Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Rule Four Plates Time!

Once again, it's been a while so let's get in on this. 

There are twelve plates for this rule. I'm going to end up grouping some of them together, because they're a pretty clear progression through the whole action. It's a bit different than how I've done this previously, but I think it'll make sense once they're all lined up.

Interestingly, along with the first picture, Fabris brings up one of the problems that we can very easily run into when examining plates in manuals. Specifically, that they are snapshots in time, and not necessarily moments to be held. "In the illustrations, it may seem that our fencer, after performing a transverse step, is waiting for a tempo; but this was done only to show the position of the foot, body, arm and sword. In real life, all of this should be done quickly and without pause." This is an important thing to keep in mind with most plates, but perhaps especially when we're looking at Book Two, where the entire point is that we should be in constant motion.

So as we begin, plate 130 shows us on the right. Our left foot had landed almost in measure, so we've stepped off-line out to the right, and we're leaning over our right foot as we go. Note that at this point, our sword is still supposed to remain just underneath our opponent's sword. Fabris says that this will make it more difficult for our opponent to find and so they'll hesitate. That may be true, but there's another point to it that we'll see in a little bit.

Anyway! We flip to the left side for plates 131 and 132. I find 131 particularly interesting because if you look closely, our left foot is already off the ground and moving. It's slight, but it's there - the shadow underneath the foot gives it away. Here, as our opponent hasn't moved, we're picking up our left foot to pass forward "along the line of [our] opponent's sword" while at the same time closing out the line to the inside by beginning to turn our hand into quarta. At this point, if our opponent continues to do nothing, we move right into plate
132, where we have finished the pass forward and have wounded them. Fabris notes that by now, the only options our opponent has available are to parry and retreat, but that's simply too little, too late.

Before we take a quick look at the other possibilities that Fabris mentions could have branched out from the ones that are illustrated here, I want to point out a couple things from plate 132. Notice just how squared off we are in there - start with the hips and look both up and down. There's some profiling in the shoulders, and the positioning of the left arm supports that, but that really just seems to be the final moment of structuring your shoulders for a good quarta and a little more reach. Looking at the hips and legs, we are overall in a very squared off position. The hips are almost completely square to our opponent, with only just enough right hip leading to maintain body structure on the attack. The feet are not remotely in line with each other, either.

How could that have gone differently, though?

If back during plate 130, our opponent could have followed our body with the point of his sword. If they did, we lean off over the other foot which has the additional impact of allowing our sword to more easily close out our opponent's sword, which should now be pointing in the wrong direction. We rapidly follow that with another step, and that's pretty much that.

Around the point in the process where we see plate 131 our opponent could try to cavazione, in which case we can "bring [our] right foot on the line with the left and wound [our] opponent in third" which works in part due to the additional breadth and the geometry caused by the body lean off to the side.

The next set of three plates shows us what happens if we had initially moved to the other line. In this case, we're leaning off over our left foot because we initially landed on our right. From there, the process proceeds in essentially the same sequence as the previous one, just on the outside rather than the inside. (As a note, "our fencer" in the plates goes from the left, to the right, to the left here. I really wish that he had called that out in a more obvious way.)

As a note, Fabris once again relies on terza to be his outside guard. It's certainly faster than turning into seconda, but if possible we won't be touching our opponent's sword anyway. He notes that if we're not worried about blade pressure that we can just push through regardless. However, if our opponent moves to parry our sword we can - and say it with me - turn our hand into seconda and wound them underneath their blade. If instead they
cavazione, we'll just turn into quarta and continue straight in with our left foot. If they cavazione later in the process, around the plate 135 stage, we'll also turn into quarta but catch them before they even finish the cavazione and wound them anyway.

Fabris wraps up this sequence of plates by noting that once we are in a place where we're capable of wounding our opponent, the only option they have available to them is to try and break measure, whereas the fencer who is moving forward has a number of options available to them. This is a pretty common theme in Book Two - the idea that once you get sufficiently close to your opponent, and have maintained control over the engagement the entire way, there's a point where there's nothing that they can do about it except to try and retreat. If they do try to retreat, you just keep progressing toward them, effectively replaying the last step of the progression again and again. It certainly has a different look and feel to more typical engagements, where the "there's nothing you can do here" portion of the fight happens later in the play and doesn't last for as long.

Next we have plate 136. Here we see what happens if we initially step off the line with our left foot, and our opponent follows our body's lean with the point of their sword. Remember that our blade was in line directly underneath theirs, so to close out their blade to the inside, all we need to do is slightly raise ours. Here it was brought straight up such that the guard rests on our opponent's blade, which has the convenient side effect of completely closing them out with minimal movement on our part, and by placing our guard directly onto their blade, which is really the ideal way to have blade contact if you have to have it. If our opponent draws back and attempts a parry, we will perform the unsurprising action of turning to seconda around their parry. We lean back to the left to ensure that we can cleanly pass the point of their blade, and strike them as we go.

Plate 137 is also a single plate and not a sequence. Here we see what happens when our opponent tries to turn into seconda and strike us underneath our blade.

Here we began by stepping off-line with our left foot, leaning over it, and pushing forward with our right. We've placed our blade next to that of our opponent's which completely shuts them out to the outside. As we do that, our opponent turns into seconda and lowers their body as they attempt to strike us underneath our blade. The reason this doesn't work is because the movement of our blade is both incomplete and minimal - we're not committing to a large movement. Additionally we are already in motion forward, all we need to so is to lower our blade and stay in terza. While we pass with our left foot, our body and arm lower as well. Comparing this plate to previous plates with a wound (132, 135, and 136) we can see that our arm is somewhat withdrawn. This is to keep our guard strongly on our opponent's blade to force it downward, with the pictured result.

Plates 138 and 139 are part of the same sequence, so we're grouping them up. This is an interesting setup that isn't explicitly described earlier, but if you take a lot of implied instructions it lines up pretty well! In plate 138, we're in quarta underneath their blade, and you can see our left shoulder is running ahead of our right; we've already stepped off-line with our left foot and followed that with our right, and have moved our body over to the left. From here, if our opponent follows us, we'll wound them to the inside in
quarta, just like we'd expect. If they don't follow us, Fabris says that we'll wound them to the outside - but over their sword while we're still in quarta, which is what plate 139 illustrates.

As an aside, this serves as a good reminder of what Fabris means by "over" our opponent's sword. Here, as in plate 137, our guard is on top of our opponent's sword and is forcing it down and away. While yes, our blade ends up under our opponent's guard and arm as well, it is our guard which has the control in the situation; contrast that with plates 132 and 134.

Plate 139 is an excellent illustration of the sword being stronger in the direction toward which it points - which in the case of a quarta is towards the outside. Quarta closes the inside line, but the guard is stronger towards the outside. Similarly, seconda closes the outside line, but is stronger towards the inside. Angles, wrists, and physics are pretty great. Usually I'd want to turn into seconda to really close out that line, but we're already too close to have the time for that, and with our guard right on their blade, it's really not all that necessary.

Finally, we're down to plates 140 and 141. Here we have a visual depiction of what Fabris says to do if we're using this rule and our opponent assumes a very low guard. Fabris says that this doesn't require any "sudden movement" downwards of the hand, body, or feet - you're just moving yourself into position as you approach into measure. 

Note how here we can see a depiction of Fabris' warning from the first section of this rule, how as we lower our guard, we need to be sure to leave the
point of our sword above the guard of our opponent's. If we don't, you can now easily see how that would change the relationship between our forte and our opponent's debole, making it much easier for them to cavazione, take control of our blade, and wound us.  

Plate 141 is the result of the setup in 140 if our opponent doesn't do anything; we've turned into quarta. The only options for our opponent that could extend this play involve breaking measure, and raising their sword to parry. If they do this though, they'll likely bring their points off line anyway, and we can just use our body positioning to remain safe and wound them underneath their blade in seconda.

Whew. That was a lot of material to cover. We have two more rules for the sword alone, but for my next post, I think I'm going to take a break and go through the material we've covered so far and look for similarities, differences, common concepts, and how it all works. I think that looking at each rule as an individual flowchart is perfectly valid and honestly good - you can absolutely approach your opponent and decide as you're approaching which rule to apply - but digging a little deeper might show us something useful, or at least be an interesting exercise.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Book Two, Rule Four for the Single Sword

Yeah, I know, I said I'd have this up a bit ago. These days though, time is a lie! So here we are.

Fabris opens up by saying that this rule is "also founded on an undetermined placement of the sword as you proceed against the opponent." Where rule three focused on proceeding to the outside when you could, this rule focuses more on the inside line, which Fabris points out "requires greater skill." 

To begin, our advance occurs with our chest square on to our opponent's point. This is essentially an invitation, as Fabris says that we really want to convey the impression that we're going to deliberately run onto their sword. This is explicitly to get them to keep their sword directed at our center line.

As we step into measure though, we step off to the side with the foot we enter with. If we're stepping in with the right foot, we step off to the right. If we're stepping in with the left, we step off with the left. When we do this, we'll lean our body off in the same direction, removing it from the line of our opponent's sword "while the opponent's openings will now be open to [us]."

We're keeping our sword near to our opponent's, so we can defend ourselves easily if they attack us as we enter measure. If they don't do anything, we keep going on the side we've already stepped toward to close them out of line completely, and wound them as we take a second step.

If instead our opponent follows our body with the point of their sword while we're taking that first step off line - and this is a pretty neat action - we move forward with the other foot (which Fabris notes "by then should be in the air") and bend our body over it so we move off line to the other side. Then we just go forward and wound them.

Fabris says that these processes are meant for when our opponent keeps their sword point in line with our upper body, more or less. If their point ends up "directed against [our] knee, or even lower" we just move forward straight against it and close out their blade downward with our blade on top, such that they can't lift their sword. When we do this, we need to be very sure that our hilt is what lowers the most, and that our point does not fall underneath their blade at all. If that were to happen, our opponent could wound us with an easy cavazione, since we'd need to perform a contracavazione at close measure. If our point is correctly situated relative to our opponent's blade though, we can wound them while they try to perform that cavazione.

Finally, Fabris notes that if our opponent is to the outside, we shouldn't need to adjust our hand. If they're on the inside though, we'll need to turn our hand slightly into quarta, but be careful not to lower our hilt and create an angle that we could be wounded through.

That's... that's it. It's really short. It's deceitfully straightforward. It also has twelve plates following it up, and I spent a good amount of time flipping back and forth between this section and the plates, trying to make sure that I was visualizing things correctly, which is what most of the next post is going to be. Also, lots and lots of plates.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Intermission: The Warrant for the London Masters of Defense

It's been a while since my last update, and I've still got my notes on the next set of Fabris' rules to go through. As we all know though, things are kind of a mess right now and it can be really hard to accomplish anything.

So just to keep posting anything, here's the text of the Warrant that Henry VIII signed on July 20, 1540 to form the London Masters of Defense, because it's interesting!

Ric. Beste, Humph. Bassett, Rob. Polmorth, John Legge, Peter Beste, Philip Williams, Ric. Lord, John Vincent, Nic. de la Hay, masters of the “Science of Defence,” and Will. Hunt, John Frye, Hen. Whytehed, Gilbert Bekett, Edw. Pynner, Thos. Tourner, Jeffrey Gryffyn, Thos. Hudson, Thos. Tynosey, Hen. Thyklyppes, and John ap Ryce, provosts of the same science. Commission to enquire and search, in all parts of England, Wales, and Ireland, for persons being scholars of the said science of defence (many of whom, regardless of their oaths made to their masters on first entering to learn the said science, upon the cross of a sword in remembrance of the Cross whereon Our Lord suffered, have for their own lucre of their “unsaciable covetous minds,” without sufficient licence, resorted to all parts of England, keeping open schools and taking great sums of money for their labours, and yet have insufficiently instructed their scholars, to the great slander of the masters and provosts of the science and of the good and laudable orders and rules of the same), and to take any scholar so misusing himself before the nearest justice of the peace to be bound in sufficient sureties not to repeat his offences against his said oath and the said orders and rules, or in case of refusal to be committed to gaol. Westm., 20 July 32 Hen. VIII. Del. Westm. 20 July.—S.B. (In English.)

It's really interesting to see that it isn't about going out and teaching, but about going out and dragging off teachers who are misrepresenting themselves or not teaching sufficiently well and punish them for it.


Okay, we're going to try to get the first post up for the Fourth Rule for the sword alone by the end of the coming weekend.

(Be safe, everyone. Okay?)

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Book Two, Rule Three for the Single Rapier, the Plates

Ugh, more than a month for a break? Not cool! Anyway, no changing that so let's just work our way forward by looking at the plates that Fabris included for Rule Three of the sword alone.

Diving right in, we have plate 124! We're the fencer on the right, standing over our left foot, having just stepped into measure and found our opponent's sword on the outside. Up until now, our initial entry has been performed with the right foot leading, and I'm happy to see an example of it happening with the left. (I know at least two southpaws who are reading this right now and giving me dirty looks. What can I say, I'm just being true to the source material here.) This can happen pretty readily when you're approaching with a natural step whichever rule you're applying, so seeing it finally show up in a plate is great. While our fencer is passing their left foot forward, take note of their body mechanics, specifically their feet and hips. Their feet are aligned as you'd expect from a "regular" fencing guard, with their right foot pointed forward and their left foot pointed to the side, even though they're passing the left foot forward. This allows for the hip orientation that you see, which leaves the right side hip oriented towards their opponent. This is really important for us because it preserves our measure as well as the body mechanics we need to meaningfully oppose our opponent's blade, should it come to that. (Try it, though. Pass forward with your left foot but reorient it so that it's pointing more forward. Your hips will very likely relax some, your right hip will drop, and you'll lose range. If you have a partner, have them try to push your extended hand around, and it'll be a lot harder to resist the pressure. Body mechanics are really important, people.)

Ahem, right. Anyway, Fabris tells us that we're to proceed into measure without a guard and find our opponent's sword as we place our foot in the "danger zone." (Yes, I know.) We're to keep our opponent's sword covered without touching it and just proceed to and through our opponent. If they give us a tempo, we take it. Otherwise we just keep proceeding along forward, "with good union of sword, feet and body."

The next plates are laid out in no particular order, and Fabris really just kind of free-forms his way through some what-if problems. Taking a look at the next one, we see "what if when we move to find their blade, our opponent performs a cavazione into a high fourth with a girata?" In this case, Fabris wants us to simply turn our hand into fourth as well, pushing through our opponent's blade and wounding them in the throat. He points out the inherent structural weakness of the girata in terms of being able to oppose our blade - that plus having the advantage of having found them means that we can displace their blade fairly easily. Also, note the position of our arm - we're pushing his blade off to the side fairly strongly, which both ensures our safety as well as moving our blade farther to the inside so as to be able to successfully wound our opponent as they have rotated their body out.

Here we have a similar response, with our opponent turning their hand into fourth and attempting to drop their tip and strike us underneath our guard. The solution that Fabris gives us shouldn't really be a surprise at this point - drop our body and turn our hand into second, wounding our opponent underneath their guard while we shut them out entirely.

The next two plates flow together, one after the other, so let's do that. We approached without forming a guard until we hit measure, and we end up in a fairly high angled third. (Fabris doesn't specify if we're on the inside or outside though; from squinting at the plates, it looks like we're on the inside and frankly, the actions he suggest imply this as well. I know, the rule has us approaching from the outside, but here we are.) From here, we've covered our line, and we're in a pretty safe position. If our opponent doesn't do anything, we can just extend into fourth and proceed through to striking them like we all want to be able to. If they cavazione, contracavazione and strike them in fourth anyway. (I'd suggest extending your arm as you go though, so as to be able to perform a sufficiently small contracavazione.) On the other hand, if they cavazione and you're sufficiently close to them - say it with me now - turn your hand into second, lower your body, and pass underneath their sword to wound them.

Here's the last plate we have for this rule! It's a little complicated and the stance makes it look worse than it is, but honestly? It isn't anything that we haven't seen before, and the stance is just a passing step caught in a snapshot. We're approaching to the outside in third, and this time our opponent tries one of our usual techniques - they turn their hand into second and try to wound us underneath our sword as they push forward with their right leg. To counter this, we lower our point and body both, bringing our sword down on top of theirs as they are moving their blade and coming forward.

If in this case, our opponent tries to push back against our blade by turning back into third, we can simply turn into second to shut him out completely and push forward. If they try to cavazione back to the outside in second, we will - and stop me if you've heard this one - turn our hand into second, lowe our body, and strike underneath our opponent's sword.

Fabris closes by taking the time to point out that these actions will succeed not solely because we're in third and obliging our opponent to move to defend themselves, but also because we have the advantage of already being in motion, which is a clutch point that much of Book Two rests on.

That's the Third Rule! The Fourth Rule is a really long one, so I'll get crunching on that as soon as I can. I may take a break to touch on anything that's come up in the first three, or any other things that occur to me just to clear my head, and then dive into it.

I was also planning on preparing a look at all of this for a Laurel's Challenge event near the end of April, but well... that's not happening now. An online substitution may well end up happening instead, and while I'm not sure what format my material might take then, it'll be interesting to put together.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Book Two, Single Rapier, Rule Three

Let's make some progress here! With this, we're hitting the halfway point of the rules for the sword alone.

No need for more of an introduction so here we go!

Fabris opens by touching on some advantages and disadvantages of the first two rules. For the first rule, he says that it is good because it lets us gain an advantage from farther away. On the other hand, he says that we might give away our strategy too soon, and that our opponent could manage to change things up enough or otherwise find the time to somehow save themselves. This seems fair, and it does square with the instances in which Fabris tells us that we may need to withdraw and try again, or that our opponent could retreat enough to effectively break engagement.

The second rule he describes as good because it really only allows for a single opening, which is close enough to our sword hand that our opponent can't attack it without essentially attacking through our forte. Because of this, we've reduced our decision tree to "our opponent does a really bad idea for themselves" and that's that. It also keeps our sword free and we don't need to worry about performing lots of cavazione, unlike the first rule. On the other hand, he describes it as "laborious" and keeping the arm almost completely immobile is just plain tiring after not all that much time.

Keeping these issues in mind, Fabris describes the third rule as one that will not give away our strategy until far too late, so that our opponent will not be able to move themselves or parry until it is too late. The method that Fabris tells us will accomplish this is this: since our opponent by definition can't wound us until we're in measure, we will not assume a guard at all until we are stepping into measure. We will be approaching our opponent to the outside without being in guard or having our sword in any particular position. As we are stepping into measure with either foot (Fabris specifies "when you lift your foot to step into measure") we will place our forte against our opponent's debole to shut them out of line without stopping, at which point we - as we might expect - are to run along our opponent's blade with our sword without stopping or flinging out our arm.

There aren't any specific details of stances and movements there, but given that we aren't told to form any specific guard as yet, that makes sense. Still, it does feel like it's more theory and less application as yet, so let's see where we go from here.

Fabris then tells us that if we end up on the inside and our opponent tries to parry we - and this will not remotely surprise people who have been reading along up to this point - "should change from third to second, lower [our] body as [we] proceed forward and wound [our] opponent in the tempo of the parry." Nothing remotely surprising here, and in fact this is pretty much right out of rule one, as well as other plays that Fabris illustrates in the first book of his manual. Fabris points out that our opponent will not be able to bring his point back into line but does state that if we have any hesitation or break in our motion after we find their sword then our opponent will be able to find the time to return their blade to line because of that slowing of our action.

So far, so good. Straightforward and we don't have any real surprises yet.

Fabris says we can apply "the same resolution" in passing if our opponent tries to parry without breaking measure as we find their sword - just turn to second underneath, and pass to wound them before they can apply any pressure to our blade. On the other hand, if they retreat as they parry we should cavazione before they touch our blade. This will essentially place us in a starting position, albeit on a different line, and we can continue as normal.

At this point, Fabris points out that we want to avoid "making any motions contrary to a cavazione." For instance, if we make the first motion toward our opponent's blade, we cannot also cavazione in that tempo. If we suddenly lower our hand, we can't bring it back up. In general, this is good advice to remember, but when we're playing games with collapsing our measure and tempo like this, we can't afford to waste any motion.

He goes on to describe how, if we have good enough control over our blade to be able to change the original motion into another one, we can "perform a splendid deception" on our opponent. (Sounds like feinting but okay Fabris, let's hear it.) "As soon as you place your foot in measure, you gain the opponent’s sword. As he tries to meet your blade and resist to it, you deceive him with a cavazione and proceed forward with the other foot, so that he cannot return in line. All he can do at this point is to try to wound you under your sword with a half-cavazione, but you can avoid this danger by simply lowering your point and your body to the same side of his sword. This keeps him out of line as you push your attack home." Okay that's... pretty straightforward and not out of keeping with anything we have so far, really. It seems a bit more... hm. Proactive is the best word I can come up with off the cuff as I write this, but I'll work on it. It seems a bit more proactive than how Fabris has set up his rules so far, which generally seem to be more in the vein of "I have placed my opponent in a no-win scenario and have a response for whatever they might do" as opposed to "I'm going to feint on the way in" but even still, I can get there.

Fabris then says that if our opponent performs a cavazione as we find their sword, or comes forward, we'll just wound them in that tempo. If they break measure as they cavazione to find our sword, we should just contracavazione and keep right on going forward and wound them. If they change their guard while breaking measure, we keep moving forward but we place our sword against theirs such that we can keep running our sword along theirs. Light on details, but straightforward enough with what we've seen in the previous rules.

Moving on, we are told that we should keep the measure in mind, and that it should make us aware of potential offenses or defenses that we might see, and that we should be prepared for them. Sure, okay, good advice but again, not so much with the details.

Fabris does say that he's not going to discuss what to do if our opponent completely breaks measure or they just lean away, because they're not threats. Likewise if they try to cut, we can wound them as they prepare the cut and that's that. If they're moving away as they do this, he says that we can just parry in fourth or second or void the cut and strike them.

He closes by pointing out that this rule requires a very refined understanding of measure. This certainly seems true, as we need to be able to know when we are about to enter our opponent's measure so that we can be entering a guard as we do so, and to be aware of what our opponent can accomplish at any point in the closing of measure.

All that said, this rule so far really reads to me as what would happen if the first rule had a lot of the flowcharts stripped out of it and more or less simply had "do what you need to do" added in. This would be terrible as a first rule, but in terms of following the first and second, it really seems much more like presenting an alternate way to implement the principles that we saw in there, which is great.

Soon, the plates!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Book Two, Rule Two of the Sword Alone: The Plates

It's been long enough, so here we go! Let's look at the plates for rule two of the sword alone. I think that in general they're a lot more straightforward than those for rule one, which I also think is true of this rule overall. In rule one we had a flowchart which was somewhat complicated, at least until we got it all down on paper. Rule two really just concerns itself as to whether your opponent is on your inside or outside and what you should do in either case. Measure isn't explicitly mentioned, and even implicitly isn't as detailed as how it was covered in the first rule. It isn't as though measure doesn't matter, but it's not the primary principle being used here.

Almost as if each of these rules, while potentially standalone, are also examples of different areas of focus for the principles which will allow you to proceed towards your opponent with resolution. Super weird, right?

So let's get to it!

Like we saw previously, this plate is an example of our initial guard position. It removes the lower torso from measure and presents the head, as it keeps both the guard and forte of the sword as well as the empty hand by the face to protect it. As we can see, easily finding the sword is made difficult by keeping it initially quite high, and the squared-off body ensures that you can really only be attacked to the inside. All of this means that you can set up a fairly predictable set of actions from your opponent, which will in turn ensure a predictable decision tree for yourself.

Plate 118 illustrates the next step in this process. As Fabris has previously described, we've lowered our body while keeping the same position of our arm relative to our torso, which brings our sword down to meet our opponent's. This plate also shows one extremely key component of this position - the relative distances of each fencer's body to their swords, and how that impacts the dynamics of the fight. This is kind of a big deal, so let's take a short trip down this rabbit hole before we get back on track with what Fabris explicitly tells us here. (Which also touches on this as well, so it all works out!)

The relative positions of the blades themselves are pretty standard when you think about it. This is where Fabris wants us to get as a general rule - our hilt down by their debole, which is a great position to be. In the plate though, you can see that our head is about as close to our opponent as our hilt, which is in stark contrast to the relative positions of our opponent's hilt and head, where there's a full arm length of space between them. What does that do for us?

So first off, for what is probably the majority of fencers out there, measure is taken from the opponent's sword. There can be a whole lot of problems with that, but I don't think that I'm particularly off base here. What this means is that yeah, your body is probably a lot closer than a lot of people will expect; certainly, it's a lot closer than the relative blade positions will indicate. The upshot of this is that getting your body past the point of your opponent's sword will be a lot easier, especially with the fact that you're constantly moving forward. By the time they cavazione, your torso will have moved past their point, which dramatically reduces the danger that you're in.

In addition to that, remember that your blade is farther out to the side than usual. What this means is that if you've managed to approach to the outside as Fabris tells you to, you're going to force your opponent to take a larger cavazione to get to your inside line and threaten you, and an even larger one than that if they're going to find your blade as part of that motion. Essentially, you're forcing them into a larger and less efficient action if they want to move inside your blade, and you're for sure going to take advantage of that.

Anyway, back to what Fabris says! He notes that with this arm position, if your opponent performs a cavazione that "your body will be as far forward as your opponent's mid-blade." So that all tracks, and a subsequent plate will show us what happens there. Additionally, he notes that if your opponent tries to find your sword, you'll be situated to pass underneath their blade - which we're about to see!

Here we are at Plate 119, and here we are passing underneath our opponent's sword!

Fabris points out that if our opponent is in a higher guard when we move from the situation in the previous plate, this is more or less where we can end up. Note that we can make out our sword being on top of and controlling that of our opponent's. If they're in a lower guard, Fabris tells us to just lower ourselves to match, which we'll see by the end of this series of plates. Finally, he points out that if our opponent tries to parry and raise their sword, we can turn our hand into second and cavazione underneath their sword and wound them from there, an action which we've seen before.

What if they cavazione to the inside? Here we go! You "lean against the opponent's debole with a fourth." I really like the use of the word "lean" in this description. Look at how our fencer has dropped their hip and turned their body into their opponent's blade to bring it into a fourth. Fabris points out that the right foot is "somewhat out of line" which just adds to the full-body pressure on the sword. He also makes sure to point out that we should "continue all the way to the opponent's body so as to complete the pass" because of course he does. He also notes that if our opponent attempts a girata to save themselves then their defense will actually be weaker for it and they will be able to be wounded in the flank or even the back.

Next up, we show what happens if as we approach to the outside, our opponent's initial action is to raise their hand to parry. Here, we should turn our hand into second before their blade touches ours and lower our body to wound them over their blade and arm as our head and body pass underneath their blade.

As a note, take a look at the orientation of the feet. The hip and body position that this allows is really helpful for getting your body to twist into that position more easily and, let's face it, when it comes to these postures I think we'll all take every bit of help that we can get.

Finally, we're going to look at the last two plates together, because they're essentially a before and after set of shots. Like we've been told before, if our opponent takes on a significantly low guard, we should lower ourselves to match them, and that's exactly what we're seeing here.

We're pulling our right side back - check out that foot and hip orientation again! - and with good weight distribution so we can move forward smoothly.

From there, we end up in the final plate in this rule. Once we get to our opponent's blade, we run up it, here in fourth. If they cavazione, we can pick them up in third on the outside easily. If they raise their blade high, we stay in fourth but end up looking more like Plate 120 as we rise up but remain in fourth.

There we have it! Rule two for the sword alone. Body position, body mechanics, and moving around the point of our opponent's sword are on display here, and they are all really clutch concepts to stay safe as we stroll unceasingly towards our opponent.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Book Two, Single Rapier, Rule Two!

We've made it through the holidays, the holiday funk, the post-holiday illnesses, and the post-holiday funk and here we are, back at it and looking at the second rule of Book Two!

This one is where we start to get a little weird. Fabris describes it by saying that "[t]he principal guard pertaining to this rule is a third formed with the body positioned squarely toward the opponent, the chest wide open and the feet pointing forward. The body is curved and the sword-hand is held near the face. The sword-point is suspended in the air and kept somewhat forward, but not so far forward as to enable the opponent to find it without coming into the misura stretta." The description is pretty straightforward, but just because the first time I read it my reaction was something like, "Okay, I can picture this pretty well but that can't be right..." here's the plate from later on in this rule which illustrates it:
Nope. I wasn't kidding. It's a little weird, right?
Yup. Just like that - squared off, your hilt and forte up by your face, and your off-hand up by the other side of your face.

We still have the signature hip hinge, with the lower body voided back. We might square off a little if we're using a dagger or cloak, but not at all to this extent. So what is Fabris thinking with this? What's his plan?

The clutch piece of information for using this initial guard for proceeding with resolution is that you initially want to do your best to move towards your opponent on the outside. Circle a bit if you need but try very hard to be on that outside line to the point that "even your sword is out of presence to that side." As you approach your opponent lower your body while keeping your arm in the same position relative to your body, such that when your hilt is by their point, your blade should be in line with them. Do not extend your arm to strike, but keep it in that position and wound them by stepping forward and passing your blade through them that way. (We'll go into why this is a thing later on in another post.)

What if you can't move to the outside because your opponent just won't give you that line? In that case, place your sword to the inside but don't extend the arm in there, either. You'll stay more squared up than not, kind of, but turn your body from the hips to get your blade to cover the inside line. Lower your body, but again, keep your arm in the same position relative to your torso.

Finally, if your opponent keeps their sword really low, just (ha ha, "just") drop your body low enough such that your sword can close theirs out on either line. Fabris does note that if they're positioned to the inside of your blade, you should turn your right side away in a void as you lower yourself.

Fabris goes on to note that you should not use cavazione in this guard save for if your opponent tries to bring his point high to find your blade. In this case, you perform a cavazione of sorts, but not through a motion of the hand or arm - rather, you withdraw your right side similar to what he described in the previous action, which pulls your sword back and keeps it free. As you do this, advance and step off-line with your left foot, which will turn you such that your opponent is now on your outside, and you can proceed in to wound them.

If your opponent tries to parry you, turn your hand to wound them underneath their sword, similar to the previous rule.

Fabris finally notes that while your face and inside are somewhat open, your left hand will protect your face, and if your opponent feints to the inside, you again cover yourself by turning the body rather than moving your arm.

We'll take a look at the additional plates in the next post, which will help illustrate why keeping your arm in the same position is helpful in this rule. They'll also help show us what is to be gained by turning our bodies to cover ourselves, rather than moving the arm. Spoiler: they help us move our torso (which is filled with squishy organs which should not be pierced) around our opponent's point.