Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fabris' Guards in Third

We're back, for the next in the Fabris' Guards Series! Third is the guard that most everyone will be most familiar with; it's neutral, natural, and what most people fall into when you tell them to hold a sword. it's simply the palm facing inward, as though you were shaking hands.

Granted, most people don't use Fabris' postures with it, but that's beside the point! Fabris describes three guards in Third, shown here and here (on the left; the right is a lunge in Third). Let's dive in.

Up front, the first guard in Third shown is noted by Fabris as not being very good. He feels that because of the angle of the blade you cannot perform good cavazioni, because the angle of your sword is such that you will need to circumscribe a large motion with your blade. Additionally, it leaves many openings, and will need large movements to cover them. On the other hand, Fabris notes that this guard can be useful because not every fencer knows all of its strengths and weaknesses, and if you do know them, you can use voids and mezzo-cavazioni and the like to counter the attacks you are inviting your opponent to make. All that said, he notes that the second guard in Third is much safer, so we can turn our eyes to that.

The second guard presented is what Fabris considers a proper Third guard, and is also probably one of the most iconic plates from the manual. The body posture is somewhat different and thereby safer, especially with the sword covering the upper body - the closest to the opponent. Also, with the blade presented as shown, you can perform cavazioni with a much smaller motion. Compared with the blade position in the previously shown guard, that is certainly true - and even a mezzo-cavazione will be much smaller from this position than from the previous.

Fabris also notes that since your point will be reaching farther out than your opponent's "that you will always be able to keep his blade under yours." I see what he's saying here - that you will be able to penetrate your opponent's blade sooner than he will yours, but what Fabris isn't saying (possibly because he sees it as being self-explanatory) is that you need to be very proactive about keeping the point of your weapon clear of your opponent's debole. If you're not on top of (or in an otherwise mechanically advantageous position over) your opponent's blade, it's very easy to see your opponent gaining your blade out of the gate here. Against someone who's going to play with that kind of thing, or who keeps their debole up and away while getting their forte onto your blade, I don't know how long you'll stay in this guard in an unmutated form, but it does feed right into a couple of the early wounds Fabris describes, right up to and including someone who plays that kind of game.

Speaking of people who try to find your blade, the last guard in Third is one that you can use to directly counter someone doing that - it "may be formed when your sword is in danger of being found or in other circumstances." This posture also refuses more of your body, making it harder to wound. Related to that, Fabris notes that it can (to paraphrase) mess with your opponent's sense of measure, with the sword being so low and your body leaning back. If they try and find your blade, they may well be placing themselves in much more danger than they otherwise might because of these two aspects of the guard. Finally, the simple lean back might be enough of a void for your opponent to not be able to reach you before you can counter.

The last guard isn't really so much a guard to place yourself in for a prolonged period, but more a position that you find to a very specific purpose. I've used it to good effect, but it does require you to have a very solid grasp of your opponent's measure as well - if you're off in one direction it doesn't really have much of an effect or use at all, and in the other direction, you die before you can bring your sword back on line or manage to move your body. One's more problematic than the other, but neither are particularly desirable.

Next up, my plans for the next day or so include working a lot of Fabris' dagger guards at practice (and heck, I may go through some single guards as well). Beyond forming them and attacking out of them, I'm not going to be able to do much solo, but even increasing my comfort with them will be very helpful. I'm sure I'll have some kind of collection of thoughts or other feedback from this though, and I'll inflict that on you here.


  1. Does Fabris describe how to attack out of the third guard in terza? I (unsurprisingly) have opinions, but I am curious about what Fabris actually says.

    1. He doesn't detail any specific movements of the blade, but simply notes that you can return your body to a forward lean in the same tempo that your opponent approaches within.