Companion class 07/03/2011

Tonight’s class was aimed squarely at the zogho stretto of Fiore’s manuscripts – specifically, what I called “pommel play.”  We looked at all the plays using the pommel, and while I was tempted to include the disarms, thought that would be too ambitious – which it would have been.  In my defence, I did include some disarms, but using the pommel, so it’s ok.  We will do an entire class on the canonical disarms as well in a future class, but next week will be repetition of tonight, to ingrain the techniques and principles.

We began with a basic overview of stretto vs largo and the tactical situations each addresses, with the defining characteristics being: measure and positioning.  Doing the stretto plays with the right foot forward allows you to step forward aggresively to the outside, isolating the companion’s weak side.

The first drill was the third play of stretto: the pommel strike with one hand, controlling with the left hand.  Remember to control the hand to prevent any return action, and compress it down to the body.  This play also includes the option to move out of range and strike fendente, which we also practiced.

The next drill was the fourth play of stretto, aka the two-hand pommel strike.  It also has a variant or follow-up in which you throw the sword around the companion’s neck and take him down.

Next on the plate was the 7th play, or sword wrap and hilt grab.  Fiore tells us it counters all disarms and grapples.  He is also explicit in telling us to be quick.  This is a pre-emptive move from the bind, where because of positioning (right foot forward), we can employ the same principle as the sword grab, but instead follow through and wrap the sword entirely.  This, in itself, traps the blade against the body, and coupled with the subsequent hilt grab, effectively shuts down any grapples or pommel strikes. While not a pommel play in itself, it purportedly counters all the grapples, so is included here.

The 8th and 9th plays followed, whereby the pommel (more properly the handle or grip) is used to set aside the companion’s sword and remove the point from presence, forcing it high.  This is the same principle as the elbow push from the outside, and we use the long lever of the companion’s arm against him, except from the inside.  Once the point is out of the way, transition by passing your left hand under your sword and over the companion’s arms, wrapping them to bring your point online while slicing the arms.  Fiore tells us to continue striking until, well… you get it.

Finally for the stretto, I did the last four plays (actually, I skipped the last one).  All four are for all intents and purposes the same play, but Fiore is giving us a lesson on mechanics.  The first is the high disarm, whereby you threaten with the pommel, but rather than strike, you step in and wrap his arms from above.  Use your pommel to set aside the blade, turning it down while you pivot back.  This will disarm the Companion of his sword.

The next two plays work using the same principle – the middle disarm grasps the handle between the hands, while the lower grips the companion’s pommel.  Use your pommel in all three cases to set aside the blade and strip the weapon.  The manuscript has us step deeply and behind the Companion, but if you step in front, you can turn this into a nasty throw at the same time.  Just sayin’.

I mentioned the play that occurs only in the PD, which hooks with the pommel between the hands and uses the hand-press with the off hand to further control and disarm the Companion.  We did not practice this, since I wanted to move into the mounted plays with the pommel – specifically the play that Fiore contends counters all the plays before and after.  No shit. Oh, except for its counter, of course…

There are basically two types of pommel plays in the mounted section – from a bind, you hook the pommel to the inside, and instruct your horse to canter off, pulling the unfortunate Companion of his horse or removing his sword.  An astute student noted that this is possible, since you’re in armour and thus not overly worried about slicing the inside of your arm.  Precisely.

For the second, I first addressed the issue of the switching horses in the Getty – for the initial pommel strike, they find one another on the left, but for the counter, they are on the right.  Now, either this is Fiore’s way of saying the counter works against both inside and outside threats, or the MS is just messed up, since the PD does not have this discrepancy.

So, with the sword in one hand (this will work with both hands, btw…) cut to a bind, step through to stretto, and move in for the pommel strike.  Nothing new here, really, in terms of principles.  The counter (9th play) is specific, however: use the handle to block the incoming pommel strike.  Why?  The answer lies in the fact that the reins are held with the other hand. Normally, you could control with an elbow push, but in this case, it isn’t available.  Keeping the sword vertical prevents the hook, and keeps you in a mechanically strong position, whereas your Companion is giving you his outside, in a weak position.  Once set aside, either enter with a pommel strike of your own, or perform a riverso, which is Fiore’s first option.  This riverso, if done with a bit of oomph may simultaneously disarm him as well.

That’s it for now.  More later…