1994, 2000 Richard J. Orli   - 

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Di Grasse - His true Art of Defense




WARNING:  Swordplay can be dangerous if improperly practiced.  Routines should be practiced only under the qualified supervision of a fencing instructor or by an American Society of Fight Directors instructor.  The video clips show staged (carefully choreographed) and well-practiced moves, done by experts.  Any sort of 'free' fencing or play demands the use of modern sport fencing equipment, including facemasks and flexible/lightweight swords (such as foils or epees). 










Rick (in black) is using a reproduction rapier hilt with a 'schlager' blade. Robert is using a dulled reproduction rapier blade and hilt. We don't practice lightly or carelessly, Robert's rapier is capable of killing, and Rick's is fully capable of seriously maiming.


.T he video clip is a sequence that demonstrates several basic rapier techniques. It is adapted from the Mike Loades' demonstration sequence in "The Blow by Blow Guide to Swordfighting in the Renaissance Style" (Running Wolf Productions, 1992) a video I recommend in the strongest possible terms for anyone with an interest in either historical rapier play or theatrical fencing. Loades' sequence is outstanding for its variety and balance, and is a wonderful all-around training exercise. Robert and I have come to practice the sequence regularly as a 'parade', a European name for what is called a 'kata' by Japanese martial artists.

Loades' sequence is intended to be a choreography/stage combat exercise, which is essentially how we presented it. When we use it as a parade (kata) we change the spirit of it a bit. The fundamental difference between a parade and choreography is one of intent. Choreography strives to create an effective illusion of danger and dramatic tension, while maintaining in fact maximum conditions of safety. With a parade, the objective is to execute the correct form, in safety.

One practical effect is that all blows in choreography are either out of distance or misdirected by a fairly wide margin; blows in a parade are either in distance or potentially in distance, and on-target but pulled or misdirected by a narrow margin. In the sequence most attacks are done in distance but we do a few stage combat 'cheats' - on the belly cuts the blade is pulled back as a safety measure.

A second practical effect is that in stage combat an attack is typically of two parts... it starts short or slow, which is the 'cue', the defender reacts with the dodge or block, and the attack is completed fast. In a parade or kata with deadly weapons, the attack starts fast and true, and then slows as it approaches the danger zone, and is pulled or paused if necessary while the defense is completed.

A third practical effect to be wary of can be illustrated by an example. In Judo practice I first studied falling safely, and then my partner threw me for real, perhaps helping to break or support my fall in the last second.  In stage combat practice my partner placed his hand on my back, made a loud grunting sound, and then I 'threw' myself (did a forward roll). Looks real, is totally safe, but is also totally bogus.

The choreography is not perfect as a diGrasse-style parade. It has quite a few edgeblows. Not a favorite of diGrasse, they are flashy and great for stage combat safety because they are so easy to see coming.  Then there are the 'turning the back to the opponent' bits, perhaps dubious for combat, but they look good.

The sequence is performed at a medium speed with a fairly regular rhythm. If we were doing a staged dramatic presentation, we would try to break up the action into short sharp exchanges, although the overall speed is about right for the stage.

Real combat would be much faster, and therefore very hard to follow. It would take an unusual combination of luck, timid offense, and good defense for both parties to survive over a dozen exchanges in earnest. By most contemporary accounts, duels often reached resolution within seconds.





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