L’Ange: Changing our Rapier Footwork

Up until now we used this footwork pattern for obtaining a constraint. (Only the right foot is shown.)

image

1: Patient stands in guard of Tertia. The Agent stands in Quarta on the inside. Start far enough apart that the swords are not crossing.

2: The Agent steps forward with an advance, the front-foot moving forward no more than two foot-lengths. At the same time, constrain the weak of the sword as shown in the illustration above.

3: The Agent steps forward with a compass step to the left, rotating the body slightly to redefine the angle between the fencers. At the same time, sword is repositioned so that the cross is low on the Agent’s sword while still high on the Patient’s sword.

4: The Agent extends his sword forward into Quatra, with a lean of the body and a slope step of the right foot to the left. The final position should look like illustration 8 on the previous page. Note the use of the left hand for added defense.

This pattern is based on the idea of shifting the line of engagement so that you can form a strong constraint without touching blades. And it works more or less, especially when your opponent likewise insists on not making blade contact prior to the lunge.

I didn’t invent this pattern, but I’m not going to reveal the source in case they are no longer teaching it this way or I misinterpreted it. I will say that I learned it in the context of Giganti.

What changed?

After attending some lectures and classes at the SoCal Swordfight, I no longer like this approach. The constant theme across all of the classes I took was “Move! Get off the center line!”. This was expressed in a variety of ways, but the core idea of not staying where you can be hit is paramount.

In the Myles Cupp’s Fabris lecture, one of the footwork options was to step towards the opponent’s blade. You don’t have to push hard against it, in fact you shouldn’t, but by shifting the line slightly to the left you close out the straight line. Here’s the actual quote,

As you advance into misura larga, [do not] place that first step into misura larga along the straight line that you have been following – that is, not towards his body or in the line of his point – but rather on the side on which you place your sword to shut his out… with this you will be doing two things. 1. The step with which you enter into misura larga will not be on the same straight line along which you advanced towards him, so that his point will not be in your body’s presence. This allows you to shut out his point and be safer.

Vienna Anonymous, p.45. trans. Tom Leoni 2019.

Using this advice, we modify the footwork pattern to be:

image

1: Patient stands in guard of Tertia. The Agent stands in Quarta on the inside. Start far enough apart that the swords are not crossing.

2: The Agent steps forward with an advance, the front-foot moving forward no more than two foot-lengths. At the same time, constrain the weak of the sword as shown in the illustration above.

3: The Agent steps forward-left with a slope step. At the same time, sword is repositioned so that the cross is low on the Agent’s sword while still high on the Patient’s sword. Apply no or light pressure to the Patient’s sword.

4: The Agent extends his sword forward into Quatra, with a lean of the body and an increase of the right foot. The final position should look like illustration 8 on the previous page. Note the use of the left hand for added defense.

When applied to L`Ange’s Chapter 7 drill, we found this technique to have a higher attack success rate without compromising defense. And it just felt more natural.

I’ll end this post with another quote from Vienna Anonymous,

While you lift your foot to enter into misura larga (and before you place it again on the ground), you must gain an advantage by doing one of the following five things. Choose depending on what the opponent is doing with his sword.

  1. Gain his sword.
  2. Shut out his sword.
  3. Remove your body from his sword’s presence while shutting out his sword even more.
  4. Aim your sword at his sword-hand.
  5. Place him under the obligation to parry.
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