BladeFit: Balance and Stability

by Dagi Johnson

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.

Warrior Pose 3
Developing core strength and stability doesn’t have to mean doing a thousand sit ups.

The majority of martial arts actions require proper core movement and strength. The core muscles are used to power a strike with a weapon or to make a hip throw. Here are some quick exercises that will challenge and train your stabilizing muscles, core strength and balance. All you need is your body and your sword, or any other type of weight. In the beginning you might actually find yourself doing these without any weights at all.

Each exercise is a combination of several movements strung together without a break in between. Try to do each part for 30 seconds and then transition right into the next part without a pause. If you find this too easy then look for the section at the end for some suggestions to make it more challenging.

1. Chair Pose with Triceps Kick-Backs -> Stork Stand with Lateral Raises-> Single Leg Kick-Out with Front Raises

Holding a sword in each hand get into a deep chair pose. It is called that since the best way to get into it is to pretend you are going to sit down on a chair. Your feet should be hip-width apart, and bend your knees until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor and your knees are directly over your ankles. Bend over at the waist so that your torso is slightly above parallel with the floor. Bend your elbow so that your upper arm is locked at your side parallel to the floor. Your forearms should be perpendicular to the floor. Keeping your upper arms still, straighten your arms behind you. Hold for a beat and inhale, slowly lowering your arm back to the starting position, and repeat for 30 seconds.

Move directly into a stork stand by balancing on your right leg, bend forward at the waist. Hold your swords down in front of you, right underneath your chest, and raise your left leg straight out behind you. Your left foot should be flexed, toes pointing down. There should be a slight bend in your right knee. Pull your shoulders up, back, and engaged towards the spine. Exhale, lift arms up and back so that your arms are parallel to the ground. Inhale and slowly lower your arms back to the starting position, repeat this for 30 seconds.

Move right into a single leg stand, still balancing on your right leg, straighten your torso and lift your left knee so that the quad is parallel to the floor with your arms straight on the side holding the swords. Exhale and lift the arms straight up in front of your torso until they are parallel to the ground while at the same time straightening the right leg kicking your foot out in front of you. This is a controlled straightening of the leg to engage the quad, not an actual kick out. Return to starting position and repeat. Finish the reps on the same side, then repeat on the opposite side. Repeat this for 30 seconds.

Get back into chair pose and repeat the whole exercise switching sides.

 

If you find this too easy here are some tips:

  • Straighten one leg out in front of you while in the chair pose
  • Use uneven weights in each hand. In the video, two different weighted swords are used for this purpose.
  • Perform a little single leg squat while doing the single leg kick-out

2. Crescent Pose with Reverse Fly-> Warrior 3 Pose with Swords -> Single Leg Squat

With your swords in hand, stand with your feet placed hip-width apart. Step forward with your right leg, and bend it at the knee until your knee is directly over the ankle with the thigh parallel to the ground. Your back leg should be completely straight, balancing on the ball of the foot with your heel lifted off the ground. Bend forward, pull your shoulders up, back, and towards the spine. Exhale, lift arms up and back so that your arms are parallel to the ground. Inhale and slowly lower your arms back to the starting position. Repeat for 30 seconds without getting out of the pose.

Transition directly into a Warrior 3 Pose (a yoga pose that is being adapted for this exercise) by pushing off the left leg while pressing your weight into your right foot and extending your arms, swords in hands forward. Lift your left leg as you lower your torso, bringing your body parallel to the ground. Flex your left foot, imagining you’re pressing a wall behind you. Keep your right left straight, but do not lock your knees. Have your head down, gazing at the floor right in front of you. Hold the pose for 30 seconds.

Still staying in the Warrior 3 Pose perform single leg squats on the right leg for 30 seconds.

Transition into crescent pose with the left leg forward and repeat the whole exercise on your left leg, switching any uneven weights you might have.

 

If you find this too easy here are some tips:

  • When you are in the warrior pose punch out each arm alternately
  • Go deeper into the single leg squat

3. Single-Arm Twisting Plank with Buckler Punches 

For the following exercise you can use your buckler, your helmet, your sword or a dumbbell or anything else you can come up with.

Start in plank position, with your left hand on your buckler gripping the handle. Pull the left arm up to your chest in a row movement, keeping your elbows in, then punch the buckler forward; use both feet and opposite hand to balance. Pull the arm back into the row position. Then twist into a side plank on your right arm and punch the buckler upwards; turn your feet towards the side and balance on the feet and opposite hand. Then turn back into the single arm plank position with the left arm in the row position and repeat the forward punch into side plank and upwards punch. Repeat for 30 seconds.

Get back into plank position switch the buckler to the other hand and repeat the whole exercise on the other side.

 

If you find this too easy here are some tips:

  • Add a single arm push up in between each punch

Want a bigger challenge?

Now that you made it through the exercises here are some more hints, some of them you might have picked up on already:

  • Big weights are not needed, body weight is in most cases sufficient to work on balance and stability.
  • When working in positions where balance and stability is required your core is always being trained as well.
  • You can make any exercise more challenging with uneven “weights”, sword on one side, messer on the other, or sword & buckler. Do the same set with switching the weights from one side to the other. This trick is an extra challenge since your core is now more involved to keep you balanced. To test this theory out try to do walking lunges with 10 lbs in one hand and 20 lbs in another and you will see what I mean.
  • Move from one exercise right into the next – do each for 30 seconds. They challenge the same type of muscles with different types of movement.
  • In between every exercise pick some cardio type movement like the Sword Burpees or Sword Ladder from our previous BladeFit articles to get your heart rate up for 2 min and then do the next exercise.

About the Author: Dagi Johnson was born and raised in Munich, Germany and started her HEMA studies at the Virginia Academy of Fencing in 2008 with a focus on the German Liechtenauer tradition of fencing. Her native german background helps the team at VAF to properly pronounce, and at times, understand the terms and descriptions in the historical documents. She is a collector of historically accurate swords and one of her goals is to eventually train her horses for Rossfechten (mounted combat) per Liechtenauer. With fitness being another passion she is also constantly searching for new ways to incorporate swords into fitness routines.

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