Sunday, January 10, 2016

Western Twelfth Night

Yes, Twelfth Night. I did not fight (though there is often night fighting at Western 12th Night), but I did get to hang around talking about fighting with lots of my favorite dukes, including Hauoc Bender, Thorfin the Cruel, and Alaric Von Drachenklaue. This is actually part one of a two part post. I'm writing it because, as he dropped me off at the train the next morning, I said to Alfred "read your Silver." 

Let me elaborate. Alfred if Carlysle is one of the best two-sword fighters I've ever seen. He is getting back into fighting after a very long hiatus. That's not as big a deal as you'd think, since so much of his game is mental. It's a very tactical fight with him, and a bit zen. Alfred has not fought much since the adoption of low profile thrusting tips. My full statement to him was "watch out for those low-profile thrusting tips, they will blow you up.... Read you Silver. Silver will teach you everything you need to know about low-profile thrusting tips." And he will. 

George Silver in his two books "Paradoxes of Defense"  ( 
and "Brief Instructions On My Paradoxes of Defense," ( 
was famously antagonistic toward the thrust. He did not eschew it himself, he used it a lot: rather, he objected to rapier fighting, which relies upon the thrust almost exclusively. He favored the edge because, as he put it, it takes a strong arm to ward a cut but the strength of a baby can ward a thrust. One of the big paradoxes of the SCA is, the way we determine victory, the unarmored combat manuals--Silver's most particularly, are the most useful for what we do. I should have referred Alfred to Fiore di Liberi's techniques for the sword in one hand as well, as it uses many of the same principles. 

In simplest terms, the way to avoid a thrust is to step off line, so that the thrust passes you by. Yes, you can parry it with either your blade or your hand, and you should, but this is your backup defense. Your primary defense is to step off line. Fiore has a technique for the sword in one hand wherein your ward (he only uses one ward for one handed sword) is with your feet in line, as in a modern fencing stance, your weight primarily on your back foot, and standing on the balls of both feet, with the sword held at the left hip, pointing backward, and your left hand on your right hip. In this way, the sword is more or less in the position it is normally in when in the scabbard (you can use this technique on the draw). Talhoffer uses this same guard, and it's similar to the first guard in I:33, but with your weight more to the back and without the buckler. The point is that you are keeping your arms and hands as far away from your opponent and as close to your body as possible. Should your opponent thrust at you, your parry is to flick your sword out. Flick is the best description--it's not a big, sweeping cut, but just a flick, deflecting his thrust and brining your sword on line, pointing at his breast. However, as you do this, and this is your main defense, you step off line with your right foot slightly to the left, taking your body out of the path of the trust. Either one is a good defense, but you use both to be careful. You could, at this point, incressare and thrust. I've used this technique in rapier fighting with good success. However, Fiore has you pass forward on the left, gaining the place, and cutting off your opponent's extended hand with a short chop.  (This is the way bob Charon teaches this technique). 

Silver's variation is that, since he uses a basket hilt (impregnable hands) he holds his sword in front in a hanging guard, and his left hand folded against his chest, instead of on his left hip. According to Stephen Hand, Sliver will do something similar, stepping off line, deflecting the sword, and passing on the left, but he is more likely to employ the elbow push, turning his opponent away, then thrusting home.  When I fight two weapon, as I noted a few posts ago (BBQ), I nearly always use arming sword and short sword, and employ a not very accurate style based on Silver's sword and dagger technique. In this, the dagger is used almost exclusively for defense. I present the dagger forward, hold the sword back, both tips more or less even with one another. I tie up their swords with my dagger and either cut or thrust with my sword. It works surprisingly well, even against dukes. I wouldn't want to try it against bellatrix, however. 

Alfred uses a high/low technique, in which he holds his right hand on his shoulder, as in a classic bellatrix sword and shield stance, and his left hand sword low near his right hip, with his feet in a normal sca fighting stance, left foot forward and right hip cocked. He should be able to use variations of the silver and Fiore techniques against thrusts. Against sword and shield fighters, stand so that, if the opponent is using a thrusting tip, you use an opposite stance (Right foot forward against right handed fighters). Your forward arm should hold your sword near the opposit hip, and the other sword should be cocked on your shoulder. No matter what they do, bring the low sword up in defense. If they thrust, step off line, parry as in Fiore, then attack with the other sword while passing forward. If they cut, do more or less the same, block with the forward sword, attack with the second sword while passing forward (at sometimes you may want to incressare, as in Fiore, or use a grapevine step, as in Silver: but the idea is always the same: the key is to get past and outside your opponent's weapon, passing forward so that you gain the place--close and square to their hip/shoulder (FIroe says you should be able to piss down their leg). Then their ribs and the back of their head are totally open to you. 

I probably didn't explain myself. Anyway: everybody should read their Silver. 

It is three days until Birka. I was just cleared for fighting by my surgeon about an hour ago, and I'm not sure I want my first time in armor after recovering from surgery to be the toughest, most grueling tournament in the Knowne World, so I am not sure at this moment when my next time in armor will be. I start training again on Monway (this is the start of my semester, so it makes it easy, as I've got a good gym available at CCNY).  

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