What did you expect to happen?

As promised, some reflections on practice garnered (or directly lifted) from Sean Hayes’ workshop.A brief review: Sean was in Vancouver on 2, 3 & 4 December to teach three workshops on Armizare, Italy’s knightly arts.
He taught a workshop on solo practice, longsword body mechanics and unarmed, dagger and longsword. I’ll be writing about the third workshop (which occurred on the second day).

Specifically I’m writing on intention. Often taught, though perhaps rarely revisited, when practicing, in general, any art involving arcing attacks (longsword, sidesword, dagger)  is the idea of intention. Both parties must involve an element of intention in their strikes.

The need for intention is easily seen with a simple example. The agente makes a fendenteand the patiente delivers a hard parry to the weapon. If the agente’s intention is to deliver a full strike – the consequence for not parrying is being struck – then hard parry will have it’s desired effect. However, if the agente aims their strike to end above the patiente’s shoulder (ie. not actually strike) then the patiente’s technique will seem odd and ineffective.

Your strikes must be intended to strike in a martially sound way and move through your opponent.
Note words I didn’t use:

  • fast
  • unconcerned for your own safety
  • to surprise your partner
  • to fake out your partner

These are ideas that you may employ in combat, but, for the exercise mentioned above they are all unhelpful.


Many of us have a reticence for making contact because we don’t want to harm our partner. This is a noble principle to practice. The challenge is how to apply it in a way that

  1. will allow martially sound practice
  2. not injure your partner

Focus and intention will help greatly with this. All of Sean’s exercises started with the agente making fully intentioned strikes to a patiente who did not defend. This allowed the agente to apply all the principles needed for good practice, namely, intention and safety.


So, be real AND be safe!

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.