Today’s all about the legs.
You can find links to all the chapters I’ve interpreted in the Historical Fencing section of the site.
I’m using two translations as my sources. The Swanger/Wilson translation of Capo Ferro’s book (download it here) and Tom Leoni’s version. Both are solid, but have weird translation issues that make more sense when each version is compared to one another. It helps to get a rounder view of the material.
When in an on-guard stance, the sword-leading leg (so right leg if you’re a righty) should be directed in a straight line. This includes the leg, thigh and foot. The leg should also form an oblique line, leaning back.
The rear leg (left leg if you’re a righty) is also in a line, with the knee as bent as possible.
The inside of the left heal should be in line with the point of the right heel.
When striking, the forward knee should be bend as much as it can, so the leg and thigh create an acute angle. Conversely, the rear leg/thigh should extend as much as it can on an oblique slant line.
Here, Capoferro lists several types of stances:
- Fully Narrow
- Ordinary Stance (aka Regular Stance)
- Extraordinary Stance
He doesn’t explain what most of the stances are in this chapter.
Capoferro describes the Ordinary Stance as one in which the body can “stand in comfortably and steadily” and is meant for seeking measure by a “small extension of the stance.” In short: This is your basic on-guard stance.
He also describes problems with other stances.
A stance too narrow is weak and unable to properly hold the fighter’s bodyweight. It also leads to lost tempo.
Capoferro describes the fencing stance as “martial” or “soldiery.”
The Ordinary Stance is used when on guard and seeking measure. The Extraordinary Stance is when lunging.
There are four classifications of steps:
- Oblique (can be done with or without crossing feet – aka a passing step).
He gets a little repetitive here, saying there are two main ways for the legs to move — on-guard for seeking/breaking measure and striking.
Capoferro dropping some shade:
“I really don’t know what else stepping sideways is good for except showing off…”
In this section, he describes some common uses of a “lateral” aka sideways step.
- To gain an opponent’s blade on the outside line while their opp’s sword is in an oblique line. Capoferro says to go at him in a straight line. (Straight line beats an angle line)
- As a body void from an attack with some blade work. Capoferro says proper use of tempo makes this move unnecessary.
Capoferro drops more shade in this section, saying crossing the left foot behind the right when performing an inquartata is “useless and unnecessary.” He says it screws with tempo and shortens the motion of the right arm (sword arm).
Similarly, he doesn’t like voiding by moving the right leg out offline to the right and says it is better used in a “friendly match.”
Mind you, even though he hates these moves he does explains how to do them later… and then how to beat them, of course.
Capoferro also doesn’t like passing steps because he also says they cause loss of measure and tempo. Though it covers a lot of ground, your forward leg and sword can’t do what they normally do with “necessary speed” or without putting yourself in danger of a riposte.
He briefly says that recovery from a strike is also important. As you recover, you can open yourself open to a riposte from your opponent, so one should recover quickly.