This was always something I had been meaning to explore more thoughtfully. Spending some real mental space sorting out, joined with many hours of sweat and work trying to get my body to cooperate. See, I had been told that stretto was this crappy crash-and-bash for years. It was what unskilled newbies did because they couldn't, you know, fence. That it is the last option when all the other options are closed. I kinda get where that idea comes from, because there is absolutely a tendency for the new to crash-and-bash. What never really jived with me was that this crashing mess had anything to do with the real art, let alone stretto.
My position has always been that since stretto is rarely trained it will rarely be preformed well. If always neglected then when situations arise that lend themselves to stretto they will most often result in a mess.
A couple months back, during an exploration into the plays of stretto I was struggling to preform the first play of stretto against my taller, long of arm, partner. See, I could not reach his damn hilt - not from where I was and how we were crossed. I tried it many times from different set-ups and the amount of space I needed to cover may as well have been a mile. I could not get there, not safely. When things don't work like that it is probably because I am missing some really obvious thing that Fiore makes clear. That I miss it due to my own preconceptions and notions of what I thought Fiore was on about without really just reading the text and looking at the pictures and seeing them as they are.
So, we flipped open the MS and looked at this and something jumped for my partner.
Then we looked at this one and the ah-ha moment hit.
|Largo Crossing, 2nd Master of Remedy|
The arms, look at the arms. Looks how the body is turned! Then take a gander at this one.
|Stretto crossing from the left|
He is retracted and inside. This isn't the extended largo crossing with a step or leap around and right. You cover with withdrawn hands and inside - not extend and centre. Look at the hips and how turned they are in the stretto cross and mostly squarish in largo. I had been doing it wrong - imagine that! This isn't Fiore's version of what happens when two people both cut at each other with a step. This is an intentioned first action. You're there on purpose, not because you tried to do a largo cross and got forced to be there. You stepped in, covered, and withdrawn to the close.
Well, we both promptly started trying to come to this turned, withdrawn position. My distance issues dissolved. My feeling like removing my left hand from my sword being suicide dissolved. I didn't have to reach forward to grasp my partners hilt it was just right there at the perfect distance to grab.
I stepped in, covered with the hips more sideface, and my hands withdrawn in. When I did this and gained control of centre line the first play of stretto almost appeared of its own volition. If I lost control of the centre, I was well placed for the second play. The distance was right, the yield around felt good and the hand was right there to check or grab.
Of course not all was perfect. I felt my elbow particularly exposed for Fiore's patented elbow push. But Fiore specifically warns that both could preform these plays so perhaps I should be expecting to feel exposed. I continue to experiment with this but it continues to feel right, match the images and flows well into the plays of stretto.