Last night was my return after having taken the summer off to recharge my batteries. Let me start this post by thanking all those who stepped up during the summer: Jim Clark, Dan Sellars and Jean François Gagné, among others, who helped keep things running smoothly in my absence. You are princes among men.
After Dan took the initiative and began the warm up, I addressed the class concerning our upcoming Fight for Life charity event. You can obtain more information by clicking the link or visiting the Facebook event page. </end shameless plug>
We began with some cutting drills – basic full cuts in an x-pattern, both fendenti and sottani, followed by a sword handling drill using mezani in what I like to call the “three edges drill.” This drill is less a cutting drill and more a drill designed to force students to think about edge alignment and fluid grip. It came about, interestingly enough, from a discussion I had with Dan in which he mentioned the sword has “two false edges,” which I knew, but had never articulated in that way. The man has his uses.
In short, from posta di donna, cut a wide, sweeping false edge mezani from the shoulder, pommel under your lead arm. Bring the sword around over your head, flipping it in the process and step with a true edge mezani. Continue through with the cut, once again flipping the sword to cut false edge mezani, shifting your grip so the thumb ends up beneath the blade. Reverse the sword, repeating the process in reverse. I’m glad I did it, since I discovered it to be particularly challenging for people. See? The summer break allows me to come up with new and interesting ways to torture my student base.
This was followed up by a lesson on tempo, the difference between time and tempo, tempo as it relates to actions, and tempo as it is used to describe tactical situations and the use of this terminology to provide waypoints for students to recognise opportunities of attack. This lesson was provoked by my observation that many students fail to recognise opportunities to attack, and do so safely.
Primo Tempo, or seizing the initiative as your opponent steps into measure. Also examined at this juncture was using primo tempo as a provocation, and from the opposite point of view, trying to provoke the primo tempo attack to respond in due tempi, or two tempos. Less focus was made on actions themselves and the mechanics of cuts and parries, with the onus really being on recognising and capitalising on the primo tempo opportunities.
Due Tempo was next examined, with a couple of examples trotted out for students to see. It was like a day at the zoo. Fiore’s being a primarily due tempi system makes examples of this easy to find, and students had little problem performing the play. They *did* however have some difficulty accomplishing the primary objective of the drill, which was remembering to provoke a primo tempo attack, to be dealt with in due tempi. We’ll get back to it, undoubtedly.
Finally, to round out the evening, stesso tempo actions were practised. (I know, I know, modern term, encompassed in the historical contratempo… but they may come across the term, and I thought it worth delineating it in terms of how it works as a single-time parry-riposte). Two actions were practised, the counter cut using a fendente to break the attack and simultaneously strike and cover, and then repeated with the mezani. Our German brethren may recognise this as the Zwerchau, except we don’t break our wrists to do it. Silly Germans. These actions are great fun to do, when you can pull them off. They are dependent on a great sense of timing, allowing you to “out-time” your opponent and get your cover in place. Follow-up actions were not explored, students were simply asked to explore the mechanics and timing of the single-time actions.
Next week, some review, and we will then examine contratempo proper, mezzo tempo and tempo indivisible, aka “single imperfect time” – for all intents and purposes, “time and a half” actions.