Warrior Fundamentals - Week 3

Day Five

I have a confession to make. I was neither able to attend Class 5 nor was I able to take advantage of the evening classes to make up for it. What’s a sword-fighting student to do? Thankfully, my trusty blade-wielding comrades filled me in on the general content for the class, and, wonderfully, I was able to absorb some of the most important details from Duello.TV and the other great resources the Academie offers. I know that today’s class focussed primarily on the sidesword, which I do love. The class learned grip, posture and stance, which Devon illustrates very well in his beginner series videos. You must look tall and proud, like a royal guard at a palace, with your weight primarily on the forward leg and with your feet a comfortable three paces apart.

I heard about new guards particular to the sidesword, though my companions could not tell me their names. Thank goodness for the internet! Guardia Alta, or high guard, has you hold your sword arm straight up high, the blade vertical or pointing slightly back, ready for a sweet slashing cut downward. I’ll wait to learn the rest from Adrian.

My companions described all of the cuts they learned -- the standard set of eight shoulder cuts, plus various preparatory actions of wrist and elbow. I also know that they practiced elegant "ribbon cuts" and I wish I had been there to join in. Furthermore, the class even learned to use a buckler!! It may be a small but it still counts as a shield! (I’ll be a shieldmaiden yet!)

They ended class by going back to the longsword and learning to use Prima Tempo, which means they practiced timing their strikes so that they could attack as their opponents entered into striking range, or specifically, their individual Misura Larga.

I’m upset that I had to miss this class, but it gave me the opportunity to research class material on my own and practice interviewing my fellow classmates. I also spent some time wondering what drew students in. In my case it was likely my medieval studies, or maybe too much Conan the Barbarian. I think I will ask the others….

Day Six

Adrian provides review today and I am grateful. Before our salute I demonstrate the grip, stance and posture I learned from the videos and I am rewarded with praise. I’m already halfway there! We review the eight cuts and carve elegant steel ribbons through the air. I can see how practicing this swordplay could become a meditative, almost spiritual exercise as the sword moves in graceful arcs from one position to another, through all the proper forms, over and over again.

I practice the deft wrist movements that make the sidesword so versatile. Adrian shows off a little, spinning the sword to demonstrate its agility. I love it! There are more guards particular to the sidesword, but we do not need to know their names for the test. Adrian focuses our efforts on the most important things to master. We know the wrist cuts, elbow cuts and shoulder cuts. Now we’re ready to play!

We each grab a mask and select one of the available bucklers -- which remind me of pot lids -- and Adrian admits that he’s used a pot lid and wooden spoon when practicing at home. I briefly recall Devon recommending the use of an umbrella in one of his videos if you don’t have your own sword, as it has a good grip and weight distribution. We engage in drills to master how to cut around the buckler, then we drill on the use of the buckler to strengthen your sword as you parry an attack, as well as using it further to push away your attacker’s sword just long enough to slash at their face.

We exchange our sideswords for longswords and continue our training. We review how to attack in Prima Tempo, which is always fun in drills. But then Adrian covers Mezzo Tempo as well, in which you are attacking as your opponent is engaging in some non-attacking motion, like stepping back from measure, or moving their sword away from you. The final drill uses that troublesome window guard, and I confess that I felt a little foolish at times trying to remember the moves in Dui Tempi, but it is all good, because next class we get to use the poleaxe! Nothing but thrusting and gutting!! Yay!

This is part three 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.