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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Sep, 2012 2:50 am    Post subject: The circular disarm?         Reply with quote

My acquaintance with classical and modern fencing has been minimal, apart from what little I learned from a classical sabre workshop several years ago, so for some time I thought that the Hollywood "circular disarm" was a purely theatrical technique with no or little utility in actual fencing. However, I've been collecting fencing manuals more aggressively in the past few months, and guess what I discovered?

Quote:
DISARMING.

After parrying your adversary's thrust by simple carte, or the counter in carte, without quitting his blade, lean abruptly thereon, and binding it with yours, reverse your wrist, with the nails downward, as if in seconde, and with the motion thereof, give his blade an abrupt twirl. If this do not disarm him, it will throw his hand and blade out of the line of direction, so that you may effectually fix your point, and deliver him a thrust in seconde.

Also, after parrying by simple tierce, cross his blade before he recovers; make a strong and abrupt circular movement with your wrist, in seconde, without quitting his blade, and it will either disarm, or give you an opening to deliver him a thrust.

Likewise, if he make a longe with the nails reversed, parry the thrust with great force in semi-circle. The feather parade is a sure disarm. Where your adversary makes a thrust in carte over the arm, or tierce, parry, by bending the elbow to a very acute angle, bringing the hand opposite, with the nails near the shoulder; the fail perpendicular; then quickly extending the arm, reversing the nails, make a powerful glizade on his fail.


from Thomas Stephens' A New System of Broad and Small Sword Exercise, 1843, pp.113-114. (Available on Google Books)

So, since I'm still quite clueless about small-sword and epée, I need to ask the big question: how common and how useful was this technique?
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P. Frank




Location: Germany
Joined: 03 Jan 2010
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 73

PostPosted: Thu 27 Sep, 2012 3:18 am    Post subject: Re: The circular disarm?         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
So, since I'm still quite clueless about small-sword and epée, I need to ask the big question: how common and how useful was this technique?


Well, I can only speak for the sabre and the spadroon here, but as far as my experience goes, these techniques really only ever end in one disarming ones partner if he is already rather tired or caught completely of guard. Him having a light sword also helps. Still, even if you cannot disarm your partner, they might still give you a nice opening to attack.

As for how common they were, rather common I'd dare say, at least as far as descriptions in the manuals I read go.
Roworth, in his book from 1804, has something similar for example:

Quote:
Those disarms which are to be effected by wrenching from an inside to a seconde hanging guard, or from an outside guard to a half circle guard will not often succeed, except with very light swords. With such, they must be commenced by turning the knuckles rather more up than usual on those guards, and swiftly reversing them as you wrench the adversary’s blade down, directing your point rather in a diagonal lone across his body, than permitting it to form a circle. These latter disarms are only applicable if the antagonist presents his blade and arm nearly horizontal; and in that case, if they do not succeed in wrenching the sword out of his hands, will prove useful to obtain an opening for a cut or thrust.
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Raman A




Location: United States
Joined: 25 Aug 2011

Posts: 143

PostPosted: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 8:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sorry if this too off-topic but I've seen something similar in kendo as well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_WxFBtfv7o

It's pretty rare, though. Perhaps because the weapon is much heftier than a smallsword and gripped with both hands. Beating the shinai away is more to just open the opponent up for attack. However, disarming is common enough for there to be rules about it and I have no doubt that it could be consistently done to anyone who has too light a grip on their weapon.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Mon 01 Oct, 2012 2:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What does one do against an opponent clever enough to wind and thrust into a lower opening, then? This is what usually happened when somebody in my local group tried a circular sweep like this with the longsword: the would-be victim would just let it happen at first, but once the blades had gone past the horizontal flame all he had to do was to flip his blade around while maintaining the bind and his point would naturally end up in the opponent's stomach. This is my best guess as to why the circular disarm wasn't featured in European swordsmanship prior to the 17th century, but then maybe the different characteristics of the smallsword (as well as the way it's gripped) means that the dynamics work rather differently in this case.
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Radovan Geist




Location: Slovakia
Joined: 19 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Oct, 2012 3:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Talking from my personal experience, with small-sword it does work, but it´s technically quite complicated, and if not executed properly, you end-up on the losing side.

1) you have to catch your opponent in tempo (either after binding his smallsword, which is rather rare, or after a successful block)
2) after sweeping your opponent´s blade aside, the point of your sword should stay in the line of attack (then, even if you don´t disarm your opponent, you can continue with your attack)
3) it definitely works better against an opponent with a weak grip of the sword.
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Sam Barris




Location: San Diego, California
Joined: 29 Apr 2004
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Posts: 619

PostPosted: Mon 01 Oct, 2012 8:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was an epee fencer in college and whenever possible since then. The technique in question is valid, but what has already been said is accurate; you have to catch your opponent completely off guard or it will not work, and if you telegraph your intention, there is every chance your opponent can turn the situation to his or her own advantage. That said, if you pull it off, especially early in the bout, I've found the psychological impact of disarming one's opponent can pay dividends for the duration. It tends to leave you a bit shaken, to be relieved of your weapon like that. I've felt this myself and observed it in others, depending on which side of the move I was on. So even if the judge calls a halt before you can land a touch, you might still benefit from having done it when the action continues.
Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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