Marozzo’s Greatsword – True Edge Stretta 8

The eighth true edge stretta for the greatsword shows how to use the pommel to hook the opponent.

From the bind, you step past the opponent on their right. From there you can hook the pommel around the throat. Alternately, you can drop it between the arms. Both of these techniques should be quite familiar to those who study the longsword.

Video Interpretation

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Marozzo’s Greatsword –True Edge Stretta 7

The seventh true edge stretta is all about trying to get a pommel strike. From the bind, you start by pushing forward with your hilt.

If he goes high, simply go low under his arms with a pommel strike. (This isn’t mentioned in the text, but is pretty obvious from the context.)

  1. If his structure is poor and you collapse his arms, or if he chooses to go low to avoid the pommel strike, hit him with the flat of your sword.
  2. Whether or not the flat strike lands, he’ll want to raise his arms for his defense. This will open him up for the aforementioned pommel strike under his arms.
  3. If he sees the pommel strike and closes that line by again lowering his arms, he’ll leave himself open for you to go over his arms, grappling and throwing him as you see fit.

This play demonstrates the German concept of the vor at close range. As each opening is closed, you immediately assault the next opening so that the opponent doesn’t have time to do anything but defend until such point that he makes a mistake.

Video Interpretation

Note that we haven’t completely worked out the flat strike to the head. But we hope that we made the reason for the blow clear.

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L’Ange – Second Thrust in Quarta or Flanconade

This thrust is used when you constrain your opponent so strongly that you drive his sword down. When this occurs, you may have “more openings on the outside under his arm” than on the inside. L’Ange notes that it is important to control this blade with the off-hand to avoid a counter attack

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Features

  • The attack is low, aimed at the belly.
  • The right shoulder is only slightly higher than the target.
  • The right shoulder is above the heel.
  • The head is higher than the hilt.
  • The right knee is over the toe.
  • The body is slightly more upright than the first thrust in Quarta.
  • The false edge is engaging the opponent’s blade.
  • The left hand traps the opponent’s blade against his blade.
  • The front foot is lined up with the opponent’s front foot
  • The left hand is turned outward such that the arm forms a crescent.

Drill

  1. The agent starts out of measure in Quarta, the patient in Tertia.
  2. The agent advances one step, gain the weak of the patients sword.
  3. The agent to advance another step in order to strongly constrain the patient’s sword. The agent’s right foot should be aligned with the patient’s left (as per illustration 7). There should be strong pressure on the patient’s blade.
  4. As soon as the the constraint is complete, the agent will begin to extend both arms forward and down.
  5. As arms near full extension, the body inclines. By this point the agent’s left hand should be controlling patient’s blade while the point goes under the patient’s hilt.
  6. Complete the attack with a step such that the front feet are aligned.

 

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L’Ange – Chapter 7 First Thrust in Quarta

The first thrust taught by L’Ange is performed in Quarta on the inside.

Inside vs Outside

For those of you unfamiliar with Italian terminology, the “inside” means that your opponent’s blade is to the left of your blade. This position means that your entire weapon can be placed inside the silhouette of his body.

Conversely, your blade is to the “outside” if your opponent’s sword is on the right of your blade. Attacks from the outside must either offend the flank, pass over the opponent’s sword arm, or pass under the same.

If both fencers are left handed, inside and outside are reversed. If only one fencer is left handed, then he’ll be on the inside and his opponent of the outside or vice-versa.

Drill 1: Solo Exercise for the Thrust in Quarta

This drill should be performed in the air or against a fixed target.

L’Ange doesn’t give much details when it comes to the mechanics of the lunge, so I am adopting some guidance from other manuals. Specifically, that the arm is extended first, then the body is inclined, and finally the foot. In this manner you’ll be safer and can more easily abort the attack if necessary, while still being faithful to instructions that L’Ange offers.

  1. Assume a good Quarta.
  2. Extend both arms towards your opponent, your left hand somewhat higher to protect your face.
  3. Just before the arms are fully extended, start to incline the body forward.
  4. Roughly half-way through the inclination of the body, step forward with the front foot

As you perform these actions, L’Ange warns that your point, both your shoulders, and your feet must remain in one straight line. And he expressly forbids the dragging of the rear foot.

In this first composite illustration, you can see the transition from the guard of Quarta to the thrust of Quarta. The alignment isn’t perfect because it shifts the patient’s position as well.

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The second illustration adds our normal foot, body, and drop lines.

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Features

  • The true edge of the blade is against the opponent’s sword.
  • The true edge is slightly turned up.
  • The point is aimed at the base of the sternum.
  • The head is lowered until the eye is looking just over the top of the hilt.
  • The left-hand wards of any thrust not deflected by the blade alone.
  • Both shoulders are forward.
  • The body is inclined such that there is nearly a straight line from shoulder to the rear foot.
  • The front foot only advanced two foot-lengths.
  • The front knee is over the toe.
  • The front foot is inline with the opponent’s right foot.

Drill 2: Thrusting in Opposition in Quarta

This drill assumes a compliant partner, as it is meant to teach the basics of the thrust. In later drills the partner will be able to perform his own counter.

  1. The agent starts out of measure in Quarta, the patient in Tertia.
  2. The agent advances one step, gain the weak of the patients sword.
  3. The patient hesitates, allowing the agent to advance another step in order to strongly constrain the patient’s sword.
  4. As soon as the the constraint is complete, the agent will thrust in Quarta as per drill 1.
  5. As you recover back into the guard of Quarta, keep your sword in position against the opponent’s so that he cannot riposte (counter-attack).
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Longsword – Making a Monkey of Your Opponent in Pflug

If you prefer to fight defensively from Pflug, or a similar low guard, it can be quite frustrating when your opponent doesn’t comply. Though you carefully open the line you want him to attack along, he either ignores your invitation or doesn’t even see it in the first place.

Manciolino has some advice for this,

If someone wants to cause the enemy to throw a blow that he will parry in order to reach him in that tempo, it behooves him to make such a blow three or four times one after the other almost in the manner of an invitation, and because the custom of players is to ape, the adversary will be compelled to make a semblance, by which you will make him throw the blow that you wished.

This can be applied to the longsword using a simple drill.

  1. The agent stands in Pflug, the patient in whatever guard suits him.
  2. The agent, desiring an attack to the upper left, flicks his sword at his opponent’s upper left. This is done with fixed feet, or at most a step no more than half a foot-length.
  3. As the flick is completed, the agent moves the sword slight to the right as to expose his upper left.
  4. Repeat the flick until the patient makes his attack.
  5. The agent this parries and counter-attack as per normal.

The flicks used in this exercise should be performed outside of measure. While they are more effective if they pass in front of the face, or tap the opponent’s sword in an annoying fashion, care must be taken by the agent to not overextend himself. The movements should be so quick that by the time the patient perceives the flick, the agent is already back on guard.

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Longsword – Drills for Pflug/Posta Breve/Porta di Ferro

While there are minor differences between these three guards, and within each one across different manuals, they are all described as essentially postures from which you primarily thrust.

And yet I often see people just hanging out in them, trying to make little snappy cuts that are both ineffectual and painful to watch. When some members of my club started doing it as well, I figured it was time to put some offensive drills on paper.

But first the defensive drills, which are necessary for understanding the motions used in the offensive drills.

Defensive Drill 1 – Parry then Cut

This is a dui tempi or two-time defense.

  1. The agent will be in Tag, while the patient stands in Pflug.
  2. The agent will cut a Zornhut to either side, stepping wide to avoid the point.
  3. The patient will counter with a simple parry, with point high and the hilt low, while making a small increasing step towards the attack.
  4. The patient will then cut with the short/false edge to the nearest opening.

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This drill is the opening for Mair’s play titled “A High Winding with an Oberhau”. Note in the illustration of step 4 how the left fencer’s natural reaction to the short edge cut actually helps the right fencer’s blade into his head.

Defensive Drill 2 – Wind to Ochs then Thrust

This is another dui tempi or two-time defense.

  1. The agent will be in Tag, while the patient stands in Pflug.
  2. The agent will cut a Zornhut to either side, stepping wide to avoid the point.Def
  3. The patient will parry by winding into Ochs with extended arms, while making a small increasing step towards the attack.
  4. As soon as the swords make contact, thrust forward, increasing the front foot as necessary.

For this drill it isn’t always necessary to wind completely into Ochs. If your opponent is aiming for your flank rather than your head then you only need to wind part way before beginning the thrust.

Anti-pattern – Parrying with Point Online

A very common mistake is to try to parry with a low hilt and high point, but in such a manner that the point stays online. This leads to numerous problems as the body struggles to reconcile the conflicting needs for a structurally strong parry and a point that is prepared to thrust. Which is why most of the low hilt/high point parries in Fiore look like this:

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And not this:

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If you desire to keep the point online, the solution is to either commit yourself to winding into Ochs or, as the next drill illustrates, commit yourself to the thrust.

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Defensive Drill 3 – Counter-thrust

Known as Absetzen or Setting Off in the German traditions (and “Duh, how else were you going to parry?” in Italian rapier), this is a core skill with any weapon capable of thrusting. It is also a stesso tempo or single-time counter, which is preferred by Meyer over the dui-tempi counters we discussed earlier.

  1. The agent will be in Tag, while the patient stands in Pflug.
  2. The agent will cut a Zornhut to either side, stepping wide to avoid the point.Def
  3. The patient will parry by thrusting into Gerade Veratzung (Straight Parrying)/Posta Longa (Long Position), rotating his long/true edge as necessary to meet the incoming cut. Step forward and slightly towards the attack as you thrust.

As you perform this drill, focus on thrusting correctly. If you think about the parry too much, you’ll drive you hilt out wide such that you have both an ineffectual parry and an poorly executed thrust.

The long/true edge doesn’t need to meet his attack exactly. You just need enough edge to allowing contact with your flat, so don’t concentrate rotate it so far that you lose structure.

Conversely, if you don’t rotate it at all and he strikes the flat he will easily push through your defense.

Offensive Drill 1 – Gaining the Sword I

Context: You and your opponent are both in Pflug (or a similar guard). Due to measure or general inclination, neither of you want to leave this guard nor will your opponent attack.

  1. Use a small advancing step (i.e. lead foot and then back foot) to gain the weak of his sword with yours.
  2. If he allows this, take another small advancing step to gain the strong of his blade with your weak. Stepping slightly outwards can help with this. Avoid putting pressure on his blade, as it will cause him to flee from the constraint.
  3. Stepping forward and slightly towards his blade, thrust while ensuring that your long/true edge is towards his weapon.

Rapier fencers will find this drill very familiar, but it works equally well with the longsword when both opponents prefer to fight from the low guards such that their points are forward.

Offensive Drill 2 – Gaining the Sword II

This drill builds off the previous one.

  1. The agent uses a small advancing step (i.e. lead foot and then back foot) to gain the weak of patient’s sword on the inside (i.e. blades are touching on their left side).
  2. The patient hesitates, so the agent takes another small advancing step to gain the strong of his blade with your weak.
  3. As the agent begins his thrust, the patient starts to push the agent’s sword offline to his left (agent’s right).
  4. The agent passes to the patient’s right, cutting a Zwerch/Tondo/Mezzano.

The Zwerch in step 4 is important. If the agent uses a descending cut, he’ll leave his upper-right exposed.

Offensive Drill 3 – Gaining the Sword III

This addresses a different parry made by the patient.

  1. The agent uses a small advancing step (i.e. lead foot and then back foot) to gain the weak of patient’s sword on the inside (i.e. blades are touching on their left side).
  2. The patient hesitates, so the agent takes another small advancing step to gain the strong of his blade with your weak.
  3. As the agent begins his thrust, the patient starts to push the agent’s sword upwards using a Kron-like movement.
  4. The agent steps to the patient’s left, cutting a slightly rising Zwerch/Falso Tondo/Mezzano into the patients arms.

EDIT: Originally I recommended a long edge cut to end this drill. However, there is a problem I had forgotten. When you end in that fashion, it leaves your right hand exposed to a direct attack. By using the short/false edge, your hand is no longer directly beneath their blade.

More Offensive Drills to follow

Later I will be writing up our interpretation of Mair’s “A Pflug from Both Sides” and Lichtenauer’s Versetzen for Pflug/Langort.

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L’Ange – Chapters 5 and 6 Gaining the Sword

Blade Contact

When gaining the sword, it is important to not think of it as a bind. This is a subtle action, used to control the opponent’s weapon through superior positioning rather than pressure. We hear from other authors such as Fabris that we shouldn’t allow the blades to touch at all.

L’Ange doesn’t seem to be quite so extreme. He merely says to avoid gaining the sword too strongly, as it would expose the body to much and your opponent, looking for such as advantage, will see the opening.

Timing

L’Ange seems to be suggesting that the hand and right foot move at the same time. That is to say, you approach with a “stiff arm”. If so, this would contrast with Agrippa who has you move your arm before your foot.

In any event, L’Agne strongly warns us that the constraint must be complete by the time the left foot lands. Or in other words, you can’t step forward and then try to gain control of the opponent’s weapon.

Note here that he didn’t say “before you move your left foot”. So don’t try to form the constraint with just the right foot, as you would then have to waste a tempo trying to keep it as you pull up your left foot.

Footwork

L’Ange does say much on where to step, so I’ll share some advice I was given a long time ago. When gaining narrow measure, take a small step away from the sword, no more than the width of the foot. This puts you at a somewhat better angle, granting more control in the constraint.

Then when attacking, take a small step towards the opponent’s sword in order to better expel it from your presence. Again, the step should be no wider than the width of the foot.

Whether or not L’Ange would agree with these minor corrections is unknown to me at this point. However, I find them to be useful.

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