Drills of the Week #2: November 1, 2018

At this week’s practice, we had a larger turn-out than usual. Galen, Verena, and Finn are the usual crowd, but Ayisha was visiting from out of town and we have a new person named Clark who recently started school at the University. This meant that the drills for the evening needed to be divided into two different “classes.”

Practice started with everybody performing the Pyramids as described here: http://www.weeklywarfare.net/?p=3634

We then performed the “Asterisk” cutting drill. This week we performed cuts from only the wrist, so the drill was restricted to the “upper” part of the asterisk. All cuts are performed very slowly (put on some Enya for the appropriate pacing). The drill is as follows:

Asterisk Cutting Drill – Wrist Cuts:

  1. Fencers start with their arm extended with the blade held at a roughly 90 degree angle at the wrist.
  2. Fencers perform a horizontal cut from the left side using only their wrist to perform the cut.
  3. Fencers return the blade along the same line and then perform a diagonal cut from the left side using only their wrist to perform the cut.
  4. Fencers return the blade along the same line and then perform a vertical, downwards cut using only their wrist to perform the cut.
  5. Fencers return the blade along the same line and then perform a diagonal cut from their right side using only their wrist to perform the cut.
  6. Fencers return the blade along the same line and then perform a horizontal cut from their right side using only their wrist to perform the cut.
  7. Fencers return the blade along the same line and then rotate the sword at the wrist around their head to repeat these steps starting with step 1.

This drill can also be performed from the shoulder or as a combination of wrist and shoulder. The shoulder version is where the drill gets its name:

Asterisk Cutting Drill – Shoulder Cuts: 

  1. Fencers start with their arm extended above their head and perform a downwards, vertical cut from the shoulder.
  2. Fencers perform an upwards vertical cut using the false edge, reversing the direction of the cut in step 1.
  3. Fencers move their arm “clockwise” and deliver a descending diagonal cut from right to left.
  4. Fencers perform an upwards diagonal cut from left to right using the false edge, reversing the cut in step 3.
  5. Fencers move their arm “clockwise” and deliver a horizontal cut from right to left.
  6. Fencers perform a horizontal cut from left to right using the false edge, reversing the cut in step 5.
  7. Fencers “wheel” the weapon over their head from the shoulder and perform a horizontal cut from left to right with the true edge.
  8. Fencers perform a horizontal cut from right to left using the false edge, reversing the cut in step 7.
  9. Fencers move their arm “clockwise” and deliver a descending diagonal cut from left to right.
  10. Fencers perform a rising diagonal cut from right to left using the false edge, reversing the cut in step 9.
  11. Fencers move their arm “clockwise” so that it is extended above their head as in step 1 and repeat this series of cuts.

Additional variations can be added by reversing the direction (i.e. performing the cuts in a counter-clockwise fashion), by adding transitions between each cut, or by performing a wrist cut by wheeling the sword in the middle of each cut from the shoulder (i.e. when the sword is at what the Germans call “longpoint”).

After these “warm-ups,” we separated into two groups. The less experienced group worked with me on the gain, advance lunge drill and then the counter-attack drill I described in the first weekly drill post. Both of them performed approximately 20 reasonable repetitions of each drill for each the inside and outside line. In order to combat arm fatigue, patiente during the gain, advance, lunge drill used a dowel rod instead of a sword. Over the coming weeks, we’ll keep working on arm conditioning so this substitution isn’t necessary.

The more experienced group continued working on a series of drills that we’ve been working on for the last 3 weeks based on Giganti’s plates 4 and 5 and Capoferro’s plates 7 and 9.

Giganti Plate 4 & 5 Drill:

  1. Agente starts 1 step outside of measure, gains patiente’s sword, advances to measure*
  2. Patiente performs a cavazione and attacks with a lunge
  3. Agente immediately turns their hand to preempt the gain at the end of Patiente’s cavazione and lunges – Note Agente is “finding” where Patiente’s sword is going to end up when they turn their hand.

This drill can be performed starting from the inside (as in Giganti Plate 4) or from the outside (as in Giganti Plate 5).

*Note: Giganti doesn’t mention this step, but does note that the play begins from out of measure. I’m not clear why the opponent would attack using a cavazione from out of measure, since they would not be able to strike. Since all of these plates involve an “error” perhaps this is it, or perhaps it’s an oversight. Needless to say, this interpretation of the plate is something that I’m still working through. 

Capoferro Plate 7 Drill (second half):

The first part of Capoferro’s description of Plate 7 is very similar to Giganti’s plate 4. Capoferro then offers a counter that would be performed by a “knowledgeable fencer” in the second half of the description:

  1. Agente starts 1 step outside of measure, gains Patiente’s sword on the inside and advances
  2. Patiente performs a cavazione, but instead of attacking, they hold their body back (i.e. it’s a feint)
  3. Agente turns their hand and lunges as before
  4. Patiente turns their wrist and parries* Agente’s attack to the outside. Patiente then can strike Agente using a second tempi – performing either a mandritto or an imbroccata (descending thrust from prima)

This play is interesting first because it “violates” all the comments by Capoferro, Giganti, Fabris, etc about using a single tempo to parry and strike and tells us that we should, in this instance use a two-tempo parry-riposte action. As far as I can tell, the measure closes on this exercise fairly quickly, and so delivering a simultaneous parry and strike (e.g. by performing a counter-attack in prima) results in a less secure defense and is far less likely to land than the suggested two-tempo action.

*The method for performing parries “correctly” is something that doesn’t come up very frequently in Italian rapier – I expect in part because we’re told that parrying and then riposting is bad. I strongly dislike many of the modern parries that involve crossing your body with your arm. This is tiring, results in “curling” the arm which is explicitly called out by Capoferro and Fabris as suicidal, and opens up a lot of lines that are closed by simply keeping your arm extended in front of you, especially if the elbow is bent. My preferred method for this parry is to keep the arm extended and slightly outside the knee, just as we would to thrust in seconda, but instead using the wrist to raise the tip of the sword to be roughly vertically angled towards the outside line. If there were no sword in your hand, this would be like extending your arm and holding your palm towards your opponent like you’re gesturing for them to stop with the fingers pointing up and angled slightly towards the right. Likewise, the parry to the inside would be performed identically except the palm would be held facing you like you’re holding a mirror, presenting the back of your hand to your opponent with your fingers extending up and to the left. This method results in minimal motion of the sword and, as in this plate, sets you up to quickly deliver a cut from the wrist or turn to prima to deliver a thrust.

Capoferro Plate 9 Drill (First part): 

Capoferro’s plate 9 is fairly similar to what Giganti describes in his plate 5, but instead of attacking with a lunge, we use a passing step.

  1. Agente starts one step out of measure; gains the sword on the inside and advances into measure
  2. Patiente performs a cavazione in the tempo of the advance
  3. Agente attacks in the tempo of the cavazione with a passing step

This drill changed things up by using a passing step to attack. It’s clear that we’ll need to work on practicing our passing strikes so that they become more automatic and cleaner.

At the end of practice, we did a footwork drill that we usually perform to the beat of Gangnam style, however this week we changed it up and used Sultans of Swing instead.

“Gangnam Style” Drill:

Mark 2 lines ~20 yards apart. Fencers start at one line and:

 

  1. Perform advancing steps continuously to reach the second line
  2. Perform retreats continuously to return to the first line
  3. Perform passing steps forward to reach the second line
  4. Perform passing steps backward to return to the first line
  5. Repeat these steps until the end of the song

Fencers need to be careful of a few things during this drill. First, they need to perform the footwork with good form and should end in guard at the end of each step. Second, one of the key purposes of this drill is to eliminate extra pauses from footwork. A series of advances should involve right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, … ; NOT right foot, pause, left foot, pause, right foot, pause …

We then finished practice with another run of the Pyramid Drill.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>