Giovanni dall’Agocchie – Day 2, Introduction to Parries

Introduction

Dall’Agocchie puts priority on the unaccompanied sword, as it is more readily available than a sword with another tool.

Dall’Agocchie believes that the fencing from half sword, that is to say crossed blades, is an advanced technique that is hard to do correctly. For this reason the ancients taught it last. He doesn’t like the modern instructors who jump right into it.

Timeline: dall’Agocchie published in 1572. Agrippa’s system, which forms the basis of most late period fencing systems in Italy, was published in 1553. Twenty years seems about right for Agrippa’s influence to really start chipping away at the Bolognese-Dardi Tradition, and “half swords” certainly describes Agrippa’s system.

Dall’Agocchie puts priority on the long play because it makes the body more limber and improves both agility and grace.

Notes On Parries

A Falso Manco parries the sword to the opponent’s left side. In doing this it leaves you with the option to wound with a cut or thrust.

A Falso Dritto parries the sword to the opponent’s right side. With this you can follow with a cut. This is harder to do correctly, as a mistake will throw the enemy’s point into your face. It should be practiced in order to exercise the body and wrist.

A true edge parry can then wound with either a thrust or a cut on either side, so it is superior to the false edge parries.

A Device to Study

Now I want to advise you that when you’re in motion to hit the enemy’s blow with a falso dritto and want to wound with a mandritto, that you should immediately turn your wrist downwards and your body behind your right side. By doing this you’ll hit the enemy’s sword almost with your true edge.  And in the same tempo you’ll turn a dritto tramazzone, so that you’ll be more secure, because you’ll distance the enemy’s sword further from you, and also come to parry and strike almost in one tempo. Moreover, your sword will always be in your adversary’s presence.   But you need to have a limber body and a very fast wrist, because otherwise it will do you no good.

Turning the wrist down sounds like going into prima. This will cause the blow to land with more flat than I like, but dall’Agocchie does say “almost” the true edge. And this does give you more of a deflection than a static parry, allowing you to continue around with the tramazzone.

To experiment with this, we start in Coda Lunga e Stretta against Guardia Alta. Our opponent throws a fendente to the head.

What Didn’t Work

We are doing a dui tempi action with the right foot forward. I know from a later passage that the default footwork for this is a gathering step with the left foot for the parry followed by a increase of the right foot for the attack. To this I combined a high parry in first, the hilt above my head and the point at the height of my neck.

This was a disaster. My untrained opponent was able to slip my blade and mutate into a tondo before I was halfway through my tramazzone. This required no prompting, it was just the most natural response to her.

The First Correction

First was the slip. I cannot avoid it entirely, as I need to free my sword for my own attack. So instead of a high parry, I decided to lower my hilt to the level of my head with the point at the level of my waist. As the blades clashed, my, my sword followed hers down until the point dropped closer to my hip. The slip still occurs, but with the tip practically grounded. She attempted the tondo, but the blow had no power left and lightly tapped by side.

The Second Correction

She couldn’t injure me, but it was clear that she could still reach me. A more skillful fencer would see that and power up a quick false-edge cut, so I still need to fix the range. The solution is, as it often is, a change in footwork.

Instead of stepping forward, I step far to the right. I want to increase the measure until I can just barely reach when my hilt is at the level of my shoulder. At this distance, my opponent’s tondo or falso cannot reach me.

image

This took all the energy out of the attack, preventing that easy transition into a tondo.

image

The crude drawing above is the path of my hilt, not my point. Near marker A I rotate into first and receive the initial attack. My first step is complete by this time. Somewhere between markers A and B, which is roughly shoulder height, our blades slip and the right foot begins moving. As the traverse step completes, the hilt passes through marker C and the tramazzone straightens out for the cut to the head or shoulder.

Comparative Analysis

Consider part 3 of Marozzo’s first assault. In step 2 we see the falso dritto, followed by an attack to the legs. Then in step 4 we see the true edge parry along the same line. But where Marozzo follows that with a riverso, dall’Agocchie uses the circular tramazzone to make a dritto or on-side attack.

I believe the difference here is the buckler. With Marozzo, the buckler can be used to bind the opponent’s sword long enough to throw that quick riverso. This bind of course requires a strong step to the left instead of the right.

With dall’Agocchie’s action, body position is instead used to protect oneself from a follow-up attack. The topic of voids will discussed in more later in this section.

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