Calendario | Foro de la AEEA | Noticias | Galería de Fotos | Canal YouTube | Area Privada

Destreza: How to use geometry to analyze fencing II

Imagen de Alberto Bomprezzi


Second 006

After stepping to the left Diego tries to bind combining sword and dagger. This is an action called encomendar, but his weapons are too far from each other and I am carefully keeping an obtuse angle stance which doesn’t allow binds. We are both in the Mean of Proportion and I step left to get closer to his sword and far from his dagger. If I can get both my weapons on his sword I would get the chance to attack safely that is why I go from D to Z with a transversal step. D is the Mean or Proportion of the previous circle while Z is the Proportional Mean of the current circle. Line AB is the common diameter. BC is the line of Diego’s sword and his particular diameter in this particular instant. Is diameter has changed because he has moved too much his sword towards the Right Side – rectitud derecha in Spanish – and his hand is in half nails down ( from second to third in Italian terms).  In practical terms he has lost the control of the central line or Right Angle but I am too far to use it and thrust as I could not control his reactions from such a long distance – line ZB -. X is Diego proportional mean but he can’t use as I have the line completely covered with both weapons. He could directly attack with a thrust nails down but, with sword and dagger, only if I would make a big mistake could reach me, leaving him completely open. The risk is too high and wisely Diego doesn’t attack.



Line AB is the common diameter – and my particular diameter as well - and line CB is the line of the sword and Diego’s particular diameter.   Z was my proportional mean but as Diego is stepping forward to X is going to become my Proportionate Mean. From there I could thrust but not safely as his sword could deliver an aferblow by cut or thrust so having a good position I decide to wait. The line AZ is the transversal step of about 3 feet I took to get from the Mean of Proportiion to what it was a Porportional Mean but it is now becoming a Proportionate Mean.

The fact that I am in a better position than Diego – in this instant – is caused not only by the feet but by the shoulders alignment, the already mentioned aspects.   Looking at it, is possible to see how my right shoulder is facing is right shoulder. This is important because I am profiled behind my weapons while he is not, just because I have a better shoulders alignment.  In a way I am splitting his stance in too separating his sword from his dagger.

When this video was shot, almost three years ago, I was doing intuitively only later I realized and found the way to move the whole body and develop the system to align the shoulders properly. Treatises don’t say how to do it, but it is clear that it was important as the terms and concepts were created since the beginning by Pacheco de Narvaez.  Practical experience proves it,  and it becomes a basic concept to understand how the diameters, the angles and the circles are implemented in the Practice.


The following image shows the moment when Diego after  lowering  the sword steps left trying to create a new angle. When he lowered the sword I stepped back and I moved the sword down to deflect the possible thrust leaving the dagger on the central line just in case of a feint.

Line AB is the old diameter that Diego has left to create a new one AE but his intention is travelling directly B to X to get a proportional or proportionate Mean – he can’t know exactly – the blue line DB is the slightly backward step he takes to create a new diameter on the sword side –left side – . In the old circle I was In Z but after Diego’s movement I see where he is going and step back ZA while also bringing the left foot backwards to maintain my diameter when  Diego would get to X. Line DC is the diameter of the next circle that must be created if Diego gets to the position DX.

Now if we look carefully line DC makes an angle with line AD which means that I will not exactly be in the next diameter DC but that I will be placed somewhat to the left of it. This will be important in the next movements.


Diego has got a slight angle which is the one formed by the blue and the red line, but his sword is on the blue line not on the red. Here  he has  raised his right foot and it is advancing to get his proportional mean X.

C=Diego’s Mean of Proportion

A=My Mean of Proportion

X= Diego’s proportional Mean

Z= My proportional mean

W= My Proportionate Mean

Line ZC= My own particular diameter, because Diego’s sword is on line BD. I have  squared my stance putting both weapons together on line ZC because Diego was assuming a profiled stance and advancing, possibly preparing a new attack.  Line ZC in point W  is also called the First Way.

As it can be seen there’s no need to step on the Mean of Proportion to get any of the other Means – the proportional or proportionate –It is done very often and it is the most common and safest way to get there. This is nothing exceptional, fencers of all countries, different schools and using different types of swords do it. As I said Destreza is method created to analyze and explain fencing not a special practical method.

The circle is now almost the same of the previous movement but there are some changes..

Diego is now advancing is right foot but he is not raising the sword into the Right Angle.. He should have done it. If I would have been in A he could have waited but being in Z is very dangerous to advance without covering the Right Angle as the distance is very short and there would be no time to react. I have got a narrow angle but at this distance may be enough, thus I advance the rear foot bringing it closer to my forward foot, but not too much. This way in case of having to move quickly I will be ready while a long step would be long and make me slow. Besides I am shifting the weight forward, slowly, to get ready to thrust.


Now as the actions are very fast the circles are not changing.

AB = (blue line) = common diameter

AX = (yellow line)= Diego’s particular diameter

DB = (red line) My particular diameter

Z= (on red line) My proportional mean

W= (on red line) My proportionate mean

X= Diego’s distance of the proportionate mean but not the angle

Diego has advanced too much and knowing that I have the line covered I seize the opportunity. Stepping back now would be a bed decision as I would lose control of his sword, which has always been my purpose In this image it is possible to see how I am now occupying the right angle on the outside line with both weapons.  I have 6 degrees of my sword on 4 of Diego’s sword in the Right Angle and my dagger is covering the secondary line in case he continues the thrust.  I am stepping from Z to W to get my proportionate mean knowing that the position of his body doesn’t allow his dagger to come into play.

Like before

AB= common diameter

ZB= particular diameter

X=Diego’s propprtional mean

Z= MY proportional Mean

W= My proportionate Mean

AB = (blue line) = common diameter

AX = (yellow line)= Diego’s particular diameter

DB = (red line) My particular diameter

Z= (on red line) My proportional mean

W= (on red line) My proportionate mean

X= Diego’s distance of the proportionate mean but not the angle

The thrust is delivered on the outside line landing on the right part of Diegos’s head. From my side the Right Angle is covered with both weapons. My main weapon is attacking while the secondary weapon is covering the point of Diego’s sword.

 I am trying to respect the principles o f True Fencing, Hit without being hit.

Also mechanically I have the right foot not perfectly pointing towards Diego, which is the mistake that makes me miss the face and hit in the head. A small mistake but very important because for that reason I am unable to completely overcome Diego’s sword.


AB= Diego’s sword line

AC= Common diameter

X=Diego’s proportionate mean for the dagger in the previous circle. As I have stepped away there is no proportionate mean.

After the thrust I step back with a half step of the forward foot – the right  and then the rear  foot while covering with a triangular guard to avoid a possible cut from Diego’s sword or a thrust of the dagger.

Diego advances his left foot but using a curve step he is slow and can’t deliver any kind of afterblow.

In the end the action Diego honorably declares to have been touched and I admit, by moving the dagger, that the hit is not a good one.  


I have drawn a very simple circle to make it easier to understand. Circles and lines may be used to analyze many different movements and positions of almost any part of the body. Nevertheless the real problem is to define where the Right Angle is placed in every single moment and what is the corresponding sword position in that particular moment. From there the circle is established and the analyzing process may begin. Obviously this is done later. During the assault it is a matter of experience and personal skills that allow the fencer to implement what he learns during the analytical process. To properly work in the intellectual level experience is necessary or the conclusions reached may be limited, or sometimes even wrong. The theory is relatively simple but applying it in the Practice it is not. But this is nothing exceptional it happens the same in every field of the human knowledge.

In the pictures I have tried to present visually how Destreza, the Theory, should be used. As it can be seen the circles the lines, the means, even the practical descriptions may be respected and implemented effectively not necessarily from a rigid standing stance.  

I admit that I am worried to see that outside Spain the common thinking is to believe that the Spanish fenced rigidly with the arm extended.  It is rather surprising as Destreza is far from being a monolithical system. The Right Angle is a Universal Mean, a complex concept, not only a stance. As a stance it is often used, but reducing the concept to a stance is impoverishing the reach of the system.  

The use of the right Angle does not imply the rigid, constant use of the right angle stance, but only the control of the central line. How this Is done is up to the fencer as long as the core principles are respected. 

I do not have a problem with those who want to fence that way. It is their choice and if they feel comfortable fencing that way it is up to them then to make it work. But many other practical systems may be used and they will be True Fencing or not, not because of the formal use of the arm extended but because they respect the principles of True Fencing. As said Destreza is a theoretical method not a practical one.

I am aware that the majority of treatises on Destreza are available only in XVII century spanish and this makes things even more difficullt With all respect I would suggest to those who are interested in studying Destreza to approach the study with an open mindset and pay more attention to the principles than to the pictures. Use what you need, take what you can and use it to improve your practical fencing. It may take some time but when it is understood Destreza is a relatively simple theory. The use of geometry to analyze fencing becomes an exciting and instructive activity, while, at the same time, makes you free and responsible of your own fencing. And this is important. True Fencing is A Science and an Art, and as an art,  we are free to fence the way we feel is better as long as we respect the Principles established in the Science. In Destreza this is easier to do than in others styles because those Pricniples are openly explained in a large number of treatises.  All we have to is to learn how to use them starting from being able to get the Mean of Proportion. But it is naive to pretend that we all have to fence the same way.                                                                                                      


Common circle: The theoretical circle that binds both fencers. It changes with every single movement of one of them. There are two circles one for every foot. The circle normally considered is the inside circle that corresponds to the forward foot.

Mean of Proportion: Theoretical point from where the diameter, the circles and the angles are calculated. A longer distance may be used but Destreza techniques do not work from there. The mean of proportion or shorter distances have to be achieved  to use atajos, generals, conclusions etc. It corresponds to a set distance even though may vary depending on the author. The Mean of proportion we use is calculated by extending both swords; the point of my sword should be placed between the quillions and the pommel of my adversary's sword.

Proportionate Mean: The distance and angle from where the diestro may reach his adversary by only extending the arm.

Proportional mean: An intermediate distance between the Mean of Proportion and the Proportionate mean.

Common diameter:  The line that binds both fencers. In the beginning of the phrase of arms when both are in the right angle and in the mean of proportion it Is the line that goes from the right foot of one fencer to the right foot of the other.

Particular diameter:  The line that allows one fencer to reach the other without being reached as a consequence of the distance and angle

The Right Angle: The central line that, when the Mean of Proportion is reached, must be covered with the arm extended. It is a concept, practically complex,  not a guard or a physical posture. The first Universal Mean.

The Atajo or Bind, if we want to translate it in English. The Bind is the action that gives control of the enemy’s sword. There is not a single way to perform it but many different ways depending on the means – distance and angles - involved, the type of swords used etc –  It is the second universal mean.

The movement of conclusion: The disarm that naturally comes out from the use of the Means Destreza establishes. In rapier and dagger it is not used as having the dagger disarms are rarely used. It is the third universal mean. It is very commonly used when Destreza theory is properly applied.

Aspects: The relative position of the shoulders of one fencer towards the other. It is a fundamental concept in practical terms. In this video is not clearly shown.