Thursday, June 29, 2006

Ready and Steady

Never trust a martial art that has no ready position for fighting. The ready position prepares your offense and defense for the engagement to come. Mine, as you can see from the previous article, is a centerline-based closed guard. That means my sword and backup hand are between me and my opponent. Furthermore, my blade lives in the space directly between me and my opponent, meaning I claim the shortest distance between us as mine, and they have to fight their way past that to get to me. My blade then also has the shortest distance to travel to hit them, minimizing the time they have to respond to my attack.

If you don't have a good ready position, you may not have a reliable tactical platform from which to mount offense and defense. Your weapon may be too far away or out of position, reducing the effectiveness of your offense and defense. If you're really good or really fast, you might be able to get away with this, but why take the risk? When I'm teaching martial arts, I often use all kinds of unorthodox guards to encourage my students to think through the situation. What is the gambit I'm trying to make? What are the tradeoffs of what I'm doing in terms of exposed targets, opportunities to strike, mobility, and blocking ability. Subtle differences in the turn of the hands, the placement of elbows, whether their weight is on the balls of their feet or flat also affect the possibilites that can extend from a fighter's ready position.

Speaking of feet, I've chosen what is effectively a fencing stance for my ready position. If you don't know fencing, imagine it like a Bow stance where your weight distribution is 50-50 and your foot spacing is roughly shoulder width. It's also comparable to the stance you might use during Push Hands practice. The reason I like this stance is because it's very mobile and has a narrower base than a full Bow or Horse stance. In an art where a cut to the knee, shin or ankle is not only possible but expected if your opponent is trying to disable you, not sticking your leg out there in a wide stance seems like a good idea.

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