Michael Chidester wrote:Bill Carew wrote:I don’t think each master or period focussed on one preferred balance. Rather, I now think each balance has always had its place in the overall system, for e.g. when far away and out of distance, a high balance is useful for mobility, during zufechten and initial krieg, the middle balance is a nice compromise between stability and mobility and right up close, at grappling and throwing distance, the low balance is especially useful for keeping your centre of gravity underneath that of your opponent. The transition from one balance to another should be tightly controlled, smooth and fluid rather than the aforementioned bobbing or bouncing during the steps.
I agree completely. This is what I've been teaching for the last three or four years.
Likewise I agree, this is what I have bee teaching for the last year. Well, it's what I have been teaching for the last few years, but I only managed to come to the conclusion that this point of view was supported by the various sources (as opposed to being useful but not necessarily supported by the sources) about a year ago
My personal opinion of "die Waage" is that sometimes you can be high, sometimes low, sometimes in between; sometimes with your weight forward, sometimes with your weight back, sometimes with your weight in between. As long as you remain in balance and you can move fluently between the various ways of standing, I would say that you are in "die Waage". Mair does go and break it down quite a bit further, and that's cool; we can see that he thought it was important to have three heights of fighting. None of the earlier masters thought it was important enough to specify in their texts other than to say that one must be balanced.
The way I see it, if someone only ever practices a low stance then they will be good at that, but when the situation calls for a high stance it might be a problem. Ditto for someone who only practices high stances, sometimes a situation does indeed call for a low stance. Admittedly someone who practices low stances will always have an easier time adapting up the way, it is much more difficult to make your stance deeper when you only ever practice a high stance. So we might as well practice low stances (good muscle workout at the very least) but we should be perfectly comfortable changing our hight and weight in the stance as long as we always remain balanced.
I have an interesting note from the karate point of view. Traditional karate up until and including the time of Gichin Funakoshi (so until a little after the second world war) used quite high stances. Even these days, some karate schools still teach high stances. Funakoshi's son Yoshitaka (aka Waka Sensei) did a lot to move karate forward and to introduce new things to the art. Here is a brief but interesting section from a book by the technical director of the karate organisation in which I practice:
William Haggerty, 'Game for a Fight', pages 77-78 wrote:Yoshitaka Funakoshi or Waka (Young) Sensei
Harada Sensei told me many stories about Waka Sensei and most of them amounted to describing a dynamic, energetic and thoughtful karate-ka who basically became the figurehead of modern day karate. Indeed many of the aspects of our practice have been influenced by this man. One of these was the development of the side thrust kicks (ke komi). Harada Sensei described a situation when the senior students were practicing and Waka Sensei struck out a stamp kick which would normally have been a low kick to the leg but instead he raised his foot and struck out to the body. The way Harada Sensei described the event made me think that in some way even Waka Sensei was surprised but from that moment on, side stamp thrust kicks became part of a martial artist's weaponry with many able to strike all parts of the body from toe to head.
Another example of practice influenced by Waka Sensei is the deep stances used in many karate groups. Harada Sensei explained to me that Waka Sensei spent many hours practicing makawara (striking post) and when he did this he was looking for perfect technique and power. My understanding of what is meant by perfect technique and power is the ability to use the body in a natural way and generate energy through the technique which passes through the body that is being struck. Waka Sensei's practice to develop this, was to stand in horse riding stance (kiba dachi) side on to the striking board (makawara) he would then turn his front foot and as his body turned creating a torque like action, he would release his hand from his side to propel it forward and strike the target. Harada Sensei demonstrated this to me on several occasions and it is clear that it produces a strong powerful technique. Due to the long hours practicing, Waka Sensei naturally dropped his posture, firstly to make sure his body was stable and as he did this he naturally lowered his gravity into a deeper stance. While this was happening, he and others recognised that the practice was very hard but developed strength in the legs as well as good technique and so encouraged everyone to practice in this way, thus deep posture became a part of training. The action of moving from kiba dachi to strike the makawara also created what was considered to be a new posture, i.e.e fudo dachi (immovable stance) seen in the picture above and this particular stance became very popular.
After having spent many years practicing these postures, I should point out to the reader that they are very useful for specific purposes such as those mentioned above; however it is important that the practitioner learns and understands how the movement produces energy so that they can put that into all the skills that they train and practice in. They should also recognise that this is a basic practice to learn a particular skill and these low postures are not necessarily the right thing to use when doing other things such as sparring. However, the technique of developing the energy should be carried forward through all practice.
Although that passage relates to karate, I'm sure we can draw the parallel to western martial arts. Apologies for going off on a bit of a tangent but I think this passage is relevant to the notion of balance and stance in longsword fighting.