The fencing tradition popular in Bologna throughout the 16th century is sometimes called the Dardi school, after Lippo Bartolomeo Dardi, a professor of mathematics and astronomy at the University of Bologna, who was licensed as a fencing master and founded a fencing school in Bologna in 1415, yet neither a manuscript ascribed to Dardi himself, nor any clear record of what he taught — or to whom — survives. Dardi remain a shadowy figure, making the appellation of his name to this tradition tenuous and best, wishful thinking at worst. Similarly, for all of the contemporary fame the Bolognese master Guido Antonio de Luca, who flourished in the waning decades of il Quattrocento, enjoyed in life, how and what he taught in his sala is unknown. Instead our first glimpse into what was clearly already a full-developed, martially and pedagogically complext tradition comes with the work of two later masters, Anotnio Manciolino and Achille Marozzo. Tradition, but not hard evidence, tells us that the two men were condiscipili (classmates) in Dardi’s school.
Whatever their relationship to these famous antecedents, when we read Manciolino and Marozzo’s texts, both named Opera Nova (New Work), we are looking at a late-15th century tradition as it is has passed into a new century. Their teachings, undeniably from the same tradition and containing a close concordance of nomenclature, weapons, paired techniques and solo forms, embrace both armed and unarmed combat, judicial duel and private quarrel, gentleman soldier and civilian self-defense. In a sense they are the last flowering of an old school; by the time one reads the work of later Bolognese masters, such as Giovanni Dall’Aggochie or Angelo Viggiani we see clear changes in methodology, weapon emphasis and even pedagogy that leads us to the era of the rapier.
One of the easiest and clearest way to see this difference in focus is to compare the role of the spada solo, or unaccompanied sword, in the earlier vs. later masters’ works. Whereas the sword alone is the center-piece of both the Anonymous Master and Dall’Aggochie’s instructions, and is Viggiani *only* topic, for Manciolino and Marozzo it is an adjunct art; a situation for study to address those times when one might neither have a buckler nor the time to employ a dagger or cloak as a companion arm.
K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple, Signori)
Nevertheless, there are a number of insights that can be learned from these short curricula. This is particularly true of the short set of seven plays that form the entirety of Manciolino’s teaching on the sword alone (Chapter XII). The master has the student fight from a single, defensive guard, porta di ferro stretta (The Narrow, Iron Gate). By assuming this guard, the swordsman completely closes off his inside line, and makes all attacks a strike to the outside line, thereby allowing him to parry any attack with a single cut: a riverso. Next, he provokes the opponent into being the one to strike first:
When you are about to fence your opponent with the Spada dafilo, set yourself with the right foot forward and the sword in Porta di Ferro Stretta. Then, without delivering any sort of attack, press your opponent in this manner: gather forward with your left foot, and then step forward with your right.
All that remains is to devise a solution for each of the possible attacks that follows:
Play One: Defense vs. a Straight Thrust
If he attacks you with a thrust, hit into it with your false edge and turn a half riverso to his thigh. Then, defend yourself by delivering an ascending falso to his sword-hand (making sure that you do not pass the Guardia di Faccia) and deliver another cut ending in Porta di Ferro Stretta.
Play Two: Defense vs. a Face Thrust
But if he attacks with a thrust to your face in order to then strike you with a mandritto or riverso, parry his thrust with a falso; then, if his mandritto comes to your head, parry it by going into Guardia di Testa and respond with a similar blow to his head or leg—as you wish.
Play Three: Defense vs. a Thrust
Your opponent could also attack you with a riverso or a mandritto to the leg. If it is with a mandritto, pull your right foot back and cut into his sword-hand with a half mandritto. Instead, if he attacks you with the riverso, pull your right foot back while delivering a half riverso to his sword-arm; then, recover in Porta di Ferro Stretta.
(NB: Since Manciolino specifically deals with the riverso in the next play, we have not included it in the video here.)
Play Four: Defense vs. a Riverso to the Head
First, let us suppose that the riverso is to the head. Parry the thrust with the false edge without moving your feet. When he delivers the riverso, pass forward with your left foot and parry by performing a mezza volta with your hand; then, pass with your right foot toward his left side and deliver a mandritto to his head or leg (as you wish). Finish by letting your left leg follow behind the right.
Play Five: Defense vs. a Riverso to the Leg
Let us now suppose that his riverso is to your leg. Defend by passing forward with theleft foot and turning your point down; then, push a thrust of your own to his flank and immediately retreat by jumping backwards and recovering in Porta di Ferro Stretta.
(The jumping retreat is a unique to Manciolino and even appears when fighting with polearms. Marozzo, the Anonymous, etc generally prefer to retreat with a double-pass, which is slower, but more sure-footed.)
Play Six: Defense vs. an Attack to the Head; Risposta by Thrust
If he attacks your upper parts with a mandritto or riverso fendente, or with a thrust, you can parry any of these blows with a falso, provided that you do not pass the Guardia di Faccia. Then, immediately pass forward while turning your hand, and push a thrust to your opponent’s face or chest—as you prefer.
Play Seven: Defense vs. an Attack to the Head; Risposta by Cut
Alternatively, after parrying with the falso, you can let loose a mandritto to his face and let it descend so that it hits his arms and chest: if you choose to deliver this stroke, accompany it with an accrescimento of your right foot.
The final play is really just a variation of the one that precedes it. As we again see in the works of other masters, if the parry either finishes with the point offline, or the opponent begins to prepare to parry the imbroccata, the swordsman may instead strike with an immediate mandritto .
While seven plays executed from a single guard may not seem like an extensive curriculum, remember that a) Manciolino has already established an extensive curriculum of attacks, feints and blade actions when discussing sword and buckler and b)by framing this single guard and making a single-parry, he’s dramatically pruned his decision tree, so that seven plays is all he needs.
The use of a single, “universal parry” is a hallmark of early Italian fencing (first appearing in works of Fiore dei Liberi in 1409, and continuing through to that of Ridolfo Capoferro, two centuries later), and can be seen as a precursor both to the “perfect schermo” of Angelo Viggiani and Dall’ Agocchie’s advice on “How to Win a Duel in Thirty Days”, creating an excellent lesson of 16th century swordplay in microcosm.
[Editor’s Note: Quite some years ago now, Jherek Swanger translated Angelo Viggiani’s Lo Schermo, and gave a short analysis of its contents, which he found somewhat disappointing. In response to that, I wrote a rebuttal article, arguing for a reassessment of its contents as providing the clearest insight into tempo and body-mechanics we have for the Bolognese tradition, as well as providing a particularly lucid explanation on the “Universal Parry” by rising riverso, which first appears in the work of Fiore dei Liberi (1409), and remains as lately as the rapier texts of Marcelli and Bondi di Mazo (1696).
However, as they say, the student outstrips the teacher, and in the following article, CSG scholar and Bolognese swordplay instructor Rob Rotherfoord takes an even closer look at Lo Schermo, and finds that there is both an offensive and defensive application to the system, and the distinctions between the two speak specifically to the Three Advantages Viggiani details earlier in his text.
Gregory D. Mele ]
I tell you that this is my schermo, composed of the most perfect offense, and of the most perfect guards that there are, namely the guardia alta, offensiva, perfetta, and the punta sopramano, offensiva, perfettissima. There you have also the riverso tondo, a good defensive blow, and the guardia difensiva larga.
When we think of the techniques of Angelo Viggiani, we think of his one, perfect Schermo, or defense (literally “screen”). But, to illustrate the perfection of his single defense, made with a single blow, in a single tempo, he first presents the “common” parry with all of its deficiencies.
A Common and “Imperfect” Defense This common parry “that all the Master teach, and the greatest part of combatants use,” is formed by making a mandritto, but in such a way that the point stays high, above the hilt, holding the arm extended, so that the blades meet true edge to true edge. What Viggiani seems to be describing is the common Bolognese position Guardia di Testa (Head Guard) held to the inside. Fitting, because to demonstrate the imperfection of this parry, he uses a dritto-fendente from Guardia Alta (an imperfect blow) striking to the opponent’s head.
What follows here is are a synoptic charts of the laundry list of ways to defeat such a parry found in Viggiani’s text (cap. 115-117). To make these techniques understandable to a broader group of students of the Bolognese art, I’ve decided to substitute the terminology used by Giovanni dall’Agocchie to those of Viggiani, as they are more universal to 16th century swordsmanship in general and the Bolognese tradition in particular.
Deliver a dritto fendente from Guardia Alta
Parry Guardia di Testa
Turn the point to the left and cuts a riverso inside the blade
The cut which was still in descent, strikes the head
NB: Viggiani seems to be ignoring the response from the Guarida di Testa parry, possibly to demonstrate how cutting inside the blade does not keep the patient protected.
Deliver a dritto fendente from Alta
Parry Guardia di Testa
Strike with a riverso stramazzone
Turn the true-edge out, parrying and striking in Guardia d’Intrare OR turn a roverso, striking to the arm
Deliver a dritto fendente from Alta
Parry Guardia di Testa
Pull away from the bind and strike mandritto to the leg
The cut which was still in descent, strikes the head
NB: Viggiani again ignores the response from the patient’s parry to demonstrate that it does nothing to deter the initial blow which is still in descent towards the head.
At this point, Viggiani goes on to explain how not only the responses from such a parry are faulty, but the parry itself is easily deceived. While delivering the dritto fendente from Guardia Alta, Viggiani transforms the original cut into a different attack in order to avoid the di Testa parry all together.
Deliver a dritto fendente from Alta
Parry Guardia di Testa
Avoid the sword, continue the cut to strike to the arm or leg
Deliver a dritto fendente from Alta
Parry Guardia di Testa
Turn the dritto into a riverso as the cut is still descending and strike the head on the other side of the sword
With gathering steps:
And on a pass:
Deliver a dritto fendente from Alta
Parry Guardia di Testa
As the cut is descending, turn the hand up to deliver an Imbrocata under the opponent’s sword to his chest
A More “Perfect” Defense After presenting how this “perfect” strike defeats this “imperfect” defense, he then moves on to his “perfect schermo”. However, this is not the first time he has presented it, but rather the third. The first, is in his explanation on how to form the guards which comprise the Schermo (cap. 65-69):
You are advised that all seven guards must be done with the right foot and the right side advance toward the enemy; because they are less mortal and have greater strength and faculty than the left, as much in the offending as well as in the defending. Watch, therefore, Conte, now I hold this sword at my left hip; if I wish to avail myself of it, and use it against you, either to offend you or to defend myself, it will be necessary that I put my right hand here at the hilt of the sword, in order to draw it forth, whereby I do this riverso ridoppio with strength, and this is the first blow, originated from the left side, guardia prima, et difensiva imperfetta [Ed: guardia sotto il braccio].
The second, is how to use the Schermo if you are to be the first to attack (cap. 102-109). And the third, he presents as a defense in contrast to the common parry (cap. 118-119). The Schermo changes in subtle ways in this second and third explanations.
When applying the Schermo as the Agent, or the first to strike, the Schermo starts with the agent forming Guardia Alicorno. From there, once in measure, an imbrocata is delivered with a large step on the forward, right foot. It is implied that if the Patient is a smart fencer, he will be in a perfect guard, either also in Alicorno or one of the stretta guards, and thus to the Agent’s inside. While this high thrust moves forward through space, the true edge is turned to the inside, so that when it strikes it resembles Guardia di Faccia.
And so that you can understand this safe Schermo of ours well, behold, I repeat, and say,that finding yourself with your right foot forward in guardia alta, offensiva, perfetta,and with your weight on your left side, and wanting to execute the punta sopramano, anddo it perfectly, you must always accompany the sword hand with the right foottogether with the entire body, as much with the upper parts as with the lower, and notallow the lower right parts to go forward without the company of the upper right parts.
ROD: In order that you be able to put all the strength of your body to your service; butwhen you have in mind to do the punta sopramano, make the right foot move itself, andgo forward a big step, and immediately make the left arm begin to descend, and the rightshoulder to propel the arm forward, dropping with the point from high to low, taking aimat my chest, without making any turn of your hand, pushing it so far forward and so longas you are able. In this tempo the heel of the left foot will follow the right, not moving,however, the point of the left foot from its place, then turning the wrist of the swordhand together with the true edge toward the left side, and immediately descending downto the ground, withdrawing the right foot somewhat back, and making the point of yoursword draw a line on the ground and travel behind you on the left side, and after the rightfoot finally is a span from the left foot, the right shoulder then will find itself very low,and the left arm will be behind, and high, and extended forth toward the left side; the feetremain even, but the point of the right foot will point out toward the right side, and thepoint of the left foot out toward the left side, your shoulders will be looking at the enemymore than your forward side, and your weight will be placed on your left side; therebyyou will find yourself in this guardia difensiva, larga, imperfetta.
Any number of thrusts could be delivered from any number of guards that would oppose the patient’s blade by turning the true edge against it, so why does Viggiani choose this high thrust that turns mid-way through its action to only oppose at the moment it strikes? The answer lies within a previous chapter discussing “advantages”, which I’ve discussed in a previous article.
Because Alicrono lies high and away from the centerline, it is relatively safe from being molested by the opponent’s weapon. This means that he who forms this guard will be able to keep their point as a threat, and thus maintain the first advantage (see my previous article on Viggiani’s Three Advantages). The natural attack from here is a thrust from above (Imbrocata or Punta Sopramano).
As Viggiani himself alludes to, this strike is simply an extension of this guard, and thus maintains the same properties as the guard itself. As the guard is difficult to oppose, so too is the strike. Only until it is vitally important to oppose or make contact with the opponent’s weapon, the true edge is then moved to meet it for the safety of the agent. From this Guadia di Faccia position, Viggiani has the agent suppress the weapon down and to the left by forming a defensive guard (Porta di Ferro larga or stretta). What follows from here is the return to Alicorno, and without mentioning any sort of parry, Viggiani describes a defensive cut that sets up his third explanation of the Schermo.
We can find “proof of concept” if not “proof of interpretation” by looking at a near-contemporary source from across the Alps. Since the 19th century, fencing historians have drawn connections between the masters of the Bolognese school and the last major source of the Liechtenauer tradition, Joachim Meyer; Jacopo Gelli evn going so far as to call Meyer and Viggiani condiscepolo (“classmates”) under Achille Marozzo (albeit, without a shred of evidence). Whatever the precise connection, part of what most distinguishes Meyer is introduction of the Renaissance cut & thrust sword (German: rappir), whose guards, techniques and pedagogy seem like a tidy fusion of older, German longsword teachings and the spada solo of late Bolognese masters, such as Viggiani and Giovanni dall’Agocchie. Indeed, it is Meyer who illustrates Viggiani’s punta sopramano, and sure enough, he has the exact same offensive use of the Italian master’s Schermo, which he describes thus:
Position yourself in the High Guard of the right Ox, concerning which you have already been instructed. Raise your right foot for a step forward, and as you raise your foot, pull your hilt back behind over your right shoulder to gather for a forceful thrust. From there, thrust at his chest with a broad step forward on the foot you have raised; but just as this thrust shall hit, turn the long edge down toward your left in the manner of a slice, so that at the end of the thrust your front knee is flexed well forward, and your upper body leans well over it forward toward the ground after the thrust; and so that after completing the thrust you bring your blade with extended arm long in front of your foot in slicing down toward theground. From there, recover your foot and go with your long edge back up into the right Ox, just as you stood in the beginning
What Viggiani leaves out, but Meyer clarifies, is that because this high thrust does not provide opposition to the inside, just as the thrust hits, the true edge is turned inside (to the left), to protect the attacker. From there, both Viggiani and Meyer cut down to the left, etc. So, the question can be asked, why start it as a high thrust, if it is to be turned in at the last moment? The high thrust is difficult to oppose (which is why it is used over and over), and it’s only folly is the lack of opposition to the inside. There’s no question that it provides all the opposition one would need to the outside, and when Viggiani describes the Schermo as a defense (cap.118-119) the thrust is indeed to the outside, which is why he recovers in Coda Lunga, and not Porta di Ferro. So, then why use it to the inside? Because just as the guard, Alicorno, is difficult to oppose because it creates a strong angle to the inside, the thrust from Alicorno is also difficult to oppose for the same reason. So, when the true edge needs to be employed to keep the attacker safe, the true edge is turned in, and if it’s done just as the thrust hits, it will look like di Faccia.
Using the Schermo as a defensive action (cap. 118-119), Viggiani has the patient begin in Porta di Ferro e Stretta. When the attack is delivered, the sword is turned over, with the point directed to the left, resembling an extended Guardia di Sotto il Braccio. This position sets up a roverso tondo where the patient’s forte meets the agent’s debole during the defensive cut/parry. At the end of the cut, he tells the reader that the hand and point will be no higher than the shoulder and the true edge will be directed to the right. Once the parry has been completed, the true edge is then turned up to the sky, locking the agent’s blade in place, and returning the patient to Guardia Alicorno:
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 makethe point of the sword drop somewhat, and move yourself toward me with your rightfoot forward with a big step, and then immediately drop your left arm, and make yourright shoulder throw your right arm forward, declining toward me from high to low, withthat punta sopramano offensiva, accompanying it in all of the said manners; and if I donot give you a response with some blow, do not halt there, but lift your sword, and goingwith it a span forward of your right knee, you will fix yourself in guardia strettaoffensiva, perfetta; this is a perfect offense, which you must do following the insultreceived from me, and following your defense. But if I turned to some other blow in orderto offend you, then you, with the same rovescio tondo, will always be able to beat backmy sword toward your right side, and return to offend me in the chest with the samepunta sopramano, offensiva, perfetta; and thus after you defend yourself, you will always[83R] be able to offend me again in the chest with the punta sopramano perfetta; thereforeit is the most perfect and secure blow that can be found, and to express it succinctly, this is called “Great blow”
The following action, or resposta, must now differ from the previous description of the Schermo because now the blade engagement is to the outside. The same high thrust is delivered, but there is no cork-screwing action because opposition has already been achieved, and the Agent’s debole remains on the patient’s forte. And because the attack is being made to the outside line, he does not have the patient suppress the blade to the inside, but rather he has the patient fall into Coda Lunga e Stretta.
So despite subtle variations, Viggiani’s Perfect Schermo, whether being used as the Agent or the Patient, can be simply summarized as defend by roverso tondo, attack by imbrocata turning the true edge of the blade into the opponent’s when his weapon becomes a threat. All that differs is that when you are the Agent, you begin with the imbrocata and finish in a position where, should you have failed to land your thrust, you are now Patient and thus are prepared to defend by roverso tondo and risposta with an imbrocata, so that the two actions endlessly flow from one to the other.
The perfection and imperfection of the actions he describes are argued throughout this period and no two masters fully agree on the one best. Dall’Agocchie admits there is no one perfect technique, or else he’d be out of a job. Each of the 16th c masters has a preferred “universal parry”: Manciolino advocates a falso-manco (a false edge roverso), Dall’Agocchie prefers a roverso squalembrato (a descending true edge roverso) and in Lo Schermo, Viggiani advocates a roverso tondo (a horizontal roverso, with a slight rise), but each follow with the same response: the over-hand thrust. So we can see that in Lo Schermo Viggiani’s advice falls neatly in line with what other swordsmen of the time advocate:
it is better to allow the opponent to strike first,
thus be in a defensive guard,
parry by making a roverso,
respond with an over-hand thrust.
Which method is best? All three variations have differing strengths and weaknesses, but this is a different discussion for a different time….
Primary Sources Manciolino, Antonio, Opera Nova, dove li sono tutti li documenti & vantaggi che si ponno havere nel mestier de l’armi d’ogni sorte novamente corretta & stampata; Venice, 1531.
Marozzo, Achille, Opera Nova. Chiamata duello, o vero fiore dell’armi de singulari abattimenti offensivi et diffensivi; Modena, 1536.
Viggiani, Angelo, Lo schermo; Venice, 1575. Translated by Jherek Swanger: http://celyn.drizzlehosting.com/jherek/Schermo.pdf sourced: 23/3/2015.
Secondary Sources Castle, Egerton, Schools and Masters of Defense: From the Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century; London, 1885.
Gelli, Jacopo, L’arte dell’armi in Italia; Bergamo, 1902.
Mele, Gregory, Understanding Viggiani’s Lo Schermo, in Western Martial Arts Illustrated, Vol. 1, 2007.
In Lo Schermo (c. 1550, published 1575) Angelo Viggiani dal Montone defines three “advantages”, the Guard, Step and Strike, as the most basic means to gain a more favorable position over your opponent. Viggiani, and his contemporaries, though their reasons differ, prefer the thrust to the cut. As a result, guards that naturally delivered a thrust were also preferred. Thus, the importance of placing oneself in a guard with the point in presence – a guardia perfetta – while denying the same to the opponent is defined as the Advantage of the Guard.
Viggiani gives us three methods to gain and maintain the Advantage of the Guard. The first is to make half cuts in order to displace your opponent’s blade while keeping your own in presence. The second is to make feints, or sfalsata, in order to thwart your opponent’s attempts at gaining the centerline in the same way. The third is to step offline to reposition the center more favorably to your advantage.
The last method of gaining the Advantage of the Guard should also be understood alongside the second advantage, the Advantage of the Step, which is to place the non-dominant foot (the left foot for us righties) in a position that enables a long and powerful extension of the dominant foot during the attack. Viggiani states this happens when the rear foot is gathered forward to the front foot. With the understanding that stepping offline is a method of gaining Advantage of the Guard, however; one could satisfy both action in a single step. By taking a step with one’s rear foot both offline and somewhat forward, one can reposition the center in his favor while also gaining Advantage of the Step.
If you step into measure while you have Advantage of the Step, you also have Advantage of the Strike. This final advantage is the ability to launch an attack in a single tempo. If you have already established the first two advantages, while also stepping into measure with the rear foot, then a single step on the dominant foot can be made to bring the body and sword forward safely.
The three advantages are Viggiani’s general guidelines on how to proceed safely against an opponent. But any proactive motion takes time, and while one attempts to make a motion — a tempo — to gain one of the advantages, that tempo can be exploited by his opponent. Viggani tells us that each of these advantages can actually become disadvantages if the opponent decides to act within the tempi of each action. Here’s how it works.
Gaining any Advantage requires one to make a tempo. Delivering a half cut requires one to move from one guard to another, falsing requires the point to leave presence, and stepping offline requires the entire body to move. Each one of these movements (and especially any combination of them) is a perfect opportunity for the opponent to strike. Because the one attempting to gain the advantage is required to leave the safety of his guard and move into another, he is momentarily susceptible to an attack, which is what an opponent should look for when making a strike.
With the Advantage of the Step, especially into a narrow pace of the feet, the same issue exists with the side step. The Agent — the one gaining the advantage — must move a foot to do so, a long tempo that creates substantial opportunity to be struck. Conversely, if he remains with his feet together, he is less apt to receive a blow. The same is also true with the advantage of the strike. To strike one must commit sword and body (with a step) and “be the first to leave the safety of his guard.”
The contemporary master, Giovanni dall’Agocchie breaks these “disadvantages” down into five categories detailing when it is best to attack:
You parry the attack of your opponent.
An attack at you traverses outside of your presence.
Your opponent raises his sword to attack you.
Your opponent injudiciously changes guard, before he settles in the new guard.
Your opponent, standing still in guard, raises or moves his foot to change his pace or to move towards you.
Of these, the best time to attack your opponent is when he moves (gives you a tempo). Conversely, a fencer should expect to be attacked if he makes one of these five actions. However, to gain the advantages, one must first move. The advantages come with their liabilities, and may not seem like advantages at all if they are also perfect opportunities for the opponent to strike. The key, however, is that one should expectto be struck at while moving to take advantage. Thus, they are invitations for an opponent to strike. By making a half cut to gain the Advantage of Guard, and a half step to gain the Advantage of the Step, one can entice his opponent to make a full blow, and this large tempo can be exploited in turn with a parry and counter in a single, shorter tempo.
In Lo Schermo, which is written as a dialogue, Viggiani is asked by the hypothetical student why it is not prudent to be the first to attack, knowing that the defender will be forced to deal with the oncoming blow. His response is that this would be true if it were not for the fact that a parry can be made in a single tempo; by using a counterattack a fencer can parry and strike in the very moment the first mover meant to land his blow. However, to make a parry succeed in both diverting the blow and striking in a single tempo, one needs to note when and where that blow is meant to be delivered. Rather than simply striking to force a response, seeking to gain the Advantages puts the fencer in a stronger mechanical and tactical position with both sword and body by closing and opening the lines of his choosing, thereby limiting where he can be struck. For example, if the fencer closes the inside line when gaining the Advantage of the Guard, in that instant he is only vulnerable to outside. Having this foresight enables him to reduce his opponent’s decision tree: there is one place he can strike, which means that the fencer only has to worry about closing one open line during the parry, thus dramatically increasing his chance to respond with a single-time parry-counter.
With this, we can say that Viggiani’s Three Advantages are also a form of provocation, forcing an attack by our opponent to a specific line in a specific tempo that we will be ready to close and respond to in that instant. The ability to force the actions of the opponent when and where a fencer wants is how you control the initiative in fencing, and control of initiative is at the center of how you excel as a swordsman.
Agrippa’s Ball, or Rolling with the Rapier: On using the whole body and its aspects in guard Instructor: John O’Meara
Italian rapier is a linear art, but the rotational aspect of the system is often overlooked. We will look at integrating sword, body and left hand to create a fluid, “rolling” offense and defense in the style of Salvatore Fabris. (Bring your favorite companion weapon — dagger, cloak, or buckler.)
Bolognese Sprezzatura: Must-Know Fundamentals of Bolognese Sword and Buckler Instructor: Tom Leoni
Do you really think you know the fundamentals of Bolognese sword and buckler? And even if you do, does your body? For the more experienced swordsman ambitious to firm up his basics, as well as the beginner wanting to start on the right path, this class is an intensive on what you must know to successfully tackle the actions of Manciolino and Marozzo. From precise formation of the guards to efficient, martial-looking steps; from powerful cutting and thrusting mechanics to building intent in your actions; from positive, sure parries in all lines to accurate ripostes; from entering a crossing to safely performing a take-off; from provoking tempi from the opponent to exploiting them successfully–these are the basics you will drill in this class.
In addition, you will learn how to use your off-hand weapon (the buckler) as taught by the great Bolognese masters.
The main goal of this class is to let you develop a sense of mechanical precision, outward elegance (looking like the book), and effortless sprezzatura in the style of the men who invented the word.
Gioco Largo (Wide Play) to Gioco Stretto (Narrow Play) in Bolognese Swordsmanship–with Single-hander, Longsword or Spadone Instructor: Tom Leoni
In this class, you will have a chance to bring your favorite weapon and truly understand the concepts of gioco largo and gioco stretto. Bring your single-handed sword with or without buckler, and your medieval longsword or spadone — you will be using them both!
We will use the universal rules taught by Manciolino and Marozzo to:
Understand, hands-on, the nature of either play, as well as their differences
Learn multiple ways to safely arrive at and enter the narrow play
Visualize the main decision-tree of narrow-play actions
Develop a feel for the type of crossing with the opponent, and to choose your action accordingly
Learn the fundamental actions of wrestling at the sword
As the masters say, failing to understand the narrow play may put you in the position of being chased around by the opponent, while you flee across the salle fearing what lies beyond the safe confines of wide play.
FOCUS CLASSES (90 Min)
Keeping the Sword Free (Rapier) Instuctor: John O’Meara It’s not enough to find and control the opponent’s sword, we also have to keep control of our own. And what if he finds us first? Here’s how to keep the advantage in the Italian rapier fight, regain it once it’s lost, and avoid the “contendere di spada” (aka the “death bind”).
Rotella and Sword: With Great Cover Comes Great Responsibility (Bolognese)
Instructor: Devon Boorman Students in this workshop will explore the tactical environment of the larger rotella and how to maximize the benefit of its cover while accommodating for the greater constraint it puts on the maneuverability of your sword.
Partisan without Tears (Bolognese) Instructor: Greg Mele It was only late in the 17th century that fencing began to separate into the ars militarie and those of self-defense; the well-rounded swordsman of the 16th century was expected to have proficient with all manner of arms. This included the sword used with a variety of companion weapons, but also the two-handed sword, polearms and at least the basics of close combat.
In this short class we will look at one of the most common, useful, and for modern students – fun – polearms of the Bolognese tradition – the partisan. A massive, winged slashing spear, the partisan, whether used alone or with the rotella, was a both a common weapon of the battlefield and routinely appeared in the lists for use in a judicial duel.
In this short class we will look at the fundamental guards and defenses of the weapon, how it combines cuts and thrusts in a way similar to the sword alone, and learn several plays taken directly from the works of Antonio Manciolino and Achille Marozzo.
Please bring either a partisan or a 7 – 8′ spear, with the last 18″ (Including the point), marked to represent the cutting edge. We will have some additional weapons on hand for those traveling by plane.
Stringere: Are You Truly Constraining Your Opponent, Or Do You Just Think You Are? (Rapier)
Instructor: Devon Boorman Many Italian practitioners are making mechanically and tactically weak choices in their positions but are not having those positions challenged in a manner that leads to the development of truly effective technique. In this class we will explore the mechanical and tactical side of stringere, how to make positions that are truly sound and how to view and exploit positions that are weak.
THREE HOUR WORKSHOPS
Something Old, Something New, Destreza Common, and Destreza True (Destreza and Esgrima Comun) Instructor: Tim Rivera and Puck Curtis
For years, Carranza has been called the father of Spanish fencing. Recently, estranged uncle Godinho has returned to shed some light on the tales that brother Pacheco has been telling about his vulgar cousins and grandparents, and it turns out they’re a much closer family than previously thought. The similarities and differences between the “true” destreza and the “common” destreza will be explored in order to understand the state of Spanish fencing from which Carranza created his method, as well as its possible origins. Recognizing the relationship between these styles will lead to a broader understanding of what Spanish fencing really is.
The Spanish Sword and its Companion Arms: Shield, Buckler, and Dagger (Esgrima Comun) Instructor: Tim Rivera In 1599, maestro Domingo Luis Godinho wrote that although the three double arms (sword and rodela, buckler, or dagger) are distinct, their play is not. This class will be in two parts; the first will build the necessary foundation of sword alone in the common Spanish style, and the second will integrate your companion weapon of choice: rodela, buckler, or dagger. Bring your favorite and learn how to fight in the common Spanish style, or bring them all and learn how the use of one translates to the use of the others.
Tactical Showdown: Italian vs. Spanish Instructor: Devon Boorman vs. Puck Curtis Starting from the initial approach, to crossing safely into measure, tactically controlling the opponent, finding the right moment to strike, and concluding with a safe exit. Students will explore the fundamental flow chart of the Italian and Spanish tactical approach to the rapier at each stage and readily conclude that the Italian masters had a far better handle on what they were doing.
FOCUS CLASSES (90 Min)
Atajos: Making them, Breaking them, and the Naughty Attacks That Love Them (Destreza) Instructor: Puck Curtis In this class students will enjoy a crash course in the Atajo within a variety of contexts from simple to extreme. In addition, we will examine ways to escape and reverse the atajo in order to open up a new tree of fencing actions taken from an initial position of disadvantage. All of these actions will be coupled with a friendly dose of violence certain to delight your friends.
No experience required. Bring mask, single-handed training sword, gloves, and a padded jacket.
Figueiredo’s Destreza sword and dagger (Destreza) Instructor: Puck Curtis From Portugal comes a Carranza-based form of Destreza which challenges Pacheco’s authority while also integrating beautifully with his work. In these pages we see a simple and effective sword and dagger system to complement the existing single-sword material. What happens when you pull out a dagger for your left hand in the streets of Madrid at midnight? Find out here.
Montante vs. the World Instructor: Tim Rivera According to maestro Luis de Viedma, the montante is a weapon of little courtesy, and with it a man is forced to defend his life without having respect for anyone. Forget fighting in narrow streets. Forget breaking up fights. Forget guarding a lady or your damn cloak. This weapon is for driving your adversaries before you. Outnumbered? Surrounded? Facing shields and polearms? You’ve got a montante; time to show them what it was built for.
Trading Places: Parry-Ripostes and Counteroffense in Destreza Instructor: Puck Curtis The true mark of an experienced martial artist is excellent timing and La Verdadera Destreza’s method of stealing the place from your adversary is the diestro’s playground. In this class we will use the adversary’s movements and footwork against him to develop our assaults at his expense. This class will be particularly useful if you often fight with a reach disadvantage.
Some beginner level experience recommended. Bring mask, single-handed training sword, gloves, and a padded jacket.
Spanish Use of Two Swords, in Rules Instructor: Tim Rivera The Belgian nobleman Jehan L’Hermite, during his time in Spain, learned the use of two swords from the maestro mayor Pablo de Paredes in 1599, recalling that it consisted of very beautiful turns in good order and step, with which one defends himself and offends the enemy, learned in rules. The same year, maestro Domingo Luis Godinho wrote a manuscript containing rules for two swords which match that description. Students will learn some of these rules and their applications against being surrounded, guarding a cloak, and others.
The Chicago Swordplay Guild and the DeKoven Foundation – the same team that have brought you WMAW for over a decade – are please to present an event for students in the Noble Art and Science of Defense: The DeKoven School of Arms. After years of attendees decrying a two-year wait between WMAW’s, in 2009 we hosted The 600: Prepare for Fiore – a celebration of the 600th anniversary of the Flower of Battle. This was followed by last year’s Armizare Academy.
In 2014, we turn to the Mediterranean Renaissance and the art of the duel! This full, three day event will feature:
A roster of leading instructors and experts in Renaissance Swordplay, including Devon Boorman, Puck Curtis, Tom Leoni, John O’Meara and Tim Rivera
Introductory and in-depth classes in early 16th century swordplay, including Iberian “Esgrima Comun” and Bolognese swordsmanship;
Expert instruction in the jewel in the crown of Renaissance Italian swordplay: the elegant rapier;
A chance for extensive training in the mysteries of LaVerdadera Destreza;
Lectures and demonstrations;
A Contest of Arms with sword, rapier and their trusted companions, the buckler and dagger.
Located at the picturesque DeKoven Center, home to the Western Martial Arts Workshop, the conference is a retreat with attendance limited to the 60 students that DeKoven can host. Your registration fee includes entry, lodging and all nine, hot meals.
This is a unique event and a unique opportunity to train in a private environment with some of the finest modern teachers of the Art of Defense. Act now, because spaces will go fast. We look forward to crossing swords with you!
Location: The DeKoven Center 600 21st Street
Racine, WI 53403
(Details for getting to Racine can be found on the WMAW website)
On campus; all rooms have two single beds. You will be able to request the roommate of your choice when you register, and we will make every effort to accommodate you. Lodging is from Thurs to Sat.
Nine hot meals.
$300.00 inclusive before March 1st; $375 thereafter. (Almost a 25% savings for early registration!) No cancellation refunds after July 1st, 2014