Chapter 4 - How To Form The Counter-Postures, In order to learn how the sword and body should be positioned and when the counter-postures should be formed.
Not tons of text for such a long introductory line, but here we go anyway! Straight from the master's pen, we lead off with, "Forming a good counter-posture means situating the body and the sword in such a way that, without touching the opponent's blade, the straight line between your opponent's point and your body is completely defended." Fabris goes on to note that this basically means that the fastest, most direct attack that your opponent could normally make is denied them without you needing to move your body or sword at all. If your opponent wants to be able to touch you, they need to move their sword from where it currently is, which means their tempo is going to be longer than yours, which means you'll have plenty of time to parry.
To do this, you must be sure that your sword is placed in a stronger position than your opponent's sword, so that when you need to parry, you can do so effectively. Fabris states that this is true regardless of what is in your other hand, and that if you can maintain this "subtly" then you have a definite advantage.
Fabris mentions two problems. First, that when you are forming a counter-posture, your opponent will form one against yours. Second, that if you form a counter-posture while too far out of measure (far enough that your opponent can wait for you to "move your foot towards him") during that tempo, he can change his posture and shut you out of line. To deal with this, you need "to be rich with different postures, to quickly find an advantageous placement against the opponent's and to present him with a new effective counter-posture." (Yup, I can see why Giganti may have ended up plagarizing Fabris for his second book.)
This is all based around a measure where you're not quite close enough to strike your opponent as he's shifting his postures; or if you are that close, that he keeps stepping out while shifting his counter-guard. To deal with this, Fabris tells us to step forward (achieving or maintaining good measure, respectively) and in the same tempo, take a new counter-posture appropriate to the opponent's posture.
On that note, you need to be able to form your counter-posture far enough away from your opponent that he can't hit you. Otherwise, if you're already at misura larga (wide measure, which is baaaaasically lunge distance), form your counter-posture without moving your feet - that way, if your opponent takes that tempo to attack, you can either parry and respond or step back out of measure, as appropriate.
Further, if you're forming your counter-posture slowly and your opponent comes in to attack, you should be able to interrupt yourself so that you can use this tempo to parry and wound your opponent at the same time. Basically, you need to keep your movements controlled so you can modify them on the fly.
Finally, if you want to safely gain distance on an opponent, form a counter-posture - and if you find yourself shut out by an opponent's counter-posture, step back and break measure rather than approaching unsafely, until you come up with a good counter-posture.
Notes - Chapter 4:
Counter-postures! I kind of prefer this term over counter-guard if only because it indicates, to me, that there's more to a good guard than just the placement of the sword - rather, the whole body is part of a good guard. Body mechanics, they matter!
This is, honestly, pretty straightforward in a lot of ways, but for me, it's a really important foundation to start working from. You need to form a guard before you do anything else. Ideally you form a guard based on your opponent, so that you don't give anything away unnecessarily, and you manage to shut down what your opponent is doing - and if you do this subtly enough that they don't grasp what you've done, you cruise to victory. (Of course, there's a whole "what if both of you are standing there out of measure and nobody wants to really commit to forming anything" bit, and I think I know the way around that, but I'm mulling that over just to be sure.)
I like how Fabris notes in a couple places that sometimes, you just need to step back and break off the engagement to reset; we see our fighters doing that all the time anyway, right? I just like that it's a Thing here. (Though don't do it in range, or it'll be your own damn fault when you get stuck in the squishy organs.)
Finally, you deal with your opponent's sword with your sword. Not with your dagger, or buckler, or cloak, or hand. Your sword. This strikes me as being Really Important and Really Deep, too. I've heard elsewhere that your off hand is really, really easily deceived, and I think that's true compared to the sword. Are there other reasons for this point he makes that I'm not seeing?
Next time: Chapter 5! All About Measure!