Using Viggiani’s Perfect Schermo as a Bolongese Fencing Primer

Contact us with your questions or requests for information.

Contact us with your questions or requests for information.

Susquehanna Valley Swordplay GuildThe Susquehanna Valley Swordplay Guild operates as an official study group of the Chicago Swordplay Guild (CSG) and uses our armizare curriculum for the instruction of its students.  They  currently offer classes in the greater Harrisburg area.

Training Info:

  • Novice Class: Fridays 6 – 7:30 PM
  • Advanced Class: Wednesdays 6 – 7:30 PM

Classes meet at:  cheapest
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+Mechanicsburg+PA+17055+(Barefoot+Yoga+and+Wellness+Studio)&hl=en&sll=40.285005, physician
-76.642925&sspn=0.07726,0.152264&t=h&hnear=130+Gettysburg+Pike,+Mechanicsburg,+Pennsylvania+17055&z=16″ target=”_blank”>Barefoot Yoga and Wellness Studio (130 Gettysburg Pike, Suite A, Mechanicsburg PA 17055) (click for a map).

Contact:
Email the instructor at Josh@SusquehannaSword.com to contact the school.

 
Contact us with your questions or requests for information.

Susquehanna Valley Swordplay GuildThe Susquehanna Valley Swordplay Guild operates as an official study group of the Chicago Swordplay Guild (CSG) and uses our armizare curriculum for the instruction of its students.  They  currently offer classes in the greater Harrisburg area.

Training Info:

  • Novice Class: Fridays 6 – 7:30 PM
  • Advanced Class: Wednesdays 6 – 7:30 PM

Classes meet at:  cheapest
+Suite+A, viagra approved
+Mechanicsburg+PA+17055+(Barefoot+Yoga+and+Wellness+Studio)&hl=en&sll=40.285005, physician
-76.642925&sspn=0.07726,0.152264&t=h&hnear=130+Gettysburg+Pike,+Mechanicsburg,+Pennsylvania+17055&z=16″ target=”_blank”>Barefoot Yoga and Wellness Studio (130 Gettysburg Pike, Suite A, Mechanicsburg PA 17055) (click for a map).

Contact:
Email the instructor at Josh@SusquehannaSword.com to contact the school.

 
The rich tradition of European armed and unarmed martial arts is documented back to the 13th century. While some of these arts have survived to this day, stomach
many were discarded over the centuries as new weapons and methods of combat rose to take their place. Western Martial Arts (WMA) refers to the overall family of arts, click while Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) or Historical European Swordsmanship (HES) refers to those branches of the WMA family that focus upon traditional weapons and may or may not be reconstructions of systems with no living lineage.

john-trey-cropped-1Fortunately, from the year 1300 generation after generation of Italian, English, French, German, and Spanish Masters at Arms recorded their methods in pictures and words. These treatises instruct students in unarmed combat, knife fighting and defense, swordplay, the use of polearms, and mounted combat. Currently dozens of these texts are undergoing translation and interpretation by a growing world-wide community of enthusiasts, martial artists, and scholars. The Chicago Swordplay Guild is proud to be part of the re-discovery and reconstruction of an effective and battle-tested Western martial arts tradition.
Begun in 1999, diet and hosted bi-annually by the CSG, discount the Western Martial Arts Workshop is now the premier North American event for hands-on study of Historical European and American Martial Arts.

As the oldest annual gathering of students, doctor the Western Martial Arts Workshop was born out of nothing more than three far-flung friends wanting to meet face-to-face. Pete Kautz of Alliance Martial Arts, Col Dwight McLemore of The School of Two Swords and Greg Mele of the Chicago Swordplay Guild had “met” on-line and had begun a fruitful email and phone correspondence. At Pete’s suggestion, they each began exchanging videotape of their training sessions as a way to share drills and techniques and to critique each other’s work. They expanded this idea to include other Western martial artists, and see if they were interested in attending. By the time the event occurred, the “little get together” had mushroomed into eight instructors and over forty total attendees, Dave Cvet of AEMMA’s last minute decision to attend even making it an “international” event. Since then, each WMAW has tried to further develop and expand the original concept.

Now over a decade old, WMAW has become a four-day, martial arts retreat, drawing approximately 200 students,  playing host to an instructor list from three continents, and providing classes for all levels of student, the Western Martial Arts Workshop provides the best series of classes, collegiality and research available in the Western Arts today.

You can keep abreast of updates and announcements for the next workshop and see hundreds of photos and class schedules from previous years at the official Western Martial Arts Workshop website.  Be sure to sign up on the WMAW mailing list so you don’t miss out!

Begun in 1999, arthritis and hosted bi-annually by the CSG, ask the Western Martial Arts Workshop is now the premier North American event for hands-on study of Historical European and American Martial Arts.

As the oldest annual gathering of students, purchase the Western Martial Arts Workshop was born out of nothing more than three far-flung friends wanting to meet face-to-face. Pete Kautz of Alliance Martial Arts, Col Dwight McLemore of The School of Two Swords and Greg Mele of the Chicago Swordplay Guild had “met” on-line and had begun a fruitful email and phone correspondence. At Pete’s suggestion, they each began exchanging videotape of their training sessions as a way to share drills and techniques and to critique each other’s work. They expanded this idea to include other Western martial artists, and see if they were interested in attending. By the time the event occurred, the “little get together” had mushroomed into eight instructors and over forty total attendees, Dave Cvet of AEMMA’s last minute decision to attend even making it an “international” event. Since then, each WMAW has tried to further develop and expand the original concept.

WMAW has become a four-day, martial arts retreat, drawing approximately 200 students,  playing host to an instructor list from three continents, and providing classes for all levels of student, the Western Martial Arts Workshop provides the best series of classes, collegiality and research available in the Western Arts today.

You can keep abreast of updates and announcements for the next workshop and see hundreds of photos and class schedules from previous years at the official Western Martial Arts Workshop website.  Be sure to sign up on the WMAW mailing list so you don’t miss out!

[Ed: This article is an addendum, approved particularly in video, of an earlier post: The Perfect and Imperfect Schermi of Angelo Viggiani . Readers familiar with that article might want to jump right to the below video, aka, the “good stuff”. Of particular interest, note the footwork. Renaissance fencing footwork, particularly prior to the lunge, is conservative in its steps, with the body weight carried over the balls of the feet. This does not mean the fencers are walking around on their toes, but it does mean that the foot moves in a flatter fashion, rather than striking out onto the point of the heel, as is seen in modern fencing, and a fair bit of HEMA reconstruction. ]

Angelo Viggian’s provides and short and succinct analysis of fencing in Book Three of his Lo Schermo of 1575 (full disclosure, Book Three is short and succinct, the philosophical discussions of Book One and Two are long, rambling and frankly, rather turgid), reducing the older, Bolognese system of guards to the seven principle  guards necessary to use a cut-and-thrust sword alone, introducing a new, “rational” naming system for the guards, and expounding on a “perfect” system of a single, universal parry and response that can be taught in 30 minutes of instruction.

Written as a dialogue between the fencing master, Rodomonte, and his student, il Conte, Viggiani recommends that the swordsman provoke an attack while he is in the Guardia Defensiva Stretta  (Bolognese Porta di Ferro e Stretta) and parry with a true edge, tondo riverso, finishing in Guardia Alta Offensive Perfetta (Bolognese Guardia d’Alicorno), from where he immediately launches an imbroccata with a deep acrescimento of the front foot, finishing back in the original starting guard:

RODOMONTE: It behooves you (to deliver your enemy some desired blow) that (being in that guardia stretta, difensiva with your right foot forward) you turn the point of your sword toward your left side, diagonally, so that the point faces that same side, and the pommel is on your right, as if you wanted to lay hand to the sword, and from here uniting  all the strength of your body together, do the same rovescio tondo with those same turns of the hand and the feet of which I have told you, and in the same manner; but pay heed that in this delivering of the rovescio, the swords meet each other true edge to true edge,but that the forte of your sword will have met the debole of mine, whereby mine could be easily broken by virtue of the disadvantage of such a meeting, and also because of the
fall of the cut; and you will also be more secure, being shielded by the forte of your sword.
CONTE: How should I avenge myself of the insult?
RODOMONTE: While my mandritto is beat aside by your rovescio tondo, it will go by your right side; lift up your sword hand somewhat, and turn the true edge toward the sky, and make  the point of the sword drop somewhat, and move yourself toward me with your right foot forward with a big step, and then immediately drop your left arm, and make your right shoulder throw your right arm forward, declining toward me from high to low, with that punta sopramano offensiva, accompanying it in all of the said manners; and if I do  not give you a response with some blow, do not halt there, but lift your sword, and going with it a span forward of your right knee, you will fix yourself in guardia stretta offensiva, perfetta; this is a perfect offense, which you must do following the insult  received from me, and following your defense. But if I turned to some other blow in order to offend you, then you, with the same rovescio tondo, will always be able to beat back my sword toward your right side, and return to offend me in the chest with the same punta sopramano, offensiva, perfetta; and thus after you defend yourself, you will always be able to offend me again in the chest with the punta sopramano perfetta; therefore it is the most perfect and secure blow that can be found, and to express it succinctly, this is called “Great blow”, because it is necessary to make a conjoining and a union of all the strength of the body, of the wits, of the senses, and of the art; and accompanying the  said blow, reveals one to be endowed with knowledge, with heart, and with temperance.
Watch, I pray you, how I do it.
CONTE: I am watching, and with great happiness.

(Book Three, 118 – 119)

Put into practice, this is what we get:

To be clear, while he is far more detailed in his discussion of the body mechanics and tactical theory behind his perfect defense, the idea of a “universal parry” was not new to Viggiani — it appears as early as Fiore dei Liberi in 1409, was the basis for Antonio Manciolino’s sword alone lessons in 1531, and was espoused by his contemporary, Giovanni Dall”Aggochie. However, what is interesting,about this “Perfect Fencing” is that, unlike those other masters, Viggiani also intended this simple flow between two guards to be used for offense as well:

I would like you to step, vaulting at him diagonally, and wearying him continuously, now with a mezo mandritto, and now with a mezo rovescio, and often with a variety of feints, taking heed nonetheless always to keep your body away from the point of his sword, because he could easily give you the time and the occasion to seize the advantage of placing yourself in guard.

(Book III, 46)

From your perspective, then, when you are stepping, approaching the enemy, and go closing the step, then you have much advantage; for as much closer as you are with your feet, you will have that much more force in your blows, and in your self defense, and otherwise accordingly will you be able to close with your enemy in less time.

53:  All the answer to this question is reduced to you being in advantage, and the enemy in disadvantage, because if you go in tempo, such that you are in disadvantage of  the sword, and your enemy is in advantage of guard, your going would undoubtedly be worse; but if it were the contrary, it would certainly be better.

(Book III, 52 and 53)

Once we put the mechanical advice together with the above tactical device, the Offensive “Schermo” looks like this.

Taken together, the reader is given a short set of basic set actions that can be used offensively or defensively. Combined with the master’s rather detailed description of the underlying body-mechanics encoded in moving from guard to guard and his thorough lessons on tempo and initiative (arguably the best of any fencing master prior to the 17th century) a student has a perfect primer in Bolognese fencing, one that can then serve as a launching point towards using the variant “universal defenses” found in the works of Antonio Manciolino and Giovanni Dall’Aggochie.

Further Research:

Readers interested in a further exploration of Viggiani’s “Perfect Schermo” and its context may also be interested in:

Lo Schermo, translated by Jherek Swanger

Viggiani-Oversize-Plates, courtesy of Steven Reich

The Perfect and Imperfect Schermi of Angelo Viggiani – Rob Rotherfoord

Using Angelo Viggiani’s Three Advantages to Understand Initiative in 16th-century Italian Swordplay – Rob Rotherfoord

Understanding Viggiani’s Lo Shcermo – Gregory Mele

The Truly Universal Parry – Gregory Mele

The Spada Solo of Antonio Manciolino – Gregory Mele and Rob Rotherfoord

The Complete Renaissance Swordsman – Manciolino’s Opera Nova  in a modern, English translation by Tom Leoni

Delle’Arte di Scrimia Libri Tre by Giovanni Dell’Aggochie – translation by Jherek Swanger