Manoeuvres of the Spear

Blue Spur: Disengages and Slips of the Spear

Once you have learned to find, gain, and strike with the spear, we increase the complexity of drills by asking you to:

Demonstrate manoeuvres of the spear: disengages, counter-disengages, and slips.


A disengage, or cavazione, is often performed in response to having been found.  In its simplest form, your aim is to find your opponent’s weapon in return.

spear exchange mairThe tip of your spear follows a narrow, U-shaped track as it dips below the opponent’s spear and then returns on the other side, crossing the other spear over top.  The motion is controlled by the base hand, while the lead hand stays relatively still.  This makes the disengage quick and efficient.

If you have been found, you will need to move backwards as you disengage to give you time to complete the action without being hit by your opponent.  Think of the disengage as a motion of recovery: you are recovering time and distance by stepping backward, and recovering control by placing your spear in a superior position.

As you finish the disengage and bring your spear on top you are safe to step forward into measure once more.  Be sure to turn the knuckles of your lead hand (your true edge) toward your opponent’s spear to close the line and complete the finding.


A response to the disengage, a contracavazione is performed at the same time  as your opponent’s disengage to prevent her from finding your spear.spear exchange 2

The timing is important.  If your counter-disengage happens after your opponent’s disengage, you are simply performing your own cavazione — quite possibly in a dangerously close measure if you haven’t stepped back.  A contracavazione needs to happen simultaneously with the opponent’s cavazione to be effective at maintaining control.

Your counter-disengage should travel in the same direction as your opponent’s.  That is, if your partner is making a clockwise (from your point of view) disengage, yours should also be clockwise to follow your partner’s spear around and end up on top again.  If you go in opposite directions you will likely lose the crossing and be struck as you open your line farther.

Since your prudent opponent has stepped back during her disengage, it is usually not necessary to move backward with a counter-disengage.  You can move forward safely, or at the very least remain in place and still maintain the advantages of your finding.


short staffA slip is also known as a cavazione sopra or a disengage over the spear.  It is best done in response to an opponent pressing on your weapon.

As your opponent pushes on your spear with his, punch your base hand forward, and retract your lead hand as necessary to bring your tip up and back.  Your opponent’s own pressure will cause his spear to move away from you while you bring yours back down on top, either finding him, or striking available targets such has the hand or arm.

As always, make sure to turn your true edge towards the opponent’s spear to prevent him returning with a counterstrike.


mair spearTo get a feel for the disengages, practise moving forward and backward with your partner, disengaging and counter-disengaging at the appropriate times.  The purpose of the exercise is not to gain and strike, but to ingrain the motion of the cavazione and the timing of hand and foot during the movements.

Once you are comfortable with the cavazioni, use them to make your finding, gaining and striking drills one or several steps more complicated.  If you have exhausted the drills we cover in class, remember you can always go on to DuelloTV and find more exercises in the quarterstaff fundamentals series.

Coming up at Red Colt

Laura vs JenThe last Mounted Combat classes are this coming Sunday, November 15th, and the last Riding and Horsemanship classes for the year are November 22nd.  There is a possibility of an indoor Mounted Combat Skills class during the winter months if there is enough interest.  Give us a show of hands on our Facebook page or by email if you’d like to take part.


Riding and Horsemanship assessments will take place at Red Colt from 1-4pm on Sunday November 22nd.  If you are part of a weekly course you have one assessment included.  However you still need to register in advance (choose the ‘included with prior course’ option).

Mounted Combat PlaydayRob archery

Our last Mounted Combat Playday of the year will include sparring, horseback archery, mounted games and holiday treats!  To take part on horseback, sign up here.  You’ll need your Riding Level 1 for mounted games and horseback archery, and your Green Spur for sparring.  Spectators are welcome, free of charge.  Join the facebook event so we get an idea of how much holiday baking to bring.  Volunteers are always needed, and will get first crack at the hot chocolate and gingerbread!



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.