Recruiting using Movies and TV

My club just had our first movie-themed meetup. This one used the “dance lessons” from the Game of Thrones as a way to get people interest in a 3 hour seminar on Bolognese fencing.

It was a rousing success. We had five guests, four of whom were ladies with no prior experience. All five of them lasted for the entire four hours of the seminar (yes, we ran long) with no signs of excessive fatigue. Many of them expressed interest in joining our club, especially if allowed to drag their husbands along.

Our next seminar has The Princess Bride as the theme. Still a month away, we already have five more people signed up for it.

Based on the feed back I got, the biggest fear for our guests was “getting in over their head”. They had no idea what joining a fencing club entailed, and were afraid of even trying it out during our open session. So by presenting this as a light hearted, gentle introduction designed to feed their curiosity, rather than as a martial art class, we were able to overcome their reservations.

Things we did right

No advertising. We didn’t even mention our regular classes until one of our guests asked. Today was about them having fun, not recruiting.

A good balance between lecture and practical application. I’m not sure how to explain the pacing, but we alternated between explaining concepts and having people actually move around. This gave them plenty of time to rest their arms, allowing them to participate the whole time.

Lots of variety. Unlike a real class, where we keep drilling one topic until everyone gets it right, we stayed with each exercise only as long as people were still enjoying it. This allowed us to cover a variety of topics and weapons, far more than we would for a traditional introductory class.

No talking during water breaks. Some instructors (including myself in the past) try to save time by starting their lectures during the water break. This is a bad idea. Either the student won’t actually drink water, or they won’t pay attention to the lecture. By giving them a real break, everyone came back alert.

No set plan. We had one, but immediately threw it out and just winged it. This worked really well for us because we could constantly tweak the class based on how the students were feeling. Obviously this wouldn’t work when you have 20 students, but with a small group I feel that it made it personal.

Alternating presenters. With a 3 to 4 hour seminar, people are going to get tired of hearing one voice. So David and I swapped off from time to time, which again helped keep them engaged.

No bitching. No complaining about the SCA, Adrian Empire, other HEMA groups, movies, TVs, etc. Even when someone brought up the issue about flat parries, we kept it very polite. I mentioned how John Clements made that mistake back around 2000, praised his work in general, and focused on why we parry mostly with the edge. I was very careful to avoid turning it into a “JC is a moron” rant because our guests neither wanted nor needed to hear that crap.

Lots of time for experimentation. Each exercise included a basic and an advanced version. We phrased the advanced version as “you could also…” and focused on the basic. Some of the students took it upon themselves to try the advanced version, at which point we gave one-on-one tips. I think this helped them feel like they were more in control and participating rather than just passively mimicking what everyone else was doing.


Some of the lectures went off topic. For example, we were talking about the role of Assaulti and somehow managed to stray into how people in the Renaissance would don armor from the 1400 to 1600’s and then try to reenact King Author and the Knights of the Round Table. It was a good discussion, but untimely.

We were so eager to get into the exercises that we forgot to team them how to hold a sword. We spotted the problem when we noticed that people were getting tired way too quickly. After the mistake was rectified, the fatigue went away and the smiles returned.

I was late. Showing up 5 minutes before class is fine, for normal practices that include an open session. But when I rolled up there were already 4 people talking with the other instructor, meaning I was setting up during his first lecture. Had I actually arrived 15 minutes early like I had planned, that is still a bit iffy. I forgot that the students would also be showing up early as to not miss the beginning of the seminar.

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Marozzo’s Greatsword – True Edge Stretta 6

This stomp needs no explanation.

Marozzo (Translation by Craig Pitt-Pladdy)

Again, being engaged with the enemy at true-edge on true-edge, immediately, as you meet him at the said true-edge I want that you give them your left foot passing forward in his right leg; nearby to the ankle and for this reason you will give him so low to his spite, he falls to the ground, of the side or inside [laterally backwards].

Video Interpretation

We had to make a couple tweaks to this one in order to avoid breaking our partner’s ankle.

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Marozzo’s Greatsword – True Edge Stretta 5

The next play is a counter against someone who rushes in from the bind.

Marozzo (Translation by Craig Pitt-Pladdy)

Now watch that being engaged the enemy with the true-edge with true-edge he charges you strongly on to the above said and I make this because he has reason to charge against you, but so, seeing this, you will cast your left leg to cross his right leg outside and at the same time that you will throw the said leg, you will give him your left arm in the throat, under the chin, in front and there you will thrust the said arm outside and the leg inside, in a way that you will throw him to the ground without needing anything else.

This is pretty easy to understand. Just throw your left leg behind his right, your left arm to his throat, and he’ll easily go to the ground.

Video Interpretation

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Bolognese Sword and Buckler – What does Guardia di Testa Look Like?

What does Guardia di Testa look like with the sword and buckler? This posture is not illustrated and the written descriptions are open to interpretation.

Antonio Manciolino

The second is called “guardia di testa” which is made with equal and even extension of both arms toward the enemy in this fashion: that when you will have extended your fists, they will be found between and at the height of the shoulders, differing only in this, that the sword hand must lie somewhat lower than that of the buckler. But coming to the feet, I say that they can be found in two ways, either with the right or with the left forward in large pace, and nonetheless it will be the same guard, for the aforesaid reason.

Achille Marozzo

In this head guard one can be both agente and patiente, but I shall first speak of defense. If anyone should cut at him with a mandrtitto fendente or sgualembrato, or a tramazone, thou wilt make him parry in head guard, and then from this guard to pass to the attack; he can do so with a thrust from the right over the hand, or a mandritto fendente, or tondo, or sgualembrato, or falso dritto.

From this head guard, thou wilt make him proceed with a thrust from the left in his adversary’s face, and advance his left leg in front of the right, rather sideways to the left, and point his sword straight in his adversary’s face. He will thus find himself in the Guardia d’Intrare.

Current Interpretation

My group, and to the best of my knowledge most other groups, interpret Guardia di Testa with the buckler as being just like Marozzo’s Guardia di Testa with the sword alone. The only difference is that the left arm is extended.


But why mimic that one with the sword off to the side? What about this Guardia di Testa with the sword directly in front of the body?


I.33 and Manciolino

Lets recap the instructions from Manciolino.

  1. equal and even extension of both arms toward the enemy
  2. they will be found between and at the height of the shoulders
  3. the sword hand must lie somewhat lower than that of the buckler
  4. either with the right or with the left forward in large pace

Now look at this illustration


  • Arms extended towards the enemy, check.
  • Arms at the height of the shoulder, check
  • Arms between the shoulders, check
  • Sword hand slightly lower, check
  • Left or right foot forward, come on, this is I.33

I’ve known all this for years. Yet I’ve still clung onto the old interpretation that I was taught with the hands separate. I need something more to make me break my old habits.

Aurélien Calonne on Anonimo Bolognese

I’m currently working a lot on bolognese stuff and translating Marozzo into French and a little bit of the “anonymous”.

For your help, here is a summary of what the “anonymous” says about the guardia di testa :

– buckler must held on the edge of the sword to cover the fingers
– buckler must be outstretched toward the enemy
– both hand must be at shoulder height but the sword hand is a bit lower

For me the buckler is neither square neither sideway, more in between these two position, like we see it on the figure of coda longa e distesa in Marozzo (and note that from coda lunga e distesa Marozzo make his student goes into guardia di testa just by raising the sword). Then by experience once I have parry the enemy’s blow in guardia di testa I follow with a mandritto and try to keep the buckler on the enemy sword while delivering it and walking onto the enemy.

The second and third of Anonimo’s rules are the same as Manciolino, but the first is new. It is telling us to protect the sword hand with the buckler, which means the two are very close to each other. So we’re back to preferring the I.33 version.

And this makes a lot of sense. I see variants of Halpschilt in virtually every illustrated sword and buckler manual. So why wouldn’t the Bolognese also have a version of this guard?

Marozzo, Coda Lunga e Distesa


Checking in with Marozzo

Marozzo says that we must be able to throw a “thrust from the left” to the face from Guardia di Testa into Guardia d’Intrare. While I certainly can do this from my old interpretation of the posture, from Halpschilt it requires far less movement of the hand prior to the thrust itself.

Marozzo, Guardia d’Intrare


Assaulting with Manciolino


and passing forward thereafter with your left
foot, you will touch your buckler again, arranging your sword into guardia di testa, the buckler falling along your left thigh, and then you will step forward with your right foot, lifting your sword into guardia alta,


2. Pass forward with the left foot and perform a ritocco [possibly a pommel strike to the inside of the face of the buckler] placing your sword in Guardia di Testa and lowering your buckler alongside your left thigh.

3. Pass forward with the right foot and lift your sword into Guardia Alta

Two things that have long troubled me is the striking of the buckler with the pommel and the lowering of the buckler to the thigh.


Well there’s the pommel hitting the inside edge of the buckler.



And there’s two options for lowering the bucker to the thigh.


When I last considered this idea in 2o12, I was just toying with random ideas. But given what I’ve learned in the last 3 years, the evidence is overwhelming. Short of someone producing a historic illustration of Guardia di Testa proving otherwise, I’m going to have to consider it to be essentially the same as Halpschilt.

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L’Ange – Chapter 2 More on Quarta and Secunda

L’Ange begins with a salute, which I won’t repeat here. I will note that he warns to only use the salute in a friendly match, never when fighting in earnest.


This guard is the most graceful and the most useful for defense.

Initial Quarta

  • The body is upright
  • The sword is held firmly close the to hilt
  • Arm is extended
  • Heels are together.

Transition into Proper Quarta

  • Extend the right foot forward one step
  • Keep the right leg straight, or even better, slightly bent so you are in a low posture
  • Bend the left knee
  • Keep the weight on the left foot so that you can easily move the right in order to thrust, feint, or pull back as necessary
  • The point of your sword, right foot, and left heel should be in a straight line.
  • Keep the left hand near the face so that you are ready to parry, grab the opponent’s sword, grapple, etc.


This guard is useful for both attacking and defending.

Proper Secunda

  • Arm extended
  • Body forward
  • Head near the arm so you can’t be attacked over your sword
  • Look under your hilt for your opponent’s openings
  • Left hand is advanced below in front of your face
  • Right knee is bent
  • Left knee is extended, but feel free to bend it as necessary when breaking measure

Transition into Proper Quarta

  • Straighten the right knee somewhat, but not fully
  • Bend the rear knee
  • Swiftly turn the body [so that the left shoulder is behind]



Note how the feet are narrower in this illustration, especially for quarta. Also, the quillons are closer to horizontal in this version.

Drill 1

This is inspired by L’Ange’s transition between the guards as summarized above.

  1. Stand at attention, sword by the left as if in a sheath
  2. Turn the left foot out while raising the sword in a salute
  3. Extend the arm into Initial Quarta
  4. Transition into Proper Quarta by extending the right leg without shifting the weight forward. Extend the left arm at the same time.
  5. Transition into Proper Secunda by shifting the weight forward while raising the sword and lowering the head. The left hand will lower slightly.
  6. Transition back into Proper Quarta by
  7. [Repeat the transitions between Quarta and Secunda several times, ending in Quarta]
  8. Retract the right leg into a salute
  9. Return to attention
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L’Ange – Quarta and Fatigue

During this week’s practice we were running into fatigue issues. Both fencers were having trouble staying in L’Ange’s recommended Quarta.


Looking closely as the illustration, our mistake is clear. Instead of placing the pommel under the base of the hand, we were allowing it to float near the wrist. This in turn caused us to try to support the entire weight of the sword with the fingers.

This is not much different from how Jeff Jacobson of Tattershall demonstrates in his video How to Hold a Rapier.

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Maister Liechtenawers Kunstbuech – More on Gripping the Sword with your Buckler Hand

I.33 isn’t the only manual showing the left thumb over the blade.



Note that the right fencer’s sword is in his buckler hand, freeing his sword hand to grab his opponent’s hilt.


Here we can clearly see the left thumb over the blade.


Again, a thumb on the blade.


This time the left thumb is over the quillon.

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