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Exchange of Thrusts – Technical Execution with Tactical Notes

Exchange of Thrusts - Technical Execution with Tactical Notes

The attached video details the execution of one of Fiore dei Liberi’s signature techniques: the scambiar de punta (exchange of thrusts).  A recent discussion of this action on social media posed the question: is it a parry-riposte or is it a counterattack?  Opinions were divided, as opinions often are, and in general I subscribe to the interpretation that the action is a counterattack.  That case is made in a good post by Tuomas Tähtinen, and I largely agree with his position:

https://fencimistic.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/the-exchange-of-thrusts/

The question of “how do you do this action?” was directed to me, so this quick video and write-up is the answer.  I necessarily deal with the original question - parry-riposte or counterattack? - as well.

The action is detailed in the exemplar plays of the sword in two hands, zogho largo (wide play):

“This play, called exchange of thrusts, is done this way. As the opponent attacks you with a thrust, step out of line with your front foot, then pass obliquely also offline, crossing his sword with your arms while thrusting in his face or chest with your point high, as shown.”  (translation copyright Tom Leoni)

It’s also noted that three guards - Posta Tutta Porta di Ferro, Posta di Donna, and Posta di Finestra - can execute this action well.

The video is largely self-explanatory, but since I shot it quickly in class and without a script, a few notes are provided.

First, a parry riposte is two separate actions: one for the parry, and one for the riposte.  A counterattack is an action that happens in a single unit of fencing time: there is no break or pause in it.  For an action to be a counterattack, it must meet two conditions: it must happen in a single unit of fencing time, and it must happen within the time of the attack it opposes.  By way of contrast, a parry-riposte doesn’t need to happen entirely within the time of the action it opposes: the parry completes as the original attack completes, and the riposte happens in an immediately subsequent unit of fencing time.

Note that the tactical setups involve two different approaches: first, induce the attack by pressing his blade to one side, prompting an attack by disengagement on the other, and second, close into measure and transition to a guard with a “refused” or back stance, thus opening distance in my favor in the critical moment he chooses to attack.

Other than that, I think video is pretty self-explanatory.  Enjoy!

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About Sean Hayes

Maestro Sean Hayes initially studied classical French fencing under Maitre d’armes Adam Adrian Crown in Ithaca, New York; and also pursued studies of rapier and dagger under Maitre Crown. In 1995 he began his studies of traditional Italian fencing at California’s San Jose State University Fencing Master’s Program, under the direction of fencing master Dr. William M. Gaugler. The program employs the system of instruction developed by Masaniello Parise, first director of the celebrated 19th century Military Masters School in Rome (Scuola Magistrale di Scherma). The program trains teachers to think critically about the details of fencing theory and the application of fencing theory in actual practice, to work with students closely and carefully, and to observe the most minute aspects of their performance in the lesson and when fencing. Maestro Hayes apprenticed directly under Maestro Gaugler from 1995 to 1999. His examination for Master At Arms was open to the public, and conducted by an international board of 6 fencing masters representing the United States, France, and Italy. The examination included oral and practical components: intense questioning on the smallest aspects of classical Italian fencing theory; the candidate required to teach group lessons, individual lessons, take individual lessons; and finally to teach any actions or combination of several actions in any weapons desired by the board to a fellow candidate.

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