Friday, 21 November 2008

Abrazare di Amore!

Well the training was ok last night. It was my intention to introduce the first plays of abrazare to the beginners, with the help of the more advanced students. I didn't want to go straight to the first play by way of the neck grab and chambered gut punch, as we've been doing now for a while. Oh no! I wanted a build up so that I could also get the idea across that this stuff can be used as part of a flow type drill and not a semi-static response. Therein lay the source of my downfall. I first combined the footwork with the abrazare guards, this worked well enough. I then tried to introduce the "pummelling" exercise, first with no footwork and then by introducing an accressere step as the hand is threaded under the opponent's arm. The whole thing was pretty scrappy for several reasons.

I intended to have them accressere with the front hand only. So it should have been thread-accressere, thread-no step, and so on. I didn't make this clear and so some did it with no footwork, some with a passing step instead (thread-passare, thread-passare, each time time ending in a cross-hand version), while others had no clue what the hell I wanted them to do. I hadn't thought it all out enough in advance and as I couldn't fully explain what I wanted people to do (I wasn't 100% sure myself), there was wholesale confusion. Fuck! I realise that i have a problem trying to visualise plays in my mind as my thought process tends to flip-flop from the attacker's to the defender's perspective, rather than having a 3rd person overview of a particular play or action.

So, we had a laugh about it and went straight to the chambered gut punch start, from which the response is first play. This and the follow on to second play went fairly well, thank God, particularly as I realised I was on more solid ground, material wise. Some details I noticed from these plays:

1. The attacker needs to make a proper attempt to grab behind the neck so that they can maximise their punch. If they just reach for the shoulder, it's almost impossible for the defender to get the reaching arm straight/hyper extended, as the attacker's hand just slides past the front of the defender's neck. So, intent is important!

2. When defending, the defender can either step backwards or fowards. I prefer taking a step back for a few reasons. It moves my body away from the punch and it straightens the attackers reaching arm, making it easier for me to attack his elbow. If I step fowards, it's into the punch, the attacker's reaching arm tends to bend downwards, making the hyper-extension very difficult and the turn of the elbow is instead done with more of a crank action than a vertical drive into the chingiale position. Then again, both the Getty and Pisani-Dossi images show that the defender's front foot is clearly outside the that of the attacker, which suggests that the defender simply steps diagonally forwards (accressere fora di strada), followed by a pivot on the front foot, taking his body offline away from the incoming strike(or groin kick), simultaneously attacking the elbow of the reaching arm. This variation would also allow the smooth transition (rather than a stop-go-stop action), to the second play or other plays. Cool, I think I just had a mini-eureka moment! Yaay! I'm going for a pint!

This image is take from the excellent Fiore project by the group the Exiles. Check here for more information.


  1. Hello,

    I found your post pretty interesting. So you perform the first play of Abraraze as though the attacker is going in for a gut punch with their right hand? I can see how that would work.

    We start it from a diagonal clinch and use the left hand to break the opponents grip and then carry on from there.

    It is cool how different people have variations on how they end up in the plays.

    Dan (Motley)

  2. Hi Dan, thanks for the input. Well, as I wrote above, I am interesred in various ways of coming to the first play, be it as a chambered punch, or a diagonal clinch, or from a pummelling-type flow drill which is "broken" by performing this play, or indeed any other play mentioned by Fiore. I would't say necessarily that one is ever more correct than the other, rather it should be realistic and meaningful so that the action/play makes sense. I made a pig's ear of demonstrating the pummelling method and so retreated to "safer" ground by adopting the gut punch instead, which seemed to work. Then again, there may well be even better ways to build up to these plays, so I'm always on the lookout for things to help improve both my understanding of Fiore and HEMA in general, but also more efficient ways of teaching this stuff.