I come from Posta di Vera Croce with this cover, passing off the line by stepping diagonally. And of this cover, you will see what I can do, for my scholars will show it. They will compliment my play with a fight to the bitter end. Their art will show without doubt.
The Sword in Armour Master uses Fiore’s common theme of stepping offline with a beat and entering narrow play. Passing offline while beating your opponents weapon is also shared by the following.
From Posta Vera Crose, slide your right foot offline to the left. Step through with your left foot and sweep the blade across the body. Keep your right hand low and your left hand high so as to cover your whole body and make the action a smooth roll over. The step will provide plenty of hip motion to give this power. Bring your right forearm back to your so as to chamber your own weapon for a strike. This will leave you safely on your opponents outside line ready for narrow play.
I am the first scholar of the master who is before me. I do this thrust because of its cover. Also the Posta di Vera Croce and Posta di Croce Bastardo can do this thrust. I say that immediately the player delivers a thrust to the master or scholar that was in one of these guards, then the master or scholar should keep their body low and pass off the line, crossing their opponents sword and keeping the point directed at the face or chest, and the sword low as shown here.
The first scholar exchanges the thrust and immediately enters into narrow play. This is a natural consequence of following the cover of the Master of Sword in armour.
From either Posta Vera Crose or Posta di Crose Bastardo, step the front foot offline. If you move it to the right, you will dominate the centreline. If you slide to the left, you will change the angle of attack. Sweep your sword across your body from left to right, redirecting your opponents attack to the side. You do not need to move it very far. As soon as it clears your right arm, you are safe.
Step through with your left foot. Because both you and your opponent are using a half sword grip, you need to fight from the narrow play. When your left foot lands, the point of your sword should be nearly touching your opponent without needing to extend your arms at all.
Lock your right forearm onto your hip. Use your left hand to direc the point to a gap in your opponents armour. Push forward with your right hip, driving the point in.
You will also see the exchange of thrusts in the following plays.
When I see my thrust cannot enter either in the chest or face, because of the visor, I remove the visor and put the point in his face. And if this is not enough for me, I will use other, stronger plays.
This play is a variant on the exchange of the thrust. From the master play, you pass your front foot offline. Step through with your left foot and use the resulting hip movement to beat your opponents attack to the right. Keeping your hands low and your point high, lunge forward, stabbing your opponent.
What makes this play stand out is that it is a response to a very specific point in armour development. Helmets had evolved to a stage where visors were strong enough and common enough to be recognised as making certain previously legitimate techniques redundant. Fiore is writing at just the moment after visors require a workaround, but before they are being latched closed as part of a typical build.
Having made the beat, you will be in the range of narrow play. Just as your hips finish their rotation to the right, position your sword to its line of attack, then reach out with your left hand and push the visor up. Your right forearm should be locked to your right hip. Push the right hip forward and use that motion to drive the sword point into your opponents face.
You will also see the exchange of thrusts in the following plays.
Sword in two hands – 8th scholar of the 2nd Master
When I come to the narrow with this player to make the previous play, but can do nothing due to his armour, then I push the elbow so strongly that it makes him turn. If his armour is strong, I will want to try this.
You have just broken your opponents attack as the master of sword in armour, and have entered narrow play. Due to your opponents armour, you are not able to effectively wound them with your sword. The break, however, will cause them to turn slightly. As the 3rd scholar, you are maximising this potential opportunity.
Reach forward with your left hand. Keep your fingers together to avoid accidentally catching them on something and hurting yourself. With the fingers pointing down, put the palm of your hand on your opponents elbow. Anchor your weight on your left foot, and give a solid shove to the elbow, turning your opponent to your right.
There is a degree of timing involved in this. You need to catch your opponent as they are moving. Once they have both feet solidly on the floor, the effectiveness of the elbow push will be greatly reduced.
Depending on how far they turn, you will be to their side, or possibly even directly behind them. From here, a range of new opportunities will present themselves, despite your opponents armour. Look to the armpit, the side of the ribcage, the backs of the legs or any other unprotected area.
Grip your sword in the middle of the blade with your left hand. Use this to direct the point to your chosen target and drive it into your opponent before they recover their balance.
The elbow push is also used in the following plays.
When I saw that there was nothing the sword could do to you, I immediately took this grappling hold. I believe, see and feel that your armour is not worth anything now that I have you in the strong lower bind. In the next picture, I will show you.
Having made the crossing of the master play, your sword and left hand are pointing towards the centreline of your opponent, as shown by the drawing of the 1st scholar. Due to your opponents armour, however, you can see that continuing the attack with your sword will be inneffective.
Step in deep with your left foot. Extend your left hand under your opponents elbow, and reach behind their shoulder. Keep your own sword hand back at your hip out of the way to give the technique some space, as shown in the drawing.
Pivot on your left foot, arcing your right foot around behind you in a clockwise circle. Your left foot should end up level to or slightly behind your opponents right foot. Your hip should be pushing against theirs. Keep your left elbow locked against your hip and lever your opponents shoulder down into a ligadura sottano (lower bind).
There are numerous examples of the lower bind throughout the Fior di Battaglia. You will see it used in the following plays.
In the lower bind, a strong key, I have held you in such a way that you cannot escape, no matter how strong you are. Trouble and death I can give you. I could write a letter that you could not see. You have no sword, no helmet, small honour and little to celebrate.
The 5th scholar of the sword in armour continues directly from the 4th scholar. The two plays essentially show the start and finish of the same technique.
From the master play, step through with your left foot and roll your opponents sword over to your right. You will land in the position shown by the 1st scholar. Release your left hand from your sword and lunge forward. Slide your hand over your opponents right forearm and then up behind their arm to the back of their shoulder as shown by the 4th scholar.
Pivot on the left foot and arc your right foot around 180 degrees. Use your hips to shove into your opponents space. It is important to be right on top of them. Lock your left elbow tight against your body and lever your opponent down as shown.
To hold your opponent in place long enough to write a letter explaining how bad they are, you will need to keep your hips pressed tight against their body. The closer you can move up to their armpit, the greater your mechanical advantage will be. Your opponents hand should be pressed against their spine, while you push down on their shoulder.
If you look at the master play, 1st scholar, 4th scholar and 5th scholar, they make a nice cartoon strip of entering into narrow play and applying a lower bind. Once achieved, you can stab, strike or hold your opponent as desired.
This play is from the first master of Posta de Vera Croce and Posta Bastardo. That is, when the player thrusts at the scholar, who waits for him in this guard, the scholar immediately passes with cover off the line and thrusts to his face and advances with his left foot outside the players lead foot, as shown, so as to put him on the ground so that the tip of the sword advances beyond the neck.
Having made the master cover from either posta de vera crose or posta di crose bastardo, this play begins very similarly to the 1st scholar. Keeping the point of the sword high and the hilt low, step in deep with your left foot as you make your thrust. Although you certainly could drive the point into your opponents face from here, there may be circumstances at play making that unfeasable. So as the 6th scholar, you make use of another option.
Strike your opponent in the neck with your left wrist. You will be forced to use the radial edge of your wrist from posta de vera crose, and the ulnar edge from posta di crose bastardo. Make it a solid percussive strike. The sword blade should extend under your opponents jaw. If you extend your reach much past a 90 degree bend in the elbow, you will have overextended your structure, making it ineffective and weak. You need to be very close for this to work. Use your left thigh to lift and push the back of your opponents front thigh so as to disrupt their balance.
Having made this strike against the neck and thigh, you will be in the position shown. To complete the throw, exaggerate the movements you have begun. Drop your weight right down so that your thighs are parallel to the ground and your knees are flared out. This will push your opponents leg out from under them as well as making an obstacle for them to fall over. As you do so, keep your right hand locked to your body and pull your left hand around in an anticlockwise direction.
Your opponent will fall backwards over your thigh. Although the application and mechanics are slightly different, the general principle of this throw can be seen in the following plays.
When I come to the guard in the narrow cover, if I cannot wound with a cut, I use the point. If I cannot injure with either of these, I will strike with the cross guards or pommel. This is done according to what I decide. And when I am in the narrow play, and the player believes I want to use the sword, I am going to grapple if it gives me the advantage. And if not, I am going to strike him in the face with the cross guards as I said before.
Having made the master cover, the scholar needs to flow on to another technique. When cutting and stabbing are not options, pommel striking and grapping come under consideration. In the end, the 7th scholar opts for a cross guard strike.
The master cover has swept your opponents sword off to your right side. The very close range and the mechanics of the play mean that it is safe to move in false time. Keep your left hand reasonably still in space and step your right foot past it. As your toes touch the ground, begin the strike with your right hand. It will feel something like you are punching your opponent in the forehead. Pivot the blade around the left hand and make contact as your weight sinks onto your front foot.
There is no need to try and drive this technique through your opponent. Stop the sword at vertical and then transition to something else. Eyes are particulalry vulnerable to stabbing attacks. At the very least, your opponent will be momentarily blinded, allowing you a free shot. In a perfect hit, it is possible to drive the cross guard straight through the eyeball and socket and into the brain, causing your opponent to collapse dead at your feet. Most likely is they will suffer a fractured eye socket and be unable to either see or continue fighting.
As you can see, the scholar who came before me wounded the player in the face with the cross guard of his sword, and I can readily wound him with the pommel in his face as you see below.
This play can be used either as an alternative to, or a continuation of, the 7th scholar of sword in armour. You have already used the master play to cover your opponents attack and close the distance between you. Take a second step with your right foot to move in to very close range. Cover yourself with your sword as you step through, using it to jam your opponents movement. At this point, you can make the play of the 7th scholar if the opportunity is there. Whether you make that play or not, continue your movement so that the axis of your sword lines straight up at your opponents face, and your right elbow points over their shoulder as shown.
Keeping your elbow still, pivot your hips clockwise and swing your forearm up into your opponents face. It should feel a lot like making an upwardly angled roverso strike with a dagger.
This will cause a great deal of damage against an opponent with an open faced helmet. Even striking against a visor or bevor will, at the very least, disrupt your opponents balance and win you the initiative to make the next move. This play can smoothly transition to the 9th scholar to throw your opponent.
I also say that the scholar who is before me, who injured the player with the pommel of the sword in his face, could also do as I do. That is, advance with the right foot behind his left, and keep his sword on the players neck so as to throw him on the ground as I do.
This play is very similar to the 8th scholar, and indeed, you can easily finish your opponent with this play as a natural transition from either the 7th or 8th scholars
Having made the master cover, as your opponent recovers their sword, follow it by stepping through with your right foot. Use your sword to push your opponents weapon out of the way, clearing you a space to step into. Get in as close as possible. Ideally, you want the inside of your right thigh pressing against the outside of their left thigh. The closer you are, the easier the throw will be.
As your weight anchors onto your front foot, slide the handle of your sword onto the right side of your opponents neck. If they are half swording their own weapon, you can put your right arm under their elbow so that your forearm is pushing against their chest as shown. This will give you plenty to push against and you can be more confident of your throw. If they have boths hands on their sword handle, you will need to put your right arm over the top of their left, similar to the 8th scholar. Again, you want your forearm to rest against their chest as much as possible.
On a minor artistic detail, you might notice that the sword of the 9th scholar is drawn on the wrong side of the players blade. The position as shown is difficult to get into and requires a lot of cooperation. Your sword is supposed to be pushing your opponents out of the way.
Once in position, drop your weight down so that your thigh is parallel to the floor. Pivot your hips clockwise and scoop your right hand around and down to your hip. Your opponent will fall over your thigh landing on their back to your right side.
You will see variations of this same throw in the following plays.
This play is also from Posta Vera Croce in such a way. That is, that when the scholar is in that guard and one meets him, that as soon as he can reach the player, the scholar passes off the line and stabs him in the face, as you see it done here.
Conceptually, this play is very similar to the 1st scholar. Where the 1st scholar counters low, however, the 10th scholar counters high.
Once again, you begin by waiting in posta vera crose, inviting an attack from your opponent. For this play, they would most reasonably attack from, or at least transition through, posta serpentino lo soprano, attacking with an overhead thrust.
As described in the master play, slide your right foot across to open your hips. Transfer your weight from your left foot to your right, and drive your hips clockwise as you do so. This transition from a rear to a forward weighted stance gives a lot of power and momentum, allowing you to sweep your sword in a vertical plane across in front of you, clearing away the attack.
A lot of what happens next depends on how the blades cross. If you have crossed their blade close to the hilt, your opponents right hand will collapse slightly and they will turn very slightly clockwise. This allows you a path over their right hand.
Smoothly pivoting around the point where the blades cross, step through with your left foot and raise your right hand, reaching over your opponents weapon as shown. This should flow on from the master play in a single smooth, flowing movement. As your left foot grounds itself, use it to add weight and momentum to push your sword forward onto your opponents face.
I also say that when a scholar is in the narrow play and sees he can not injure the player with his sword, he should grapple with the sword in this way. That is, the scholar must throw his sword around the neck of the player and must put his foot behind the players left foot and throw him to the right onto the ground.
As a translation note, the last sentence of the transcript says ‘…lo suo pe’ dritto debia metter dredo lo pe’ stancho del zugadore…’ which really translates as ‘…put his right foot behind the players left foot…’ The picture clearly shows the left being used, and also trying to use your right foot to do this makes no sense. I have assumed that when Fiore wrote ‘right foot’, he was having a lapse of concentration. In translating this, I simply left the word out altogether.
The 11th scholar comes from the narrow play when you are in the bind with your opponent, each seeking an advantage. With your right hand raised, move your left foot back and forwards again in a quick arc. You are bringing it outside your opponents left foot and stepping in deep. As your foot lands, push in against your opponent. Drop your sword over your opponents head, with the left hand against their neck. Make sure that your elbows are flared out slightly. You want your arms, your shoulders and your weapon to make a circle. This will give you a lot of stability and flow. The picture shows this moment, and the circle of the arms can be clearly seen.
Put the weight onto your front foot, bending your left knee and straightening your right. Get your hips right up against your opponent, pushing them over.
Spin the circle of your arms up. Catch your opponents hand in the hollow of your left shoulder. You are actually aiming to throw them up and back. Maintaining your circle, tip it over and drop it down in a vertical plane. Your left hand should come to rest just inside your left knee, with your elbow flared out, pointing directly in front of you.
Your opponent will be thrown on their back to your right side. Although elsewhere performed on the left side, you can find slight variations of this same basic throw in the following plays.
This scholar can not effectively injure the player so he wants to grapple in this way. That is, the scholar puts his sword inside the players right hand. Here you see the scholar enter with his sword to slide his left arm under the right arm of the player to throw him to the ground, or to put him in the lower bind, that is the strong key.
You cannot find an opening in your opponents armour, so using your sword as a cutting or stabbing weapon in this moment is a waste of time and effort. It still, however, makes an excellent tool.
Defend against your opponent using the master play. As your opponent pulls back with their left hand, follow their movement. There is a rocking like sensation as you absorb your opponents initial movement and then follow it back toward them.
At the end of your forward movement, slide the sword point between their right hand and hip, as shown in the picture. You are inserting the point, rather than making an attack. The mechanics will be better if you are closer than depicted, so as not to over extend your arms.
Fiore gives us two options to proceed. Which one you choose depends on your opponents reaction.
If they try to step back with their left foot, follow it with your right. Put the cross bars of your sword over their left shoulder. Anchor your left hand to your left hip and push with your right hip and hand. This will throw your opponent backwards to your left. At the very least, it will tear the sword from their grasp and leave them stumbling to catch their balance. Use all your speed to push home this advantage.
If your opponent pushes forward against you, make a shuffle step to bring your right foot closer and move your left foot next to your opponents right. Using the sword as a guiding rod, slide your left arm behind your opponents right shoulder. Pivot on your left foot, arcing your right foot behind you, so putting your opponent into the lower bind.
You will also see variants of the lower bind in the following plays.
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.
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.
This is the counter to the remedy master and of all his scholars. It is true of all counters to a remedy master, that the counter breaks the play of the remedy master and of all his scholars. And this can be said of the spear, pollaxe, sword, dagger, grappling and all of the art. We will return to speak of the remedy master. This counter master puts his hand on the right elbow of the player who covers as the remedy master, and he gives it a strong push to wound him in the back, as shown next.
The master of sword in armour uses Fiores universal defence of sweeping the weapon across the body and stepping through. All of the masters momentum moves in a clockwise direction. As the counter, you will be trying to reverse this. It will require excellent timing, and even then, will not turn them too far. It is better to think of this play as more spinning behind your opponent rather than turning them around.
Having swept your attack aside, your opponent is stepping through to close the distance and stabilise themselves. Step through with your left foot, jamming your opponents right elbow as you do so. It is essential that this happens just before your opponents left foot lands. this is the moment shown.
As your weight sinks onto your left foot, use the push from your hip to shove the elbow across the front of the body. Put all your weight onto your left foot and arc your right foot behind you. Between changing your opponents angle as well as your own, you should find yourself behind them somewhere with plenty of opportunities to take advantage of. Continue as the counter masters scholar. The elbow push can also be seen in the following plays.
I am the scholar of the counter master who is before me and I complete his play. When the player is turned I quickly wound him behind his right arm. And under the coif in the back of the head, or in the cheeks of the arse (with reverence), or the back of the knee, or in any other place that I find uncovered.
As the counter to the master of sword in armour, you pushed on your opponents elbow to shove them offline to the right. You have also circled around to your left, leaving you somewhere behind your opponent. You are not striking at a predetermined place necessarily, but just taking advantage of a golden opportunity while it exists.
Make a small step with your left foot. This will in part make any fine corrections to your distance and angle of attack. More than that, as you push off from your right foot, your weight will drop down onto your left. This adds a lot of momentum and power to your attack as you make your thrust into any available target.
Exactly where you attack will vary depending on your opponents armour and the angle you find yourself on. The picture shows an attack to the right armpit, but also suggests sliding the point under the coif and base of the helmet, or driving into the less protected backs of the legs at either arse or knee height.
You have a free strike. Take a look at what is in front of you and make the most of it. Be sure to finish with the remainder of the five things you must do to complete an attack sequence. A good place to start would be to grab their shoulders, pull them directly backwards, and then hammer into their face when they hit the ground.
This sword passes as a sword and a pollaxe and has no edge from the hilt to one hand span from the tip, and from there on it has an edge and a fine tip with the edge a hand spans length. The rondel which is below the hilt, can slide to a hand span from the tip and no more. The hilt is to be well tempered with a good point and a heavy pommel, and those spikes should be well tempered and sharp. The sword wants to be as heavy in the back as it is at the front with a weight of 3 ½ to 5 ½ pounds according to the size and strength of the man and how he wants to arm himself.
This other sword wants an edge the whole length from the hilt to the tip, except for a third of the way down from the point, there is an unsharpened section big enough to fit a large gloved hand. Similar to the first sword, it wants to be finely edged and pointed. The hilt wants to be strong and sharp and well tempered, and the pommel should have a good point and be heavy.
At the end of the sword in armour section, Fiore gives us these two very interesting examples of customised gear.
The first of these swords is an incredible piece of equipment. Although the rondel sword superficially resembles a sword, and is balanced like a sword, in many ways it is more like a short, specialised polearm.
The ‘blade’ of the sword is more like a spear shaft. It has no edge outside of the tip, which is the size and shape of a small spear head. Although you could bash someone with this, it would never make an effective cut. Nor it is intended to. The mobile rondel which protects the hand is not only a neat adaptation, but also further emphasises that this is a handle, not a blade.
While pretending to be merely a counterweight, the pommel is as dangerous as the point. It has sharp, well tempered spikes to hammer into someone. The crossbars are also pointed, allowing the whole thing to be turned around and swung like an armour piercing pollaxe. While giving a variable weight range, it tends to be fairly heavy.
Despite such a detailed description, we never see this weapon used anywhere in the book. The only other example of a rondel sword is in the illustrated border of the introduction.
The second sword has a lot less specialisation to it, but it still has two clear features making it particular to armed combat. About a third of the way down the blade, at the point where you would most comfortably grab it, the edge has been taken off for a more comfortable grip. Also, the pommel comes with a single heavy spike so as to give your pommel strikes an armour piercing capacity.