I've had two weeks training now with the Warusseppäin Kilta guys and have been having a blast. Training in the German style is interesting, sometimes difficult but ultimately a rewarding experience. The class leader gives us quite an interesting workout when doing our warm-up, with a lot of emphasis on leg stretches and leg exercises. The squats done with our feet in guard stance is a killer on the backs of the thighs!
The footwork is basically similar to what we do in Fiore, although there seems to be less emphasis on a forward weighted stance; more 50-50, with the back foot flat on the ground. One thing that struck me as interesting was the body angulation. I seem to naturally turn my shoulders and hips such that I face square on to the direction I'm going. However, in the German class, we were advised to angle the body: if the right foot is forward, the right shoulder is also forward. Regardless of which foot is forward, the front foot points in the direction of travel.
And so to the bladework. We start off with the meisterhau or master blows. Changing my grip to place my thumb along the handle is difficult for me. Firstly, because it feels odd. Secondly because my new sword, a Violet by Pavel Moc, has a little floret decoration right in the middle of the blade where it enters the hilt. Pressing my thumb on this is uncomfortable after a bit. I was tempted to file the thing off but was advised simply to adopt the "German" grip a little lower on the hilt instead. Simple! Why didn't I think of that? Doh! The meisterhau start with Krumphau,which seem to involve windmilling the sword in front of the body, with the hands extended at chest height. The thumb of the sword hand is towards the body and the movement is generated by the wrists. The hands can be close together or one hand can be on/close to the hilt. These "windmills" are then done to each side as well as above the head, the latter are the zwerchhau (i think). When combined, these windmills form a box around the wielder, which protects him from the front, top and sides. We then do a sort of figure eight motion with the sword, again with the german grip (thumb along the blade/hilt). This exercise is wonderful for wrist and forearm strength and flexibility, particularly if the arms are extended.
I mentioned above the body alignment. This became quite important when practicing sword drill which incorporate the Krumphau and the figure eight movements. I noticed that when my body was square on to my partner, I have to work a lot harder to make these blows and I could really feel it in my wrists. It was pointed out to me that by angling my body, my wrists are less stressed because the sword movements become more natural. Train smarter not harder. It started me wondering about my body position when practicing Fiore. I'll have to keep this in mind when next I'm training. It seems like a trivial thing, but already a little practice in another style has given me some interesting insights into how I usually train. Cool!