In Destreza, there is a technique known as the “movement of conclusion”, so called because when executed properly, it normally ends the fight. Unfortunately, when executed improperly, it also normally ends the fight.
Fundamentally, the movement of conclusion consists of grasping the opponent’s hilt, hand, or arm with your off-hand and striking with your sword. This can be done in a number of different ways, but the basic principle is always the same – control the weapon, and you can kill them at your leisure. Before looking at specific entering techniques, let’s consider the final position and strike.
Period rapiers are well-suited for grabbing. They have lots of complicated hilt structures that can be easily grasped, and the grip is such that it’s difficult for the wielder to twist the weapon to escape the grab. The downside of trying to grip the weapon itself is the possibility that you miss and end up grabbing the blade – this, as you can imagine, is likely to end badly. For this reason, I personally prefer to grab the hand or wrist of the sword arm. This gives the opponent less leverage and fewer degrees of freedom to escape, at the cost of a less-secure grip. It is important to grab below the elbow, however; otherwise, you have not controlled the arm and will certainly be hit.
Ideally, the grab should be performed from the outside line. The danger is that, having lost control of their weapon, the opponent will most certainly try to punch you with their off-hand, kick you, etc. By staying to the outside, you can limit their available weapons, at least long enough to strike with your blade. That said, if the inside line is what’s available, it’s certainly better to have control of their blade than not to have control of it – you simply must be prepared to strike instantly, and be prepared to take some damage in the process.
What kind of strike should one use in the movement of conclusion? The answer is the same as in any other case: whatever is available. In general, all rapier styles prefer the thrust because it’s faster and more damaging, but the movement of conclusion is necessarily performed from close range. Ideally, one does it with the left hand advanced and the sword hand held back in a striking position. If that’s not possible, the movement of conclusion allows enough time to perform a full-circle cut, which will normally end the fight or at the very least offer a window in which one might execute the thrust.
All right, so now we know where we’d like to get to – left foot advanced, in the opponent’s outside line, holding their right wrist with our left hand and thrusting with our blade. How do we get there without being hit along the way? As with most other techniques in Destreza, this relies on the atajo and blade control.
The simplest version of the movement of conclusion starts with an atajo on the high-inside line (that is, your blade is atop theirs, your hand is in their inside line, and your point is in their outside line.) From this position, you sweep their blade down and out, ending in the low-outside line (so assuming right-handed fencers, their blade is to your right and below your hilt). During the blade movement, you perform a transverse left step, which places you within reach of their hand with your left foot advanced; from there, the fight can be “concluded” by controlling their arm and lifting your point into thrusting position along the diameter. This technique can also be performed via an atajo from below with a bind into the high-outside line.
A slightly more complex version starts with an atajo from above in the outside line (that is, your blade is crossing from their high-outside line to their high-inside line.) In this position, if you perform a bind as above, you’ll end up in their inside line – not impossible, but not ideal. Instead, if you simply move in with a left transverse step as if you were going to perform a thrust in opposition, they will necessarily parry into their high-outside line. If they also execute the proper Destreza response and take a lateral step to their left, you must give up and move out again (or change to a different line of attack); however, if they don’t move, you can likely take their hand and release your blade for the thrust.
An interesting variant on this technique places the diestro on the inside line and very close to the opponent. This situation often arises when using the hanging guard discussed in a previous post. If the opponent attacks over the blade (that is, in your low-inside line) and overcommits, one possible response is a right transverse step into the attacker’s inside line. You can then reach under your own blade to grasp the attacker’s hand. At this point, you have performed a movement of conclusion, but it’s left you in a fairly awkward position and in some danger, since you’re on the inside line. You have two choices: you can step to your left, moving their hand with you, or you can step in.
If you step left, you will open up enough space to execute a full-circle cut from the outside line (that is, your blade moves counter-clockwise over your own head to strike the opponent from your right). This motion also takes you away from the opponent’s left hand, which is presumably trying to hit you.
If, instead, you step directly towards the opponent, you no longer have enough space to free your blade. However, you can instead strike with the hilt, either with the pommel or the quillons depending on position, and this gives you the opportunity to raise your elbow to protect your head from their left hand.
The major danger of the movement of conclusion is failing to get, or keep, control of their weapon. If you try to grasp their hand and miss, you’re in deep trouble. Generally the best you can do at that point is to make your attack anyway and simultaneously try to move away from the opponent again. The attack will not likely succeed, but it might delay them long enough for you to re-establish a safe distance.