Chapter 6 - On Flinging The Sword: And on the principle of the two tempi. On whether it is better to perform controlled thrusts and observe the correct tempo.
(Or: How to fight That Guy.)
"There are some who, wanting to execute a thrust, fling their sword-arm forward with force in order to give it more momentum. This is a bad technique for the following reasons:"
Fabris goes on to enumerate the reasons why this is a terrible idea. In short:
- If your opponent defends the original opening, you can't rapidly switch to another target.
- If your opponent pushes your debole, you will end up much farther off-line than you would otherwise be. Additionally, it doesn't take as much strength to move your blade in this case.
- The forte of a flung sword can be weaker than the debole of a parrying sword.
- Flinging your blade dramatically reduces your point control, as well as increasing the chance that if you do this while lunging, your sword and arm will fall out of line, giving your opponent a chance to strike you.
- If you fling your sword, you need to withdraw it before you fling it again, which is a long enough tempo for your opponent to wound you during the first jab, and while you withdraw your arm he can remove himself from measure before the second jab, after which a two tempi parry and counter can be used.
Fabris points out that the last point illustrates how techniques with two tempi (which are usually less desirable) are quite useful against people who attack like this. He goes on to note that people who perform such attacks do not typically perform proper feints - they tend to feint with the body or feet, rather than moving the sword - or if the sword moves at all, they will then pull it back much farther to wind up for another stab, which is an exceedingly long tempo that can easily be taken advantage of.
Fabris then moves on to discuss using two tempi. He writes that while he says they can be effective against some people, they are strictly inferior to a single tempo parry-counter. The best way to counter is to "meet the body of the opponent in the very moment that he moves forward." Otherwise, he might retreat and if you follow, you give him a chance to parry and make another attack.
In his experience, people who use two tempi have a habit of beating the blade to create an opening to attack. This might work except for the danger of being deceived. While if your blade gets beaten away, you can't counter in the same tempo, if you perform a cavazione as your opponent tries to beat your sword, his blade will end up out of line and allow you to wound him. This also works if he is just feinting to beat your sword (to provoke a cavazione) to beat it on the other side. If this happens, you should fake the cavazione, keeping your blade on the same side of your opponents'. Either way, his attempt to beat your sword is what ends up causing him problems.
Generally, you cannot beat your opponent's blade without bringing your blade off-line - especially if you can't find your opponent's blade. Also, when you are trying to beat their debole, he can push his blade forward so you end up trying to beat his forte, which will neutralize your attack as well as making an attack of his own that you can't parry. Either way, if your opponent doesn't fling his arm, his forte will generally stay put against a beat.
Fabris concludes that it is much better to parry and counter in a single tempo, though with a single blade it requires "great judgement." It is, though, always better to thrust rather than fling your arm. A sword that moves in a controlled way can yield to a beat with the debole while keeping the forte still, so you can strike another target.
Additionally, you need to retain blade control at all times, and occupy your opponent's debole. If he can't free it up, he can't attack. These rules can only be followed by someone who moves their sword in a controlled and measured manner and remains in control - and can interrupt an attack they are making if they see their opponent can defend against it. These are the fencers who will wound in the same moment that their opponent will try to parry.
Fabris says that the best course of action to follow is that once an attack has begun, the point must continue uninterrupted into the opponent's body. Once the sword's movement pauses because of a cavazione or another change, it will not arrive in the same tempo. This subtlety cannot be observed by someone who flings their sword.
If the movement of your sword is backed and supported by the movement of your body and feet, it will have more strength and more accuracy. If you move your blade in this manner, it will not fall out of line. You won't need to do anything after wounding your opponent other than withdrawing your body and foot to keep the advantage over your opponent's sword. If he follows while you withdraw, wound him again. All of this is possible because of the union of sword, body, and feet.
Notes - Chapter 6:
This all seems reasonably straightforward, honestly. Flinging your arm is a bad idea - you sacrifice control, and make it easier for your opponent to deal with the attack and then counter. Heck, it lets them get away with using two tempi to respond, which is usually a terrible idea. He revisits that a lot in here.
Other interesting things that he points out are ways to deal with beats. Good stuff there. Also, unity of body when you're moving. You can't just rely on your arm to make the attack for you - everything needs to work together. Body mechanics - they work! They're also really, really important.
While Fabris could have used an editor in this chapter, it's really pretty accessible. At least, I think so.