Giganti 16: Parrying Cuts and Delivering Thrusts

My sense of Giganti in these chapters is basically that he’s saying “That stuff you can do without a dagger, you can do with a dagger”.  He’s laid out his system with single sword, and the addition of a dagger changes the tools but not the principles.  I’m curious as to whether or not the second book he refers* to (which would have address buckler, cloak, case, and other tools) would have been materially different from these chapters.  It would seem that one could reproduce what would have been Giganti’s second book merely by doing a find-replace of dagger for buckler or cloak or whatever.  By this point we’ve learned the principles of what makes a good guard, we’ve learned the tactic of taking a tempo of your opponent and attacking.  This is almost just a walkthrough of some specific means of executing that tactic which derives from his principles.

So let’s see what he’s come up with…

How to Parry a Cut to the Head in Sword and Dagger

if the opponent attacks you with a cut to the head, meet his blow with the edge of your dagger while in the same tempo delivering a thrust to his face accompanied by an extension of the front foot

In the single sword section, the only difference was that it was the edge of the sword doing the parrying, otherwise no difference.  Also, here it’s worth clarifying that he’s referring to a mandritto to the head, a cut that begins on the attacker’s right side and travels to the left.

(see: Giganti 11, “The Correct Way to Deliver a Thrust While the Opponent Attacks with a Cut”)

Against a powerful cut… to weaken the opponent’s attack… deliver your thrust to his face just as he lifts his sword in preparation for the cut; this will cause him to draw his head back and close his eyes, making the cut weaker.

Of course it’s my firm belief that the attack into prep should always be the goal.  Why let him cock his arm before he gets to die?

More interesting are the points he lays out next, reformatted for the convenience of my pedantry

But this action requires several things –
being fearless before the opponent and his sword
– That whole reactive retreat thing has to go.  I admit, I haven’t gotten rid of it, or anywhere close (Sir Christian’s only recommendation for my fighting is “Turn up the aggression”.  I’m far more likely to retreat until I see the opening I want).  The definition of “ready” (as in “Keep your body well placed and at the ready”) has to include “… to attack in the first tempo your opponent gives you”.  Damned difficult stuff.

Knowing how to parry with the dagger – duh

Knowing how to deliver a good, long thrust – Thank you, Lord Flashheart

Being careful not to parry with the flat of the dagger – Here he goes into the body mechanics of the dagger parry.  Parrying with the flat would set your hand and arm in such a way that you could not firmly resist the cut, and would instead have your dagger knocked from your hand and the cut continue into your head.  Which raises an interesting tactic of an opening assault to the flat of the opponent’s dagger.  I may have to try it one of these days, especially against fighters who present their dagger for the taking.

How to Parry a Riverso with the Dagger

Here he’s discussing a riverso, the mirror of the mandritto discussed above, and the first paragraph is spent saying “That thing you did, but parry on the right side instead of the left.”

Meet [the riverso] with the edge of the dagger and in the same tempo extend your right foot and deliver a thrust to the opponent’s flank.

So, whereas the dagger was extended to the upper left previously, now it’s to the upper right.  But now he takes a moment to recognize the unifying themes:

The previous six illustrations all have one thing in common: parrying the opponent’s attack and striking him… in the same tempo…  These six lessons are both the finest and the most important in fencing.

They aren’t really six lessons, they’re one lesson, and I might have a hard time thinking up anything more important: Single tempo wins.  Move smaller, move less, win the fight.

Thrust to the Chest in Sword and Dagger

This is effectively a repeat of “how to lunge”, with a note to target your opponent’s opening (I wonder if any early 17th century Italian read that and said “Mama mia that’s what I’ve been doing wrong!” while running his fingers over a dozen scars on his body).

But, as Master Giganti felt it worth repeating, let’s do so here:

Launch the attack to his chest by first extending your sword, THEN your body… right after your attack recover back out of measure… first recover your head, then your body, and your leg.

If the Kappellenberg practice ever moves to a salle with a blackboard, we may all end up writing that 100 times.

Deliver a Thrust while the Opponent Moves

Walter Triplette has a salle with a blackboard.  He has never actually made anybody, to my knowledge, write Bart Simpson-esque behavioral commentary on it.  However, he DOES maintain his List of Walter’s Rules on it.  One of them, somewhere near the top, is “Attack your opponent when his foot is in the air.”

If you perceive that [your opponent] wants to attack, give him a tempo to do so and use his tempo to parry and strike him as you’ve seen above

Sounds vaguely familiar, yes?

But if he shows himself to be timid and stands in guard waiting for you… Attack.  As described previously.

keep your dagger always guarding his sword; this way if he uses the tempo to attack you you can still parry and avoid a double hit.

And there, really is one of the major differences between single sword and sword and dagger.  You can give your opponent a tempo in which to attack you, so long as you are using your off-hand weapon to thwart any attack he might perform.

As you advance against the opponent, he must do one of these three things: Either he’ll attack [in which case you perform your single-tempo defense], stand still waiting to parry [in which case you attack as described above], or move… to retreat out of measure.

And what do you do in this case?

You should deliver a quick and strong thrust while his foot is lifted.  While he moves, he will be unable to strike you in the tempo of your attack.

Now, Walter has often been accused of approaching rapier as an extension of sport fencing, and he may well do so, but considering the fundamental rules appear not to have changed much from four hundred years ago, how would you really know?

Thrust above the Dagger

The illustration on this one is for more… er… illustrative than the text.  It shows You with a slightly off-line (to the outside) lunge, hand held high, arm extended further to the outside, all to angle the blade back in around the opponent’s dagger.

The sword and dagger can’t quite cover a man, and they necessarily leave some openings where he can be made vulnerable.  Always advance [aka attack] on the side of the opponent’s openings.

Master Llwyd’s 12 Dimensional Fencing class is a how-to on this.  The whole “getting around weapons to get to openings” is the principle thought process of my case game.  And to think I used to believe I knew something special.


*While there was a second book published in his name, it apparently has less to do with the promised chapters, and more to do with making a buck off of Fabris.

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