Category Archives: Sword & Buckler Curriculum

Bolognese Sword & Buckler Curriculum – Lesson 8

Introduction

Up to this point, we’ve been concentrating on attacks made from Guardia Alta. The interesting point in Manciolino’s manual is that he doesn’t describe the riverso being thrown from Guardia Alta. So, keeping true to the instructions, I moved on to using Sopra il Braccio as the starting guardia. This actually builds on what we’ve seen before as this guardia is one of the guards that we cut to, so we’re building on teaching the students the primary action that can be made from the position they have cut to.

Revision

  1. From Guardia Alta, pass with your right foot throwing a tramazzone that ends in Porta di Ferro Larga. Defend the head with your buckler.
    [Manciolino Libro 2, 2nd Assault]
  2. From Guardia Alta, pass with the right foot turning a tramazzone, ending in Porta di Ferro Larga. Immediately pass left with the left foot and thrust to the right side of the enemy's face to draw the parry. Transport the enemy's sword to your inside with the left hand (buckler or hand grab is not indicated) and hit with a mandritto to the head, or where open.
    [Manciolino Libro 2, 2nd Assault]
  3. From Guardia Alta, cut a tramazzone, ending in Porta di Ferro. The enemy will then throw some blow to your uncovered body, which you will defend by parrying with Guardia di Testa, passing forward with the right foot. Riposte with a mandritto to the face or thigh, warding the head with the buckler. Pass back the right foot to place yourself out of distance.
    [Manciolino Libro 1, Capitolo 3]

Concept 1 – Offensive Action Using Riverso On The Pass

From Sopra il Braccio, pass left throwing a riverso.
[Manciolino Libro 1, Capitolo 9]

Teaching Note

This first concept was used to cement the footwork for the left pass, as well as to introduce the concept of pulling cuts and pushing cuts.
For the pulling cut, the student extends the hand bringing the sword tip forward, pulling the body into the cut, with the impact to the right side of the opponent's head occurring around the point of the percussion. It's important to ensure that the cut comes through in the correct vertical line of ear to knee, not horizontally. The sword hand should be somewhere between the line of your sternum to you right shoulder, so that the sword is cutting into the target, not besides the target. Cutting along the target is a very common mistake, and happens when the student keeps their hand in front of the left shoulder. After the impact is made, the sword hand pulls into Coda Lunga Alta on the corrective step with the right foot.

For the pushing cut, the student extend the hand bringing the sword tip forward, pulling the body into the cut. The impact to the right side of the head occurs at the tip with the sword sliding forward to the point of percussion into Guardia di Faccia. At the time of impact the hand should be just below the height of the shoulder, moving to just above the shoulder during the slicing push. Again the sword hand cuts from in front of the right shoulder to ensure there is pressure applied during the slicing action.

Concept 2 – Offensive Combination Using Two Riversi

From Sopra il Braccio, you can throw a riverso, and redouble with the same.
[Manciolino Libro 1, Capitolo 9]

Teaching Note

The key to the redoubled riverso is the pushing cut. The first cut is delivered as a pushing cut thrown to Guardia di Faccia, followed by a pulling cut thrown to a Coda Lunga guardia. If the pushing cut is made with the sword hand above the buckler hand the redoubled cut is made to the head as well. If however it is made with the sword hand below the buckler hand, the redoubled cut is made to the body or upper thigh. The finishing guardia will be Cods Lunga Alta after a left pass ans Coda Lunga Stretta after a right pass.

Concept 3 – Offensive Combination Using Riverso, Fendente & Tramazzone

From Sopra il Braccio, throw together a riverso, a fendente, and a tramazzone.
[Manciolino Libro 1, Capitolo 9]

Teaching Note

This is a variation of Concept 2, where the first cut is actually a pulling cut, with the fendente as a pushing cut to Guardia di Faccia setting us up for the tramazzone that follows. This combination can work with either a passing step or a pass and traverse step.


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Bolognese Sword & Buckler Curriculum – Lesson 7

Lesson 7 – The Tramazzone from Guardia Alta

This lesson we continue on from Lesson 6, building up the technical skills of the system. Last Lesson the emphasis was on the montante thrust, which is a concealed attack against an enemy. This Lesson the emphasis is on the tramazzone.

The advantage of the tramazzone from Guardia Alta is the protection it offers to the hand, as well as the circular momentum it uses to generate a good strong descending blow. Like the montante thrust, it requires us to concentrate on the coordinated timing of hands, body and feet so that we can attack and move in safety.

Revision

False edge parries:

  • Parry from Sopra il Braccio to Guardia di Faccia on a left pass.
  • Parry from Porta di Ferro Stretta to Guardia di Faccia on a left pass.
  • Parry from Porta di Ferro Stretta to Sopra il Braccio on a right pass.
  • Parry from Guardia di Testa to Sotto il Braccio on a slip back.

Concept 1 – Offensive Action Using Tramazzone

From Guardia Alta, pass with your right foot throwing a tramazzone that ends in Porta di Ferro Larga. Defend the head with your buckler.
[Manciolino Libro 2, 2nd Assault]

The Drill by the Numbers

  1. From Guardia Alta, pass with the right foot hitting to the head with a tramazzone.
  2. Complete the pass with the left foot recovering into Porta di Ferro Larga.

Class Notes

The important part of this cut was to get the sword moving first by turning the wrist, which rolls the sword into the same position we would use to deliver an imbroccata. The wrist turn continues bringing the sword through our inside , just outside our buckler arm, making a complete 360° arc to land as a descending blow on top of the enemy’s head. The first step of the pass does not start until the sword is travelling forward again in the last part of it’s rotation, so that we are stepping forward behind the extending arm. During the first part of the rotation when the sword is in front of our body, it is safe for us to drop the hand down below the buckler, as the sword will protect the hand against any counter attacks.

The cut travels all the way through, ending with our hand in 3rd, and the sword pointing to the ground. The sword hand should be just inside the right knee. Don’t let the hand travel back too far, otherwise you will smack your pommel into your groin, which is just embarrassing, painful, and a really stupid way to die. 🙂 This point down guard position is called Porta di Ferro Larga. (Have a few lagers and everything droops down!)

The large opening left by the guard position leaves the head very vulnerable, so we defend the head by bringing the buckler up to create a cone of defence around our head and shoulders. The head guard with the buckler is with an extended arm, and the hand about even with the eyes, so that we can see under the bottom of the buckler rim. We do not turn the face of the buckler upwards, as this will open up the wrist to an attack. We instead keep the buckler face pointing towards the enemy, similar to our regular on guard position, with the wrist straight, not kinked.

Concept 2 – Offensive Combination Using Tramazzone, Thrust And Mandritto With Presa

From Guardia Alta, pass with the right foot turning a tramazzone, ending in Porta di Ferro Larga. Immediately pass left with the left foot and thrust to the right side of the enemy’s face to draw the parry. Close out the enemy’s sword to your inside with the left hand (buckler or hand grab is not indicated) and hit with a mandritto to the head, or where open.
[Manciolino Libro 2, 2nd Assault]

The Drill by the Numbers

  1. Step right throwing a tramazzone to Porta di Ferro Larga
  2. Traverse left thrusting to the right side of the face
  3. Contract back with the left foot throwing mandritto to the face (most people ended up in our underarm position – which is good.)

Class Notes

When we make our initial tramazzone attack, it comes in slightly on the left hand side of the enemy, which will tend to pull their equipment towards the buckler, opening up the sword side of the enemy. We capitalise on this by making an immediate redoubled attack, by passing with the left foot, and thrusting underneath our buckler towards the enemy’s face on their right hand side. Again this will draw their equipment towards the incoming attack, which will allow us to push the sword out of the way and then hit them with a mandritto.

What we’ve actually done here is combine 2 of our regular footwork sequences together. The first 2 steps are a regular pass and traverse, however instead of the 3rd step being one where the foot comes behind the traversing foot, we have stepped in an expand & contract sequence with the left traversing foot. The contracting step also allowed us to generate a hard and fast mandritto, due to the hip turn inherent in this step.

Concept 3 – Attack By Second Intention With Tramazzone To Draw Parry – Riposte

From Guardia Alta, cut a tramazzone, ending in Porta di Ferro. The enemy will then throw some blow to your uncovered body, which you will defend by parrying with Guardia di Testa, passing forward with the right foot. Riposte with a mandritto to the face or thigh, warding the head with the buckler. Pass back the right foot to place yourself out of distance.
[Manciolino Libro 1, Capitolo 3]

The Drill by the Numbers

  1. From Guardia Alta in passo stretto, pass with the right foot throwing tramazzone to the head.
  2. Recover back with the right foot into Porta di Ferro in passo stretto.
  3. As the enemy attacks, punch out into Guardia Testa to parry the blow whilst making a passing step with the right foot.
  4. Riposte with a mandritto to the face or thigh, completing the pass with the left foot.
  5. Pass back with the right foot.

Class Notes

This sequence drilled the basic defence from our Porta di Ferro guard, which is the extension into Guardia di Testa (head guard). We would need to do this if our enemy is quick with a riposte, or we are slow to make our immediate redoubled attack. Manciolino does not tell us if the cut finishes at Porta di Ferro Larga or Porta di Ferro Stretta, and thus we must assume that the defence works from either guardia.

The extension into Guardia di Testa is essentially a punching action out and upwards, with the hand finishing just above the shoulder, and the sword up at 45°, across at 45° and forward at 45°. This creates a defensive ramp above our head with the sword. The buckler hand is held just below the sword so that it protects the sword hand against a mandritto which slips under our sword, and cuts down parallel to the line of our sword. We can also bring the rim of our buckler in contact with the false edge of our forte in front of the sword hand, to support the sword against a strong descending cut. This defensive triangle which it creates is very strong and near unbreakable by a descending cut.

Summary

This Lesson we concentrated on the tramazzone from Guardia Alta. We practised the tramazzone, and then we added the redoubled attack, and finally we looked at the basic defence we can make straight after our tramazzone.

On the footwork side we again practiced our pass, our pass and traverse, and our expand and contract footwork. However we combined the pass & traverse with our expand and contact footwork, to create a pass, traverse and slip sequence. The aim of this was to show how we need to maintain our correct footwork distance so that we can transition between all our different steps at will, without becoming unbalanced.

We also introduced 2 of our basic defensive actions, that being the parry with the buckler, and the parry with the true edge of the sword. Both of these parries were made by extending the hand holding the item into Guardia di Testa. In other words, to defend the head, we extend an item into Guardia di Testa. We also showed how the 2 items can work together as a unit to create a very strong defensive cone against a determined enemy.

Bolognese Sword & Buckler Curriculum – Lesson 6

Introduction

Our work over the last couple of weeks has demonstrated that the descending blows are quite readily defended either with our buckler, or with the sword via Guardia di Testa or the falso parry.

This week we will look at a technique that attacks through the one vulnerable point of all these defences… below the buckler hand.

The key to this is the montante thrust.

The montante is a direct vertically ascending cut with the false edge. The montante thrust uses the same initial mechanics of the montante cut, however it extends into a rising thrust instead of the cut. The key to both actions is that from the point down position, with our sword hand beside the leg, the wrist is used to whip the tip up into line to deliver the blow. This action is also assisted by the forefinger over the cross of the sword.

Concept 1 – Offensive Action Using Montante Thrust

From Guardia Alta, pass right extending a montante thrust that ends in Guardia di Faccia.
[Manciolino Libro 2, 3rd Assault]

Class note

The montante thrust starts with the underarm bowling action, with the sword hand dropping behind and then swinging forward. At the bottom of the arc you will use the wrist to whip the false edge (back edge) through and flicking it up vertically, with the hand finishing completely extended from the shoulder. At the point your hand reaches hip height, the extending arm should be pulling the body forward to make the pass, which extends the montante into a rising thrust to the throat or face. The advantage of this action is that it completely obscures the thrust from the enemy, allowing us to hit in relative safety.

This extended thrust position, with the point in the face is called Guardia di Faccia. Typically you will find the blade passes between the opponent’s hands, nullifying the defence with either hand.

Concept 2 – Counterattack With Thrust On The Retreat

From Guardia Alta, step back with the right foot into large pace and extend a montante thrust, ending in Guardia di Faccia.
(Manciolino Libro 1, Capitolo 4)

Class Note

The action with the sword is identical to Concept 1, the chief difference is the footwork, and the tempo in response to the opponent’s attack. We use the pass back in this case to clear the body from the incoming blow, and the attacker’s step forward should keep them in distance for our counterattack.

Concept 3 – Offensive Combination Using Montante Thrust, Thrust and Tramazzoni

From Guardia Alta, pass with the left foot throwing a montante thrust that ends at the face. Immediately traverse right and throw a penetrating thrust to the face, redoubling with two tramazzoni to the head, ending in Porta di Ferro Stretta.
[Manciolino Libro 2, 2nd Assault]

Class note

This action builds on the previous one, but uses the pass and traverse footwork instead of the pass footwork. The action starts by delivering the montante thrust on a passing step with the left foot, which is into the area to the inside of the enemy’s buckler. This will draw a response to the enemy’s right to close the space we have attacked into, exposing the space to the outside of the buckler. The second thrust to the face is made using the traversing step with the right foot, and the hand turning from 3rd to 2nd in 3rd (the same hand position we use for our Coda Lunga guards). The tramazzone (circular cut to the head made by rotating at the wrist) is made on the corrective step as the left foot comes behind the right, finishing in Porta di Ferro Stretta (right foot forward, sword hand in 3rd). We only did one tramazzone in the drills, however the manual instructions specify 2 trammazoni to be made.

Concept 4 – Offensive Combination Using Thrust, Riverso and Fendente

From Guardia Alta, pass right, throwing a rising thrust into the enemy’s face. Redouble by slipping your right foot to your left, throwing a riverso ridoppio to the arms. Follow with a fendente to the head that ends in Porta di Ferro Stretta.
[Manciolino Libro 2, 3rd Assault]

Class note

A second variant of our initial concept, but this time using the “expand and contract footwork”. The initial montante thrust attack is made on a passing step with the right foot, as practiced in Concept 1. This should draw the enemy’s equipment to their left, exposing the right flank and arms. The second (redoubled) attack is made by slipping the right foot back to the left and throwing a rising riverso that cuts through the extended arms of the enemy. This rising riverso is really thrown circularly from the wrist like a tramazzone, but in the reverse direction. This cut should return you to the starting Guardia Alta position. In the manual this cut is called riverso ridoppio because it immediately follows the first attack.

We then finish off the enemy by throwing a fendente to the top of their head, stepping forward with the right foot to a wide stance, ending in Porta di Ferro Stretta. Note that during the class we didn’t do the finishing fendente cut as we ran out of time for the class.

Summary

During this class we continued practicing our common basic footwork:

  • The pass (or triangle step)
  • The pass and traverse
  • The expand and contract steps

We also expanded our repertoire with the defensive pass backwards, which puts out of distance of the incoming blow whilst leaving us an opportunity to attack into that incoming blow.

The guards we used this Lesson were:

  • Guardia Alta – our starting guard
  • Guardia di Faccia – our finishing guard in Concept 1 & 2.
  • Porta di Ferro Stretta – our finishing guard in Concepts 3 & 4.

We also concentrated on 3 basic attacks:

  • Montante thrust – a steeply rising thrust that leads with the false edge.
  • Tramazzone – a descending circular cut with the true edge made by turning the wrist, with the arm remaining extended.
  • Rising riverso – a rising true edge cut that cuts from left to right. In this case it was made as a circular wrist cut.

Bolognese Sword & Buckler Curriculum – Lesson 5

Footwork Drill

  1. Passing Left & Passing Right
  2. Passing back
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Concept 1 – Gathering Footwork

All our footwork thus far has revolved around the use of passing footwork, with particular emphasis on getting the angled step with the passing step. We mostly do it this way to avoid the direct counter attack, which the geometry of the passing step provides.

To move directly forward, Bolognese swordsmanship employs a very particular style of footwork, based on the gathering step. The gathering step (or gather forward) is where from our passo largo stance we bring the rear foot forwards to the front feet assuming passo stretto. This gather forward brings the feet together, but doesn’t bring the torso into out opponent’s death bubble. This gathering step is then immediately followed by a step forward with out other foot, returning us passo largo. Effectively we have stolen distance with the gathering step, allowing us to quickly punch forward with an attack. This footwork is the foundation of one of the few Bolognese combinations to have it’s own name – elsa e tira (to ward and to throw). Used defensively the sequence is called else e fugie (to ward and overthrow / put to flight)

Gathering Footwork

  1. Gather the rear foot forwards to the front foot, ending in passo stretto. Do not let the body move forwards.
  2. Step forward with the other foot into passo largo.
  3. Continue forwards down the hall. When you reach the far wall, pivot on your feet so that you face the opposite direction.
  4. Repeat the gathering steps back down the hall. (It’s now being done with the opposite feet.)

Elsa e Tira with Gathering Footwork

  1. Start in Porta di Ferro Larga (sword foot forwards, point down with the hand inside the front leg).
  2. Gather forwards with the rear foot throwing falso manco to Guardia Alta in passo stretto. That is a false edge cut travelling up the mandritto cutting line (B to A.)
  3. Step forwards with the front foot, throwing riverso (C to D) to Coda Lunga Stretta.
  4. Gather forwards with the rear foot throwing falso dritto to Guardia Alta (D to C).
  5. Step forwards with the front foot and throw mandritto (A to B) to Porta di Ferro Larga.
  6. Repeat from 1, travelling down the hall.
Cutting-diagram
Figure 1 – Bolognese cutting diagram

Teaching Note

The elsa e tira sequence should be one smooth fluid cutting sequence. The tip of the sword follows the path of a large charity ribbon shape, going up one leg of the ribbon and down the other leg.

The rear foot doesn’t change orientation, but maintains the outwards pointing angle. It also gathers up besides the front foot, not into the heel of the front foot. Remember we are supposed to have some space between the feet in our stances, not heels in line.

Revision Exercise

Buckler Parry

  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.

Concept 2 – False Edge (Falso) Parries

Falso Parry as an Extension to Guardia di Faccia

  1. Attacker in Guardia Alta, Defender in Porta di Ferro Stretta.
  2. Attacker throws a mandritto to the head on a pass left.
  3. Defender parries by extending into Guardia di Faccia on a pass left, hitting the incoming blade with their false edge. The blade should be angled gently upwards to provide a ramp for the incoming blade to slide down, so that it is stopped by the back arm of the cross. If the timing was right it may also act as an impulse beat, sending the sword away to the outside line.
  4. Repeat 5 times, and then repeat for a fendente thrown from Guardia Alta and a riverso thrown from Sopra il Braccio.

Teaching Note

The action is best thought of as a counterattack to the opponent’s sword hand and right temple. The extension into Guardia di Faccia should bring your sword all the way across so that the false edge (ie back edge) is completely closing your outside line. The step left increases our safety, by moving us away from the outside line, and helps accelerate the sword due to the turn of the hips. This turn, together with the turning of the hand from palm down to palm up during the parry is what makes the increase in tempo necessary to intercept the incoming blade.

Falso Parry as a Transition to Sopra il Braccio

  1. Attacker in Guardia Alta, Defender in Porta di Ferro Stretta.
  2. Attacker throws a mandritto to the head on a pass right.
  3. Defender parries by cutting from right to left with the false edge on a pass left, hitting the incoming blade with their false edge, ending in Sopra il Braccio. The blade should be angled gently upwards to provide a ramp for the incoming blade to slide down, so that it is stopped by the angle between the sword and buckler. If the timing was right it may also act as an impulse beat, sending the sword away to the inside line.
  4. Repeat 5 times, and then repeat for a fendente thrown from Guardia Alta.

Teaching Note

The action really is as simple as just sliding the flat of our sword’s forte across the top edge of the buckler, to transition from Porta di Ferro Stretta to Sopra il Braccio. The idea is to try and whip the back edge tip of the sword into the opponent’s hand or the forte of the sword, and have it travel down their sword towards the tip. This collects the opponents sword and causes it to travel down the defensive ramp to be collected at the intersection of our sword and buckler.

This parry does not work well against the riverso, because of the lack of crossing action against the incoming blow.

Falso Parry From Guardia di Testa with a Slip

  1. Attacker in Guardia Alta, Defender in Guardia di Testa, right foot forward.
  2. Attacker throws a mandritto on a pass right.
  3. Defender parries by slipping the right foot back to the left, bringing the sword vertical and touching the face of the buckler with the false edge in front of the left shoulder. The false edge should catch the incoming blow, trapping it on the intersection of sword and buckler. The sword hand should be below the buckler.
  4. Repeat 5 times, and then repeat for a fendente thrown from Guardia Alta.

Teaching Note

This parry is one I describe as the baby grab parry, and is taken from Manciolino’s first assault. The action of pulling sword and buckler back in front of the left shoulder is the same as when a baby grabs something and pulls it to them. I usually teach this with a call of “Mine” as I make the parry. The sword must be vertical in front of the buckler, and to the left of the boss on the buckler if you have one, so that the inside line is completely closed by the sword and buckler. The slip back is used to increase our safety margin, and to give us a little bit of extra time getting into the parry position. Whilst it may not seem like a transition to a parry as described, it actually continue with the riposte into Sotto il Braccio, riposting from there with either a montante or a rising riverso.

This parry is also not used against the riverso, as we would just parry that with Guardia di Testa, our starting position!

Summary

In this lesson we have seen us use footwork to both move away from the incoming blow, and to choke it up before it comes to full power. We have also used the slip to increase the tempo providing us more time within which to parry.

We have also seen 3 different types of parries, all of which are transitions to one of our known Guardia positions. This is an important concept to understand, as we “must attack to a place we can defend from, and defend from a place we can attack from”. These positions are the starting guardia with which we are familiar.

Bolognese Sword & Buckler Curriculum – Lesson 4

Footwork Drills

  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.

Revision of Week 3

  1. Both starting in Guardia Alta, attacker throws mandritto to the head on a right pass, which the opponent parries with the buckler on a left pass. Repeat for fendente, riverso and rising riverso. 5 repetitions each for each cut.
  2. Attacker in Guardia Alta, defender in Guardia di Testa. Attacker throws a mandritto on a right pass, which the defenders parries by stepping in with a left pass and intercepting the blow in Guardia di Testa. Repeat for fendente and riverso, with 5 repetitions for each cut.
  3. Note that the riverso is thrown from Sopra il Braccio and the rising riverso is thrown from Sotto il Braccio during these drills. Neither of these 2 cuts are described as being thrown from Guardia Alta, so for pedagogy reasons we won’t do so either as it will encourage bad habits.
Marozzo1536_Cap010-Guardia-Alta
Guardia Alta

 

Defence Of Head Blow With Falso

Whereas the parry with the sword last week using the true edge was fairly easy, it has an integral vulnerability, that being the forefinger is exposed to the cut, especially on the earlier simple hilted swords typically used at the start of the 16th century. The parry with the false edge however protects the sword hand behind the cross and is therefore preferred by the Bolognese Swordsmanship authors.

The false edge parry is best understood not as a parry but as a counterattack to the opponent’s sword hand or face. By emphasising it as a counterattack, the student will automatically learn to close the line in the parry with an extended arm, which creates a cone of protection with the hilt and forte of the sword. Experience has shown that when students think of the action as a parry they will do so too close to the body and still get hit by the oppponent.

For this lesson we are going to practice 2 of the common false edge parries. The first is the transition from Sopra il Braccio to Guardia di Faccia, which will deflect the incoming blow towards our outside. The second is the transition from Guardia Alta to Guardia d’Alicorno.

Drill 1 – Stresso Tempo Counterattack from Sopra il Braccio On The Pass

The Action as Described by Manciolino

(From Sopra il Braccio) As your enemy passes to your left to cut riverso to your face, cut with the false edge to his right temple, defending the head with your buckler.
[Libro 1, Capitolo 10]

The Drill

  1. Attacker starts in Guardia Alta, and defender starts in Sopra il Braccio, sword foot forward.
  2. Attacker throws mandritto to the head on a right pass.
    Defender throws a falso to the right temple or sword hand of the attacker, ending in Guardia di Faccia. The blow should be parried during the transition to Guardia di Faccia, deflecting the blow to the defender’s outside.
  3. Repeat 5 times than swap roles.
  4. Repeat the sequence but instead using a fendente and then a riverso.

Teaching Note

  1. The parry generally intercepts the opponent’s sword at the forte with the debole, and cuts up their blade to the tip during the deflection action. This creates a change of direction, forcing the blow to pass over the head to the outside before the blow connects with the defender’s head.
  2. The success of the action relies on the turn of the hand, where it translates from palm down to palm up to hit with the false edge. This rotation of the hand accelerates the blade’s motion forward, allowing us to successfully deflect the incoming blade. This is how we manage to intercept the incoming sword, even though we moved second.
  3. Don’t think of it as a parry. Think of it as a counterattack to the attacker’s face, and the deflection is a side effect of this action.

Drill 2 – Stresso Tempo Counterattack from Guardia Alta

The Action as Described by Manciolino

(From Guardia Alta ) When the enemy throws the head blow, meet his sword hand with a falso crossed over your arm. (ie Roll into Guardia d’Alicorno)
(Libro 1, Capitolo 3)

The Drill

  1. Attacker and Defender both start in Guardia Alta.
  2. Attacker throws mandritto to the head on a right pass.
  3. The Defender turns their palm outwards, and then flicks the false edge downwards aiming to hit the sword hand on the inside of the sword hand wrist, ending in Guardia d’Alicorno. This can be done stationary (emergency parry) or on a right pass (typical parry). The cut to the wrist will either connect, or create a false edge deflection of the enemy’s sword outside our buckler arm.
  4. Repeat 5 times than swap roles.
  5. Repeat the sequence but instead using a fendente and then a riverso.

Teaching Note

  1. Like the previous drill, this works best if you think of it as a counterattack to the opponent’s sword hand. The key is to turn the palm to the outside, and then use the forefinger over the cross to whip the back edge down.
  2. Passing right is the optimal solution, as this also clears the body off the line of the attack whilst the sword comes into defend.
  3. If the false edge parry comes through early, we still have Guardia d’Alicorno to defend ourselves.

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.

Bolognese Sword & Buckler Curriculum – Lesson 2

It’s Bolognese – everything must be chopped finely!

This lesson builds on the previous lesson where instead of making one cut per set of steps, we start making one cut per foot step. This is a crucial part of the Bolognese system and reflects the energy conserving nature of the system. We continue working from Guardia Alta as our starting guard.

Revision

Line drills practicing the 4 main cuts on the pass

  • Mandritto
  • Rising Riverso
  • Riverso
  • Fendente

Note how the cuts move from one guardia to the next, and the rising cut travels back up the previous descending cutting line.

Concept 1 – Offensive Combinations Using Mandritto and Riverso

This is one of the primary combinations of the system, and is our first look at the concept of one step one hand action.

Offensive Combination Using Mandritto, Rivero And Falso

Pass with the right foot, throwing a mandritto ending in Sopra il Bracchio with the right shoulder pointed at the breast of your enemy. Redouble with a riverso fendente ending in Coda Lunga Stretta and with a falso to the sword hand ending in Sopra il Bracchio.
(Libro 2, 3rd Assault)

By the numbers

  1. From Guardia Alta, make a passing step to the right with the right foot, cutting mandritto to the head, ending with the sword hand in Sopra il Braccio. Remember to turn the buckler forearm to create the gap for the sword hand to pass through.
  2. Let the momentum of the sword continue the rotation of the sword, so that it swings through and then cuts riverso to hit the other side of the head, as you make the corrective (backwards) step with the left foot.
  3. Allow the cut to finish, ending in Coda Lunga Stretta as the corrective step finishes.

Class notes

From Guardia Alta we cut a mandritto down onto the head, pulling the sword hand through to over our buckler arm wrist and finishing at about our elbow. (This over arm guard is the guard we call Sopra il Braccio) This cut is made on the first step with the right foot as we pass to the right. When we first practiced this we did it by cutting the mandritto to over our arm crossing the arms at the wrists, turning the thumb of our buckler hand from 2 o’clock to 10 o’clock to make space for the sword hand. We then throw the riverso, which travels in a circular fashion hitting the head on the other side in a descending direction, bringing the sword through on the corrective step of the left foot, which is back behind the right foot. The cut finishes in an outside guard position, edge turned out with sword hand just outside the line of the right leg. (This right foot forward outside guard is the guard we call Coda Lunga Stretta.)

Concept 2

Offensive Combination Using Two Mandritti

Throw a mandritto to the head that ends in Sopra il Braccio. Slip the right foot back to the left, then pass right with the right foot, lifting the hand into Guardia d’Alicorno and then throwing a mandritto to the face, ending in Sotto il Braccio.
[Manciolino Libro 2, 1st Assault]

Actual drill practiced:
Throw a mandritto to the head that ends in Sopra il Braccio on a passing step. On the corrective step throw a mandritto to the face as a circular cut, ending in Sotto il Braccio.

By the numbers

  1. From Guardia Alta, make a passing step to the right with the right foot, cutting mandritto to the head, ending with the sword hand in Sopra il Braccio. Remember to turn the buckler forearm to create the gap for the sword hand to pass through.
  2. Let the momentum of the sword continue the rotation of the sword, so that it swings through and then cuts mandritto to hit the same side of the head, as you make the corrective (backwards) step with the left foot.
  3. Allow the cut to finish, ending in Sotto il Braccio as the corrective step finishes.

Class notes

This cut begins the similar way as the Concept 1. From Guardia Alta, on a step right, we cut a mandritto down onto the head, with the sword hand cutting to just on the outside of our buckler arm wrist. (Don’t forget to turn the buckler thumb to 10 o’clock!) We then allowed the momentum of the sword to continue the cut into a circular one, and hitting to the head with a redoubled mandritto on the corrective step, finishing in the Sotto il Braccio (ie sword under the arm).

Note how the actual drill practiced is different to the specified drill. We’ll be looking at this action next week when we start to look at the basic defences against the attacks, and show why the specified action by Manciolino is better than the sequence we actually practiced.

Concept 3

Offensive Combination using Mandritto and Rising Riverso

From Guardia Alta, throw a mandritto at the head or sword arm that goes to Sotto il Bracchio. Redouble with a rising riverso also to the sword hand or face, returning to Guardia Alta.

By the numbers

  1. From Guardia Alta, make a passing step to the right with the right foot, cutting mandritto to the head, ending with the sword hand in Sotto il Braccio. Remember to turn the buckler forearm to create the gap for the sword hand to pass through.
  2. Redouble with a rising riverso, beginning the corrective step as the sword hand reaches the buckler. (This would be when the blade makes contact with the opponent’s sword arm or face).
  3. Allow the cut to finish, ending in Guardia Alta as the corrective step finishes.

Class notes:

Unlike the other 2 concepts from this lesson this exercise was about redoubling cuts when we don’t have the momentum to work with. It should also be noted that the combination isn’t explicitly described by Manciolino, but is a combination of the various mandritti from Guardia Alta, which is referenced in several places, and one of the basic offences from Sotto il Braccio described by Manciolino in Libro 2, Assault 2.

The whole purpose of this drill was to show how to continue an action from a point of rest when there is no momentum to continue the combination. It also reinforces the primary principle that if we cut between the guardie, we end in a position from which we know how to move out of. For as Manciolino states:

As strikes without shieldings are not done sensibly, so shieldings without a following of a strike should not be made, waiting for the tempos nonetheless.

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:

Marozzo1536_Cap144-SegnoPasseggiare
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.

Bolognese-stance
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:

footwork-the-pass-pt1
Figure 3 – The first step of the pass

footwork-the-pass-pt2
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.

pass-into-death-bubble
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.

Cutting-diagram
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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