It’s been some time, so I’ll briefly recap some of what’s been going on of late in the sala.
For starters, there has been somewhat of a return to basics. This will form the subject of another post, but for now, suffice to say there were some holes in my pedagogical regimen that I sought to fill, and we’ve been doing some of that in the form of basic (and not so basic) cutting and sword handling drills, both static and dynamic, true edge and false edge from all angles. We also took a slight detour out of the core curriculum and looked at kicks. Not kicks alone, mind you, but their place in the tactical repertoire, how Fiore uses them, and of course, the mechanics of these kicks.
I won’t describe all the cutting or flow drills, but this one is worthy of posting.
- Begin in tutta porta di ferro
- Cut sottani falso with a pass
- At the end of the cut, perform a tutta volta and pass backwards (tornare) while cutting a true edge sottani to posta di finestra on the left.
- From posta di finestra la sinestra, circle the sword through a coda-longa-esque position, and return with a falso sottani riverso, with a backwards passing step.
- At the end of the falso cut, perform another tutta volta and pass forward with a sottani roverso to posta di finestra destra.
- Passing through posta di finestra, move through posta di coda longa to cut sottani falso with a pass (step 1) – continue the pattern as you step across the room.
Fiore illustrates two kicks in the largo section, and the choice of which to use is largely dependent on measure and pressure, or the intent of your opponent. They are largely used when the high line is closed, but the low line is open.
One of these kicks is a simple front kick, what my son in his karate practise would call a mae geri. It is illustrated with the players bound at the hilts, swords high, with the kick aimed at the attacker’s cogliones (cojones, couilles, testicles – sounds better in a Latin language, no?).
While it seems to be largely a result of the attacker pressing in, providing forward pressure, it could also be performed by the attacker to make the defender miss his cover (as we’re told by Fiore) by breaking his structure. This break in structure is accomplished through either pain compliance (ouch!) or a flinch reaction on the part of the person receiving the kick. Either will clear the way for a follow-up action. We practised both scenarios, sword in hand, but first, we practised the mechanics of the kicks themselves.
- Begin in place, assuming tutta porta di ferro
- Raise the right knee to the height of the kick, in this case, the belt area (we want to stay friends, after all)
- Lower the foot back to guard position.
A few notes: Project your force forward with the knee, engaging the hips – you will begin to lean back slightly at the end, to counter-balance your body. Also, do not torque the left knee or even move the left foot (it should continue to point at your partner), but rather contract your inner thigh muscles and above all, maintain your balance. Incidentally, you are also practising knee strikes – useful in the dagger section, and also in short-range scenarios where the kick will fail. Also, having a partner hold a kick bag or provide a target with their hands is extremely helpful.
The next step is the kick itself.
- As before, assume porta di ferro, left foot forward.
- Raise the knee to kick level.
- Push your hips forward, leaning back.
- Snap the foot out, and retract it just as quickly.
- Resume the same guard, left foot forward.
- Repeat a few times, then switch sides.
A few points of note: kick with the ball of the foot, not the toes. One could argue the kick is delivered with the crook of the foot when aimed at the cogliones, but kicking a hard target (if you miss) with your toes is ill-advised. Also, remember to snap the kick to avoid the counter (the leg grab). This is not a push-kick, but a snap-kick. We could very well practise the push-kick, but it comes much more naturally, so practising the snap-kick was a conscious decision.
Next, partner up, and use your partner as a target to gauge distance, and deliver controlled kicks to his abdomen. The partner is to practise receiving these by contracting at the moment of impact.
Finally, get swords in hand, have the attacker try to crash in, and deliver a swift kick to the… well, you know.
The side kicks were practised similarly, with the caveat that the target is different – being a low kick to the shin, just below the knee. It is a stop-kick, and will collapse the knee, breaking the recipient’s structure. Delivered in a tactically different scenario, notably from a slightly wider measure, and seemingly from a more neutral bind (the sword has been grabbed), it is also delivered with the blade of the foot, rather than the ball.
- Begin in tutta porta di ferro, left foot forward.
- Raise the right knee, pivoting left on the ball of your left foot to turn facing 90 degrees from the front. Resist the temptation at this point to lean to the left or jut your hips out. And don’t show your partner your butt.
- Push your hips to the right slightly, towards your partner, leaning slightly to your left to counter-balance your body weight.
- Snap the kick out and down to knee level.
- Retract the leg.
- Pivot back, knee still chambered.
- Resume your stance, left foot forward.
At first, practise only steps 1-2, resuming your stance afterwards, to get the pivot correct and in balance. Then add the kick proper.
Next, practise with a target (carefully), moving across the room. Partners make excellent targets!
Finally, get swords in hand and practise with a neutral bind, or slight forward pressure, allowing you to grab the opposing blade, pivot and kick. It’s interesting to note that this sword grab helps maintain your balance if you lever your hilt up into it.
Finally, a decision drill, whereby students were fed different pressures (soft, hard, forward or neutral) and had to respond accordingly with either the first play of largo (soft), the colpi di villano/tutta volta di spada (hard to your right), forward kick (hard forward) or side kick (neutral).
That’s all, folks.