Training with heavier swords

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Training with heavier swords

Postby tabiris » 17 Feb 2014 10:20

This is an idea that I've seen mentioned every so often, but it is quickly forgotten about, so I was wondering if anyone has any similar experience to this:

https://medium.com/p/1594e218ae3c

So, having my collarbone dislocated and being unable to train has led me to be slightly frustrated. However, it has also led me to think a lot, a large part of said thinking being devoted to HEMA and ways to improve my training once I can get back to action. My train of thought took me to an unexpected conclusion — well, not completely unexpected, as I’ve already read it in the very awesome book by Luis Preto (Understanding Physical Conditioning, which I highly recommend), but it had just slipped my mind for a while. Simply put, it would seem that training with heavier feders is highly beneficial. To start off with an anecdote that spurred me to write this short article:
The BAM effect

Our group was having our regular trainings. Now, there are a few folks that have trained with us for quite a while but still haven’t got their feders — instead, they have the Pavel Moc Lichtenauers. Yes, those great big hulking monsters of swords that weigh in the vicinity of 2 kg. So when we do drills, they do them with the Lichtenauers. But then came the time for sparring and the Lichtenauers are obviously out of the question, as the general consensus in our group is that concussions are unpleasant. So a feder is found to replace it. I, mostly having trained others, have been neglecting my own training a bit, and so just started getting back to the joys of actually training myself. This meant that I haven’t sparred the guy in a while, and was used to the speed from the drills — which were high intensity, and performed at about the same speed as sparring for those who had used feders. So we start the clock, and BAM I get hit in the face. Unsure of what happened, I go out of distance and start anew, making sure I’m more caref — BAM hit in the head again. After a few of these BAMs, I slowly managed to adapt, but damn!

At the start, I attributed the reason for the change in speed to the difference in weight — I mean, of course a 1.6 kg feder will be faster than a 2 kg monster. But then I started thinking — many of the fastest fencers I know train with heavier swords. Martin Fabian used the same Lichtenauer type of sword as the guy in our group for a long time, and then switched to a 1.8+ kg feder by Moc. Anyone who has fenced him knows how fast and technical he is. Anton Kohutovič has been using Trnavas in the 1.75—1.85 kg range, and he is fast enough to put lightning to shame. So maybe, I started thinking, using a heavier sword trains you to be fast. By this I mean that someone who trains to their maximum speed with a heavier sword for say, a year, will be closer to their full speed potential than someone who has been doing it with a lighter sword.

This doesn’t seem to be a particularly original idea: boxers often use weights to improve their speed when shadow boxing, the key being not using weights that are too heavy (so up to 1.5 kg) so that the muscles don’t switch to working slowly. Of course, I’d imagine similar rules apply to HEMA. Don’t overdo it with the weight, and if you want to be fast, you have to train fast. I know a lot of people in the community disagree on the importance of speed, but it is a big aspect of fencing, one that shouldn’t be overlooked. And while I do agree that speed is only an aspect of it, it still is an aspect. One more thing needs to be said about training the speed of our strikes: people have a tendency of doing things in the opposite way of what they should do, especially in fencing — so when they spar, they try striking faster than they are able to, thus losing proper stance and posture, while going slower than they can when drilling. If you want to be efficient, you must only strike as fast as you can while maintaining correct, and try to go as fast as possible when training. Don’t destroy what you have trained for by trying to be just that little bit faster when push comes to shove.

Again, by heavier swords I do not mean we should start using feders of 3 kg and above. If nothing else, those would hit way too hard for comfort. However, swords that come in the 1700—2000 g range are more in line with what I’m talking about. This allows for the achievement of our speed potential, while still being reasonable in the severity of their hits. If you are uncomfortable with using such a heavy sword for drilling, I’d recommend looking into the 1.95 kg version of the Swing by MBlades. Also to note is that while feders of the weight I recommend in this article are great for drills and friendly sparring, I wouldn’t want to see them prevalent in tournaments, since a greater weight means heavier hits as a rule of thumb, which can easily lead to more severe injuries.

So, that’s it for my short ramble. What do you folks think? Has anyone come to similar conclusions? And if anyone will actually start using a heavier sword, please share your experience!
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Re: Training with heavier swords

Postby mlentzner » 21 Feb 2014 19:08

It is true that high level athletes, throwers in particular, will vary the weight of the implement as part of their training. For example, a javelin thrower might throw heavier or lighter than regulation javelins at different times. The reasons for this is neurological and probably too involved for this venue.

I doubt that this is what is going on based on the quoted text.

In this case, the people using the heavier swords are probably just getting stronger. But there a lot of ways to get stronger. And a lot of ways to get more strong faster.

Lifting weights is the easiest and most direct way. I'm not talking about spending time on the pec deck, but doing real strength moves such as overhead presses, squats, and deadlifts.

If you want to do something more authentic to the time period you could carry heavy stuff around, throw heavy stuff, chop wood, climb trees, and wrestle. The guys who did this stuff for real were essentially professional athletes. There's more to it than just practicing with your sword. I think you need to have the physical strength to properly practice the art.
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Re: Training with heavier swords

Postby tabiris » 21 Feb 2014 22:26

oh, I absolutely agree. This was just about building explosive strength through implementing heavier swords, though having this debate at a couple of places, I've started wondering if we don't actually use swords that are too light.
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Re: Training with heavier swords

Postby fullplate » 22 Feb 2014 16:19

First thing to do is to determine what weight range the real swords(of your choice) fall into. Then evaluate the balance characteristics. Compare to your training weapons and adapt.
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Re: Training with heavier swords

Postby Herbert » 23 Feb 2014 08:32

There are a few things I strongly disagree about and then there are some good thoughts…

First the question is: what is your goal.

1. A sword with 1,7 or even 2 kg is definitely NOT a monster. Having weighed quite some originals I can say that a lot are found in this weight bracket. So if you are simulating a sharp sword then this weight is realistic.
But…

2. Weight isn't everything - in fact it means very little. A proper balance (to simplify it) of the weight is what is important. 2 kg properly balanced are preferable and faster than 1,4 kg that are out of balance.
So the question should be: which balance do I want, rather than focus on weight.
The balance is what makes you fast - not the weight.

3. Then there is the proportion of the sword. One of the reasons why Feders are so fast, is because they often have an overly long handle compared to the mass. So there you can get some speed as well.

4. I have switched from a 1,5 kg sword to a 1,9 kg sword and found no problem in using it. I am as fast as I was before and still faster than some other fencers. This is just a question of the right balance and getting used to the additional half kilo.

5. Speed doesn't necessarily start from the weapon but from many different things. Stance, perception, handling the weapon etc. Maybe they really trained these things.

Overall, a Feder is a lot faster than a real sword mainly due to the difference in mass proportion, handle length and, to a point, weight. A heavy Feder is still faster than a sword of the same weight…so weight isn't the issue.

I think it would be better to train not with heavier swords, but to distinctly train speed: perception of opponents movements (starting earlier), shortening of your movements (less time needed), maximizing the use of the leverage of the handle (faster blade movement) and of course proper tools.

What I found in my years of training is that "fast" people aren't really that fast at all in their movements. They just don't give you any hints as to when they are starting their move, they take every unnecessary movement out of the technique and they use the leverage of the handle.

And then there is psychology…which is a huge part in fencing. Knowing when to start the attack is often more valuable than being fast.

Of course, these are just my observations and thoughts.

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Re: Training with heavier swords

Postby tabiris » 23 Feb 2014 12:47

1. A sword with 1,7 or even 2 kg is definitely NOT a monster. Having weighed quite some originals I can say that a lot are found in this weight bracket. So if you are simulating a sharp sword then this weight is realistic.
But…


True, and I prefer feders around 1,7kg. However, the Moc Lichtenauer is a monster as far as I am concerned. It is still relatively light for its size (2kg for 140cm ain't that much), but it hits like a freight train, therefore it was dubbed the monster.

2. Weight isn't everything - in fact it means very little. A proper balance (to simplify it) of the weight is what is important. 2 kg properly balanced are preferable and faster than 1,4 kg that are out of balance.
So the question should be: which balance do I want, rather than focus on weight.
The balance is what makes you fast - not the weight.


Of course weight isn't everything. Neither is balance. You also have the length of the handle, length of the blade, weight distribution etc. etc. However, weight does make a lot of difference. You might not feel it in a single session, but it makes a whole lot of a difference. Balance is very, very important too, of course, but I didn't want to complicate the article.

3. Then there is the proportion of the sword. One of the reasons why Feders are so fast, is because they often have an overly long handle compared to the mass. So there you can get some speed as well.


Yup. But that's the thing. The lighter the feder, the more the mass will be in the handle, since the blade must be lighter to keep the weight down. This often leads to whippy strikes. I do not agree that you get speed because the blade has so little mass, however. Sure, you get the sword moving faster, but a heftier blade helps you get faster momentum. But what sword is the fastest isn't really an issue. What I wanted to bring to attention was that it seems to me that heavier swords help in developing explosive strength for people to strike faster.

4. I have switched from a 1,5 kg sword to a 1,9 kg sword and found no problem in using it. I am as fast as I was before and still faster than some other fencers. This is just a question of the right balance and getting used to the additional half kilo.


This "getting used to" the extra half kilo is what I was talking about :) Of course I have no way to prove it, but if you were to switch back to the 1,5kg sword I'm reasonably sure you'd be faster. Although speed is difficult to measure in our case.

5. Speed doesn't necessarily start from the weapon but from many different things. Stance, perception, handling the weapon etc. Maybe they really trained these things.


Well of course. I did not mean to say that having a heavier weapon will automatically make you faster, better, stronger. They help, though.

I also wholeheartedly agree with training speed specifically, and not having unnecessary movements. But you can do that with a heavier feder as well and get the benefits of both :)
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Re: Training with heavier swords

Postby Herbert » 23 Feb 2014 13:35

tabiris wrote:
4. I have switched from a 1,5 kg sword to a 1,9 kg sword and found no problem in using it. I am as fast as I was before and still faster than some other fencers. This is just a question of the right balance and getting used to the additional half kilo.


This "getting used to" the extra half kilo is what I was talking about :) Of course I have no way to prove it, but if you were to switch back to the 1,5kg sword I'm reasonably sure you'd be faster. Although speed is difficult to measure in our case.

I do sometimes fence with another sword - the Albion Liechtenauer for example - and I don't really have the impression I am faster than I was.We also have people using Regenyei long swords and they are really light, and with them also I don't have the feeling I am faster. It is kind of…more effortless, but not necessarily faster.
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