Position of the back heel in the epee stance, especially its elevation

Discussion in 'Fencing Discussion' started by PeterGustafsson, Nov 5, 2012.

  1. Goldgar

    Goldgar Podium

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    And his back foot turned forward, most of the time. But you'll notice that right before the only actual lunge he does in the part of the bout captured on that video -- the last touch -- he places his back foot flat on the ground.
     
  2. DangerMouse

    DangerMouse Podium

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  3. PeterGustafsson

    PeterGustafsson Rookie

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    Hi!

    Well, this proves that there are high-level epee fencers who lunge from a position with back heel held off the ground.

    It has been said that from each answer, several questions stem. Here there the ones that pop into my head immediately:

    1. Is there a heel elevation that is too high? If so, how high is that?
    2. Shall all fencers use the heel-up stance once they are advanced enough? Or should some fencers stick to the heel-down stance during their entire career?
    3. If some fencers should fence heel-up whiile other should fence heel-down, how does one as a coach figure which group an individual student belongs to, so that one can give him correct advice?
    4. Should heel-up fencers hold their heel up during the entire match, or are there types of actions which make a momentary heel-down stance more advantageous for them also?
    5. If a fencer is holding his heel too high up, how shall his opponent tactically use that error?
    6. If a fencer is holding his heel up at a time where he ought to have planted it, how shall his opponent tactically use that error?


    Have a nice time!

    Peter Gustafsson

    PS: I had not expected that such a special topic, which I thought could have been answered throughly one way or another, would last that many posts.
     
  4. crquack

    crquack Rookie

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    Heel today, gone tomorrow.
     
  5. Redblade

    Redblade DE Bracket

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    So many excellent questions! And one would think that after such an august body of brainy thinkerers here on Fencing.Net, the mysteries would resolve themselves into very specific answers that we could disseminate amongst the clueless, as has been the way for millennia. And yet... (sigh)

    It's been MY experience that the heel up/down issue rests heavily (pardon the pun!) on only a few aspects: 1. the student's age and/or experience, 2. the width of the fencer's stance, 3. the score of the bout thus far, 5. the ratio of the length of the leading leg tibia to fibula, 6. whether the opponent is left-handed, 7. the student's resting heart rate, and 8. the coach's country of origin. (There's a vital 4th item in the list, but I can't remember what it is right now. Sorry.) ... The final equation is more of an art than hard math, but the gist of it is this: The optimal heel elevation is directly proportional to the intake of breath, and on the exhale the heel goes back down again.

    You can see this clearly on videos of world cup bouts if you slow the action down enough. Every so often a heel will be planted flat on the floor when a touch is scored, but those are outlier luck shots that should be ignored in support of the theory.

    Test it yourself. Secret of the universe, I swear; the truth will set you free. Amen.
     
  6. DangerMouse

    DangerMouse Podium

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    As RedBlade alluded, you are way over thinking this. Instead of worrying about the exact height of the rear heel, think about the end result. You specifically asked about a lunge. What is the purpose of a lunge? At what point does the rear heel impede the student achieving that purpose?

    For my students I don't specifically look at the rear heel unless it is part of a larger problem and getting them focused on the rear heel will help solve that larger problem. If the student has clunky static footwork, I will get them to raise the rear heel and do footwork from the balls of their feet. If a student has a really high locked heel because they are too tense, sometimes getting them to put the heel down some when doing footwork helps them relax overall. Most of the time, the heel is just an easy to see symptom and I solve the issue through other methods.
     
  7. PeterGustafsson

    PeterGustafsson Rookie

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    Hi!


    I might be overthinking it, but to ask me to stop overthinking as akin to ask a bird to stop flying. I want to give my students the best possible possibility to win bouts, which includes fixing even minor mistakes, and utilizing said mistakes when they occur in opponents.

    What you are writing about is non-optimal heel position in your student, and what do do about that.

    What really prompted me to start this thread is the observation of a specific fencer who while having good competitive results, has a habitual heel position that looks really awkward. In regard to that fencer, what I am going for is a possible way to take advantage of that trait, if it really is a non-optimal behavior. This is seen in questions #5-6 in my previous post of this thread.


    Have a nice time!

    Peter Gustafsson
     
  8. Colonel Kolobkov

    Colonel Kolobkov Rookie

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    While it might be possible to exploit footwork of a particular fencer, you shouldn't think of lifting back heel in general as a non-optimal behavior that can be exploited. The very top fencers throughout time, starting with Aldo Nadi in his prime in the 1920s and ending with the likes of Tagliariol nowadays have all been lifting back heels.
     
  9. DangerMouse

    DangerMouse Podium

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    It may look awkward, but how does that fencer move? There is a reason they get good competitive results. Instead of looking for how to capitalize on a footwork trait that is not aesthetically pleasing to you, look for the patterns in that fencer's distance and timing and figure out how to interrupt those patterns. This has nothing to do with the heel position looking awkward.

    It is only possible for students to focus on a limited number things at a given time. Within that, the more specific the details, the fewer things they can work on. If you are spending a large amount of time focusing on the specific height of the rear heel, what are you not focusing on? I would bet that there is something MUCH more important that you could spend your time teaching instead.
     
  10. Redblade

    Redblade DE Bracket

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    Sarcasm aside, you'd do just as well to analyze NBA stars' optimal dribble heights. ... There are far many more aspects of fencing technique that would yield better results for the investment.
     
  11. PeterGustafsson

    PeterGustafsson Rookie

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    Hi!

    I get the impression that this specific fencer has good results despite this stance, not because it. That is because this fencer holds the heel so darn high - at least 4 inches off the piste - and does so for long stretches of time when there is no foot movement. Looks as if there is an invisible high-heel shoe on the foot.


    Well, there might be lower-hanging fruit, but if I do not turn every stone here on f.net, I would not find out that as fast, would I? A negative answer is also an answer.


    Have a nice time!

    Peter Gustafsson
     
  12. DangerMouse

    DangerMouse Podium

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    The problem with this statement is that you are assuming that the high heel position is a problem. It very well could be, but it also might not be. The purpose of footwork positions are to facilitate movement. If the fencer moves well then the heel is not a problem. If the fencer moves poorly, then the heel might be a problem, but the problem may also lie elsewhere.
    Looking at the position of the heel WILL NOT give you insight into how to beat this fencer. Instead look at the movement patterns. Or if this fencer succeeds despite poor movement, look at the bladework patterns. The key is to identify WHY the fencer is successful and then figure out how to take that away.
     
  13. rotmistrzb

    rotmistrzb Rookie

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    The first picture shows a lunge that may have begun a foot or two behind the fencer on the left, who's strike has just been parried. The back foot re-contacts the ground 2 feet+ from the point of start, with a reasonably athletic kendo fencer. the strike must be with the foible (front of the leather band a third from the tip). So no, not center of the blade (the other fencer is closing but it appears to still have been valid had it not been parried). kendo distance is similar to saber distance and the range of the lunge is about the same.

    Recovery backwards is seldom practiced in kendo, although it can be. as Fencerchica observes, one normally either closes the distance to a fist-to-fist contact (a legal corps-a-corps, which is a movement to a temporarily safe zone), or passes like with a fleche- rather more like a pass with flunge since the rear foot does not cross the front foot. However, no real problem stopping and recovering, mechanically using kendo footwork, it's just hard to score (convince the judge you scored properly) if you stop forward motion after the hit. I understand Fencerchica’s point that the mechanics are more like a fleche - but only in a very particular way that does not explain much. (Fencerchica: yokomen is one legal strike done with a true fleche; also when you learn how to do 'short'/small 'men' (head cut) your kendo lunges will feel more like western fencing lunges). What is more interesting is the analysis in track&field sprints (e.g 60 M/100M sprints) if the back leg is much bent or only a little bent. For a while in the 1950s sprinters were heavily bending the back leg on the theory that fully extending the leg applies maximum muscle power, however in modern practice the back leg is only partly bent.... the initial acceleration is faster shifting the center of mass to the fore of the front leg which , aided by momentum, is able to extend at closer to maximum speed. Forgive me for making the obvious point that since world class sprinters including Mr. Bolt are unable to fully accelerate using one extension of one leg, neither are fencers.
    see this sprinter's stance picture.
    http://www.brianmac.co.uk/sprints/block-settings.jpg
    (the blocks do allow heavy use of the calf, but the raised blocks allow only a half extension- or extension from midpoint not from full stretch – this parallels the half extension of the quads and hamstrings).


    About another question about my statement that going off the ball of the foot requires different mechanics “what you do with your hips and how you land on your lead foot is different” in kendo when you drive off the ball of your foot you do not kick out with the front foot (another area of interesting debate) and you try very hard to not achieve any altitude – ideally the front foot skims just over the ground. In effect, as you drive forward gravity is bringing your body down, and by rotating the hips and using torso muscles you lift and reach with the front leg to keep pace with the action of gravity. Emphasis here, kendo fencers work a lot on using the torso in the lunge, both for timing and power, while modern fencers do not. You are reaching with the front leg, but not with the heel. You then land on the flat of the foot, not the heel. Properly executed, there is a stomp (the technical term for which is fumikomi as referenced by fencerchica.) For anyone interested in mechanics, the obvious questions are
    1) how does the greater use of the torso muscles play a role (or not) in a faster lunge? Perhaps worth observing that besides massive calfs, the obvious physical attribute of any world class sprinter is sixpack abbs – sprinters need them and don't even need to do situps to get them.
    2) so what’s with the kick out? If kendo fencers consider it inefficient are they just wrong? (By the way, kendo fencers do not particularly have front knee or ankle problems) Since rules define the end of an attack at contact of the front foot, seems to me a footwork style that lands the heel of front foot long before the momentum of the lunge is over has at least one logical strike against it. I've heard the kickout defended as a speed aid, but doubt that, so really I understand landing on the heel as a sort of braking maneuver.

    I'm no expert but I do know for sure that fencing movement dynamics are poorly understood and informed by tradition and speculation as much as by facts. Besides the questions I raise, witness as well Michael Marx's rants, which I might summarize as being about how he was basically lied to by an ignorant fencing establishment about the proper way to start a kick-out and other aspects of fencing dogma.
    Initial acceleration is particularly important in a fencing lunge, a testable hypothesis is that a partially bent leg and use of the calf muscle (rear toe sharply angled forward) provides initial and total acceleration, and maximum distance traveled (in a fencing lunge context) than limited use of the calf and extension of a more deeply bent leg. I once started plans to test using scientific protocols but that did not happen, in part because I needed people with advanced training in both kendo and fencing, or kendo and fencers players at a comparable elite level, preferably of the same age. Perhaps someone will tackle that question in a thesis or dissertation one day.

     
  14. shlepzig

    shlepzig Podium

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    Perhaps I am just dense, please elaborate the difference between a reach and a kick as it applies to the kendo v. fencing footwork. I don't see any significant mechanical change.

    Modern fencers employ a considerable about of core strength, but the game does not require significant power in the delivery of a touch as compared to a strike.

    "You" as in fencers, or "You" as in an aspriing kendo?
    I have not been taught by any of the coaches I have worked with to land hard on the heel. The landing starts with the heel but is not an instantaneous load. More that the weight transfers rapidly from the heel to the mid-foot in a lunge.

    Sprinting is different mechanically than fencing. Sprinting, your arms are being driven rhythmically to counteract the forces of your legs. You need a very powerful core to couple those two moments and forces. Fencing requires core strength to stabilize the torso through rapid acceleration forward and back, a fencer without good core strength is a floppy noodle. There can be a lot of discussion about using the back arm or the classic scorpion position to drive additional acceleration. I have not found it to be significant source of forward momentum, I do find back arm motion (without resorting to the classic scorpion) helpful for balance and point control.

    You just got me confused, above you said in kendo one reaches not kicks, now you are calling it a kickout. In all photos shared so far, it seems to me that the fencer is potentially covering more ground in a lunge than in a similar kendo strike. I would say the heel landing early in the lunge is for stability rather than decceleration, though decceleration is a consideration you need to address immediately after landing the front foot.
     
  15. rotmistrzb

    rotmistrzb Rookie

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    the 'reach' of the leg is the leg going out before the heel makes contact. In kendo you are almost in full final lunge position when the front foot makes contact while in fencing lunge mechanics the heel makes contact and then the fencer settles into the final lunge position. The difference in feel for me is the feeling of reaching out with the leg, in contrast when I am doing a western lunge the feeling is reaching with the heel.

    Noting I said implies that one lands hard with the heel in modern fencing - I've done it by accident and know it's a bad thing that hurts. One does land hard, like a ton of bricks, on the front foot in kendo. That is one obvious consequence of the mechanical difference of the lunge. (the foot can take it - its a design feature).

    I once read a study that measured the force of the front foot's stomp and it was huge - also corelated almost exactly with level of experience with 3 dan (3 degree black belts) significantly higher force generators than 1 dan which were significally harder stompers than 3kyu kendo fencers. That is another way of saying that it takes 5+years to master the kendo lunge.

    While the stomp is hard, a correctly executed kendo shinai strike is very fast yet light. The power potential is there but its more of a 'crack' than a 'whump'

    Kickout? I meant kickout in modern fencing not kendo. About range, the range is of the lunge is about the same but my own perception is that the longest lunges I have seen are kendo lunges.

    I hope I answered your questions. I only visit fencing net about once every 3-4 weeks if that often, sorry for the delayed responses.
    -R

     
  16. Lars1910191

    Lars1910191 Rookie

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    There is a long discussion of this by (I believe) an Italian fencing master. The summary is roughly this: If you train long enough to make your foot so strong that it will not give under the pressure of initiating a lunge, then you can raise your heel (like a kangaroo). But since very few people can achieve this, almost everyone should leave their heel planted on the ground. The reason is that in the raised position, the flex in your foot will absorb recoil when you initiate a lunge and you will technically be moving backwards until the foot muscles , or the floor, stop you and propel you forward. If you start with your foot planted, it has nowhere to go and all of your energy goes into propelling you forward. Here is a nice picture of Italian Master Barbasetti showing maximum efficiency in his lunge form a planted back heel. Luigi Barbasetti demonstrating lunge.jpg
     
  17. Bonehead

    Bonehead Podium

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    Barbasetti died in 1948, so I don't really think he is going to be a good a good source for a modern physiological analysis of movement.

    Then again this thread died in 2012...
     
  18. Spenzario

    Spenzario Rookie

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    Different tactics to success. Just encourage the fencer to use different styles in footwork depending on the opponent. I teach them in the beginning the L shaped footwork. This is for the equilibrium and knowing the right distance. Later I teach them how to bounce, how to play with their feet. Making fake fleches. My goal with footwork for advanced fencers, is to mislead the opponent. But first you have to dominate the basics.
     

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