Remember that bit about “there’s no way they’re going to allow us swords on the first day”? Turns out I was wrong. Yay!
After practicing the steps, positions and dagger attacks, as well as falling and the principles of balance, we are asked to gather around the sword rack.
There’s one problem with sword racks: they’re pretty small. This means that when 20 students are asked to fetch their swords, suddenly those 20 people all rush to a very small area. A high density of people + swords = not the best of ideas. This is why the teacher shows us how to remove a sword from the wall. His instructions can be summed up in two words: point down.
It takes a while until everybody has a sword in their hand (in practice only one person can take a sword at a time), but eventually we’re all standing in a line again. It’s time to learn the salute, Aragorn-style.
There’s no real historical record of a salute, but it’s part of the school’s culture. At the beginning and end of each lesson the teacher and the students greet each other by performing a salute. In the salute the sword’s cross-guard is about eye-level, as pictured to the left.
There’s still time for one more exercise. What we learn now is what you might call a basic sword attack or a downwards slash, but Fiore calls it Mandritto fendente, “forehand cleaving blow”. It’s what I first think of when I hear the words “sword fighting”.
It’s seems simple enough. You start with the sword on your right shoulder (provided you’re right-handed) and your weight on your left foot. You step forward (passare) and take the Posta Longa position. This is where you’ll notice how heavy a sword really is. It doesn’t feel that heavy when you first pick it up, but once you have to hold it up for even a few seconds? Yeah. After doing this exercise a couple of times the weight begins to sink in.
Anyway, you continue to slash downwards (try not to hit the floor), and then lift the sword back up to rest on your other shoulder (in this case that’s the left). Now you’re ready to start over!
Easy, right? Yeah, sure. What’s less easy is doing this in a crowded line. We all pace around the room together, trying desperately not to hit each other on the head. Those that take the biggest steps are the ones most at risk, since they put themselves in front of all the people hacking at the air with swords. Needless to say I keep my steps short.
In the end the teacher takes pity on us. He tells us to get in one queue to the side of the training hall and come forward four at the time. In those groups of four we’ll practice Mandritto fendente while moving across the hall.
We run around this circle for a while, but the time comes to end the lesson. We line up, salute and carefully return the swords to the rack.
Our teacher calls us around the book once more. “There’s nothing I’ve seen here today that would prevent you from becoming excellent swordsmen or swordswomen”, he says. However, if we feel like this course isn’t for us, we can still back out – the first lesson is free for everybody. There are forms to fill in the back should we want to continue. All attendees of the beginner’s course are free to join all basic Fiore lessons held throughout the week.
I go to fill out my form.