Over, Across & Around: turning the sword

Swordplay from the Ground: the three turns of the sword



The last of the swordplay skills you’ll need to demonstrate for your Green Spur is an understanding of the three turns of the sword.  These turns have the same names as the turns of the body, which makes them easy to remember. It may be helpful to review the cuts and thrusts of the sword to refamiliarize yourself with their terminology.

Volta Stabile

The stable, or fixed point turn changes the orientation of the sword’s edge from inside to outside, or false to true, without moving the point significantly.  It is easy to think of this in terms of rapier guards.  Changing from guard to guard involves a stable turn: the hand moves, say from palm up to palm down when switching from quarta to seconda, but the point stays on line.  With a longsword the hands may move farther and the wrists may cross when switching from a low to a high or an outside to an inside guard, but if the point stays on line it is a volta stabile.

This turn is used to change the line on which you are defending your body, to change a cut into a thrust, (eg, to change from a fendente to an imbrocatta), or to reach around the opponent’s sword in a punta dritta or punta roversa.

Practise your stable turns by placing your point gently on your partner’s open hand, or on a wall.  Change through your guard positions, from high inside, through the stretta guards to high outside, and back again, keeping the point in one place.

Mezza Volta

In the half turn, the point of the sword travels in semi-circular arc from one line to another.  Although the point makes a half-circle, the blade ends up about a quarter of the way along the cutting circle.  For example if your sword moves from inside to outside on the high line (roverso to mandritto squalembratti) this would be a half turn.  Another half turn is a cut that moves from a high to low guard on the same side of the body.

These turns often occur when the sword is parried but can also be used as feints, or to change the line of attack in response to your opponent’s movement.  However for the Green Spur we are not looking for this level of sophisticated response.  The ability to demonstrate a simple mezza volta of the sword is enough.

Tutta Volta

The full turn takes the point of the sword in a complete circle.  A stramazzone (a wrist cut that makes a full circle) is an example of a tutta volta.  So too is an elbow cut that starts in a low outside guard and delivers a roverso squalembratto to the opponent’s left shoulder.  In order to make that cut you need your sword point to travel in a circle behind you and across to the other side of the body.

Tutte Volte generally travel along the diagonal cutting paths from low to high, inside to outside, and vice versa, and are good preparations for powerful cuts.

Next week: Anatomy of the Sword.

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