Double header

Yesterday featured a rare BWAHAHA doubleheader as I attended escrima practice from 10-12 followed by the debut session of N.B.’s cutlass/saber class from 1-3.

Before departing home in the a.m. I made minor progress building the hilt of the DAUE saber. The Del Frate/Burton hilt has a somewhat complex shape that I am trying to approximate using materials and tools at hand. Once I have an ugly but functional prototype I can hand it over to some artisan who can produce a classier version.

Recent activities have been devoted to building the thumb shield, that being one of the most conspicuous improvements made by Del Frate over the stock Italian cavalry saber.

The first step was to saw off roughly half of the cruciform guard, flush with the short edge of the blade. This had to go since it prevented placing the thumb on the back of the handle.

A cracker box was cut up to produce a template which was then transferred to 16-gauge sheet steel and cut out with a hand-held jigsaw (note product placement in lower right)

The plastic handle was removed from harm’s way and the blade clamped level on a welding table. A wire-feed MIG welder was used to make the sheet metal piece one with the guard.

This was not an attractive welding job since the welder in question is made for larger and coarser work, but it sufficed for rapid prototyping work. Shown is the result after some cleanup with an angle grinder

The final step in this phase of the project was to bend the thumb shield into something like the desired shape, which was done by heating it with an oxyacetylene torch and then grabbing it with pliers and torquing it around.

Shown is the result, with small torch rig in background, almost lost admidst disgraceful clutter of the shop (I have not fully moved into the place yet). Next step is to cut and affix a larger piece that will protect the hand from thrusting attacks.

Escrima practice started with some drills that were all about redirecting knife attacks. Next was a “passing” drill where “passing” in the Escrima lexicon means a lateral movement to the outside, moving contrary to the direction of the attack; in this case the attack was a mighty swing from a four-foot-long hunk of rattan about as thick as a baseball bat. The latter drill is reminiscent of the parts of the la canne curriculum that are about defense against heavy sticks (alpenstocks).

From there we moved on to various forms of sparring, using lightweight foam batons and plastic longsword wasters. In the former drill, the only legitimate target is the hands, which are protected by hockey gloves. I ended up reverting to the la canne position, holding the weapon hand up above the head, but I’m not sure if that is really in the spirit of the escrima drill.

Next up was N.B.’s first cutlass/saber class, which he managed with characteristic aplomb, professionalism, and verve. This could hardly be a better fit for the BWAHAHA/Defence against Uncivilised Enemies swordfighting curriculum and so I am going to consider that to be a Solved Problem as long as the class continues. The stated objective is to teach a 19th Century one-handed blade curriculum informed much less by classical fencing than by the work of Renaissance backsword masters, predominantly George Silver, complete with gryps and clozes. The practice weapon, until we get A.T.’s DAUE saber tuned up, will be the dusac. The first class was largely centered on footwork. The footwork is identical to that used in longsword and pugilism with the one addition that steps may be indefinitely delayed, i.e. once you have lifted a foot from the ground you need to be able to balance stork-like until such time as the opponent plants his foot.

And so to bed, since by the time I got home I was unable to manage anything more than to down a glass of wine and crawl into the sack.

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