Restricted Sparring – No Lingering

When our club runs matches, our normal rules are:

  • Play to five points received
  • Head 3, Body 2, Other 1
  • No pauses (meaning you can win with a single combo to the head)
  • Both fencers may lose

Since we are focusing on Meyer’s devices for Tag, I added another rule: no lingering in a guard other than Tag. If you get caught in one guard for 3 seconds you receive a point.

It took a couple rounds for people to get the hang of it, but we quickly adopted a much more dynamic style than we usually use. Rather than hanging out in Pflug or Ochs while inching forward, everyone was constantly on the move. It wasn’t just good fencing in general, it actually looked like the style of fencing I imagine when reading Meyer or the Bolognese.

One of the things that surprised me is that no one lingered in Tag while in or near measure. I though they would because we’ve been practicing Meyer’s defensive techniques for Tag. But instead we only lingered to rest while well outside measure. Not that there is anything wrong with it, it was just not what I was expecting.

The matches were of reasonable length, a little shorter than normal but not by much.

The matches were far more energetic than normal for us, which I approve of. The rests between each exchange were very brief as no one wanted to stay in Tag for any appreciable length of time.

There were some doubles, but no more than usual.

After blows don’t really happen very often, as our rule set don’t allow for a free attack after receiving a blow. The no pause rule means that if someone hits you, they are probably going to use that moment of distraction to throw another blow. And the no lingering rule makes the follow-up attack even more likely.

This is definitely a format we are going to use again, though I plan to change the resting guard depending on what we are focusing on.

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Go for the Hands

In a recent practice I noticed a fencer using Meyer’s dussack style was scoring a lot of hand hits. And it got me thinking about the subject.

In Manciolino, the very first technique you learn is the three strikes to the hand. This is literally the first attack presented for Guardia Alta, the first guard in the manual. Why choose this particular technique as the first thing you teach? Especially when few people stand in a full Alta?

Well first of all, consider what Meyer says about the high guard. He tells us that we enter the high guard (Meyer: Tag, Manciolino: Alta) whenever we pull up the sword for a cut. And that happens a lot in a fight.

Secondly, it is a way of defending yourself. As Manciolino says, your opponent isn’t going to be eager to lower is hand if you are cutting at it. And if he can’t lower his hand, he can’t cut at you.

And that’s what I was seeing. The agent was pulling up his hand into an Alta/Tag-like posture and the patient fencer was attacking the hand before the agent’s cut could begin. Usually the hand would be hit on the second or third try, as the agent found it hard to attack and impossible to retract his hand without exposing his head and chest.

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Practice Notes – Play with Timing

Today in practice I hit my opponent several times in a row using one technique. Then after a few passes, I picked another technique and again hit him several times in a row. This pattern was repeated often during our match. But why did it work?

Talking to him after the fight he explained to me why he was having so much trouble even though I was being ‘predictable’. Each time I did the technique, I would vary the timing. Sometimes the initial attack was fast and the follow-up was slow, other times they were reversed. Sometimes I would linger in the bind, other times I would leave it immediately, though in both cases I used the same follow-up.

This was only semi-conscious on my part. From my perspective I was just trying to figure out which timing worked best. But he thought I was intentionally playing games with time to throw off his parries.

I’ll have to do this more…

Hands vs Arms

Between teaching, work, and illness I haven’t been able to actually spar in a month or two. So today was my first time actually working up a sweat. Overall I did ok, but I noticed something.

  • Every time I got hit in the hands, it was because my opponent was thinking one step ahead of me and holding the vor.
  • Every time I got hit in the arm, it was because my stance following my attack was crap.

Of course I got hit in other places for a variety of reasons, but for whatever reason this pattern kept appearing. In the past my hands were hit due to poor cutting form, so I guess that’s progress. And obviously my focus should be on improving my posture, I just found it interesting that one could tell if I was in the vor or nach just by knowing where I was getting hit.

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L’Ange Chapter 8 – Parry and Riposte on the Inside

The first parry that L’Ange formally teaches is on the inside. It begins when your opponent constrains you in Quarta with the intention of thrusting in the same. Your response is to parry in your own Quarta and, at the same time, thrust.

Note the phrase “at the same time”. L’Ange isn’t telling us to use a separate parry and riposte. He wants this to be what the Italians would call a stesso tempo or single time action that simultaneously defends and offends.

The illustration below shows what you should look like when performing this parry and riposte. The fencer on the left’s final posture will vary depending several factors including the quality of his original attack, the strength of the parry, the height of the blades, etc. So focus more on performing the counter-thrust correctly than what he is doing.


Note: I find that the height of the counter-attack is generally going to match the height of the original attack.

First Drill – The Parry and Riposte

When you are first learning this technique, it is helpful if the agent (attacking fencer) doesn’t have too strong of a constraint. A little constraint is ok, but too much will make it hard for the patient (defending fencer) to learn the proper reaction.

As you perform this parry and riposte, take care to focus on the proper riposte (counter-thrust). If you “chase his sword” by trying to beat his blade with your strong or hilt prior to thrusting, both you parry and your riposte will be ineffectual.

As the patient fencer’s skill improves, the agent should use increasingly better constraints. Eventually the patient may have to somewhat preempt the agent as he strengthens his constraint, but for the sake of the exercise try to not overdo it.

Second Drill – The Disengage

The second drill relies on the patient fencer making a mistake. Rather than counter-thrusting, he should push his hilt far to the side in an aggressive parry before his riposte.

This will give the agent a chance to refine his disengage. Key points…

  • Break measure slightly by drawing back the front foot. This is essential for giving you the time needed to complete the disengage.
  • Stay in Quarta while you disengage. This will be much faster than a disengagement in Tertia.
  • As soon as the disengage is complete, turn the hand into Tertia as you thrust.
  • Aim your thrust over the arm, as this will constrain him more than an attack to the belly or right side.

Italian sidebar: I am presenting this disengage with the assumption that you are holding the sword in the German manner. If you are using an Italian grip with a finger over the quillon, then you should turn your hand into Tertia at the beginning of the disengage.

Tying this back to Chapter 7

The observant reader will not that this parry, and its counter, are directly from the main drill in chapter 7. We are merely seeing it from the other fencer’s perspective. So take this time to revisit that drill.

Third Drill – The Reckless Opponent and the Hand Parry

There are two parts to this drill. The first assumes that the agent is desperate to kill his opponent and will do so even at risk to himself.

Begin the drill as before, with the agent constraining in Quarta and then thrusting in the same. As before, the patient will counter this with his own thrust in Quarta.

The agent, being reckless, shall turn his hand into Secunda and thrust downwards into the chest. He will mostly likely be struck in the armpit at the same time as his blow lands. A “double kill” in modern parlance. Practice this until both fencers are familiar with this situation, then add the counter below.

To prevent this from happening, L’Ange tells us to use the left hand to parry his blow from Secunda. No details are given, but having the hand anywhere near the left side of the face is enough to easily ward off the reckless thrust from above.

Extra Credit – Countering the Disengage

Turning back to the second drill, let us have the agent make a mistake as well. The patient will, as before, parry to strongly such that the agent is inclined to disengage. However, the agent should disengage without breaking measure.

The patient, seeing this disengage, should thrust over the patients sword during the disengage before the agent’s sword comes back online.

This teaches the agent the importance of breaking measure, and allows him to learn how far back he really needs to go. Meanwhile the patient hones his observational skills and reflexes.

Alternate Interpretation: Separate Parry and Riposte

While I’ll need to experiment with it for a while, there is an argument for the parry and riposte being separate actions. It does fit the text and illustration. Not perfectly, but neither does the stesso-tempo interpretation.

Reinier van Noort

In these works, I read “at the same time” as “in the same tempo” – so still within the tempo of the opponent’s thrust.

My understanding of a single-tempo parry-riposte is that this is achieved (and best learned) by streamlining the motion from parry to riposte until it becomes one movement.

How high the point goes in the parry is mainly influenced by the strength given by the opponent in their thrust, at least in my current grasp on the mechanics.

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L’Ange – Chapter 7, One Play with Multiple Drills

When you first read chapter 7 it may seem like a series of individual drills, but in actuality they all flow together into one play.

Gaining the Weak

First you gain the weak using what we learned in the pervious chapters. Take care to ensure you have a strong constraint; don’t try to use an overly long lunge to make up for only having a weak constraint.

If your constraint is too strong and you find that you are driving down your opponent’s sword, use the Flanconade. Otherwise continue…

Thrusting the Quarta and Its Counter

We’ve already discussed the first thrust in Quarta. For the purpose of this exercise, the patient’s counter is to simply parry in Quarta.

Disengage to the Outside

As soon as the agent notices his attack will be parried, he is to disengage to the outside. This must be done while breaking measure. By pulling back the lead foot, you give yourself enough time to complete the disengage safely.

Breaking measure while disengaging is a common theme in Italian rapier. While L’Ange certainly doesn’t ignore it, Capoferro takes great pains to repeatedly warn his reader to not try to disengage while in measure. For if you attempt to do so, you can be hit by during the disengage.

Thrust in Third Over the Arm

The thrust in third is a technique that is often overlooked. Though mentioned in several manuals, many fencers erroneously believe that they need to turn their hand into second when thrusting on the outside.


Note that this does not violate the general rule that says you should turn your true edge towards the opponent’s blade. Since you are thrusting over the blade, rather than alongside it, your true edge needs to be down.

The Second Disengage

The patient fencer can parry your attack in tertia by turning his hand into second and counter-thrusting. If it appears that he desires to do this, you must immediately break measure while you bring your hand low and to the right so that you are on the inside.

L’Ange warns you must anticipate his response, so speed is of the essence here. Don’t waste time by waiting until you have already broken measure to move your sword; the foot and hand must be coordinated in this action.

One of the advantages of this technique is that your opponent loses track of your sword. And since they don’t know where your sword is, their thrust won’t be able to oppose your blade. What’s worse, your opponent probably won’t even realize he lost your sword until he is in the middle of his thrust.

Parrying with the Krump in Secunda

If the patient fencer attacks in second, the agent shall parry using the action depicted in the illustration below. This isn’t named in the text, but is essentially a Krump or Crooked strike that goes up and over the blade from the inside and the pushes it to the outside.


From there you counter-attack in secunda under his arm. If the patient recovers high from his failed thrust, it will look like the next illustration. If instead he recovers somewhat low, it will look like the Flanconade but with the hand in second instead of fourth.


Parrying with the Flanconade in Quarta

If instead of thrusting in Secunda, the patient fencer thrusts in Tertia the agent should parry in Quarta and thrust over his arm using the same Flanconade that we discussed earlier.


Video Interpretation

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Meyer’s Longsword – Wechsel Guard Analysis and Videos

We have been taking a long hard look at Wechsel lately and have come to the conclusion that we’ve been doing a few things wrong. Most importantly, we’ve been allowing our arms to hang low and fully extended. But if you look closely at the illustration, Meyer doesn’t do that.

image image

As you can see, his lower hand is at roughly his hip level, the upper hand nearly to the sternum. By keeping the hands high like this, our cuts are tighter and faster with less chance of exposing the hands and forearms.

Other things to note:

  • The feet are inline
  • The back foot is turned out slightly more than 90 degrees
  • The weight is forward with the front knee over the front toe
  • The whole body is leaning forward such that the lead shoulder is over the lead foot
  • The long edge is turned back
  • The right hand is at the level of the hip or groin
  • The left hand is very loose on the pommel
  • The left hand is about level with the sternum
  • Both arms are bent
  • The point is on or near the ground

Jonathan’s Thoughts on Meyer’s Wechsel

John’s Thoughts on Meyer’s Wechsel

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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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