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Crossing Swords
Entering the Fight.

Crossing swords entering the fight

Whether you are crossing swords within strike range, or entering the fight from opposite sides of a field, these first strike and counter strike beginning moves will help your swordsmanship. The first attack is always the most dangerous. If you are standing with the tip of your sword engaged, a good swordsman won't even let you get as far as the first cut. Just the same, many swordfighting bouts do begin this way.

Crossing swords tip to tip and no one moving - a common beginner dilemma. In Chinese swordsmanship we are taught to take the duifang's energy and return it. We are taught that the duifang moves first and I arrive first. Beginners sometimes take that to mean they can never make the first move - so they stand there.

Crossing swords begin

But the Classics also say Yin jin, luo kong, he ji chu. Since I don't speak Chinese I have to rely on the accuracy of the translation that explains this as:

You move... no, you move....
Alt Text--crossing swords first move
  • Entice the opposite to move forward
  • Get him to fall into emptiness
  • Unite with him
  • Throw him out

So don't just stand there. Do something. Use a deflection and take the centre. One of my favourite moves from a tips crossing swords position, is to push the sword offline with a mo deflection while keeping my tip online, and thrusting to the chest - fight over. The European types call this "thrust at opposition". It works really well if the other guy is just standing there waiting for you to give him something to respond to.

Mo to Ci (thrust at opposition).
Alt Text--crossing swords thrust at opposition
Sure ... I did, but you weren't fast enough to take my energy, so I got you! I'm going to give you lots more opening moves on another page designed especially for the crossing swords within, or just out of range, scenaria. But this one will begin addressing what to do when you enter the fight from a distance. Paul Wagner taught me most of these and I've adapted them a little for Chinese styles.

This page:

  • How to step into swordfight position
  • Passing Strike on the off side
  • Reverse lunge

How to step into swordfight position

If you have a lot of ground to cover before crossing swords, use passing steps rather than half steps. For stability, add a 45 degree angle to the foot opposite the sword hand. All you are doing is stepping in basic stance. The back leg is at 45 degrees when you are standing with weight on the back leg. Now keep the same foot angles but walk. The sword side foot steps forward pointing straight ahead. The "back" foot steps past it and lands in 45 degree position so that you do not have to shuffle for stability when you close the distance.

Crossover step.
Alt Text--crossing swords crossover step
If you are stepping forward with your sword arm stretched out, blade pointing at the duifang, you will pose a threat he has to deal with before taking his first strike. If you are sneaky enough and the duifang isn't watching very carefully (listening), you might withdraw the stretched out arm, folding the elbow to hip level on the second to last step. This makes the distance deceptive. The duifang thinks he has more room than he actually has before you are crossing swords at perfect reach. When you stretch out your arm, you will be able to hit him while he thought he had another step before the attack. He will have no time to counter strike.

Passing Strike on the off side

 crossing swords 1
1 Entering

 crossing swords 2
2 Deflection

 crossing swords 3
3 Void

crossing swords 4
4 Counter

Click on the thumbnails to view the whole picture.

(Pic 1) Move in quickly, stepping as above, or even charging in before the duifang has time to think. Extend your arm and sword to point at him on the way. For European swordsmen, the blade position is fully extended in Fourth. For Chinese swordsmen, point a stretched out Ci at his face with the blade horizontal (flat edges to ground and sky). As you come into crossing swords range, pass the duifang on the side furthest from his sword, taking a strike at his head or neck on the way past.

This works best if you use a snake step to pass around your duifang. Snakes move forward by wriggling in curves. If you step forward while drawing a curve with your foot, you give the illusion of moving to one side. The curve can be a C or an S, but it finishes on the same line it started. Soccer players are very good at this. You can use it to step around and change direction in midair.

(Pic 2) It is likely your duifang will try to deflect what looks like an oncoming thrust. A blade up deflection into Gua (rising cut angled from lower to upper torso) would be a good choice. (Pic 3) But as the deflection just touches your blade, bend your elbow to a low inside guard - palm away from your body. This is a forward hanging guard to the right front diagonal (in a right handed grip). The effect is to lift your blade above the deflection, voiding it.

(Pic 4) Then quickly turn your wrist to the palm down position and cut with Hua to the neck. All of this happens in the space of one step - the snake step around, the attempted deflection and counter strike, and your counter to a hanging guard and wrist turn into a cut. Seriously - it's not that hard. I taught children to do it in about ten minutes. Just practise the stepping forward with sword extended, first. Then do that while adding the snake step. Large tree trunks make great pretend people. Next, add the hanging guard that slips over a deflection, as you step. Finally, do all of that with the wrist turn to neck cut. If you do it twenty times a day to the tree, you'll improve to automatic stage quite quickly.

Reverse lunge

A classic lunge covers the last bit of distance from a position not normally within range. Fencers are really good at this. In fact, they are good at all their footwork. Most of the rest of us should spend more time training our feet.

If your duifang is charging towards you and you are not quite sure whether he's going to run you straight through, or do something else, a reverse lunge with the blade pointed directly at his face or chest, will help. Either he will run onto your blade, or he must deal with the threat.

A reverse lunge is executed by taking a long step backwards while turning both feet. The stepping one turns in the air and the grounded one pivots. It will look like an elongated version of bow stance with the sword pointing back, directly at the duifang. If he avoids it, you still have the option of running away and choosing an easier way of crossing swords.

Keep an eye on this page for the next group of ways to enter the fight from a distance.... coming soon.

Leave Crossing Swords - Entering the Fight Part 1 and return to Sword Techniques

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