Rapier Pell, Mark 1

The height is adjustable by loosening the two bolt. The angle is set using a pin.

Eventually I want to add a metal plate for the angle pin. This will work for now, but it’s clear that will be the first thing to fail.

The blade is a 15 year old Darkwood rapier that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away when the tang snapped off.

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Meyer Longsword – This is not a Kurtzhauw (Short cut)

It was recently pointed out to me that this illustration does not depict a Kurtzhauw (Short cut).


To understand my mistake, consider this passage:

This is a stealthy action that goes through against your opponent, and is done thus: When your opponent cuts at you from above, then act as if you intended to bind on his sword with the Crooked Cut, that is with the short edge; but forego this, and quickly go through under his sword; strike with the short edge and crossed arms over his right arm at his head; thus you have caught his sword with the long edge and executed the Short Cut, and you stand at the end of it as shown by the figure on the right in the small scene on the upper left in Image B.

It sure sounds like the Kurtzhauw is what’s being shown, but also consider this passage from the beginning of chapter 5:

The other cuts with which one neither parries nor hits, such as the Short Cut and Failer, etc. are nor a core component of combat but only allowed per accidens or circumstantially, to deceive the opponent, provoke him, make him angry, and to drive him out of his advantage, which generally does not happen without risk, since they do not incorporate any parrying.

If the Kurtzhauw “neither parries nor hits”, then the Kurtzhauw is actually when you perform this part of the passage: “act as if you intended to bind on his sword with the Crooked Cut, that is with the short edge; but forego this, and quickly go through under his sword”. Which means the illustration shows the next step after the Kurtzhauw.

This brings us back to one of the fundamental problems with interpreting Meyer’s text. It often appears as if it is giving us definitions when in fact he is giving us examples.

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Fabris Lesson Plan for Plate 3 & Chapter 3/4

Review the first guard.

Discuss the divisions of the sword. Focus on the specifics that Fabris offers. (Maybe compare & contrast with other systems.)

Discuss the features of the withdrawn seconda (plate 3).

[students assume the posture, practice walking as well]

Discuss the openings that the withdrawn seconda present and how to protect them

[students assume the posture again, correcting flaws]

Introduce the concept of the counter-posture from chapter 4. Note the specifics, especially how a properly formed counter-posture doesn’t require an active parry.

[Practice the defenses indicated in the text. Note out Seconda acts as a counter-posture on the outside, while an active parry is needed on the inside.]

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Fabris Lesson Plan for Plate 2

Recap why Fabris doesn’t like the withdrawn prima.

Discuss the physical differences between the properly formed prima and the withdrawn prima.

[students form the posture]

Discuss the concept of safety being measured by the distance between your opponent’s sword and your forte.

[Practice walking in this posture]

Introduce the concept of continuous motion. This is mostly a Book 2 concept, but he does present some of it here.

[Experiment with attacking without stopping.]

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New Pell for the New Year

Well the base isn’t new, just the post itself.

I highly recommend Copper-Green Brown if you’re going to leave it outside in the rain. Coat the legs thoroughly, the uprights just need the tops where water may pool.

Plans: https://db.tt/jAtMu9Bo

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Fabris and the Paradox of the Step

The master dall’Agocchie famously wrote about about the five tempi for attack. The last concerns movement of the foot,

The fifth and last, when the enemy is fixed in guard, and he raises or moves his forward foot in order to change pace or approach you, while he raises his foot, that’s a tempo for attacking him, because he can’t harm you as a result of being unsettled.

This is a common belief among later masters. Fabris himself brings up the issue multiple times,

As I have already said, if you are stationary with both feet on the ground, you cannot move them without performing two tempi: one to life the foot, the other to place it on the ground.

If we limit ourselves to just these two passages, it seems like one should fence timidly. Rather than being aggressive, you wait for your opponent to approach and offer a tempo. But that’s not always an option. So many masters, modern and historic, would have you limit the time you are in danger by taking small “advancing steps”. This is when you move the front foot first, by a foot-length or two, then place it while moving the rear foot forward by the same amount.

But to Fabris this is even worse because you are four tempi with each advance. Furthermore, your weight is alternately being shifted forward or back depending on which foot you wish to move next.

So rather than these stuttering advancing steps, Fabris would prefer that you stay continuously in motion. Allow me to quote the above passage in context,

As a first consideration, a person who moves from a stationary position will always be slower (by virtue of his weight) than one who is already moving. As I have already said, if you are stationary with both feet on the ground, you cannot move them without performing two tempi: one to life the foot, the other to place it on the ground.

On the other hand, someone in motion will always have one foot in the air and the other firmly on the ground. In this lies the great advantage of having already completed what the opponent has yet to begin.

To stay in motion you need to become proficient with “passing” or “walking” steps. As in everyday walking, your center of mass continues to move in one direction as your weight is sifted from one foot to the other and back. Think of it not as series of alternating “move foot-shift weight” pairs but rather “my weight is on whatever foot happens to be under me at the moment”. Fabris writes,

If you wish to approach your opponent, you should start by moving your feet at an ordinary step, as if you were walking – only quicker and smaller strides. This step should not be widened until the point of your sword reaches the opponent.

Though Fabris doesn’t fully explain this concept of continuous motion until Book 2, his first mention of it can be found in text for plate 2, which shows the properly formed Prima.

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Fabris Lesson Plan for Plate 1

Brief introduction to the rapier itself and its parts.

Terminology: The four hand positions in Italian rapier (one, two, three, four). Their introduction by Agrippa. The difference between one, the hand position, and first/prima the guard.

[students demonstrate the four hand positions to reinforce the terminology]

Fabris’s stance, including the crossing or near-crossing, of the feet when they are close together. Contrast with modern theory in which the feet should never cross.

Review the rest of the body in the withdrawn prima.

[students practice assuming the withdrawn prima]

Discuss how to use the illustrations to distinguish between important and unimportant details by comparing the left and right fencer in the same guard.

[students practice assuming the withdrawn prima with refinements]

Discuss the strengths of the withdrawn prima, namely protecting the head. (Note, changed the order slightly from the text.)

[students drill parrying basic high cuts to the head]

Discuss the weaknesses of the withdrawn prima, specifically the opening beneath the sword.

Continue the discussion with talking about the importance of hand parries in this posture.

[drill attacking someone in the withdrawn prima. Agent starts in a generic third, the patient in prima will parry with the hand.]

Terminology: single vs double-time actions

[repeat drill, but patient may parry with the sword.]

Discuss Fabris’ theory that this posture is only good for retreating. Then conclude with a preview of the extended or “properly formed” Prima.

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