Giganti 17: Guards (don’t tell anybody)   4 comments

So having said, er, rather a few times that Giganti doesn’t actually bother going into specific guards but instead lays out the qualities of a good guard and lets you smart boys figure it out for yourself (a hint: If you’re dead, it was not a good guard), it’s now time to admit that Giganti does, actually, describe guards.  Three of them, though not really with a message that these are the only three, or that they are even the best three.  Instead, he uses them to illustrate a point.  Maybe.

But let me just leave the rest of this intro to Good ol’ Nicoletto’s own words:

There are as many possible guards as there are positions of the sword, as we have said elsewhere; and each of them has value to a man who understands tempo and measure.
He who forms his guards with artfulness even in the heat of battle will always deceive the opponent.

Wherever you hold your body and your sword, it can be of use, so long as you know what you’re doing.  If you don’t, the first page of Giganti’s text sits there waiting for your attention.

A Deceitful Guard that Leaves the Left Side of the Body Open

I will show only three [guards]; this will be enough to guide proficient fencers along the path to create as many as they want.

See?  Infinity of guards.

The correct way to form a deceitful guard is to leave one part of the body open, while keeping all the others well defended.

Give an opening so you know where they’ll be attacking, and then set your plan around how to manage their attack:

As soon as he launches his thrust or cut, you can parry and strike him in a single tempo, stepping forward with the foot that accompanies the sword while you parry.

They attack, and you defend and attack in the same tempo, just like the entire plan up until now, but with the added perk that you know where their attack is going.  Yet again: Make your opponent take a tempo (close the line, perform a feint, give an opening), attack in that tempo while defending.

These deceitful guards should be only employed by knowledgeable men — men who understand tempo and measure and who have a good degree of experience.

Perform these too close, or have an insufficient mastery of attacking into a tempo, and you die.  So, you know, learn tempo and measure already.

Of course, these are not defense-only guards.

You can advance on the opponent and, as you arrive in measure (while the opponent is still waiting) you can strike him in whatever opening he has.

Step in, if he doesn’t react, kill.  And stepping in will be a little safer because you know where he’ll be looking to attack.

If the opponent strikes, you can do several things, such as parrying and striking in a single tempo, parrying and executing a feint, a pass — or anything you can do from another guard.

Any well-formed guard supports all methods of attack.  If you can’t parry, you’re probably in a bad guard.

If the opponent, as you stand in guard, launches a two-tempi attack on you, you can either parry and strike in one tempo or also in two.

You can, in fact, take two tempi (as ill-advised as it is) but only if he does.  So long as your tempi are always fewer and smaller.  So, if he takes one tempo and you take two, you die.  But if he takes two and you take two, and your two are smaller, you win.  And, really, these deceitful guards will lead to more two tempi attacks and defenses as feints and changes of line are going to be more involved in the play.

A Deceitful Guard that Leaves the Right Side of the Body Open

the opponent can only attack your right shoulder, which you can parry with your sword or dagger, as you wish, while striking him by extending the right foot or with a pass. This guard, too, gives you the opportunity to perform many feints.

And here are two considerations for that plan: how will you parry, how will you extend your measure while striking, which feints are available that you can make use of?  A long term project may be to take these statements by Giganti and create a flow chart or checklist for all the essential elements of an attack to have determined before entering measure.

This type of guard is optimal against opponents who are eager to attack and don’t have the patience to wait to strike in the correct tempo and measure.  These opponents will gleefully attack whatever opening they see wihtout considering what you could do to them

So this?  This is that thing that Sir Christian mentioned to me, and which I mentioned to Letia.  A guard that presents weakness (i.e. not aggressive, has openings) will draw an impatient attacker to run you down, and if you have a trap ready you can then spring it.  The opposite is true as well: A solid, aggressive guard will prevent an opponent from attacking.  So you can sell “I’m gonna kick your ass” all day long, and your opponent will stay out of measure meaning nobody’s buying what you’re selling.  Or you can sell “You can kick my ass” all day long, and people will buy, and buy in bulk.  This, too, is the logic behind the Lazy Man’s guard.  It is ultimately “A Deceitful Guard that Leaves the Right Side of the Body Open”.

These guards are also good against the knowledgeable fencer, since you’ll find it easier to see what to do.

Because you know where his most likely attack is, you can judge his behavior in comparison to an attack to that opening.  Of course, it’s all probabilities at that point, and you start ending up with quantum mechanical electron orbital sorts of concepts of lines: There is an umpty percent chance that the attack will be in this quadrant, a dumpty percent chance a feint in that quadrant and an attack into another, etc, etc.  Of course, Attack Orbitals (and, yes, this is the name of my Nerd Industrial Rock band) probably don’t look as pretty as the barbells and donuts.

A Deceitful Guard that Leaves the Chest Open

While your opponent attacks [up the center] you can parry and strike him in a single tempo either in the right shoulder or in the face, since these are the closest openings.

Oo oo oo!  Shallow target!  Shallow target!  I think this may be the only reference in Giganti, but I’m still going to claim it as significant.  And, in a lunge, your opponent’s arm and face are right there for the killin’.

From this guard, you can also… do all the other things you have learned

Because, like, that’s what a guard should allow.

This guard is also good against those who strike with full intent without feints

Really, all of these are good that way.  But…

You should not use it against opponents who have an understanding of tempo and measure and who are equally skilled in the full-intent thrust and the feint.

Because you’re open enough, and they have the possibility to feint up the center and go to either side, that a skilled attack is far more likely to land.

Against this type of opponent you should stay covered behind your weapons, gain the opponent’s sword with yours from out of measure, and strike safely

Which goes back to the above: If your opponent wants to attack and you don’t want them to, take an aggressive, covered guard.

Posted November 27, 2010 by wistric in Giganti, Italian Rapier

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