First Giganti Redux 10: Voids

During a normal find or parry, the sword is moved laterally or vertically to close the line.  During a void, the body is moved laterally or vertically from the open line to a closed line.  This bodywork can also be applied without active voids, as we’ll discuss.

 

Voids against attacks on the inside

The Scanso della Vita of Capoferro

The most common version encountered (and the one Giganti focuses on in his first book) is the inquartata (as illustrated above in Capoferro).  Called also the Volte by the English, Girata by Fabris, or Scanso della Vita (“Life” or “Waist,” both worth noting) by Capoferro (so, it was really popular), this void brings the rear foot behind the body until it is ahead of the sword foot, rotating the hips to face almost backward and pulling the target area completely out of the inside line.  Meanwhile, the sword is held extended in quarta (thus the name) to form a barrier against the opponent’s blade.  This void appears in a number of settings, though in each case it’s a contratempo counter to your opponent’s attack: If found on the outside, the void with a disengage forms a cavazione to close the inside line while controlling the opponent’s blade.  If the opponent attacks on the inside line without finding the blade, your blade doesn’t need to move at all to deliver the kill.  If the opponent should have you found on the inside line, the rotation of the body provides the angle to counter-find.

However, this motion requires moving the rear foot which, in a normal guard, holds almost all of the weight.  As a result this is a relatively slow and large motion (though, just like passing, it can be achieved by essentially falling to the outside and bringing your foot around to catch yourself.  Practice on a soft surface).

Capoferro and Agrippa teach another option (Capoferro calls it the “Scanso del Pie Dritto (Right Foot)”, Agrippa labels it as his guard G) achieved by moving the lead foot.  The foot either turns 90 degrees to point to the inside or takes a step to the outside while performing that turn.  Either way, it further rotates the hips to face to the inside, bringing the torso more into a line behind the sword.  With the step, the body moves toward the outside even more.

Agrippa’s G, void by moving the right foot

 

Voiding backwards and downwards

Voids can also be performed backward, by leaning back and bending the rear knee even further, though this requires an exquisite control of range to cause your opponent to come up just short.  From here the knee forms a powerful spring to drive your blade through the unfortunate opponent.  If you want to demonstrate mastery of measure, there are few better ways.

Passata Sotto – For when merely winning isn’t enough

The most beautiful void, in my opinion, and probably the most humiliating way to kill your opponent, is the Passata Soto: Kick your rear leg backward, drop down, and catch in the three-point stance illustrated.  Just as voiding backwards requires mastery of measure, this requires both a great sense of acting in counter-time and an opponent willing to attack vigorously.

 

Voids against attacks on the outside

In general voids to the inside are given less attention in Italian Rapier.  Giganti discusses a few in his second book, but only describing briefly how they’re done: either passing the rear foot forward to the inside, or the lead foot backward to the outside.  Other authors give similar short shrift: almost none bother to give names to these voids.  However, as illustrated by Fabris, there’s often a downward element: Leaning down and out of the way while stepping to get the body below the blade, while rotating into prima.

Voiding to the inside

 

On the Vita

While “Vita” in “Scanso della Vita” can be interpreted as “Waist”, and is probably the more literal translation for that void, it can also be interpreted as “Life” (see: Curriculum Vitae – or “What Have you Done with Your Life?”  Enjoy your next job search).  I believe Mondschein, in his Agrippa, mentions that the Italians believed our life force was centered below our belly button.  This is right where your center of mass is.  So the Scanso della Vita is about moving your center of mass.  Recall, also, that passing steps and most footwork is about letting gravity move “you” (really, your center of mass).

In The Book of Martial Power (which is the second book all fencers should read – Giganti being the first), Stephen J. Pearlman discusses thinking of movement as moving your center of mass.  Rather than focusing on footwork, move your vita where you want it to go, and your feet will follow.  This reduces the number of things to think about from two (left foot and right foot) to one, simplifying your reaction time and freeing up processing power for killing.

We naturally try to duck or get out of the way if something is coming at us.  Most fencers get so focused on staying in posture and guard that they resist this urge.  However, if a shot is coming at you DUCK!  LEAN!  Get out of the way!  Just keep the sword in the way of their blade and, if your vita moves, move your feet to catch yourself.

 

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