Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fabris, Part Five - Chapter 7

(pages 10-12)

Chapter 7 - On Cuts: On their number, nature, and uses; on which of them is better; on whether it is preferable to cut or thrust.

(Out of the gate, I'm unsure of how useful this will be in standard SCA rapier, where percussive cuts are forbidden. I might be surprised, though! Regardless, this is absolutely applicable to cut and thrust, so that works fine.)

Fabris begins by stating that there are four principal cuts: the mandritto, riverso, sottomano, and montante. Each is used differently and has different targets. He notes that later in the book he includes an illustration of all the cuts that derive from these.

(Note: A mandritto is a cut you make from right to left. A riverso is one you make from left to right. These can be of varying subtypes which can move almost vertically down, diagonally down, or be horizontal. A sottomano moves upward from the right, and a montante moves upward from the left.)

Fabris goes on to say that these cuts can be delivered in any of four different ways - from the shoulder, from the elbow, from the wrist, and from the shoulder but with an extended and stiff arm.

Delivering a cut via the shoulder is too slow - the sword needs to describe a wide arc to land with any strength, so it is the worst of the available options. The tempo you take to deliver this, including your windup, is long enough that your opponent can wound you before the sword even begins to fall.

Delivering a cut from the elbow also takes your hand off-line, but is less easily countered than the first method. It is problematic in the same ways as the first, but not to the same degree.

The third method, delivering the cut from the wrist, is yet more preferable. The sword makes an arc, but the arm itself is largely stationary and directed towards an opponent. This helps protect your body, and after delivering the cut, your sword will be pointed at your opponent. (The previous two methods risk too much followthrough.) Your forte remains useful to parry with, and you can proceed into another cut to counter.

The fourth method, a cut from the shoulder but with a stiffened, extended arm, is good for defeating the first two methods of cuts. You can deliver it simply by dropping the blade, or even with just a little lift and drop, and let it land on a convenient opening that his movement opens. If you add body and foot movement as well, this becomes more true. You may need to lower your body somewhat, and should keep your sword facing your opponent so that it is easily brought in-line afterwards.

For general cut-related advice, Fabris states that you need to wait for a good tempo, because cuts aren't usually small motions and you don't want the tempo to end before your cut lands. He recommends fenting a cut and striking with a thrust. The reverse is also possible, and if you do not want to wait for a tempo, necessary. However, he does note that if your opponent is stationary, initially feinting with a cut can be dangerous because of the time needed for the initial motion.

Generally, cuts are slow. If you cut, you cannot counter-attack while parrying. That said, you can put your opponent into obedience while you parry, and in so doing keep him from delivering more attacks. Fabris does say that the cut "is not a very useful technique anyway. The need to talk about it is only proportional to the need to expand on the techniques of the cut and the thrust, since it is necessary to know about both."

Fabris points out that cuts take more strength to perform than a thrust, both because they are more awkward and also because if they don't meet resistance, they can pull your body into disorder. Recovery can be slow, which is the large part of why they carry more risk. "In all respects, thrusting is more advantageous and deadlier than cutting. With a thrust, it is easier to strike quicker and from farther away, and to recover afterwards. Thrusting is a most excellent and elegant attack, since it embodies all the subtleties of fencing."

Fabris does close, however, by noting that if you have to face multiple opponents, it is better to use both the thrust and the cut because you can create more disarray among your foes and parry many swords at once.

Notes - Chapter 7:
This was remarkably straightforward! The way I'm visualizing the cuts as he describes them has a large percussive component, rendering them not really useful for SCA rapier. That said, I think a wrist cut can easily be turned into a draw without sacrificing much in the way of form, so that may be something to try.

Even if cuts are a terrible idea. ;)

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