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.
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.
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.
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.
My master who is before me taught me that when the sword is crossed at the middle, I immediately advance forward and take his sword as shown to wound him with a cut or thrust. Also I can injure his leg in the way you see drawn here to hit him with my foot over the back of the leg or under the knee.
When acting as the second scholar, your counter is conceptually the same. Having beaten your opponents sword offline, give a lateral twist as you enter Posta Frontale to flick your opponents sword that much further away.
Let go of your own sword with your left hand and grab at the point of your opponents sword. Be sure to grab it firmly. Your opponent will instinctively try to pull it away. You will only be cut if you allow the blade to slide through your grip.
Having momentarily immobilised your opponents weapon, you now have a clear line of attack. Make a single handed cut or thrust at your opponent. You will need to step through to get proper distance. Because your opponents weapon is jammed, you are safe to make your attack in false time. Step through first, and drop all your available body weight behind your attack. This will add a degree of power to what will otherwise be quite a weak attack. You are not starting from a mechanically strong position, so take the opportunity to add everything you can to it.
As you step through, Fiore suggests maximising your advantage by kicking your opponents knee. This is explored further by the 3rd scholar.
I am also crossed in the wide play, but at the middle of the sword. And immediately that I am crossed, I slide my sword down onto the hands, and if I want to pass with my right foot off the line, I can put a thrust to the chest as drawn hereafter.
As the 2nd master, you are in Posta Frontale crossing swords with your opponent in the middle of the blade. Your hands are relatively safe and can be withdrawn by pulling them back to a more neutral position. You can even disengage competely by stepping with your front foot out of range.
For a safe and easy attack, cut straight down the line of your opponents blade as if cutting to Posta Mezzana Porta di Ferro. Strike your opponents left hand or forearm on the way through.
Alternatively, you can step through and offline to the right with your back foot. This will bring you within the range of narrow play, and give you a clear line to stab your opponent in the face or chest, as shown by the 1st scholar of the 2nd master.
The scholar before me learned this play from his master and mine. I do it here. To do it well takes little effort.
The 3rd scholar of the 2nd master is one of the rare examples of kicks being used in armizare. In a quirk of Fiores writing style, the 2nd scholar gives the clearest description as to what the 3rd scholar does. The 2nd scholar states.
‘My master who is before me taught me that when the sword is crossed at the middle, I immediately advance forward and take his sword as shown to wound him with a cut or thrust. Also I can injure his leg in the way you see drawn here to hit him with my foot over the back of the leg or under the knee.’
Events begin with the 2nd master, where your swords were crossed in the middle. As both the 2nd and 3rd scholar, you then immobilise your opponents sword by grabbing the tip with your left hand and then using a single handed attack to either cut or thrust at your opponent. However, where the 2nd scholar simply steps through, the 3rd scholar makes the pass with a kick.
Fiore gives us two options. In both cases, you should strike with the sword first, and then the foot. Once you deliver your kick, you will be too close to use either the blade or point of the sword without stepping again. To ‘hit him with my foot over the back of the leg’ refers to a round kick with the instep of the foot. To hit ‘under the knee’ refers to a stamp, which is what is shown in the picture. Unfortunately, the picture is drawn showing very poor mechanics.
The two kicks are quite different to each other, and worth exploring in some depth.
To deliver a round kick, as you step, lift your knee to point to where you want your kick to land. In this case it is just a fraction below your opponents knee. Be sure to keep your weight low, and you head moving in a level plane. Control your arms and keep them still. Keep the sole of your foot parallel to the ground. Many beginners drop their toes, which will slow your attack and cause your balance to waver. Be sure to avoid it.
Once the line from your hip to your knee points at your opponents knee, pivot on the ball of your left foot, swinging your foot in an arc. The instep of your foot should contact with the inner side of your opponents knee, with your toes behind the leg at the back of the knee. Keep your knee in place and return your foot along the same arc. It moves faster coming back than going out. You should kick yourself in the arse with your heel. Only then do you place your foot on the gound.
Many people interpret the second kick as a knee stomp. While this would certainly be an effective attack, it is not what is either drawn or described. Fiore clearly tells us to attack below the knee. This makes it more of a push than a stomp.
As you step through, raise your knee high, pull your toes back and turn your foot inwards. Pivot on the ball of your left foot and flaring your right heel forward, place your foot firmly on the inside of your opponents shin. This is the moment shown in the picture. As you drop your weight forward, it will push your opponents leg out from under them.
You have already wounded your opponent with the sword. Whichever method you use to take out the leg, their knee will push out to the right, ripping the ligaments as it goes. They will fall straight down in a graceless heap.
Before me was the Peasant Strike where I placed a thrust in his chest. And I could have struck a blow to his head or arms with a downward cut as I said before. Also if the player wants to counter this and wound me with an upward cut under the arms, I immediately advance my left foot and put my sword on his, and he cannot do anything to me.
This play depicts the culmination of the Peasant Strike. Against an overly enthusiastic and under controlled fendente attack, as the 4th scholar, you have rolled under your opponents attack from right to left. You now finish them with a thrust to the chest as shown. You could just as well use a downward cut to the head or arms.
It is possible that your opponent will attempt a counter. In the picture, you can see your opponent, having finished the unsuccessful attack, recover to Mezana Dente di Zenghiaro, chambering themselves to deliver an upward cut or thrust.
If your opponent is fast enough here, you may be exposed to a double hit. If you feel this is the case, then instead of striking directly at your opponent, then cut down on top of their sword. This will jam their counter, and also leave you with a first move advantage to make an upward cut or thrust of your own.
When someone strikes at your leg, pull the front foot back, or step backwards and deliver a downward cut to his head as drawn here. Although with a sword in two hands you should not strike to the knee or below as there is too much danger to the one who strikes, because whoever strikes to the leg has no cover. If one has fallen to the ground, then you may well attack the leg, but otherwise, do not do it standing sword against sword.
With a sword in two hands, you should not strike at the knee or below. Here, the 6th scholar of the 2nd master gives a clear demonstration as to why not. It all comes down to geometry.
Imagine a circle whose centre is at the shoulder and whose radius extends along the line of the arm and sword. The circumference of the circle is at the swords tip. Where the radius of the circle is horizontal, it will reach the opponents head. This is shown by the scholar. Where the radius of the circle reaches for the opponents legs, it will fall short, as you can see with the player.
In practice, this makes for quite a simple technique. A cut to the leg is a relatively large movement, and you should be able to see it coming. Do not bother trying to cover it, but simply slide your front foot back out of range. Try to keep your shoulders in more or less the same place. As you step out of the way of your opponents cut, make a cut of your own to their head.
Your strike will be like a short snap driven by your arms rather than your hips. You should finish in Posta Longa. It is not a powerful cut, but instead relies on accuracy and a complete absence of cover from your opponent. Strike right into the centre of your opponents forehead.
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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
Also, when I have beaten the thrust or crossed swords with the player, I can put my hand behind his right elbow and push strongly so that I will turn him around and leave him uncovered, and I can wound him after turning him like this.
The elbow push is Fiores most common technique. Here, you are going to use it straight from the crossing of the master play. It is technically very simple, but requires good timing to work properly.
Your two opportunities in the play are either after the swords have crossed but before your opponents foot has landed, or having made the master play, your opponent is moving their foot to do something else. Their foot needs to be off the ground and moving somewhere at the moment of the push for it to work.
Catch their elbow with your left hand, and lock your arm in place. Step through with your right foot and push with your left hip. It is the hip which makes the push. Shove the elbow across the body. Your opponent will land facing somewhere off to your right. How far they turn is entirely dependent on how well the push has caught them. this will give you a free strike, as demonstrated by the 15th scholar..
This is the counter to the play that comes before me, namely the ‘False Thrust’ or ‘Short Thrust’. And it is done in this way. When the scholar strikes my sword, in the turn he gives his sword, I immediately turn mine the same way that he turns his except that I step across to find the players openings, and then I put a thrust in his face. And this counter is good with armour and without.
Your opponent is making the false thrust against you. After they made an obvious horizontal cut to your left hand side, you have blocked it, only to have them spin their sword around to your right side as the 16th scholar. From here, they will grab the sword in the middle and attempt to stab you with it.
As they spin their sword, release you left hand. Drop the point and tilt your sword slightly to the right. This will cause their sword to spin over the top of it, and their left hand to come on the inside. You want the blade to gently rest on their left wrist as they grab their own blade. At the same time that your opponents sword spins into place, step through with your left foot. This will move you off the line of their attack and in quite close.
Ensure that as your foot lands, your reach over your opponents blade to grab your own. This is the point shown. Keep the momentum of your movement going to drive the point forward into their face.
This technique relies more on flow and timing than anything else. It is a smooth, soft motion, and after blocking their initial cut, you should not clash with your opponent at all. To make this flow smoothly, you need to match the timing and movement of your opponent. An alternative ending would be instead of grabbing your own sword blade as shown, you could grab your opponents left hand instead, deflecting it down and to your right. The advantage of this is that it would give you a larger hole to make your counter thrust through. The payoff would be that making the final thrust with a single hand would reduce your point control.