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I often refer to fencing techniques during instruction.  I spent a good part of my youth in a fencing school, practicing advances, retreats, lunges and other techniques.  My teacher was the father of one of my high school friends.  Maestro Meudt had a small club in Maryland called the Olympic Fencing Club and we would go there and train a lot and go to local competitions.  Later, I signed up for the team in college and I got to compete throughout the mid-Atlantic and once in Canada.  Those were great days and we had a lot of fun.  I got to train with some seriously good fencers and I got to see some incredible bouts.  Of course, I was never that good.  I was slow and lead footed unlike my teammates who could compete at Pan-Am level.  But the training soaked in none-the-less.  I soon moved on to more pugilistic pursuits.  Now, after more than 35 years since first picking up a foil, I find myself revisiting techniques and training methods.  

 

How is this relevant to Escrima?  Well, Escrima is fencing, albeit a different form, but it is sword play.  The other day, I was reading a piece by Tim Morehouse, Olympic Silver Medalist, and I was really inspired by what he was saying!  He was emphasizing footwork and fundamentals.  He said (I paraphrase) that fencing is a game of position and footwork is what gets you into position to execute.  What fencers do better than anyone, I believe, is maintain distance and position.  I remember hours and hours of training in Maestro Meudts club, advancing and retreating up an down the strip; sometimes with a partner and sometimes without.  This became the foundation of every single training session.  Not only is advancing and retreating important but it is the ability to quickly and effectively shift from advancing to retreating or vice versa that is the key to success, and Morehouse espouses this as well.  Being quick on your feet and making rapid changes in direction gets you to the position you need to execute your technique.  You don't have to move in a straight line, confined to a 3 foot wide strip to play Escrima well or take from fencing its most significant gift.  But, if you make footwork the basis of every single training session, I am certain you will be a much better fighter, a much better escrimador. 

GLM

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Comment by Zach Jenkins on August 5, 2015 at 6:01am
Excellent post Guro Lawrence!
Comment by Badger Johnson on August 5, 2015 at 12:22pm
I strongly agree. In addition, the movement of the stick(s) can actually give you body sense 'hints' on how to move your feet, incorporating torque, twisting, stutter-stepping and other moves.

See what Ray Floro does, with regard to using the fencing lunge (heel-first!) to close the gap and strike without much telegraphing.

In contrast, try and get a sense of footwork empty handed. It's very difficult, unlike with the stick or other hand-held weapon. But to go -back- to empty hand after stick-induced footwork is very instinctual now.

Good post!
Comment by Guro Lawrence Motta on August 5, 2015 at 12:59pm

Thanks Zach and Badger.  Much appreciated!

Comment by Michael Schwarz on August 5, 2015 at 1:20pm

So very true GLM. This is so true in all martial arts from boxing to bladed combat; all movement is initiated from the hips. 

I take it even one step further by seeing motion mentally also. I utilize the process of "off balancing" I first learned at the start of my martial arts training in Hapkido/Judo. The "8 directions" of off balancing only enhance my Escrima 

Comment by Jerome Barber, Ed.D. on August 5, 2015 at 9:05pm

No argument from me on this post.  In fact I would go a step further and suggest that virtually all physical activities begin with the feet and footwork - mobility - and it is one of the 12 foundational aspects of my martial arts system as taught to me by my master instructor Sifu Don Zanghi.

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