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.
- 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!