Countering the Block to a Mandritto Fendente (Sword)

Here’s the scenario: you attack with a mandritto fendente, a forehand cleaving blow. Your opponent, the villain that his is, is not content with standing there and letting you cut through him, so he takes the posta frontale position to block you. Since you’ve been reading this blog, you know that he now intends to step off the strada, slice your arm off and poke a hole through your face. We’ve been through this.

But does the fact that someone has decided to hit your sword away mean that you should meekly submit to defeat? No! You’re still standing firmly on two feet, free from any lock, not to mention that you’ve got a perfectly good sword in your hand. It takes more than a block to stop a medieval swordsman in his tracks – literally.

So how do you counter your opponent’s attempt to block you? Just continue to walk forward.

(By the way: No, we didn’t ride around on horses, although that would’ve been awesome. Some of the exercises we learn are from the mounted combat section of the manuscripts, but they are just as usable on foot as on horseback.)

You’ve already taken a step when you attacked. Now take another. As you do so, you start turning the pommel of your sword towards your opponent, while also raising your sword to act as a shield that prevents him from striking you. Take one more step if needed, and plant your pommel into your opponent’s face – or, in the 21st century, tap your pair’s mask.

There’s not too many ways go wrong with this technique, although I manage to forget to shield myself more than once. Covering yourself from the other’s strike sounds and looks easy enough when the teacher explains the exercise, but it starts out as hit and miss. I suppose one just needs to practice more in order to get a feel for how to do it best.

It’s with exercises like these where I feel the least weak and small. Although I could still use being taller and having a longer stride and reach, there seems to be less of a need for strength and bulk when wielding a sword than when using a dagger.

The lesson starts to draw closer to its end, but there’s still room for one more exercise. So far we’ve been working on the first sword fighting drill: we’ve learned the mandritto fendente strike, the remedy (block) to it, and now the counter to said remedy. Although we’ve not seen the last of this drill, it’s now time to get a look at another one.

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