Antonio Manciolino – The Rules of Fencing

For my own benefit, I have rewritten his rules in my own words. But I left one quote as the original, as I feel that it is by far the most important.


Don’t malign those you defeat, for the honor you gained by the victor is dependent on the reputation of the vanquished.

Fight a diversity of opponents will make you more perceptive, cunning, and nimble of hand.

Never linger in a guard. Keep moving so that your opponent won’t form an opinion.

If someone throws his blows with too much power you have a handful of options. You can void the blow and let it fall harmlessly, or you can leap forward and ward the blow before it builds up power, or you can just strike at the hands so he cannot throw any more.

The hand, not the enemy, is your target. In earnest combat it is the most frequent wound because it is the most exposed and taking it out takes away your opponent’s ability to offend.

An onside attack is the hardest to do and leaves you the most vulnerable, so it is also the most prestigious.

Watch the sword hand to know what the rest of the body is going to do.

Learning how to parry with elegance is more prestigious than learning to cut, for everyone knows how to throw a good cut but very few know how to parry them.

Learning timing is important, especially the tempo after a cut when a counter-attack cannot be parried.

Shorter fencers should use shorter weapons to match.

Train with all techniques and weapons with both hands.

High guards are for attacking first, then warding. Low guards are primarily for parrying first, then attacking. The low guards are also useful in that the thrust is natural from them.

Attacks must follow parries lest you appear timid. And step forward when parrying so that you appear brave and you defense is stronger. And if you do happen to be hit, it will be more likely be with the ineffectual mid to hilt half of the sword.

If you opponent tends to flee, pretend to flee yourself. That will give him the false courage needed to lure him in close.

Time and distance, tempo and measure, are needed to reliably win.

When fighting close, don’t throw full cuts because they take away your sword when you need it to defend you. Instead throw the imperfect half-cuts.

When fighting with someone of equal skill and neither know when to attack, guess when he will attack and attack in that exact same moment. Or give him a reason to think he should attack, basically a bait, then spring as soon as he begins.

Lets say you want your opponent to throw a specific blow that you know how to parry with ease. Throw the same said blow three of four times, so that he will be inclined to ape your actions and give you what is desired.

If you want to wound high, begin with low attacks. Likewise, to wound low begin with high cuts that draw his defense upwards.

Attack right from the beginning before your opponent has time to settle into a guard.

Always hold both arms out, for both defense and for stronger blows.

Practice with heavy weapons so your real ones will feel lighter.

In the art of the edged sword, stick to the low guards so that you can defend the leg and from the parry.

The best fighters use false edge parries because they can defend and strike almost at the same time.

In either combat or play, don’t let the other win simply by throwing an abundance of blows or otherwise presuming they are better.

Learning to fight with the single sword is better than any other weapon combination, for you are more likely to have that than anything else.

When fighting a left-handed fencer, step constantly to his sword side. Counter a riverso with a mandritto to the hand, likewise a riverso in response to a mandritto.

Don’t forget that stepping with even feet, that is to say with no more than half a buckler’s width between them, if often useful as it allows you to step in any direction without inconvenience.

One may not be called perfect in this art, as it is likewise in others, if he does not know how to teach someone else. Because as the philosopher says in the Ethics: that the sign of knowledge is to know how to teach.

When fighting with a longsword at wide measure, watch the upper half of the blade, center to point. Once you reach half-swords (i.e. the bind), shift your attention to the left hand as it will drive any presa.

Learning the play at half-swords is important, for if you don’t know it you have to flee from the bind in shame and danger.

If your opponent is significantly stronger than you, don’t allow yourself to be caught in a situation requiring a presa for he will overpower you.

If you are stronger than your opponent and get the choice of armor, prefer heavy armor to weigh down the weaker fencer.

If you are taller and get the choice of armor, armor the legs and leave the upper body exposed. Likewise, if you are shorter than armor only the upper body as the leg is your target.

Shorter weapons are more dangerous than longer weapons for there is less time to defend and double-kills are more likely.

When playing, praise the one who receives the first blow and counter-strikes, for he demonstrates an increase in valor rather than a decrease from the first received hit.

After receiving a blow it is legit to make multiple counter-attacks while taking cross-steps.

Three points for a head-shot! Two for the foot, as it is the hardest target to hit.

A good fencer redoubles his blows.

Long weapons are better than shorter ones. A lance is better than a great sword, a spear better than a longsword.

To scare your opponent, prefer blows from middle up instead of middle down. Make him see the blade flash before his eyes.

Don’t telegraph your intentions, but feel free to telegraph lies.

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One Response to Antonio Manciolino – The Rules of Fencing

  1. Pingback: Meyer’s Forward – General Advice on Parrying | Grauenwolf's Study of Western Martial Arts

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