Strength is an important, and much discussed, attribute for any martial artist. You may often hear HEMA instructors talk about strength, and how to increase your strength. Unfortunately the word strength is often being used in a way that is somewhat vague and doesn’t meet the proper definition of strength. So you may hear instructors using the word strength as a very general term, and using it together, or synonymously with, stamina or endurance.
This confusion is somewhat understandable. If we look at a dictionary definition of the word strength, our understanding is no clearer:
“The quality or state of being physically strong“
The Cambridge Dictionaries has a slightly better definition:
“the ability to do things that need a lot of physical or mental effort“
The emphasis on performing tasks that require a lot of physical effort is more helpful, however this is still not precise enough. To gain a better definition, we will need to look at sport science papers.
Keith Farrell and Mark Wilkie sparring with sabres at Edgebana 2015.
People often train a technique in a certain fashion during the drills and exercises of their weekly training session, but then modify the technique when placed under the stress of sparring. Indeed, people who have trained a technique rigorously, when confronted with a test cutting exercise for the first time, will often abandon their training and modify the technique to work better as they believe it must.
Naturally, this often results in failures, in sparring and in cutting, because the student abandons his or her training and begins to make it up on the spot. This occurs when a student does not trust his training, or does not trust his skill at the technique to keep him safe, or does not trust that his sword will protect him.
Therefore, a large part of the instructor’s job is to instill a level of trust in his students: trust in the training they have performed, trust in the mechanics of their strike, and trust in the weapon itself.