Scholars of Alcala Class Notes – May 1, 2016

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Warm-ups focused on the sword dance (a.k.a. Circling the Numbers) and Meyer’s Cross.

Guard of the day: Pflug

Meyer’s Longsword – Analysis of Right Pflug

Today’s emphasis was on the location and orientation of the feet.

  • Back foot must be turned out at roughly 90 degrees.
  • The ankle of the back foot should be straight. Try to avoid rolling your ankle so that the foot is flat on the ground, as you lose stability and traction. And NEVER roll it the other way, as you risk serious injury.
  • Terminology

  • Inside: If both fencers are right handed, the opponent’s blade is to the left such that the point is towards the chest.
  • image

  • Outside: If both fencers are right handed, the opponent’s blade is to the right such that the point is outside the body’s silhouette or over the arm towards the shoulder.
  • image

  • Absetzen – Setting Off: To parry a cut or thrust by means of counter-thrust.
  • You shall learn to skillfully set aside cuts and thrusts, so that your point strikes him and he is countered. When someone stands against you and holds his sword as if he thinks to thrust at you from below, stand against him in the Plough guard on your right side and give yourself an opening on the left side. If he then thrusts from below to this opening, wind with your sword against his thrust, out to your left side, and step towards him with your right foot, so you can hit with your point as he misses.
    — Sigmund Schining ein Ringeck

    Solo Exercises

    Drill 1: Thrusting from Pflug into Langort, rotating the long edge to the left or right depending on where you imagine the opponent’s sword to be.

  • Repeat for either foot forward
  • Repeat with both an increase of the front foot and a passing step
  • For the increase, don’t move the back foot. And especially don’t drag it.
  • Partner Exercises

    Drill 2: Simple thrusts

  • Agent and Patient stand in Pflug on the inside with right foot forward
  • Agent thrusts while increasing the right foot, aiming for the throat
  • Drill 2: Counter-thrusts

  • Agent and Patient stand in Pflug on the inside with right foot forward
  • Agent thrusts while increasing the right foot, aiming for the throat
  • Remaining firm-footed, the Patient counter-thrusts to the throat
  • If done correctly, the patient’s counter-thrust will expel the agent’s blade while landing on target. If it doesn’t work, consider these corrections:

  • No not actively try to parry, as that drives both swords off-line. Instead, concentrate on a clean, accurate thrust and allow the blade geometry to protect you.
  • Fully extend your arms to shoulder height. If you arms are low, or otherwise collapsed, they can’t protect you.
  • Ensure that your long edge is towards your opponent’s blade
  • Don’t step forward, your opponent is already closing the distance for you.
  • Warning: There is a technique the agent can use known as “constraining” or “gaining the blade”. If he does this successfully before attacking, the counter-thrust will not work. In later weeks we’ll explain what this technique is and how to deal with it.

    Repeat this drill on the outside and with either foot forward.

    Drill 3: Counter-thrusts with simple footwork

  • Agent and Patient stand in Pflug on the inside with right foot forward
  • Agent thrusts while increasing the right foot, aiming for the throat
  • Stepping slightly towards your opponent’s blade, roughly 1 to 2 foot-widths (4 to 8”), the Patient counter-thrusts to the throat.
  • This is preferable to the previous drill because it changes the angle of the center-line in a way that directs the agent’s blade away from the patient.

    Thrust and counter-thrust

    Be careful to not exaggerate the step, as it will take longer and give your opponent space to come to the other side. This is called a “disengage” and we’ll cover in depth in a later class.

    Drill 4: Counter-thrusts with simple footwork

  • Agent and Patient stand in Pflug on the inside with right foot forward
  • Agent thrusts while increasing the right foot, aiming for the throat
  • Stepping slightly towards your opponent’s blade, roughly 1 to 2 foot-widths (4 to 8”), the Patient counter-thrusts to the throat.
  • Agent sees the counter and aborts his attack, withdrawing the lead foot.
  • Patient increases (or passes forward) as the Agent passes back, completing his counter-thrust.
  • He we illustrate the importance of small, fast steps when parrying. Had the patient performed a large step in tempo 3, he wouldn’t have the balance and time to pursue in tempo 5.

    Warning: If the patient allows the agent to complete his withdrawal before pursuing, the agent can attack anew as the patient as moves forward. Thus the patient needs to either complete his counter-attack while the agent is preoccupied with moving back or do something else.

    Sword and Buckler

    Guard of the day: Alta

    Keeping with our theme of paying attention to the feet, here’s an old article titled Taking a Long Hard Look at Guardia Alta or Yes, I Know My Feet Are Crossed.

    Since I wrote that, Alan West discovered the purpose of this unusual stance. By turning the feet outwards like that, you pull back the right shoulder. This pulls that sword hand back, where otherwise it would be susceptible to hand strikes such as we see in Manciolino Sword & Buckler Guardia Alta 1.


    Cuts from the right, assuming you are right-handed, are “Mandritto” (straight-handed) or simply “Dritto” (straight). From the left are “Riverso” (reverse). Depending on who you ask, Fendente is used alone with with the Dritto/Riverso modifiers.


    Check you workbooks for the translations of the specific cutting angles. And note, none of this terminology refers to targets. Those are described in terms of what body part you are aiming for.

    Parrying with the Buckler

    In this illustration by di Grassi, we see the correct way of holding the buckler. It should be held nominally at shoulder height, with the arm more or less fully extended. The lines illustrate how as the sword moves closer, then angles become steeper until the point is no longer a threat.

    This of course assumes that your arm is extended. As you bring your buckler closer to the body, the triangles move to the left and again become a danger.

    di grassi

    Under our new theory of the use of the buckler, said buckler is never moved side to side. Rather you always keep it in a straight line between your shoulder and your opponent’s sword shoulder. As he moves, your whole body rotates to keep that relationship.

    Wide Measure Techniques

    Using this method, you always catch your opponent’s cuts on the rim of your buckler. If you find yourself using the face, it probably means that you are “chasing” his sword, parrying too wide left or right instead of just rotating the body.

    For particularly high or low attacks, Manciolino tells us that we may raise or lower the bucker. Note that when you lower it, still keep if between your shoulder and your opponent’s. It is very tempting to let the buckler go wide as you lower it, which exposes your chest and buckler-arm to a follow-up strike.

    Footwork in Wide Measure

    While there are many ways to step with the buckler, we found triangle steps to be of particular use as a pedagogical tool.

    When the opponent throws a mandritto to your left, step diagonally forward with your right foot. Then immediately step back with the left, placing it where your right foot was. This will allow you to rotate your body such that it follows his footwork.

    If he then uses a riverso to your right, step diagonally forward with your left foot, again drawing your other foot back to the center point of the triangle.

    Triagle Steps

    As with all of our diagrams, the right foot is orange and the left is blue.

    Narrow Measure Techniques

    As you and your opponent close, you’ll find that you are catching his sword lower and lower on the blade. Eventually it may get to the point where you are practically hitting his hand with the face of your buckler.

    If that happens, hit his hand with the face of your buckler and keep it there. So long as your boss is against his hand or hilt, he can’t attack you. And once contact is made, you can maintain it by feeling through the buckler where his hand is moving and follow accordingly. (Thus chasing his sword is allowed, after contact.)


    • Dui Tempi – Double Time: A parry that is followed by a separate attack.

    From which one equally recognizes that striking of dui tempi requires at least two movements of the sword.
    — Ridolfo Capoferro

    • Stesso Tempo – Same/Single Time: An attack that is completed at the same time as a parry.

    Now, to the rationale of the two tempi. Even though, as I said above, these may be successful against some, they cannot be remotely compared to the stesso-tempo parry-counter in terms of effectiveness. Indeed, the best and safest way to counter is to meet the body of the opponent in the very moment that he moves forward. If this is not done, you may step back to safety; and if you follow him, you give him an opportunity to parry and to perform another attack.
    — Salvator Fabris

    • Schiltslach – Shield Strike/Shield-knock: To strike with the buckler

    This is the one of the main signature attacks of the I.33. It takes place after a bind and is used throughout the manuscript. It involves stepping out of the bind or rebind and pressing or hitting your opponent arms with your buckler in order to bind them up and then following up with a finishing stroke from your sword. This strike may be a true edge or a false edge; it may be a rising or descending cut. The I.33 doesn’t give us specific directions, but the image shown could be a rising true edge strike to the Priest’s head, or a descending false edge strike. It is also illustrated in several other german manuscripts though it is not labeled as a shield strike.
    — Brian Hunt (modern)

    Partner Exercises

    These are free-from drills, almost like sparring, so care must be taken. Start with a very slow cadence so that each participant develops good reactions. As the attacks and parries become start to become second nature, increase the speed (and safety gear) until you reach sparring speeds.

    This may take several sessions so don’t rush it. It is crucial to develop the correct responses and increasing speed prematurely may instead lead the fencer to rely on panic reflexes.

    Drill 1: The agent throws a series of cuts, slightly out of range and of a moderate height, at the patient who is waiting in Alta. The patient moves his feet accordingly to parry the blows.

    For this exercise, the agent only needs a sword and the patient only needs a buckler.

    Masks and gorgets are required for the remainder of the drills.

    Drill 2: Repeat the first drill, but the agent also aims for the legs or the crown of the head. This allows the patient to practice raising and lowering the buckler without allowing it to float too far to either side.

    Since you are wearing safety gear, the blows may now be in range.

    Drill 3: Once the single parries start looking good, the agent may add combination attacks. This is not a speed drill. Rather, the agent should look for opportunities offered by the patient such as when he parries too wide or otherwise allows the buckler to be wander out of place.

    The agent should especially look to the buckler arm if said buckler goes to the outside. If the buckler wanders too far towards the center, aim for the head over the buckler arm.

    Drill 4: For the next drill, the patient is allowed a sword in addition to his buckler. Continuing from the third drill, the patient may counter-attack from Alta as he parries (stesso tempo) or immediately afterwards (dui tempi).

    As the sword is in Alta, favor parries with the buckler alone so that the sword is available for attacking. (In lower guards, the sword is more active for the defense.)

    The agent should refrain from combination attacks at first, but may add them later.

    A heavy glove on the sword hand is is required for the next drill.

    Drill 5: For this variant of our core drill, the patient is allowed to strike the sword hand of the agent. For safety, this should be a gentle placement or push rather than a hard strike.

    Use this whenever the fencers are close and the patient notices that the sword hand is close to the buckler. Do not overreach or chase the buckler hand; if it isn’t readily exposed then continue using wide measure tactics.

    To facilitate the learning process, the agent may close to make the shield-strike more accessible. However, there is nothing wrong with the patient closing if he sees the opportunity to perform a shield-strike a move or two in advance.


    Today we focused on the first and third precept. Here is some more information on it:

    Meyer’s Wrestling and Dagger – First Precept

    Meyer’s Dagger – More on the First Precept

    Clearly we need more articles and videos on the five dagger precepts.

    Great Sword

    For the bonus section we looked at some great sword techniques.


    Marozzo’s Greatsword – True Edge Stretta 1

    Our first technique was a disarm from Maroozo’s third assault. At the bind, the agent grabs both blades where they cross. Then you slam the hilts together, trapping the opponent’s hand.

    di Grassi’s One-Handed Thrust

    From a low guard, extend both arms in the thrust. When you reach full extension, continue moving forward by advancing the left foot. (This may be an increase or passing step depending on which foot was first.) Once the foot hands, continue to forward momentum by releasing the right hand and rotating the left shoulder forward.

    Thus we’ve actually performed three thrusts in one, with each being used if the previous thrust falls short but the opportunity for attack remains open.

    Note that when thrusting in this manner (or using any of di Grassi’s techniques) you do not lean. Keep an upright posture, shifting the weight forwards or backwards as necessary.


    Simple Recovery

    The simple recovery offered in the text is to simply withdraw the left foot. As the body and sword contract, the right hand can regain the hilt.

    Mutating into a cut

    If the thrust is deflected to either side, allow the sword to pivot at the pommel. The momentum will carry the sword back such that you can regain the hilt with the right hand. As you grab the sword, allow the momentum  to continue around such that you cut from the opposite side. For example, if your sword was beat to the right, step and cut from your left to his right.

    Take care to work with the energy given to you by your opponent. If you fight against it you won’t regain your sword in time.

    This entry was posted in Antonio Manciolino, Dagger, Greatsword, Longsword, Marozzo, Meyer's Dagger, Meyer's Longsword, Sword and Buckler and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

    1 Response to Scholars of Alcala Class Notes – May 1, 2016

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

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