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rapier
rapier combat
sword techniques
social norms
fencers
proper strategy
fencer
schools of thought
riposte
Sparring Tactics - Rapier
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What goes into a battle between fencers armed with rapiers? How did one go about engaging an opponent in a duel? The streets of Europe could be unforgiving and throughout the Renaissance knowledge of how to handle a sword was considered fundamental to the development of all gentlemen so as to allow them to protect themselves and those dear to them.

Classical Rapier Masters As a result of the social norms surrounding the usage of the sword many schools of thought were created surrounding specific principles and techniques for using the rapier. Each different school of the sword developed its own twist for rapier combat. Ridolfo Capoferro, for example, emphasized the thrust whereas Gerard Thibault emphasized precise a precise geometric circle for fencers to envision that formed the complete range of motion between them and their opponents and continues on to instruct in detail on where one should position themselves within their circle at any given time. These are a few of the scores of European sword techniques emphasized by the hundreds of masters throughout the Renaissance.

Basic Principles All rapier fencers need to know several basic techniques the primary of which are the proper stances, footwork, the proper guards, and finally effective timing and speed of movement. Since rapiers enabled rapid thrusts from a longer distance, proper strategy became necessary to allow the fencers to read their opponent's intent and successfully anticipate attacks and feints. This ability is only gained through sheer experience and keen observation. The opponent may slightly shift their weight prior to launching an offensive or perhaps they always tilt their head a certain way just prior to feinting. These signs and many others which may appear to be seemingly meaningless gestures may convey a world of information to a fencer in the midst of a life or death duel.

The Deadly Riposte Perhaps one of the most difficult sword techniques to master effectively within all sword styles, is the instantaneous parry and riposte. This is simple in concept: parry the opponent's blade safely aside and strike them with a counter-strike before they can recover their guard or attack you again. However in addition to timing, it requires precise positioning of the parry, the body and especially the feet so as to already be prepared to deliver a riposte as soon as a gap in the defense is created. This involves stepping in to meet the opponent's thrust or slash which throws off their timing slightly, giving you an edge. Once the point of the rapier is redirected, or as it is being redirected the riposte is initiated as or before the opponent's guard can be restored.

Now, if you should meet a ruffian upon the street who insists upon hassling your person, you have only to whip out your rapier and challenge the fellow to duel. Of course perhaps in this day and age, seeing as how there is such a shortage of quality rapiers floating about and seeing as society typically frowns upon dueling and other similar sorts of behavior, this author recommends finding a few friends and sparring with them should you find yourself in need of some good, old fashioned swordplay.


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