Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rapier training for the next month

Another month, another focus. I've been playing around with a few different ideas in class recently, and I've been very pleased with the results they have been bringing. As I promised at the end of 2009, we're going to be spending a fair amount of time working with feints and the plates of Capoferro during the next two months, after which we'll have a general exam at the beginning of April before Maestro Martinez's seminar on Destreza towards the end of the month. (To which I strongly recommend everyone goes...).

In terms of new drills, there's little new technical material to introduce - we've really covered every useful thing to be done with the unaccompanied sword - so we're moving on to some more tactical-based drills. Specifically, I wanted to examine three scenarios: 1) the patient steps in with the initial guadagnare and thus becomes the agent; 2) the appropriate use of the passing lunge; 3) deviating from the linea retta, i.e. looking at the plates.

Finally, much more fencing. I continue to enjoy the agent/patient drills we've been working on, and now I'd like to move into some more "extreme" scenarios: endurance, having already been struck, Highlander. Let's see how it all works out on Wednesday night!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Musings on Dall'Agocchie, part 1

Over the past several months, I've spent a lot of time reading, re-reading, interpreting and re-interpreting Giovanni Dall'Agocchie's 1572 treatise, and I've come to some very interesting conclusions, enlightening even. Despite the fact that Dall'Agocchie spends roughly 50 pages on describing the play of the unaccompanied sword, the actions he describes - as either the attacker or the defender - add up to a dozen at most. The thing I find most interesting is that the defenses are almost identical to the provocations he mentions, and a majority of the actions at the half sword are contained in the provocation section as well. In other words, his system is a very tight, endlessly looping circle, like any other system, I suppose.

The seven most important actions Dall'Agocchie describes are as follows:
1) Single time counter thrust: a change to either guardia d'entrare or guardia di faccia, followed by a thrust to the nearest target, which is usually the chest or the face.
2) Deflection with the false edge: a parry made with either a falso dritto (coda lunga) or a falso manco (porta di ferro), followed by either cut or thrust, depending on the side.
3) Deflection with the true edge: a parry made with either a mandritto sgualimbro (coda lunga) or a riverso sgualimbro (porta di ferro), followed by either thrust or cut.
4) Yielding parry: a parry made in guardia di testa (on both sides), followed immediately by a cut, or a thrust on the dritto side.
5) Leg void: against any attack to the leg, the lead leg is voided together with a thrust to the face.
6) Body void/feinted parry: the defender makes as if to parry in one of the high guards, but stops short, and immediately counterattacks.
7) Body void with attack to hand: the defender passes back during a thrust, and throws a blow to the exposed hand/arm of the attacker.

In the next post, I'll talk a little bit more about the footwork involved with all of these defenses, as it varies subtly for each one (single vs. two vs. half).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Workshop review: 17 January

Today I gave a short (just under three hours) workshop on the Capoferro's 1610 rapier treatise. Although it was aimed primarily at new students, there was plenty of material for more regular students to work on. Despite the brevity of the workshop, we managed to cover a lot of things; although we didn't get to the piegatura della vita as a final response for either the agent or the patient, we went through all four intelligent responses to guadagnare: cavazione di tempo, change of guard di tempo (there has to be a better name for that!), cut to the sword via cavazione, and the half-cavazione. Overall, it was a success.

Where do we want to go from here? We'll continue refining our sensitivity through the more complex fencing drills I've introduced in the past couple of weeks, and then (or perhaps concurrently) I'd like to examine some of the feints, and how they affect the fight. I've been thinking specifically about feints that allow the agent to strike underneath the sword, as well as using the half-cavazione as the aggressor; difficult, but I've witnessed it numerous times. After that, it's time to look at the body voids and the plates; by the end of April, we should be good to go on rapier and dagger after the mass examination. More details on that to follow.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Class review: more drills

After teaching today's class, which went very well, in my humble opinion, I realized that there is another way to categorize the drills we do: drills where the attacker wins, drills where the defender wins, and drills where the attacker wins again. In other words, the drills go from the most simple to the most complex.

Simple drills in which the attacker wins:
1) Spiral drill, version 1: the attacker thrusts via a contra-cavazione because the defender simply goes to cover himself.
2) Spiral drill, version 2: the attacker thrusts via a change of guard (i.e. opposition) because the defender simply covers himself without threatening. With weapons of equal length, this must be done earlier in the tempo, whereas with weapons of varying lengths, the fencer with the shorter blade will almost always do this version, whereas the fencer with the longer blade will perform the first action mentioned above.
3) Spiral drill, version 3: the attacker cuts to the blade in order to create motion from stillness, and then does one of three things -
a) follows immediately with a falso dritto or falso manco with a step to the face or throat. It is important that the hilt stays low to cover a flailing action from the defender.
b) if the defender cuts back up with the sword, the attacker will perform a cavazione with a change of guard and thrust to the open target.
c) if the defender performs a cavazione to cover, the attacker will exchange guards and thrust to the open target.

Complex drills in which the defender wins:
1) Cavazione di tempo: can be done against actions 1,2 or 3 mentioned above.
2) Exchange of guard di tempo: can also be done against actions 1,2 or 3 mentioned above.
3) Cavazione with a cut to the sword: can be done against actions 1,2 or 3 mentioned above. As with action 3, the ultimate attack depends upon the attacker's follow-up action.
4) Half-cavazione: can be done against actions 1,2 or 3 mentioned above.
5) Ceding of the vita: performed against the cut mentioned in part a of the third version of the spiral drill. The defender cedes the vita together and thrusts to the open target.

Most complex drills in which the attacker wins:
1) Ceding of the vita: can be done against complex actions 1 and 2 of the defender.
a) if the defender performs a cavazione di tempo, the attacker will cede the vita and thrust in the same guard.
b) if the defender performs an exchange of guard di tempo, the attacker will cede the vita and peform a cavazione together with a change of guard.
2) Ceding of the vita against the cut: identical to action 5 mentioned in the complex drills.

The only thing we need to add now are strikes below the sword (covered in the coming weeks), voids of the body, and what to do against an unorthodox fencer. Well, maybe the phrasing on that was a bit unjust; "only" implies that this will take but a short while, when in reality we will be working on and refining this actions over the course of the next couple of years.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Class review: new curriculum drills

The principles underlying fencing have become crystal-clear to me over the past month or so. Though I would not go so far as to say that I'm great at it - I still need much more practice to get to where I need to be - I know exactly how to get there. I've added to and refined somewhat the drills that Jared gave to us in September, and here is what class looks like now: a combination of "technique" drills, more stressful versions of those drills, and fencing drills.

Technique drills:
1) Cavazione di tempo, simple version: both fencers begin in terza with the tips crossed, and the agent will step forward to stringere. In that time, the patient will perform a cavazione and thrust to the opposite side. As in every other drill, the timing on this is of the utmost importance.
2) Ceding the vita, simple version: both fencers begin in terza with the tips crossed, and the agent will again step forward to stringere, paying close attention to the length of the initial step. As the patient performs the cavazione di tempo, the agent will cede the vita, allowing a mini-cavazione and a thrust in contratempo.
3) Perfect spiral, simple version: from out of measure, the agent makes a threat to the inside or the outside, which the patient will cover. During the patient's action, the agent will perform a cavazione while stepping forward. The patient will perform a cavazione to make the cover, and during that time, the offender will perform a contra-cavazione thrust.
4) Perfect spiral with cavazione di tempo: as above, only the patient will perform a cavazione di tempo and thrust during the agent's first cavazione.
5) Perfect spiral with opposition: as above, only the patient will perform an exchange of guard (opposition) during the opponent's first cavazione, and immediately thrust.
6) Perfect spiral, advanced version: as above, only during the patient's cavazione di tempo, the attacker will cede the vita and strike via a mini-cavazione to the new opening.
7) Imperfect spiral, simple version: as the perfect spiral, only the agent will perform an exchange of guard (from 4th to 2nd, or 2nd to 4th) during the patient's cavazione.
8) Imperfect spiral with cavazione di tempo: identical to number 4.
9) Imperfect spiral with opposition: identical to number 5.
10) Imperfect spiral, advanced version: as number 6, only during the patient's exchange of guard, the agent will perform a ceding of the vita and thrust via a change of guard.

Stress drills:
1) Increase the pace of any of the above drills. (This doesn't mean "go blindingly fast"; it simply means to lessen the time taken between actions.)
2) Vary the tempo of the action. (Again, this doesn't mean "go blindingly fast"; in this case we attempt to eliminate any foreknowledge of the action.)
3) Begin from a weak position, i.e. with the patient stringered.

Fencing drills:
1) Agent/patient, version 1: for X minutes, one fencer is the agente, and the other the patient. During that time, the agente will move in to strike the patient, and will only do so if he has "eyes" for what the patient is doing. No cutting. A constant motion drill.
2) Agent/patient, version 2: as above, only now cutting is also in. A motion and stillness drill.
3) 3 hits: as the above two drills, only this time, the agent/patient element is eliminated. This can be done with either thrusts only, or with cuts as well.

There are many more drills I'd like to put in here, but I'll leave it here for now. More to follow this weekend!