Cavalcabo: Easy as First, Second, Third

You are standing in quarte or fourth, the guard for defense and waiting. You opponent changes posture into one of the offensive stances: first, second or third. What do you do? How does Cavalcabo say you defeat these aggressive guards?

You will put yourself in quarte guard making a turn to the right side of the enemy, and holding your dagger on the left side, neither too high, nor too low, you uncover the right side, so that the enemy has the opportunity to strike first.

We’ve seen this before. Stand with your weapons on one side so that you present your opponent with, in this case, the big juicy target of your right side. This is the now very familiar idea of an invitation of posture. You want you opponent to attack this target because you have a single pre-programmed action which, from your position of strength, will devastate the opponent who has disordered him or her self by attacking. How?

If he strikes you will parry with your sword by passing on his right side, and seizing his sword with your dagger, bear him an estocade of seconde. And if he wants to caver his said sword, you will take it easily in making the same pass, and you give him a tierce protecting yourself with your dagger. 

If the opponent takes the bait, it’s simple. Give the standard response which seems to be Cavalcabo’s hallmark:

  1. Parry the attack with your sword
  2. Control the opponent’s weapon with your dagger while stepping to your left with the left foot.
  3. Put the point of your sword through your opponent’s head or torso
  4. Return to a stable guard posture and await the riposte.

What if the opponent is too smart to fall for the invitation? What if he or she just stands trying to look tough?

If he does not move, caver the sword on the right side of his and, carrying your dagger to meet it, pass in front to strike him an estocade in tierce. You can also beat his sword with yours, passing with the left foot on his right side, rescuing [securing?] yourself with your dagger. 

Cavalcabo’s preferred option is to caver your point under your opponent’s and capture his or her blade with your sword. Then turn the action into the standard response of controlling the opponent’s blade with your dagger while stepping out to the left and thrust. The alternative action is simply to beat the opponent’s sword away and use the tempo you’ve created.

But if by chance he withdraws his sword, you will show the desire to strike, so that he has the occasion to parry with his dagger. And in the same tempo that he passes, you will caver on the point of his dagger giving to him in the body.

The third situation covered in the text is your opponent backing away, withdrawing the sword so you can’t play with it. In this case,  you should provoke your opponent by keeping your sword point in his or her face, forcing them to parry with their dagger. Caver around this parry and thrust.

With what I’m going to call the “standard response” becoming so prevalent in the text, I’m really beginning to wonder whether Cavalcabo is a simple and effective principle widely applied or a one-trick pony. His influence on the development of French fencing suggests the former.