Giganti Part 3: Tempo and Measure   1 comment

You can’t truly say you understand defense and offense if you only know how to stand in guard or in counter-guard… you can only make that claim if you have a command of tempo and measure.

Tempo and Measure, again and again.  The same principles of combat from DiGrassi, and the Bolognese school, and I.33, and Kendo, and Jujitsu, and Aikido, universal constants.  I think I’ve mentioned before, but before reading Giganti I was pretty sure I knew tempo: “It is the rhythm of the fight.  The speed of a movement.”  Musicians should not assume they know the meaning of Italian words, apparently.  Tempo, afterall, dictates when and how to attack.

Measure is that distance from which you can reach the opponent with your sword.  When you cannot, you are instead out of measure.

Isn’t that just gorgeous?  No A, B, or C, no long, middle, close, no six different forms of measure.  Either you are or aren’t.  It’s again the Zen of Giganti: If you meet his checklist, you’re in guard.  If you can strike your opponent, you’re in measure.

Tempo is recognized in the following ways…

Here’s one of the few failings of Giganti.  He never actually defines tempo, though a definition is drawn easily from context.  What follows is a list of actions, which are tempi.  For instance…

If he performs a cavazione, you can attack him while he does so, and this is a tempo

This is the first entry on the list.  All entries take the form “If X action occurs, this is a tempo”.  So tempo is not, afterall, defined by rhythm or speed, but by the action.  Giganti’s tactical approach then is “If an action occurs, you can attack your opponent during it”.

Of note is that the cavazione, an action of the wrist, is the first tempo.  Next is a guard change, an action of the elbow.  Next is an attack, or lunge, an action of the body.  The list progresses from the shortest tempo to the longest tempo in this manner, though again not with the explicit “Tempo of the wrist” wording of earlier authors.

While the opponent executes one of these motions, he must necessarily receive your hit

And there’s all the tactics of fencing you ever need, pretty much.  Not only has reading this (even just these first two pages; yes, this is only the bottom of the second page) changed my fencing style, it’s changed how I’ll teach new students.  Instead of the “10% physical, and here’s how you do those physical things, and 90% mental, enjoy the next five years of figuring out that 90%”, I believe the first day a student shows up I will now introduce the concept of tempo and attack (I know, Dante, why the hell wasn’t I doing this three years ago?).

Gavvin, who read through this on Thursday, set about actively applying it.  We’ll see how well he’s learned it today, a week later.  A while ago he was noted as having one of the basic new fencer flaws, “fear of the opponent’s blade”.  New fencers, having learned how to disengage, start their attacks with a disengage instead of striking for the opening (per Giganti’s rules from Part 2).  They think this will elude an imminent parry from their opponent, but instead put their blades against their opponent’s, closing out their own line with no effort from the opponent.  I wonder if that would be a concern if I’d started Gavvin with a better understanding of tempo.  Sadly, it’s too late to experiment on him tabula rasa, but we’ll start on the next one.

Posted May 27, 2010 by wistric in Giganti, Italian Rapier

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