Cutting was next up in our basics rotation last class. The idea was to spend the first five minutes or so of the rapier portion of class just doing a simple review drill, and then moving on to the lesson for the night. I had a more rigid technical practice planned for a follow-up, but after our Stretching/Prana-bindu (yes, we are going to call it that now. We’re geeks. Deal.) class, there was no way anyone had the juice for finicky point work. So I dredged up some older cutting drills, and we kept on.
Cutting is an excellent way to follow up an intense and draining session of re-alignment. In the Prana-bindu session, we learned just how strong each muscle was in relation to it’s opposite member. Our bodies were pulled apart and put together, and we re-learned how to sit, stand and walk all over again when we were done. We aren’t sore when we are done, but all our muscles are swollen and a bit puffy feeling. You’ve got a more centered feeling to your body, and little more awareness of balance than is normal.
Cutting is best done as a movement exercise with footwork, at least with a rapier. The rapier is slow to change path when an arc has been committed to, and there is always a tendency to become predictable. Marozzo is pretty clear about the need to have an off-hand or step used for protection when throwing more than one cut in a sequence, because the wrist can become a still-point in all the motion, and a clear target.
Lacking an offhand, footwork is the most important part of cutting. The foot truly supports the hand. Standing mirror to your opponent, only so many angles and targets are available to be struck. A simple falling cut stands little chance of landing. Add in a step to one side or the other, and new options open. New angles become apparent. With awareness of the opponents intention, and a little help from the coup d’oeil, you can use a simple step to alter the timing and measure of your cut from what the opponent expects, and turn a offensive action into a deceptive counter-attack.
Of course, if you want to get really good at such things, you need to spend time mastering the connection between sword and foot. That covers a whole lot of body in motion. Co-ordination can be a very difficult thing on that scale, especially if you intend to try something along the lines of a falling cut changing into, say, an inquartata.
Cutting against a pattern on the wall is a good drill. Doing it with simple steps of front a back foot is also a good drill. Doing it while circling a post is better, and better still is cutting that pattern while circling a training partner with sword in hand. Even better is cutting the pattern while both you and your opponent move. You can also cut the pattern while your opponent does. Cut at the same tempo as your opponent, and you will have a meeting engagement. Cut a tempo after, and you have a following engagement, where you practice at coming into the space behind an opponents blow.
We wrapped up our cutting practice for the night by having one side freely attack with just thrusts, and the other side freely attacking with just cuts, switching sides up after a bit. Newer students quickly learned to use the cuts for defense against thrusts, while experienced students naturally moved into compound cutting and stepping actions for aggressive, yet subtle attacks. When two experienced student paired up, it was a game of dancing chess.