Introductory Drills for Sword and Buckler (and most other weapons)

These drills are shamelessly stolen from Scott Brown during a MS I.33 seminar hosted by Schola San Marco. If you happen to see one of his courses in your area I highly recommend you take it. Even if you have no intent to learn Sword and Buckler, his methods of textual interpretation and general training are quite interesting.

Scott uses the numbers 1 and 2 to refer to the lines B and H. Since we have Meyer’s handy-dandy chart, we’ll using it as well. Unless otherwise stated, assume the cut is true/long edge.

image

Also note that I’m repeating these from memory so that I can refer to them later. I am invariably going to miss things, so if it doesn’t seem to work then perhaps my notes are wrong.

Infinity Cuts 1

  1. Pass forward with the right foot while cutting in the line of B.
  2. Pass forward with the left foot while cutting in the line of H.
  3. [repeat until you run out of space]
  4. Pass back with the left foot while cutting in the line of B.
  5. Pass back with the right foot while cutting in the line of H.

Infinity Cuts 2

  1. Pass forward with the right foot while cutting in the line of D.
  2. Pass forward with the left foot while cutting in the line of F.
  3. [repeat until you run out of space]
  4. Pass back with the left foot while cutting in the line of D.
  5. Pass back with the right foot while cutting in the line of F.

Four Cuts in One Plane 1

  1. With a passing step, cut along the line of D using the short edge.
  2. Follow this with another cut along the line of D using the long edge.
  3. Passing back, cut along the line of H using the short edge.
  4. Follow this with another cut along the line of H using the long edge.

All four cuts travel along exactly the same plane.

Four Cuts in One Plane 2

Repeat the above exercise on the left side using the lines of F and B.

Four Cuts in One Plane 3

For the third drill in this series start in half-shield with the thumbs together, then lower the point. As you go through all four cuts on the right side, make sure you keep both thumbs together. This will require rolling the buckler over to your right side as you do the second cut. In the fourth cut it rolls back to the left side.

Four Cuts in One Plane 4

This is just like the drill above, except that the buckler always stays on the left side. The thumbs will no longer be touching during the second cut, but the hands should still be held closer together.

Four Cuts in One Plane 5

For the fifth drill in this series start in half-shield with the thumbs together, then lower the point. As you go through all four cuts on the left side, make sure you keep both thumbs together. This will require rolling the buckler under to your right side as you do the second cut. In the fourth cut it rolls back to the left side.

Four Cuts in One Plane 6

Like #4 in this series, this last drill keeps the buckler on the same side throughout the entire sequence. To begin, roll the buckler under the arm to the right while keeping the short edge of the sword up.

This sequence will not work if you have the buckler on the left or rolled over the top to the right.

Double Infinity Cuts 1

In this drill the second cut is essentially a molinello.

  1. Pass forward with the right foot while cutting twice in the line of D.
  2. Pass forward with the left foot while cutting twice in the line of F.
  3. [repeat until you run out of space]
  4. Pass back with the left foot while cutting twice in the line of D.
  5. Pass back with the right foot while cutting twice in the line of F.

Double Infinity Cuts 2

For you Italian minded, the cuts are a falso then a true-edge molinello.

  1. Pass forward with the right foot while cutting twice in the line of D, short then long.
  2. Pass forward with the left foot while cutting twice in the line of F, short then long.
  3. [repeat until you run out of space]
  4. Pass back with the left foot while cutting twice in the line of D, short then long.
  5. Pass back with the right foot while cutting twice in the line of F, short then long.

Double Infinity Cuts 3 thru N

Repeat the first two drills with buckler in hand. Like the previous set of drills try this with the thumbs together and with the buckler remaining on one side or the other.

Footwork 1

What I call “advance” and “retreat” Scott refers to a “shuffle”. By either name, it means to move both feet such that they do not cross. An retreat or shuffle back would be moving the rear foot back, then move the forward foot back the same distance.

For this drill there should be a transverse starting line that you return to after each pair of actions. If you find this hard then you are probably stepping too far with the passing step.

  1. Pass forward with the right foot
  2. Retreat to the starting line
  3. Pass forward with the left foot.
  4. Retreat to the starting line.

As you improve your shuffle steps, you should find that you can cover more distance; extend your passing step accordingly.

Footwork 2

The advance is moving the front foot first followed by the rear. Again, you want to end the shuffle steps back on the starting line.

    1. Pass back with the left foot
    2. Advance to the starting line
    3. Pass back with the right foot.
    4. Advance to the starting line.

Partner Cutting Drill: B-H-H-B 1

Mr. Brown refers to this as the 1-2-2-1 drill, but for my own sanity I’m using Meyer’s notation.

This is a surprisingly hard drill, so pay careful attention to the notes.

The Agent will be using Footwork 1 so that he attacks on the passing step and retreats on the shuffle step. He starts with the left foot forward.

The Patient will be using Footwork 2 so that he attacks with an advance and parries with a pass-back. He also starts with the left foot forward.

  1. Agent passes forward with the right foot while attacking in the line of B.
  2. Patient passes back with the left foot and parries.
  3. Patient advances, keeping the right foot forward, while attacking in the line of H.
  4. Agent retreats, keeping the right foot forward, and parries.
  5. Agent passes forward with the left foot, attacking in the line of H.
  6. Patient passes back with the right foot and parries.
  7. Patient advances, keeping the left foot forward, while attacking in the line of B.
  8. Agent retreats, keeping the left foot forward, and parries.
  9. [repeat from 1]

And the end of each cycle both fencers should have their left foot forward. If not, something is wrong with the footwork.

Partner Cutting Drill: B-H-H-B 2

Repeat the previous drill expect that you should be using Second Cover against B and Third Cover against H.

Partner Cutting Drill: B-H-H-B Alternates

Repeat the drill above, but always use Second Cover or always use Third Cover.

This drill will not work with Half-Shield (the first cover) because it is particularly vulnerable to attacks along the line of B.

Triangle Steps/Grapevine Drill

This drill requires a long horizontal line you can follow. Start with the left foot crossed in front of the right.

  1. Cut short-edge along the line of B while uncrossing the left foot to the left.
  2. Cut long-edge along the line of B while crossing the right foot in front of the left.
  3. Cut short-edge along the line of H while uncrossing the left foot to the left.
  4. Cut long-edge along the line of H while crossing the right foot behind the left.

When you get to the end of the line, repeat moving the to right.

Rules:

  • For long-edge cuts, always end with the right foot forward if cutting from the right.
  • For short-edge cuts, always end with the left foot forward if cutting from the right.

Circling the Numbers: Solo Preparation

Using proper footwork, cut all the numbers 1 thru 8 in order.

Circling the Numbers: Base Drill

Each pair stands opposite a center point. (Ideally, there would be a circle on the ground as well so that they maintain the distance.)

Using proper footwork, and not crossing the legs, the pair cuts in the sequence 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. Since cuts 7 and 8 can be accompanied with steps in either direction, the pair need to agree on them.

Cuts one thru four will meet in the center, the other four will pass by each other.

Both fencers should call the numbers, both to keep time and to get used to exhaling on the cut.

Running the Numbers: With an Extra Tempo

Repeat the above drill, but with an extra 1 cut before each number. 1-1-1-2-1-3-1-4-1-5-1-6-1-7-1-8

Repeat the above drill, but with an extra 2 cut before each number. 2-1-2-2-2-3-2-4-2-5-2-6-2-7-2-8

(continue all the way through 8)

Running the Numbers: With an Buckler Tap

Repeat the above drill, but after each cut tap the bucklers together without taking a step.

1-buckler-1-buckler-1-buckler-2-buckler-1-buckler-3-buckler-1-buckler-4-buckler-1-buckler-5-buckler-1-buckler-6-buckler-1-buckler-7-buckler-1-buckler-8-buckler

Running the Numbers: With a Buckler Parry

Instead of cutting at the same time, the fencers alternate so that the other can parry the cut. Wear masks so the cuts can actually threaten the face.

Agent: 1-parry-1-parry-1-parry-2-parry-1-parry-3-parry-1-parry-4-parry-[…]
Patient: Parry-1-parry-1-parry-1-parry-2-parry-1-parry-3-parry-1-parry-4-[…]

Each fencer will have to call his own number.

Running the Numbers: With Covers

Repeat the last drill, but all of the cuts must be done using covers. That is to say, with the buckler protecting the hand.

Double Infinity Voltas: Counter-Clockwise

Starting with the left foot forward, cut this sequence:

Short B – Long H – Volta – Short F – Long D – Volta – Repeat

image

When you preform the volta, make sure you don’t try to turn a full 180 degrees. Rather, it should be about 120 degrees or 1/3 of a circle.

Double Infinity Voltas: Clockwise

Start with the right foot forward. Go around the circle of cuts in a clockwise manner, again leading with a short-edge cut followed by a long-edge cut into a volta.

Short H – Long B – Volta – Short D – Long F – Volta – Repeat

Archway or Over-binding Drill: 1

The agent starts with the left foot forward, the patient with the right foot forward. Swords are crossed on the outside/right.

  1. The agent begins to step forward with the right foot while over-binding to the right. Meanwhile the patient begins to step back with the right foot.
  2. The agent cuts to the head while completing his step. The patient parries with a hanging guard such that his long-edge is between his head and the opponent’s blade.
  3. At the apex, the patient begins to step forward with the right foot and over-binds to his right. The agent passes back.
  4. The patient attacks the head while completing his step, meanwhile the agent parries with the hanging guard.
  5. At the apex, repeat from 1.

Archway or Over-binding Drill: 2

Same as drill 1, except this time the attacker is allowed to actually strike the head. When this happens just continue the drill without interruption. The head strike should be a glancing blow using the long edge.

Archway or Over-binding Drill: 3/Escapes

As the over-bind begins, the one being bound can choose to step right while attacking the leading thigh.

This should be done as soon as the bind is begun in earnest. Too soon and the one who is over-binding can simply do something else. Too late, and the one doing the over-bind can complete is tempo and begin a new tempo before the leg cut completes.

If his leg is attacked, the one who is over-binding can defend himself by continuing the bind through the leg cut. Sweep the blade towards the one performing the cut, not laterally across your own legs.

Archway or Over-binding Drill: 4/Mutuare

At the moment the over-bind, the one being bound uses a quick circular cut known as a mutuare to enact his own over-bind. After a strong strike to the opponent’s sword, he attacks the head in the same manner that his opponent was going to use.

Archway or Over-binding Drill: 5/Remaining

Rather than immediately throwing the head cut, the one performing the over-bind pauses for a moment. If the one being bound prematurely leaps to the handing guard, he will be struck in the side.

Archway or Over-binding Drill: 6/Bucklers

Add the bucklers. At the conclusion of each bind, the one doing the over-bind should tap the hand of the one he is binding to test if the buckler is in the right place. Likewise, the one being bound should tap the underside of his opponent’s hand.

At first this should be done using the rules of variant 1, then add the other elements in.

Conclusion

Mastery of these basic drills should be considered a prerequisite for using the advanced techniques such as those shown in MS I.33. You can look at them for fun, but don’t expect to be able to work them into your free sparing if you cannot perform all the actions in these drills fluidly.

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This entry was posted in MS I.33, Sword and Buckler and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Introductory Drills for Sword and Buckler (and most other weapons)

  1. vettius says:

    Very nice article.

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