feel smooth. For the most part you are just returning your body to its normal, rested state.  All of your recovery for most swings is going to be first in, first out.  Your swing started with your hip rotation, so will your recovery. The rest of your body follows the hip back into position. Your resting position will be back to whatever stance you started in.

So why is an overswing so bad?  Well, for starters, your opponent is no longer stopping your sword for you.  That means you now have to stop the sword, then recover to your guard.  The more force you've put into the swing, the more force you have to stop in midair.  This places immense strain on your body and drastically slows the recovery.  You end up doing twice the effort to get back to defend yourself as you would if you had hit anything.  You are also losing some of the energy from your initial swing that would have been refunded with the bounce.

Stopping a swing midair can also lead to injury or soreness.  This is especially true if it is a frequent occurrence.  Certain shots are far worse to stop, as well.  For example, the wrap shot already places a fair amount of strain on the wrist, and stopping it mid-motion isn't fun at all.

Overswings are going to happen, even to veteran fighters. The difference between a vet and new fighter here is in how they recover.  Ones natural inclination is to stop the swing, and pull it back into guard.  We've already talked about how that is going to be bad. Veteran fighters, however, have grown accustomed to following through with their swings and carrying the motion around, either into another swing or to reset to guard.  

For example, if I were to swing for your leg and miss completely, rather than stop my sword and bring it back up to guard, I would carry the motion past your leg and rotate it around.  I can carry this motion either back to guard or into another swing.  This uses my arm only to redirect the motion, not to stop it.

Obviously, hitting your leg would have been ideal, but by carrying that motion around I'm not wasting effort or time stopping a swing.  I can also carry that force onward to another swing so I end up conserving some of the energy I've put into my first swing.  It also distributes the strain of the recovery out, rather than concentrating it all into stopping the sword.

This concept of carrying motion on into another swing forms a basis for combos. When getting a bounce from hitting a target, one can use the recovery to guard to help power another swing.  This causes your sword to basically orbit your guard or sword hand in between strikes, using your arm to redirect the motion and effort into the next hit.  The same principles also make it harder to hit the same spot twice in a row with the same swing and with sufficient force, because you are fighting against your recovery force with your second swing.

One note here, there might be some vets out there thinking that they can recover an overswing really easy and it doesn't put too much strain on them.  While that may be more true for your 12 oz, counter-weighted sword, it isn't really going to be the case for heavier weapons or those with a balance point further out from the handle.  Having your balance point in the handle might help reduce the amount of force required to recover an overswing, but it does that because there is less force carried in the tip of the sword to begin with.  This is more important on swings that involve wrist extension or rotation, and much less important for attacks like the chop that don't rely as much on the sword and arm for power. (more next week on that)

That being said, some swings fit into this concept of recovery better than others.  I'll talk more about the basic swings next week, and try to point out where some of those swings differ in terms of recovery.

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