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Selected Exercises from Thibault’s Academy of the Sword

https://www.jamescolton.com/articles/thibault-rapier/exercises/

Introduction

In his Academie de l’Espée, Thibault teaches his system of rapier fencing primarily through a series of detailed exercises, with bits of theory scattered throughout. I have attempted to extract the theory in a separate article, but in this one I would like to present a handful of Thibault’s drills.

Thibault is meticulous in his descriptions, especially when compared to other rennaissance fencing authors. While this makes it clear what exactly you are supposed to do at any given moment, it also makes it difficult to work through his dense prose. Compounding matters is the fact that operations are frequently spread across multiple diagrams in a non-linear fashion—like a flow chart, but without the user-friendly layout. Multiply this by a few hundred diagrams, and Thibault’s detailed instructions can become counterproductive for those just getting started with his system.

I have attempted to alleviate this somewhat by selecting the exercises that I thought represented the core techniques of Thibault’s system and summarizing them in an orderly, step-by-step fashion. I have tried to preserve all the important details while simultaneously keeping each step as simple as possible.

With each exercise, I have also provided a reference where the operation can be found in Academie de l’Espée.

For easy reference, here is Thibault’s circle:

A B B C D D E F F G G H I I K K L L M M N N O O P P Q Q R S S T T V W W X Y Y Z
Thibault’s Circle

Simple Techniques

Subjection to the Inside

Book 1, Chapter 6, Circles 1–2

  1. Raise your right foot
  2. Using only your wrist, cross your sword over top of the opponent’s toward your inside
    • Turn your inside quillon diagonally downward so it is underneath the opponent’s blade
    • Your blade’s 8 should contact the opponent’s 3
  3. Graduate the opponent’s blade to 5 by shifting your weight toward G on your inside
  4. Push the opponent’s blade down and away by setting your right foot down at G
  5. Reset your posture by stepping with your left foot to D

Subjection to the Outside

Book 1, Chapter 15, Circles 1–2

  1. Raise your right foot, pointing the toes toward G on your outside
  2. Using only your wrist, cross your sword over top of the opponent’s toward your outside
    • Turn your outside quillon diagonally upward so the opponent’s blade is between the quillon and your blade
    • Your blade’s 8 should contact the opponent’s 3
  3. Graduate the opponent’s blade to 6 by shifting your weight toward G on your outside
  4. Push the opponent’s blade down and away by setting your right foot down at G
  5. Reset your posture by stepping with your left foot to D and pivoting your right foot so it aligns with GI

Obligation to the Outside

Book 1, Chapter 19, Circles 1–2

  1. Raise your right foot and point your toes toward G on your outside
  2. Lower your point to the outside, turning your inside quillon diagonally upward
    • The quillon should be inside the opponent’s blade while your point is outside
  3. Place your 3 against the opponent’s 8 from below
  4. Set your right foot down at G on the outside
  5. Step with your left foot to D and pivot your right foot to align with GI
  6. Graduate your blade’s 7 to the opponent’s 5–6, pushing it to the outside

Obligation to the Inside

Derived from Book 1, Chapter 19, Circles 1–2

  1. Raise your right foot
  2. Lower your point to the inside, turning your outside quillon diagonally upward
    • The quillon should be outside the opponent’s blade while your point is inside
  3. Place your 3 against the opponent’s 8 from below
  4. Set your right foot down at G on the inside
  5. Step with your left foot to D
  6. Graduate your blade’s 7 to the opponent’s 5–6, pushing it to the inside

Transportation to the Inside

Book 1, Chapter 20, Circle 1

  1. Oblige the opponent’s blade at the Second Instance on your outside
  2. Transport the opponent’s blade into subjection on the inside
    1. Raise your right foot
    2. Lift the opponent’s sword
    3. Set your right foot down at N while subjecting the opponent’s sword on the inside with Lively sentiment
      • Your 2 should be on top of the opponent’s 1
      • The opponent’s sword should rest parallel with the diameter
      • Your hilt should be low, your point high
    4. Step with your left foot to the circumscribed square at its intersection with the line QN

Transportation to the Outside

Derived from Book 1, Chapter 20, Circle 1

  1. Oblige the opponent’s blade at the Second Instance on your inside
  2. Transport the opponent’s blade into subjection on the outside
    1. Raise your right foot and point the toes toward N
    2. Lift the opponent’s sword
    3. Set your right foot down at N while subjecting the opponent’s sword on the outside with Lively sentiment
      • Your 2 should be on top of the opponent’s 1
      • The opponent’s sword should rest parallel with the diameter
      • Your hilt should be low, your point high
    4. Step with your left foot to the circumscribed square at its intersection with the line QN

Expulsion to the Inside

Found in various circles throughout as part of a larger operation.

  1. Subject the opponent’s blade at the Second Instance on your inside
  2. Forcefully degraduate the opponent’s blade to your inside until it is thrown out of position

Expulsion to the Outside

Found in various circles throughout as part of a larger operation.

  1. Subject the opponent’s blade at the Second Instance on your outside
  2. Forcefully degraduate the opponent’s blade to your outside until it is thrown out of position

Point-Forward Disengagement to the Inside

Found in various circles throughout as part of a larger operation.

  1. The opponent subjects you at the Second Instance on your outside
  2. Lower your point just far enough to get under the opponent’s blade
  3. Pass your point to your inside just far enough to get past the opponent’s blade
  4. Raise your point to direct it at the opponent’s face

Point-Forward Disengagement to the Outside

Found in various circles throughout as part of a larger operation.

  1. The opponent subjects you at the Second Instance on your inside
  2. Lower your point just far enough to get under the opponent’s blade
  3. Pass your point to your outside just far enough to get past the opponent’s blade
  4. Raise your point to direct it at the opponent’s face

Point-Back Disengagement to the Inside

Found in various circles throughout as part of a larger operation.

  1. The opponent subjects you at the Second Instance on your outside
  2. Raise your hilt and lower your point toward the back just far enough to free your blade
  3. Circle your point up over your head
  4. Lower your point to direct it at the opponent’s face

Point-Back Disengagement to the Outside

Found in various circles throughout as part of a larger operation.

  1. The opponent subjects you at the Second Instance on your inside
  2. Raise your hilt and lower your point toward the back just far enough to free your blade
  3. Circle your point up over your head
  4. Lower your point to direct it at the opponent’s face

Identifying Sentiment

Book 1, Chapter 9, Introduction

  1. Subject the opponent’s sword at the Second Instance on your inside
    • The blades should cross above M on your inside
  2. The opponent resists with any degree of sentiment
  3. Call out the degree of sentiment you think the opponent is using
  4. Remove your blade; the opponent’s will jump more or less depending on how much sentiment they were using
  5. Check how far the opponent’s blade jumps to determine if your guess was correct

Countering Various Degrees of Sentiment

Countering Dead Sentiment via Estocade

Book 1, Chapter 7, Circles 1–2

  1. Begin to subject the opponent’s sword at the Second Instance on your inside
  2. As you shift your weight forward, the opponent performs a point-forward disengagement to your outside while stepping to V and delivering an estocade
  3. Steal the Third Instance and deliver an estocade to the opponent’s face
    1. Throw your point toward the opponent’s face while setting your right foot down at G
      • Your blade should cross and graduate the opponent’s
    2. Reset your stance by stepping with your left foot to the line GM, so that your profile is hidden behind your hilt

Countering Sentiment via Detachment

Book 1, Chapter 9, Circles 1 & 4

  1. Subject the opponent’s sword at the Second Instance on your inside
  2. The opponent resists with Sentiment
  3. Deliver an estocade via detachment
    1. Raise your right foot and shift your weight toward I
    2. Release the opponent’s blade and direct your point toward their face
    3. Set your right foot down at I and lean your body backward
    4. Volte your left foot to H

Countering Sentiment via Expulsion

Book 1, Chapter 20, Circle 3

  1. Subject the opponent’s sword at the Third Instance on your inside
  2. The opponent reduces their weight to Sentiment
  3. Expel the opponent’s blade to your inside
  4. Whip your blade back and up above your left shoulder
  5. Volte your left foot to the inside
  6. Deliver a reverse to the opponent’s head

Countering Alive Sentiment via Subjection

Book 1, Chapter 6, Circles 1–3

  1. Subject the opponent’s sword at the Second Instance on your inside
  2. Step to the Third Instance and deliver an estocade
    1. Raise your right foot
    2. Trap and graduate the opponent’s blade as you shift your weight toward N on your inside
      • Turn your quillons horizontal to press up on the opponent’s blade
      • Turn your point toward the opponent’s face
    3. Set your right foot down at N
    4. Reset your posture by stepping with your left foot to K

Countering Lively Sentiment via Imbrocade

Book 1, Chapter 9, Circles 1 & 7

  1. Subject the opponent’s sword at the Second Instance on your inside
  2. Begin stepping to the Third Instance and threaten an estocade
    1. Raise your right foot
    2. Trap and graduate the opponent’s blade as you shift your weight toward N on your inside
      • Turn your quillons horizontal to press up on the opponent’s blade
      • Turn your point toward the opponent’s face
  3. The opponent parries to your outside with Lively sentiment
  4. Pass forward and deliver an imbrocade around the opponent’s parry
    1. Set your right foot down at N
    2. Allow the opponent to push the swords to your outside
    3. Perform an imbrocade around the opponent’s blade
    4. Pass with your left foot to W

Countering Strong Sentiment via Disengagement

Book 1, Chapter 9, Circles 1 & 12

  1. Subject the opponent’s sword at the Second Instance on your inside
  2. Step to the Third Instance and threaten an estocade
    1. Raise your right foot
    2. Trap and graduate the opponent’s blade as you shift your weight toward N on your inside
      • Turn your quillons horizontal to press up on the opponent’s blade
      • Turn your point toward the opponent’s face
  3. The opponent parries to your outside with Strong sentiment
  4. Pass forward and disengage into a braced estocade
    1. Set your right foot down at N
    2. Allow the opponent to push the swords to your outside
    3. Perform a point-forward disengagement to your inside and brace your right elbow against your side
    4. Pass with your left foot to W
    5. Present your point to the opponent’s head

Countering Strongest Sentiment via Reverse

Book 1, Chapter 9, Circles 1 & 14

  1. Subject the opponent’s sword at the Second Instance on your inside
  2. Step to the Third Instance and threaten an estocade
    1. Raise your right foot
    2. Trap and graduate the opponent’s blade as you shift your weight toward N on your inside
      • Turn your quillons horizontal to press up on the opponent’s blade
      • Turn your point toward the opponent’s face
    3. Set your right foot down at N
  3. The opponent parries to your outside with Strongest sentiment
  4. Pass forward and deliver a reverse to the opponent’s head
    1. Allow the opponent to push the swords to your outside
    2. Perform a point-back disengagement
    3. Pass with your left foot to W
    4. Deal a reverse to the back of the opponent’s head

Various Defenses

Parrying an Attack of First Intention

Book 1, Chapter 5, Circles 1–2

  1. The opponent steps to R and delivers an estocade to your inside
  2. Catch the opponent’s 3–4 above your inside quillon
  3. Direct your point toward the opponent’s face
  4. Step with your right foot to the inside between C and E, letting your left foot follow and delivering an estocade

Countering a Low Estocade

Book 1, Chapter 5, Circles 9–10

  1. The opponent lowers their point and begins to step to R, thrusting to your belly
  2. Withdraw your lower body and lean forward
    • Bring your right foot back parallel with your left
    • Point both feet forward
    • Pull your hips back slightly
    • Extend your point toward the opponent’s lead shoulder
  3. The opponent interrupts their step, putting their right foot down at V
  4. Press the opponent’s blade down with your hilt by leaning forward (rather than lowering your arm)
  5. Step with your left foot to I on the inside
  6. Drive the opponent’s point toward the ground via graduation while delivering an estocade to their shoulder

Parrying an Imbrocade at Second Instance

Book 1, Chapter 8, Circles 1–2

  1. Subject the opponent’s sword at the Second Instance on your inside
  2. The opponent delivers an imbrocade around your blade while stepping to S on your inside
  3. Parry the attack with a counter-imbrocade
    • Raise your hilt and direct your point toward the opponent’s face in the form of an imbrocade
    • Pivot counterclockwise to remove your left side from danger

Parrying an Imbrocade at Third Instance

Book 1, Chapter 8, Circles 1 & 5–6

  1. Subject the opponent’s sword at the Second Instance on your inside
  2. Begin to step to the Third Instance by raising your right foot toward N
  3. The opponent delivers an imbrocade around your blade while stepping to S on your inside
  4. Parry the imbrocade with a volte
    1. Lift the opponent’s imbrocade toward your inside
    2. Set your right foot down at I
    3. Volte your left foot to the outside at the line RS so your back is to the opponent
  5. Spin and deliver an estocade
    1. Start pivoting counterclockwise
    2. Expel the opponent’s blade to your inside
    3. Complete the pivot so that your legs are untangled and you are facing the opponent again
    4. Continue your sword’s motion until your hilt rests against your chest, with the blade resting on your left arm
    5. Step with your left foot to S
    6. Step with your right foot to L
    7. Present your point at the opponent’s lower chest

Parrying an Estramason

Book 1, Chapter 17, Circles 1–4

  1. Begin to subject the opponent’s sword at the Second Instance on your outside
  2. As you place your right foot, the opponent disengages and delivers an estramason
    1. The opponent performs a point-back disengagement and raises their sword above their head
    2. The opponent steps with their right foot to S on your inside and follows with their left foot to W
    3. The opponent delivers an estramason to your head
  3. Parry the estramason
    1. Raise your sword to direct your point at the opponent’s hilt
    2. Place your 2–3 on top of the opponent’s 10
    3. Redirect the opponent’s reverse by graduating your blade and degraduating theirs toward your outside as they descend
      • Turn your inside quillon upward
    4. Pass your left foot to IN on your inside
    5. End with your 8 on the opponent’s 4–5, your point high and your hilt low

Parrying a Reverse

Book 1, Chapter 14, Circles 1 & 4–5

  1. Begin to subject the opponent’s sword at the Second Instance on your inside
  2. As you raise your left foot, the opponent disengages and delivers a reverse
    1. The opponent performs a point-back disengagement and raises their sword above their head
    2. The opponent passes their left foot to Q
    3. The opponent delivers a reverse to your head
  3. Parry the reverse
    1. Raise your sword to direct your point at the opponent’s hilt
    2. Place your 1–2 on top of the opponent’s 9–10
    3. Pass your left foot to Q on the inside
    4. Redirect the opponent’s reverse by graduating your blade and degraduating theirs toward your outside as they descend
    5. End with your point directed at the opponent’s chest and your right elbow braced against your side

Various Attacks

Entering the Angle with a Seizure

Book 1, Chapter 11, Circles 1, 5, 10–13

  1. Subject the opponent’s sword at the Second Instance on your inside
  2. The opponent parries by pivoting around X, thereby directing his sword along the inscribed square on your inside
  3. Enter the angle and seize the opponent’s hilt
    1. Pass your left foot to S on your inside, placing your body between the blades
    2. With your left hand, grab the opponent’s hilt from above
  4. Deliver an estocade by preserving your body’s rotational momentum
    1. Volte your right foot behind the opponent toward your inside
    2. Your body (and blade) will turn to bring your point online
    3. Drive the estocade by stepping toward the opponent with your left foot

Attack of First Intention

Book 1, Chapter 21, Circles 1 & 3–4

  1. Begin to step while closing the line
    1. Cross your blade over top of the opponent’s with your inside quillon underneath
    2. Raise your right foot
  2. Advance with an estocade
    1. Graduate the blades by shifting your weight forward
    2. Direct your point toward the opponent’s face
    3. Set your right foot down at I
    4. Allow your left foot to follow naturally

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