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.
One of the advantages of living where I do is that we have lots of banana trees growing here. Banana trees make excellent cutting targets. They are heavy and wet and dense, but also slightly spongy. They are about as close as you can get to getting a body without actually using a body. They have a fairly short life span and need to be cut out and trimmed. That gives us a good opportunity to practice cutting.
In this video, I am taking a look at the penetrating power of a spear. Spears not only have an advantage over most weapons in terms of reach, but also mass. This one weighs just under two kilos as compared to my longsword which weighs 1.4 kg.
Stepping off the line comes up quite a lot throughout armizare. There are plenty of examples throughout the book. If you go hunting, it comes up again and again and again.
When you’re stepping offline, the typical pattern is to step offline, make a beat and then step through with a counterstrike. But one of the questions that comes up every now and then is, is which way do you step. Do you step left or right when stepping off the line? The answer that you give has quite different ramifications.
Whether you step to the inside or outside, neither is wrong exactly, but they have very different tactical attributes. It makes an interesting concept to play around with and explore what difference it makes.
Just because something is in one chapter of Fior di Battaglia doesn’t mean that is has no relevance in all the others. Pommel strikes are fun close range attacks that share a lot of common ground with dagger strikes. Do you ever get to use these in your sparring?
Here’s a selection of bits of wood that I like to use as weapons. I have my old bokken, what I am using as wasters these days, a short staff and a rondel dagger. We will have a quick look at each of them in succession.
This is my bokken. I started off with a piece of wood, which is an inch by two inches and then I cut the curve into it. I trimmed a long shallow v out of the middle and trimmed triangles off each end and then set to it with a heavy rasp and a file and ultimately sand paper, leaving the handle with an inch by an inch and a half cross section. I have been through a few of these. This one is made from Australian red gum. It’s a heavy, solid timber. I’ve abused this bokken fairly substantially over the years, and it’s held up really nicely.
I used to own one which was made out of Japanese Oak and broke it within a fortnight. I was pretty disappointed with that given how much I had heard about the quality of the wood. But this one has held up quite well. Its very solid and reliable.
I also used to own a bokken I made out of yellow box. It was not so well shaped, and I eventually cut it up for firewood, but the yellow box was an excellent material for making training weapons. I tried to test it to destruction one day, but outside of a few savage nicks, it came out unharmed.
This is what I am using for wasters these days. I used to put cross guards on them, which do make them handle better, but I kept on breaking them. So now, I just use a single piece of wood, which is just based off the idea of a bokken. Again, it is an inch by an inch and a half. That rectangular cross section gives you a sense of edge alignment far better than a round piece of wood. I carve a simple pommel on the end and shape the handle a little to feel where the handle stops and the blade begins. For the blade I just smooth the corners off. They are simple and light. If you want to play around with the balance, you can start with a heavier piece of wood, make the tip a lot thinner, and leave more weight in the handle. This becomes more important if you are making a heavier waster. If they are only fairly light, it is not such an issue.
This is made from a piece of decking plank which I cut down. It costs around two dollars for each waster, plus the time I spend shaping it. Although technically a hardwood, these are fairly light, and I treat them as disposable. I don’t care if they get broken. That’s basically what they’re designed to do. I used to have a couple of nice ones made out of some heavy hardwood, but they kept breaking. So now I don’t bother putting that much effort into them. I just use a simple stick like this, and that’s good enough to do the job.
Next is one of my favourite weapons and its about a simple as they can get. It’s just 120 cm of hickory with a diameter of 32 mm. Because of the density of the wood, it is surprisingly heavy and weighs around 1400 g. This started life as a shovel handle, which I bought at the hardware shop somewhere in the mid nineties and trimmed down to shape. Again, I just used very simple tools – a rasp, a file, and some sandpaper. This staff is damn near indestructible. I’ve had it for 25 years, done some seriously abusive things with it, and the most damage its ever picked up is just a few small dings. The kids have taken this and put it through all its paces, but it stands up to anything.
I was practicing spinning this one day when I accidentally clipped my elbow with it. The pain was so much that I couldn’t speak or move. At first I thought I had shattered the joint, and it was four days before I got full mobility back. Hickory is an excellent wood to use. Tight grained, dense, heavy and strong, although harder to get hold of now than it used to be.
Rondel daggers are dead simple to make. This is literally a piece of firewood that I dug off the scrap heap. Again, it is very roughly shaped with a handle carved into it. This one has a bit of a crack in the wood, although that is not as exciting as it looks. It’s more discoloration than anything else.
You want to keep a nice square point on the dagger especially because obviously the only thing you can do with these is stab someone and they’ve got absolutely zero flex in them. So you want to leave a nice square point so that you can do the least amount of damage to your friend as possible.
So that’s a quick run over some wooden training weapons. They’re really good. I like them. The advantage of using these sorts of things is that they are cheap, effective, and historically accurate. If you spend a bit of time on them, you can get them reasonably well balanced. They are excellent for practicing drill sets because they’re not sharp. You can go as fast and hard as you like with complete safety. Every now and then, give them a light sand and rub some oil or wax into them. I typically use olive oil.
You’re far more likely to hurt your training partner than anybody else, so be aware of that if you are using them for any kind of sparring or partner work. The real big thing about them in that context is stabbing someone with them because they have no flex, so tend to hurt if you are not careful.
However, they are really simple to make, they are cheap, and if they break or catch fire, it really doesn’t matter. For materials, I prefer a solid hardwood such as hickory or yellow box or a red box.
In this video, we look at using a curriculum and outline how you can develop a structured training program to help. If you want to learn about how the components of sparring fit together, and most importantly, what goes into building a successful training program, then this is the video for you.
In this video, we’ll be applying a simple generic defence and seeing how it applies to all weapon systems. To improve your defensive capabilities and apply this simple principle to whatever circumstances you’re in, you need to look at Fiore’s universal defence. In part one we took a look at one of the introductory components of the curriculum, which is footwork. Here, we build on that and look at how to develop a strong defensive capability, across any weapons system.
How is it that some people are able to move with grace and ease across the floor while others are always stumbling over themselves? Why is it that some people are always at exactly the right range while others are never in quite the right spot to deliver an effective technique. And how is it that some people are always exactly where they need to be while others are constantly struggling from position? It all comes down to footwork.
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.
When you are training, you often spend a lot of time checking things such as your lines of attack, your cover, making sure you know where your weapon is at all times, and ensuring you move with appropriate distancing. These are all important things to be in control of, and certainly should not be underestimated. Underlying all of them, however, as a foundation to all your movements is understanding what your hips are doing. To a very large extent, you move and fight with your hips. Everything else is just delivering a message.
The best fighters always look completely relaxed. They seem to move much faster, and with much less effort than anyone else. They always seem to be right where they need to be, having used very little effort to get there. To a large extent, this is due to good clean hip movement. It reduces all extraneous movement, and provides clear direction and intent. This is what gives these people fast and powerful techniques.
Your hips control your core, and this in turn, determines where your bodies energy is moving. Every action needs to be driven by the hips first. It is this hip motion which provides power through the shoulders and arms to the weapon. Beginning a technique with your shoulders or arms disassociates your bodies actions from its core. The top and bottom halves of your body will be moving in different directions and in an uncoordinated manner. The end result is a weak and slow technique. In contrast, by using the hips to initiate the movement, the body structure is aligned. This gives speed, power, and intent to any technique.
When initiating movements with the hips, the arms stay fairly still relative to the body. They will obviously move enough to give shape to whatever technique is being delivered, but essentially, they are always in front of the body, and reasonably still. This reduces the amount of movement required, making everything that much faster. It also reduces physical stress on the shoulders and wrists, leaving you with better control and extra energy to expend elsewhere.
Driving techniques with the hips anchors the body to the ground. This anchoring provides a huge amount of force and power to drive your techniques home. Whether you are striking aside an incoming attack, or trying to break through a potentially weak defence, the extra power you gain from a well grounded structure is a huge advantage. Its gives you strength which you don’t normally have.
As with so many things in any martial art, these things are better felt than described. By way of demonstration, choose a posta and a technique. Delivering a thrust and lunge from Dente de Zenghiaro is one of many examples you might use. Throw a few techniques initiating them with the shoulders first, then try the same technique powered by the hips instead. You should be able to feel a qualitative difference between the two. Techniques driven by the hips first should feel faster, smoother and more powerful.
Your hips provide your core movement. Everything beyond that is an extension of your core. If you control your hips and use them to initiate your movements, all your techniques will be faster and stronger, and you will be more relaxed. Your arms will be allowed to remain reasonably still, adding speed to your techniques and locking them to your core. Your actions will be solidly grounded adding power and strength to everything that you do. Whenever you are practicing your drill sets, keep in mind to initiate your techniques with your hips. Carry this habit into your sparring. For very little extra effort, this will dramatically raise the standard of everything you do.
Also this Posta Coda Longa (Long Tail Guard) is good when one comes to meet him with his sword held on the left, as this enemy does. Know that this guard works against all blows from right and left, and against anyone who is either right or left handed. Here begin the plays of Posta Coda Longa that always beat aside in the way that is previously described in the first Posta Coda Longa.
With your right arm held across your body, and your right shoulder turned slightly to the front, you are positioned here to beat any attack across to your right.
As you make the beat, be aware that if you perform this with the same diagonal cut you are used to making on foot, you are likely to strike your own horse in the head. To avoid this, your cut must first lift up and then beat across the top of the horse. It moves in more of an arc than a straight line.
Not surprisingly, the scholars of the 8th master are not new techniques exactly, but previously described plays in the context of mounted combat.
There are several different examples both on foot and horseback of posta coda longa being used throughout Fior di Battaglia. You will see it in
When I am crossed, I pass with a cover and boldly sweep both your arms like this. And I put this thrust in your face. And if I advance my left foot, I can bind both your arms. Or else, in the next play that comes after me I grab you. That is, I bind you at the sword and hold the hilt.
From the master play, which leaves you both crossed in the middle with the right foot forward, step through with your left foot to close with your opponent. As you step, make a hooking block with your left hand. Move your forearm in a tight arc which sweeps across the front of your body, leading with the thumb. As you make contact with your opponents right wrist, your hand is ready to roll your hand over into a grab. Simultaneously raise your right hand into posta fenestra . This is the position shown.
Having arrived at this point, Fiore gives us three options.
Firstly, you can hold your arms reasonably still and pivot your hips anticlockwise. As you complete the grab on your opponents right hand, this will simultaneously pull their sword off to your left and drive the point of your own sword into their face.
Secondly, by making a quick shuffle step, moving your back foot then your front, you can step to the outside of your opponent. As you do so, spiral your left arm from the inside, over the top of your opponents elbow, and then lock your arm close to your body. It will feel like making the start of a middle bind in the way it slides over the arm. You will find yourself in a very similar situation as the 8th scholar of the 3rd master of sword in two hands, except that your sword point will be facing forward.
What the Master said, I have done well. That is, I passed off the line with a good cover. And I find the player uncovered so that I can put the point to his face for certain. And with my left hand I want to try to send his sword to the ground.
Having beaten the attack aside as described by the master, you are now in Posta Fenestra. The structure of the player was unfortunately strong enough to resist your beat, and they still dominate the centreline.
Leading with your thumb, reach out with your left hand for a hooking block. Your wrist should sit in the angle formed by the players hand and the crossbar of the sword. As you roll your hand over the players wrist, the crossbar forms a small lever, twisting the sword offline to your left. Pull your left hand back so that your elbow locks into your hip. The blade of the sword will run down the length of your forearm. This is all done as a fast, smooth, circular motion. The player will probably still maintain their grip, but will be pulled off balance.
With the central line now wide open, thrust your sword straight into your opponents face.
This is another play, the third one. He beats aside his enemies sword which he takes with his left hand, and strikes to the head. In the same way, you could strike with a thrust.
The thing that stands out most about this play is its similarity to the 2nd scholar of the 2nd master of sword in two hands. The set up is different, but the concept of controlling your opponents blade with this grab is identical, and is the heart of the play.
From the cover of the 8th master of horse, strike up over your horses head and across, beating your opponents sword aside. Follow the natural turn of your body. Reach out with your left hand, and grab your opponents blade with your thumb down. For your own safety, the horses will need to be reasonably still, relative to each other. The faster the horses move past each other, the harder it is to grab the blade in the first place, and the more likely it is to slide in your hand and cut you.
Turn your opponents sword across to your left. You are really aiming to just pivot the blade around your opponents wrist rather than pull it out of the way. Your sword will already be chambered in Posta Fenestra as an end point to the beat. Moving your opponents sword like this leaves you a clear line to cut or thrust to their head, as the picture shows.
I find you uncovered throughout, and will certainly strike you in the head. And if with my back foot I want to pass forward, I can make narrow plays against you, namely binds, breaks and grapples.
The 2nd scholar performs a very instinctive of all the sword in one hand plays. From the guard taken in the Master play, slide your front foot offline and make a diagonally upward cut from left to right, beating your attackers sword to the right. Move your feet forward if need be to gain the correct distance, and then cut back down along the same line. You are aiming to strike at the base of your opponents neck as shown.
If your opponent is well armoured and your aim has been slightly off, this may not have been enough to finish the job. You can still step your left foot through and enter narrow play, pinning your opponent with your left hand and striking again.
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.
Because of this grip that I keep you in, I will strike you in the head with my pollaxe, and with my arm I will put you in the strong lower bind, which more than the others is mortally dangerous.
To make this play, you need to begin by breaking your opponents attack to the right. This gives you the opening you need to move to the outside line.
Holding the head of both weapons down and to the right, lunge in with your left foot. As you do so, scoop under your opponents right arm with your left arm. Make sure you are very close to your opponent. You will need to be able to reach the back of their shoulder with your hand. As you move, you can release the cover and raise your pollaxe for a strike, as the picture shows.
Pivot on your left foot, arcing your right foot behind you in a clockwise direction. Push into your opponenrts hips as you do so. Lock your left elbow into your body and lever down on the back of your opponent shoulder. They will bend forward at the hips, trapped in a lower bind.
You will now have the time and space to slide your hand to a more balanced single handed grip on your weaopn. There is a clear opening to strike to the back of the head, stab into the neck, or simply hold your opponent in submission. Other examples of the lower bind or variations of it, can be seen in the following plays.
The scholar who is before me completed the play and now I do what he described. Your arms have been bound in the middle bind. Your sword is imprisoned and it cannot help you. And with mine I can injure you. I can put my sword around your neck without a doubt. And I can do the play that comes after me straight away.
Coming from the master play, you have stepped through with your left foot. Moving on the inside line, you move past your opponents sword and wrap your left arm over both your oppponents arms. The text tells us this play follows the 7th scholar. You could also arrive at this point as a continuation of the 5th scholar.
Be sure to step in very close. As you wrap your opponents arms, chamber your sword for a pommel strike. You will be in the position shown.
Lock your left arm tight to your body to hold your opponents arms. You are perfectly placed to make a series of pommel strikes into your opponents face. These will work best if you think of the handle of your sword as the blade of a dagger which you are using to make a series of fendente strikes. You want the sword to move in a straight line forward and back along the line of the blade. If you swing it in arc, you will rapidly lose power and control of your strikes.
The 7th scholar tells us that you can strike until you are exhausted. In practice, you should be able to deliver between two and five good solid strikes until your momentum runs out and your opponent collapses. This should be more than enough to finish the fight, however, if you choose, you can still continue as the 9th scholar.
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.
In this play, I fiercely kick you in the balls, and I do it to inflict pain and to make you lose your cover. This play wants to be done quickly to remove all doubt. The counter to this play must be done quickly, which is that the player has to take the right leg of the scholar with his left hand, and he can throw him to the ground.
Having made a posta frontale in the master play, the 7th scholar continues with the unexpected move of fiercely kicking their opponent in the groin. As Fiore alludes to in the opening sentence, even if you miss when making a groin kick, it is extremely distracting. Your opponents attention will be entirely drawn away from the sword.
It is interesting to notice that the scholar kicks with the toe rather than the instep of the foot. Either will work, but kicking with the toe gives a little more distance. Also notice that the kick is delivered with the foot that moves on the inside line. If the scholar in the above picture was to kick with the left foot, the kick would most likely skim harmlessly off the opponents thigh.
Delivering a kick like this is a four part process. First of all, you need to raise your knee to point at, or slightly above, your target. Keep your back straight, your elbows in, your shoulders down, and your head up. Keep the sole of your foot parallel to the floor. You will need to bend your supporting leg. Many people telegraph their kick by bobbing their head and sticking their elbows out. Dont be one of them.
Secondly, use the hip to flick the foot out. Keep the attacking knee still. If your are kicking with the toe, bend your toes back, and actually deliver with the ball of the foot. Even with the protection of footware, if you kick with the point of your toe, you will end up hurting yourself.
When kicking with the ball of the toe like this, other good targets include just above the pubic bone, and into the solar plexus. A well delivered kick to either of these targets will fold your opponent in half. If you kick with the instep of your foot, kick up into the groin. Be sure to get your distancing right, as if you connect with your toes, you will hyperextend your own ankle.
The third step is the reverse of the second. Without moving your knee, get your foot back as fast as possible. The return should be faster than the delivery. You will know you are doing it properly when you kick yourself in the arse with your heel. Your foot should still be parallel to the floor.
Lastly, put your foot down and attack with the sword. Where you put your foot and how you continue the attack depends entirely on the success or otherwise of your kick. Be sure to do it in a controlled and balanced manner.
If you deliver your kicks like this, they will be fast, tight, easily controlled, and capable of delivering a huge amount of power. For such a beginner level technique, few people kick well, and many telegraph their intent.
If you are on the recieving end of a front kick, reach your left hand out and catch their shin just below the knee. From there, you can do one of two things.
Easiest and fastest is to step through while sweeping your opponents leg across to your right. Use this in a similar way to the many examples of an elbow push. Given the more direct effect it has on your opponents balance, you will find it extremely effective at turning your opponent. Be sure to cover their sword as they turn. They will be left wide open to an attack.
More difficult and dangerous is to scoop your hand under your opponents calf muscle and throw it up and forward as you step through. Your opponent will fall on their back, probably with a torn hamstring. Stab them before they can recover.
I am the ninth remedy master of dagger and I no longer hold a dagger. And this grip that I do against an attack from below is the same that the fourth remedy master of dagger makes against an attack from above, except I do it below. But my plays are not the same as his. The grip is worthy in armour and without, and from it I can make very strong plays, especially those that follow me. In armour or unarmoured, they are not doubted.
As Fiore points out, the cover of the 9th remedy master and the cover of the 4th remedy master are essentially the same. They are just applied to a different set of circumstances. The 4th master defends against a fendente strike and tends to direct the opponents wrist. As the 9th master, you defend against a sottano attack, and more direct your opponents elbow. The mechanics of this means that although the grip is the same, the plays which follow from each different master are quite different to each other.
In both cases, the cover is the same you would use to grip a sword. With your left hand, take your opponents wrist. Grip tightly with the thumb and bottom two fingers. Use the top two fingers to provide direction and control. Your right hand grips half way up the forearm in a similar manner.
From here, you have lots of control over your opponents arm. You can easily manipulate their balance, and transition onto the plays.