1994, 2000 Richard J. Orli   -  Credits

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Di Grasse - His true Art of Defense

The First Part - The Basics






Measure = the distance between combatants. "In measure" (or in distance) is the distance at which you can hit or be hit in one move.



This includes material from the "Falsing" section.




See video clips of edgeblows in BASICS







Di Grasse points out in another section that cuts to the face need not have power to be effective. The face is a good target for a quick flicking cut.





Silver's Times

There are eight times, whereof four are true, and four are false.   The true times are these.


hand and body

hand,body and foot

hand, body and feet.

The false times are these:


foot and body

foot body and hand

feet body and hand

Translation: extend the arm first.




V. The Manner of the Strike

.T he Thrust

Without a doubt, the thrust is to be preferred over the edge blow. Not only is it faster, but it can cause the greatest hurt. This I lay down for a firm and certain rule.

When moving in a circle, always be sure that the left (rear) foot is always shifted so that there is always a straight line from sword tip to hand to rear foot. In this way, the lunge attack with thrust can be the strongest and longest. Further, as the lunge completes, draw the hind foot forward a half-pace to ensure that the blow is longer and stronger. The attack should be measured to just reach, but not to overshoot, the mark. At the completion of the attack, the rear shoulder and arm should be turned away from the opponent, and so out of reach of a counter thrust. It is not possible to frame a longer blow than this.

From the low ward, make a reasonable pace, bearing the hand without the knee. Force on their thrust nimbly, throwing back the rear arm. End in a lunge position, so as to increase the reach of the thrust. If the lunge is too deep and far to be comfortable, draw forward the back foot slightly as well.

This thrust must be jerked or sprung forth as straight as possible, the arm fully extended. The body and feet move behind such that the arms, shoulder, and feet are under one straight line. This technique can deliver a very great thrust.

The high ward is awkward for a strong thrust, especially if the right foot in the fore. Since this ward is used to attack rather than defend, set up your lunge. Draw yourself up, feet close together, leaning forward, arm high and straight, thrust accompanied with a lunge powerful and long

The Edge

The edge is to be preferred over the point for only one reason - when it saves time in the blow. This circumstance can happen when the point is out of line with the opponent - for example after warding a blow, or if your opponent beats your blade out of line. In these cases, hitting with the point may take two moments of time, where an edgeblow would take but one (as illustrated in Figure 7).


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An occasion in which a cutting blow will take one moment of time

I particularly advise cutting back immediately after receiving a beat, for the opponent is often taken by surprise at its rapid replacement, because of his preoccupation with his attack.*


Speed is of two types -

Natural speed is reaction time - given by nature, health, youth, and muscle tone.

Technical speed is earned by executing an efficient movement without any wasted motion or excess energy.

Drawing the rear foot forward is natural ONLY if the lunge is very powerful and long. Di Grasse takes for granted that his readers understand the explosive quality of combat.

However, this also commits everything to the attack. Later writers urged more caution.

By 1692, Hope was saying, do not drag the rear foot behind.
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"Extend the arm FIRST!" is the most often repeated refrain of the modern fencing coach. As a slight exaggeration, this a pedagogic technique. Purpose - to keep the student from 1) slowing the (fast) arm to keep pace with the (slow) feet and (slower) body. 2) "telegraphing" the attack with premature foot movement.

At a deeper level, the extending arm establishes the fact of the attack. Any action by the opponent in the face of a clear attack other than defense or retreat would be suicidal.

See Silver's "times".



*This argument is hard to accept since a cut in these circumstances would have no power at all. However, rapidly replacing the point as illustrated would be very effective.

Saviolo on picking the moment to attack: Don't rush headlong into the first attack without an advantage, for you risk a counter attack. Instead, if you have the skill, gain the advantage in time and measure, and then attack. Do not settle for simultaneous hits. Hit without being hit.