Wednesday, 17 May 2017

An analysis of Radaelli's engagement and invitation

When I was recently looking through the beautiful plates in Del Frate's 1876 manual (a common pastime of mine), I noticed something that doesn't seem to have been discussed before (at least on the internet) in regard to Radaelli's system. While initially thinking it was merely an imperfection on the part of the illustrator, I soon realised that it cannot be a mistake due to its appearance in multiple instances, including Del Frate's '68 manual. What I am referring to here is the slight forward lean of the fencer on the left in the image below:

Engagement in 2nd (1876 version)

Although not obvious at first, the fencer's rear leg appears to be somewhat extended, and the front leg is bent past where it would normally be when on guard.


To remove the doubt that it was not just a mistake of the illustrator, the same phenomenon can be observed in Del Frate's earlier manual:

Engagement in 2nd (1868 version)

Nor is it a matter of the image's perspective, as the '68 plates also show it on the opposite side:

Engagement in 4th (1868 version)

Perhaps, then, Radaelli advocated for the fencer engaging the blade to shift their weight forward slightly. This could serve to increase the pressure on the opponent's blade (making the blade easier to deviate off line), but perhaps to also act as a "pre-lunge"; that is, committing some of your weight forward to make the proceeding lunge faster, but not committing so much as to make it too hard to react should the opponent act first.

What I find even more interesting than this is that this lean can also be seen in the one doing the invitation in both manuals:

Invitation in 2nd (1876 version)
Invitation in 2nd (1868 version)

This slight forward inclination of the body is supported by the description of the invitation in the '76 manual (translation Holzman):
"An invitation is made with the sword and body without blade contact and seeks to cause your adversary to commit to an action so that you can be ready with a riposte."
With this description and the measure at which the two fencers in the plates are placed, I am inclined to believe that Radaelli intended the invitation to be a discrete action similar to the engagement, as opposed to a state that you lie in to provoke the opponent to approach and attack you. Instead of opening a line with the sabre and waiting for the opponent to come in and attack, perhaps Radaelli intended the invitation to be a somewhat aggressive action, quickly coming into lunge distance while leaving a line open. The lean here would probably serve to imitate the body position taken for the engagement, thereby increasing the threat felt by the opponent and their likelihood of attacking. However, this is evidently not meant to be as aggressive as the engagement, as Del Frate goes on to say:
"The invitation also differs from the engagement in that the movement is executed with less speed and energy."
That is, enough speed to pressure the opponent into acting, but still retaining the ability to give a timely and appropriate response to their action.

Whether or not this subtle aspect of the engagement and the invitation will give any advantage to the one who utilises it, I am in no position to say. Now that I have begun changing how I perform these actions to match my interpretation, perhaps I may be able to present my findings some time in the future.

There may be much of this that is not new to other aficionados of the Radaellian method, but I thought it would at least be good to get my ideas out in public so that they have the opportunity to be scrutinised.

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