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Thread: Parrying: Edge vs. Flat

  1. #1
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    Question Parrying: Edge vs. Flat

    Hello!

    I was just wondering about this, but many of the people I've come across who prefer edge-on-edge parrying do so for two reasons, namely:

    1- The edge is the hardest part of the blade.
    2- They wish to present the greatest possible threat to their opponent.

    My confusion surrounds this second point, as the first has been amply and more than adequately debated (and debunked) elsewhere.

    From what I've seen, and tried, parrying with the edge pits the strength of one fighter against his opponent’s, with the defending fighter using his strength to stop the incoming blow. Should he be weaker than his attacker, then (assuming, of course that the blades don’t break, and discounting chipping) his sword is pushed aside or inwards, and he is then left in a weakened and vulnerable position, open to another attack.

    Also, I find it much more “efficient” when I parry with the flat. In the sense that there is generally less – or at least more fluid – movement, as well as in the sense that I respond with a counter much more quickly. Take a cut to the side: if I parry with the edge I find myself setting my feet firmly on the ground, and extending my arms – a position that finds me exerting a lot of effort to stop the blow, limiting my range of movement (footwork practically non-existent), and seriously weakening my counters (there’s not much strength or range in a counter when the arms are already extended).

    However, if I simply turn my hips to bring my arms sideways, parrying with the flat, I find that I “knock” the offending weapon aside, exerting little strength. From there, it is easy to counter with a quick cut against either arms, head or torso, which may not be the most powerful blow, but which should be more than enough to “disable” – particularly when combined with footwork.

    I find this even more telling when parrying from a hanging position, whether left or right. True, it may be “easier” on the hands to parry with the edge. When using the flat, I find I need to turn my hands inwards, which leaves me in a very uncomfortable and unstable position IF I don’t turn my body, presenting a much narrower target, and use appropriate footwork (usually, sliding) – all of which I find simply “flows” very naturally.

    From this, I’ve never found edge-on-edge parries as helping present the greatest threat, rather the opposite. However, some people swear by such parries, particularly those whose swords have a long dull edge or ricasso (such as those that found on renaissance two-handers, or some great swords).

    I’m no expert, far from it. I’m curious.
    I’d love to know what you think.

    "Logic is like the sword - those who appeal to it, shall
    perish by it." -- Samuel Butler

    Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
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    Some do it with a bitter look,
    Some with a flattering word.
    The coward does it with a kiss,
    The brave man with a sword!
    -- Oscar Wilde

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    Mr Salloum

    The question of the flat-edge parry is a long running and contentious one. The short answer is, it depends.
    It depends on the weapon and system you are using, the situation and exactly what you mean by "parry".

    I strongly suggest that you searhc the forums for this subject and you will learn more than you ever wanted to on the subject.

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  3. #3
    First let me just say..

    AAAAAAIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! in response to this question


    Then i would answer you 2 reasons for using edge to edge

    1- The edge is the hardest part of the blade.
    I would dispute this but of course defer to any swordsmiths out there. i think the flat of the blade is plenty hard enough to take blows, but then thats the whole point of a flat parry not to meet force with force but to displace or catch the blow.


    2- They wish to present the greatest possible threat to their opponent.
    I would think the greatest possible threat to your opponent would be to hit him not his blade. They use this concept in FMA, to strike at the hand as they strike at you and a very good technique it is, but even they do not recommend attacking the blade when you could be hitting the opponent.


    Anyways good question lets hope we can keep this discussion in the thinking zone and not let it get overrun with other political stuff as these discussions can often do.

    On a side not its best not to parry at all but to counter strike.
    Last edited by Mike Cartier; 02-27-2003 at 07:46 AM.

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    Ziad.

    You may wish to define your weapon at this juncture. It is important to know this with any question about technique.

    Western European swordmanship is a very wide ranging subject and techniques suitable for one sword are not always suitable for others.

    Reading between the lines you seem to be discussing longsword but its best to lay this out. Remember that many other weapons are also discussed here.
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  5. #5
    Most of this has been covered many times in previous threads (if you can look past the political bickering in those posts)... but one thing I think you might be missing:

    When you talk about getting into a strength match in doing edge parries, I don't think that has anything to do with edge vs flat... I think that has to do with the part of the blade you're parrying with (forte vs foible to use fencing terms) and the type of parry you're doing (beat parry, static parry, yield parry, etc). This terminology isn't very standardized, sorry.

    In terms of leverage, if you are pushing with the forte (the part of the blade closest to the quillons) against someone else pushing with their forte (the part closest to the tip) you have a huge leverage advantage on them. In terms of edge strength, you also have a thicker, sturdier point of contact than they do (if the swords have any distal taper, as they should). It's not a question of strength so much as leverage, if done properly- you're in a strong position, using a stiff part of your sword, whereas they are using a weak position (fast, but weak, leverage-wise) and a more flexible, yielding part of the blade. Assuming you're both willing to play the game of hit and parry, guess who wins?

    Of course, people aren't always willing to play that game. Some would rather play "slip the cut under the parry", or "close with the engagement of blades and deliver a pommel to the face" or other more one sided games... and that's what makes historical technique more interesting to most of the people on this forum than most generic stage or movie combat is.

    Incidentally, the SAFD system- the stage standard in the USA, and similar to that in many other countries- teaches static edge parries. That doesn't mean that everyone who uses that system or is trained in it is limited to doing that, but stage combat practices are of the main places that idea comes from, I imagine.

    Not sure how much sense I'm making right now- I've been sick for a couple of days...
    Freelance hack... and slash... and thrust...

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    Re: Parrying: Edge vs. Flat

    Originally posted by Ziad Salloum
    Hello!

    (SNIP)

    I’m no expert, far from it. I’m curious.
    I’d love to know what you think.

    Nor are any of us.

    My recommendation/opinion.

    If the master says parry with flat/edge, then if you are practicing that style, do so. If not, don't.

    There are styles that are explicit, e.g. the Bardi school of Bolognia. (Edge)

    If they don't say anything, doing it any way is an hypothesis - yours, someone elses. Frankly, we need to be flexible in our interpretations, because we could be wrong. None of us have ever fought with these things for real, in the time of their use. I have heard pro's and con's on both sides.

    Check the archives, there's more than enough opinionating. Its a legitimate question, but I've not heard anything new lately as an answer.

    Steve

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    Re: Re: Parrying: Edge vs. Flat

    Originally posted by Steve Hick


    Nor are any of us.

    My recommendation/opinion.

    If the master says parry with flat/edge, then if you are practicing that style, do so. If not, don't.

    There are styles that are explicit, e.g. the Bardi school of Bolognia. (Edge)

    If they don't say anything, doing it any way is an hypothesis - yours, someone elses. Frankly, we need to be flexible in our interpretations, because we could be wrong. None of us have ever fought with these things for real, in the time of their use. I have heard pro's and con's on both sides.

    Check the archives, there's more than enough opinionating. Its a legitimate question, but I've not heard anything new lately as an answer.

    Steve
    Steve nailed it! Use the search function at the top of the page. For one perspective on the issue, try this ;http://www.thehaca.com/essays/edgemyth.htm

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    Re: Parrying: Edge vs. Flat

    Hi Ziad, from the question I have to believe that you do not understand the actions that occur and the actual differences between the methods, you questions and descriptions are creating more of a gap than there actually exists.

    My recommendation go to a HES event and pull aside one of the very knowledgeable people there from the "edge parry school" and discuss it with them, that I know of they would all be happy to show you in person and you will see the differences aren't that great, from the apparent pre-conceived notions I see in this thread you wont get a satisfactory answer by this form of communication.

    Don't take this as an insult, if you haven't been taught both methods then you would have no way of knowing the finer points of the issue, I didn't until I started to do German longsword.

    Can we have someone lock this thread? No good can come of it.

    Charles

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    Originally posted by Ian Macintyre
    Ziad.

    You may wish to define your weapon at this juncture. It is important to know this with any question about technique.

    Western European swordmanship is a very wide ranging subject and techniques suitable for one sword are not always suitable for others.

    Reading between the lines you seem to be discussing longsword but its best to lay this out. Remember that many other weapons are also discussed here.
    Hi Ian,

    Thx for pointing that out to me.
    The weapon I'm inquiring about is in fact the longsword.

    Also, by parrying, here I mean the form of parry where you deflect with, or recieve a blow on, the sword, as opposed to dodging or stepping in.


    Z!
    "Logic is like the sword - those who appeal to it, shall
    perish by it." -- Samuel Butler

    Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
    By each let this be heard,
    Some do it with a bitter look,
    Some with a flattering word.
    The coward does it with a kiss,
    The brave man with a sword!
    -- Oscar Wilde

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    Understanding Differences

    Originally posted by Charles Gallagher
    Hi Ziad, from the question I have to believe that you do not understand the actions that occur and the actual differences between the methods, you questions and descriptions are creating more of a gap than there actually exists.

    My recommendation go to a HES event and pull aside one of the very knowledgeable people there from the "edge parry school" and discuss it with them, that I know of they would all be happy to show you in person and you will see the differences aren't that great, from the apparent pre-conceived notions I see in this thread you wont get a satisfactory answer by this form of communication.

    Don't take this as an insult, if you haven't been taught both methods then you would have no way of knowing the finer points of the issue, I didn't until I started to do German longsword.

    Charles,

    No insult taken.
    You may very well be right. I haven't been taught either of the methods. A few friends and I are teaching ourselves here in Leb. We were unfortunately unable to find anybody here to teach us. It seems swordsplay is a lost art here. Even Japanese martial arts like Kendo and Iaido are non-existent.

    We've picked up a smattering of info from various sources, and are learning what we can from books and videos. Sources like Talhoffer and John Clements' excellent "Medieval Swordsmanship: Illustrated Methods and Techniques", among others.

    We're learning as we go.

    It's precisely because I have seen so many arguments for and against edge-on-edge parrying - here too - that I ask.

    I'd love to go to an HES event. Maybe on an upcoming trip... *sigh*
    If anybody would like to jump over here, visit the country, try the food, ski, and teach us something along the way, please let me know.
    "Logic is like the sword - those who appeal to it, shall
    perish by it." -- Samuel Butler

    Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
    By each let this be heard,
    Some do it with a bitter look,
    Some with a flattering word.
    The coward does it with a kiss,
    The brave man with a sword!
    -- Oscar Wilde

  11. #11
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    Ziad.

    I would love to go to Lebanon one day. If for no other reason than to see my great grandfathers grave.
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    Re: Understanding Differences

    Originally posted by Ziad Salloum


    Charles,

    No insult taken.
    You may very well be right. I haven't been taught either of the methods. A few friends and I are teaching ourselves here in Leb. We were unfortunately unable to find anybody here to teach us. It seems swordsplay is a lost art here. Even Japanese martial arts like Kendo and Iaido are non-existent.(SNIP)
    Go over to the Arabic forum and ask Mancoucher, he seems to be a one man band looking for ME MA he may have a lead on something in Lebanon.

    Steve

  13. #13

    Ziad...

    Manoucher indeed has found "something" regional... it's a family, though my memory grows hazy about exactly where the family trained. Looked like the guy was using a way-outsized cane knife and buckler. Pretty wild, and definitely non-western, and not related to any e.asian method with which I'm familiar.

    Regarding the longsword, there's extra confusion to be had, too... what if you cut into a guy's flat, and use your strong to open the line for your weak to cut, at the same time as he's dropped his weight from one leg to another? Those angles, to the untrained eye, are going to look an awful lot like a conscious edge parry... Steve has it exactly on teh head regarding having an open mind: without at least one person doing quality work on each manuscripts method, we are STILL in our milk-gurgling infancy in understanding these traditions.
    Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but excellence admires and respects genius.

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    Re: Ziad...

    Originally posted by Russ Mitchell
    Manoucher indeed has found "something" regional... it's a family, though my memory grows hazy about exactly where the family trained. Looked like the guy was using a way-outsized cane knife and buckler. Pretty wild, and definitely non-western, and not related to any e.asian method with which I'm familiar.

    (SNIP)
    Manoucher has responded and recommends the you go over to the Arabic Swordforum, and search on "sworddance". This will lead to a group that studies in Lebanon.

    Steve

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    Steve - bull's eye as always

    Originally posted by Steve Hick


    Nor are any of us.

    My recommendation/opinion.

    If the master says parry with flat/edge, then if you are practicing that style, do so. If not, don't.

    There are styles that are explicit, e.g. the Bardi school of Bolognia. (Edge)

    Steve
    Amen.

    Although Ziad has specified that he was inquiring about longsword parries, let me give him one of the most explicit references of edge-parrying from a period treatise.

    As a way of amendment, let me say that this does not prove that edge-parrying applies ALL THE TIME TO ALL STYLES. But at least, we know that it was the norm in some of the most renown and practiced forms of swordsmanship in the golden age of the edge-sword. (So, please don't anyone accuse me of being one-sided or disregarding other styles, OK?.)

    The book in question is Viggiani Dal Montone, a Bolognese author writing in the mid-16th Century. In Part 3 of his Lo Schermo (Venice, 1575 - posthumous), Viggiani passes down to us some rare and amazingly specific insights on the mechanics of fencing at the time. Naturally, the sword he speaks of is the spada da filo (side-sword, or cut and thrust sword for those who like the term).

    Here's Viggiani's quote on the mechanics of parrying. (The two characters in the dialog are Rodomonte - the fencing master - and the Count - the student):

    "RODOMONTE: What parry would you use against this [mandritto] fendente?

    COUNT: [...] When your mandritto falls, I would lift my sword against yours, as if forming a mandritto of my own. I would make sure that the tip of my sword does not dip, but that it stays higher than my hilt, while my arm remains well-extended.

    In this manner, our two swords would meet cross-wise, true-edge on true-edge [!!!!!!!].

    ROD.: This is the common parry, taught by all Masters and used by most fencers."

    (Viggiani Lo Schermo, page 81)

    Viggiani then goes on to recommend that this mandritto fendente be parried with a strong, ascending riverso where (again)

    "ROD.:...the two swords will clash true-edge on true edge, and since your forte will meet my debole, my sword may actually break [...]" .
    (Viggiani Lo Schermo, page 82)

    What these two passages show us is that forceful edge-on-edge parrying was THE NORM, for this style at least. Actually, I think this is one of the most explicit testimonies of edge-parrying - but one that is for some reason never quoted by modern students.

    Incidentally, Viggiani strongly advocates practicing with sharp swords (Lo Schermo, page 52), so the argument that "this would only work with blunts in a controlled environment" would not hold water here.

    This explicit passage proves in no uncertain terms that edge-parrying is not a Hollywood myth, but that it was used extensively in Historical fencing. And in case this should be regarded as an anomaly, edge-parrying is specifically advocated by many other Italian masters (Bolognese and non) such as Dall'Agocchie, Manciolino, Marozzo, Capoferro, Fabris, etc. - I'll be glad to supply passages to those interested.

    Ultimately, I agree with Steve Hick: pick your style and do exactly what the period masters of that style advocated. Don't second-guess them - trust them and put yourself in their hands.

    Trust them above your favorite modern maestro or group-leader. Trust them above your own trial-and-error understanding of sword-mechanics. Trust them above your so-called "combat" experience, whatever it may be. Doing otherwise would be tantamount to committing the most outrageous act of hubris.

    They knew best, while we are only starting to grasp our tentative way through the thick fogs of time.

    Even the most knowledgeable among us does not hold the candle next to any of the Ancient Masters - period.

    Tom
    Last edited by Tom Leoni; 02-28-2003 at 05:45 PM.

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    Re: Steve - bull's eye as always

    Well said Tom. You and Steve have really lifted this discussion.

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    Re: Re: Steve - bull's eye as always

    Originally posted by Stephen Hand
    Well said Tom. You and Steve have really lifted this discussion.

    Absolutely. I might add that it is good to see you back posting again Tom.
    Cheers,
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    Originally posted by Mike Cartier
    First let me just say..

    AAAAAAIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! in response to this question
    I'd have to agree with Mike oin this!
    Since this question is asked so often could we/someone/some group of people not just write up a commentary of all views and explanations of the "Edge Vs. Flat" parry issue? If done, the article could be uploaded to a site (or the forums???) to provide an explanation rather than continuously post and re-post the same information every time this question is asked. Just a thought. Any ideas on this?
    Symbol-Thingy,
    The Scholar Formerly Known as Chris Harvey, CSG

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    Smile

    Originally posted by CHarvey


    I'd have to agree with Mike oin this!
    Since this question is asked so often could we/someone/some group of people not just write up a commentary of all views and explanations of the "Edge Vs. Flat" parry issue? If done, the article could be uploaded to a site (or the forums???) to provide an explanation rather than continuously post and re-post the same information every time this question is asked. Just a thought. Any ideas on this?
    I agree completely. WE can all sit around saying the same things with the same result for an eternity and nothing will come of it. I can demonstrate why I think the flat is better for longsword based on a couple of passages in late longsword treatises and my own experience,while others can quote rapier and cut and thrust texts and suggest that these techniques MAY apply to longsword, as well as share their own experiences with the longsword. Are they absolutely right? Am I? I doubt either approach holds the truth in it's entirety. That is why I carefully state my opinion on the matter as "my opinion" and that's why Tom gave his disclaimer before introducing the cut and thrust text into evidence...WE simply don't KNOW for sure.It's up to each SWordsman to observe all of the available information combined with hands-on experimentation,and arrive at his own conclusion.It's a very personal thing,this Art of ours...

    The search function works well and saves our time for other,more scholarly,verifiable matters.
    Last edited by Shane Smith; 03-01-2003 at 04:55 AM.

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    Manuscripts

    Originally posted by Russ Mitchell
    ...without at least one person doing quality work on each manuscripts method, we are STILL in our milk-gurgling infancy in understanding these traditions.
    Russ

    Agree. Might we not extend this to say that this will be true even when there are multiple scholars working on each known manuscript? Last August Bob Charron stated in a trainings that he is on the 50 year plan with Fiore. I think we should all consider ourselves on the 50 year plan with each manuscript. The scholars who might actually master these forgotten knowledge are probably not yet born!

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    Shane, there is a lot of commonsense in what you say, and I agree with your premise.

    The reason why I don't consider this edge-Vs.-flat issue a dead horse is because it still is a major question, especially in the mind of newer students - and it is still unanswered for a great part.

    And discussing a topic such as this on SFI (in a dynamic, thread-like fashion, not simply as a static archived article) may bring to light new evidence every time and help us all better understand what the old Masters of different schools/styles said.

    For one, I relish the opportunity to see how this action took place in other countries (my studies centering on Italy for the most part) and in different centuries and sword styles than the 16th and 17th-C sidesword and rapier (familiar to me).

    So, even if I tend to roll my eyes and think "Oh boy, not again" when I see this topic brought up yet once more, I always sift through it and see if there is a new quote, a new passage, a new piece of evidence that can help me improve my opinion in this regard - and most of the time I find it.

    So, this topic (as our general understanding of HES) is a living, breathing organism actually closer to its infancy than to its dead-horse stage.

    Therefore, to merely freeze and archive our incomplete interpretations would be a mistake.

    If you compare a similar thread from 2 years ago to the most recent ones, you will see how our common knowledge has evolved. And the sharing of information on this forum has played a major part in this evolution, thanks to the quality of the people posting here, yourself included.

    Tom

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    Originally posted by Tom Leoni
    Shane, there is a lot of commonsense in what you say, and I agree with your premise.

    The reason why I don't consider this edge-Vs.-flat issue a dead horse is because it still is a major question, especially in the mind of newer students - and it is still unanswered for a great part.

    And discussing a topic such as this on SFI (in a dynamic, thread-like fashion, not simply as a static archived article) may bring to light new evidence every time and help us all better understand what the old Masters of different schools/styles said.

    For one, I relish the opportunity to see how this action took place in other countries (my studies centering on Italy for the most part) and in different centuries and sword styles than the 16th and 17th-C sidesword and rapier (familiar to me).

    So, even if I tend to roll my eyes and think "Oh boy, not again" when I see this topic brought up yet once more, I always sift through it and see if there is a new quote, a new passage, a new piece of evidence that can help me improve my opinion in this regard - and most of the time I find it.

    So, this topic (as our general understanding of HES) is a living, breathing organism actually closer to its infancy than to its dead-horse stage.

    Therefore, to merely freeze and archive our incomplete interpretations would be a mistake.

    If you compare a similar thread from 2 years ago to the most recent ones, you will see how our common knowledge has evolved. And the sharing of information on this forum has played a major part in this evolution, thanks to the quality of the people posting here, yourself included.

    Tom
    Fair enough Tom. I agree that knowledge only increases with the sharing of ideas,but as for me,I have truly seen nothing new AND decisive in the way of ideas in the past couple of years on this subject.This is truly an exasperating topic for us all! None-the-less, let the debate continue now as before if that is the will of the masses!

  23. #23

    Re: Gurgling

    Originally posted by Randall Pleasant
    Agree. Might we not extend this to say that this will be true even when there are multiple scholars working on each known manuscript?
    Ymmv, Randall. My metric for getting out of infancy and into rugrat-hood wouldn't be multiple scholars... but for when each of these is reborn into an actual living lineage. In other words, when there are students, and particularly grandstudents, whose skills are clearly in the same league with the original reconstructor. It's not multiple viewpoints that makes a lineage or method... but transmission of what's learned.
    Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but excellence admires and respects genius.

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    Re: Understanding Differences

    Originally posted by Ziad Salloum
    [B]It's precisely because I have seen so many arguments for and against edge-on-edge parrying - here too - that I ask. [B]
    Well the best way to try and give you any kind of answer Ziad may be to give you specific school/master answers.. For my part, I would say that in Fiore it does not matter - it is a non-issue, and while Fiore certainly seems to turn his edge outwards in certain circumstances (like in Posta Frontale against the thrust, where he likely wants the extra control of his quillons against the enemy point), generally he seems to cut into the blow, towards the opponent (occupying the centre line as some call it) - This (at least for me) usually has the result of cutting with the edge obliquely at an agle into the opponent's flat, but travelling towards the person, not directly against the direction of their cut.
    There are of course different circumstances that change this though.... As has been said, it's easier shown than written...

    Matt

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    Lightbulb Re: Re: Understanding Differences

    Originally posted by Matt Easton


    ... generally he seems to cut into the blow, towards the opponent (occupying the centre line as some call it) - This (at least for me) usually has the result of cutting with the edge obliquely at an agle into the opponent's flat, but travelling towards the person, not directly against the direction of their cut.


    Matt
    My experiences and conclusions mirror yours on this particular issue Matt.

    AS a general note, your post got me wondering whether we as Swordsmen are clear in our definition of a flat-parry when we present the idea whether we are speaking in favor of,OR against the concept.When I advocate a "flat" parry,I am not too fixated on whether my opponents "flat" or my own is engaged so long as someones flat is in the equation.By my personal definition,if my edge cuts into my opponents flat,it qualifies as a parry on the flat...Just a thought to save beginners from needless or baseless confusion.

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