The Teachings of Marozzo
By Giovanni Rapisardi
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IFV Classical Fencing Method
§ 1 - The weapon
The weapon described in the Opera Nova is composed of the blade, hilt, handle and pommel (lama, elsa, manico, pomolo) and its weight is about 1 Kg, with a balance point on the blade at about four fingers from the hilt. This style of sword is a very manageable weapon that allows one to easily execute all the sequences of actions proposed in the "abbattimenti" (bouts).
The blade, straight and double-edged, based on the proportions taken from the pictures, is long (about half the height of the fencer, from the tip to the tallone (the tallone it's the line between the tang (codolo) and the blade). At the ricasso the blade is wide at about 3 cm.
There are not any standard dimensions as the weapons were handcrafted and fit to each fencer.
The blade has three parts or "gradi": the forte (strong), from the tallone to the first third, the medio (middle) the central third, and the debole (weak) the last third until the point and the only part of the blade really sharpened.
The forte is used to parry, the medio to engage and the debole to hit.
The blade has ttwo edges (fili): the dritto (litterally "right", but in english it's used the term "true") and the falso (false): Giovanni Dall'Agocchie explains this difference «Everytime you'll handle the sword, or in the right or in the left hand, the edge that will be in corrispondence of the articulations of the fingers will be the filo dritto and the other will be the filo falso».
The hilt is a steel bar, approximately 15-20 cm long, with a hole in the center and more than protect the hand. This gives to the sword the form of a cross and makes of it a mystic symbol, as a remembrance of the armed defence of the christian's ideals.
The handle is normally wood, sometimes covered in leather or iron wire and is about 10 cm long.
The pommel is a weight put at the end of the handle and is used to balance the weapon: it can have several forms, but normally it's spheric and, like the hilt, can be used to strike in close combat.
§ 2 - The handling and the portamento di ferro (way to move the sword)
The spada da filo requires movement, both in giving the blow and assuming the parry position, that must be as tidy as possible. To keep the movement unseeable by the enemy: the action with the blade will have to follow precise lines of movment (going and coming back), starting from a guard position and arriving in another guard.
The correct way to give a cut is to use a movement of the wrist and sometimes of the elbow, but not of the shoulder: Di Grassi explanes this concept saying: «The arm has three main articulations: the shoulder, the elbow and the wrist (...). The cut with the shoulder is the most strong, but also the slowest (...). With the three articulations one must be well trained and will be able to hit hard with the elbow and the wrist. Eventually the shoulder will be forgetten and one will only use the elbow and the wrist to hit, using, at last, above all only the wrist». About the point it needs «pushing it without withdrawing the hand». Di Grassi says also that for fencing training one must use light swords, because «the aim of this art is not to raise heavy weight, but to move quickly».
In Marozzo's bouts there is also sword handling «in atto di spada in armi» (armoured fencing style) that means handling the middle of the blade with the left hand, using the sword like a stick.
§ 3 - The position and the walking
The position is the same, no matter if the right foot is forward or the left: in the first case it is a right guard, in the second a left guard.
Movement forward and backward, isn't defined by Marozzo in one place but is described each time in relation to the action being executed: we can determine a series of movements that are repeated several times in the actions.
The simple step (passo) (ex. «moving forward in that parry/guard with your left foot (...) and the right foot will follow the left backward» - Ch. 11/second part) is executed in a forward manner, moving first the forward foot and then the other, to return to the starting position and backward with the opposite movement: this is the base of the fencing movement and, as suggest Dall'Agocchie: «the walk with the step is not large and not narrow it is of better utility, for doing so it is possible to go forward and backward without disarranging the body».
The step of redoubling (raddoppio) (ex. «the left leg will send the right forward» - Ch. 94) is executed by putting the back foot near to the forward which will (forward foot) then immediately will go forward: it's a movement used to take more measure to the enemy.
The fente step or "gran passo" (big step) (ex. «you'll make a big step forward with the right foot blowing with a mandritto over the arm, then returning with the right foot near to the left» - Ch. 10/second part). This is the attack step and is executed by throwing the leading foot forward and then returning to the starting position.
The "passata" is the movement used to change from right guard to left and viceversa (ex. «Being in Porta di ferro alta (a right guard) (...) you'll pass forward with the left foot» Ch. 14/second part) and is executed by putting the rear foot forward, arriving, thanks to the ankle's movement, in the new position: it is the base movement to close with the enemy to wrestle.
The passata's fente or "gran passata" is executed to cover the most distance as possible.
This movement can be executed stepping forward and backward, in right guard and in left guard.
The lateral movements or "volte" are about the same as the passo and passata, but they are made laterally: they are used just to dodge (schifata) an attack.
Fencing actions will always be made on the straight line, no matter
if eventually lateral dodges (schifata) or close combat attacks are executed
to the left or the right side of the enemy.
§ 4 - Tempo, Velocità and Misura
From the Flos Duellatorum's "Segno di scherma" with the representation of the "tiger" (Celeritas - velocity) and of the lynx (Prudentia - timing and measure) to the less coloured but as much explicative descriptions of the modern treatises, the fencer's training about these three elements are the base for correct fencing instruction and without these simple explanations it does not matter what technicis employed for it is completely useless.
The Tempo (timing) is used to evaluate any situation for the opportunity to execute a particular fencing action (when to act).
The Velocità (velocity) is the physical ratio between space and time, executing a fencing action (how to act).
The Misura (measure) is the most useful, necessary and sufficient distance from the enemy to execute a fencing action (where to act).
The consideration of these three elements is shown in all the Opera Nova, not explicitly, but during all the actions of the several "abbattimenti": Marozzo cites in particular the Tempo talking about the "gioco stretto" «they that know how to get in and out in the close measure technics, you have to know that they are eccellent and perfect fencers, for they know the timing».
The velocity is a logical concept: a direct blow must be as quick as possible, to surprise the enemy, but a feint must be executed keeping in consideration the time of reaction of the enemy, so executing it at maximum velocity is not always useful: in fencing the Velocità is not a constant, but a variable.
The measure is the base of the two concepts of "gioco largo" and "gioco stretto" and to better uderstand it, there is needed a comparison between the ancient and the modern classification.
In modern fencing there are three kind of measure: walking measure (misura camminando) when to execute a blow the fencer must make the fente and, before, at least one step; the fente measure (misura d'allungo) when only the fente it's needed to hit; the close measure (stretta misura) when the arm's extention it's sufficient, without moving the feet.
In ancient fencing there are the "gioco largo" (litt. large game) and
the "gioco stretto" (close game): in the first case, as Marozzo says, «the
fencers make skirmishes» so it's assimilable to the actions at misura
camminando and misura d'allungo, when the blades of the two fencers are
at maximum weak with weak; in the second, classified also as «technics
and grappling of half sword», the actions are that made at misura
A perfect definition is given by Capoferro (Gran simulacro dell'arte e dell'uso della scherma - 1610) «the measure can be large or close: large when I can hit the enemy only with the fente, close when I can hit him without moving the feet».
§ 5 - The guards
Thay can be high (more useful for attack) or low (better for defence).
Although Marozzo shows through illustrations ( but not very clearly) 15 guards, from ch. 138 to 143 he mentions others during several descriptions of bouts, without explaning them.
Thanks to the comparison with the treatises of Manciolino and Dall'Agocchie we can explain each one well, remembering that this analysis is for a right-hander fencer and for the the left-hander the positions will be reversed.
§ 5/A - Coda Longa (Long tail)
With this descriptions we assume that the position of the hand in the Coda longa is in the modern 2nd position, with the back of the hand up and the true edge to the right side.
Coda longa e stretta (Long and narrow tail) and Coda longa e alta (Long and high tail) are the same guard, but the first is with the right foot forward and the second with the left.
Coda longa e larga (Long and large tail) looks like the invito of 2nd of modern sabre and the Coda longa e distesa (Long and outstretched tail) is the same of that already described by Fiore de' Liberi.
Note: the term "long" in modern italian is translated as "lungo" (female "lunga") but in ancient italian was "longo" or "longa". In the picture you'll see a frontal prospective of the guards: remember that the pictures are made by the translator (GR) and are not from the treatises for the most part.
§ 5/B - Porta di ferro (Iron door)
We can assume that the hand position of the Iron door is the 3rd of modern fencing, with the hand"s back to the right and the true edge toward the enemy. Narrow Iron door resembles the invito of 3rd of the modern sabre and the High Iron door the line of 3rd.
The Large Iron door has the hand in 4th position (hand's back downward and true edge to the left) and is executed like the invito of 4th.
About the Cinghiale or, as named by Marozzo, Cinghiara (Wild boar) the
hand is in 3rd position for the Large and for the High and in 4th for the
Narrow (remember that in this case the Narrow is with the armed hand in
correspondence with the left knee and in the Large is displaced to the
§ 5/C Guardia di testa (Head's guard)
§ 5/D - Guardia di faccia (Face guard)
§ 5/E - Guardia d'intrare (Entering guard)
§ 5/F - Becca cesa and Becca possa
Dall'Agocchie describes these guards, giving them a different name, in this way: «Guardia di Alicornio (Unicorn) is when the handle of the sword is downward, the arm straight and the point low, looking to the face or the chest of the enemy, like the Unicorn that sets his horn in this way when it has to fight».
Becca cesa and Becca possa
are compatible with this description, as Dall'Agocchie, about the Head,
Face, Entering and Unicorn guards adds:«These four guards can be
executed with the left or the right foot forward»; moreover Becca
cesa and Becca possa are the same the guards of Salvatore Fabris (De lo
schermo - 1606) guard of 1st, and the hand position for both is the 1st.
§ 5/G - Guardia alta (High guard)
§ 5/H - Guardia di sopra il braccio (Overarm guard) and di sotto il braccio (Underarm guard)
A good description of these
two guards, often cited by Marozzo in the sword & buckler bouts (ex.
«you'll hit with a mandritto tondo that will go in Overarm guard»
ch. 10-4th part; «you'll hit with a mandritto tondo to the legs that
will go in Underarm guard» ch.10-3rd part) which are good to execute
just in this particular fencing style.
§ 5/I - Guardia di fianco (Flank guard)
Conclusion on GuardsIn conclusion remember that the concept of the guard must not be confused with that of the parry: the first is a position, the second an action. So, there can be guards that are just guards, guards that are also parries and parries that are only parries.
§ 6 - The blows
The cuts are executed above all with the true edge, but also with the false and they are of two great cathegories, the mandritti (singular "mandritto"), so called because «thay start from the right (dritto) side» of the fencer to hit the left side of the enemy and the manroversi or simply roversi (singular "roverso") executed in the opposite way (from the left).
Able to be executed with
the true edge, there are the fendente (plur. "fendenti") which cut in vertical
line from up to down, the
With the false edge it will
be possible to execute the tondi; the ridoppi will became falso dritto
(left flank > right shoulder) and falso
There is also the mezzo (half)
mandritto, described by Dall'Agocchie: «the mandritto sgualembro
starts from the left shoulder and
The cut executed «with
wrist articulation in a molinello (a full circle executed by the blade
to give more strenght to the cut)»
The thrusts are of four kind:
the punta dritta (pl. "punte dritte") or just punta, executed with the
hand in the Entering Guard's position; the punta roversa (pl. "punte roverse"),
with the hand in the Face Guard's position; the imbroccata,(pl. "imbroccate")
or overhand thrust, normally executed in Becca Cesa or Possa's position;
and the stoccata (pl. "stoccate") or underhand thrust, normally executed
with the hand in High Iron Door's position.
§ 7 - The parriesUntil the XVIII century there is no classification of the parries and for this reason they are often confused with the guards: remember always that the parry is an action and the guard a position.
About the parries, the only information are about the sword's edges and about this question Dall'Agocchie says:«in only two ways can you parry with the sword, or with the true edge or with the false: and the false is of two kind, falso dritto and falso manco».
So the falso dritto and the falso manco are not only two cuts, but also the main parries, that are able to protect almost all the body.
The parries in Face, Head and Entering guard are useful to parry with the true edge the fendenti and the sgualembri.
Virtually other steady parries,
which mean executed with a position, not with a blow against the blow (like
falso dritto and manco),
Becca cesa and Becca possa
are good to protect head and shoulders, above all against the sgualembri.
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The Naked Truth | If I Had a Hammer
The Sabre's Edge | Swordfight at the OK Corral
How to Defend a Monopoly | A Propos d'un Accident
The Dubious Quick Kill part 1 | The Dubious Quick Kill part 2
Review and Commentary | Duels with the Sword | Starting with Foil
Liancour's Tercentenary | The Manuel d'escrime of 1877 | The Military Masters Fencing Program
Analysis of the Patton Fencing Manual | The Red Court Fencing's Royal Connection
| The Practical Saviolo part 1 | Saddle, Lance and Stirrup
Demystification of the Spanish School 1 | Demystification of the Spanish School 2
Demystification of the Spanish School 3
| A Brief Look at Joseph Swetnam
| Ithacan Retains Title | Third Time's a Charm
Cross-Training Not Cross-Purposes | Riposte Direct | Use of the Word "Sparring"
Chivalry Makes a Come-back | Teachings of Marozzo |
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