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 | Leave a comment

Frank Gao on Guardia d’Intrare

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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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Scholars of Alcala Class Notes – May 8, 2016

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We have two featured meet-ups on the calendar.

If you plan on attending you must sign up early.


Double Winging

During out drill, we used a series of rising cuts known as the “Double Winging”. These cuts end in a posture known as Einhorn (Unicorn).

Drills involving the thrust

We looked at several of the drills from Longsword – Drills for Pflug/Posta Breve/Porta di Ferro. We’ll be looking at more next week.

Sword and Buckler

First we reviewed last week’s material.

Guard of the Day: Guardia di Testa (Head Guard)


For more information on this guard, see my essay titled Bolognese Sword and Buckler – What does Guardia di Testa Look Like?

Cuts from Guardia di Testa

This topic was covered in a previous post titled Marozzo Sword and Buckler – Basic Cuts from Guardia di Testa.

Cut of the Day: Montante (Mast)

Something that often comes up is the exact definition of the Montante. What we know for certain is that from Guardia di Testa there are three starting criteria:

  • Half-turn of the hand
  • Point is towards the ground
  • False edge touches the boss of the bucker

and we always end in Alta (high guard). Our current interpretation is that is is simply a straight, along the same line as a falso, using the true edge.



Assault 1 Opening

We also looked at the beginning of the first assault (kate/form) with the sword and buckler. Our explanation is in the video titled  Elements of Manciolino’s First Assault for the Sword and Buckler: Opening. You can see other interpretations in the link below.

Manciolino Sword & Buckler Assault 1 Part 1


Todays focus was on supervised sparring.


We reviewed di Grassi’s one-handed thrust from last week.

Posted in Antonio Manciolino, Longsword, Marozzo, Meyer's Longsword, Sword and Buckler | Leave a comment

Scholars of Alcala Class Notes – May 4, 2016

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Marozzo’s footwork diagram, known as a Segno del Passeggiare. For for information on it, see Ilkka Hartikainen’s article titled The Segno del Passeggiare in Marozzo.



We covered several guards (postures) this week. In order:

Coda Lunga – Long Tail

Coda lunga will be when the sword is held outside of your right side, and it is divided into two different guards, one of which is called coda lunga stretta, and the other alta. Coda lunga stretta is that which is done with the right foot forward, and coda lunga alta with the left foot, always holding the sword outside of the right side with the arm will extended and near the knee on the outside, and with the point aimed at the enemy. This is named so on account of its similarity to great men, who are perpetually accompanied by many people, and hence one hears the common proverb, “beware of those who have the long tail”, that is, that have a following. And likewise one needs to beware of this guard, because it has the long tail.
— Giovanni dall’Agocchie

Here are some illustrations of Coda Lunga from Marozzo’s manual. Note that Marozzo and dall’Agocchie may differ in minor details. For example, Marozzo’s Coda Lunga Alta is sometimes held higher that that of dall’Agocchie.

image image

Guardia d’alicorno – Unicorn Guard

Regarding the high guards, the first is called guardia d’alicorno, and is recognized when the handle is turned entirely down, and the arm is well extended, and the point somewhat low, which is aimed at the face or breast of the enemy, in a manner similar to the unicorn, which, being attacked, fights in that manner with its horn.

[…]These four guards can be done in two ways, namely with either the right or the left foot forward.
— Giovanni dall’Agocchie

Marozzo refers to this posture as Becca Cesa (Weak Baldric) and Becca Possa (Strong Baldric), the latter being with the left foot forward.

image image

Guardia di Testa – Head Guard

The second is called guardia di testa, which is when one holds the arm well extended toward the enemy’s face, and the sword on the diagonal, that is, so that its point goes toward your left side, and somewhat towards the ground, and it is called that because it protects the upper parts.
[…]These four guards can be done in two ways, namely with either the right or the left foot forward.
— Giovanni dall’Agocchie

Marozzo’s Guardia di Testa is different. However, Marozzo does illustrate dall’Agocchie’s version in the Segno del Passeggiare above. Also consider the German analogies by Hans Talhoffer, taking note of how it is used as a parry.

image image

Guardia Alta – High Guard

While dall’Agocchie does mention Alta as a guard, he doesn’t like it and lists it among the guards he doesn’t plan on covering in depth. None the less, it is useful for describing a place through which many cuts must pass.

The first is called guardia alta and is seen when the handle of the sword faces upward with the arm well extended, and the point is turned toward the rear, and this is named on account of being the highest one that can be formed.
— Giovanni dall’Agocchie

Illustrations from Marozzo


Cinghiara Porta di Ferro – Wild Boar Iron Gate

The second is called porta di ferro, owing to its similarity to an iron gate, which takes a lot of effort and skill to batter down. Just so, to wound someone positioned in this guard requires skill and wit. This is similarly divided into two types, the one called porta di ferro and the other cinghiale.

The first porta di ferro is when you have the right foot forward and the sword, with your fist, aimed at the enemy. But cinghiale porta di ferro is when you have the left foot forward and on the diagonal, that is, toward your left side, and the sword hand near the left knee on the inside; and the right shoulder facing the enemy. It is named thus by comparison with the boar, or wild pig as we say, which, when it is attacked, approaches with its tusks on the diagonal in order to wound.
— Giovanni dall’Agocchie

Again, Marozzo’s version of these postures is sufficiently different that we are omitting his illustration to avoid confusion.


Exercise 1: Basic Mandritto Cut

  1. Start in Coda Lunga Alta, that is with the left foot forward, with the point aimed at your opponent’s chest or face.
  2. Rotate the arm at the shoulder such that you form Guardia d’alicorno. The point must continue to be aimed at the opponent’s chest or face.
  3. Allow the point to drop into Guardia di Testa, keeping the hand high.
  4. Begin the back swing that brings your sword into Alta.
  5. As the sword passes through Alta and begins to move forward, step such that your right foot lands at the same time your blow would have struck.

Work slowly at first to ensure that you are actually passing through each of the five guards. While there are several steps in this technique, your goal is to be able to perform them all as one continuous action.

Exercise 2: Basic Parry

Both the agent (first fencer to move) and the patient start in Coda Lunga Alta. The agent will perform the cut as described in exercise 1.

As the agent passes through Alta, the patient will step diagonally outwards with his right foot, protecting his head with Guardia di Testa as shown in the Talhoffer illustrations.

To further increase his safety, the patient may rotate the back foot behind the front. Take care to not step so far that the rear foot crosses the front. See the Segno del Passeggiare above for an example of what this should look like.

Exercise 3: Basic Parry and Counter

Repeat exercise 2. After the parry, the patient fencer shall allow the agent’s blade to slide off. He then cuts his own Mandritto (i.e. a cut from right to left) at the Agent’s head or arm.

Reading Assignment:


For longsword, we focused on Meyer’s Example Device.

Refinement: Do note that the second Zwerch must be steeply rising such that it strikes the right arm rather than the head. This is not only harder to parry, it sets us up for the slice on the arm that occurs next.


Reading Assignment:

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Scholars of Alcala Class Notes – May 1, 2016

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Warm-ups focused on the sword dance (a.k.a. Circling the Numbers) and Meyer’s Cross.

Guard of the day: Pflug

Meyer’s Longsword – Analysis of Right Pflug

Today’s emphasis was on the location and orientation of the feet.

  • Back foot must be turned out at roughly 90 degrees.
  • The ankle of the back foot should be straight. Try to avoid rolling your ankle so that the foot is flat on the ground, as you lose stability and traction. And NEVER roll it the other way, as you risk serious injury.
  • Terminology

  • Inside: If both fencers are right handed, the opponent’s blade is to the left such that the point is towards the chest.
  • image

  • Outside: If both fencers are right handed, the opponent’s blade is to the right such that the point is outside the body’s silhouette or over the arm towards the shoulder.
  • image

  • Absetzen – Setting Off: To parry a cut or thrust by means of counter-thrust.
  • You shall learn to skillfully set aside cuts and thrusts, so that your point strikes him and he is countered. When someone stands against you and holds his sword as if he thinks to thrust at you from below, stand against him in the Plough guard on your right side and give yourself an opening on the left side. If he then thrusts from below to this opening, wind with your sword against his thrust, out to your left side, and step towards him with your right foot, so you can hit with your point as he misses.
    — Sigmund Schining ein Ringeck

    Solo Exercises

    Drill 1: Thrusting from Pflug into Langort, rotating the long edge to the left or right depending on where you imagine the opponent’s sword to be.

  • Repeat for either foot forward
  • Repeat with both an increase of the front foot and a passing step
  • For the increase, don’t move the back foot. And especially don’t drag it.
  • Partner Exercises

    Drill 2: Simple thrusts

  • Agent and Patient stand in Pflug on the inside with right foot forward
  • Agent thrusts while increasing the right foot, aiming for the throat
  • Drill 2: Counter-thrusts

  • Agent and Patient stand in Pflug on the inside with right foot forward
  • Agent thrusts while increasing the right foot, aiming for the throat
  • Remaining firm-footed, the Patient counter-thrusts to the throat
  • If done correctly, the patient’s counter-thrust will expel the agent’s blade while landing on target. If it doesn’t work, consider these corrections:

  • No not actively try to parry, as that drives both swords off-line. Instead, concentrate on a clean, accurate thrust and allow the blade geometry to protect you.
  • Fully extend your arms to shoulder height. If you arms are low, or otherwise collapsed, they can’t protect you.
  • Ensure that your long edge is towards your opponent’s blade
  • Don’t step forward, your opponent is already closing the distance for you.
  • Warning: There is a technique the agent can use known as “constraining” or “gaining the blade”. If he does this successfully before attacking, the counter-thrust will not work. In later weeks we’ll explain what this technique is and how to deal with it.

    Repeat this drill on the outside and with either foot forward.

    Drill 3: Counter-thrusts with simple footwork

  • Agent and Patient stand in Pflug on the inside with right foot forward
  • Agent thrusts while increasing the right foot, aiming for the throat
  • Stepping slightly towards your opponent’s blade, roughly 1 to 2 foot-widths (4 to 8”), the Patient counter-thrusts to the throat.
  • This is preferable to the previous drill because it changes the angle of the center-line in a way that directs the agent’s blade away from the patient.

    Thrust and counter-thrust

    Be careful to not exaggerate the step, as it will take longer and give your opponent space to come to the other side. This is called a “disengage” and we’ll cover in depth in a later class.

    Drill 4: Counter-thrusts with simple footwork

  • Agent and Patient stand in Pflug on the inside with right foot forward
  • Agent thrusts while increasing the right foot, aiming for the throat
  • Stepping slightly towards your opponent’s blade, roughly 1 to 2 foot-widths (4 to 8”), the Patient counter-thrusts to the throat.
  • Agent sees the counter and aborts his attack, withdrawing the lead foot.
  • Patient increases (or passes forward) as the Agent passes back, completing his counter-thrust.
  • He we illustrate the importance of small, fast steps when parrying. Had the patient performed a large step in tempo 3, he wouldn’t have the balance and time to pursue in tempo 5.

    Warning: If the patient allows the agent to complete his withdrawal before pursuing, the agent can attack anew as the patient as moves forward. Thus the patient needs to either complete his counter-attack while the agent is preoccupied with moving back or do something else.

    Sword and Buckler

    Guard of the day: Alta

    Keeping with our theme of paying attention to the feet, here’s an old article titled Taking a Long Hard Look at Guardia Alta or Yes, I Know My Feet Are Crossed.

    Since I wrote that, Alan West discovered the purpose of this unusual stance. By turning the feet outwards like that, you pull back the right shoulder. This pulls that sword hand back, where otherwise it would be susceptible to hand strikes such as we see in Manciolino Sword & Buckler Guardia Alta 1.


    Cuts from the right, assuming you are right-handed, are “Mandritto” (straight-handed) or simply “Dritto” (straight). From the left are “Riverso” (reverse). Depending on who you ask, Fendente is used alone with with the Dritto/Riverso modifiers.


    Check you workbooks for the translations of the specific cutting angles. And note, none of this terminology refers to targets. Those are described in terms of what body part you are aiming for.

    Parrying with the Buckler

    In this illustration by di Grassi, we see the correct way of holding the buckler. It should be held nominally at shoulder height, with the arm more or less fully extended. The lines illustrate how as the sword moves closer, then angles become steeper until the point is no longer a threat.

    This of course assumes that your arm is extended. As you bring your buckler closer to the body, the triangles move to the left and again become a danger.

    di grassi

    Under our new theory of the use of the buckler, said buckler is never moved side to side. Rather you always keep it in a straight line between your shoulder and your opponent’s sword shoulder. As he moves, your whole body rotates to keep that relationship.

    Wide Measure Techniques

    Using this method, you always catch your opponent’s cuts on the rim of your buckler. If you find yourself using the face, it probably means that you are “chasing” his sword, parrying too wide left or right instead of just rotating the body.

    For particularly high or low attacks, Manciolino tells us that we may raise or lower the bucker. Note that when you lower it, still keep if between your shoulder and your opponent’s. It is very tempting to let the buckler go wide as you lower it, which exposes your chest and buckler-arm to a follow-up strike.

    Footwork in Wide Measure

    While there are many ways to step with the buckler, we found triangle steps to be of particular use as a pedagogical tool.

    When the opponent throws a mandritto to your left, step diagonally forward with your right foot. Then immediately step back with the left, placing it where your right foot was. This will allow you to rotate your body such that it follows his footwork.

    If he then uses a riverso to your right, step diagonally forward with your left foot, again drawing your other foot back to the center point of the triangle.

    Triagle Steps

    As with all of our diagrams, the right foot is orange and the left is blue.

    Narrow Measure Techniques

    As you and your opponent close, you’ll find that you are catching his sword lower and lower on the blade. Eventually it may get to the point where you are practically hitting his hand with the face of your buckler.

    If that happens, hit his hand with the face of your buckler and keep it there. So long as your boss is against his hand or hilt, he can’t attack you. And once contact is made, you can maintain it by feeling through the buckler where his hand is moving and follow accordingly. (Thus chasing his sword is allowed, after contact.)


    • Dui Tempi – Double Time: A parry that is followed by a separate attack.

    From which one equally recognizes that striking of dui tempi requires at least two movements of the sword.
    — Ridolfo Capoferro

    • Stesso Tempo – Same/Single Time: An attack that is completed at the same time as a parry.

    Now, to the rationale of the two tempi. Even though, as I said above, these may be successful against some, they cannot be remotely compared to the stesso-tempo parry-counter in terms of effectiveness. Indeed, the best and safest way to counter is to meet the body of the opponent in the very moment that he moves forward. If this is not done, you may step back to safety; and if you follow him, you give him an opportunity to parry and to perform another attack.
    — Salvator Fabris

    • Schiltslach – Shield Strike/Shield-knock: To strike with the buckler

    This is the one of the main signature attacks of the I.33. It takes place after a bind and is used throughout the manuscript. It involves stepping out of the bind or rebind and pressing or hitting your opponent arms with your buckler in order to bind them up and then following up with a finishing stroke from your sword. This strike may be a true edge or a false edge; it may be a rising or descending cut. The I.33 doesn’t give us specific directions, but the image shown could be a rising true edge strike to the Priest’s head, or a descending false edge strike. It is also illustrated in several other german manuscripts though it is not labeled as a shield strike.
    — Brian Hunt (modern)

    Partner Exercises

    These are free-from drills, almost like sparring, so care must be taken. Start with a very slow cadence so that each participant develops good reactions. As the attacks and parries become start to become second nature, increase the speed (and safety gear) until you reach sparring speeds.

    This may take several sessions so don’t rush it. It is crucial to develop the correct responses and increasing speed prematurely may instead lead the fencer to rely on panic reflexes.

    Drill 1: The agent throws a series of cuts, slightly out of range and of a moderate height, at the patient who is waiting in Alta. The patient moves his feet accordingly to parry the blows.

    For this exercise, the agent only needs a sword and the patient only needs a buckler.

    Masks and gorgets are required for the remainder of the drills.

    Drill 2: Repeat the first drill, but the agent also aims for the legs or the crown of the head. This allows the patient to practice raising and lowering the buckler without allowing it to float too far to either side.

    Since you are wearing safety gear, the blows may now be in range.

    Drill 3: Once the single parries start looking good, the agent may add combination attacks. This is not a speed drill. Rather, the agent should look for opportunities offered by the patient such as when he parries too wide or otherwise allows the buckler to be wander out of place.

    The agent should especially look to the buckler arm if said buckler goes to the outside. If the buckler wanders too far towards the center, aim for the head over the buckler arm.

    Drill 4: For the next drill, the patient is allowed a sword in addition to his buckler. Continuing from the third drill, the patient may counter-attack from Alta as he parries (stesso tempo) or immediately afterwards (dui tempi).

    As the sword is in Alta, favor parries with the buckler alone so that the sword is available for attacking. (In lower guards, the sword is more active for the defense.)

    The agent should refrain from combination attacks at first, but may add them later.

    A heavy glove on the sword hand is is required for the next drill.

    Drill 5: For this variant of our core drill, the patient is allowed to strike the sword hand of the agent. For safety, this should be a gentle placement or push rather than a hard strike.

    Use this whenever the fencers are close and the patient notices that the sword hand is close to the buckler. Do not overreach or chase the buckler hand; if it isn’t readily exposed then continue using wide measure tactics.

    To facilitate the learning process, the agent may close to make the shield-strike more accessible. However, there is nothing wrong with the patient closing if he sees the opportunity to perform a shield-strike a move or two in advance.


    Today we focused on the first and third precept. Here is some more information on it:

    Meyer’s Wrestling and Dagger – First Precept

    Meyer’s Dagger – More on the First Precept

    Clearly we need more articles and videos on the five dagger precepts.

    Great Sword

    For the bonus section we looked at some great sword techniques.


    Marozzo’s Greatsword – True Edge Stretta 1

    Our first technique was a disarm from Maroozo’s third assault. At the bind, the agent grabs both blades where they cross. Then you slam the hilts together, trapping the opponent’s hand.

    di Grassi’s One-Handed Thrust

    From a low guard, extend both arms in the thrust. When you reach full extension, continue moving forward by advancing the left foot. (This may be an increase or passing step depending on which foot was first.) Once the foot hands, continue to forward momentum by releasing the right hand and rotating the left shoulder forward.

    Thus we’ve actually performed three thrusts in one, with each being used if the previous thrust falls short but the opportunity for attack remains open.

    Note that when thrusting in this manner (or using any of di Grassi’s techniques) you do not lean. Keep an upright posture, shifting the weight forwards or backwards as necessary.


    Simple Recovery

    The simple recovery offered in the text is to simply withdraw the left foot. As the body and sword contract, the right hand can regain the hilt.

    Mutating into a cut

    If the thrust is deflected to either side, allow the sword to pivot at the pommel. The momentum will carry the sword back such that you can regain the hilt with the right hand. As you grab the sword, allow the momentum  to continue around such that you cut from the opposite side. For example, if your sword was beat to the right, step and cut from your left to his right.

    Take care to work with the energy given to you by your opponent. If you fight against it you won’t regain your sword in time.

    Posted in Antonio Manciolino, Dagger, Greatsword, Longsword, Marozzo, Meyer's Dagger, Meyer's Longsword, Sword and Buckler | Tagged | 1 Comment

    Looking at three translations of Manciolino’s First Defense from Alta

    This has always been a difficult passage for me. Swanger’s translation takes liberties with the text, while Leoni’s doesn’t make much sense to me.

    Transcription by Steven Reich

    Accia il nemico qual colpo gli piace per offender te, che sei in guardia alta. Tu dei tre, o quattro fia te percoter l’orlo del Brocchero in su & in giu, cioè con il fendente & con il falso della spada, il che facendo ti ue nirai a render sicurissimo da qualunque offensiuo colpo.

    W. Jherek Swanger Translation

    The enemy makes some blow that pleases him, in order to offend you, who are in guardia alta. You must beat the rim of your buckler up and down, that is, [in response to] the fendente or the falso of his sword [respectively], doing which, you will come to render yourself safe from any offensive blow.

    Tom Leoni’s Translation

    No matter which of the attacks the opponents chooses while you are in Guardia Alta, hit the rim of your buckler with your sword three or four times up and down, using the fendente and the falso. By doing this, you will be most safe against any attack.

    Google Translate

    I’m including Google Translate because, not being a fencer, it is unbiased.

    Accia the enemy what shot he likes to offend you, who are in high guard. You three, or four fia you percoter the rim of Brocchero in up & down, that is with the blow and with the false sword, which you doing ue Nirai to render very safe from any offensiuo blow.


    Lately I’ve been experimenting with a new interpretation. The basic idea is this: your buckler only moves up and down, never side to side.

    For blows that come from above or below, fendente or falso, this obviously works. But where it really helps is for blows that come from the sides. Normally a good way to defeat a bucklerist is to throw a wide blow to one side and, when he chases it, snap back to the other side which is now open.

    Since under my new interpretation I’m not allowed to move the buckler sideways to parry, thus I can’t chase my opponent’s sword and create an opening for him to take advantage of.

    What I can do instead is track my opponent with my buckler. By that I mean I can rotate my whole body such that the boss of my buckler is always facing his center of mass. And I do this whether or not he is attacking so that I’m always covered.

    So far it has proven quite effective so I’m inclined to think that this is what Manciolino is trying to say (or at least closer than what I was doing before).


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