Chapter 9: On oblique or angled guard positions

Comment/Interpretation:

In Chapter 9, de Brea describes positions that the sword can be held in to provide protection against any type of attack. Plate #5 and part of Plate #6 illustrate each one. The Chapter does not cross references to the other chapters but de Brea describes guard positions separately, so I think it is unlikely that he is recommending these as a separate set of guard positions. I think it is more likely that he is describing positions that a fencer can move into as part of the dynamics of combat – possibly in response to a movement by his opponent – or in conclusion to one of his own movements.

The first and second positions enable the fencer to defend himself against vertical or diagonal forehand and backhand cuts. The third position protects against thrusts or cuts aimed at the right-hand side. The fourth position protects against thrusts or cuts aimed at the left-hand side. The fifth and sixth positions defend against overhead or horizontal forehand or backhand cuts and gives the fencer the option of riposting with a similar blow. The seventh position is perhaps best imagined as a hanging guard but with a straight arm. The eighth position is with the weapon withdrawn and pointing backwards and to the ground. De Brea says that this position guard against horizontal cuts or cuts aimed at the legs.

In a way, the fourth and eighth position have similarities to Hope’s recommendation of keeping the arm across the body and the point facing upwards and to the rear when facing broadsword or backsword. Given that de Brea is describing a complete system for defense against multiple weapons, this seems plausible.

De Brea also emphasizes the importance of keeping the sword hand within an imaginary parallelogram that surrounds the two fencers. He warns that doing this will slow down your ability to defend.

Plate 5 and 6

Translation:

Chapter IX

On oblique or angled guard positions.

There are eight oblique or angled guards. Four cover the upper half of the body and four cover the lower half. These will defend you against any type of blow or attack – whether to the head, chest, sides or legs and the following description will show how.

First guard: The fencer’s feet should be in one of the previously described positions. He then raises his right hand to the same height as his right ear. He looks over his right shoulder and along his right arm. His right arm needs to be bent at the elbow. The elbow will be lower than the hand as can be seen in figure one of plate five. The nails will point to the inside line. This guard protects against angled or downwards backhand cuts.

Second guard: the fencer looks over his right shoulder and places his right arm across his body until the hilt is at the level of his left ear. The point of the sword is raised up and the sword crosses behind the head so that if one drew a perpendicular line from the point of the sword, it would fall about four inches away from the right shoulder. The nails of the hand holding the weapon are turned up. This guard helps to protect against either vertical or diagonal cuts. The point of the weapon is raised but easily points down from above both above and below the arm.

Third guard: Visualize the fencer’s arm following the line of the diameter. The hand holding the sword has the nails turned down and is at the level of the horizontal line that divides the body in two. The point of the weapon is raised and pointing at the opponent’s left hand side. This guards protects horizontal cuts aimed at the right-hand side.  The point covers the opponent’s inside line.

Fourth guard: Cross the right arm across the inside of the body with the sword hand at the level of the horizontal line, nails up and with the point of the sword pointing upwards and behind the fencer’s left hand side and at the level or just above the left shoulder. This guard protects against horizontal cuts aimed at wounding the fencer’s left hand side or chest. The point is raised as it is above the arm.

Fifth guard: Visualise the sword arm raised up with the nails turned outwards and the hilt slightly raised above the head with the point aiming gradually down and crossing the left hand side towards the floor. The fencer should be able to see his adversary by looking under his own raised sword arm. The guard protects against diagonal or horizontal cuts and respond with a similar counter attack. The point of the sword is low.

Sixth guard: Visualise the sword hand raised and crossing over the body with the nails turned up and the hilt just above and pointing at the left hand ear so that the point of the sword is angled in front of the fencer aiming at the opponent’s inside line. The point is low and when above the arm, this guard protects against backhand cuts and allows the fencer to respond with a similar counter attack.

Seventh guard: The sword arm is stretched out with the hand raised and the nails turned inwards. The hilt is at the level of the shoulders and the point is aimed down and aimed at the opponent’s right hand side or outside line covering the whole of his inside line.

Eighth guard: Visualize the sword arm stretched out and going backwards across the body of the fencer. The hilt should be in line with the left hand shoulder and the nails should be turned upwards so that the sword points down and behind the inside line of the fencer. The point is in a position that we can call aligned with the sword arm. This guard and the previous one protect the fencer against horizontal blows that are intended to wound the legs or thighs. It also diverts the opponent’s weapon. All of these guards can be seen in Plate no. 5 and figures 7 & 8 of plate no. 6.

Warning: In order to defend quickly, it is important that in all of these guards, the sword hand does not leave the parallelogram formed by the two fencers.

Original Text:

CAPITULO  IX.

Dt   las posturas  diagonalrs.

 Las posturas diagonalu son ocho , quatro superiorn

Y quano infrrior,s.  Estas  sjrven  para  defenderse  de todogcnero de . go1pc ‘ tirado a execnta r herida ‘ 5ea 1a ca; bza , pccho , costados 6 pie rnas, como s manifostar;i por las mismas demostr;u;iones. Primt:ra : Se ha de suponer  al dicstro con el florcte en IJ mano en una  de  las  refcridas  pl,intas. Su bir;i  fa ma no a nivd de la oreja dercc:i ; csto  cs , que mire  rccta mente  b  punta del arma  alta  y transversal a su pa rte de   aden­tro , el brazo un poquito encogido , que forme angulo obtuso por baxo , y en la sangradera , las u nas que parti­ cipen de a,baxo , y le quedari hecha la postura. El punto que ofrece es baxo , -y sirve para defenderse del reves, sea dfogonal  6 vertical.   ·Scgunda :Sup6ngase el brazo transversal a su parte de Jdcntro ,_ la guarnicion a nivel’ de ]a oreja izquierd a , ]a punta  dd   rrna  alta , y t(an:sversal a su parte  de ufuera; de manera·, quc: si cayefa1 una Hnea p-etpendicular , habia de; pas.ir ‘q1.i-atro , dedos distante del hombro derecho , la mano  quc  participe . }as  ufia  ardba , y quedara  forniada.

Esta  sirvc para’ dcfdt:t”SC  de ‘1111 tajo ‘  sea  diagonal 6 vcr• fica1: e1″punto    hi .ofrece  es’ :tlto y hixo por encima y por bdxo del brazo. Tcrcera : Considerese el’ brazo ocupando 1a tinca del diametro , la  mano  que  participe  de  uifos  abaxo  a  nivel de la linea horizontal , que divide el cuerpo por mcdio , b punta  del arma alta , y re.isa a s_u  pane  d    afuera , 6 la· d.o derecho. Esta sirve para defenderse del golpe horizon• tal  tirado  al  costado  derecho : el punto que ofrece  es to• da Ia parte  de adentro.

Quarta :P6ngase  el  brno  transversal   a su  parte  de adentrO f   la fflaflO  .l nivel de la linea horizontal I las UilaS que  participen  de  arriba ,  la  punta  del  arma  alta , y re· misa al lado izquierdo. Esta sirve para defenderse del golpe horizontal , tirado a executar herida  en el costado izquierdo 6 pecho: el punto que ofrece es alto por  ser por encima del brazo.   ·                                                        . .

Quinta : Sup6ngase el brazo alto y transversal ·a la parte de adentro , la mano vuelta uuas afuera , la ·guar­ nicion un poco mas alta que la cabeza , la punta del ar­ ina baxa , mirando al suelo, y transversal al lado izquierdo,  de  modo  que  se  pueda  ,·er  a su  contrario  por  de­

haxo del brazo. Esta irve para defenderse del tajo d ia­ gonal fa horizontal, y responder con otro de su misma es­ pecic : el punto  que  ofrece  es baxo.

Sexta : Consideree la rnano alta , y vuelta las unas arriba , la guarnicion  que  mire a la .oreja izquierda ,  la

punta del arma remisa al lado derecpo , y parte de afue­ ra , de modo que se pueda ver  a su  contrario  por baxo. El punro que ofrece es por baxo , y por encima del bra­ zo , sirve para defenderse del re,•es , y responder con, otro, Septima :Tengase el brazo estirado ,la mano a:lta ,las llnas adentro , la guarnicion a nivel del hombro derecho, la punta del arrna baxa , y remisa a su parte de afuera 61ado derecho: el punto que ofrece es toda la parte de adentro. .Octava: Considerese el brazo estirado y transversal a su parte de adentro , la mano que participe de ufias arri­ ha , la guarnicion a nivel del hombro  izquierdo , la pun­ta del arma baxa , y re.rnisa a su parte de ad.entro y la­ do izquierdo : el punto que ofrece es cl que llamamos jurisdi ccion dtl brazo , asi por encima como por baxo. Esta y la anterior sirven  para  defenderse  de los  golpes horizontales,  tirados a executar heridas en las piernas muslos, y tambien  para  diverti r  el arma contraria.

Todo Jo dicho lo maninestan segun sus numeros las figuras de la estampa num. S , y las dos 7 y 8 de la es­ tampa  num. 6. Advertmcia. Se ha  de procurar  en  todas estas  postu­ras que la mano no salga del paralel6gramo , que forman los dos combatientes, para esrar prontos a las defonsas.

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2 thoughts on “Chapter 9: On oblique or angled guard positions

  1. I agree with John that, in a similar way to sabre, the positions described in this chapter are part of movements done to parry attacks rather than static positions. However, some of these positions could be used (with heavier weapons) as “static” or “guard” positions when fighting against heavier swords.

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  2. I think this is true. Given that he talks about the need for quick hand movements and keeping the sword hand within the parallelogram, I think that he is encouraging the fencer to provoke and attack by the fencer with the heavier & slower weapon, which can then be parried and riposted.

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