We began class with a quick review of the pas d’armes. I use it every year to gauge student progress and besides being fun, it has pedagogical aims. We’re not a sparring group, and do little of it (something I intend to rectify somewhat, but still not too much), so at the pas d’armes all the bugs come out under pressure.
We began class with some mulinello exercises, since I noticed some students have trouble with flow and continuity, and hold the sword in a death grip. Moulinets help rectify that, and so we did a few moulinet drills.
- Wrist moulinets, to the inside and outside (left and right).
- Reverse moulinets, both sides.
- Basic cutting exercise, going through the path of the six basic cuts: fendente, sottani, mezani.
- A slight brain and arm twister, mixing it up. Fendente, sottani, roverso, sottani roverso, repeat.
- Cutting on a circle – moulinets while circling to the left and right with an accressere, solo.
- Ditto, paired. Come to a bind, take a step offline, repeat.
Next, we worked the second remedy master of largo with varying footwork. Canonical technique has you step in with the left foot for the parry. This is all fine and good, but isn’t always feasible. What was happening alot at the tourney was that folks were on edge, and launching at one another, considerably throwing measure out of whack and coming to bind directly at the hilts. Defending against an aggressive attacker then became the theme for the rest of class.
The basic tenet I espouse is to move offline. Students practiced stepping directly offline to the right, which doesn’t significantly alter distance, but does put you in an advantageous position, and opens up their inside line to a riposte. Done well, it’s almost a one-time parry and counter, done at the hilts. Since your partner is aggressive, it’s difficult for him to adjust to that changing line, momentum takes him forward, and you jack in in the face.
I also had them practice something else they rarely do: backing up. Passing back offline (to the right) is a marvellous way of regaining sword measure. you come to the bind at mezza spada versus someone who is aggressive, putting you into a familiar position for any follow-ups. With any luck, they continue to barrel down and impale themselves on your point, since their momentum is taking them that way and they are often off-balance.
Lastly, an elegant way of dealing with an aggressive attacker is to simply jack them in the face using a stop-thrust. Remember to close the line and keep yourself safe, but otherwise, your opponent will walk onto your sword. A slight accressere forward will add to their discomfort., and you can do this with or without stepping offline in either direction.
The second half of class was taken up with sword and buckler actions. The principal theme was parrying with the sword, not the buckler, as the latter supports the sword, and is not generally used to parry with. All the plays were first done left hand empty so we could see the correlation of free hand to buckler, and how all the single hand plays can then be done with a buckler.
Play 1: Cut, parry, cover with buckler and volta to a downward thrust.
Play 2: Versus a rising thrust, point down cover, transfer to buckler, point online and thrust.
There were a few more, but frankly – I forget. It has been at least two weeks, after all…