Hungarian Military Sabre Calisthenics

This is very lightly altered from what I was taught by Hidan Csaba. Though the exercises seem rather fuddy-duddy and unfashionable, if one pays careful attention to them mechanically, one sees that they’re actually very intelligently designed for helping to liberate and protect the joints. If a person who is a total physical wreck were to do these twice a week, and then gradually shift to doing them daily, they will do wonders to liberate the body.

  1. Standing in (roughly a) horse stance, twist body to swing the arms behind you. As taught to me, palms are down in mid-air, and go back and forth as though zipping along the top of a table – no twisting the arms or flapping them upwards or downwards.
  2. Raise knee into air as high as comfortably manageable. With sole of foot pointing to ground (“foot flat”), rotate foot in circle clockwise 20x, counter-clockwise 20x. Repeat with other knee.
  3. Holding the arms out to the sides and held straight, circle the shoulders in clockwise, then counter-clockwise circles. This is sometimes done ten times, sometimes twenty.
  4. This is my addition, because unlike students, most older adults are cubicle-farmers and are predictably over-tight in the chest (many times, what people cite as back pain, is back pain — happening because the problem is in the chest).  Variations of it are all over the martial arts world.  Raise the hands up your center-line, and then fan them out like wings as far behind the plane of your body as you can go.  Feel free to round the back during the arm raise, and round open and lift up the chest during the “wing spread.”  Ladies, the chest raise corresponds exactly to “sticking your tits out,” and do not be afraid to do so.  This exercise will loosen the chest in general and eventually help to loosen the ribs around the sternum, which is frequently tight on strong men and on women with large chests, due to the simple amount of weight hanging on the front of the torso.
  5. Keeping your elbow to your side by having your opposite hand hold your bicep, make a circle in front of you with your body.  If you pay close attention to your shoulder, you will feel it moving in the socket, which we want.  Most of us who work on keyboards have our palms turned down during much of the day, tightening the tendons connecting the front of our shoulders and our chests (this is not quite anatomically accurate, but is easily felt by having a partner hold soft hands on the front of your shoulder while doing the exercise).
  6. In the same position, make circles with the wrists.  I tend to do this one sparingly, since it can tire the fore-arm and can be a real problem for those with tennis elbow, but the lion’s share of your focus should not be on strengthening your wrist, but rather on loosening it, so that it will be supple enough to perform false-edge techniques later.
  7. Supplemental to this, would be taking your hands palm up, and extending them as far to the side as your shoulder rotates without shrugging, while the elbows remain pinned to your side, and then extending the hands outward, the elbows moving as if on a track.  Hold the hands as it stretching out from the fingers, which should otherwise be straight but not stiff.  This is a variation on a well-known ballet exercise and has parallels in the internal martial arts. The first part of it is a stretch strongly recommended by my colleague Jim Fesler, who is a highly-skilled body-worker; the latter is my own variation.  it is not part of the traditional exercises as I learned them.
  8. From a rough horse-stance, rock the pelvis forward and back several times, as if hula-hooping, and then in circles in either direction, as if hula-hooping badly.  Teenage males may insert their own commentary.
  9. Either rotate the head in circles, or else shift it side to side.  The shoulders and spine should not move in an exaggerated way, but should be allowed to rearrange itself so that the motion happens inside the entire body rather than being focused on any one vertebra. I tend to do this as a side-to-side exercise.  Hidan Csaba did it both ways, sometimes in the same practice, sometimes apparently as a variation.
  10. Holding the hands together, palms and forearms together and fingertips forward, flap the wrists so that the hands go from side to side.
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  1. Yay! A list! 😀

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