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Welcome to our new video series! Instructional videos are getting more and more popular and thus we decided it’s about time we did some as well. And since longsword is currently the most popular topic, we’ll start with another fantastic weapon – the renaissance rapier according to Salvator Fabris. Longsword and other weapons will eventually follow.
This video is intended for everyone – from beginners to more advanced students of the Art. An academic scholar may point out some important information may be missing or argue that stress might be put elsewhere – and that is entirely true; the important thing is I’d like to make this series regular (as far as my normal life and time will allow me; the production takes quite some time) and to provide all the obligatory, interesting and valuable information one after another. And you, dear reader and subscriber, will have a word and influence over how I’m going to make it. I promise that me – and my colleagues – we will do our best to produce the best content we can.
As the first topic I chose the cuts and general mechanics of cutting according to Fabris (and other masters). Enjoy!
Transcript and some additional text:
Though most of people see rapier as a weapon which was used solely for thrusting, that is not entirely true.
The renaissance rapier was a cut and thrust weapon and most of the rapier masters describe both kinds of attacking. The thrust of course should be our primary means of engaging our opponent but in some situations a cut becomes more natural and even more effective.
That’s why we shouldn’t forget to practice various kinds of cutting not only to strenghten the arm but also to find the most effective ways to perform cuts and be able to employ them from any position we may find ourselves in.
In this video I’ll show you some basic exercises which I do in my solo practice and will give you some practical tips.
Cuts in Italian Rapier
Like in Kunst des Fechtens with the Longsword, Rapier masters recognize multiple types of cuts. To make it easy for you, we will divide them just in two important categories – the cuts from the rights side and cuts from the left (reversed) – or Mandritto and Riverso.
Cuts from the right or the left can be aimed on whichever target you like – whether it is the leg, the belly or the head. It all depends on the situation, tempo and the distance of the target. From training perspective, you should try all possible directions and combinations, but in the end I find more important to practice mostly four of them – two to the head or torso and two to the legs; simply because you’ll use them in most of the occasions. And the last but not least – I find even more important to train the three possible ways of delivering them.
Three ways of cutting
A cut can be delivered from the shoulder, from the elbow or from the wrist. Each has its pros and cons as we will see in a little while.
Salvator Fabris also talks about a fourth, bonus way which is a variation of the shoulder cut. Instead of drawing the sword all way you just keep your arm extended and stiffened.
The Shoulder cut
The shoulder cut generates the biggest amount of power and has the most „threatening“ look (meaning our opponent perceives it as the biggest threat unless they are not entirely cold blooded). But there is a but – the problem is it takes both a lot of time to land from the initial movement and a lot of time to recover – which simply gives a tempo to our opponent to strike.
That’s why if you’d like to use it you should practice it swiftly, trying not to overuse energy and learn how to quickly return to a guard. Alternatively, striking crossways will certainly help to improve your flow.
The Fabris‘ fourth way of cutting is plus-minus a less energy consuming version of the shoulder cut. What you need to do is to raise your arm with the sword high above your head and then strike down, with the wrist stiffened and sword extended towards your opponent. To people practicing German longsword – it is as if you were striking from Vom Tag to Langort. Simple enough.
Interesting sidenote – Fabris mentions that if the cut is done vertically downward, the sword may hit the ground which may cause its breaking! Rapier is not a light weapon, surviving specimen vary from 0,7 to 1,5 kilograms (1.5-3.3lbs) and striking from the shoulder with quite some force makes it sometimes hard to stop.
In the last exercise dealing with shoulder cuts in the video you can see me doing funny jumping. Actually it is a very good basis for more advanced actions were you will utilize either the height advantage or use dynamic weight shifts to acquire more strenght or reach in your attack.
The Elbow cut
As the name suggest, the second way of cutting is done primarily from the elbow. The elbow cut is (besides the Fabris‘ so-called stiffened arm) maybe the most used way of cutting. With the elbow, you can throw a cut fast enough with a considerable force.
The sword’s arc is not as wide as with the shoulder cut and the arm does not create a very large opening. You should practice striking the elbow cut crosswise and also to the lower openings.
Nicoletto Giganti in his second book says that you should be well trained in performing cross striking, quote:
„You must exercise by delivering the mandritti and roversci to condition your arm and quicken your legs… Train this by executing two or three hundred cuts to both sides, without stopping.“
After your arm will be well trained to cut to the different openings, add a lunge to your exercise. Besides the conservative lunge you should also practice a leaping lunge which will give you a very long reach. All you need to do is to kick your leg forward and land in a deep stance. I will talk about this kind of lunging in more detail in a separate video.
The Wrist Cut
Finally, the last way of cutting is delivering the cut from the wrist. Fabris states that this way is far better than either of the previous two. Even though the sword makes an arc, the arm remains motionless and extended towards your opponent.
This achieves that your body will be still covered by your arm and it will be harder for your opponent to parry your blow thanks to the speed of this way of cutting.
Since in this cut the whole power is generated just by the circular motion of your wrist it’s actually very easy to change the blow into a parry if the need arises. Also, the wrist cut may be used to parry another cut and you can then shoot your point forward to either hit with a thrust or make your opponent parry it and make another cut to his legs et cetera.
Again, don’t forget to practice the wrist cut with deep lunges – or the firm footed attacks, as our ancestors used to call it.
After you’ll become well skilled with all three (or four) ways of cutting with Rapier, take Giganti’s advice and with every solo practice try to do the 300 cuts challenge. Don’t be afraid to do any combinations you may come up with; there are as many different types of cuts as there are schools or books about rapier. Everything is helpful in practice. The better you’ll be able to throw a cut from any position in practice, the easier it will be for you in sparring, free fencing or in tournaments. Just don’t forget – every action must have its aim and purpose.
Thanks for watching the first video in the Learn Rapier series – the next part will explore some footwork exercises and principles of the Fabris’ school of Italian rapier! See you later 😉