There wasn’t a CF entry yesterday, because instead I was taking a glorious hour-long private class. Unlike the people in Wednesday class might assume (I honestly do not operate on that level normally, it is just we had discussed something related about the timing of an attack to cavazzione not two months ago, and what he said seemed to confirm my hunch about how it should go), we did not talk about advanced theory but instead did very very basic stuff in very careful an exact detail – such as just having one set exercise for a half an hour, rinse and repeat.
“I suppose if you ran classes so that they perfectly suited me, first talking about the differences in theories in the exact angle of the arm in seconda, and then doing one basic exercise for the whole class, everyone else would be bored inside 20 minutes and never come back.”
“No… Ilkka would be there, and Topi maybe.”
“Oh! That would be a fun class, if a bit out of my league.”
“Yes. But my children would starve.”
Anyway! Did I mention I hate this tempo chapter? I really do hate it. Starting from the fact that he says that “tempo” means three different things, and then seems to list two, one of which is divided into three, making four total. What the…? Having read roughly dozen times in a row, I now think he actually lists three, but does not explicitly mention where he changes from the second to the third, and since they are related it gets messy.
Core problem, I think, is the use of the word “tempo”, which means all of time, and rhythm, and pacing, and the fact that he lives in a time where exact measurements of short periods of time were pretty much impossible and probably not even conceivable even to an educated man like him. That said, I am sure 17th Century Italian would have had words he could have used as technical terms instead of picking one that means all sorts of other things too, but no, that would be too simple.
Also, the confusion of “wide narrow distance” is here again, big time. I really need to learn 17th C Italian one day so that I can see whether it is in the original or with the translators (otherwise it’ll never stop bugging me).
I think the three tempos he mentions are:
1. Time, as in “any amount of time it takes to accomplish something”.
2. A unit of time, as in, a minute, or second, or, as he defines it, not having those concepts in his everyday vocabulary, “the time it takes to strike with a fixed foot”.
3. A “timing”, moment in a fencing sequence where either participant does a movement (while the other is doing their thing), opening an opportunity for a strike (for either, or both). I think what he is getting at is that you can only define such moments by looking at both participants, not by saying that “this guy took one motion so there was one beat of the rhythm/timing/tempo”; e.g. if I strike with a “one-tempo motion” but my adversary manages to get two sensible actions in there, there’s been two tempi for both of us. Also, he seems to say that each tempo is an opportunity to do something, possibly because it is a moment where the adversary’s position and intent is known. You can “lose a tempo” by failing to strike when you had a moment to do so.
That was about what this chapter says, but here’s the paragraph by paragraph anyway:
50) The word “tempo” in fencing means three different things.
In the most general sense, it means just the length of time(1) that it takes to achieve whatever, regardless of how long that time is.
Example: suppose I am seeking measure slowly, but my opponent is not moving(2), so I eventually get there. If the other guy does indeed stay still as long as it takes for me to move, it does not matter how long that is. What matters is the relative, mutual timings of our movements (or lacks there-of).
Incidentally, since the time it takes to get into measure does not matter, it makes sense to do it carefully, with your body placed over the left foot and counterpoised.
51) Secondly, “tempo” can mean a time period of a definite length that it takes to perform a particular action.
In fencing, there are three striking measures. Strikes from those take different amount of time, because the distance is different.
So, when you strike with an advancing foot, the adversary needs to stay put for the period of time that it takes you to hit him, or you will miss. That time is brief, but it is still there.
The fixed foot strike requires a little less time, and the strike with only the arm even less.
Rather than measure these times in seconds(3), it makes sense to measure them in relative movements of the combatants: “this takes as much time as that”.
To give some names for these basic periods of time, we call the shortest one mezzo tempo, or half a tempo, the next, a tempo, and the longest, tempo and a half.
52) In the first example, it did not matter how long a time we took to arrive to measure. Therefore, it makes no sense whatsoever to try and measure it in half or whole tempos in this second sense.
We only use the second sense of “tempo” when discussing strikes.
Incidentally, the posture of body in striking is also completely different from that used in seeking measure, the latter being careful, and the first being bold, hurling oneself forward to strike.
53) Thirdly(4), in the end, tempo is nothing but the measure of the relative movements (or lacks there-of). When my point is still and my adversary’s body moves, the time of the stillness equals the time of the movement.
To make use of this, I must strike when my adversary makes enough time, makes a tempo, for it by being still.(5)
For example: I am on wide measure, and wish to come closer. When I move the point of my sword and myself, I only achieve my goal of narrow measure if my adversary is still, because if he moves too, I will be on some other measure.
If I moved to strike without my adversary fixing himself to the narrow measure that I was aiming at, I would miss, and risk being hit myself.
It can happen that both of us seek some measure, and think that we have found it, and attack, and both will miss, because due to the movement of the other, neither were where they wished to be. The tempo they thought they were using was not really there.
Your movement creates timings for the opponent, and the opponent’s movement creates timings for you.
In practice, it can also happen that you strike “contra-tempo”, at the same timing, and both hit, having come at the same time to a striking distance.(6)
54) Use of time out of measure requires patience; use of time on measure requires quickness in striking and exiting.
55) Tempo is lost on striking distance through shortcoming of nature, or through defect of art and of practice.
56) Through shortcoming of nature, you can miss your timing by being physically too slow, either because you are too skinny and weak, or because you are too fat.(7)
57) Through defect of art, you can miss your timing by being too much forward when seeking measure, because if your weight is not properly on your back leg, you cannot spring forward fast enough when an opportunity presents itself.
58) Through lack of practice, you can lose your timing either simply not yet having practiced enough, or when students acquire some wretched habit, going back to the vanities of feints, and disengages, and counterdisengages, and similar things done as such(8).
59) From this, it should be obvious that the people who say that tempo comes only from the movement of the adversary are plain wrong. br/>
Instead, we need to also take into account my own movement, and not only our movements, but also lack there-of.
60) To conclude this tempo business, I say that ever movement and every stillness of mine and the adversary’s together constitute a tempo.
(1) As in, measurable in some units of time.
(2) Actually, not moving his body, so he might actually be doing something else, like trying to close the line or whatever. Which you actually see happen, so it’s not as stupid an example as it sounds.
(3) Ok, so, he does not mention seconds. This is for the obvious reason that he likely had never in his life measured anything in seconds, nor did it occur to him to do so — while the concept existed, the first clock that could do it was invented in 1577 in Istanbul, the first one in Europe 1670. (Wikipedia) But I am sure he would have said that if he had had the concept. So there.
(4) Like I said, I am simply guessing that this is where he changes the subject. He does not explicitly say so.
(5) We are into Realms of Wild Speculation and Unsupported Interpretations here. You have been warned.
(6) In Capo Ferro’s ideal world, you never attack except by way of a legitimate defense, of course.
(7) Yes, he actually says that out loud. It’s very refreshing in this bodily obsessed time.
(8) I don’t think he as much says that you should not feint or disengage, but rather warns you against doing too fancy stuff before you can actually get the basics.