Archive for Duel

Becoming a Duellist

Posted in Fencing, Fighters, History, Martial Arts, Swordsmanship, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2015 by chencenter

Duel Basil Rathbone Zorro

In his book, famous fencing master Aldo Nadi realistically describes the tension, obstacles and high-stake nature of the duel – one that he experienced first-hand in1924. Only 24 years old, but an undefeated champion in 3 weapons, Aldo remained confident and eager to prove himself against a live point.  Aldo squared off against Adolfo Cotronei, an Italian newspaper editor, over a story Contronei printed saying that Italian champion Candido Sassone beat French champion Lucien Gaudin 9-to-7.  Honor at stake, they met a secluded place   [read more at “The Duel”]

Aldo Nadi DuelHe writes:

In competition, the good fencer leisurely watches his opponent for a few seconds before starting the slightest motion. Here you are by no means allowed to do so because your adversary immediately puts into execution a plan evidently well thought out in advance: surprise the youngster at the very beginning; take advantage of his lack of dueling and bear upon his nerves and morale.”

THE NATURE OF THE DUEL

The Duellist movie Duel 2No film has picked up on the atmosphere and realism of the duel quite like Ridley Scott’s 1977 epic film, The Duellists. Choreographed by the famous William Hobbs (Excaliber, Willow, & The Count of Monte Cristo) it remains one of the best examples of sword-fighting – especially in this period, (Napoleonic era).

What you notice right away by viewing these fight scenes, is that the intention and awareness is focused on his opponent (remember, your life is on the line). Two, each fighter is hesitant on making a non-calculated action until there is a need to react to something – something that you possibly did not expect. And third, the fight scene is extremely short. Many duels started and finished in the time it took to read this paragraph.* Cutting with a sabre often produced gaping wounds, but it was the thrust (often w/ dueling sword, smallsword or rapier) that was fatal.

*Keep in mind that once the actual sword-fighting starts, depending on the skill, fighting area, luck, etc., duels could last anywhere from seconds to several minutes.  Most duels didn’t last more than 10 minutes.  But think of the amount of stamina that that would require! Needless-to-say, if you are serious about sword-fighting, be ready for anything.  

TECHNIQUES FOR DUELING

epee5It is of my opinion that if you can’t fight well against one person, you can’t and won’t perform well in a skirmish/battle. It is very important that you first learn your weapon (or weapon set) & build your skill. This includes Guard positions, techniques and movement tactics (learning first solo, then one-on-one and then (perhaps) multiple opponents).

>Bruce Lee once said, “One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs in simplicity.” This quote can easily be understood by the experienced martial artist – but is often hard for the beginner. Learn your techniques, various ways of movements…be a scientist of the martial sciences and put your skill and techniques to the test in competition.

What techniques serve you the best?

Which ones keep you safe or make you harder to hit/counter? Keep them.

Discard those techniques that put you in a bad position, are too flashy or complicated.

Find your personal “Go-To” techniques.

MINDSET

The mindset, especially in training and mock-dueling is essential. It must be centered around one thing – never allow a single touch. And if a touch is received, never allow a second. Always make it hard for your opponent to attack, find steady footing, or catch a breath. Use your environment, training and your intelligence in sword-fighting to be victorious. Victory favors the skillful!

FIGHTING FAIR

I tell my young students, “Imagine you stepped back in time… You encounter a villainous foe, and he corners you into a fight; a fight to the death!” In an act of self-preservation you grab firmly your weapon of choice and ready yourself for any oncoming attack.  In all matters of self-defense, I think it is fair to say “Anything goes.” This may include acquiring another weapon, kicking sand, or dirtying your point (in hopes that the doctor or director halts the bout, thus giving you a needed breather).  However, under normal circumstances and in hopes of winning honorably… I find it best to train using solid (go-to) techniques and spar using great sportsmanship.  Ultimately, if one had the liberty of choice (in dying), most would choose the honorable over the cowardly.  At least one would hope.

MICHAEL JOYCE

WSFENCING.INFO

I know there are many fencers and historians out there that might have some a different idea or opinion towards duels and/or what I have written.  If you would like to offer any comments, critiques, or possible revisions/errors, please let me know by leaving a comment and I will review and take them under heavy consideration.  Thank you!

Fencing Language in “The Princess Bride”

Posted in Fencing, Swordsmanship, Techniques, Videos, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2010 by chencenter

The Princess Bride Duel 001

If you’re anything like me, you found the movie The Princess Bride (1987) by Rob Reiner, to be a very entertaining film.  In all honesty, this was the film that poured gasoline on my desire to wield a sword, and quote the lines (with accent), “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.”  For others it may have been Errol Flynn or Douglas Fairbanks; but for me, it was the sword fight on “The Cliffs of Insanity” that sparked my early fascination with fencing.

Watch here:

In this particular scene, while dueling (then, a life-or-death affair), while at the same time showing overwhelming sportsmanship, Inigo Montoya and the Man-In-Black (Westley) casually (and most humorously) discuss complex fencing tactics.  It was this friendly exchange of historical references that I found completely intriguing.  For years, I would quote the lines, but it wasn’t until my first years of fencing (and quite a bit of research & inquiring) that I understood what they were talking about.

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Inigo Montoya: You are using Bonetti’s Defense against me, ah?
Man in Black: I thought it fitting considering the rocky terrain.
Inigo: 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: Unless the enemy has studied his Agrippa… which I have.

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The quotation begins with Inigo, pushing Wesley (The Man in Black) back in retreat with his consistent attacks.  “Bonetti’s Defense” refers to the Italian swordmaster Rocco Bonetti, who established a “School of Arms” in London in 1576.  An unusual reference, as Bonetti was much hated by English fencing masters of the time (i.e. critically bashed by George Silver in his Paradoxes of Defence [1599]) and was killed in a duel against a man named Austen Bagger (who, during the duel, was “quite drunk” and “easily defeated” Bonetti*).

[*Source: The Encyclopedia of the Sword. Evangelista, Nick.]

Unfortunately we have no idea how Bonetti fenced.  What is of popular opinion (as to the reference in the film) is that “Waterman’s Story” whereby Bonetti once drew his sword and was quickly belted with the oar of the waterman (per: Guy Windsor’s demonstration in the video below) and lost the fight.  By cautiously stepping back and relying on defense, it helps to ensure that he doesn’t make a fatal blunder by attacking from an uneven, unpredictable surface (ie. “rocky terrain”).

Capo Ferro drawingInigo’s second question to Wesley is, “…You must suspect me to attack with Capa Ferro?”  This, is a misspelling first off.  Both the International Movie Database (IMDB.Com) and the movie’s subtitles say “Capa Ferro”, when instead, it’s actually “Capo Ferro.”  In this instance, “Capa (Capo) Ferro” is a term given to the powerful attack known as “The Lunge,” obviously after Italian swordmaster, Ridolfo Capo Ferro, who taught a linear style of fencing.  (a good analysis of Capo Ferro can be located (here: click)

Thibault drawingWesley’s retort was of, “…but I find that Thibault cancels out Capa Ferro. Don’t you?”  This speaks of Gérard (Girard) Thibault d’Anvers (1574-1627), a Dutch fencing master and author of the rapier manual, Academie de l’Espée (1630).  Thibault brilliantly utilized both logic and geometry to aid in his swordfighting defense.  Therefore, Wesley felt that his Thibaultian studies in using such tactics as (for example) “higher ground” and angulation on attack, gave him added measure when defending against linear thrusts such as “The Lunge.”

Camillo AgrippaTo this, Inigo concludes, “Unless the enemy has studied his Agrippa…”  – a term named after Italian short sword master, Camillo Agrippa who wrote, Treatise on the Science of Arms with Philosophical Dialogue (1553).  Historically, Agrippa simplified fencing techniques (i.e. Shortened Marozzo’s eleven guards, to a “fundamental four”), emphasizing defensive tactics,  & logic above techniques that he deemed over-stylized.  One can imagine that since he was a master of the short sword, he would be quite knowledgeable in “closing distance” (because in closer proximity, the short sword rules!).  In the picture to the left, the drawing shows a fencer as he raises his primary weapon arm in a prime-like position, which is effective counter to the mid & low-line of the body on high-line thrusts.

And there you have it…a breakdown of the famous movie duel from The Princess Bride.

Continue to study, practice and duel… in a valiant attempt at making a victory over you, “Inconceivable!”

Coach Michael Joyce

[CombativeCorner Profile]

ADDITIONAL VIDEO: GUY WINDSOR

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Coach Michael Joyce teaches classical foil fencing in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Mr. Joyce got his training at both the St. Louis University (1998, 1999) and University of NC-Greensboro (1999-2002) Fencing Clubs.  He has been teaching (fencing) professionally since 2005.

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Joyce’s Fencing Page -Click-

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