Second Giganti X: Cloak

or, The off-hand that’s NOT just like dagger


In contrast to all the other off-hands, Giganti treats the cloak as not just like a dagger.  The obvious reason being it’s not rigid.  He advises not to use a cloak made of silk or other lightweight material.  These are useless, and in his words “I consider the sword along better than the sword with a silk cloak”.  Which sounds pretty familiar to anybody exposed to the bulk of the cloak instruction in Atlantia (since in the SCA the bulk of our rapier cloaks are really little capes.  Instead he prescribes a cloak made of “cloth”.  We can guess he meant something wool or cotton.

He instructs to hold the collar, let it fall over your arm up to the elbow, and wrap it around your arm either once or twice, which drives its tactical use.

The cloak wrapped once around the arm and extended forward blocks access to your left flank.  With the sword held against the edge of the cloak (he says “on” but illustrates it as next to), he then considers attacks will only come above your arms, all of which are blocked with your sword while keeping the cloak against it, and below your cloak (cuts to your legs) which you can bat aside with the cloak while stabbing your opponent.  Also, he notes you can throw the cloak on his weapon and stab him while he’s entangled.

The cloak wrapped twice around the arm (so there’s very little left over) becomes a rigid parrying device, and is now just like a dagger.  He recommends this for use against opponents who like to cut, and “Since most men don’t know how to fence they attempt a lot of cuts.”

Really, I’m just going to let that quote sit there for a minute.  Men who don’t know how to fence attempt a lot of cuts.  Heh.  Hehehehehehe.

Anyway, with the double-wrapped cloak you can parry high and middle cuts, but not cuts to the leg.  These you parry with your sword, just like with sword and dagger.  Thrusts also get parried with the sword.  In all cases, thrust in the same tempo as your parry.

6 comments to Second Giganti X: Cloak

  • Hawke

    The problem I’ve always had with cloak in the SCA is that many of the things that the period masters suggest we do with cloaks are not permitted. Yes, we can use it to block access to most of our body, but I’ve always been told that cloaks aren’t ‘bulletproof’ ( which is to say that a thrust to the cloak will hit your body if the cloak touches you, and I’ve seen people who see it as an invitation to thrust as hard as they can to ‘get through’. Yes, bad training on their part and evident of other problems, but still ); we can’t entangle their weapons ; and a cloak wrapped around your arm doesn’t protect it in any way.

    • Ruairc

      Also notable: we can’t use the cloak to blind our opponent.

      That said, I look forward to the day when I’m confident enough in my single-sword game to learn cloak.

    • Wistric

      Held out ahead of the body, you’ve got 1-2 feet of empty air between your body and the cloak. A heavy weight fabric (my model is my wool cloak) doubled (since you let it hang down, then loop it back up to be held in your hand) should be a real PITA to move with a thrust. As for entanglement, I view it like blade grasping: Just enough to move their sword aside so you can stab them.

  • Ruairc

    I’m slightly surprised that a cloak wrapped over the arm can protect against cuts (since cuts are presumably effective against an unprotected arm, which would still be 3-4 layers at least) Is the addition of two more layers really that telling? Or is the cloak made of heavier material?

    I’ve a clever idea that, should it pan out, could make the cloak an excellent secondary in a line fight – toss a weighty cloak, bind several enemy swords, and immediately have your unit rush in and stab them.

    • Wistric

      “(since cuts are presumably effective against an unprotected arm, which would still be 3-4 layers at least)”

      If it had 3-4 layers, that would be a protected arm. I guess it’s worth researching what they actually wore to a duel. I think I’ve read the answer somewhere but can’t recall what it was.
      Either way, a few layers of thick wool cloak would take all force and cutting strength out of a percussive chop (especially one delivered from the wrist or elbow, which would be a weak cut to start with).

      As for tossing your cloak, you’d want to keep a hand on it. Remember, when you lose a hand, marshals frown on tossing your buckler or dagger aside. Same would be true of the cloak.
      Also, how many times would that work? And do you have a force trained to go when the cloak goes?

      • Ruairc

        I’ve read a number of period accounts suggesting that, for formal duels, the participants stripped to their shirts so as not to dirty their fancy doublets. That could certainly make cuts more telling, but a duel is also generally a bad place to throw a cut. For an impromptu street fight, one could, of course, expect full dress.

        One would like to test this out with sharps.

        Sure, a cloak-toss has the flavor of a trick – but even if your opponent is prepared for it the second time, it’s one more detail he has to watch for, and will not be automatic for most fighters. At any rate it seems like it could severely hamper any aggressive action. The difficult part would be coordinating your line so that you don’t bind your friends’ blades as well.

        That’s the only part that would need dedicated training. “Press” is one of those commands that everyone should know.

        Keeping a hand on the cloak is easy enough, since it can be arbitrarily long.

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