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A Modern Training Manual for Medieval Longsword
The Swordsman’s Companion: A Modern Training Manual for Medieval Longsword
First published 2004 Second edition 2013 Ebook edition 2013
By Guy Windsor
ISBN 978-952-67934-0-5 (paperback) ISBN 978-952-67934-1-2 (PDF) ISBN 978-952-67934-2-9 (EPUB) ISBN 978-952-67934-3-6 (MOBI)
© Guy Windsor 2004, 2013 Images © 2004 by Jari Pallari Illustrations © 2004 by Jani Hyväri Design by Zebedee Design & Typesetting Services
Preface to the Second Edition
en years ago I wrote a book that changed my life. The Swordsman’s Companion put my school on the map, and brought my work to the attention of several thousand enthusiasts worldwide. It is still in demand today, with second-hand copies fetching sums in the hundreds of dollars. This is a silly price to pay for a book that, from a practical point of view, is thoroughly out of date. So now that the copyright has reverted to me in its entirety, I am free to make the book widely available at a reasonable price. I wrote this book at a time when my research into our medieval combat heritage was at a very basic level. I knew full well that I as an instructor, and we as a community, had not even begun to understand the depths of these arts. But there seemed to me to be a need for a basic primer in the use of a longsword, so that people who wanted to take up the practice of the art could do so in a useful and systematic way. This was supposed to keep everyone busy while I got on with figuring out the sources. And an inbox full of emails from people from all over the world telling me how much my book has helped them suggests that it did its job. My understanding of the historical material finally reached the point where it was ready to be written down in full in about 2010, and so I am publishing through Freelance Academy Press a series entitled Mastering the
The terms refer what you do in a specific tactical situation (of which measure is only a part). in that it contains the essence of why we should follow the art. which is not a catalogue. but the representation of a system. and footnoting the most outstanding errors. To that end I have reproduced the text about word-for-word with the second printing. I have also included as an appendix an article I wrote in 2005 outlining the key changes that had been made to the way I was teaching. Fiore organises his techniques according to the circumstances in which they should be done. and especially to the relationship of the blades when they meet. replacing them with “wide measure” and “close measure” instead. giocco stretto as “constrained play”. But I think this book is still useful. I have left the organisation of this book as it was. excising a few unfortunate remarks. In other words. mandritto fendente). but most critically it overlooks the fundamental point of his book. vol. There was no point in trying to update this book – just about everything would have had to be changed. which should be.Art of Arms. I hope you find this an engaging read – just please don’t take it as gospel! . in just the first year that the book had been out. And it offers a window into what was considered state-of-the-art only a decade ago. 2: Longsword Fundamentals. There are several plays that don’t fit this theory. Fiore catalogued his longsword techniques by measure. I have also corrected my unfathomably bad use of Italian terms (for some reason I have the names of the blows reversed: fendente mandritto. and now is. I could not resist correcting the single most egregious and pervasive misinterpretation in the book. for instance. which was my use of the Italian terms giocco largo and giocco stretto. It was easier to simply start afresh. I go into this at length in Mastering the Art of Arms. I (and everyone else at the time) thought they indicated the distance at which techniques occurred. and simply excised the misleading terms. just correcting a few typos. Giocco largo is better translated as “wide play”.
TABLE OF CONTENTS About the Author By the Same Author chapter one Introduction chapter two chapter three chapter four 7 8 11 29 35 47 58 69 93 136 197 209 211 213 217 221 228 230 Acknowledgements 9 The Weapon The Italian Masters Fencing pricniples Unarmed Practice Armed Practice – Solo Drills Armed Practice – Pairs Drills chapter five Equipment chapter six chapter seven chapter eight chapter nine Freeplay Afterword Appendix A – In a Nutshell Appendix B – Warm-Up Appendix C – Training Schedule Appendix D – Revisions Bibliography Endnotes .
This edition is dedicated to the scholars of this Art who took the first edition and made it useful. . Especially: GREG GALISTAN AND CHRIS BLAKEY.
He also blogs on swordsmanship at guywindsor. and has been teaching the Art of Arms professionally since 2001. www. Finland.About the Author Guy Windsor has been researching historical Italian swordsmanship and knightly combat since the late nineties.com ~ 7 ~ . with his wife and daughters. The Duellist’s Companion.net/blog He lives in Helsinki. Veni Vadi Vici. His books include The Swordsman’s Companion.swordschool. and the Mastering the Art of Arms series.
By the Same Author The Duellist’s Companion The Little Book of Push-ups The Armizare Vade Mecum Mastering the Art of Arms vol 1: The Dagger Mastering the Art of Arms vol 2: Longsword Fundamentals Veni Vadi Vici: an annotated translation of De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi ~ 8 ~ .
Stefan Dieke for his elucidation of German longsword fencing and Bob Charron who taught me a great deal about Fiore’s system. His technical-writing expertise has been invaluable. and for pushing me to get on and write the damned thing.Acknowledgements I would like to acknowledge the following people for their impact on this book. expert research assistance and critical reading of innumerable early drafts made this project possible. with whom I started the whole ‘real swordfighting’ thing back when we both knew nothing. friend and mentor. Paul Macdonald. is largely responsible for making this manual intelligible. Steve Fox. my first fencing coaches. co-founder of the Dawn Duellists Society. was the first person to tell me that I really should write this stuff down. as has his historical and ~ 9 ~ . Martin Page. without her guidance and support. Bert Bracewell. friend and fellow sword-swinger. Prof. I would have had nothing worthwhile to say without the instruction I have received from the following people: Gail and Alan Rudge. long-time friend. whose indefatigable support. a great fencing coach. who encouraged my forays into the older weapons. this book would never have happened. Merja Polvinen. whose aphorisms probably fill this book: his explanations of martial arts theory have been fundamental to my understanding. Geo Cameron Trevarthen.
I have been exceptionally lucky in the calibre of the students that have chosen to train with me. my heartfelt thanks. Prof. Sari Polvinen. for taking the photographs and not being satisfied with second-best. who drew the illustrations. in a manner typical of the best of the Western martial arts community. Auri Poso for establishing a working relationship between me and my word-processor. Jari Pallari. and I would be no instructor. Lars Wirzenius. who allowed a stranger to use his work.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION esoteric knowledge. of Edinburgh University. To all of the above. Ville Virtanen for checking my physics. without whom there would be no School. Mra Jeanette Acosta Martinez for her assistance with the fencing principles chapter. for initial photographic work. Sujit Wings. for checking the Italian Masters chapter. whose many editorial corrections and suggestions have been vital. who took up the slack at SES while I was tired. Hermes Michelini. for digital photographic work. He also insisted on my making this available on his Kindle! Brian Price and Greg Mele. Jani Hyväri. And last but not least my students. and they have helped enormously in the refinement and codification of my teaching method. allowing this ebook to be distributed. Topi Mikkola. ~ 10 ~ . and doing the callouts. Ronnie Jack. Ilkka Hartikainen. overworked and generally not on the ball due to writing this book. L. Greg was also instrumental in winning the legal battle to regain my copyright. They are a constant stimulus to my own training. and Stephen Hand. Provost of the Helsinki branch. for reading drafts and giving expert advice.
It is assumed that the reader has no training in any martial art. containing all the basic theory and technical exercises necessary to get a solid grounding in the use of the longsword. who have never been taught the basics of body mechanics. and advice on how to maximise the effectiveness of your practice. Discussion threads on various internet fora show that the majority of people interested in this weapon do not have a common language to describe the various actions. ~ 11 ~ T . an overview of the historical sources for the method of fencing that I teach. nor do they have the kind of basic training that would allow their research into the historical sources to really bear fruit. Instead. It is a training manual. footwork. basic vocabulary.chapter one Introduction How to use this book here are many people beginning the study of Western swordsmanship. particularly with the longsword. The history of the weapon. This book is primarily written for such beginners. and key phrases of the language of longsword fencing. and fencing principles. This book is not intended to include every possible longsword technique. to provide them with a solid foundation from which to start making themselves into swordsmen. are also covered. and it is not intended to be a recreation of the method of any given historical master. so this book includes everything you need to know about how to train: from a comprehensive warm-up to constructing a training schedule. it attempts to provide you with the complete grammar.
there will be no point moving on. however keen you are to get on to the “fun stuff ”. So if you want to become Sir Lancelot. You may think you are ready but until you can do the solo exercises with ease and fluency. Then set aside a time. and train because the process itself is rewarding. and decide for yourself whether you want to proceed with the long and laborious (but fun.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION I must emphasise here that the method contained in these pages is mine. enjoy. of at least 30 minutes. Work your way slowly through the entire solo practice section before attempting the pair work. but not direct. ~ 12 ~ . It can be helpful at times to get back in touch with why you started training in the first place. exercises. The more attention you pay to the foundations. most people train for the improvement of their physical and mental health (which includes for most people a degree of fantasy enactment). the exercises are unlikely to yield good results if they are not approached with sound theory in mind. It is very dangerous to rush your training. and to get used to following instructions. it makes no difference what that initial stimulus was. You may want to speak the instructions slowly into a tape-recorder. read the book through. and play that as you practice. backed up by my research and experience. To begin your study. the taller and stronger the ultimate structure can be. People are motivated to train by a huge variety of stimuli and in my experience. Use that fantasy to inspire. then fine. based on my own understanding of swordsmanship. Though the theory comes first. you must establish what your goals are. preferably each day. challenging. and ultimately glorious) process of making sense of the exercises and the theory. but not more than two hours. Luke Skywalker. Aragorn. and I hope I shall not disgrace them: while I gratefully acknowledge their contribution to my training. I have had many excellent instructors in other weapons. a full understanding of it is impossible unless you have actually made it work in the exercises. Always start with the warm-up to make sure you are in reasonably good condition. leaving space between each instruction for you to accomplish the set task. or Conan the Barbarian. likewise. and underlying martial philosophy that I teach. to go through the basic exercises in order. Ultimately. Before you begin. Just don’t expect the techniques you have seen on the screen to be applicable in reality. your training. rewarding. they are not responsible for the theory.
a group. You might well ask who I think I am to be writing a book about the technical use for a weapon I have not been taught to use. It is an inspiring read by one of the most colourful characters in Western swordsmanship history. So keep the book handy. or a charlatan. the student will tell me “I was practicing that technique.INTRODUCTION It will become necessary in time to have a training partner. make sure to revisit the basic body mechanics and footwork exercises. refer to the exact wording of the explanation of each technique. Many people involved in re-enactment. You decide. The Expert Sword-man’s Companion. The main function of stage combat is to provide a thrilling spectacle ~ 13 ~ . Stage combat. for example “during this technique. stage combat. however advanced you think you are. many of the techniques that can be safely practiced by martial artists using modern protective equipment are far too dangerous and far too subtle for re-enactment or stage combat. the first original treatise that I ever handled. and it just clicked: all I needed to do was push my hands forward more!” So. I hope that this book may do for your practice what his did for mine. SCA and LARP There are many arenas in which a purely martial approach to practice is not appropriate. In every training session. The term manual literally means that which is held in the hand. push your hands forward and it will work better”. or live-action roleplay may find this book helpful in that it shows how the longsword should be used according to its original function: killing people. However. Re-enactments. I will either establish myself as an instructor worth my hire. To answer that question. Most beginner problems come from not having fully understood or assimilated the original instruction. It is amazing how often I will tell a given student. and refer to it whenever you come across a problem. or even better. read the book. The title for this book is a homage to Donald Mcbane’s smallsword treatise. I hope that this book will be used as the basis of your practice. It will be best if you all start training together at the same time. but be careful to get on with the actual training: do not get sidetracked into discussions. Months later. not that which is kept on a shelf. In it.
It is basically unrehearsed stage combat with a huge cast. except in displays put on by historical martial arts groups. The former requires that the actors be highly trained martial artists. is. a miracle. but with no real understanding of historical martial arts. It provides the opportunity for the re-enactors to wear shiny kit. usually with no face protection. exciting fight. It must be remembered that the prime function of re-enactment is not the practice of historically accurate fighting methods. and rightly so. two kinds of stage combat system: the adapted martial art. The re-enactment of historical battles is an excellent pursuit. For the stage-combatant. so that the audience will see it. frankly. It is much easier to direct a fight between two martial artists than between two untrained actors. with sometimes thousands of untrained people all fighting at once. Done well. there is always the temptation to dumb down. and of course is often used to establish characterisation. and therefore the weapons are used inaccurately. Perhaps 99% of the people who go to see a film that has sword-fights in it can’t tell the difference between good technique and bad. But my colleagues and I are working to change that.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION for the audience. dramatic re-enactment. and give them an idea of the available techniques that they can string together to make a safe. tool up with swords and have a damn good bash. and for the general public to have a glimpse of history that is far more immediate and present than a book or a film. which is often made up of about 80% cut-parry-cut: anyone who has studied historically accurate rapier fencing knows that 90% of rapier attacks are with the point. stage combat can also be reasonably accurate from a martial perspective. who just make everything a bit bigger and a bit more flashy. A classic example is the stage-rapier fight. There are. I have never seen the longsword used correctly on stage or screen. Whenever I have attended such ~ 14 ~ . the most common battlefield techniques are almost universally outlawed on the re-enactment field. this book can provide the core of a training method that will at least get them to move like a martial artist. War without wounds and slaughter cannot be historically accurate. Of course. or to move the plot forwards. and the purely theatrical method. In fact. at base. The latter is often based on sport-fencing. The organisation of a safe. I hope that one day the audience will demand the same degree of martial realism in a fight as it demands visual realism in special effects.
Its members use rattan sticks with sword-handles to have a jolly good bash with whatever weapons or combinations seem like fun. and an understanding of how a real fight might progress: training can add realism and ease to these fights. You do not need to fear that training in dangerous techniques might make them spontaneously emerge to injure someone in ‘the heat of battle’. In many re-enactments head attacks and close quarters techniques are illegal: be certain that you fully understand the rules of the society organising the event. With practice comes control. Bear in mind also that there is a fundamental difference between fighting alone and fighting in a line. I have never participated in a live-action roleplay game. I have had a student come up to me at the end of his second class to tell me that he had decided ~ 15 ~ . and boffer fighting. Do not expect to have room to whirl the sword around. The Society for Creative Anachronism is. inadequate protection. preferably in the same system. Another major difference between historical fencing practiced as a martial art and the above activities is the length of time you need to train before you are considered competent by your peers. A free fencing bout with steel weapons. Much of the technique in this book can be adapted to SCA fighting. though many of my students do so. The training should help. breaks all the known rules of swordplay. and we have given demonstrations and lectures at LARP events. There should be no ‘heat of battle’ for a trained martial artist at a re-enactment: it is just fun for you and the crowd. but a pre-arranged winner. I would advise any re-enactor reading this to practise all the techniques in this book. it is certainly the case that a well-trained Western martial artist will provide a better. is quite easy to do if both combatants are trained. but do not be surprised if you get hammered. but bear in mind that steel behaves differently to rattan. however.INTRODUCTION events I have always been surprised by the amazingly few casualties. as its name suggests. For our purposes there are two LARP scenarios that this book might help you with: pre-ordained fights with steel. However. safer spectacle than the untrained weekend warrior. even if you have been practising with steel weapons for a while. in general far removed from actual historical combat. The reasons for this should become obvious when you start training with steel. Boffer fighting.
What Are Martial Arts? There are sports based on martial arts. particularly in modern times. If the focus of the practice is entirely spiritual. he had not yet even begun partner drills with steel. If winning is all that matters. at any pole. Each has much to recommend it. I suspect. A system designed purely for killing is worth practising only if you are actually expecting to use it: in that case. the sport. to martial arts styles that are really designed and marketed as self-improvement courses. The original goal of a martial system is to train the practitioner to be able to execute the orders of his superior. but the ideal self that we all aspire to become. However. leading ultimately (one hopes) to a state of enlightenment. counters and variations in true historical fencing with steel blades than there are in stage-combat. something is lost. then why not a sport like the 100 metre ~ 16 ~ . but his LARP background had led him to expect a free-for-all in the first class. It did not. and the practice developed beyond a merely practical method for training soldiers to a more refined system for training the whole individual. what with man’s ludic nature. best join the army. the spiritual development system. So the external discipline could be internalised. there are spiritual/meditative systems based on martial arts.1 I see martial arts as having five poles: the practical killing system. the spectacle. greedy scumbag most people are at least some of the time. take long before someone realised that that superior could be yourself.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION to cease training because “I find fighting with steel too limiting. Not the lying. This has led. The plain fact of the matter is that there are far more possible techniques.” Needless to say. Finally it is up to you to decide what parts of this system can be applied in your own arena. rattan sword fighting and boffer play put together. At the same time. and there are even computer games based on martial arts. cheating. That meant being able to kill other people with whatever weapon you happened to have. with a whole load of cupidity thrown in. to the frantic flailing of modern sports fencing. re-enactment. the martial arts have also been co-opted as sports and entertainment. then you might as well go to church. ranging from the public butchery of Christians in Rome. and the improvement of health. allied to a thirst for bloody spectacle.
quite rightly disgusted with the utter lack of style shown in the sporting arena. anyway). who fenced into his eighties. The fifth pole. which is now on my wall at home. so doth this noble Science defend the bodie from wounds & slaughter. & in the warres and places of most danger. they are to be honoured. nor against the Science. and sharpneth the wits. cholericke and euill conceits. and long life. griefes. Many modern martial artists. the exercising of weapons putteth away aches. it must lead to spiritual development. In my grandfather’s house (he was a medical doctor. and in mine opiniõ to be preferred next to Diuinitie. It giueth a perfect iudgement. And if you just want to look good and put on a show. be an actor or a rock star. perfect health. A true martial art must retain something of all of these: it must be practical. ~ 17 ~ . it has always been clear who would have won if the fencers were interested in competition. This encapsulates for me most of the benefits of training. and each fencer trained to better themselves. And moreouer. hardie and valiant. However. It putteth him out of feare. it is noble. It paraphrases George Silver’s Paradoxes of Defence. and it must be aesthetically rewarding. more street-effective techniques). and (at the highest level of fencing that I have partaken in. it keepeth a man in breath. or throwing the javelin.INTRODUCTION sprint. it increaseth strength. health. every technique used was thoroughly practical (if occasionally made more complex than necessary to better examine the fundamental truths behind the simpler. The original reads: I speake not against Maisters of Defence indeed. it maketh him bold. is generally ignored by practitioners of Western (and many Eastern) martial arts. and lived to be 92) hung a framed piece of calligraphy. have dismissed these two poles as unworthy. and the utter lack of practicality shown on the stage. And of course. it expelleth melancholy. a most friendly and comfortable companion when he is alone. It is unto him that hath the perfection thereof. for as Diuinitie preserveth the soule from hell and the diuell. having but only his weapon about him. I would say that any fencing match between masters that I have seen has been better spectacle than the best stage combat. and diseases. it must clearly differentiate between skill-levels.
My students eventually progress through the five poles: first the practical martial skills. European) martial arts. breathing exercises. then competitive (as opposed to purely academic) freeplay. a result both of the New Agers’ search for spiritual guidance (almost exclusively from Eastern sources). increased cardiovascular capability. Western M artial A rts Martial arts exploded into western public awareness in the sixties. but also provides a psychological counter-measure to the otherwise constant emphasis on hitting people.3 What began as a bit of fun has become a massive international groundswell: for the first time since the seventeenth century. and weight management. In my opinion. it was inevitable that some of the have-a-go heroes would begin to attempt to recreate the historical methods of using their weapons. and the extraordinary popularity of kung-fu movies (spearheaded by Bruce Lee).THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION The general health benefits of physical training are well known. and do not usually cover the very basics of footwork. this book is largely confined to practical fencing techniques. This is not only useful for dealing with the stresses and strains of normal training. etc. Naturally. With the increase in interest in European weapons coming a decade or so later. and the routine bumps and bruises of friendly combat. We are now in the middle of a renaissance in western (i. including increased strength. exact body-mechanics. how to cut. then the medical skills (which at my School includes remedial massage. it is also necessary for a martial artist practising ways of hurting people (in however an enlightened and non-violent a fashion) to counterbalance their skill in inflicting injury with skill in healing. but keep in mind that a true martial art partakes of all poles and is limited to none. For a few decades now. unsurprisingly. craftsmen can earn their keep making swords and suits of armour for use. basic nutrition. ~ 18 ~ . spiritual aspects of the Art. and finally the meditative. then developing the aesthetic appreciation of swordsmanship. and some use of medicinal herbs). perfectly normal people have been strapping on armour and bashing their mates on a Saturday afternoon. not just decoration. been met with limited success.e. This has.2 To understand a martial art for which there are no representatives of a living tradition requires the ability to interpret treatises that were often deliberately obscure.
shiny. in particular swordsmanship. T’ai Chi Chüan (actually thoroughly lethal and street effective if taught that way) or Aikido (also not bad on the street if you really know what it’s about) the sportsmen and fitness types were doing judo. as it would have to arbitrate on too many conflicting fields: the martial aspect. standards. The new-Age types looking for spiritual awareness were all doing Yoga. Other aspects of the Art seemed to have been covered by other systems. and the resurgence of western martial arts is drawing in the thugs. more or less valid. There are also martial artists who find the European perspective a refreshing change after training in the Asian ways. The point is that. There are many different. There are cultural and military historians looking for insight into how things were done in the past. As always. There is no generally recognised regulatory body for Western martial arts. poem in steel that is a good sword. Some instructors work mostly on the historical accuracy (which some find pedantic and dull). most students who progress beyond the beginner’s course have a blend of these interests. sportfencing or aerobics. quite a number of people and for various reasons. Who carries a sword in the Inner Cities? So we have not had to worry much about thugs looking for cool new ways to hurt people. properly taught. the historical accuracy (or otherwise).4 The only reliable way to make sure that the match is an accurate simulation of reality is for the weapons to be sharp and the match fought to the death or incapacity of one or both of the fencers. So it is. has this great advantage over so many others: no-one takes it up because they expect to use it in earnest some day. So who would start up such a bizarre and apparently redundant activity? Actually. by and large. Western swordsmanship has much to offer all the above. reasonable. hippies. looking for a truly historical martial art. Such a body would be a practical impossibility. ~ 19 ~ . left up to the student to be able to identify those groups with a valid approach. And there is no way to infallibly establish who would win in a real duel. emphases.INTRODUCTION Western martial arts. and the actors were on stage. etc. you will get hammered. and those without. And we get the sword lovers: people who have always just been drawn to the long. This is obviously impractical. competitors and thespians previously mentioned. A thug with a blunt sword is a dangerous animal: if you fence according to safe.
some also do not clearly distinguish between training methods or weapons and those suited for combat. I would select a few of the exercises in this book. Besides. and other aspects of Western martial arts. as they are notoriously difficult to interpret. Diligent practice of the exercises in this book will. the short-term goals of this book would give way to the long-term benefits of the next. you are probably interested in learning a correct method for using a longsword so that you can fence with your friends as soon as possible.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION some are more interested in the general martial arts approach (which is prone to invalid borrowings of technical and tactical ideas from other systems). This has its own problems. basic nutrition. which will encapsulate the method that I teach my students at The School of European Swordsmanship. and decided to keep up his training. and some just offer a totally sportive interpretation. as well as the more advanced longsword techniques. If he survived his duel. and to give them some idea of what they want from their training and how they should set about getting it. ~ 20 ~ . Instead. and hit them more than they hit you. In other words. Fortunately it is highly unlikely that anyone reading this book is doing so because they are about to face an opponent holding a sharp sword wanting to kill them. Many instructors offer as their authority the treatises written by historical masters. Reading this book will make absolutely no difference to your level of skill. which has the authority of lineage behind it. This includes some remedial massage. This book is the first volume in a proposed series that will cover basic and advanced longsword use. A very few schools offer training in a living tradition of Western swordsmanship. and strength training. so some of the treatises offer a style that may be best suited for the fencing salle or the street. to help them establish a proper balance between the five poles. the living tradition does not include any weapon earlier than the epee. There was also little regulation in the past. and generally written by and for advanced swordsmen. if as a medieval master at arms I had to teach a student the bare essentials of swordsmanship before sending him off to a duel.5 Basic longsword technique covers everything that can reasonably be made useful in a few months of intensive training. The purpose of this book is to give the reader a sound theoretical and technical basis for beginning their own training. but not everyone can travel across the world to train.
except when you are training in my Salle or under my supervision.9 In the fight. an accidental minor injury is likely. Even a blunt longsword is a deadly weapon. this leads to excellent technical freeplay. This is true on the battlefield and in street defence. or from any other source.INTRODUCTION My students. or at the level of the fight. the duel. but does not allow the user to learn the quintessential aspect of Western swordsmanship. I know full well that the majority of my readers will want to freeplay as soon as possible. and joint-protection during freeplay. I take no responsibility whatsoever for injuries you inflict or sustain due to practising the techniques in this book.7 This makes you properly scared of being hit. for whom I take responsibility not only for their training. but with the slightest loss of attention. A more traditional approach includes the use of wooden weapons (“wasters”) for freeplay. communicated through the feeling in your hands when the blades connect. is designed to give you as quickly as possible the necessary groundwork for good. then. safe. sentimento di ferro6 (“the feeling of steel”. Questions of Attitude: Fighters. In the past. There are some groups that get around this problem by playing with padded weapons: this is alright for a fun sporting game. though is impractical in this day and age. fencing masks. and no injuries (to date. and historically accurate longsword free fencing. and in any hands is extremely dangerous. and require plastrons. However. and leads to a suitable attitude to freeplay. and spiritualists 8 The European tradition of swordsmanship now recognizes three distinct levels of fencing: the fight. and quickly. or to the first blood drawn on the head. At SES we only use steel longswords. Combined with the proper preparatory training. The method I teach them is therefore aimed at long-term results. the only thing that matters is to win. This book. or “the sense of the blade”): which refers to the way blades interact with each other. competitions were fought with wooden weapons and ended when one player was too badly wounded to continue. at least). but also for their health. do not fence freely with a longsword until they have completed usually nine to twelve months of properly supervised training. and the academy. technicians . Because you have no ~ 21 ~ . That said. Being hit correctly does not hurt.
but one for self-improvement. Instinct has little to do with their fighting technique. Third. uncovering the fundamental principles of fencing.10 The somewhat more artificial approach of the duel allows you to carefully establish your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses before committing to an attack. This allows the most complex and interesting swordplay. and ultimately safer style of fencing. the academy. The duel is a rather different proposition: the weapons are predetermined. These are people who want to win. and much rarer. At the highest level of swordsmanship. to find out various ways of dealing with my best attacks and defences. that is not the point. but after enough speed training and fencing experience. And when the penalty for losing is death or disfigurement. there is no interest in who would actually win: the ideal is pure research. and do very well in combat from the beginning. they become very good indeed. There are in my experience also three types of student of the sword. and in sport fencing. they never win a match. Most of the swordsmen I know started off like this. This means that I hit them more than they would allow in a duel. not winning. They love acquiring new techniques. easily identifiable by the way they train and fence. These come to swordplay ~ 22 ~ . For them the sword is a tool. in the academy. The first and most common is the fighter. but have. The sword is again a tool. This allows a more technical. Without doubt. for the sake of mutual learning. and technique that works immediately will be quickly assimilated. and practicing them to perfection. and rarer still are the spiritualists. For a couple of years. and will hone their instincts to lightning speed. NOW. the best fencing I have ever had has been with masters that could take me to bits if they felt like it. the combatants know that they have only one opponent and often some techniques were forbidden. of course you must win at all costs. you must take chances. but then. They will start freeplay as soon as they pick up a weapon. in self-defence courses. are the technicians.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION idea how may opponents you actually have. sophisticated. been content to play. They often have no discernible fear. and this attitude is commonly encouraged in competitive martial arts (like kick-boxing). nor necessarily what weapons will be involved. Next.
As with the pure technicians. What happens if you commit yourself to a course of study – mind. and a means to transcend yourself. and soul – and at the end of it you aren’t very ~ 23 ~ . an ideal. He. and the spiritualist’s egoless approach and deep love of the purity of form. and an exalted mental state akin to enlightenment. The O bstacles There are many barriers to good practice. we can do well quickly but will soon hit a ceiling beyond which we cannot improve. striving for internal and external perfection of form. all of them self-imposed. who win more and more often for a couple of years or so. but the pictures and explanations are useless unless you approach them with the right attitude. a means to develop yourself. an icon.INTRODUCTION looking for a meditative art. Keep in mind that the art of the longsword is a means to defend yourself. By focusing on our strengths. is truly a swordsman. the technician’s enjoyment of pure technique and commitment to practice. We all come to the study of swordplay with one or other of these characteristics uppermost in our personality. This is most obvious with the fighters. and then cease to get better. body. In a way they are right. I expect that most readers will look on that section as the heart of the book. They happily spend hours repeating a single cut. This attitude was actually quite well known in medieval times: some of the most feared and respected warriors belonged to knightly religious orders (the Templars are the best-known example). The later chapters on technique will provide the basis for a solid grounding in correct form. at first their good technique works against them because it makes them predictable. The difficulty lies in developing the weaker elements. The spiritualists range from those who have a vague idea about the character-building benefits of hard training to those that practise as a form of worship to a specific deity. They seek and sometimes find the transcendental truth behind perfect technique. The first is fear of failure. or she. The sword becomes in their hands an archetype. As fighters they are usually less successful to start with than their training time would indicate because they are not used to adapting to the random elements of an opponent’s technique. Why be restricted to only one out of three? For the rarest student of all has the fighter’s will to survive.
well. If after a few years you are still losing fights to beginners. and. The only difference between my senior students and those that never made it past the beginner’s course is the attitude they take to training. if the Art was easy. An accurate self-image is extremely rare. One the one hand. but it goes something like this: Do you have a duel to the death planned in the next few months? (I have never yet received a positive answer to this question. the student that is so certain of their own expertise that they show off by going too fast. so you maybe could have beaten them if you tried as hard as they did. Almost everyone errs one way or another. be humble enough to be really receptive to learning new things: on the other. Far more problematic is the delusion of adequacy. A martial arts instructor I trained with. that every student I have ever had has had the intelligence and physical ability to become an expert swordsman. John Tosney. but not usually dangerous. This attitude is very common.) Well.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION good? It may seem better to just play around and have a laugh. once told ~ 24 ~ . The student who thinks they already know how to do it is blinded to the differences between what I am showing them and what they think I am showing them. Some will find it easier than others. The root cause of this problem is either an initial misconception that sword-swinging must be easy because it sometimes looks easy. The irony is. You risk nothing. know for certain that you are good enough to get there in the end. or an inaccurate notion of the student’s own talent. Or worse. My normal response to this is probably infuriating for them. what’s the hurry then? A student will commonly feel that they really should be able to do the technique already. but everyone who trains diligently can become proficient. attempting techniques that they can’t control. though. I would be unemployed. deciding that they just aren’t good enough. after failing many times. These have to be jumped on before they hurt someone. This makes no sense. and takes a great deal of courage to get past. This delusion is discouraging. Perhaps the most common problem that afflicts my basic-level students is a delusion of inadequacy. and however difficult you may find the exercises. you never really took it seriously. Hours spent practising will pay off in the long run. however many mistakes you make. It is very common to see a student struggling to master a basic technique.
for me. Secondly. that an hour spent trying to get something difficult right and failing. Much more satisfying. accept that you will never be unbeatable. When the difficult has become easy. The secret. legs. most of us have to accept that we are not always going to win our bouts. is better than that hour spent doing ~ 25 ~ . Firstly. and it looks better too. do not attempt the impossible. frustration at the speed of your progress is a waste of emotional energy: enjoy the training. and before you realise it. they know a dozen ways to fix them. So accept that you are not perfect. deep inside you will know that you have failed to control the weapon and. go back to first principles. the harder a student finds it in the beginning. Another common barrier is frustration. it was obviously easy and so not worth bothering with again. No matter how much you train or commit yourself to the art of swordsmanship.. just the difficult. and go through the stroke at minimum speed. There is never a point where you must pass an exam to validate yourself. accept that there is no end to the study of swordsmanship. the better instructor they are likely to become: having made all the mistakes themselves. the impossible is just difficult. Indeed at its highest level. When one can see the goal ahead but just can’t get the bloody thing to go where you want it. and move on. however slow that may be. not to best anyone else. failed to control yourself. Firstly. However. and practice that.INTRODUCTION me that in his experience. expect it to take a very long time. Secondly. In other words. There are three ways I use to get round this. convince yourself that if you can already do it. more importantly. make a virtue out of pure practice. you will become better than you ever imagined was possible. Increase your speed until you get it right most of the time. one person who is in some way more skilled than you. is a twofold approach. etc. You undertake this study to better yourself. You will never reach a point beyond which you cannot improve. and do not speed up until your skill increases to match. as a matter of faith if you will. Thirdly. Believe. So. it is easy to move on to something you can already do. Establish control of your feet. swordsmen don’t bother to count touches. I invariably learn more from fencing with superior swordsmen than from taking on easy victories. Set your goals just outside your limits and do not expect to get there immediately. There will always be at least one person who can beat you.
and soon enough. it can deliver very powerful blows. Fight to learn. not for the spectators. War-hammers. and has little defensive capability. But the sword is still carried in the dress uniform of almost every army in the world. Practice for yourself. by focusing the energy of the blow on the smallest feasible area. Pride is for many the single most difficult barrier to overcome. The sword can cut. But so is the quarterstaff. and it can. the gun is a far more efficient means of dispatching your enemies. the sword does have one advantage over all others: it is the most versatile weapon that can be easily carried. A well-formed block of pikemen could butcher sword-wielding men-at-arms. and axes all pose a more direct and easily effected threat to a knight. be used to deal with almost any defensive situation. The axe also needs room to swing.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION something that’s already easy and succeeding. counters and recounters. and you will become truly competent. Axes do that better. in the right hands. Nowadays. maces. And everyone wants to win their fights. most people will be unable to beat you. not to win. reckoned the quarter-staff to be the best weapon for single combat. A quarterstaff is too long to be really useful in a crowded tavern. and never has been. The time. Recognise your weaknesses and work on them. allowing a huge variety of techniques. It was not until the development of reliable. the most effective weapon available. Even when the sword was a functional battlefield and street defence weapon. An archer could kill from further away. if on nothing else. The sword was also the most expensive weapon. Everyone wants to impress others. That said. The irony of this situation is that to truly achieve all these things you have to give them up. and you will look better. A sword’s thrusts or draw-cuts are still effective in a confined space. and given room to manoeuvre. George Silver. Trust me on this. it was never the best. The sword is versatile. The sword is small enough to carry on a belt. Everyone wants to feel that they are really good at what they do. skill and ~ 26 ~ . portable firearms that the sword fell into disuse. Why Use a Sword? The sword is not. it can be drawn very fast. author of the most famous English treatise. and cannot be slung from a belt.
It does not have to be deliberately chosen as a lifestyle. the sword is the only one which combines effectiveness in defence with force in attack.INTRODUCTION materials need to make a good sword meant that it would be way out of the price-range of the average person. and since its Bronze Age beginnings has gathered round itself a potent mystique which sets it above any other man-made object. and in how ~ 27 ~ . It can be an academic interest. an amusing hobby.13 It is still used in countless civil and military ceremonies. there is more to the sword than practicality and status symbols. that are so encrusted with gems.11 As Oakeshott suggests. Oaths have been sworn on swords. justice. power. In Fence as in Life” There are many levels at which you can enjoy the study of swordsmanship. that they are closer to jewellery than weaponry. for example. protection. As the late Ewart Oakeshott put it: Of all the weapons devised by Man in the long lapse of the centuries. in how you arrange your time. As is shown by its symbolic use worldwide. strength. Most people who take up the study of swordsmanship instinctively grin when they heft a sword in their hand. mental and spiritual energy of the swordsman in a way no other weapon can. A man would be knighted by the tap of a sword on his shoulder. The sword is the ultimate weapon of transcendence. It focuses the physical. a fitness programme. Swords throughout history have been more lavishly decorated than any other class of weapon. The sword has always been a status symbol. In all cultures the sword has been the epitome of the Warrior archetype. long after its battlefield usefulness has been superceded. and made from such precious metals. even a profession. “In Life as in Fence. truth. There are extant rapier hilts. Personally. the sword may represent honour.12 and the soul of the samurai lay in his katana. I practised for ten years before coming to the realisation that my practice did not get left behind when I hung up my weapon. It stays with you in the way you move. The sword’s enduring position in human culture speaks for my (finally unverifiable) view that somehow the sword speaks to the soul in a way no other weapon ever has.
It teaches. Listening to it often hurts. But most importantly. the practice crystallises your approach to life in general. every weakness and thereby allows you to overcome them. above all.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION you deal with people. It exposes every flaw. ~ 28 ~ . The sword cannot lie to you. that you can work on your weaknesses and develop your strengths. The principles of tactics and strategy learned in training underpin the way I deal with confrontation at any level. It becomes a testing ground for character: it holds up a mirror that can not be ignored. It will never expose a problem to which there is no solution. But there is always a way through.
longer blades could be made light enough to wield. Choosing any armour/weapon combination has always been a compromise between mobility and protection. Most knightly weapons up to the advent of really good armour were designed to be used one-handed with a shield. and at the same time. The earliest swords were probably charred bits of wood good only for thrusting. then with the discovery of metal came longish copper knives. the weapons changed to penetrate it. Full plate armour was developed by the mid-fourteenth century. thus giving their owner a reach advantage without slowing them down too much. he has been developing new and interesting tools for accomplishing the same end.chapter two The Weapon A Brief History of the Longsword s Sir Richard Burton begins his masterly Book of the Sword “the history of the sword is the history of humanity. reach and manoeuvrability.2 Using sharp swords or heavy ~ 29 ~ A . and knights would practice and joust in armour that would normally weigh about 55 pounds. As armour improved. Sticks with flints attached to create a long cutting edge were probably next. offensive and defensive capabilities. so knives could be made even longer without them folding up embarrassingly at the worst possible moment. as the metals available became stronger. Obviously. Copper was later mixed with tin to make bronze.”1 Since man first picked up a rock and bashed someone’s head in. knights could afford to trust their armour and use a two-handed weapon.
what is a longsword ? Sword types tend to blend into each other: when does an arming sword4 become a longsword become a greatsword become a two-handed sword? For convenience. to be wielded with one hand (a very long handle gets in the way if your other hand is not on it). if the pommel can touch your wrist. and above all fight all day. accompanied by a modern confusion between jousting. For men-at-arms who favoured the sword over the axe. but the weapon is light enough and the handle short enough. but a sword-user’s rule of thumb. they would batter away at each other for the agreed number of blows. kick. above the wrist and below the elbow it’s a longsword. they would go into battle in a harness of plate in which they would be able to run. either just to prove their valour. This is not a technical definition. at the elbow or above. and fight again. it’s a two-hander. the pole-arm or the mace. a longsword can fit two.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION pole-arms. The techniques in this book are designed for a weapon that fits this definition of “longsword. So. or to settle a grievance. I prefer to define them by the the length of their handles. On campaign they may have had to fight all day. roll. such as a buckler. An arming sword’s handle can only comfortable fit one hand. and a two-handed sword has a handle and mass that clearly requires both hands. in English up until quite recently (late ~ 30 ~ . jump. What we call a longsword today was. A greatsword is basically a large longsword or a small two-hander. The modern myth about knights in inch-thick steel plate being winched onto cart-horses is an over-literal interpretation of the hyperbole of medieval poetry.” As a guideline: when holding the sword in your hand at the crossguard. This paragon of the late medieval/early renaissance era was the longsword. and the armour worn into battle.” In fifteenth-century English “longsword” referred to a two-handed sword. So. about the equivalent of the fifteenth-century English term “longsword. there developed a weapon that compromised between the reach of a two-handed weapon (such as a poleaxe).3 No knight was ever winched onto his horse. march or ride the next. it’s an arming sword. generally speaking. and the manoeuvrability of the single-hander. a shield or a dagger. yet light enough to allow the use of a secondary defensive arm. tourney armour.
For convenience I shall follow this convention. according to Oakeshott. adopted the direct translation of the German term.82kg).6 What few English treatises we have that cover this weapon7 usually refer to it as a “two-hand sword”. and manoeuvrable enough for a strong defence. though it was certainly popular elsewhere. weighing just over 2lbs. Pages 158 and 160 of Records of the Medieval Sword show examples of otherwise very similar weapons that handle completely differently. or a bastard sword. Longswords came in a huge range of styles. categorised in eight distinct types by the late Ewart Oakeshott. the hand-and-a-half sword. By and large. and the maximum tip-speed for your cuts12 (this will be discussed at length in the technique section). the longsword had many advantages. The beauty of this weapon is ~ 31 ~ . among other weapons. there was no need to carry a shield or buckler.11 Indeed.9 and the point of balance could range from the cross-guard to half-way down the blade.THE WEAPON twentieth-century). This gives you the maximum reach for your point. by and large. The sword being primarily used with two hands. 160). the ideal length for your longsword is the longest one that you can draw in one movement from a belt-slung scabbard. and from the Italian spadone from Vadi’s De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi (circa 1482-1487)5 and Fiore’s Flos Duellatorum (circa 1410).8 They could be designed primarily for cutting. even clumsy – a sort of bar of iron … needing a lot of strength to use” (p. or for thrusting. It was the longest weapon that could reasonably be worn at the hip. so perhaps for this reason the historical swordplay community has. He goes on to remark that the latter weighs “nearly four pounds … the point of balance nearly half-way to the point” (p. [the other] is heavy. one is “surprisingly light and responsive in the hand. with parallel edges (such as type XIIIa). what we know about the use of the longsword comes from treatises written in Italy and Germany. As a civilian10 side-arm. They could weigh as little as two pounds (0. though was most commonly about 3 inches (75mm) from the cross-guard. The term “longsword” in modern usage is a translation of the German Langes Schwert from the German Fechtbucher that deal with. with edges that taper (such as type XVa). They are far less comprehensive and accessible than the German and Italian treatises. usually called a hand-and-a-half sword.91kg) or as much as four (1. 157).
the smallsword. Against armour. more rings were added. but will just blunt your sword against a breastplate.204 for an example). As you will see in the relevant chapters. The circumstances of battle meant that there would be little room to manoeuvre.241). the left arm was available for disarms. by all means have a look at pages 242 and 243 for examples). a sword-rapier. which looks ~ 32 ~ . as the point can be effectively wedged between plates and into vulnerable joints. During this process. Towards the end of the fifteenth century a complex-hilted singlehanded sword had developed from the “civilian” longsword (while you are looking up the previous Oakeshott references. Different techniques had to be employed: a raking slice across the belly may finish an unarmoured duel. and the combatant would be facing heavy weapons like poleaxes. So the blade had to be heavier in order to withstand parrying heavier weapons. The historical record of sword hilts shows that over time. and also to prevent the sword turning in your grip. the spada in arme. and Vadi goes so far as to recommend a significantly different weapon.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION that being light enough for single-handed use. and so a ring would sometimes be attached to the cross to protect the finger (see Oakeshott p.13 This habit naturally exposed that finger to the risk of being broken or severed by a blow running down the blade. The armoured combat sections of both Fiore and Vadi’s treatises show the point used for this purpose. The development of defensive rings on the hilts of longswords suggest that it was quite common practice to hook the forefinger of your sword hand over the crossguard to improve the heft of the weapon by shifting the grip closer to the point of balance. axes and maces.14 The process of the civilian sidearm getting lighter and faster continued until in the late seventeenth-century it culminated in the last of the fencing sidearms. This weapon has been called a cut-and-thrust sword. and to make an impact through armour. the thrust is the preferred attack. the blade of the civilian side-arm got lighter and faster to use until there was no further need to have two hands on the hilt. or even a rapier. opponents would often be armoured. affording greater protection to the hand (see Oakeshott p. locks and throws.15 The “military” longsword was another matter entirely. many longsword techniques involve closing in and grappling with the left hand.
probably used for hunting boar (see fig. 6. All previous sword types. Figure 2. (such as Royal Armouries manuscript I. 2. The longsword was probably the first sword designed primarily to be enough on its own. carta 17B fig. from about 1295) emphasise ~ 33 ~ . and in the Pisani-Dossi.THE WEAPON much like a longsword but is designed to be used primarily with one hand on the hilt and the other three-quarters of the way up the blade. he shows one guard with an apparently similar weapon. for use against an armoured opponent.1 The weapon illustrated in Filippo Vadi’s De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi. Early treatises for the single-hander. from the gladius through the Viking sword and including the European single-handed sword.33.2): Figure 2. were generally used with a shield or buckler. Though Fiore doesn’t actually mention its use. on the first page of the Getty manuscript of his treatise there is a picture of a similar weapon.2 From the Pisani Dossi MS.
THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION
the use of a secondary weapon, like a buckler,16 so the longsword was probably the first sword for which a complete system of fence was developed in Europe for the sword alone.
~ 34 ~
The Italian Masters Fiore dei Liberi and Filippo Vadi 1
f you want to know the best way to use any tool, ask a professional, one whose life and livelihood depends on his skill. The sword is no exception. Fortunately, the professional swordsmen of the past did occasionally write down their methods. These manuscripts2 were generally written for a patron, and often illustrated to show the techniques in some detail. As always, the gap between practical technique and its verbal and pictorial representation is difficult to bridge. One of the main purposes of this book is to narrow the gap, with more detailed explanations of exactly how each technique is done, using modern English (early Italian is almost as hard to interpret as medieval handwriting), with clear, accurate illustrations. There are two major historical styles of longsword use; Italian and German. Both have their merits, both are correct. My preference is for the Italian. The core treatises my method of longsword are Fiore dei Liberi’s Flos Duellatorum (written in 1409),3 and Filippo Vadi’s De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi (written between 1482 and 1487) . Hidden behind the text and hinted at in the pictures lies the quintessentially Latin flavour of Italian swordsmanship. Though Italy as a unified political entity was four hundred years in the future, the Italian style, which would culminate in Ferrari and Armani, breathes life into the pages of these long-forgotten treatises. These treatises are not just collections of blocks, strikes, binds and throws; they each describe a way of approaching
~ 35 ~
THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION
combat, a way of moving, a separate body-language. It is the feeling for this essence (in any fencing style of any nationality) that for me marks the truly historical swordsman.4 Fiore and Vadi speak different dialects of this language: I see Vadi as more engaged in turning motions, Fiore’s style as more linear. But the energy behind the moves is identifiably similar. There is a strong case to be made for taking each master separately, for pointing out the differences in their styles, showing up each style’s strengths and weaknesses. However, there are two main problems with this, deriving from the fact the treatises were written for other masters or advanced students. Firstly, they largely left out the really basic information, such as exactly how to execute a cut correctly. Secondly, these masters present in their treatises their own emphasis, their own idiosyncratic ideas of the “best” moves and their own personal style. Fiore acknowledges the “excellent masters, Italian and German” that taught him, yet presents a synthesis of his knowledge, not the fragments. Once you have mastered the basics, and have a thorough grounding in the eternal and fundamental principles of swordsmanship, it will be up to you to see which parts of Vadi’s system suit you best, which of Fiore’s techniques work against which opponents. Every move in these treatises is effective: I have used most in freeplay at some time or another. With time and practice, your own style will develop, just as it would have had you been learning this weapon in earnest 550 years ago. Provided you are using the right techniques in the right way, you will be using a thoroughly authentic fifteenth-century Italian style. So the technical section derives mainly from research into the techniques of Fiore and Vadi synthesised into a relatively complete system. I believe that you can do well to be, like Fiore, taught by many masters, to have as many different approaches, moves and counters in your arsenal as possible.5 (I now hold a very different view; Fiore’s system is complete and requires no synthesis; please check the footnote for details.) For the purposes of gleaning theoretical principles, the most important parts of these treatises are the pages, reproduced below, describing the underlying ideas of the systems with symbols and text. Interpreting the symbols precisely is no easy matter, and the context of the time must be taken into account. However, by taking a good look at the various animals and other symbols depicted in these pages, the main points of Fiore’s and Vadi’s systems become clear.
~ 36 ~
THE ITALIAN MASTERS
What follows is by no means an in-depth survey of the possible nuances of symbolic significance that may be derived from these images. That would take a book in itself. I have confined myself to covering the main interpretations, useful to a beginner swordsman, and suggesting further avenues of enquiry for those particularly interested in this aspect of the subject.6
Flos D uellatorum (1409)
Figure 3.1 The “segno” illustration of Fiore dei Liberi, from the Pisani- Dossi edition. ~ 37 ~
was called the Academy of the Linceans.”11 In combination. to carefully judge distance and time. represents fortitudo. the creator. the Lynx and the compasses embody the principle of precise. and to learn to predict the actions of his opponent. (in modern Italian. they are easily recognisable as the symbol of the thinker. alluding to “Lyncaeus.10 It is no coincidence that the first modern scientific academy. meaning swiftness. This represents the quality of celeritas. are a common symbol of precise judgement and careful measurement. holding an arrow. and carries a pair of dividers. the most keen-eyed of the Argonauts. with his paw on a heart. avvisamento) which best translates as ‘foresight’. boldness or courage. A the top there is a lynx (louo ceruino). The animal on the left is a tiger (tígro). the Lynx represents avisamento. the Lynx. the most advanced branch of mathematics at that time. careful judgement leading to victory in combat. The positioning of these animals around the man is highly significant. ~ 38 ~ . and to the lynx. strength. The text with it translates as: Prudentia/Prudence8 No other creature can see clearer than I. The elephant (Ellefât). holding a pair of compasses. Necessary in geometry. shown on this page. Who always brings posture and measure. In the Getty manuscript. and implies prophecy. as are the symbols each one carries.9 The dividers. or compasses.7 The Lynx The Lynx is situated over the head. He represents prudentia (prudence). founded in Italy in the early seventeenth century. known as the “Seven Swords”. The Lynx and the dividers are there to remind the student to be prudent. The lion (lione) on the right. credited with the most acute vision in the animal kingdom. represents audatia.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION The basis of Fiore’s swordsmanship principles are found in the four animals. below. and the scientist.
emphasising the importance of terrain and footwork. The elephant represents the swordsman’s legs. am quick at running and dodging That the arrow12 in the sky cannot overtake me. I do not fall on my knees. However strong the elephant may be. or a horse. The strength of the structure derives from two things: the elephant’s physical strength. They are also variously drawn like a dog (as in Flos Duellatorum). and were principally associated with speed. bestiary elephants are often depicted with battle-towers (“howdahs”) on their back. level surface. confirming the traditional and linguistic link. which suggests ~ 39 ~ . it is the only animal of the four to be standing on a stable. The association of elephants with strength is an obvious one. nor miss my step. your legs firm. which is derived from a strong connection to the ground and correct body mechanics. also a symbol of strength. presumably because those animals are also known to be swift.THE ITALIAN MASTERS The Elephant Fortitudo/Strength I am the Elephant and have a castle for a load. Positioned at the man’s feet. the elephant represents bodily strength. the Tiger. As in Flos Duellatorum. he cannot rise. if the tower does not stay upright. and his balance. represented by the tower. and he cannot kneel at all. tigers are usually spotted. He is sitting by the right shoulder of the man. Celeritas/Swiftness I. never striped. In this period the elephant was widely believed to have no knees: hence if he falls down. he will fall. In the bestiary tradition. and the tower in the illustration is made to look like a castle. To be strong. A counterbalance to mental strength. keep your back straight. supporting the torso. The Tiger The word “tiger” actually derives from the ancient Persian word for arrow. The tiger in the picture is holding an arrow. and your feet on stable ground.
just as you have to know your parachute will open. this fear can prevent you from hitting back at all – in which case getting hit yourself is just a matter of time.13 The arrow is not only fast. Modena. With a fifteenth-century hunting longbow. The reason for this is practical: if you are terrified of getting hurt. and has symbolised courage since time immemorial. to fight on the Marquis’ behalf. and it is present on many coats-of-arms. That is the principle of audatia here: overcome your natural fear with the belief that you will succeed. Niccolo. you do everything possible to minimise the shortterm likelihood of pain. and more importantly for modern students of the sword. it is also accurate. Fiore is calling on his students to be bold. The Lion stands his ground audaciously against any opponent. There was constant factional infighting.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION that it is the speed of the right hand (or sword-arm) that is most crucial. There are two reasons for this. So the principle of Swiftness here is not just speed. Traditional archers of my acquaintance can do even better. And I challenge everyone to battle. (King Richard the Lionheart was called so because of his courage in battle. The Lion The lion is traditionally the King of Beasts. and it was part of Fiore’s job to prepare the subjects of his patron. Secondly. Fiore’s lion is pugnacious: Audatia/Boldness None has a bolder heart than I. the Lion. Parma and Reggio. but speed allied to accuracy and focus. Both the tiger and the arrow are fast and deadly. ~ 40 ~ . Marquis of Ferrara. to be willing to fight. a good archer should be able to place three arrows into a two-inch circle at forty yards. it is vital to let go of fear of injury: to face opponents bravely. and just instinctively block the attacks. fifteenth-century Italy was a dangerous place. It takes a huge amount of focused intention to counterattack: it is a bit like jumping out of an aeroplane. Its main allegorical significance in the bestiaries is the representation of various attributes of Christ. Firstly. You have to know your counter will work. Taken too far. Even the lion in The Wizard of Oz was looking for courage!).
you can make it. prudent head. be on guard. And he who has a good portion of our virtues. Exaggerate any one beyond reason. Take the woman for an example. such virtue is what this art is all about. Take away any of these qualities. all else is missing. nevertheless. He who wants to battle should measure with us. as in most philosophies. the Swiftness to fight well. He will have honour in battle. and should be taken to heart by the modern student of the sword. ~ 41 ~ . Audacity. And he must be balanced by a strong. she would never face the naked steel. The message here. and you may overcome. If you don’t have audacity of heart. The Lion and the Tiger are balanced across the chest of the swordsman: his heart (spirit) must be courageous enough to stand. fearful and stricken by panic. and you will lose. A harmonious blend of all four. is that balance is all. And so a fearful man is worth less than a woman. according to the art. grounded body that will execute the commands of a clear. Despite his dated notions regarding women as fencers. Fiore reiterates: Be audacious in the attack and let your soul not be old Have no fear in your mind. focused and determined enough to attack swiftly.THE ITALIAN MASTERS At the end of the treatise. and you will lose. The Four in One The text goes on to say: We are four animals with these traits. The virtues symbolised by these animals are useless on their own. and the Strength to make your actions work. Fiore’s emphasis on boldness as the main virtue of the swordsman is interesting. Prudence is nothing without the Boldness to fight.
2 The “segno” illustration from De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi. by Filippo Vadi.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 3. Vadi includes a separate cutting diagram. ~ 42 ~ . but expands on the number and complexity of the symbols he uses to communicate his fighting philosophy.
However. prowling after your opponent like a bear in the woods. represented by the dividers14 (sexto). there. but its tail. Traditionally. This is not surprising. up and around Thus your shoulder should move. In this way. Bold and deadly as a serpent. p. Vadi has a different approach.15 This is a simple admonition to the student to be precise in the judgement of timing and distance. that divide into parts. the dragon is “the greatest of all serpents … its strength is not in its teeth. The head is the seat of judgement. with the head level with the elbow. The dragon is facing up the arm. As I see it. each part of the body is illustrated with a symbol that describes its proper function.1482-1487) The principles of Vadi’s system are similar in many ways to Fiore’s. this suggests that the elbow is the head of the dragon (this makes sense ~ 43 ~ . looking for openings. using some different animals to illustrate his ideas. because both systems work wonderfully well in practice. Sending your sword out to hunt. 112). Taken in turn. O fencer heed my reason. The accompanying text reads: I am callipers. Going here. The right hand is characterised as a dragon (serpente): The right hand should be prudent.THE ITALIAN MASTERS De Arte G ladiatoria D imicandi ( ca. as in Fiore. and he emphasises the different uses of body parts more clearly than Fiore. Don’t lose your head or you will lose your head! At the right16 shoulder is a bear (orso). Thus measure the tempo similarly. your shoulder should roam around. which harms by lashing” (MacCullough.17 The nature of the bear is to turn.
~ 44 ~ . So your cut should be clever. The greyhound (leuoreto)18 is at the left hand. Bold and full of foresight. always on the lookout. This is a part of many of the close quarters techniques I will be describing later. for barging your opponent when at close quarters: I am a ram. the text is enigmatic: The eye with the heart should be alert. The closequarters grapples will also require your left hand to hunt like a hound. the hand is the body of the dragon. On the left shoulder is a ram (mũtone). Always parry when there is an answer.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION as close-quarters techniques to the elbow are usually more immediately incapacitating than those to the hand or shoulder). The text refers to the left hand as controlling the point. this gives you the stability. The greyhound attacks by catching its prey in its mouth. The sword with the left hand to thrust Or to strike when it is joined And if you want the strike to be complete Make it as quick as a greyhound. Perhaps even more important though is the idea of always being ready to parry when attacking. Naturally always looking to butt. so your left hand will find targets to grip. so your attacks should be “clever”. It will be emphasised later that you should never attack without thought of defence. The eye (ochio) on the left side of the body indicates that your awareness of your opponent should not just come from your vision alone. strength and speed to thrust accurately and hard. and the sword its tail (which hurts by “lashing”). seeking out its targets with devastating speed.
fluid motion. The foot with the sun should return together. If you want the play to adorn your person. hiking their hips up and down. And where it is born it returns. The text reads: You see the sun. In practice. Vadi instructs his readers not to lumber along. As Vadi suggests. your ability to sense movement is reduced.THE ITALIAN MASTERS In other words. you must use your vision and your instinct when fencing. Because you close them and also open them. or sword but look through him. Boldness (the original Italian is ardito. but step smoothly. this allows you to use your scotopic vision (using the retinal rod cells). bending the legs. which is much faster and more sensitive to movement than your photopic vision (using the retinal cone cells). The feet are depicted with the Sun (sol) and a tower (unnamed). ~ 45 ~ . bending the knees is the first step towards more graceful. as in Fiore’s. This symbol also suggests to me that when fencing you should not stare at your opponent’s face. Once the eye focusses on one spot. The legs keys it is well said. Vadi is probably hinting here at the kind of sixth sense swordsmen develop over many years of training. that makes great turns. The left foot firm without fear. It is common to see beginners walking stiff-legged. Make it constant like a rock And then your body will be completely safe. on a millwheel (rota da molin). There is a saying common among sportsmen: “You’re only as good as your knees”. The heart must be foresightful. That expects shame and honour. When one or other foot bothers you Turn it quickly like a mill wheel. by placing a pair of keys (chiaũ) at the knees of the swordsman. from the same root as ardimento as associated with the Lion in the Getty manuscript) and the judgement of measure (or distance) are key virtues in Vadi’s system. Vadi makes this point clearly.
how can the insights from them be applied? Fiore’s four principles form the structure of the training method I have developed. to do so “in measure”. to move fluidly. and maintaining a solid connection to the ground. Then we work on the ability to boldly execute those techniques against an attack. but they clearly show a properly thought-out system of training that no doubt paved the way for the more complex developments of fencing theory. ~ 46 ~ . accurate techniques leads to an understanding of distance and timing. and the correct physical execution of techniques. this is a system for getting us to the right place. and most importantly. at the right time.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION In the fifteenth century. the tower represents strength. Strength matched with swiftness. boldness with prudence. As with the tower on the elephant’s back in Fiore’s work. and adds details of the body mechanics and closequarter tactics that we use in practice. forms the core of my longsword method. So the Sun at the right foot describes the motion of that foot: moving circularly around the tower of the left foot. principles represented here by the keys and the tower. Vadi is more specific about how to go about obtaining each quality. in balance. it is possible to synthesise a clear and comprehensive system of physical practice and an intellectual understanding of that practice. Regular training with strong. and from other works. These pages are among the earliest fencing sources that we have. swift. From them. Now that we have had a look at these pages. the techniques can be applied swiftly and accurately. it was generally accepted that the Sun moved around the Earth in a circular orbit. you must move both feet when fighting: the text is telling us to keep one foot firmly planted at all times. but have not been covered in this section. In the footwork exercises later in this book I will emphasise again the importance of keeping your knees bent. In other words. With practice. Obviously. and an emphasis on counterattacking. in a circular stepping motion. the basics of which are detailed in this book. First comes body mechanics. First it is necessary to clarify for the beginner some of the terminology and theoretical principles that will be relied upon later.
but that practice will be more efficient if you can use the principles to analyse the particular action you are working on. rather than providing a clear method for analysing the individual techniques. These four principles are interdependent. Fully understanding them can only come from diligent practice of the techniques. and nothing against the shoulder. and his body-mechanics. fencing principles as defined by Fiore and Vadi mainly refer to the qualities of the swordsman. 1. not a part of general or historical fencing theory as far as I am aware. A cut that misses by a millimetre. still misses. a fencer and an instructor has led me to define techniques according to the following criteria. they each affect the others. If it is not working properly. As we saw in the previous chapter. all techniques are specific to distance. applying the principles can really help you figure out what is going wrong. all four aspects must be correct. at close quarters a push to the elbow does nothing against the forearm.) As I see it.chapter four Fencing principles encing principles govern fencing actions. configuration and direction. My experience as a martial artist. For a technique to work. Distance/measure: Any given technique will usually work at only one distance. time. As distance is the clearest distinction. (This is my own way of conceptualising techniques. can easily destroy your opponent’s balance. For example. the one most convenient to illustrate ~ 47 ~ F . but applied to the exact location of the elbow joint.
as the technical exercises will hopefully make clear. 2.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION and most obvious for a beginner to be able to distinguish. Time is perhaps the most controversial. Not as hard as it sounds. along what line. all the techniques in this book are divided up first and foremost by the distances at which they work. In other words. 4. and most sophisticated aspect of fencing. for example. limb-destructions or throws against someone who is standing still. (Abnormal differences in strength. who will generally need to the exact mechanics of each technique explained. awkward to describe. change this. where is he going. you can only strike: it is usually impossible to apply locks. time. is his arm bent or straight? Which side is forward? Which hand are you in a position to use. I have tried to do this in the technical exercises. or passivity on the part of your opponent. for example. or at a diagonal? And how are you moving? Against a static opponent.) Most close quarters techniques. of course. As emphasised by Fiore and Vadi. going the right way. ~ 48 ~ . the elbow push mentioned above will not work if his arm is not extended. at the right time to use a technique specific to that particular distance. Direction: this describes the relative vectors of your momenta. Time: there is a window of opportunity that is open for a finite time (usually a fraction of a second) in which it is possible to execute a given technique successfully. require you to use your opponent’s momentum to apply the force. Configuration tends to be the most obvious difficulty faced by a beginner. 3. configuration and direction. and exactly how will it relate to its target? Obviously. but first a word on distance and timing. Configuration and direction will be covered by the techniques chapters. You must also be able to judge the distances at which you are safe from your opponent’s actions to avoid them successfully. In other words. So you must be in the right place. and how does that intersect with your own direction of movement? Is his weight moving in a linear or circular fashion? Along the line of direction. Configuration: which bit goes where? Configuration refers to the relative shapes in which your opponent’s body and yours are at the time of the technique.
for example to the hands. Distance Fencing distance with the longsword is divided into two measures: wide and close. and partly to do with intention (for example. though it is in part applicable to other weapons. For example. where there is no immediate threat from your opponent’s weapon. an attack may be launched without a step. it is possible to sidestep a long range attack. reaches and lengths of blade. it may be possible to engage. A step may be taken to change the distance to create the time in which to strike. the engagement will be at the middle of the blades (mezza spada). The distances blend into each other: at the shorter measures of long range. 2. or due to the direction they are facing in. If the blades are engaged at this range (and they should be!). while being in a position where the first attacker is still in long range (he has to take another step to hit) while the defender is in short range (he can hit again without stepping). Long range: where with one step you can launch an attack that will land. The fencing theory outlined below is specific to the longsword. Fencing distance is therefore partly a matter of physical proximity (how many inches between one fencer’s chest and the other’s). and counter-attack to the wrists. ~ 49 ~ . accurate judgement of distance and timing is one of the most important skills a swordsman must learn. whether the blades are offered out for engagement). Short range: the distance from which an attack can be launched without stepping. Wide measure Wide measure refers to any distance where a cut or thrust may land with one or no steps and is subdivided into two distances: 1.FENCING PRINCIPLES and all other fencing masters that I have come across on the page or in the flesh. It is also possible for the distance to be different for each fencer: either due to their respective heights. Timing and distance are two sides of one coin. they exist relative to each other and dependent on each other. you are outside of fencing distance. when engaged closely enough. At longer range.
THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Close measure You are at close measure when you can touch your opponent with your hand. and hilt techniques (e.1 Carta 14B from Flos Duellatorum. Elbow-distance: at this range. 2. you are effectively behind your opponent. 3. dagger. 4. Figure 4. and you can barge or throw them. you can comfortably grab or push your opponent’s elbow. Wrist-distance: at this range. All unarmed.g. Techniques at this distance are usually done against the neck. Shoulder-distance: at this range your shoulder is against theirs. showing techniques at each of the four close distances. I divide close measure into four distances: 1. ~ 50 ~ . pommel strikes) are done at this distance. Back-distance: at this range. you can grab your opponent’s wrist.
if your opponent is not moving. In effect. (A favourite trick of experienced fencers when fencing the less experienced is to subtly manoeuvre so that a line the beginner thinks is closed is actually open. Obviously. The golden rule of fencing is only attack an opening line. The many close distance techniques done in longsword fencing are usually specific to distance: you cannot execute a wrist-distance technique at shoulder-distance. one is probably closed. all in one smooth action. Closing a particular line means to interpose the defensive part of your weapon between your opponent’s blade and the target threatened by that line. The term ‘wrist-distance’ does not necessarily imply a technique done against that part of the anatomy: there are wrist-locks that are done at shoulder-distance and one of the most common wristdistance attacks is a pommel-strike to the face. The “Seven Swords” page from the Pisani-Dossi manuscript reproduced above also determines the guards which effectively close each line. The lines of attack and defence for the longsword are effectively the same as the lines used with later weapons.) All blade defence relies on closing the line of your opponent’s attack: all offence relies on making ~ 51 ~ . there are no opening lines: some lines are open. then finishing in back-distance to break the arm and throw the opponent. So you must force him to move. Of course. you are creating an opening line. The lines of attack with a longsword are clearly shown in both Flos Duellatorum and De Arte Gladiatoria. creating an opening line. by moving your position relative to your opponent. by closing one line you necessarily open another.FENCING PRINCIPLES This page from Flos duellatorum shows one technique in each of the four distances. closing in to elbow-distance to lock the arm. though with a single-handed sword. Techniques may also combine distances: entering into wrist-distance to grab the inside of the sword-wrist. An open line is an avenue of attack that your opponent may exploit without going through your sword. The important thing to remember is that the specific action you are doing must be done at the right distance. then hit him with a surprise attack. Lines of A ttack and D efence A line of attack refers to the target and the trajectory the attack takes to achieve that target. depending on the guard adopted.
and outside to the back. Because all lines lead to the centre. the reference may be to the defender. then to open or close them at will. closing the line of attack is closing the centre relative to that line. Every technique in this book is designed to enable you to first perceive the lines of attack. and must be clearly understood. the attacker. However.2 Lines of attack The terms inside and outside are used frequently in swordsmanship. Inside/Outside Figure 4.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION sure the line that you are attacking will be open when your attack arrives. inside refers to the front of the body. This is often referred to (in western and eastern martial arts) as just ‘closing the centre’. ~ 52 ~ . depending on context. Usually. the sword or the swordsman. and finally to manipulate and exploit them.
blade on his left closing that line. while stepping to the left. If a right-handed swordsman is on guard. you should always fence “in opposition”. in a mirror position. is an outside deflection. The principle of opposition is most easily understood in the context of a counter-attack with the point. Things become a little more complex when dealing with a two-handed weapon which permits either foot to lead. inside and outside refer to the attacker’s movements. In general. In that case. changes the aspect of his body (now that same attack to his right side is coming on the inside line). As he cuts. A cut coming from your left will usually be made with your opponent stepping forwards with his right foot. Vertical ~ 53 ~ . Such a deflection. and the blade over on his right. push your point into his face. for a right-handed swordsman inside and outside are simply left and right of the sword respectively. The inside and outside lines of attack are also defined as high or low. With deflections or any other defensive action against your opponent or his sword. exercise three. you must deflect the weapon up to the right. then any attack to the right of his sword is outside. Another way of looking at it is to think of it as moving inside or outside the arc of the cut. done behind the attacker’s cut. The same swordsman. Opposition Opposition describes the situation in which the defensive part of your sword is positioned so that the direct line of your opponent’s attack is closed. usually while you are attacking. left foot forwards. so that your opponent cannot get a clean shot at you when you attack. and the swordsman would always lead with the same foot. though in practice you normally do. attacks below are in the low line. This refers only to the position of the sword: attacks above the sword are in the high line. wherever the sword may be. right foot forwards. while catching his cut on the blade of your sword near the hilt (this action is described in more detail in the Thrusts section. Thus to get to his outside. Imagine that your opponent cuts down at your left shoulder. when the weapon would always be held in one hand.FENCING PRINCIPLES These terms were effectively codified after the longsword period. To be in opposition does not necessarily require you to have blade contact.
there are two essential ways of timing your defence. A parry is a block or deflection of your opponent’s attack. so timing is only partly about seconds and hundredths of seconds. a riposte is the attack immediately following a successful parry. and every fencer will have different speeds at which he can do any action. Timing Timing is notoriously difficult to describe in words. In other words. Parry-then-riposte. then making sure that your sword closes that line as you attack. you hit him during his attack. and working out which is his most likely line of counter-attack. The technical terms associated with matters of timing are also partly dependent on the weapon used. and is most commonly used in this book in reference to a counterattack in the time of your opponent’s attack. You should strive to acquire opposition even when attacking. Just as distance is only partly a matter of feet and inches. counterattack or riposte. Your defensive action must occur in the time of your opponent’s attack. all relative to an attack made by your opponent. For our purposes. This counter-attack is safe is because you have closed the line of his attack. This is done by analysing your opponent’s position. ~ 54 ~ . To be termed a counterattack.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Opposition). Different fencing actions will have different real-time lengths. and timing has been hair-splittingly defined and redefined throughout the ages. it must occur in the same unit of fencing time as the original attack. Fencing time: one unit of fencing time is the time it takes to execute one fencing action. Mezzo tempo1 (“half-time”): this describes the timing when one fencer makes an action in the middle of the other’s. time is always relative to your and your opponent’s actions. we need only define a few terms. Due tempi (“two-times” or “double-time”): this describes the timing of your actions when you defend before you offend. With the longsword. your offensive action occurs in a second unit of fencing time. In fencing terms. deflectthen-cut.
and I react to his defence. perhaps I wish to attack my opponent by hitting him on the head. A due tempi attack will include two blade actions. and there is no change of intention. ~ 55 ~ . actions that require a prior offensive action by the opponent). and therefore occurs in one time. Intention. so in the time of his attack. I therefore define all close quarters defences as mezzo tempo. or the elbow envelopment lock). even third or fourth. Specifically in western swordsmanship. But the grip. because such actions were much rarer when the terms were coined. A direct attack that just takes advantage of a perceived weakness in the opponent’s defences uses only one blade action. T rue and F alse play In martial arts circles (eastern and western). Mezzo tempo refers only to defensive actions (i. So I cut. and I use the opening created by his blade moving in the way of mine. However. That is first intention. it is also used to qualify the nature of a fencing action. However. if I attack with the intention of drawing his defence (in other words forcing him to do something such as deflect my blade). lock or throw should be done while the attacker is still moving forwards. That is the first intention. The timing of close quarters defences is difficult to define using fencing terminology. second intention. so the initial action is defence and attack in one time. such as an attack to the head to draw a defensive response. Or. Or. I may attack my opponent expecting to hit him. deceiving his deflection. then I am just acting on reflexes. followed by an attack to the belly in a second time. the continuation of the defence (such as a pommel strike. If he defends himself. First intention. or a belly cut) is done in a second time.FENCING PRINCIPLES The timing of attacks is also dependent on the number of blade actions the attack requires. then I have successfully enacted a second-intention attack. I deflect it and hit him: second intention. intention usually refers to the correct alignment of the mind and body towards the accomplishment of your technique. F eints. hence a counterattack.e. and cutting up at his waist. For example. I may attack my opponent expecting him to counterattack. lock or throw is an attack. Once the first close quarters contact is made (such as the grip to the wrist. Having drawn his counterattack. every grip. may be used by a fencer to create the opportunity for a successful strike.
Working through the practical exercises that illustrate each principle. refers to fencing without the use of feints.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Against a fencer that prefers due tempi defences. and is expressed in four main ways: Crossing the sword: the incrosada. and for explaining how they work. you only need to be able to execute proper physical actions at speed: to be able to fence. “truest” cross. we usually aim to strike with the middle of our blade against the middle of the opponent’s. The correct crossing of the blades is as close to 90 degrees as possible. for describing them. as this is the safest. Then you should decide If you need to finish by closing in. What you want to do from one side or the other … And when he loses his way with parrying. In historical fencing the use of feints is often referred to as false play: this is because the feint was originally called (in sixteenth centry Englishlanguage treatises) a false attack. it is correct to use feint to draw that defence and counter it. It is referred to repeatedly by both Fiore and Vadi. the exercise will clarify the principle. as the name implies. To be able to fight. you must also have an intellectual framework for analysing the actions. and is mentioned by many other later masters too. crossing your opponent’s sword with your own. True play. And you hammer then on the other side. Crossing his feet: draw an imaginary line between your opponent’s feet: ~ 56 ~ . Do not let him understand. The C ross The principle of the cross is fundamental to the longsword. As Vadi puts it in chapters 12 and 13: Feints call out to obfuscate They hide from the other’s defence. When parrying. is usually the first defensive action taken. and the principle will clarify the exercise.
try to cross the line between his feet. This is best seen in the defensive uses of the guard frontale. you should attempt to bisect the line of his movement. Refer to the close quarters exercises to see this principle at work. Keep the crossguard between your opponent’s blade and your target.FENCING PRINCIPLES any force applied parallel to that line will be easier for him to resist than force applied across it. Using the cross: your longsword has a crossguard. See for example the Through-Cutting deflections exercise. the sword is your cross. ~ 57 ~ . So when entering into close quarters. Crossing his line: when counterattacking into his attack. your counter should either descend from your right to your left. crossing the arc of his cut. your blade should be crossing the line of his cut: if his cut is descending from your left to your right. or ascend from your left to your right. Whenever you step. apply your force at 90 degrees to that line for maximum effect on his balance. and he cannot hit you. and finish on a line that would cross the line between his feet.
Is it for fighting. and even to successfully fight fully armoured opponents. timing and distance if you cannot actually hit your opponent at speed. T Choosing a S word It is important that you decide exactly what you want this weapon for. and to employ the full range of techniques in practice and in combat. However. Firstly. pair practice. adornment. with a four-foot bit of oak. there is a minimum amount of kit required. Light. it must be sturdy enough for its most strenuous likely use. to properly appreciate the character of the weapon. and too many people come away from a practice session heartbroken when their shiny wall-hanger2 has been smashed to bits. solo practice. blunted and bated1 to be used in pair practice. fast weapons intended for unarmoured duelling should not go on the re-enactment battlefield. ~ 58 ~ . or all four? Will it be used for armoured or unarmoured fighting. and to allow your opponent to use a full range of attacks. you need a good steel sword. for duelling or battle re-enactment? In any case. you must also obtain and wear protective gear to prevent accidental injury. or to fight. all you need is a stick. If you intend to practise at full speed. You cannot fully assimilate the concepts of control.chapter five Equipment o begin the practice of swordsmanship. It is perfectly possible to master most longsword technique. There is also the consideration of exact historical accuracy.
• The balance point should be approximately 3 to 5 fingers (about 2-3½ inches) beyond the crossguard. any longer and it should be a two-hander.1 The author with his two favourite longswords. (Usually 2½-4lb: remember that sharp weapons are usually lighter than the equivalent blunt weapon. or a great sword. the pommel reaches near your sternum.3 The other major consideration is size. • The weight should be such that you can comfortably swing the weapon with one hand if the forefinger is hooked over the crossguard. In my opinion.EQUIPMENT Always check with your supplier or the manufacturer that the weapon is intended for the use you want it for. • The crossguard should be about as long as the handle (except when the handle is remarkably long). and the level of craftsmanship. it is mainly a case of preference. I prefer a ~ 59 ~ .) Figure 5. The importance of the balance cannot be overemphasised: a heavy. the ideal longsword conforms to the following general rules: • Its total length should be such that with the tip on the floor. and it should be a singlehander. though in pommel design. for instance. well balanced sword will be easier to use than a light. heavier weapons tend to last longer in combat. In terms of style. Much shorter. Usually this means between one and two hand’s lengths. The major factors governing longevity of the weapon are the quality of the steel used. poorly balanced one. All else being equal. appears to agree on is that your weapon should be in proportion to your own size and strength. • The handle should be two and a half to three of your hand-breadths long. One of the few things that every fencing master. from Vadi to Thibault to Silver. the design and construction.
I would recommend only buying products that your friends or acquaintances have bought and recommend or will let you try out. If possible. The same sword. and still expect to fence with the weapon. then a 520€6 sword costs 1€ per hour. if used for an hour every day. And remember. of Helsinki. In general. but freeplay with a similar weapon that has the rings. buying one good sword is usually cheaper in the long run than repeatedly buying cheap ones that break.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION tapered pommel to a round one because it extends the effective length of the handle without adding weight to the weapon. A hand-made custom weapon from a European or American smith will cost from around 800€. If you wish to buy mail-order. If you love it and want to play with it all the time. make sure that the manufacturer has used a metal intended for such use.” the former plain and sturdy. is to have what we call “fighting kit” and “drinking kit. The most important thing is to buy the sword that is fit for its purpose and that you really like the look of. If you know exactly what you want. and be perfectly fit for use. is only 1/7th as expensive (per hour).5 This is historically accurate: wealthy gentlemen about town would pose with outrageously figured and jewelled hilts. Cost is also relative. The best compromise. The best swords I have ever handled come from JT Pälikkö. If you will be practising and fencing without plate gauntlets (see below).7 He is extremely ~ 60 ~ . Bear in mind that not all smiths are historians: do not necessarily take their word for the historicity of any weapon. the latter as ornamental as you like.4 On the subject of the hilt. I would advise at least a pair of side rings to protect your hands. if you can afford it. In general. it is usually best either to have your weapons made to order by a smith you can trust. if you absolutely must go for a fancy hilt with dragons and the like. If you are going to train for an hour a week. I train with a sword with a plain crossguard. The other problem with fancy hilts (other than their fragility) is that they tend to add unnecessary weight to the weapon. you will spend more time practising. but go to war with plain steel. to perfect my technique. and the sky is the limit. a good sword from a reasonable Eastern-European smith will cost about 350€. or to buy in a shop or market where you can examine the workmanship and feel the heft before handing over the cash. send very precise specifications. and a sword lasts ten years.
dramatically affecting the balance of the sword. 2. Vadi specifies that it must be made of strong iron. The true edge: the edge that is away from you when you hold the sword normally. and for applying locks and throws. 4. or hilt). which have an excellent price-to-quality ratio. and an extraordinary craftsman. This affords vital protection for your hands against your opponent’s blade sliding down. It leaves you hopelessly open on the draw (you have to open your centre to draw the weapon. ~ 61 ~ .9 A scabbard is advisable to protect the blade from the elements and people’s legs and pieces of furniture from the blade. The handle: this is where you normally grip the sword. 5. The back-carry cannot be drawn in low rooms. cross. 2 and 3 are collectively known as the hilt. usually in the face. when holding the sword. all parts of the sword have their specific uses. This is not so much of a consideration with blunt weapons. The pommel: this provides a counter-balance to the weight of the blade. Please do not go for the Hollywood-style back-carry. Parts of the S word Tip to pommel.8 If you intend to wear your sword. with the sword slung over your back and the handle over your shoulder. The crossguard (sometimes known as the quillons. also called the back edge: this is the edge that is towards you. inviting a thrust under the sword-arm). and is crucial for many of the defences and closing actions. It can also be used for hitting your opponent. Parts 1. Starting from the pommel: 1. but you get more than what you pay for. For a tighter budget. His weapons cost a lot of money. The false edge. it is normally best to use a belt-slung baldrick (see Clayton for examples). It is also very useful as a blunt instrument for pummelling your opponent. nor does it allow you to use a full length scabbard.EQUIPMENT knowledgeable about the historical record. 3. I use and sell swords made by Pavel Moc and Arms and Armor. Beware of letting the inside of the scabbard get wet – the moisture will be sealed in and rust your blade to bits. pointing up your right forearm.
7. Attacks and engagements (deliberate investigative contact with your opponent’s blade) are made with the debole. The half of the blade closest to the handle is known as the forte (strong). affording superior leverage when opposed to the debole of your opponent’s blade. If you whack the flat of the blade with your free hand while holding ~ 62 ~ . The area from the midpoint to the last section is used for cuts. 8. Most deflections and all oppositions should be done with this section. because it is closer to the grip.2 parts of the longsword Figure 5.3 the true and false edges 6. Parts eight and nine combined are known as the debole because they are less effective in defence.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 5.
The last four inches or so are used for thrusts or slashing cuts. clean. and that is where the most power is available for cutting. usually a deep nick.12 should keep the blade and hilt clean (follow manufacturer’s recommendations if you have a gilt.EQUIPMENT the sword upright. The point at which the blade is not apparently vibrating is the point of percussion. so most cuts are done with the part of the blade just beyond the point of percussion. and free of stress risers (a stress riser is a weak point.11 followed by a coat of microcrystalline wax. However it tends to be too close to the handle to make full use of the weapon’s length. Do not be afraid to file down any large nicks. as the blade is most likely to break at a nick. Occasional rubdowns with a moisture repellent oil and steel wool or bear’s tongue. and file off any burrs: this is important from a safety perspective. the blade should vibrate. The edges of a blunt weapon should always be kept smooth enough that you can run your bare hand hard up the edge and not get scratches or splinters. and burrs can be very sharp. blued or otherwise ornamented weapon). 9. ~ 63 ~ . which encourages the blade to fold at that point).10 Sword C are Looking after your weapon is largely a matter of keeping it dry. Even the toughest and most cherished sword will not survive repeated abuse: the best guarantor of longevity for your sword (and yourself) is correct technique.
There are a few contemporary masters with whom I will fence like this. This is the hardest style of fencing to appropriately regulate. Choosing protection is a very controversial subject. When free fencing. and you can end up badly hurt (even in practice). Your protection allows him to hit you safely. King Rene d’Anjou’s treatise of 1470 is perhaps the best source). it is important to establish what style of fencing you will be doing. Firstly. Such masters are right in theory.13 This is how it was often done in the past until the invention of fencing masks (though there are tournament records and declarations as early as the 14th century that record the use of blunt practice weapons. The type of longsword fencing that you will learn from this book is unarmoured duelling. If you are practising armoured combat. and there is nothing like it for generating a perfect fencing approach. it is essential that you wear appropriate safety gear.14 This allows you to thrust at the face (a very common target). Never forget that even a blunt blade can break bones. eyes. and the importance of absolute control. and ~ 64 ~ . Too much. You do this not for your own sake. but safety requirements obviously prohibit that. but for the benefit of your training partner. For simulating unarmoured combat. best made armour that you can from an armourer who knows how you intend to use it and has seen what you want to do. or when practicing drills at speed. But try explaining that to the insurance companies. the police or coroner. it leaves the back of the head open. in that freeplay with sharps is the best way for students to learn absolute respect for the weapon. and generally attack the head. Firstly. I recommend and use the following: 1. armpits. joints). and you can’t fence properly. Too little. An FIE standard fencing mask.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Protective equipment There were some masters who believed that the safest course is to fence with sharp weapons and no protection. This does have three major caveats. It was often said in the eighteenth century that you could tell a fencing master from his eye-patch and missing teeth. because accurate technique requires you to go for the least armoured spots (throat. though self-preservation does come into it. then buy the best fitting. or in the event of a slip.
rigid ones. light. or stiff collar. or a plastron. A box for men (called a “cup” in the US). 5. of the sort worn by in-line skaters (worn under the clothes for that period look if you prefer). A point-resistant fencing jacket rated at least 500 newtons. I have twice had fingers broken through unpadded mail17 gloves. 6. and now use a pair of tailor-made fingered gauntlets from K+K art.15 A steel or leather gorget. and some injury. Rigid plastic protectors for the knees and For the elbows. heavier. The collar should be high enough that thrusts coming under the bib of the mask do not make contact with your throat. and properly cover the collar bones and shoulders. preferably padded and/or armoured gauntlets. 3. ~ 65 ~ . Points can slip under the bib of a mask and crush the larynx. and make absolutely sure that your weapons are properly bated. it does not protect the head and neck from the wrenching force of over-vigorous blows. Thirdly it is designed to protect the face from high-speed.EQUIPMENT 2. Secondly. A plastron must wrap around the ribs. and prevent penetration from a thrust. bear in mind that it should be thick enough to take the worst out of the impact of the blows. You only forget this once. 8. Sturdy.16 which should extend at least four inches past the jacket cuff to prevent points sliding up your sleeve. flexible weapons. An added apron of thick leather affords some protection. not slower. which cost about 150€. (For women) a rigid plastic chest guard. I usually wear a fencing jacket and plastron (as pictured). 7. So continually check them for wear. All openings should be covered.18 If you are making one yourself. A padded gambeson. 9. to protect the throat. will save a lot of pain. 4. you must be very careful not to strike at this target. It is vital that you and your opponent learn control before engaging in freeplay.
castles forests and on hillsides. grass and garvel.4 SES longsword freeplay kit On the matter of footwear. concrete. Training barefoot or in smooth leather soled shoes is the most accurate. wore shoes with whipcord attached to the soles for better grip. and recommend a thin. because it can affect the way you move. flat sole. at least. and certainly no built-up heels. it is necessary to wear completely accurate period clothing at least occasionally.19 I have fenced on wooden floors. tarmac. there are no heavy boots.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 5. or get stuck when you should be turning (particularly in falls at close quarters). in sports halls. body-mechanics and footwork. In the salle I usually wear wrestling boots or trainers. and often very slippery. Excessively grippy soles can lead to joint injury as you may stop too suddenly. and my conclusion is that it does not matter what you wear on your feet provided that you understand grounding. In the longsword treatises. in all weathers from heatwave to snowstorm. stone. ~ 66 ~ . salles. wearing everything from thigh-boots to hiking boots to trainers to period shoes to barefoot. few practitioners agree. The dangers of wearing too slippery soles are obvious. For a completely historical style. though there is some evidence to suggest that knights.
control.5 practice with a tyre (front and rear right) and a pell (left rear). and you will never have a serious injury. ~ 67 ~ . Under no circumstances should you deliberately hit a solid object with a sword: the shock can damage your joints. The sound when you hit it varies from a pathetic ‘tap’ to a wallshaking ‘boom’ that lets you know you’ve got it right (as does the grunt and expression of pain on your assistant’s face). For striking targets. The pell is one of the simplest and most effective training tools ever devised.”20 Simply a post in the ground (with a cross-bar if you want). It is certainly as old as the Romans: Vegetius mentions infantry soldiers “cutting at the post. for accuracy). A punchbag can make an excellent cutting and thrusting target. which can be marked with lines to cut at and dots to thrust at. However. I have a student hold an old car tyre.21 Used properly. exercise control and respect the weapon at all times. In general with the longsword I do not use training aids such as wooden wasters (dummy swords). Figure 5. the pell can teach you power. Fence according to the limits of your equipment.EQUIPMENT Other E quipment Without doubt the single most important bit of safety equipment is good common sense. Minor bumps and bruises come with the territory. punchbags are not normally designed to withstand cuts even from a blunt sword. so it is a good idea to reinforce it with leather or canvas. the idea is to hit the pell as hard and fast as you can without actually touching it (or just tapping it on a marked spot. and break the sword. distance and accuracy. Not bad for a cheap bit of timber.
or drinks cans also filled with water. soaked reed mats. are the best for the money.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION For sharp cutting practice. a large plastic bottle filled with water. You can also practice by cutting a piece of dangling rope (one-inch hemp is best). ~ 68 ~ . tightly rolled.
jacket or pads. My school method is therefore designed to build up their technical repertoire slowly. there are drills that we do in the Salle that would be impossible to adequately describe in a book aimed at beginners. You will notice that almost all pair work with longswords shown in the photographs are done wearing no mask. working with total control.chapter six Unarmed Practice he exercises contained in this book are designed to be as accessible as possible to a beginner with little or no experience. I allow no pair practice at all without full protection. we focus on the transitions between techniques more than on the techniques themselves. This is not the way I teach in my Salle. distance and timing. Obviously. all students have regular access to an instructor. and their forms and solo work is looking good at speed. There are techniques and exercises in this book that many of my students have never seen. and on the other hand. in the absence of an instructor. However. because they don’t need them. body contact. my students do all pair work very slowly and carefully. I cannot be present ~ 69 ~ T . Put another way. and to work more on the manipulation of blade contact. and no access to an instructor. There. That method is useless to a beginner without proper supervision. and know that they will not be fencing until they are ready. This is how I prefer to teach: under my supervision.1 When they have got the hang of the basics. They are structured to show you a range of basic concepts and techniques that can be assimilated reasonably quickly to allow you to fence properly. then they kit up and do the drills faster.
if practised over and over again. the following section comprises a series of drills that will. you will be stressed by even the basic actions. so do not worry if at first you don’t understand the principles and can’t get the techniques right. you will not need to warm up to defend yourself: you can’t say: “Hold on Mr. anyone can slip. especially the spine 2. Everybody makes mistakes. and work up. Mugger while I do some stretches so I don’t pull a muscle beating the crap out of you. That said. reprogram your body to move like a swordsman. With these weapons. Raising core-body temperature. sending blood into the muscles 3. It is a positive feedback loop. As you get fitter and better trained. and the principles clarify the techniques. The device that allows you to practise these movements until they are right is drill. The practice of the exercises in this book will clarify the general fencing principles. Warm-up Before beginning the swordsmanship exercises. you are the most accomplished and graceful swordsman alive) to your hands and feet (which generally lag well behind in the grace stakes). Let me say that again. but if you are practising my method please observe my rules and always wear a mask. We will begin with the feet. misjudge distance. the techniques you can attempt will become more demanding. flashy stuff. There is only one way to transfer the idea of a technique from your head (where. That is repetition. Stretching ~ 70 ~ . Once you have internalised the correct mechanics and your technique is very good. gauntlets and pads when training with a partner. the first mistake can result in serious injury. Gently loosening the joints. but the simple. The only way to get good at swordsmanship is to do it a lot.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION when you are practising. Every exercise in the warm-up is as much about body mechanics and breathing exercise as anything else. In other words. basic movements which can be tedious to do and unimpressive to look at to the uninformed. there are three parts to a good warm-up: 1. jacket. so the warm up remains necessary. Not just the fun. so guard against it with proper protection. or have a lapse in concentration.” But before that. it is a good idea to warm up. no doubt.
) At the end of every training session. see Appendix B. I do not place too much emphasis on which foot stays still and which goes round because Vadi later presents guards with either foot in the ~ 71 ~ . (More advanced classes will sometimes go directly to weapons practice after the warm-up. For a sample warm-up program. To recap. using as many muscle fibres as necessary. One of the most common reasons for a training injury is through accidentally forcing insufficient muscle fibres to do the work that would normally be done with more. If you imagine your hips and legs to be the elephant. breathing calmly and deeply. it must remain upright whatever your legs are doing. the treatises offer detailed guidance if you know where to look. Body M echanics The first and most important aspect of learning to use any weapon is precise body control. you should warm-down with ten minutes or so of stretching. Focus on the muscle groups that are normally stiffest in the days after a really vigorous training session. then move on to weapons practice. Vadi presents us a more detailed set of instructions. it is a good idea to hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. solid. The feet are on a wheel. the drawings in Fiore and Vadi both indicate the imaginative processes that will lead to correct body mechanics. where one foot remains still (the tower) and the other goes around it. how can you possibly control the movement of a four-foot length of steel? As usual. When warming down. At SES we always begin with a warm-up followed by a footwork/body mechanics/unarmed combat session. Recall that Fiore used the image of an elephant with a tower on its back. stable and secure. you will find that as your back remains straight. and your back and shoulders to be the tower.UNARMED PRACTICE Much of the effectiveness of a warm-up is that it reminds the muscles to contract smoothly. This will make more sense in the light of some of the exercises to come. so the warm-up is different. The exact exercises and stretches should mainly involve the muscle groups you are going to use: there is no point stretching the wrists before a footwork class: do it just before you actually start using your arms. If you cannot control what your arms and legs do. or you will tip over.
or to grapple. The right shoulder is the bear. The left is the ram. the blade. the keys to correct movement. that roams the woods. and the exact position of your weight. the left must be the sun and the right the tower. and how few take dumbbells into the ring. The use of the longsword is not an ambidextrous art. The left arm is the wolf. indicating that your torso should face the direction of your intention. It is more cautious. A right-hander will always have his right hand at the cross-guard. when the right foot is forwards.2 This is made abundantly clear not only by the illustrations of technique but also by the apportioning of animal images to the right and left arms and shoulders. and strengthen your legs. It is deadly and cunning. The right arm is the dragon. And the fight is watched by the eyeeye over the heart watches the fight over the heart. bend and straighten. you may ~ 72 ~ . Try to keep these images in mind when practising technique. as they will help you to move correctly and to think out your strategies in the right manner for this weapon. Exercises in B ody M echanics Body mechanics for martial arts is the study of how to position and move your bones for maximum efficiency. If you have never consciously made yourself aware of these things but taken them for granted. which will butt and shove enemies to the ground. As always. make you much harder to push over. As the sections on techniques will show. but is legendarily swift when it sees an opening.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION advanced position. by indirection finding direction out. and the ability of any movement to deliver power. your legs must “open and close”. as Vadi suggests. and kills with impunity. if you are to step forwards. then consider how many boxers lift weights. Grounding The first requirement of good footwork is a feel for the ground beneath you. the body is clearly differentiated between right and left. These exercises will improve your balance. the knees are. If you are wondering why you should bother to use an exercise that you will never repeat in free fencing. Effectiveness is determined by the ability of any position to withstand pressure. in other words. whereas the left is free to hold the handle. Specifically.
This first exercise is for many students the most important one of all. but immovable. with the outside edges of your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. By making yourself aware of these monitoring processes. 7. Do not allow your right hip to rise onto the leg: keep your pelvis completely level. Be completely relaxed. Close your eyes and feel the weight in your feet. transfer your weight to the right foot. anywhere at all. 3. Be aware of how it is supported in the legs. Without leaning at all. Finish in the middle. cuts. shift back to the middle. Keep your centre of gravity low and your back straight. you can gain control of them. so your back is straight. When you feel completely grounded through the right foot. It can be done at the bus stop. and thereby find your weaknesses and improve on them. Repeat the exercise to the left. 4. because usually the body looks after itself with subconscious processes. 2. and your left foot is still stuck firmly to the floor by the imagined roots. 8. Use a mirror or a friend to tell you when your spine is in its natural resting position. because it can cure all sorts of later problems with guards. moving only the hips. Imagine yourself as heavy as possible. With practice. you won’t need to close your eyes to get that feeling of groundedness. Bend your knees slightly and let your weight come onto the middle of both feet evenly. It is vital that you retain this awareness of ~ 73 ~ . Practise this barefoot to start with. 5.UNARMED PRACTICE still be extremely well coordinated. Visualise your feet growing roots into the ground. Let your arms hang naturally. Five minutes a day spent practising this will solve most balance problems. 6. Keep this up for a few minutes if you can. keeping your feet firmly flat on the floor. Shift your shoulders back and keep your head up. and then in whatever footwear you normally practise in. that feeling of weight spreading down into the floor. in queues at the supermarket. and movement. Stand relaxed. 1. Your right knee will have to bend slightly more to allow this to happen. slowly and without losing the connection. at work.
3. Most people rely on visual cues for balance: you will probably start to wobble when you can’t see. Balance Once you have become comfortable with the first exercise. It may help to look at a point on the wall.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION the ground. you can rely on them instead.1 Practising balance Do this with your eyes open at first. Practise this exercise on each leg until you can reliably stand on either leg with your eyes shut for a full minute. Try to keep your head level and still. and then try it with them closed. repeat it to the point where your weight is largely on the right foot.) ~ 74 ~ . and send it down into the ground. The forward stance has the front foot pointing forward. Figure 6. The keys to success are persistence. whenever you practise. then close your eyes but still stare at that point. Now. and how they are connected. lower your weight. and the weight about 70% on the front foot (see picture four). your weight. This is the most common position. posture. posta di dente di zenghiaro and porta di ferro (described below. with practice. lift the left leg until the thigh is horizontal. Your body is equipped with alignment sensors (the semicircular canals in the inner ear). and is used for posta longa. If you start to lose your balance. with no upperbody movement. and visualisation. T he G uard P ositions/ S tances There are basically two stances used with the longsword: forward and rear. posta breve.
Stand with the feet together. and an inch gap between the heels 2. Stand in the forward stance. then turn your body (don’t move your feet ~ 75 ~ . left foot pointing to the left. This is the basic “on guard” position.2 the forward stance To find the rear stance: 1. right foot forwards. right foot forwards. Figure 6. and ready to move in any direction at any time. toes pointing backwards at a 45 degree angle. An alternative way to find the rear position is to assume the forward position. Step straight forward with the right foot twenty to thirty inches (51-76cm).UNARMED PRACTICE To find the forward stance: 1. right foot pointing forwards. Keep your back straight. and at the same time pivot the feet on the balls so that the heels shift forwards. the front heel more than the back. head up and knees bent. Become aware of the ground. balanced. 2. leaving the feet parallel. Turn your hips 45 degrees anticlockwise and push your weight 70% onto the back foot. 3. you are stable. In it.
etc.3 A the forward stance.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION except to turn them) anticlockwise 135 degrees. Now look back into the original forwards direction without turning your hips. B the rear stance One of the core changes I have made to my interpretation since writing the first edition is the alignment of the hips and how that affects the back heel. Fiore calls the turn from forward to rear position volta stabile (stable turn). ~ 76 ~ . B the rear stance Figure 6. head up. into a left-foot forward position.4 A the forward stance. Please refer to appendix D for details. In both stances the back is straight. and shoulders relaxed.3 Figure 6.
4. Keep making small alignment adjustments until you find the position in which you can withstand the most pressure (it will not be very much. Your feet should immediately tip up. and you lose your balance. The most common problem with weak stances is incorrect positioning of the hips and pelvis.UNARMED PRACTICE Testing the stances: Remember that one of the definitions of a good stance is that it can withstand pressure. Curve the base of your spine out so your coccyx (tailbone) is pointing back (stick your bum out). Figure 6. 3. and retest your balance. Raise your hands to shoulder height. because you are being pushed in a direction that is not supported by a foot). To check for the correct position: 1. Stand as in the first grounding exercise. ~ 77 ~ .5 Testing the stance: pelvis position check. 2. 6. Adjust the position of your coccyx by tucking it under and forwards. 5. Rami applies pressure to Guy’s position. Have your partner push gently against your hands.
have a friend gently press your right shoulder: you should be able to route the pressure into your back foot. In other words. but allow your partner’s force to flow through you into your back foot. 4. keeping the elbow low and the arm relaxed. and the arm extending forwards. then forward onto your right. Repeat this exercise in rear stance When you can direct the pressure from your shoulder. Test your balance by having him let go without warning: you should not move at all. 6. just allow the gentle force being applied to make you really conscious of your connection to the ground. and direct the pressure from there. don’t push back. Reacquaint yourself with your weight. Repeat this exercise with the left foot forwards. The classic mistake here is to allow the shoulder-blade to get pushed back. maintaining ground awareness and perfect posture. ~ 78 ~ . It is important that you do not tense in the shoulders. Assume the forward stance 2. Of course. Do not lean into the pressure. Be careful to keep the elbow down.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION You should find that you can absorb the most pressure when your coccyx is pointing straight down. This awareness will allow you to feel whether you are doing the later techniques correctly or not. 3. extend your hand (the right if the right foot is forwards). Now check that your stances are strong with the following exercise: 1. Someone running their hand from one shoulder across your back to the other should not feel anything sticking out. allowing the shoulder-blade to remain flat. This is the correct pelvis position for all stances. Ease it back onto your left foot. there is a big difference between grounding in a nicely set-up exercise and doing it in a fight. In this position. 5. Your friend should feel like he is leaning on a rock. The important thing to master at this stage is the awareness of the ground and your posture.
the essence of good footwork is simply this: push your weight from a bent leg to a bending leg. The basic ideas that govern good footwork are few and simple: ~ 79 ~ . That said. Footwork4 This subject is vast enough to require a book of its own. lunges. passes. and combinations that to list them all would serve only to confuse and discourage the beginner.UNARMED PRACTICE Figure 6.6 pressure testing exercise: Guy applies pressure to Nikodemus’ position. or as Vadi put it. the knees must open and close as you pass. turns. There are so many possible correct steps. A forward stance B rear stance.
or lean back away from an attack. 2. makes you less able to change direction. pass and turn with good grounding and posture. it is better to lose every fencing match than to develop bad postural habits. There is no way to master footwork without previously mastering grounding and posture control. all of the complicated stuff will become easy to work out. and keep in mind the following guidelines. However low your stance. but is very vulnerable to being twisted. With an understanding of these principles. • Keep your back upright.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION • • • • posture which leads to balance which allows you to generate and deliver power which must be clearly focused in one of the eight directions. strains your back. It puts your head nearer to your opponent’s attack. You should start with the chapter on body mechanics. Refer to the previous exercises. This is for two reasons: 1. Many swordsmen have mastered grounding without doing specific exercises. • Never sacrifice your guard position: never over-extend. shin and foot MUST be in line with the direction that your weight is travelling in. A forward-pointing knee and foot maximise your reach. lean into a cut. do not lean forwards.5 • Your hips and pelvis must be aligned correctly. With the correct alignment. As a beginner. The knee is very strong in one direction: it can bend like a hinge with no problems. but it probably took them a lot longer than necessary. it is perfectly possible to have a very large student stand on the top of your knee while you’re in a lunge (don’t try this at home!). • The leading thigh. ~ 80 ~ . Posture Good posture is vital (remember the elephant!). and the ability to step. and in general may be considered a Very Bad Thing. Correct alignment prevents injury. and practise the exercises there before attempting the footwork techniques.
~ 81 ~ . This is in part a protective mechanism. Power in footwork derives from using the large muscles of the legs and buttocks. power is simply a matter of using as little effort as possible to achieve your aims.6 These are straight forwards. it is well done. Power can be increased by working both ends of the differential: increasing the strength of the maximum contraction. In other words. without muscular strain. that is because most normal muscular contraction is inefficient: not all the fibres contract. to push your weight around.UNARMED PRACTICE Balance Balance is the fundamental principle that underlies the physical. diagonally forwards left and right. the key to power is healthy. push into it. and diagonally backwards left and right. not. mental and spiritual practice of the art of swordsmanship. Good physical balance is largely a matter of posture and grounding. In other words. they are out of synch. Power At a beginner level. and to strengthen the joints to allow the muscles to exert more force safely. The muscular power available to you is the differential between the resting state and full contraction of the muscle. left. have accessed “superhuman” strength. By and large. since your muscles have the strength to contract so hard and so fast that they can to rip your tendons from the bone and destroy your joints. rather. The E ight D irections All steps are executed in one of the eight directions. The slightest wobble is a clear indication that something has gone wrong somewhere. it is the main diagnostic tool for analysing your technique: if the movement leaves you in perfect balance from start to finish. and reducing the level of contraction in the resting state (a stiff muscle is already using up some of its strength). and if they do. right. toned muscle that has a completely relaxed resting state and can withstand rapid contraction. they need to co-ordinate the muscles they have. In terms of footwork. straight back. do not fall into a step. under hypnosis or extreme duress. not the small ones of the back. We have all heard about people who. So most people do not need to put on much muscle to increase their power.
south etc.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 6.7 The Compass. where these directions intersect. until my Finnish students complained that it was hard enough being taught in English without such non-standard use of normal words. they intersect at middle of the front foot. depends on the type of footwork you are doing. Without command of the directions. The zero point. (I used to. and therefore timing. from Achille Marozzo’s Opera Nova (1536) shows two swordsmen engaged on guard. In general longsword practice.8. from Achille Marozzo’s Opera Nova (1536) This image. standing on what appears to be a compass. I now use figure 6. These directions need to be named: some martial arts instructors use north.) ~ 82 ~ . This is because mastery of the sword always requires mastery of the eight directions.7 The importance of the directions and their point of intersection will become clear in later exercises. it is impossible to reliably control distance.
Firstly.UNARMED PRACTICE Figure 6.8 The 8 directions/ line of direction (Fiore and others call this line the strada) There are of course an infinite number of possible directions. The purpose of restricting yourself to eight is twofold. ~ 83 ~ . all attacks close distance.
say Front. you have nine useful footwork options. you do not close the range enough for grappling or pommelling. In response to this hypothetical attack. but for the purposes of getting a basic idea about how direction relates to distance. going Front Right or Front Left. and are too close to use the blade effectively. keeping him at a distance. pommelling. relatively few of the attacks should come down that line. configuration ~ 84 ~ . This puts you in range for grappling. time. the only useful options will involve one or more of the eight directions. but it is the easiest to visualise). imagine that all attacks are coming from long range along the line of direction (in free fencing.Front Right. You will then be able to judge where he is going and what are the useful responses. careful practice in the eight directions will allow you to understand intuitively the directional components of your opponent’s attacks. • You can step diagonally Back Left or Back Right. so you will eventually be able to put yourself wherever you want. • You can step Back. In practically all combat situations. In other words. If you step in a direction that is between any of the eight. • You can close in diagonally.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION whatever direction it comes from. • You can stand your ground. There is also the aspect of general control: if you confine yourself to the eight directions in practice. This puts you in blade range of his body. for example. command of direction is one of the key tools that allows you to effectively command distance. Even if he is attacking on the diagonal. • You can close in directly. and forcing him to change direction before he can redouble his attack. Remember that all actions are defined by distance. going forwards. • You can sidestep Left or Right. he must still close distance. keeping him at a distance. In addition. you will become accustomed to being very precise about where you step. This puts you in blade range of his sword-arm. assuming that the swordsmen are facing each other. the attack must shorten the line of direction. This is over-simplified.
1 back. The most common problem people have with stepping is controlling the direction of their front foot: it has a tendency to turn. try doing it with direction changes: step Forwards. then two back and three forward. Footwork E xercises 1. 4 forward. exactly the same distance as your front foot moved. Be careful to end how you start: front foot. Bring back your front foot immediately. When you have the hang of the step. Bring up your back foot immediately. There are some historical fencers who believe that longsword footwork is basically the same as normal walking. and are in control of your weight movement. Assume the forward stance. 2. 3 forward. 2 back.UNARMED PRACTICE and direction. Assume the forward stance 2. so your stance remains the same. knee and thigh all going Forwards. Push your weight forwards and step a few inches with your front foot 3. back straight. 4 back until you run out of space or your legs complain too loudly. Before you can reliably manipulate distance and your opponent’s direction. when the guard positions. keep your head up. Push your weight backwards and step a few inches back with your back foot. To step forwards (accrescere in Fiore’s system): 1. Then 2 forward. When you have a fair grasp of stepping forwards and backwards. so your stance remains the same. 3. At all times. for instance. you must first be able to control your own. step in groups of five. and knees bent. good balance and ~ 85 ~ . without changing your guard position. 5 forward. 3 back. two back. then turn in the hips and step Front Right. I agree that this becomes the case after years of practice. three forward. Stepping The step is the means by which you make small adjustments in distance. To step backwards (discrescere in Fiore’s system): 1. exactly the same distance as your back foot moved. usually inwards.
before becoming too casual about your footwork. right foot forward. Accurate footwork is a combination of foot. Your hips must turn with the motion. Though your hips do turn. Angle the foot in a different direction. as they appear in the treatises. I believe it is best to establish correct guards. travels in a straight line forwards. Normal walking is one version of it. Step directly forwards into a stable forward stance with the left-foot forwards. and to learn to move between them maintaining a proper defensive position. (Fiore’s meza volta. Eventually it will be as if you are floating: able to move in any direction.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION movement have become completely internalised. you can imagine the process of passing from one side forward to the other. and your weight will have to follow it. knee. This step must be fluid. so when you are used to the foot motion. just by pushing your hips ~ 86 ~ . During this step. press most of your weight forwards. about two inches below your navel. as should your leading thigh. Feel how different the movement is: there is a much greater turn in the hips and lead foot. then feet. pivot it on the ball. They must all work together in the same direction if you are to step accurately. the imaginary central point of your body. this time stepping Front Right. Having practiced being in the forwards stance with either foot forward. grounded and in balance. Practise passing into all eight directions: do not forget to move with the body first. Now practise it again. Linear Passing Passing is the action of one foot going past the other in any direction. Keep the legs bent.) 1. it is misleading for beginners. You will find that the direction of this manoeuvre is determined by your passing knee and foot. 3. and hip control. direct the pass with your hips. 2. swivelling the right heel forwards forty-five degrees clockwise. 2. your weight must not rise and lower. However. be absolutely focused on the direction Forwards. As your weight passes over your right foot. and whichever foot is forwards should be pointed directly forwards. and they control your weight. Starting with forward stance.
with the other foot leading.e. Stance stepping 8 This is an important exercise as it teaches you to generate power every time you move between rear stance and forward stance.9 The linear passing step. the weight pivoting on the ball of the foot. very careful about which direction you are going in. Step through with a pass. 5. 1. 3. so that you end up in forward stance. Turn the hips forwards. ~ 87 ~ . D-F show passing backwards. Repeat the exercise from position 4 (i. Push your weight back. 4. a reverse of fig 6.UNARMED PRACTICE in that direction. Begin in forward stance. 2. turning your hips and feet into rear stance. very careful to remain grounded and in perfect balance throughout. done form the forward stance (A). and very. Be very. C The final res position. B the rear foot passes forward. and return to forward stance. on the other side). 3. Figure 6.9a.
and that your weight must move smoothly and economically. In effect. and surges forward. the real exercise begins. turns. All three parts are now done in one smooth action. which is suddenly released. When you have the basic step-by step choreography right. it feels like the move to rear stance is winding up a spring. but remember that your back remains relaxed and straight. driving the step. Figure 6. the weight spirals back.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Simple enough.10 Stance stepping ~ 88 ~ .
There will be times.UNARMED PRACTICE 4. particularly when cutting or throwing. Circular Passing There are two kinds of movement between which you need to be able to distinguish: when your centre of gravity moves in a straight line (in whatever direction). you have been stepping in a straight line. showing the millwheel. Figure 6. when you will want to move circularly. In the above exercises. ~ 89 ~ . as suggested by Vadi’s wheel. This is achieved by sending your unweighted foot out in a curve forwards.11 Vadi’s segno page. and when it moves along a curve.
The first ~ 90 ~ . of course. Swing your right foot in an arc 180 degrees anticlockwise forwards. left foot forwards. 7. Try passing backwards and forwards along a line in this manner: first clockwise forwards. pushing your weight onto it as you do so. 4. Repeat the exercise going clockwise. Figure 6. seen from above. 2. Turn your hips and feet anticlockwise Forwards. You are now in forwards stance facing Back (and have completed what Fiore calls a tutta volta). Imagine there is a glass ceiling above your head: do not bounce up and down during these steps. In normal fencing. 3. then anticlockwise backwards. with your weight on the right foot. pushing your weight Forwards onto your left foot as you do so. the directions follow you as you move. 6. then changing the direction of the turn in each step. placing it behind you. so they do not change. imagine that the directions are drawn on the ground before you begin. You are now facing Left. 5. It is important not to lumber along here: keep the weight low and under control. Swing your left foot in an arc 180 degrees anticlockwise. facing Forwards.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Circular passing exercise: In this exercise.12 circular passing. left foot forwards. 1. facing Forwards. then anticlockwise forwards and clockwise back. as at the start. so you would always be facing forwards. and both feet pointing Left. Assume forward stance. by beginning with the right foot forwards. You are now in forward stance.
you are exactly in distance to strike his body. (the next step will be into the original direction Forwards. with either foot. there is. (Fiore would call this a passo fora di strada. This step will become very important in the later drills but must be mastered alone first. If this sequence is repeated four times. and you time this step to his attack. left foot forwards. Front Right . 7. Practise turning into every one of the eight directions. The magic of this step is that if your opponent has attacked linearly in correct distance.) The ideal step (135/90) exercise: 1. The key to circular stepping is the feeling that your weight is travelling in a curve. you will see why it is worth practising. at step 3. you can use this type of step in every direction. facing Front Left (see fig 13b). 4. Direction should not necessarily be dependent on visual cues. (See fig 13a) 3. Of course. The Ideal Step (135/90) Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a way to fence from a position where you can hit him. from either start position. into forwards stance. for clarity the directions are as if drawn on the floor. As with the circular stepping exercise. Your right foot should now be pointed Front Left. Pass linearly forwards with the left foot. ~ 91 ~ . You may check the accuracy of your angles by doing this exercise with your eyes shut. but he can’t hit you? Well. still facing Front Left. whereas he cannot reach yours without turning. left foot forwards. and you are facing the same direction that you started in. 2. forming a normal forwards stance with the right foot forwards. and do not change during the exercise. Pass circularly 135 degrees anticlockwise. Bring your left foot circularly around 90 degrees anticlockwise. Assume forward stance.UNARMED PRACTICE time you use a turning step to throw someone effortlessly across a room. etc) you should finish facing Back: repeated eight times.
It is even possible to do every action with both heels actually off the ground. Free F ootwork The above exercises are there to help you develop precise control of your feet. and just practise directions. and maintaining a solid connection to the ground. Then you can forget all the steps. This allows you to pivot easily. to a perfect position. ~ 92 ~ . So whenever you move.13 The Ideal Step: 135/90. your weight should be on the balls of your feet. you must move from a perfect position.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 6. The basic rule of footwork is this: never sacrifice your guard position. This is achieved by pushing the weight from a bent leg to a bending leg. through a perfect position. Weight In every longsword guard. in whatever style suits you. The heel of the rear or un-weighted foot in particular should be allowed to rise. and during every step or turn. knees and weight. are you ready to trust your natural footwork style. while keeping the back straight. Only when you are able to move fluidly in all directions without loss of balance.
the correct grip in this style is:1 Figure 7. A properly-made handle will be shaped such that it fits in the hand and allows you to feel where your edge lies. The interface between you and your sword is your grip upon it. so this book is written with all instructions for right-handers.chapter seven Armed Practice Solo Drills Holding the Sword:The Grip H aving warmed-up and practiced your footwork. Where necessary. etc. right hand on the pommel. Leaving aside some of the more advanced half-sword and specialpurpose grips. Align the grip so that the cross-guard is directly above ~ 93 ~ . Most people are right handed. additional instructions will be given.1 the standard grip Your dominant hand should grasp the handle as close to the cross-guard as possible. and may injure yourself. Left-handers can transpose all instructions to suit them: left hand by the crossguard. with all fingers closed around the handle. it is time to apply some of that power and control to actually moving your weapon around. and this must be right or you will lack power and control.
THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION
and parallel to your forearm. This means that the edge is supported by the bones of your arm. Once you have this grip, do not change it at all until you have mastered the basics, and are practicing the more advanced halfsword techniques. The non-dominant hand should grip the handle as far down as possible: if you can, hold the pommel. This maximises the available leverage. It is not wrong to hook a finger over the cross-guard, shifting your grip closer to the point of balance. This makes it easier to control the sword. But it also exposes your finger to possible damage, and should be reserved for when you are so tired you really need the extra help. The sword should be held firmly but not tightly. You are not strangling a chicken. A soft, resilient hold is ideal. This is the only grip used in this book.
A guard is first and foremost a position with certain offensive and defensive capabilities that you understand and can therefore use. The importance of various guard positions was emphasised by the masters of old. Every Italian treatise on swordsmanship before Agrippa’s of 1553 contained a list of named guards, specifying foot, hand and blade positions. Apparently similar guards (called poste), such as Fiore’s posta di dente chinghiale and porta di ferro mezana, were evidently considered entirely different positions. All movements in longsword fencing should be from one guard to the next: so when you cut, thrust, recover, deflect, block or manoeuvre, you are always transitioning between correct guard positions. It therefore follows that you need to know these positions, and fully understand what each has to offer, if you are to fence correctly. The Getty manuscript divides the longsword guards into three different types: stabile, instabile, and pulsativa. These distinctions effectively determine the tactical uses of the guards in question.2
~ 94 ~
Stabile: “stable” guards, as the name implies, are stable positions to fight from. Pulsativa: “pulsing” guards are those from which the first defensive response is to hit the incoming sword (i.e. give it an impulse). Instabile: “unstable” guards are transitional positions, which exist (usually) only for the briefest instant as you pass through them.
The most commonly used guards are these:
Stabile Posta breve Coda longa distesa Dente di zenghiaro Porta di ferro mezana Pulsativa Tutta porta di ferro Posta di donna Instabile Posta longa Posta di fenestra Posta frontale
All of these guards can be taken right foot forward or left foot forward, with the blade on the right side (destra), or the left side (sinistra). Essentially, any position you take is a guard if you understand its tactical and practical consequences. The five I emphasise are chosen because they are the most commonly useful, and the easiest to understand. The questions to ask yourself when in any position are: • Am I covered? In other words, what part of the body, if any, is protected by the sword in the position it is in. Sometimes the body will be entirely open to attack. • What attacks can I comfortably launch from this position? • What lines of attack can I easily cover from this position? • Can I attack directly from here, or do I have to contract first? • Where is the threat likely to come from? • How would I attack someone holding this position? Some guards are excellent for close distance; some are more useful at longer range. Practise the guards as static positions, then by moving between them, with and without stepping.
~ 95 ~
THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION
(Short position) with the blade pulled back.
Figure 7.2 Guy Windsor in posta breve. Pisani-Dossi carta 19A, fig. 1
~ 96 ~
Posta di coda longa distesa:
(Long-lying tail position) with the sword all the way behind you.
Figure 7.3 Nikodemus Siivola in coda longa distesa. Pisani-Dossi carta 19A, fig. 3
~ 97 ~
THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Posta di dente di zenghiaro: (Boar’s Tooth): with your left hand on your left hip. Pisani-Dossi carta 18B. Figure 7. fig 4.4 Ilkka Hartikainen in posta di dente di zenghiaro. ~ 98 ~ . sword pointing down and a little to the left. right foot forwards.
fig.ARMED PRACTICE Porta di ferro mezana: (Middle iron door) with the blade pointed down at the floor.5 Auri Poso in posta di porta di ferro mezana. Figure 7. Pisani-Dossi 153/carta 18A. 4 ~ 99 ~ .
THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Tutta porta di ferro: (Whole iron door) with the blade pointing down and to the right. fig. 1 ~ 100 ~ . Figure 7. Pisani-Dossi carta 18A.6 Antti Kuparinen in posta di tutta porta di ferro.
Figure 7. There are several variations on this position in Fiore’s treatise. Pisani-Dossi carta 18A.ARMED PRACTICE Posta di donna: (Woman’s guard) standing in rear position with the sword held over your rear shoulder. fig.7 Antti Kuparinen in posta di donna. 2 ~ 101 ~ .
8 Antti Kuparinen showing posta di donna sinestra (woman’s guard. left side) Figure 7. ~ 102 ~ .THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Posta di donna: (Woman’s guard. left side).
it represents the fullest extension of the attack.9 Guy Windsor in posta longa.ARMED PRACTICE Posta longa: (Long position) with the sword pushed forward. Pisani-Dossi carta 18B. ~ 103 ~ . Figure 7. fig 1. This is the position through which you cut. and into which you thrust.
Figure 7. ~ 104 ~ .10 Rami Laaksonen in posta di fenestra. fig 3. Pisani-Dossi carta 18A.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Posta di fenestra: (Window position) sword pointed forwards. blade horizontal. hands at the level of the face.
~ 105 ~ .ARMED PRACTICE Figure 7.11 Rami Laaksonen in posta di fenestra on the left.
This is primarily used for parrying.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Posta frontale: (Frontal (or crown) position) with the sword held nearly vertical in front of you.12 Guy Windsor in posta frontale. fig 2. ~ 106 ~ . Figure 7. and the crossguard high. Pisani-Dossi carta 18B.
4 in each of the six main directions. is an attack. To begin with. not slashing. The physics behind a simple cut is extraordinarily complex. thrusts (blows done with the point). and armour will be covered in a later book. head. 180. hits.000 repetitions. Attacks may usefully be divided into cuts (blows done with the edge). and hilt-strikes (blows done with the pommel or crossguard). or 500 cuts per day for a year.ARMED PRACTICE Attacks Any action with the sword that directly threatens your opponent or is intended to injure. and a complete explanation would be useless to almost all readers. most attacks are cuts or thrusts. Then ten thousand cuts with a blunt steel weapon against a resilient target that you can really hit. But that is still only 100 cuts per day for five years. And that’s just a start.3 And by that I mean ten thousand careful. fast strike with the edge of the weapon. In all. thrusts. raking cuts. preparation. which is an attack into your opponent’s prior attack. done with a properly balanced steel weapon. It takes a minimum of ten thousand cuts to begin to understand the subject. Cuts The cut is the most frequently used method of attack with the longsword. I never said this was easy or quick. which is an action designed to open the way for an attack (such as knocking your opponent’s weapon aside with your own). powerful. which is the first offensive action of a bout. elbows. and compound attack. correctly executed cuts in each of the six main lines. you need only consider these factors:5 ~ 107 ~ . that may then be drawn or pushed to increase the damage. knees. For the purposes of understanding how to cut better. Strikes with hands. so don’t get discouraged. I prefer to use the term “cut” to emphasise that the sword has a sharp blade and must be used accordingly. then another ten thousand with a sharp weapon against a cutting target. The purpose of this chapter is to train you to make those final actions effectively. either to the air or against the pell. In the treatises they are referred to as colpi which is more literally interpreted as “blows” or “strikes”. which is an attack including one or more feints. counter-attack. Ultimately fencing matches usually end with one or more cuts. Sorry. Modern fencing terminology includes attack. feet. or strikes with the hilt. A cut in this system is basically a hard. which gives the (correct) impression that they are generally executed as solid.
which is affected by • The speed of the edge. This results in a dramatically harder cut. A surface impact. This is achieved by providing force (F) behind the weapon. The kinetic energy (E) is proportional to the mass. The ideal impact of your sword against your opponent is inelastic: he does not yield to the blow. It is very hard to sever the cotton because the cotton yields to the blade. but while it is possible to cut only fractionally faster with correct body movement (most of the speed comes from the hands). hence increasing the impact. Of course. however powerful. arm and shoulder). but proportional to the square of the speed (E = ½mv2). Impact is the release of the kinetic energy of the blow.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION • The impact exerted by the blade on the target. But treble the speed. Impact is proportional to the mass (m) of the impacting body. Therefore it is directly proportional to the mass (m) of the impacting body: treble the weight of your sword. The point of percussion is the part of the blade which vibrates least when the blade is struck: hitting with that spot creates the least elastic impact. hence the most ~ 108 ~ . It is commonly held that putting your body-weight behind your cut increases it effectiveness by increasing its speed. will do little: the blade must penetrate. creating an effective mass of about 80lb. with sufficient body-weight behind it (F=ma). Correct handling of the sword allows for very much faster cuts. and the energy on impact is multiplied by nine. which is done by making sure that the blade is accelerating (a) at the moment of impact. • The mass of the blade. • The force behind the weapon after impact. and you do not bounce off. in this case the sword/swordsman combination. • The elasticity of the sword and of the attacking blade/body combination. you can’t always hold your opponent still when hitting him. but the inertia of his body is usually sufficient to resist the blow enough to allow the necessary damage. My feeling is that it is possible to put about half of your total body weight behind the blow. and you treble the force of the blow. This is true. plus any body-weight you can put behind it. correct body mechanics allows you to increase the effective mass of the weapon from about 3lb (the sword) to over 10lb (sword. Try cutting a dangling strand of cotton with a very sharp knife.
6 Used properly. Also. However. Proper cutting technique does not allow the attacking sword or swordsman to yield to the impact: since the energy has to go somewhere it is directed into the target. And the sharper the edge. the more damage it will sustain when blocking or deflecting (or being blocked or deflected). But slicing does relatively little to a hard target. • The surface area of the contact. to damage the hard tissue. an inelastic impact. A completely blunt area beyond the crossguard. Halfsword technique (were the sword is gripped with one hand on the hilt and the other on the blade) does require that the edge being held is not razor sharp. Moving a sharp edge across a target is more effective for penetrating soft tissue than chopping: try it with a sharp blade and a tomato.7 When practicing your cuts. and provide force to traverse your edge across and through the target.g. The purpose of an edge is to deliver the available force to the minimum surface area.ARMED PRACTICE efficient. and a slice. and extending for many inches down the blade. maximising the pressure (e. was quite common (and called a ricasso). a solid chop with the blade. and the blade was not necessarily uniformly sharpened. the push cut. There are three ways of cutting: the “down-right blow”. dramatically reducing its penetrative ability. and the draw cut. The ideal cut comprises a great impact. to damage the soft tissue. good technique is very important: any difference between the plane of the cut and the plane of the blade will cause the blade to twist. the tip of the sword is the best part to hit with because it is moving fastest. a longsword can cut off a limb. Decreasing the surface area of the impact by sharpening the sword and/or curving the cutting edge dramatically increases the penetrative power of the cut. consider the process of cutting through the target. Halve the area of the cutting edge in contact with the target and we can double the effect of the cut. and possibly causing a slap with the flat instead of a clean cut. However. • Slicing. such as bone. Cutting with the tip is less likely to produce a deep wound. For pure impact. bear in mind that you must strive to create a fast-moving blade. It should also be noted that not all longswords were very sharp. and most powerful blow. in pounds per square inch) on the target. when cutting with the tip the leverage is ~ 109 ~ .
For hacking off limbs. and the leverage working for or against you. fig. There is also the tactical question of how close you want to get to your target before you hit it.6.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION working against you. deriving from speed and mass. Figure 7. use the point of percussion. and force available after impact. your forward momentum. ~ 110 ~ . and carta 13A. To push through you would ideally use the part of the blade closest to the hand (think of whittling sticks with a penknife). This provides plenty of impact. carta 12B. This is obviously impractical. 1. use the last couple of inches of the blade.13 Lines of the blows from the Pisani-Dossi. The correct cut is a compromise between impact. just beyond the point of percussion. figs. and the option to push or pull the blade through. a reasonably controllable shock. but for fast cuts to the head. derived from your groundedness. The best compromise for general purposes with a longsword is to hit with the point about three quarters down the blade. 5.
and to provide a common system through all weapons. It is necessary to specify forehand and backhand. ~ 111 ~ . we also number the cuts 1-6 (in later systems that include vertical cuts. This is one convention that is remarkably consistent throughout most treatises. and to remind students of the historical source of the style.9 For convenience in certain drills.14 Lines of the blows from De Arte Gladiatoria. and has survived into modern Italian usage in sports like tennis. cut 7 is straight down. cut 8 is straight up).ARMED PRACTICE Figure 7. Both Fiore and Vadi describe six cuts and the thrust. so cuts delivered from your strong side (right for right-handers) are mandritti.8 and those delivered backhand are termed roversi. we use Fiore’s system for naming the cuts. as shown here. For the sake of maintaining the Italian flavour of the practice.
15 SES cutting diagram ~ 112 ~ .THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 7.
If the sottani cuts are too vertical. the elbows never locked. push the left hand forwards. Practice these exercises diligently until the weapon will always go exactly where you want it to. 5. the hands should be pushed forwards. Be very clear about your lines. Stop the blade in the centre of your imaginary opponent’s chest.ARMED PRACTICE Cutting E xercises The process of learning to cut with a longsword is extremely important. 3. directing the angle of the cut into each of the six cutting angles by rotating the right arm like an axle. in all of the lines (though false edge fendente are rarely used outside the German style). Holding the right hand still. and defence (how to do the first two without getting hit). These cuts can be made with the true edge or with the false edge. In this exercise. and will do as much damage (or as little) as you choose. the wrists must be straight to support the impact that would come from hitting the target. Assume the guard posta longa. In all cutting exercises. and at the point of contact. Both wrists must remain straight whenever you cut. ~ 113 ~ . lines of attack (where to drive it to). The exercises below are designed to work on three levels: mechanics (how to drive the weapon correctly). you cannot grip the sword properly. This lifts the point. neither should you allow the fendente and sottani cuts to become too vertical. pull the left hand back: the point will drop. 4. 1. Lever action The purpose of this exercise is to get you used to using the handle as a lever. 2. The edge must not describe a curve. the direction from the right. it should be clear that the power is coming from the left hand. Practice this action repeatedly. 1. Keeping the right hand still in the same place.
Repeat this exercise ten times. and keep that line consistent from start to finish. ~ 114 ~ .THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 7. in this and all subsequent exercises. and cut up roverso sottano as shown in 7. It is necessary to adjust the angle slightly to allow it to pass on the inside or outside of the wrist. cutting smoothly up and down that one line. with no preparation. 2. the crossguard must be again in line with the forearm. with the sword held high over your right shoulder. 1.12b. just drop the hands) diagonally downwards mandritto fendente with the true edge leading.18a. you may find that the crossguard is bashing you on the arm.e.12d. 3. The purpose of this exercise is to train your hands to direct the true edge into any line. Turn the sword so that the true edge is pointing back up the way you came. 4. 2. When the cut itself is executed. When the blade moves backwards. Assume the position in 7.16 Levering the sword. finishing in the position shown in 7. Through Cuts Through-cuts are made by drawing the weapon entirely through the line of the cut. Cut directly (i.
18f 6. ~ 115 ~ . mandritto sottano and roverso mezano with the false edge instead. and cut laterally across and back the mandritto mezano – roverso mezano line shown in 7.18i-7.17 through cutting exercise. 5 and 6 do not turn the hands: cut roverso sottano.18h. but at steps 3. Change line. and repeat up and down mandritto sottano – roverso fendente line shown in 7.18l.ARMED PRACTICE 5. 7. Repeat the exercise. Change line. Figure 7.7.
it is an essential skill. In any case. 2. When cutting sottano it is very important to keep to the correct diagonal line. Continue the circular motion of the blade by pulling the left hand towards you. clean straight lines. sending the point in an arc forwards. though there are techniques in Flos Duellatorum that look to me like a mulinello used as a defensive deflection followed by a cut. Remember that every turn of the blade is driven by a smaller turn of the pommel: in this exercise the centre of gravity of the weapon should move as little as possible. lowering the weapon point down over your right thigh. Mulinelli The mulinello (literally “windmill”. creating momentum for your strike. for example). push the left hand up and forwards. You are now holding the sword upside down. It opens you up completely to a counter-attack. and the lines must not curve at all. Keeping your hands below shoulder height. The idea is to whirl the blade around its centre of gravity (the point of balance). It is not specifically mentioned in Fiore or Vadi’s treatises. the sword-point describes a full vertical circle on your right hand side. the mulinello done on the right hand side is termed a mulinello externo (“outside compass”). Mulinello exercise: 1.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Be careful to describe beautiful. Keep the forte always in front of you where it will protect you. and pushing the right hand forward. You must not whirl the sword around your head. The sword must not wobble. bear in mind that you must always protect the centre. the mulinello interno (“inside compass”) ~ 116 ~ . For a right-hander. Most beginners have a tendency to bring the weapon up too close to the vertical. with the true edge out. When executing the mulinelli. which forces the left wrist in particular to twist.10 The mulinello was not always called that even in Italian treatises (dall’Agocchie calls it a stramazone. and Vadi’s rotare cuts imply a whirling action. 3. in the angles shown on the cutting diagram. but in traditional English fencing terminology this action is known as a “compass”) requires some explanation. with the true edge away from you. In other words.
18 mulinello externo. Figure 7. forwards.ARMED PRACTICE is done on your left-hand side. clockwise or anti-clockwise. ~ 117 ~ . Figure 7.19 mulinello interno. The mulinelli can go forwards or reverse. forwards.
reverse. ~ 118 ~ .20 mulinello externo.21 mulinello interno. reverse.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 7. Figure 7.
11. the elbow or the wrist. Lift the weapon. and cut down roverso fendente . but allow the elbow to flex. Elbow. bringing the weapon around into a roverso sottano. but be careful not to overstrain your wrists. Repeat steps 1-11 with your normal two-handed grip. above your right shoulder. Let the point drop slightly so the sword is held horizontally over to your right. The numbers refer to the numbering of the cuts in the SES system. and through-cut mandritto sottano. and Wrist Cuts There are six main lines to cut through. Cutting exercise 1. with your arm almost straight. Repeat steps 1-8. let the momentum carry the sword around in a mulinello interno. All cuts in this exercise are done with the true edge. 14. and do as much of the work as possible just with your wrist. 8.6: 1.5. 6. and to distinguish between the three types of arm movement. 10. This is an excellent strength training exercise. Hold the sword in your right hand and assume posta longa. 3. and cut across roverso mezano. 4.4. Keep the shoulder still. and the cut may be driven by the shoulder. doing most of the work. Shoulder. 9. 7. Repeat steps 1-8. 2. Keeping the arm extended. Cuts from the shoulder that begin this exercise are rarely used in fencing because they leave you open. Keep the other hand behind your back. This exercise teaches you to be clear about the lines. and the centre closed. but keep the elbow still. It is also possible to do this exercise holding the sword with one hand by the pommel. Turn the sword over so the true-edge is to the right. ~ 119 ~ . Allow the sottano cut to flow into a reverse mulinello interno. Repeat the exercise but at steps 5 and 8 do not turn the hands: cut with the false edge instead. Turn the sword over so it is true-edge up.3. 12. Repeat steps 1-10 with your left hand. and cut across mandritto mezano.ARMED PRACTICE 4. 13. 5. Cut down mandritto fendente driving the cut from the shoulder. much like swinging an axe.2.
swinging the weapon smoothly through the correct angles. ~ 120 ~ .22 The 1-2-3-4-5-6 exercise.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION This exercise should be performed in a relaxed and easy manner. paying no attention to anything except the lines that you are cutting down. Figure 7.
Repeat the exercise but at steps 5 and 8 do not turn the hands: cut with the false edge instead.5: 1.3. Turn the sword over so it is true-edge up. and do as much of the work as possible just with your wrist. ~ 121 ~ . Again. notice that all mulinelli are interno. 8. 7. let the momentum carry the sword around in a mulinello externo. and cut down mandritto fendente. and cut across mandritto mezano . 11. Repeat steps 1-10 with your left hand. but allow the elbow to flex. bringing the weapon around into a mandritto sottano.1. Cutting exercise 2. also do it on this side. and the centre closed. Cut down roverso fendente . Keep the other hand behind your back. 2. 9. and cut across roverso mezano. Turn the sword over so the true-edge is to the right. If you do the previous sequence holding the sword with one hand by the pommel. above your left shoulder. and all throughcuts are mandritto. 4. Hold the sword in your right hand and assume posta longa. be careful not to overstrain your wrists.ARMED PRACTICE In the above exercise. 5. Repeat steps 1-11 with your normal two-handed grip. 3. Keep the shoulder still. 10. 13.6. The pattern should also be practised beginning with roverso fendente and ending with mandritto mezano . and roverso through-cuts. with your arm almost straight. Let the weapon drop slightly so the sword is held horizontally over to your left. 6. doing most of the work. Keeping the arm extended. driving the cut from the shoulder.4. but keep the elbow still. 12. 14. Lift the weapon. Allow the sottano cut to flow into a reverse mulinello externo. and cut up roverso sottano. Repeat steps 1-8. which allows you to practise mulinelli externi. Repeat steps 1-8.
23 cutting exercise 2.6.5. ~ 122 ~ .THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 184.108.40.206.
When cutting sottano. up down around. 1. push the hands forwards. down. Imagine there is a paintbrush on the end of your sword: the line it draws on the wall would be a single stroke. Mulinello externo forwards. around. around. 2. 3. Repeat on the other side. wave-like way. cutting mandritto fendente. around. “stance stepping” is now used to power a cut. The whole exercise goes up. 4. from just above your right shoulder to about the centre of your chest. 4. At no time does ~ 123 ~ . down. relaxed and accurate method of driving the weapon with the handle. Mulinello externo reverse. 2. the (imaginary) lines on the wall would form an X. Lower it down the same line. particularly with sottani cuts. 6. This should be done in a soft. Contract back into posta di fenestra. slicing up with the back edge. Cutting exercise up.ARMED PRACTICE 5. and down with the true edge. around: 1. 6. Push your weight forward. Diagonals This drill is used to develop the correct. 3. cutting up mandritto sottano. in the line of a roverso sottano until it is vertical. finishing in posta longa.). they should lift to just above eye height. be very careful to follow the correct diagonal cutting angles. Begin in posta longa. Lift the sword smoothly up the right diagonal. Begin in posta longa. left foot forwards. Throughout the exercise your hands should remain above the waist. and your hands down and forward. Linear stepping 11 Having first mastered the footwork exercises. 5. into posta breve. and lever-action the sword so the blade slices down mandritto fendente. When repeated on the other side (roverso fendente etc. Step through with a pass. around. and pushing forwards.
6. ~ 124 ~ . right foot forwards. Repeat steps 2The points to remember are: • Remain relaxed. • Keep the weapon under total control at all times. Contract back into posta di fenestra. The weapon does not go further back than the vertical. 7.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION the sword point behind you. Finish with the left hand below the right. go through steps 3-5. both arms extended but not locked. and the lever. • The weapon must remain in front of you at all times: do not allow it to point backwards. Power is not a product of tension. Do not allow the point to fall below your solar plexus at any time during this exercise. • Cut with your legs. 5. cutting roverso fendente . in posta longa. not by raising your arms.
To begin with.ARMED PRACTICE Figure 7. and the cut aimed at heart height. redirect the edge so that it cuts horizontally. the whole weapon should be parallel with the ground. Later. This time.24 Ville Tilvis demonstrates stepping fendente cuts Repeat the exercise. only the angle of the flat need remain horizontal: the point may rise or lower to cut as high as the neck. at the point where the weapon is vertical. mandritto mezano or roverso mezano. ~ 125 ~ . or as low as the knees: the hands remain at the same height.
THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 7.25 Ville Tilvis demonstrates stepping sottani cuts ~ 126 ~ .
26 Ville Tilvis demonstrates stepping mezani cuts ~ 127 ~ .ARMED PRACTICE Figure 7.
in every line and with no designated number. The edge hits the target at exactly the same time as your foot lands. Remember to lead with the weapon: though powered from the feet. and deliver a roverso in any line. without moving backwards at all. you can deliver a devastating cut with no apparent preparation. Circular stepping Cuts must also be practised with circular footwork: this delivers more power. So step once. the first thing to move is the sword. for example. 7. 8. Beginning with the right foot forwards you can circle forwards clockwise. Remember to keep your hands in the centre and as far forwards as possible. It’s actually easy if you can keep your cool. it would be suicidal to telegraph your intention in a fight by always contracting back to fenestra before cutting.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION To cut sottano from posta di fenestra or posta breve. rapidly executed. Of course. (You soon will be. Allow that to power a mandritto cut in any of the three lines. Mastery of the above exercises will eventually allow you to feel how the weapon can be powered by a wave coming up from your feet. cut twice. particularly sottano/fendente. then multiple random cuts. Instead. Use the lever of your handle to manipulate the blade: it should feel like the left hand is doing most of the work. swinging around 135 degrees anticlockwise as described in “the ideal step”. It is vital that the angle of the cut is in the correct diagonal: too vertical and your wrists have to twist. posta breve. with the weapon pushed as far forwards as possible. combine cuts. Then it becomes possible to cut in any angle from. but covers less distance. step circularly forwards with the right foot.) ~ 128 ~ . Beginning in posta di donna. Practise every possible pair combination of cuts. form the basis of most longsword attacks. Your hands must rise at the end of the cut to just above head height. Most fencers are not trained to deal with relentless attacks that come from all directions. Combination cutting Having practiced stepping into the cut as in the last two exercises. left foot forwards. Multiple cuts. you must use a reverse mulinello: at the moment when the sword is vertical. the point falls backwards in a circle behind you.
Physical mastery of the basics leads to a devastating level of physical power: this must be balanced by equally highly developed physical and mental control. The hand grips the sword just firmly enough. Using the lever. the pommel on the end of its long lever (the handle) comes back towards you. unbreakable rule of practice is that you never hit anyone either in anger or by accident. in the street. Control Control is the most obvious difference between an expert and a novice. and on the battlefield. The total forward extension of the sword is determined by the extension of your right arm. positions the palm of your left hand as a stop. extended but not locked. with the four fingers around the grip preventing the weapon from flying out and forwards. The golden. Your left arm. This means that left to itself. The body mechanics and footwork exercises are all about acquiring control over your body. A swordsman should always be in control of himself. Correcting your posture. and one must recognise that the world around us cannot be controlled. Keep your head up and shoulders down. If you have practised the grounding exercises you are able to easily withstand an adult pushing with his entire weight against your hand: so it should be easy to prevent the ~ 129 ~ . The cutting practice is all about extending that control to your blade. Timing the cut: the blade must hit the target at the same time as the foot touches the floor. and his tactical environment. self-control is all.ARMED PRACTICE The majority of cutting problems may be solved by: • • • • • Pushing the weapon forwards. Concentrating on the correct lines. The practice of swordsmanship over many years can and does lead to a measure of physical. Controlling your cuts is much less strenuous than most beginners seem to make it. unyielding emotional sterility is not a requirement). Of course. It must be mastered on many levels. mental and emotional self-control. and nothing at all to do with tensing up at the last moment. his emotions. It has practically nothing to do with the strength of your arms. a healthy human being must occasionally cede control (rigid. But in the Salle.
The weapon is pulling against your right arm and pushing against your left: the forces are balanced and the rotation stops.27 leverage gives control Because you always cut at full extension (though with the elbows soft. by allowing the hands to complete the rotation of the sword. The right hand determines how far forwards the fulcrum itself can go. so that if you chose. you should push the limits of your control: in every 10 cuts. Your left hand then can easily control the degree to which the sword is permitted to rotate forwards around the fulcrum of your right hand. It is a very good idea to practice at the pell doing full power cuts.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION pommel from coming too far back. not locked). you should accidentally tap the wood 2 or 3 times. Figure 7. the total distance of your cut is determined by your feet. When cutting at the pell. you would hit the right place at the right time. More than that and you are going too fast: less than that and you are not training ~ 130 ~ . You must always come fully into distance when doing pair drills with your partner. The only difference between a cut that stops short of the target and a cut that goes through the target should be the degree of rotation of the sword around its centre. stopping them with no muscular effort. just with the position of your bones.
The forward component of the attack begins in the hands: it should feel like your sword is being pulled forward by the point. In each case (except with the Boar’s thrust) if used defensively. In general. As well as improving your cutting technique and control. Thrusting exercises The exercises are designed to ensure that the mechanics supporting the thrust are correct. of all other (blows they are) Master. As I see it. I make the beginners learn the hard way (see the above exercises). However this will teach only through cuts and nothing about control. thrusts can stop someone in their tracks. particularly if the point stops on bone. or change into from a cut. the pell will give you a sense of how much power you can safely handle.”13 The advantages of the thrust are threefold: firstly. Simply transition back and forth between Fiore’s posta di donna destra (right hand side) and posta di dente di zenghiaro. the sword ~ 131 ~ . they are easy to feint with. and thrust with long ones. then show them this fast and easy method to the intermediates. Going between posta di donna sinestra (on the left) and coda longa gives you roverso fendente and mandritto sottano. The E asy W ay12 There is a fast and easy way to learn to cut very hard with little effort. for accuracy. it does not require much power. for speed. stab with short weapons. who have by then acquired the control and tactical awareness to make appropriate use of it. Vadi describes them as “dangerous and quick.” Fiore says they are “more poisonous than a snake. Thirdly. Stabbing is the act of punching your point through your opponent.ARMED PRACTICE at the limit of your control. This gives you mandritto fendente and roverso sottano. Secondly. In my school. thrusting is the act of pushing your point through a vulnerable spot on your opponent. Remember when training with a partner you may not accidentally hit them even once in a million cuts. Thrusts Every master of every type of sword who was kind enough to write down his system advocates the use of thrusts.
Do not allow the point to rise too high. beginning in porta di ferro mezano (or ideally in posta di dente cinghiale for those that know their Fiore) with the point rising from near the floor to solar-plexus height. when used offensively.28 Miika Vanhapiha demonstrates the boar’s thrust. the sword closes your centre relative to your opponent’s weapon. These actions will be done with a partner in the second mezzo tempo blade defence exercise.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION is used to simultaneously deflect an incoming attack. Figure 7. Boar’s Thrust14 This thrust. is known as the Boar’s thrust. 1. refer to the illustrations if you have trouble visualising the purpose of these exercises. ~ 132 ~ . and is supposed to enter the body just above the groin. ripping up and forwards until it hits the ribcage.
Figure 7. 3. The end position has your hands quite far out to your right side. ~ 133 ~ . angled slightly downwards. this will collect your opponent’s weapon against your crossguard. Done against a descending (fendente) cut. on the original line between your feet. while your body evades. Vertical Opposition This is the same as the second exercise.ARMED PRACTICE 2. and the sword angled forwards. Repeat from the other side. left side.29 Miika demonstrates the vertical opposition thrust. the hilt rises to the fenestra position. The point travels forward into your opponent’s face. then a little higher. The function here is for the weapon to maintain opposition to your imaginary opponent’s attack. approximately parallel to the ground. controlling it while you thrust. Lateral Opposition From posta breve. left foot forward. sword on the right side of your body. thrust forward while stepping diagonally left. except that as your sword moves forward. The sword travels straight forward.
It is therefore important that you practise your thrusts against a target.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 7. 5. it is perfectly good practice to hit with whatever part of the weapon is convenient. Instead.30 Miika demonstrates the vertical opposition thrust. 4. ~ 134 ~ . Point Control This is the art of placing your point in exactly the right spot. right side. The longsword is usually too rigid to thrust with at a wall target (as with a rapier. thrusts should be practiced on the pell. A suitably reinforced punchbag also affords an excellent thrusting target. will do nothing if it misses. in perfect distance. When you find yourself too close to your opponent to use the blade. Crossguard smashes to the throat and elbow occur in the treatises. for example). in the correct line. aiming to actually touch a given spot. The besttimed thrust. Hilt Strikes All parts of the longsword may be used offensively. It is also very effective to stab with the ends of the crossguard (Vadi recommends sharpening them for this purpose).
This is usually done to the face. Keeping a firm grip on the sword. and occur repeatedly in both Flos Duellatorum and De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi. fig. easily breaking the nose or teeth.32 A Pisani-Dossi carta 22B.32 B Pisani-Dossi carta 22A fig. 1 Strikes with the pommel15 are particularly common. to the larynx and to the correct points on the skull can kill. Figure 7. Strikes under the point of the jaw. point it behind you and jab forwards with the pommel. 3 The correct execution of a pommel strike allows you to get the full weight of the weapon and your body behind it.ARMED PRACTICE Figure 7. ~ 135 ~ .
and you will not be able to properly distinguish between the technique you are trying to do and your natural defence. The ~ 136 ~ T . at speed.chapter eight Armed Practice Pair Drills o understand the practical use of the longsword. Only when all the basic exercises are mastered. you must retain a sense of emotional detachment from what you are doing: do not get carried away. If you are having trouble getting any particular technique right. The most annoying habit a student or training partner can possess is the tendency to counter the technique an instructor is showing them. not a goal. It is perfectly correct and good training to practice technique at a speed that makes it look like you are wading through treacle. Treat each exercise as an entirely academic activity. As attacker or defender. Speed is a product of good technique: speed is a result. in the right place at the right time. Speed comes from being able to execute any technique absolutely smoothly. your body’s instinctive defensive reflexes will kick in. it is necessary to cross swords with a partner. should you start to develop a more fight-realistic mindset. and you can choose at will from a whole range of defensive options. slow down. preferably one equally committed to proper training as yourself. Nobody learns new technique in a fight. If you start to think about the exercise as defending yourself against a real attack.
for example. For now. All the drills below work perfectly well with a pair of right-handers. in the end. will. step to your right. All the techniques below start with a very simple. You must also respect the speed limit imposed by your level of control. Giants. When the exercises are working exactly as they should. you need to stick to such clear actions to begin with. Do not waste time in the beginning getting sidetracked into working out ways to beat all the techniques you are supposed to be practicing: the counters will come in good time. obvious attack. Restrain yourself. Every technique has a dozen counters. and being able to execute it at speed against a more experienced opponent. to demonstrate in a painful way to said student that a) he doesn’t know all the counters and b) there is a massive difference between knowing a possible counter. but to get ‘hit’. a kind and patient individual most of the time. or you will develop bad habits that will dog your later training. if an exercise requires you not to react. block. a pair of left-handers. one left). force the instructor. So stand your ground with audatia. and a cross-handed1 pair (one right handed. the kind of thing that is unlikely to happen in free fencing. D warves. then go a little faster. “step right”. or you will never progress beyond really basic fencing. counter. The purpose is to retrain your body with a new set of reactions that will work when the technique is done at speed. The chapter on free fencing will cover how and when to apply these techniques.ARMED PRACTICE phrase “Ah. and L eft H anders It is perfectly possible for a large right-hander and a small left-hander (or vice versa) to practise these techniques together. ~ 137 ~ . All instructions are given from the point of view of one fencer (usually the defender). but I could do this!”. etc. However. the fact that your partner will attack slowly means that you will have time to flinch. So whenever it is written.
We have no way of knowing if this was advocated by the masters of this period. 6’5”. while raising the crossguard to the level of your upper lip. it is appropriate to salute. left-handed). What matters is that it is clear. So many later masters have described their own versions of salutes that I am sure some such form existed in the fifteenth century. 4. Lower your sword to your right side with the point almost on the ground. 1.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 8. right foot forwards. Withdraw your front foot all the way back until it almost touches your back foot. Assume posta di porta di ferro. 5’2”. but the culture from which they sprung was built on precise hierarchies with precise codes of conduct. The form we use at SES is very simple. Hold it for a moment and catch the eye of your partner or opponent. The salute Before pairing off with your partner.5cm. right-handed) and Piia (157. and at the beginning and end of each training session. 2. ~ 138 ~ . and executed with respect. A salute may be as simple or complex as you like. 3. The sword should be absolutely upright.1 Petri (195cm. The Grand Salute popular in various forms in the eighteenth century was practically a miniature warmup.
Resume your guard position. • Avoiding the attack. or. Defences Solo practice is the foundation of good technique. if this marks the end of practice. There are basically two ways of counterattacking in safety: with opposition and with avoidance. • Parrying the attack. The salute is a reminder that you are holding a deadly weapon. Counterattacks This is without question the ideal defensive response in longsword fencing.2 Tanda Tuovinen demonstrates the salute used at SES. There are three possible ways of defending yourself from a longsword attack: • Counterattacking into the attack.ARMED PRACTICE 5. but foundations are only useful because they allow you to build upon them. it helps to establish an appropriate mindset. and it serves to mark the beginning and end of each session.2 Counterattacks are done in mezzo tempo. The counterattack with opposition is done by closing the line of your opponent’s attack at the same time as you ~ 139 ~ . step out normally. The first function of swordsmanship practice is defence against attack. emphasised in all Italian historical fencing styles. Figure 8.
The best-forged blade in the world will still chip if bashed edge on edge with the worst. to set aside. then the avoidance should save you. you get out of the way and chop his hands off. Parries can be executed as either blocks or deflections. and derives from the Italian verb parere. or end up in. a situation where the blades are crossed. reflexive action is what we call the “Oh Shit! parry”. As a last ditch defence. The block is done edge on edge.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION strike him. or by cutting through. the avoidance should save you. This is the incrosada. You will pass through. Blocks Against a cut. handforged. Almost all of Fiore’s longsword plays include an incrosada in some form. Deflections A good swordsman can smash through a block. expensive longsword blades need to be better looked-after than mass-produced sabre or smallsword blades: they cost ten times as much. it is certainly better that getting hit. It is normal to avoid also avoid when counterattacking with opposition. is similar to a block in that you use your ~ 140 ~ . Again. but the more experienced can certainly deflect even my most committed attack. and brings both weapons to a stop. the most natural. I doubt if any of my students could block a full-force blow from me. Parries The term “parry” was probably imported into the English language from the Italian rapier masters working in London in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. the term has come to mean any purely defensive blade action. as a yielding deflection. Fiore’s instructions regarding blade defence are very simply: against any attack. as a strike against the incoming sword. As a last ditch defence. a block is also possible. beat his weapon aside. if the attack fails. The alternative.3 With time. deflection. This can be done as a collection of your opponent’s weapon onto your crossguard. if your opposition fails. In addition. but it is not the best way of defending yourself. The counterattack with avoidance is usually directed at the advanced target (his hands): as he attacks.
Deflections can be made inside or outside the arc of the attack. against descending cuts. false edge. This is effected by degree and by opposing your edge to their flat. rather than stopping it. immediately followed by a riposte. so you want the ~ 141 ~ . he has to reverse the momentum of his sword to effect a defence. true edge. against all cuts. against descending and lateral cuts. true edge. or to effect a defence. The purpose of the deflection is to close the line of the attack and to gain momentary control over your opponent’s blade. Most incrosada are executed at the middle of the two swords: you aim to strike the middle of his blade with the middle of yours (as Fiore and Vadi put it: a meza spada). An experienced swordsman can use the energy of an oncoming attack to direct and power his own. against descending cuts. with the true or false edge. Degree This describes the position of the point of contact between the two blades. Point up. outside the cut. false edge. with the sword point-up or point-down. Longsword due tempi defence is mostly concerned with the various types of deflection. true edge. you need a lever. the useful deflections are: • • • • • Point up. This is much harder than recovering from a block. In practice. inside the cut. The difference lies in the fact that the deflection redirects the attacker’s energy.ARMED PRACTICE blade to knock aside your opponent’s. or as a push to expel the blade. against descending or lateral cuts. equally. relative to the hilts. Remember that every technique has a counter. This is because you must protect your hands: longswords do not come with knucklebows. To control your opponent’s weapon. but some have more counters than others. softly so that your opponent has very little awareness of the deflection. and they can be done hard. So while his blade is moving away from you. Point down. Point up. as a sharp attack on the blade. and yours is moving towards him. inside the cut. outside the cut. an experienced swordsman can use the energy of his opponent’s deflection to redirect his attack. ‘stickily’ to retain contact with the blade. Point up. inside the cut.
then allow your opponent’s blade to slide down towards your hilt. the sword itself is easily bent across the flat. and even then the sword will bend and the pressure against the thumb becomes intolerable). the flat. then your edge is supported by your forearm: pressure against your edge can be easily withstood. pressure against the flat of the blade exerts a twisting force on your arm which that cannot be easily resisted. to his weakness. This effectively provides you with the longest possible lever with which to move his sword wherever you want it to go. In addition. Then. at a degree favourable to you. flat It should therefore be obvious that whenever possible you should oppose your strength. However. ~ 142 ~ . holding the true edge of his sword with your hand. and leaning your weight against it. Try this by positioning your partner in posta longa. when making deflections. Edge to F lat If you are holding your sword correctly. the edge. Figure 8.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION connection to be as close to your hilt as possible. and as close to his point as possible. using only one finger against the flat of his blade about four inches from the point. but practically impossible to bend in line with the edges. To acquire this kind of contact it is first necessary to make an incrosada at mezza spada. He should be able to resist quite easily. move his weapon across: he will not be able to resist (unless he switches his grip.3 edge v.
he can’t hit you. but given the relative angles of attack. or you are just practising. the attacker’s edge would find your flat. The “flat” of a sword is very rarely actually flat: common cross-sections include diamond. your edge is making contact with the part of the blade that is tapering towards the edge (the “bevel”). for example. as far as I can tell.ARMED PRACTICE There has been some disagreement in historical fencing circles as the whether you may parry with edge or flat. then use body avoidance (such as a sidestep) to avoid specific attacks. but because the deflection is effectively cutting backwards. long before the patient’s life is threatened. do not get into a fight. Avoidance A cardinal principle of defence is to be where the attack is not. The principle of avoidance works on two levels: firstly. In this case. If you are not there. if your avoidance has failed at the first level. and concave-fullered flats. This is perhaps the most important aspect of martial arts training: if you have to use it for real. you have already made some serious mistakes. Hilt P arries The crossguard of the longsword can and should be used to catch your opponent’s attack. it is easy to control your opponent’s weapon. it is quite common for the deflection to appear to be done with the flat against the edge. This is done by making an incrosada at mezza spada. so a martial artist should spot the potential for a fight and avoid it long before the first blow is struck. In training we practice avoidance of the ~ 143 ~ . It is occasionally possible to use a beat with the flat. Secondly. against the flat of the incoming sword. meeting it in such a way that your edge finds their flat. This disagreement. if the weapons were static. oval. In the case of a false-edge inside deflection against a mandritto roverso. Just as a doctor should ideally spot a disease and cure it in the very early stages. Most deflections are done with the edge of the defender’s sword against the flat of the attacker’s. and “flat. to set aside the attack. derives from an insufficiently precise use of the terms “parry”.” It is demonstrably impossible to block a cut with the flat of your sword. you are in fact cutting at the attacker’s sword. Once this trap is effected. Your blade directs the incoming blade to your crossguard.
step to the right. When executing an outside deflection. but leaves the attacker with more options as you remain in front of him. The general rule regarding avoidance is this always step away from the blade contact. The best place to be in a fight is usually behind your opponent. This action is made safer if you keep your crossguard between his blade and your head: if his blade slides down yours. so if one aspect fails. as the exercises below will show you. you must first clear the way. it may be possible to get out of the way. Avoidance to the inside is also effective. Avoidance is done to the inside or the outside of your opponent’s attack. then it is possible to oppose. • Deception: if you can draw out the counterattack against a provocation (or feint) you have made. then the shortest route to get behind him is to the left. Generally speaking. This presents practical difficulties related to having your head cut off. There are three ways of countering a block or deflection: ~ 144 ~ . A sword in motion is. your defence should always be two-fold. mandritto fendente. very easily knocked off-course. his blade can’t hit you. through his cut. defending against the same attack you would step to the left. as against any attack. • Avoidance: if his counterattack is done in such a way that you cannot close the line. using a through-cutting deflection (from your left). for example. avoid. the other will cover you. close the line of his counterattack and push through. deflect. so before you move to the outside. but your hands are far enough forwards and high enough. This becomes obvious the first time you walk into your opponent’s blade.4 Counters to defences There are three ways of countering a counterattack: • Opposition: as your attack is made. It is perfectly possible to knock his weapon up and across. or re-counter.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION attack simultaneously with deflections. To get there you have to go outside his attack. So if you are defending on the inside against a mandritto attack to your left side. If he is in the process of attacking you with.
• Deception: induce your opponent to sidestep. and suicidal to defend without attack. by any of the defenses you know (avoidance. in practice it should make little difference whether you are attacking on your own initiative. Do nothing in haste. • Yield to it: allow the deflection to redirect your blade. keeping your centre closed. counterattack).ARMED PRACTICE • Deceive it. follow him. but not your hilt. attack his centre. This is achieved by keeping your sword (blade. ~ 145 ~ . The effect and the likely techniques are the same. • Deal with his riposte (his attack after his successful deflection). prevent or counter any subsequent avoidance. The basic rule of all fencing technique is this: close your centre. or responding to your opponent’s attack. Attack and Defence Are One This is a rather gnomic way of saying that a true defence always contains within it an actual or potential attack. It is foolish fencing to attack without defence. There are three ways of countering avoidance: • Follow it: as your opponent steps to the side or back. deflection. Remembering that you must always close the centre and attack. Squaring off Climb if you will. and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. • Close in: once you have a grip on some part of him (usually the sword arm) with your left hand. look well to each step. and from the beginning think what may be the end. and change line so that he walks into your attack. All techniques and all tactics are essentially ways of executing this rule in practice. a true attack must always be executed defensively. cross or pommel) moving towards his centre and keeping your sword between his sword and your centre. by changing the line of your attack before your opponent’s blade touches yours (as in false play). but remember that courage and strength are nothing without prudence. it is much easier to anticipate.
In the meantime. you must step completely into range.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Edward Whymper’s admonition. Repeated over-zealous taps on the mask can give you a headache. and controlled as detailed in the “Control” section. Substitute “practice swordsmanship” for “climb”. or worse. and execute your cut.4 the safety zone All the pair exercises begin with you and your partner in correct cutting distance. and if in doubt. The safety zone is shown in figure 8. If you have not got a mask yet. Do not waste time by practising out of range. Touch as you mean to get touched. beginner or expert. If you are wearing protection (as you should be) you can practise to a light touch on the mask. be more gentle. get one. it is vital to establish a safety zone around your partner.4: Figure 8. ~ 146 ~ . from Scrambles amongst the Alps5 elegantly encapsulates the correct attitude to all potentially lethal activities. and there is the correct mindset for any fencer. stopping it by controlling the rotation of the sword. Blade D efence/ P air P ractice P reparation All cuts must be executed in the correct distance. Take it to heart before you start training with a partner. To recap.
and that you are in exactly the right distance to hit him with the correct part of the blade. You are now sure of your distance. you can sidestep a little further away. 3. lifting your false edge up in the line of roverso sottano. with a fendente cut. pivoting it as necessary. 2. step back with the right foot and take up either posta breve or posta di fenestra.ARMED PRACTICE To find your correct distance: 1. Sidestep to the right. 4. normally with a fendente or sottano cut. right foot forwards. A good example of this is the false edge sottano done against a fendente. 3. aimed at the junction of neck and shoulder. 1. out of range of his attack. Leaving your left foot exactly where it is. It is important that any necessary adjustments to the distance are made by the attacker: if the defender shuffles around trying to help. and cut at his wrists or fingers. Partner cuts mandritto fendente. and ready to begin the exercises. Check that it is in the correct line. ~ 147 ~ . the attacker will never learn their own range. arms extended). Be sure that your position is correct (back straight. This can also be done over the top. Cut mandritto fendente. and place it in the air above his left shoulder. C ounterattacks with the edge: To the advanced target: Against direct attacks. Begin in porta di ferro mezana 2. Approach your partner with your sword extended. Step back as in step 3. and that if you were to complete the cut. as if you were cutting mandritto fendente. cutting up at his wrists. Your partner stands on guard in porta di ferro mezana. Wide Measure Defences Mezzo Tempo Blade Defence Exercises 1. 5. you would hit with the correct part of the blade.
THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION
Figure 8.5 A ready to start B Guy cuts under Miika’s hands C Guy cuts over Miika’s hands.
To the main target: 1. Begin in porta di ferro mezana 2. Partner cuts mandritto fendente. 3. Sidestep forwards and to the right, cutting mandritto fendente. Your forte should collect his blade while the cut touches his mask. It is possible to counterattack with fendente, mezano, or sottano against a cut in any line: work through the possible combinations with your partner to discover which ones work best for you.
~ 148 ~
Figure 8.6 Guy countercuts to Miika’s head
2. C ounterattacks
P oint: O pposition T hrusts:
Refer to the thrusting exercises before attempting this pair drill. One of the most stylish counterattacks is the thrust with opposition. 1. Begin in porta di ferro mezana 2. Partner cuts mandritto sottano. 3. Cut mandritto sottano, pushing your point forwards towards his belly, with the forte of your true edge pushed out to the left, collecting his blade as you go. Your weapon will slope down at about 30 degrees, with the cross and flat parallel to the ground. This is adapted from the lateral opposition thrust exercise. This is a very simple, easy technique if you trust it. Make sure that you oppose his blade properly, but do not let your sword travel too far out to the side. The main purpose of the action is the forwards thrust. Now repeat 1-3 with a sidestep to the right, stepping just after your sword has started
~ 149 ~
THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION
to move forwards. Repeat this exercise against roverso sottano, pushing the true edge over to the right, and stepping to the left. Repeat this exercise against fendenti cuts, using the vertical opposition thrust, aimed at the face. Against mezani cuts, again thrust at the face, but with the hands just below (if the cut is to your head) or above (if the cut is aimed lowerhis blade, and opposing laterally.
Figure 8.7 Guy does opposition thrusts against Topi’s cuts: A against a sottano, B against a fendente, C against a roverso fendente, D against a mezano, E against a roverso mezano.
~ 150 ~
Due Tempi Impulses
blade defence exercises .
Impulses are the most commonly used, easiest and natural blade defence. The deflection must close your centre relative to the line of attack, and without stopping become an attack. 1. Begin in porta di ferro mezana. 2. Partner cuts mandritto fendente. 3. Lever your sword up into posta frontale, directing your true edge agaist the incoming sword at mezza spada with a sharp strike to his blade. 4. Springboard your blade off his, and deliver a properly controlled mandritto fendente.
Figure 8.8 Against Miika’s mandritto fendente, Ville executes a true edge impulse and ripostes.
~ 151 ~
aiming to hit the incoming sword at mezza spada. false edge: 1. Be very careful. 4. making sure to traverse your hands across to the left somewhat during step 3. and with the false edge on your outside line (against his fendente roverso). 3. too early and you get hit. ~ 152 ~ . 2. direct your point under the incoming blade and beat it sharply with your false edge against his flat.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION It is very important that you do not look for his blade: if it isn’t there yet you can’t hit it. Do this technique exactly as if you were just cutting to the air. This action is a roverso sottano. Begin in porta di ferro mezana. Simply traverse your sword in a normal cut through the opposing line. Time you action to his so that you are striking his blade near the end of his attack. Your hands will have to traverse up and across to the right to be sure of directing his blade up and over. You should find that point-up deflections are most easily done with the true edge on your inside line (against his mandritto fendente). Continue the through-cutting action without pause to execute a mandritto fendente cut to the correct target. Repeat this action against a roverso fendente. Sottano. Cutting T hrough A firmer and more vigorous deflection than the imulse can be executed by cutting through the incoming attack. Repeat this exercise against fendente and mezani attacks on both sides (mandritto and roverso).Too late and you get hit. Using the through-cutting action. Partner cuts mandritto fendente.
Using the through-cutting action. to frontale. Your hands will have to traverse up and across to the left. Begin in porta di ferro mezana. true edge: 1. 2.9 As Miika attacks with a roverso fendente. deflecting Miika’s cut and continues with a roverso fendente. When you can reliably execute the outside deflections. Partner cuts roverso fendente. Sottano. Jari sidesteps and cuts up with a mandritto sottano with his false edge. sidestep simultaneously with the deflection as described above. to be sure of ~ 153 ~ .ARMED PRACTICE Figure 8. Be certain to step correctly so that you are moving away from the blade contact. direct your point under the incoming blade and beat it sharply with your true edge against his flat. 3. and finishing in a position in which you are directing yourself and your weapon clearly in the shortest line to the target.
Using the through-cutting action. This takes you to dente di zenghiaro.10 true edge cut through against a mandritto fendente. true edge: 1.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION directing his blade up and over. 2. Thrust immediately to the belly (heading into posta longa). Begin in posta di donna on the right. This action is a mandritto sottano. Figure 8. 4. 3. while sidestepping diagonally right with your right foot. Partner cuts mandritto fendente. Be very careful. Fendente. 4. ~ 154 ~ . cut down mandritto fendente through the incoming attack. Repeat this exercise against all the attacks that you know. Continue the through-cutting action without pause to execute a roverso fendente cut to the correct target.
Antti parries with frontale. grasp their blade. intercepting his blade at mezza spada.6 1. 2. Figure 8.ARMED PRACTICE Collections Using Frontale An alternative to an impulse deflection is to shift into frontale. Partner cuts mandritto fendente. ~ 155 ~ . allow it to travel to the crossguard. C Ilkka’s blade slides down to Antti’s crossguard. Many of Fiore’s plays can be done from this position. Lift your sword into posta frontale. enter into close quarters. etc. but do not get rid of their blade.11 A Ilkka prepares to attack Antti with mandritto fendente. B Ilkka attacks. From there you may strike with edge or point. and directing it to your crossguard. 3. Begin in porta di ferro mezana.
12 Posta di fenestra collection to the outside Yielding A yielding deflection does not stop the incoming sword. ~ 156 ~ . the defender should feel that the attack is continuing through. 2. 1. However there is enough resistance in your weapon’s position that the attack slides away from you.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Using Fenestra 7 This action is almost invariably done to the outside. Yielding deflections are done either with fenestra or frontale. making contact with the incoming blade and letting it slide down to your crossguard. Figure 8. and can finish with a cut. bringing your sword up to fenestra on your right. a thrust or a disarm. 3. Begin in porta di ferro mezana. Partner cuts mandritto fendente. Step forwards and to the left with your left foot.
or you can counter with a roverso fendente. Ilkka sidesteps right into fenestra.13 A Antti prepares to attack Ilkka.ARMED PRACTICE Posta di fenestra to the inside: 1. You can direct your cut mandritto fendente as above. in which case the sword rotates in a flat circle. Begin in porta di ferro mezana. At the moment that your blade intercepts his. 2. the contact is in the middle of the blade. Try to keep the weapon moving smoothly from the moment your hands start to rise to the moment that your cut is finished. 3. and raise your wepaon so that the blade is horizontal and your right hand is by your right temple. Figure 8. C Antti’s attack blows through. Partner cuts mandritto fendente. Step to the right with your right foot. This is simply posta di fenestra on the right. B as Antti attacks. sending Ilkka’s sword around. ~ 157 ~ . in which case the sword describes a cone in the air.
With practice. If your grip is soft and you do not resist the attack. ~ 158 ~ . your sword directs his blade away from your centre sufficiently that you are safe. B as Antti attacks. letting it power your weapon around. Figure 8.14 A Antti prepares to attack Ilkka with a roverso. sending Ilkka’s sword around. The classic mistake here8 is to intercept his blade with your fingers: keep to fenestra and your hands are safe. and take fenestra on the left. he will push your blade down: use that momentum to power your cut. and with protection. In the course of my researches it took two cracked knuckles and a broken finger before I figured this out. so just redirect it. Ilkka sidesteps left into fenestra. it is then necessary to step to the left. As he blows through. you should be able to absorb the energy of the attack into your blade. Given the point of contact (mezza spada) you do not have the leverage to really resist the attack. C Antti’s attack blows through.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Repeat this exercise against roverso attacks. you can allow the attack to blow through.
Getting to the outside with Frontale 9 This is the one time (in this book) that you will actually step towards blade contact. 3. As the blades make contact at mezza spada. stepping to the outside of the cut into fenestra on the left gives you a yielding deflection. Partner cuts mandritto fendente.ARMED PRACTICE Fenestra to the outside. Begin in porta di ferro mezana. Once you have the hang of cutting up under the incoming blade. to be followed by a fendente cut. ~ 159 ~ . Your partner’s sword should push yours over until it is pommel-forwards. 4. Figure 8. Pass though with your left foot to strike with the pommel (this is the most natural continuation from here). it should become clear that you can step into fenestra to the outside of the cut.15 Guy defends outside Antti’s attack with fenestra. 5. Step forwards and slightly to the left with your front (right) foot. As you saw in the Collection exercise. raising your sword into frontale. but keep your hilt high. 2. allow your blade to be pushed over to the right. Against a mandritto cut. stepping into fenestra on the right would give you a blade collection and a thrust to his face. 1.
D Guy steps in to shoulder distance and pushes Ilkka’s chin. E Ilkka attacked roverso. Guy parried and yielded F Guy enters and strikes with the pommel. ~ 160 ~ .THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 8.16 A Ilkka prepares to attack Guy with a mandritto B as Ilkka attacks Guy steps a little left and parries C Ilkka’s cut pushes Guy’s blade towards fenestra.
cutting mandritto fendente. and turn your sword and body into it. then thrust. Ville counterattacks to Guy’s head C Guy turns into it. Figure 8. 1. but will require subtle modifications that are beyond the scope of this book to describe. Repeat this exercise with all six cuts. pushing your attack through. 3.ARMED PRACTICE Counters to C ounterattacks The primary defence against a counterattack with edge or point into your attack is to reacquire opposition. Attack mandritto fendente Partner sidesteps forwards and to his right. 2. With enough practice. and against counterattacks with the point. It will work. Your cut should touch his mask. 4.17 A Guy (right) prepares to attack Ville with a mandritto fendente. In effect. turn your hips anticlockwise and push your hands towards his face. you must perceive the counterattack as it is done. Just before the moment of contact. parrying the counterattack and striking. B Guy attacks. His forte should collect your blade. ~ 161 ~ . left foot forwards. Partner assumes porta di ferro. The ability to do this lies distinguishing between circular and linear body movement. 5. you will develop sufficiently sensitive sentimento di ferro to execute these techniques effortlessly. If you find that you are out of range to cut. Countering a counterattack to the main target exercise: Begin in posta di fenestra.
So. he is ready to counterattack. ~ 162 ~ . Just before the moment of contact. turn your hips anticlockwise and push your hands towards his face. it would look like this: 1. Attack with mandritto fendente 2. Repeat. This works because you have set it up: you wanted him to counterattack. stepping in. but slightly out of reach. it will be very difficult to defend against his counterattack. Imagine your opponent is in coda longa distesa. Catch his cut on your crossguard (use frontale). You know that if you attack.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Tactically. he may not be convinced by the feint. cutting up at your hands with a roverso sottano 3. probably with a fendente or sottano. Countering a counterattack to the forward target exercise: 1. and will make your attack safer because his counterattack is also likely to be slightly out of distance. As an exercise. while turning to follow his evasion. then thrust. counterattacking with mandritto fendente. and continue your attack. and with your partner counterattacking over your hands (fendente). if you just feint. 4. Partner sidesteps to his right. make your attack slightly short. False-attack mandritto fendente. If you find that you are out of range to cut. If your first attack is completely committed. or may counterattack into it with sufficient resolution to prevent your second action. 2. Likewise. Partner sidesteps to his right. Your cut should touch his mask. This is a good example of second intention. the above technique is used to tempt an opponent out of a passive guard. this will give you fractionally more time to reacquire opposition. attacking with all six cuts. 3.
~ 163 ~ . C Tanda counterattacks over Guy’s hands D: Guy parries the counterattack. the deflection that occurs in the above exercises imparts an impulse to your blade. your opponent is pushing your weapon in front him: all you have to do is keep your centre closed and he will do the rest. and a natural point-down deflection will occur. Let the blade go. The illustration below shows this phenomenon occurring when a mandritto fendente is deflected upwards from the outside. but in effect. When you cut either fendente or mezano. B Guy parries the cut. Counters to deflections 1. This should quite easily catch your opponent’s counter strike. Equally.18 A Guy (right) attacks. but keep your sword-hand in place. clearly a bad idea. and again when deflected on the inside. Tanda cuts up at his hands. giving up control of your weapon to your opponent is not good.ARMED PRACTICE Figure 8. This works because it does not rely on reaction time. Yielding to the deflection Resisting a deflection would require you to oppose strength with weakness.
while sidestepping. ~ 164 ~ . E Rami has attacked roverso. C Rami yields to the deflection D And is ready to enter into close quarters or strike. Nikodemus deflects to the outside. F Rami yields and covers against Nikodemus’ riposte G Rami finished with a cut to Nikodemus’ head.19 A Rami (left) prepares to attack Nikodemus.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 8. which Nikodemus is attempts to parry. B Rami attacks while Nikodemus does a true edge deflection to the outside.
execute both attacks to the target. This is most easily done against a cut through. 2. You must then use either deception (see below) or deal with his riposte with a deflection or counterattack. which you then avoid to create the opportunity for your attack. (because it is properly executed and you fail to avoid it) your partner should continue his action and riposte. Remember that the ~ 165 ~ . This does not mean that you should flail away like an idiot. nor that you should lose control. So. A compound attack. as the name implies. each intended to hit the target. the feint being an attacking action intended to force a parry which will be deceived. and each parried or avoided. and execute your second attack. in each of the following exercises. All multiple attacks are done with changes of line. until you are trained enouh to be able to convert feints into real attacks. avoid it (do not allow any blade contact). and which merely feints. This makes feinting useless except against relative beginners. If the deflection is successful. remember always to push your hands forward towards your opponent: your cut should flow around his defence. as opposed to a multiple attack. because you cannot yield: he is not imparting energy to your blade. Deception in this context is the art of convincing your opponent that you are about to do one action. Your partner should only attempt the deflection every now and then.ARMED PRACTICE Now practise this action as a counter to all the above drills. You will notice that it does not work against a yielding deflection. to draw his response. you can also use that energy to simply redirect your attack to the other side. your opponent will be able to sense which attacks are real. is an attack that contains one or more feints. At an advanced level. your hands always seeking to dominate the centre. When he does. The practice of yielding to superior force effectively gives you another means of attacking: when your partner strikes your balde to deflect your attack. If you are having difficulty with this exercise. executed defensively (a paradox at the heart of good swordsmanship) should leave no room for your opponent’s defence. A multiple attack is. any series of cuts. Multiple Attacks / Deception / Compound Attacks A firm and vigorous attack.
THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION target is divided into four quadrants. A thrust may be followed by a cut. which is not terribly powerful (though may be lethal when done to the right target. to force your opponent to close that line with a parry. to become a low-high. ~ 166 ~ . line. • Right-left (mandritto-roverso): in this action. and low outside. such as the throat). the cut (in whichever line) is converted into a thrust. so one normally only follows a thrust with a cut if the thrust misses. to create. the second sottano or mezano. It is quite common to combine these two methods. high inside. high outside. a high mandritto followed by a low roverso multiple attack. or (if he has tried a point down deflection) to lift it over his hands. as roverso-mandritto. and you bring the weapon back doing damage on the way. the attack changes side. It is also possible to dip the point under your opponent’s blade. This is usually done by pulling your weapon straight back. for example. low inside. This is particularly commonly used against a fencer who gives ground. and then redirect your attack into a line that is being opened by his movement. the idea is to feint into an open. This can be reversed. but the only cut available to you directly from the thrust is the draw-cut. but can also be used very effectively to deceive his deflections. • Cut-thrust: in this action.The three main combinations are: • High-low: the first attack is done with fendente. to get the point inside the deflection. Because any parry can only cover one line at a time. It can of course be done in reverse.
C Before the blades meet. ~ 167 ~ . Ville avoids Zoë’s parry and redirects his attack to strike with a sottano.20 A Ville ready to attack Zoë Chandler.ARMED PRACTICE Figure 8. B Ville attacks mandritto fendente. Zoë attempts to parry.
B Ville attacks mandritto fendente. Ville avoids Zoë’s parry and redirects his attack to strike with a roverso.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 8. Zoë attempts to parry. C-D Before the blades meet. ~ 168 ~ .21 A Ville ready to attack Zoë.
~ 169 ~ . Nikodemus attempts to parry.ARMED PRACTICE Figure 8. Zoë avoids Nikodemus’ parry and redirects her attack to thrust. B Zoë attacks mandritto fendente. C Before the blades meet.22 A Zoë ready to attack Nikodemus.
have a fair idea about how the longsword works: the drill below should be attempted from all lines of attack. close quarters techniques have only one purpose: to make it safe for you to hit your opponent with your sword. a gentle tap on the mask or other padded surface). through diligent practise of the above exercises. and defend yourself as above. In other words. If you are severely pressured. locks. This naturally includes all hand-strikes. Begin in porta di ferro mezana. perform this exercise without the defender sidestepping. 1. You cut mandritto fendente. close measure is the distance at which you can touch your opponent with your hand. Partner attempts to deflect your cut.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION By now you should. and against all the defences you know at this point. there is no way you will be able to defend against it without either stepping away (generally a bad idea). But strive to always answer his attack with your own. Close Q uarters D efences As previously stated. or moving forwards into close quarters. 3. The range of possible close quarters techniques is vast. Deceive your partner’s attempt to deflect your attack using one of the three combinations.e. As a defender. and this is quite common in freeplay. usually with the hilt. Check that you are not pulling your feint (by cutting shorter than you should) by practising this exercise with full protective gear. This will change the possible angles for your second attack. you should treat every attack as a real attack. allow your partner to sidestep on his deflection. When you have a comfortable command of the blade actions. it is better to do multiple deflections than to get hit. To begin with. why spend a ~ 170 ~ . and executing each cut to the touch (i. pushes. 4. If the successive or compound attack is properly done. throws and breaks. For basic longsword practice. On the occasions that your partner does not attempt a deflection you will see whether you were really intending to touch with your first attack. 2.
4. 1. Repeat steps 1-2. Pass diagonally forwards to the right. reaching over his left arm. is being utterly humiliated by his opponent casually strolling by. invulnerable. Your partner is armed.ARMED PRACTICE fortune on a lovely shiny bit of steel if all you want to do is wrestle? At the beginner level. passing forwards with the right foot as normal. pass diagonally forwards to the right. and place your left hand on your partners’ sword wrist. there are four specific close quarters distances. You may need to take a small step forwards with the left foot first. This is an exercise. the techniques exist mainly to control your opponent’s weapon long enough to enable you to hit him with impunity. 5. but try to create an opening line by forcing the defender to move. Repeat steps 1 and 2. so that you step behind your opponent. placing both hands on his shoulders. 6. and in the forward guard position with the left foot forwards. any intelligent attacker will not launch an all-out cut at a stationary target. 2. The deflection that usually begins each defence should be done as you close in. Try to execute all the close quarters exercises in mezzo tempo. you should make body contact with him while he is still moving forwards. if done at speed. and on step 3. This exercise is a great way to impress beginners. pass circularly forwards so that your right shoulder is against his left. ~ 171 ~ . and place your left elbow on your partners’ right elbow. Partner attacks with a mandritto fendente cut. not a fight-simulation. doing his level best. with no particular emphasis on the blade contact: use it as a shield to advance under. Repeat step 1 and 2. Of course. Four D istances As discussed in the Fencing Principles section. and on step 3. It can appear that the attacker. and continue with a pass. so the attacker must just keep to the one clear attack. rather than as a separate defence. step forwards with your leading foot. 3. You are unarmed. and in posta di fenestra with the left foot forwards. and on step 3.
D back ~ 172 ~ . step to the left each time. B elbow. versus mandritto: A: wrist.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION 7. Figure 8. Obviously. and passing with his left.e. cutting roverso fendente. all stepping directions are effectively mirrored: i.23 Four distance exercise. Repeat steps 1-6 with the attacker starting with his right foot forwards. C shoulder.
C shoulder. Notice that as you are going forwards. B elbow. ~ 173 ~ . versus roverso: A wrist. shoulder. wrist. elbow. shoulder. then attacks with mandritto fendente. This exercise will prepare you for the techniques described below. back. back. the cut must miss you because you are no longer occupying the space at which the attack is directed. D back So this exercise goes: wrist. elbow. The timing is very important: you must arrive at your chosen distance while his cut is still moving forwards. The following close quarters exercises should be done from the same starting point as the deflection exercises: your partner establishes correct cutting distance.24 Four distance exercise.ARMED PRACTICE Figure 8.
This is because the weapon is mainly controlled by that hand as it is closer to the weapon’s centre of gravity. 2. Repeat against all cuts Figure 8. Execute a point-down deflection exactly as before. At the moment of the deflection. and at step 6. 7. reach forwards with your left hand under your right arm and grab his right wrist. step in with the right foot and pommel to face. 4.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Wrist M easure At beginner level. all wrist techniques are done against the sword-hand. 1. Step in with the left foot and execute a pommel strike to his face. against Guy’s attack. 5. on the deflection sidestep with the left foot. ~ 174 ~ . Partner cuts mandritto fendente. Repeat against roverso fendente: at step 4. Begin in porta di ferro mezana. grab with the left hand. with a sidestep diagonally front right with the right foot. 6.25 Zoë does a point down deflection to the outside and enters with wrist distance pommel strike. 3.
~ 175 ~ . 2. but at step 5. while controlling his sword hand with your left. 1.3 This is the most common continuation from the point-down deflection that resulted from yielding to the deflection.ARMED PRACTICE Figure 8. allow your sword to be pushed round and cut. with a point-up deflection to the inside. reach over your right arm with your left to grasp his sword hand.e. Repeat as above. then continue with a belly cut followed by a pommel strike. then to the outside. or his roverso with a point-up deflection to the outside). It should be practised as such. leaving out the sottano cuts. fig. When deflecting on your inside line (i. by continuing the yielding exercise with the pommel strike as detailed here. after deflecting either his mandritto with a point-up deflection to the inside. Repeat as above.26 Novati carta 22A. your weapon is to your left.
THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION
Figure 8.27 Guy does a point down deflection followed by a wrist-distance cut against Zoë’s attack. ~ 176 ~
Figure 8.28 Guy does a point-up inside deflection followed by a wrist-distance belly cut and pommel strike, against Nikodemus’ attack.
Figure 8.29 Guy does a point-up inside deflection followed by a wrist-distance direct cut, against Nikodemus’ attack.
~ 177 ~
THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION
When deflecting on your outside line, continue with either pommel strike, reverse mulinello, or direct cut.
Figure 8.30 Guy does a point-up outside deflection followed by a wrist-distance belly cut and pommel strike, against Nikodemus’ attack.
It is very important that you use your left hand just to control his sword: do not attempt any fancy locks or throws at this stage. You must be able to move comfortable into the correct distance at the correct time, keeping your centre closed while attacking his.
Elbow M easure
Beginner-level elbow measure techniques are generally confined to a push against the outside of an extended arm, hyper-extending the joint, or enveloping one or both arms with your left. They are very sensitive to
~ 178 ~
inaccuracies of distance: be very careful to apply the pressure exactly on the elbow joint.
Elbow Envelopment Lock:
1. Begin in porta di ferro mezana. 2. Partner cuts mandritto fendente. 3. Execute a point down deflection exactly as before, with a sidestep diagonally front right with the right foot into fenestra. 4. At the moment of the deflection, step circularly forwards with your left foot while reaching forwards with your left arm and envelop both his arms at the level of his right elbow. Accurate positioning of your forearm against his elbow should allow you to easily fold his sword arm, effectively pinning both his arms and twisting him off balance. 5. Execute a pommel strike or draw-cut to his face. 6. Repeat against all mandritto cuts.
Figure 8.31 Novati carta 22A, fig.1
~ 179 ~
Elbow push: 1. push against his left elbow. At the moment of the deflection.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 8. 4. Repeat against all cuts. directing an open-handed push exactly on his right elbow. Repeat steps 1-3 of the previous exercise against roverso fendente. sidestep slightly to the left with your right foot. 5. Against mandritti. 2. immediately cut mandritto fendente.32 Guy does a point-down inside deflection and enters to wrap Miika’s arms with an elbow envelopment. 3. Step circularly forwards with your left foot. As he is turning away. ~ 180 ~ . with just your right hand on the sword.
and strike.34 Guy does a point-down deflection and enters to push Miika’s elbow.33 Novati carta 14A.ARMED PRACTICE Figure 8. ~ 181 ~ .4 Figure 8. fig.
this is a devastating throw. Figure 8. 2. Done at speed. against roversi only.35 Guy does a point-down deflection and enters for a reverse elbow envelopment throw. Be very careful. with the proper hip rotation. ~ 182 ~ . Continue with a circular step with the right foot 180 degrees clockwise. pulling him off balance. 3. At the moment of the deflection.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Elbow envelopment throw: 1. circular step forwards with the left foot. Repeat the first exercise. and simultaneously envelop both his arms in your left arm.
or his roverso on the outside). He will eventually learn that it is a useless counter.36 Guy does a point-up deflection against Topi’s attack. effecting a belly cut. reach over your right arm with your left to envelop his elbow.e. then to the outside. remind him gently that if he doesn’t extend properly on the attack. continue with the elbow push or the elbow envelopment throw. after deflecting either his mandritto on the inside. and. If your partner is doing this. Figure 8. and continue with a reverse mulinello. ~ 183 ~ . trap his right elbow against his body with your left hand instead of using the above techniques. Beginners tend to instinctively counter these techniques by not extending properly on their cut. nor would he be able to hit you in the first place. When deflecting on your outside line. and enters to wrap his elbow. When deflecting on your inside line (i.ARMED PRACTICE You can also repeat as above with a lever-action deflection to the inside of the attack. stop doing it. he will not be able to do the proper counters to these techniques. hopefully. your weapon is to your left. If he persists in pulling in his elbows.
We therefore will confine ourselves to one classic technique. though with a longsword in hand. many of them become unnecessarily complex. and pushes her elbow. So. Execute a point-up deflection to the outside exactly as before. while stepping in circularly with the left foot to position yourself behind him. if done properly. but do not allow him to fall. enter properly. Partner cuts mandritto fendente. The method below is the “friendly” throw: in a real fight you would of course rip his head backwards with your left hand. known as the cross-buttock throw. circle his weapon down to the floor. as. Begin in porta di ferro mezana. 2. or smash your left forearm across his throat. It is vital that you step between his feet with your left foot. in these exercises. and jam your left shoulder against his right. with a sidestep diagonally forwards with the right foot. 3. Under no circumstances lose contact with his blade. at step 5. Shoulder measure There are many possible shoulder measure techniques. Maintaining blade contact. but it is not an appropriate technique for teaching without direct contact with the student. ~ 184 ~ . 4. It is possible to learn to fall safely when thrown this way.37 Tanda does a point-up deflection on the outside of Janna Wessman’s attack.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 8. your partner will land on the back of his neck and promptly stop breathing. and take your partner’s balance. This is exceedingly dangerous. 1.
38 Novati carta14B. 3 Figure 8.39 Guy does a point up deflection against Topi’s attack. and enters to shoulder distance to throw. While stepping in. He is effectively scissored between your left elbow forcing his chest diagonally back and down. Figure 8. You can repeat against roverso fendente: at step 4. push your left arm forwards and up: your elbow should end in the middle of his chest. sidestep right with the right foot on blade contact.ARMED PRACTICE 5. and your left leg preventing him from yielding. 6. then step in immediately with the left ~ 185 ~ . fig.
while lifting your right elbow.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION foot diagonally forwards to the left as you bear his sword down. 8. and execute the throw with a circular step anticlockwise with your right foot between his feet. and enters to shoulder distance to throw. 7. Repeat using frontale ( see the exercise above.40 Guy does a point up deflection using frontale against Topi’s roverso. or sword. 8. Repeat against all cuts against which you can get safely to the outside of the attack. into his chest (face in a non-friendly duel).17d) Figure 8. “Getting to the outside with frontale” especially fig. Grip his sword-hand with your left. ~ 186 ~ .
deflect. a back-distance technique is always preceded by an elbow-push. To illustrate this point. they are not very useful in normal fencing conditions. fig. and you want to get him on the ground. provided you keep your balance correctly. 3 Counters If you have really studied the above techniques. from the earliest to the latest. a range of possible counters to each technique should be obvious. and attack his centre. or a neck throw. The main uses of back-distance techniques are either to get immediately past your opponent and on to some other objective. Figure 8.ARMED PRACTICE 5. These are shown in order of their timing. to take a hostage (particularly when faced by multiple attackers).41 Novati carta 22B. Frankly. Close quarters techniques obey the same laws as blade techniques: you can avoid. and taken the general principles to heart. or when your opponent is in armour. to take down an opponent who is running at you. ~ 187 ~ . Back Measure Techniques done at back measure are usually a chokehold or throat cut with the sword. but should eventually be learned as they were important in their time. In Flos Duellatorum. done against your mandritto fendente attack. or yield to an attack. your centre closed. I will take you through a selection of counters (not an exhaustive list) to the elbow envelopment lock.
~ 188 ~ . and control his hands with your left. (See fig 43c) 2. pushing your hands towards the back of his head and turning them anticlockwise. creating an excellent lock. but free your left hand: palm-strike his jaw (carefully! this is a potential neck-breaker). allow the lock to occur. (See fig 45) 3. step in to wrist distance. allow his left arm to reach over your arms. called the chiave sottano. After his deflection occurs. as he makes contact. draw cutting along his ribs as you do so. As his point-down deflection occurs. and lift your left knee into his groin (carefully! this can end a friendship). or “under key”. (See fig 48 and 49) 6. pull back into fenestra. allow his left arm to reach over your arms. As his deflection occurs. After his deflection occurs. step through. deceive it by pulling your hands back.50) Figure 8. C Guy prevents this by deceiving the parry. (See fig 8. Miika parries with a point down deflection and B wraps Guy’s arms. before he makes contact. as he makes contact. After his deflection occurs. (See fig 47) 5. pushing them up and hitting him in the face with your pommel. allow his left arm to reach over your arms.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION 1. As his deflection occurs. and thrust under his sword. deceive it by changing the line of your cut to roverso mezano. (See fig 46) 4.42 A Guy attacks with a mandritto fendente.
Figure 8. ~ 189 ~ .44 Counter: wrist push.43 Counter: deceive right-left.ARMED PRACTICE Figure 8. Figure 8.45 Counter: draw-cut under the arm.
Figure 8.46 Counter: chiave sottano.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 8. fig. 4 Figure 8.47 Novati carta 23B. ~ 190 ~ .48 Counter: jaw strike and knee to groin.
in which case his blade will be to the right. As we are doing them in these exercises.ARMED PRACTICE Working on Engagement the B lade The engagement is a fundamental fencing action that allows you to interpret your opponent’s blade actions. in which case his blade is to the left of yours. In the historical sources it is arrived at in many different ways.50 Zoë and Topi in the engagement outside at the punta. with two fencers just walking up and crossing swords. or on the outside line. Figure 8. With the longsword. our earliest source is Marozzo. engagements are done either at half-sword (mezza spada) or near the point (punta). ~ 191 ~ . Engagement can be made on the inside line.49 Zoë and Topi in the engagement inside at mezzo spada Figure 8. most commonly when attack meets parry and there is no conclusive advantage to one side or the other.
2. 1. 6. though its main purpose is to teach you something of the nature of sentimento di ferro. The idea is to do it while maintaining a correct guard position. 4. When you have the hang of keeping the distance. Choose an attacker. disengagements. and your point into his (see the next exercise for instructions). and back down the other side). and by judging the feeling of contact on the blade. or through pressure. at the punta. by adjusting the distance with his feet. The attacker closes or widens the distance. If you have a large. and back up to re-engage). with your points threatening each other’s faces. safe space. 3. beats. or at any time when your opponent is threatening you with his sword advanced (such as in posta longa) it is necessary to clear the way for your attack. In general. do not attack the blade unless you are already engaged: the blade is a very mobile target. The defender maintains the same blade engagement. and can be changed by disengagements (looping your point under your opponent’s blade. and your opponent can easily deceive your attack if he is not committed to some other action. Repeat the exercise with the engagement at mezza spada. cut-overs (bringing the point up past your opponent’s point. Begin with you both on guard in posta longa. this exercise can be done with your eyes closed. cutovers.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Engagement exercise: This is as much a distance exercise as a blade technique. There are five blade actions you need to become familiar with at the basic level: pressure. The engagement can be flat to flat. and fencing masks. and hilt binds. 5. threatening or creating a gap. ~ 192 ~ . A ttacks on the B lade From the engagement. work on the engagement itself. edge to edge (the attacker can try to get edge to flat). Engage the blades. pushing his point out of your face. 2.
~ 193 ~ . This is the best way to change engagement with longswords. or a cut down onto your opponent’s forearm. Figure 8.ARMED PRACTICE Pressure: Apply pressure to your opponent’s blade to clear it out of your way. and back up the other side to re-engage. This is not terribly common with a longsword. as it leaves your hands unprotected for the instant that your sword is under his. Cutovers: The cutover is done by slipping your point up and over his.51 Using pressure to open the line. Disengagements: The disengagement is done by slipping your point down. It may be easily converted into a beat (see below). re-engaging on the other side. looping under his blade. leaving your point on line.
but not so hard that if he deceives it (by disengaging underneath. to knock his blade aside for an instant. sharp cut with your edge against his flat.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 8. It must be hard enough to take his weapon off line to create the opportunity for your attack. ~ 194 ~ . avoiding the beat) you will leave yourself open.52 Topi does the cutover Beats: The beat is a short.
ARMED PRACTICE Hilt binds : Hilt binds are a way of using your crossguard to move his blade out of the way before you attack.53 Novati carta 20B. fig. ~ 195 ~ .54 Zoe uses a hilt collection to prepare for a kick to Miika’s groin. Figure 8. and are often combined with grabbing his blade with your left hand. 2 Figure 8.
and hitting him on the mask (just as in the exercise “counterattack with the edge”). or they engage the blades. Working off the B lade: U sing the G uards “Fencing off the blade” was common in all early weapons styles that we know about. and dall’Agocchie’s treatise of 1572). attacks on the blade normally precede any serious attack. After you have mastered the pair exercises above as written. you are vulnerable. with blades engaged).a. Precede each attack with a beat. 2. your partner should attack mandritto fendente 4. To get away from the engagement is risky: at the moment that you pull away. Transitions between fencing off the blade to engagement can be done by offering your blade out for engagement in posta longa (make sure that you are in the necessary distance first). left foot forwards. and also cut mandritto fendente. 3. To fence off the blade effectively requires an intimate knowledge of the tactical opportunities afforded by all the guards taken by you and your opponent. because you have to clear his weapon out of the way. 1290. and circle around each other adopting various positions. Step back into coda longa distesa. from the end of the thirteenth to the end of the sixteenth centuries (see for examples Royal Armouries MS I. Practice all the pair exercises (except those beginning with an engagement) from all combinations of the guards you know. The distance will be different. At the same time as the mandritto fendente is launched. and an exquisite judgement of distance. the fencers begin out of distance. Begin with both fencers in posta longa. as you are creating an opening line. At the same time as the opening is created. Find out for yourself what attacks and which defensive actions can be comfortably launched from each guard. which will affect the timing of your attacks and defences. keeping the left foot forwards. Essentially. pass forwards circularly with the right foot. ~ 196 ~ . or a cutover followed by a beat. practise them from engagement.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION When “fencing on the blade” (i.e. blades engaged. until either an attack is launched.33 from c. catching his debole on your forte. This can be used to your advantage in the following sample exercise: Using the guards 1.
it is vital that swordsmen in training have the opportunity for freeplay. is the realisation early on that practising technique while fencing. The trap that most beginners fall into. These lost bouts can be an embarrassment. the duelling code has fallen into disuse and we are not expected to defend our honour with a sword. It bears repeating that the purpose of every fencing match you undertake. the student must be trained to win at all costs. In addition. from the outset.chapter nine Freeplay W e are lucky to live in an age where. unless it is a frank and earnest encounter with sharps. and can certainly lead you to doubt the validity of so-called “good technique”. might does not equal right. In most cultures. so it is safe to assume that none of us will ever use a longsword in earnest. because their emphasis on teaching swordplay as the art of self-defence leads them to treat all bouts as practice for the real thing: if losing equals dying. But to fully understand its use in history. the weapons of self-defence have changed out of all recognition. is to improve your swordsmanship. ~ 197 ~ . in theory at least. and to test our own level of skill. and that the will to win is the main component in winning. rather than relying on your wits and instinct. Not all instructors will agree with me here. I disagree with this approach because it is predicated on two mistaken surmises: that freeplay is only fight-simulation. can often mean losing a match you could win. not to win. This is why I believe it is a bad idea for relatively untrained students to freeplay in uncontrolled conditions or too often. as I did myself.
one might even be expected to delay a riposte to allow your opponent to return to guard.1 During freeplay. If we go back a couple of hundred years to the fencing schools of the eighteenth century. Yet in those salles it was the height of bad manners to brutalise or wound an opponent. we find a totally different attitude towards freeplay. This was in part a safety consideration in an age when fencing masks were uncommon.1 Some friendly freeplay in the salle.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Figure 9. The ~ 198 ~ . not to score touches. There has never been a good excuse for unsafe play. But it was also because the instructors at these schools clearly believed that the purpose of freeplay was to practise good technique. These masters were teaching the art of survival in a culture where everyone went armed. and every gentleman was expected to be ready to defend his honour with his life.
will. Tactics: H ow to F ence There are two contrasting styles of fencing: the creative. even when it means receiving more hits than you give in freeplay. and not “holds of anger”. An interesting coincidence: only fencers who were never likely to fight to the death were trained to fight only to win in practice. stop you from getting stuck in the rut of instinctive fighting. in which you allow your opponent to fence at his best. but trained responses make a swordsman. or combat. survival in extreme conditions.FREEPLAY first schools of fence to emphasise winning in the salle. it becomes possible to be trained in tactics and strategy. Once you are able to fight without reliance on instinct. were mid-twentieth-century sport-fencing schools. Fiore states that “in techniques that are only for practice. Concentrating on technique. the holds are “holds of love”. in time. or you just rush off according to instinct. whenever you face off with someone. before you can make the best and clearest decision about what to do you must practice control of the vehicle until your will can be implemented automatically. This includes the development of insight. Of course. Then you will be able to apply your cunning when it really matters. maintaining physical and mental equilibrium throughout. The fifteenth-century masters do not cover this point specifically. Every manual on survival I have ever read. As when learning to drive. you may well make the situation worse. be it on first aid. so to with swordplay. cunning and downright deviousness. where you seek to completely annihilate his offensive and defensive capability as quickly as possible. But an essential prerequisite to the understanding of swordsmanship is the knowledge tantamount to faith that the best way to overcome real opponents is to get all the physical and mental technical practice you can while your life is not at stake. recognise as their first rule.2 Instincts make a fighter. though in the wrestling section of Flos Duellatorum. bringing him out so you can hit him. you are trying to hit and not be hit. This gives you the mental equilibrium not to panic when a juggernaut fills your rear-view mirror. Each has merit: the former ~ 199 ~ . and the destructive. help you achieve your full potential as a swordsman. that I know of. stop and think! If the situation panics you.
he let go with both hands. be careful not to press too hard: you may force a wild and unexpected response. but in that time there were was three blade actions. as he countered. allow him to initiate attacks on the blade. enveloping his sword with my left arm. to draw his counter. Wait for him to commit himself before you counter.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION is the artist’s approach. The creative approach requires the utmost detachment and skill. taking enough distance to give me time for a proper grip on his sword. In all. and we continued fencing with each other’s weapons. or attacking him. and aimed a pommel-strike at his mask.3 A good swordsman should be able to use both. If the latter. An example that springs to mind is a formal duel I engaged in with Mr. went like this: I attacked. on the contrary. until the next touch was scored. Provocation: this includes offering openings for him to attack (onto your prepared defence. and allows the finest technical actions. the moment his sword was no longer useful to him. In the Salle. Jared Kirby for full membership of the Dawn Duellists Society in on January 29th 2001. without pause. The creative approach does not imply using weak technique. when the blades make contact. at full speed and with intent to win. Apply just sufficient pressure to force him to act. I closed. The destructive approach is the best way to win fights quickly against ~ 200 ~ . Your technique must be absolutely as vigorous. One sequence. it requires you to subtly induce your opponent to attack. the action took a couple of seconds. I went past. naturally). and disarmed me. and as solidly grounded as when using the destructive approach. all in the heat of the moment. two disarms and one pommel strike. with Gareth Hunt and Paul Macdonald as seconds. That was truly longsword fencing. the latter the fighter’s. This can be done in two ways: Engagement: offer an engagement. I insist on the creative approach because it offers the greatest challenge to the swordsman. immediately using my weapon against me. as well applied. We were both fencing at our best.
At wide measure this is achieved by: 1. and the most memorable bouts. cannot withstand a domineering opponent. I prefer to fence creatively. deceive or yield. in which case you should ideally deceive his defence and hit him. closing in until you force him off balance. Deflect: against an attack or counterattack. Counterattack: against an attack. Deceive or Yield: against a deflection. Whenever possible. Occasionally. Some fencers. 2. Provocation: this includes offering openings for him to attack (onto your prepared defence. The basic tactical rule when fencing is: 1. but only when necessary to obey the first rule. gain control of his sword with a hilt bind. Hit. 3.FREEPLAY most fencers. You may have noticed a common thread in the destructive approach: close in and hit him! In general. counterattack. and that the object of your freeplay is to learn swordsmanship: your overall strategic goal is to improve as a swordsman. or attacking him. I will use the destructive approach. or opposition. a beat. when the blades make contact. Engagement: offer an engagement. naturally). Remember that every action has many counters. or when it is my only hope against a superior opponent in a duel that matters (which is very rare). 2. trained only to deal with creative fencing. forcing him to either deflect. try to stick to creative fencing: it will give you the best experience. when it is necessary to make a point. though against a swordsman well-trained in the creative approach it is unlikely to be successful. in which case close the line and keep moving forwards and hit him. ~ 201 ~ . or counterattack. deflect. Do not get hit.
or to create an opening line. You have nothing to learn from them. and the left arm to grapple or envelop. The good opponent with less skill than you. This one has taken up the longsword because he wants to fight with an impressively dangerous weapon. He may learn from your detachment. The bad opponent with less skill than you. and do not humiliate him by demolishing him. Use hands and feet to strike. what matters is how it progresses. stepping away from blade contact. unless you are much more skilful than them. Use all parts of the weapon offensively. take him on. 3. As the result of the match is not in question. stop. This type has the right mental approach. their sheer viciousness may drag you down to their level. Use his unpredictability to train your responses to the unforeseen. Inexperience makes him unpredictable. A little earnest competitive edge does no harm on occasion. or attempts inappropriately dangerous technique. perhaps even dangerous. 2. 4. Opening line: only attack an opening line. Do not get complacent. Opponents: W ho to F ence It is necessary to choose your opponents with care. and embrace or avoid as necessary. And at close quarters by: 1. Make sure sufficient protection is worn. 5. Do not be afraid to walk away from a bout. but the moment your opponent refuses to acknowledge hits. 2. Attack the centre. and his ego well under control. If your skill is sufficient to run rings around him. I group opponents into six categories that you should learn to recognise. and in time come to a more ~ 202 ~ . Avoid: avoid when possible. There is nothing to be gained from fencing with someone whose ego depends on beating you. Do not wrestle: use unarmed techniques to incapacitate him just long enough to hit him somewhere vital with something hard.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION 4. while giving him the chance to try out what he knows. 1.
but we loved it. Fencing these people is usually a waste of time. Everybody except us was bored by the end. as they just pile in and win immediately. more skilful opponent. The good opponent with about your level of skill. and honestly have no idea they are being stupid and dangerous. The good. 5. With the pressure off. One smallsword duel I fenced with Mr. Because you are evenly matched in skill and this opponent is desperate to win. mature understanding of the advantages of technique. I have known such opponents literally leap at my neck with their hands. Bouts with this type can go on for ever. you can learn a huge amount about the application of technique. during a supposedly friendly unarmed sparring session. as neither of you learn anything.FREEPLAY 3. The need to win just eclipses rational thought or is even disguised as rational thought. to prove to themselves that they can defeat someone with less skill and experience than them. trying to throw me full tilt onto a concrete floor. Fortunately. so they genuinely do not understand what might be wrong with their attitude. so it is usually possible to surpass them in time. Avoid this type if you can. Watch out: this is where most injuries occur. and particularly strategy. We were just being careful. 6. their development is arrested by their attitude. Enjoy pitting your skill and cunning against his. more skilful opponent. because this opponent is busy practising technique on you. relegating them to type 2. The bad opponent with about your level of skill. A joy to fence. Gareth Hunt. The nice ones are invariably terribly embarrassed and apologetic after injuring you. Fortunately it is normally over very quickly. went on for 80 minutes. If you are not that good yet. he will try almost anything to make a hit. an instructor at the DDS. The bad. but are always rewarding. in which time a total of eight hits were scored (5-3). ~ 203 ~ . 4. The match will not be over as quickly as possible. avoid fencing with him because every “victory” over “technique” will subconsciously reinforce his attitude that fighting instincts are all he needs. Otherwise known as a bully. partly because no -one can reasonably expect you to win.
do not allow face-thrusts when wearing open helms. common -sense agreement before facing off. or even restrict allowable hits to one small target. These rules apply to all fencing: 1. and partly to create an environment in which you can learn. This can be done by raising ~ 204 ~ . 5. Confine allowable technique to those within the limits of your equipment. Agree on the duration of the bout either in terms of hits. Agree on allowable targets. This is partly to ensure safety. nor will it dull your edge if it comes to the real thing. or in real time. The rules can be adapted further to develop specific aspects of technique: for instance. you may not allow any close quarters work at all. 10. The idea is to come to a clear. Usually it is better to allow a fatal blow before a minor wound. 4. Wear at least the minimum amount of safety gear commensurate with rule 1. such as first to five. but simultaneous hits should be avoided whenever possible. Appoint either an experienced student or one of the combatants to preside over the bout. You are only ready for no-holds-barred. rather it it will develop self-control. 2. 3. Agree on what constitutes a “hit”. or throws when one of you is not trained to fall safely. Following the rules of engagement will not make you soft. 9. Agree on a mutually acceptable level of safety. Agree on priority in the event of simultaneous hits. it is important to agree on rules of engagement. The two most simple rules are these: confine your moves to the safety limits of your protective gear and to the technical range of the least trained combatant. totally “authentic” fight simulation. Acknowledge all hits against yourself. Confine allowable technique to the technical ability of the least trained combatant. 8. 7.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Rules of Engagement Once you have agreed to fence with someone. 6. when you can enter such a fight with your judgement unimpaired. In other words.
It requires a sufficiently different enough use of the longsword that Vadi recommends an adapted longsword type called the spada en arme. and the German treatises that I have seen include extensive unarmoured sections and techniques that are totally inappropriate for a crowded. yet you must confine your attacks and the allowable hits to protected areas. The unarmoured duel is an arranged fight with two combatants. it is vital to remember that the protection you are wearing does not exist when deciding hits. and there is no way to know how common such engagements were in the longsword period. The idea is largely to close in and position your attack carefully into the chinks of your opponent’s armour. The armoured duel derives mainly from judicial combat. a good sword blow can go ~ 205 ~ . To fully appreciate the wonderful diversity of this weapon. The whole body is obviously open to attack. neither wearing any protective gear. though I feel that the highest expression of the art is found in the unarmoured duel. battle-type situation. with the last four inches of blade expanding into a sharpened leaf shape. battle. survivaloriented style. However.FREEPLAY the left arm. Vadi. This encourages a more defensive. there are four types of combat situation: the unarmoured duel. though many of its skills come from the battlefield. Fiore. and is designed to simulate one of the two types of duel). The other major historical approach is to use a bludgeoning weapon such as a mace or morning – star to batter your opponent through his armour. When simulating an unarmoured duel. though some target areas are more lethal than others. This style has relatively little to do with military actions. the armoured duel. Maintain self-command at all times. 11. or by stopping the bout with a salute. or by calling “Halt!” and telling your opponent where and how you think he hit you. I normally recommend that simultaneous hits are both awarded (unless only one is “fatal”. and street defence (I do not count the tournament because it is not combat but competition. Of course. This is a weapon designed mainly for halfsword technique. in which case only that one is awarded). and with spiked crossguard and pommel. Combat situations With the longsword. one should train at all four.
and play to touches on the vulnerable spots. and. When practised in the Middle Ages. Though there is no way to accurately simulate genuine battle conditions safely. Re-enactments are also ~ 206 ~ . armoured duelling is fast.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION through a helmet or other armour. and it is considered poor form to go for the chinks not the armour. I therefore use battles as opportunities to practise unarmoured street defence and mêlee work. I therefore urge you to be very. very careful whom you practise with. invariably inaccurate in that rules allow hits that a fully armoured man would scarcely notice. hard and dangerous. It is. and. and even in friendly jousts knights would occasionally be killed. There is really no point in putting on lots of heavy. it is possible to work out group strategies. most of the techniques taught by Fiore and Vadi are forbidden. expensive plate or mail if a cut across the breastplate counts. and to practise the teamwork element of battle training. but impossible to practice safely. then only hits to unprotected areas should count. jump. even dance techno (I have seen this with my own eyes). For instance.4 Armour is a weapon in its own right. head hits or thrusts. a fully armoured man can run. and you will learn to ignore hits that cannot hurt you if it allows you to make an attack that will go through. Throws and grapples are also very common and exceptionally dangerous. If the reason you are fencing in harness is to practice documented armoured technique. most re-enactment societies that allow steel weapons do not permit grappling. Battle is practically impossible to simulate realistically. so you can precisely position your thrust. As a result. contrary to popular belief. which affords a splendid opportunity to practise against an enormous variety of training and fighting styles. roll. the difficulty lies in judging what constitutes a hit. however.5 I would therefore only practice armoured technique with very competent. it was a very popular spectator sport. Those of you who have worn full plate armour will know that it is not that heavy. and if possible wear padded protection over those vulnerable spots (historically these would have been defended by mail gussets). calm opponents. for valid safety reasons. Much armoured work is done at very close quarters. The closest we can get is re-enactment. A good way to kill a man in harness is to throw him and then slip your dagger through his visor: historically accurate good technique. When freeplaying with the longsword in armour.
either by taking the initiative. and defeat them in seconds. and are therefore usually flummoxed when confronted by it. but is perfectly possible to practice in theory. It is important to keep in mind that re-enactors are essentially actors putting on a display. but. It does not matter what you think of your opponent (though it is usually safer to overestimate ~ 207 ~ . In its time. to deal with assassins and footpads. No-one in the line of battle is truly surprised by the enemy. Street defence is the one type of fighting where surprise may be truly present.FREEPLAY a good way to discover that training pays off: most re-enactors do not train in correct swordplay technique. or by trickery. the longsword may have been called upon to defend the life of its owner in the streets and alleys of European cities. you must attack and disable as many opponents as you can. it cannot be hitting the others. unless they are in some way ambushed (in which case the techniques of street defence combined with knowledge of armoured work is the only preparation). the attack was not properly orchestrated and the defender would usually receive his share of wounds. There are many instances in history of gangs being beaten off by a lone swordsman. and using whatever advantages of terrain you can muster. while your weapon is still in its scabbard! The rules of unarmoured and armoured work may apply depending on your assailant’s choices of garb. as quickly as possible. includes ways of using your sword defensively against an attacker with a dagger. This style of combat is relatively difficult to simulate. The fact is that however good you are. choosing the terrain so that only one may attack at a time. invariably. Before the development of the spada da lato. Flos Duellatorum. the longsword was probably carried in times of peace as well as war. I have often seen relative beginners trained in correct technique take on experienced re-enactors. for example. and subsequently the rapier. The surest way to defend yourself is to prevent the attack from being properly orchestrated. a properly orchestrated attack by just three people is almost impossible to defend against: while your sword is hitting one of them.6 Courtesy One of the hallmarks of a good swordsman is courtesy. Essentially. who are able to hit you. and their meticulous safety limitations restrict their training considerably.
After the bout you should always shake hands. rather than just raising my arm. should begin with the salute. I often acknowledge particularly good hits against me with a quick salute.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION their skill) but it is essential to your development as a swordsman that you cultivate a respect for the weapon and its use. however informal. All bouts. ~ 208 ~ .
my understanding and formulation of fencing theory. intended for the complete novice. and there is no reason to suppose that that process of improvement has stopped (I hope). and many of the more subtle theoretical points. background. that seems reasonable. This book contains enough basic theory.Afterword he moment an opinion on any subject is written down. it is vulnerable. and technical instruction to get any reasonably intelligent. the precise way I execute basic techniques. committed and able-bodied reader off to a good start in the study of Western swordsmanship. or instructions will not be transformed by the context of the reader into something quite other than my intention. It is also a snapshot of a work in progress. and you may understand what I mean. but there is no way to be certain that the most detailed and precise observations. This book is just a beginning. and my didactic method have changed immeasurably in the last ten years.” I am equally sure that there will be many points where some readers will disagree. I have also been compelled to leave out a vast range of techniques. and I ask the ~ 209 ~ T . Language is paradoxically nebulous yet precise: I know what I mean. I have no doubt that much of what I say here will cause the average reader to nod their head and mutter internally “hmm. remarks. That said. and some will even take offence. violently or otherwise.
criticism and evaluation of my peers in this field. We suffer in this art from a lack of experienced. my students and I may benefit from their experience. is to expose my method and myself to the informed and invaluable scrutiny. so that my book.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION indulgence of my readers to focus on the sound basics and solid practicality of the techniques within. Part of the reason for writing this book. ~ 210 ~ . So just as it is very hard for a beginner to find out the right path to correct historical fencing. other than to counter some of the truly horrible misinterpretations of my beloved art that are already out there. and to overlook and forgive the many human errors that this book must contain. but in small numbers scattered across the globe. it is still harder for the few professionals in this field to get the stimulation and supervision we need. I ask all those that consider themselves to be experts in this field to freely challenge any assertion I make in this book. trained instructors: they do exist.
yield to strength. attack his centre. your training partners. 2. 2. Oppose or Yield: only oppose strength to weakness. and the weapon. Do not get hit. 3. mantaining your balance and ability to fight at all times. Centre: Close your centre. Safety: safety first! Never hit anyone by accident or in anger. Keep your back straight and your legs bent. Hit. This is done by always retaining opposition: keep the forteza between his sword and you: keep the debole towards your opponent’s centre. but only when necessary to obey the first rule. 2. Guard: Never sacrifice your guard position. When fencing : 1.Appendix A In a Nutshell Points to remember: In the S alle: 1. Fundamentals: 1. Respect: for your opponents. ~ 211 ~ . This is demonstrated by courtesy. Remember Fiore’s Elephant.
deceive or yield. Do not wrestle: use unarmed techniques to incapacitate him just long enough to hit him somewhere vital with something hard. 4. 3. Troubleshooting: If a technique is not working. 3. 2. or to create an opening line. Direction.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION wide measure with a longsword : Counterattack: against an attack. Attack the centre. Timing. Distance. 1. Use hands and feet to strike. Avoid: avoid when possible. 2. close quarters with a longsword : 1. 3. the problem always lies in one or more of the following areas: 1. and the left arm to grapple or envelop. Deceive or Yield: against a deflection. Configuration. 2. Opening line: only attack an opening line. Use all parts of the weapon offensively. counterattack. stepping away from blade contact. 5. Deflect: against an attack or counterattack. ~ 212 ~ . deflect. 4. 4.
and let the motion of your arms be driven only by your legs. turn the knee gently 15 times in a horizontal circle clockwise then anticlockwise. head up. then the other way.Appendix B Warm-up The basic warm-up: Joint loosening 1. 2. The arms swing naturally. Neck rotations: turn your head clockwise six times. ~ 213 ~ . 5. Repeat on other side. stretching in turn your throat and your neck. below). You will feel your back twisting gently. Make the circles just large enough to feel a slight stretch in the muscles. 3. By pushing your weight gently back and forth between the feet. stretching the muscles around your spine (GENTLY!). Knee rotations: begin in forward stance (refer to the stance section. Place both hands on your front knee. Neck turns: Look over your right shoulder. Six times each side. 4. weight on one bent leg. then your left. Do not tip the head back. then down at the floor. Swinging: Feet wide apart. bending the knee and turning your hips and shoulders. in turn. Keep your back straight. arms totally relaxed. Neck tips: look up at the sky. push across from one leg to the other.
Neck tilts: tilt your head to one side as if to lay your ear on your shoulder. From here. Alternate so that the right hand crosses above then below the left. keeping the legs slightly bent. 25 repetitions should get the blood moving. then. You should now be in a press-up position. then reverse.. Rock your weight back onto your feet. breathing in. Back rotations: widen your stance. “ski” on the spot with as much length and smoothness as possible. reach up to the sky with both hands. then twelve times forward. back bent backwards. scoop down towards the floor. Ski-running: stand left foot and right arm forward. Breathing out. Keeping your feet parallel. rotate the whole body 9 times each way. bending the arms. arms and legs straight. Star jumps: standing with feet together and hands by your sides. place your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart and walk them forwards. Aim to build up your strength over many months. Warming the body 11. but with your legs spread and your hips in the air. reverse the motion so the weight returns to the feet and your hips rise up. left arm and right foot back. Beginners may find doing just one of these very difficult. Rotate the hips 20 times anticlockwise. Change direction when the hands are by the floor. but the lower back should be doing practically all the work. hips near the floor. feet shoulder width. then back across. This should be done with bent knees. then swing them horizontally backwards. swing them from the shoulders 12 times around backwards. then reverse. describing as large a circle as possible with your hands. Open chest: cross your arms loosely over your chest. Hip rotations: hands on hips. eventually you should be able to do at least 12. then rise up to a position with your head up. 10. and swinging your arms back and forth in time to your feet. leaving your feet where they are.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION 6. 13. Arm rotations: keeping the arms relaxed and straight (but do not lock the elbows). and finish in that position. left arm backwards. then 12 times right arm forward. 12 times. leaving your hands where they are. 9. Scoops: with your feet wide apart. 8. swiftly ~ 214 ~ . Keep the shoulders down. but not flexing them. The centre of rotation is the hips and lower back. 7.
Immediately return to the start position. sinking almost all of your weight to one foot. then slowly return to upright. then rise up and change the feet over. 17. feet together and pointing forwards. Keep your back straight. Repeat the above exercise. and the bent front knee remains directly above the ankle. Repeat 25 times. 20. Hold for 20 seconds. ~ 215 ~ . Both feet are flat on the floor. It doesn’t matter: the stiffest part will be getting stretched. but allow the back heel to rise. shift the weight to one foot. Toe-up: feet parallel and wide apart. toes pointing to the ceiling. keeping the feet parallel. keeping both feet flat on the ground. with the major joints active and supple. bend down as far as is comfortable. Hold for 20 seconds. 19. lean down and reach with your hands for the upright foot. and repeat. It doesn’t matter if you can’t go very low. Hold for 20 seconds. Return to a wide standing position. Hold for 20 seconds. If this does not stretch you. loosen those up before stretching. then sink down onto one foot. then change sides. Keep your hands off the floor. then change sides. Hold for 20 seconds. sinking as low as possible. Heel-up: return to the lunge position. 16. This is also a balance exercise. Stretches 14. then change sides. and repeat the swinging exercise. and the rear leg extended. Allow the unweighted foot to turn up. Inside stretch: open the legs. reach up as high as you can. This stretches the inside of the extended leg. then keeping the legs straight. turn one foot out so that it is at right angles to the other.APPENDIX B touch your hands together above your head and open your legs wide. Feet together. as far as is comfortable. 18. then change sides. Bend the knee. You should feel this in the front of the rear thigh. If you feel any particularly stiff bits. Lunge stretch: with your legs still spread. Keep the heel of the supporting foot on the ground. You will feel this stretch in the backs of your legs or in your spine. 15. You should now be reasonably warmed-up. but first cross one leg over the other. and your extended leg straight. This focuses the stretch in the back of the rear leg. Hold for 20 seconds. dropping and flexing the rear knee.
thumb pointed to the left. neither are they an exhaustive list. 3. and be gentle with the stretches. then change sides. loose. and grasp your left thumb with your right fingers. use a stick. thumb pointed to the right. Hold for 20 seconds. This is not intended as strength or aerobic training. checking for sore spots. Use your right hand to twist your left arm clockwise. If you can’t manage this straight away. Hold for 20 seconds. The warm-up exercises and stretches are not specific to Western swordsmanship. clench and unclench your fists a few times. Remember to breathe deeply and easily throughout the warm-up. elbows and wrists before taking up the sword. 2. when you get the hang of it. After doing your footwork practice. reach over your right shoulder with your right hand. Extend your left hand in front of you. Feel free to import any warm-up exercises from other martial arts or sports that you have found work for you. then change sides.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION This warm-up should leave you feeling warm. Place your right hand on top. try to find the combination of exercises and stretches that suits yours the best. ~ 216 ~ . keeping the elbow straight. Use your right hand to twist your left arm anticlockwise. It takes about 12-15 minutes. a towel or something similar to connect your hands. palm down. keeping the elbow straight. also palm up. Repeat steps 2-8 as above. 4. it is a good idea to warm up your shoulders. though it will improve your general condition (assuming you’re not already very fit). Every body is different. Shoulder stretch: reach up behind your back with your left hand. Shake out your arms. Hold for 20 seconds. then change sides. and hook your right thumb over the little-finger edge of your left hand. palm up. Extend your left hand in front of you. Place your right hand underneath it. It is also important to move smoothly from one position to the next. and link hands between your shoulder-blades. then stretch the shoulders and arms: 1. and relaxed.
solo sword practice. The first set of 8 sessions should look like this: Warm-up: 10-15 minutes. footwork. little and often is better for re-programming muscle memory than an occasional 8-hour mega-session. but to get the most out of this book. Footwork exercises: 20-30 minutes. Finish with a warm-down emphasising stretches. it is more likely to be once or twice a week. I would advise that you practise along these lines.Appendix C Training schedule Constructing a Training Schedule he structure of your ideal training schedule will change as you become more proficient. The method in this book is laid out in the order that you should practice: warm-up. with non-professional swordsmen. Progress gradually through the exercises in the order that they are written. but in the real world. pair exercise. In general. Ideally this should be two hours a day. stick to it. Body-mechanics exercises: 20-30 minutes. and do not try to do every exercise of each type each time. Do not expect to cover everything in one session. ~ 217 ~ T . Once you have established your schedule. freeplay. establish regular training times. Solo sword practice: 20-30 minutes. body -mechanics. Firstly.
introduce light freeplay into about one training session in four. footwork exercises: 15-20 minutes. Pair exercises: 30-40 minutes. and two from the third. one from the second set. body-mechanics exercises: 15-20 minutes. and in subsequent sessions. Solo sword practice: 10-15 minutes. Finish with a warm-down emphasising stretches. the second set of 8 sessions should go like this: warm-up: 10-15 minutes. So the fourth set of 8 sessions will go something like this: First session: Warm-up: 10-15 minutes. To counterbalance the detrimental effect that faster. Body-mechanics exercises: 10-15 minutes. ~ 218 ~ . core technique. so in any four sessions you will have one including freeplay. Pair exercises: 20-30 minutes. Body-mechanics exercises: 10-15 minutes. Footwork exercises: 10-15 minutes. When you are comfortable with all the pair exercises and beginning to work out the counters. Increase the amount of time spent on pair exercises in the third set of 8 sessions: Warm-up: 10-15 minutes. reintroduce more basic solo training to your schedule.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Then. depending on how well you have mastered the basic solo practice. pair exercises: 20-30 minutes. Footwork exercises: 10-15 minutes. both immediately after freeplay. solo sword practice: 20-30 minutes. Solo sword practice: 10-15 minutes. more random practice such as freeplay has on your basic. Finish with a warm-down emphasising stretches.
Finish with a warm-down emphasising stretches. Finish with a warm-down emphasising stretches. Solo sword practice: 10-15 minutes. Slow pair exercises: 10 minutes. Pair exercises: 30-40 minutes. Pair exercises: 30-40 minutes. so that in the next set of eight sessions there will be four including freeplay. The above schedule covers 40 two-hour sessions. Solo sword practice: 20-30 minutes. Solo sword practice: 10-15 minutes. Body-mechanics exercises: 15-20 minutes. Once you have practised that much you should have a fair idea where your weaknesses are. Fourth session: Warm-up: 10-15 minutes. Footwork exercises: 10-15 minutes. Footwork exercises: 15-20 minutes. Body-mechanics exercises: 10-15 minutes. Then replace the third session with another like the first. Second session: Warm-up: 10-15 minutes. Repeat the pattern to make eight sessions. two where you go back to basics. Finish with a warm-down emphasising stretches. Finish with a warm-down emphasising stretches. Footwork exercises: 10-15 minutes. Body-mechanics exercises: 10-15 minutes. Third session: Warm-up: 10-15 minutes. and you will find that the solution to those weaknesses will be found in one or other ~ 219 ~ . and two where you focus on pair drills. Pair exercises: 20-30 minutes.APPENDIX C Freeplay: 10 minutes.
You may find it useful to keep a record of when and what you have practised. So adjust your schedule to fit your own needs (and those of your training partner or group). to work on the aspects of swordsmanship you find most difficult. ~ 220 ~ . Remember that every session should include a warm-up. and a warm-down. basic solo sword-handling exercises.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION of the basic drills. basic footwork exercises.
to establish what had changed in my own interpretation since writing it. This may sound odd. The instructions were apparently clear enough for these two to have been able to recreate the exercises accurately. This led them to get in touch with me. ~ 221 ~ . There was no language barrier. and to parallel the experiences we have as modern researchers looking at the historical treatises. I realised that they were doing training drills straight out of my book. The Swordsman’s Companion in a bookshop over there. To say the least. Watching them as they went through some preliminary exercises before class.Appendix D Revisions I n August 2005 two swordsmanship enthusiasts from Singapore travelled to Helsinki to sleep on a concrete floor and train like mad for four weeks. and decided to adopt it as their primary training guide. I was thrilled to see it. and ultimately to their decision to spend an entire year’s holiday allowance away from their families sweating buckets while being shouted at to get their footwork right. Greg Galistan and Chris Blakey had found my book. but it was the first time I saw that what I had written had generated an actual physical action in someone. any difficulties would be due to how I had written the book. or due to some assumptions on the part of the reader. nor any significant cultural differences that may have lead to misinterpretation. I also realised that here was an excellent opportunity to see the limitations of what I had written.
they had worked through much of the book step by step. etc.swordforum. then you are in the situation of being constrained to “pass with the cover and come to the close plays”.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Let me say at the outset that you could not ask for two better students. I used the terms giocco largo to mean simply at the range where you strike with the sword. in all other circumstances of the crossed swords. or readers. What we discovered was that the book is (as expected) out of date. the impression given in my book was that I am using these terms precisely as Fiore is. was exactly as I wanted it at the time. Whatever the ultimate truth of the matter. and the points threatening the faces. and giocco stretto to mean the distance at which “you can touch your opponent with your hand”. Other than that. the flow.com/showthread. I posed each one precisely. methodical. the primary difficulty they encountered was acquiring a sense of the dynamic movement. than Chris and Greg. Unfortunately for my theory. Quite a lot of ink has been spilled about this topic on Sword Forum (http://forums. there have been revisions to the method itself. Fiore divides his sword in two hands section into the plays of giocco largo and the plays of giocco stretto. hence you can “play wide”. which I have expanded on here for the benefit of all my readers. hence zogho stretto. with pressure in the bind. in no case should the reader assume that any criticism of the original models (my patient students) is intended. you are not so constrained. ~ 222 ~ . They were kind enough to provide me with a list of all the key points at which what they saw in the salle differed from what they saw in the book. Giocco largo / Giocco stretto On page 30. The short definitions of these terms are: if the blades are crossed at the middles. and through the rest of the first edition of the book. that this translation does not take into account. The stop-start nature of the photographs had led to an unconscious stop-start execution of some drills.php?s=&threadid=52303) and elsewhere. which is not the case. Patient. When taking the original pictures. Therefore. I have already suggested that readers substitute ‘wide measure’ and ‘close quarter’ respectively. disciplined and motivated. and distinctions of line etc. There were also some passages that were not clear. of any given exercise. foot position. there is an elbow push and a takedown in the largo section. every detail of hand position.
and through the rest of the book. and keeping the heel off the ground allows the hips to swivel faster.APPENDIX D The Guard Position The first and most important revision has been to the basic stance itself. should therefore look more like this: (photos: GW. model Lari Nieminen) The basic footwork sequence “stance stepping” from page 61 should therefore look more like this (I have left out the picture of the mid-point of the pass between pictures 3 and 4 to save space) ~ 223 ~ . I had emphasised the heel-down variant. If you look through the original treatises you will see that the rear heel is often raised from the ground. as it is more stable. Previously. The basic stances on pages 59-61. I now believe that the rear heel is lifted because the hips are turned.
in other words. and some changes regarding the hand positions is also necessary. There have also been some revisions to the basic armed guard positions as I see them. in the drawing of the tutta volta as seen from above on page 63. like so: (photos GW. Therefore. their front foot and knee. the middle figure’s nose should point to the left. 72) I now position posta di dente chinghiale with the left hand on the hip. The change regarding the feet continues. in line with his right foot. The change regarding the feet continues. Posta di Dente Chinghiale (p. model Harri Karppinen) ~ 224 ~ . their direction of body-weight movement.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Direction of intent In basic training at my school students are always told to look where they are going. should all point in the same direction. and some changes regarding the hand positions is also necessary. There have also been some revisions to the basic armed guard positions as I see them. and their noses.
APPENDIX D Porta di Ferro Mezana (p.73) This guard has the hands lower. so that the forte protects the head. ~ 225 ~ . in line with the thigh: Posta di Fenestra (pp78-9) Posta di fenestra is now held with the sword above eye level.
The sequence should look more like this: ~ 226 ~ . not Miika’s). my fault. including this rather bizarre position (again. It may be then driven down by the attack. but apparently the picture would be improved by a caption mentioning the step again. and in all “point-down deflection” drills. On page 169. the incoming sword should be met in posta di fenestra. It’s there in the text on page 162 step 3. Counters: pp 183-186 In this sequence. with the blade horizontal.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION Wrist distance pair drills pp 162-169 In the picture series A-D on pages164-165 it is not clear that I am taking an accressere to the left with my right foot between steps A and B. the whole sequence being one smooth action. but the positions taken by Miika in the pictures on pages 184-5 shows a long-since replaced mis-interpretation of a play from Fiore that led me in all sorts of odd directions. between pictures A and B my blade travels back around my partner’s point to come in under the sword. After cutting through I return with the pommel.
and to Lari and Harri for taking time out from drill to pose for the pictures. Ed. I hope that all readers of my book will find this article useful. Thanks are due to Chris and Greg for pointing out the changes. every time you come across a similar initial defence. frontale. Also. October 2005. Incidentally. perhaps the most radical change I the way I teach longsword since writing the book is that these days I bring it all back to the four foundational guards from the abrazare. and spend a lot more time on unarmed and dagger defences. Helsinki. Guy Windsor. the cutting exercise “The Easy Way” on page 131. 2012 ~ 227 ~ . chinghiale.APPENDIX D This change is of course not unique to this sequence. and porta di ferro. the proper guard to find yourself in is fenestra. longa. is now the basis for most of the cutting drills and attacks that we do in the salle. none of which are included in this book.
a. Supporting treatises and historical sources Anonymous. Anonymous.1295). pedester ed.a. Porzio.33. (c. dall’Agocchie. Sir William. English translation Giacomo di Grassi. Giovanni. trans. Steven Muhlberger in Jousts and Tournaments.Bibliography Main T reatises Fiore de’ Liberi da Premariacco. Gran simulacro dell’arte e dell’uso della scherma (1610). (1594). Ridolfo.a. (1409) ed. Royal Armouries Manuscript I. unpublished traslation of Flos Duellatorum. Capoferro. (13th c.). published in Ramon Lull’s Book of Knighthood and Chivalry. Chivalry Bookshelf (2001). sine armis. di Grassi. Fior Battaglia (c. Michelini. Jeffrey Forgeng as The Art of Medieval Swordsmanship Chivarly Bookshelf (2003).a. Francesco Ferdinando.1470). Fiore dei Liberi da Premariacco.A. equester. ~ 228 ~ . etc. De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi: 15th century Swordsmanship of Philippo Vadi. De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi (c. La Scherma (1640). Pallas Armata (1639). Hermes. de Charny. Flos Duellatorum in armis. Chivalry Bookshelf (2003). Francesco Novati (1902) (Pisani-Dossi manuscript). Giacomo. Hope. a few Directions for the more Regular Assaulting in Schools (1692). King Rene d’Anjou. 1482-1487). Le Tournois et La Guerre trans. his true Arte of defence.1410) (the Getty manuscript). Filippo di Vadi. Trans. Geoffrey. Traictié de la forme et devis d’ung tournoy (c. Brian Price. G. Alfieri. Chivalry Bookshelf (2003). Dell’arte di scrimia libri tre (1572). The Fencing-Master`s Advice to his Scholar: or. Ragione di adoprar… (1570). Demands Pour la Joute. (Author’s full name unknown). Ordene de Chevalerie. Luca and Gregory Mele.
European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (Princeton University Press. Steven. Laureate Press 1998). 1991). Clayton. trans. Karl. John Trevisa’s Translation of de Proprietatibus Rerum of Bartholomeus Anglicus (Oxford Clarendon Press. France. Florence. 1990). Wilma and Brunsdon Yapp. 2003). Angelo. 2000). M.. The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe (Yale University Press. Bref Instructions upon my paradoxes of defence. 1975). Hergsell (1889). (HMSO 1968). Prestwich. Achille. The English Medieval Knight 1400-1500 (Osprey. Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries (1960). Christopher. Price.. and Burgundy at the End the Middle Ages (University of Georgia Press. Techniques of Medieval Armour Reproduction (Paladin Press. 1954) Other reference works ~ 229 ~ . War and Chivalry: Warfare and Aristocratic Culture in England. “Two Bored Britons Battle in Armor”. 1996). The Naming of the Beasts (Duckworth. 1971). Muriel. Terry. (Chivalry Bookshelf. Muhlberger. Se Opera nova… (1531).C. Mar. His Friends. (Chatto and Windus 1987). Oakeshott. Records of the Medieval Sword (The Boydell Press. George. The Beckoning Silence (Jonathan Cape. E. Hans. rep. Lo schermo (1575). Jousts & Tournaments: Charny and Chivalric Sport in 14th century France. Rowland. The Works of George Silver (1898). T. Simpson. M. J. de Bazancourt. Opera Nova (1536). 1900. George. A. G. Seymour. Legacies of the Sword (University of Hawai’i Press.) On the Properties of Things: a Critical Text. The Victoria and Albert Museum Catalogue of Rubbings of Brasses and Incised Slabs. Amberger. in Matthey. Life (International Edition) April 12. February 22. Colonel Cyril. Fechtbuch aus dem jahre 1467. Joe. 1997). George. McCulloch. Burton.H. Christoph. The Complete Sword-man’s Companion (1728). 1981). McBane. Baron César. Brian R. ed. Sir Richard. The Secret History of the Sword (Multi-Media Books. Paradoxes of Defence (1599). 1997). Sydney. Donald. 2003. The Book of Beasts (Jonathan Cape. Blind Beasts: Chaucer’s Animal World (The Kent State University Press. 2001). Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages. Antonio. (ed. Vale. 2000). Curtius. 1862. White. G. Talhoffer. 1999). 1991). Gravett. Michael.. English Martial Arts (Anglo Saxon Books. Silver. and the Beginnings of Modern Natural History’ in The Economist. Secrets of the Sword (orig. Silver. Marozzo. “Give a Dog a Bad Name” review of David Freeberg’s ‘The Eye of the Lynx: Galileo. 1948. The Book of the Sword (1884). Viggiani. Beryl. 2002). Brown. Anglo. R. The English Experience (Yale University Press.BIBLIOGRAPHY Manciolino. Ewart. Friday.
in a story entitled “Two Bored Britons Battle in Armor” you can see Adrian Conan Doyle (Sir Arthur’s son). I fenced under the accepted convention that we were using blunt weapons for safety. students adopt the armour and weapons of the historical combatants and then fight with one another to see what is possible. but I witnessed the 2001 World Championship finals in men’s foil and women’s sabre: it looked absolutely awful. but scoring touches as if they were sharp. 4 I remember one rapier bout with a German gentleman visiting the Dawn Duellists Society in Edinburgh. 3 As far as I know the earliest example of this kind of thing may be found in Life magazine from 1948. and should be included in the research of all Western martial artists seeking to recreate lost styles. and the most sophisticated action in either bout was a parry riposte. the techniques practiced are largely optimized for very different rules frameworks. So I was very surprised when he ignored five consecutive thrusts to the centre of his chest. 2 This approach is called often called experimental archaeology: basically.Endnotes chapter one 1 This may seem a little harsh. with my right arm pinned between his legs. closed in. Although these groups have created some interesting martial arts based on historical equipment. and luck. wearing original sixteenth-century plate harness and bashing each other with what are probably original seventeenth-century swords (though they apparently did not attempt to recreate historical fencing methods). anger. but if unsupported by research its application in a historical context is open to question. and precious little skill being shown: the bouts came down to speed. My coaches would have been disgusted with me if I ever fenced like that. and Douglas Ash. and was literally beating him ~ 230 ~ . This method has undoubted virtues. and managed to put me in a wrestling hold. There was no sense of the weapons being treated as if they were sharp. I had transferred my sword to my left hand.
. or by the affixing of spurs (hence the phrase. 5 This clearly did not happen! Two year after this book first came out I published The Duellist’s Companion. Regrettably. personal correspondence. the book-buying public in 1884 were not interested enough for the proposed second and third volumes of Burton’s work ever to be published. though he polled contemporary knights for their opinion as to what the law was on each particular point. 13 See especially the writings of Raymond Lull. See especially Steven Muhlberger. and to promote awareness of the historical sources. Records of the Medieval Sword. 8 “Spiritualists” normally refers to people who practice spiritualism. 12 Conferring knighthood with the sword is a post-medieval device: in variations on the medieval ceremony. Brian R. I use the historical terminology of the weapon in question. yelling “you are dead you idiot!” (those may not have been my exact words) over and over again before it was established that we had different ideas about what constituted a fencing match. This is probably closer to the general perception in the fifteenth-century. Geoffrey de Charny refers over and over again to the ”Law of Arms”. p. cutting angles. such as guard positions. Christoph Amberger’s The Secret History of the Sword especially pp 113-119.ENDNOTES over the mask with it. tourneys. republished by Chatto and Windus 1987. Le Tournois et La Guerre divided fighting into three types: jousts. though it is believed that these laws were not written down before Honoret Bonet codified some of them during the latter 14th century in his Tree of Battles. a rapier training guide. chapter two 1 1884. See also Amberger p. However. 2003 Chivalry Bookshelf). but is less useful when considering unarmoured combat. a nineteenthcentury cult that conducted seances to contact the dead. Wherever practicable. the 14th century knight-come-cleric who wrote the far-reaching and influential Book of Knighthood and Chivalry. xv. 11 Ewart Oakeshott. 6 It is necessary to establish a consistent nomenclature for fencing terms. Most technical names. p. 7 See J. are taken from the core treatises for the weapon in question. For those readers still waiting for TSC vol 2. look no further than Burton. 163-166 (regarding the admissibility of left-hand parries in epée duelling). my apologies. knighthood is thought to have been conferred by the girding of the military belt (adoubement. 1. 10 There are many references to the ”laws of war” which also governed duels. and Baron César de Bazancourt’s Secrets of the Sword (1998) pp. Some groups have established a common set of terms for all weapons: this is another valid approach. and war. etc. The idea is to retain the feel of the style. who in his Demands Pour la Joute. rather than write a sequel. it is too suggestive and useful a term to be condemned forever to such limited use so I am here reclaiming it to describe people who are concerned with spiritual matters. ~ 231 ~ . For a detailed history of the earliest weapons up to the Roman period. See also the anonymous Ordene de Chevalerie.Geoffrey de Charny. 9 This modern perspective contrasts with the medieval knight and writer. Jousts & Tournaments: Charny and Chivalric Sport in 14th century France (Mar. which is the main focus of this book. 116. hence “dubbing”). Price. “to win one’s spurs”). but after that my approach changed sufficiently to make this book obsolete to the point that it was better to replace it with a new method (published in my Mastering the Art of Arms series).
‘civil’ conditions. types XIIa. 13 The pros and cons of this will be addressed in the technical section. War & Chivalry. and practically useless. 8 In his definitive Records of the Medieval Sword (1991) Oakeshott identifies 22 medieval sword types. 10 The distinction between military and civilian is a modern one. pp. XIII. the sword one was armed with. but carried sheathed. 3 These varieties of armour were probably differentiated in the 16th century. XXa and XX. This is made clear in The Victoria and Albert Museum Catalogue of Rubbings of Brasses and Incised Slabs. 184-185 for a very interesting comparative table. and the grandguard over the couter. in the hand. 6 English funerary brasses and slabs show that English knights were usually equipped with longswords. 11 These figures do not show the longsword being worn. though specialised tournament armour is recorded. the difference being in the amount of metal removed from the blade in the sharpening process.326 (n). In the fifteenth century. See Brian Price’s forthcoming ”Pas d’Armes & Roundtables: Reenacting Medieval Feats of Arms. the term used in the treatises is usually colpi. though there is evidence of linen and canvas armour being employed in the medieval béhourd. the pastron at the shoulder. 12 Regarding cuts. 5 As dated by Sydney Anglo in The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe. Eight of these types classify what I would call longswords. which is best translated as “blows”. where young bachelor knights competed against each other using batons of whalebone or ash. This is the typical single handed sword of the medieval knight. know precisely what it looked like or how it was made. the sword you wore on your hip. See the relevant technical section for an expansion of this. and making the “blow” actually “cut”. 7 The closest English treatise is probably the Harleian MS 3542.” 4 Literally. continuing Peterson’s typology of Viking-era and earlier swords. “Civilian” here refers to day-to-day. a blunt longsword is heavier than exactly the same sharp longsword.7kg (nearly 6lb). by Muriel Clayton (HMSO 1968). Most Lombard-manufactured Milanese armour of the 14th and 15th centuries had only a few plates that could be added for war. refer to Clayton. these pieces weigh perhaps 18 pounds. We do not. which is a short series of instructions regarding the “too honde swerde” (two-hand sword). In my experience. 9 These weights may seem surprisingly light to modern fencers used to blunt weapons. XIIIa. from around 1325 to around 1460. I prefer to refer to cuts. and would therefore be schooled in what we would now call “military” arts. and to the record of fifteenth century portraiture. the wrapper for the armet. During the 14th century. despite the latter term not appearing in the language until the 17th century. XVII. Certainly anyone that could afford a sword and chose to wear one would be either a professional man-at-arms or of the knightly classes.e. George Silver also briefly covers the use of the longsword in his Paradoxes of Defence. ~ 232 ~ . or battlefield/street techniques. unfortunately. XVa. to emphasise the necessity of directing the edge properly. we know of no interchangeable pieces. i.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION 2 See Malcom Vale. almost all classes of persons could be expected to go to war for their feudal overlord at some time. However. Many of the cheaper modern weapons are absurdly heavy: I own one monster that is 2. XVIa. These swords are commonly called broadswords today. p. For evidence that the longsword was actually worn at the hip. Combined. A more contemporary distinction is to refer to armoured/ unarmoured fencing.
(Since I wrote this. and so I was not ready to present a proper interpretation. 3 There are two copies of essentially the same treatise. but these texts appear after the appearance of the longsword and seem to be based on its methods. It is impossible to pick and mix before thoroughly understanding the sources. The other. All previous treatises were hand-written. But it was the last civilian sword used in duels that was also carried for general defence and adornment. though it is too short to be considered as a complete method for that weapon. chapter three 1 I am indebted to professor Ronnie Jack of Edinburgh University for checking a draft of this chapter. 2 The printing press was not invented until 1450. far less comprehensive copy in the Morgan Museum in New York. and was published by Francesco Novati in 1902. However. having the benefit of a historical overview. For copyright reasons I will only be using illustrations from the Pisani-Dossi. but the texts are quite different. is in fact far more precise than the original. effective or sophisticated sword type. is known as the Pisani-Dossi manuscript. It is a snow-job designed to obscure the fact that my research was in its infancy. but the term “evolution” suggests a very gradual process driven by natural selection.) In Germany there are several manuscripts that show the use of the messer. and those masters certainly imply that the same techniques would be used with a straight-bladed one-handed sword. or dusack. California) contains mostly the same illustrations.) 4 Not any more. a further copy has come to light in the Bibliotheque Nationale Francaise. cryptic verses. Any errors and all opinions remain my own. 15 I do not mean to suggest that the smallsword “evolved” from the rapier: it appeared relatively suddenly in France in the third quarter of the seventeenth century. and that understanding was years away. Neither do I believe that the smallsword is the most refined. a truly historical swordsman is marked by his utter fidelity to the sources. Where the Pisani-Dossi has short. in Paris. There is a third. 5 This paragraph is the one most critical error I made when writing this book. this sword was actually called a rapier by the men who carried them. additions and suggestions for further research. and making corrections. the one I use in this book. It was certainly an adaptation of the extant civilian thrusting sidearm. Flos Duellatorum. and its use took time to spread : the earliest known printed treatise on swordsmanship is Achille Marozzo’s of 1536. the modern terminology by which historical weapons are classified. and the ability to quote chapter and verse in support of any assertion. So I came up with this rationalisation in support of superficial reading of ~ 233 ~ . 16 There are exceptions to this. (Note from 2012: This is not accurate – he actually shows a longsword being used in one hand. This was not the case. Fiore dei Liberi has a short section on the longsword used single-handed sword. and therefore produced in very small numbers at great cost. falchion. These days.ENDNOTES 14 In England during the early sevententh century. and usually referred to as the Getty manuscript (because it is held in the Getty museum in Los Angeles. the Getty is far more comprehensively annotated with blank verse. called Fior di Battaglia. but will compare the texts when necessary.
which agree with each other very closely.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION 6 7 8 9 the sources. such as the naming of the guards in the lines that they cover. conveniently alphabetised overview of each beast as they appear in the bestiaries is Florence McCulloch’s Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries (1960). and in some cases translate differently. books that described the natural history of each animal as it was then understood. I would just cut it from this edition. it would appear to be very close to military prudence. The equivalent page in the Getty manuscript has the same basic features. The earliest extant example is from the eighth or early ninth century.C. or ‘boldness’. The translation of Flos Duellatorum I am working from is by Mr. known as the Physiologus. as before. They were very popular in their time. The elephant. and some features are missing. There are at least 40 surviving examples dating from the twelfth to the fourteenth century (only the Bible and church service books survive in greater numbers. and we know of very few swordsmanship texts from before 1500). T. but the text is slightly different. Further reading should include Beryl Rowland’s Blind Beasts: Chaucer’s Animal World (1971). White’s The Book of Beasts (1954). and included explanations of their Christian allegorical meanings. John Trevisa’s Translation of de Proprietatibus Rerum of Bartholomeus Anglicus ed.H. represents forteza. or promptness. Canada. M. My information on the bestiaries derives mainly from three works.A detailed comparison of these two versions of the treatise would be a subject for a book in itself. and carry the same symbols. Seymour (1975). this time in Italian. and means ‘daring’. Hermes Michelini of Calgary. as well as providing interesting background and linguistic information. who have graciously given permission for its use in this book. but I imagine that a lot of people who buy this one will have the original. accurately subtitled a translation from a Latin bestiary of the twelfth century. who could exert whatever censorship they chose). The lion represents ardimento. There exists a centuries-old tradition of bestiaries. with the implication of readiness. which comes from the same root as the English ‘ardour’. For our purposes. probably because they were used by clerics to explain Christian doctrine to the uneducated (remember that most books would have been written or copied by monks. which refers to practical wisdom in battle and was opposed to “rashness”. though it is highly likely that both Fiore and Vadi would have been aware of the general significance of the symbols they were using. an overview of the core meanings of the symbols and how they relate to actual fencing is all that is required. Professor Jack suggests that Prudence here derives from the second Homeric epic virtue “sapientia”. and so I thought it necessary to keep the error in plain sight and paint a target on it. and there was a remarkable continuity of interpretation for each symbol. No apparent distinction was made in the bestiaries between invented and existing creatures. and On the Properties of Things: a Critical Text. not Latin. and excellent descriptions of the animals themselves. The attribute of each is written differently. From the twelfth century onwards. ~ 234 ~ . is a very accessible version of what appears to be a representative example of the genre. strength. also swiftness. An excellent. The animals are the same. It is generally believed that all bestiaries derive from a common source. most copies were produced in England or northern France. written in Greek in the second century AD. under the auspices of the Knights of the Wild Rose. The tiger represents presteza. and in fact drawn remarkably similarly. Wilma George and Brunsdon Yapp’s The Naming of the Beasts (1991) goes into more detail regarding the history of the bestiaries.
These days it refers to a pointed that has been made safe enough by rounding the end. This term refers to the point. or rebating. 11 From a review of David Freeberg’s The Eye of the Lynx: Galileo. where necessary. I prefer “arrow”. Fiore is writing for right-handers. and Dialectic. which was used to hunt hares (a very popular Medieval and Renaissance sport). for four reasons: 1) the word “tiger” derives from the ancient Persian for arrow. and very fashionable in the fifteenth century. and I have also seen it rendered as the guard of the archer. 12 Mr. The TRIVIUM (the root of the modern English “trivial”) was covered first and was comprised of the contingent/humane subjects: Grammar. which consisted of Arithmetic. 4) The arrow was one of the more effective weapons of war at that time. was usually divided into seven subjects. trained. one that does not pass all the way through to another guard. subtly implying the necessity of swordsmanship as part of a gentleman’s education. They were particularly popular amongst the nobility. Michelini as the guard of the arrow. A knight certainly had more to fear from an arrow than from lightning: so the tiger’s message would include a suggestion that with Fiore’s training. His Friends. so the implications are that it is swift. the QUADRIVIUM. two of the Quadrivial subjects. not even the arrow can overcome you. the only relevant attribute is perhaps the way that bears fight bulls: they are supposed to grab their horns and bash their noses. Curtius. Some breeds were fast enough to be used to catch birds. Rhetoric. 17 From the bestiary tradition. deadly. because of its association with speed. They are quite different to the versions I used in the first edition. See E. Vadi is writing for right-handers. 18 Levoreto is specifically a greyhound (there were several different breeds). as a symbol of speed. or covering it with a leather or rubber blunt. 14 It is interesting to note that Vadi previously refers to swordsmanship being like Music and Geometry. in two groups. Michelini has “lightning” for sagita. This is an excellent parallel to good fencing (you must control your opponent’s weapon and destroy his weak spot) but probably coincidental. the significance of the positioning must be interpreted with that in mind. chapter five 1 Or “rebated”. 16 As noted with Fiore. etc. Music. the term mezzo tempo usually refers to a half-blow. 13 As in most treatises. The river Tigris was named after the arrow because it was so fastrunning. The system should be reversed for left-handers: the bear is at the shoulder of the main sword-hand. ~ 235 ~ . 2) The tiger is holding an arrow. European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (1990). and the Beginnings of Modern Natural History in The Economist. Geometry.ENDNOTES 10 Medieval Education. February 22nd 2003. for those that could get it. as published in my Veni Vadi Vici. chapter four 1 In most Italian sources. 3) The guard in the armoured combat section “sagitaria” is translated by Mr. Then came the Sciences. 15 These translations from Vadi are mine. R. and Astronomy. but never as the “lightning” guard. but not sufficiently so to warrant changing the core themes of this chapters. and originally referred to the point being turned back on itself to be safe for thrusting.
usually all-leather covering for the blade. as I learned to parry better. 5 In the US. but they are still expensive and relatively rare.swords.fi/jt 8 See www. 11 This is a direct translation of the Finnish term for that plastic wire-wool that comes in sheets. while the other is rougher.) 10 We now know from the Morgan MS that Fiore describes crossings made with three different parts of the blade: The punta di spada. 12 Sold under the trade name ”Renaissance Wax”. There are many companies making such pieces – much of it ghastly fantasy rubbish. meza spada. 13 See Angelo Viggiani. which lays down very strict requirements for the equipment use in competitions. ”scale” construction. and a tuta spada. Lo schermo (1575) for example. See Techniques of Medieval Armour Reproduction. which have small plates defending each of the fingers. The idea is to have both function the same. a Euro is worth almost exactly one US dollar. Price (2000). (This move has not really caught on. 9 There is a move afoot. independent opinion: I am not paid to advertise anyone’s products. and even plastics.armor. and “mitten” gauntlets. (In 2012 it’s about 1. tournament companies often address this problem the same way.cz and www. Mitten gauntlets.3 dollars to the Euro) 7 see www. 16 I now insist on steel gauntlets for all longsword freeplay in SES. hence it might be very difficult to coax a recommendation out of a vendor. They have one harness for practice. leather. and they should have padding under the plates (such as leather or leather and felt) to further absorb impact. the legal climate discourages vendors from stating that a given piece of equipment is intended for any use other than display. In the US.65. or about £0. often used for scouring pans. are also more restrictive (through often significantly ~ 236 ~ .com. to distinguish between in the terms “scabbard” and “sheath”. crossing near the hilt. this formulation was created by the British Museum and is used in museums throughout the world on all kinds of metal.com. while more protective. which I would like to encourage. Finger gauntlets themselves are broken down into two kinds. the international governing body of sports fencing. 6 At the time of writing. from www. “Finger” gauntlets. the point of the sword. while a sheath is a flexible. it is readily available under the trade-name “Scotch-Brite” by 3M. 4 I stopped using side rings shortly after writing this. is a decorative weapon intended only to hang on the wall. usually made of wood covered with leather. and offensive to a trained swordsman. and one for use in tournaments.kp-art. but one is well-polished and much better crafted. The increasing use of tempered spring steels is ameliorating the need for multiple harnesses somewhat. the whole sword. This is my private. Good sword-makers of my acquaintance make even wall-hangers fit for combat: one even charges a “wall-hanging-tax”. the middle of the sword.thatguysproducts. which use larger plates in bands to cover the finger area. they come in two broad styles. wood. by asking a much higher price for the same sword if the buyer does not intend to use it! 3 In the US and in several other countries as well. and “gadling” construction. 15 These days there are better options available.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION 2 A “wall-hanger”. Brian R. Generally. such as Terry Tindall’s masks. A scabbard is rigid. as the name implies. Oh well. 14 The Féderation Internationale d’Escrime. All fencing suppliers will know what you mean if you ask for an FIE approved mask.
(p. because it reduces your effective striking range without protecting a main target. 20 Amberger page 162. and we executed only a handful of techniques significantly differently. Even a first-rate sword will break if you use it for inappropriate tasks. chapter six 1 These days all students wear at least a mask for all pair practice. often made from three to five layers of woollen cloth. This is perfectly valid. 18 A gambeson is a padded jacket. 5 Some other martial arts prefer to close the knee inwards. 21 I have known some people attempt to cut down a tree with a sword. 19 See for example The English Medieval Knight 1400-1500 by Christopher Gravett (2001): “shoes [were] designed to prevent skidding”. and variances thereof. half and stable) and the four steps (passing forwards and back. 2 It is important. and slung on with straps (such as modern sport-fencing coaches use). jack. and stepping forwards and back without passing). to train on both sides. aketon and cote-armour. turning the leg in does not effectively protect against a sword-cut. we had no major differences of opinion regarding interpretation. and in any case. This is a stupid thing to do: the mechanics of a sword-cut are fundamentally different to those of an axe. but are not emphasised in the way that. For an up-to-date view of my current interpretation. often called “chainmail” by non-specialists. (This was true in 2004. Interestingly. the skill of the armourer is of paramount importance when it comes to the overall function and protection that the gauntlets provide. we have diverged significantly since. he with the more textually useful Getty. though in the Getty manuscript Fiore does define the three turns (full. As with most else. but is not a worthwhile compromise when longswords are involved. this was referred to as a pourpoint. but consider it when you have mastered the basics. 17 “Mail” refers to armour made of interlocking rings. to balance the strain on the body and to acquire a deeper understanding of the techniques. protecting the chest. the kick to the balls is in unarmed combat. 9). There was no standard of terminology during the medieval period with respect to clothing or armour. A plastron is a modern piece of equipment. he was able to put the correct names to techniques I had inferred. and consists of a single piece of padding. ~ 237 ~ . which is supported by a lengthy quotation from the Hastings manuscript (from ca 1485). This need not be done in the beginning. 6 This idea is not unique to European Martial Arts: there is an entire system of Chinese fighting techniques actually called Pa Kua Chuan (“Eight Directions Palm”). for example. gambeson. I had worked primarily with the Pisani Dossi. When we compared our interpretations.ENDNOTES cheaper). please refer to the wiki and to my Mastering the Art of Arms) 4 Precise instructions for footwork do not appear in the early swordsmanship manuals. 7 This may surprise some martial artists: similar directional systems in other styles have the point of intersection in the centre of gravity of the swordsman. covered in linen. to protect the groin and femoral artery. Leg attacks are used. particularly with single-handed weapons. and to add a great deal to my general understanding of Fiore’s Art. 3 Much of my understanding of Fiore’s footwork and body mechanics was clarified by Bob Charron when he came to Finland in 2003.
3 I have known students who could execute excellent cuts after only a few repetitions. without being able to reliably deliver a really good blow.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION 8 Since 2005. and others that trained for months. as the historical record shows. I was holding the tyre for him. the other on one tip of the crossguard. etc. I then told him to forget about trying to actually hit it. However. and call it the “Four guards drill”. it is hard to believe that such a basic characteristic of sharp blades would be ignored. and practical experience of the fool suggesting it. and consistent with the treatises. He was shocked by the “BOOM!!” that resulted. with no effort at all. which you can find on the wiki and in Mastering the Art of Arms. which has a leaf-shaped end sharpened over the last four inches. chapter seven 1 Various sword enthusiasts over the years have shown me many utterly ridiculous methods of holding a sword. 4 We recently had a guest in the salle from a British historical fencing group. and so might never have mastered it. well past 10. That is generally true. I think most longswords were reasonably sharp from cross to point.000 reps. including one hand on the pommel. This has led some people to suggest that normal longswords were only really sharp near the tip: this is patently wrong.. and b) they were done that way at least by Marozzo (Opera Nova. 8 In Italian. When cutting with the true edge has been mastered. I prefer to teach all cuts with the true edge to begin with because a) they work well that way. In free fencing. just the lever action and the step powering the blow. 9 It is commonly held that mandritti attacks are done with the true edge. one hand on the pommel. those repetitions led to an understanding of the action that went far beyond just being able to do it. 6 I have not come across anything to suggest that this technique was or was not done in the longsword period. Without something to hit. you ~ 238 ~ . and roversi with the false. we have added Fiore’s four guards of abrazare to this exercise. 5 I am indebted to VilleVirtanen for checking the physics in this section. There was no standard degree of sharpness for a sword blade. However. 1536). nor fully supported by evidence. and told him to hit it with his best shot. two or more mandritti. and was having a great deal of trouble trying to cut in a relaxed manner. and a completely unsharpened blade from the hilt to the final four inches. However. This theory here is plausible. 7 Vadi takes this idea to an extreme with his spada en arme. 2 I have since dropped using these terms as there is insufficient evidence in the text for what they actually mean. but not necessary. the other gripping a side-ring: all of which make me despair of the intelligence. The result was a puny “thud”. Somewhere inside himself he believed that power must be a product of effort. and unfortunately many extant examples were resharpened by over-zealous curators in the nineteenth century. 1531). he may never have been internally convinced that the correct technique was actually effective. and rising cuts are all done with the false. He had never been taught to cut properly. who state that all cuts are done with the true edge. research. then it is useful to learn to cut in every line with the false edge. nouns that end on o when singular end in i when plural: so one mandritto. and just do the technique the way I had told him. and Manciolino (Opera Nova. but few if any were razor sharp at any point. without really understanding what they were doing.
Fiore explicitly states that the guard posta di dente cinghiale (boar’s tooth guard) takes its name from the thrust that the wild boar makes. These were originally called the ‘left-handed variations’. (Incidentally. 12 I do this very differently now. is known as a boar’s thrust. solely thrusting weapons (except the armour-piercing estoc or tuck. From a martial and historical perspective it is completely wrong. until it was pointed out to me by a student that that was not accurate: a pair of left-handers do a mirror-image version of the drill./ With a slow and serene hand. and most mandritti with the true. Fiore is explicit that mezani blows are done mandritto with the true edge. or the epée de combat). Vadi: “And when they (the thrusts) come to us. and we were practising in an enclosed space./ You should go from guard to guard./ And if you wish to appear great in the art. which is always done with the true.20). chapter eight 1 In my School we have quite a few left-handers. Beginners get taught to use the weapon in the easiest./All the blows can make them lose their way” (De Arte Gladiatoria Ch. which rises and rips like a boar’s tusk (or “tooth”). ~ 239 ~ . it remained sufficiently well known for Donald McBane to mention a version of it by the same name in his Complete Sword-man’s Companion (1728). the argument is spurious. but very few extant swords are incapable of thrusting. the exceptions being usually executioner’s swords or from the Viking or migration era. Boars were well known. ripping thrust with their tusks. 13 There is not space here to go into the controversy of cut over thrust. I wish to first make clear/ The turning principle of the sword. most natural way. and a favourite prey for hunters. The direct thrust from posta di dente cianghiale. Silver also states that “there is no fight perfect without blow and thrust” (Paradoxes p. As the root is originally the Latin pōmellum meaning “little apple./ With steps that are not out of the ordinary. the smallsword. 14 In the Getty. roverso with the false. I agree with Vadi and Silver that the thrust is easily redirected. chapter 10. In any case. but you should not confine your training to only commonly useful techniques. by and large. For their benefit.ENDNOTES will find that most roversi cuts are done with the false edge. 15 The word pommel derives from the same root as pummel.” hence “knob”. all the drills and forms we use have established variations for a cross-handed pair. but when a right-hander and a left-hander form a pair they sometimes have to do the techniques differently. It allows a room full of beginners to cut without ever losing sight of the point of their sword. and create the guard positions from the natural strikes. clearly the word pummelling meaning “ hitting” derives from the practice of “pommelling”: hitting with the pommel. These variations became known as the cross-handed variations. See Mastering the Art of Arms vol 2 for the details. their chief method of attack is a rising. We then pay attention to the angle of the blow. De Arte Gladiatoria.) 10 So that you will understand and use/ The system well.21). Incidentally. Swords are not. George Silver: “the force of a child may put it by” (Paradoxes p. just swinging it from shoulder to shoulder. 8). in medieval and renaissance Europe. 11 This exercise dates from a time before most students had masks. but it was useful in its time. the thrust is a vital part of the swordsman’s repertoire./ And with arms extended/ Bring the edge to the middle of the companion. Vadi is also explicit that roversi blows be done with the false edge except for the fendente.
4th.1-2 (citing Roger Wendover’s Chronicle). As Karl Friday points out in Legacies of the Sword (1997).1-2 ~ 240 ~ . and suggest the term to have come from a French or Latin root. in tourneys and tournaments. the knights would been well aware of the realities of combat. inducing him to strike. a few Directions for the more Regular Assaulting in Schools (1692). they are known as katsujin-ken (“lifegiving sword”) and setsunin-tō (“killing sword”). 6 See Michael Prestwich.” (p. not the right. 6 But strictly speaking only the 3rd. “the “sword” in both cases refers not to the weapon itself but to its usage… When a combatant used force of will to overpower. immobilize. and then going inside his technique. and with the intent to beat the attack away. so the initial step to the left is done with the left foot. It should be done form a left side guard (such as tutta porta di ferro. almost every single longsword play is in fact a parry followed by some kind of riposte. Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages The English Experience (1996) pp. and 10th plays of the second master of zogho largo should be done from here. 4 Note that Fiore emphasises a different use of footwork. this is called “setsunin. 2 from the Michelini translation. countering it either at the moment of its origination or at the point of its most complete extension. However. However. 31).tō” … “Katsujin-ken” … involves drawing out the opponent. chapter nine 1 See. so maintaining a proper martial attitude is unlikely to have been a problem. This is done whenever parrying from the left. 5 From the front of Joe Simpson’s The Beckoning Silence (2002). 7 Fiore only shows this from the left. In Fior di Battaglia. Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages The English Experience (1996) pp. 4 See for example the tales surrounding Richard Marshal (son of the great Sir William the Marshal) in Michael Prestwich’s. and when parrying from the right when doing the breaking the thrust. 5 That said. for example. done with one hand. or the colpo di villano play. with different footwork. the rules of the Salle as written by Sir William Hope in his The Fencing-Master`s Advice to his Scholar: or. they seem not to be aware that Italian fencing had a much greater influence in Britain at the time than the French.THE SWORDSMAN’S COMPANION 2 This is dramatically overstating the case. which is the exchange of thrust. 3 These two aspects of swordsmanship are interestingly paralleled in Eastern martial arts: in Japanese swordsmanship. exchanging the thrust. There is only one indubitably mezo tempo action shown. it was commonly done in medieval times. This can also be tested quite easily if you can afford to destroy good armour. 9th. for example. 8 … and the main reason that this has long been dropped from the SES syllabus… 9 This is based on an early reading of Fiore’s colpo di villano play. and strike down an opponent before he can react. 3 Most English dictionaries ascribe the earliest use in English to the seventeenth century. where the parry may be augmented by a step into the blade contact.