A type of counterattack in fencing.

“The Passata Sotto (also called Cartoccio) may be applied in all cases against the final thrust of actions directed by means of one or more movements at the outer or high trunk line. Simultaneously with your opponent’s lunge, you duck quickly by putting the left foot as far back as possible and the flat of the left hand on the floor. At the same time, turn your fist to Second Position and direct your point at your adversary’s flank.”

--From The Art of the Foil, by Luigi Barbasetti

Basically, you’re getting out of the way of your opponent’s attack by ducking. The “classical” way to do this, as described above, is basically to put yourself in a ducking lunge—except that instead of your right foot going forward, your left foot goes back. This prevents you from collapsing the distance to your opponent, which you really don’t want to do most of the time.

I do it a little differently—I just squat down right where I am, bending my knees and extending my right arm at my opponent’s body. I find that my way has two advantages—first, it’s a bit quicker, as I don’t have to pick up my left foot and replace it somewhere else. Second, I feel it gives me more flexibility on what I can do in the case that my opponent’s attack fails and my passata sotto fails. In the classical way, I’m stuck in a lunge and I have to recover before I can execute a second action. In my variation, even though I’m ducking, both my knees are bent, so I can easily move forward or backwards while recovering from my duck.

This move should be used sparingly, because your opponent can counter it fairly easily—simply by attacking your low line if he expects the passata sotto. It doesn’t work against low line attacks because chances are your attacker will hit somewhere on your high line (or hit off-target on your mask) instead of missing completely.

I’ve also seen the passata sotto combined with the inquartata, which can be fairly effective but a real pain in the ass to execute properly.

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