The Secret Blow
Originally published in Punta Dritta June/July AS XXXVI (2001)
The secret blow has always been a part of the teaching of Civilian Combat. Certain blows used at the correct time that are unable to be parried, or parries that will destroy any attack. Men who purported to know such blows were treated as wizards of the secret science of fence.
Saviolo, in talking to Luke in this treatise, describes a stance and ward that a untrained combatant, unexpectedly in a duel, is best to set themselves in. Castle talks about masters having special parries and attacks reserved for their special students. Certainly renaissance thinking about sword-fighting was that it was a skill and, therefore, a perfectible activity. It is quite possible that people obtained copies of Saviolo's book to find information of the universal attack and parry.
I haven't found a universal parry yet, since even the windscreen washer parry has some limitations (i.e. it doesn't work). However I do seem to have found an attack that catches people quite often: a straight thrust immediately from the lay-on. Dameon Greybeard and I have been teaching this to our students over the past year with impressive results.
Even people fighting for many years treat our novices with respect, and nobody considers our students an easy fight.
In social terms, too, a straight thrust has much to recommend it. A person who gives promises sparingly and with thought, who speaks the truth without dissembling, who carries though on their intentions, is often admired simply for that. Modern language even has a phase for such people - a straight shooter.
I have heard tales of people who show open distain for fencers, threaten them, even spit at them. It is unfortunate, crude and horrible, and it is not the SCA and as such we should ignore it as much as we can. The core SCA concept is one of respect, courtesy, dignity, chivalry, and the sort of polite behaviour that seems to be impossible to find in the real world. Such people are really poisoning their own SCA experience - we should try to prevent them from poisoning ours.
Let us, instead, be upright fencers - straight thrusters who delight in period arts and sciences, including fencing, and are often found working hard to support their Kingdom, be that as marshals, constables, chirurgeons, seneschals, or just the people who stay late to help clean up at the feast.
Francois Henri Guyon
Lord Guildmaster of Fence