In Chinese swordsmanship, you can frequently see stances that involve the swordsman sticking his hand out, like the "Single-Carry Stance" from the Chinese Long Saber manual as shown below.
Is this more of a move that makes you look good in demonstrations, or does it really have a practical purpose? Let's find out.
Not A Stance For Starting Fights With
If you do free-play or sparring with swords, you will very soon realize that this is a poor stance to start the fight with. Most likely your opponent will just make a quick snapping cut to attack your fingers and hand.
I've ever saw a free-play match fought by a Taiji Jian practitioner. He start with his Jian held behind with his right-hand, and his left-hand had 2 fingers pointing in front (classic Jian sword fingers), and he quickly lost both his fingers. He never used this stance a 2nd time for the subsequent matches.
In Western single-handed swordsmanship, you may find that the left-hand (or non-sword hand) tend not to move much. Usually the left-hand is resting on the left-hip. Most of the movements are done by the right-hand, which is actually holding the sword.
But in Chinese single-handed swordsmanship, you will find that both arms are always moving, whether they are holding a sword or not. Why would the left-hand have to move when it's not going to do anything?
There are 2 answers:
Balanced physical development
Both arms get to work out, and over time, you'll have less muscular imbalances to worry about. It also helps with developing a straighter spine. When one side of the body's muscles get stronger, it can distort the straightness of the spine due to imbalance in muscular tensions on the left or right side.
Simulate Holding A Shield
Just imagine the left-hand is holding a Shield, and you can see that the movements actually make sense.
For ANY stances, we have to use them only when it's appropriate. If you use a stance at the wrong or inappropriate situation, then it's a sure way to fail. Clearly, this stance isn't your 1st choice to start a fight with.
In my free-play experience, I've found one situation where stances that involve sticking your hand out are actually practical, like the one below
When the fight gets close range, the left-hand may be used to grab the enemy's sword-hand or just to push his weapon aside, while your right-hand thrusts the weapon into him.
The above is a screen-grab from an actual free-play practice match that I had, so everything is free-response and non-choreographed beforehand. I've used this stance and seen this stance being used effectively many times for close-range sword-fights.
Another possible scenario that I can think of, is fighting indoors where you have to be sneaky. For instance, assassination attempts, or trying to sneak away and avoid a fight.
Police officers and even soldiers use this stance too. The right-hand is positioned behind while holding a gun that's prepared to shoot, while the left-hand can be used for doing things like opening doors.
If you held your sword high up ready to cut down, you may hit the ceiling or the top of the doorway, depending on the length of your sword. If you held your sword in front, like a middle-guard position that most people start their fights in, you may give away your position to the enemy when moving around corners.
The "Single-Carry Stance" when used indoors allows you to move stealthily around, with the weapon ready to deliver a thrust.
I hope this article has helped you to look at the "Single-Carry Stance" in a different light.
Ancient Chinese Martial Arts Manuals