Endpiece – Master

Folio 46 v. a

Translation

This master has tied a strong rope to the saddle of his horse and the other end is tied to the foot of his lance. First he strikes the player, and then he throws the bound lance over the left shoulder of his enemy, to be able to drag him from the horse.

Interpretation

This is a very interesting play which takes a degree of planning and coordination, although it is very simple in its concept. In contrast to the lessons of the first eight masters of horseback combat, this play is not concerned with how, or even if, you hit your opponent. It is something of a backup plan for if they are still mounted after your best effort.

Take about three metres of strong rope. If your rope is too short, the play will not work, but if it is too long, you will tangle yourself up. Tie one end firmly to the butt of your lance. Using a quick release knot, anchor the other end to your saddle. Exactly where you tie this is dependent on the saddle design. Directly behind you in the saddle centre, as the picture shows, is the safest and mechanically best place. Next best would be to attach it to the pommel, although if you do this, the rope will cut across you as the rope pulls taut.

After the contact of the initial tilt, if your opponent is still on their horse, then you use this play. Throw your lance, or its broken stump if that is all you have left, straight out to your side and fairly high up. There is very little time, and the sudden change from the driving forward momentum to a sideways toss is a little strange, but it does not need any power, or even much accuracy. As long as the line crosses your opponents chest or neck, momentum will take care of everything else.

As they charge through, the rope will wrap around your opponent. Although it is impossible to say exactly what the lance will catch on, it is an awkward shape, and will surely catch on something. With a sudden and violent reef on your saddle, the rope will pull tight behind you. This is why you want it tied to the back of the saddle. Your opponent will be pulled backwards as their horse gallops out from underneath them.

If you are jousting for sport, the play ends here. If you are fighting to the bitter end, then take advantage of your quick release knot. Untie the rope and let it fall to the ground before closing in on your opponent. You do not want to tangle your own horse.

Endpiece – Allegory

Folio 46 v. c

Translation

This bold man fled from me to a keep. I rode so hard I reached him at the keep, always riding at full speed. And with my sword I struck him under the armpit, which is a difficult place to protect with armour. Out of fear of his friends I want to turn back.

Interpretation

This play does not fit any pattern previously found in the book. Reasons for its inclusion are speculative.

The scholar in the picture does not either have a master, or fit into any context of the book. Following the pattern of the book, this should be the scholar of the master who appears in the picture above, with the lance tied to his saddle. This makes no sense though, in terms of play continuity. Outside of the fact that they are both on horseback, the two plays have no connection to each other.

The position of the horses is also quite strange. They are both rearing up and facing more or less in opposite directions. Given that the scholar has just ridden down his opponent at full gallop, it seems kind of odd that they would then find themselves at a complete stop facing each other.

While it is superficially easy to understand this play (stab your opponent where they have no protection), it raises a lot more questions than it answers. Three possible explanations are that it is an allegory, a memorial, or a sketch.

The allegory.

According to this idea, the play represents the principles of armizare. The player is ‘always riding at full speed’, strikes at a target ‘which is a difficult place to protect’, and then wants ‘to turn back.’ This can be seen to represent the need to break suddenly through your opponents defensive shield, make a critical hit, and then move back out of range under cover.

In the introduction, Fiore tells us that ‘few plays pass the third master in the art. And if they do more, it becomes dangerous,’ so the idea of a fast entry, a short engagement, and a quick withdrawal is not without its merits.  The theory of the allegory starts to fall apart, however, because in the dagger section, Fiore also tells us to ‘always do these five things. Take the dagger, strike, break the arms, bind them, and put him on the ground.’ If this play truly represented the principles of armizare, the scholar would follow the strike by catching the players arm in a lock, flinging his sword aside, breaking the arm while throwing the player to the ground, and then riding over the top of him, before looking around to see if he has any back up.

The memorial.

This play could well recall an actual event known to both Fiore and his sponsor, the Marquis d’Este. The scholar might represent either of those characters personally, or a favourite of the Marquis. Given the effort Fiore goes to in the introduction to name his own scholars, highlight his personal prowess, and heap praise upon the Marquis, however, it seems inconsistent not to name the main character in a picture which celebrates their achievements.

The sketch.

To produce a book of such high quality illustrations as this requires a lot of practice. What started off as a drawing exercise may well have taken on a life of its own. The inclusion of the tower looks like something of an afterthought. He may have just enjoyed the picture, realised it was on the back of a near complete folio, and figured that since it was the end of the book, it was easier to leave it in than start the whole page again, so he wrote a few lines to justify its inclusion. It seems a little odd, but no more so than either of the other theories.

Endpiece – Here ends the book

Text from Folio 46 v. d. Illustration from Folio 47 r, a and b

Translation

Here ends the book that was made by the scholar Fiore, who placed all he knows about the art of armed combat in this book and named it ‘The Flower of Battle’. The one for whom it is made always possesses both nobility and virtue, which are difficult to find. Fiore the Friulian, a poor old man, is at your service.

Interpretation

As an instructor, Fiore faced an interesting problem in trying simultaneously to both promote his style, and keep his knowledge contained to a select audience. If his style spread too far, he would lose control of the ownership, and someone else would take credit for his efforts. If it didn’t spread far enough, his talents would be wasted.

Fiore went to a great deal of effort to maintain control of this information. In the introduction, he tells us ‘this art I have always taught secretly so that none are present at the lesson except the scholar and discreet relatives. And even if anyone else was there by grace or courtesy, with sacred vows I have them promise on their faith not to disclose any of the plays taught by me.’ Given that the combatants were preparing to quite literally stake their life and limb on the outcome of the fights, there was a real incentive to keep the knowledge restricted. He took this idea so seriously that it was the cause of five duels with other instructors.

A secret technique does not have to be in the style of Kill Bills five point palm exploding heart technique. It is just a subtle or counter intuitive move which exists in an environment with restricted knowledge transfer. Armizare was full of these. It is, in part, this limited transfer of knowledge which caused both Fiore and his scholars to so consistently win. They had access to a training program which others did not.

The rarity and expense of books in that period is a further barrier to knowledge transfer. Fiore makes the point that ‘there is so much to this art, that there is no man in the world with so great a memory who could keep in their mind without books a fourth part of this art.’ He also tells us that of all his scholars, only one, Galeazzo da Mantova, owned a martial arts manual.

With no martial arts schools containing structured curriculums as we understand them today, a book like this, which logically laid out a complete fighting system was an invaluable source of information and sign of respect.

He clearly states that few in the world will themselves become a master. And wishing that I be remembered as such, I will make a book of all the art.’ By presenting his book to the Marquis d’Este, Fiore not only gave full access of his knowledge to his sponsor, but also clearly demonstrated his mastery to an influential inner circle. His position as chief instructor to the nobility was assured.

What the Marquis got out of his newly acquired book is unknown. In terms of being remembered as a master, however, Fiore surely exceeded his wildest expectations. By committing his teaching to writing, Fiores lessons are presented to us first hand, six hundred years after his death. Fiore the Friulan has indeed been of immense service.