Chapter 1: General Preface
Fabris mentions that he is going to cover 4 guards (first, second, third, fourth) and two measures. He also rattles off a bunch of terms he intends to explain later.
Chapter 2: Four Basic Guards
For those with any experience in Italian rapier, this chapter doesn’t really add much in concrete terms. It does have a bit of the philosophy of the text though, such as though he is only going to talk about only 4 guards there exists bustard guards that share the qualities of two adjoining guards.
There are only four legitimate guards because they share all the qualities of the bastard guards.
A guard is both in the position of the hand and the direction of the point.
There are only four guards because there are only four ways to wound someone: above, below, inside, and outside.
The length of the blade is divided into four parts. (This appears to be important for the philosophy or rules behind the system.)
The first part, closest to the hand, can parry any cut or thrust regardless of strength so long as form and tempo are maintained.
The second part is usable if it meets the weaker part of the opponent’s sword. This implies that the first part can parry against the opponent’s first part, but the second part cannot parry against the opponent’s second part.
The third part is not effective especially against cuts. You can parries when the sword is pressed against the opponent’s body (Fabris promises more on this later).
The fourth part contains the point.
He mentions what we refer to as the "sweet spot" as being on the boundary between the third and fourth part. I reached this conclusion because he says this point has twice the impact as using the third part alone.
Experiment: Finding the parts of the sword
There are three boundaries we need to consider:
First/Second: Somewhere in the first quarter of the blade
Second/Third: This is defined by Fabris as the middle of the blade
Third/Fourth: This is the "sweet spot", which we can find by striking a pell.
It isn’t clear to me how we to determine where the first boundary is. Perhaps this would work…
The active and passive fencers take opposing guards with swords of equal length. The active fencer attacks slowly. The passive fencer parries, the swords crossing at 4 inches from the hilt (for both swords). Repeat at 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 inches. At a certain point the parry should cease to feel strong. This is the boundary between first and second.
This should be repeated with different guards and opponents to see if it is a fixed point on a given sword or if it varies by the situation.
This experiment can be repeated to find the boundary between the second and third parts. For this experiment, a fixed offset would be needed so that the active fencer’s sword is weaker than the passive fencer’s sword. For example, if the passive is parrying with 16" from the hilt, the active sword would be crossed 19" from the hilt.