Bolognese Sword & Buckler Curriculum – Lesson 1

Concept 1 – The Death Bubble

This is the area within which we can make an attack, which is roughly a bubble shape centred on the shoulder of the sword arm.

Close Distance = area inside the Death Bubble

Wide Distance = area just outside the Death Bubble

Controlling the centre space means the opponent is denied the full use of their Death Bubble, and they will generally have to move to hit us.

Marozzo actually demonstrated this concept in his manual:

Figure 1 – Marozzo’s Segno Passegiare

Concept 2 – The Basic Wide Stance (Passo Largo)

  • Feet are a shoulder’s width apart, with back leg mostly straight (knee unlocked!) and heel off the ground and the front leg also mostly straight and relaxed.
  • Torso is folded at the waist forming a straight line with the rear leg. This should centre the weight over your ball of your leading foot. (Swing the leg at hip!)
  • Minimises our own target area available to opponent’s death bubble. Just the head becomes vulnerable, and this is protected by the extended buckler.
  • Extended buckler is a defensive cone collapsing part of the opponent’s death bubble.

Figure 2 – The basic Bolognese stance, showing spine and leg alignment

Concept 3 – The Bolognese Pass aka the triangle step

How it works

  • Rear foot steps forward at ~45° to just in front of the line of the leading foot
  • Front foot steps backwards behind to come onto guard and the now leading foot will pivot slightly on the ball of the foot, realigning back towards the opponent.
  • See image:

Figure 3 – The first step of the pass

Figure 4 – The second step of the pass, slope pass or traverse

Relationship to the death bubble.

  • The pass allows us to attack our opponent without stepping into their death bubble. This is best illustrated by the pass right from a left foot forward stance.

Figure 5 – How the pass changes the relationship with the fencers’ death bubbles

Concept 4 – Full Cuts

Full cuts are any cuts that start from or finish in an open guardia. The open guardie are the ones where the sword is not in presence.

Cut must be made from behind the buckler, to keep the sword hand out of the opponent’s death bubble. The cuts are made on an almost vertical line which traverses the line from ear to opposite knee. This keeps the hand within the span of the shoulders which utilises the strong lifting muscles in the shoulder. Letting the hand drift outside the shoulder span shifts the weight bearing to the weaker stabiliser muscles in the shoulder, making a weaker cut and creating a muscle strain situation.

Descending cuts lead with the elbow to keep the hand behind the buckler, making the threat first as well as protecting the forearm. The effect of this action is that is creates a cut where the tip of the sword travels in a straight line directly to the target, not the arc you would get if you cut with a straight arm.

Rising cuts start with the wrist to bring the sword, and its subsequent protection, into play first. This again brings the sword into presence protecting the sword hand from a direct attack.

The primary cuts practised are all full cuts, cutting through the opponent to an open position either high or low. To begin with we start with the 2 big descending cuts of mandritto and riverso, followed by the 2 main rising cuts of rising riverso and falso dritto. In all cases the cuts are practised on the pass.

Figure 6 – The Bolognese cutting lines

  • Mandritto (A to B) – true edge cut ending with sword hand just behind the buckler elbow
  • Rising Riverso (B to A) – true edge cut back up to Guardia Alta
  • Riverso (C to D) – true edge cut ending by the hip
  • Falso Dritto (D to C) – false edge cut back up to Guardia Alta

These cuts are actually done as a transition from one Guardia to another. The basic methods for throwing these cuts is described below.

Throwing Mandritto

  • From Guardia Alta to Sopra il Braccio or Sotto il Braccio
  • From Guardia Testa to Porta di Ferro Stretta / Larga
  • From Sopra il Braccio to Porta di Ferro or Sotto il Braccio (direct & via d’Alicorno)
  • From Porta di Ferro to Sopra il Braccio or Cingiara Porta di Ferro (charging to Guardia di Testa or Coda Lunga Stretta)
  • From Guardia Faccia to Guardia Faccia / Porta di Ferro (This charging action can be performed either as a transition to Sopra il Braccio, Guardia Testa or Coda Lunga Stretta / Alta)

 Throwing Riverso

  • From Sopra il Braccio to Coda Lunga Stretta / Alta
  • From Sotto il Braccio to Coda Lunga Stretta / Alta
  • From Porta di Ferro Larga to Guardia Faccia
  • From Guardia Faccia to the face (circular cut to Guardia Faccia)
  • From Guardia Faccia, rising riverso to Guardia Alta

Throwing Fendente

  • From Guardia Alta to Porta di Ferro Stretta (pull)
  • From Guardia Alta to Guardia Faccia (push)
  • From Guardia Testa to Porta di Ferro Stretta
  • From Guardia di Faccia, charge to Guardia Alta then to Porta di Ferro Stretta
  • From Coda Lunga Alta to Porta di Ferro Stretta

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