This article assumes you’re reasonably familiar with a number of terms and concepts in verdadera destreza. If you’re not, visit Movement and Tactics in the Spanish True School, then come on back. While the linked article ably covers the information I discuss below, I arrange the information a little differently, and these varying approaches may together help readers make sense of a very precise way of describing movement, intent, and timing in 17th century Spanish fencing.
La verdadera destreza has a very particular way of approaching the concept of timing in combat. Pacheco mentions them for the first time (I believe) in Modo Fácil, his 1625 book on how to test people assessing for the title of Master.
But before we can tackle the timings or considerations, we need to understand some other LVD concepts of action and movement first. Let’s start with the six movements of the blade, then move into the five attacks, and then into dispositive and executive actions.
Six movements of the blade
The six movements of the blade describe where the point of the diestrx’s sword is in relation to their opponent. To slip momentarily into Aristotelian talk, there are three pairs of contraries – in other words, pairs of movement qualities that cannot be simultaneously true. These six movements correspond to the way we think of a 3-dimensional graph with an x, y, and z axis. These movements can be used to describe things other than attacks, but for this discussion, they’re the most relevant when talking about how an attack is structured.
Violent <-> Natural
These terms also hearken back to Aristotelian science. Violent means upward, or from a more modern perspective, against the pull of the earth’s gravity. Natural means downward. You can’t have a movement that is both upward and downward at the same time.
Off-lining <-> Aligning
These terms describe a horizontal motion of the point away and back toward the centre line of the opponent. You can’t move your point away from the centre and towards the centre at the same time.
Backwards <-> Forwards
These terms describe a linear motion directly away from or toward the opponent. Bringing the point away from the opponent means the point approaches the diestrx, and vice versa. You can’t move your point toward the opponent and away from the opponent along the same line at the same time.
A mixed movement is one that combined 2 or 3 non-contrary movements. For example, a diestrx could raise the point in a natural movement while also taking it off-line and backwards (not a recommended combination of actions unless in dire circumstances!).
The five attacks
The five attacks in the LVD framework are the thrust, the cut, the reverse, the half-cut, and the half-reverse. Let’s see how these are described by the six movements of the blade above.
The thrust is composed of only one action – forward. This sets aside, for the moment, circular thrusts, because arguments can be made that the circular action isn’t inherently part of the thrust, and following this rabbit hole detracts from understanding the considerations.
Cut and reverse cut
These are composed of more numerous and spatially greater movements. In a cut, the point takes a mixed natural-offline motion to the diestrx’s inside, coming around behind the diestrx (or at least higher than the diestrx’s head) so it initiates a mixed natural-realigning motion from the diestrx’s outside toward the intended target. The process is the same for a reverse, except the tip begins by dropping to the diestrx’s outside, then moving toward the target from the diestrx’s inside.
Half cut and half reverse cut
These have fewer actions than cuts/reverses, but more than thrusts. In a half-cut, the tip takes a mixed violent-offlining movement to the diestrx’s outside before some adjustments to height. Then the point does a mixed natural-realigning action.
With the components of the five attacks in mind, let’s move to dispositive and executive actions.
Dispositive and executive actions
Within the composition of a given attack, parts of it set up a successful approach of the point toward the target, and other parts are the approach of the point toward the target.
Dispositive actions are movements the sword makes that do not bring the point toward the opponent with the intention of striking. An atajo is dispositive, because the diestrx’s sword tip moves offline of the opponent’s centre as the diestrx’s blade subjects the opponent’s, pushing it to one side or the other from above.
Similarly, the first movements of a cut or reverse are dispositive, bringing the point away from the opponent in preparation to bring it back toward the target in the final movements.
Executive actions are movements the sword makes that do bring the point toward the opponent with the intention of striking. A thrust is, in itself, an executive action. The natural and realigning actions of cuts, reverses, half-cuts and half-reverses are all executive.
The three considerations
The three considerations are Get (propio), Give (apropiado), and Steal (transferido). These considerations describe when the diestrx takes an action when in medio proporcionado (in offensive or attacking measure), whether it’s executive (an attack) or dispositive (defence of the right angle, atajo, or conclusion). In Pacheco’s Modo Fácil, he posits them as three subsets of medio proporcionado, or offensive/attacking measure.
Gets happen when the diestrx chooses to act regardless of the opponent’s state (executive, dispositive, or other). A get can be a thrust immediately following an atajo taken from defensive measure, or a half-cut or thrust after an expulsion, as just two examples. Acometimientos (a fraught term that generally equates to a feint that will connect if the opponent doesn’t do anything about it) often are Gets, but not always.
Gives happen when the diestrx chooses to act when the opponent is making a dispositive action. A give can be transferring an atajo placed on the diestrx back against the opponent, or it could be performing a thrust in the earliest stages of the opponent’s full cut or full reverse, as just two examples.
Steals happen when the diestrx chooses to act when the opponent is making an executive action. A steal can be intercepting an incoming thrust with an atajo and performing a conclusion, distances allowing, or catching the end of an opponent’s cut or reverse with an atajo and proceeding to a general or an appropriate attack, as just two examples.
For more, see the following blogs by Puck Curtis: