The Cutting Drill – Part 4

Last time I ended up in the weird guard pictured below. I don’t actually have any idea of what it’s called, but I suppose it might be related to dente di cinghiaro. You’ll notice that this time we’re holding the sword in our right hand only. That’s because this next part of the cutting drill – and indeed another big theme of this lesson – is sword in one hand.

Once again I’m defending. The attack is a simple mandritto fendente, a cut down from right to left. The defendant blocks it by swinging his sword up and to the right, while at the same time shifting his weight to his front foot (volta stabile) and taking a small step (accressere) to his off-right (off the strada). The way of defending here is similar to the second drill, only it feels a lot cooler. The huge smooth sweep of the sword is quite something to experience – I really felt in charge of the action, but at the same time could feel the sword doing the work. Continue reading

The Cutting Drill – Part 3

Right, on to the next part of the drill. This is a challenging but fun one: it starts familiar, but ends up doing a bunch of crazy things I haven’t had much experience with before.

Last time we ended up in porta di ferro (left leg forward, pommel at the left hip, sword pointing to the right and down) after having broken the opponent’s thrust and defeated him.

Now a new attacker emerges: he’s a traditionalist, so he chooses to come in with a madritto fendente (cut down from right to left) from the posta di donna guard. The defendant (me again) parries, just like in the first drill.

(In the first picture: the defendant. In the second picture, left to right: the defendant and the attacker.)

All safe so far – even I know the first drill. But now, instead of cutting the attacker above the arms, the defendant chooses to feint. He starts a strong mezzano strike to the right. It’s very unlike the usual cuts we’ve done: it’s more horizontal and feels a little German-style-esque (although I really don’t know enough about the difference between the two schools to be sure). The attacker, of course, attempts to defend himself with a parry.

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The Cutting Drill – Part 2

As said in part 1, it’s time to go beyond the old “cut-cut-cut-cutting drill”. Since we happen to be three beginners and three experienced students, each beginner gets a sort-of personal instructor for this class. The first exercise we do is described below.

The defendant (me) takes the posta di finestra guard. It literally means “window guard”, and I guess I can see why.

This is a funny sort of guard. Instead of having your weight on your front foot you shift it on to your back foot (the right), but you keep facing forward. Your arms are crossed on the right side of your head and are holding the sword up in a horizontal position, so that the tip of your sword stares your opponent in the face. I’ve seen others use this guard, but this is the first time I try it. It takes a few moments to get used to. Continue reading

The Cutting Drill – Part 1

Do you know what the cutting drill is? I’ve thrown the name around in my posts maybe once or twice, but have actually neglected to clearly define it. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I had described it on this blog at all. Apparently I have – sort of, anyway: Week 1 – Swords Are Heavy. About half-way through that post I start to describe the first version of the cutting drill I learned. Further into the beginner’s course this was expanded on and named the cutting drill (although we still only knew the first half of it). It is an exercise that, as the name implies, is for practicing your cutting technique. We usually spend at least a few minutes on it in the middle of every class.

The first half of the cutting drill can be summed up like this: cut down from the right, cut up to the right, cut down half-way, cut up to the left, cut down from the left, cut up to the left, cut down half-way, cut up to the right, repeat. Exciting, right? Now granted, little things like medieval Italian terminology can make it sound more complicated (mandritto fendente from posta di donna on the right to dente di cinghiaro, riverso sottano to posta di donna on the right, mandritto fendente to posta longa, move to posta di donna on the left, riverso fendente to porta di ferro, mandritto sottano to posta di donna on the left, riverso fendente to posta longa, repeat) but at its heart it’s still cut, cut, cut.

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Dagger Disarm Flowdrill

We now know how to defend against three dagger attacks: one targeting the right side of the head (from the attacker’s perspective), another targeting the left side, and a third aiming for the stomach. So, we’ve learned most of the basic dagger defences (a.k.a. disarms)… or have we? Just knowing isn’t necessarily enough. Defences like these have to be instinctual on some level to be practical. How do we achieve that? Practice, practice, practice. Or, in other words, the dagger disarm flowdrill. Continue reading

Blocking a Mandritto Fendente with a Sword

This is what we have to do: one of us will stand in place, while the other steps forward and attacks with a mandritto fendente, stopping it just above the pair’s shoulder (in the posta longa position). No masks are necessary.

It takes a while to digest this. The class is silent.

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Five Sword Guards

“The blows create the guards.”

Guards, or postes, are present in every attack and defence we learn. While they don’t construct these attacks, they’re an important part of them. What are these guards, then? How many are there? Plenty. More than five, anyhow. But so far we’ve only ever encountered five, four of which are based on the unarmed guards I’ve already introduced (the unarmed guards can be taken with virtually any weapon).

Unarmed, posta longa is the ending position of the action “crush his throat”. With a sword it looks similar, the only real difference being that you’ve got both arms stretched out – and that you’re wielding a steel blade over three feet long, of course. This is the middle position of a cleaving or rising blow (fendenti or sottani blow).

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