Swordplay from the Ground: The Eight Cuts
In the last three posts I’ve covered posture, movement and turns of the body, with or without a sword in hand. Now we’ll turn our attention to the sword and look at cutting and thrusting in the next few posts, beginning with the eight cutting lines.
Our terminology is taken from Italian sources ranging from Mediaeval to late Renaissance. Spelling will vary between manuscripts but the available cuts remains fairly standard. All the terms refer to a right-handed swordsman.
- Mandritto: delivered from the right (literally ‘right hand’).
- Riverso: delivered from the left.
- Falso: a cut with the false edge of the sword.
If you are holding the sword left-handed, a cut delivered deliverd from your left is a mandritto and from the right a riverso. The following cuts may be delivered as mandritti or riversi, with the either the true edge (knuckle side leading) or false edge (thumb side leading):
- Fendente (‘toothbreaker’): a cut which decends vertically through the head or shoulder. In practice a fendente will descend slightly off the vertical.
- Squalembrato: a diagonal cut, passing from shoulder to hip of the target
- Tondo: a horizontal cut
- Sotano: an upward diagonal cut, opposite of the squalembrato
- Montante: an upward vertical cut, opposite of the fendente.
By following clockwise around the target we end up with the following eight true edge cuts:
- Mandritto Squalembrato
- Mandritto Tondo
- Mandritto Sotano
- Roverso Sotano
- Roverso Tondo
- Roverso Squalembrato
All these cuts may be delivered with the false edge as well, though some may feel more awkward than others, creating 16 cuts overall.
Aside from the direction of the cut, we are looking for good cutting mechanics in the delivery. At this level you do not need to do multiple flowing cuts. Perform simple cuts from one guard to another, keeping the following in mind:
- The cut should be a single fluid movement.
- When stepping, the cut should land when the foot falls, not before or after.
- The sword should move ahead of the body.
- The line of the sword through the target is be straight, not curved.
- The edge of the sword (rather than the flat) whether true or false, leads the cut.
You should be able to deliver all eight cuts with both true and false edge, and with one hand or two on the hilt of the sword.
To improve the fluidity of your cuts start with large movements, swinging your sword like a tetherball on the end your very loose shoulder, and using your hips and shoulders to increase the motion. Gradually rein in your cuts, keeping the fluidity and increasing precision.
As you become more precise, focus on envisioning your target. It helps to have someone stand in front of you (out of range, of course) so you can see the sword edge trace a straight line along one of the eight cutting paths.
Next week: shoulder, elbow and wrist cuts.