Provocations and Matching Postures

To set the stage, let’s first define what a provocation is in the context of Bolognese fencing.

Ideally, a skillful fencer will attack before his opponent settles into a guard. The theory is that he will be less able to make a plan, or even defend himself, while in the process of shifting his sword and placing his foot. However, once he is solidly in a posture he becomes quite dangerous.

It is easy to understand why. No one would consciously adopt a posture unless he is fairly certain he can counter any basic attack made against said posture. Hence the reason we use the term “guard” to as a synonym. To counter this danger, you should attack him with a well rehearsed plan.

These plans go by many names. In Liechtenauer they are referred to as the “vier versetzen” or four displacements, for for each of the four guards he says that one may rest in. In MS I.33, the term for the plan can be translated as displacement or more literally, siege. In Bolognese we call them “provocations”, a term dall’Agocchie spends quite a bit of time discussing.

The pedagogy for provocations vary with tradition. Liechtenauer describes them in terms of an opening cut, which implicitly leaves you in a counter-posture. MS I.33 starts with the counter-posture itself, essentially starting the discussion one step later than Liechtenauer.

The Bolognese start one step earlier than Liechtenauer, beginning each provocation with a guard. Or to be more specific, the same guard as the opponent is using. Which raises a very import question: What if I’m not in the same guard?

Theory One: Change your Posture

The easiest interpretation of the text is to simply mirror your opponent. No matter what guard he settles in, you adopt the same just before attacking.

If you opponent is truly settled in his guard, waiting for your attack then this should work. Provocations are designed to counter the specific strength of individual guards and while they can’t ensure victory, they give you better odds than a simple attack.

The risk comes from the opponent who isn’t truly settled. The opponent who is simply waiting for you to ape his movements. So while you are transitioning to match his posture, he attacks, possibly using the same provocation you had in mind.

Theory Two: Your Posture Doesn’t Really Matter

Another way to think about it is that the mirror postures are just memory aids, not essential requirements. As you well know, a given attack can usually be thrown from a variety of postures. And once the attack is in motion, the posture you just left ceases being relevant (usually, there are some exceptions.)

Under this theory, your first action isn’t to match your opponent’s posture. Rather, you should simply perform an attack from the list of provocations for his posture that can be best executed from your current position.

Often the choice will be obvious. If your choice of provocations include a Falso and a high Mandritto, someone in a low guard should choose the former while someone in a high guard the latter. Likewise a choice between a provocation that begins with a thrust or one that begins with a cut depends on if your point is online.

Theory Three: You Shouldn’t Be in a Posture Anyways

If you follow the advice of Manciolino, you shouldn’t be lingering a posture anyways. Rather, you should be constantly moving from guard to guard as shown in the assaults, the Italian answer to the kata.

This gives us a hybrid of the first two theories. Since you are in constant motion, you may pass through your opponent’s guard several times as you close, any of which can be used for your attack. Likewise, being in constant motion means you are likely to use the opening attacks for various provocations as your guard transitions, any of which can again be used for the real attack.

My Pedagogy

The way I study and teach provocations follow the pattern laid out as above. First I teach it as a mirrored guard. Then I work on using the provocation from other guards. And finally I try to leave the idea of settling in guards behind entirely in favor of near constant motion.

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New Meyer Longsword Videos

It’s been a while since I’ve updated Fechtkunst’s Meyer Longsword section. Here are some of the new videos.

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 11

As always, let me know if I’ve missed any videos.

Posted in Longsword, Meyer's Longsword | Tagged | 1 Comment

Notes on Making a Portable Sword Rack

This inexpensive rack is made from a couple “common boards”, each roughly 1” thick. Standard utility hinges are used to make it collapsible and a chain prevents it from opening too far when placed on a smooth surface.

One one side the pegs run across, allowing it to hold longswords, greatswords, staves, and daggers.


On the other side the pegs are vertical, allowing for shorter swords.


Danish oil makes for a cheap protective coating that can be reapplied as necessary.

WP_20160611_002 WP_20160611_001

You’ll need to a drill press and a Forstner bit for the peg holes. Glue is not required, as you can press-fit the pegs. (Plus if a peg brakes, the lack of glue makes it easier to remove and replace.)

The base boards, which are required for stability, should not be flush with the ground. By raising them up somewhat you can clear ground debris and use this on uneven surfaces.

The bottoms of the legs are cut at an angle to match the desired angle of the stand, all other cuts are square.

If you want to stain the project, do so before you attach the chain. Otherwise it won’t lay flat and be a pain in the ass.

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Anonimo Bolognese (Anonymous Bolognese)

Opera treatises

By Anonymous Bolognese means a full-bodied anonymous treatise of a teacher belonging to the Bolognese school .

The treaty, which was found after careful research by the Sala d’Arme Achille Marozzo , consists of two books manuscripts containing precepts and fencing techniques with different weapons.  On the back of the first manuscript paper reports the following annotation eighteenth-century: “Missing Anonymous that is fencing: Fencing Treaty”

The script has been dated, by expert appraisal and analysis of calligraphic watermarks marking the beginning of the sixteenth century (1510-1515 approx), then the previous treaties of the Masters Antonio Manciolino and Marozzo Achilles .  Dating also confirmed by the analysis fencing consistent with the historical period.  It therefore acts as a link between the treatises of the previous century ( Fiore dei Liberi and Filippo Vadi ) and treatises beginning ‘500.

The remarkable profusion of teachings and techniques described, over and above the treaties previously known, in addition to the detailed description of the basics of fencing archaic Bolognese school, make this essential text for the study and interpretation of the techniques of the masters of the Bolognese school .

Structure of the Treaty

The treaty structure is as follows:

  • MS 345: introduction, main rules, the guards , one sword , one sword against polearms
  • MS 346: two-handed sword , sword and catching glove , two-handed sword against pole arms , sword, and plaque , sword and buckler small sword, and plaque , sword and buckler big, sword and wheel , sword and gloves men at-arms , ax in arms , one sword , one-handed sword;

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    Scholars of Alcala Class Notes – May 22, 2016

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    Today we focused on drills 1 & 2 from our article Longsword – Drills for Pflug/Posta Breve/Porta di Ferro.

    One of the things we noted is that you don’t necessarily want to make the second drill into a single-time counter. If you prematurely commit to the thrust after the wind into Ochs, you become very susceptible to feints. By using two separate actions, with no pause between, you can alter your plans based on your opponent’s actions.

    If you contrast this with the counter-thrust as a parry, wherein you do want a single-time action, there seems to be a paradox. You can resolve this by counting the movements.

    In drill 3’s counter-thrust, you are performing one atomic action. In drill 2, you have 3 actions: the parry, the wind, and the thrust. While they should flow one to the next, each action requires that the previous action be complete for it to be effective. For example, if you don’t complete your parry, the cut will find you mid-wind. If you don’t complete the wind, you won’t control his blade and he may dominate yours.

    In short, double-time actions are constructed differently than single-time actions and you need to perform each differently.

    We also looked at parrying with the point online. It was demonstrated that if the hilt is low, having the point online causes you to be far too weak to properly intercept the cut. Usually the attack blows right through it, but on occasion it merely ends with a bind that favors the attacker. Illustrations supporting this theory are easy to find.


    In Meyer’s dagger, there are five precepts. I’ll try to summarize:

    1. Controlling the opponent’s weapon
    2. Going under/through
    3. Using the off-hand
    4. Deceptions
    5. Grappling and counter-grappling

    Applications of the First Precept

    One of the things we’ve come to realize is that the first precept isn’t just another technique. Rather, it is a way to approach the fight with an emphasis on risk reduction. The specific actions in the example device are not important; rather we should be focus on why we’re performing those actions.

    With that in mind, the goal of the first precept is to control your opponent’s weapon from the onset. The way you do it will vary depending on your opponent’s guard and disposition. So after working with the example itself, we attempted to apply the concept to over guards.

    First Precept vs Underhut

    When facing someone in Underhut, as shown below, it is just as important to control their weapon as if they were in a high guard. However, the way you do it is different.


    Our technique is inspired by Fiore’s Eighth Master (shown below). The main difference is that we go for the wrist rather than the blade.


    Once contact is made, one of two things will happen.

    If he inclined to leave the dagger against his wrist, push him down with both arms until his hand touches his belly. From there, you can check with the left hand while striking with the right. Make sure there is actual contact between his hand and body, as that’s where he loses his ability to resist.

    If he is inclined to pull away from the dagger, which is understandable given that it is hard steel and possibly edged, follow him with your left hand on his wrist. As he goes up, apply pressure such that you push his arm behind his head. Once the hand is past the plane of his shoulder, he will lose his ability to resist.

    First Precept vs Kreutzhut (Cross Guard)

    When standing in the Cross Guard, your opponent will either have his point forward or his blade against his right arm. Switching between the two takes but an instant, so any attack will need to work for both.

    For our displacement, we start by crashing the strong of our dagger onto his. This forms a strong bind from which everything else follows.

    With your blade on his strong, there isn’t anything keeping him from raising his point. When he does so, snake your point behind his blade and over the top of his arm. Next, you grab his blade, hooking your thumb over your own blade, and push your point inwards.

    If your opponent doesn’t raise his point from his arm, simply grab his arm and blade at the same time.

    Passive vs Active Control

    A new term we learned today was “passive vs. active control”. Active control is when you are controlling your opponent in such a matter that requires your full attention and effort. For example, if you catch your opponents wrist as he stabs downward, you are actively controlling him. If you release pressure for even a moment, he can escape or complete the thrust.

    By contrast, passive control is obtained when your relative positions make resistance all but impossible. In our example against Underhut, putting his hand behind his head is an example of passive control. Once you get there, you can concentrate on your attacks with little risk of him escaping.

    Second Precept

    For the example of the second precept, your opponent starts in a high guard. As he thrusts downwards, you step through to the left, ducking below and past your blade. Keep the arm extended so that you are structurally sound, and if he goes up follow him such that you keep your blade on  his arm.

    We didn’t study the full example today, but rather just focused on the basic mechanics.

    Sword and Buckler

    Today we continued our look at Guardia di Testa.

    Posture and Structure

    A couple notes that we focused on for this posture.

    First, make sure you engage your core muscles. That will help prevent you from bending at the waist and rolling your shoulders. (Remember, for buckler postures we bend at the hips.)

    Secondly, watch your hand positions. Both hands need to be shoulder high and between the shoulders with the arms extended. If you do this correctly, your opponent will not be able to throw a point to the underside of your hand.

    Finally, make sure the point is high. Don’t lower it to your opponent’s face, the reasons for which will discuss below.

    Parries for Guardia di Testa

    For these exercises, both fencers start in the same guard.

    Mandritto Fendente or Squalembrato

    For these cuts, rotate your body away from the blow by throwing your left foot behind the right. Make sure your upper and lower body rotate at the same time and by the same amount.

    As soon as the parry is complete, strike with the false edge or wind into an Ochs-like posture and thrust downwards.

    Riverso Fendente or Squalembrato

    For these cuts, rotate your body away from the blow by moving your left foot further to the left. Again, make sure your upper and lower body rotate at the same time and by the same amount.

    As before, as soon as the parry is complete, strike with the false edge or wind into an Ochs-like posture and thrust downwards.

    Mandritto Tondo

    This is an interesting attack. When using it, your opponent doesn’t strike directly for your head. Rather he aims to strike the strong of your sword with the strong of his. Then using it as a pivot point, he snaps the blow into the head. This is a very effective attack against people who like to parry exclusively with cuts.

    To counter this, simply thrust into Guardia di Faccia while stepping directly forward. This can be done with either an increasing or passing step. The opponent’s attempt to strike your strong will help guide your point online.

    WARNING: You can really screw this up if you poorly form your Guardia di Testa. If your point is too low (i.e. at your opponent’s face), he should use the Mandritto Tondo. Even if you try to counter with a thrust, he’ll strike the weak of your sword, knocking it offline.

    Guardia di Testa 1: Mandritto to the head, flank, or leg.

    This is one of the first voids that Manciolino teaches us. It assumes that the patient fencer has the right foot forward.

    As the Mandritto comes in, throw the right foot behind the left so that you are in a Coda Lunga e Alta. As soon as the blade passes outside the silhouette of your body, step forward with a thrust. This will will probably be batted aside, so we are told to follow in the same tempo with a Mandritto. Your left foot will compass behind the right with the cut.

    When you void the attack, take care to void it completely. This means pulling back your buckler as well so that he isn’t stopped with his sword near the centerline. Ideally he shouldn’t even notice he missed until you’ve started your thrust.

    Speaking of the thrust, be ready for it. As George Silver would say, you must do it as he is “lying spent”; do not wait for him to prepare his next blow.  

    Guardia di Testa 2: Thrust w/Tramazzone

    The thrust with a Tramazzone is a pretty basic attack that should be used quite often by the bucklerist. The thrust encourages your opponent to turn his body away from your blade, exposing his left arm and head all the more. (I especially like using this against those who study I.33.)

    But if the enemy turns a thrust with a tramazzone you will protect against such a thrust with the sword. And when he turns tramazzoni at you, you will put your sword hand under your buckler, directing the point of your sword toward the enemy’s hand.

    The trick bit is the point at the enemy’s hand. We tried several variations including a disengage and a Dritto Tramazzone before discovering that all you need to do is pull back the sword hand while relying on you buckler.

    Posted in Antonio Manciolino, Dagger, Longsword, Meyer's Dagger, Meyer's Longsword, Paulus Hector Mair, Sword and Buckler | 2 Comments

    Frank Gao on Guardia d’Intrare

    Copied from Facebook,

    I’m not convinced that Marozzo’s guardia d’intrare is with the true edge turned downward.

    1. Ignore the sword in the picture, but look at the hand. The angle is more diagonal than purely downward.
      In this edition of opera nova, if again considering the hand only, the true edge is facing inward.
      Marozzo’s spada da due mane. The true edge is upward.

    I think, what makes guardia d’intrare, is to “enter his line” by turning the body inward, and by passing or moving your left foot (perhaps right foot is also ok) to your inside. Where the sword is is less important. It’s just at where the context requires it to be.

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    Scholars of Alcala Class Notes – May 11, 2016

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    Guardia d’Intrare – Entering Guard

    This is a problematic term because we want to use it in too many different ways. In dall’Agocchie, it is merely Guardia di Faccia with the true edge turned outwards (right side for right-handers) instead of inwards.

    In Marozzo, the long edge is turned downwards as can be seen in this illustration:


    At some point we as a club also got the idea that Guardia d’Intrare is equivalent to Left Steer (a.k.a. Left Ochs). I cannot find any supporting evidence for this, which is frustrating because we would like an Italian term for that posture. For lack of a better term, let’s call it Left Alicorno.

    Porta di Ferro – Iron Gate

    For those of us who study both dall’Agocchie and Manciolino, it is important to note that they are using two different Porta di Ferro. In Manciolino, the sword is centered above the right knee, which dall’Agocchie has it to the inside just as if it were Cingiara Porta di Ferro.

    I suspect the difference is the buckler, as the sword doesn’t need to protect the left side when the buckler is extended.

    Note that the pommel should be angled such enough that the pommel is pointing just past the side. If the pommel is pointing towards the body, it will guide the opponent’s sword into one’s own flank. Conversely, if the pommel is too wide then it will leave more of the center exposed and make it take longer to reposition when protecting the right.


    Last week we looked at the basic Mandritto. This week we looked at the Riverso. To recap,

    1. Starting in Coda Lunga e Stretta (left-foot forward)
    2. Rotate the hand into Alicorno, keeping the arm extended and the point towards the opponent.
    3. Drop the point into Guardia di Testa
    4. Loop it around into Alta
    5. While passing forward, cut diagonally through Guardia di Faccia/d’Intrare
    6. End in Porta di Ferro Stretta

    For the Riverso,

    1. Starting in Porta di Ferro Stretta with the right foot forward and the blade diagonally across the body, point towards the opponent.
    2. Rotate the hand into our Left Alicorno, keeping the arm extended and the point towards the opponent.
    3. Let the point fall to the right
    4. Loop it around into Alta
    5. While passing forward, cut diagonally through Guardia di Faccia/d’Intrare
    6. End back in Coda Lunga e Stretta

    As you can see, this gives us a simple flow drill for practicing the two basic cuts.

    Note: if you are having difficulty imagining step 3 of the Riverso, it will look something like Hutton’s Parry of High Octave, though not quite so exaggerated.



    Parry with Falso Drito

    This is a good exercise because it stresses the need for a limber wrist.

    Now I want to advise you that when you’re in motion to hit the enemy’s blow with a falso dritto and want to wound with a mandritto, that you should immediately turn your wrist downwards and your body behind your right side. By doing this you’ll hit the enemy’s sword almost with your true edge. And in the same tempo you’ll turn a dritto tramazzone, so that you’ll be more secure, because you’ll distance the enemy’s sword further from you, and also come to parry and strike almost in one tempo. Moreover, your sword will always be in your adversary’s presence. But you need to have a limber body and a very fast wrist, because otherwise it will do you no good.
    — dall’Agocchie

    For this drill, the agent will be performing our basic mandritto against a patient waiting in Coda Lunga with the right foot forward. Practice the parry as a strong, snapping motion first.

    Once you have the basic parry down, add in the footwork. In this case you will compass the left foot behind and towards the right such that the body rotates away from the parried blow for extra protection.

    Next is the down-turning of the wrist. This happens after the parry, not during, but can overlap with the compass step. It is hard to explain, so until we have a video you’ll just have to ask in class.

    Then complete the Tramazzone as a Mandritto to the head or arm, ending in Porta di Ferro. Step as necessary with the right foot.

    Parry with Guardia di Testa

    This is a repeat from last week. I noticed that if your cut after the parry is aimed for the arm, it is much more likely to land than if you aim for the head. The latter, is simply more easily defended with either a high Coda Lunga or Hutton’s Parry of High Octave.

    Other Terminology

    Girata – Turn

    When your rear foot passes behind and beyond your front foot, you have performed a Girata. If the rear merely goes behind, but not past, the front then it is a compass.

    In Bolognese fencing we do not use the Girata. From our perspective, that is exclusively a 17th century rapier technique.  (Though to be honest, Agrippa uses it against the Bolognese in the mid-16th century.)



    Today we wrapped up our look at Meyer’s Sample Device.


    Today we looked at two ways the opponent can flee the bind that arises from the second Zwerch (Thwart): Umbschlagen and Wechseln.

    Umbschlagen – Striking Around

    This is usually translated as “striking around”. However, according the to Collins dictionary it should be translated as “to turn over”, “to turn up”, or “to fold or turn back”. Google Translate includes those and adds to “double back”, “turn down”, or “veer round”. So it seems to me that this is when you back out of the bind to strike another opening.

    It is called striking around with the sword when, having bound from your right against his left, you go back out of that bind and strike around or flick to the other side.
    — Joachim Meyer

    Wechseln – Changing

    Translated as “changing”, this is when you go under your opponent’s sword. Essentially it is a form of disengage, and as such you have to be very careful about the timing lest you leave yourself open for a thrust.

    Changing demands an experienced combatant, for he who changes inexpertly and not at the right time only delays himself and makes himself open without cause. But for him who is experienced in combat and knows how to use changing, it is an artful work, and appropriate to execute against those who only work toward the sword and not toward the body.

    Now changing is diverse: changing in the Onset from one side to another, changing before the Onset from one guard to another, also in the Onset to change through against the cut. Thus in the Onset deliver a straight Wrath or High Cut from your right at your opponent’s left side. If he cuts at your sword and not at your body, then in the cut, let your point slip through underneath with crossed hands; step and cut long in to the other upper opening. But be careful that he does not catch you or plant his weapon upon you by chasing.

    Likewise in the Onset come into the Longpoint and extend it long in front of you. If he cuts against your sword and intends to strike it out or wind, then let your point sink through underneath, and work at his other side. If he slips after it and intends to parry, then change through again, either until you have an opening or else until you come upon a suitable work with which you can cut.
    — Joachim Meyer

    Schneiden – Slicing

    This is also one of the true core techniques in the handwork; for when your opponent rushes upon you with quick and swift devices, you can stop and hinder him with no other technique better than with the slice, which you should hold in stock for yourself among all techniques as a particular gem to discover. Now you must execute the slice thus: After you have caught your opponent’s sword with the bind, you shall remain there to feel whether he intends to withdraw from the bind or strike around. As soon as he strikes around, then pursue him with the long edge on his arm; push him back from you with your forte or shield, let your weapon fly, and cut to the nearest opening before he can recover.
    — Joachim Meyer

    Hendtrucken – Pressing Hands

    Pressing hands strongly resembles the slices on the arm, concerning which I have spoken above, since it is always executed as with the High and Low Slice.

    For example, if an opponent overruns you with cloddish blows, then go under his stroke with the Crown, or else a high parrying, or go under him with hanging, and catch his sword on the flat of your blade. And when you come under his sword, then if he goes back up from your weapon with his stroke, see that you pursue him with your forte, and fall on him with your shield from below in front of his fists, so that you get them with the forte of your blade. Push him up away from you with your shield, and cut long toward the opening.
    — Joachim Meyer


    Leaving the Bind in the Example Device

    Perform the example device thru the patient’s second Zwerch, which the agent shall parry.

    At this point, the agent may respond with one of two actions:

    1. Umbschlagen: Fold back your blade just far enough to power a strike to the right of the patient’s head.
    2. Wechseln: Let your point fall to your right, slipping it below the patient’s point. Cut immediately to the left of the patient’s head, stepping as necessary to clear his point.

    The Wechseln is much easier to perform when the patient’s Zwerch is shallow, as a steeply angled Zwerch requires the agent’s sword to move further to clear the point.

    The timing of the Wechseln is tight; once you begin you may not hesitate without exposing yourself to a thrust or blind cut.

    Slicing in the Example Device

    Regardless of how the agent leaves the bind, the patient should respond by dropping the blade on his opponent’s arms before he can power his blow. Immediately slice the arms by pushing forward, continuing onto the pressing of the hands once the hilt meets his hilt or arm.

    Hendtrucken against Kron

    This is a variation of the technique described by Meyer.

    1. The agent begins in any high guard, the agent in any low guard.
    2. The agent shall throw an Oberhau (vertical high cut) that the patient will parry with Kron.
    3. As soon as the blades clash, the agent shall step forward, pushing the arms diagonally up against the opponent’s hands or hilt.
    4. Complete the technique with a pommel strike to the face.

    The angle of the push is important. If you push straight forward, you won’t move your opponent at all unless he is significantly smaller or already unbalanced. If you push straight up, you just expose your own face for a pommel strike. By pushing at a roughly 45-degree angle, you can unbalance a larger opponent while opening them up for the pommel strike.

    As you perform the push or Hendtrucken, keep good wrist alignment with your own pommel pointed more or less at your own belly. It is important that you resist the urge to prematurely present your pommel. When the pommel goes forward, you lose your wrist structure and your arms will be easy to collapse. (This isn’t a concern after the push, as your opponent is busy trying to regain his balance.)

    Hendtrucken in the Example Device

    In the textbook version of the example device, you follow the Hendtrucken with a short-edged, cross-armed strike to the top of the head. But this assumes that your opponent stumbles backwards.

    If your opponent stands firm and too close to cut, then we should deviate from the device and instead use a pommel strike to the face.

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