Kinesthesia and Mindfulness   8 comments

In general, I start raw new fencers with the “Misha Method”, aka the 4-3-2-1 approach: 4 ways to move, 3 ways to defend, 2 ways to kill, 1 secret.  After that, we start working on the various pieces and sub-pieces, but it gives them a context in which to think of the work they’re doing.

When it comes time to drill, say, the 4 ways to move (advance, retreat, left, right) I find myself doing the usual fencing school approach: advance a lot, retreat a lot, move left a lot, move right a lot, throw in combos, lunge, redouble, wash, rinse, repeat.  We justify this by saying “It builds up muscle memory”, which it does.  But the vast majority of new fencers have crap-tastic form so, to a certain extent, the muscle memory we build up has a poison pill in it.

So we say “Your back hip is popped up, level your hips” and push down that back hip until it’s level, and have them advance and retreat until it’s back up, and do it again.

This is the same approach I’ve seen just about everybody take for just about every Fault of Form out there.  Why?  Because we, the teachers and the students, don’t know any better.  Quite literally, the majority of fencers lack the ability to find a better way.  Which led me to a recent revelation:

We need Tai Chi.  Fencer Tai Chi.  Or maybe Tai Stabby.  Not “slow work”, as the concept is sometimes employed, where you move slow and think about your next move and all that, because it doesn’t achieve the same goal.  Tai Chi, and Yoga, focus the mind on the movements of individual muscles and joints within the body.  I can think of only one time I’ve seen a discussion of form take place in a teaching setting that had this level of biomechanical awareness to it, and it was between two advanced fighters who already had developed this mindfulness.  But we don’t practice developing that kinesthetic sense with new fencers.

How much easier would it be if, for any given issue, we could skip the “put them in the right position, do stuff, reset their form, repeat” process and empower our fencers such that when we say “Your forearm is exposed” their minds can picture and implement the necessary position of their joints to protect their forearm, and move there without repetitious, boring, and possibly unhelpful drilling.

So “Take Yoga/Tai Chi” is going on the Wistric Hollistic Approach to Fencing (Caelia… you, er, just keep doing yoga).  And next practice, I think Joe the Third is going to be introduced to the concept of meditation with sword in hand.  Anybody have good drills for muscle isolation?

Posted December 31, 2009 by wistric in Musings

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