Renaissance Staff Fighting of Paulus Hector Mair, play number 2




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Published on Apr 16, 2009

This is a medieval/Renaissance staff play from Paulus Hector Mair's Opera Amplissimum De Arte Athletica, Volume 1, specifically play number 2. The staffplay in the video has been worked out from an original translation of Mair's Latin text.

While Mair's text is quite specific for certain aspects, it can also be quite vague at the same time. For example, while the text will provide written descriptions of what happens during a certain play, yet these same descriptions do not necessarily describe the exact means of achieving those ends. At times, the means can be inferred, while at others the exact mechanics of the modus operandi can be multiple.

This is easily seen in this play while parrying. In certain instances, the velocity of an attack may most easily be parried with the rear end of the staff being brought forward (such as seen in the very beginning of this staff play), having already engaged the front end in some task. Here Mair is specific in saying that by retreating with the left foot one avoids the thrust. By retreating one brings what was the rear end of the staff (in the right hand) to the front, and therefore, to the forefront of the action. A front-end parry is not as advisable as the attacker's initial thrust that comes after the low strike to the leg is terribly fast and closes the distance in a heartbeat, so the easiest way to recuperate one's self in defence is by flowing from the low parry with the front end through the Position of Deviation to a rear-end parry before going on the counter-attack.

This defence sets up a series of attacks by the second athlete in said counter-attack, which are a rear-point thrust to the initial athlete, followed by a circularly-wheeling strike and two immediate thrusts with both ends of the staff. This long sequence of attacks is made necessary by the continuous parrying of the first athlete. Here, Mair doesn't say how one parries, he only says that the attacks must be deviated. The only sticking point is that this defensive sequence ends with another rear-end thrust while stepping forward with the right leg. Realistically, the parries may be effected from half-staff or quarter-staff, and the video shows several options while remaining within the parameters of the play.

The only addition to the play is the last bit in the video, a surprise attack to the other athlete's leading foot, which actually comes from another one of Mair's plays (number 5, to be precise)...but that was just to keep my student on his toes (no pun intended, as that could very easily have broken his foot), in the staff's version of stopping on a dime...or in this case, stopping on a foot.

Of course, this technical examination is my own (as is the translation), and others' results may vary.

I should add that the staves are of two types, both of hardwood. The student's staff is six-sided and wrist thick, as is the dark staff that I use in the video. Very heavy. The lighter-colored staff that I have in moments is more akin to what is literally shown in Mair's illustrations and only about as thick as putting the index and thumb together.



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