Interpreting Devices, Plays, and Routines

When interpreting a device, play, or routine it is often useful to break it down into individual tempi. Generally speaking, each tempo will consist of a single movement of the sword, a single step, and the guard that you will end the movement in. In order to make this clearer, fencers will often start by highlighting the footwork, sword work, and/or guards found in the passage.

Manciolino

And if the enemy throws to your head […] you can make a show of raising a montante, and in that tempo step forward into large pace with your left foot, and go with your sword into guardia di testa, there awaiting the enemy’s blow upon your sword. Which done, then you will immediately be able to step your right foot toward his left side, giving to him in that tempo a mandritto upon his head, so that your left foot follows behind your right, and going with your sword into guardia di testa for your shelter.

Next the fencer will break down the explicit actions into individual tempi. Since the opponent is throwing the first cut he is marked as Agent and our fencer is Patient. Elsewhere in the text it says both fencers are in Guardia Alta, which is usually right foot forward. Since this is an assumption, it will appear in [brackets].

Tempo

Foot

Sword

Guard

Agent

[Right foot forward]

 

Guardia Alta

Patient

[Right foot forward]

 

Guardia Alta

1

 

 

 

2

 

Prepare for montante

 

3

 

Cut to the head

 

4

 

Parry

Guardia di Testa

5

 

 

 

6

Right foot toward his left side

Mandritto upon his head

 

7

 

 

 

8

Left foot follows behind your right

 

Guardia di Testa

The first question is how our fencer knows to prepare for the montante. Perhaps the Agent isn’t starting in Alta but rather is moving into it. Alta is generally a short guard, he probably entered it with a gathering step.

Tempo

Foot

Sword

Guard

Agent

[Right foot forward]

 

[any]

Patient

[Right foot forward]

 

Guardia Alta

1

[Draw back right foot]

[Prepare for cut]

Guardia Alta

2

 

Prepare for montante

 

3

 

Cut to the head

 

4

 

Parry

Guardia di Testa

5

 

 

 

6

Right foot toward his left side

Mandritto upon his head

 

7

 

 

 

8

Left foot follows behind your right

 

Guardia di Testa

Cuts, whether to wound or to parry, are usually done with a step. It is also said that cuts always end in a guard (though that guard doesn’t necessarily have a name.) In this case Porta di Ferro Alta seems likely. So we’ll make a couple more assumptions here.

Tempo

Foot

Sword

Guard

Agent

[Right foot forward]

 

[any]

Patient

[Right foot forward]

 

Guardia Alta

1

[Draw back right foot]

[Prepare for cut]

Guardia Alta

2

 

Prepare for montante

 

3

[Large step with right foot, follow with left]

Cut to the head

[Porta di Ferro Alta]

4

[Small increase with right foot]

Parry

Guardia di Testa

5

 

 

 

6

Right foot toward his left side

Mandritto upon his head

 

7

 

 

 

8

Left foot follows behind your right

[Cover with riverso]

Guardia di Testa

Tempi five and seven are empty. The opponent is probably going to be doing something during his turn. Perhaps he raising his sword in preparation for another cut. That would free our fencer’s blade, allowing for a quick cut from Guardia di Testa.

For seven he’ll want to parry. Since our fencer is taking a faster action the opponent’s parry will likely fail and head cuts generally end the fight. But to be on the safe side, so our fencer is still protecting himself by returning to Guardia di Testa.

Tempo

Foot

Sword

Guard

Agent

[Right foot forward]

 

[any]

Patient

[Right foot forward]

 

Guardia Alta

1

[Draw back right foot]

[Prepare for cut]

Guardia Alta

2

 

Prepare for montante

 

3

[Large step with right foot, follow with left]

Cut to the head

[Porta di Ferro Alta]

4

[Small increase with right foot]

Parry

Guardia di Testa

5

 

[Prepare for another cut]

 

6

Right foot toward his left side

Mandritto upon his head

 

7

 

[Parry]

 

8

Left foot follows behind your right

[Cover with riverso]

Guardia di Testa

Another aspect of the interpretation process is drawing the footwork diagrams. These help you visualize what’s going to happen during the drill.

image

Our interpretation is making a lot of assumptions, many of which may end up being wrong. This will be revealed through experimentation.

This is a excerpt of  the upcoming Instructions, Terminology, and Footwork revision 3, which is a companion book to our Marozzo and Manciolino workbooks. If you are interested in helping us write our workbooks please contact me.

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