Bob Charron teaches some epic weekend workshops. It was at one of his workshops I was first introduced to the “Farmer Burns” workout. I loved it. It opened my eyes up to the value of old-fashioned calisthenics, and also got me into Catch Wrestling, which became a real love. The Farmer Burns workouts became a staple warmup for the classes I taught, and I shared them at workshops. When Devon and I start putting together the workouts for Academie Duello, there was never any question of the good old Burns being the staple.
The squat is the key of the workout, and it’s a good exercise. If you’re a Western Martial Arts student, you’ve probably tasted the pain of a series of squats. I’m guessing most AD students can probably still do a minute worth of squats without any real effort.
One of the problems of a squat, for students of swordplay, is that it only works the muscles in one line of motion: up and down. It’s also limited in the amount of force you can apply. It’s just your bodyweight against gravity. Lastly, it doesn’t mimic any of the actions of swordplay. It’s a great foundation exercise, but as students improve, they can benefit from adding in some new exercises. Here’s three ones I rely on:
The Drive. This one is my favourite. It’s a simple exercise. Crouch down into a three point posture, like a football player. Squat as low as you comfortably can, and rest a hand on the ground. From this starting position, you are going to explode forward, taking three steps as fast as you can. Maximum acceleration is the key here. Start low, and finish upright. You can think of it as a running squat if you want. A few repetitions should leave your legs shaking.
Deck Squats are fun. Start out by lying on your back. Kick your legs up and roll into a ball, and then roll back down forcefully enough that you roll right onto your feet, and into the bottom position of a squat. Complete the squat, and then squat back down and roll back into the starting position. Repeat. You can make it harder by doing a jump squat, or by doing a single leg squat. Lots of variations are possible.
Depth and Box jumps. Jump up on a box. Jump down from a box. You can increase the height to make it harder, or do a full squat on landing. A series of depth jumps with a lunge at the end is killer for rapier fighters. Just make sure you have good knees and serious tendon strength before you try it!
Add these into your workouts and you should start to see some improvements in your footwork. Leg strength goes a long way towards boosting your speed and confidence in swordwork.