Lazy Fencing   8 comments

Marozzo called it “Guardia di Coda Lunga y Larga”:

Lunga y Larga

Swetnam called it his “Lazy Guard”.  Before I’d heard of either, I called it “Lazy Provost Stance”.

You stand ready to fight, except your sword is hanging comfortably at your side, well out of the way of any attempt to bind your sword, but a quick wrist-snap and lunge away from striking your opponent.  Way too many fighters try this, and they do it wrong.  Because fighting like a lazy man is not a free pass to be lazy.  It requires a deep understanding and awareness of tempo and measure.  It requires drilling and lots of practice.  Because the key is to move as little as possible, and that’s not easy.

While I have been known to get large and sloppy (just a bit), my constant goal, and my definition of skilled fighting, is to move as little as possible; to be lazy. And if at all possible, get somebody else to do the work for you.

Who can do the work for you?

First: Gravity

Gravity is your friend.  If you have a spare twenty pounds like me, gravity is your very good friend.

When I started out strip-fencing, I learned that a lunge was done by keeping your back heel up, until you exploded off of it and flew forward.  Looks great, yeah, but it takes a lot of toned leg muscle in your left thigh and momentum can (and often does) carry your center of gravity out over your right knee at the end of the lunge.  If that happens, you’re a sitting duck.

Instead, in the past couple of years, I’ve been working on a “gravity assisted lunge”: take your good, evenly-distributed stance, and just kick your right foot out in front of you, letting your weight drop down and the mechanics of your body force your left leg to extend.  You end up upright, and in a good deep lunge, with your weight evenly distributed for a redouble or recovery.

The partner to this, which I learned about six months ago from Dante, is the “gravity assisted recovery”: bend your left leg, and your weight slides backwards into stance.  And body voids downward require much less energy than voids to the side (though the recovery is a pain in the butt).

Gravity also can do the work for your shots.  Being somewhat more heavily built than the average fencer, and slightly taller, I tend to fight with a heavier sword: This allows me to use the weight of my sword to drive opponents’ blades downward in my parries (though, usually with too much flailing on my end).  I’ve also got a heavy pommel on the sword that permits upward sweeping parries with a minimal amount of leverage on the pommel end.  The 40” that I fought with for three or four years was just a bit more tip-heavy.  I exploited this by shooting just above opponents’ guards, and letting the weight of the tip drag it down to the forearm.

Second: Your Opponent

The BFF of the lazy fencer is the over-eager opponent.

Sloppy, aggressive opponents will close range for you without control.  This leaves openings in their defense, forces tempos upon themselves, and gives them an irresistible forward momentum.  All you have to do is raise your tip into their stomach and back up.  I tend not to teach my students stop-thrusts because your over-eager fighter ends up getting hurt, and usually expresses it in terms of you hitting hard and not them charging uncontrolled, but with good practice (and remembering to back up) your touch will be light.  They have to get all winded to run forward, usually flailing as they try to sweep your sword, and you have to do all of two motions.

Even unaggressive opponents still do a great deal of work for you.  If you exude an air of confidence (and, let’s face it, keeping your sword where it won’t do you a damn lick of good when you’re attacked is a great way to express confidence, or stupidity.  Nothing says “I will kick your ass” like not hiding behind your blade), your opponent has to think about why you’re so confident.  Or stupid.  Having formed a hypothesis as to your particular mental state, they then set about testing it.  And in these tests, a fencer usually reveals all there is to know: their range, their preferred rhythm, their preferred target area, their preferred pattern of feints and attacks.  You don’t have to do any of that discovery yourself; it’s handed right to you.

Lazy ain’t easy

There are a number of assumptions above.  For instance, that you have a fine enough understanding of tempo and measure to stop-thrust a charging opponent while keeping yourself defended.  Or, that you have the ability to accurately analyze your opponent as he tests you game. And that you have enough control over your parries to make them small (and in the right place and time so that you don’t have to make them bigger).  All of that requires practice and drill, and lots of it (more than I have done).  Which is a crap load of work.  So if that sounds unappealing, don’t be lazy.  Or, possibly, give up your dreams of being a swordmaster.

Posted December 8, 2009 by wistric in Musings

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