Dagger - 1st Master

Dagger – Counter to the 8th scholar of the 1st master

Folio 12 v. c

Translation

I do the counter of the play that came before me. You will not take my dagger because I will push you onto my dagger with my left hand, and with the cruel tip, I will hurt you for your trouble.

Interpretation

There is a delightful kind of humour about this counter, which is very appealing. It is fast, simple, and has a malicious punchline.

Against your fendente strike, your opponent has jammed the attack with a hooking block, as shown by the 1st master. As described by the 8th scholar, they are then reaching up to grab your dagger blade and twist it out of your hand.

Keeping your right hand as a fixed point in space, drop your hips, pushing forward with the left. If your left hand is relaxed, it will automatically pivot from the elbow, swinging forward and up. As it does so, grab your opponents wrist. With a sharp jab, drive their hand onto the dagger point.

This is by no means a finishing move. The exact effect will vary depending on your opponents pain threshold and level of intent. At an absolute minimum, their body will tense up in shock for a full second. Their hands will pop open, they will be momentarily frozen, and they will probably be swearing violently.

All of this adds up to the perfect opportunity to continue with the five things you must do to finish a fight. Be assertive in making the most of this.

Spear on foot

Spear – Posta di Fenestra Sinistra (Window Guard on the Left).

Folio 40 r. c

Translation

I am positioned in Posta di Fenestra Sinistra (Window Guard on the Left). If I do not wound you with a thrust you will be lucky. With the point held high and the arms low, I will bring the back foot to pass off the line to the left. I will put the point in your face for you are without any defence. The play that comes next is how all three masters finish. If you try it once, you do not want to try it anymore.

Interpretation

Posta di Fenestra Sinistra is simply a mirror image of Posta di Fenestra Destra, and is used in the same manner.

This is a rear weighted stance with the right foot extending forward, ready to slide to a new position. Your left hand is on, or slightly behind the balance point of the spear. Fiore shows the left hand being held behind the head, although moving it forward slightly so that the knuckles of your left hand rest against your cheekbone will give you slightly better speed and control. The right hand crosses over the left, and controls the spear by moving it around the pivot point of the left hand.

You look down the length of your spear to your opponents face. Your right flank appears exposed, inviting an attack.

The defence of this posta, as with all the spear masters, is exchanging the thrust, as first explained by the 8th scholar of the 2nd master of sword in two hands.

Against a thrust, slide your right foot across to shoulder width, and either forward or back to give you an appropriate distance. Strike with your left hand straight down the centreline. Pull your right elbow back to chamber your hand at your hip. This is something of a scoop, which will catch the incoming attack with the lower half of the spear shaft and direct it offline.  

As with all deflections, there is no need to push this further out. Once your opponents point has passed you, you are safe. Be sure to keep your right elbow tucked in. As well as creating better mechanics, it also removes the possibility of it being hit with the deflected spear point.

Step through with your left foot. Drive your hip anticlockwise and punch out with your right hand, using it to power a counter thrust to your face. Keep your right hand low so as to maintain your cover. From posta to counterthrust is all done as a single smooth movement.

Sword in armour - Plays

Sword in armour – 13th scholar

Folio 34 v. d

Translation

This is a strong and good grip that the scholar makes against the player. He puts his left foot behind the players left foot and the point of his sword in his face. Also he can throw him the ground by turning to the right.

Interpretation

Although the 13th scholar certainly can follow the master play, it by no means has to. Your opponent is making a direct thrust with a half sword grip. Rather than the typical armizare response of jamming or beating aside the attack, here, your defence relies on a sidestep, and simply not being where the attack is.

As your opponent makes their thrust, swing your left foot across to your right. Raise your sword to Posta di Fenestra and use your left hand to define your edge. You do not block the attack, but just ensure that it has been deflected offline and cannot follow you. As with all deflections, if it has missed by an inch, then it has missed, and it will only expend energy unnecessarily to push it away further.

Once confident you are clear of the attack, lunge in deep with your left foot. You want to get as far behind your opponent as possible. Using this movement, roll your left hand under your opponents left arm to grab onto their right forearm. This is the moment shown.

Pull your left elbow strongly back to your body, locking it against your core. This will jam your opponents arms and pull them off balance, causing them to fall onto you. As you do this, pivot your hips anticlockwise. This will naturally drive the point of your sword into your opponents face as they are being pulled onto it.

To set up the throw, ensure that your left leg is deeply bent with the knee over the toe. Your left thigh should be making contact with theirs at least. The further behind them you can get, the easier the throw will be. Pull your left hand, and by extension their right arm, right up to your rib cage. You are pulling your opponent into your space.

Empty that space by suddenly pivoting 180 degrees on the balls of your feet. Straighten your left leg as you do so, and bend you right instead, shifting your bodyweight from left to right. Your opponent will fall over your left thigh, landing on their right shoulder beneath you. Drop your left knee, pinning them to the ground. Let go with your left hand and use it to secure a half sword grip on your weapon. Stab down hard.

A slight variation on this technique can be seen in the following play.

Sword in two hands - Narrow play

Sword in two hands – 14th scholar – Narrow play

Folio 30 r. a

Translation

If I am crossed in narrow play, I immediately do this hold because neither with sword disarm nor bind can he retaliate. Also I can injure him with thrusts and cuts without any danger to myself.

Interpretation

This is a fun and interesting way to jam your opponents weapon. Although the application is very different, there are similar principles at play here as you see in the 1st scholar of the 3rd master.

The set up for this play requires quite a strong beat at the master play which precedes it. From the crossing of the swords, you want to hit your opponents sword hard enough that it angles off to your left. You are going to exaggerate this movement.

With your left hand, make a hooking block under your opponents right wrist. This is a technique Fiore frequently uses, most notably throughout the plays of the 1st master of dagger. Lead with your left thumb under handle of your opponents sword and onto the inside of their forearm.

Immediately you make contact, roll your wrist over and grab onto the forearm. Step through with your left foot as you do so, and pull the elbow in close, locking it to your core. The turn of the wrist, coupled with the leverage of your forearm will force your opponents blade right over, as the picture shows.

While all the action is focused on the left hand, bring your right hand back to lock against your ribs. Your right hip is chambered for an attack. The sword blade effectively extends directly from your core. Use your wrist to target the point. As your left hand pulls back, your right hip pushes forward, driving the blade through your opponent.

A slight variation of this play can be seen in the following

Sword in one hand, Uncategorized

Sword in one hand – 10th scholar

Foilio 21 v. b

Translation

This one struck at my head, and I beat his sword aside, so coming to this position. Also, I will make you turn, for having not failed at this I will put the sword to your neck, I am so audacious.

Interpretation

The 10th scholar of sword in one hand gives a variation on breaking the thrust, as described by the 10th scholar of the 2nd master of sword in two hands, as well as combining several other elements. From the master play, the text says you are defending against a strike to the head. Regardless of the exact attack, your initial cover is essentially the same. Only the height of your inital beat will vary to match the attack.

Slide your right foot across to open up your hips, and with a riverso cut, move your sword through posta frontale, sweeping the attack to your right. Step through with your left foot, continuing to sweep the attack down to the ground.

As your left foot lands, shuffle your right foot up to step on the tip of your opponents blade, similar to the 11th and 12th scholars of the 2nd master of sword in two hands. Reach out with your left hand to catch your opponents elbow, and in a smooth continuous movement, carry your own sword up into posta di fenestra. This is the moment shown.

Your right hip will have slightly throughout this and is well chambered. Push the right hip forward and use it to power shoving your opponents elbow across their body, turning them to the right. The combination of the elbow push and the leverage of the sword tip will pull the weapon from their hand, causing it to snap down to the ground.

Fiore says ‘I will put the sword to your neck.’ One interpretation would be to use the right hip push which powered the elbow push to simultaneously drive the point in a straight line through your opponents neck.

A second interpretation would be to use that hip push to lunge your left foot behind your turning opponent. Throw your sword blade in front of their neck, and catch it with your left hand. Pivot on the ball of your left foot, arcing your right foot behind you, simultaneously cutting your opponents throat and throwing them backwards and to your right, as shown by the 7th scholar of sword in one hand.

Sword in two hands - Wide play

Sword in two hands – 15th scholar – Wide play

Folio 27 r. d

Translation

The scholar who is before me told the truth, that because of the turn he has made you do, I will cut you in the back of the head. Even before you can turn to cover yourself I will give you a great wound in the back with my point.

Interpretation

The 15th scholar is the logical end point to the play of the 14th scholar. Although the weapon used and the exact target may vary, the concept of this play can be applied as a follow up to any of the many elbow pushes found throughout Fior di Battaglia.

If you catch someone with a good elbow push, the most you can reasonably expect them to turn is just a fraction over 90 degrees to your right. It is mostly less than that.

Use the time your opponent is off balance to adjust your own footing. There are no hard rules as to how to do this, as the details will entirely depend on where your opponent lands. You are aiming to move around to your left as far as you can so as to get behind your opponent. This could involve a simple pivot on the ball of your foot. It may involve a couple of steps.

Be aware that with a simple pivot, the further around you go, the closer to your opponent you will end up. This is not necessarily a problem, but it will influence your choice of attack. You will need to be aware of your distancing as you spin behind your opponent, and adjust appropriately. Wherever you move to, you will need to do it quickly. Keep your weight low and your elbows tucked in, so as to centralise your weight and increase your speed.

Fiore gives a couple of options of stabbing your opponent in the back, or cutting to the head. In practice, it doesn’t matter which, if either, of these options you choose. The sudden shift in angles will give you a rich field of opportunities. Pick one, and make it a finishing strike.

Dagger - 2nd, 3rd and 4th Masters

Dagger – 3rd scholar of the 4th master

Folio 14 v, d

Translation

When I use the grip of my master, my left hand is under your left elbow. And I quickly put my right hand under your knee so that I can throw you on the ground. And there is no counter you can do to me.

Interpretation

This play works best when you are holding your ground but, nonetheless, are being overrun by an aggressively attacking opponent. In the moments before this play, they will be bearing down on top of you, and you are in a decidedly uncomfortable position.

Against what will appear to be a finishing strike, make the cover of the 4th master. Using a sword grip, jam your opponents forearm. In this, you are absorbing the shock of the attack, rather than manipulating the arm. Although your back, as always, should be straight, you will need to drop your weight as much as possible. You can quite feasibly bend your knees so much that the back knee brushes on the ground. Keep your weight on the balls of your toes.

Drop your right hand and slap it under your opponents thigh. This needs to be done very assertively. Contact the inside of your forearm against the back of their thigh, lifting their foot off the ground. Pull your right elbow back to your right hip, springing up with your legs as you do so. This is the moment shown.

Your opponent will twist and fall on their back to your left hand side. Finish them off before they can recover.

This technique, or a variation of it, can be seen in the following plays.

Dagger - 1st Master

Dagger – 8th scholar of the 1st master

Folio 12 v. b

Translation

I take the dagger out of your hand because I am well placed, and I will push the tip up next to your elbow. And you will lose it, and I will wound you with it straight away. Because I cannot bend the arm, I will do such a dagger disarm.

Interpretation

Against a fendente stab, you make the cover of the 1st master. Make a hooking block with your left hand. Scoop it under the attacking dagger, leading with the thumb. Roll the hand so it is palm up. Contact your opponents wrist with the ‘hook’ at the connection between the base of your own thumb and your wrist. As soon as you contact, roll the wrist over to grab your opponents forearm. This is a very smooth motion. There should be no clashing of the arms.

As you grab your opponents wrist with your left hand, grab the dagger blade with your right, as shown in the picture. Tuck your left elbow in and pull it back to your hip. As you pull with your left hand, push down and forward with your right.

This will cause the dagger to rotate in a vertical plane around a point midway along the blade, until it is stripped from the hand. Your opponent will be pulled forward off balance.

Use your right hand to make a hammerfist strike. Ideally, the dagger tip will be extending out the bottom of the fist. Hit them in the eyes or throat with it. The fact that they are falling forward will add greatly to the impact.

Your opponent will be hurt and momentarily stunned. Take the opportunity to get a better grip on your new dagger and set yourself up to complete the finishing combination of five things you must do.

Conceptually, this play is very similar to the following.

Horseback - 8th master

Horseback – Counter to the 8th master

Folio 44 v. d

Translation

This is the eighth play, which counters all the previous plays, but especially the plays of the sword on horseback and the masters who use Posta Coda Longa. When the master or scholar is in a firm guard, I give a thrust or other blow, and immediately he beats my attack aside. When he does this, I quickly turn my sword and with the pommel, I strike him in the face. I then pass from the cover this lends and with a reverse circular blow, I strike him in the back of the head.

Interpretation

Although all the plays of the 8th master of horse are shown with your opponent on the right side, unusually, the counter is shown with them on your left.

Make an attack against your opponent. They will beat the attack aside. The text, as well as the inference from the master play, say that the defence is made from posta coda longa, which would mean that the sword is being beaten to your left. In the picture, the position of the counter masters sword suggests that it has been beaten to the right. In practice, it does not make much difference, although you do get a bigger opening and better flow if responding to a beat to your left.

As the beat knocks your sword aside, rather than struggling to stay on line, exaggerate the movement, and spin it 180 degrees around in a horizontal plane to chamber on your left shoulder. Strike the pommel into your opponents face as shown. It should feel like making a fendente stab with a dagger.

Immediately after you have made your stab, drop the elbow, moving your right hand back in a straight line toward, chambering for the strike. Turn the sword so that the tip continues moving in the same horizontal plane in an anticlockwise direction. If your sword was originally beaten to the left, it would have been moving anticlockwise anyway, so the whole series of beat, stab, strike has a smooth, pulsing kind of feel to it.

Strike forward with your hand, rolling it over as the blade spins around. The sword will wrap right around your opponent hitting them in the base of the skull with the false edge. The strike has a whip like effect. A fast opponent can easily jam it, however it is still strong enough to do plenty of damage. It targets a very vulnerable area, your opponent will be quite distracted, and hopefully seriously injured from the pommel strike, and the surprising angle often catches people unawares.

Pollaxe - Plays

Pollaxe – 2nd master

Folio 37 v. a

Translation

This play is easily understood and you can well see that I pull him to the ground. And when I have him on the ground, I will want to drag him after me. And when the long tail no longer pulls him along, then I will injure him.

Interpretation

Fiore tells us that this play is easily understood, and on a conceptual level, this is true. You throw a weighted chain around your opponent legs and pull. Even if you only catch one leg, it will be enough to sweep your opponent off their feet. You can then rush in to finish them off, probably using a secondary weapon.

Having said that, this play poses a lot more questions than it answers. The weapon is so strange that it doesn’t even have a name. Its nearest equivalent would probably be the Japanese kusari-fudo, although the similarity is only superficial. Fiores version seems remarkably unwieldy.

A close look at the masters weapon shows that the chain extends along the handle, through a collar at the head of the handle, then on to a length of rope which holds the weighted head. The chain down the handle and through the collar suggests that the weight is retractable.

The players weapon appears to be the same weapon with the weight retracted back to fit against the handle. If this was the case, you would expect to see them holding loops of chain in their left hand, which they very clearly are not.

A weight on the end of a chain like this is a ferociously difficult thing to control. Without a lot of training in its use, that style of weapon is often more dangerous for the person wielding it than anyone else. The idea may have been to use it for one good swing, and then drop it for a more conventional weapon, regardless of whether you hit or missed. Without any real context, it is difficult to know.

It could potentially have been intended to capture an opponent for ransom rather than rather than fighting with them in the typical sense. Given that the whole book is structured around fighting duels using knightly virtues, this is an unusual intended outcome that doesn’t seem to fit the model. It is such a strange weapon, that not much can confidently be said about it, other than it is not a weird as the weapon used by the 3rd master of pollaxe.