Fabris begins this chapter thusly,
The principal cuts are four: the mandritto, roverso, sottomano, and montante. Each is used differently and has its own target. Later in the book we will see illustrations with all the cuts deriving from these four.
The rest of the chapter doesn’t deal with the named cuts. Rather, it is a general discussion about four different ways to throw any cut. (Well almost any, I don’t think the last one will work with a rising cut.)
Ways to Throw a Cut
Cuts from the Shoulder
Cuts from the shoulder are the worst kind of cut. They take too much time and leave you exposed while you pull back for the cut and even after you complete it.
Shoulder cuts that don’t find sword or body are hard to restrain and may find end up behind your back. Or worse, a downwards cut may strike the ground and break the blade.
Cuts from the Elbow
Elbow cuts take the hand out of line when preparing cut, and when missing body and sword. But at least they are faster than a shoulder cut and leaves a smaller opening.
Cuts from the Wrist
This is even better than the first two because the point remains on-line after the cut even if you miss. If the opponent uses a thrust or cut to parry, you can easily catch it on the forte and immediately counter-attack.
This is a somewhat unusual action. Fabris is recommending the arm remain straight with both the elbow and wrist locked. To attack, life the arm slightly and then immediately drop it again.
This works better if your cut is accompanied with the body. That is to say, start upright and sink down with the cut. This will allow you to recover faster for a parry than if you remained upright throughout.
This has more power than a wrist cut, but isn’t as flexible.
For a pratical example of the fixed arm cut, see the Dempffhauw (Suppressing Cut) from Meyer.
Since the tempo for a cut is long, you need some sort of advantage. Putting your opponent into obedience (nach in German terms) is one way of accomplishing this.
Cut then Thrust
One way to do this is to feint a cut in order to put your opponent into obedience (nach in German terms) and then throw an earnest thrust.
Do not do this if the opponent is stationary! You need a tempo prepare the cut and another to throw it, but a stationary opponent offers you none.
Thrust then Cut
Alternately you can feint a thrust and then throw the cut in earnest. This is preferable to the former if you don’t want to wait for a tempo.
If the cut is parried, you can then throw a second thrust.
Problems with Cuts
Cuts are slow, as are their recoveries.
If using the sword alone, you cannot counter-attack while parrying with a cut without giving your opponent time to break measure. You may, however, put him into obedience.
A cut requires more strength than a thrust because it is awkward.
More importantly, you need strength to keep a missed cut from dragging your body into disorder.
The long actions needed for cuts cause you lose the ability to use both the contratempo and the tempo.
Say you have equally matched fencers, one preferring the thrust while the other the cut. Since a thrust is quicker and strikes from further away, the fencer using the thrust will win even if the cutter is physically more powerful.
Advantages with Cuts
The only time Fabris recommends using cuts and thrusts, instead of focusing on just thrusts, is when fighting multiple opponents. A cut can parry multiple attacks and cause much disarray.