Eighth Lesson: What “End”?

“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.

    – 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.
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Second Drill Counter-Counter-Remedy

You stand in posta di donna, your sword resting above your right shoulder. I’m awaiting your attack in dente di cinghiaro, my right foot in front and my sword’s pommel at my left hip. You come in with a cleaving blow, but I strike it away by lifting my sword. Next I try to cleave you in two, but you turn your sword across my path and, so shielded, walk in close and wrap my sword arm into a lock.

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.

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Dagger Mandritto Fendente Remedy and Counter-Remedy

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

Defending Against A Straight-On Dagger Attack

Our final lesson begins. Yay? It certainly doesn’t feel like it was only 8 weeks ago that I was still considering backing out of this whole thing.

After the usual warm-up it’s time to do the dagger exercises. Now, we all know the four basic attacks and defences, right? Turns out, no, we don’t. We’ve completely forgotten about the fourth dagger attack! And so before moving on to anything more advanced we have to learn the defence to the fendente dagger strike.

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Seventh Lesson: Where Are All the Posts?

This lesson was… odd. For the first time I’ve got nothing really new to report: no second drill steps, no new dagger exercise, no new sword guards. Does that mean we were bored this week? Far from it! This was about the most difficult lesson yet. Continue reading

Sixth Lesson: Muscleless

“The only thing clouding my mood when we do the ending salute is the fact that my upper back started hurting again.” I already felt hints of the pain during the cutting drill: especially the posta longa guard and the cuts that go through it seem to trigger it. I still hesitate to ask for help, but in the end me and my father (who has had similar issues) go to talk to the teacher.

It turns out I’ve got a back that is too S-shaped. Because of this, my upper back is not supported very well and the muscles there have to do a lot of work when lifting a sword. I’ve never really done much physical exercise before sword fighting, so those muscles tire very quickly and start hurting. Continue reading

First Drill Counter-Counter-Remedy, Full First Sword Drill

Once we’re done with examining the unarmed guards we move to the dagger exercises (more specifically, the dagger flowdrill). After that comes solo sword cutting practice and then our new sword exercise: the fourth step of the first drill.

It’s been a while, so I better quickly go through the steps that we’ve learned so far: First, the attacker comes forward with the mandritto fendente. Second, the defendant parries the attacker’s blow and attempts to cut him. Third, the attacker shields himself from the defendant’s cut and comes in with a pommel strike.

The attacker might now think: “Ha! I’ve used my sword as a shield and my pommel is a split second away from my opponent’s face! There’s no way I can lose now.” He’d be wrong. The fourth, final step of the first drill lets the defendant get the last word.

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