Giocco Stretto 18-11-2015

dagaContinuing with the stretto theme, we began class with exercises meant to get students to recognise entry points and make safe entries. The first of these exercises began from a right foot forward stance, both players cutting to a bind without footwork. The Player attempts to force a bind on the Companion (i.e. force a desired entry – overbind, underbind, etc.) and failing that, recognise and point out the entry before performing an associated technique.

Stepping the drill one step further into bridging the gap, students began from wide measure, and stepping in with a cut to the bind. Again, the Player is attempting to force an entry on the Companion, using blade pressure and angulation as well as depth of the pass to the bind. This sets up a more realistic environment for practising entries into stretto, since the hands hand be high, low, left, right and the entry shallow or deep.

We followed this with a review of the 1st remedy master of dagger plays for stretto, the disarm and the ligadura mezana, followed by the two canonical counters, and inferred two more counters using first remedy master principles.

The tor di spada was to be next, but time ran short, and so these last plays of stretto will be visited next week, along with some slow speed sparring with entries into stretto being the defined goal.

Giocco Stretto

Class began with the usual warm up routines and some cuts – both simple and compound.

Our stretto focus continued as we reviewed plays introduced last week, but not practised enough to my taste. Beginning with the seventh play of stretto, where the hands are middling to high on the centerline, you strike the Companion’s hands to displace them (and the sword), preferably to your left. If you get the opening to the inside, you move on to the eighth play and wrap your left arm over both the Companion’s (making sure to use structure in your favour – don’t work from weakness) and apply a ligadura mezana. Pommel strike as you wish.MS_Latin_11269_27v-c

We briefly drilled the tenth play, stretto from a roverso. This, we set up by cutting mandritto fendente while the Companion parries with a falso rebat. On contact, the Companion’s hands are high, exposing the pommel – take this opportunity to step in and help it along its way, simultaneously drawing through with your fendente to put your point on line. Stab until tender.

Finally, we ended our review by rolling the 11th and twelfth plays into one fluid play. From the bind, grab the blade, setting it aside. Simultaneously perform a mezza volta cut (fendente roverso) to the Companion’s head. This should incite them to raise their hands to cover their head, which is when you step in and use their own blade to cut their face. Stepping further in, release your own sword, placing your right hands on their grip, use your left hand to pass the blade over their head, and take them down over your right leg. When pressed, you may omit passing the blade over the head, and take the Companion down with a quillion to the throat, but we were going for canon.

The first remedy master play (13) was then introduced. This play places the Companion’s hands a bit high, and spaced, providing a path for you to place your own left hand between. If this path isn’t present, perform the previous play. Two options are given, based on measure. The first option sees you performing the first remedy master of dagger disarm, the second a one-arm ligadura mezana should your arm penetrate deeper. Remember to collapse their structure as you attempt this, otherwise you are in for a nasty treat as they retain two hand control over their sword, countering with a wrist or arm lock.

Next week: some more review, and the counters. If time allows, slow speed sparring, focused on getting safely to stretto.


Fundamentals April 22 – May 27, 2015

There were two main focii for this series of classes: learning and ingraining the steps of the “posta drill” (versus the “posta dance”), and using drills to bridge the gap between practise and freeplay.

Beginning with the poste drill, we finaly got through it in its entirety. Here it is, for posterity:

  1. tutta porta di ferro -> acressere and break a thrust, pivot right to posta di donna
  2. posta di donna -> Perform the second master cover (w. acressere) & thrust, pivot right to posta di finestra
  3. posta di finestra -> Scambiar di punta with a pass, pivot left into posta di donna la senestra
  4. Posta di donna la sinestra -> Cut to longa w. a pass (ending left foot forward)
  5. Posta longa -> extend and cavazione with a passare, tornare and pivot right into porta di ferro mezana
  6. Porta di ferro mezana -> ribbon cut with weight shifts, pivot left to posta breve
  7. Posta breve -> thrust with a passare, regain sword in half sword and thrust again with an accressere, recover to dente di cinghiale
  8. Dente di cinghiale -> cut under hands, recover, thrust to face, pivot left to Coda longa
  9. Coda longa -> Pass forward w. a cover in posta di corona/frontale, pass with a pommel strike, pivot left to posta di bicorno
  10. Posta di bicorno -> volta stabile di spada to posta di finestra la sinestra, pass with a descending thrust in opposition, pivot left to posta di corona
  11. Posta di corona -> rompere di punta to hands, pass back while thrusting, return fendente to dente di cinghiale mezana
  12. Dente di cinghiale mezana -> rebatter and return colpi fendente roverso to Tutta porta di ferro

The second drill has a left hand version, and a right hand version, and both should be learned to competence and memorised.

From the left:

  1. Player enters measure with a provocation
  2. Companion cuts fendente
  3. Player parries with th first remedy master (punta)
  4. Companion recognises what is happening, moves to apply pressure to the parry
  5. Player cuts over to the opposite line, targeting the hands
  6. Companion retracts hands and parries in posta breve (footwork is important here), thrusting in response
  7. Player breaks thrust & cuts sottani
  8. Companion counters the break by following
  9. Player enters w. a pommel strike to counter (to the inside)

From the right:

  1. Player enters with a provocation
  2. Companion cuts fendente roverso
  3. Player parries with a falso rebat into a 1st master position
  4. Companion recognises what is happening, applies pressure, turning blade into the parry
  5. Player cuts to opposite line, targeting the hands
  6. Companion retracts hands and parries in posta breve, thrust in response
  7. Player breaks thrust and cuts sottani roverso
  8. Companion counters the break by following the sword
  9. Player enters with a pommel strike to counter (outside)

At first glance, of course, both drills are almost identical. The left hand variant, however, has the Companion working on his “weak” side, provided he is right handed. This has some interesting mechanical effects: crossed hands rompere, positioning on the parry in breve is awkward, entry with the pommel is to the inside, etc.

Once the drills are learned, they are then progressively “broken”, beginning at the end. In other words, do steps one to eight, then improvise step nine and have your partner react spontaneously. Then do the drill to step 7, 6, 5, and so forth, on both sides. The result is an almost complete fallback into a sort of freeplay (let’s call it structured loose play) until, of course, they are improvising at step 1 – in which case, it is freeplay.

This drill has its artificialities, namely, there are more actions than would likely occur in an actual bout before coming to grips or leaving measure, but this was done intentionally to ramp up the difficulty of the drill and have students thinking about maintaining proper measure and distance. The problem area is usually after the thrust from breve – depending on the reach of your partner and your relative distances, it may be wise to move offline or fade back to gain time to parry the thrust.


Fundamentals Class 10/06/2015

With the summer season approaching, attendance was low. This turned out to be a good thing, since we got to focus on some very low-level fundamentals before playing a bit.

The warmup included some dynamic stretching and footwork (“pinball drill”), before moving into a simple moulinet paired drill to get the blood pumping. The focus was less on form, and more on getting people moving.

Getty Eighth playThis was followed by a review of attacking mechanics with the dagger. Weapon first, step second (from wide measure), from varied guards, focusing on Fiore’s four main described attacks: mandritto, roverso, fendente and sottano. This was then practised again “from the draw”.

The first and second master covers were briefly visited, as a review, with an adjunct review of the balance or triangle point, lines of force, grounding and energy transmission. Class ended with an exploration of the eighth play of the first remedy of dagger (the displacement from the outside.) Focus was on offline movement (there’s a reason it’s rarely done) and looking at possible follow-up actions.


Fundamentals Class 08/04/15

A quick core strength warm up preceeded tonight’s class, as there was a lot of material to cover, and we wanted to jump right into it.

Following the warm up, we reviewed the poste dance (as opposed to the poste drill), which goes as follows:

  1. Begin in tutta porta di ferro
  2. Volta stabile and raise into posta di donna la soprana, back weighted
  3. Keeping it parallel to the ground, raise sword over head to posta di finestra destra, back weighted
  4. Change direction of intent, transitioning into posta di donna la sinestra, back weighted
  5. Passare to posta longa
  6. Volta stabile to porta di ferro mezana
  7. Passare to posta breve destra
  8. Tornare to dente di cinghiale
  9. Volta stabile to posta di coda longa
  10. Passare and turn to posta di bicorno
  11. Raise to posta frontale
  12. Volta stabile in the transition to dente di cinghiale mezana
  13. Volta stabile to tutta porta di ferro

Following this, we reviewed the poste drill, beginning from step 3 (see past posts for details.) I must, at this point, admit to a mea culpa, since I had students repeat the last step of the drill from last week (from coda longa to a pommel strike) without passing in the initial fendente. I will rectify this in the future, and hope it doesn’t confuse anybody unduly. The written drill as detailed here and elsewhere has primacy over whatever brain fart I may have had. In other words, Bern, I acknowledge the strange look you gave me – I concede you were correct. 😉

From the pommel strike, left foot forward:

  1. Pass back, pivoting left (volta stabile) into posta di bicorno
  2. From bicorno, perform volta stabile di spada and thrust with a pass from posta di finestra
  3. Pivot left again, assuming posta frontale
  4. Break an imaginary thrust down, cutting fendente to the hands to dente di cinghiaro, returning with a thrust to the face and a fendente, ending in…
  5. dente di cinghiaro. From here, perform rebatter from below, return with a fendente roverso, ending in tutta porta di ferro.
  6. Repeat drill from beginning.

The last part of the class involved a set play/flow drill with the goal of facilitating bridging the gap from practise to freeplay. More on this drill next week,



Fundamentals Class 01/04/2015

Class began as usual, with a warm up, followed by some cutting exercises. Reprising the previous class’ exercise, rotation around the rotational node was emphasised – half cuts (meza colpi) to posta breve (short guard), meza colpi to posta longa (long guard) to emphasise the difference, and finally compound cuts: pass with a fendente, moulinet with a roverso, ending in Tutta porta di Ferro, return to Posta di donna, repeat, do on both sides.

The poste drill (as opposed to the poste dance) was revisited to refresh students’ memory of the first six steps (available in previous posts – I’ll post up the complete sequence once class gets through it all). The next steps in the sequence were then added, as follows:

  • From porta di ferro mezana, right foot lead, pivot left (volta stabile), rising into posta breve.
  • From posta breve, thrust with a pass forward (passare), recover to posta breve serpentina (1/2 sword guard) and thrust again with an accressere.
  • Drop the sword to dente di zenghiaro, cut under the hands, recover, thrust to the face with an accressere.
  • Recover by pivoting left into posta di coda longa (tail guard). Cut with a pass into posta frontale, raise the pommel and pommel strike forcefully with a passare of the left foot.

This was followed by some drilling the rompere di punta to either side (left and right) from low guards tutta porta di ferro and dente di zenghiaro to finish the evening. I believe the rompere from the left to be sub-optimal, but it can still be done – its success relies on the alignment of the hands to body – try to refrain from crossing your hands in this action.

Next class: finally finish the sequence, and perhaps get some video!

Class 04/02/2015

A quick synopsis:

We reviewed my nomenclature for the 5 different types of defence: parry, beat, deflection, collection (point up and point on) and counter cut, as well as the importance of “stacking” defences by incorporating movement/evasion. Beginners then practised posta frontale parries, while intermediate and advanced students were asked to employ the 5 types of defence adversarially in more dynamic drills, rather than set plays.

We then went over the second part of the poste drill, which I’ll post here for posterity.

After the first three poste – Tutta Porta di Ferro, Posta di Donna destra, and Posta di finestra destra, we continue the sequence with the next three poste in the progression: Posta di Donna la sinestra (PdDs), Posta longa (PL) and Porta di Ferro mezana (PdFM).

From the endpoint of the last sequence, which saw us with our hands low having exchanged the thrust (scambiar di punta), right foot forward, we’ll pivot to a back-weighted stance, retrieving the sword to our left shoulder.
From here, cut fendente roverso with a pass, ending in posta longa (left foot forward). Be mindful about keeping the elbows slight bent, and tucked in. Extend into a thrust, then pass forward (right foot), performing a cavazione as you do so.
From posta longa, right foot forward, pass back to porta di ferro mezana, and pivot right, so your lead leg is now the right leg (as in the MS). Shift your weight back onto your rear leg, performing a rising falso sottani towards the left. At the top of this “ribbon”, shift the weight again forward with a slight acressere, returning with a fendente mandritto to porta di ferro mezana.
The next part of this series will include the next three poste – posta breve, dente di cinghiale and posta di coda longa.

Class 21/01/2015

A quick warm up was followed by some drills with several objectives: gain fluidity in cutting, practise grip fluidity and footwork, specifically the acressere. To this end, outside moulinets were done while advancing across the room, with said moulinets being done on the side of the lead leg. Beginners invariably focus on the cuts, while more advanced practitioners hone their form while I observe their footwork.

Following this, a review of last week’s class was done – working the rompere di punta (breaking the thrust), its follow-up, possible counter, and counter to this counter.

dui_manoThe goal after this was to practise at speed, while newcomers practised the poste dance, then move into the scambiar di punta and its follow-on play (and possible counters) before learning a new drill based on the poste dance, but with common actions from each guard inserted into the sequence. My ambition was greater than the time allotment, so we moved straight to the modified poste dance.

This version seeks to reunite three things: the twelve poste sequence from the Getty manuscript, common actions from each as described in the manuscript, and varying footwork designed to work both footwork and spatial awareness.

After initially being gung-ho and aspiring to make it through the entire drill, I quickly realised I was being a dweeb, and scaled it back to the first three guards and actions. They are found below.

  1. Begin in tutta porta di ferro (TPdF). Acressere slightly off the line while covering a thrust in a low frontale. Perform a mezza volta (oblique pass, more of a shuffle in this case) while performing the rompere di punta (break the thrust to the ground). This is the rompere di punta, a primary action from TPdF.
  2. Look left, and raise your sword into a back weighted posta di donna (PdD).  This rising action can also be the return cut form the rompere, ending in PdD. This is a change of direction of intent. Pivot forward and acressere slightly off the line with the front foot, cutting short to parry. Extend the arms into a thrust and pass forward. This is the Second remedy of longsword (giocco largo).
  3. Once again, look left and raise the sword, turning it around its point of balance, into a back-weighted posta di finestra (PdF). Pivot forward with a slight oblique acressere and cover an imagined incoming thrust in a low posta frontale (PF) Extend the hands down and slightly out, keeping them low, and direct the point into an imagined throat with a pass forward with the right foot. This is the scambiar di punta, or exchange of the thrust.

That ended the practised sequence. Next week, we will continue our progression with the next three poste in the series: Posta di donna la sinestra (PdDS), Posta longa (PL) and Porta di ferro mezana (PdFM), with a simple cut, cavazione and ribbon cut respectively. Stay tuned.


Finestra Focus : Nov. 12th to Dec. 3rd

The last few weeks have seen us work extensively with finestra, in terms of form and structure, tactical considerations, cutting to and from finestra and using finestra defensively to passively close a line as well as actively through collections and parries. Here is an overview of that focus.

Cutting drills:

  • Hip cuts – cutting from the hip. From posta di donna, back weighted, cut to a breve position without passing, engaging the hips and pushing off the back leg to employ proper structure. Repeat from finestra.
  • Push cut/slicing cut from finestra
  • Circular cut from finestra
  • Percussive cut from finestra
  • Thrusts from finestra (downward angled with accressere and passare)
  • Thrusts from finestra (transitioning into posta longa)
  • Thrust-cuts from finestra (engage with a thrust, then cut to the opening)
  • Cut-thrusts from finestra (cut from finestra, followed by a thrust)

These were augmented with some transition and point control drills – moving from finestra to finestra on the opposite side, all while keeping the point in line (tip – push hands forward to avoid circling the point).

We did a variation of a drill I stole, “defending the wall” where the defender must parry attacks at various heights using finestra and breve (a variation of the “four hangers” drill of Liechtenauer fame).

Stance stepping drills formed a part of this focus as well. From a back-weighted stance in posta di finestra, volta stabile forward, press hands forward into a push cut, pass, then volta stabile back into a back weighted posta di finestra on the opposite side.

We also performed some paired analysis exercises. Students were put into groups of three, one defender, one attacker and an observer. The observer’s role was to critique (positively) the students performing cuts and defences. Students rotated through this role. The goal is to permit students to use their thinking caps in analysing motion, and perhaps work out why things work or don’t for themselves.

Finestra covers also figured prominently. Borrowing a page from the Bolognese, we used finestra to cover in any one of several directions versus a fendente mandritto, regardless of footing. Acressere into the cut, traverse, stationary, passing into the cut, passing transversely, passing back, pivoting, essentially any combination of footwork that kept your centre aligned, and your feet uncrossed.

We also played with a yield from finestra, should things go awry, as well as an invitation to attack finestra and yield – a clear tactical choice available to a fencer.

Having covered a panoply of covers to the inside, including linking the different cutting actions above with various canonical plays (scambiar di punta and rompere di punta), we also visited covers to the outside of the sword – both collections and expulsions (that largely result from a missed or overzealous (read ‘oh shit’) collection.) Speaking of the rompere, varied footwork was explored, namely the rompere without a pass (canon dictates a mezza volta). This is the result of your opponent having to creep forward to reach you in a back weighted stance – your pass is replaced by a volta forward. Adding a pass adds another tempo, and could result in closing too close (unless, of course, that is your intent).

Mixed drills rounded out the exploration – combinations of attacking and covering from/into finestra, and in particular, employing finestra as a cover as you exit from a failed or aborted attack. Remember to withdraw your hands, kids!



Fundamentals Class 14/05/2014

Class began with the usual warm up, begun by Jean François Gagné, as I attempted to repair our weapons cabinet (don’t ask…). This was followed by a simple partnered moulinet dagger flow drill, and our version of the dagger poste dance. By this time, I’d managed to get dressed, and jumped in. Thank you, JF!

The rest of the class was dedicated to the 6th remedy master of dagger and some of its derived plays. Begisixth remedy masternning with the cover, we drilled covering from different position and footwork – stepping in to break the attack, receiving the attack without moving, and moving offline with a compass step. Some points to consider for each one:

  • When breaking the attack, some offline movement is desirable – the range is shortened when using the dagger to cover in frontale. Don’t eat a dagger to the face.
  • When receiving the attack, ground yourself with proper structure by dropping your weight and extending your rear leg. all the force of the dagger should be routed into the ground through your back leg.
  • Offline with a compass pace sets up a natural path for the dagger to move to the outside.

We proceeded then to the second scholar of the remedy, setting aside the dagger to gain the attacker’s outside. Always remember to suppress the dagger as you enter and stab with your own. Not doing so gives your partner an opportunity to free himself and counter with a direct thrust.

The dagger disarm was practised next. An important point to consider is an anchoring point for your own dagger as your strip your partner’s. Adding insult to injury, you can also get a ligadura if he refuses to let go.

Finally, the dagger plays were related back to the first and third (unarmed) remedies that play to the inside and outside, respectively. To end, the first scholar of the sixth remedy was practised, whereby the scholar covers with the dagger, but then transfers to a first master grip to stab the player in the ribs. Notes: Don’t remove your second hand from the dagger if your partner is bearing down on you. This turns out to be a good sentimento di daga drill as well, because you have to understand when it is appropriate to remove the left hand from the dagger. In essence, when pressure is removed (beginning to draw back for a second attack) or redirected to the outside.

In all, excellent class, and students picked up quickly and intuitively. Good work!