Bolognese Sword & Buckler Curriculum – Lesson 3

Footwork Drills

These drills are slight revisions of the Concepts from last week, using some variant footwork and handwork.

  1. From Guardia Alta, pass with your right foot into large pace, throwing a mandritto to the head ending in Sotto il Bracchio. Redouble with a riverso ending in Coda Lunga Stretta as the left foot comes behind to complete the pass.
  2. From Guardia Alta, pass with your right foot, and throw a mandritto to the leg ending in Sotto il Braccio. Traverse left and throw a riverso to the face, ending in Coda Lunga Alta.
  3. From Guardia Alta, throw a mandritto to the head that ends in Sopra il Braccio. Slip the right foot back to the left, then pass right, lifting the hand into Guardia d’Alicorno and then throwing a mandritto to the face, ending in Sotto il Braccio.
  4. From Guardia Alta, throw a mandritto to the head that ends in Sotto il Braccio. Redouble with a rising riverso to the sword hand ending in Guardia di Testa.

Universal Defensive Actions

All our training up to this point has been about learning how to cut smoothly and effectively, so that the initial cut can be turned into a redoubled blow. In any fencing system offence without defence does not constitute a proper fencing system. This week we start to add the other half of the game that makes this a proper fencing system.

The first 2 actions we’ll be looking at are universal defensive actions that defend against most generic attacks. These are the parry with the buckler and the true edge parry using Guardia di Testa. In both cases the success of the defensive action relies on having good skeletal alignment providing a ground path for the disposition of the blow energy.

Buckler Parry Against Descending And Ascending Blows

Action as described by Manciolino

Beat the rim of the buckler up and down in response to the attack.
(Libro 1, Capitolo 4)

The Drill

  1. Both start in Guardia Alta in passo stretto. (That is with the feet close together.)
  2. The opponent throws mandritto to the head of the defender on a right pass.
  3. The defender extends the buckler into the opponent’s sword hand on a left passing step, parrying the blow. The forearm should be rotated during the action so that the buckler handle crosses the line of the opponent’s sword as this gives the strongest parry. The buckler thumb is typically at about 2 o’clock.
  4. Repeat 5 times, ensuring the buckler crosses the line of the sword in each instance.
  5. Repeat the sequence with the opponent throwing fendente, riverso and rising riverso with 5 repetitions of each.

Teaching Notes

  1. The buckler parry relies on pushing the apex of the cone of defence created by the buckler into the sword hand of the opponent. This eliminates any possibility of the attacker redirecting the blow.
  2. The blow should be caught on the rim of the buckler. The best place to catch the blow is 45° either side of the top of the buckler. This is achieved by rotating the forearm to align the buckler handle so that it crosses the line of sword.
  3. The strength of the parry comes from the skeletal alignment from buckler hand to rear foot. Against the descending blows the buckler hand should be aligned in a position similar to Guardia di Testa, which allows the energy of the blow to be dissipated via the ground path trough the rear foot.
  4. Passing forward at first seems to put us into danger, however we are actually increasing our safety by intercepting the sword at the forte which has less force than that delivered at the debole (tip). For each of the different cuts, the alignment of the buckler to the sword is done by turning the torso at the waist.

Defence Of Head Blow With Guardia di Testa

Guardia di Testa
Guardia di Testa

Action as described by Manciolino

Feint a montante, and pass with the left foot into Guardia di Testa to parry the blow. Riposte by passing right and throwing mandritto, ending in Guardia di Testa as the left comes behind the right.
(Libro 1, Capitolo 3)

The Drill

  1. The attacker starts in Guardia Alta and the defender start in Guardia di Testa, sword foot forward.
  2. The attacker throws a mandritto to the head on a right pass.
    The defender defends with a left pass, parrying the blow in Guardia di Testa.
  3. Repeat 5 times, ensuring the sword arm aligned towards the incoming low.
  4. Repeat the sequence with the attacker throwing a fendente and a riverso with 5 repetitions of each.

Teaching Notes

  1. Guardia di Testa is one of the primary true edge parries against descending blows. The strength of the parry is provided by the strength of the skeletal alignment and the ground path it provides for absorption of the blow energy.
  2. Like the buckler parry the step forwards helps catch the blow before it comes to full power, and uses the turning torso to align the parrying sword with the incoming blow.
  3. The most common mistake is to not make proper skeletal alignment either by dropping the hand or bending the arm at the elbow. Checking the body alignment before undertaking the drill is very useful for ensuring correct technique.
  4. The mnemonic people should remember for making the proper sword alignment in Guardia di Testa is 45° up, 45° across, 45° forward. This sword alignment creates the glancing surface that directs the incoming blow towards our forte where we have most strength in the parry, or completely deflects the blow towards our outside as a glancing surface.

2 thoughts on “Bolognese Sword & Buckler Curriculum – Lesson 3”

  1. Hi Richard,

    Thanks for posting the Lesson!
    I’m curious about the Parry standing in Guardia di Testa: do we have to parry a Mandritto by putting DOWN the tip of the sword?, while to parry a Roverso you have to put UP the tip of the sword?
    I’m trying to understand if you can parry – in Guardia di Testa – Mandritto and Roverso blow just by rotate your body – without change the alignment of the sword – or not.

    Thank you for the answer! 🙂


    1. Hi Diego,

      The point stays up in Guardia di Testa according to Manciolino.

      What we are doing is orientating the direction of our ground path towards the incoming blow. So rather than thinking about us only facing the opponent in Guardia di Testa, think of it more as we face towards the incoming blow to catch it on our sword’s medole or forte. So for mandritto we turn to face the sword on our inside line, the fendente we face forwards, and the riverso we face towards the outside line.

      The turning action is done by turning the torso and some pivoting of the feet. Alfieri described a similar concept in his spadone manual when he talked about moving with the vita in Chapter 17 to power the serpentine cut.

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