PDA

View Full Version : Guard Position



Robert
-28th July 2004, 17:22
Anyone tired of foil rules discussions is clearly tired of life.

So I presume everyone has followed with fascination the discussion about the reversing the shoulders. One of the points that came up is that you can reverse without covering (in some peoples opinion) if you are infighting and adopt a classical guard position.

It made me curious about the variation in guard positions people adopt.

Robert

Farrago
-28th July 2004, 17:34
I presume classic en guarde you mean the "hand flapping about in the air behind your head thing that looks cool" thing? Yep. Epee and sabre I keep my spare hand as far back and as low as possible (I used to hold it behind my back but got smacked across the knuckles a couple of times and it hurt! (and found blood stains on my jacket the next day).)

Boo Boo
-28th July 2004, 17:42
Originally posted by Farrago
I presume classic en guarde you mean the "hand flapping about in the air behind your head thing that looks cool" thing?

That could be down to personal opinion... :grin:

Boo
(feeling mischievious....)

Robert
-28th July 2004, 17:50
As Boo Boo pointed out I meant everything in your description except 'looks cool'.

Robert

P.S Actually looks stupid as well as being a worse position and putting a strain on your arm, as such the 'classical' arm position is clearly the most superior guard, representing the pinacle of zen-like stubborness.

uk_45
-28th July 2004, 17:51
OK i know this is not tottally on topic but the poll is missleading as must sabreus tend to fight with arm by side a behind back does invite covering bizzare i know. (one of comment not invitiong reply as this thread could prove to be interesting)

Robert
-28th July 2004, 17:56
UK_45,

Thanks for that. I was just looking for a description I though people would recognise.

Robert

SarahRhiannon
-29th July 2004, 09:24
I always found it very hard to keep my arm up in the air as i had too many things to concentrate on that way. i have ended up with my hand on my back leg, usually gripping my breeches ( i think that comes from training in baggy tracksuit and always pulling it up a bit). as a sabruer i am aware that this is not an ideal position and it does hurt but i am trying to remedy that! Does anybody else have a similar position?

gbm
-29th July 2004, 10:48
I'm the "Classic Enguarde but tends to drop (not done many opens)"

My shoulder is generally in the same position though, and I have a fairly sharp en-garde angle, which doesn't help me against flickers at all...

Farrago
-29th July 2004, 13:30
Originally posted by SarahRhiannon
I always found it very hard to keep my arm up in the air as i had too many things to concentrate on that way. i have ended up with my hand on my back leg, usually gripping my breeches ( i think that comes from training in baggy tracksuit and always pulling it up a bit). as a sabruer i am aware that this is not an ideal position and it does hurt but i am trying to remedy that! Does anybody else have a similar position?

In sabre or epee I generally hold the loose ends of the buckle things on the back of the jacket (does anyone else think they look like strait-jackets or is that just me;) ). I've learnt the hard way to keep my spare hand out of the way of oncoming blades :eek:
With foil, when we were taught footwork we were also taught to keep out other hand in the classic position, it just comes naturally now. I'm happy to leave it where it is rather than think about it when I should be concentrating on my sword.

Farrago
-29th July 2004, 13:32
D'oh, lost control of my mouse:tongue:

Shann
-29th July 2004, 14:00
I try to use the classical en guarde position. It's better for getting momentum going during lunges since your arm propells backward and touches your leg briefly before you retreat. It seems to be really effective, and you don't have to worry about covering.

My arm was a bit sore when I first started using the position, but I don't feel the strain at all anymore.

rory
-29th July 2004, 14:37
Even if you're using the more common arm out-to-the-side en guarde, your arm should be flung back during the lunge.

The effect should be precisely the same.

The classical en guarde tends to promote shoulder tension if you're not careful.

DrT
-29th July 2004, 15:19
I'm more of an "out to the side" person, myself, and I do throw the arm back on the lunge. However, I think this is probably not as useful as an arm thrown back from a classical position. If the arm is out to the side it travels in an arc around you to end up behind. This must force some rotation of the torso, throwing off your balance. I suppose this wouldn't happen with a "classical" lunge.
:shrug:

Pointy stick
-29th July 2004, 18:16
No doubt the advantages attributed to the classic on guard position exist. No doubt it has disadvantages.

I always get the impression that a big deciding factor is fashion or image: "Look at me, I'm no longer fencing like a keen student, I'm good enough to pick and choose which techniques to use. I can look casual on the piste..." It's a sort of inverse snobbery. Perhaps I'm wrong. I know that I fence differently if I drop my arm or raise it - and it's more than just a balance thing.

The arm is heavy. Its position has to be important for balance, and for propulsion, and for recovery.

Aoife
-29th July 2004, 19:44
I keep my arm pretty much classical, and use it during lunges. I don't get shoulder strain at all (it's normally my front thigh that suffers the most during fencing!)

I used to have it behind my back (yes, yes, covering target) in a 'newbie' way. (I think my coach taught us footwork without mentioning the back arm other than 'keep it out of the way' or something). I stopped putting it there after one sharp rap across my knuckles (by my coach, noless!) during a bout.... it's been classical ever since.

The only problem I have with classical (and this is my bad habbit, not a problem of the stance) is that sometimes I drop my front shoulder too much, thus loosing a few inches reach. Doh!

Robert
-29th July 2004, 22:26
In all honesty, I agree with pointy-stick, the difference between the positions has very limited impact.

Robert

sparkymark567
-29th July 2004, 23:27
Originally posted by Pointy stick
No doubt the advantages attributed to the classic on guard position exist. No doubt it has disadvantages.


I hold my arm by my side, ....but an advantage with the classical position is that it prevents you from covering your target (card offence).

I can't think of any disadvantages with the classical position, I'm sure that you would not have to think about it once you get used to it. Can anyone think of a disadvantage??

Farrago
-30th July 2004, 09:52
I've found some people really telegraph what they're doing with their other hand. It's easiest to see when people have their hand either in the classical position or to the side because it's easier to see it without taking your eye off their sword. This could be a disadvantage.

gbm
-30th July 2004, 11:30
Originally posted by sparkymark567
I can't think of any disadvantages with the classical position, I'm sure that you would not have to think about it once you get used to it. Can anyone think of a disadvantage??

If you use the 'proper' arm-behind-you classical hand position, it tends to turn your body to what used to be the correct en-garde angle. However most people fence straight-on nowadays, don't they? I've been told the disadvantage is that if you have a sharper en-garde angle, you are much more easily flicked to rear shoulder (although most people who still have their arm up are easily flicked wherever they put their arm!). Is this true or just gibberish?

Pointy stick
-30th July 2004, 16:46
Originally posted by goodbadandme
(although most people who still have their arm up are easily flicked wherever they put their arm!).

This appears to be an example of what I tried to describe earlier. It is a linking of "proper form" with "being a keen novice" rather than an "experienced fencer". The implication is that anyone who still does it this way is new, naive, and a sitting duck.

Now, statistically, that may well be the case, but this might be because it's a self-fulfilling prophecy: keen beginners try to do it properly, but their inexperience makes them vulnerable. those who stick with it will tend to start to feel conspicuous and will try to blend in with the more experienced fencers after a certain period of time.

If this is the case, then people with their arm up are easier to hit because "arm up" = "beginner" = "bunny rabbit", rather than because "arm up" = "vulnerable position per se".

randomsabreur
-30th July 2004, 20:24
Arm out to the side/ hanging down the side depending on if I'm doing pointy weapon or sabre.

Out to the side semi-classical for foil/epee to remind me that I am doing a pointy weapon and to avoid issues with covering, and turning shoulders etc.

Hanging down side at sabre, occasionally pulling up left leg of breeches when distracted, as this seems the safest place to put hand so doesn't get hit. At sabre, the rear arm should be relaxed, and there are no issues with covering, only with avoiding pain, so where it is comfortable and low is best

Robert
-30th July 2004, 23:10
Originally posted by Pointy stick
If this is the case, then people with their arm up are easier to hit because "arm up" = "beginner" = "bunny rabbit", rather than because "arm up" = "vulnerable position per se".

Now I wasn't fencing very well tonight but I would hope you don't look at my guard position and think 'bunny rabbit'.:grin:

GBM, you are mostly talking gibberish (no offense intended). You aren't really any more vulnrable to a flick, nor are you really an harder to hit.

I suspect, historically speaking, that the rear arm up has nothing to do with technique at all (but that was just a post-facto justification). The reason I say this is that Bazencourt recognises both guard positions and associates them with the French and Italian schools, and non-use/use of non-sword arm. So in a sense we have probably come full circle, the french held their arm out to show they weren't covering.

Robert

Rdb811
-31st July 2004, 00:11
Well theres over 30 results, so alowing for the self selection of the sample, I'm sure someone whose stats is up to it could crunch the number.

Pointy stick
-31st July 2004, 07:21
Originally posted by Robert
Now I wasn't fencing very well tonight but I would hope you don't look at my guard position and think 'bunny rabbit'.:grin:


I was too busy fighting like a lemon to notice.:( I blame the weather.

Robert
-31st July 2004, 10:43
Originally posted by Rdb811
Well theres over 30 results, so alowing for the self selection of the sample, I'm sure someone whose stats is up to it could crunch the number.

Numbers Crunched

Okay, I've taken it with 31 responses. This shows that roughly

67% of respondents are experienced, 33% novices
70% of novices prefer a classical position, only 20% arm by side
10% of experts prefer a classical position, and 85% arm by side

(Expert and Novice are purely lables for the competition distinction made above).

Now that is interesting and appealing, so I ran a chi-square test. (This compares the distribution of numbers in the responses with the distribution if there was no link between expert/novice and guard position).

Chi 21.55, Looking this up in Neave for 30 degrees of freedom, I got p < 0.15. Which means it would fail an arbitrary level of significance test.

In lay-mans terms the data is skewed, however, it is not so badly skewed that it couldn't have happened by chance. (If you randomly assigned responses to the poll you would get a value this badly skewed 1 in 9 times, roughly).

I'm not a statistician so someone might want to check the calculations (I may have missed a correction for small sample size or limited number of variables) but the test produced roughly what my 'gut feeling' of the data was, namely the sample size is still too small to have a high degree of confidence.

Robert

gbm
-31st July 2004, 12:33
'Fencing to Win' by Simmonds and Morton strongly advocate a classical arm-up-in-the-air-non-sword-arm, despite otherwise trying to be be very modern (pistol grips et al).

Pointy stick
-31st July 2004, 12:54
It would be interesting to see a proper analysis of biggger samples, broken down by country. I get the impression that in the UK, for example, the attitude to this sport (and most others) is pretty complacent. Never mind technique, we're British, and all that. The figures from this small sample show that experienced fencers are less likely to show "classical good form" (in this respect) than novices. This appears to support my suggestion that keen beginners try to obey the coaching manuals, until they become intermediates and adopt the casual mannerisms of the peer group.

Petch66
-31st July 2004, 19:23
I use classical style now but used to hold it flat against side. I changed because i was told it assists with balance...maybe this is true, maybe not. :rolleyes:

Robert
-31st July 2004, 19:31
Originally posted by Pointy stick
It would be interesting to see a proper analysis of biggger samples, broken down by country. I get the impression that in the UK, for example, the attitude to this sport (and most others) is pretty complacent.

To satisfy your curious nature I have reposted the survey on the American group. If I thought I could explain the sabre style option I would repost on the French forum too.

In fact, if there is someone willing to reposte the question to the French forum? I know some of you are on both because I recognise your IDs while lurking in froggy land.

Robert

Pointy stick
-31st July 2004, 22:50
That's a lot of "reposts". Surely one of them will hit on target.

haggis
-1st August 2004, 20:34
Perhaps it would more useful to look at successful international fencers rather than the views and opinions on this forum. To be honest I can't remember the last world foil finalist that adopted a "classical" back arm position and I don't think I've ever seen a decent fencer that held their arm behind their back. That seems a far more convincing argument than anything else.

Regards

Haggis

gbm
-1st August 2004, 20:46
Originally posted by haggis
Perhaps it would more useful to look at successful international fencers rather than the views and opinions on this forum. To be honest I can't remember the last world foil finalist that adopted a "classical" back arm position and I don't think I've ever seen a decent fencer that held their arm behind their back. That seems a far more convincing argument than anything else.

The most convincing argument by far - however it would be nice to actually understand the reason for the adoption of the relaxed arm posture (looking at the results of the poll, incidentally, shows by far the strongest response for the arm-by-side).
I understand, from things said on this forum, that you are a coach, and quite a good one at that. If a fencer came in with his arm up, would you suggest to lower it? If you did so, and he asked why, how would you justify it?
Unless I understand something well, I am never very good at it, so this kind of information is exactly what I need to help me.

PS I have a feeling this post might come across in the wrong way, however I can't think how to word it differently, so I apologise if it doesn't come out as I intended. I'm not trying to be sarcastic or anything. (Honest!)

PPS I definitely don't think you should have your arm behind your back though, because that can't be good for you balance and free movement.

Rdb811
-1st August 2004, 20:54
One of the reasons stated (there have been several threads on this) is the 'locking of the shoulders' if you get the teapot position wrong.

Wht I am interested in is should I get one of my novices coaches to stop teaching it - one does initially, an one doesn't. As soon as the novices see the big guns in action, they all switch to a side arm position - it's less hard work for one thing.

Robert
-1st August 2004, 21:00
Originally posted by haggis
Perhaps it would more useful to look at successful international fencers rather than the views and opinions on this forum.

I can't see how. We were looking at what people adopted, and if there was a difference between beginners and more experience fencers. Looking at international fencers cannot tell us anything meaningful about that.

A more relevant question for you, as a coach, is if (given your own example) arm by side is always better do you train your fencers arm by side from the beginning. And if you do, do you think that the general pattern of training beginners to hold arm up (implied by the poll), shows poor coaching?

Robert

haggis
-1st August 2004, 21:05
Originally posted by Robert
A more relevant question for you, as a coach, is if (given your own example) arm by side is always better do you train your fencers arm by side from the beginning. And if you do, do you think that the general pattern of training beginners to hold arm up (implied by the poll), shows poor coaching?

Robert

Yes and yes.

haggis
-1st August 2004, 21:21
Originally posted by goodbadandme
The most convincing argument by far - however it would be nice to actually understand the reason for the adoption of the relaxed arm posture (looking at the results of the poll, incidentally, shows by far the strongest response for the arm-by-side).
I understand, from things said on this forum, that you are a coach, and quite a good one at that. If a fencer came in with his arm up, would you suggest to lower it? If you did so, and he asked why, how would you justify it?
Unless I understand something well, I am never very good at it, so this kind of information is exactly what I need to help me.

PS I have a feeling this post might come across in the wrong way, however I can't think how to word it differently, so I apologise if it doesn't come out as I intended. I'm not trying to be sarcastic or anything. (Honest!)

PPS I definitely don't think you should have your arm behind your back though, because that can't be good for you balance and free movement.

The traditional arguments for the classical arm position don't stand up to scrutiny. Balance isn't improved by adopting an unnatural arm position and if the classical arm position was necessary for forward drive and the recovery then sabreurs wouldn't be able to lunge. As rdb pointed out the classical position causes tension across the shoulders (and the neck and down the back arm side). If a fencer perseveres with a classical position the level of tension will reduce in time as they get used to it but it will still inhibit free movement of the sword arm and, frankly, why introduce a further hurdle to a fencers development. I also feel that it encourages body rotation when hitting as the shoulders feel linked rather than allowing independent movement. I'm sure I could come up with more if I really put my mind to it but it's late and I'm tired. Hopefully that's a convincing enough case for you.

Regards

Haggis

gbm
-1st August 2004, 21:29
Originally posted by haggis
The traditional arguments for the classical arm position don't stand up to scrutiny. Balance isn't improved by adopting an unnatural arm position and if the classical arm position was necessary for forward drive and the recovery then sabreurs wouldn't be able to lunge. As rdb pointed out the classical position causes tension across the shoulders (and the neck and down the back arm side). If a fencer perseveres with a classical position the level of tension will reduce in time as they get used to it but it will still inhibit free movement of the sword arm and, frankly, why introduce a further hurdle to a fencers development. I also feel that it encourages body rotation when hitting as the shoulders feel linked rather than allowing independent movement. I'm sure I could come up with more if I really put my mind to it but it's late and I'm tired. Hopefully that's a convincing enough case for you.

Regards

Haggis

Actually that was very convincing, and quite enlightening. I should probably point out that my arm position varies quite a lot. Normally the position of my elbow is much lower than that of my shoulder - I do not hold it high up in the air, only the forearm bit goes up (lazy classical style!). I probably lift it sometimes where I am drawing my body back to avoid being hit (when I know I can just outreach something).
I can definitely see the point of the body rotation thing though. One of the old advantages to the classical position was that it tended to rotate the body to a sharper angle, which is nowadays not used much. So if you were square on but using your back arm to lunge with a lot, this would tend to rotate your shoulder position a lot. But since I keep a very non-square guard position anyway, I don't find this a problem. Of course, I have to ask why fencers fencer square on nowadays!

PS My sword arm points forwards. My non-sword arm is sticking out at about 135 degrees to this, it is not behind my (this is too tense). My body is sort of parallel to my non-sword arm, and so is at about 45 degrees to my sword arm.

haggis
-1st August 2004, 21:32
Originally posted by Robert
I can't see how. We were looking at what people adopted, and if there was a difference between beginners and more experience fencers. Looking at international fencers cannot tell us anything meaningful about that.
Robert

True, I suppose. What I was trying to suggest was that the classical back arm position is rubbish which I appreciate isn't really what the poll was looking for:tongue: Looking at successful international fencers as the ultimate "experienced" fencer though suggests a 100% result for the arm by side position. Having seen beginners being taught in a couple of other (more successful) countries, they weren't taught the classical back arm position either.

Regards

Haggis

gbm
-1st August 2004, 21:36
Ran out of time to add to my post. :o:
Other than my body angle and the fact my forearm points up instead of down, my non-sword arm is probably the same as most people.
PPS do you advocate fencers to fence straight on, and why?

ceprab
-1st August 2004, 23:59
Originally posted by goodbadandme
Ran out of time to add to my post. :o:
Other than my body angle and the fact my forearm points up instead of down, my non-sword arm is probably the same as most people.
PPS do you advocate fencers to fence straight on, and why?

I think the why on that is again to do with tension in the arm and also to do with locking the shoulder joint when in an extended position making manipulation and recovery of the blade difficult during an attack.

Or so I was told, and, lo, it seemed to work. So why can't I bring myself to do what I am told and get a set on all my epees?

Robert
-2nd August 2004, 09:43
Originally posted by haggis
What I was trying to suggest was that the classical back arm position is rubbish which I appreciate isn't really what the poll was looking for:tongue:

Haggis,

I found your answer quite interesting, especially that you teach your beginners arm down, and think it is bad to teach arm up. I don't quite agree with you. I think there is little difference between the two positions in terms of advantages/disadvantages, and agree with pointy that it is mostly a style thing.

However, I find it easier to break these things down, so I started a new thread in coaching on the issue:

http://fencingforum.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=2636

Partly because I am interested to see if you are in a minority in your paedagogy.

Robert

Robert
-2nd August 2004, 17:46
The poll posted on the US forum has received over 90 responses and shows a marked difference from our own poll (in particular the classical position is much more popular).

http://www.fencing101.com/vb/showthread.php?p=155887&posted=1#post155887

Robert

haggis
-2nd August 2004, 18:03
Originally posted by goodbadandme
PPS do you advocate fencers to fence straight on, and why?

No, not straight on but not sideways either. Both extremes have disadvantages mainly to do with strain (again) being placed on various parts of the body thus inhibiting relaxed but controlled movement. The main starting point IMHO for a good en garde position is the position of the hips - over-rotation (straight on) causes the back knee to collapse (reducing drive) and encourages the lunge to over-balance and shorten, under-rotation (sideways) places a lot of strain on the lower back as well as making it difficult to defend your shoulder and flank. At a guess I'd say roughly a 30 degree rotation from a sideways on position is about right and that the shoulders should follow the same line.

Regards

Haggis

gbm
-2nd August 2004, 18:31
Originally posted by haggis
At a guess I'd say roughly a 30 degree rotation from a sideways on position is about right and that the shoulders should follow the same line.

Regards

Haggis

Do you mean 30 degrees from straight on, so you are more straight on than angled, or 30 degrees from parallel to the piste, so you are more angled that straight on? If it's the latter, then my natural engarde position is actually much closer to the norm than I realised - the only difference would be that I hold my rear arm fractionally higher at the elbow (but only slightly) and that my arm bends up at the elbow instead of down...

And now that you've described it, even if that's not what I was doing I would be very suprised if I don't naturally find myself doing it!

haggis
-2nd August 2004, 18:48
Originally posted by goodbadandme
Do you mean 30 degrees from straight on, so you are more straight on than angled, or 30 degrees from parallel to the piste, so you are more angled that straight on?

Roughly 30 degrees from parallel to the piste. Have a go at going en guard with your hips at 30 degrees from straight on and see where your back knee ends up - bad for your knee, bad for your lunge and bad for accuracy. Not a fan of the straight on position.

Regards

Haggis

gbm
-2nd August 2004, 18:53
That's almost exactly how I fence naturally! I haven't really paid much attention to it, so I must have ended up there because it is the most natural position. It just feels comfortable, starting at a natural sitting position and as you say keeping every above that in line with the hips and ending with the shoulders and thus the position of the non-sword arm...

As with so many things in fencing, it all starts in the feet (or at least the legs/hips)!

As a very skinny person, I have much to gain from such an angle as well...
I think my slightly raised (but not really thrown back) arm probably helps me stay upright a bit as well, otherwise I might have a tendency to lean forwards.

I shall pay a bit more attention to my stance from now on.

haggis
-2nd August 2004, 19:07
Originally posted by goodbadandme
That's almost exactly how I fence naturally! I haven't really paid much attention to it, so I must have ended up there because it is the most natural position. It just feels comfortable, starting at a natural sitting position and as you say keeping every above that in line with the hips and ending with the shoulders and thus the position of the non-sword arm...


Well, it's a start...:rolleyes:

gbm
-2nd August 2004, 19:31
More fencing tips! At this rate, I'll make the top 300 within 2 years! :tongue:

haggis
-2nd August 2004, 19:45
Anything's possible:confused:

Pointy stick
-2nd August 2004, 19:52
As we've moved on to the front on/side on debate... I know I'm one of the least experienced on here, but this is something I've worked quite hard at.

If you put your feet in the "correct" position, at right angles, heels in line, and feet a comfortable distance apart... now twist your torso to the side-on position and see what happens to your front knee. It drags across into an uncomfortable position, vulnerable to injury.

Turn front on and it pushes across to the outside - equally uncomfortable and vulnerable.

I base my whole on guard position on the best hip position to keep the front knee comfortably in line with the front foot. Everything else then falls nicely into place. I wouldn't put a specific number of degrees on it, but when nothing feels like it's being twisted (knees, hips, back, shoulders) then that feels about right. I guess it's somewhere between 30 and 45 degrees.

gbm
-2nd August 2004, 19:58
Or maybe even the top 400!