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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).

Hosting a Montante Mile

In 2015 we hosted the first Montante Mile in Racine, Wisconsin at the Western Martial Arts Workshop.  In the course of a single weekend different martial artists walked 18 miles of montante rules together.

Montante Mile 2015

You can see the details of the original martial challenge here (Montante Mile 2015).

It’s 2017 and the Sacramento Sword School invites you to participate in this challenge together anywhere you can find the space.

What is the Montante Mile?

The Montante Mile is a personal martial challenge to perform rules of the montante for a full mile.  Sacramento Sword School is hosting our event on October 21, 2017 at Fair Oaks Park.  We’re starting at 9:30 AM.  If you’re local you are welcome to join us.  If you are not local, you can host your own event by yourself or with friends.

What are the rules of the Montante Mile?

The rules are that it is your mile.  It’s your challenge and you should approach it as something which you can do.

How do I set this up?

Find a park or open space.  Measure out and mark a 60 ft. course (or courses if you bring friends) and bring some greatswords or large closet poles.  (Longswords are too light and make a poor substitute for the montante.)  To complete the montante mile count the number of lengths you make down the course.  When you reach 90 lengths you have completed the Montante Mile.

That’s easy!

Bring some water; bring some chairs, snacks, and maybe coffee or tea if you like it.  

If a rule asks you to move backwards and forwards consider doing one length moving forward and the next length moving backwards.

If you don’t have 60 ft. of space you can calculate the number of lengths you need like this:

X ft. of space /  5280 ft. = number of lengths for the mile

A word on safety: Physics is not your friend

The Montante is a big weapon and it can hurt stuff.  Ensure you have a clear space and won’t hit any people, critters, or objects of value.  Please be safe.

This is crazy…  Why would I do this?

Yes, it is crazy.  Because sometimes martial arts is about reps.  Sometimes it’s about meditation.  Sometimes it’s about “shut up and train.”  Sometimes it’s about flying in sword-formation with your friends at your sides.  Sometimes it is about making the world a little more beautiful.  Because sometimes you need to swing a piece of metal for a mile so that you know yourself and the weapon a little bit better.

That is the Montante Mile.

I’m in… How do I do this Montante thing of which you speak?

Welcome to the insanity.  The montante is the greatsword tradition of the Iberian peninsula.  You can download a translation of Figueiredo’s Memorial of the Practice of the Montante here: (Translation by maestro Eric Myers).  You can download Godinho’s rules of the montante here: (Translation by Tim Rivera)

With that you can read a rule, make some laps sword in hand and see how it works.

You could also join the Montante Facebook group: (Montante Swordsmanship)

Still, need more?  You’re not alone.  You’re part of a community of merry psychos.  You can just type “Montante” into the search prompt in YouTube and you’ll find loads of people across the world posting videos of the forms.  Sometimes they agree, sometimes they don’t.  It’s all cool and if you’re brand new you can pick out some that you like and give it a go.

Look, I’m a beginner. 
So was I once.  I think I still am.  It’s okay.  It’s your mile and you win by training.

I’m injured; my body has limits.
Listen to your body.  Do what you can without hurting yourself.  If you get tired, take a break.  If you need water, drink.  Work within what you can do. 

Nobody says you have to do this in a single day.  Even just 60 ft. is one step closer to your mile.  If you walk 60 ft. per day you get there in 3 months.   Listen to your body and work with it.

It’s raining non-stop here and I can’t make the date…    

Not a problem.  Pick your own day.  I’m not the Montante Cop of the Universe (tm).  It’s your mile.  Do it when you can in your own way.

I am so jazzed about this… I must have swag!!
And you shall have it!  I have created a T-Shirt for the die-hard diestros that complete their own Montante Mile this year.

You’ll need to use a rule of the montante just to defend this shirt.

Link to the 2017 Montante Mile T-Shirt

The 2017 Montante Mile T-shirt can be yours!!  Complete your mile and earn the bragging rights.  (This is entirely on the honor system.)

We can share this… it’s better if we share it. You can do this with us, with your friends, for the art, and also for yourself.  Post pictures, share videos, and tell stories about the good time you had.

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.

Atajo for the Short Fencer

The first principle of LVD is to defend yourself and attack while defended.  In any defense of steel you require a crossing of the weapons to deviate or subject a threat. By inspection we find that defensive crossing can’t happen with two blades that are perfectly parallel (or the defensive action is difficult and less useful if perfectly aligned).

As you move closer to the opponent, drop your hilt to increase defensive power

As you move closer to the opponent, drop your hilt to increase defensive power

Knowing that the defender must move from right angle into a mixed angle. In Atajo Pacheco tells us the movements are violent (to lift into the superior plane), offline (to cover the opposing weapon), and natural (to subject downward).

Likewise Atajo requires:
1. Equal or greater degrees of strength in the engagement
2. Subjection from above
3. The line of attack is closed such that you cannot be struck in a single movement
4. Not participating in any extremes

We also know the hand is fingernails inside (as if you had naturally extended it to shake hands) or Italian 3rd.

In my personal experience the atajo will start in something near right angle at MdP but will use different degrees of mixed angle as the distance closes to increase the defensive potential.

If that is the case, it provides us with guidance for the short fencer who needs to place an atajo over the blade of a taller fencer.  In a contest between unequal reach, a shorter fencer can maintain right angle and then step curved to either the inside or the outside dropping into mixed angle to subject with atajo which may be engagement or without it in a similar manner to finding the sword in the Italian school. The goal is to close the line and dominate the high line to reduce the opportunities of the adversary into predictable lines of attack which can be quickly defeated because the path of attack is known.

Stepping Inside (towards your front)
From MdP to step to the fencer’s inside (curved right for a right-hander) drop the hilt while lifting the point directing into the opposing steel. Make a curved step with the rear foot to find an atajo just as Capoferro describes in his book. Once you have the opposing weapon, step into MPal to seek MPado.

Stepping Outside (towards your back)
From MdP to step to the fencer’s outside drop the hilt while lifting the point directing into the opposing steel. Bring the rear big toe near the front heel to gather the feet together. Once you have the opposing steel, step into MPal to seek MPado.

This is a variation on a normal gaining step which can be used to find atajo on the outside line.

This is a variation on a normal gaining step which can be used to find atajo on the outside line.

In both cases your mixed angle should be deep enough to force a larger disengagement. If the adversary disengages, carry the blade directly across your body leading with the point into the opposing steel and take atajo on the new line.

Once the shorter fencer dominates the line at what we call in our school the “dangerous middle place” or MPal, they have an advantage over their longer-limbed adversary.  There are other techniques that work well for shorter fencers but that’s another conversation.

There is also a tendency to race to the high line without regard for protecting yourself.  If your taller adversary lifts the point such that the blade is in obtuse angle strike him.  If you cannot reach the body in the time available, strike the bottom of the arm.

Key Points
1. The right angle will beat the obtuse (or acute angle).

2. The atajo will beat the right angle.

3. If you can’t easily cover the adversary’s weapon with yours, point over and into it and move off the line to find your atajo.