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Thread: Silver's Brief Instructions: Sliding back when the adversary moves towards you

  1. #1

    Silver's Brief Instructions: Sliding back when the adversary moves towards you

    Hi all,

    In Silver's BI, 2.2, he states:
    But ever remember that in the first motion of your adversary towards you, that you slide a little back so shall you be prepared in due time to perform any of the 3 actions aforesaid by disappointing him of his true place whereby you shall safely defend yourself & endanger him.
    I was wondering how others were interpreting this? It seems to me that he's suggesting to always slide the feet a little back whenever the opponent advances in order to buy time to decide how to react.

    Additionally, later in 2.5, he states:
    ...that first motion of the feet backward is more swift, than the first motion of the feet forward, where by your regression will be more swift, than his course in progression to annoy you, the reason is, that in the first motion of his progression his number & weight is greater than yours are, in your first motion of your regression, nevertheless all men know that the continual course of the feet forward is more swift than the continual course of the feet backwards.
    I read this as "the first step backwards is faster than the first step forward," although I am uncertain as to his reasoning why this is so: is it because the retreater has to move less of his body to get out of the way?

    Thanks in advance for helping a neophyte understand the text
    -Vincent

    Edit: formatting.
    Last edited by Vincent K; 06-21-2012 at 07:36 AM.

  2. #2
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    I think an initial movement backwards being fast has more to do with the muscles involved and it is also a natural reflexive response to a sudden attack.

  3. #3
    I've seen multiple interpretations of the first excerpt. The first would be to slide the forward foot somewhat back towards the rear foot. The other would be to step away from the attack with the forward foot, ie: against a forehand blow your forward leg steps right, and against a backhand blow your forward leg steps left. In both cases, the objective is to void the lower opening while your sword protects the upper opening. This is apparent in the 3rd type of defense he describes. For the 2nd type, refer to 2.10, where he has you draw the rear leg circularly away from the blow. At the moment, I'm having a hard time seeing how you'd slip the leg to complete the 1st response, but I'm sure there's a way.

    The reason why a step back is quicker than the step forward is (IMO) because of the "progression of his number" meaning that as he attacks, he is performing a motion of the Hand, then Body, then Foot (in order of what moves first and fastest to what moves last and slowest), all the while you just perform a step/slype back of the Foot. The First Timing beats the Third Timing. After the first step though, it becomes a matter of physiology, the body can move faster forward than it can backward.

  4. #4
    @Matt:
    That seems reasonable! Oh, and I can definitely attest to it being a natural instinct when attacked

    @Robert:
    Hey, that's a pretty neat analysis! Thanks, that really helps!

    Re: slipping the leg and the first response in 2.2:
    At the moment, I'm having a hard time seeing how you'd slip the leg to complete the 1st response, but I'm sure there's a way.
    Just for reference, the first response in 2.2:
    "...to strike or thrust at him, the instant when he has gained you the place by his coming in."
    My guess is as follows: If the Agent is only closing distance, the Patient could possibly make an attack while shuffling his feet backwards. In particular, I'm thinking about something similar to what Jeet Kune Do calls a "pendulum step" or a "replacement."

    Rather than me sloppily trying to describe this footwork, I'll quote Ted Wong's "Science of Footwork" instead:

    "...the lead leg is quickly drawn back to where your rear leg is, while simultaneously withdrawing your rear leg backwards. The entire weight of your body should be resting on the lead leg at this point, with the rear foot barely touching the ground for counter-balance purposes."
    It is at this point that I would imagine the blow/thrust would be delivered, finally culminating in shifting the weight back towards the rear foot, further removing the body from danger. (Note: I've yet to test this out).

    For completeness's sake, here's the rest of Ted Wong's description of the pendulum step/replacement step:

    As soon as this happens, you have an option to either maintain the On-Guard from this new vantage point, safely out of harm’s way or to immediately reverse the movement, with the rear foot moving back to its former position and the lead leg becoming an offensive weapon of attack by returning fire."
    Of course, with a sword, the latter option of returning fire with a kick (instead of just maintaining guard) is much riskier than in unarmed combat—although there's an interesting article about kicking in swordfights at http://www.thearma.org/essays/kicks.htm. But I digress!

    This footwork + single time countercut to the Agent's arm might also be useable against a low line attack (as it is used in unarmed combat), but my worry is that it would leave the torso and arm too vulnerable to a second intention attack. Another option, would be to use this footwork to get out of distance and "hold the hand in reserve to strike the moment the danger is past" as suggested by Paul Wagner in this post from 2004: http://www.swordforum.com/forums/sho...300#post387300


    Re: 2.10
    For the 2nd type, refer to 2.10, where he has you draw the rear leg circularly away from the blow.
    When you shall ward blow & thrust, made at your right or left part, with any kind of weapon, remember to draw your hind foot a little circularly(10), [B]from that part to which the same shall be made[/B,] whereby you shall stand the more apt to strike or thrust from it.
    The bolded part has always given me a bit of a headache each time I read it. My current understanding of it is: "move your rear leg towards where you could deal a similar blow to the opponent as the one you just voided." In other words, if he were attacking my left with a down right blow, move my rear foot circularly to the right (i.e. outside the line of attack) so that I would be in position to "return the favor." I think this is in line with what you were describing?

    Re: physiology of moving forward
    After the first step though, it becomes a matter of physiology, the body can move faster forward than it can backward.
    Sadly, I've learned this the hard way quite a few times when retreating from "enthusiastic" sparring partners!

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Vincent K View Post
    In other words, if he were attacking my left with a down right blow, move my rear foot circularly to the right (i.e. outside the line of attack) so that I would be in position to "return the favor." I think this is in line with what you were describing?
    That is what I'm describing, yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vincent K View Post
    My guess is as follows: If the Agent is only closing distance, the Patient could possibly make an attack while shuffling his feet backwards. In particular, I'm thinking about something similar to what Jeet Kune Do calls a "pendulum step" or a "replacement."
    Something simpler might be a stepping offline and attacking, striking him 'Before' (or 'First,' depending on whether you count his 'stepping in' as an action of the Patient or a False Time made as an Agent).
    Last edited by Robert R.; 06-20-2012 at 02:38 PM.

  6. #6
    The first move backwards, i.e. pushing back with the front foot has a better, sharper angle for the support axis (pelvis->toes) to the ground, under normal circumstances. Thus it drives the body back in a more flat trajectory than a natural forward step would do.

    Plus, as Matt already said, the step back is hardwired as a natural protection reflex and also a very strong muscle chain is used. That Bonus hits only once though, the alignemnt is not repeatable quickly, so running backwards is less effective.

    Regards, Thomas
    Erschrickstu gern /
    Keyn Fechten lern.

  7. #7
    @Thomas:
    Your point about the support axis is very interesting! I had not thought to think of it that way... thanks for the insight!

    @Robert:
    Something simpler might be a stepping offline and attacking, striking him 'Before' (or 'First,' depending on whether you count his 'stepping in' as an action of the Patient or a False Time made as an Agent).
    True Simplicity is key.

    Additionally, I was re-reading it last night, and came up with another possible interpretation for
    "But ever remember that in the first motion of your adversary towards you, that you slide a little back so shall you be prepared in due time to perform any of the 3 actions aforesaid by disappointing him of his true place whereby you shall safely defend yourself & endanger him."
    Perhaps Silver is merely telling us to maintain a safe distance so that
    ...neither head, arms, hands, body, nor legs be within his reach, but that he must first of necessity put in his foot or feet, at which time you have the choice of 3 actions by which you may endanger him & go free yourself.
    In other words, I think that line means that the Patient should maintain distance such that the Agent must move his feet to attack, thus giving the Patient enough time to effect one of the 3 options Silver's outlined.
    Last edited by Vincent K; 06-21-2012 at 01:23 PM. Reason: typo, minor clarificaitons

  8. #8
    I pretty well agree with what has been said so far.

    Stepping back by bringing the leading foot back toward the rear foot (with or without an accompanying adjustment with that rear foot) is a very fast and natual reaction to someone coming into distance with an attack. As well as removing the lower body (and potentially the entire body) from the attacking weapon's reach, it also buys you extra reaction time (remembering that after Silver, time is tied to distance, ergo increasing your distance a little increases the time you have to react to any attack).

    In our longsword work we've found that not only does it do just what it says on the label, but it also often entices the attacker into overreaching and stepping too long with their attack, as well as giving the defender a little more space to perform their counterattack. The latter is especially useful during thrusting counterattacks (especially early JL absetzen and zornort), where the point sometimes gets 'jammed' up and fails as a result of being too close when not accompanied by a slight backward step.
    Last edited by William Carew; 06-21-2012 at 08:00 PM.

  9. #9
    @William:
    Thanks for sharing your experience

  10. #10
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    this move reminds me of the second kendo kata, where the 'attacker' cuts to the wrist, you see it coming so slide back, dropping the hands slightly out of the way so he thinks he can still hit as you move away, then come back in with a cut to his wrists. This 'luring in' of your opponent is done in several different, but similar, ways for the japanese sword arts I practise.
    Chidokan

  11. #11
    You're welcome Vincent.

    I should add, in addition to moving backward in relation to an opening attack, moving forward into it (to jam it up) or out to either side of it (to step outside it's compass of reach), is also useful.

    Pretty well moving anywhere other than where you were originally standing as the attack was launched is a good idea (to paraphrase Vadi, as soon as you see him begin to move or attack, either move forward or move back, rather than standing still in place). This disrupts the attacker's preferred distance, time and line, and forces them to adjust their attack mid-pace.

  12. #12
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    Interesting discussion! The "number and weight" is pure Aristotle.

    I like what Robert R. said about moving the front foot, which is certainly in keeping with Renaissance movement (gather steps, etc.). However, as a different perspective, it may also be slipping the rear leg back, as in classical épée (i.e. La Marche) or modern sport anything, to gain a bit more distance and thus time for the parry. Silver does like his two-tempo fight, and this has the advantage of drawing the body back a bit while leaving the weapon out.

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