How Not to Keep Your Balance

This lesson is all about balance again. After a warm-up we are paired up and told to do an exercise similar to the one we began our first ever lesson with. We face each other and try to get the other off-balance.

(This picture isn’t really an accurate depiction of what we did – as far as I know this exercise is not illustrated in the manuscript – but it gives you an idea of it. Besides, pictures are pretty.)

No matter how I try, there’s no way I can get my pair to move an inch, and I find myself stumbling back constantly. Soon it starts feeling ridiculous. Turns out that I can’t blame it on size: at one point my pair’s a girl only slightly taller than me, but she’s as immovable as the biggest guy in the room.

It really isn’t clear to me how this is supposed to be done. Everyone else seems to know, so I try to copy them. The trick is to twist your upper body sideways as your opponent’s push comes in and so to let that push go past you. There’s a problem though: whenever I attempt to do this my pair simply changes the direction of his push, and then I’m trapped again. What am I doing wrong?

Before I can get a hang of this we move on to the dagger exercises, still with the theme of balance. The attack and defence we are told to do is simple, but there’s a twist: this time we combine the dagger exercise with the falling exercise.


The attacker comes in with his strike. The defendant stops it. So far it’s the usual thing. But now, instead of twisting the attacker’s hand to disarm him, the defendant tries to get him off his feet. He does this by picking a point near the attacker’s shoulder just below the collarbone and pushing there while walking off the strada (in a line perpendicular to the line between the attacker’s feet). For extra effect the defendant can place a leg of his behind the attacker’s leg to trip him.

It’s hard to focus on falling properly when you’re panicking, so my landings are not very comfortable. Thankfully only one of them can really be called painful (never let your head be knocked back when you fall — the weeks of neck-ache is not fun). Making people fall is not much more fun than falling yourself, but it turns out not to be that difficult this time. As the teacher explains, if done properly this exercise requires almost no strength at all. And true enough! I manage to send my father rolling on the ground with little to no effort. Ha!


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