Sunday, December 21, 2014

The First Four Wounds of Fabris - What Did We Learn?

I've had a bit of a break in the flow of going through these, so I figured I'd use that opportunity and take a look at the first four wounds with the single sword that Fabris shows us, and see if there are any good universal rules that we can take away from them. (Spoiler: there totally are.) In no particular order (because let's face it, they're all going to be involved with each other), we can see the following ideas:

  • Act in contratempo. This does take an understanding of measure as well, because if the tempo you're trying to act in is too short for the measure that you're at, bad things. On the other hand, if it's too short to strike in the measure you're at, try to use it to get closer while finding their blade.
  • Measure. If you're striking without acting in contratempo while in misura larga, it's not going to work. It just won't - they can always back up, and you're out of luck. Heck, if they're really good and you're at the edge of that range, they just lean back. (If they're really good, they end up attacking you in contratempo because you're closing range when you make that attack, so if they close that line you've just killed yourself. Don't do that to yourself, do that to the other person instead.) 
  • Combining the above two points - if you're in misura larga and you're given a tempo, you're almost always better off using that tempo to find their blade while (safely!) closing to misura stretta. Now you're good to go.
  • If they're not giving you a tempo, make them give you one. Feint and force a reaction. (If they don't react, hit them anyway.) When they react, it should be something that you were set up for, and then kill them.
  • No blade contact - at least not like 95% of everyone in the SCA does it. 
  • Keep your debole free! Put your forte and hilt on their weapon! Win!
There you go. That's Fabris. Those are all things from the first four plates, and those are the key principles. The end.

In the next day or two, I'll post a summary of the next plate, which is pretty different from the first four, and is one of my very favorite wounds. Seriously, it's pretty great.

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.

What I've been up to, and there's this event next week!

Most of what I've been up to lately is just cleaning up my fighting, making it work better, and reminding myself of broad concepts like "footwork" and "timing" and "taking control of the fight, come on, you know what you should be doing here aaaaaaagh."

...okay, that last may have more to it than just a broad concept, but still.

Anyway! This is mostly to let you know that if you haven't heard of it, you should totally come out to Voyages of Discovery next week! It's all A&S research presentations, all the time!

I am even now putting together a 5th grade book report poster in which you can see the guards and lunges of Capo Ferro and Fabris side by side through the wonder of photoshop! Marvel at how wacky and different they are!

So that's what I'm up to. And y'all come out to the event, it's gonna be great.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hey, is this thing still on? Or, an update!

So hey, blogging about stuff I'm doing. That's a thing I should do more of. Then again, I haven't had a free weekend since my last update a month ago, so here we are.

In short, then:

  • I put together the belt that was pictured in the last entry. Turned out too small for me, so I gave it to someone else and made another one. I've still got a long, long way to go even with super sketchy and not really real leatherworking skills, but belts are fun. I don't do anything really pro like slicking down edges, but whatever. 
    • I used rivets for them, mostly because I think that if I tried to stitch all them by hand, I'd have lost my mind. Still, that's a goal.
    • I need to make a white belt (Yes, as a gift. Shush.), so I'm resorting to the acrylic leather paint, because I don't want to buy a whole damn side of white leather.
  • Fabris! I'm reading the manual, and I'm not really deep into the plates at all for purposes of actually fighting with it. I'm mostly trying to get the basic body mechanics down, and get used to moving while I'm in the postures. I'm tending to train lower than I fight, which is 100% okay in my book right now. 
  • Capo Ferro! I mostly default to this when I'm just Fighting My Fight, which is also 100% okay in my book. I need to do a little more drilling with upright footwork, just to remind me that it's also a thing.
  • In terms of fighting my fight, I need to remember to just relax and do that more, and trust that a lot of the deeply period stuff will filter in over time, because that's what drills are for. I just want to make sure that I still retain my general level of prowess, but also that I've integrated enough Fabris for the By The Book tourney next year at Pennsic.
  • Finally, I'm going to be doing a poster display for Voyages of Discovery that should be contrasting the guard stances of Capo Ferro and Fabris, and the similarities and differences between them. I expect to be doing a lot of excited talking and demonstrating things, and I'm really looking forward to it.
That's where I'm at with Stuff What Tends To Show Up On This Blog!

Monday, September 1, 2014

What I did on my Labor Day vacation, a story by me.

I started in on making the first of at least a few rapier hangars. Yay!

I'm using 4-5oz leather. I dyed it with Eco-Flo Water Stain (which according to my research doesn't need painting over with acrylic or anything), which was super easy to work with. (Maybe I'll try vinegroon soon, for more A&S goodness.) Some neetsfoot cream finished it (and made it smell pretty nice, too). The leather's a little stiff, but I imagine that'll break in with use.

I've got some rivets in the mail, and as soon as those get here I can assemble the whole thing, which will be pretty great. Then I can start in one the next one - I've got at least three I want to make, each of them being a little (or a lot) different in some ways. Actually, four - I think I want to make a yellow one for a Protege Rapier Hangar, for no good reason other than my own amusement.

I should grab some scraps and practice putting rivets in, though. You know, because. That seems like a good idea.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Capo Ferro, Plate Seven

Since I've been wanting to work through Capo Ferro in a marginally more structured manner, I'm going to be moving through plate by plate. While the plate I'm starting with is pretty basic, and we've been going through Guy Windsor's hierarchy drill regularly (so we've been indirectly working on some of the basic plates already), I want to really pay attention to each one individually.

Plates 1-4 illustrate the guards. 5 is the lunge, and 6 is how to gain the blade on the inside. (Maybe I'll go back and touch on those specifically? That seems reasonable.) Plate 7 is the first action that we see, so here we go.

Plate 7 - This Illustration and the Following Show Various Ways to Strike to the Outside, After You Have Gained the Opponent's Blade to the Inside and He Performs a Thrusting Attack by Cavazione

To start, Fencer A gains the blade of Fencer B on the inside. Fencer B performs a cavazione to the outside to thrust to A's chest, and A rolls his hand into seconda while thrusting B "in the left eye" with either just an extension or a lunge as needed, all in a single tempo.

If B was "a prudent opponent," the play goes differently. A gains B's blade on the inside, and this time, B feints the attack by cavazione, keeping his body withdrawn (but A does bring his blade to the outside, and extend somewhat if necessary). A rolls his hand into seconda and begins to push the attack. This time though, B parries to the outside with either the false or true edge, and responds with a mandritto to the head (if parrying with the false edge) or an imbrocatta to the chest (if parrying with the false edge). B then recovers in low quarta.

Comments: This is one of the most fundamental sets of actions in Capo Ferro's rapier. The first part of the plate is a straightforward contratempo action - B takes an action, and A responds in the same tempo, reclaiming the line and striking. It's also the fastest way to reclaim the line - there's no contra-cavazione, it's just turning the hand over into seconda. As the first and most basic action to learn from this manual, I think that says something.
Capo Ferro doesn't explicitly say to move to seconda as part of the counter - he simply says to strike. It's very clear in the picture that A has moved his hand into seconda, and A must do this to get his true edge into play, but it's worth noting.
As an aside, A would do well to remember the last comment given by Capo Ferro immediately preceding this play, and not put his point directly into his opponent's forte. That'd be bad.

The second part of the play has B performing a feint by the cavazione instead. Capo Ferro notes that B should keep his body "somewhat back" and immediately move to parry A's counter. Capo Ferro doesn't explicitly say that it's a two tempi action, but I think it's pretty clear that it has to be. The use of the word "parry" carries this implication to me (though I admit this could be flawed, or also a result of the translation), and the fact that Capo Ferro points out that B must parry and then counter lends weight to this. Also, the mechanics that have to happen to counter and then riposte - either with a cut or rolling the hand into something resembling prima for an imbrocatta really pull it into two tempii, albeit two that flow quickly from the first into the second. (And hey, both Guy Windsor and Tom Leoni agree with me here, so we can all be right!)
Capo Ferro's note about keeping the body back is important to me; you don't commit the body forward until you're sure that you're safe, and you haven't closed that line with the feint. It also says to me that B has begun his movement already planning for it to be a feint, and that he's not falling back to it. I imagine that if A doesn't take the bait, B could far more quickly move from a feint by cavazione to an actual cavazione and push the attack home rather than bailing from an actual attack into a feint or an abortive parry?

Going through this plate live at practice tonight should be pretty good, if we can pay attention to a lot of the little details and not draw too many unsupported conclusions.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Post-Pennsic Plans and Such

Pennsic happened! As is usual, I'm coming out of it with a lot more enthusiasm for Doing Stuff and Learning Things and Teaching It All.

So this entry is really more for me than for my readers (ha, like there's more than one of you) but here we go.

  • Fencing is life. Keep doing that. Drills, fighting, more fitness and conditioning, the whole ball of wax.
  • While I'm enjoying working on Capo Ferro, I really want to start trying to work on Fabris. It's super interesting, deeply cool, and visually distinctive. I have no idea where to start, but it's pretty exciting to me.
  • Take so many notes from all my Destreza classes at DeKoven.
  • Finalize my C&T gear. Some of it is in the mail, the rest I can assemble without much of a problem after that. Then I can work on some Manciolino and Fiore woo! 
    • Hey, I should get a less wobbly blade for my longsword. Huh.
  • Prepare for the Carolingian academic event's poster display. Aaaaaaaaaaah. I'm looking forward to it, but aaaaaa.
  • Internalize some of Fiore's basic grappling and knife plays, so I can teach a class on them.
  • Leatherworking! Make those belts for myself and others! Make a buff coat! So much riveting and sewing!
  • Do more heraldry! Pretty straightforward.
  • Basic camp life improvements and repairs. Gotta repair the clothesrack with heavier cross-braces, and maybe make a new bedframe.

That's that, really. It was a fantastic couple of weeks, and I'm gonna ride this enthusiasm train as long as I can.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Looks like I'm teaching at GNEW!

With the kind encouragement (and buttkicking) of others, I've signed up to teach a class on Gaining the Blade and Guards and Counter Guards at Great Northeastern War.

I feel a little like I might be combining two classes here. I could probably teach a whole class on Gaining the Blade and a lot of little technicalities and drills and nitpickiness around it, but the thing is - I don't think many people would find that really enthralling for 45-60 minutes. But I do think it's necessary to have a basic understanding of the fundamentals of how it works to really apply using Guards and Counter Guards. (Which means that I'll end up at least touching on using and abusing tempi, because of what happens when you form a good counter guard, but that's neither here nor there. I'm pretty sure that if I teach a class and mention neither tempo nor distance that I have wildly screwed up.)

So I think the plan at the moment (which is open to change at least until I write up a handout, if not until I actually start teaching the class) is to do maybe 15-20 minutes on what gaining the blade is, how it works, and lead into how you do that to form a good counter guard to your opponent's guard - then how you can keep playing the guard-counter guard game and then mention tempo and measure in terms of how this lets you hit someone.

I will also no doubt use the phrase, "simplifying your decision tree" because that is still, I think, the best summary of what you're trying to do with this whole thing.

There may be a bit of playing around with blades involved, based on what Christian Fournier did at the last KWAR. (Note to self: find that handout, cite accordingly, abuse for ideas.)

Anyone got any thoughts on this (or things you'd want me to cover)?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hey, is this thing still on?

So real life happened, and I fell off of updating this. My bad.

I've been doing a lot of reading lately. Going through Capo Ferro again; both Leoni's translation and Windsor's training manual based on it.

I also picked up a new translation of Giganti, by Aaron Miedema. I haven't gotten into it yet, but I really can't wait. Miedema seems to have a lot of issues with Leoni's translation and how he's interpreting the actions. I love Leoni, but questioning these sorts of things is how we improve our understanding, so I think I'm going to be doing a couple rereads along with Leoni's.

I think the Thursday night Carolingian practice is slowly starting to turn a lot of historically-minded people into a pack of Italian rapier folks, which makes me happy. (It's not everyone there by a long shot, but that's not the point.) There's a single Meyer holdout, but that's cool. He keeps us on our toes.

I'm idily putting together a class on Finding The Blade and Guards and Counter-Guards. I've got the material in my head, I just need an excuse to put some notes down on paper, and maybe a handout. I should find an event that has classes at it to teach.

That's about it! I'll try and get more stuff up here more regularly, and not slack off quite so much.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Leather flask, essentially done.

I made a thing!

Okay, so I need to get some rope and tie it on there, and I need to whittle down a stopper, but whatever. I made a bottel!

Like I said I was going to, I threw some thread up by the mouth of the bottel just to make sure it wouldn't gap apart. Nothing fancy there, and nothing weird happened.

Then I melted the cheese wax and poured it out of the wax pot, so I could melt beeswax. I ended up using two pounds of it, which seemed to be just the right amount to fill up the bottel and let it soak into the leather. Then I poured it back out, rattled a stick around in there to make sure there weren't any clumps of wax and sand, and did it again.

That's what I ended up with! The wings have no wax on them, and that's okay - I opted away from the full immersion method mostly due to available pot size as well as economy of beeswax. There's some clumping and blobbing of wax on the bottom of the bottel, but not unduly so.

Also, it seems like there's an uneven amount of wax on the sides. Like, on the surface that's not soaked in. Maybe this week I'll warm it slightly in the oven and wipe the sides down to remove it. Would that help? I think it might, but I'm not sure.

Right now though, I'm gonna let it sit, try and find some rope for it, and either repurpose a wine cork or get a dowel and shave it down, but I'm pretty much done!

Also, now I have a pot full of beeswax I can melt and make another one with, so I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Leather flask, part three!

Despite the terrible loss of an hour of sleep, I decided to take some time before I had to run out of the house today for guitar practice to get the next major step of the flask done - pounding sand.

In short, I needed to soak the leather and then force as much sand into it as possible to get it stretched into a bottle shape. Soaking it was easy. Happily, it took exactly as long as it took me to go grab a shower. Coincidence? Surely not! (Note the kind assistance of Darcy, our local helpful housecat.)

After that was done, the real work started. This took the following tools:

  • A bag of sand.
  • A funnel and scoop.
  • A wooden spoon.
  • A dowel.
  • A hammer.
Eventually, I settled on a kind of system to maximize the amount of sand I could force into the flask, while minimizing what was scattered around the counter. I recommend starting by blowing a puff of air into the bottle to force the leather apart and give the sand somewhere to go. Then insert the funnel and pour in the sand. When it backs up, start using the handle of the wooden spoon to force more through the funnel.

That will eventually not work out anymore; start using the spoon inside the flask itself. Force it down, remove the spoon, repeat. Add sand as necessary. When it starts to fill up, use the dowel and the hammer. Don't be gentle here - I found that the leather was super resilient, stretched a great deal, and pounding as much sand in as I could was really entertaining. Seriously, you will use more sand than you think will fit. 

So that's all done. Now I'm just letting it dry, which will take forever. Once the leather's dry, I'll probably whip a little extra thread from that top stitch up on each side of the neck, to keep it from gapping more, but that's not a big deal. Then I need to get some beeswax. The plan now is to melt the beeswax, pour it inside, let it soak in, pour it out, repeat a bit, and to call it a day! I'm excited. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Today's random fencing style realization

I love the pedagogy of Fabris. He's clear, he breaks up the manual in a way that makes sense to me. I can follow what he's saying and doing.

On the other hand, I find myself actually fighting like Capo Ferro or Giganti, especially the more I learn about them. (The response to any motion is to kill you!) Not just because of the stances, but other things, too.

I'm not sure where that puts me, but it's interesting.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Capo Ferro's Hierarchy of Defense

Recently I was pointed at Guy Winsdsor's video describing Capo Ferro's hierarchy of defense. It's one of those things that summarized a lot of dispersed information in his manual in a really concise and excellent way, and helped me get a much better understanding of Capo Ferro.

(Go watch it here.)

The comments on the video summarize the procedure, but not in a way that I could use as a way to introduce this drill to people - let alone really integrate it into my own brain - so I'm re-writing it up here in a way that will be useful to me, and hopefully other people.

In short (and hopefully correctly), through Capo Ferro's manual, a consistent set of responses and counter-responses can be found. The most common attack in rapier is, once your blade has been gained, to disengage out of stringere. Guy uses that term, I'm used to cavazione, so let's roll with that for consistency.

Capo Ferro flowcharts out four possible defenses for this attack. They are:

  • Two tempo parry-riposte
  • Counterattack in opposition (aka "single tempo parry-riposte" because Capo Ferro uses parry and riposte kind of interchangeably at times. This is performed simply by turning your hand over into the opponent's blade, not with a countercavazione.)
  • Void and counterattack (aka "counterattack with avoidance")
  • Countercavazione
Each of these defenses, naturally, has a counter. So when your opponent gains your blade, you feint with a disengage to flush out one of those defenses and then you counter it. (This is the core of the way the Capo Ferro plates are set up: Action, Defense and then Action, Defense, Counter.) The counters are:
  • Two tempo parry-riposte: disengage back, avoiding the parry
  • Counterattack: two tempo parry-riposte
  • Void: two tempo parry-riposte (note: scannatura is a two-tempo parry riposte, just saying)
  • Counterdisengage: any of the initial defenses, though for this drill just recavazione for simplicity's sake
From my quick glance now, it looks like a drill could be set up to chain one into another into another, but practicalities of range, hitting the other person, and working an action out of a void would probably cause it to break down a little over time. Still though, it's a thought.

The basic drill is, in effect, to recreate the plates from Capo Ferro, running through everything in sequence. So it goes like this:
  1. You start off having gained your opponent's blade. Your opponent performs an attack by disengage. You perform one of the initial defenses and strike your opponent. Repeat until you have performed all four defenses against your opponent's attack.
  2. You again start off having gained your opponent's blade. Your opponent feints a disengage, and you respond with one of the initial defenses. Your opponent performs the correct counter for the defense and strikes you. Repeat until you have performed each defense and your opponent has countered them.
  3. Switch sides. Do it again. When you begin to run it through for the second time on a side, remember to change your starting inside/outside blade positions, so you work both lines.
Guy does bring up a very good point near the end of the video, that is well worth keeping in mind: Four possible actions can come out of you performing a feint. You need to be able to predict (or better, force) your opponent's reaction. How do you do that? Discuss!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Leather flask, continued.

I'm progressing on this little project and it's making me happy, so all of you get to hear about it and get proof of me learning things. Or something.

Anyway! I'd gotten my hands on a marking wheel, so I laid out one of the pieces of leather, put the pattern on top of it, and traced along with the wheel. Then I put the two pieces of leather together, got my leather awl, and drove holes.

I learned a couple of things at this point:

  1. Using a marking wheel when there's anything more than a gradual curve in the seam is a giant pain in the ass.
  2. I didn't use a groover, but if I did - even if only to just mark a line rather than carve out a groove - it might have helped with the above problem.
  3. Alternately, just manually spacing out holes on a line I made, but that strikes me as painful.
  4. Punching holes through both layers of leather worked fine on the top layer, less fine on the bottom.
  5. I had a cutting board under the leather. Maybe if I had something with more give, more of the awl could have moved through and made clean holes in both layers. Maybe a wooden board of some kind? Or a thick piece of leather over a board. 
  6. Make sure you keep the awl vertical at all times when punching with it.
  7. Because of all the above problems combined, some holes don't line up. 
  8. Cheap awls break.
So, yeah. I've got a newer better awl set on the way to me (thanks, Amazon!) and I'll be putting more holes in the leather soon. Here's a Value-Added Picture of how things looked shortly after I got going - I took a break on it yesterday evening and I was about halfway done stitching around the outside. I'm using what I think of as a two-needle figure eight stitch, because that's what my friend Alex taught me to do with leather.

Next step - finish the stitching and then go pound sand!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

In which some non-weapon A&S is better than no content at all.

Man, I'm awful at this. So. Here's what I've got! I'm trying to plow through an Introduction to Fabris paper. It's... slow. I don't know if I'm just intimidated by writing it, or if I've taken on too much, or what. Either way though, I've promised to get this thing done and submitted for an A&S competition when it is done, so I've got to do that. Because promises, y'know? So that's a thing.

Therefore, instead of an incomplete paper, you get a couple pictures of proof that I'm engaging in non-weaponry related A&S! (Heresy, I know, and yet.) I've wanted to make a leather flask for a while. I've had the leather for ages, but I didn't do anything with it until I happened to ask Grim if he had a chisel I could use to make holes I could lace. I'd been looking for one that does multiple holes at once, so I can keep things even, and those things are expensive last I looked. But I'm being loaned one at Birka, so I can get on that next. For now though, I cut out the two sides I needed!

I'd printed out a pattern to use and after weighing down the leather to keep it flat, I used a totally not remotely period Sharpie on the rough side of the leather. I didn't have a real meant for leather knife either, but my roommate Marieta was kind enough to lend me a substitute. I put a cutting board underneath to save the table, and off I went!

After cutting one side out, I used that to trace out a second piece. Hopefully that'll keep things a little more even. It all went smoothly, and now I've got them sitting aside, waiting until after Birka. Who knows, maybe there'll be someone selling some leatherworking tools there that I can use to do this better next time! Regardless, I'm ready to score some lines in the leather, put some holes in it, stitch it up, and then go pound sand.