If I am crossed in narrow play, I immediately do this hold because neither with sword disarm nor bind can he retaliate. Also I can injure him with thrusts and cuts without any danger to myself.
This is a fun and interesting way to jam your opponents weapon. Although the application is very different, there are similar principles at play here as you see in the 1st scholar of the 3rd master.
The set up for this play requires quite a strong beat at the master play which precedes it. From the crossing of the swords, you want to hit your opponents sword hard enough that it angles off to your left. You are going to exaggerate this movement.
With your left hand, make a hooking block under your opponents right wrist. This is a technique Fiore frequently uses, most notably throughout the plays of the 1st master of dagger. Lead with your left thumb under handle of your opponents sword and onto the inside of their forearm.
Immediately you make contact, roll your wrist over and grab onto the forearm. Step through with your left foot as you do so, and pull the elbow in close, locking it to your core. The turn of the wrist, coupled with the leverage of your forearm will force your opponents blade right over, as the picture shows.
While all the action is focused on the left hand, bring your right hand back to lock against your ribs. Your right hip is chambered for an attack. The sword blade effectively extends directly from your core. Use your wrist to target the point. As your left hand pulls back, your right hip pushes forward, driving the blade through your opponent.
A slight variation of this play can be seen in the following
The scholar who is before me told the truth, that because of the turn he has made you do, I will cut you in the back of the head. Even before you can turn to cover yourself I will give you a great wound in the back with my point.
The 15th scholar is the logical end point to the play of the 14th scholar. Although the weapon used and the exact target may vary, the concept of this play can be applied as a follow up to any of the many elbow pushes found throughout Fior di Battaglia.
If you catch someone with a good elbow push, the most you can reasonably expect them to turn is just a fraction over 90 degrees to your right. It is mostly less than that.
Use the time your opponent is off balance to adjust your own footing. There are no hard rules as to how to do this, as the details will entirely depend on where your opponent lands. You are aiming to move around to your left as far as you can so as to get behind your opponent. This could involve a simple pivot on the ball of your foot. It may involve a couple of steps.
Be aware that with a simple pivot, the further around you go, the closer to your opponent you will end up. This is not necessarily a problem, but it will influence your choice of attack. You will need to be aware of your distancing as you spin behind your opponent, and adjust appropriately. Wherever you move to, you will need to do it quickly. Keep your weight low and your elbows tucked in, so as to centralise your weight and increase your speed.
Fiore gives a couple of options of stabbing your opponent in the back, or cutting to the head. In practice, it doesn’t matter which, if either, of these options you choose. The sudden shift in angles will give you a rich field of opportunities. Pick one, and make it a finishing strike.
I am also a counter to the scholar who wants to do the dagger play, that is, the play which is two plays before me. If I slice his neck a little he rises up. And then I can throw him to the ground quickly if I want to.
This very interesting play begins in the same manner as the 1st counter to the 13th scholar, but transitions into this mid way through. From the crossing of the 3rd master, your opponent has made the play of the 13th scholar. With their left hand, they have scooped up, making a hooking block under your sword handle and over your right forearm, and then stepped into you, intent on making a middle bind. As described by the 1st counter, as they move their hand into position, lunge your right foot deep to their outside. Place your right hand behind their left shoulder. Make sure your hips are as close as possible to your opponent. Keep your weight low. Cover with your left hand as you move in. Grab the sword with your left hand, pivot on the balls of your feet and go to lever your opponent down as described by the 1st counter.
For some reason, the bind does not work. Usually this is some combination of you either not being close enough, or your timing being slightly off. Regardless of the cause, your opponent is recovering, and trying to push back against your hand. Rather than turning this into a force on force struggle, simply go with their momentum and exaggerate it.
Pivot back to face your original direction again, and as you do so, slide the blade under the corner of their left jaw. This will encourage them to move up and back even further. This is the point shown in the picture.
Your opponent will fall backwards over your right leg in a tangled heap with a cut to their neck and a seriously torn shoulder. You will need to step though with your left foot to maintain your own stability and not become twisted up. The bind means they will pull heavily on your right arm as they fall. Take care not to be pulled down on top of them.
This is also another play of ‘Breaking the Thrust,’ in which the player has had his thrust broken. As he raises his sword to cover mine, I immediately put the hilt of my sword inside the part of his right arm near his right hand and immediately I take my sword with my left hand near the tip and wound the player in the head. And if I wanted I could put it around his neck to saw at the windpipe of his throat.
Prior to this play, you have come from the master play where your swords are crossed, and then stepped through to a somewhat extended form of posta dente di zenghiaro, beating your opponents sword to the ground, as shown by the 10th scholar. This technique is called ‘breaking the thrust.’
As your opponent raises their sword to cover against you, let go of your sword with your left hand, and thrust the pommel down over their right wrist. You need to get the alignment of your strike running in a straight line along the axis of your blade rather than moving in a curve. This will give you much greater control. It feels like making a short, low roverso dagger stab.
Grab the sword towards the tip of the blade. Holding the sword relatively still, step through with your left foot. You are stepping past both your sword and your opponent, across to your opponents right side, using your right hand to pin their arm. Although this is a movement in false time, the cover of your sword makes it safe here.
The moment your foot lands, drive your left hip forward. Punch in a straight line to a point just behind your opponents head. This is the moment depicted.
On contact, raise your hands slightly. This will slice the face open from temple to jaw.
You have seriously hurt your opponent. If you would like to kill them, you are now well positioned to scoop the blade over your opponents head. Rest the blade under the left corner of their jaw. Pivoting on your left foot, arc your right foot behind you. Pull your right hand back to its shoulder, opening your opponents throat, as described by the 4th scholar of the 3rd master of sword in two hands.
This is also a play of ‘Breaking the Thrust’ which you saw drawn before me two plays back, which is when I beat the sword to the ground, I immediately and boldly put my right foot onto his sword. And then I wound him severely in the head, as you can see.
At the same time, step through with your right foot. Bend your supporting leg so as to maintain your height and avoid bobbing up and down. Lift your right foot high and use the sole of your foot to push against the flat of the blade, then put your weight down. This is a deliberate placement, not a stomp. This will damage the blade and potentially lever it out of your opponents hands.
There are two possible ways to proceed from this point.
If you have landed with a straight drop and are pointing more or less directly at your opponent, the first method is to make a double cut. This is essentially identical to the 11th scholar, but with different targeting. It also works if you go to make the play of the 11th scholar, but in all the excitement, your first cut goes too high. You can still recover as the 12th.
Keeping your elbows in, drop your left hip forward, flicking your sword up past your opponents right shoulder. Without pause, flick your hips back the other way. Use this movement to deliver a downward cut to the top of the head as shown. This is a fast double motion driven purely by the hips. The more your drop your hip, the better it will work.
Alternatively, if you land after the disarm with your own momentum still turning off to the left, continue the movement of the blade around, until you are in posta coda longa. Keep your elbows tied gently but firmly to your core, and use them as a pivot point for the strike. Throw the blade over your head in an arc to strike your opponent as shown. Each of these options is as effective as the other, but you need to know why you would choose one over the other. The choice is determined by the details of your balance point after the foot disarm.
From the grip made by the scholar before me, I can feel the sword has fallen to the ground. It is no lie to say that I can injure you greatly.
Having completed the play of the 16th scholar, keep moving so as to not lose any momentum. As your body weight moves forward, put all your weight onto your left foot. Pivot 180 degrees on the ball of your left foot.
As you do so, pull your right foot back, so that your feet are together. You will be facing the same direction as your opponent. Bend your knees and push your left hip under their right, so stealing their centre. With your left arm, try to catch your opponent as high up the forearms as possible, and lock your left elbow down against your ribs with your forearm across your belt.
You should be right underneath your opponent at this stage. Everything momentarily contracts down into your own core. You want to lift your opponents hips up and pull their elbows down into your centre, forcing them off balance. Do not bend over. Make sure you keep your back upright. As you drop your weight, your own sword hand will drop as well. Ensure the handle of your sword crosses the blade of your opponents sword just above the hilt.
This contraction is the crux of the two plays. You will need to practice it slowly, smoothly and often in order to be able to be able to do it at speed with confidence. It is in many ways mechanically the same as a throw, and relies on timing and flow more than strength.
Continuing on, drop your right foot behind you and keep pivoting on the balls of your feet. In total, you will have spun in almost a complete circle, and be facing roughly the same direction you started in. The whole thing has the sensation of spinning through your opponent like a whirlwind, and catching them up in your movement. As you pivot on your feet, scoop your hand down and then up again to posta de fenestra.
Your opponent will have their elbows pinned together and will be swept along as you spin past them. As their arms are locked shut, their hands will tend to pop open. The scoop of your sword will rip their sword from their grasp and fling it dramatically behind you somewhere. You should find yourself more or less as depicted.
Drop the tip of your sword to the pit of your opponents throat and push.
This is the high sword disarm. Keeping hold of my sword I press forward, and with my left hand I shall clasp your arms in such a way that it is better to lose the sword. And I will give you grievous injuries. The scholar who comes after this play shows how the sword of the player is on the ground.
The 16th scholar is not a complete play in itself. It marks a transition point which you must pass through if you want to continue to the disarm of the 17th scholar.
From the master play, roll the handle of your sword in an arc under your opponents blade. As you do so, step through on the outside line with your left foot. Once you are on the outside line, release your grip with your left hand. Your sword should be in a horizontal plane extending behind you.
You could at this point, push with your left hand to finish as the 2nd scholar with a pommel srike. The two plays use the same opening move. Instead, you reach across both of your opponents arms. Do not lock them yet. This is the position shown.
At this stage, you are committed to continue as the 17th scholar. Although you must pass through this point, it is essential that you do not pause or break your flow in any way. The 16th and 17th scholars are completed together in a single smooth movement.
The scholar who is before me beat the sword of the player to the ground, and I complete his play in this way. Beating his sword to the ground, I forcefully put my right foot over his sword. I can break it, or bend it in such a way that he will no longer be able to use it. And this is not enough for me, for as soon as I place my foot on his sword, I use the false blade of my sword to strike with intent under his beard into his neck. And immediately I go back with a downward cut of my sword for the arms or the hands, as drawn.
This play is a variation on the 10th scholar of the 2nd master. From the crossing of the master play, beat your opponents sword to the ground as the 10th scholar describes, clearing a space for you to enter into your opponent.
Step through with your right foot, except here, place it on your opponents blade. Use the ball of your foot to ensure the blade is tipped slightly. Then with the sole of your foot safely on the flat of the blade, put your weight down, landing in posta dente di zenghiaro.
This will cause the sword to either bend, snap, be levered from your opponents grasp, or some combination of all of those things. The sudden leverage will also tend to tip your opponent forward slightly, exposing their head.
With a fast double cut action, strike up with the false blade into the neck, then down again onto the hands. This ostensibly easy movement is worth exploring in some detail.
Because your right foot is holding down your opponents sword, your own feet are pretty much stuck in place holding it there. You cannot effectively pivot on your right foot to change your angle, nor can you lunge forward without releasing your hold. As it happens, your distancing should be excellent, but just bear in mind you have a second or two of relative immobility.
As you start from posta dente di zenghiaro, your elbows should be lightly resting against your ribs, making a soft, yet firm, connection to your core. Do not move them throughout the cut.
Bend your knees, drop your weight down, and throw your left hip forward. Although the ball of your foot maintains your grounding, lift the heel off the ground to get some extra distance and power. The ball of your foot, your heel, your knee and your hip should all be aligned, pointing directly at your opponent. This will drive your hip forward around 30 cm and solidly ground your technique. Keep the elbows touching your ribs and bound to your core, acting like the pivot point of a pendulum. Keep the forearms and wrists relaxed, and allow the momentum to fling the blade upwards into your opponents neck. This is a very fast, very tight attack.
Even tipped forward as they are, you are going to have a small target. You are aiming to put the blade over their shoulder, but under the chin. Specifically, you want to hit the carotod artery just under the corner of the jaw. If this is unprotected, such a strike will cause your opponent to dramatically spray blood everywhere and be dead within a couple of seconds. Even if they have neck protection, such percussive force to such a vital area will be seriously compromising.
Your hips are now fully loaded to make the same movement in reverse. Pull your left hip back, and with the elbows still touching your body, use your forearms to throw the sword down, aiming for your opponents wrist, just at the base of the thumb.
This is a short cut. The distance from neck to wrist is only around 60 cm, so it is not like you are going to cut the hand off. Be sure to keep your forearms relaxed, and drive this second attack with the force of your hips. It will certainly be enough to cut deep into the bone and damage the arm beyond use.
This is another defence that can be done against a thrust. Namely, when attacked with a thrust as I told you in the Exchange of Thrusts which is two plays before me, step forward and pass off the line. Do the same thing in this play except that in the Exchange of Thrusts you thrust with the arms low and with point of the sword high, as I said before. But this is called ‘Breaking the Thrust,’ in that the scholar goes with the arms high and gives a downward blow while stepping forward off the line, crossing the thrust in the middle of the sword and beating it to the ground. And immediately comes to the close.
Breaking the thrust is a fundamental concept to have to understand in Fiores work. Although the name suggests it is only practiced against thrusts, it can be equally applied against a strike or even an extended guard. You are using this to clear a path for yourself so as to enter from wide to narrow play.
In the master play, you have moved to posta frontale so as to cross your opponents sword in the middle. Continue this movement in a diagonal cut. Do this assertively, so as to live up to the name of the play. You are there to break the attack, throwing your opponents weapon down and to your left.
With the space cleared, step through with your right foot. This will add weight and strength to your delivery, as well as moving you to the range of narrow play. You should land in a slightly extended variant of posta dente di zenghiaro as shown in the picture.
Other examples of breaking the thrust, as well as clear examples of potential ways to follow on can be seen in the following plays.
I am the counter, and I do the counter to the scholar before me. He wants to make a dagger play, that is, the second play after the first remedy master. If you remain on your feet with your sword, I will not believe it.
From the play of the 3rd master, your opponent has cut their left hand up between your right forearm and the sword handle, as shown by the 13th scholar. They are attempting to put you into a middle bind. Fiore says this is a dagger play, which it is, but the best example of this bind using swords is the 4th scholar of sword in one hand.
Lunge forward and to the side with your right foot to the outside of your opponent. Place your right hand and the sword against the back of your opponents shoulder. As you do this, pivot 180 degrees on the balls of your feet and pull your left foot towards you a little. Make sure that your hips are pushed up next to your opponent. Lean your weight forward onto your left foot. Their left hand will be twisted behind their back in a lower bind.
Grab your sword with your left hand. Push against the back of your opponents left shoulder with your right hand. Use your left hand to add power and leverage, bending your opponent over and tightly binding their arm, as the picture shows.
Keep pushing down with your left hand to ensure your opponent remains head down and immobile. You can easily control the level of pain inflicted by raising or lowering your right elbow.
Fiore often uses the lower bind. You can see other examples and variants of this lock in the following plays.