Since we just reviewed and edited this posting and still have one more article on Italian-style sports saber in the pipeline, we’ve decided to make this “Eye-talian Saber Week” at SHotS Fencing Classics…
Dating old photographs is almost as difficult as dating old fencing weapons. Luckily, when we first posted this back in 2008, we still could draw on the expertise of Dr. Bill Gaugler to help us out. (As usual, click on the photo for an inconsiderately large version of the photo!)
The picture supposedly shows Masaniello Parise’s assistants Carlo Pessina and Salvatore Pecoraro (standing, with the dark jacket) who in 1910 collaborated to publish La scherma di sciabola, the new offical textbook for saber instruction at the Military Fencing Masters School in Rome. The identification is difficult, but allowing for certain growth patterns in his mustache, the fencer to the left could be Pessina.
(Here’s a nifty “family tree” of how the protagonists of the Italian schools interrelate.)
They’re using Radaelli sabers.
Who are we to disagree with the late master?
But we dare to interject: The fencer to the left has done more than just retreating: He has removed his front foot behind his back foot. The flank cut of the right-hand fencer might well have been an attack into a flaunted opening on the thigh.
The fencer to the left has removed the target and now counters into the exposed upper sword arm. Fencing aficionados will recognize this as a variant of the old-fashioned “slipping the leg” we know back from the early days of Henry Angelo.
Which would not just be a poke in the eye of those who claim considerations for horse meat to have excluded the leg as being a target in saber fencing. But also those recent McMartialists who claim that the Italian saber constituted a complete break with the cut fencing traditions of earlier generations.
Christopher Holzmann adds: “The same action is shown in Parise’s 1884 work and is performed in conjunction with a stop cut to the arm. Del Frate does a half cross step back with a parry of low 3 or 4 against rising cuts to the flank. The fact is that steeply rising flank or abdomen cuts are quite likely to hit the leg, intentionally or not, so it is still good practice if you don’t want to get hit at all.”