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Classical Academy of Arms

A Society for Classical Fencing Instructor Training and Credentialling

Topics 2016-2017

This page includes Website Continuing Education Topics and their review questions for years 2016-2017.  You can still earn continuing education credit by using the answer sheet on this webpage.

Topics are being transferred from the Website CE page as work permits until we finally load the December 2017 topic.

 

APRIL 2017 - A Variety of Counterattacks

Counterattacks have long been a part of fencing in all three weapons.  As the term suggests by its name, a counterattack is an action made by one fencer to score a hit in reaction to an attack initiated by the other fencer.  With sharp weapons, the counterattack could literally stop the attack as it developed by inflicting a wound that prevented continued forward movement.  With the two conventional fencing weapons, the rules started with a series of propositions as to which type of action had precedence over the other.  This eventually evolved into the concept that a counterattack took the opponent's right of way if it landed before the start of the final action of the attack.  The dueling sword preserved the reality of he who hits first wins.

Central to the idea of the counterattack is the idea of time, both actual time (in the case of the dueling sword) and tempo (in foil and sabre).  Remember that one tempo is the amount of time needed for the completion of a simple action.  However, this has not always been the only definition of tempo.  Paolo Bertelli's 1800 fencing treatise discusses actions in time in the terms of movement, faults of movement, and blade actions by the opponent which create the conditions in which the fencer can launch a time action to hit.  As late as 1884 Masaniello Parise defined tempo in a similar way as a favorable moment in which an action can be executed when the opponent pauses or is distracted.

The following examples show the variety and subtleness of differences between them (and this is not a complete list of contemporary variations).  In 1884 Parise lists four pure blade actions in tempo:

  • Arrest - a straight thrust closing the line against feints or disengages.
  • Appuntata - an action from the lunge to land on the opponent's feint when the opponent detaches to riposte with a feint.
  • Cavazione in Tempo - a disengage counterattack against an opponent who tries to find the fencer's extended blade.
  • Imbroccata - an opposition counterthrust against gliding attacks starting in the fourth or second lines.  

In 1892 Louis Rondelle lists three counterattacks:

  • Time Thrust - a thrust with opposition that intercepts the attacker's final action, preventing it from landing with opposition while simultaneously scoring a hit.
  • Stop Thrust - an extension of the arm at the start of an opponent's attack or in a wide feint to stop the execution of the attack.
  • Tension - condemned by Rondelle as an action of chance driven by desperation, this is an extension of the arm in an attempt to hit the incoming attacker. 

The American translation of the 1908 French fencing manual of Joinville du Pont lists three types of attacks:

  • Time Thrust (coup de temps) - a counterattack that gains one or more tempos on the opponent's attack.  In other words, this is the modern stop hit which seizes right of way by landing before the start of the final attack.
  • Stop Thrust (coup d'arret) - an attack executed on the opponent's advance, whether or not this advance leads to an attack.  This appears to be the modern attack into preparation.
  • Tension - elevated in this source to a simple extension of the arm without cover, a riposte without a parry, and very close to the modern stop hit. 

In 1915 Master of the Sword George Patton described three counterattacks with the epee:

  • Stop Thrust - an action directed at an exposed part of the opponent who is making a vigorous attack.
  • Counter Thrust - a direct action counterattacking the opponent at the psychological moment at which he is initiating his attack and is most unlikely to effectively react.
  • Time Thrust - a thrust made when the opponent is changing position or making a slow or poor feint.

Julio Martinez Castello's 1933 text described two counterattacks:

  • Time Thrust - a counterattack with opposition catching the opponent's blade and preventing its movement to the desired final line of the attack.
  • Stop Thrust - a thrust with complete extension and opposition against a bent arm or wide attack.

In 1948 Clovis Deladrier identified the same basic actions that are commonly used in modern fencing.

  • Stop Thrust - a straight thrust executed on the moment of the advance or the start of the attack to land cleanly before the attack lands.
  • Time Attack - a counterattack by extension closing the line into which the opponent is expected to attack.

When we examine this list, we can identify certain common characteristics for counterattacks:

(1)  delivered against the attack, either when the attacker is exposed, hesitates, or uses actions that require multiple tempos to complete,

(2)  in most cases based on the straight thrust,

(3)  often with opposition, either to control the opponent's blade or to close the line as a precaution,

(4)  requiring the ability to identify the moment, whether that moment is psychological in determining the attack or physical with the start of movement, and

(5)  delivered with decision, speed, and courage,

(6)  and in accordance with the specific theories of a fencing master or a school of fencing.

The variety of terminology and the subtleties of interpretation in defining the varieties of stop thrusts, time thrusts, counter thrusts, tensions, etc. mean that it is important that your teaching of technique and terminology is consistent with that of the texts you use as sources.

REVIEW QUESTIONS

1.  QUESTION:  Which of the following is the best practice when teaching counterattacks?

  • a.  use the standard terminology that a stop hit is direct and must land before the start of the final tempo and that a time hit is a stop hit with opposition
  • b.  use the most current terminology used by the school that you are teaching
  • c.  use terminology consistent with the fencing master and text that you use as your source

2.  QUESTION:  What function does opposition perform in a counterattack?

  • a.  it encourages the opponent to deceive the opposition with a circular parry which the counterattacker can then deceive by feint in tempo
  • b.  it causes the opponent to attempt to attack in a different line
  • c.  it intercepts the attack or closes the line so that the attack cannot hit

3.  QUESTION:  What does Patton's Counter Thrust attempt to exploit?

  • a.  the psychological moment in the start of the attack in which it is most vulnerable to disruption
  • b.  the tendency of many attackers to fail to properly cover themselves against a counterattack
  • c.  the moment at which the opponent starts to step forward

Copyright 2017 by the Classical Academy of Arms

MARCH 2017 - A MATTER OF HANDS

In a previous month's continuing education, we made passing reference to hand positions.  This is a complicated subject that deserves more attention, because varies are a characteristic of different schools and because it influences the outcomes of combat.

Note that the following descriptions reference blade positions applicable to foil and epee.  The hand positions described are also correct in sabre, but the curve of the blade is sideways when mounted in the weapon, rather than vertical.

The French School defines three basic hand positions for the weapon hand - supination, pronation, and a middle or neutral position. 

  • In supination the hand is horizontal with the palm upward, and the knuckles downward.  The top surface of the blade (the top surface is the wider surface of the blade that is aligned with the top of the grip and with the bend appearing downward when the grip is held in the neutral position) is to the fencer's outside, with any curve to the blade displacing the point toward the inside.  Used in the Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth parries.
  • In pronation, the hand is horizontal with the palm downward and the knuckles upward.  The top surface of the blade is to the fencer's inside, with any curve to the blade displacing the point toward the outside.  In first guard or parry the hand is vertical with the thumb downward and the back of the hand toward the fencer.  Used in the First, Second, Third, and Fifth parries.
  • In middle or neutral position, the hand is vertical with the thumb up and the palm facing to the inside.  The top surface of the blade is upward, and the curve of the blade displaces the point downward.

The French School creates two complete parrying systems, one composed of all the pronated parries and one of all the supinated parries. Texts describing the French School vary as to whether the middle or neutral position is an accepted hand position.  Some exclude it; some include it, and some include it but only for one guard or parry (typically Fourth).  Other schools use variants of the French system:

  • The Spanish School (which combines some elements of the French and some of the Italian Mixed Schools) prefers the use of the middle position for all guards and parries. 
  • The Kreusslerian Thrust Fencing School (German, as described by Roux) uses pronation (Second and Third parries) and supination (Fourth parry). 

Siebenhaar's Hollandsche Methode (the Dutch School) lacks a detailed description of how to hold the weapon.  However, the illustrations and descriptions of technique appear to show four parries with a modified supination, turning the nails "a little down" (Parry Right and Parry Low Right) or "a little up" (Parry Left) in three parries, complete supination in one (Parry Low Left),  and complete pronation in three (Low Right with the Hand Inverted, High Left, and High Right parries).

Italian technique starts with four hand positions (see Bertelli in 1800) numbered sequentially First through Fourth.  These same four positions eventually are joined by two, or three, others to form what we commonly think of as the characteristic Italian system;

  • First places the hand in a vertical, thumb down position, with the knuckles and back of the hand toward the inside and the palm toward the fencer's outside line.
  • First in Second is an intermediate position with the hand turned at a 45 degree angle from the vertical between First and Second positions.  This hand position doe snot appear in all Italian texts.
  • Second is a position of complete pronation with the knuckles and back of the hand upward and the palm downward.  Used in the Second parry.
  • Second in Third is an intermediate position with the hand turned at a 45 degree angle from the horizontal between Second and Third positions.  Used in the Third parry. 
  • Third is essentially the same as the French middle position with the hand vertical, the thumb uppermost, the knuckles and back of the hand to the outside, and the palm to the inside.
  • Third in Fourth is an intermediate position with the hand turned at a 45 degree angle from the vertical between Third and Fourth positions.  Used in the Fourth and Half-Circle parries.
  • Fourth is a position of complete pronation with the knuckles and back of the hand downward and the palm upward. 

Hand position plays a significant role in whether or not the attack or counterattack arrests under the pressure of the bout.  Some period texts emphasize the arrival of the point as placing the point on the target, an approach that values accuracy in point control.  However, the reality is that stress degrades accuracy.  A relatively small horizontal deviation with the thumb and index finger in supination or pronation introduces a probability of a miss.  The same deviation in the hand in the middle position is a vertical deviation with the probability of hitting the target or at least off target.     

There is another variable in hand position that is not generally identified as important as pronation and supination, but obviously is.  Does the grip and pommel remain in the contour of the hand, or is the pommel displaced, with the blade forming an angle with the hand and arm?  French First and Barbasetti's Italian First with the blade vertical requires the blade, grip, and pommel to rotate free of alignment with the horizontal groove of the palm into the vertical groove.  Similar displacement occurs in two of Siebenhaar's Dutch parries.  Depending on the characteristic length of the grip this may be a factor in angulation in attacks as well. 

REVIEW QUESTIONS

1.  QUESTION:  In which hand position are the nails and palm up, the thumb toward the outside line, and the back of the hand downward?

  • a.  supination or Italian Fourth
  • b.  middle position or Italian first
  • c.  pronation or Italian second

2.  QUESTION:  The Spanish School, which uses a modification of the Italian family of grips, predominantly uses what hand position or positions?

  • a.  the full range of Italian hand positions, first, second, second in third, third, third in fourth, and fourth
  • b.  the full range of French hand positions, supination, pronation, and middle
  • c.  the French middle or neutral hand position

3.  QUESTION:  Which hand positions offer the greatest tolerance of point displacement errors in the riposte?

  • a.  those with the hand horizontal, the palm up, knuckles down, thumb to the outside
  • b.  those with the hand vertical, the palm to the inside, knuckles to the outside, thumb on top
  • c.  those with the hand horizontal, the palm down, knuckles up, thumb to the inside

Copyright 2017 by the Classical Academy of Arms

 

FEBRUARY 2017 - POSITIONS, GUARDS, INVITATIONS, ETC.

In our January continuing education post, we discussed lines, specifically including the standard high line, low line, inside line, and outside line.  These lines are numbered in a system that varies with the school and that has as much to do with the historical orientation of the fencer's hand, as it does with the physical space covered.  The lines are an important construct because of what happens in them, and that is our topic for this month.

When we talk about lines we are talking about two static concepts (position and guard), two offensive acts (attacks and invitations), and two defensive acts (closing the line and parries).  All of these are about the same thing, how the space around the fencer's target area is used.

First, for convenience, let's review the lines and the numbering system associated with those lines in the two most commonly described schools of fencing, the French and the mixed Italian (note that (p) indicates hand in pronation and (n or s) hand in supination in the French school):

The Lines

French

Italian

  Inside Line

 Entire line

  First (p)

 

 Inside High Line

  Fourth (n or s)

  Fourth

 Inside Low Line

  Fifth (p),  Seventh (n or s)

  First

  Outside Line

 Outside High Line

  Third (p), Sixth (n or s)

  Third

 Outside Low Line

  Second (p), Eighth (n or s)

  Second

This is admittedly an oversimplification (it omits high and low variants as well as differences between Italian sources).  But it will serve as a convenient basis for discussion.  It should be noted that French numbering creates two defensive boxes, based on hand position: the supinated or neutral hand box of 4th, 6th, 7th, and 8th and the pronated hand box of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th.

POSITION is the actual position of the blade, hand, and arm in one of the four lines relative to the target.  The presumption is that the positions of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th close the line so that an attack into that line without angulation or opposition will not succeed.  There is one additional position adopted by some portion of the contemporary classical fencers, the central position in which the blade is positioned at the intersection of high and low, inside and outside lines.

GUARD is the combination of blade position with body position in readiness for combat.  A fencer who is in a guard of 4th has the inside line closed, the torso, non-weapon arm, and legs in a position that facilitates movement in offense, defense, and counteroffense.  In common usage, position is not commonly referred to, and guard serves interchangeably for describing the line of the blade.

ATTACKS and preparations are executed in one or more lines.  Thus a feint to the inside high line can be described as a feint to the inside high line or as a feint in 4th.  In those schools in which hand position is considered descriptive of the action (such as in French school) the attack is normally described by the appropriate number - thus an attack in 2nd or in 8th depending on whether the hand is in pronation or a neutral position.

INVITATIONS are actions conducted to stimulate an opponent to execute a specific attack so that the attack can be parried, followed by a riposte to score, or can be hit by counteroffense.  English language texts of the French School do not generally make a point of naming invitations.  However, Italian sources name invitations based on the resemblance of the invitation to a parry.  Thus an invitation of 4th resembles a parry of 4th and opens the opposite line, the high outside line.

CLOSING THE LINE is defensive in nature, although it can be both the restoral of a defensive blade position and as a part of an attacking action to prevent a successful counterattack (thus defending the attack from interference).  The fencer closes the line of 4th.

PARRIES are the operationalization of a blade position and the guard to defend the fencer from a specific attack.  Parries are almost always referred to by number, thus a 4th parry defends the inside high line from a high inside attack.  Where the blade ends up in a parry does not always conform to a guard, both because of the type of parry executed and because of the action to deliver a riposte.

Thus these terms are closely linked.  A guard of 4th presumes that the inside high line is closed.  An invitation in 4th falsely opens the outside high line to stimulate an attack in that line.  An attack in 4th tries to fill the opening created by either error or an invitation of 6th.  And a parry of 4th operationalizes the guard to block the attack by closing the line to restore the guard.  It is tempting to say that this is all a matter of word choices.  However, that is not the case.  Each term defines a specific tactical choice - for example, if a line is open you can choose not to close it to leave it open as an invitation or to close it to restore the guard or to execute a parry.  Understanding that each is a choice is important to being able to applying tactics to the bout to reach a positive outcome.

REVIEW QUESTIONS

1.  QUESTION:  What is the difference between a guard and a parry?

  • a.  there is no difference - a guard properly taken is a parry
  • b.  there is no practical difference between a guard and a parry - when the parry is completed against the opponent's attack it will always form a guard
  • c.  a guard is a combination of blade and body position; a parry is the operationalization of the blade position in the guard to defend against a specific attack

2.  QUESTION:  In the period 1880-1939 how are attacks described in relation to lines in most cases?

  • a.  attacks are described by the line into which they are made, typically by the number of the line (Italian) or line and hand position (French)
  • b.  attacks are described by the line from which they originate, typically by the description of the line, such as a high outside attack
  • c.  attacks are not described by lines, but rather by the correct parry that would be used to defeat them

3.  QUESTION:  Closing the line is described in this article as being defensive.  How can you explain its use in an attack?

  • a.  closing the line is not defensive; it is always an offensive action
  • b.  properly done closing the line prevents the opponent from easily executing a time or stop action into the attack, thus defending the attack from interference
  • c.  this is an example of how fencing terminology creates confusion - there is no relationship between defensive closing the line and offensive closing the line

Copyright 2017 by the Classical Academy of Arms

JANUARY 2017 - A MATTER OF LINES

The term "line" in fencing refers to two classes of things, one on the piste and one on the person.  Although it might seem that this should be confusing, in reality the two uses of the term support each other, and both occupy an important part of theory of fencing.

French fencing theory did not direct much attention in published texts to the concept that there is a geometrical relationship (as opposed to one of distance) between the two fencers on the strip.  Rondelle does describe the concept of "being in line" as being in a good guard position and in line with the opponent, but does not describe what in line with the opponent means. 

However, Italian theory was more explicit in dealing with relationships between fencer positions on the strip.  For example, Parise defined a Line of Direction (also termed the Directing Line) as a straight line drawn between the centers of the heels of the two fencers along the axes of the fencers’ right feet.  When the fencers were on guard, he described the Line of Offense as the straight line between the fencer’s weapon and the opponent’s chest.  Both of these lines connect the two fencers, as opposed to describing the target or position of one of them.

The French did address Lines of Attack, but in a very different way from the Italians.  Both Rondelle and Castello do identify the concept of a Line of Attack, areas on the opponent into which an attack may be executed.  Rondelle tied these to the normal lines on the person, and Castello frames them in broader regions which could encompass several lines.

However, there was general agreement between the two schools as to the subdivision of the target.  These subdivisions actually serve four purposes: a position of the fencer (as on guard in a line), an invitation to attack (into a line), the attack itself (in the open or opening line), and the parry (which closes the line). 

An imaginary horizontal line from the bell separated High (above the guard) and Low (below the guard) Lines.  A vertical line from the bell divided the target into Inside (to the fencer’s chest and abdomen) and Outside (toward the back) Lines.  The result was four quadrants, each of which was a line: High Outside, High Inside, Low Inside, and Low Outside (also identified in both schools by the guard or parry that defended the quadrant).  These quadrants grew or shrunk in size in relation to the movement of the bell. 

There are any number of fencing manuals that depict the four lines by drawing lines that equally divide the torso.  Earlier versions equally divide the earlier target when it was restricted to the area above the waist.  Even when they were first drawn, these diagrams did not reflect reality.  No contemporary author describes a hit delivered to the inside of the opponent’s blade on an area labelled High Outside on an equilaterally divided illustration of the torso as being a High Outside touch.  But if the division were really related to lines drawn on the torso, they should have said that hit to the inside of the blade landed in the Outside Line, an assertion that would have made no sense.

These lines on the person come back to relate to the Italian lines relative to the piste.  If two right handed fencers come on guard on the Line of Direction, the Line of Attack and the Line of Direction are quite close.  At the same time hits to the Inside Line become more difficult.   And the old practice of engagement in fourth rather than sixth or third makes more sense.  Fourth engagement was used extensively because of the perceived strength and speed advantage of the sixth parry.

However, if the fencer shifts his position laterally to the opponent’s inside even a small distance, rather than a straight Line of Direction paralleling the edges of the piste, the fourth High Inside Line becomes more accessible, and thus more vulnerable.  This is a practice of some antiquity – Saviolo describes rapier play trying to gain the advantage of an opponent’s exposed Inside line by circular movement to the inside in detail in 1595.  It is useful to experiment with fencing maintaining rigorous attention to position on the Line of Direction to see the difference between fencing to the outside of the line, on the line, and to the inside of the line.

More difficult to understand was the use of a central guard (at the intersection of the vertical and horizontal lines drawn on the torso already discussed).  In the central guard the diagram with four quadrants found in some textbooks becomes truth, as the fencer's bell is positioned at, or close to, the intersection of the vertical and horizontal lines.  The central guard was certainly used, and used by some prominent fencers.  The argument in its favor is that from this guard the fencer could move equally quickly to defend any line.   The disadvantage is that when the fencer was on guard, no line was protected, forcing the fencer to be ready to move in any direction and leaving her exposed in all. 

The Line of Direction and the Line of Attack survive the end of the classical period, being incorporated in Mangiarotti’s text of 1966.  And the Line of Direction is still encountered as the Fencing Line.   

REVIEW QUESTIONS

1.  QUESTION:  Which line refers to the straight line geometrical relationship between the fencers' feet on the piste? 

  • a.  the Line of Direction
  • b.  the Line of Attack
  • c.  the Inside and Outside Lines

2.  QUESTION: You are reading a book about fencing, and when the lines are described the description is illustrated by a diagram showing the torso facing you with the chest fully exposed.  A vertical line divides the torso from neck to crotch, and a horizontal line divides it from approximately above the navel to below it.  Each of these quadrants is labelled with High Outside, Low Outside, etc. and the number of the parry that defends it.  When is this diagram an accurate representation of the lines on the body?

  • a.  always - the line of an action is defined relative to the point at which it occurs on the body; if the attack lands in one of the quadrants it is an attack into that line regardless of where the fencer's weapon is
  • b.  only when the fencer is on guard in a central guard, otherwise the lines grow or shrink in relation to the position of the bell
  • c.  never - lines are defined from the position of the blade of the fencer's weapon

3.  QUESTION:  In Italian theory the Line of Attack or Line of Offense is defined as:

  • a.  the actual movement of the blade in executing the attack,
  • b.  the area of the target that is exposed when a fencer adopts a guard position.
  • c.  the straight line connecting the fencer's weapon with the target.

Copyright 2017 by the Classical Academy of Arms

December 2016 - The Orthopaedic Grip

Orthopaedic grips have widely been blamed by classical fencers for most of the ills of modern fencing.  Criticisms include that they prevent the delicate fingerplay of the traditional French and Italian grips and that they encourage the use of excessive force leading to bad fencing, flicking, brutal fencing, heavy-handedness, all of the fatalities in fencing's recent history, etc.  It is well known that orthopaedic grips did not exist during the classical period.  Therefore, no classical fencer should ever use one.

We admittedly live in a post-factual world, and the classical criticism of the orthopaedic grip is ideally suited for that world.  Orthopaedic grips appear to fall into three basic design categories: (1) grips with a long handle, seemingly built upon the French grip (the Gardere is an example), (2) grips that appear to be modifications of the Italian grip (the Spanish grip is an example), and (3) grips designed to be manipulated with fingers and the musculature of the hand, the true pistol grip (the Visconti is an example).  Some specimens have multiple characteristics, making classifying them an interesting effort.  All appear to have been designed for one or more of three purposes: improved finger control, retaining the strength and power of the Italian Grip, and allowing use by individuals with injuries.  Fencing's orthopaedic grips are one of the first, if not the first, examples of adaptive sports equipment for fencers with disabilities, something of which all fencers should be proud. 

Improved finger control is mentioned by classical period sources, notably Adelardo Sanz in his description of the design criteria for the Spanish grip.  That orthopaedic grips reduce finger control is refuted by no less knowledgeable an authority, Genady Tyshler, in the Federation d'Escrime Internationale's current manual for training coaches.  Tyshler emphasizes that orthopaedic grips offer better finger control than a French or Italian grip.

And, if we consider strength, the French critique of the Italian schools has always been the forcefulness of the technique.  Both Castello, Sanz, and Bossini describe the benefits of the Spanish grip as offering the control of the French grip and the power of the Italian grip.  It is difficult to understand how an Italian grip strapped to the wrist is less powerful than an unrestrained orthopaedic grip.

That leaves the fact that orthopaedic grips were not used in the classical period.  Well, actually that is not a fact either.  Thanks to the work of George Kokochashvili we can identify a significant collection of designs of orthopaedic grips that predate the end of the classical period as the Academy defines it (1880-1939).

Approximate Date

Grip

Notes

1895-1902

 Spanish

By Maestro Adelardo Sanz.  A modification of the Italian grip with different sized archetti designed to be held with the quillons vertical.

Early 1900s

 Terrone

A straight grip designed by Maestro Leonardo Terrone for right and left handed fencing.

Early 1900s

 Terrone-Perez

A straight grip designed by Maestro Leonardo Terrone with assistance from Giuseppe Perez for right and left handed fencing.

Early 1900s

 Parise-Terrone-Perez

A straight grip with modified quillons designed by Maestro Leonardo Terrone as an improvement to the Terrone-Perez model with assistance from Maestro Massaniello Parise for right and left handed fencing.

1905

 Cugnon D’Alincourt

A straight grip with a paddle near the pommel

1908

 Eugene-Louis Doyen

A straight grip with finger projections designed to be custom fit to the fencer.

1910-1920

 Athos di San Malato

A pistol grip with a long rearward extension.

 In the 1920s

 Gardere

A straight grip with finger hooks designed by Maestro Andre Gardere

1920

 Athos di San Malato

A pistol grip with a wrap-around rear projection and a thumb trough.

1920-1925

 Herminio Eccheri

A grip with either a shaped or straight handle and two large circular loops apparently held horizontally designed by Maestro Herminio Eccheri.

1920-1930

 Visconti

A pistol grip designed by Maestro Francesco Visconti.

1922

 Souzy Aine

A straight handle with a paddle before the pommel and two short vertical quillons.

1924

 Domenico Triolo

A short straight handle with two shaped quillons.

1929

 Agesilao Greco

A straight handle with a single arch on the bottom side of the grip.

1936

 Michele Alajmo

A straight handle epee grip with two gently curved quillons.

The grips listed are not a complete catalog of patterns.  For example, the Cetrulo and Belgian Pistol grips are certainly pre-1939 in origin, and there are a variety of patterns of Spanish Grip that precede at least 1948, and almost certainly 1939.  The list only includes those for which an approximate date and likely source could be established. 

When one reads the list of grip designs, it is interesting to note that the names of the designers read like a who's who of prominent fencers and fencing masters.  These are not novice inventing a grip that will let them pummel more advanced fencers with undisciplined, heavy-handed fencing.  They are leading practitioners, fencing masters, experienced duelists, formidable competitors of the day, well trained in their particular schools, and presumably valuing sentiment de fer and blade and point control to as high a degree as any other fencer of the day.

If you wish to use an orthopaedic grip in classical fencing we do have several guidelines that you should follow:

(1)  choose a grip that you can establish without doubt was in use between the years 1880 and 1939, and that is consistent with the specific school or master whose work you are studying.  This may create challenges.  For example, the manuals and notes of Adelardo Sanz were destroyed prior to his suicide and any writings of his primary protégé, Angel Lancho, were almost certainly destroyed during the Spanish Civil War.

(2)  train to use the grip the way it was used by adherents of the school.  If your fencing is French School from the late 1920s-1930s and you want to use a Gardere grip, then practice to use French fingerplay with that weapon.  Don't decide you will do Italian fencing with a long handled orthopaedic grip or French fencing with an Italian design, unless you have supporting evidence.

(3)  from time to time go back to the older French and Italian grips as appropriate and practice with them.  Doing so will help you better understand your orthopaedic grip.

(4)  understand that fingerplay is a useful concept as long as your pulse rate stays below approximately 115 beats per minute.  Above that fine motor control starts to disappear, and you must be prepared to shift to hand and even arm control of the blade.  This is a physiological reaction that appears nowhere in the classical manuals.  If you want to do high quality finger work with an orthopaedic grip, work on relaxation and lowering your pulse rate.

REVIEW QUESTIONS

1.  QUESTION:  One of the advantages of the orthopaedic grip was that these grips allowed fencers with hand or arm injuries to continue to fence.  However, based on comments at the time which of the following was a primary reason for the design of orthopaedic grips?

  • a.  to provide the ability to apply even more power to blade actions than the Italian grip could
  • b.  to reduce the technical ability required for beginning students to be able to fight successfully in duels  
  • c.  to improve control and accuracy in fingerplay

2.  QUESTION:  The orthopaedic grips designed during the classical period prior to World War II were overwhelmingly designed by:

  • a.  individuals who hoped that a weapon capable of exerting a great deal of force would compensate for their lack of skill and competitive success. 
  • b.  highly accomplished and well known fencers, duelists, and fencing masters
  • c.  the premise of the question is false - orthopaedic grips may have been designed but were never actually used in the classical period; only the French and Italian grips can be considered classical grips

3.  QUESTION:  The earliest documented design for an orthopaedic grip for which we can establish a date was:

  • the Belgian pistol grip designed specifically for use with the electric foil and epee in 1952.
  • Adelardo Sanz's Spanish grip patented in 1895.
  • Athos di San Malato's modification of the Italian grip by adding a heavier pommel, offset quillons, and a differently shaped handle in 1920.

Copyright 2016 by the Classical Academy of Arms.

Monthly Continuing Education Review

Continuing education review for:
Question 1
Question 2
Question 3