Endpiece

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.

Sword in armour - Plays

Sword in armour – Master

Foilo 33 r. c

Translation

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.

Interpretation

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.

Sword in two hands - Narrow play

Sword in two hands – 3rd Master – Narrow play

Folio 28 r. a

Translations

Here begins the plays of sword in two hands in narrow play in which it will be of all manner of covers, and strikes, and binds, and breaks, and grips, and sword disarms, and throws to the ground in different ways. And they will be the remedies and counters for every reason that you need for offence and defence.

We stand here crossed and from this crossing we will make all the plays which follow. We can do the same as each other. And all the plays will follow one another as I said before.

Explanation

As with the 1st and 2nd Masters of sword in two hands, the 3rd Master also is crossed in a state of equalibrium with the player. Crossed at the base of the swords, both combatants have a strong bind. Either can take the role of master as stated ‘we can do the same as each other.’ The roles are decided by who moves first.

It is noteworthy that where the masters of wide play crossed swords with their left foot forward, the master of narrow play leads with the right. This closes the distance between the masters dominanat hand and the opponent, altering the lines of attack. Combat now occurs at the range of grappling and dagger techniques.

Sword in two hands - Wide play

Sword in two hands – 1st Master – Wide play

Folio 25 r. c

Translation

Here begins the plays of sword in two hands in wide play. This master who is here crossing this player at the point of the sword says: “When I am crossed at the point of the sword, I immediately switch my sword to the other side and fiercely strike a downward cut to the head or arms. Also I can put a thrust in his face, as you see in the next picture.

Explanation

The 1st Master of Sword in Two Hands defends against an attack with Posta Frontale at such a distance that both swords are crossing at the tip of the blade, as shown in the picture. In this position, we can see the major defining characteristics of wide play.

As a fairly broad definition of wide play, although each combatant can grab the weapon or possibly arm of their opponent, they are unable to effectively deliver a strike without making a step.

To more tightly define what is happening here, both swords lack any real leverage in this crossing, making both the Master and the player weak in the bind. Also, due to the distance of the combatants and the angles of the blades, neither directly threaten each other with the point.

It is interesting to note that in all other manuscripts of Fior di Battaglia, both combatants in this play are Masters. The equality of their structures means that the play goes to whoever has the presence of mind to take advantage of the circumstances first.

As the Master, due to the lack of pressure in the bind, you are free to disengage, quickly lifting your sword over the tip of your opponents sword. This leaves an open line to the outside, along which you can strike down onto your opponents right forearm.

Dagger - 2nd, 3rd and 4th Masters

Dagger – 2nd Master

Folio 13 r. b

Translation

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.

Explanation

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.

Endpiece

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.

Horseback - 8th master, Uncategorized

Horseback – 8th master

Folio 43 v. d

Translation

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.

Explanation

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

Spear on foot

Spear – Posta Tutta Porta di Ferro (Full Iron Gate guard)

Folio 39 r. a

Translation

We are three masters in guards with our spears, and they are based on those of the sword. And I am the first in Tutta Porta di Ferro (Full Iron Gate). I am placed to quickly beat the spear of the player, that is, I pass with the right foot and traverse off the line and in doing so, his spear will be beaten to the left. If I pass and beat in a single step, I will wound. This is something I cannot fail to do.

Explanation

Holding the spear vertically with the point up, the First Master waits in Posta Tutta Porta di Ferro to sweep and counter any incoming attack. The length of the spear means the sweep will cover the entire body in a single move, something like a sliding door, and can then smoothly rotate into a counter thrust, either high or low depending on circumstances.

Alternatively, the master can rotate the spear into Posta Vera Crose and make a relatively close range attack with a butt strike.

Pollaxe - Plays

Pollaxe – Master

Folio 36 v. a

Translation

These are the plays where the guards are tested. Each guard can do them, and thinks it has the right. Whoever can beat the pollaxe of the player to the ground, as shown in these plays that I do, will do all of them if the counter does not give him trouble.

Explanation

Although the Getty MS shows the combatant on the left as a scholar, the Florius clearly shows them as a Master. Furthermore, all the pollaxe plays flow on from this one. This is functionally a master play despite the lack of a crown.

It begins with a breaking of the thrust. This is a common technique used thoughout armizare, most notably in the Sword in One Hand section, and the Wide Play of Sword in Two Hands. It is first explained in detail by the 8th scholar of the 2nd Master of Sword in Two Hands.

This can be done from any of the posta. Step off the line with your front foot, and then cut with the pollaxe through your opponents attack while stepping through with the back foot. This will beat the opposing weapon to the side. Use the considerable momentum generated by the pollaxes head to drive your opponents pollaxe to the ground.

Breaking the thrust like this will gain you the initiative, allowing you to continue in the following plays.

Sword in armour - Plays

Sword in armour – 1st scholar

Folio 33 r. d

Translation

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.

Interpretation

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.

Sword in two hands - Narrow play

Sword in two hands – 1st scholar of the 3rd Master – Narrow play

Folio 28 r. b

Translation

From the crossing which is done by my master with the right foot forward, I complete the first play. That is, that I pass with the left foot and put my left hand over my right arm and grab and hold his sword between his hands, in the middle of the hilt. And with cuts and thrusts I can hurt him. And this grip can be done with the sword in one or two hands. The crossing can be done above or below the hands to make such a grip.

Explanation

As the 3rd Master, both combatants had their swords crossed in the middle with the right foot forward.

Ensure that the crossing has given you a space to move into by keeping the pressure on the bind. Step through with your left foot directly down the centerline. Simultaneously advance your left hand in a straight line from your own sword, over your right arm to between your opponents  hands.

You can grab their sword with your thumb down, as drawn. Alternatively, you can have your thumb up and grab from underneath. Both will work. Thumb down will provide better torque to twist the blade offline.

Pull your left elbow back to lock into your hip and twist or push your forearm to the outside. The details of what to do here is determined by the grip you have taken. Regardless, the objective is to disable the weapon and move it to the side. You will not have the leverage to strip it from your opponents hand, but you will put it out of action long enough to give you at least one good strike.

Clear your own sword by pulling it in a straight line down and to the right. Pivot on your left foot if needed to give yourself the appropriate angle and distance. A range of targets will present themselves for you to strike at.

Sword in two hands - Wide play

Sword in two hands – 1st scholar of 1st master – Wide play

Folio 25 r. d

Translation

I placed a thrust in your face like the master who is before me described. Also, I could have done this, drawn back my sword immediately when I was crossed on the right, switched the sword to the left side and delivered a downward cut for the head or arms, as the master who is before me said.

Explanation

Having made the cover of the 1st Master, you will find youself in Posta Frontale with both swords crossed at the tip.

At the point of the 1st Master, both combatants are weak in the bind. As the 1st scholar, you can take the initiative by simply dropping the point of your sword and extending into Posta Longa. This should drive it cleanly into your opponents face.

Alternatively, as previously described, you can quickly lift your sword over the tip of your opponents sword and strike down onto your opponents right forearm.

Dagger - 1st Master

Dagger – 1st Master

Folio 10 v. a

Translation

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.

Explanation

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.

Endpiece

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.

Sword in two hands - Narrow play

Sword in two hands – 2nd scholar of the 3rd master – Narrow play

Folio 28 r. c

Translation

This is another play that comes from the crossing of my master. And from that crossing I can make this play and the others which follow me here. That is, I can take the player in this way and strike him in the face with the pommel of my sword. Also, I can strike him with a downward cut to the head before he can cover himself.

Explanation

In the play of the 3rd master, both swords were crossed at the mid point of the blade.

Drop your weight down low and step through with the left foot. As you do so, raise your hands to head height. Duck under you opponents blade while turning your own sword so that the handle faces your opponent and the blade extends over your shoulder. Keep the point of the bind stationary, and be sure that everything rotates around that point. This will allow you to safely roll under your opponents blade to the other side.

Keeping your elbow in close to your body, sweep your left hand across to grab your opponents right wrist. You do not need to push their hand. Just ensure that it stays out of the way.

Align your sword to your target. Use the handle of your sword as a heavy dagger, and make a fendente strike straight forward at the base of their nose. If you allow the sword to move off its alignment and swing in an arc, it will dramatically lose speed and power. Take care in all the excitement not to slide the blade of your sword across your own shoulder.

Your opponent will be left either with a savagely broken nose, spitting out a number of teeth, or both. Cut them down at your leisure.

Sword in one hand

Sword in one hand – Master

Folio 20 r. d

Translation – players

Here are three players that want to kill this Master. One to stab him, the other to cut, the other wants to throw his sword against the said master. It will be a great deed that he is not killed, for God has made him very skillful.

Translation – Master

‘You are cowardly wretches and of this art you know little. Do the deeds that you can only talk of. Come one by one, if you dare, and if you were a hundred I would ruin you all, this guard is so good and strong.’ I advance my front foot a little off the line and with the left, I cross sideways. And in that step across, beating your sword aside I find you uncovered, and make sure I hurt you. And if a spear or sword is thrown I will beat them all as I described by passing off the line, as you see in my plays that come after. Please watch for them. And even with a single-handed sword I will do my art as it is said in these papers.

Interpretation

The master of sword in one hand makes a universal defence which is common to Fiores weapon systems. Whether the master advances their front foot to the left or right is something Fiore never elaborates on throughout the many plays that use this basic concept of defence. Either side works, but the different steps give different qualities to your actions.

Defence begins with rear weighted Posta Coda Longa. Note that the right elbow is anchored to the hip. As the masters hip revolves clockwise, the sword will sweep across the body, providing either attack or defence as circumstances require.

Regardless of which of the players attacks, the Master uses the same defence. Cut upwards with a roverso sottano, beating the attack to your right. As you do so, step through with your left foot, so closing in on your opponent. This leaves you a clear line of attack to proceed with the plays which follow.

Sliding your front foot to the right is not only an instinctive way to move, but is also implied by the way different plays following on from both this master and others who use the universal defence. You will almost always be sliding your right foot to the right. Doing so puts you directly in the line of your opponents attack. You must be greatly assertive when beating the attack aside as it leaves no room for error. To your advantage, however, is that widening your stance will open your hips right up, and allow you to put a great deal of power into your beat. In doing so, you will dominate the centerline. The directness and mechanical ease of opening your stance will also make this method slightly faster.

Sliding your front foot to the left closes your hips off quite substantially and robs you of a lot of power, however, it also moves you off the line of attack. There is no need to beat your opponents attack wide, as you will no longer be standing where the attack is directed. You are more defining your right edge and will need to step past it. This changes your angle of attack and so opens up previously unavailable targets. The need to move further makes this a slightly slower method. Although a viable option, sliding offline like this is an unusual exception, usually done for tactical reasons rather than making a direct assault.

Dagger - 2nd, 3rd and 4th Masters

Dagger – Counter to 2nd Master

Folio 13 r. c

Translation

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.

Explanation

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 Master

Dagger – 1st counter to 1st master

Folio 10 v. b

Translation

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.

Explanation

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.

Sword in two hands - Narrow play

Sword in two hands – 3rd scholar of the 3rd master – Narrow play

Folio 28 r. d

Translation

This is another pommel strike. And if you are quick, you will doubtless find the face uncovered. This can be done armoured and unarmoured. I have proven that four teeth will be knocked out of the mouth with such a play. And the sword can be wrapped around his neck if you want, as you will be shown in the play after this by the next scholar.

Explanation

In the master play, both combatants have their right foot forward with the blades crossed in the middle. Similar to the 2nd scholar, lunge through with your left foot. At the same time, roll the handle of your sword in an arc under your opponents blade. Use the crossing point of the blades as the centre of the arc. This will provide you with cover as you cross to your opponents outside and enter the narrow play.

When the axis of your sword lines up with your opponents face, drive it forward, aiming just under the base of the nose. This strike works best if you visualise the sword handle as a dagger blade, and strike much as you would with a dagger. The power comes from the right hand, and your left only provides direction.

Fiores comment that four teeth will be knocked out is a very interesting detail. It is a very specific number, especially when coupled with the claim that he has proven this. We know from the books introduction that Fiore fought and won five formal duels. His statement here might imply that this was the play which finished one of them.

With both hands in position, and your momentum already moving to the outside of your opponent, wrapping your sword around their neck is a nice smooth way to continue from here.

Horseback - Grappling plays

Horseback – 1st scholar of grappling

Folio 45 r. b

Translation

This is a grappling play. That is, a play of unarmed combat, and it is done in this way. When someone flees from you and his left side is near, with the right hand you grab him by the cheekplate of the helmet, or if he is disarmed by the neck, or by the right arm behind his shoulders. In that way you will make him fall to the ground.

Explanation

In this play you are moving in behind someone and pulling them backwards off their horse. They may have disengaged from a bout and you have managed to come around behind them. They may be fleeing the field and you are running them down.

The basic idea is to grab the upper right quadrant of their body and pull down to the lower left, causing them to twist away from you and fall off their horse.

There is more movement and speed here than the picture suggests. Lean forward and reach out for your opponent. Your forward motion will impel your horse to pick up speed, allowing you to catch them.

Fiore gives a number of different suggestions as to what to grab. It really comes down to anything you can get a good grip on. Bear in mind that the twist is the crux of the technique, which is why the cheek plate of the helmet is the best available option. Reaching around behind your opponent and grabbing the front of the helmet will cause them to turn their head and body fully to the right, so their back is towards you. This will disengage their hips from their horse, and start to roll their left hip up and out of the saddle. It will also cause their horse to veer off to the right.

Having taken hold of your opponent, sink your weight back into the saddle and pull your right arm back in close to your body. This will cause your own horse to slow down or possibly stop altogether. Your opponents sudden instability will cause their horse to speed up, running off at an angle. You are less pulling your opponent from their horse, as you are holding them still and directing their horse out from under them. They will roll backwards, falling onto their head or shoulders.

Throughout this whole process, use your left hand to hold firmly but gently onto your own saddles pommel. If your opponents horse kicks out, it might hit either you or your horse. As your opponent falls, your horse will either trample on or jump over them. The moment after the grab will not be the smoothest of rides, and you need to be sure you do not lose your own seat in all the excitement.

Sword in armour - Plays

Sword in armour – 2nd scholar

Folio 33v. a

Translation

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.

Interpretation

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
  • Sword in armour – 1st scholar
  • Spear on foot – scholar of the 1st 3 Masters
  • Spear on foot – scholar of the 2nd 3 Masters
  • Spear vs cavalry – 1st scholar

The 3rd scholar of pollaxe also resolves the problem of visors in much the same way.

This play ends with the delightfully pragmatic piece of advice that if it doesnt work, then try something else.