Finding Advantage

In the last two posts on spear fundamentals we looked at attacks and defenses of the spear.  For your Blue Spur you will also need to

Demonstrate finding and gaining against another spear.

Those of you who fight with rapier will be very used to the ideas of finding and gaining.  If you spar with a longsword you will also use these techniques, though you might not be accustomed to thinking of them in the same way.  As a review, here are the definitions:spear vs sword

Gaining: the act of employing the advantages of true edge, leverage and crossing, to simulaneously threaten your opponent and protect yourself from her weapon.  When you gain, your weapon is in line with your target, and your opponent’s weapon is directed off line.

black_sidesword_fencerFinding: the act of predisposing your weapon to be able to gain your opponent’s weapon in a shorter time than he can gain yours.  Your weapons may or may not be touching, and your point may not be on line, but you have predisposed yourself by crossing over your opponent’s weapon with your true edge, and with the strong part (forte) over the weak (debole) for leverage.

This week we will examine the three advantages; next week we will look at the specific actions of the spear used to employ them.

The Three Advantages

True Edge

spear exchange 2
The crowned figure has his true edge (knuckle side) turned towards his opponent’s false edge (palm side).

Wait, I hear you protest, spears don’t have edges!

While a spear tip may have edges, these have nothing to do with the ‘true edge’ of a pole weapon such as a staff or spear.  The true edge is simply the side of the shaft in line with the knuckles of your leading hand, just as with a sword.

When standing in the high ward, the true edge is slightly downwards and towards the outside line.  To close the opposite line, bring the leading arm across the body, turning the hand palm up.  If you are a rapier fighter you can think of these positions as analogous to seconda-terza and terza-quarta.

spear exchange mair
This crossing appears equal, but yellow-pants has choked up and has more leverage because of his smaller debole.


The debole or ‘weak’ part of a weapon is the area from the tip to roughly a third of the way to the leading hand.  This has nothing to do with the relative strength of the material the weapon is made from, and is simply the effect of leverage:  you can impart more strength to the part of the weapon that is close to your hand than you can to the tip.  Since a spear is much longer than a sword it has a larger debole, giving you more latitude with your finding.  However, if your opponent shortens her spear by ‘choking up’, her debole will shorten as well.  A long weapon is always easier to find than a short one.

spear high ward
In this image the outside line is to the man’s left (away from us), and the inside is on his right (facing us).


As a combatant you have two important lines: inside and outside.  As you stand in guard, the inside line contains everything between your lead hand and your base hand: in other words, all the targets.  The outside line is everything on the other side of your lead hand, which is generally nothing until your lead hand begins to move across your body, exposing targets behind it.

When you have crossed your spear over top of your opponent’s, closing one line or another with your forte over your opponent’s debole, you have found her weapon.

Next week: Using the three advantages

Current Schedule

Although most of these courses have started it’s not too late to join in, space permitting.  Contact the front desk at 604 568 9907 to register.

Beginner Riding & HorsemanshipLaura & Jack

New or relatively new to riding?  This class is for you!  Learn everything you need to know to get your journey in the saddle started, from handling, grooming and tacking up, to confidently riding at a walk and trot.  Course fees include a riding or horsemanship assessment on the afternoon of November 22nd.

Sundays 18 October – 22 November
10am – noon
cost: $300 + gst for 6 classes;
prerequisites: none

Riding & Horsemanship Level 2Jenn flag

If you have completed Horsemanship Level 1, you have the option of staying with the Beginner course or moving on to this class as you work towards your Riding Levels 1 and 2.

Sundays 18 October – 22 November
10am – noon
cost: $300 + gst for 6 classes
prerequisites: Horsemanship Level 1 and some riding experience

Horsemanship Level 3-4legs

This series of six classes will cover the material needed to achieve either Horsemanship 3 or 4.

Sundays 18 October – 22 November
10:30am – 11:30am
cost: $130 + gst for 6 classes
prerequisites: Horsemanship Level 2

Riding Level 3+Jack 2

This series of six classes is tailored to the participants’ needs as they work towards the higher riding levels in the program.  Course curriculum consists of improving the quality of walk, trot and canter, lateral movements, quadrille and pas-de-deux work, mounted games skills, trot poles, gymnastics and jumping courses.

Sundays 18 October – 22 November
noon – 1pm
cost: $200 + gst for 6 classes
prerequisites: Riding Level 2 or permission of instructor

Mounted Combat – BeginnerDuello_Mounted-Combat_Chena_2897

Learn swordplay and grappling techniques from the ground and from the falsemount to prepare you for mounted combat.  By the end of this course, you should be able to sign off your Mounted Combat checklist, and if you have your Riding and Horsemanship level 1 you will be eligible for Green Spur classes.

Sundays 18 October – 15 November
1:30 – 3pm
cost: $120 + gst
prerequisites: none

Mounted Combat – Intermediate (Spear Focus)Christian quintain

This course is designed for riders who have achieved their Green Spur and are working towards the next rank.  You will spend roughly half the time on horseback and the other half on the ground and falsemount working on your grappling, swordplay and spear skills.  Each five-week course will have a specific focus to address one area of the Blue Spur checklist — this month we will be focussing on spear.

Sundays 18 October – 15 November
1:00 – 3:00pm
cost: $160 + gst
prerequisites: Green Spur

Cavaliere Assessments

This is the last assessment date of the year.  Make sure you set aside time for this to level-up before the 2016 season starts!  A single assessment (Riding, Horsemanship, or Mounted Combat) is included in the cost of the above courses.  Additional assessments are $50 or $80 for two parts.  Even if you are currently registered in a weekly course, you must sign up ahead of time to ensure you have a space in the assessment.

Sunday 22 November
1:00 – 4:00pm
cost: $50 for 1 section; $80 for 2 or 3 sections
prerequisites: permission to assess

Mounted Combat PlaydayKailea & Steph

Finish off the year with friendly competition to test your skills in mounted games, archery and combat!  Spectators welcome, and volunteers always needed.  Hot chocolate and goodies will be on offer.  Come out and celebrate with us!

Sunday 6 December
1:00 – 4:00pm
cost: $15 + $15 if school horse used
spectators: free!





Jennifer Landels Jennifer Landels heads up Academie Duello's Cavaliere Program. She has been swordfighting since 2008, and riding since before she could walk. She started the program as an excuse to combine those passions.
Read more from Jennifer Landels.