There is no anatomical reason for training women differently than men. There is only one minor difference in the musculo-skeletal structure: a woman’s femur (upper leg bone) enters the hip at an angle that is about four degrees different from the angle for a man. This is to allow the hips to open more easily when giving birth. So, unless the woman plans to give birth during the fight, it shouldn’t make much difference.
However, women are generally smaller and not as strong as their male counterparts. Clearly, this is not always the case, and there are smaller and weaker men for whom most of the following advice will be applicable. Remember that the following is not, in all cases, a complete description of the technique being discussed. It deals with (1) minor changes in technique which will help the user to swing harder and faster, and (2) useful points concerning tactics and equipment.
- It is imperative that women, or smaller fighters, fight with a semi-open stance to allow enough travel for the hip rotation. To describe the stance, start with a line (1st line) directly towards the opponent.
- Start with the feet about shoulder-width apart, with both toes touching the line.
- Assuming that this is a right-handed person, swivel counter-clockwise on the balls of the feet, keeping them parallel, with the angle between the line and the heels being about 30 degrees.
- Draw a line (2nd line) perpendicular to the 1st line such that it crosses the back of the heel of the back foot.
- Keeping the back foot at the same relative angle to the 1st line, slide it sideways along the 2nd line until the heel of the back foot is four to six inches across the 1st line.
- The basic stance requires that the hips be rotated slightly clockwise to keep the shield in front. This also has the advantage of providing more hip movement with which to gain power. It also exposes the back of the shield leg during some blocks, so the armor should extend well around the hamstring.
- The stance should be very upright. Leaning in any direction will reduce the ability to rotate, and thereby reduce the power available for blows.
- It is vitally important that the muscle just in front of the sword shoulder be tight while in the starting position. This is critical for proper connectivity with the body. This will require the elbow to be back, and preferably up to just under shoulder height.
- The sword can point wherever you desire. For power generation, it is most efficient if it lies across the upper back, just under the neck, pointing down about 15 to 30 degrees.
- The sword should be held firmly, but not tightly. Do not relax the fingers. Hold the sword mainly with the lower two or three fingers. Do not plan on using your wrist or the closing of your fingers to supply power.
- The sword itself should be reasonably long (usually not less than 34”), not excessively heavy, and balanced as far towards the tip as possible (add extra edging towards the tip, and put some on the back of the last 6 inches of the sword to help the balance).
- This gives more bang for the buck. Longer swords require more technique. Shorter swords require more strength. It is more likely that a small fighter can develop sufficient technique to use a long sword. You have to be pretty strong to use a short, heavy sword effectively. You decide.
- Also, if you have very small hands, you may not be able to reach as far around the grip as a larger person. This means that you may have to mark the striking edge of the blade further around towards your fingertips, in relation to your grip. Try this out, and see where the front edge of the sword should be
- When throwing a snap:
- The elbow should come around as far out from the body as possible, while the hand should stay on a direct line towards the target. Keeping the elbow out adds to the kinetic energy of the sword, when it finally moves forward. Keeping the hand in makes the balance of the sword stay closer to center, making it easier to get moving.
- Ensure that your stomach is tight as you drive forward and around with the hips. Be sure that the stomach connects the upper and lower body at the start of the blow. The hips shouldn't move around as quickly as in a Karate blow. They should move such that they start when the blow is started, and complete their movement just as the sword hand leaves the shoulder.
- Watch how soon in the blow the sword hand turns palm-up. The sooner in the blow, the better – before the sword leaves your shoulder. The later the turn, the more strength is required to provide the torque, and the more damage will be incurred by the elbow and shoulder.
- When retrieving the sword after a blow, keep the elbow in, keep the sword out, and try to return the sword well out to your sword side, preferable to the direction defined by extending the line through the front of your feet (if you’re in the proper stance.) This will be to a point about 30 degrees on your sword side from straight back. Don’t pull it towards your body.
- Be sure to pull the sword back far enough to accumulate energy. It is not useful to get your sword quickly to the next target, if you have applied no power to the sword. Try to continue into the next blow instead of returning to a starting position.
- For blows thrown after the first blow of a combination, most of the power should be generated during the backswing, then carried into the foreswing by using good technique to keep the sword on a curved path.
- Use a medium-sized round, half-round, or a heater. Be sure that it's light enough to use, and small enough to swing around and over.
- A center-grip round can provide more static protection than a strapped shield, but it requires a more strength to use effectively. It is also more difficult to use it offensively
- Strap the shield so that the elbow is close to the edge, leaving some room in front of the hand on the leading edge. This effectively enlarges the blocking size of the shield, while maintaining visibility.
- Use an active, punch-blocking style. This allows you to tie your shield movement into your perception of the flow of the fight. A static defense relies more on reaction speed.
- I believe that training with a smaller shield will eventually make you a more accomplished fighter. That being said, if the skill level is constant, a larger shield is usually more effective.
- Try to be mobile. It helps to move mainly on the balls of the feet.
- Never enter range unless you are swinging. (See the description of a “slide step” in the “Movement” paper.)
- Don’t stay in range, unless you’re swinging. Stopping in range means that you are now engaged in a game of “who’s fastest” with your opponent. This is usually not a high-percentage game.
- Find the distance at which your techniques work best, and maintain it when you are swinging.
- Don't get too close, especially to large, powerful opponents.
- Don't get too far away, especially when fighting opponents who are faster on their feet than you are on yours.
- Good attacking points are to the corners of your opponent. Try not to stay exactly in front of them. That is their strongest focus point.
- DON'T DON'T DON'T
- Use a short, heavy sword.
- Use an overly large shield.
- Lean back or forward, especially when you swing.
- Get in too close - you play into the strength of powerful opponents, and you reduce your effectiveness by moving inside of your optimum swing distance.
- Fight sword-foot forward, unless it is part of a moving combination. It costs a lot of power unless performed properly. “Properly” means that the sword hip is not committed until the swing starts.
- Use the "iron chicken" (sword in a static blocking position, at the expense of power), except in extremis.
- Use "mini-wraps", where you turn your hand over on a straight shot. It costs you at least 30% of your power, if you are lucky.
If you are a woman, unless you are very unusual, you will never have the strength and speed of a man. You can, however, develop as much technique, timing, distance control, perception, and anticipation as any man, and more than most. Men often have to overcome testosterone poisoning to become top fighters. You don't. Make the most of it.