Manciolino’s Sword and Buckler – First Attack from Porta di Ferro Stretta

The first attack for Porta di Ferro Stretta is simply, “you can turn a tramazzone”.

At first glance this seems kinda silly. Why bother telling someone to make a single, basic attack against someone waiting in guard? No combinations, no provocations, just a really basic strike.

My theory is to illustrate the difference between a tramazzone and a simple riverso. If you use a riverso against someone waiting in porta di ferro stretta they can usually parry it with a small movement.

The tramazzone, when properly thrown, comes in at a steep angle that nearly matches the opponent’s blade. If the opponent makes the same small movement that worked so well again the riverso, then your blade will slip in behind his on the outside.

How to throw a Tramazzone

In the context of this play, we found the tramazzone is best performed by first dropping the to the left. The sword hand moves beneath the bucker hand such the the wrists are crossed. The step, which can be advancing or passing, begins as the point begins to ascend for the cut.

There are certainly other ways of performing a tramazzone. One can allow the tip to fall to the right. One can cut over the buckler instead of under it. The tramazzone can be rising instead of falling. So I don’t wish to say any of them are invalid or inferior in a general context; this is just what worked for us for this particular play.

After the Tramazzone

Lacking any further direction, at this point we follow the traditional German theory of indes and then proceed to attack whichever opening happens to reveal itself until measure can be safely broke.

Posted in Antonio Manciolino, Sword and Buckler | Leave a comment

Manciolino’s Sword and Buckler – Second Attack from Porta di Ferro Stretta

The second attack from Porta di Ferro Stretta seems pretty simple at first glance, but hides some pretty important concepts.

step forward with your left foot extending a thrust2 to the face, and then pass forward with your right foot, turning two tramazzoni.

When interpreting this play, the first issue that arose was which side of the sword to thrust against.

Inside Thrust from Crossed Swords

When the swords are crossed at the weak, you can begin this play by stepping diagonally to the left while thrusting over the top of your opponent’s sword in third. Done correctly, it will push your opponent’s sword to his right, leaving him open for a cut on the left side.

The step the to right it critical for this technique. If you pass directly forward you will encounter the buckler and possibly the sword as well. The fist tramazzoni should be directed to the left shoulder, the second to whatever is uncovered.

Inside Thrust with Free Swords

If you are standing a bit further away so the swords are not crossed then it becomes difficult to attack over the blade. Usually what will happen instead is that as you begin the thrust your opponent will parry your blade to the right (his left).

If that happens, stepping to the right is of questionable merit. You can do it, throwing the first tramazzoni to the right shoulder and the second to the left. However, some members of my club have argued that it would be better to leave the script and instead step to the left so that your feet and sword are in agreement and you are moving away from your opponent’s tools.

Outside Thrust with Free Swords

Assuming again the swords are not crossed, you can choose to thrust from the outside using a punta riverso. A wide step to the left is even more important here. If you were to instead step directly forward along the original center line you would impale yourself on the opponent’s point.

In this variant, the opponent will most likely parry to his right, making the step to his left most advantageous. As with the first interpretation, the first tramazzoni will be directed at the left shoulder.


There are multiple ways of performing the technique as described in the manual and they all seem to work. For each variant the important part is moving off-line. Rather than trying to muscle through your opponent, you are rapidly shifting the center-line to where his tools are ineffectual.

It should be noted that this is not circling. You are moving off-line during the attack, not before. If you were to circle your opponent prior to attempting this technique then he would know your predisposition for doing so and be able to anticipate your attack.

Posted in Antonio Manciolino, Sword and Buckler | Tagged | 2 Comments

Guanto di Presa – Gauntlet of Grabbing


Can’t seem to find the original source of this picture.

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Joachim Meyer’s Dagger and Wrestling – Oberhut Techniques

Joachim Meyer’s Dagger and Wrestling – YouTube

Posted in Dagger, Meyer's Dagger | Tagged | Leave a comment

Meyer’s Longsword – Chapter Ten Videos

We have completed recording our preliminary interpretations of Meyer’s longsword cutting patterns from chapter ten.

As time permits I intend to write posts about the individual techniques in this series.

Posted in Longsword, Meyer's Longsword | Tagged | Leave a comment

Manciolino’s Sword and Buckler – Measure and the First Attack in Guardia Alta

The first attack in Guardia Alta begins as follows,

Accordingly, posing the case that you and your enemy are in guardia alta, and that you are the attacker, you can throw a mandritto at his sword hand which will go into Sopra il Braccio, and then turn a riverso also to that hand.

Then ascend with a montante to return to guardia alta; if you will do these three blows, your enemy will be unable to throw anything toward you that could offend you, because he would always come to collide his hand into your sword.

Until recently we’ve taken that to mean all three attacks are meant to be aimed directly at the hand. However, in practice we find that the first attack is quite easy to parry simply by lowering the hand. Consistently the blow lands on the forte close to the hilt. This seems to be direct contradiction to Manciolino’s claim that the opponent will be unwilling to lower the hand for fear of being hit.

Let’s think about that for a moment. If the opponent is afraid of lowering his hand because he will “collide his hand into your sword”, then it necessarily means that his hand won’t be hit if he doesn’t move it.

Revised Interpretation

Under our revised interpretation, the agent cuts directly in front of the hand with the mandritto. If the opponent is utterly motionless then the attack will miss by a couple of inches.

An interesting effect we discovered is that if the opponent does try to parry then the last few inches of the blade consistently land on his fingers. It is the response, not the first mandritto, that causes the injury.

From there you take a wide offline step to the left for the riverso. This one seems best suited to strike the wrist.

The montante is more of a slice that a hack. As you pull it upwards it will cut open the arm, chest, or face. And at almost any point you can convert the slice into a downwards thrust.


No footwork is mentioned for this technique. Experimentally we found that the first step, if needed at all, is just an increase of the right foot. The second step will be more or less forward depending on the opponent’s reaction, but always well to the side. A step with the final cut is not always necessary in drills. I suspect that with sharps the opponent’s desire to get away from the blade dragging across the chest will necessitate a step forward on the attacker’s behalf


The buckler isn’t mentioned either, but its role became fairly obvious once we started drilling. At some point during the second or third tempo the buckler finds itself against the opponent’s arm, preventing him from lowering it.

Notes and Corrections

Make the second cut tight. Big actions will leave the arm well exposed.

Don’t lean forward while performing these actions. Stay upright and noble throughout the engagement.

The second step must be well to the left. The goal is to move to the opposite side of his body in order to take his buckler out of play.

As you perform the third strike, don’t be afraid to step into your opponent. As long as you keep his arm trapped high with your buckler he’ll be weak and easily unbalanced.


The counter is to step back while lowering just the point as if to perform a montante. Do not lower the hand until the parry has been enacted.

Posted in Antonio Manciolino | Tagged | 1 Comment

Hutton – The presence of the judge does not absolve the combatants from honorably acknowledging a fair hit when it has taken effect.

In his rules for a match or contest for prizes, Hutten recommends two judges and a referee. Each judge watches a single fencer, halting the fight when he sees a hit land. Then he and the referee decide if the blow was valid or not, taking into consideration the quality of the strike and whether or not the other judge saw a blow land of the other fencer.

However, there is one additional rule that I think we should take note of:

The presence of the judge does not absolve the combatants from honorably acknowledging a fair hit when it has taken effect.

This is very different than most HEMA longsword tournaments today that encourage participants to actively shrug off blows in the hopes that the judge didn’t see them.

The current situation also discourages fencers from using thrusts and tight cuts, as the judge is less likely to see them. Instead they should prefer larger cuts from the shoulder, which are more visible and, unfortunately, more likely to cause injury.

There is another rule from Hutten that I like,

Rule 1. The cuts and thrusts must not be given too heavily, hard hitting does not constitute good play.

I will admit that it looks pretty cool when we see sparks flying during a steel match.  But they also suggests that the fencers are not in control their actions and are relying on sheer brute strength. Which of course leads to ever increasing amount of armor in our “unarmored” tournament and the honest inability to acknowledge blows.

Something that Hutten didn’t mention, but I think is important, is also a willingness to give up a point. Sometimes a blow will be called good when in fact it was flat or struck a quillon. When this happens fencers of good repute should be encouraged to wave off their point.

Now I don’t want to over-stress the importance of self-acknowledging blows. The judges, and ultimately the referee, are still have a very important role in any public match. I’m just saying that they should work in partnership with the participants in awarding points.

The SoCal Swordfight’s Rapier tournament worked like this. In addition to self-reporting blows, the referee would ask the fencers where the blow landed when the judges were in disagreement.

As the tournaments continue to move away from simple attacks and counters into faster and more technical fights with lots of tight cuts and thrusts from the bind this will only become harder for the judges to award points correctly.

Note of bias: I’m writing this in part because several people, my own students included, lost points in the SoCal beginner’s longsword because of a well executed thrust or zwerch was missed by a judge.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment