Myriad Paths

HitLikeAGirlHandwork has certain character to it. In Valkyrie, our handwork is mostly modern boxing, with legwork thrown in from Savate and Shotokan. It’s a good blend, workable and enjoyable. Very practical. But it’s not a complete game.

Modern boxing is a distillation of things that work, but much as we see in modern fencing, it’s a distillation that has thrown out workable things for the sake of consistency, whether for rules or safety. In fencing, the fight between the French and Italian schools, and the fights within the Italians schools, left us with a winner and many losers. It’s worth remembering that the losers once stood shoulder to shoulder with the winner, and earned equal respect. That shouldn’t be forgotten. Best is often only a marginal distinction.

Boxing is an open art. The feet and hips swing, drive the shoulders, and the hands arc to the target. The arc might be wide or short, but the arc is the birth of all boxing techniques. If it were a Chinese art, I would call it soft, or internal. It looks hard and external, but the reality is quite different (like many arts). A good boxer floats, and moves like wind or water around the opponent.

Harder forms of boxing, Wing Chun for example, lock in the hips and shoulders square to the opponent. Power is generated through tight motions. Internal tensions allow for rapid rotations on small scale, and good bracing to ground and gravity for extra drive. Punches can drive deep and hard, like a sledgehammer. Hard control of lines allow for angulation work to break down the opponents structure and overpower their defense with superior lines. In our method of fencing, we call this the transition from the open to the wide engagement.

For all of it’s apparent muscularity and hardness, the third form of boxing is the precision style I learned in Shotokan. It’s a combination of the open and the wide. Like modern boxing, you move and flow to find the opening to land your shot, and like Wing Chun, you use tight and hard mechanics to transition arcs into linear motion. The difference is that the motion carries forward and deep. The body extends and penetrates deep into the opponents guard, landing a precision blow that rapidly retreats. The hips and shoulders are square, but the limbs extend far more. In our fencing, this can be seen as part of  the narrow engagement.

One isn’t better than the other, if the training is equal. But it is true that for the average martial artist, a lifetime is only enough time to master one aspect.

 

3 Comments

  1. Can you expand upon the idea of going from open to wide engagement? My guess is that the concept has to do with more than just measure, but the fencing vocabulary that I currently have at my disposal is having a hard time placing it into an understandable category.

    • We use an aggressively modern shorthand for discussing and teaching swordplay. Engagements incorporate measure, line and tempo for us, and describe common encounters as opposed to principles. A narrow engagement is blades close and inline, wide is an engagement that involves angulation, and open is an engagement with invitations.

      • Going from open to wide would be the action of closing out the invitation without decreasing measure. For example, I arrive at measure in Marozzo’s Coda Lunga e larga against an opponent in Capo Ferro’s Terza, but neither I nor more my opponent act for whatever reason. Seeing his inaction, and still being confident in my ability to react to his intentions, I move my blade towards parity with his guard, but continue passing my tip over his blade so that I have greater control with the strong. That would complete the change of engagement, and I should follow up with some technique that I had planned to trigger on attaining the engagement.

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