Through many year and many clubs I’ve tried to learn Marozzo’s first assault for the two-handed sword. The very first action is a Falso Impuntanto, something that everyone seems to stumble over.
A plain reading of the text suggests it is some of push-cut, that is to say a thrust that wounds with the edge or, if you prefer, a cut that morphs into a thrust-like slice. Either way, when performed with the longsword the user of this technique is apt to be hit with a counter-thrust over his sword.
The Play Itself
Now, having arrived close to your enemy you will put yourself in the guardia di testa when you go and find said enemy. But watch well that if he is in the porta di ferro alta there is a need that you make a falso imputanto to the outside of his sword to his right side. In this you will step forward with the left foot and the right throwing at the same time a mandritto to the head with a tramazzon. In this manner your sword will go into the porta di ferro larga.
Guardia di Testa
Porta di Ferro Alta
Many Attempts to Correct
Here are some of the ways I’ve seen people, including myself, try to fix the problem.
Falso to the Sword
This is the first one most seem to people try. Rather than using a thrusting motion, they just use a beat with the false edge.
This interpretation is very problematic. The next action is a step to the right with a mandritto to the head. Since the fencer just beat his opponent’s sword to his right, it doesn’t make much sense to step to the right. Best case scenario is the opponent brought his sword back on line, in which case you can then direct the mandritto to the blade instead of the head. But since that’s not what the text says, we’ll move on.
Schielhauw to the Sword
The Schielhauw or Squinting Strike is well known by German fencers as a way of breaking longpoint. This is downwards blow with the false edge. In this case, with the arms uncrossed.
This technique seems to work in this context, but careful reading of the manual suggests to us that this isn’t what the author meant. There are several examples of the Falso Impuntanto with various weapons and many of them simply couldn’t work as a Schielhauw.
This would look somewhat like Guardia di Intrare in Largo Passo, but with the hands somewhat lower.
Thrust in Guardia di Croce
One of my ideas was to thrust in Guardia di Croce (a shoulder-high, extended Ochs to you Germans). This allows for a thrust with safety, but it doesn’t match the manual’s request to attack the right side. And again doesn’t quite satisfy the manual’s other uses of the term.
Thrusting Across with a Typo
Another interpretation is that there is a typo. Rather than aiming for the right side, this theory has it that Marozzo wants you to you thrust across and attempt to wound your opponent on the left side using your false edge. Basically this has you wind into a variant of Coda Longa e Alta.
But assuming a mistake in the text is something we would like to reserve for a last resort.
Lugs to the Rescue
Now that my club has a pair of Blackfencer Montantes, we decided to restart the class and revisit this technique. Returning to our original interpretation,
Take a look at this close-up of Guardia di Testa. The lugs, which are the small protrusions about a hand’s width above the cross-guard, naturally fall just under my opponent’s point when I’m prepared to counter his thrust.
If I swing my point in for the Falso Impuntanto, and then thrust into Posta Longa, my lugs naturally picks up my opponent’s blade and push it high above my right ear.
I can’t emphasize enough how surprisingly easy this is. The first time I used this technique I didn’t even realize I was doing it. After the Falso Impuntanto, I looked around for my opponent’s point to see why I wasn’t hit. I was shocked to see it well above my head. It took a couple more passes before I realized that it was the lugs putting it there.
I would also like to stress that I’m not changing anything else. Were I to bind slightly lower, so that my quillion picks up the blade instead of the lug, then I’m back to getting the counter-thrust to the face. The lugs are just far enough in front my hilt to give me the angulation I need.
Why is the Falso Impuntanto a push-cut rather than a thrust?
In this context, my primary concern is extending my arms far enough that the lugs pick up my opponent’s blade. When I do this, my point isn’t necessarily going to be far enough away to land a thrust. With my point slightly past his head, my best course of action is to slice his neck or temple.
That said, if you can land a thrust to the face then by all means do so.
Marozzo isn’t as clear as I would like him to be on the footwork. So I’m going to be adding some steps which may, or may not, be necessary.
The first step occurs in the Falso Impuntanto itself. This is simply a pass with the left foot. Since the opponent is liable to parry this, you allow your blade to run off the left side during this step. Hence you have begun your mandritto.
The mandritto is completed with a passing step with the right foot. This will me more forward or more to the side depending on how the opponent responds. In any event, you finish this mandritto with a blow to the head.
The next action is a tramazzoni, presumably to the head. Assuming the opponent has parried, you probably don’t want to leave the bind for this cut. So here’s my theory:
Like in Meyer’s longsword, you reverse and wrench the blade to your left. This gives you room to work, which you will take advantage of by continuing the tramazzoni back around to the head.
So far everything I’ve said matches the text. It isn’t the only interpretation, but it is a legitimate one. This is where I start making up stuff.
When you start the tramazzoni, compass your left foot behind the right. Don’t cross behind, just move it far enough that you are wrenching with your body rather than just with your arms. Then step further out with the right foot as you complete the tramazzoni.
Maybe this isn’t necessary with the heavier greatsword, but I find these extra steps are quite effective with the longsword. More experimentation is needed.
I will say that taking four steps instead of two make me feel more comfortable about ending in Porta di Ferro Larga.
Train with the most accurate equipment you can get your hands on. If the illustrations show lugs, get a sword with lugs. Don’t make the mistake we did and just assume its an optional component, because it just might make the difference between a technique working easily and not working at all.