These are the class notes from my Spadone class held at NZ Sword Symposium, 10-11 Oct 2015. One of my personal highlights for the class was being lent a replica 14th Century great sword made by Peter Lyon (Yes that Peter Lyon! The one that made the swords for the Lord of the Rings movies!) for people to use in the classes. I made everyone do some of the drills with steel, as it teaches them to not cheat the drill, due to the mass and momentum of the steel swords. The class ran twice, once each morning to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend the class. The class is now referred to as Spadone Fitness Class due to the workout everyone got from the class.
Instructor: Richard Cullinan
Class Category: Italian Swordsmanship – greatsword / two handed sword
Class Length: 2 hrs
Experience Level: Beginner
Intensity Level: Moderate
Pre-Requisites: None, but familiarity with Italian nomenclature is useful
Required Equipment: Spadone / Greatsword or simulator (> 150cm / 5 ft total length), mask
Maximum Attendees: 20
The spadone (greatsword) is a true two-handed sword that can trace it’s development to the end of the 15th Century, and is typically in excess of 5 feet (150 – 180 cm), this weapon rightly developed a fearsome reputation on the battlefields of Europe during the 16th & 17th Centuries. As an infantry weapon it was used to break up pike formations, as the honour guard defending the Unit’s banner or as the preferred weapon of civilian bodyguards. This was due to it’s excellent ability to confront multiple opponents, or as described by Giacomo di Grassi in his fencing manual “because one may with it (as a galleon, among many galleys) resist many swords, or other weapons.” The class is based on the work of Francesco Alfieri’s treatise Lo Spadone (1653) using Ken Mondshein’s translation. We will be working through the basic exercises Alfieri provides, which will teach the basic ways of maintaining and controlling the momentum of such a large weapon in both narrow and wide spaces.
Basic footwork exercises
Passing forward and backwards
Starting from Right Guard, Point Behind, pass forward with the right foot, throw a mandritto ending in Left Guard, Point Behind. Continue with a left pass throwing a riverso that ends in Right Guard, Point Behind. Repeat, throwing a rising mandritto and rising riverso. Repeat from start but step back with the left foot for the mandritti and back with the right foot for the riversi.
Pass and recover to Hanging Guard drill
From Right Guard, Point Behind pass forward throwing mandritto, and as the cut reaches the ground pivot anti-clockwise on the balls of the feet (volta stabile) lifting into Left Hanging Guard. Follow with a pass forward with the left foot throwing riverso, and as the cut reaches the ground volta stabile clockwise lifting into Right Hanging Guard. Repeat the sequence throwing rising mandritto and rising riverso.
Pass and turn
Starting from Right Guard, Point Behind, pass forward with the right foot, throw a mandritto that ends low and point forward. Immediately pivot on the balls of the feet to face behind, lifting the sword into the Left Hanging Guard. Repeat 2 times. Repeat the sequence throwing a riverso on a left pass, ending in Right Hanging Guard. Continue the drill working through each cut in sequence.
Starting from Right Guard, Point Forward, lift to the Right Hanging Guard turning to face right and of a step to the right with the right foot throw a mandritto that ends in the right hanger. Turn left and repeat the right step throwing mandritto that ends in Right Hanging Guard. Continue making the 90° steps until you have made a complete 360° circuit, with the back foot in place. Repeat the sequence for all the cuts, using the Left Guard and a left foot step for the left side cuts and the Right Guard and a right foot step for the right side cuts.
Starting from Right Guard, Point Forward, lift to the Right Hanging Guard and on a pass forward at 45° throwing a mandritto that ends in Right Hanging Guard. Pass back with the left foot throwing a mandritto that cuts at 120° to the left ending in Right Hanging Guard. Complete the sequence with a pass forward with the right foot throwing another cut at 120°. Repeat the sequence for all the cuts, using the Left Guard for the left side cuts and the Right Guard for the right side cuts.
Redoubled Cuts with Passing Footwork
From Right Guard, Point Behind throw a mandritto to the head on a right step forward. Without moving the feet, allow the sword to continue in a descending circular path, returning for a 2nd mandritto to the head. Finish in Left Guard, Point Behind. Repeat throwing redoubled riversi on a left step forward, and then redoubled rising mandritto & rising riverso on a right step forward, followed by rising riverso and rising mandritto on a left step forward. Repeat from start but with the step back instead.
Redoubling with a Tondo using Passing Footwork.
From Right Guard, Point Behind throw a mandritto to the head whilst stepping forward with the right foot. Continue the cut as a circular cut and as the sword begins to travel upwards, lift up your hands and turn them such that the sword travels over your head finishing as a mandritto tondo to the left temple of the opponent. The tondo cut should have a slight downwards angle to provide some cover to the head. After the tondo cut is complete, recover back into Left Hanging Guard with a volta stabile. Repeat in sequence with a riverso, rising mandritto and rising riverso thrown with the redoubled tondo cut. Repeat from the start using the step back instead of the step forward.
Thrust and Redouble
From Right Hanging Guard, make a volta stabile forwards and deliver imbrocatta to the chest. Drop the tip and using the momentum to turn a circular mandritto to the head on a right step forward. Make sure the step forward is performed in a true time with the forward motion of the mandritto. Redouble with mandritto tondo without moving the feet. Recover back with volta stabile to Left Hanging Guard. Repeat with an imbroccata and circular riverso on the left step forwards.
Cut and Recover to Hanging Guard Partner Drill
Partner drill, both in Right Guard, Point Forward.
Attacker throws mandritto without moving the feet.
Defender parries with Right Hanging Guard, and ripostes with mandritto.
Attacker parries with Right Hanging Guard, and ripostes with mandritto.
Repeat 5 times each.
Switch to Left Guard, Point Forwards and repeat the sequence throwing riverso with recovery to Left Hanging Guard.
Serpentines as Parry Riposte Partner Drill
Paired drill, both starting in Right Guard, Point Behind.
Attacker steps in throwing mandritto to the head.
Defender parries with Left Head Guard, and then ripostes with riverso to the head. This action makes the tip of the sword travel in an S-shape, and hence is called a serpentine.
Repeat 5 times then switch roles.
Repeat the sequence for riverso, rising mandritto and rising riverso with each blow being countered by serpentine parry riposte. Note the rising cut riposte is to the lower body.