Ars Gladitoria

Fillipo Vadi A Fighting Treatise, 15th century Translation by Luca Porzio
Introduction--Brian R. Price About Fillipo Vadi--Greg Mele Selection from Vadi's Introduction Chapter 1--On Swordsmanship Chapter 2--Measures of the Two-Handed Sword Chapter 3--Doctrine of the Sword Chapter 4--Some Practical Concerns Chapter 5--Of Thrusts and Cuts Chapter 6--The Seven Strokes of the Sword Chapter 7--Of the Punta Chapter 8--More About Cuts & Thrusts Chapter 9--Of the Cross Chapter 10--On the Half Sword Chapter 11--Principles of Swordplay Chapter 12--Principles of Sword Feints Chapter 13--Principles of Half-Sword Play Chapter 14--Principles of Half-Sword Time Chapter 15--Principles of Sword Against Rota Chapter 16--Sword Teachings

Amongst the medieval fighting manuals remaining to us, Ars Gladitoria represents not only a fine
late 15th century extension of Fiore de Liberi's Flos Duellatorum--upon which it appears to have been based--but it may also prove to be an interesting transitional work linking Vadi's "ancient masters," with the more "Renaissance" techniques familiar from the later manuals. While he might be transitional, there is more than enough medieval material to interest medieval reenactors, Western martial artists, and students of medieval history. To start, the manuscript dates from the late 15th century. It addresses not only fighting in and out of harness--probably reflecting the spectrum of combatants medieval fencing masters dealt with--but also with the philosophy of fighting, of the moral strength required by the man at arms. The manuscript itself, which resides at the Biblioteca Nazionale in Rome, consists of 78 leaves that illustrate the techniques included in the (very rough) text that follows. We've put this rough text up so that its accessible, as many of the more prominant Western Martial Arts instructors--such as the redoubted Paul MacDonald--make extensive use of Vadi as a key source. The Chivalry Bookshelf now has this manuscript in production; it will be printed in hardcover with full-color fascimile reproductions of each leaf plus a much more advanced translation, together with introductary notes and translations of the captions and footnotes on interpretations. While Vadi's system is not as complete as Liberi's (c. 1410), it possesses a measure of maturity and a clarity of sentiment with a beauty of its own, an elegance reflective of the proto-Renaissance Italian cutlure upon which it is based. For reenactors and Western martial artists, it will prove valuable both for the wonderful, exceptionally clear plates, for the techniques themselves--which I suspect will prove to be uniquely transitional--for the fascinating and complex segno that describes proper fighting mindset, and for the arms and armour shown in the plates. The Chivalry Bookshelf is also proud to be presenting the Liberi--also in early 2002. Together with the Vadi, they represent what we know today about the fighting arts in Italy in the late 14th and 15th centuries. --Brian R. Price

He appears to be the first master to add the advancing footwork. usable by anybody knowing this subject for attack. associated with later fencing. and without any agility. Vadi. Greg Mele SSI Director . soundly denouncing duelling and those who needlessly seek duels. barons. scholars.Who was Fillipo Vadi? Fillipo Vadi was a northern Italian master at arms of the late 15th century. for anybody of perspicacious talent and lovely limbs.again ideas usually attributed to the 16th century tradition. spear ( and / or lance ). Because Heaven did not generate these men. so that never. but also with sacred laws. in my opinion. dagger and warhammer ( or poll-axe). this art and doctrine should fall in the hands of unrefined and low born men. "And not to lessen. only able to bear burdens and to do vile and unrefined works. who sees my work should love it as a jewel and treasure and keep it in his heart. from the practical experience and doctrine of many masters of arms of different countries. war. In it. Vadi traveling through the Italian city-states learning the art of swordsmanship. His treatise is in two parts: one text and one plates with captions. I strived to learn more about the art and cleverness of the said warlike acts and things: as is the use of sword. A native Pisan who earned his living serving noblemen. "Of these things. Chicago Swordplay Guild Introduction of Fillippo Vadi There are some Latin verses dedicated to Guido da Montefeltro. beginning to express our intention with the aid and grace of the almighty God whose name be blessed forever. addresses the “higher principles” of swordplay. the text section is a unique and critically important addition to the early Italian tradition.Founder. While the plates and captions seem to be a reworking of dei Liberi (the later Pissan-Dossi verse edition) with a few additions and subtractions. as are courtesans. and many clever considerations. "This way he. but they were rather generated as unreasonable animals. Vadi also discusses the ethics of fencing. Duke of Urbino. because cutting and taking away dubious things. which says: the imperial majesty has not only to be honored with arms. Then begins the introduction: "In the first and thriving years of my life I was spurred by natural attitude. I acquired good knowledge. I decided to write a book on things that later will be better described: including pictures and various examples.He ultimately became the master-at-arms under Guidobaldo da Montefeltro. I only have written those things I saw and experienced personally. defence. thanks to the help of God. princes. with a generous heart. and speaks of the importance of keeping the point on-line when parrying . . For this reason I rightly tell you that they are in every way alien to this science. particularly when thrusting. for it is source of no small help in battle. but instead to augment this doctrine so that it will not perish for my negligence. dukes and kings. by no means. which he likens to music and geometry. to whom his work (De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi) was dedicated in the 1480s. "And do not think that in this book can be anything false or enveloped in error. towards warlike acts and things so that. following the principle of Instituta. well versed in their art. unrefined and without wit or skill. the Duke of Urbino. while growing as time wanted in strenght and knowledge. who should be called to learn this science. while the opposite is true. produced by my sincere heart without cowardice. fights and other warlike events ( but instead it gives to men versed in this knowledge a very useful aid ).

dagger and warhammer (NOTE : this may be a 2-handed warhammer or a poleaxe. lessen or augment what he deems necessary. For to this doctrine should be invited only soldiers. which I learned trough hard work. that are spear. scholars. by the Grace of God. and many times he who is on foot conquers a horseman. and should it seem to him that there is any superflous or lacking thing. some of which are up to rule the republic. for any man slow witted. and some others to defend orphans and widows : and both are divine and pious deeds. intelligence and thought to make up for the lack of natural weapons. and it is shown not only the way to assault the enemy and to repair and defend from him. intelligence and reason. from the better masters. "From the said talent and other subtle thoughts is born an art of winning and conquering anyone wanting to fight and contrast. "And should this booklet of mine fall into the hands of someone learned in the art. as shown in the pictures). . dukes. and having. acquired a good part of learning. sword. and also putting in it things I devised and tried in action. And with these documents often happens that a man weak and of small stature submits. fearful and vile shall be driven out and not admitted to such a high noble and courteous enterprise. and what is more and nearly incredible. he might cut. having searched and travelled many different countries and lands. so that everybody not experienced in the art may be able to understand and know the way of attacking. and by which tricks and cunnings he might defend himself from the enemy’s tricks and strikes . the sage dominates the stars. castles and cities to learn from many masters perfects in the art. by nature they lack science as man lacks weapons. ways and acts of this art. And in this book will be described rules. I Filippo of Vadi from Pisa. princes and kings of lands. but also is teached how to disarm him. big worries and nights without sleep. showing examples with various pictures. to better learn to use all weapons and artifices. as was correctly said: intelligence surpasses strenght. among all animals. and in these and other things he surpasses all animals. Consider well my sentence it's a true science. and not only happens that one man conquers the other. and so man has no weapon or artifice. "So man needs. so that he doesn't need other things. in which flourish art and science. having practiced this art from the years of my youth. "But every learned and clever man surpasses other men bigger and stronger."And because some irrational animals do naturally their actions. not an art as I will show you briefly. good and true. decided to compose this booklet. and the same way the humble conquers the haughty and the unarmed conquers the armed. and putting in this book only that doctrine. brings to the ground and conquers one big. lords. man at arms. Remembreing to anybody not to undertake temerarily the study of this art and science." Begins the first chapter If someone would like to know and understand if fencing is an art or else a science I say that you should note my opinion. if he is not magnanimous and full of valour . barons. in which it will be exposed and shown at least the fighting with four weapons. without any human science. as from now I put myself under his correction and censure. but it is also possible that one man conquers many others. "Since it would be very unbecoming that such a noble doctrine should perish and fail by carelessness. so that nature gives man hands. strong and valiant.

Now if you like my saying and the reason I wrote here keep them in your mind and do not lose them. to her it's subject. . And know for sure that the handle should be a span long. you'll be able to answer with reason and take away the rose from thorns. and both of them are infinite. so geometry and music combine their scientific virtues in swordmanship to adorn the bright star of Mars. as here is written. and to sharpen your intellect. and fills with science his papers. with the pommel just under the arm . And if you learn my doctrines. To avoid any hindrance: the pommel should be round to fit the closed hand do this and you won't be in troubles. and you won't be condemned. it's endless. Fencing is born from geometry. so you may able to answer to everyone: music adorns and combines the art of sound and lyrics and with science makes it perfect. contrary by contrary without an end. it's good to measure blows and steps to find your trust in science. the sword to her cares is subject. use other measures and you'll be confused. To make your opinion clearer. the hilt should be as long as handle and pommel together.Geometry divides and separates with infinite numbers and measures. Chapter 2 Measures of the two handed sword The sword should be of the correct measure. To prevent your mind from being deceived. as every reverse finds his right. So tell the truth as I said that in fencing there is no end.

putting both strikes and thrusts in their right place. The true edge should strike with the right blow. maintain a side stance. Chapter 3 Doctrine of the sword Brandish manfully the sword. Match your heart while defending. and then be quick to strike. and note the writing. seizing measure and timing. the grip as said above. there the right strokes should go. . The art of the sword only consists in crossing. On one side the blows are used to defend. if honor you would get at all. If you are of clever mind. pointing at his face. riverso and false edge go together. towards the other. your eye on the enemy weapon. and be aware of what I say. you must consider here the better way to climb these stairs. and either advancing or coming back. while reverses should attack on the other side.The hilt is squared and strong as needed. and this seems you not weird. Match with it the gallant heart. set then your sword well ready. his duty being to wound and cut. for it's a cross and a royal weapon. there enter. in proper stance. Be sure to note the following: if using the sword in arms . Be well aware and understand my writing. bringing war to those opposing you. And you should do as the saying tells you: set yourself in guard with the sword in the hand. To make your play not vain your face looks one direction. the pointed hilt. if your partner strikes with the sword. it must be sharp four fingers from the tip. let arms and feet well set. You must be very shrewd. with iron broad and pointed.

cross them resolutely. leave the long distance and assail him. the arms extended. then beat his sword and do your duty. With point high and pommel low. as reason so requires. push. make him feel your point in his chest. at close and wide you'll take down strenght.with yours the blades be sure to cross. and not words. and follow quickly with deritto. because you don't want to be divided from him. you'll make fortitude change sides. or if he moves. If you feel you haven't lost your cunning. covering with the good manreverso. with a good cover pass on your left side with a good step. And if you want to make him feel your tip. then in this case facts are needed. Go swiftly out of the way. go out of the way with a sidestep. go back or let him find you near. . leave the long distance for close combat. and if the point finds an open way. or even if he attacks. Cross play and you will not be conquered. or when you're still and what I say never forget: as soon as you see his sword begin to move. once done your cover. your blows the head shall hammer. Be sure you never go out of the way. When his (sword) comes to half sword close towards him. do not fear: in any way you'll bring him your offer. Know that cleverness wins against strenght. Be sure to always match well your enemy's moves. It often happens that a man doesn't feel possessing enough fortitude. to lessen risk from the enemy's sword. Be sure to note and understand this saying: when you cross blades. If your foe crosses wide. your sword should cover pointing to your foe's face. and if this you can't do well. be quick to strike. even from the outer side. Then close and grab his handle.

He who wants to be able and learned in swordmanship should remember how to do and teach. You'll have good fruits from that. If loyalty you'll love to King and Princes you'll speak. and how to avoid mistakes. Also you must always remember to always honor your teacher. and if the big man seems you strong. not your enemy's. Note also and understand this part: he who wants to fight too much. and brings shame to his teacher. so losing honor from one error only. and often comes to clash. then cleverness will give you an edge. Because they're expected to govern . and that with justice justly goes. this way they'll use this art. often contrasting comes to quarrel: in these things is seen he who in the art is learned. one in a thousand times will soil his cards. fortitude and courage. Be sure. If tongue could cut for any reason. the dead would be infinite. Be great in cleverness if you want to last long in this art. that your play come not from courtesy. he'd better train much more. if these he lacks. He thinks high things which are low. that with reason it undertakes your defence. And note this sentence: you know your heart. You need a valiant heart. who wants arm's honour.Knowledge. He who wants to offend others without reason surely damns his body and soul. don't even want to use this fantasy. against he who wants to shame you. because money doesn't pay what he gives you. Be sure that your mind won't fall. as death is. are needed by he. and as the sword could do. often he causes grumblings.

if even poverty would show you his face one time. and so they closed their doors of life. valiant and gentlemanlike. and makes the eye quick. with arms the cities are subdued and all the crowds restrained. I speak not of the old but of the new one. This virtue is so glorious that. because they did not like the art. orphans and other problems. You should acquire treasure and honour and. she gives me riches and as it happens to me so it happens to those possessing this virtue. he strives to keep it as well as possible. How many persons died. Chapter 4 This art is so gentle and noble. and in herself she has such dignity. Sometimes you'll find yourself to be as an extinguished light: don't doubt. To gain the art no effort was too great. This art teaches you how to turn. I honestly swear.and each of them should mantain justice and care for widows. and always drives cowardice far from you. and to defend it everybody does its best. Leave stuff and every worthy thing. If in the art you'll be renowned. I strongly keep her secret. you always should remain in your lord's grace. you'll never be poor. . No treasure is greater than life. So from this art come all sorts of good. that often brings joy to your heart. defend your person with this art. then you'll see wealth embracing you thanks to this art. in any place. this is above any other care. she teaches man how to go. and how to parry cuts and thrusts. but as I let her go. and happy I am of finding her. you'll soon be back. and how to defend and remain steady.

measure your time and that of the partner: this is the art's foundation. knowledge. he who knows little encounters many troubles. . then she will keep you out of troubles. Open your ears to the great document and be sure to understand the beautiful reasons.and you'll have honour and glorious insigna. but natural cleverness restrains that. or you will be hurt for this reason. (NOTE: there's also another interpretation possible: so you won't be deluded from your teacher) Make sure that swords are sisters. in how many ways can be useful (troubles are found without looking for them. the small man uses a shorter one. or you would risk to be shamed. A man of great strenght breaks the guards. Be well aware of what the speech puts here : don't show the secrets of the art. Don't give anybody the sword's advantage. when you have to fence against someone. and so don't cause your teacher's complaint. along with their opinion. Also note well this other part: the longer sword is deadly. Understand well my sentence: the big man uses a long sword. and if you have both heart and strenght. I speak not of the old one. Oh. and grasp the reason of this art. He who knows many strokes brings poison with him. dexterity are needed. how a good and praise-deserving thing is to learn this art that asks so little and one thousand times gifts you of life. happy is he who can put out the other's fire) my art new and made with reason. and its step. Oh. you'll be a problem for everybody. this should be followed by everybody. which I leave to our ancestors. If you don't want to be of honor deprived. Good eye. and gives courage to the small man. and then choose the one you want. And if you understand well what I'm saying. and in the end is conquered.

often clears our sky. to avoid being hindered by heavy weight. you should leave thrusts and use other strokes to come back here. which wants the true edge. The thrust in the middle with deceit and sorrow. (NOTE: the original is hard to translate. and reasons commands and wants you to keep this well in your mind: deritto with true edge goes. as you'll hear in my sentence. Then you have to take a different way. two up. keep in your mind to take a sword that you can use. Understand well my writing: the sword stikes in seven ways. don't tackle with several foes: you will not make a good deal. two down and two in the middle. except for fendente. So that you find this way. as I said in the first chapter of our book. Chapter 5 Of thrusts and cuts Let the sword be a point with two edges. to easily control all of cannot face it without being in danger. that means six cuts and a thrust. it is something like "you'll play other sound than the bagpipe's") If you are obliged to have something to do with more than one. the other the true one. looking back. and only it I use when I'm in need. I esteem only the two handed sword. (FOOTNOTE: with this expressione Vadi means that the thrust often gets us out of troubles) . as I write in rhyme in my book. riverso with the false edge stays. to prevent your memory from failing: one be the false. be sure that it is equal to the measure. but note and understand this writing. You'll take a light weapon and not a heavy one. And if you are not looking for shame.

) I sharpen the mind of he who uses me. easily passing the one and the other. (NOTE: the Italian word is "falsit‡". and I feel strong. I think that the second meaning is to be preferred. (NOTE: meaning to be dangerous). of often cleaving and cutting with sorrow head and teeth in a straight way. we bring the fear of wounds. note that we are not slow to wound. and can be interpreted both as "false edge" and as "falsity". .Chapter 6 The seven strokes of the sword We are fendenti and we do question. I often cause the changing of stances when somebody uses me in combat and when I arrive my touch means harm. if I mix with other strokes: that I'll often notch the arrow. and with fendente warms our cheeks. and every low guard with our talent often we break . People gives me the name rota. Across us without failing goes the upwards striking rota. we come back in guard from passage to passage. We are volanti and we always go crosswise. I am the rota and I have in me such strenght. daring and ready. Fendente. (NOTE: meaning "all of them") Our strokes leave bloody marks. Considering the previous stanza and the following sentence. rotating I pass trough straight fendente without hesitation I ruin arms and hands. Chapter 7 Of the punta I am she who question all the strokes. we are often banished by fendente and punte. I look for the sword's falsity. from knee upwards we wound. I can't use loyalty and courtesy. and if we mix with rota of all the art we'll do our support. and I'm called the punta: I am venomous as the scorpion.

And when they (the thrusts) come at our presence. and then all other blows are good to defend. this puts you over the others and honors you. If you haven't a weak memory. so that you go in a bad place.Chapter 8 About cuts and thrusts Rota with fendente and volante against the thrusts are said. it remains without fruit. Keep here your mind for a while. all blows make them lose the way. the blows open their own way as they go. and against many it does no more its duty: this is required by the document and act. Low stances resist only weak loads. Don't lose an hour of time and learn the long times with the serene hand. . The swords stroke doesn't change direction: the punta has little value against he who quickly turns. it loses its burst. I'll strike a straight fendente with the sword and I'll pull you out of your stance. in my opinion. Cutting a blow your sword is dead if the point loses its way while striking unless the low cross helps you. A heavy weapon doesn't pass quickly in the opening. Against one the thrust finds good use. the light one comes and goes as an arrow with the bow. and so the heavier break them easily. your partner will sorely strike back. and so is shown that these are not so dangerous. if punta enters and does not exit quickly. Break every low stance. (NOTE: the last part seems to be there only for the rhyme in Italian) If the thrust turns into rota do not fear: if it takes not at once a good fendente. if the punta doesn't hit. also losing in the process the chance to strike.

as your enemy pulls back his sword. with serene and slow hand. Help yourself with the reverso. the reason wants that firstly I reveal to you the "rotare" (turning). principle of the sword. so strong I am. as I search it. When you'll want to close in half-sword. he whom with reason uses my defense will have the honor of every enterprise. Go with outstretched arms. then don't hesitate the time you take you'll pay it dearly. in front and back I trace. If you do any stramazzone. this often happens. If I clash with another weapon. with steps nor long nor short. Don't do a move too wide as any long time is lost. I don't lose my way. do it with little turn in front of the face. . And when a long weapon so finds me. Be in boar's stance when you thrust at the face. it is necessary to declare part by part all the strokes of the art.Chapter 9 Of the cross I am the cross with the name of Jesus. with the eye always to the good parry. moving out of the way with the left foot. And if you want to seem great in the art. you then can go from guard to guard. bringing the edge in the middle of your partner. pulling the right also. To properly understand and use. to find many more defenses. Chapter 10 Of the half sword Willing to follow this good writing.

soon turning the roverso fendente and the deritto and be sure to remember. because they are closer than the right.don't remain too far. set your legs paired. nor they can bring you to the ground. and quicker to make war. when you're close in. extend the right foot without then changing side. which remains sideways. hard while defending. And I advise you. And when you strike with the reverso fendente. I hope to show you the way: I don't want all to be pure riverso nor fendente. but between the one and the other be the common one striking the head from every side. note the writing. To be sure you can understand my goal with clear reason. Nobody should contrast or speak. bend your left knee and. you'll surely be lord. then you are sure from each side and if you want to strike with a diritto fendente. able to close and strike valiantly. . Then. as you are stronger and more confident. The head will be attacked also with the right foot that is nearer to it: this is a better footwork than the stepping of our elders. if under attack are now the left foot with the head. you should take the right knee and well extend the left one.

You also get a good deal by parrying well all the the strokes. And note this also: don't contradict the art's reason if you strike with diritto. the arms playing over your head. I can't say this with a few words. as he rise it. then beware from being hit from his manreverso. you'd suddenly parry. when you parry. carefully push your sword a little away from you. Make sure that your sword is parrying with fendente so that he hits you not and then if you want . And you also need to have mind when you strike the riverso fendente. trough his arms. pressing down that of your partner. When you parry the riverso. quickly doubling with the deritto. because the effects are of half-sword. then make a move towards his head with the false edge and. strike with the good reverso. keep ready your eye do a swift feint with a cover and hold your sword upright.Chapter 11 Reason of sword play (Principles) Once you closed to half-sword. parry with fendente. To like it better. move forward the right foot and parry as said. and a careful eye to prevent the mandritto coming from below. with cunning. understand the sense of what I tell you about this point: if you are there. And if your partner should strike. with diritto or roverso. upwards. when parrying the diritto then you’ll move forward the left foot.

hammering with pommel his moustache. turning trough and false edge with the point at the face. you can well hammer more and more times. as I could do with the sword. then you should evaluate which blow to use for winning. Feints mean confusion which confuse the other in defense. let go the fendente roverso. be sure with intelligence to follow what I write in many verses. and as he loses. Don't get divided from him. following the art with good feints. I can't show you this as well with my words. that when you’ve closed to half sword you can act well from each side. parrying. Chapter 13 Reason (principles) of half sword (play) Having closed to half-sword. to find the deep and shore of the art. and you'll gain courage with reason. hitting from one side only (your feints should go on the other side). be careful not to get in troubles. so he can’t understand what you want to do on a side. As I advise and teach you. Chapter 12 Principles of sword feints Again I advise you and be careful to what I close from below and grasp his handle and then to do your duty. so use your mind to study the art in my words. . his way. you should hammer on the other side. And if you want to strike blows.

Chapter 14 Reason (principles) of sword’s half time I can't. and the way. it's so precious thing. It can seldom fail when it's done with good measure. . as I have shown you above. The half time is only a turn of the knot. and be sure to go with your sword after his one. and if you note my writing. and an immediate strike. work with the one you like. There are many who base themselves in rotating strongly from each side. because at once it strikes and parries. Of all the art this is the jewel. writing. be sure to be warned as he rotates his sword. he who lacks practice divides not well: often the blow breaks with good edge the other's brain. Match yourself with him in striking. and you'll win the tests. and lets you bear the art's banner. provided that knees bend on each side. rising upwards to the face. rotate your own. and use your blows when the time is right. Chapter 15 Reason (principles) of sword against the rota. you can go in boar's tooth. To make this clearer to your mind. because it remains in the knot the shortness of the time and of its use. the principle of half time. Oh. to practice it with good reason.with riverso or dritto again. quick. I add this also: always enter with the point. show you.

as you see it well painted in our book with seven papers. how a good thing it is to have your sword doing a short run. with your sword and with small turning. you'll take away his courage. When your sword has come at the cross. You can also use in this art strokes and close techniques that you find simpler. Be sure that your sword never be. seeing always the point in front of him. I want you to be sure that this is the true art and science. take those favoring your side and often you'll have honour in the art. Be sure that your point doesn't sway. And you'll do your play always in front. in guards or while striking. striking or guarding. Oh.and if he rotates. you also rise from low to high. far from you. this I put in your heart. . which I give you for your mastery. Chapter 16 Sword teachings Your sword should be like a shield which covers you all. then do the thirteenth closing technique. be in posta sagitaria. Consider that. Now take this fruit. go slightly out of the way straightening up sword and hand with the point. for a scale's line the partner will be in porta di ferro. that of the partner covers the sword. Your point should be directed in the face of the partner. leave the more complex. Hear and understand my principles you who are new to the art or expert too.

with serene and agile hand. often breaking the partner's time. you'll weave a web well different from a spider’s. .

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