Thursday, September 23, 2010

Updates! There must be updates!

The events of the last six weeks have really kept me away from posting any new material in a while; preparing for the start of a new school term, going to ISMAC, and teaching a "graduate" course have all taken their toll, but I feel like I've got everything under wraps. I don't want to write too much here today, because I'll have a lot more to say on Sunday; we've done some very interesting (and productive!) drills in class, and they are paying off in a big way.

For those of you not in the know, as of the 31st of October, I am reinstating the Italian rapier programme at FAC, which will have been on hiatus for just over four months. The reasons for putting it on the shelf are numerous, and the reasons for bringing it back are just as many, so I won't delve into the details. The two main reasons I'm bringing it back are:

1. There is no better way to learn how to thrust properly. It also teaches the student how to maximize his or her efficiency.
2. The notions of gaining and constraining are very explicit, which facilitates a quicker (in my opinion) understanding of fencing theory, and how it can be played with.

I'd love to do more than one class per week, but the fact of the matter is that I'm a full-time PhD student, and I want to finish on time. I'll try to run longer classes on a regular basis, but that's all I can do about that.

Secondly, if rapier is coming back on, that means that something is going away: the Dall'Agocchie study group will only run on Wednesday evenings from 9h00-11h00 (ish). Participation is still by invitation only, as the group assumes a considerable familiarity with the sword in one hand. After three months (maybe longer?) of hard work, I'll finally be ready to bring in a new group of students starting October 17th, when I will be giving a short seminar on Dall'Agocchie's system. If you're new and you want to come out to the study group, this seminar is MANDATORY, no exceptions. More details to follow in the next week or so.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Quick update before ISMAC

I've been pretty terrible about updating this blog in the last month; a lot of things kept me pretty busy, and I just haven't had the time to put anything new and exciting up. I've also been really focused on my Fiore material for the free scholler test in seven weeks, so my mind has been elsewhere. Anyway, enough excuses! Here's what we've covered recently, and where we will be going when I return from Detroit next week:

1) Revising and refining the performance of the "stepping in the guards" drill, aka the solo form. Judging from last night's session, we're all pretty much on the same page, but there are a few details that need to be cleared up:
a) The first two steps (assuming a right-handed fencer) are to the right on a 45 degree angle, and then to the left on a 45 degree angle. We no longer do a full triangle step, as it is not mentioned in the text.
b) On the same note, there are only two directions: 45 to the right, and 45 to the left. I noticed that when people were throwing the first tramazzone, there was a tendency to center up; we should still be facing 45 to the left, both forward and backward.
c) In order to avoid confusion, the two ribbon cuts are now known as "dritto" and "riverso" ribbons; when changing to the left hand, the terms "left" and "right" were quite confusing.
d) All of Dall'Agocchie's guards (with the exception of Testa and Alicorno) are done with the point up, facing either the opponent's flank (the low guards) or his face or chest (the high guards); if the point is down, it should be all the way down, which makes it a larga (wide) guard. Having the sword at the level of stretta but with the point facing down is not the guard.

2) Simplification of all of the most important covers, which are:
a) a cover in Entrare or Faccia with a thrust to the face or chest; useful also against a low attack with a void of the lead foot.
b) a cover in Guardia di Testa moving to the right, a falso manco while moving to the left.
c) a mezzo mandritto moving to the right, a riverso sgualimbro moving to the left.

The footwork for the aforementioned actions is unique, and it is consistent: the only "major" change is when the left foot is forward instead, in which case all the same blade actions are possible, but with a slightly different movement of the feet and body. (We'll cover
a) Faccia and Entrare typically involve a mezza volta of the sword (this is the strongest action) in order to cover, and then a step towards the origin of the attack for the counter. If for some reason the attack turns out to be to the leg, a simple voiding will happen.
b) Guardia di Testa requires you to step behind your right foot with your left, which lines the body up (almost a rapier stance) and removes the target. If the attack is low, Testa just drops lower to intercept.
c) The falso manco is almost always done with a step of your right foot to your left (again, lining your feet up, but not crossing them), and the counter is done with a pass of the left foot on the traverse, i.e. to your left.
d) The mezzo mandritto, curiously, is done with a step to your right with the right foot; the following footwork for the cuts and thrusts is never mentioned in the text.
e) The riverso sgualimbro is always done by stepping to your left with the left foot; the counter is done with a volta stabile to your right (i.e. the riverso ridoppio), and the imbroccata is done with an increase of the right foot.
f) another possible case is the pass back of the lead foot with a tramazzone (dritto or riverso) to the sword arm. This is only done against an imbroccata or stoccata.

3) The changing directions drill, both directions. I had just written everything up for this, but I lost it, so I'll keep this short.
a) all attacks must be made in earnest, except when it's a provocation. You can't defend against a defense, or cheat by anticipating. Everything falls apart.
b) When beating the patient's sword with a ridoppio, thrust an imbroccata while passing to his right with your right foot. This is much safer, and more realistic.