Manciolino’s Sword and Buckler: Sotto il Braccio Part 2

Where we last left off, we had the agent throwing a Falso (rising, back-edge cut) from Sotto il Braccio (underarm) in an attempt to thwart his opponent’s expected response.

Chapter 11/12, Play 2 Counter

The counter to the Falso sounds complex, but in practice is very easy to accomplish. Begin by throwing your own Falso without moving your feet. This puts you in a False Edge on False Edge Stretta, also known as crossed swords, half-swords, or a bind.

Seeing his initial line closed, the agent will continue his device by cutting around. That is to say, leaving the bind by folding his sword back enough to clear the blades, then cutting a Mandritto to the other side. This will be accomplished with a passing step to the right.

To make room for yourself, pass back your right foot while bringing your sword into Cinghiara Porta di Ferro. Your hilt will be inside your right knee, possibly over the left, with the point sticking out under your buckler. When done correctly, your opponent should fear your point which will be quite close to the face.

As soon as you are sure his Mandritto is no longer a threat, either because it missed or was blocked by the buckler, password forward with the same right foot while thrusting to the face. This should drive your opponent back, as he isn’t wont to be hit in the face by such as obvious threat.

Regardless if it hits or misses, follow up your thrust with another passing step. In this step, you are explicitly told to aim for the shins. While you this, strike his sword and buckler with your buckler, pushing them into his chest or towards his face.

Why Aim for the Shins?

This instruction only makes sense if you are very close to your opponent. Normally reaching for the shins just leaves you exposed, as it is too far away and your buckler can’t defend both your arm and your head.

But if you are close, then an attack to the thigh will lack power because it hits with the wrong part of the sword. While it will probably still do some damage, the attack to the shin should be far more effective.

Also keep in mind that the thighs are more likely to be covered with heavy clothing or even armor. The shins, on the other hand, are more likely to simply be covered in hose.

Theory: Distance and Measure

The theory behind this play is a common one in Bolognese fencing. Through the use of expansion and contraction, you can control the distance between you and your opponent, denying him his attacks while keeping him in measure for your attacks.

This is why it is important to understand that distance and measure aren’t the same thing. While distance can be expressed in the absolute terms of feet and inches, measure describes what you can do based on not only distance, but also where your feet are relative to him and each other.

Theory: Attacking High and Low

Another theory that Manciolino talks about is aiming high, then striking low, and vice versa. This is easy to understand, if someone is guarding his face then he’ll be too busy to guard his legs.

Correction: Don’t Use Coda Lunga

If you are performing the counter, be careful that you don’t pass back into Coda Lunga. Which is to say, don’t place your hilt to the outside of your right knee. This will cause two problems:

  1. You give up the center-line, allowing your opponent to thrust with opposition (i.e. while pushing your sword off-line).
  2. Coda Lunga will draw your point so far back that it isn’t a creditable threat.

Why would the Attacker Leave the Bind?

When the swords are bound, and you have no buckler, leaving the bind is usually a very bad idea. If you try, you’ll be struck before you can get your sword back into play.

With a buckler the rules are different. You can often leave the bind without undue risk because your buckler is still offering protection. In fact, there is a technique known as a transfer (modern term) where you as you leave a bind with your sword, you place a buckler or dagger against the opponent’s blade to continue the bind by another means.

What if the Attacker Winds During the Stretta?

Again, with a buckler the rules are different. If someone tries to wind from the False Stretta, the other fencer can respond by stepping forward while striking the sword hand with his buckler. If the winding fencer’s buckler is protecting the hand, as it should, it will be collected in the process and both buckler and sword will be pinned against the body.

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