Guards and turns

One is like the other

Folio 22 r. a, b

Translation

We are two guards. One is like the other, and one is the counter to the other. And any other guard in the art where one is similar to the other is opposed except for the guards which are in point, namely Posta Longa (Long guard), Posta Breve (Short guard), and Posta Mezana Porta di Ferro (Middle Iron Gate guard). For when it is point against point, the longest weapon wounds first. And each can do what the other can.

Each guard can make a stable turn and a half turn. A stable turn is that by standing firm, you can fight to the rear and the front on the same side. A half turn is when one takes a step forward or backward, and can fight from the other side in front and behind. A full turn is when one goes around one foot with the other foot. One foot stands firm, and the other circles around.

Also I say that the sword also has three movements, namely stable turn, half turn and full turn. And these guards are both called Posta di Donna (Lady’s guard). Also there are four things in the art, which are passing, returning, increasing and decreasing.

Explanation

Where two opponents face each other from the same guard, neither has an advantage as they effectively mirror each other. The two guards pictured here are variants of Posta di Donna, although the rule holds true regardless of which guard the combatants take, with the exception of guards that align the blade down the centre line. These guards are Posta Longa, Posta Breve, and Posta Mezana Porta di Ferro. In such cases, the weapon with the greater reach holds the advantage.

A stable turn involves keeping the feet still and simply turning the hips 180 degrees. Although your sword would still be chambered on the same side in absolute space, relatively speaking it has swapped sides. i.e. if you were fighting to the front with a left guard, you are now fighting to the rear with a right guard.

A half turn is simply stepping either forward or back.

A full turn involves a pivot around one foot. Fiore does not elaborate on how far you need to pivot. A few degrees will change the pressure and nature of a bind. A step of more than around 30 degrees will create a new line of attack. A complete pivot of 180 degrees is effectively a half turn followed by a stable turn. Regardless of the size of your arc, you do not change sides. If you started in a left guard, you are still in a left guard at the end of the turn.

The sword moves appropriate to the turn. If you began in Posta di Donna and then made a stable turn, the sword would have to swap shoulders to maintain your stance. There are four basic movements. Passing and returning are half turns either foward or backward. Increasing and decreasing are moving forward and back while still leading with the same foot. Fiore does not elaborate on whether the feet should shuffle with the back and then step out with the front, or lunge with the front and then catch up with the back.

1st guard

Folio 22 r. c

Translation

We are six guards, and all are different to the others. I am the first that gives my account. Throwing the sword is my method. The other guards that come after will explain their own virtues, I believe.

Explanation

Throwing the sword is not a technique used by any of the masters or scholars throughout Fior di Battaglia, although there are two players who use it to attack: once against the Master of sword in one hand and again against the First Master of mixed weapons.

Although it seems counterintuitive to throw a weapon, there is the assumption that all Fiores players carry a dagger. Throwing the sword allows you a free strike at someone who you otherwise cannot get to, either due to the reach of their own weapon, their superior technical skill, or obstacles of some description. Such an attack would require either a rapid follow up with a dagger, or a rapid retreat.

2nd guard

Folio 22 r. d

Translation

I am a good guard in armour and without, and against spear and sword thrown from the hand. I can beat them aside and avoid them so I am sure they will not hurt me.

Explanation

Although unnamed here, this guard is Posta Coda Longa. Using this Posta while holding the sword in only one hand like this, is used by the Master of sword in one hand and the Eighth Master of horse. As described, it typically begins by clearing incoming attacks with a sweep across the body and then countering, although you can launch your own attack directly from here.

3rd guard

Folio 22 v. a

Translation

I can deliver a long thrust because I hold the sword for longer reach. And I am good to use against someone when both of us are armoured, because I can make a quick thrust to the front which cannot be avoided.

Explanation

A variant on Posta Breve la Serpentine from the armour section, the Master here holds their weapon by the hilt to extend the reach. This is a guard with the sword on the centre line. As mentioned above in the ‘One is like the other’ panel, where two swords are opposed in point, the one with the greater reach holds the advantage.

4th guard

Folio 22 v. b

Translation

I am a good guard against the sword, pollaxe and dagger if I am armoured, because I hold the sword with the left hand at the middle. And it is useful to do against the dagger more than any other weapon.

Explanation

Although unnamed here, this is a forward weighted variant of Posta Crose Bastarda from the armour section. This is best used to step offline and sweep attacks aside. It is impossible to strike from this position, but is very good for close techniques. The point of the sword is effectively transformed into a heavy left handed dagger. The guards emphasis on stabbing with the point and percussive attacks with the pommel make it effective against armour.

5th guard

Folio 22 v. c

Translation

I am called Posta di Donna (Lady’s guard), because those other sword grips and I are divided, that this one is not like the others. The picture opposite me seems to be making my guard as if he were holding a pollaxe rather than a sword.

Explanation

Posta di Donna is the only one of these six guards which names itself. It is a very instinctive and adaptable guard. Why it is divided from the others in this section is unclear.

6th guard

Folio 22 v. d

Translation

This sword is a sword and a pollaxe. And heavy weights cause light weights much trouble. This is also the Posta di Donna la Soprano (High Lady’s guard) which often tricks the other guards with her cunning, because you will believe that I will strike with a cut, but the I attack with a thrust. I have nothing else to do but to lift my arms over my head and I can strike with a quick thrust.

Explanation

This incredible looking piece of equipment is a boar sword. It is a very specialised sword used for pig hunting. The point mimics a winged spear tip to prevent an enraged and adrenaline fueled boar racing up the blade to disembowel its killer. The grip this Master uses seems to reference the mordhau of Germanic traditions, where the sword is held by the blade and swung using the crossbars like the spike of a pollaxe. This would certainly give a mass advantage in beating aside the blade of any opposing sword.

This play is a singular reference to both the weapon and the sword grip.