Last week, I posted an individual lesson that I gave to my wife Dori before practice on Sunday. I thought the lesson went pretty well, and that it might be interesting to go through each of the actions and explain in a little bit more detail what was going on. Dori is a pretty advanced student, and we’ve been working on Capoferro together for a couple of years now, so I’m able to put things into our lesson that wouldn’t work well for someone without the same level of experience and familiarity with the system or the teaching format.
In time, as the instructor changes to an invitation of 4th, straight thrust, with a fixed foot lunge.
Same thing, instructor’s choice as to which line is opened. (including low lines)
In the classical Italian tradition, we always start our lessons off with the simple attacks (Straight thrust, disengagement, and glide – we also sometimes include the simple cuts). One of the keys to being a successful fencer is the ability to perform simple actions with precision and speed, so we always make it a point to practice these actions at the beginning of every action. In this case, my student is fairly advanced, and I wanted to immediately start focusing on speed, timing, and reflexes. After the first couple actions were done on command and Dori was warmed up, we switched to actions in time, and I started varying the lines in which she was attack. With an action in time, the student should initiate their attack as soon as I change the placement of the weapon. When done properly, the student should be on a hair trigger and be ready to strike immediately. Ideally, the touch should land on me before I’ve finished moving my weapon to its new position. To make things even more tricky, I can vary my timing, and also invite to a different line. In order to not screw up, the student has to be careful to stay relaxed in the guard and never move too soon.
In time, as the instructor attempts a blade seizure in 4th, disengagement in time (with a lunge)
Same thing, instructor’s choice as to which line to do the blade seziure in. (including low lines)
The reasoning for this action is very similar to the one above. I’ve added a little bit of footwork on the part of the instructor, and have now asked the student to do a full lunge.
In time, blade seizure in fourth and glide.
Same thing, the instructor’s blade position determines the line to do the blade seizure in.
We’re still in the warmup phase of the lesson, but this is going to be the basic action that the rest of the lesson is built off of. In the majority of the plates in Capoferro, the action begins with one fencer stepping into measure while having gained the opponents weapon. While in most cases, the opponent responds with a disengagent, one of the implications is that if the opponent doesn’t do anything, the fencer should lunge and hit them.
Same thing, as the instructor executes a disengagement in time, time thrust in either 3rd or 4th, depending on the initial line of attack.
Now, we start to get into some of the actions that are described in the plates. In this case, the student will either perform the action described in plate 7, or the one described in plate 16. As the instructor, it is my choice as to which action the student will do. If I want Dori to do the action in plate 7 (time thrust in 3rd) I place my weapon in a way so that she can gain it in her inside line. Similarly, if I want her to do the action in plate 16, I set the action up so that she must gain on her outside line. Normally, it’s easier to do each of these actions separately, before treeing off and adding the different actions. In thise case, the student is pretty well aquainted with the actions and we could move through pretty quickly. Even so, I had her practice each action a couple times in a row before I started randomizing things. One last thing that I did with a couple of these actions was to not do the disengagement. This adds one more choice for the student, who should never get settle into too much of a rhythm during a lesson or anticipate the actions of the instructor. The actions should always be action -> reaction. Not doing the disengagment in some fo the actions forces the student to pay attention to what the instructor is actually doing, not what they think the expecting them to do.
Blade seizure in fourth, as the instructor attempts a disengagement in time, time thrust in third (hand in second) with a passing step.
Now, we’ve added a passing step to the student’s action. This is from plate 9.
Blade seizure in third, as the instructor attempts a disengagement in time, time thrust in second to the flank (scannatura) with a passing step.
Adding yet another action, this time from plate 13.
Same thing, but instructors choice as to which line the blade seizure is executed. Student responds with the appropriate passing step.
This is a similar idea as the one before, but the student is now using techniques from different plates to respond to my disengagements.
Blade seizure in low 4th (instructor’s point is lowered, to prompt this). Instructor executes a disengagement in time, student responds with a pass forward with the hand in low 3rd (point high) with the off hand pressing down on the blade to add leverage.
This is the last action that we are adding. This one is from plate 12.
Same thing, instructor’s choice as to which of the three passing steps to execute.
Now we go back and add the choices again, this time with three different possible responses on the student’s side. If we had more time, we could have added choice on the student’s side for whether she would use one of the actions with a passing step, or one of the ones we did early in the lesson for her response. I also could have added actions on my part to start countering her attacks. As she gets used to the counters her reflexes will improve and she will be able to defeat those as well. One last thing that I could have done would be to add footwork to the actions. Before the actions start, I would tell Dori to maintain the distance that we are currently at. Then she would have to advance or retreat to keep pace with me as I step forwards and backwards. When I am ready to start the action, I change the position of my weapon and she starts her attack. Adding mobility to an action can significantly increae the difficulty for the student as it adds yet another thing to focus on while doing the action.
One last thing to note is that the lesson should be the mirror of combat. The lesson is an opportunity for the student to prepare for bouting. As the student becomes more advanced as is able to perform all of the basic actions, the difficulty should be constantly increased, and the lesson should begin to resemble an actual bout.
From the invitation in 4th, three straight thrusts end of lesson.
And for the final action, we go back to the simple attack. This is a cooldown period for the student. The student should focus on performing the lunges to the best of their ability and as perfectly as possible. It is a chance for the instructor to take one last look and make any corrections or comments on the student’s form.