Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fabris, Part Six - Chapter 8

(pages 12-15)

I've got more inline comments as opposed to a collection of them at the end. I suspect that going forward, I'll be using a combination of these - I was just pretty tired while writing this one out, so the inline notes were plain easier for me at the time.

Chapter 8 - On The Advantages and Drawbacks Of Parrying; on those who parry using the left hand in sword alone.

Fabris begins by describing the parry as a form of fear; if you were not afraid of harm, you would not need to defend. Because of this, it can be considered falling into obedience, moreso when it happens due to necessity, because if you don't want to see yourself wounded you feel compelled to parry. On the other hand, if you can cause your opponent to parry, you have an advantage because when he moves to parry he creates an opening where he can be wounded. [Straightforward second intention stuff here!]

Therefore, Fabris feels that parrying is counter-productive.

If you feint an attack in one place, you can redirect it elsewhere, deceiving him through that action. "It is infinitely better to let cuts fall away from you and to void your opponent's thrusts." This is exceedingly true when using the sword alone, because with the sword and dagger you can parry with one hand and attack with the other. [Clearly, Fabris didn't fight in the SCA, where that empty hand is all kinds of active with people.] With the sword alone, you need to be much more careful to use these techniques of simultaneous offense and defense.

Fabris says that if you have to parry, put your forte where your opponent's sword is about to fall and at the same time thrust quickly so your attack lands before your opponent contacts your forte (so your point control remains good). This is how you parry a cut - because it takes longer to hit than a thrust does.

If you know that your thrust can't reach your opponent, then you don't need to parry because he can't reach you either. [I can think of some mismatches that this in no way applies to.] If you doubt that, just pull back a bit, let the cut drop past, then counter.

If you still want to parry despite knowing your sword can't reach your opponent, you should still move your sword as if you will hit him. This way your opponent can't just keep attacking. If you are lucky, your opponent might abort to a parry because your point will come at him in the tempo, and then you can wound him.

Generally, Fabris says, don't parry if you can't counter (or fake it) so you can put your opponent into obedience while freeing yourself from it. Also, because the cut us slow, you can sometimes wound him and retreat before it drops.

All these things are possible if you have a solid grasp of your opponent, his distance, and measure. At a wider distance, you'll need to bait your opponent into an unwise overreaching attack. At a narrower distance, you'll need to wound him before the cut falls, because thrusts are faster. You can withdraw the left foot a bit to help control your distance that way, but your thrust won't be as effective. If you parry, you can pass in boldly, and since it's a thrust you will recover more easily.

Fabris also notes that if you're worried about people who cut into your sword to beat it away and then attack? If you understand tempo and cavazione, then you have no need to worry at all. [Beats: not all that great sometimes.]

Now Fabris moves on to defending against thrusts. Because they are faster and deadlier, defending against them is likewise more difficult, but generally less strength. Because you can easily employ a second intention with the thrust, even if you parry and simultaneously counter, your opponent can void your blade and redirect his blade into the opening created by your parry. This is why voiding your opponent's point with your body is preferable for defending against and countering thrusts in tempo, as long as you know what you're doing with this.

Fabris does say that it's important to be able to parry so that you can void or parry, as the situation demands. It's best if you do both at once, because it's more effective and doesn't change the location of your sword too much. Also, it is fast and makes it difficult for your opponent to easily change lines.

Further, Fabris states that there are many fencers who use their empty left hand to parry, and base their defense on that rather than the sword. They even go so far as to grab the blade (so he refers to this as 'sword and glove')! [Well, in some kingdoms, anyway!] Fabris does not even think this possible with a sharp sword. Frankly, he thinks this whole thing is foolish, but he'll go into it so we know how to operate against it, and then describe the proper way to use the left hand.

It is true that the left hand can make wider motions than the sword. Also, it is true that if you make straight line attacks without any feints or cavazioni, the left hand can easily parry. Against opponents that parry with the hand, Fabris advises keeping your sword at a slight upward angle, so that he can't pass with the body or counter before you straighten your point against him. This will also make it difficult for your opponent to grab your sword while you are on guard. He advises you attack along an oblique line to deceive the parrying hand. Basically, once you find your opponent's sword, get measure and tempo and an opening, you attack and take care to keep your point proceeding forward. This way, once you straighten the angle against the target, the point is already there before your opponent can bring his hand into play, as long as he doesn't break measure. [I really, really like this description.] One can also employ "all sorts of feints" depending on the hand position.

He feels that it is easier to fight people who defend with their hand, because they don't make use of their forte. Their big concern is keeping their sword free, so it tends to be withdrawn, leaving more openings to choose from, making it easier to wound them and retreat to safety. This is even easier against those who first parry with the hand and then jab with the sword. [This happens SO MUCH.]

The proper way, Fabris says, is to always move your sword in a controlled manner, and always observe the tempo - even if you use the left hand. It's important to know how to use the hand, but it should only be used in case of emergency, not as a habit. Generally, don't use it at all unless you can reach the opponent's hilt or get into grapples and wrestle him. [A&S! A&S!] (Fabris does say that wrestling isn't really what we're doing here since we're only interested in proper defenses and attacks with the sword. "However, since once a sword bout becomes a wrestling match you have passed the greater risk, it is more important to stay on the subject of how to safely overcome this "greater risk" and wound your opponent in the process.")

So, to correctly use the left hand. When your opponent makes an attack, you parry with the sword and counter. At the same time, place your hand so as to defend the most likely opening you make. This way, the hand defends the body and closes a line without touching your opponent's sword. This should be done whenever the tempo allows it. [Yup, this makes sense to me so far.] This is the best defense, because your hand isn't in danger, the body is covered, and you don't give anything away to your opponent by molesting his sword. If he attacks, his path will be blocked and if he doesn't attack, you can wound him without unsettling your form.

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