Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Leverage Based Art



...by Benjamin "Casper" Bradak. It wasn’t long ago that I heard about someone who claims expertise in swordsmanship (European longsword arts, to be specific) claim that the said weapon is “not a leverage-based weapon.” Need I say more? Not likely, but I will anyway. It took me some time to wrap my mind around this truly fundamental lack of understanding (it is not a misunderstanding), but I decided it’s probably worth a few words in print. Firstly, this calls for some definitions. Leverage: The action of a lever or the mechanical advantage gained by it; the exertion of force by means of a lever or an object used in the manner of a lever; influence or power used to achieve a desired result. Lever: A rigid bar pivoted about a fulcrum, used to transfer a force to a load and usually to provide a mechanical advantage when pressure is applied to one end. I’m not a mechanical engineer, but as a professional martial artist, there are a few things you have to know about quite a few fields, including anatomy, physiology, psychology, biomechanics, and of course, applied physics, of which leverage plays a major part. You see, the martial arts, starting with unarmed arts, are based on the application of leverage. The arm is leverage based. The leg is leverage based. When you hit someone, you’re applying leverage fast. When you lock or throw someone, you’re applying even greater leverage, slow (relatively speaking). A punch is applied leverage. A kick is applied leverage. An arm lock is applied leverage. A throw is applied leverage. A weapon is added leverage; it is a lever; using it is gaining mechanical advantage through applying a lever. An assumption that you can take for granted is that when you take up a weapon, it is primarily because it gives Mechanical Advantage, which translates into a Combat Multiplier. The leverage a weapon produces increases with its length. The leverage of a weapon is the primary principle behind its ability to allow you to strike harder or lock up an opponent more easily. When you place an opponent in an armlock with a longsword or a club, it makes it easier. That’s because you’re using it as a lever (just like a crowbar). When you cut an opponent, the point moves faster than your hand and strikes harder, too, because it is being used as a lever. In summary, a lever amplifies an input force to provide a greater output force, which is said to provide leverage. In all, there are three classes of levers, and in regard to the longsword, it is usually used as a class 1 lever, though this can change depending on the techniques with which it is employed. With a class 1 lever, the fulcrum is in the middle, your effort is applied to one side, and the resistance is on the other. To further illustrate this, we actually use a moving fulcrum with two hands on the weapon. Your coordinated hand, the one by the guard, is the moving fulcrum around which the weapon pivots (not to be confused with the weapons center of gravity). Your other hand, near the pommel, is the one applying most of the force to the weapon. The blade is the resistance as you accelerate it and overcome its inertia, and the opponent becomes the resistance on the impact and follow-through of your cut. To think that any given weapon is not “leverage based” is a lack of understanding that cuts to the core and root of one’s knowledge base. Not only are weapons levers in and of themselves, in that if they were not, they would provide little to no advantage at all, but one’s body, and the martial arts in the entirety of their physical application, if not spiritual and psychological application, are inherently leverage based applications. But let’s look more closely at the longsword. If you’ve studied its use, you will know about the concepts of the strong and weak of the blade. To what does this refer? It refers to leverage, no more, no less, and certainly nothing else. One requires an understanding of leverage in order to understand its use at all. You have to understand how to apply the strong and weak leverage points of the blade. Not only against a target, but correspondingly against the strong and weak leverage points of the opponent’s blade, and how the applied leverage can affect his weapon, your weapon, how it can transfer, and how to adjust that leverage in the blink of an eye based on the feedback you get from feeling that leverage though each other’s levers. Just compare leverage. Try levering the point of your blade against the strong of the opponent’s, and see who has the most. Without knowing your own body's inherent ability to apply leverage, as well as that pf your weapon's, you are lost. In another age, it is swift death. As I’ve long said, the sole purpose of the martial arts is to make combat easier. In no small part, the arts make combat easier by the study of properly applied mechanical advantage, I.e. leverage. In no small part, this is exactly what Hanko Dobringer/Master Johannes Leichtenauer meant when they said If it were not an Art, the strong would always win.

2 comments:

JH said...

Very well-explained, thank you!

Unknown said...

Makes sense to me. I don't know why somone would think leverage is not important.