Swordsman & Geek

A Midsummer Night’s Blog

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The Death Star meets Propio, Apropiado, and Transferido

In the last article I described the Spanish True School’s Timing Contexts.  (Link)

Here is the table again for reference:

Times and Timings in Spanish True School

Time Offending Timing Simple English Executive\Dispositive Fencing Context
Before (not in time) Propio Get First Intention Action
During (in time) Apropiado Give (Given) Dispositive Attacks into preparation,
Multi-Intention Attacks
After (possibly in time) Transferido Steal (Stolen) Executive Parry-Riposte,

We can easily see these concepts in action by considering the actions of the first two Death Stars.

Propio – The Death Star Attacks Alderaan

Alderaan is at rest and the Death Star strikes in the before time, totally blowing it away with a Propio Medio Proporcionado.  It’s evil, but it worked.

Apropiado – The Rebel Fleet Attacks the Death Star at The Battle of Yavin

The Death Star is moving into position to attack and is destroyed while preparing to fire with an Apropiado Medio Proporcionado.  You can’t “fire when ready” when you’re dead.

Transferido – During the Attack on the Second Death Star the Death Star Attacks the Rebel Fleet

The attack is underway and the Death Star counterattacks with a Transferido Medio Proporcionado!  It’s a Trap!!!

Bonus Transferido – During the Death Star’s counterattack, the Rebels counterattack the counterattack

The Rebels have reversed the Emperor’s Transferido with a Transferido of their own.   Yeeee-hawwww!


Spanish True School Timings

There are three prerequisites you will need to understand this article:

  1. Do you know LVD’s movement notation? (Link)
  2. Do you know how to classify movements as dispositive and executive and the tactical response to each of these two types of movements? (Link)
  3. Do you know the Defensive Medio (ideal defensive place) and the Offending Medio (ideal strike)? (Link)

The temptation on an article of this kind is to present the proof first so that I can explain my reasoning with citations from the texts and an extended discussion about theory.  Only after you have worked your way through the proofs do I present the theory.  In this case, I’m going to present the fencing theory first and if you want the academic argument and research, it’s included afterwards.

Likewise, this can be a bit much to wrap your head around so the next article will try to lay this out with a very simple (and hopefully amusing) example.  (Link)

Striking Times for the Offending Medio (Medio Proporcionado)

First, we need to know there are three times in La Verdadera Destreza:

  1. Before – The adversary has not moved
  2. During – The adversary is within a dispositive movement
  3. After – The adversary is within an executive movement or has just stopped moving

Because terms like “Before” and “After” are relative, they can also be used ambiguously in the same way that big and small are used.  This provides them more utility but can be confusing unless you know what they are specifically being related with.  For example, I am big compared to a mouse but small when compared to my car.  The terms gain meaning depending on what you compare them with and this is most often movements of the sword and footwork.

  • You may see Before, During, and After used in relation to a complete technique like a beat to the sword. (Before the beat, after the beat…)
  • You may see Before, During, and After used to describe movements inside a technique which has been decomposed into its pieces. (During the adversary’s offline movement which prepares the beat, before the final movement of the thrust which follows.)

Timings for the Offending Medio

Pacheco describes these timings as ways to describe your Offending Medio (Proportionate Medio or Medio Proporcionado [MPado]).  The Offending Medio is achieved when you offend successfully while defending.

  1. Propio – In the before tempo the deistro gets an opportunity for himself. (To strike in the adversary’s stillness.)
  2. Apropiado – In the during tempo the adversary gives, by movements of the sword or by footwork, an opportunity for the diestro. (The adversary gives, by their movement, an opportunity.)
  3. Transferido – In the after tempo, the adversary attempts to seize an opportunity, but it is taken from him and transferred to the diestro. (To take the outcome the adversary sought, and transfer it to yourself.)

Times and Timings in Spanish True School

Time Offending Timing Simple English Executive\Dispositive Fencing Context
Before (not in time) Propio Get First Intention Action
During (in time) Apropiado Give (Given) Dispositive Attacks into preparation,
Multi-Intention Attacks
After (possibly in time) Transferido Steal (Stolen) Executive Parry-Riposte,



Propio : The adversary is at rest.  Before he moves, the diestro strikes him in first intention.  The diestro gets the opportunity (disposition) to strike before any movement occurs.

  1. The diestro covers the blade with an atajo, moves forward and strikes with a thrust.
  2. Seeing the adversary’s resting guard places his blade is out of line, the diestro strikes immediately before the adversary can move.

Apropiado : The adversary is in motion carrying the weapon off the path to the target.  During the motion, the diestro stikes him in the same time.  The diestro was given an opportunity to strike by the adversary’s dispositive movement.

  1. The adversary attempts to elude an atajo by lifting the point. During the violent movement (rising) the diestro strikes with a thrust in the same time.  (in time)
  2. The adversary attempts to parry a thrust with an atajo on the inside line. During the offline movement of the atajo the diestro redirects the thrust to the chest into a clockwise circular thrust to the flank.  (half circular thrust in second intention)

Transferido: The adversary was attempting to strike and during the final movement of the attack was defeated and struck.  The diestro has stolen the enemy’s opportunity and transferred it to himself.

  1. The adversary executes a thrust. The diestro defeats the thrust with an atajo and responds with a thrust to the chest. (parry-riposte)
  2. The adversary executes a thrust. The diestro defeats the thrust by stepping offline, presenting the right angle, and the adversary is struck in the same time.  (counterattack)

But wait… there’s more!

Ettenhard expands the scope to more than just attacks.  He applies these relative timings to more contexts such as finding Medio de Proporcion (Defensive Medio) and gaining strength in the bind.  That liberates the concept of attack, attack in time, parry-riposte from solely the attacking realm into broader conceptual space.

  • We can speak now of taking good measure, being given good measure, and stealing good measure with counter-footwork.
  • We can take the bind, be given the bind, or steal the bind with counter-bladework.


All translations are the work of Dr. Mary Curtis.


Three considerations that they make, in agreement with the art, about the proportionate measure [MPado], which we call Propio, Apropiado, and Transferido.

Presupposing the knowledge that we have given about the proportionate measures [MPados] for all the species of techniques, it is advisable for he who wants to enjoy the perfection of skill, to know the three considerations (more important than extolled) that we make of them (without altering their essence) calling them Propio, Apropiado, and Transferido, and for its definition we said of the first, it is the one that the swordsman chooses for himself, without the opponent doing more than wait for him, which we call before time; of the second, it is the one that he offers him by means of his movements and steps, which we call in time; and the last, the one that when he goes to choose it or has chosen it, and the execution differs, it is taken from him, and chooses for himself; and this is characterized in time and after time;…

Pacheco’s New Science pp.287-288

Applied to striking in time (Medio Proporcionado):

And finally, if he wants to escape from the subjection, freeing the Sword, to strike with a Thrust, from the outside, it should be necessary for him to make a Circular action, that consists of four simple types of Movement, making a Mixed one of all four, by whose cause it is without a doubt the opposition of the Offline Lateral Movement, striking in reason of the Right Angle, with which it is undoubtable that in all these situations it is made, that by means of Atajo the opponent offers Apropiado Proportionate Measure; since taking advantage of the Movements that he forms, one takes advantage of the opportunity to strike,…

~Ettenhard’s Compendium folio 146-147

(The act of taking atajo requires taking your point off the line which is a dispositive movement that can grant the adversary the opportunity to strike.  Or restated, the Offline Lateral movement of the atajo can grant Medio Proporcionado Apropriado… the attack executed in a during time.)

Applied to footwork\place:

It should also be understood that if the two Combatants find themselves with equal Arms, the one who first chooses the Measure does it for both, and it is called the Propio and Apropiado Mean of Proportion because the Swordsman at the same time takes the Measure for himself and offers the same disposition to his opponent; but if either of the two brings a longer Sword and he chooses the Measure in the way that has been said it is called the Propio Measure of Proportion due to the Election being for him alone, the other being disproportionate: And if the one who brings the shorter Sword has his tip at the opposing guard it is called the Apropiado Measure of Proportion…

~Ettenhard’s Compendium folio 71

Applied to degrees of strength in the bind:

…and thus one should understand the same (in the execution of these Movements) that in the way of choosing the measure of Proportion, it is warned, making difference of when the Swordsman chooses it for himself, or when it is offered chosen to the opponent, saying to the one Propio and to the other Apropiado; since the Propio Movement of increase that the Swordsman makes, offers to the opponent the one of Apropiado decrease: and the one of Propio decrease, gives Apropiado to the opponent the one of increase.

~Ettenhard’s Compendium folio 120-121

By taking a degree of strength in the bind in first intention (Propio) you also give weakness to the adversary (Apropiado).  If you weaken yourself in the bind (Propio) you strengthen your adversary (Apropiado).

Movements and Tactics in Spanish True School


In La Verdadera Destreza, Movements are vectors which describe the motion of the sword (or sword arm) in a direction. You can read about these movements in my previous article here.

The Weapon can move in 3 dimensions


To go further we need to classify movements into two groups.

  • An Executive Movement is a vector of the weapon with the potential to deliver a wound either by thrust or cut.
  • A Dispositive movement is a vector of the weapon which does not deliver the final wound. This may be a preparation strike, a defensive movement, or even wasted movements

Executive Movements:

  • Forward
  • Natural (downward)
  • Aligning Lateral

The forward movement of the weapon is an attacking movement, or an Executive movement

Dispositive Movements

  • Backwards
  • Offline Lateral
  • Violent (rising)

Chambering a cut may prepare an attack but it is not the final movement of an attack.  A non-attacking movement (even a preparation) is a Dispositive movement


Note: Without too much effort you can imagine instances in which a rising movement might be executive (rising cut) and a natural movement might be dispositive (atajo).  More on this later.



By decomposing a fencing phrase into its movements we gain insight into both the fencing tempi and the role of each movement.  Here is an example fencing phrase broken down by movements:

The Master executes Atajo and thrust by detachment:


Violent (rising) mixed with Offline Lateral to cross the opposing sword on the inside line



Natural (downward) to subject the opposing steel



Aligning into presence mixed with Forward to deliver the thrust


The student parries and ripostes by half reverse:


Natural mixed with Offline to subject the opposing steel downwards on the inside line



Aligning mixed with Forward to deliver the half reverse to the right eye


Opposing the Enemy’s Movements with Movements

In his book (Treatise 3, Ch.3) on the opposition of Movements Ettenhard plainly describes the tactical solution to each movement committed by the adversary:




Violent (rising)


Forward (Right Angle)

Offline Lateral


Forward (Right Angle)



Forward (Right Angle)



Natural (Atajo)

Aligning Lateral


Natural (Atajo)



Natural (Atajo)

The Forward movement which presents right angle or the thrust opposes all the Dispositive movements:

With which I say that this is the one [Forward Movement] that is opposed to all because since it is worked in reason of the Right Angle it has the preeminence of the greatest reach, moving in correspondence to the nearest Point of Contact, where one should constitute the strike in the opponent…

~Ettenhard (translated by Dr. Mary Curtis)

The Natural movement which subjects enemy attacks downward opposes all the executive movements (from which the strikes are composed):

To the Dispositive Movements, the Executives follow, whose opposition is different due to having to make it with an engagement of the Sword and the other of free cause: in a way that the Forward Movement, that of Aligning Lateral and the Natural (which are the ones that by nature form the strikes) are destroyed and opposed to the Natural by its greater speed, strength, and reality…

~Ettenhard (translated by Dr. Mary Curtis)

Simplest Form:

  • Adversary presents Dispositive Movement, Right Angle
  • Adversary presents Executive Movement, Atajo

When the adversary presents a dispositive movement, the defender answers with a thrust in time.

What Ettenhard describes lines up nicely with Pacheco’s counters to vulgars. Pacheco’s process of analysis decomposes a treta into simple movements and then his counters largely align with Ettenhard’s oppositions described above with additional options and details. With this principle in place you can decompose any technique of the adversary and apply counters movement by movement.
It is also essential in understanding the True School’s usage of timing contexts to describe attacks in first intention, attacks in time, and attacks which transfer the adversary’s attack to you.

Challenging the status quo without losing yourself

I have been in the situation where I felt I needed to challenge the conventional wisdom about a sword tradition and there are good ways and bad ways to tackle that problem.

Full title: Saint George and the Dragon Artist: Gustave Moreau Date made: 1889-90 Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/ Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk Copyright © The National Gallery, London

Beware when fighting monsters that you don’t become one yourself.


In my opinion, it is most effective to concentrate on the **work** instead of the **person** in the counterargument. If you have a position there’s a decent chance we want to hear it, hell, we need to hear it if the position has merit.

However, not all positions are good and we have seen plenty of half-baked nonsense in our time. Polish up your argument into its best form, have a friend read it for tone and clarity, and set it out there without assigning intention or motivations to the other researcher or the original author (unless the source definitively tells you, “By this I mean X, Y, Z…”)

Good work can be made better by critical process. I’ve been wrong and errors in my work have been fixed by others. (“There is no such thing as a transversal step backwards.”  Oops.  Fixed it.)  It is not wonderful to be wrong, but I would rather see my stuff fixed than propagate errors.

As an aside, translation is an art. The lovely Dr. Curtis did a presentation on a single passage from Don Quixote and how the translation style changed the outcome of each piece. That’s expected.  Multiple translations in different styles is a feature.  I think we all want access to the different insights, tone, and flavor that each translator brings to the text.  If you want to disagree with a translation it is probably about choices made.  You could say, “By making this choice, the emphasis on these keys aspects is missing.  Or, “This choice loses this context which I think is essential.”  That’s constructive and potentially useful to the neutral observer.


Take care of yourself first. When you form a critical position, how you do that will make a lasting impression on the people reading your argument. When you use ad hominem attacks, assign nefarious intention, or imply fraud you have gone beyond academic discourse into personal grudges. At that point you’re going to see friends and allies rally to defend the character of the original researcher.  Once that starts it can be very difficult, even if you are absolutely correct, to have a productive discussion.

There are ways to challenge existing work without compromising your personal reputation. Sometimes it’s absolutely necessary to do this to foster growth in the community and to correct misconceptions. Maybe that necessary conflict is being driven by you and your work. I’ll be the first to admit that doing this well isn’t easy but if you can thread that needle you’re going to be an asset the community will continue to draw upon going forward.

Consider having a friend read your argument to pull out things with loaded words like “refused”, “obviously”, “clearly”, “ignores”, “deluded”, “recklessly”, and so on.  What I want as a reader is the core of your argument presented in its best form.  I can make decisions about the personal motivations on my own.

For example,

  • I think there is real value in considering this alternative which I think better reflects X,Y,Z…
  • By considering how the images were chosen we can gain insight into X,Y,Z…
  • I think this is an error based on this <citation>.  Based on that consider this alternative which allows us to…

Each of those methods helps the reader understand there is potential value in at least considering your position.  By buttressing the argument with citations  and avoiding loaded language you open up some space in the dialogue and you preserve and protect yourself by avoiding self-inflicted wounds.


Don’t be an authority and instead be a resource. I’ve seen multiple examples of individuals trying to be an authority (Maestro-cop to the universe) and their work collapses underneath them as their attempt to assert authority is outpaced by the increased knowledge of the growing community.  Having had the benefit of watching these implosions I made a commitment to myself not to walk down the same road.

By refusing to own the tradition but rather trying to build and restore it, I permit myself the necessary space to be wrong and correct the work as I gather new evidence.


If you have done enough research to disagree with an established interpretation, you have value whether you are right or wrong.  By encouraging you to argue well, I hope to preserve your place in the community for my own selfish reasons.  Critical feedback and challenging of existing work is essential to what we do. I hope you’ve got something useful and can present your work effectively.

Building a Flail Trainer

This is how we built a two-handed 3-headed flail trainer with parts you can find at your local hardware and sports store.   The method described here isn’t the only way to build a flail and the training weapon here is experimental.  If you build it there is every chance you could injure yourself with it if you get as crazy as my brother might.  So… I warned you.

The parts list:

  • 6-foot closet pole (1.8 meters)
  • 2 matching screw-mounted rope hooks
  • 2 bolts with matching nuts
  • Nylon paracord
  • Duct tape (of course)
  • 3 racket balls
Flail parts laid out

Flail parts laid out

The Measurements

Our flail has a 3-foot handle and three approximately 3-foot “chains” including the heads.


1. Cut the closet pole down to size.  (For our first flail we tried a length of 3 feet (0.9 meters).  It worked fine but we’re thinking of making the next handle slightly shorter by about 4 inches for a total haft length of 32 inches (0.8 meters).)

2. Use the rope hook as a guide for marking your drill target.  We chose to bring the hook as far down into the pole as possible to increase the strength of the trainer.

Use the Rope Hook as your Stencil for your Drill Guide

Use the Rope Hook as your Stencil for your Drill Guide

Marked and Ready for Drilling

Marked and Ready for Drilling

3. Slowly drill all the way through the pole and remove any frayed edges.

4. Align the two Rope Hooks facing each other to form the “chain’s” looping anchor point on the flail.  At this point you may want to remove some stock from the pole to ensure a snug fit by marking the end of the shaft and using a round file to remove the extra.

Marking the Head of the Flail to Remove Extra Stock

Marking the Head of the Flail to Remove Extra Stock

We will file that out

We will file that out

Filing out the Extra

Filing out the Extra. (It’s easier if you use a vise.)


Stock Removed. Also, now it looks like the Bat symbol. (Batman would be proud to train with us.)

4. Now that you’ve created a perfect fit, fasten both Rope Hooks onto the shaft with the bolts so that they face each other to form a looping “chain” anchor point.

Two Rope Hooks makes a good loop.

Two Rope Hooks makes a good loop.

Fastened Down Tight

Fastened Down Tight.

5. At this point you have created something dangerous with the exposed metal bolts.  I recommend using a hacksaw to cut the exposed bolts off and then cover anything with sharp edges with a layer or two of tape.  You want to minimize the possibility of cutting yourself if you accidentally hit yourself in the head.

6. Next, drill a hole through each of three racket balls.


Yep… That’s a hole clean through a racket ball.

7. Run your nylon paracord through the hole.  To do this, we used fishing line.

Push a loop of fishing line through the holes and then insert your paracord into the loop on the far side. Pull it through and, "Tada!" it is threaded.

Push a loop of fishing line through the holes and then insert your paracord into the loop on the far side. Pull it through and, “Tada!” it is threaded.



8. Tie the cord just underneath the flail head using a bowline knot.  ( Click here to see how to tie this knot! )


Tie it with a bowline knot.

9. Tie it to the anchor point using the same bowline knot.  (Repeat the process for all three flail heads.)

10. We used duct tape on the edges of the Rope Hook to avoid any grab on the nylon rope “chains”.


It doesn’t have to be beautiful.


The Completed Flail Trainer

Yep... It is a flail.

Congratulations… you have given birth to a baby flail with a 3-foot shaft and 3-foot chains.

This is much lighter than an actual flail when you swing it around but you still get a scary amount of force with it such that hitting people is probably a terrible idea.  While exercising the flail we found that swinging it at high speed didn’t seem to cause any problems with the racket balls but striking solid targets caused cracks around the drilled holes which would be eventual failure points.

Still, not bad for flail 1.0.