This is the lesson notes for the first class at Stoccata on the use of Spadone, ie Italian Greatsword.
The actual weapon being studied came to prominence at the end of the 15th Century, and became a mainstay of European infantry throughout the 16th Century and into the 17th Century. It averaged in length from 150 cm to 180 cm. As described by Alfieri, it was typically as long as a man is tall.
Our course is based on the work of Francesco Alfieri’s treatise Lo Spadone. We’ll be working from Ken Mondshein’s translation.
4 Basic Guards
From top to bottom we have the 4 basic guards:
- Head Guard – which can be either on the left (shown) or right
- Right Guard – which can be either point forward (shown) and point behind
- Left Guard – which can be point forward and point behind (shown)
- Hanging Guard – which can be on the left (shown) or the right
In this first lesson we predominately worked from either Right or Left Guard.
8 Basic Cuts
Our basic cuts are made with either the true edge or the false edge of the sword, and are as follows:
True Edge Cuts:
- mandritto – along the line A – B
- riverso – along the line C – D
- rising mandritto – along the line D – C
- rising riverso – along the line B – A
False Edge Cuts:
- mandritto falso – along the line A – B
- riverso falso – along the line C – D
- falso dritto – along the line D – C
- falso manco – along the line B – A
Cuts must be made with extended arms otherwise the weight of the weapon will cripple you! Let the momentum of the sword make the cut for you, as the length of the sword gives you all the leverage you need to power the weapon. You don’t need to muscle it!
Primary footwork concept
Mandritto cuts are made on a step forward with the right foot. Riverso cuts are made on a step forward with the left foot.
Reason: The hips and shoulders MUST stay in alignment otherwise you damage your lower back when the hips and shoulders turn in opposition to each other whilst wielding a 2-handed weapon.
Basic footwork exercises
In all of the exercises the cuts practiced were made in the order listed above, first with the true edge then with the false edge.
- Passing forward
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 the entire sequence, throwing the false edge cuts.
- 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.
- 90 degree stepping
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.
- 120° stepping
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.