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Thibault – Chapter Three

On The Correct Way of Drawing The Sword and Entering Into Measure

This is the first chapter where Thibault has the student doing something with the sword, and falls neatly into the natural progression of learning. Interestingly this is one of the few places where he talks about making it work on the street – his justification for learning how to draw the sword is so that the student becomes comfortable with the action so that it comes naturally when required.

In addition to explaining the draw, this is the first time where he works through the action as distinct steps linked to particular images, using four images or steps for drawing while moving forward, and for drawing while moving backward.

Working through this, I found it to be quite a comfortable action moving forward (and somewhat less so moving back although this should improve with practice), that naturally leaves the fencer able to freely move up to measure in the straight line. It is important to note that this action is not intended to leave the fencer at measure initially, but is performed out of measure.

One tricky thing about the draw is the initial grip:

…take your sword with the (right) hand, wrapping the index finger around the outside arm of the hilt, inside the guard.

The problem being to identify the ‘outside’ arm if the sword is in it’s hanger with the cross vertical – as this is the arm that ultimately winds up on the outside of the fencer, it is necessarily the arm that is at upward while in the hanger. This makes his succeeding step of closing the hand while drawing make more sense as well – the initial grip needs to be quite loose, as the palm is down at this time.

Thibault moves on to discuss how to step up to measure and into the straight line, although he leaves off detailed discussion of the straight line until the next chapter. This section initially describes the action purely from the point of view of Zachary, giving a comfortable and relaxed two steps up to measure leaving the sword to be presented naturally and smartly in the straight line. He also gives a way for the student to verify the final posture:

… if one wishes to examine the posture to see if a mistake has been made, all that is necessary is to extend the left arm similarly in a straight line to the rear at the same height. For if the posture is correct, the two arms and the sword will form a single line, and all the parts of the body will be so much at their ease that not one resents the position …

I found the descriptions of the corresponding actions from Alexander to be much more opaque, partly because he is calling forward to the next chapter, and partly because he is essentially asking the reader to imagine Zachary’s actions to which Alexander is responding.

My understanding of this is that Alexander’s action in Circle 1 corresponds to the stage of motion that Zachary has in Circle 3. In Circle 2 he is preparing to meet Zachary when he is an obtuse angle at measure. Circle 3 has Alexander responding to Zachary’s obtuse angle by presenting an acute angle with the left side forward. Finally in Circle 4 he is preparing to meet Zachary when he is in the straight line, in an action very similar to Circle 2.

It is important to note that the actions of Alexander are all happening out of measure, or in the moments before reaching measure, and Thibault says that the next part of the action (to be discussed in Chapter Three), is to come into the straight line at measure in the next action.

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