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

  1. voronos says:

    What about Manciolino’s guardia di faccia description? He says that in guardia di testa the sword points sideways, as opposed to the guardia di faccia where it points straight ahead.

    • Grauenwolf says:

      My translation doesn’t say “sideways”, it says “diagonal”. So that fits the description still.

      It also says that there are only two differences between it and guardia di faccia. Lowering the point from diagonal to straight is one, rotating the buckler over the hand covers the other.

      So say, I’m actually feeling better about the new interpretation. Everything just seems to be falling into place.

  2. Grauenwolf says:

    Aurélien Calonne: Just had the time to read your post. Here are some more stuff for you wink emoticon Marozzo in the fourth part of first assault says :
    “You will rise a montante in guardia di testa in the inside of your buckler, properly, and your sword will go in guardia di testa, […] your left hip turned toward the opponent and the wrist of your buckler hand turned up”
    So the wrist position make the buckler going more forward and pointint a down. As it is often with Marozzo, he gives the details once and never repeat it….

  3. Pingback: Marozzo Sword and Buckler – Basic Cuts from Guardia di Testa | Grauenwolf's Study of Western Martial Arts

  4. Pingback: Scholars of Alcala Class Notes – May 8, 2016 | Grauenwolf's Study of Western Martial Arts

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