Fabris: Finding the Sword Part 1   Leave a comment

When thinking about a fight there are three major concepts to consider. Am I in measure? Have I found their sword? Is my opponent taking a tempo? These concepts of measure, line, and tempo are all related and one cannot be examined without the others playing some role. However, for the time being Letia and I have chosen to focus on the question of finding the sword.
According to Fabris you have found your opponent’s sword when you are in a position where your sword cannot be pushed away and you can push away your opponent’s blade.
There are three mechanical advantages that can be gained to find the opponent’s sword.

  1. “The sword is always stronger on the side to which it points.” Essentially, if you are trying to find your opponent’s sword on the inside, typically to your left, you will be best served by pointing your sword to the left. This forms an angle where you can advance your forte onto the opponents debole while simultaneously moving your debole further from his forte. Once this is accomplished the point will likely need to be turned back in line with your opponent but this can be done safely since your forte’s position on his debole should protect you from your opponent’s possible attacks.
  2. Gravity: Fabris wrote his text before Newton published his laws of motion but he mentions in several places that it is advantageous to place your blade above your opponent’s. The reasoning is simple. When it is time for you to engage your opponent’s blade you will be pressing downwards, in the direction of gravity, and to counter your opponent will have to work against gravity to keep his blade where he wants it or to parry. This means that he will not only have to generate enough force to counter your attack but will also have to generate additional force to defeat gravity.
  3. Leverage: The forte is stronger than the debole. Essentially, the closer the crossing point of the blades is to your forte and the closer to your opponent’s debole the stronger your ability to control his blade. This springs from the physics concept of torque. A sword is essentially a lever arm that is hinged and powered at the wrist. The torque that needs to be overcome is proportional to the distance from your wrist. What this means is that the closer to your wrist you engage your opponent’s sword the less resistance you will meet. Alternatively the further from your wrist that you engage the more resistance you will meet. These same rules work for your opponent as well. This means that if you engage your opponent’s blade far from his wrist you will encounter less resistance. Similarly, if you try to gain your opponent’s blade close to his wrist you will encounter more resistance.

Absent from the above list is mention of the true edge and false edge. This is because it is not something that Fabris considers when finding the opponent’s sword. In fact the true edge and false edge are not mentioned at all that I have found in reading the first book. The concept however is still important because when Fabris talks about striking he often changes to a guard of second or fourth which will typically take advantage of the true edge. The true edge being the edge aligned with the sword’s knuckle guard. The true edge is typically stronger than the false edge.
Finally, it should be noted that while finding the blade your sword is NOT actively engaged with your opponent’s. As much as possible it is important to keep your sword free so you can quickly react to actions by your opponent and more easily disguise your intentions. Additionally, making blade contact can have a negative impact on your form.

Posted May 23, 2012 by Tassin in Italian Rapier

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