So, it’s been a while again. The awful truth is, I’ve half finished a post or two, but have never managed to muster the courage to edit and publish them. I might do it now though (better late than never) so that the work doesn’t go entirely to waste.
I had a half-voluntary training break again, hence the lack of updates. I think I only attended one class after the last post before coming up with excuses to slack again. Eeh, how embarrassing. Slinking back to the salle after another month or more of absence is a great exercise in humility and not imagining that the world turns around me.
Speaking of the world not turning around me: I opted out of an exercise last week and the week before that. As mad as it sounds, this was kind of a big deal. Despite safety and health being absolute priorities at the salle, till now I’ve been loath to avoid any exercise, even if it was pushing my limits a tad too much. Turns out everybody does not stop and gape at my laziness if I stand aside for a while. Thank goodness.
In all seriousness, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was for me to decline an exercise. Go me! It’s a step (though tiny and silly) closer to humility
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 →
Unfortunately the last post on the cutting drill will be late (but not by much, I hope). This is what happens when I spend my weekend napping and think that “I’ll get to writing the post eventually”. But there’s always a good side to things: this is an opportunity to spend a post pointing towards the link list I’ve added to the sidebar, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. The list is not comprehensive, but it includes the websites I visit most and have found helpful and interesting. Continue reading →
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.