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Thibault – Chapter 6

On Attacks and Counters In the Straight Line

Zachary, in the preceding chapter, saw how easy it was for Alexander to defend the simple attacks at First Instance. He asks Alexander to give him those attacks so that he can practice. Alexander, being a jerk, tries to win the drill by introducing the subjection, to which Zachary responds with a variety of “oh my god, you have your SWORD in my FACE” reactions.

Circle 1-3 are the subjection. I think it is important that he specifies that at the end of 3 Alexander stops with the sword at Zachary’s face, and reserves the option to proceed through the estocade with vigor. Zachary, seeing the sword point pause in front of his face, parries with different degrees of strength to the inside, leading us to Circles 4, 8 and 9.

Circle 4 is the case where there’s just enough pressure to move Alexander’s sword away. Alexander pretty well already has his sword in the right place to respond, by bringing his left side in and turning his outside quillion up. Note that this is not a curved thrust to Zachary’s left side, but rather going with the pressure but still presenting the point to Zachary’s face, stopping without continuing the thrust. Zachary parries out further, and the actions flows into Circles 5 and 6/7.

If (as shown in 8 and 9), Zachary parries the initial estocade more strongly across, Alexander needs to change his direction of motion back to the center of the circle, rather than tracking along the diagonal. In order to do this, he brings his left foot up to his right, does a little weight change and steps back to the center with his right. In the end, he still winds up with his sword curved around and pointing at Zachary, but his feet are in a totally different place to 4. Again, Zachary does not like having the point in his face, so pushes it away, and we flow into Circles 10-13.

The text actually refers to Alexander’s footwork during this as a demi-fleuret, but we believe this is more a description of the required rhythm and an indication that it’s a close gather step, not a particular footwork technique.

In the initial subjection action as Alexander is proceeding to the estocade, he steps toward his destination on the inscribed square with his right foot and brings the left up to finish in the straight line at third instance. His direction of motion, and the way his body is facing, is along that angled line past Zachary’s left side. In order to get to where he needs to be for Circle 8 and 9, the direction of motion changes 45º back toward the diameter. Given that Zachary parries as Alexander’s right foot lands, Alexander can then change direction by putting his left foot down near the right, stepping back toward the center with his right, and allowing the left to follow.

Returning to the sequence of 8/9 through 10-13, Thibault specifically calls out the trick of moving from 10 to 11 – as Zachary detaches to come back at Alexander’s face, Alexander must follow the sword rather than letting it go. If Zachary does not detach, Alexander is free to release his sword and cut Zachary across the face.

There are two important things about the drills in this chapter. First is that Zachary is not stepping or changing his feet, other than in circle 7. Second is that all of Zachary’s responses occur when Alexander has presented his point with courtesy at the “end” of the subjection. Alexander smoothly works with the weight of the parry to counter, making comfortable steps to keep the point on line, rather than trying to curve around the parry.

Thibault’s own postscript on the chapter emphasises something different, namely that to think about attacking someone in the straight line, first you need to move safely past the sword. Despite the importance of the specific drills in the chapter in themselves, he’s interested in how Alexander can safely enter against Zachary:

…when the enemy holds himself in the straight line, it is necessary to come closer to him in order to put him in danger; but to do so with assurance requires also a good foot and a good eye. And I believe firmly that neither quickness of body nor promptness of arm are to be prized more than a good approach.

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