Building Your Physical Foundation: sword drills

As promised, here are some drills that you can do with a sword or “sword-like object”, as Steaphen Fick says in his longsword book.

First, here’s a great handling exercise from Guy Windsor’s blog:
Let me draw your attention to a few specific aspects:
– arms are extended but not locked
– elbows bend to guide the movement of the sword (many people try to keep both arms in extension when they first do drills like these)
– strong foundation: legs and torso are engaged
– responsive foundation: note how his entire body makes subtle adjustments to support the actions of his upper body

Second, check out this kendo cutting exercise. There are subtle differences between how you hold a sword in this style and how you hold a longsword, but the affect of this exercise on your shoulders is desirable for both art forms.
Let me again draw your attention to details:
– the core is stable.
– shoulders are down, using your lats to raise and lower your sword.
*Watch out for flaring ribs! Flaring ribs are a sign that your shoulders and core aren’t working optimally. If your ribs are flaring a lot, don’t bring your arms as high. Go to the end of your range of motion, and increase as your flexibility and mechanics improve.
– again, elbows are in.

To make the above exercise a bit more “longsword-y”, take the same stance Guy does in his video above, and be sure to hold your sword or sword-like object with the hands apart, about 1.5 to 2 fist-widths between hands.

For endurance and learning the motion, do many cuts slowly. In my daily practice, I do 25 cuts, in 4 sets. In each set of 25, I change which leg is leading, and/or which hand is forward. For martial arts, you would generally only have your strong hand, the hand you write with, forward. However, for stage combat, it is important to have the ability to change sides. If you have aspirations of being a fight director or an instructor, you mush be able to do everything on both sides so that you demonstrated for right- or left-handed actor/combatants.

For building strength and increasing speed, check out this post. It uses the same pattern as the video above, but describes ways to add weight.

Finally, some alterations for when the above exercises start feeling too easy.

Play with the cuts.
– increase the number of cuts in each set.
– do your cuts like sprint training: 10 cuts slow, 10 fast, 10 slow again, or another pattern that amuses you. Shake it up. Have fun with it!

Play with the footwork, too.
– begin in neutral (stand normally, feet parallel and hip-width apart), then step forward into a lunge as you complete your cut (half-pass forward). Sword begins first, and then step.
– from neutral, step back into a lunge (half-pass to the rear). Your ending lunge position is the same, just move your leg back to get there.
– now, passes! Start in a lunge, and then walk forwards or backwards into a lunge with the other foot forward. Take a step forward like you’re walking but you just happen to have deeply bent knees. As Bob Charron says, “just walk like a human”. For my longsword classes, you don’t need to do the “ninjas on ice” foot slide.

Always remember, it’s better to do 2 good quality cuts, than to do 25 with poor mechanics.
Core strong! Shoulders down! Arms relaxed!

Before beginning any new exercise/conditioning program, you should consult your physician, physical therapist, athletic trainer or strength and conditioning coach.

The exercise area must be safe and free of hazards.

Do not attempt any motion that causes you pain, and never force your body into positions.

Use of any information provided in this website is solely at your own risk.


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