By THLady Meala Caimbeul, Caid Cut & Thrust Marshal
Cutting is a very basic thing. Most blades were designed to do it with only a modicum of direction from the operator. As you can see from the different diagrams, there is much similarity even among very different fencing manuals.
Sword cuts according to:
I have found one of the foundations to a good cutting game is to cut from one guard to another traveling through a very specific middle guard. (To give proper credit, this is not my own concept; it is prescribed by a few masters in our time period.) That middle guard is called by more manuals than not, Long Point. It is formed by having your sword extended, mostly from the shoulder-line, with the tip higher than the guard, usually pointing at your opponent’s head. By moving through this position your cuts are forced to move from one plane to the other, from high to low, left to right, or even on the diagonals. Look again at the diagrams – these lines achieved easily when moving through this middle position.
(There are exceptions to everything, and this is meant as a basic lesson. But one must know the basics before one can deviate from them.)
Though this is a simple position, there are many subtleties that make it successful. In solo practice, and even in controlled partner drills, I recommend adding an artificial pause to check this guard and confirm you are forming it correctly. Another advantage of this brief pause it that even though this guard happens in the middle of a longer action, it is a neutral position; you can use it to change your plan or direction depending on the actions of your opponent.
• The body is mostly upright, if not leaning a bit forward from the hip.
• The arm is extended, pushing forward from the shoulder, but not locked.
• The sword point is higher than the guard; pointing at, if not slightly above, your opponent’s head.
Special note – because this is a middle guard, happening in the middle of a cut, I am not prescribing any specific foot positions. They will depend on the methods and guards you are using.
A good way to test this guard is to have an opponent attempt to cut at your center line from long measure. As they enter with the cut, your head and upper body should be well behind your guard, and your trunk should be just out of range. You might have to direct your strong toward the assault, but you should be pretty well defended in the middle.
Once you have a good idea of what this guard is, practice cutting from one guard to another, pausing in the middle to check your Long Point guard. Remember to keep your hands soft and let the sword to most of the work. You don’t need much additional power for a valid cut; you just need to direct and control the weapon’s path. As you practice, that pause can get smaller and smaller until it is almost imperceptible. But don’t let it completely disappear and start rushing your actions. I find having a position in the middle of a large action where you can change your mind is quite useful. In fact, another fun drill is to have a partner call out a starting guard, and just as you get to that middle guard, call out a second one for you to finish with.
Good luck and happy cutting!
P.S. Don’t forget there is a Cut & Thrust Workshop at Collegium, May 17th – starting at 11:00 am