Rad’s first exercise places the student in the center of the Maximum Orb facing an adversary (or instructor) in order to practice linear steps.  The direction of the steps is indicated by letters on the circle (Point A to Point K, From Point A to Point L, etc.) with footprints to show the location of the feet when the steps are completed.

Forward and Backward

Forward Step (Compas Accidental)

  • From Point A, step forward with the lead foot to Point K
  • Step forward with the rear foot to Point K to return to the stance
  • To return to center from Point K, step backward with the rear foot to Point A
  • Push off the front foot to step back  into the stance at Point A

Backward Step (Compas Estraño)

  • From Point A, step back with the rear foot to Point R
  • Push off the front foot to step back  into the stance at Point R
  • To return to center from Point R, step forward with the front foot to Point A
  • Step forward with the rear foot back into the stance at Point A

Lateral Steps

Lateral Step Left (Compas de Trepidacion a la Izquierda)

  • From Point A, step left with the left foot to Point N
  • Finish the step left by stepping to Point N with the right foot and returning to the stance
  • Step to Point A by stepping right with the right foot
  • Finish the step by stepping right with the left foot to Point A

Lateral Step Right (Compas de Trepidacion a la Derecha)

  • From Point A, step right with the right foot to Point O
  • Finish the step right by stepping to Point O with the left foot and returning to the stance
  • Step to Point A by stepping left with the left foot
  • Finish the step by stepping left with the right foot to Point A

 Transverse Steps

Transverse Left (Compas Transversal a la Izquierda)

  • From Point A step forward to the left at a 45 degree angle with the front foot to Point M pre-turning the foot back towards the adversary
  • Finish by stepping with the rear foot to return to stance at Point M

Transverse Right (Compas Transversal a la Derecha)

  • From Point A step forward to the right at a 45 degree angle with the front foot to Point L pre-turning the foot back towards the adversary
  • Finish by stepping with the rear foot to return to stance at Point L

Mixed Back & Lateral

Mixed Step Left & Back (Compas Mixto de Trepidacion a la Izquierda y Estraño)

  • From Point A step backward to the left at a 45 degree angle with the rear foot to Point P
  • Finish by stepping with the front foot to return to stance at Point P

Mixed Step Right & Back (Compas Mixto de Trepidacion a la Derecha y Estraño)

  • From Point A step backward to the right at a 45 degree angle with the rear foot to Point Q
  • Finish by stepping with the front foot to return to stance at Point Q

In the previous post we outlined the Measure of Proportion (Medio de Proporcion) which can be treated as the distance at which you can safely respond to an attack.  One simple way to think of this is to consider the Measure of Proportion a line between you and your adversary.  That neglects the possibility that you could be attacked by multiple adversaries.

A better idea would be to imagine your defensive space as a bubble that surrounds you.  If a threat enters the bubble, it must be addressed.  Likewise, you will not advance on an opponent without addressing their threat in some way.  Lorenz de Rada describes this very concept when he outlines his Maximum Orb.

Rada's Maximum Orb

The radius of the Maximum Orb is defined by the Measure of Proportion and it can change depending on the adversary’s weapon and body type.  For example an enemy carrying a spear will require a larger defensive distance than one with only a dagger.

Both you and your adversary have a personal Maximum Orb and it is a compelling concept that you and your opponent can walk the circumference without every getting closer.

Other Martial Traditions

In Aikido the term “Ma-ai” refers to the distance (or interval) between two adversaries.  Distance in Aikido is set by your adversary’s ability to strike you.  If the adversary holds a weapon like a knife, Ma-ai distance is increased to account for the greater range of the threat.

By contrast, in the Italian fencing tradition distance is typically understood as the distance your attack must travel to strike the adversary.

  • Close Distance or Narrow Measure: Without moving the feet the adversary may be struck by extending the weapon arm.
  • Correct Distance or Wide Measure: The adversary may be struck with a lunge.
  • Out of Distance: The adversary cannot be struck without moving forward.

The key difference between the Japanese measure and the Italian one is the emphasis it places on the conflict.  The practitioner of Aikido evaluates the distance needed to defend oneself and the Italian evaluates his own ability to strike.  Each martial artist will evaluate offensive and defensive measure, but the measure which is codified provides us an indication of the focus of the art.

The Spanish break distance down into two separate categories using both the concepts of defensive distance used in Aikido and offensive distance used in Italian fencing.  Like the Aikido practitioner, the first measure of concern to a Spanish fencer will be the defensive distance.

The Measure of Proportion (Defensive Distance or Place)

(En español – Medio de Proporcion )

This is the closest distance to the adversary in which you may still effectively observe and react to possible threats.  The Measure of Proportion should consider the weapon being used by the adversary and their physical stature.  It is very unlikely that two opponents will have exactly the same Measure of Proportion.

When Pacheco defined the Measure of Proportion he used the relationship between the two weapons as his guide.  He advocates setting the distance so that when the adversary extends his arm at full reach, the point of his weapon reaches no further than the cross of your own weapon.  If two opponents have equal bodies and equal swords, they will share the same Measure of Proportion.

Setting the Measure of Proportion for two swords of equal length

"Measure of proportion when the swords are of equal length - very important" - Pacheco

If the opponent has a longer weapon, how you set your own distance should change and your goal becomes to prevent the adversary from closing the distance so that their threat passes the cross of your weapon.  The physical size of the adversary is also considered when setting the distance.  For example, an opponent with long legs will have a long lunge and the Measure of Proportion will change to compensate.

Setting the Measure of Proportion against a weapon of greater length

"Measure of proportion for a shorter sword against a longer sword." - Pacheco

When your weapon is longer than the adversary’s your goal in setting distance is to close measure enough to maintain your own Measure of Proportion while violating the defensive distance of your adversary and continually keeping them threatened.

"Measure of proportion for a longer sword versus a shorter sword" - Pacehco

"Measure of proportion for a longer sword versus a shorter sword" - Pacehco

A Better Way to Set Distance

Rather than set a firm rule Ettenhard later provides a more nuanced description of this distance which is based on a principle rather than setting defensive measure based on the cross of the sword.

To choose the Measure of Proportion is to determine a proportionate and convenient distance from which the Swordsman can recognize the movements of his opponent, since for whatever determination of his, there should proceed, of body like of arm and Sword: Of body, by means of footwork: and of Sword, by means of the formation of the Technique.

Restated, the Measure of Proportion must be chosen so that the fencer can recognize a threat from the adversary.  You can anticipate the adversary’s actions if you provide yourself enough distance (and therefore time) to recognize motions of the sword or body.

The Lines

on December 16, 2011 in Destreza Theory | No Comments »

Lines

Within La Verdadera Destreza the lines an attack may travel are codified by the position of the blade.

  • High Line (Rectitud Alta):  The region of space above the weapon is described as the high line.
  • Low Line (Rectitud Baja):  The region of space below the weapon is described as the low line.
  • Inside Line (Parte de Adentro): For a right-handed swordsman the inside line will be the region of space to the left of the weapon.  For a left-handed swordsman the inside line will be the region of space to the right of the weapon.  (The inside line is typically on the same side of the weapon as the swordsman’s chest, abdomen, and groin.)
  • Outside Line (Parte de Afuera):  For a right-handed swordsman the outside line will be the region of space to the right of the weapon.  For a left-handed swordsman the outside line will be the region of space to the left of the weapon.  (The outside line is typically on the same side of the weapon as the swordsman’s back, flank, and buttocks.)

Kevin Demonstrates the Lines (Front View)

 

In addition the Spanish define lines before and behind the swordsman’s lead shoulder.

 

  • Forward Line (Rectitud de Adelante):  The region of space in front of the swordsman’s weapon shoulder or sometimes anything in front of the swordsman.
  • Rear Line (Rectitud de Atrás):  The region of space behind the swordsman’s weapon shoulder or sometimes anything behind the swordsman. 

Kevin Demonstrates the Lines (Side View)

 

The authors may also refer to the left or right lines which will be specific to each swordsman.  These lines often describe target areas on the body.  The adversary may attack my flank on my right line while I could attack his chest on his left line.

  • Left Line (Rectitud del Lado Izquierdo):  The left side of the swordsman with respect to his body.  For example the chest, left cheek, and abdomen all exist in the adversary’s left line assuming he is right-handed.
  • Right Line (Rectitud del Lado Derecho):  The right side of the swordsman with respect to his body.  For example the back, right cheek, and flank all exist on the adversary’s right line assuming he is right-handed.

In the Italian fencing system, fighting is broken up into pieces of time called “tempi” or “fencing times” in English.  For example, a fencing action might take place in a single tempo (one unit of fencing time), mezzo tempo (a half tempo), or due tempi (two times).  It is a useful tool for teaching timing to a student and an action with less tempi is generally considered more desirable.

The Spanish fencing science takes the idea of tempi even farther by using a vector-based system of notating actions through movements.

Aristotle states in his book Physics Time is the numeration of continuous movement.

By this definition, we can reexamine tempi as the summation of different motions.  In the Spanish science all fencing actions are described as “movements.”  There are movements of the blade and footwork to move the body.  By using the two together, we can not only understand fencing time, we can also create a shorthand notation for describing complex actions and their counters.

The Spanish fencing authors describe blade actions as a series of varying length vectors through space.  To be more clear a vector is a line with magnitude and direction.

A vector that indicates motion to the right of the reader. (This vector has an undetermined magnitude.)

This allows the Spanish notation to be extremely precise when describing the motions of the blade associated with specific actions like cuts, the Atajo, or even Italian actions described by Spanish authors.

To better illustrate this, observe this map of three dimensional space with a sword pointed along the Diameter (or Line of Direction) towards the adversary.

Map of 3D space

Natural Movement

(En español – Movimiento Natural )

A Natural motion is one in which the blade falls to the earth.  More specifically, the blade is lowered.   One example would be a vertical cut downwards.

In a Natural Movement the blade is lowered.

In a Natural Movement the blade is lowered.

Violent Movement

(En español- Movimiento Violento)

A Violent motion is one in which the blade rises.  One example might be the chambering of a vertical cut.

In a Violent Movement the blade is lifted.

In a Violent Movement the blade is lifted.

Forward Movement

(En español – Movimiento Accidental)

A Forward motion is when the blade travels toward the adversary along the Diameter (Line of Direction).  One example would be a thrust.

In a Forward Movement the blade travels towards the adversary.

In a Forward Movement the blade travels towards the adversary.

Backward Movement

(En español - Movimiento Extraño)

A Backward motion is when the sword is withdrawn away from the adversary along the Diameter (Line of Direction).  One example might be pumping the arm back to execute a jabbing attack.  (This is not a recommended action, and Don Luis Pacheco de Narváez describes how to defeat this pumping of the weapon arm in an adversary.)

In a Backward Movement the blade travels directly away from the adversary.

In a Backward Movement the blade travels directly away from the adversary.

Offline Lateral Movement

(En español -Movimiento Remiso)

An Offline Lateral motion is when the point of the weapon is carried away from the Diameter (Line of Direction) either to the left or right.  Notice that the Spanish create a special case for movements that bring the point away from the target.  It might be tempting to merely use lateral movements as descriptors but the Spanish notation relates specifically to removing the threat from the adversary.  This might be a parry or the chambering of a horizontal cut.

In a Offlline Lateral Movement the blade travels either right or left away from the adversary.  (The act of removing the point from presence to one side or the other.)

In an Offline Lateral Movement the blade travels either right or left away from the adversary. (The act of removing the point from presence to one side or the other.)

Aligning Lateral Movement

(En español – Movimiento de Reducción)

An Aligning Lateral motion is when the blade is returned from either the left or right back to the Diameter (Line of Direction).  It is interesting to note that bringing the weapon across the Diameter is counted as two distinct movements.  If the point is offline, bringing it towards the Diameter is an Aligning Lateral Movement, but when it crosses the Diameter and continues traveling in the lateral plane without stopping this becomes an Offline Lateral Movement.  This is very useful for indicating the different tactical situations that are possible when a blade is leaving or entering presence. An Aligning Lateral Movement might be the delivery of a horizontal cut or bring the weapon back into line after the adversary has executed a beat.

In an Aligning Lateral Movement the blade travels either right or left towards the Diameter and towards the adversary. (The act of returning the point into presence from one side or the other.)

Mixed Movement

(En español - Movimiento Mixto )

A Mixed Movement is a single motion that is a combination of two blade movements that don’t conflict.  For example an Offline Lateral Movement can be mixed with a Violent Movement in a single motion to form a Mixed Movement.

In this image we see a mixed Movement consisting of a Violent Movement and an Offline Lateral Movement in a single motion.

In this image we see a mixed Movement consisting of a Violent Movement and an Offline Lateral Movement in a single Mixed Movement.

Counting Time Through Motion

Like the Italian system we can count time using the Spanish notation.  An action with fewer movements is more desirable than an action with a greater number of movements.

Let’s compare two actions:

Diagonal Reverse (Riverso Squalembrato in Italian)

  1. Mixed Movement combining an Offline Lateral Movement to the left and a Violent Movement in order to chamber the cut over the left shoulder
  2. Mixed Movement combining an Aligning Lateral Movement and a Natural Movement to deliver the cut

Thrust

  1. Forward Movement along the Diameter to deliver the thrust

Description of Defense or Counteroffense

Because the Thrust requires fewer movements than the Diagonal Reverse it can defeat the cutting attack in the first movement.  In addition, we can use the counted movements of the adversary’s action to give the reader a guide to the timing of defense or counteroffense.

For example:

Countering the Diagonal Reverse

In the adversary’s first movement as the cut is chambered the fencer may strike with a thrust.

During the adversary’s second movement, the fencer may defend by placing the Atajo.

Final Notes

The Spanish notation is system agnostic so it can be applied to any weapon or tradition of fencing.  In historical Spain, authors used this notated system of Movements to describe the actions of the single-handed sword and the two-handed sword called the Montante.  The AEEA fencers in Spain today also use Destreza’s science and notation to analyze and teach the swordplay of other non-Spanish authors as well like Fiore.

Welcome to the updated Destreza Translation and Research Project site.

We have added some web 2.0 features to bring the site forward including:

  • This Blog – Articles about material related to Destreza
  • The Destreza Wiki – Includes a new theory section and other material that is easy to edit and update (glossary, theory material, bibliography)
  • The Destreza Forum – A place for the Destreza crowd to chat, share, or even argue and for anyone to ask questions
  • The DTRP Site – A place where we will keep more finished content

~P.