While free sparring with arming swords (i.e. side swords) we came across a surprisingly effective attack using horizontal strikes to the head. At least it was effective until we discovered the counter.
While your opponent is in a stretta or larga guard (low hand, point up or down), you attack with a mandritto tondo (i.e. horizontal cut from the right) to the side of the head. This is easily parried a number of ways so don’t expect it to land. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try to hit the head, just don’t be surprised if it misses.
As soon as the point clears the head, turn the hand over and throw a riverso tondo to the other side of the head. This is a simple horizontal attack returning along the same line. There is no need to circle or flourish; just cut, turn over the sword, and cut back. (With the correct footwork of course.)
The riverso is a very difficult attack to parry immediately after the mandritto tondo. What will often happen is that your opponent’s sword will partially block it, but then you’ll step a little bit further and lever around his blade to hit the back of the head. Or their parry will drive the blade down into their own left shoulder.
The counter involves the subtle use of the hanging guard. Don’t try to stop the initial attack, simply nudge it upwards so the blade passes over the head. It will look somewhat like a speed bump, with the opponent’s tip popping over your head and back into its original path.
When we did this our observer thought that I was intentionally missing with the tondo that I was throwing. What’s worse, I didn’t always realize that I had missed. The handing guard was so gentle that I thought I sliced through the face.
As your opponent’s sword passes by, your sword follows after for your own strike to the head. This requires very little effort, your opponent’s initial tondo will give you all the power you need.
Again, this works best if you don’t try to stop his attack. If your parry using a hard static block he’ll realize he missed and abort, thus not giving you the opening. He may even thrust, as you are stopping him with his point near your head. But guide it past and the center-line is yours.