Destreza Teaching Video with comments…
For better or worse, here is a partial video of a class I taught at Known World Academy of the Rapier in 2007. Watching the video today, there are things I would change. I have added a description of the Italian techniques as described by the Spanish and the counters below. I have also included notes on my interpretive choices as well.
These are counters to Italian technique taken from Pacheco’s New Science and the Manuel Cruzado’s 1702 commentary, The techniques of the vulgar common fencing….
ITALIAN TECHNIQUE – The Gaining and Regaining:
“The gaining is formed, placing the sword over, and transversal to the opposing one, without making in it aggregation, nor contact, for which reason they call it gaining in the air.”
This describes the Italian rapier practice of finding the sword without touching it. It’s a commonality between Fabris, Giganti, and Capoferro. In classical Italian fencing today, engagement with contact is more typical and you will find many of the same actions are possible in Italian foil if you start with a blade seizure.
“…when his opponent makes the gaining, that is from the measure of proportion, before he finishes the remiss movement, he will make a transverse compass with the right foot to the opposite side: and turning the point of the foot to the right rectitude, so that the imaginary line from it cuts the diameter…“
Before the adversary finishes gaining the weapon, take a diagonal advance with the right foot to the right side, pre-turning the foot to the right side.
“…he will make a mixed movement violent and accidental that serves as an aggregation of the opponent’s sword, and as an attack to his face: and continuing with a curved compass of the left foot and to its side, he will go closing the obtuse angle, that until then will correspond to him, making a Movement of Conclusion on the outside…“
Threaten the adversary with a thrust to the face with superior engagement of the blade.
There is a question of interpretation here. The opponent’s response to this threat is not explicitly described but it is clear that we close the high line and our engagement moves from the inside line to the outside line. If the adversary parries, we may lift the guard to close the high line and then execute the movement of conclusion on the outside line with a curved compass of the left foot. We see evidence of the same type of wheeling cut from an atajo on the inside in the system so this interpretation is not invalid theory even if I like it less now.
Another possible interpretation I like more is that the diagonal advance (transverse compass) is accompanied with a disengagement from the inside to the outside line to affect an attack to the face which closes the high line and is finished with a movement of conclusion as before. The text does not explicitly describe a disengagement, but this interpretation seems martially more sound to me.
DISCUSSION ON PRECEDENCE OF THE POINT – Then follows a short discussion on how to engage the adversary’s weapon and parrying
Unfortunately, my wife and normal demonstration partner couldn’t make it and as I attempt to demonstrate at speed, I am working with a volunteer from the class. The tall gentleman in the red is trying to use a French foil parry with a bent wrist which doesn’t protect him as well from the assault. Because I am trying to demonstrate something specific, I need to force him into a parry that gives precedence to the point.
With the French parry he provides, I could blow through with a forced glide or the General Technique of Narrowing (which is similar to a classical Italian transport of 2nd).
Part of the reason I favor the other interpretation now against the gaining in the air is that the disengagement with the transverse compass provides better cover against unpredictable technique. It’s pretty easy to close the entire outside line by creating a cross of the swords. Once you have commitment on the outside line, the movement of conclusion is the natural response.
ITALIAN TECHNIQUE – The Botonazo (Lunge on the Inside Line)
“…making what is called a gaining, helping themselves with a simple compass of the right foot, without moving the left, almost along their left transversal line, and with an extreme of the arm and body, and the hand fingernails up, without separating oneself from the adversary’s sword, they strike with a thrust in the face.“
“At the beginning of the remiss movement (before it ends) the Diestro will make a curved compass with the right foot, and to its side, or he will move over his center, and he will strike with a thrust in the right collateral, …“
As the adversary engages, take a curved step to the right side moving your center over his weapon. The ‘center’ is defined as either the point at which your hand grips the weapon or the handle. This indicates that we are taking control of the line through subjecting the adversary’s weapon in engagement and striking on our right side.
ITALIAN TECHNIQUE – The Golpe (Beat)
“The beat of the sword consists of three movements, violent to place oneself above the diestro’s sword, remiss for the transversalness, toward his left side, and the diestro’s right, and the last natural for the beat.”
This describes a beat across my blade down and to my right side. (A simple beat in 4th using classical Italian terminology.)
In the video, I have included an additional movement of the adversary which takes the point off the diameter to chamber the beat. Whenever the point is removed from the line of offense, the Advantage of the Right Angle is a possible counter.
“The Right Angle has control over this technique, and causes its effect against the second and third movement, the diestro making a semicircle with the wrist from the inside to the outside, striking with a thrust in the right collateral due to the jurisdiction of the arm:…”
As the adversary attempts to lift his blade to strike yours, you may elude it with a disengagement and strike with a thrust on the outside line closing to the right.
“and if he does find it and makes the beat, the diestro can make use of the mixed movement of remiss and natural, that the swords make and continue the circle forming a vertical, or diagonal reverse, making a backward compass for the first, or for the other a mixed on backward and of trepidation to the right side: …”
A mixed movement remiss and natural carries the point off the line and down. In this case, we complete the circular action into a full vertical circular cut and end with a vertical strike to the head. In this demonstration, I am using a curved compass to the right instead of a retreat as described in the text. The direction of the remiss movement is not specified and I have chosen to close the line of attack with the circular action.