First Giganti Redux 3: Counter-guards

Having provided his list of the qualities of a good guard, Giganti then basically says to ignore that because good fighters don’t form guards, they form counter-guards.

A counter-guard at its most basic is a guard (still with most of the qualities of a good guard) which positions the sword and your body so that it prevents your opponent from attacking you in a single action. In general, this action by your opponent will be a cavazione, and he suggests that when they do this you can strike them, which is the first hint of his big plan:
Make your opponent move more than you have to move to kill them. When they move, kill them. Move fewer times than they do (preferably only once) and move less than do (preferably just a lunge).

The rest of his manual is the “how to” for this plan. And it starts with forming a counter-guard.

For Giganti, a counter-guard and gaining the blade are the same thing. You hold your weapons extended in front of you and you cross your sword above his “just about resting your blade over his, as if covering it.” The result is your blade pointing slightly off-line above his blade (if you’ve gained on the inside, you’ll be pointing outside his sword shoulder; if the outside, to the inside of his dagger shoulder). What this accomplishes, and what he doesn’t tell you, is first, if you’re both in terza, your true edge is now against your opponent’s false edge; second, you have formed the strong angle and if he extends towards you his foible will go to your forte (assuming you’ve got your sword extended and your body behind it); third, it gives you unimpeded access to his sword arm, torso, and head; fourth, if he wants to try to push your sword over to gain your blade he will be fighting gravity; fifth, if he tries to push your sword over to gain your blade he will bring your sword online with his face.

Giganti’s ideal counter-guard moves your opponent’s sword off-line, but this initially seems difficult if you’re not making direct contact with his blade. His solution is to move your body, so that a counter-guard to the inside brings the left shoulder back and the torso as profiled to your opponent as possible, and a counter-guard to the outside brings the left shoulder forward. Forming counter-guards, then, is not just a function of moving your sword but also of rotating your torso to move it out of the line of your opponent’s attack, and to align your arm and body behind your sword to buttress it against any direct pressure.

Counter-guards are always formed out of range. This is the first thing you do. You just don’t step into lunge range without having control of your opponent’s weapon. This means that the fight begins, and control of it is gained, out of range of your opponent.

When using a dagger, Giganti’s instruction to point it at your opponent’s shoulder suffices to include it in your counter guard. With your sword blade crossed above your opponent’s sword, your dagger and sword will now form a V (Fabris calls this “joining the weapons”), with no gap between them, so that any attack can be parried by one blade or the other with a single action of the wrist or elbow. The invitational dagger guards Giganti illustrates include this union of the weapons (except for the invitation to the center line, which requires a movement of sword or dagger to form the V).

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