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Common Spear (Yari) Tactics - Lunging & Slipping Body Movements, Timing & Distance

I have used the term slipping to describe a movement where the front leg is within range and the rear leg is not, and by way of avoidance the front leg is pulled back to the rear leg.  This is the term used in Georgian Sabre amongst others.  I have given this tactic its own section as there are a few components to cover.

Georgian Sabre

I have used as a source the excellent COMPANION WORKBOOK By Nick Thomas Instructor and co-founder of the © 2016 Academy of Historical Fencing Version 4  as a reference.  The workbook consists of THE TEN LESSONS TAUGHT BY MR. JOHN TAYLOR, Late Broad Sword Master to the Light Horse Volunteers of London and Westminster. As printed in ‘The Art of Defence on Foot’ by C. Roworth (1804).

The workbook compiles the work of Roworth and Angelo, illustrated with training guides also by Angelo.  The reason I have included western sabre in such detail is that it has all the hallmarks of an art based on playing the long game and its congruence with the spear material already covered is obvious.  Due to the quality of the workbook, I have simply copied in sections of relevance (they are shown in italics - check out Nick's YouTube channel here).

Sabre Stance

The stance is essentially completely hanmi.  The weight is mostly to the rear enabling the front foot as the planned movements are lunging, advancing,  slipping and retreating all with the front foot.  The stance, therefore, is not so wide as to preclude lunging.

Both Roworth and Angelo show the same posture with the body throughout all guards. The feet should be roughly shoulder width apart (14-16 inches). The front foot should point straight towards your opponent, your rear foot should turn to the left, at roughly 90 degrees to the front foot (or pointing a little forward or back from here). The back knee should be bent in the direction of the back foot. Most of the bodyweight should be on the back foot, so that you can quickly lunge, or slip the front foot without having to adjust your weight. 
The body should be well in line, so that your right shoulder faces forward to your opponent, and your left shoulder is drawn well back. 
The left hand should be placed on the left hip, behind the back, or held up to the left near your face if you want to use it as a method of counter balance. 

Sabre Lunge

The lunge is an attack where you advance your front foot and use your whole body to reach for an attack, but without moving the rear foot. It is the standard method of attacking in Broadsword/Sabre. It can be a cut or thrust. Make sure to keep your right shoulder forward and left shoulder back. Move your front foot forward about a shoe to shoe and a half’s length, and bend the front knee, and ensure the sword arm is extended in whatever attack you are making. Always ensure the back foot stays firm and planted, and that the back leg straightens to give speed. The front foot is pointing forward towards your opponent just like it was in guard. Do not take too large a step. Do not reach too far with the body as would be typical of a lunge in rapier. An excessively long lunge is dangerous as it is too slow to recover from with the fast counter cutting in broadsword and sabre. 

Sabre Slip

Slipping the leg simply means to withdraw the lead foot back to the rear foot as the diagrams show. However a slip can also mean to withdraw that target which your opponent is aiming at, as to strike them in response without a parry. In Angelo’s lessons, the leg is always slipped when a parry is made, unless there is a specific reason not to, such as staying in a lunge position after a feint in lesson 2. The leg is slipped no matter whether your opponent is aiming at your leg or anywhere else. This is because they can easily re-direct, and/or feint to cut at the leg. 

Use of the Lunge in the Japanese Spear Examples

The use of the lunge with the spear is somewhat obvious, often accompanied with a thrust.  It is however interesting to think of the lunge in terms of body movements commonly used in Jujutsu.  Jujutsu, I would propose, focusses mostly on the short game - the spear is most definately the long game.

Use of the Slip in the Japanese Spear Examples

Slipping the front foot, often by default, can also be seen through the Japanese examples, more than likely for the same reasons outlined in the notes on Georgian sabre.  In the hanmi stance when playing the long game there seems to be a notion of having the weight transfer on the rear foot, advancing and attacking with cross stepping and lunging, and slipping the foot by default in combination with making a cross stepping retreat to maintain distance.  The focus with the long weapon is on linear movements rather than the lateral movements of the shorter weapons.

In the Katori style, near every thrust is followed by a slip.  I would speculate that not only does this remove the front foot as a target but attempts to avoid the bind which the shorter weapon is seeking.

A Longer Stance & Its Body Movements

To use the slip and the lunge, a longer stance is called for. This results in body movements that are different to those often seen in Jujutsu.  Typically Jujutsu body movements are lateral - they clear the line of an attack to the side - and as the attack still penetrates a sufficient distance they are based on timing.

With the spear we see something different.  Typically the body movements are linear - they clear the range of an attack - and as the line of the attack has not been cleared they are based on distance.

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