Swordfighting Advance and Retreat

The basic advance and retreat are designed to keep you as balanced as possible and as protected as possible. You start in the standard right stance -

Swordfighting stance

To advance, you start by moving your BACK foot forward slightly, in a straight line forward, as if you were sliding down railroad tracks. You do not want the toes of your back foot to cross the line made by your front foot's heel. That is, you do not want to compromise your stability by getting yourself into an off-balance position. You stay on your toes as you do this. Once the back foot is re-planted, you kick your front foot forward to resettle into a new standard stance.

I think of this in two ways. First, for both advance and retreat I keep in mind that I am COMPRESSING my stance and then regaining it. I am bringing myself in even more small, to make a smaller target and to become more stable. Then I am reseating to be back in my most stable stance. Second, for advance, I think of my back foot as "nudging" the front foot along, encouraging it to move forward.

In retreat, you start by moving your FRONT foot back slightly, in a straight line back, again as if it was sliding down railroad tracks in a straight line. Again, you do not want the front foot to come back so far that it nears the plane of the back foot. Once the front foot is re-seated, the back foot moves back to regain the standard stance.

For this movement I imagine that the number one purpose here is to get out of the way of an attack and that therefore the first thing to move is that leg out front which is in danger. The rest of the body can catch up once that is done.

Another mental cue I have for both is that "advance" and "retreat" both have two syllables which are evenly spaced. This is what you are doing with your feet, two discreet movements that compress and then reset. This differentiates them from "lunge" and "fade" which are both leap-type movements.

For both advance and retreat the carriage must stay upright. No leaning or swaying which leads to off balance. The head should seem to move in a straight even line, to keep your sight firmly focused on your opponent.

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