Warrior Fundamentals - Week 2

I have pledged to do better this week. I am inspired by my latest Cornwell book, as well as by the lovely bottle of mead I was presented with by one of my shield mates. He offered it in exchange for a promise that I would not overly bludgeon him during our training.

Day Three

Class 3 is going much better for me. I like the way Adrian demonstrates a move then has us repeat it several times before we begin a drill. By doing this, he ensures that we have the basics in hand. It also helps that we are fewer today so Adrian can devote more individual attention to us.

To begin, we review our Mezzano cuts, trying to keep our elbows in tight as we slice across our opponents' throats. We also review the basics of finding and gaining an opponent’s sword. I know from our last series how important it is to be able to demonstrate each element of this process. We also learn the triangle step and practice our passing steps. The best part of this is that we do it over our swords, which have been placed carefully on the floor. I listen for bagpipes as we dance over our weapons. We use this footwork as we practice our defensive arts. We learn three types: parries, deflections and collections. The parry has us simply push away the enemy's sword with force. The deflection uses a swift application of the weaker end of our sword to shift the arc of an opponent's cut away from us. The collection has us trap our opponent’s blade against the crossbar of our own swords. We explore a new guard to assist with this defensive move called Posta Frontale, also known as the Posta Corona, or Front Guard. It looks impressive and I can’t help thinking of Joan of Arc, shining in her armour, holding her sword up to heaven. The drills are fun today, despite the hot and somewhat smelly masks. We should go slowly and aim for technical precision, but we can’t help being overly enthusiastic. One partner and I eagerly cleave each other’s skulls open over and over again with wide grins beneath our masks.

Day Four

During the review session at the start of Class 4, Adrian has us repeat all of the new material from the previous class, including our sword dancing. We also perform drills that reinforce the defensive moves we have learned. Last night I spent some time watching Duello.TV and I have to say that it helped. Watching Devon demonstrate the smooth transitions, cutting from guard to guard in fluid, seamless movements was both inspiring and educational. Once the sword is in your own hand, however, those smooth moves are much harder to emulate.

Adrian introduces the explanations of the two Tempos we need to know for today: Dui Tempi and Contra Tempo. In Dui Tempi we attack as our opponents are recovering from a parry or deflection that we instigate. In Contra Tempo, we attack as our opponents attack us. This last drill is fun and easy and makes us all feel skilled and confident. Because we spent a lot of time doing review today (thank you Adrian!), we did not spend as much time on learning new things as usual, but we still have four fun classes left so no one is worried.

Strangely enough, we ALL decide to stay for clinic today. We each have something we want to review. In my case I have lots, but we spend the first 15 minutes in pairs, practicing drills that had seemed awkward in class and getting welcome help from Adrian. Then I ask to have my Posta Fenestre assessed, because I find it hard to remember the correct position. Adrian takes the opportunity to review each of the guards from the beginning, and I am pleased to see that everyone else is following along too. I learn that the discomfort in my back when I engage in Posta Fenestre can be alleviated by using a quick triangle step to change my footing. Oh, that feels so much better!

This is part two in a series. Click here to read "Warrior Fundamentals – Week 1".

Devon Boorman is the Co-Founder and Director of Academie Duello Centre for Swordplay, which has been active in Vancouver, Canada since 2004. Devon’s expertise centres on the Italian swordplay tradition including the arts of the Renaissance Italian rapier, sidesword, and longsword, as well as knife and unarmed techniques.
Read more from Devon Boorman.