Style and objectives.

What is the objective of a particular fighting style? Many would give the somewhat flippant answer that the objective is to win a fight. While this answer has a core of truth to it, it is also an answer which is lazy and ill conceived. A Mongolian wrestler, an Olympic fencer and a boxer will all consider themselves martial artists, they will all be fighting to win, and they will all have completely different objectives.

Many fighting styles have techniques and principles in common, but what defines one particular style from another is which techniques they emphasise. This emphasis is determined by the objectives of the people using it, which in turn is often determined by the context they are fighting in.

A couple of years ago, I was going down various rabbit holes on the internet looking into a Fairbairn Sykes dagger when I came across a copy of Captain Fairbairn’s book ‘Get Tough’. This small but excellent book describes a fighting style (Defendu) drawn from different eastern styles, honed on the waterfronts of Shanghai in the 1930s and and then taught to British commandos in the Second World War.

It is a minimalist style, stripped down to its essential elements and designed to be taught to large groups of people to get the most results with the minimum of training time. The commonality between armizare and defendu are that they are both close range fighting styles characterised by an excessively brutal finish. Both authors explicitly state that this is what their objectives are.

In the introduction to his book, Fairbairn writes ‘you cannot afford the luxury of squeamishness. Either you kill or capture, or you will be captured or killed. We’ve got to be tough to win, and we’ve got to be ruthless – tougher and more ruthless than our enemies. … once closed with your enemy, give every ounce of effort you can muster, and victory will be yours.’

In a similar vein, Fiore writes in his introduction that his students should be ‘fighting for your life with every deception and falsehood and cruelty that can be done. … aim to hurt them in the most painful and most dangerous areas. In the eyes, in the nose, in the soft part under the chin, and in the flanks.’

It is interesting to compare these two style which have absolutely no cultural commonality at all, but share identical objectives. It is not surprising that the two styles share so much common ground in the techniques that they teach, given that their objectives are identical. Here are ten examples of commonality between the two.

Fiore’s 1st scholar of grappling compared to Fairbairn’s escape from a bearhug.
Fiore’s 8th scholar of grappling compared to Fairbairn’s hip throw.
Fiore’s 10th scholar of grappling compared to Fairbairn’s knee. Fairbairn includes groin attacks as frequently as possible.
Fiore’s 11th scholar of grappling compared to Fairbairn’s escape from a bearhug.
Fiore’s counter to the 7th scholar of the 1st master of dagger compares to Fairbairn’s back break.
Fiore’s 2nd scholar of the 3rd master of dagger compares to Fairbairn’s escape from a strangle hold.
Fiore’s 5th scholar of the 3rd master of dagger compared to Fairbairn’s handcuff hold. Fiore calls this the lower bind and uses it in multiple contexts throughout his book.
Fiore’s 5th master of dagger compared to Fairbairn’s escape from a stranglehold.
Fiore’s 1st scholar of the 9th master of dagger compared to Fairbairn’s disarm from the front. The mechanics of disarms remain the same regardless of the weapon.
Fiore’s 5th scholar of the sword in one hand compared to Fairbairn’s disarm from behind. Fiore calls this the middle bind, and uses it frequently.

Using basic moves

When I am teaching basic movements, what I like to do is really exaggerate those moves and make them in quite a large generic sort of form. Although you can see this to a certain extent in all weapon systems, this tends to show up more in dagger work than in anything else.

A common criticism to using this type of training is that it is not how you spar or that these are not effective techniques. This is true to a point, but it also completely misunderstands the purpose of what is happening. When practicing a large movement like this, what you are doing is learning the base move that the technique is built on.

One of my early instructors worked as a somewhat overly enthusiastic bouncer. It was interesting to watch him fight because he had a very plain, yet highly effective fighting style. He never did anything particularly fancy or elaborate, or even especially unexpected. It was largely just a fairly limited range of basic techniques. He had an unbreakable structure, which was one of the reasons why he was so good at what he did, and he would constantly make the point that all fighting is just the application of basic technique. As a consequence, we used to spend endless hours of constant repetition of basics. It didn’t make for a particularly exciting class, but it was fantastic grounding work and it paid off. His point that all fighting is the application of basic techniques is a valuable one and well worth paying attention to when training with these large basic moves.

A good analogy I like to think of is teaching kids how to write. Every five-year-old writes in much the same way. It is all large circles and straight lines. Those are the basic moves that every five-year-old learns. It does not matter what country they’re from or what language they’re writing in. If they are using Arabic script, it’s circles and straight lines, and they all do it the same. Nobody ever gives them a hard time, saying “You’ll never get your thesis written if you’re writing like that.” It’s just understood that that is the framework that everything else is built upon later on. That is how you should treat base moves. They are a framework upon which everything else is built. They are not the finished product in and of themselves.

Part of teaching these base movements is to use the techniques in their fullest range. They are big, massive movements. You are not ever going to use this kind of thing when you’re sparring, but you can always make them shorter. That is the advantage of training like this. If you are making large movements you understand all the drive and power and momentum that you can get into it. So that if while sparring, you find yourself somewhere unexpected, you can realign your movements to deliver as much power and drive as if you were winding it up as a large movement.

Although it is very easy to make movements smaller, it is very difficult to make them larger. If you are constantly training to strike with short techniques, it is much harder to develop a sense of strength and structure and power as opposed to when you are making an exaggerated basic form. Basic form provides a capacity for reflexive adaptation. When you start large, you can always adapt it to the situation that you find yourself in. So regardless of what level you are at, it is well-worth performing and practicing these base moves before you start making an actual application of the technique you are practicing.

Another advantage to practicing with these large base movements is that when you are working with a partner, it’s a good deal easier on your partner to act in a defensive capability against something which they can see coming a long way off. That gives your partner the time and opportunity to develop their own defence. Again, you can always make these faster as you both improve, but to start with large base moves, gives everyone an introductory warm up into the exercise or that section of their learning. By improving your partner’s defensive sparring, you are also improving your own attack capabilities as you try to get through them.

All sparring is an interpretation of a base move. One of the things which really draws me to Fiore’s work is that he applies a small number of concepts to a wide range of contexts. Throughout For di Battaglia, you constantly see repetitions of the same base move happening in different weapons systems and in different contexts. But he is still using just essentially the same basic technique reinterpreted in a slightly different manner to suit the new set of circumstances. When practicing a specific play, understand what base move that play is built from, and practice that basic move. Whether you are just learning it, or you’ve been doing for years, the constant improvement of these base movements by practicing them continually at the full range will give you a far greater capacity to adapt during sparring and provide much greater strength and structure behind what you’re doing.

You are practicing, not so much individual plays, but a series of basic movements. By doing so, you will learn the power and structure behind them as well as get a feel for how to lock your entire body behind a single move. It is very easy to make them shorter and still maintain that structure. It is extremely difficult to start small and make them larger. Practicing large basic movements will also assist your partner and that will improve everybody’s training. Sparring is simply an interpretation of your basic moves.

Dagger – 2nd Master

Folio 13 r. b


I play with the arms crossed to make those remedies that have come before. And if we were both armoured, I could not make a better cover. A stronger remedy than me does not bear a crown, for I can make plays to the right and left. Also I can cross both below and above.


The 2nd Master of Dagger fights from Posta Tutta Posta di Ferro, Incrosada e Dopia. This is a posta which notes the value of armour and its inability to make long covers. The mechanics of crossing the arms means you simply cannot reach out very far, making for extremly close play with very small margins of error. It is the close proximity to a dagger point which leads to the advice of only doing this with proper protective equipment.

At first glance, it seems as though you are blocking the attack in the cross of your forearms, but there are a number of subtleties happening here. As the dagger approaches, you are actually attacking the players wrist with your forearm. You will need to extend your arms far enough to keep the dagger clear, but not so far as to weaken your own structure.

Drive your attack with the left hip, and initially lead with the thumbs up. Immediately on contact, roll your hands inward so that you strike the players wrist with the ulnar edge of your left forearm. This roll will serve to protect your own arm and increase the force of impact. Your attack will stop the dagger while simltaneously jarring and hurting the players arm.

This is easier to do if you can catch the incoming attack before it has built up too much momentum. Get in close to your opponent using your left foot to close the distance.

From this position, you can also perform all the plays of the 1st Master.

Dagger – 1st Master

Folio 10 v. a


I am the First Master and called the remedy. Because it is a remedy to so much, I say that in understanding this remedy, you cannot hurt me and that I can strike and hurt you. And for this, I cannot do better. I will send your dagger to the ground by turning my hand to the left side.


Because the rondel dagger used in armizare is essentially an extension out the base of the fist, it is by necessity a very close range weapon. The further away the attacker is, the easier the role of First Master becomes. Not only will there be less power in the attack, but the extra distance will give you more time to react, and it will increase the angle between the atttackers forearm and their dagger blade, providing easier access to your target.

As the First Master, drive your forearm up, with the line of your forearm being at 45 degrees to the floor. You are aiming for your own wrist to contact the wrist of the player at the apex of their strike. By putting a steep angle on you forearm, even if you miss the grab, you will still deflect the attack.

Lead with an open hand. Be aware that your main danger is driving your own hand onto the tip of the players dagger. Keep your fingers together with the thumb held closely to the hand. Open fingers catch on things and are easily damaged. Your palm faces towards you. The shape of your hand at the base of your thumb will make a hook for the players wrist to slot into.

As soon as contact is made, roll your hand over and grab on as shown. Doing the block in this manner will not only make for a much smoother motion than simply punching your hand out, but it also generates a degree of torque. You can build on the momentum begun by rotating your forearm in an anticlockwise direction. Keep your palm now facing down, and bring your elbow close to your hip. This will lever the dagger out of the players hand, and also leave them wide open for your own counterstrike.

Dagger – Counter to 2nd Master

Folio 13 r. c


I am the counter to the remedy master that is crossed before me, so that with his crossing, he will not make me any trouble. I will give such a push to his elbow, that I will turn and wound him immediately.


You are delivering a fendente attack which your opponent, making the cover of the 2nd Master, goes to intercept using Posta Tutta Porta di Ferro, Incrosada e Dopia. Counter their defence using one of the most abundant techniques in armizare – the elbow push.

Reach out with your left hand, using it to catch your opponents elbow. Good timing is the key to making this work effectively. Rather than pushing against a stationary target, this is more redirecting your opponents incoming momentum.

As your opponent closes in against you, they extend themselves from a position of relative structural strength to relative weakness. Conversely, you are moving from an extended position of relative weakness to a more compact structure of relative strength. It is analogous to manipulating the balance point of the bind.

Push directly across your body. The harder you push, the further they turn. A gentle brush means they will skim past your head. A firm shove will leave you standing behind them.

Be aware also, that the harder you push, the more you are exposed to the unwritten contra counter. If your opponent lifts their elbows even higher at the very last moment, your push will go under them, through empty space. Your opponent can then leave their right hand to cover your dagger, and drop their left hand down to catch your left elbow from above. From there, they can build on your momentum, spinning you clockwise and ending up behind you.

The elbow push is also used in the following plays.

  • Dagger – Counter to the 6th scholar of the 1st master
  • Dagger – Counter to 6th Master
  • Dagger – Counter to 7th Master
  • Dagger – Counter to 8th Master
  • Sword vs Dagger – Counter to 1st scholar of the 1st Master
  • Sword vs Dagger – 2nd scholar of the 1st Master
  • Sword in one hand – 6th scholar
  • Sword in one hand – 8th scholar
  • Sword in two hands – 14th scholar of the 2nd Master
  • Sword in armour – 3rd scholar
  • Sword in armour – Counter to Master

Dagger – 1st counter to 1st master

Folio 10 v. b


I will give my dagger a turn around your arm. And for this reason, you will not take the dagger away from me. And also with this turn there is no doubt I will strike it into your chest.


With your opponent acting as the 1st Master, they have grabbed your wrist and are attempting to bring it under control by pulling it in a tight arc which goes to the outside of the body and downward.

Rather than resisting this, allow your arm to be carried along, and build on the momentum it generates. Roll your wrist in a clockwise motion lifting your dagger tip over the top of your opponents forearm as shown. Allow this movement to expand into your own forearm and then drive your dagger under your opponents arm. Your wrist will break out of your opponents grip in the gap between their little finger and the base of their thumb, and will slide straight into their ribcage.

Dagger – 8th Master

Folio 17 r. c


I am the 8th Remedy Master and I cross with my dagger. And this play is good in armour and unarmoured. And my plays are shown with some before and some after me. Like the 8th play of the 6th Master of Dagger where I strike the player in the hand with the tip of my dagger, in a similar way I strike down onto the hand whereas before I struck upward. Also I can take his wrist with my left hand and with the right I can injure him well. You will find me after the 9th scholar of the 9th Master of Dagger that stabs the player in the chest. Also I can make the last play after I have abandoned my dagger.


The theme of the 8th Master of Dagger is defence against a sottano attack. Although the scholars choose different posta, the Master himself uses Posta Mezana Porta di Ferro. This posta says ‘I am good in armour and without, and I cover low or high on either side.’ Contact with the opponent occurs at arms reach, making this a safe defence to use when unarmoured. Your arms can circle around in front of the body, defending against all angles.

Fiore gives several different options of defence in this single play.

As pictured, it is the same defence used by the 6th master of dagger against high attacks. View this not so much as blocking an attack, but more making an attack of your own against your opponents dagger. With a square stance and your body directly facing your opponent, strike down and out against the base of the incoming dagger blade.

The power of your attack does not come from your arms, but your hips. Keep your elbows in tight to your body. Direct your forearms to your intended direction of attack and drive them out in a straight line, dropping your weight into your stance as you do so. This will give you a much stronger attack. If you hit your opponents dagger hard enough, you might knock it clean out of their hand.

From here, you can continue with any number of techniques. Your left hand is free to bind, push or throw, while your right can deliver a strike.

One follow on example Fiore gives is the 8th scholar of the 9th master of dagger. Having stopped your opponents attack, your left hand is almost touching theirs. Roll it forward and grab their left wrist. Your right hand is free to deliver a sottano of your own.

Fiore also suggests continuing as the 9th scholar of the 9th master of dagger. Stop your opponents attack as the master and then roll your left hand forward, taking control of the opponents right wrist. Drop your own dagger and grab your opponents dagger by the blade with your thumb toward the handle. Pull back with your left hand and roll your right hand under, stripping the weapon from your opponents hand and driving it with a kind of roverso into their solar plexus.

Another option Fiore suggests relates to the 6th scholar of the 6th master of dagger. As you see the dagger approaching, move offline by rotating your hips in a clockwise direction. Move your feet appropriately to the situation to give the correct distance and angle. As you pivot out of the way, drop your left hand down on top of your opponents hand. It will feel almost like you are brushing the incoming hand down. As the dagger tip extends beyond the base of your hand, your opponent will drive themselves onto it.

There are many other follow on options you can use. The 8th Remedy Master is a highly adaptable defence. It is notable for being a self defence model in the 3rd scholar of baton, where it is used by a man who has yet to rise from his seat.

Dagger – 1st scholar of the 2nd master

Folio 13 r. d


This grip is so strong that I believe I can kill anyone with it, because I can break your arm and I can throw you to the ground, and I can take your dagger. I can also tie you in the high bind. And from these four things, you will not be free.


Although it sits within the dagger section, this is essentially a grappling technique. It works especially well against an overhead hammerfist style attack, such as is delivered with a mandritto or fendente dagger strike. The real key to making this work is to catch the attack after it has been chambered, but before it has been properly launched. As with all grappling techniques, timing and flow are critical.

With your left arm, make an upper block to jam your opponents dagger hand. You want their forearm to be no further forward than upright if possible. Make initial contact with the outside of your forearm and roll it roll it so your palm faces away from you.

Quickly step through with your right foot. You will need to get in close. Use the hip rotation to throw your right arm under your opponents right arm. Reach up with your right hand and grab on to your left hand.

You have now created a crank handle as pictured. Your opponents upper arm rests in the crook of your right elbow, creating a pivot point. Their forearm is a lever, which you about to push back and down.

Step through with the left foot, giving your body a slight clockwise twist. You want to lever the forearm past your opponents shoulder and behind them. If it goes too wide, and the angle of the arm exceeds 90 degrees, they have a chance to twist free. Keep it tight.

Lock your right elbow onto your hip and push your hand straight down. This will apply a great amount of torsional leverage to your opponents shoulder. If their knees dont give way first, it will tear the shoulder joint. Either way, your opponent will fall straight down in a crumpled heap at your feet.

Dagger – 1st scholar of 1st Master

Folio 10 v. c


In the middle bind I will put your arm so that you will not make me any trouble. And if I want to slam you to the ground it is little bother to me, and you will not escape without difficulty.


As the 1st scholar, you are applying a ligadura mezana (middle bind). Start as the 1st Master with a hooking block to the wrist of your opponents attacking hand. Where the Master grabs and controls the hand, however, you apply the bind.

At the end of the hooking block, your forearm and upper arm form a 90 degree angle. Your elbow should be no further than a hand span from your ribs, and your hand should be level with your shoulder. This is structurally the strongest position for you to be in.

Without pausing, keep the momentum of your movement going. Move your hand in an anticlockwise circle, pivoting around the elbow to arrive back at the position just described. This should strip the weapon from your opponents hand. The picture shows the scholar mid way through this movement.

As much as possible, keep your elbow still, relative to your body. You will have to extend it a little to twist it over your opponents arm, however, if you overextend your elbow, it will weaken your structure, leaving you open to a counter. To keep the motion smooth, on the downward arc roll your hand palm down, and then roll it palm up on the upward arc.

As you are doing this, step up with your back foot, and then forward with your left, stepping into your opponent. This will push them off balance and maintain your advantage. As you lock your arm back into position and the bind takes effect, your opponent will arch their back and tip off balance to your left side. This will leave them exposed all down the front for you to deliver a strike.

Your most dangerous point in this technique is the moment in time captured in the drawing. The two players are structurally quite equal here. As the scholar, you hold the advantage by virtue of your momentum and capacity to return to a strong position. The whole play (essentially two consecutive hooking blocks) needs to be completed in a single smooth action.

Dagger – Counter to the 1st scholar of the 2nd master

Folio 13 v. a


I know the counter to the play that came before me. And I say that with this grip I break all four plays that he said he could do before. And I cannot see that I will fail to throw him to the ground, for this grip is strong and fierce.


An interesting and complex play, you are countering your opponents ligadura soprano with a ligadura soprano of your own.

Having made a fendente attack against your opponent, they responded as the 1st scholar of the 2nd master. They have jammed your attack with their left hand, then reached under your elbow with their right hand. They are attempting to use your arm as a crank handle, turning it down behind your back. To counter this, spin your left hip forward, drop your weight, and bring your elbow into the centreline. This will bring your right elbow back, breaking the pivot point of your opponents attempted throw. It also moves your arm in front of your body, putting it in a mechanically very strong position. As you do so, grab your right hand with your left, pinning your opponents right wrist between your own.

Now spin your right hip forward. Use the forward motion of your hip to drive your elbow slightly higher up your opponents arm than their own elbow, giving you a good solid pivot point. Once in place, keep your elbow still and lever your right forearm in an anticlockwise arc across the front of your body. This will cause your opponent to twist and fall to your left.

When your hands reach hip height, your crank will not only be finished, but also your dagger point will be directed up towards your opponents ribcage. Spin your left hip forward again. Use this to drive your left hand, pushing the dagger up into your opponents ribs as they fall onto it.

Dagger – Counter to 1st scholar of 1st Master

Folio 10 v. d


I will do the counter to the play that came before me. You can see the position I leave him in. I will break the arm and throw him to the ground quickly.


Having attempted to apply a ligadura mezana, the 1st scholar has over extended their elbow, losing conrol of their timing and momentum at the point of their greatest structural weakness. As the Counter Master, you exploit that weakness by countering with a ligadura sottano (lower bind).

Lock your elbow close to your body, and turn your left hip forward, reaching across with your left hand, bracing your right. This will break the scholars momentum, put you into a solid balanced stance, and allow you to go on the offensive. Timing is critical. This needs to happen at the very moment depicted by the 1st scholar.

Step forward so that your right hip pushes underneath their left. You have now stolen their centre. As you do this, turn your right hip forward. This will twist your opponent clockwise pushing their left hand into the small of their back and leaving you both facing the same direction. To complete the ligudura sottano, keep your back straight, your elbows in, and push down on the back of the shoulder. Depending on exactly how you hold yourself here and adjust your leverage, you can tear all the ligaments off the front of the shoulder socket.

You can step forward and kneel on your right knee, driving their head forward and into the ground. Alternatively, you can make a volta stabile and kneel on your right knee, which will spin them in a circle. Either works equally well. It really more depends on where your momentum is going in the moment, and where you want to put them.

Since you are holding a dagger, before pushing down, place the dagger tip at the base of your opponents skull. As you drop your weight tightening the bind, it will simultaneously push the dagger through the neck.

Sword vs Dagger – 1st scholar to the 1st Master

Folio 19 r. b


My master does this cover against a thrust and then immediately strikes to the face or chest. And with the dagger against the sword, you always need the narrow play. Here I am close and I can hurt you badly. Like it or not, you will suffer.


When facing a sword with a dagger, you are at a disadvantage in terms of both mass and distance. Although it is instinctive to try to stay out of reach, your only chance, as Fiore clearly says here, is to close to narrow play as quickly as possible.

As your opponent thrusts at you, move from the cover of the 1st Master to open your hips with a clockwise twist. Reach out a little and brush your dagger against the incoming sword. You do not need to push it aside, just control where it is.

Keep both your elbows in close to your body and step through with your left foot as fast as you can. The turn of your body as you do so will be enough to direct the sword blade past you. It will not miss by much, but as long as it misses, the distance does not matter. As your left foot lands, use your left hand to grab your opponents right wrist. At no stage of this move should either of your elbows be more than a hand span your hips. Extending your arms will only slow you down.

Having arrived at the position shown, you have now jammed your opponents sword. The best thing your opponent can do for themselves is let go of the sword with their left hand and use it to try and cover themselves. Their pinned arm will be closing off a lot of their movement, however, and you should be moving faster than them.

Raise your dagger, choose a target, and strike.

Dagger – Counter to the 8th master

Folio 17 r. d


I am the counter to the eighth remedy master that is before me and of all his scholars. And if I extend my hand to his elbow, I can push it so strongly that I can strike him from the side. Also with that turn, I can throw my arm around his neck and hurt him in many different ways.


Having tried to stab your your opponent with a sottano attack, they have defended themselves with Mezana Porta di Ferro. Counter this by scooping your left hand forward to their right elbow. As your hand makes contact, step through with your left foot. Use the hip motion to shove your opponent off to the side. Withdraw your right hand as you do so, leaving it chambered for a second strike. Exactly what opportunities arise depends on how far they turn. You should probably have a clear line into the ribcage under their right arm.

The elbow push will not only work against the 8th master, but the scholars as well. Fiore uses the elbow push in a variety of different contexts. Other examples include

  • Dagger – Counter to 2nd Master
  • Dagger – Counter to 6th Master
  • Dagger – Counter to 7th Master
  • Sword vs Dagger – Counter to 1st scholar of the 1st Master
  • Sword vs Dagger – 2nd scholar of the 1st Master
  • Sword in one hand – 6th scholar
  • Sword in one hand – 8th scholar
  • Sword in two hands – 14th scholar of the 2nd Master
  • Sword in armour – 3rd scholar
  • Sword in armour – Counter to Master

Fiore suggests that instead of striking after the elbow push, you could also use one of a number of throws. One option is to slide your left arm across your opponents chest and throw them backwards, as the 2nd scholar of grappling or the 7th scholar of grappling. Another option would be to continue their clockwise spin by rolling your right hand across their neck and throwing them as the 1st scholar of the 3rd master of dagger.

Dagger – 5th Master

Foilio 38 r. d


I am the 5th Remedy Master of dagger for the collar hold of this player. Before he has drawn his dagger, I will break his arm, so keeping his hand to me is to my great advantage, because I can do all the covers and binds of the other Remedy Masters and of their scholars who are before. It is like the proverb says. I want everyone who is a scholar in this art to know that nobody can defend a collar grab without speed.


The situation that the 5th Master finds themselves in is a common one where an argument flares into violence. A lot of shouting, posturing and grabbing precedes the actual attack. The fact that the player has not yet drawn their dagger implies this scenario.

While such application is certainly viable, it could also arise from a far more dynamic situation. The player may have freed one hand from a clinch and is now raising the stakes of a wrestling match by introducing a dagger. The player may have attempted to punch the master in the face to give himself time to draw a weapon, but the master has snatched it out of the air. The player may also have lunged into the attack, attempting a grab and stab in a single motion.

Whatever the circumstances leading into this moment, there is a lot more movement going on here than the relatively static picture suggests. As Fiore highlights, you need to respond with speed.

Your response as the Master is a simple one, but requires an understanding of leverage. By pinning the players hand to your chest, you are creating the fulcrum of a third class lever.

The height at which you pin the hand is less relevant than making sure it attaches to your centerline and stays there. You can and should pivot around it, which is why it needs to remain on your central axis. Most important is keeping the hand still in absolute space. No matter where your body moves, the hand remains in its given place.

Place your right hand against the players left elbow. This is a small movement with your arm. Do not let you own elbow stray from your body.

It is a push, not a strike. The power comes from making a strong and sudden anticlockwise twist of your hips. Whether you twist on the spot, or adjust your distancing by either stepping forward with right foot, or pivoting back with the left, the important thing is that you pivot around your fulcrum.

The elbow will almost immediately start to hyperextend. A gentle push will send the player spinning across the room. You can either direct them into something, or control them to the ground as the 2nd scholar of the 3rd Master of Dagger. A strong push will quite literally rip the arm almost in half.

Dagger – 3rd master

Folio 13 v. b


Here begin the plays of reverse strikes with which countless lives have been lost. And the plays of my scholars will follow, showing the cover that I do with the right hand. This is a simple play to do, for this way I will throw him to the ground.


The 3rd master and all his scholars defend against a reverse dagger strike. In all cases, you are moving to the outside line of your opponent. As they stab, lunge forward with your left foot and twist your hips clockwise. Cover with your right hand using a hooking block to catch the attackers wrist.

When making the cover, lead with your thumb. Your forearm comes under the dagger blade, and you catch your opponents wrist with your own wrist at the base of your thumb. As soon as you make contact, roll your wrist over into a grab.

As you make the grab, step behind with your right foot so you are to the side of your opponent. You are not aiming to stop the attack, so much as stepping around it.

While controlling the dagger with your right hand, strike with your left hand into your opponents throat using a backhand attack of your own. With your thumb down, extend the thumb and first two fingers into a pincer. These do the actual grab. Curl your bottom two fingers as if making a fist. The knuckles create a spike in the middle which push into the windpipe as you complete the grab. If you have stepped too far back, you will miss the throat, and hit the side of the neck instead. You need to be about 90 degrees from the initial line of attack. This is the situation depicted in the drawing.

Step back with your left foot. As you do so, drop your weight and turn your hips anticlockwise in a volta stabile. Throw your left hand down to your left foot in a straight line. Your opponent will fall on their back with their head by your left foot.

Transfer you opponents dagger hand from your right hand to your left. Kneel on their ribcage with your right knee to pin them down. Holding their right hand palm up, the arm will be locked straight. Place the elbow over your left thigh, creating a first class lever. Finish by pushing down, breaking the elbow.

Dagger – 2nd scholar of 1st Master

Folio 11 r. a


This is a good cover for twisting the hand with the dagger. Also from taking this grip I will bind you well and if I place my right hand under your right elbow I will put you to the ground, so well do I know my art.


As a note on translation, the text actually says to place your right hand under your opponents right knee. This is not only not what is depicted, but it also makes no sense. I have made the assumption that it is a scribal error and is intended to say elbow.

This is a neat defence which puts an extreme twisting pressure on your opponents right shoulder. Practitioners of karate will recognise this as mawashi uke.

As the 1st Master you have defended against any downward attack with a hooking block. You caught your opponents attacking wrist with the hook formed between your own wrist and the base of your thumb. Then you rolled your hand over, catching their wrist and completing the master play.

As the 2nd scholar, you simultaneously pivot your hips square to the opponent. With your palm up, use your right hand to cup your opponents elbow. Wrap your fingers around to give a firm but gentle grip. Ideally you want your opponents hand directly above their elbow.

Visualising your own hands as being on the top and bottom of a wheel, turn them 180 degrees anticlockwise. Keep your elbows in. You will be mechanically strongest the closer you can do this to your body. Take care, of course, not to impale yourself on your opponents dagger.

You are using your opponents arm as a crank handle. By the time your hands have swapped position, your opponent will be falling to your left.

Complete the throw by holding your left hand still. It should now be at the bottom of your circle, and you can now safely bring it right in to your centre of gravity. Using that as a new pivot point, keep cranking with your right hand in an anticlockwise direction. Step through, either forwards or backwards depending on the momentum of the situation, so that your right foot is forward.

Your opponent will be left lying on their back, with their head at your feet and a badly dislocated shoulder.

Dagger – 1st scholar of the 3rd master

Folio 13 v. c


In this way you will be thrown to the ground. And I would be even more certain if you were wearing armour. But even without armour you cannot do anything to me. And I could do this to you even if you were stronger than me.


This play begins with your opponent making a backhanded roverso stab against you. Make the master cover by stepping to the outside so that your right foot is forward, and defend yourself with a right hooking block.

Keep your elbow close to your body and move your forearm in a tight arc, with your palm up, leading with your thumb. As your wrist contacts your opponents, roll your hand over to control their hand. Step through with your left foot so that it is behind your opponent.

Move your front foot in an arc around your opponents right foot so you are effectively standing behind your opponent. As you do so, grab their left shoulder from behind with your left hand. Let go of their dagger hand and throw your right hand up to the front of your opponents left shoulder. It is more a grab across the top of the chest than by the neck. You should be in the position depicted.

Without moving your feet, drop into a deep stance. Flare your knees out and get your thighs parallel to the floor. Keep your back straight and upright. As you drop down into the stance, drop both elbows to your hips.

Your opponent will fall on their back with their head directly under you. Their right arm will be pinned under yours. Lever it over your right thigh to break the elbow.

This is an excellent throw. Fiore says this play works even better in armour, as it completely dispels any opportunity for the player to injure you with their dagger as they fall.

Dagger – 1st scholar of the 8th master

Folio 17 v. a


This is a guard which is strong both in armour and unarmoured. It is good because you can quickly put your opponent in the lower bind and strong key. This is shown in the sixth play of the third master of dagger who defends against a reverse hand strike and holds the players right arm bound with his left.


Against a lower stab, the initial cover you make as the 1st scholar is a simple and safe one. Moving either from or through the grappling Posta Dente di Zenghiaro, move your left hand across the front of your body, and then spin the forearm in a downward semicircle. This will sweep entirely across the front of the body, generating a lot of power by its end point. Practitioners of karate will know this as gedan uke. Brace the last part of your technique with your right hand, pushing your opponents dagger point to your outside line as shown.

To make a counter attack from here, you will need to move quickly through your opponents inside. This is an inherantly dangerous thing to do, as you will be exposed to their left hand.

Their most obvious response will be the counter to the 8th master. You will need to move as quickly as you can.

Lunge forward with your left foot so it is behind your opponents front foot. As you do so, scoop your left arm up under your opponents armpit. Simultaneously reach over your left arm with your right and grab their wrist or forearm to control it.

Pivot on your left foot and spin your right foot in an arc, leaving you standing behind your opponent. Push down on the back of their right shoulder with your left hand. As you do so, push their right hand as far up their spine as you can, locking it in place.

This is ligadura sottano – the lower lock. Your right hand is free to strip your opponents dagger, or draw your own. Alternatively, you could make a volta stabile and spin your opponent to the ground, or you could run them forward into a solid obstacle.

Ligadura sottano and its variations is the most common lock in armizare. You will see other examples of it in…

Dagger – Counter to the 2nd scholar of the 1st master

Folio 11 r. b


I am the counter to the play that came before me, so that you cannot put me on the ground, nor take my dagger, nor bind me, but you must let go in spite of yourself, or my dagger will wound you at once.


As you strike your opponent, they make the defence of the 2nd scholar of the 1st master. This involves making a hooking block to your right hand, and grabbing your elbow and spinning them around in a circle. You are in danger of being thrown to the right and having your shoulder dislocated.

Your opponent has the mechanical advantage, so you do not have complete control of your right hand for the moment. In order to complete the throw, your opponent will need to bend their right arm fairly close to their body and step through with their right foot.

Reach forward with your left hand, grab the blade, and direct the point to your opponents arm. Exactly where it lands depends largely on the length of the blade and how much they have bent their arm. It will probably land somewhere on their bicep.

If they continue with the momentum of their throw, they will run themselves onto the point of your dagger. Their only real option is to let go with the right hand and drop it away.

The play ends here. As a possible follow up, you should be well placed to let go of your dagger with the right hand and holding it by the blade with your left hand, strike with a roverso into their face.

Dagger – 1st scholar of the 5th Master

Folio 38 v. a


This is another way to damage the arm. And to come to other plays and locks, I start with this play. Also I say that if I were caught by a spear, with such a strike I would either unpin myself or break the head from the shaft.


Although the application here is slightly different, the mechanics at play are the same as those used by the 5th Master. As your opponent grabs you, move your left arm so that your elbow is on your hip and your forearm is horizontal. Rotate your hip slightly clockwise so as to chamber your right hip. Grab your left wrist with your right hand.

Keeping your left elbow reasonably still, rotate your left forearm around to strike against your opponents elbow. Use your right hip to drive forward, simultaneously punching with your right hand and adding that force to the movement of your forearm. You will be in a nice Tutta Porta di Ferro Dopia.

You will hyperextend and damage your opponents elbow by doing this. How much damage is done depends largely on your opponents grip. If their grip is immovably locked into a grab, you should inflict a large amount of pain. At the very least, you will knock their hand free and turn them slightly. Either way, you will be left holding the initiative while standing primed to attack on their outside line.

Fiore notes that this will also work against a spear thrust which may have caught in your (presumably very thick) jacket or armour. Using the same mechanics in a different context, you can either knock the spear aside or potentially snap it altogether.

Dagger – 2nd scholar of the 3rd master

Folio 13 v. d


You go to the ground and your arm will be dislocated by the art of my master who is crowned. And there is no counter that you can do. And here I will hold you and make it hard for you.


This elbow pin is an excellent technique to learn. It is simple, fast and adaptable to a wide range of scenarios. It can be used against an unarmoured opponent, or any weapon. If your opponent is leading with their left hand, it works just as well on the opposite side. In the context of this play, you are of course defending against a fendente stab from a dagger.

Pivot on the balls of your feet, push your right hip forward, and make a brushing block with your right hand. Reach out and give yourself lots of space so as to avoid running onto the dagger. Put your thumb under their wrist and your fingers over the top of their hand, pushing the dagger aside.

As they withdraw their hand, step across with your right foot to the outside of your opponents right foot. As you step, grab the hand tightly and pull your right elbow down to your ribs. Sweep your forearm across your body so that the arm is bent at 90 degrees with the hand at shoulder height. This will turn your opponent slightly, allowing you to catch their right elbow with your left hand.

Pivot 180 degrees on your right foot arcing your left foot around so that you are facing the opposite direction. The whole movement from your initial block to this point has a very light feel to it, as if you are skipping past your opponent.

From here you have two options. You can either step straight through with your left foot, or you can continue your circular momentum and arc your right foot behind you. Either way you will end up with your left foot in front.

Push your hips under your opponents hips and steal their centre. As you move your feet, throw your arms down into Posta Tutta Porta di Ferro. You should be in the position drawn in the picture.

Throughout the throw, keep your opponents elbow at your centre of gravity. Control your opponent via their right wrist. Keep the wrist bent inwards and pointing forward. This will create a painful spiralling force all the way down the arm. Depending on how much torque you put on the wrist, you will either lock the arm, apply pain, or start tearing the joints of the wrist, elbow and shoulder.

This technique is also made by the 5th master of dagger.