Saturday, December 13, 2014

Fabris, Plate 24

It's been a couple days longer than I wanted, but here we are with Plate 24! Unsurprisingly, it's pretty similar to Plate 23, but only on the outside.

"This wound of Third against a Third..."

Fencers start at misura larga, on the outside, in Third. Fencer A will be the victor.


  1. Fencer A "motions to find" Fencer B's sword.
  2. Fencer B takes a step in to either:
    1. Cavazione and strike in Fourth, or
    2. Find A's sword and close to misura stretta
  3. A drops the tip of his sword, intercepting B's debole in the cavazione. A lunges, striking B in Third, to the outside and underneath B's sword.
Fabris clarifies a point after this - specifically, if your opponent's blade is free and he tries to gain an advantage with it and doesn't step in, keep the distance while trying for an advantage yourself. The tempo of the foot is longer than the tempo of the hand. 

On the other hand, he notes that if you do find your opponent's blade, you can take the tempo of him freeing it to step in while turning your hand to find the sword on the other side. 

In short, before you close, find your opponent's sword. Otherwise, bad things.

Short and sweet! Next time, a really cool wound in First.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Fabris, Plate 23 (Also, a book is back in print yay!)

Sadly, the book that's back in print isn't Fabris. It is pretty great though, and you should get it. It's Jeffrey Forgeng's translation of Meyer's Art of Combat. It's not Italian, but it's totally on my list of books to spend some serious time on someday.

Onward, then!

Plate 23, "This wound of fourth against a third..."

This time, Fabris makes it clear that both fencers are in misura larga, and on the inside, both in Third. Fencer A will be the victor in this contest.

  1. Fencer A moves to find the blade of B to the inside.
  2. B lowers his point to strike A underneath the sword.
  3. As A has only moved the point of his sword, he extends his point towards B's body, straightening the blade and turning into Fourth to place his debole against the B's blade, parrying and countering in a single tempo.
Fabris notes that B's mistake is to mistake A's original motion for one which would create a larger tempo. He should have lowered his point but not gone any farther before seeing what A would do. 

This is another straightforward exchange, and continues to demonstrate Fabris' desire to keep using your opponent's tempo. Additionally, I feel that if you perform the motion correctly, your point will always remain free - the only thing places against your opponent's blade is your guard. The downward angle of the blade might seem a little strange to some SCA fencers, but it can work really well if you don't point your blade too far down. You must keep your point inside the body profile of your opponent!

I promise, soon there'll be some more interesting exchanges, but they remain pretty brief, which is okay by me.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fabris, Plate 22

It's barely Thanksgiving, so it's time for me to fire off a drill version of Plate 22!

This description really does benefit from a visual aid, found here. (Plate 22 is on the left.) Note that the blade of our fencer on the left is to the outside of his opponent's blade, but to the inside of his arm. This is important later.

Plate 22, "A third wounding another third."

To break down the actions that get us to the image:

Both fencers start in Third, on the inside. Distance isn't specified, but I'm thinking misura larga. To be clear, in this plate, Fencer A initiates the action and B responds, but A will still wound B.

  1. Fencer A begins with a feint, straight in.
  2. Fencer B moves to parry, dropping the hilt to catch A's sword. 
  3. In the tempo of step 2, A performs a cavazione to the outside, thrusting his sword through the angle created by B parrying and dropping his guard.
  4. B will be unable to push A's sword out because:
    1. A's forte will be right up against B's blade, as in the picture, and
    2. A's blade will be locked against B's arm. (Note that this could be a little problematic for the SCA, where if B is pushing hard enough outwards before A strikes him, A's blade could be locked into place, not having struck anything. It's an edge case, but technically possible.)
Examining this, and comparing it to Plate 21, we can see a lot of similarities. (Which makes sense, if we're seeing the fundamental actions of the system here.) Contrasting it to the second variation of Plate 21 (with the second response that he might use, returning to the outside and wounding in Third over the opponent's blade) , only assuming that 21's Fencer A strikes his opponent, shows us an almost identical ending.

Things of note (which are, unsurprisingly, the same as in the previous plate) include the victor moving in the tempo of their opponent's movement. Mezzo tempo actions are huge for Fabris, and it makes sense that he starts us off with them. Also, we can see a total lack of blade contact until the forte is right up against the opponent's sword - if even that much. Related to that, we start in Third. If there's no reason to leave it, we can stay in Third, regardless of whether we're on the inside, outside, or whatever. There's no blade contact, no need to really oppose the opponent's blade, so no need to move into another guard. Straightforward. Finally, we're making an attack without first gaining the opponent's blade; this is usually a bad idea, but in this case we're reacting to a specific response that the feint flushed out, and taking that tempo away. Since our opponent can't do two things at once, we can strike them while they're parrying, so we should be safe. (I feel that it's still far better to gain the blade and go from there, though.)

Another way the action could happen is like this:

Both fencers are again in Third, on the inside.
  1. Fencer A moves to find B's blade.
  2. B performs a cavazione and steps in.
  3. A takes that tempo and thrusts during the cavazione.
Fabris states that this illustrates that the motion of a cavazione is slower than staying in the middle and moving on a straight line. While normally this might not be the best idea, if the opponent isn't attacking, but merely disengaging around to the other side and stepping in, attacking does make a lot of sense according to Fabris.



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Super great Fabris scans

They're digital scans, so they're not translated or anything, but they're really great and you can see the plates that I reference around here!

Go here!

Fabris, Plate 21

Man, real life happens and my blogging falls off. Again. What is with that? (Mental note: win lottery, do this full time.)

Anyhow, I'm really trying to spend more time figuring out Fabris. I'd like to get to the point where I can start to drop into his postures during a fight, but that's a lot of conditioning and practice. That said, his theories and practice can be applied without the postures (which he notes, saying “If you know how to carry your body forward [ie, leaning forward in his distinctive manner] properly and without awkwardness, you will be better served if you were to bend it. But if you think you cannot, you should rather remain straight, because if you force your posture you will never be as ready to move.” (Leoni, page 28.) That's not to say that I'm not going to keep practicing his postures, but rather to say that there's no reason I can't work on other parts of his system while I'm conditioning myself to said postures. In other words, I can keep drilling things standing upright and bending over. Therefore, let's start looking at Fabris' wounds! 

Fabris calls the plates in which he describes engagements and combat “wounds.” He describes them wonderfully and clearly, but I think that it will definitely benefit both myself and others to have them restated in plain English, in drill form. So I'm going to be doing this for the foreseeable future. If I'm very good, I'll even be doing them as drills at my local practices and in my basement. 

Onward, then!

Plate 21, “A firm footed attack of fourth against a third.” 
(As a note, Fabris includes some additional notes along with this plate, which while important to keep in mind, aren't necessary for to copy in full for a set of drill instructions. That said, go read them. They're important. So important that I end up touching upon them later.)

The distance isn't clearly stated, but I feel that the fencers should begin at misura larga.

(Edit: To clarify, in both of these variations, Fencer A is initiating the action. Fencer B is responding to this and wounding Fencer A.)

Variation 1:
Both fencers begin in Third, on the inside.
  1. Fencer A feints in attack on the inside against B. A is expecting a parry.
  2. B responds by taking the tempo, pushing his hilt against the point of A's blade while moving into Fourth, leaning forward, and lunging with the leading foot. 
While straightforward, it is important to note that this is done during the tempo of A's initial movement, giving him no time to respond to B closing the line, taking the blade, and attacking.

Variation 2:
Both fencers begin in Third, on the outside.
  1. Fencer A performs a cavazione to the inside, extending the blade and leaning the body. (Note that Fabris does not state that the feet move yet!) As before, A is expecting a parry. Should B resort to a parry, A would immediately move to one of the following attacks:
    1. Move from Third to Second and lower the body, wounding B in the tempo of the parry. (This could be an angulated Second, using a pass from the rear foot if necessary.)
    2. Return to the outside line and wound in Third, over B's sword.
  2. As before, B responds by taking the tempo, wounding A in Fourth.
The key to this drill working (beyond proper blade mechanics, including “pushing [your] hilt against the point of the opponent's blade”) is that B needs to respond during A's initial tempo, with a single tempo defense and attack of his own. While A is making their initial movement by definition they cannot be doing anything else, and as such that is the moment to strike - while they are moving inwards from misura larga. B immediately causes the measure of the engagement to become misura stretta, striking A because they have taken the tempo (or colloquially, seized the initiative). The fact that A has left B's sword free while they try to move in makes this, frankly, a terrible idea for A.

The other important thing this points out is that if you want a feint to be successful, you need to do one of two things - either wait for a movement from your opponent, or have placed him in obedience, so that you can better predict the response that you're trying to flush out.
This is a really straightforward drill, but it covers a lot of ground.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Voyages of Discovery happened!

Yup. That was a thing right there!
(Picture by Leonete D'Angely)
This past weekend was Voyages of Discovery, and it was really cool. You people, seriously, it was great. I got to do a book report poster session and talk all day about stuff that I think is awesome! I got to listen to other people talk about things that they think are awesome! It was great. Admittedly, I was deeply terrified going in to it, but it turned out really great.

I ended up doing my work on comparing the postures of Capo Ferro and Fabris, and some of the similarities that they have (because yeah, they totally have some) and the differences they have, and my belief that Fabris was That Kind Of Powergamer, who heavily optimized his techniques for Killing Dudes Who Have Rapiers, With A Rapier, at the expense of a lot of other things. I talked with fencers! With people who are just starting out fencing! With people who used to fence! With people who have never fenced ever but were weirdly interested in what I had to say!

So that all went well. Shockingly so to me, but yeah.

I also happened to be standing right next to Magnus, so I learned about Early Viking Not-Ale, and possible bread travel ration things, and lots of other things which I didn't know were even a thing before Saturday, and now I think are really great!

 I've gotten some good feedback about how the day went. I was fortunate in that there was ample space to be able to demonstrate what was happening on the poster with some motion. I think that makes a huge difference with this type of thing.

Maybe I should include a more serious picture?
(Picture by Leonete D'Angely)
I've been asked to turn this into a paper of some kind, and I imagine I'll do that over the next month or so. I may revise this poster thing and maybe - maybe - enter A&S Champions with it? Or maybe do something different? Who knows?

Either way though, I learned a lot and had a fantastic time geeking around with people at an event which was all about geeking. Nothing to distract from that, which was awesome. A++, would geek again.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Unarmored Spear Use

No, I'm not going to get into the whole "rapier spears" thing here. Rather, what I'm going to drop here is a bunch of references to historic unarmored spear.

At one point during a discussion salon at yesterday's event, one person mentioned that there are no examples of unarmored spear use. (In the context of this discussion, "armor" was referring to something along the lines of SCA heavy armored combat, so meaning a historical equivalent of full heavy battlefield armor.) Using heroic amounts of restraint, I didn't say anything other than "you're wrong" and "let me get back to you with references." So here we are. (As an aside, I want to thank the nice people behind Wiktenauer so much. Seriously, this is an awesome resource.)

Firstly, I'd like to bring up our own Don Dylan's research on the London Masters of Defense, and their playing of the prize! Dylan notes that the Morris pike was used in such fights. He also goes on to note that "It is also uncertain if participants wore armor during the prize, but it is reasonable to assume that they wore at least some armor, perhaps a buffcoat." A buffcoat by itself would certainly offer protection against cuts and some impact, but absolutely doesn't approach "armored" in this kind of context.

Along those lines, John Clements has an essay (yeah, I know, Clements) which also notes that the participants playing the prize were unarmored, and made use of the Morris pike.

From there, let's go look at historic manuals!

Fiore has a section on spear. So does Vadi. Trending later, Manciolino covers spears (with and without shields). Even George Silver talks about them.

Fiore and Vadi spend time discussing a lot of battlefield weapons. However, I find it notable that the illustrations used in both their manuals have a very high degree of men in civilian dress demonstrating the techniques - including spear techniques. Fiore goes out of his way to note in his manual that in general, anything that can be done in armor can also be done out of armor. (There are some exceptions - for instance, there are some defenses that you may not want to do without something rigid, or at least padded, on your forearm, but even those are better off being done without armor than getting stabbed.) He takes the time to note when there are techniques he describes that should only be done in armor, which certainly implies that those aside, you can absolutely perform anything else in his manual with or without armor.

Marozzo and Silver are, in my opinion, trending far into the civilian area of combat. Certainly, at that point, it wouldn't be expected that you would be wearing a full harness of plate. Illustrations in Opera Nova bear this out, as well.

In short, yes, there is absolutely more than enough evidence for the historic use of spears in an "unarmored" setting.