The art of fencing is most ancient, and was discovered in the times of Nino, King of the Assyrians, who, through use of the advantage of arms, was made monarch and patron of the world; from the Assyrians the monarchy passed to the Persians; the praise of this practice, through the valor of Ciro, from the Persians, came to the Macedonians, from these to the Greeks, from the Greeks it was fixed in the Romans, who (as testifies Vegetius) brought to the field masters of fencing, whom they named “Campi ductores, vel doctores” which is to say, guides, or masters of the field, and these taught the soldiers the strikes of the thrust and the cut against a pole. — Ridolfo CapoFerro
Last night was the fourth class on rapier and dagger at the Decatur School of Arms. Our goal with the lesson was to practice some of the guards and dagger parries from Capoferro’s text. In particular, plates 26, and 28.
Plate 26 demonstrates parrying with the rapier and dagger together and then making a riposte while maintaining opposition with the dagger.
Plate 28 demonstrates a dagger parry under the sword arm, the hit can be made with either a thrust or a cut, we practiced only the thrust.
Here’s the lesson plan:
Starting in a closed guard* of third, as the instructor changes to an invitation in closed third, straight thrust with a lunge, keeping the dagger forwards for opposition
Starting in a closed guard of third, as the instructor attempts to engage in close fourth, disengagement with a lunge, closing with the dagger under the sword arm and protecting the flank
From a closed guard of third, the instructor attacks the inside high line with a straight thrust, counterattack in fourth while parrying upwards with the dagger towards your left.
From a closed guard of third, the instructor attacks the inside high line with a straight thrust, parry in fourth with both weapons together and making contact. Riposte with a thrust to the chest while maintaining opposition with the dagger
Same as 4, but riposte with a cut to the arm.
Starting from a closed guard in third, attempt to engage the opponent’s blade in third, at the same time pull your dagger back so that you end in an open guard of third. As the instructor attacks with a disengagement, parry downwards with the dagger under your sword arm and counterattack with a thrust to the chest in second.
Throughout the lesson we frequently make adjustments to the lesson as written to further challenge students. Here are some variations that we worked on:
Add mobility to any of the actions. Students must maintain distance as the instructor moves and still be ready to execute the correct action at the proper moment
Give students the option of choosing to counterattack or parry the instructor’s attack (3 or 4)
Give students the option of riposting with a cut or a thrust (4 or 5) or riposting with a cut to the right cheek
For the final action, students could choose whether to change to an open guard or remain in a closed guard, if the remain in a closed guard they have the option of responding to the instructor’s disengagement with a counterattack or a parry and riposte (3, 4, or 5)
I’ve been using the terminology of open and closed guards to refer to guards where the sword and dagger are separated or joined together. For instance, plate 4 in Capoferro depicts a guard of third (C) where the dagger is held back a bit from the sword, I’m referring to this as an open guard. The same plate shows a guard (E) where the dagger is shown next to the strong of the sword. I’m referring to this as a closed guard.