We stood on a grassy hill shaded by one of the large cottonwood trees in Mills Park. The cottonwood stubbornly held onto its leaves, despite the chill that mid-fall brings to northern Nevada. I’d picked a shaded area, as my light skin burns easily. Moreover, I wore my jacket, and my neck was covered by a gorget. My face was exposed, as my mid-length blonde hair was up in a high ponytail. As for my hands, they were in black leather gloves that went halfway up my forearm. I held onto my rapier in one hand, and with the other, I slid on my fencing mask.
The man standing across from me also had a sword. He was in a grey t-shirt and blue jeans. His 3 weapons mask covered his face. John was a few inches taller than I was and looked like he kept proper eating habits but didn’t work out. I waited for his attack. He thrust his blade at my front.
I parried it with my left hand. “Good. Did you see how I blocked that?” I circled around him.
“Yes.” He brought his blade back to his on-guard stance.
“You try to parry with your dominant hand, it’s the hand holding your main weapon. Or use your off hand, like I did. Keep your opponent in front of you and turn to make sure they don’t get behind you.” I waited until he turned to face me, then thrust at his chest. John used his arm to knock the blade off track. “Good.” He attacked again. This time I sidestepped, and he hit nothing but air and stayed stretched out. “That’s called a void, to avoid the attack.” I swatted his blade with the flat of mine. “Recover. Don’t leave your blade out, or your opponent may entrap or grab your blade.”
John brought his blade back from his attack. “Recover is reset to your original stance, like on-guard. Right?” He thrust at me once again.
I rolled my shoulder back, and he missed. “Yes, exactly.”
John recovered. “Alright. So, what does get into a Grippa mean?”
“Camillo Agrippa wrote a treatise on fencing during the Renaissance era that developed a specific style or form. He applied geometric theories to specific stances, guards, or places where you hold weapons and wrote about how to use them.” I parried another of his thrusts. “You have a good Agrippa on-guard stance. This means that your legs are spread wide enough to fit your shoulder width and your front foot points at your opponent.” I pointed at his feet with my blade. “Your back foot is at a 45-degree angle from your front foot, and your hips are rolled back to make you less of a target or to be in greater profile. Your weapon hand is hip height and almost ready to shake someone’s hand. This is called tierce, and it’s a typical place to start. The tip of the blade is pointed at your opponent.”
“Oh.” The only thing moving was his t-shirt from the autumn zephyr.
I didn’t want him to be overwhelmed with information, so I said, “You’ll hear more about all of that in class. Come at me again. But when you thrust, try to keep the tip of your blade from wobbling as much.”
He thrust with less wobble in the tip of the blade and was much more on point.
I tilted the hilt of my blade to parry his attack and countered with a thrust of my own that landed in the middle of his chest. “That’s better.”
He dropped his blade. “Thanks.”
“Practice this at home by putting pieces of tape on a wall or a mirror. Put one piece of tape at a higher point for the head, one piece for the chest, and one piece for the groin. Thrust at them slow at first, then build up speed. It’ll help considerably with your tip control and will create muscle memory.” I moved to the side and took off my mask.