1994, 2000 Richard J. Orli   -  Credits

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Di Grasse - His true Art of Defense

The First Part - The Basics


See BASICS for video clips of footwork.








In distance (within measure) means that you can hit with one movement, lunge or pass; about 10 feet or so.

Increase of Pace or Lunge -  forceful advance, relying on extension of the rear leg to drive the body forward. In di Grasse's practice, this usually included dragging the hind leg forward somewhat.

Half-pace or Fencing step (the front foot moves forward, followed by the rear foot the same distance)

Whole-pace or Pass - the rear foot crosses past the front foot - e.g. a normal walking step or fleche.

Slope-pace or crooked step - Move on the diagonal (45 degree angle, more or less) forward or back.

Encroach or Thwart - Slope-pace forward

Circular-pace or Slip or Quarte -  changing your orientation from the original line to a new line by moving a foot (typically the hind foot) in a semi-circle.

Lunge, or pass-lunge. di Grasse uses the term "increase the pace." The idea is to drive forward by dynamically pushing with the rear leg. In contrast, a walking pace relies on gravity to "fall" forward at each step. Stretch out far and low in the attack. Finish in many cases by dragging up the rear foot somewhat, as in a modern lunge-recover-forward.

Traverse Sideways movement. (90 degree angle)


Imbrocatta -An angled attack.


III. Of Footwork

.F irm footwork is the font from which springs all offense and defense. The body likewise should be firm and stable - right shoulder turned towards the enemy.

If you can hit by extending the arm only, without even using the feet, so much the better since the body should be always ready and firm. This is far better than the snail-like wiggling some fencers show, wresting themselves from side to side. Each movement takes time, and if you can perform an action not in two motions but in a half motion so much the faster and better.

In footwork as well, by orderly, discreet, and controlled motions, you will win. Proper size steps depends on the individual's stature and frame, but each step can only be straight or circular.

The right leg is the strength of the right hand, and the left leg is the strength of the left hand. So, the right hand attack should be accompanied by the right leg. Take care that the foot and arm move together. Above all, do not skip or leap, but keep one foot always firm and steadfast.

The blow of the point or thrust cannot be handled without consideration of the feet and body, because the strong delivering of a thrust consists in the apt and timely motion of the arms, feet, and body. The object is to be able to deliver a thrust from the ready position in as little time as possible.

Figure 3. Footwork Explanations

To lunge left, leading with your left foot (pass first if your left foot is in the rear) make a powerful and fast lunge toward (or just outside of) the back of your adversary. Optionally finish by pulling up the hind (right) foot to a guarded ward stance. Di Grasse uses the phrase, "increase of the left foot".

To lunge right, leading with your right foot (pass first if your right foot in the rear) make a powerful and fast lunge toward (or just outside of) the breast of your adversary. Optionally finish by pulling up the hind (left) foot to an on guard stance. Di Grasse uses the phrase, "increase of the right foot"

To lunge slope left, instead of lunging toward the back, your leading left foot should land on a mark about 45 degrees to your left. When lunging left, If your rapier is in your high hand, a thrust will usually be delivered as a reverse. A reverse blow is any that comes from your left side, often with the wrist bent to angle the sword past the guard.





Right shoulder to the front, left hand forward, the breast slightly turned away. Two-weapon methods discussed below require a more square stance.






The right foot leads, similar to a modern guard position, The left hand is in front of the breast, and the body is slightly bent forward with greater weight on the rear leg.





Think of two purposes for motion:

Set-up - out of distance;

Attack or escape - in distance.


Modern research is not definitive about the 'half-pace.'  If I took the explanation and illustration to mean that the ending position would be a 'tennis stance'  chest square toward the opponent, both feet parallel and equidistant from the opponent, that would be exceptionally acquired - suitable for lateral movement, but unsuitable  for attack or retreat.

A possible interpretation is that the half-pace is intended to move into the 'tennis stance' as a momentary phase in a continuous movement, such that the forward momentum is preserved, allowing the attacker to spring a-thwart immediately either right or left.

Perhaps a more likely explanation is that the half-pace moves from the fairly square 'boxer stance' left leading, to the 'boxer stance' right leading.