Principles of di Grassi

The sword in cutting always frames part of a Circle, of which the hand is the centre, and is most forcible in the circumference. The sword is therefore divided into four parts, the third and fourth being used to strike (weak of the blade), with the fourth part (ca. four fingers from the point) the strongest. The first and second are to be used to ward, because they are strong (strong of the blade).

The arm is likewise not of equal force and swiftness in every part, but differs in the wrist, the elbow and the shoulder. Blows of the wrist are more swift, but weaker. The other two are stronger, but describe a larger, slower arc. Therefore, to deliver a cut, don’t use the shoulder, because it gives your opponent the tempo. Instead use the compass of the elbow and the wrist.

The straight line is the shortest, representing the thrust. When the sword is moved by the arm, it must always frame a circle (see above). Let A.B. be the circle framed by the motion of the arm upwards from the shoulder, which from the shoulder alone would strike at the point B. If the target is point D then the hand moves from the wrist to frame a circle downwards, the sword being moved by two contrary motions in going forwards to create a thrust and make this circle AC strike at point D.

A likely error here – the diagram seems to be laid out for the left foot back

Everyone is different in the length of their stride. Therefore use a reasonable pace of about a foots length (narrow stance) whether going forward or back (basic stance = 1 pace, roughly a foots length between feet. Lunge = extending the length of the stance by the measure of another pace. See also this Article).

The feet move either straight or in a circle. If straight, then forwards or backwards in either a whole or a half pace. Whole pace is when the foot is carried forwards from behind (passing step), either straight or crooked, although you will rarely move forward in a straight line. A crooked or slope pace forward is when the rear foot is brought across at an angle to carry the body out of the straight line, where the blow is given. The same goes for a backward pace, although this is more often straight than crooked. When the feet are brought together, even transitionally, this is the half pace. These half paces are much used, both straight and crooked, forwards and backwards. Circular paces are used the same way as half paces. When one has taken a step, fetch a compass with the hind or fore foot.

The right leg ought always to support the right hand, and likewise the left leg support the left hand, so that a thrust would be accompanied with the leg. The pace naturally increases or diminishes his reach as much as the hand. Therefore when standing in guard, bearing the hand wide, the foot helps by being placed beneath it. When the hand is low, and the right foot forward, if the hand is lifted aloft, it is necessary to draw back the foot (narrow stance).

One must have great care to step and move the hand together, an not to skip or leap, but keep one foot always firm.

The line of the edge is A-B, the point is C-D and D-E

The thrust is to be preferred to the cut because it is faster and more lethal. But in doing so, always remember to carry the rear foot compassing behind the front foot. When finishing a blow, draw the rear foot a half pace forwards, so that you are profiled, and out of your opponents measure. A thrust, when the point is on line, is performed in one time. But when it happens that the point is borne off line, then bringing the point to bear and thrusting takes two times; whereas a cut can be performed in one time.

Defending a blow given either with the edge or point of the sword, is when a weapon (dagger, sword, buckler) is opposed to a blow directed at the head or at the body…

When defending a cut of the enemy’s sword, do not withdraw, but with the left foot take a slope pace forwards to withstand the blow. Against a thrust, beat it aside. A small motion is sufficient to drive the point off line. In either case, the body is voided out of the straight line, by means of the slope pace. From here, a lunging pass gives you reach with your counter attack.

Another way is with a compass step, voiding with the body and thrusting at your enemy before his sword lands. This works against cuts or a thrust in more than a single tempo.