Introduction to Footwork for the Smallsword

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Introduction to Footwork for the Smallsword

Learning Objective

The student should learn to perform the following techniques:

  • appropriate stance including weight distribution

  • advancing in a straight line

  • retiring in a straight line

  • advancing circularly

  • retiring circularly

  • lunging and recovering

  • retiring by leaping back on the straight line

Pre-requisite knowledge

  • None, except for Exercise 9, which requires the student to be competent at thrusting.

Required equipment

  • Smooth, unobstructed surfaced teaching area

  • Suitable footwear for teacher and student

  • Suitable weapon and protective equipment (mask and jacket) for Exercise 9


  1. Show the student figures 1 and 2 from Hope’s New Method. Point out the pertinent features of the stance: upright posture, bent knees, perpendicular feet, foot spacing, position of the knee relative to the foot, square shoulders.

  1. Help the student adopt this posture, and give instructions as to how the posture is to be achieved in future.

  1. Instruct the student in performing an advance using the single step. Ensure the step taken is no longer than the length of the student’s own foot. Stress the importance of gravity when performing the step. Encourage the student to maintain his body at the same height when advancing.

  1. Teach the student to retire using the single step, stressing the same points as above.

  1. Teach the student to move around a static point in a circular fashion, using the single step. The student ‘advances’ to the right (or sword side) and retires to the left (or away from the sword side). The first foot to move is in the direction of intended movement. The foot should be placed such that it is on a radius extending from the static point, in such a position that when the step is complete, the body is facing towards the static point, rather than being off-line from it.

  1. The student should practise advancing and retiring, circularly and linearly, with a partner. The partner leads the exercise, and makes a single step: the student responds by making a counter move to bring himself back to the same relative position as he started in. The exercise must be performed slowly, no faster than one step per second.

  1. Teach the student that the lunge is a vigorous version of the advancing step. The rear leg is straightened smartly as the lead leg advances. The lunge must not result in the lead knee advancing further than the lead heel, the shin must remain vertical, the body upright. The rear foot ought not be couched, but remain flat upon the ground.
    Recovering forwards is performed by bringing the rear foot up, exactly as in the single step.
    Recovering backwards is performed by bending the rear knee, and as the body weight comes backwards, withdrawing the forward leg to its former position.

  1. Retiring by leaping back on the straight line may be taught once the student has mastered the previous exercises.
    From the extended lunge position demonstrate that by lifting the rear leg off the ground, gravity will bring the body backwards, and force the foot back down.
    Get the student to practise lifting the rear leg, in the extended lunge position, taking care to maintain his balance.
    Next demonstrate that with the rear foot off the ground, pushing back with the front leg results in a leap backwards.
    Get the student to practise small leaps, moving to larger leaps as his confidence increases. Point out that leaping back upon the straight line allows the student to break measure from the lunge.

  1. If the student is capable and suitably equipped, then perform this lesson. The student lunges at the instructor, and is parried. The instructor ripostes, striking the student on the body.
    The student must avoid the riposte by leaping back on the straight line.
    This exercise teaches the necessary speed and ably demonstrates the utility of the technique.


Ask the student to recall the pertinent parts of the lesson. Encourage the student to describe each exercise in his own words, prompting him where necessary.

Encourage the student to use the correct vocabulary (single step, advance, retire, lunge, break measure, thrust)

Reference material

Hope's New Method Figures 1 and 2

Hope's New Method p70
THE Artificial, or second and most safe way of Approaching, called the Single Step, which is by keeping the Legs still in the same Position wherein a Man stands to his Guard, that is the one alwise behind the other, and only making the hind Foot advance, as much, by slipping as it were along the Ground, as the right or formost Foot advanced, or stept forewards;
Hope’s New Method p95 is by fixing of the left Heel, and not the Toe, or Couching the Foot, that all the Body is kept firm upon an Elonge ; for if the Heel be loose, a Man can never have any Assurance of a quick Recovery from a Stretch, which is the only End for which it is directed. AGAIN, there are other Masters, and those of the greatest Esteem, particularly Mon: De Lioncour, who condemn both the former Methods, of either Couching the left Foot, or keeping its Heel fixed in an Elonge ; and in place of both, order a Man to keep his left Foot flate and firm upon its Sole, without altering of it; and maintain, that a Man is not only as firm upon an Elonge this way, but also that he will Elonge or Stretch, as far this Way, as when his Foot is Couched to one side.

This lesson plan was created by The Linacre School of Defence The plan may be used in accordance with this (by attribution, non-commercial, share-alike) Creative Commons Licence

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