Chapter 3 – Manciolino’s Sword & Dagger

Overview of the Sword and Dagger System

Manciolino’s sword & dagger system is part of his plays with the edged sword. As such it deals with the material as if the fight is a real one with the life on the line, and compared to the sword & buckler material gives the appearance of being highly abbreviated. What remains however is a highly effective system for hitting without being hit. The objective appears to be cripple the enemy quickly and then get away. This accords with modern self defence advice, which summarises as “hit them and get away while the enemy is stunned, and don’t hang around!”

The system relies on pressuring the opponent to make an opening attack, to which you have only a limited number of responses to remember due to the restricted options available to the enemy left by the base starting guardia. The assumption we must make is that Manciolino believes you both adopt similar starting guardia, or at least guardia in the low guardia with the sword and dagger both in presence.

The Actions of the System

Base Starting Guardia

RH in Coda Lunga Alta, LH in Porta di Ferro Stretta

Method For Constricting The Enemy

Constrict the enemy by closing distance with gathering steps, forcing him to respond or to retreat.

Defence Against The Mandritto

Against the mandritto to the head, parry with the dagger in Guardia di Testa, whilst simultaneously passing right throwing mandritto to the head or a thrust to the flank. Retreat back 3 or 4 steps into guard.

Defence Against the Stoccata

Against the stoccata, parry with the false edge of your dagger (made by turning your palm up) whilst giving a returning thrust to the flank, keeping the left foot forward. Leap backwards returning to your guard.


A very short left traverse initiated with the left foot helps get the riposte past the defending dagger. In practice this is done with the left step, which moves slightly forward and sideways on the parry, and the riposte extending to full reach on the corrective step. This traverse helps realign the riposte on an angle that prevents a parry with the dagger.

Defence Against The Thrust And Mandritto

Against the thrust to the face which redoubles with a mandritto to the leg, parry the thrust inwards with the false edge of your dagger by turning your palm down, bringing the dagger under your sword and riposte on a pass right with a mandritto to the head or leg. (The inwards dagger parry spoils the mandritto redouble.) Retreat backwards 3 or 4 steps back into guard.

Defence Against The Thrust And Riverso

Against the thrust to the face which redoubles with a riverso to the leg, parry inwards with the false edge of the dagger (as you did against the thrust & mandritto), and when the sword lifts off for the riverso, parry this by turning your dagger hand anti-clockwise bringing the point down to parry the riverso with the true edge. At the same time as the dagger parry, riposte with a thrust to the chest, or a falso to the sword arm. Retreat back out of distance.

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