I once, for a demo, acted out the famous and oft-quoted fencing scene from “Princess Bride,” with one key difference. We fenced against each other in the period styles quoted, changing from one style to another as dictated by the lines in the movie:
Inigo Montoya: You are using Bonetti’s Defense against me, ah?
Man in Black: I thought it fitting considering the rocky terrain.
Inigo Montoya: Naturally, you must suspect me to attack with Capa Ferro?
Man in Black: Naturally… but I find that Thibault cancels out Capa Ferro. Don’t you?
Inigo Montoya: Unless the enemy has studied his Agrippa… which I have.
It was a rather spectacular demo. We were in the Vancouver Art Gallery, and fenced the entire performance down the length of the giant, sweeping white marble steps. We fenced down the slick surface to the mesmerized looks of models, fashionistas, media moguls, reporters and social elite. In order to make a better spectacle, we dressed in accurate Renaissance garb, and stripped our usual sparring weapons of there safety blunts. The only dagger Devon had available was actually a sharp weapon. We didn’t expect the marble, and the slipperyness combined with unsafe weapons added a verite to the demo that helped make it memorable for everyone. Probably good no one knew how close we came to skewering each other more than once…
It was just one of the crazy things Devon Boorman and I did to try and kickstart Academie Duello. It was a fundraiser event of some kind, something for literacy. I don’t remember what, but I remember being interviewed at some length for a Russian TV show. I don’t think we got a single student out of it, but man, you can’t pay for memories like that!
We spent weeks working out the choreography. Bonetti was a puzzle. Like most fencing instructors of the time, he left no written materials behind to document his style. All we knew of him to start was Silver mentioned that he was beat up a few times. After a little digging we learned he was an Italian teaching in London, and Saviolo eventually took his place. That wasn’t too bad. Saviolo wrote a manual, and we were familiar with it. Since I was taking on the role of Inigo, and Devon was the Man in Black, I started with Marozzo. I mean, why not? I like Marozzo. We did a quick pass of cuts, and Devon adopted one of Saviolo’s wards, and that covered the first line.
After that I transitioned to Capo Ferro, adopting the Terza guard, moving from cuts to careful lines and disengages. A few more passes were done that way. By the way, Capo Ferro is an excellent counter to Saviolo.
Right on cue, just as we hit the bottom of the staircase, Devon transitioned to a nice upright Destraza posture, and began circling. Which is, indeed, a bitch to deal with from Terza. Especially when your opponent is a very, very tall man. Which was my cue to invoke the power of Agrippa.
Which is actually a great counter to Thibault. When your blade is dominated from above, one of the best things you can do is move to a Prima guard. The gathering and expanding steps of Agrippa add a nice little bounce of a movement, just a little more Italian lunge-y than the restrained Spanish stepping. And so timely, as we were just finding out that the floor was nearly as slippery as the steps. Fortunately we were both damned skilled with our blades, because there were a few close calls. Sometimes retrospect makes things clearer, sometimes it scares the crap out of you…
It was a fun demo, and we survived. It was kinda neat to see that Goldman’s name-dropping sequence actually played out pretty well in real-ish life. It was a stylish demo, even if not a single soul other than us understood what we were doing. The things you do to get a business going…