Giovanni dall’Agocchie – Introduction and His Complaint about Modern Fencing Masters

Giovanni dall’Agocchie presents the first book of his Dell’Arte di Scrimia as a dialog between himself and Lepido Ranieri. I am primarily using the William Jherek Swanger translation.

It begins with Giovanni attempting to convince Lepido of the importance in learning how to fence. Lepido questions the idea of fencing as a separate skill in part because the one who knows how to fence does not always defeat those who don’t. Giovanni says that the person who lost was not fencing properly and thus not truly a fencer,  a tautology that Lepido calls him on. After a couple more rounds Giovanni eventually offers a justification that Lepido accepts. Essentially his case is that fencing is like speech, mankind has the innate ability to speak but still needs to be taught elocution in order to reason about it.

Fencing Masters

Giovanni then laments the current state of affairs in which anyone can declare themself a fencing master. In Giovanni’s time, anyone who had learned a bit of theory could immediately open their own school and start teaching.

In ages past one needed to pass a series of tests before calling oneself a master. The first test was on theory and practice. Then the masters would present the candidate with a scholar that was fencing poorly. The candidate needed to demonstrate that he could identify what the scholar was doing wrong and successfully correct him. Later the masters would put forth a series of good scholars that the candidate would then teach. If successful at this as well then the candidate would earn his patents and be allowed to open his own school.


Giovanni uses six headings in for the next section, which I have condensed into these titles

  • Parts of the sword
  • Attacks
  • Guards
  • Footwork
  • Defense
  • Half-sword

Parts of the Sword

The edge that faces towards your middle knuckle is the true edge, the other is the false edge. This is true whether you are right or left handed. That’s all he covers for now.

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