Longsword – Drills for Pflug/Posta Breve/Porta di Ferro

While there are minor differences between these three guards, and within each one across different manuals, they are all described as essentially postures from which you primarily thrust.

And yet I often see people just hanging out in them, trying to make little snappy cuts that are both ineffectual and painful to watch. When some members of my club started doing it as well, I figured it was time to put some offensive drills on paper.

But first the defensive drills, which are necessary for understanding the motions used in the offensive drills.

Defensive Drill 1 – Parry then Cut

This is a dui tempi or two-time defense.

  1. The agent will be in Tag, while the patient stands in Pflug.
  2. The agent will cut a Zornhut to either side, stepping wide to avoid the point.
  3. The patient will counter with a simple parry, with point high and the hilt low, while making a small increasing step towards the attack.
  4. The patient will then cut with the short/false edge to the nearest opening.

image

This drill is the opening for Mair’s play titled “A High Winding with an Oberhau”. Note in the illustration of step 4 how the left fencer’s natural reaction to the short edge cut actually helps the right fencer’s blade into his head.

Defensive Drill 2 – Wind to Ochs then Thrust

This is another dui tempi or two-time defense.

  1. The agent will be in Tag, while the patient stands in Pflug.
  2. The agent will cut a Zornhut to either side, stepping wide to avoid the point.Def
  3. The patient will parry by winding into Ochs with extended arms, while making a small increasing step towards the attack.
  4. As soon as the swords make contact, thrust forward, increasing the front foot as necessary.

For this drill it isn’t always necessary to wind completely into Ochs. If your opponent is aiming for your flank rather than your head then you only need to wind part way before beginning the thrust.

Anti-pattern – Parrying with Point Online

A very common mistake is to try to parry with a low hilt and high point, but in such a manner that the point stays online. This leads to numerous problems as the body struggles to reconcile the conflicting needs for a structurally strong parry and a point that is prepared to thrust. Which is why most of the low hilt/high point parries in Fiore look like this:

image

And not this:

image

If you desire to keep the point online, the solution is to either commit yourself to winding into Ochs or, as the next drill illustrates, commit yourself to the thrust.

image

Defensive Drill 3 – Counter-thrust

Known as Absetzen or Setting Off in the German traditions (and “Duh, how else were you going to parry?” in Italian rapier), this is a core skill with any weapon capable of thrusting. It is also a stesso tempo or single-time counter, which is preferred by Meyer over the dui-tempi counters we discussed earlier.

  1. The agent will be in Tag, while the patient stands in Pflug.
  2. The agent will cut a Zornhut to either side, stepping wide to avoid the point.Def
  3. The patient will parry by thrusting into Gerade Veratzung (Straight Parrying)/Posta Longa (Long Position), rotating his long/true edge as necessary to meet the incoming cut. Step forward and slightly towards the attack as you thrust.

As you perform this drill, focus on thrusting correctly. If you think about the parry too much, you’ll drive you hilt out wide such that you have both an ineffectual parry and an poorly executed thrust.

The long/true edge doesn’t need to meet his attack exactly. You just need enough edge to allowing contact with your flat, so don’t concentrate rotate it so far that you lose structure.

Conversely, if you don’t rotate it at all and he strikes the flat he will easily push through your defense.

Offensive Drill 1 – Gaining the Sword I

Context: You and your opponent are both in Pflug (or a similar guard). Due to measure or general inclination, neither of you want to leave this guard nor will your opponent attack.

  1. Use a small advancing step (i.e. lead foot and then back foot) to gain the weak of his sword with yours.
  2. If he allows this, take another small advancing step to gain the strong of his blade with your weak. Stepping slightly outwards can help with this. Avoid putting pressure on his blade, as it will cause him to flee from the constraint.
  3. Stepping forward and slightly towards his blade, thrust while ensuring that your long/true edge is towards his weapon.

Rapier fencers will find this drill very familiar, but it works equally well with the longsword when both opponents prefer to fight from the low guards such that their points are forward.

Offensive Drill 2 – Gaining the Sword II

This drill builds off the previous one.

  1. The agent uses a small advancing step (i.e. lead foot and then back foot) to gain the weak of patient’s sword on the inside (i.e. blades are touching on their left side).
  2. The patient hesitates, so the agent takes another small advancing step to gain the strong of his blade with your weak.
  3. As the agent begins his thrust, the patient starts to push the agent’s sword offline to his left (agent’s right).
  4. The agent passes to the patient’s right, cutting a Zwerch/Tondo/Mezzano.

The Zwerch in step 4 is important. If the agent uses a descending cut, he’ll leave his upper-right exposed.

Offensive Drill 3 – Gaining the Sword III

This addresses a different parry made by the patient.

  1. The agent uses a small advancing step (i.e. lead foot and then back foot) to gain the weak of patient’s sword on the inside (i.e. blades are touching on their left side).
  2. The patient hesitates, so the agent takes another small advancing step to gain the strong of his blade with your weak.
  3. As the agent begins his thrust, the patient starts to push the agent’s sword upwards using a Kron-like movement.
  4. The agent steps to the patient’s left, cutting a slightly rising Zwerch/Falso Tondo/Mezzano into the patients arms.

EDIT: Originally I recommended a long edge cut to end this drill. However, there is a problem I had forgotten. When you end in that fashion, it leaves your right hand exposed to a direct attack. By using the short/false edge, your hand is no longer directly beneath their blade.

More Offensive Drills to follow

Later I will be writing up our interpretation of Mair’s “A Pflug from Both Sides” and Lichtenauer’s Versetzen for Pflug/Langort.

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2 Responses to Longsword – Drills for Pflug/Posta Breve/Porta di Ferro

  1. Pingback: Scholars of Alcala Class Notes – May 8, 2016 | Grauenwolf's Study of Western Martial Arts

  2. Pingback: Scholars of Alcala Class Notes – May 22, 2016 | Grauenwolf's Study of Western Martial Arts

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