Henri de Sainct Didier – Triangle and Square

Henri de Sainct Didier presents two footwork exercises in his text, Traicte Contentant Les Secrets de Premier Livre d’Espee Seule. Today, I’m going to examine briefly his triangle and square stepping exercises.

A right-handed fencer is assumed throughout.

Henri de Sainct Didier - Triangle SteppingThe first he calls triangle step which concentrates on simply stepping off-line as both a defensive measure and a means of gaining a mechanical advantage in the attack. Triangle stepping appears to apply to both the attacker and the defender.

Triangle: A triangle with the vertex pointing left (1) and the baseline facing the opponent. The lower point is labelled (2) and the upper point is labelled (3).

The attacker, from drawing the sword, stands with the left foot on the (1) of the triangle. As described in the text, the rear foot is stationary and used as the pivot point while the front foot moves to achieve tactical position.

  • To attack the defender’s inside line (left), step off-line to the right (right foot -> 2) and thrust in 4th position. This allows you to put your body weight behind your blade and ride the other guy’s blade straight into him.
  • To attack the defender’s outside line (right), step off-line to the left (right foot -> 3) and thrust in 2nd position. This allows you to put your body weight behind your blade and ride the other guy’s blade straight into him.

The defender, from drawing the sword, stands with theleft foot on the (1) and the right foot on the (3) of the triangle.

  • To defend against attacks to inside (left), meet them with right foot forward. This means that you are meeting the attack in front of your chest and applying some body torque to ward it away.
  • To defend against attacks to outside (right), meet them with the left foot forward. This means that you are meeting the attack in front of your chest and applying some body torque to ward it. This seems more like Meyer’s triangle step than the attacker’s stepping. The diagrams in the text do not show the defender’s movements clearly.

Henri de Sainct Didier - Quadriangle or Square SteppingThe second exercise is called by Henri de Sainct Didier “Quadriangle” or square stepping. The aim of this manouveur is to work around to the outside of the right handed fencer and thereby gaining the more advantageous position.

Quadriangle: A rectangle numbered 1, 2, 3, 4 such that the numbers 1 and 2 are on the right side, and (3) and (4) are on the left side from the point of view of the attacker. The baseline is numbered (1) and (3). The numbers (2) and (4) face the defender.

Using the Fifth Strike as the exemplar, the sequence is as follows:

  • Lieutenant: Stand on guard with left foot on (1).
  • Provost: Stand on guard with left foot forward.
  • Lieutenant: Thrust in 4th, pass forward with right foot to (2)
  • Provost: Pass backwards with the left foot and defend as per the triangle, above.
  • Lieutenant: Cavazzione or Left Ox under. Keep right foot on (2), move left foot to (3)
  • Provost: Defend as per the triangle to an attack to the inside.
  • Lieutenant: Cavazzione or Right Ox under. Keep left foot on (3), move right foot to (4)
  • Provost: Defend as per the triangle o an attack to the outside.

There is no manouver equivalent to the quadriangle for the defender. Square stepping is for the attacker only. The defender resorts to triangle stepping for defence.