Henri de Sainct Didier – Guards and Draws

Henri de Sainct Didier outlines three basic postures: high, medium and low. This last has two variants. The high and medium postures seems to be untenable in any form of actual bout, be it sporting or deadly in intent. I believe that Sainct Didier intends them as defensive stances but cannot prove this from the text. These two postures are the outcomes of drawing one’s sword and stepping back with the right foot (see the Trois Desgainements below).

The only actions that I can make work from these postures (other than initiating the Six Strikes sequences) are defensive: parrying with the hand in 4th position, the hanging party, and enveloping and beating away to the right. This, however, may say more about my lack of skill than Sainct Didier’s text.

High Posture

Stand with your left foot forward and your right hand (holding the sword) in 2nd position a little higher than your right shoulder pointing at your opponent’s head (specifically, HdSD says at your opponent’s left eye). Your left hand is held before your chest to ward away any thrusts. This posture is predominantly defensive and is most often used by the Provost as a way of starting a sequence in which he defends the lieutenant’s attacks.

Medium Posture

Stand with your left foot forwards and your right hand (holding the weapon) in 2nd position at the same level as your right shoulder pointing at your opponent’s chest. Your left hand is generally held blow (hdSD uses a number of terms referring to the left hip region) to ward away thrusts.

There is an occasional variant in which you stand with your right foot forward. In this case, the left hand is generally positioned under your sword arm.

Low Posture

There are two variants Of this position which are called out specifically in the text. In the first, your stand with your left foot forward and your sword hand held low on the left (the Italian 3/4th position?). Your left hand is held before your chest.

In the second variant, your stand with your right foot forward and your sword hand held low to your right (the Italian 2/3rd position?). The left hand is again held before your chest.

It is suggested in the text that these are the more aggressive positions to adopt.

Les Trois Desgainements

Henri de Sainct Didier also spends a number of pages describing three methods for drawing the sword at the start of an engagement. Each of his lesson exemplars starts with text which says “after having drawn the sword in one of the three ways.” These methods are obviously important to what he teaches.

(I really should try to get some video of the draws. They’re dead interesting. Stay tuned.)

Premier Desgainement

  1. Feet together; hand on hilt
  2. “Throw” right foot back then …
  3. … draw into medium guard (hilt as high as shoulder).

The Provost changes the last step to drawing into high guard. The left hand is held either before the face (for medium guard) or before the chest (for high guard).

Second Desgainement

  1. Feet together; hand on hilt
  2. “Hold the right foot a little in the air […] carrying the guard of the hilt as high as the shoulder”
  3. Pass the sword above (around?) the head and “strongly extend” the arm into medium guard.

The Provost changes the last step to drawing into high guard. The left hand is held either before the face (for medium guard) or before the chest (for high guard).

Third Desgainement

  1. Feet together; hand on hilt
  2. Lift the right foot and hold it “a little in the air”
  3. Draw into medium guard (“faisant le premier desgainement“) with the hand in fourth position.

The left hand is held behind the back or at least to the rear.

What can we understand from the instruction to keep the right foot a little in the air (“un peu à cartier en l’air“)? Surely this is not some form of Karate Kid crane stance with a sword?