TWO SWORDS (FLORENTINE)
Nearly all of the techniques used in this style are the same as, or adaptations of, the basic techniques used in sword and shield. For this reason, the basic techniques of striking and returning the blade will not be covered in this appendix. The main exception is the cross-blocking technique.
For the purposes of illustration, start with a vertical line. This line represents the direction of advance towards your opponent. Cross this with a horizontal line. Stand facing your opponent, with the vertical line between your feet. Have your feet parallel with one another at about shoulder width, and your heels touching the horizontal line. Assuming that you are right-handed, move the right foot directly back until the toe crosses the line by about an inch. With your weight on the balls of your feet, rotate the heels towards the left until your feet are about 30 degrees from straight forward. This is the basic position for the feet. When you are out of range, and still maneuvering, your feet may be closer together. When you are in closer, and swinging, your feet should be farther apart.
The pelvis should be rotated forward, the back should be upright, and the shoulders should be back. Bend the knees slightly, and have your weight mainly on the balls of your feet.
When positioning the arms, start with your elbows touching the sides of your body. Move the hands up and forward until the forearms are tilted slightly up from horizontal, with the heel of the hand about six to eight inches higher than the elbow. Move each hand directly outwards until they are about six inches outside of the elbow. At this time, allow the elbows to move about four inches away from the sides of your body. This should have the effect of tightening the muscles on the insides of your forearms, and on the front of your shoulders.
Avoid leaning forwards. If you have to lean, and you will, try to lean towards the side as much as possible. As a test, pay attention to the small of your back, right above the belt line. Lean forwards. Note the sensation, and avoid it while practicing the technique.
Try to keep the swords parallel and vertical. In the basic on-guard stance, the tips should be six to ten inches in back of the hand, so that the swords are not quite vertical.
The preferred return is an adaptation of the overhead return from sword and shield. The side return can be used, but is slower. The decision as to which one should be used will become clear from practice.
From the on-guard position, the body moves as if you are fighting two opponents who are facing you, but who are respectively about 60 degree to one side or the other of straight forwards. When striking with your right hand, you move your body as if you are striking towards the opponent to your left, When striking with your left hand, you move your body as if you are striking towards the opponent on your right. This allows you to drive your left sword with your front leg, since you are aiming your lower body toward the opponent at 60 degrees from front.
The sword hand
- The blows are initiated with a strong push of the sword leg.
- This is followed quickly and smoothly by a strong push and rotation of the sword hip towards the target.
- The sword elbow immediately follows, causing the sword tip to rotate towards the rear, while causing the sword hand to move slightly back, then continue its motion by whipping forward towards the target.
- As the hand moves forward, visualize pointing the index finger at the target. Since the actual target is directly in front of you, move the sword hand towards it, instead of towards the imaginary opponent described above.
The other hand
- While the sword moves towards the target, the left hand should be moving back and up, so that the elbow ends its backward motion at about shoulder level, and far enough in back of you that the shoulder is fully "cocked" for the next blow.
- The hand should be nearly directly above the elbow, with the forearm vertical.
- The sword should be pointing forward, about 30 degrees from vertical.
- The following blow with the left hand is performed as the initial blow with the right, except for the starting position. As the left sword moves forward, the right hand performs a similar movement back and up to cock the right shoulder.
During all phases of the motions:
- The body should remain upright, with the shoulders leaning slightly back from your chest. Each shoulder does move forward or back with the movement of its sword.
- Your weight should move towards the front knee with each blow, timed just after the hip movement to help pull the sword forward.
- During the motions, both knees move somewhat to the sides; to the left with a right-handed swing, and to the right with a left-handed swing.
- Never straighten your knees, or push yourself backwards while striking or blocking.
The preferred block is the cross-block. While using this technique, you block blows coming at your left side with your right sword, and vice-versa. This provides the capability of a lower block than can easily be performed with a same-side block. In addition, it cocks your other blade that is on the side from which your opponent attacked, allowing you to attack as his sword retreats.
Blocks start out as strikes, as far as the legs and hip are concerned. From there, it is the hand that is pushed forward, followed by the elbow, instead of the reverse that occurs during strikes. The hand moves forward with the blade vertical, as if you were trying to punch your opponent in the torso. Your own body moves as if you had rotated towards the point of the block, and started to kneel down. You don't actually kneel, but you can come very close on low blocks.
Try to cross your opponent's sword at as close to a right angle as possible. The preferred point on your own sword with which to block is about six inches above the hand. These blocks are very powerful, and can knock your opponent's sword from his hand.
It is possible to turn a strike into a block, when necessary, by slowing the forward motion of the hand, and allowing the blade to move to the vertical.
Timing and Distance
When performed correctly, the cross-blocking technique allows you to throw blows at about 2/3 time. In other words, you can throw about three blows for your opponent's two. However, an opponent using a sword and shield can throw a faster single blow, since he or she will have more drive with his or her sword leg and shoulder.
Reach is normally about even. The opponents with a sword and shield will be able to more effectively lean forward to extend their range, since they will have a shield to protect their over-commitment. However, any movement towards the opponent's corners provides the Florentine fighter better reach, since his or her sword shoulders are farther forward.