You ask someone to work on posture, and the first thing they do is stand still. They try to freeze in place. Tell that to a martial artist, and they freeze into a stance and try to make sure they have a straight back, maybe check their balance as well if they have experience. Historical fencing enthusiasts might even take an extra step of checking the alignment and lines of their blade. Posture means stillness…and stillness in martial arts is always death.
Bad posture is probably the number flaw in new fencers. Almost any problem they have can, unless you are feeling even slightly pedantic, be cured with a good dose of posture training. The body is out of line, so the muscles don’t connect right. They don’t do the job they should. Arm extension is screwed up? Look at that hunch in the shoulders. Fix that first. Why are the shoulders hunched? Tight hip flexors, overstretched lower back muscles, no tonus in the abdominal muscles. Lots of work needed…
And a lot of instructors just don’t bother. Often they don’t see the issue. It’s easier to try and squeeze a student into the mold of the technique, a mold made from the instructor methods, or more likely from imitation of whatever the instructor admires. So and so looks this way when they fence, so my students should look that way also. The mold source has found a way to overcome the posture flaws, and is successful in spite of them…a testament to human willpower, not to sound mechanics. Try telling that to the cargo-cult focused fencers, who think they only have to ape what they see to magically acquire the successes…
I suffer from late-diagnosed scoliosis, and have terrible posture despite my best efforts. It’s always dogged my ability to fence…my natural toughness and strength carried me through my unarmed training, but was useless for weapon work…and I’ve had to work with a lot of odd little tricks to overcome that. So I tend to panic when people tell me that a student of mine looks like me when they fence! Fortunately, it’s usually that they just pick up some of my tactical mindset, and not my posture or physical habits.
I believe every class should include posture work…balance, alignment, and tonus development. And posture should be agile and movement oriented. Check out this video of Ido Portal:
(video linking appears to be acting up today. The video should be this one: Locomotion Research, not the one about Ido teaching MMA fighters…which is also good. Everything Ido does is good…)
Everything he does requires, and builds, good posture. The muscles all around his waist, his upper back, shoulders, hips…all moving and supporting each other. Solid alignment work. This should not be a foreign thing for fencers, or any martial artist. Every class should include some kind of posture work. An individual practitioner can get away without such things, and trial-and-error their way up the success ladder, but there is no excuse for a teacher skipping such things.
We do more work that most people will really want to, but if you can squeeze in even a few moments in a class, you can do a lot for your students. I bury a lot of the posture/strength exercises in the sprint exercises we start class off with. Five minutes is all it takes to get a huge fitness and strength bonus for your students. Develop a movement/flow exercise like Ido’s that gives your students a few more minutes of hard work, forcing them to develop moving posture. When they tire out, they can pick up swords and you can correct their fencing posture from a stronger base.