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A Cutting Drill

By THLady Meala Caimbeul, Caid Cut & Thrust Marshal

Hello again. There was a quite successful Cut & Thrust workshop at Collegium Caidis, and I thought I’d share the drill we worked on.  It is fairly simple, but there are many options for adding complexity.

Short description:
Both partners are in a neutral third guard. They are just within measure, sword points crossed, but not much more. The active partner opens the line, inviting a thrust (if not a lunge) up the middle. As the passive partner thrusts, the active one cuts the thrust away, and returns a cut to the passive partner’s head.

Lesson one – the dissuasive cut. By delivering a good cut to the oncoming thrust the Active partner gains more time than if he simply gained the line by positioning, or sliding on the Passive partner’s blade.

Lesson two – the return cut. Try to use the true edge and make the turn as abbreviated as possible. Deliver a good cut that connects with the middle of the blade.

Lesson for the Passive Partner – Good guard and thrust/lunge. Make sure your starting guard is as perfect as is it can be; your weight starts back, hand is extended, and your are pointing at, if not above your opponents head. Deliver the thrust or lunge as if it was your practice; start with your hand, include the body, and only step if you need to.

Advanced lessons
Timing and Distance. Start the drill out of measure and let the Passive partner approach. The Active partner will invite when he feels the Passive partner is at lunging distance and would have to take a step to make contact.  If Passive is not close enough the dissuasive cut will fail, if too close the thrust will land or there won’t be space for the return cut.

Keep them honest. Passive partner attempts the second intention as the Active person makes the return cut. If the Active partner does not make a good dissuasive cut, the passive partner can counter-attack. If the Return cut is not delivered from a protected place, there will be a double kill.

This drill can be done on both inside and outside the Active partner’s sword.

Good luck and happy cutting!


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More on Cutting

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:

Achille Marozzo – 1536
AchilleMarozzo1536

Joachim Meÿer – ~1570
JoachimMeòer1570

Salvatore Fabris – 1606
SalvatoreFabris1606

Gérard Thibault – 1628
GÇrardThibault1628

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
http://www.collegiumcaidis.org/2015/schedule.html
http://www.collegiumcaidis.org/2015/catalog.html#Rapier


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Cut & Thrust in a Nutshell

By THLady Meala Caimbeul, Caid Cut & Thrust Marshal

Those that know me know that a Cut & Thrust fight is just about my most favorite thing to do with a sword.  In a blatant attempt to get to do it more often, allow me to encapsulate what this art is, is not, and how you can get started.

By the book, Cut & Thrust is a type of rapier combat that incorporates percussive cutting and removes the push and pull (draw) cuts. It requires a little more armor to protect against these cuts, and does require a year of authorized rapier or unarmored experience, but those are not hard to accomplish. In standard rapier, to deliver a cut you must place and draw the edge along the target; this takes more time than driving a cut by turning the wrist. Cut & Thrust allows for single-time cuts, (as they are described in fighting manuals of the period) which are faster and more defensively sound.

These cuts do land with percussion, but do not have to be of a higher calibration than any standard heavy rapier blow.  That is, you don’t have to hit hard. It is the percussion that makes these cuts seem harder. Trust me, you need no extra force to deliver a valid percussive cut; the sword wants to make this action, you just have to direct it.

Not all Heavy Rapiers are designed to deliver these cuts. The schlager-style blades, with almost no taper from shoulder to tip, are not permitted in Cut & Thrust. (This taper helps prevent the blade from breaking in cutting situations.) Yes, there are heavier blades for Cut & Thrust only, but you don’t need them to play.  Most Heavy Rapiers that we use are perfectly suitable for Cut & Thrust.

There is also some additional required armor (and some that we recommend.) All of which can be purchased commercially; SPES makes a great back-of-the-head insert, and there are many options for elbow pads. I carry an extra set of elbows and a spare back-of-the-head insert in my kit; if you want to practice Cut & Thrust, I’m happy to provide the armor. (Also, you don’t need the armor to practice cuts on a pell, or participate in drills or other controlled and directed practice.) We also recommend heavier than standard gloves, especially when using the more open weapons that don’t cover the fingers or wrist.

And now the thing that makes Cut & Thrust different from Heavy Rapier – Percussive Cutting.  This can seem very intimidating; it often looks like we are wheeling swords at one another and should be leaving bruises and welts with every landed blow. But as I said above, you don’t need to hit harder for a valid blow. You do need to land a “controlled, well-intentioned blow, delivered with the striking edge of the sword with proper mechanics so to have been able to cleave the target.” These cuts are the result of circular motion, and are led with the hand (instead of the point.) While tip cuts are perfectly valid, most Cut & Thrust blows are delivered a little farther down toward the middle of the weapon.

When I teach cutting, I often use the example of cutting firewood with an axe. The arching motion, and the way one sends the weapon away from the body are some of the keys to good cutting technique. Least you think you must wind your sword to the top of your head to make a good cut, starting the arc at the shoulder; it is just as valid to cut from the wrist, transcribing a much smaller arc, and making a much faster attack.

Think of your average rapier play, your opponent is pointing a sword at you and initiates a lunge. You move your hand and dissuade the oncoming point, but now your point is off-line so you don’t have a ready thrust. To deliver a draw cut you’ll have to get closer, place the edge on the target, then pull or push the edge to finish the cut. In a Cut & Thrust bout, you are allowed to take that off-line point and, by turning the wrist, deliver a cut that will land much sooner that the draw, it will also be delivered at an angle that will keep you safer than the lateral draw cut.

The advantage of these cuts is first that you are defended by the nature of blade position and movement. Second, since you don’t have to place the blade first, they are faster than draw cuts. Icing on the cake is that these cuts are the ones described in pre-1650 fighting manuals, being able to perform them in the time described can allow for more historically-based combat
(Knowledge of historic rapier is not required for Cut & Thrust.)

One of the hurdles most fencers encounter when learning to cut is the tendency to “gather in” when they cut.  Good cuts are made on an arc that extends out from the body and (usually) through a guard most masters call Long Point. When one is accustomed to draw cuts, the habit is there to pull your hand in, toward your body in an attempt to absorb some of the kinetic energy.  While the instinct to not hurt your opponent is a good one, collapsing your guard in this way is more likely to result in a sloppy and invalid cut, and you being undefended while in range of your opponent.

The other way newer cutters attempt to compensate for the perceived excessive force is by ceasing to control the cut around the apex. When a thrust is about to land hard, many of us train to loosen our grip and stop pushing in order to take some of the power away from the attack. Applying that same technique to cutting can result in a sloppy blow that lands hard, but is not, in reality, a good cut.  The key to a good cut is control, from when it is initiated all the way through to contact. By keeping control of the weapon, and guiding it all the way through the cut, you will be able to better control the force you send into your opponent.

If you want more information, and some practical experience, I invite you to attend the Cut & Thrust workshop offered at Colligium Caidus at 11:00 am on Sunday, May 17th. (http://www.collegiumcaidis.org/2015/schedule.html)


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Intro to SCA Rapier Lesson Plan

Here is a Progressive Lesson Plan designed for Territorial Marshals who are looking for a good way to get a newcomer from Day 1 to Authorization, created by Lord Rhydderch Derwen.

If it helps, please use it, or adapt it to your needs.  This in not an end-all-be-all of fencing instruction, but a good skeleton to encourage participation and help develop a safe community that is knowledgeable of the rules while being prepared for the authorization process while not creating anxiety or apprehension.

Intro to SCA Rapier lesson plan


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Capo Ferro 101 – Diego de Palma

By Ld Diego de Palma

Capo Ferro 101: A practical approach to the basic philosophies and techniques from Simulcro Dellarte Edelluso Della Scherma – “Great Representation on the Art and Use of Fencing”
Original Text by Ridolpho Capo Ferro (1610)Translation by Jerek Swanger and William E. Wilson

Class and Handout by Lord Diego de Palma

This class goes over some of the basic techniques and ideas from Capo Ferro’s work including attacking in defense, tempo and measure, and basic form. The handout also contains some advice for those who are looking into exploring the text in depth including what to expect from the various sections of the text and some alternative ways to look at the plates.

CapoFerro101_DiegoDePalma


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Connecting Sword, Hand, and Heart

By THL Mora Ottavia Spadera

This class handout presents the perspectives of historical texts, modern sports psychology, the science of perceptual motor learning, and observations from successful fighters in the SCA.

If you’ve been practicing for a long time, and can’t quite break through to the next level, or to the next round in tournament, it may be your head that’s holding you back. This handout, and the class it was written for, will provide you with vocabulary and tools to look at how your brain is helping or hurting your fight, and how to train it alongside your body. There is a long list of ideas to help you make your practice time more effective, enabling you to advance the application of your Art in whatever way inspires you.

The Fighting Headspace Questionaire will help you look at your tournament head-space as well. After answering honestly, if you find an answer you don’t like, it’s worth looking at ways to reframe that part of how you approach your game.
 While coming primarily from a rapier fighter’s perspective, this handout is applicable to any martial art or life activity you pursue.
Lady Mora is incredibly happy to spend time with individual fighters looking at how their brains are operating in their fight and looking for potential opportunities to improve. Please don’t hesitate to seek her out, at an event or electronically.

Connecting Sword Hand and Heart Handout

Fighting Headspace Questionaire


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Introduction to the German Rappier of Joachim Meyer (1570)

By Don Lot Ramirez

This class has been taught at a number of Events, including Practicum of the Sword and Talon-Crescent Festival.  I created a video after a similar class taught at SoCal Swordfight 2013 (http://www.socalswordfight.com/), a non-SCA HEMA event as an addendum to the class.  This is not an exact replication of the class that may have been taught, but is a great add on and reminder for the basic information from the class.


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A Quick Lesson for the Use of Secondary Devices

By Don Lot Ramirez

Being able to utilize your sword and secondary in combination is the key to fighting effectively. If you have to spend time concentrating on using both hands simultaneously, you’ll react more slowly and have a harder time focusing on controlling the fight. Situating yourself in a posture, or guard, and being prepared with the most appropriate defense will speed up your decision-making and allow you to react quicker to your opponent’s actions.

There are a multitude of systems that can help this process, but I find the easiest and most flexible to be the ones presented by the Italian Masters of the early 17th Century. After distilling the works of Ridolfo Capo Ferro (1610), Nicoletto Giganti (1606), and Salvator Fabris (1606), we can find that all of these masters present a system that is fundamentally based on a quadrant defense. In these systems, more often than not, the secondary device (often a dagger) parries the incoming attack and a simultaneous counter attack occurs with the sword. The simultaneous action and reaction in this system allows for the secondary to be used primarily on defending the opponent’s attack and frees the sword to make the counter attack safely. The simultaneous attack and defense also cuts down the time the opponent has to react to your strike.

The quadrant defense:

The fundamental concept of this system is to break down your own target zone into 4 quadrants:

  1. Outside and above your secondary
  2. Outside and below your secondary
  3. Inside your secondary, above your sword
  4. Inside your secondary, below your sword

In each case, the defense is enacted to close the line of attack with the secondary and support the action by counter attacking with the sword. We are not simply impeding the arriving attack, but pushing forwards to actively disrupt and deflect the incoming attack. Also, by pushing forwards instead of sideways, we do not open a space between the sword and the secondary that the opponent can take advantage of.

Note in the examples below how the arms are portrayed moving forwards to defend the incoming attack.

The following images present examples from Capo Ferro’s 1610 treatise (Gran Simulacro…)[1] and a 1644 German-French reprint of Giganti’s 1606 (Scola overo teatro…)[2]:

Defenses in quadrant 1, outside and above your secondary:

– Giganti with sword and dagger

– Capo Ferro with sword and cape

– Capo Ferro with sword and Rotella

Defenses in quadrant 2, outside and below your secondary:

– Giganti

– Capo Ferro

Defenses in quadrant 3, inside your secondary, above your sword:

– Giganti

– Capo Ferro

Defenses in quadrant 4, inside your secondary, below your sword:

– Giganti

– Capo Ferro

The general idea of this system is that by simplifying everything into one of four defensive actions, you short cut your decision making of ‘how do I defend this attack?’, and move quickly into defending yourself. Wherever your opponent’s point goes, you counter with a deflection from your secondary, putting your sword to an opening in their defense, usually just inside of their sword arm, and pushing forward with a counter attack.

Try this with a friend:

  • Set yourself in guard with your secondary shoulder loose and as extended as possible without straining or rotating your back hip forwards.
  • Your partner approaches you in guard and aims their point where they see an opening, stopping just at the edge of their lunge distance.
  • Determine which quadrant they are pointing at and prepare the appropriate defense with the secondary.
  • Your partner attacks the opening with a lunge. You defend the attack with your secondary and extend your sword arm to where they are not defended.
  • Note: the key to this action is that both hands move forwards together, one defending and the other attacking. Leaning forward with your torso (and not moving your feet) will also help.
  • Repeat and practice defending against attacks to all 4 quadrants.

If you find that your partner is attacking the same quadrants over and over again, and not attacking others, then you are probably covering the un-attacked quadrants in your guard. Try situating yourself in a different position that will create a new opening for your partner to attack.

With practice you should find that you can easily respond to a predictable, straight-line attack, and can quickly assess where your opponent’s attack is directed. Also, you may find that if you situate yourself in specific postures, your opponent is more prone to attacking you in one spot more than another, making them more predictable and easier to counter.

1.Capo Ferro, Ridolfo. Scans of illustrations. Gran Simulacro della Arte e dell Uso della Scherma. Siena, Italy, 1610.

2. Giganti, Nicoletto. Scola, overo, Teatro : nelquale sono rappresentate diverse maniere, e modi di parare, e di ferire di spada sola, e di spada, e pugnale; dove ogni studioso portra essercitarsi e farsi prattico nella professione dell’ Armi. Herzog August Bibliothek. 2009.