Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Crossing of Stretto

This was always something I had been meaning to explore more thoughtfully. Spending some real mental space sorting out, joined with many hours of sweat and work trying to get my body to cooperate. See, I had been told that stretto was this crappy crash-and-bash for years. It was what unskilled newbies did because they couldn't, you know, fence. That it is the last option when all the other options are closed. I kinda get where that idea comes from, because there is absolutely a tendency for the new to crash-and-bash. What never really jived with me was that this crashing mess had anything to do with the real art, let alone stretto.

My position has always been that since stretto is rarely trained it will rarely be preformed well. If always neglected then when situations arise that lend themselves to stretto they will most often result in a mess.

A couple months back, during an exploration into the plays of stretto I was struggling to preform the first play of stretto against my taller, long of arm, partner. See, I could not reach his damn hilt - not from where I was and how we were crossed. I tried it many times from different set-ups and the amount of space I needed to cover may as well have been a mile. I could not get there, not safely. When things don't work like that it is probably because I am missing some really obvious thing that Fiore makes clear.  That I miss it due to my own preconceptions and notions of what I thought Fiore was on about without really just reading the text and looking at the pictures and seeing them as they are.

So, we flipped open the MS and looked at this and something jumped for my partner.

Stretto Crossing

Then we looked at this one and the ah-ha moment hit.
Largo Crossing, 2nd Master of Remedy

The arms, look at the arms. Looks how the body is turned! Then take a gander at this one.

Stretto crossing from the left

He is retracted and inside. This isn't the extended largo crossing with a step or leap around and right. You cover with withdrawn hands and inside - not extend and centre. Look at the hips and how turned they are in the stretto cross and mostly squarish in largo. I had been doing it wrong - imagine that! This isn't Fiore's version of what happens when two people both cut at each other with a step. This is an intentioned first action. You're there on purpose, not because you tried to do a largo cross and got forced to be there. You stepped in, covered, and withdrawn to the close.

Well, we both promptly started trying to come to this turned, withdrawn position. My distance issues dissolved. My feeling like removing my left hand from my sword being suicide dissolved. I didn't have to reach forward to grasp my partners hilt it was just right there at the perfect distance to grab.

I stepped in, covered with the hips more sideface, and my hands withdrawn in. When I did this and gained control of centre line the first play of stretto almost appeared of its own volition. If I lost control of the centre, I was well placed for the second play. The distance was right, the yield around felt good and the hand was right there to check or grab.

Of course not all was perfect. I felt my elbow particularly exposed for Fiore's patented elbow push. But Fiore specifically warns that both could preform these plays so perhaps I should be expecting to feel exposed. I continue to experiment with this but it continues to feel right, match the images and flows well into the plays of stretto.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Coverta within Fior Di Battaglia

If we jump forward to r32 we see what is colloquially called the "universal parry." On this page we are given a set-up of attackers preforming various cuts, thrusts and throws.

"Io 'spetto questi tre in tal posta, zoè in dente di zengiaro e in altre guardie poria 'spettare, zoè in posta de donna la senestra, anchora in posta di finestra sinestra, cum quello modo, e deffesa che farò in dente di zenghiaro. Tal modo è tal deffesa le ditte guardie debian fare. Senza paura io 'spetto uno a uno, e non posso fallire nè taglio nè punta nè arma manuale che mi sia lanzada, lo pe' dricto ch'i ò denançi acresco fora de strada, e cum lo pe' stancho passo ala traversa del arma che me incontra rebatendola in parte riversa. E per questo modo fazo mia deffesa, fatta la coverta subito farò l'offesa."

"I am waiting for these three in this guard, Dente di Cinghiaro. I could wait in other guards as well - like Left Posta di Donna or Left Posaa di Finestra - and still be able to defend as I would from Dente di Cinghiaro. Each of these guards use this defence. I'll wait for my opponents one by one, without feat or failure from any cut, thrust or handheld weapon thrown at me. I'll preform an accrescimento with my leading right foot, pass obliquely against the opponent's weapon and beat it to his left side. After making my parry, I'll instantly attack." - Tom Leoni

Here we are told to again beat away attacks from all of the left guards. We are told to beat the weapon to his left side, while passing obliquely and while covered from his weapon attack. This text virtually duplicates the text from the sword in one hand and repeats ideas we have seen in the spear and mounted sections.

That is, Fiore has told us to beat all manner of weapons making all manner of attacks away and to the outside. These beats are often given with instruction to preform a step with the front foot fora di strada and a pass ala traversa (which I take as instruction to pass away from the weapon or in to the man - or both) under cover and to then strike with a turn of the sword. We are even told that these beat actions should occur on the middle of the opposing weapon. These instructions are repeated and explicitly defined though the manuscripts. With the exception of the specific plays of coplo del villanoscambiare de punta, punta falsa, and posta frontale vs high thrusts we see no other form of initial parry or cover action described with any detail anywhere.

It is clear to me, given the often verbose instruction and frequency of Fiore's use of beats that this method of defence is critically important to this art. No other form of parry is defined or outline with this level of detail. In both stretto and largo we find our selves shown a number of crossings along with a great deal of plays from them but are given no instruction as to how to get there. It is my postulation that this rebatter is largely the mechanism by which you find your self in these positions. Fiore spills much ink describing the actions of the beat and the expected results. Could these many plays shown be the result of beats which did not have the perfect outcome? Could the text in these plays is describing methods to deal with these unsuccessful beats?