Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Updates, updates, updates...

I haven't touched this blog in almost six months, and it's time to get back to adding more information here. We've been making steady progress at AEMMA in the last few months regarding rapier and spada da lato, and there are plenty of things to be posted in the coming weeks.
I have yet to decide where I will post the Anonymous Bolognese translation, and I'm thinking that once it is done, some of the more interesting parts may go here. But we shall see...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Review of Wednesday's material: Destreza

In our ever-continuing quest for being competent at many different things, we spent Wednesday night reviewing the Spanish material we touched on last week, and added a whole new batch of concepts and actions to the mix, culminating in some very nice free fencing, in spite of everyone's exhaustion. I'd like to review some of the key concepts that we covered, and I hope to expand upon some of the previous definitions and explanations given. I will give Italian equivalents where possible.

1) the four hand positions: uñas afuera (nails out - prima), uñas abajo (nails down - seconda), uñas adentro (nails in - terza), uñas arriba (nails up - quarta).
2) the five attacks: medio tajo (half cut - mandritto sgualimbro), medio revés (half reverse - riverso sgualimbro), tajo (cut - mandritto tondo), revés (reverse - riverso tondo) and estocada (thrust - stoccata).
3) atajo - this approximately means "gaining the sword" or "guadagnare", in Italian. Essentially, A pre-parries B's attack by placing his sword over B's (more of A's strong on more of B's weak?), and consequently forces B to make more actions or movements in order to strike A. This should be accompanied by the appropriate footwork.
4) Movimientos (movements - no true equivalent in Italian). There are six in Spanish, which can be combined in various ways: natural (natural, or downward), violento (violent, or upward), accidental (accidental, or forward), extraño (strange, or backward), de remiso (lateral, away from centreline), de reducción (lateral, toward the centreline). An estocada is formed of only one movement - accidental - whereas a cut can be made of up to three.
5) compases (footwork). There are essentially three types: linear (forward, backward, lateral), circular (along the circle), and angular (into the circle).
6) desvio (derailment). This involves parrying the opponent's attack by stepping offline, turning the true edge (in all but the lower outside line, where the false edge could work), striking the opponent at the same time. This is analogous to the "waiting" counters in Italian rapier, i.e. I wait until my opponent attacks to counter him.
7) transport (need to find the Spanish term form for this...). Following an atajo, I move my opponent's blade to the opposite quandrant, e.g. from high inside to low outside, low inside to high outside, etc.
8) cambio de atajo (literally, change of atajo, analogous to a cavazione).
9) expulsion (again, need to find the Spanish term). Instead of sticking to the opponent's blade following a transport, the blade is driven far offline with a push through the weapon.

We did pretty good looking at and applying these actions at the end of the night. I hope to increase the difficulty a little bit for next time, and add some more actions to the mix.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Review: 27 February

We got through a lot of material in today's rapier class, and everyone was looking pretty good towards, albeit a bit tired. Here's a list of what we did today for both warm-ups and drills, so next time we can hit the floor running:

1) Basic footwork, both leads.
2) Thrusts at all ranges (stretta, larga, larghissima)
3) Chasing the target (with both gathering and passing steps)
4) Tessitura, version 1
5) Approaching drills (all cavazione, cavazione w/oppostion, all opposition, mixed)
6) Defense drills:
a) Countering during the opponent's attack (w/opposition or cavazione)
b) Attacking during the opponent's step forward (cavazione di tempo)
c) Interrupting the attacker's approach with a counter step
7) Attacker/defender drill
8) Seizing the initiative/mostly free fencing (solo work with me)

I'd like to do a lot more of the last drill in the coming weeks, so we can grind out attacks done out of tempo.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Destreza: a reintroduction to Spanish swordsmanship

In the past week, I have managed to confirm that Maestro Ramón Martinez, of the Martinez Academy in New York, will be giving a weekend-long workshop at the Fighting Arts Collective on May 14th and 15th. For anyone who was present last year, we'll be picking up right where we left off, which is pretty deep into the system! To ensure that everyone is ready for the workshop - and for my own reasons - I'll be replacing the Dall'Agocchie study group with a Spanish swordsmanship study group from 9-11 on Wednesday evenings. We'll be looking at the system from the ground up, get plenty of fencing practice in, and (I hope!) get some Spanish vs. Italian action going.

So to better prepare everyone for the workshop, it will definitely be worth it to go over some of the basic fencing terminology employed by the Spanish fencing masters, so we're all on the same page.

1. Afirmarse: literally, "to steady oneself." The upright position in which the fencer will stand.
2. The four hand positions: uñas arriba (quarta), uñas adentro (terza), uñas abajo (seconda) and uñas afuera (prima). In all cases, the arm is fully extended.
3. Compases: the steps. Essentially, there are linear steps (forward, backward, to either side), ciruclar steps (along the imaginary circle), and angular steps (along an arc).
4. Atajo, from the Real Academia dictionary: Treta para herir al adversario por el camino más corto esquivando la defensa. Essentially, it means to place the true edge (in most cases) opposite the opponent's point, pre-parrying any attack. This implies either a step to the right (atajo to the inside), or to the left (atajo to the outside)
5. estocada: a thrust, which is not delivered like a lunge, but with a step with both feet.
6. desvío: a derailing or deflection of the attack, together with a simultaneous counterattack. This is done by stepping along the circle in the same direction the opponent is stepping.
7. golpe: a blow, or cut. There are really only four cuts: two downward diagonal cuts, two horizontal cuts.

That's all that I can think of for now; more on this later!

Sunday, February 6, 2011


This is just a quick bit of news that won't affect anyone who is currently in either the Capoferro or Dall'Agocchie study groups, but it is important all the same. Until further notice, both study groups are invitation only: no maybes, no popping in and out, CLOSED. The reason for this is twofold: 1) I'd rather have a dozen really good and dedicated fencers than twenty average ones, and 2) I personally need to continue to enjoy what I'm doing, otherwise I get burned out and lose interest. My ultimate goal is to have a solid programme in both traditions running smoothly when I leave at the end of next year, which can only be accomplished if I focus on those who have already dedicated themselves to this.

Otherwise, nothing has changed: the schedule remains as it was before this announcement.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Drills: correction

In my haste to post the drills in anticipation of Monday's session (which went very well, I thought), I neglected to put in the interruption drill between the cavazione di tempo and the defenses done in place. So the drill list should read like this:

1. Lunges
2. Footwork
3. Tessitura
4. Approaching drills
5. Cavazione di tempo
6. Interrupting step
7. Opposition or cavazione counterattack in place
8. False attacks
9. Attacker vs. Defender

Tomorrow we'll have a camera (and some time) at our disposal, so photos and video of rapier and sidesword will be going up tomorrow night. Until then.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

First Sunday Class

After a number of schedule changes over the past few months, we've finally settled on Sunday afternoons for the Italian rapier class. All in all, I think it went very well, and I hope in the coming weeks we can make it even more efficient, which will allow us to accomplish more in less time. Specifically, once everyone learns the basic drills (which I described in the previous post), we can save lots of time by moving from one to the other immediately.

Everyone did remarkably well today, and aside from a few scrapes and bruises, we all made it out alive. I already mentioned a few issues that came up today after class, but it would be useful to repeat some of them here, as everyone was doing one or more of these at some point during class.

1. Overextending on the lunge: this can manifest itself as rolling onto the left ankle (which will ultimately lead to the destruction of that ankle), coming up onto the ball of the left foot (which hides your true measure), or sliding the rear foot as you attack (which also gives you a false sense of measure).
2. "The sinking lunge": this is related to the first one, but with a different physical manifestation. While it may seem like a good idea to lunge low to gain more distance, you are committing two major errors: a) your vita is not moving in a straight line, so it is not the most efficient movement, and b) you are abandoning any leverage advantage you might have had; in other words, you are giving your debole to your opponent.
3. Circling: Capoferro strongly discourages the practice (see "On those who circle", in the second part of his book), as it is not particularly useful for someone standing the Italian guard, nor does it allow for most of the defenses that we practice.
4. Over-reliance on cutting: while I am entirely guilty of cutting on a regular basis, the rapier is optimized for thrusting, with cuts coming in only if the point is no longer of any use.

We'll work on some of these issues tomorrow during drill time.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Italian rapier drills

This post will primarily be of interest for those who come to the drills only session on Monday nights, but is useful for anyone who comes to rapier class, either at FAC or at UofT. I've been thinking of ways to make our training more efficient for two reasons: 1) I don't have any time to waste (and this is quite literal), and 2) If we already know the drills and are familiar with them, we can skip the often-long demonstrations of each drill, which means more fencing time. As we gain more experience and become level 2 or 3 fencers (with a +1 bonus to attack and defend), we can modify/upgrade or even replace some of the drills listed below; but as of now, here they are:

1) Thrusting: 15 thrusts at misura stretta, 12 lunges at misura larga, and 10 passate at misura larghissima.
2) Footwork: leader/follower drill with frequent role changes.
3) Tessitura*: 20 continuous attacks against a cooperative partner in various hand positions and various ranges.
4) Basic approaching drills, aka "The Spiral drill": beginning from out of measure, approach and strike the opponent using cavazione only, opposition only, and a combination of the two.
5) Cavazione di tempo drill: during the agent's step to misura larga, the patient will perform a cavazione and lunge, striking the agent before his foot lands.
6) The rock defense drills, aka "The counter-Spiral drill": if the agent attacks with a cavazione, counter with an opposition; if the agent attacks with an opposition, counter with a cavazione (with or without a piegatura di vita); alternatively, counter with a scanso della vita on either side.
7) False attack drill: knowing that the patient will defend, the agent will do a false attack to draw out the defense, and follow on with an appropriate second attack (under the sword, transport, cut, etc.)
8) Attacker/defender: application of all the previous drills in a restricted game.

*Literally, this term means "weaving", which resembles the interplay between the swords. I can't explain it in words, so I'll get some video on Sunday and put it up.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Back to the drawing board

We're well into the New Year, and nary a post from me to be seen. But no longer! I'm back into the groove, and the number of sessions I'm running per week at AEMMA (and at UofT again) has doubled since last year. I've been working on a lot of new drills for our Dall'Agocchie study group; our seminar with Jared Kirby has given us plenty of rapier drills to master, and sword and dagger is not too far off in the horizon...in short, there is plenty to look forward to.

As for this blog, it's become quite clear that rather than posting up long sections of text, it would be much more useful to regularly post shorter descriptions of the class with photos and video from each session. Considering how difficult it is to interpret the systems from the written version in the first place, it only seems to add more confusion when I paraphrase the masters' words here. So instead, I'll be making much better use of visual content in the coming weeks.

For those of you who haven't been around recently, here are some of the events that are going on right now, or in the very near future:

  1. Monday 18h00-19h00: rapier drills
  2. Wednesday 21h00-23h00: Dall'Agocchie study group
  3. Thursday 16h30-18h00: rapier class @UofT
  4. Sunday 13h00-15h00: rapier class

Events and seminars
  1. Starting 22 January (this Saturday), I'll be teaching an introductory course in Italian rapier at FAC through the ROM, from 14h00-15h30.
  2. On 30 January (next Sunday), FAC will be having its annual open house, where all the schools that make up the Collective show off their stuff to the public. Everyone is welcome! 14h00-16h00.
  3. On the first or second weekend of May (to be confirmed), we will be hosting Maestro Ramon Martinez for another Destreza seminar. More details to follow in the coming weeks.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Capoferro review: 20 November

I have come a very long way as an instructor since October 2008, when I first began teaching at AEMMA. While I knew a fair amount then (not nearly as much as I do now, obviously), I wasn't particularly good at delivering what I knew effectively. In the past few months, however, I've noticed a tremendous spike in my ability to transmit what I know from rapier and sidesword. Everyone who has taken classes with me since June has "gained a few extra levels" much faster than I anticipated, and I'd like to think I'm doing something right. The reason I bring this up at all is because we covered nearly all of the drills yesterday in just under two hours, and I know we can make even more effective use of our time when everyone knows the drills.

Since everyone was more or less a beginner yesterday, we started with the absolute basics (vita thrust, lunge, passata), and gradually worked our way through more and more complicated drills, from the cavazione-opposition drill to the cavazione di tempo drill, all the way to incorporating the scanso della vita. Yeah, I know. For those of you who are reading this is a review, here it is:

1) Warm-ups: 15 vita thrusts, 12 lunges, 10 passate. Then we move on to the measure drill, tessitura (striking during my opponent's motion), and the simple cavazione-opposition drills.
2) The basic approaching drills (attacker "wins"):
a) attacker approaches and strikes via cavazione (defender opposes)
b) " and strikes via opposition (defender performs cavazioni).
3) The intermediate approaching drills (defender wins via interruption):
a) attacker approaches and defender counter-steps in the same time, as the attacker goes to cover himself (either in place or by stepping back) the defender strikes.
b) attacker approaches and defender counter-steps back in the same time, as the attacker gives chase, the defender strikes as soon as the attacker steps into measure.
4) The upper intermediate approaching drills (defender wins by waiting):
a) attacker approaches (defender opposes), and as the attacker thrusts via cavazione, defender counters with an opposition.
b) attacker approaches (defenders performs cavazioni), and as the attacker thrusts via cavazione, defender yields to the pressure, either with a scanso della vita (on the inside) or with a passing step in prima (on the outside).

There are more drills that can be added, but these are the absolute basics. We'll go over these some more over the coming weeks.