On the distance of the lunge

I have been working with Windsor’s conditioning exercises, especially the one for the knees. (Having a family history of knee problems and being somewhat overweight, fencing just adds a third risk factor to an already bad combination.) As I was working through it, it got me thinking about lunge distances.

When I originally started fencing my stance was one foot-length long and my lung three. Later I was taught to use only two foot-lengths for the lunge and extend further over my foot. This was done with the understanding that it would be less strenuous on the knee, if done correctly.

Windsor’s conditioning exercises use a distance of "at least 24", which roughly corresponds to my current lunge distance. Assuming this wasn’t a coincidence, I decided to play with both 24" and 36" to reexamine the differences.

What I noticed was that I could not physically perform a lunge in the Fabris style, that is with a nearly horizontal back, using the longer lunge. I was just bound-up with myself. With the shorter lunge, it wasn’t perfect but it was better.

Now this was supposed to be the end of this post. However, upon reviewing plates 7 I noticed that Fabris’s front leg was perfectly vertical. So I tried it again. This time the longer lunge was much better than the shorter lunge. So what changed?

Turns out that on my first attempt I was keeping my toe perfectly aligned with the target and sword. In my second attempt, it was slightly turned in. Back to the plates.

If you look at Fabris plate 7, you will see what appears to be a slight turn of the knee in the left-hand fencer. This isn’t visible for the fencer on the right, so either or both could be an artifact of the picture and not necessarily what Fabris intended. None the less, I do feel more stable with the slight turn.

Next turning to Capo Ferro, it seems he prefers the short lunge with the leg angled and the knee slightly past the toes.

So what am I getting at? Nothing really, I’m just pondering the differences in the styles of the two masters and how very minor tweaks can radically change my biomechanics.

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