First class of this autumn’s beginner’s course yesterday. Tons of beginners – so many, in fact, that the salle was too full for me and dad to join in. It’s really awesome that so many people are interested in sword fighting (though it did make things a little scary once the swords were off the rack). :)
It felt odd to just sit and observe, especially since I still remembered pretty well what it was like to be a first-timer. Was itching to hold a sword by the time the class was done, so we did some free training with dad. Turns out I still have the bad habit of blocking and stepping at the same time in the first drill. I’m tempted to call it a stupid mistake, but on second thought I’m not sure that’s the right attitude to take. I should see these type of situations not as failings, but opportunities to learn and improve. A correction is not a rebuke: it’s a friendly piece of advice intended to help you. I feel a bit silly writing about something so obvious, but I’m still struggling to really get it through to myself.
(A note: there was an error in one of my illustrations for the previous post. It’s too late for me to change it today, but it should be fixed by tomorrow. EDIT: Fixed the image and the description in the 8th paragraph. :) )
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.
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 finestraguard. 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 →
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 postalonga, repeat) but at its heart it’s still cut, cut, cut.
“Kiitos!” – thank you – rings through the salle after the final salute. And with that, it’s over. Phew. The end?
No, of course not! What “end”? It’s the end of the beginner’s course, yes, but it doesn’t really mean all that much. Most of us – including me – are going to continue attending the basic classes just as before.
While this might not be an end, it certainly is a beginning. We’ve officially left the baby pool and are moving on to the sea (though as beginners we’ll stay in shallow waters). But before rushing in there, it might be a good idea to glance back. What are the most important things I learned during this course? I’ve compiled a list of them below.
WEEK ONE – Overcoming my fears. By the time it came to the first lesson of the beginner’s course, I had already been “intending to start medieval sword fighting” for above two years. Every time a beginner’s course was held something would come up that conveniently prevented me from going. That is, until the February 2012 beginner’s course. – “Everybody ends training healthier than they started it.” The one thing we really had to learn during the first lesson, and the one thing that we aspiring swords(wo)men may never forget. First drill? Fourth master of the dagger? Cutting drill? If you forget those you can just ask someone to show them to you and that’s that. But safety, both yours and of others, always has to be kept in mind.
The beginner’s course wouldn’t be complete without teaching us the full second drill. Back in the fifth week we learned the drill up to the point I’ve described above. Now it’s time for the last step, the counter-counter-remedy. After the dagger exercise we’ve just done it’s not going to be too difficult.
So, now that we do know all the basic attacks and defences we can move to the interesting stuff. Remember our very first dagger exercise? It’s time to add some variation to it.
The scenario goes as follows: the attacker comes in with a mandritto fendente (with a dagger). The defendant – that’s you – starts in porta di ferro. As usual, you stop the attack with your left hand. But that’s where the familiarity ends. Instead of disarming your opponent in the normal way, you slide into a lock (pictured above). Continue reading →