70. ATTITUDE TOWARD THE NATURALISTS
from The Art of the Sabre and the Epee by Luigi Barbasetti
One disinguishes among fencers two principal types called in Italian “Schermitori” and “Tiratori.” The first, venerating the principles, observe the rules to a nicety and appreciate only the blow which results from a nice conception and not a touch made by chance. An assault between such fencers is a triumph of the tactics of the art. On the contrary, two “Triatori” seek to employ their physical resources and, after a series of brutal and confused passes, victory rests with him who is the more powerful. It is futile, in our opinion, for fencers of this class to devote themselves to the study of fencing, since it is a waste of effort.
In this class also belon the “naturalists.” This term in our opinion is inexact, because it expresses, in the present case, the antithesis of its real meaning. Our conception of a naturalist is a fencer who follows his instinct without the slightest reflection.
The fencer, who parries an attack instead of striking a blow, follows a natural movement, inspired by the spirit of self-preservation. The ignorant frencer then should not be called naturalist; the term “uncouth” best describes him.
The fencer known as the naturalist does not study the science of arms, but searches for the means to touch, regardless of how he scores. The rules of the art do not exist for this nihilist, or rather for this anarchist of the science, who expects to succeed without being a tactician and seeks to fish thus in troubled waters. His reasoning is as follows:
“If my adversary is attentive but not thorough, I strike with the cutting edge and with chances of touching; if my partner is of equal skill I strike with greater force. In the following cases I am also successful: if he tries to perform a cut to the flank, I chop his head; if he tries to touch my head, I play for his abdomen.”
this line of reasoning, applicable to the fencing hall - with the protection of the jacket, the mask and the glove - would be promptly discarded in a duel. One upon the terrain, the naturalist, deprived of his mask, his torso naked, will seek to parry in spite of himself, the instinct of self-preservation having awakened in him.
The science of fencing teaches us how to meet this type of swordplay even in the salle d’armes.
You have learned in the theory of the art the means to forsee all methods of resistance; knowing the devices of the naturalist, it will be easy for you to annihilate him. Your policy in this case will be simple, because your adversary does not parry, does not execute attacks into tempo or counter-actions, but is invariably satisfied to use the cutting edge by storm as often as possible and trusting to his good luck.
If you attack a naturalist with second intention, he advances making irregular movements, and it is then, very easy to touch him in the arm.
No fencer should allow himself to be disconcerted by an irregular adversary.
When fencing against opponents of the type just described, you will find the following recommendations useful:
(a) You must attack only rarely, and always by surprise.
(b) Be very careful to keep your adversary at a good distance, threatening his chest with your point and attacking his arm energetically with frequent cuts.
(c) Advance by short steps in order to attack him in two tempos, or else provoke a blow in order to perform a riposte.
(d) Let your adversary believe that you are going to retreat each time he threatens you, this with the idea of proviking his irregular movements, which will permit you to stop him vigorously with your point, particularly in the high line.
(e) Threaten your adversary with a series of feints and false attacks until he is cornered; then attack him with the cutting edge by a swift single action, and retake the long distance position.
(f) Against this type of opponent, you must be satisfied with the use of simple actions, which can be easily executed with great rapidity.
(g) Do not give your adversary the opportunity to attack you from the medium distance. Your opponent, when attacking from the long distance, will have to develop his action while advancing, with the result that speed and precision will fail him.
We shall finish our list of recommendations by advising you not to try more than a small number of touches against the naturalist. It is better not to start any action unless you are sure of the success of your attack. This will prove your superiority.