Thursday, July 23, 2015

Fabris' Guards in First!

Seeing First used is rare in the extreme in SCA fencing, at least from what I've seen. I'm pretty sure that this is due to a number of factors - it's not a natural looking or feeling guard, it takes a lot of strength and endurance, head cuts aren't typically an issue (save for C&T), and I believe it to be more useful in Fabris' fight than, say, the more upright fight of Capo Ferro or Giganti - but that may not be saying too much. If you're standing in Capo Ferro's upright and backward-leaning stance, denying your head and upper chest, taking a guard which defends those areas isn't generally going to be the most optimal action you might take.

(As a reminder, here are the visuals!)

We're going to speed through the first guard, mostly because as Fabris says, it's not that safe and it's imperfectly formed. He does note that the high placement of the sword will cause you to rely on your off hand if someone really tries to drive home a shot underneath it, unless you break measure as part of your defense. Attacking from this would be a two tempo action, and we all know how he feels about relying on those!

Looking at the second, properly formed guard though, gives us a lot more to work with. The blade is lower, pointed at your opponent, and the forte is better positioned to defend you. All good things! Fabris notes that you don't want your opponent coming in over your sword, since that's the weakest part.

Here's where we're going to take a slight tangent! Up until now, a lot of the focus on keeping your blade position strong has involved the hand position and the true edge; if you want to oppose your opponent's blade on the inside, you use Fourth, with your hand turned palm up and the true edge in your opponent's blade. Similarly, if you want to oppose your opponent's blade on the outside, you use Second, with your hand palm down and your true edge, again, in your opponent's blade. What we're seeing here (and what we'll see in future guards) is a an emphasis on the fact that the blade is stronger in the direction towards which it is pointing - and it's far easier to point the blade downwards. Additionally, in this (or any) situation, just having your blade physically on top is going to be a pretty huge advantage when it comes to displacing your opponent's weapon. (Devon Boorman's statement to me on finding the blade was something to the effect of "you can cheat a lot of the other requirements, but crossing on top is the biggest advantage you can get.")

Anyhow. Fabris says that you can just keep moving towards your opponent and find and remove his blade from your presence as you do so. You want to wound your opponent while you are over his sword, and on the outside. If he cavziones and tries to get on top of your blade, you can wound him underneath in the same way "by just lowering your body and widening your step even more, while still keeping the arm in the same position."

I can see a couple of ways this statement can be taken, and I believe that they are all accurate. If your opponent is below your blade, you can step in, lower your body, moving your forte through his blade, and strike him. If your opponent has performed a cavazione above your blade, lowering your body and passing underneath your opponent's point will keep you safe as you strike. If possible, you can pick up your opponent's blade to the outside, as he mentions earlier. You can see this concept illustrated here - on the left, we see our fencer passing cleanly underneath the opponent's blade with no contact, and on the right we see our fencer in First, with his hilt on the opponent's blade, pushing them to the outside, just as described here!

We'll close with Fabris' statement, "This guard would be just as good as any other if it were not so fatiguing to hold the arm in such a manner for a long time." Yeah, ain't that the truth. I'll be trying to do more with First, either as a guard or as something to specifically mutate my posture into.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Single Rapier Guard Overview!

I'm going to step back from Fabris' illustrated wounds for a little bit, and take a cue from having gone over his cloak guards to take a brief look at his single rapier guards. This is mostly a brief overview just to familiarize us with what we'd be seeing; I'll go into the guards in much more detail in subsequent posts. (It's the first in a series! Get in on the ground floor!)

First, let's go over what Fabris has to say about good counterguards. He begins that section by saying, "Forming a good counter-posture means situating the body and sword in such a way that, without touching your opponent's blade, the straight line between the opponent's point and your body is completely defended." Doing this means that if your opponent wants to strike you, they must move to another line, which is a longer tempo, which means you can better deal with the threat and also strike your opponent. He has more to say about counterguards, but it focuses mostly on measure and doing so in a controlled way, so we'll move on to examining his single rapier guards in earnest.

If we're looking at the guards, let me give you a quick index of the plates for his single rapier guards. He breaks them down by hand position (guards in First, guards in Second, and so on).

Guards in First: Just these two.
Guards in Second: These two, and these two. (As an aside, he illustrates lunging and passing from Second as well.)
Guards in Third: Two shown here, and one here (the right plate being a lunge in Third).
Guards in Fourth: Two shown here, two more here. We also see a lunge and girata here, as well as another girata and a pass in Fourth here.

Let's examine the guards in First. The first one (on the left), according to Fabris, is imperfectly formed. The point is out of presence, the sword is too far back, and it just looks sloppy compared to the properly formed guard on the right. This is because it's representative of what you'd be doing having just pulled your sword from the scabbard. While almost anything you try to do from here will necessitate a two tempo attack, your head is pretty well covered from the outside. The second guard in First is much cleaner - the sword is extended, the upper chest and head are well covered, the body is bent well forward, and there is a small step.

His guards in Second start off with two which look quite similar. Again, Fabris notes that the first one is weaker than the second. It is stronger to the inside as that is the direction toward which the blade points, but to really defend to that side, you'll need to turn your hand into Fourth. His second guard shown is slightly lower relative to your body, and the sword is much straighter. He notes that you can perform very small cavazione from this guard, and it is therefore hard for your opponent to gain your blade effectively, but that it can be tiring to maintain this guard for long. (Although not nearly so as the guard in First!) The second pair of guards in Second are really specialist postures - one sets up particularly well against the inside line (though certainly not solely that) and the last guard in Second is effectively an invitation to attack your head or chest.

Continuing the trend here, the first guard in Third is not what Fabris would call a good one. While it is certainly easier to form and hold, Fabris feels that there are a number of disadvantages which can be taken advantage of by the skilled fencer. He does admit that not everyone knows these disadvantages, so you can use it to trick your opponent. The second guard in Third is much tighter, and one that Fabris considers one of the most useful due to its ability to rapidly move into Second or Fourth. The last guard in Third is mostly a problem-solving guard. It can be used to free your sword, withdraw your body, and to play with your opponent's sense of measure.

Finally, the guards in Fourth. The first one covers well to the inside, but the bent arm will make your cavazioni cover more distance, and be slower because of it. As we might expect, the second guard here is much better formed, and in fact is one that Fabris considers the safest guard to take. The last two are intended to invite the opponent into specific attacks, and Fabris goes into detail with what to do from each of these guards in the face of the opponent's actions.

For the next entry, we'll take a much more detailed look at the guards in First, and probably ramble about the application of them in SCA rapier.