by Bill Grandy
BladeFit is a reoccurring article showing quick fitness exercises for Historical European Martial Artists. These exercises can be worked into a fitness routine, used for your pre-class warm-ups, or just inspire you to start moving. Some will be modern-made exercises, while others will be more historically inspired.
The Sword Burpee is a simple variation on the standard burpee. A burpee is performed first by squatting down, placing your hands flat on the ground and kicking the feet back so that you end in a plank position. It is optional whether or not to do a push-up from there. Then you quickly push your feet towards your hands and jump upward with your hands held high. This is an excellent exercise for explosive movement and cardiovascular development.
When adding a sword to this, there are many variations. The above video demonstrates this with a longsword, though that particular weapon isn’t a requirement. In our case, a simple pattern is followed: Two strikes from above, perform a burpee, two strikes from below, perform a burpee. The sword pattern can be changed to be as intricate or as simple as you want. Don’t do longsword? Then use whatever weapon you choose, and whatever pattern you choose. You normally practice rapier? No problem, make two lunges with your weapon in hand, do a burpee, then follow two inquartatas, and repeat. Regardless of the weapon, it is recommended that you do not do too many attacks between each burpee, as this gives the body too much of a rest between the bursts of movement. Two or three attacks is probably ideal, though you can alternate between different attacks as you do the drill.
Once you have the motion down, decide on the number of repetitions you want to do. A good way to practice is to do multiple sets with short breaks in between to allow the heart rate to speed up and slow down. For example, do a set of ten, take a 15 second break, then repeat the set. You will obviously have to adjust for your own fitness level, and for the goal of the exercise (e.g. using this as a warm-up before training will be different than using it as a stand alone fitness exercise).
About the author: Bill Grandy is the Director of Historical Swordsmanship at the Virginia Academy of Fencing, where he has taught professionally since 2001. His HEMA studies began in 1998 (back before anyone called it “HEMA”), though he practiced modern sport fencing since the late 1980’s, and spent most of the 1990’s practicing Aikido before eventually giving up both when he found his true passion with the historical western fighting styles. His specialties are the German Liechtenauer tradition of swordsmanship as well as the Renaissance Italian rapier, though he tries to find time to work with numerous other weapon arts whenever he can. Bill has travelled extensively to study both period fencing treatises as well as antique arms and armor, and he is also invited regularly to teach at major HEMA events.