The week has gone by quickly and it’s time to go to sword school again. Because of heavy snowfall we take care to leave early, and arrive well before the lesson starts. This gives us a perfect opportunity to ask the assistant teacher to clarify last lesson’s dagger exercise. How come the opponent doesn’t seem to be under our control?
He agrees with us that the version we learned does not bring the opponent out of balance (although apparently there’s another version that does so, but which is not as faithful to Fiore’s illustrations). We also don’t have a strong lock in place on the opponent, so he can get out of our grip pretty easily.
From this one might think (indeed, I did) that the technique is ineffective. That turns out to be untrue: there’s a trick to the exercise that we weren’t explained. Distraction.
If you do the exercise correctly (which I didn’t), there are three points of contact between you and your opponent, not counting the impact of the dagger.
1. Grasping the opponent’s wrist to stop his attack
2. Pressing the back of his knee to edge him slightly off-balance – not really shown on the illustrations, nor something that I picked up last week. Apparently you’re supposed to take an acressere while blocking, so that you can move your knee to the back of your opponent’s knee.
3. Locking his arm under yours
You direct the opponent’s attention first from the wrist down the body to the knee and then up to the arm again.
While practicing the time between each of these actions is over a second, which would give the opponent time to clear his head and get out of the situation. In proper speed this would go much faster, so guiding the opponent’s attention up and down his body confuses him long enough for the dagger to arrive in his stomach.
I’ve never heard or thought about this type of control before, though it does make sense. We try it out with my father a few times, with wavering success. Our size difference poses a challenge: it’s difficult for me to get behind his front leg, not to mention giving it a proper push (without going out of balance myself, anyway). Being small, the assistant teacher explains, requires me to be very precise in everything I do. Bigger folks can just ram their way through, but I need to slip through the cracks of my opponent’s defence.