The difference between narrow and wide play in Italian historical fencing traditions is one of the topics that comes up now and then. The Italian terms are gioco stretto and gioco largo for narrow and wide play. In my opinion the Bolognese sources manage to define (or rather, to describe) of the two but, as many things in fencing are, this is something best understood through experience.
Here is a drill that can help to highlight the difference. This drill is for students cleared for free fencing and with some experience in it, whatever that precisely means in your training group.
When commencing to fence, both fencers are given a set of guards they can fence from. All the techniques can be allowed, but the restriction applies in all waiting and other guards used before engaging. For this particular drill, three variations can be used:
- No restriction on the guards.
- Restricting to stretta guards, so guards with the point towards the opponent and hand held between shoulder and hip height.
- Restricting to larga guards, here including the high guards even with the point in line.
Fencing in these three variations will quickly give the fencers a good practical idea of what is gioco largo, gioco stretto and a mixed play of both. Try it out!
Just to remind, here are the guards that can be used in the two restricted variants of this exercise:
Gioco stretto, narrow play
- Coda lunga stretta (with either foot forward)
- Coda lunga alta (with either foot forward)
- Porta di ferro stretta
- Porta di ferro alta
- Cinghiara porta di ferro stretta
- Cinghiara porta di ferro alta
Gioco largo, wide play
- Coda lunga distesa
- Sotto braccio
- Sopra braccio
- Guardia d’entrare
- Guardia faccia
- Guardia di testa
- Guardia Alicorno
- Guardia alta
Refer here for illustrations of the guard positions and for easier learning, get the System of Guards video.