Waist Exercises For Sword Training
FOUR CORNERS DRILL
Chinese Sword training involves turn your waist exercises. My teacher says that all the time - "Turn your waist!" He says it so much you would think we would all get it a lot quicker. Apparently, developing correct body mechanics in taiji sword does not come naturally to students. This article describes one of our most common turning waist exercises - the four corners deflection drill. It is one of the cornerstones of our swordsmanship and I'm warning you now, it isn't easy to learn. I suggest taking it one step at a time. Learn the deflection for one of the corners and practise only that until it is natural. Then add the next.
Why Turn the Waist Exercises?
One of the main principles of taijiquan, including the weapons skills is that the waist is the commander
. Our movements do not come from the arms but from the whole body. This powers a strike or deflection more easily. Turning the waist is also an excellent idea if you want to get out of the way of a thrust or straight downward strike with the least effort. If you can direct a strike off line without needing to move your feet, you have faster control of the fight.
What are the Four Corners?
(opposite direction, rather than opponent), is going to thrust at these targets:
- High easy side (the shoulder opposite your sword arm).
- High tight side (the shoulder of your sword arm).
- Low tight side (thigh on the sword arm side).
- Low easy side (thigh opposite the sword arm side).
Imagine those positions as the four corners of a rectangle around your body and you have the basis for the sword training drill. The tight side areas require more than being good at turning waist exercises. You will need to spiral down, rooted through the rear foot, loosening and opening your hip joints as you pivot on the ball of the forward foot. You sink by opening wider between the legs.
Your deflections for the four corners are:
- A Mo deflection to the high easy side.
- An elbow up, blade down deflection to the high tight side.
- A spinning deflection (moulinette parry) anticlockwise inside the cut to the low tight side.
- A spinning deflection (moulinette parry) clockwise, across your body and inside the cut to the low easy side.
All deflections use the flat of the blade. This means these are turning the wrist exercises at the same time as being turning the waist exercises.
High Easy Side
High Tight Side
Low Tight Side
Putting it together
This is a two person deflection drill. I'l describe it right handed.
- Matt thrusts to the high easy side and Emily parries (deflects) by turning her waist left and her blade up into Mo.
- Emily immediately thrusts back at Matt's left shoulder and he deflects the same way she did.
- Matt thrusts to Emily's high tight side and she deflects by spiralling down, turning her waist right in an elbow up, blade tip down position.
- Emily now thrusts to Matt's sword shoulder, under his blade. He responds by turning his blade over the top of hers and deflecting in the same way she did.
- Matt thrusts to Emily's right thigh. She responds by dropping her elbow, spiralling down and opening between the legs as she turns her waist right. Her sword makes a clockwise tip down spiral inside his blade, deflecting it away from her body.
- Now Emily thrusts at Matt's right thigh. He has to get his blade over the top before making the same deflection she did.
- Matt thrusts to Emily's left thigh. She moves her sword across her body to make the spinning, tip down deflection. Her blade move towards the back and circles up and forward in this deflection
- Finally Emily thrusts to Matt's left thigh and he responds with the same deflection she did before raising his sword to thrust at the high, easy corner and starting the sequence all over again. I told you it wasn't easy.
- Do the drill left handed
- Use stepping while doing the drill
- Do it from a different direction, eg high tight, high easy. low easy, low tight
- Random corners
- Use angled cuts instead of thrusts
How to learn this drill without too much frustration
Anything learnt in taijiquan, including Chinese swordsmanship, should be taken slowly. More practise of fewer things is the way to go. If you are one of those people who sometimes jumps to the right when someone yells "Jump left!"; if you can park your car somewhere and forget where you parked it; if you tell which leg someone is moving by noticing that one has grease on the knee and your corresponding leg has the ink spot you put on it on purpose; if you have to stand beside or behind the teacher to get the body information in time to hear the words coming out of his mouth ..... do what I'm saying now:
- Practise just one of the deflections thousands of times before moving on to the next.
- Put the top sequence together and practise it until it is automatic.
- Do the same for the two lower ones.
- Put the whole sequence together.
- Use each deflection as turn the waist exercises, concentrating on only that principle.
- Practise solo a lot so you don't frustrate your training partners.
- Teach someone else to do it, using your own words to help yourself learn.
- Concentrate on the angle of the blade as a seperate thing to the waist exercises.
- Work on the spiralling down and up.
- Find someone willing to do it slowly and correctly until all of this is in place.
- Don't speed up more than you can while still keeping the body mechanics correct
- Remember it's better to learn slowly at your own speed than comparing with someone else (or everyone else) who seem to be able to learn faster.
- If you get nothing else, use these waist exercises to turn your waist in a sword fight.
Leave Waist Exercises for Deflection and Return to Basic Sword Fighting Training
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Consider it part of stretching exercises for the mind.