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.
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.
As you can see, the scholar who came before me wounded the player in the face with the cross guard of his sword, and I can readily wound him with the pommel in his face as you see below.
This play can be used either as an alternative to, or a continuation of, the 7th scholar of sword in armour. You have already used the master play to cover your opponents attack and close the distance between you. Take a second step with your right foot to move in to very close range. Cover yourself with your sword as you step through, using it to jam your opponents movement. At this point, you can make the play of the 7th scholar if the opportunity is there. Whether you make that play or not, continue your movement so that the axis of your sword lines straight up at your opponents face, and your right elbow points over their shoulder as shown.
Keeping your elbow still, pivot your hips clockwise and swing your forearm up into your opponents face. It should feel a lot like making an upwardly angled roverso strike with a dagger.
This will cause a great deal of damage against an opponent with an open faced helmet. Even striking against a visor or bevor will, at the very least, disrupt your opponents balance and win you the initiative to make the next move. This play can smoothly transition to the 9th scholar to throw your opponent.
This is the fourth play. The scholar wants to strike his head and then take his sword in the way that you see drawn here.
This play does not concern itself so much with the strike as what to do next. Beat your opponents sword to the right and strike along the inside line, similar to the 1st scholar of the 8th master. Having hit, but not necessarily killed or unhorsed your opponent, you are now disarming them.
Scoop your right hand back towards yourself so that you are contacting the inside of your opponents forearm with your own. Hook your hand so that the pommel goes over the top of their arm as shown. The movement of the horses will slide your forearm down to the wrist until your hand goes under the crossbars of the sword, levering it from their grip.
Although shown working from the inside of the arm, this play works equally well from the outside. If you make your initial strike from the left, as shown by the 2nd scholar of the 8th master, you can just as easily drop the pommel onto the inside of your opponents arm, sliding your forearm along the outside. Although the application is slightly different, the mechanics of the disarm are the same.
Having completed the play, you can safely turn to finish off your wounded and disarmed opponent. Although it does not appear earlier, there is absolutely no reason why you could not use this disarm with a sword in one hand when fighting on foot.
This play comes from ‘exchange of thrusts’ which is before me. Immediately that the scholar who is before me does not put his thrust into the face or chest of the player, because perhaps it was that the player was armoured, the scholar should pass forward with the left foot and in this way he should take the players sword and he can then injure well with his own sword because the players sword is taken and he cannot escape.
The general theme of armizare as a broad rule is to rapidly close the gap from the point of contact to narrow play and finish the fight from there. This should ideally happen in two passes with the feet. The 9th scholar is a great example of the end point of this chain of events.
From wide play, you have first made contact with your opponent as the 2nd master of sword in two hands. At this point, you can still safely back out, but sensing an advantage, you have made the play of the 8th scholar of the 2nd master, stepping through your opponents defensive shell to deliver a thrust at them. The 9th scholar then takes a second step to grappling range so as to finish them off.
The play of the 8th scholar has failed to deliver a finishing blow, due to your opponents armour or clothing either deflecting or absorbing the damage. From the thrust, the point of your sword was high, but your elbows were anchored to your body and your hands held low. Keep your hands in this position as you step through and off to the side with your left foot. With your sword locked to your core like this, use the strength of your step to push the opponents blade, clearing a space for you to step into.
This will lever your opponents blade off to your left. Once the momentum of this move is assured, let go with your left hand and reach over the top. Grab your opponents sword hilt between their hands and twist it outward to emphasis this disruption, as shown in the picture.
If you need to, you can pivot on your left foot, arcing your right foot around behind you to an appropriate angle and distance. The further you pivot, the closer you will end up. As your right foot anchors onto the ground, use it to slide your sword between your left arm and your opponents blade into your opponent. The face, neck, or right armpit should all be appearing as likely targets. From there, you can make a repeat thrust or withdraw the sword completely to posta fenestra and start striking with either the blade or pommel.
Although this is a series of individual steps, it should all be performed as a single flowing movement from the moment of contact as the 2nd master through to the completion of the 9th scholar.
This play is called ‘exchange of thrusts’ and you do it like this. When your opponent delivers a thrust, you quickly advance your front foot off the line and with the other, pass across also off the line, crossing the sword with your arms low and with the tip of your sword raised to the face or chest, as drawn.
Exchanging the thrust is a crucial play to understand in armizare. From a stance with your left foot forward against a thrust from your opponent, slide your front foot off the centreline and beat the thrust with a transition to posta frontale. This leaves you making the cover of the 2nd master of sword in two hands.
Sliding offline to either side will be effective, although each option will have slightly different qualities. If you slide your foot to the left, you widen your stance, putting your body firmly on the centreline of your opponents attack. You will need to have a strong and assertive beat to win the space, but will also have a slightly shorter, and so quicker, line to counter along. If you slide to the right, you move your body out of the way of the attack, and then redefine the centreline as you step through. This is safer and requires less force, but is also very slightly slower in delivering a counter. Fiore tells us that both feet step offline, suggesting that it is the second option that he prefers.
Regardless of which side you step to, catch your opponents blade with the flat of your own. As you lock into posta frontale, give your sword an axial spin, to flick your opponents blade to the side. Keep your hands low and the point up, so as to maintain a cover against your opponent. Step through with your right foot, driving the point into your opponents face, throat or chest, as shown.
Although there are a number of steps involved, in practice this plays out as a single smooth motion. Also bear in mind that although described as a parry and counter, you can transition into this, or any of the 2nd masters scholars, from any situation which finds you crossed at the middle of the blades when in wide play.
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.
This is Posta Frontale (Forehead Guard), called by some masters Posta Corona (Crown Guard), which for crossing blades is good and for thrusts is also good. Also if the thrust is high, she crosses swords and passes off the line. And if the thrust is too low, she also goes off the line and beats its point to the ground. Also you can do otherwise, in that striking with the point return with the back foot and strike with a downward cut for the head or arms, then move to Posta Dente di Zenghiaro and immediately throw a thrust or two while advancing the foot and return with a downward cut to that guard.
Posta Frontale is more of a transition point than a position you would hold. From a separate chambered posta, you will arrive here typically after beating aside an incoming attack. Less frequently, you might also use it to sweep aside your opponents weapon to initiate an attack of your own. As it is drawn, you would come to this position from a posta which is chambered on the right. You could also just as easily move from a sinistral posta to posta frontale. The mechanics would be essentially the same, except you would end with your right foot forward instead.
From your starting posta, drop your elbows close to your ribs. Ideally, they should be no more than a handspan from your body. Extending your elbows will weaken the structure, however, the circumstances you are facing may demand this to a certain extent. How you hold the forearms determines the height of the sweep you are making. The illustration shows the hands held quite high. In other examples throughout the book, the hands are held almost as low as the knees. Keep the blade upright, but with the point tipping somewhat forward.
You want to move your hands in something of a horizontal circle. Catch your opponents blade at the furthest point with the flat of your blade. Your own blade will sweep across your body completely, brushing your opponents blade offline. As you lock your arms and sword in place, they will trace back slightly along an arc. Your sword will naturally twist along its axis, flicking your opponents weapon to the side. When done properly, it will have a soft quality to it. It is more a scoop than a beat. This is the moment pictured.
From here, you can step forward, making an exchange of thrusts. You can also continue the momentum downwards, breaking the thrust.
Fiores last suggestion is a combination set. Exchange the thrust, which will leave you in posta longa. From there, follow up with a fendente cut to posta dente di zenghiaro. Continue with a second thrust and cut combination from there, returning again to posta dente di zenghiaro.