Fechtkunst, the HEMA Video Wiki, is Looking for Supporters

Fechtkunst, the HEMA Video Wiki, was created to make it easier for you to find technique videos on Figueyredo, Mair, Meyer, Fabris, Marozzo, Manciolino, and others. The goal was to comb through YouTube, Vimeo, and other video sharing sites so that someone looking for how to do Meyer’s Example Device or dall’Agocchie’s Stepping in the Guards can not only find an example, but compare interpretations across multiple clubs.

But we need your help.

First and foremost, we need people to adopt a master and start cataloging the videos pertaining to his manual. We’re especially looking for experts on Liechtenauer and Fiore to sift through the various naming/numbering conventions and make sure each video is put on the correct page.

And of course everyone in HEMA needs more videos. Other than Diogo Gomes de Figueyredo and maybe Fiore, I don’t think any manual has a full set of videos for all of the plays. So if you or your if really focused on one master, my challenge to you is to start looking for plays that have never been recorded and put them on video.

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MS I.33: Why is your sword between my arms? (4r)

People often wonder how this curious picture arises:

image

The common speculation that I’ve heard is that it has something to do with Nucken (Nodding). I don’t think that’s the case. Consider this passage,

Here the priest should beware that he doesn’t delay with the sword, lest the delay produces an action, which is called grappling, but he must immediately reform the bind, for the sake of caution.

As I mentioned yesterday, grapping is one of the actions that someone can do following a counter-bind.

So what’s happening here is two simultaneous actions:

  • The scholar on the left has stepped forward and begun the wrap his left arm around the priest’s arms.
  • The priest has performed a mutation in order to establish his own over-bind.

The net result is you have the scholar’s sword on the bottom, the priest’s sword on top of that, and then the scholar’s buckler on top of both.

Seeing this, the priest pulls his arm back (note the bent elbow), slicing both arms of the scholar. Wrenching up as he does this, he twists the scholar’s arms together like a rope, allowing him to finish the illustration with a shield-strike.

So in conclusion, what you are seeing is the counter to a grapple. The priest should have never been in this situation, but now that he is this is the way to get out of it.

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MS I.33 – Actions from and Reactions to the Counter-Bind (2v)

So someone has just fallen under your sword and you counter-bind. What happens next?The manual gives you two options:

Here the scholar rebinds and steps, he is to [do the] schiltslac.
Or enclose the arms of the priest with the left hand.

Translation by Joey Nitti

Counter-Bind then Shield-Strike

As you step forward and drive his sword down to your right, you’ll open the centerline. Take advantage of this by striking his sword hand and buckler with your sword. This constrained, you are then free to strike him with your sword at any convenient opening.

Grappling

As you step forward and both blades are forced down, strike your opponent in the face with the rim of your bucker. Then whether it hits or misses, wrap your left arm around both of his and pull them tight against your left side. In this action you will turn your body away from this, which is acceptable because you have both his arms and a free weapon.

Responses to the Counter-bind

The text offers several responses to the fencer who is being counter-bound.

The priest has three options, namely, mutating the sword so that it is above, or to do the durchtreten, or with the left right hand grasp the scholar’s arms, i.e. sword and shield.

Mutating and Nucken (Nodding)

If he over-binding your sword, you can simply do the same to him. Assuming that he is pushing you to your left, release the pressure and let your sword fall further back and to your left. As soon as the point clears, use a Stramazzone (turn of the wrist) to wheel it around and cut back down on his sword.

Do this quickly, as he may already be starting a rising cut at you following the counter-bind.

It should be noted that the priest is mutating the sword, and will be above, when before he was below.
Finally, he conducts the sword separately at the adversary’s head, which is called nucken, Which produces a separation of sword and shield of the scholar.

After you have established your over-bind, flip the tip up and thrust into the chest or face. This is what I think it means by nucken (nodding), which Joey Nitti defines as “flicking the sword up towards the head from a left overbind”.

Durchtreten or Stepping Through

Basically you just step into your opponent, striking him with an elbow or pommel as you assume the place he was previously standing in.

This works because your opponent has removed both swords from the center-line, leaving it open to your advance.

Note: Some people read Durchtreten as stepping past your opponent. That’s fine, but I think the shortest distance between me and a spot behind my opponent is through him.

Grappling

As your sword is being driven down, pass forward with your right foot. In this passing step, you’ll turn your right shoulder towards your opponent. Wrap your right arm around both of his. As you do this, point your sword forward rather than down, otherwise you’ll have to drop it to complete the grapple. (Imagine that you are stacking both swords on top of each other.) Again, you’ll end up facing away from your opponent.

If he hasn’t already dropped his own sword, strip it from him using your buckler hand.

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Manciolino’s Sword and Buckler: Sotto il Braccio Part 2

Where we last left off, we had the agent throwing a Falso (rising, back-edge cut) from Sotto il Braccio (underarm) in an attempt to thwart his opponent’s expected response.

Chapter 11/12, Play 2 Counter

The counter to the Falso sounds complex, but in practice is very easy to accomplish. Begin by throwing your own Falso without moving your feet. This puts you in a False Edge on False Edge Stretta, also known as crossed swords, half-swords, or a bind.

Seeing his initial line closed, the agent will continue his device by cutting around. That is to say, leaving the bind by folding his sword back enough to clear the blades, then cutting a Mandritto to the other side. This will be accomplished with a passing step to the right.

To make room for yourself, pass back your right foot while bringing your sword into Cinghiara Porta di Ferro. Your hilt will be inside your right knee, possibly over the left, with the point sticking out under your buckler. When done correctly, your opponent should fear your point which will be quite close to the face.

As soon as you are sure his Mandritto is no longer a threat, either because it missed or was blocked by the buckler, password forward with the same right foot while thrusting to the face. This should drive your opponent back, as he isn’t wont to be hit in the face by such as obvious threat.

Regardless if it hits or misses, follow up your thrust with another passing step. In this step, you are explicitly told to aim for the shins. While you this, strike his sword and buckler with your buckler, pushing them into his chest or towards his face.

Why Aim for the Shins?

This instruction only makes sense if you are very close to your opponent. Normally reaching for the shins just leaves you exposed, as it is too far away and your buckler can’t defend both your arm and your head.

But if you are close, then an attack to the thigh will lack power because it hits with the wrong part of the sword. While it will probably still do some damage, the attack to the shin should be far more effective.

Also keep in mind that the thighs are more likely to be covered with heavy clothing or even armor. The shins, on the other hand, are more likely to simply be covered in hose.

Theory: Distance and Measure

The theory behind this play is a common one in Bolognese fencing. Through the use of expansion and contraction, you can control the distance between you and your opponent, denying him his attacks while keeping him in measure for your attacks.

This is why it is important to understand that distance and measure aren’t the same thing. While distance can be expressed in the absolute terms of feet and inches, measure describes what you can do based on not only distance, but also where your feet are relative to him and each other.

Theory: Attacking High and Low

Another theory that Manciolino talks about is aiming high, then striking low, and vice versa. This is easy to understand, if someone is guarding his face then he’ll be too busy to guard his legs.

Correction: Don’t Use Coda Lunga

If you are performing the counter, be careful that you don’t pass back into Coda Lunga. Which is to say, don’t place your hilt to the outside of your right knee. This will cause two problems:

  1. You give up the center-line, allowing your opponent to thrust with opposition (i.e. while pushing your sword off-line).
  2. Coda Lunga will draw your point so far back that it isn’t a creditable threat.

Why would the Attacker Leave the Bind?

When the swords are bound, and you have no buckler, leaving the bind is usually a very bad idea. If you try, you’ll be struck before you can get your sword back into play.

With a buckler the rules are different. You can often leave the bind without undue risk because your buckler is still offering protection. In fact, there is a technique known as a transfer (modern term) where you as you leave a bind with your sword, you place a buckler or dagger against the opponent’s blade to continue the bind by another means.

What if the Attacker Winds During the Stretta?

Again, with a buckler the rules are different. If someone tries to wind from the False Stretta, the other fencer can respond by stepping forward while striking the sword hand with his buckler. If the winding fencer’s buckler is protecting the hand, as it should, it will be collected in the process and both buckler and sword will be pinned against the body.

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MS I.33 – Falling Under from Underarm (2r)

In my post titled Manciolino’s Sword and Buckler: Sotto il Braccio Part 1, I discussed the basic attacks from Sotto il Braccio/First Ward/Underarm. My premise was that you wouldn’t use horizontal or rising true edge cuts from Underarm because they are too easy to parry. This theory is supported by the lack of explicit rising cuts from the text and experimental research.

Turning to MS I.33, we find this passage,

The first ward has two oppositions,
the first opposition is halpschilt, the second langort.
If halpschilt is conducted, fall under sword and shield.

Translation by Joey Nitti

And the accompanying illustration:

image

Note: The fencer on the left is referred to as the priest and is agent or first mover in this passage. On the right we see the scholar, noted by his raised hood.

As I’ve said before, where you bind matters. The goal is to place your point such that you are presenting a direct threat to the opponent’s face. Binding higher on his sword, or lower on yours, removes that threat and makes it easy for him to disengage over the top. Binding higher on your sword allows him to dominate your blade with his hilt.

But how to do you get there. We are told to “fall under”, which implies a downward movement. If it were a rising cut, he would have written something to the effect of “rise beneath”.

This is consistent with our Sotto il Braccio theory. And as mentioned above, any other true edge cut would be ridiculously easy to parry. (Try it; its quite amusing to stand without posture or structure and still fend off rising cuts delivered with power by barely moving ones arm.)

An interesting feature of this “falling under” is that it opens your opponent’s sword by striking the flat as it comes in. This isn’t intentional like a beat, but rather just a side-effect of throwing a descending cut that lands just before the face.

Basic Response: Attack the Head

The text continues,

If he is common, he will seize the head, then you stichslach [thrust],
if he rebinds and steps against you, then you schiltslac [shield-strike].

If patient responds with a cut to the head or thrust to the face (my club favors the thrust), the agent should simply counter-thrust. With his point already so close to the face, this is easy.

Basic Response: Counter-Bind

The counter-binds seem to be very important to MS I.33 style fencing. Essentially you step forward while driving your opponent’s sword down with your own. A step is frequently, but no always, necessary to fully dominate the opponent’s sword.

When faced with a counter-bind, punch his sword hand with your shield. If he is properly covering his hand with his buckler, you’ll pin them both to his body. This action will free your sword to use as you see fit.

Underarm vs. Underarm: Who Counter-binds?

When both fencers are in underarm, either can counter-bind; it is just a matter of who is more alert when the blades meet.

If one fencer started in Guardia di Testa/Halpschilt, he can more easily counter-bind even without a step. His opponent who just left under-arm probably shouldn’t try unless his opponent sets aside his thrust.

Thoughts on Context

If we accept the general premise that I.33 favors the fencers performing the obsessio from Halpschilt, etc., over the fencer in a ward, then why spend so much time showing how underarm can win?

  • To illustrate what the fencer in Halpschilt needs to be expecting.
  • Because sometimes you need to cut, and that can place you in a ward.
  • Because winning with Halpschilt is easy, while underarm requires specific techniques.
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Manciolino’s Sword and Buckler: Sotto il Braccio Part 1

When looking at Sotto il Braccio, also known as Under-Arm or First Ward (MS I.33), the general assumption is that the most natural attack is an upwards diagonal cut with the true edge. Which is why I find it so interesting that Manciolino doesn’t teach that cut.

I’ll explain what I mean through a series of drills.

Posture

For the purpose of these drills, we will be keeping the right foot forward. While Manciolino allows for either a wide or narrow stance and the plays seem to work equally well with both modes.

Unless otherwise stated, both fencers begin in the same guard. This is a convention that Manciolino uses in his text.

Ridoppio from Sotto il Braccio

To begin, we’ll a basic Ridoppio (diagonal rising attack) from Sotto il Braccio. The agent, or first fencer, will pass his left foot diagonally forward while performing this attack.

The patient fencer shall step likewise, parrying with a simple Riverso (attack from the left).

The patient should find his basic parry to be especially easy. As the German’s are fond of saying, an attack from below can be taken away by an attack from above.

Riverso to the Face

This next exercise may be done against a pell or static opponent without a sword.

First without the buckler, try a series of true edge Reversi that aim for the face from an underarm-like position. Note that no matter the angle, Squalembrato (descending diagonal), Tondo (horizontal), or Ridoppio, hitting the face is fairly easy.

Now repeat the experiment with a buckler in hand. While the Squalembrato and, to a lessor extent the Tondo, can hit the face, the buckler arm prevents a clean cut with the Ridoppio unless you allow it to float ridiculously high. And even then, the blow is more likely to strike the shoulder than face.

Chapter 11/12, Play 1

The first technique that Manciolino teaches for Sotto il Braccio is the aforementioned Riverso to the Face. As mentioned above, these formal drills assume both fencers start in the same guard.

In this drill, it is important that the agent step wide with the left foot. This changes the line of engagement, allowing the Riverso to strike behind the outstretched buckler. If the agent steps directly forward, the patent is protected without having the move.

If you try the same basic parry as used the Ridoppio, you’ll find that the parry is less satisfying. It is harder to perform correctly, especially if the agent steps particularly wide.

Chapter 11/12, Play 1 Counter

The counter is a matching passing step to the left with a Riverso directed at the right temple. At first blush, that doesn’t make much sense. If the patient actually hits the right temple, it won’t be in the right place to parry and both fencers will be wounded.

The trick is in the wording. You aren’t told to actually strike the temple, but rather to go “at him toward his right temple”. What’s that look like just slightly outside of range?

Untitled-1

By cutting through the temple line, you will make contact at a triangle formed by his sword and buckler. The exactly angle isn’t too important, so long as it isn’t so shallow that it strikes the buckler on the way end.

This leads us to an important concept that is unique to sword and buckler fighting, the parting of the tools. It is almost always advantageous to have your sword between your opponent’s sword and buckler.

When performing this technique, there are three ways that wounds can be inflicted.

  • Striking the head on the way down
  • Hitting the sword at the right angle to push it out of the way, thus continuing the counter-cut to the sword arm.
  • Release the bind by rotating the false edge outwards, followed by a mandritto.

During this counter, your buckler should be covering your sword arm.

Falso from Sotto il Braccio

This next exercise may be done against a pell or static opponent without a sword.

There are two ways to through the falso from Sotto il Braccio, soft and hard.

The hard falso is essentially a beat. This opens up your opponent’s sword, giving you room for either a cut or thrust as you see fit. Care must be taken, as the contact informs your opponent of your intentions and he won’t give you much time to work. The strength of the blow is also very important. You need to be hard enough to create room to work, but not so hard to you take your own sword far off line.

The soft falso is a bit different in philosophy. Rather than removing his sword from your presence, you remove your presence from his sword. You do this with a wide step. At the same time, you bring your point on line with the same motion as real falso, but you make little or no contact with his blade. You simply stop with your sword somewhat below and behind his, allowing for rising thrust to the eye. I like setting this up so that the falso puts the point just in front of the left eye.

Chapter 11/12, Play 2 [Counters Play 1]

Though not stated anywhere in the text, it isn’t unusual to find an attack to be a counter to the previous counter. For example, if someone tries to use the Play 1 counter against the Falso in play 2, it just won’t work. The patient will find that he meets the sword far to high on the blade to really have any kind of effect.

After the failed parry, the agent can simply release the bind and cut a mandritto right back down the same line. This requires a hard falso, as you need to ensure you have room for the cut.

During this falso, the agent’s buckler falls under the sword arm. Then during the mandritto, or immediately thereafter, he can push the boss of the buckler against the opponent’s sword arm, pinning it to the chest.

Chapter 11/12, Play 2 Alternative

While there is nothing wrong with the play as written, my club prefers the thrust. After the falso makes contact with the sword, rotate the point down and the hilt up so that you may thrust into the chest behind the buckler.

Be careful to not rotate the sword’s edge too far. While you certainly don’t need a 90-degree angle between the blades, you need at least a little edge against his in order to capture his blade with your quillon (cross guard) as you thrust. If you turn your flat against his edge, his blade will ride down said flat and injure your fingers.

This variant can be done with either the hard or soft falso. The choice between the two should be based on the opponent’s temperament.

I’ll address the counter to play 2 in a future post.

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Differences in the Guards between Anonimo Bolognese and other Masters

The translation for Anonimo Bolognese is available as a paid course by Ilkka Hartikainen, so I’m going to avoid full quotes. Spend the 15 bucks, it’s worth it. The order is as presented by Hartikainen (presumably the same as the text).

Guardia di Testa – Head Guard

Nothing new here if you’ve been reading my blog. Both arms straight forward towards the enemy, the sword hand slightly lower than the buckler. There is an admonishment about not raising the hands above shoulder height which comes across much stricter than Manciolino’s text.

Guardia Alta – High Guard

Key differences is that Anonimo has you aim the sword straight back, while the illustrations in Marozzo show the point straight up or slightly back.

Unstated elsewhere, Anonimo has you keep your legs straight and “not bent in the slightest”. If in the narrow version, he has both, there are no more than four fingers between the feet.

Guardia di Lioncorno – Unicorn Guard

Pretty much the same as dall’Agocchie, except of course he includes the buckler which is also pushed towards the face.

Guardia di Faccia – Face Guard

Here he stresses that the arms be no lower than the shoulders. Otherwise it is the same.

Guardia di Sopra il Bracco – Over-the-arm Guard

In this passage Anonimo is much more explicit than the other masters. The elbow of the sword arm must cross the buckler arm almost at the elbow.

You could interpret the sword’s position as I.33’s Third Ward (Left Shoulder), however nothing else matches. Anonimo instructs your to push the bucker outwards strongly towards the face, and have no more than “a palm wide” between the feet with only a slight bend to the front knee.

Anonimo also instructs you to point the shoulder at the enemy, but doesn’t say which one. I’m assuming the right, since the right foot is forward.

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When compared to Manciolino, the only concrete difference is that Manciolino has both a narrow and wide version, wherein Anonimo is limited to the narrow.

Guardia di Entrare – Entering Guard

This guard is not well described, so we can’t use it to settle the differences between Marozzo (true edge down) and dall’Agocchie (true edge right). None the less, it does have some useful advice:

  • Arms straight forward
  • Point towards the face
  • Right foot forward with the knee well bent
  • Right foot is “placed lightly”, which I would read as keeping most of your weight on the rear foot.

Guardia di Sotto il Bracco – Under-the-arm Guard

Like Manciolino, the sword arm is explicitly placed in the armpit, not just anywhere under the buckler arm. Anonimo references Sopra il Bracco for the footwork, which means narrow only versus Manciolino’s either.

Porta Alta di Ferro – High Iron Gate

Anonimo explicitly aims the point at the face, otherwise the text seems to match Marozzo’s illustration. Key points include the hilt at the height of the tip of the thigh and the right shoulder towards the enemies breast. As in the illustration, both knees are bent.

image

The buckler should be “held in front of the tallest point of the shoulders”. The text doesn’t say if it should be somewhat out to the side as in Marozzo or pushed forward as in other guards. Either way, it is meant to protect the head.

Porta Stretta di Ferro – Narrow Iron Gate

Anonimo has you lower the sword hand from Porta Alta di Ferro to the top of the knee. We are told that the buckler is pushed forward to protect the arm (suggesting that Marozzo’s illustration is the correct interpretation for the pervious guard).

Manciolino says that the buckler should be at shoulder height as with Guardia di Testa, but that isn’t necessarily in conflict with Anonimo’s instructions.

Porta larga di Ferro – Wide Iron Gate

Anonimo is more explicit about the hand going between the knees, otherwise it’s the same as Manciolino.

dall’Agocchie is slightly different. While Anonimo and Manciolino have you drop the point towards the ground, dall’Agocchie only has you lower it somewhat.

Cinghiara Porta di Ferro Alta – Wild Boar Iron Gate High

This is not described elsewhere, though hinted at.

Anonimo uses a great step to the left, with the left knee well bent and the right straight. The sword will be straightened towards the face (makes me think of Punta Riversa) and the buckler defends the head.

Cinghiara Porta di Ferro Stretta – Wild Boar Iron Gate Narrow

Again, the other masters don’t really described this one.

Anonimo says that it is the same as the Alta version, except the hand is lowered to be in front of the left knee.

Cinghiara Porta di Ferro Larga – Wild Boar Iron Gate Wide

As above, but the point goes towards the ground and the hand moves inwards slightly so that the blade goes across the left knee.

Coda Lunga e Alta – Long and High Tail Guard

Anonimo adds that the hilt should be “no higher than where the humeri [the shoulders here, I suppose]” (translator’s note) and that the left foot will “stop under a somewhat bent knee” with a large step.

The right foot forward version is mentioned later with no changes other than foot position.

Coda Lunga e Stretta – Long and Narrow Tail Guard

Same as above, but with the hilt knee high.

The right foot forward version is mentioned later with no changes other than foot position.

Coda Lunga e Larga – Long and Wide Tail

As above, but with the point down.

The right foot forward version is mentioned later with no changes other than foot position.

Coda Lunga Lunga

This is the same as Coda Lunga e Distesa (Long and Outstretched Tail).

The right foot forward version is mentioned later. In addition to the change in foot position, he says this one has the buckler pushed forward. (Does this mean the buckler is retracted with the left foot forward? If so, why?)

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