Monday, May 5, 2014

The Grand Salute

The Grand Salute was a complicated and elaborate form of the salute, a spectacle that preceded displays and demonstrations of fencing. Eugene Van Schaick of the Knickerbocker Fencing Club wrote in 1887 that the grand salute is “what the overture is to the opera”.

Ricardo Enrique Manrique described the Grand Salute in his Fencing Foil Class Work published in 1920. “The Grand Salute, prelude of the assault, consists of several attacks and parries with conventional execution; and it is for three important reasons, a courteous salutation to the audience; to demonstrate the classical beauty of the movements, and to prepare the arms and legs for the strain of the bout.”

And in Regis and Louis Senac’s 1915 The Art of Fencing: “The assault and the grand salute may well be said to go hand in hand on many occasions during exhibitions. The salute consists of a series of maneuvers performed without a mask, and which are given preparatory to an assault. The salute includes practically all the major movements of attack and defense and its purpose is undoubtedly to show the onlookers the various features of the display about to be put before them in the actual bout. In the salute every action should show perfect balance and control. At no other time is a fencer in a more exposed situation. He is on show, and like the blue ribbon winners at the horse exhibits, he should "step" his prettiest. The salute is subject to variations, and complex maneuvers may be introduced. Every instructor should take pains to teach his pupils the salute and make certain that in it they attain advanced proficiency.”

Louis Rondelle’s 1892 treatise explains “The Grand Salute is a prelude to the assault, and has the effect of exercising the arms and legs, rendering the joints and muscles supple, preparatory to the strain of the contest. At the same time it serves as a courteous salutation to the audience.”

There appears to be several versions, though all were similar. Prevost has a description of the salute which I will present here. He begins by giving a little background.
"The Salute, or prelude to the Assault, was, towards the end of 1888, put into definite and
official form by the Academie d'Armes of Paris, founded in 1886. Until then it had been practised in various schools, with various differences of detail. The rules laid down by the Academy are here embodied.
The purpose of the Salute is to give both fencers an opportunity of showing courtesy to each other and to the spectators, and, it may be added, of exhibiting their own proficiency in correctness and elegance, it is thus conducted:-

Each fencer, having put his mask on the floor about a yard to his left, assumes the First Position opposite his adversary at the proper distance, letting his arms fall naturally, the point of the foil nearly touching the ground in front of him, and to the left of the right foot.
Then both execute simultaneously the first movement of coming on guard.
The first movement consists in making a step forward, raising and extending the right arm, with the nails of the right hand turned upwards on a level with the top of the head, and a little to the 
right, and the blade extended with the arm. Then the hand is quickly brought close to the chin, the nails towards the face, and the sword upright, so that the fencer can go on to salute his adversary by dropping the sword to the right at the full extension of the arm, with the palm of the hand turned to the ground.
The second movement consists of bringing back the right arm towards the left hand, which seizes, without grasping it, the shoulder of the blade, imitating the gesture necessary to sheathe the unsheathe a sword.
The third movement consists in elevating both hands together above the head with a graceful curve.
The fourth consists in letting go the blade from the left hand, which takes its place behind, and at the level of the top of the head, the left arm still being bent, while the right hand drops to the level of the right breast, the arm half extended, the elbow in front of, and close to, the body, the point of the sword on a level with the face.
In the fifth movement you advance the right foot about two steps in front of the left heel, sinking down on the legs and keeping the body upright.
[These movements, here separated for cleanness of demonstration, must in practice glide into each other.]

Manrique’s Fencing Foil from 1920 has a nice sequence of the movement for the first part of the grand salute.

In coming on guard for the Salute, each fencer must take care to touch his adversary's point in tierce at the moment when the right hand drops, so as to give the signal for the movement of the legs. At the moment when the right feet are firm on the ground, the right hands must keep the position of tierce, with the blades joined.

Once on guard, both fencers recover to the position of the first movement.

One of the fencers invites the other, with the words 'A vous Monsieur', to take distance first. It is customary to give precedence in this matter to the elder fencer or to an invited guest.

The one who does take distance first becomes the attacker. To take distance: direct the point, with arm full stretched and nails up, the hand on the level of the chin, at the adversary's body, without touching him.
To execute this movement, advance the right about three steps and a half in front of the left heel, just shaving the ground, and keeping the left leg stretched out. When the foot touches the ground, bend the right leg, so that the knee is exactly above the instep. The bust remains upright, the loins arched, the left hand separated from the thigh.

Having made his lunge, the attacker recovers himself with one movement, resuming the first position, but bringing the right hand to a slight distance from the chin, and holding the sword nearly upright. This last movement of hand and sword must be done simultaneously by both fencers, who then execute the first of the salutes to the public. This is done by saluting to the left, with the hand in pronation, a little advanced, and at the level of the left breast, the sword almost horizontal, and half-way to the left. Then bring the hand back near to the face again, as above, and, with the hand in supination, reverse the process just described.
[In public assaults, the salutes should be addressed directly to the President and Vice-President, if there is one. On no account must both fencers make them in the same direction. The President, without rising from his seat, acknowledges each salute with a motion of his foil; the Vice-President, sitting opposite to him, answers with an inclination of his head.]

Now the adversaries fall on guard as above described (without, however, raising the hand), making an engagement in quarte.

The attacker disengages, with the nails up, in line of sixte-tierce, without touching his adversary, and taking care that the movement of the arm precedes that of the legs. The adversary parries tierce or sixte lightly and then drops his point with the nails down as if thretening a riposte in the low line. The attacker on this parry thros his point upwards and backwards past his own left ear with a quick movement of the thumb and forefinger. The nails are downward, the middle, ring and little finger leave the hilt and remain open. The arm is extended, the hand on the level of the head and held to the right, so that the attacker looks at his adversary between the arm and the blade.
(This unusual move seems to be partly due to safety, and perhaps to show the dexterity of the finger-play, or doigte', that is a feature of the French style of fencing. - Jonathan)

He keeps this position for a moment or two and then falls back on guard, taking the engagement of tierce or sixte, which the adversary also takes with opposition. The attacker disengages, the adversary parries quarte, and as before drops his point as if threatening a riposte in the low line, but this time with the nails upwards. As before he remains thus a moment or two and falls back on guard. The parryer engages again in quarte.

The attacker repeats these disengagements in sixte-tierce and quarte to the number of four or six. The number must be even, so that the last disengagement is in quarte. In the last engagement the attacker may ornament his style by a slight pause on the lunge, contrasting it with the swift recovery after the others. The adversary parries exactly as before. He must take his time from the attacker, so as not to make him wait either on the engagement or on the parry.

The attacker now makes the motion of one-two, beginning in quarte, without lunge or extension, placing the hand in tierce on the second movement, and after this he recovers to the First Position, while the parryer remains on guard, with his hand in postition for parrying tierce. As the the attacker recovers, the parryer, in his turn, takes distance and recovers in one movement, as the attacker has done before.

Then the two fall on guard, and now the parts are interchanged, the former parryer becoming the attacker after taking distance, and vice versa.

After this both come on guard with a step of the left foot backwards, the hand in tierce, make three beats on the floor with the right foot, the first slowly, the other two quickly, and then recover forwards and salute to left and right.

When the final one-two has been executed, the adversaries recover at the same moement, and almost immediately fall back on guard, moving the left foot two steps behind the right, and taking care that the movement of the arms precedes that of the legs.

Immediately on this they recover forwards, bringing the left foot up to the right, and repeat a second time the two salutes already described.

Then they come quickly on guard, joining blades in quarte. Once more they recover forwards, and salute each other, with the hand brought close to the chin, the nails turned to the face, the sword perpendicular. Then the palm of the hand is turned to the ground, and the sword lowered to the right at the full extent of the arm.
It must be again noted that the Academie d'Armes discountenances the old-fashioned appels with the foot, allowing, however, a 'slight beat with the right foot to mark la finale des mises en garde et des developpements'.

When two left-handed fencers go through the Salute together, they have only to read right for left throughout the directions. A left-handed man engaged in the Salute with a right-handed man must-
1. Lay his mask on his right.
2. Take the right-handed man's engage in tierce for the first coming on guard.
3. Take distance with the nails down.
4. The final one-two is done in sixte-tierce, and to this end the left-handed man, after taking distance, gives the engagement of quarte to his adversary, who parries quarte on the one-two,
5. The Salute takes place together, first in quarte, then in tierce. The left-handed man must so place himself that the President is on his right.

For some illuminating video of the Grand Salute, visit the youtube page of schlager7 and look at:
"1897 Fencing: The Grand Salute" and
"1930 Demonstration by Lucien Gaudin & Mlle. Gaudin." 
schlager7 has a bounty of old period videos of fencing and dueling, well worth taking the time to watch.

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