Cavalcabo: Techniques Against Feints

I’m trying to figure out the very influential translation by Villamont from Italian to French of Cavalcabo’s Treatise or Instruction on Fighting with Weapons (1597) and a similar essay by Patenostrier. This text is available in English translation by Rob Runacres of the Renaissance Sword Club.

The text is fairly straightforward but there are occasional sections which seem very dense and need some unpacking to understand what is being said. Here’s the second example I came across and what I did with it.

Against those who use feints
So you understand which things are counters to those who use feints to inganner [deceive] or trick his enemy, you will do this to them: parry the feint with the dagger or the sword to give him the opportunity to caver , and when he cavers you can give him on the firm foot, or with a pass. You will make this again to him when he makes the feint being in measure; strike him with a resolute thrust in the body in the same tempo you see him do the feint, making a turn on the side of your dagger [and] making him a chiamatte , that is to say to appel and to wait for him to strike, to give him a response. You can also do it this when he makes a feint to you, parrying with your sword his own, hitting him in two tempi, always waiting for the response after hitting him.”

Breakouts

Situation: So you understand which things are counters to those who use feints to inganner [deceive] or trick his enemy, you will do this to them:

Action: parry feigningly [1]Feintement is an adverb and means deceptively or feigningly according to Cotgrave, A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues, 1611 with the dagger or the sword to give him the opportunity to caver , and when he cavers you can give him on the firm foot, or with a pass.

Situation: You will do this still [2]Runacres has ‘again’ but I think still carries a clearer meaning to him when he makes the feint being in measure;

Action: strike him with a resolute thrust in the body in the same tempo you see him do the feint,

Strategy: turning on the side of your dagger [and] making him a chiamatte [3]chiamata/chiamare – to call, to claim, to invoke. Florio, Queen Anna’s New World of Words, 1611 , that is to say to call him [4]the text has l’appeller – to call him and to wait for him to strike, to give him a response.

Options: You can also do it this when he makes a feint to you, parrying with your sword his own, hitting him in two tempi, always waiting for the response after hitting him.”

Analysis

Since this is a section on how to defeat feints, it is appropriate to assume you know your opponent will feint. The strategy here appears to be to recognise that it is a feint, trigger your opponent to feint and outpace his true attack.

At distance, when the opponent presents the feint, you feint a response in order to trigger him to caver. You are ready for this caver and counter-attack appropriately. You shouldn’t need pass on the counter-attack as the opponent is closing distance.

Within distance, present the opponent with an invitation or make an appel in order to force the opponent to feint or otherwise make his/her attack. As soon as the opponent acts, counter-attack immediately.

Perhaps the “turning on the side of your dagger” could be a little clearer if rendered “turning to the side of your dagger” (i.e.: standing in with the sword fourth position). Also, the original French text says “his dagger” (son pognal) rather than “your dagger” (which would be ton pognal). This removes the need for the “[and]”. My rendition of this portion of the text is:

“strike him with a resolute thrust in the body in the same tempo you see him do the feint, turning to the side of his dagger, making him a chiamatte , that is to say to call him and to wait for him to strike, to give him a response”

This suggests to me that the action described is to stand in something like third position with both weapons on your outside, presenting your inside line as an invitation. The chiamatte or appel gives the opponent the proper provocation to attack.

Cavalcabo says these work as double time actions as well. This implies that the counter-attacks are single time. This confuses me as the idea of an appel, invitation or feint-counter to trigger the opponent’s action seems like a double time strategy. Not sure how to resolve this confusion.

Key, but likely to be passed over, is the idea that after any hit you make on the opponent, reset and prepare for the opponent’s response. Making the (counter)-attack is not enough, you need to get out safely as well.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Feintement is an adverb and means deceptively or feigningly according to Cotgrave, A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues, 1611
2. Runacres has ‘again’ but I think still carries a clearer meaning
3. chiamata/chiamare – to call, to claim, to invoke. Florio, Queen Anna’s New World of Words, 1611
4. the text has l’appeller – to call him