We had a complex technique to learn, so I decided to start the class out with warm up drills. In theory, an angled off-line step is a simple thing, even with a passing step. In practice…much more complex. Facing an eager opponent with a sword pointed in your face, and planning to step forward as that thing rockets at your face, at a speed no punch could ever hope to match? That takes courage…and timing, as well as excellent body mechanics.
So after our sprints and strength training, we moved into boxing drills. Started with a simple jab/cross combo. Boxing is an excellent exercise for the more academic fencers. It’s very hard for a rooted fighter to box correctly. You have to develop agile feet and smooth body movement to perform basic techniques well, and fencing tends to make people stiff. Our counters to the jab were a lean back…to the cross, a weave. To do the weave right, you need to bend the knees and pull the head under and over to the outside of the punch. A little step helps, especially for the counter-attacks.
We built up a sequence of drills…variation in the weave, counter, blocks…I took the students on a little tour of world-wide martial arts counters to a jab/cross, all building off of the lean/weave. The variations didn’t matter, they were just something to occupy the mind while the body got on with learning the mechanics of the weave, as an independent action from the lean back, which most fencers use instinctively.
With a good weave mechanic starting to show up, we picked up swords and moved on to Marozzo’s counter to the stoccata…a stabbing attack. In this case, he supposes you are being stabbed while you have your left leg forward, which is generally a thing you do when attacking, not defending. He tells us that with single sword we have four safe counters, and they all seem pretty good. The complex one is the simplest, where he tells us we can just step “strongly” with our right leg towards our attackers left side, and stab them in the side. Seems easy, but it’s a very slow tempo action against a very fast tempo attack. My hunch was that the weave base would allow students to figure out a working interpretation.
And it did. It took work and some angst, but it started to come together. The students who picked it up the fastest were the ones who had the weave footwork down the best. They figured to shift away from the static rear-weighted Capoferro-ish stance to a more balanced and aggressive stance, and were able to level change and move past the stab at a good angle. They had it down enough that they could move into open sparring and try to work the technique in a more organic setting. The night wrapped with some good fights, and everyone trying to work in the techniques from the last few classes on unsuspecting partners.