Academie Duello Glossary

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This is a list of common Italian-school WMA terms used in the Academie Duello curriculum. Many terms are listed in Italian, with English translations.

Footwork

Below is a list of common terms for footwork. These terms are applicable to all of the combat taught at Academie Duello, be it longsword, sidesword, rapier, quarterstaff, or unarmed (or anything else, really!)

Line (of Direction)

or lateral distinctions

When discussing footwork, the line is the imaginary line directed from the centre of your body to the centre of the opponents body. Usually, your feet should straddle the line, with the left foot to the left of it, and the right foot to the right of it. The following terms describe a step's relationship to the line:

  • In-line or "On the line" means that there is no change in the foot's lateral distance from the line based on its starting and ending positions. In-line steps are straight forward or straight back. If not otherwise specified, footwork is usually assumed to be in-line.
  • Off-line means that the foot's lateral distance from the line has increased after the movement. Off-line steps move the right foot to the right (as well as forward or backward) or the left foot to the left.
  • Cross-line means that the foot crosses the line in the course of its movement. Cross-line steps bring the right foot to the left (usually passing in front of or behind the left foot) or the left foot to the right.

Steps

  • Advance or Advancing Step - also "Forward step" or "Small step forward"; Italian "accrescimento", from the verb accressere. An advance is a short step forward with the front foot, followed by a step forward with the back foot. When the back foot does not follow, this is known as an advance of the front foot (also known as a demi-lunge). The advance can be in-line, off-line, or cross-line.
    • Lunge or lunging step - an advance of the front foot accompanied with a shift of weight onto the front foot. Further variants of the lunge are described in the rapier attacks section.
  • Retreat or retreating step - also "Step back" or "Small step back"; Italian "descrescimento", from the verb descressere. A retreat is a short step backward with the rear foot followed by a step back with the front foot. When the front foot does not follow, this is known as a retreat of the rear/back foot. The reatreating step can be in-line, off-line, or cross-line.
  • Pass or passing step - also "Pass forward" or "Pass back"; Italian "passada", from the verb passare. A pass brings the rear foot forward past the front foot, or the front foot back past the back foot. This step can be done with or without a mezza volta (turn of the hips) as discussed below. In rapier and quarterstaff, the passing step is frequently done as a pair without a mezza volta, ending with the same foot forward that began. The passing step can be done in-line, off-line, or cross-line.
  • Compass Step - A compass step is a movement of the rear foot that rotates the body around the front foot. It is usually done following an off-line advance or pass in order to reorient the body towards the opponent (bring the body back on the line).
  • Triangle Step - A triangle step is an off-line pass paired with a compass step. The off-line pass can be a pass forward at an angle, or it can be straight to the side, resulting in a change of lead foot with no forward movement.
  • Gather Step - Also known as either a "Gather forward" or a "Gather back", the gather step brings the feet together, either rear foot to the front foot or vice versa. The gather step can be used as part of a changing or chasing step (see below) or as an evasion of the lead leg (riunita).
  • Half-Pass - A half-pass is a large step with either foot, usually done following a gather step to perform either a changing step or chasing step. Like the passing step, the half-pass can be done forward or backward, as well as in-, off-, or cross-line.
  • Changing Step - A gather forward followed by a half-pass back of the other leg, or a gather back followed by a half-pass forward of the other leg, resulting in a change of the forward foot.
  • Chasing Step - Also known as either "Chase forward" or "Chase back", the chasing step is a gather forward followed by a half-pass forward of the foot that was originally forward, or a gather back followed by a half-pass back of the foot that was originally back. The chasing step covers roughly the same distance as a passing step, but does not change the lead foot.

Turns (of the Body)

Knowledge of the turns is particularly useful in longsword, sidesword, and close-quarters work, as well as related disciplines such as polearms. Rapier tends to avoid turns other than the occasional mezza volta.

  • Volta Stabile - English: "Stable Turn." A volta stabile is a turn of the hips on the balls of the feet without stepping. Generally, a volta stabile keeps the hips oriented to the same side of the line of direction. Most commonly found in grappling and longsword, examples include a turn from posta di donna to posta di donna altara, a thrust from a rear-weighted posta finestra into either a forward finestra or posta longa, or the turn away from the opponent that really sets in a middle key.
  • Mezza Volta - English: "Half-Turn." A mezza volta is a change of the lead foot that changes the orientation of the hips to the opposite side of the line of direction. Common examples include a passada (passing step) in longsword or sidesword, or a triangle step.
  • Tutta Volta - English: "Full-Turn." A tutta volta is a turn that changes your facing 180 degrees (e.g. from north to south). This is done by a cross-line movement of one foot, followed by a volta stabile. It can be done front foot crossing in front, front foot crossing behind with a pass, back foot crossing behind, or back foot crossing in front with a pass.

General Swordplay Terms

Parts of the Sword

Spada - English: "Sword." The sword has two main distinctions: the blade and the hilt. See also Anatomy of the Rapier.

  • The hilt consists of the guard, grip, and pommel.
    • The pommel is the counterweight that is on the end furthest from the point.
    • The grip, or handle, is what you hold on to.
    • The guard protects the hand, and can be simple, like the crossbar of a longsword or arming sword, or complex, like those on rapiers and sideswords. Complex guards may feature finger-rings, sweeps, cups and a knuckle-bow. In a complex hilt the arms of the crossbar are also known as quillons.
  • The blade has many divisions.
    • Punta - English: "Point." The portion of the blade employed in the thrust.
    • Debole - English: "Weak." The half of the blade closer to the point.
    • Mezza Spada - English: "Middle of the Sword," or "Mid-Sword."
    • Forte - English: "Strong"; also Tutta Spada (Fiore). The half of the blade closer to the guard.
    • Filo Dritto - English: "True Edge." The true edge aligns with the knuckles of the lead hand, and is the default edge for cuts and parries. On a sword with a knucklebow, the true edge aligns with the knucklebow when held correctly.
    • Filo Falso - English: "False Edge." The other edge.
  • The blade may also include some of the following:
    • Ricasso - The ricasso is an unsharpened portion of the forte, extending from the crossbar or quillons.
    • Fuller - The fuller is a groove in the sword that lightens and strengthens the blade. Sometimes erroneously referred to as a blood-groove.

Line (of Attack)

There are four lines of attack: inside, outside, high, and low. All attacks will be a combination of inside/outside and high/low. When both hands are on the weapon, the line of attack is determined in relation to the lead hand.

  • Inside defines the side of the weapon arm on which the chest is found.
  • Outside defines the side of the weapon arm on which the back is found.
  • High defines all attacks made to a target above the lead hand.
  • Low defines all attacks made to a target below the lead hand.

In the case of multiple weapons (e.g. rapier and dagger, two swords), it is possible to be inside one weapon and outside the other, or inside both.

Lines may be open, constrained, or closed.

  • A line is open when it is unimpeded by the opponent's weapon or secondary.
  • A line is constrained when the opponent has advantage over it, but it is not closed.
  • A line is closed when it is completely impeded by the opponent's weapon or secondary.

Turns (of the Sword)

There are three turns of the sword in addition to (and separate from) the three turns of the body. The sword can turn around its point, mezza spada, guard, or pommel.

  • Volta Stabile - English: "Stable Turn." A volta stabile of the sword is a longitudinal rotation of the weapon. Examples include a turn from terza to seconda (rapier), or from posta longa to posta finestra (longsword).
  • Mezza Volta - English: "Half Turn." A mezza volta of the sword moves the sword around the opponent's weapon, from the inside line to the outside line (or vice versa), or from the high line to the low line (or vice versa). The fulcrum of the turn is the lead hand or the forte of the sword, and its motion describes a cone.
    • Cavatione or cavazione - from the verb cavare, or "to extract"; English: "Disengage." A cavatione is a specific variant of a mezza volta where the fencer moves his weapon tightly from one side of the opponents sword to the other, specifically in response to being found or against a beat. This may be done below the sword, as a cavatione sotto, or above the sword, as a cavatione sopra.
  • Tutta Volta - English: "Full Turn." A tutta volta of the sword is a fully circular motion of the blade (usually in a plane). It usually results in the sword moving across both lines, e.g. from low-outside to high-inside.
    • Stramazzone - The stramazzone is a circular cut that rotates around the sword hand.
    • Molinello - The molinello is a circular cut that rotates around the elbow.

Concepts and Strategy

Below is a list of common terms for strategy and tactics common to all weapons at Academie Duello. These terms are applicable to all of the combat taught at Academie Duello, be it longsword, sidesword, rapier, quarterstaff, or unarmed (or anything else, really!)

Advantages

Understanding the three mechanical advantages of the sword is essential for gaining control of the opponent's weapon.

  • Line - Crossing the line; if the weapon is inside the opponent's weapon, point at a target outside of the opponent's weapon (or vice versa). This is often (but not always) accomplished by being on top of the opponent's weapon. Capoferro informs us that the straight line defeats the oblique line, and the oblique line defeats the straight line.
  • Leverage - Ensure that the point of contact (or most likely point of contact, if the weapons are not touching) between both weapons is closer to your forte than the opponent's forte.
  • Edge - Align the true edge of your sword against the opponent's blade (or towards their blade, if the weapons are not touching). It is easier to push with the edge than with the flat, and the true edge closes the line while the false edge can leave it open.

Stringere

or constraint, stringering; weapons may be stringered

Stringere refers to the strategic use of position or blade action to accomplish three objectives:

  • Constrain the opponent’s position and restrict their available targets, forcing them to spend a tempo (more below) to find a more advantageous position.
  • Invite, or leave strategic openings, to make the opponent’s next action more predictable.
  • Increase the tempo of the opponent’s next action so that it will be greater in proportion to the tempo of your next action.

Stringere may be achieved by contra postura or cutting.

  • Stringere by Contra Postura - English: “Counter posture” or “counterguard.” Finding and gaining the opponent’s weapon.
    • Finding the Sword is when we employ the three advantages to constrain the line of the opponent's potential attack. The key advantage in finding is crossing the line.
    • Gaining the Sword is when we employ the three advantages to close the line of the opponent's potential attack. The key advantage in gaining is leverage.
  • Stringere with a Cut must either displace the opponent’s sword or end with the opponent’s sword gained.
    • The beat is a horizontal mezza cut directed at the opponent's sword with the intention of displacing its point.
    • The half-cut is a mezza cut directed at the opponent's sword with the intention of displacing the whole sword.

Tempo

or temporal distinctions

Tempo is the measurement of motion between stillness, and stillness between motion. In fencing, it can refer to a few qualities of an action:

  • Length of Action describes how long an action takes: one cut can take longer than another, so one has a longer tempo than the other.
    • Proportion describes how long an action takes in relation to another action.
  • Number of Movements describes the complexity of an action by separating it into its component movements, with a change of direction splitting the tempo of an action. A cut from a point-on-line position can be described as a two-tempo action, with one tempo the preparation of the cut, the second the delivery of the cut. Likewise a fixed-footed lunge from a point-on-line position would be a single-tempo action, the sword extending forward in a single movement.
  • Opportunity for Attack describes an opportunity to strike an opponent.
    • Primo Tempo - English: “First Time.” This is the opportunity provided by an opponent entering measure (usually misura larga). The tempo is that of the opponent’s step into measure. The primary quality is that the opponent cannot make a backwards movement if he/she is in the middle of a forward movement. Primo tempo is also striking the opponent while they fix in measure.
    • Dui Tempi - English: “Two Times.” This is the opportunity provided by “spending a tempo to gain a tempo,” using one discrete action to create an opportunity to strike. Common dui tempi actions include: Beating a sword to displace it then striking; parrying an attack then making a risposta; voiding an attack then making a risposta. The primary quality is that the strike occurs during the opponent’s recovery (during the tempo of the opponent bringing their weapon back on line, or into a position of threat or cover).
    • Mezzo Tempo - English: “Half Time.” This is the opportunity to strike during an opponent’s non-offensive action, usually at closer measures where it is easier to manipulate proportion. Common mezzo tempo actions include: Striking an opponent in the preparation of a cut; striking an opponent halfway through a disengage; striking an opponent during a non-offensive guard change.
    • Contra Tempo - English: “Counter Time.” This is the opportunity to strike during an opponent’s offensive action with a shorter attack of your own that closes the line.

Actions may be in tempo or out of tempo.

  • In Tempo is an attack or action that is done in time with an opponent’s action, or while the opponent fixes.
    • Fixing is when a combatant spends a tempo unprepared to either offend or defend.
  • Out of Tempo is an attack or action that is done while the opponent is still and ready.

Misura

or measure, distance

Misura describes the distance from the weapon to its target. When not otherwise specified, the target is the opponent's torso.

  • Fuori Misura - English: "Out of Measure." The distance where the target is out of reach with any single step.
  • Misura Largissima - English: “Widest Measure.” The distance where a strike to the target requires a passing step.
  • Misura Larga - English: “Wide Measure.” The distance where a strike to the target requires an advance of the front foot.
  • Misura Stretta - English: “Narrow Measure.” The distance where a strike to the target requires no movement of the feet.
  • Misura Strettissima - English: “Narrowest Measure.” The distance where a strike to the target will hit even with a retreating step.

Finding measure (e.g. find misura larga) is approaching to a measure without giving up a tempo (through appropriate use of cover, etc.)

Giocco Largo & Giocco Stretto

Wide and close play

The context of swordplay can be categorized as giocco largo or giocco stretto based on the level of threat presented by the opponent's weapon.

Giocco Largo - English: "Wide Play." In giocco largo the opponent's weapon does not present an immediate threat, as when they are in a withdrawn guard (e.g. guardia alta or posta di dona), or when their weapon has been displaced from the line.

Giocco Stretto - English: "Close Play." In giocco stretto the opponent's weapon presents an immediate threat (usually with the point), and you must cover or displace the opponent's weapon to stay safe.

Rapier

Guards

Rapier guards are defined by weight distribution and hand position.

  • Withdrawn - or defensive position, defence, is a position where the body leans back at the hips, centering the chest over the rear leg, with the weight primarily on the rear leg (back knee bent, front knee almost straight). The guard position of terza is withdrawn.
  • Extended - or offensive position, offense, is a position where the upper body extends forward from the hips, with the weight still on the rear leg (back knee bent, front knee almost straight). The guard positions of prima, seconda, and quarta are all extended.
  • Lunge Position - This is the final position of the lunge: the sword-arm and the body are extended, with the body's weight primarily on the lead leg (back leg extended, front knee bent). The lunge is usually defined by the hand position, e.g. "lunge in quarta" or "lunge in seconda."

Hand positions:

  • Prima or prima guardia - English: "First," "First Guard." In the hand position of prima the true edge of the sword is facing the ceiling. In the guard of prima the sword is held extended above shoulder height and the body is extended.
  • Seconda or seconda guardia - English: "Second," "Second Guard." In the hand position of seconda the true edge of the sword is directed to the outside line (the hand is palm down). In the guard of seconda the sword is held extended at shoulder height and the body is extended.
  • Terza or terza guardia - English: "Third," "Third Guard." In the hand position of terza the true edge of the sword is directed to the floor. In the guard of terza the sword is held extended in front of the flank and the body is withdrawn.
  • Quarta or quarta guardia - English: "Fourth," "Fourth Guard." In the hand position of quarta the true edge of the sword is directed to the inside line (the hand is palm up). In the guard of quarta the sword is held extended at shoulder height and the body is extended.

In general, there are two categories of dagger/off-hand positions with the four guards:

  • Open, or open position is when the dagger/off-hand is held apart from the sword, usually beside the head.
  • Closed, or closed position is when the dagger/off-hand is held in unity with the sword or sword arm. In the closed position either the dagger's pommel or its point (or the elbow/fingers, in the case of the off-hand) will be in near-contact with the sword or sword arm.

There are two additional guards used in rapier and dagger:

  • Quinta or quinta guardia - English: "Fifth," "Fifth Guard." In quinta the sword hand is in a low terza, point low, with the dagger resting over the sword-arm's wrist. The body is withdrawn.
  • Sesta or sesta guardia - English: "Sixth," "Sixth Guard." In sesta the sword hand is withdrawn in a low terza, point high, with the dagger extended so that the point of both weapons meet at shoulder-height. The body is extended.

Blue cords will also learn refused stances.

  • Refused guards withdraw both the sword arm and the sword leg, e.g. a right-handed fencer will stand with their left foot leading. There are refused variants of all four guards.

Attacks

The rapier's primary attack is the thrust, generally delivered in the form of the lunge, an extension of the arm followed by a lean of the body (going into an extended position), followed by an advance of the front foot powered by an extension of the rear leg, ending in the lunge position. Recovery from the lunge follows the same steps in reverse: from the lunge position withdraw the front foot into an extended position, then recover the body into a reverse-weighted position. Generally, the lunge is done in either seconda or quarta, depending on the line of attack. By default the lunge is done in line (see footwork), but it may also be done with off-line movement.

Variants on the general lunge include:

  • Fixed-Footed Lunge - A lunge without the advance of the front foot.
  • Passing Lunge - A lunge with a pass forward (without a mezza volta of the body) instead of the advance of the front foot.
  • Reverse Lunge - A lunge with a retreat of the rear foot instead of the advance of the front foot.
  • Stocatta - A thrust in terza.
  • Imbrocatta - A thrust in prima.
  • Punta Dritta - A thrust in seconda around the opponent's weapon, with the false edge to their sword.
  • Punta Riversi - A thrust in quarta around the opponent's weapon, with the false edge to their sword.
  • Sbasso - A lunge/reverse lunge below the opponent's sword, ending in an extremely low position (chest on thigh, if possible).
  • Passata Sotto - English: "Pass Beneath." A passing lunge below the opponent's sword, ending in an extremely low position.

Cutting in rapier follows the terminology of cutting with the sidesword.

Special Actions

The girata is a turn of the body, voiding the rear shoulder from the line of the opponent's attack.

  • Girata Stabile - English: "Stable Rotation." A void of the rear shoulder with a turn on the ball of the front foot.
  • Mezza Girata or Scanso della Pie Dritta - English: "Half/Middle Rotation" or "Void of the Right Foot." A void of the rear shoulder with an on- or off-line advance of the front foot.
  • Tutta Girata or Scanso della Vita - English: "Full Rotation" or "Void of the Body." A void of the rear shoulder where the rear foot passes behind the front foot.

The transport is an action of the blade that moves the opponents sword from high to low (or vice versa) or inside to outside (or vice versa).

The scannatura is a type of transport described in Capoferro's 13th plate.

References

Much of our rapier terminology and technique is derived from the following works:

  • Ridolfo Capoferro, Gran Simulacro dell'Arte e dell'Uso della Scherma - 1610
  • Salvator Fabris, Lo Schermo, overo Scienza d'Arme - 1606
  • Nicoletto Giganti, Scola, overo Teatro - 1606

The following modern works are highly recommended for rapier study:

  • Leoni, Tom. Ridolfo Capoferro's The Art and Practice of Fencing: A Practical Translation for the Modern Swordsman. Wheaton, IL: Freelance Academy Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-9825911-9-2
  • Fabris, Salvator and Leoni, Tommaso. Art of Dueling: Salvator Fabris' Rapier Fencing Treatise of 1606. Highland Village, TX: Chivalry Bookshelf, 2005. ISBN 1-891448-23-4
  • Leoni, Tom. Venetian Rapier: Nicoletto Giganti's 1606 Rapier Fencing Curriculum. Wheaton, IL: Freelance Academy Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9825911-2-3

Sidesword

Guards

Guards are positions of the sword and body that function as transition-points in a sword fight; they are positions from which attacks/defences begin, positions where attacks/defences end, or positions where an attack/defence may be interrupted.

All sidesword guards may have either leg forward.

  • Low Guards are defined by both hand position and blade position, e.g. coda longe e larga, porta di ferro alta, or dente al cinghiara stretta.
    • Coda Longa - English: "Long Tail." Coda longa guards place the sword-hand to the outside of the sword-hand-side leg. They are the natural end positions of roverso squalembrato cuts.
      • Coda Longa e Larga e Distesa - English: "Long tail both wide and extended." This is a coda longa-only variant where the point is low to the ground and extended behind the body.
    • Porta di Ferro - English: "Iron Gate." Porta di ferro guards place the sword-hand directly in front of the sword-hand-side leg. They are the natural end positions of fendente cuts.
    • Dente al Cinghiara - English: "Boar's Tooth." Dente al Cinghiara guards place the sword-hand to the inside of the sword-hand-side leg. They are the natural end positions of mandritto squalembrato cuts. Sometimes abbreviated to Cinghiara guards.
    • Alta - English: "High." Alta describes the sword arm somewhat extended just below shoulder-height, sword point directed towards the opponent's face.
    • Stretta - English: "Narrow/Close." Stretta describes the sword-hand extended at hip-height, sword point directed towards the opponent's face or body.
    • Larga - English: "Wide." Larga describes the sword-hand extended at hip height, sword point directed towards the ground.
  • High Guards each have a name to themselves.
    • Guardia Alta - English: "High Guard." Sword arm held straight up, sword vertical or pointing slightly back.
    • Guardia d'Alicorno - English: "Unicorn Guard." Sword arm held straight up, sword pointing at the opponent's face, true edge up. May also be held extended forward from the shoulder, true edge up. Also known as becca cesa if the sword-hand-side foot is forward, or becca possa if the sword-hand-side foot is back.
    • Guardia di Testa - English: "Guard of the Head." Sword held extended in front of the shoulder, the point upwards and forwards so that the head is covered from strikes.
    • Guardia di Faccia - English: "Guard of the Face." Sword held extended in front of the face, point forward, true edge to the inside.
    • Guardia d'Intrare - English: "Entering Guard." Sword held extended in front of the face or sword-hand-side shoulder, point forward, true edge down or outside.
  • There are two additional guards used specifically when a secondary is employed.
    • Sopra Braccio - English: "Over the Arm." Sword held over the extended buckler/dagger arm, sword point back.
    • Sotto Braccio - English: "Under the Arm." Sword held below the extended buckler/dagger arm, sword point back. This guard corresponds to coda longa e larga e distesa on the other side.

Attacks

Attacks are either cuts or thrusts. Every cut has a few variations:

  • Mandritto cuts come from the lead-hand side (from right to left, if you're right-handed). When not otherwise specified, cuts are assumed to be mandritto.
  • Roverso or riverso cuts come across the body (from left to right, if you're right-handed).
  • Dritto cuts are delivered with the true edge of the sword. When not otherwise specified, cuts are assumed to be dritto.
  • Falso cuts are delivered with the false edge of the sword.
  • Tutta - English: "Full." Tutta blows travel all the way through the target, e.g. a tutta squalembrato would end in dente al cinghiara larga.
  • Mezza - English: "Half." Mezza blows stop half-way through the target, e.g. a mezza fendente would end in either porta di ferro alta or porta di ferro stretta.

There are four lines of cut: vertical, diagonal descending, horizontal, diagonal rising. Each line can be done either mandritto or roverso (or fendente/montante in the vertical line), so there are eight cuts altogether.

  • Fendente - from fendere, or "to cleave/cut through"; English: "Cleaver/Cleaving Blow." The fendente is a descending vertical cut.
  • Montante - from montare, or "to go up"; English: "Rising Blow." The montante is a rising vertical cut.
  • Squalembrato or sgualembrato, squalembretto, sgualembro. - The squalembrato is a downwards diagonal cut.
  • Tondo - The tondo is a horizontal cut.
  • Sottano or ridoppio. - The sottano is a rising diagonal cut.

Some false edge cuts also have short-hand names:

  • Falso Dritto is a mandritto sottano delivered with the false edge.
  • Falso Manco is a roverso sottano delivered with the false edge.

The following terms are occasionally used to describe thrusts:

  • Stocatta - A thrust delivered with the hand in a neutral position (true edge down).
  • Punta Dritta - A thrust delivered with the hand palm down.
  • Punta Riversi - A thrust delivered with the hand palm up.
  • Imbroccatta - A thrust delivered from guardia d'alicorno.

Special Actions

  • Assalto - English: "Assault." A set play of attacks and defenses used in solo practice and skill display.
  • Abellimento - English: "Embellishment." A flourish of decorative actions signifying the end of a phrase in an assalto.
  • Bocciolo - English: "Flower Bud." A set of attacks that recurs throughout Marozzo's assalti: defend in guardia di testa, strike mandritto tondo to the leg, roverso to the arm, and throw a montante into guardia alta.
  • Ritocco - A beat of the pommel against the buckler.

References

Much of our sidesword terminology and technique is derived from the following works:

  • Achille Marozzo, Opera Nova - 1536
  • Antonio Manciolino, Opera Nova - 1531
  • Angelo Viggiani, Lo Schermo d'Angelo Viggiani - 1575
  • Giovanni dall'Aggochie, Dell'Arte di Scrima Libri Tre - 1572
  • Anonymous, Anonimo Bolognese - 16th Century

The following modern works are highly recommended for sidesword study:

  • Leoni, Tom. The Complete Renaissance Swordsman: Antonio Manciolino's Opera Nova. Wheaton, IL: Freelance Academy Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9825911-3-0

Longsword

Guards

Guards are positions of the sword and body that function as transition-points in a sword fight; they are positions from which attacks/defences begin, positions where attacks/defences end, or positions where an attack/defence may be interrupted.

Longsword guards are either forward- or rear-weighted. Some guards can be either.

  • Forward-Weighted is a position where the body is "forward motivated": weight distribution is slightly more on the front foot. The feet are one shoulder's width apart and two shoulder's widths deep, front foot pointing straight ahead and back foot angled slightly off-line. Both knees are bent, the front knee more than the back knee.
  • Rear-Weighted is a position where the body is aligned in the direction of the rear foot, but the head is facing forward.

Additionally, some guards can be specified as destraza (English, "Right") or sinestra (English, "Left"), if they have right- and left-side variations.

  • Posta di Dona - English: "Guard of the Lady." Sword resting horizontally on the shoulder and perpendicular to the line of direction, hands close to the head. Can be forward- or rear-weighted, destraza or sinestra.
    • Posta di Dona Altara or posta di dona la soprana - English: "Guard of the High/Proud Lady." Rear-weighted variant of posta di dona destraza with the arms held high, looking under the lead arm.
  • Posta Finestra - English: "Window Guard." Hands high, beside the head, point forward and crossing the line. Can be forward- or rear-weighted, destraza (with the wrists crossed) or sinestra.
  • Posta Frontale - English: "Front Guard." Forward-weighted, sword in front of the face with the flat forward, point high and forward, elbows tucked in beneath the sword. Either foot can be forward.
  • Posta Bicornu - English: "Two-Horn Guard." Forward-weighted, sword braced against the chest with the flat parallel to the ground, point directed to the opponent's face or chest, with the pommel-hand inverted. Either foot can be forward.
  • Posta Longa - English: "Long Guard." Forward-weighted, sword directed to the opponent's face/chest with the edge perpendicular to the ground, arms extended. Either foot can be forward.
  • Posta Breve - English: "Close Guard." Forward-weighted, sword directed to the opponent's face/chest with the edge perpendicular to the ground, arms withdrawn. Either foot can be forward.
  • Tutta Porta di Ferro - English: "Full Iron Gate." Forward-weighted, left foot forward, forearms resting on hips, point directed right, close to the ground and as far forward as the ball of the front foot. Usually referred to as porta di ferro.
    • Porta di Ferro Mezzana - English: "Half Iron Gate." Forward-weighted, sword low and on-line, point close to the ground. Either foot can be forward.
  • Dente al Cinghiara or cinghiale, zenghiar - English: "Boar's Tooth." Forward-weighted, right foot forward, pommel resting outside the left hip, point low and somewhat off-line.
    • Dente al Cinghiara Mezzana - English: "Half Boar's Tooth." Rear-weighted, right foot forward, torso leaning forward, pommel resting outside the left hip, point low and on-line.
  • Coda Longa - English: "Long Tail." Forward-weighted, left foot forward, pommel resting outside the right hip, point low and back.

Attacks

Attacks are either cuts or thrusts. Every cut has a few variations:

  • Mandritto cuts come from the lead-hand side (from right to left, if you're right-handed). When not otherwise specified, cuts are assumed to be mandritto.
  • Roverso or riverso cuts come across the body (from left to right, if you're right-handed).
  • Dritto cuts are delivered with the true edge of the sword. When not otherwise specified, cuts are assumed to be dritto.
  • Falso cuts are delivered with the false edge of the sword.
  • Tutta - English: "Full." Tutta blows travel all the way through the target (from a high guard to a low guard, or vice versa).
  • Mezza - English: "Half." Mezza blows stop half-way through the target (from a high/low guard to a middle guard, such as posta longa or posta breve).

There are three lines of cut. Each line can be done either mandritto or roverso, so there are six cuts altogether.

  • Fendente, pl. fendenti - from the verb fendere, or "to cut through, to cleave"; English: "Cleaver." An almost vertical downwards diagonal blow. The path of the fendente enters above the jaw and exits the knee on the other side.
  • Mezzano or mezano, pl. mezzani - from mezza, or "half." The mezzani are horizontal blows, usually delivered to the neck or head. The roverso mezzano is done with the false edge.
  • Sottano, pl. sottani - English: "From Below." An almost vertical rising diagonal blow. The path of the sottano enters the knee and exits the jaw on the other side.

There are five thrusts.

  • Two are high (from posta finestra destraza and posta finestra sinestra)
  • Two are low (from tutta porta di ferro and dente al cinghiara)
  • One is up the middle (from posta breve or porta di ferro mezzana)

A thrust from a finestra guard can be referred to as an imbrocatta. A centreline thrust may be referred to as a stocatta.

Special Actions

There are two special defences against the thrust.

  • Scambiar di Punta - English: "Exchange the thrust." This defence counters the thrust with another thrust.
  • Rompere di Punta - English: "Break the thrust." This defence counters the thrust by beating it down.

References

Much of our longsword terminology and technique is derived from the following work:

  • Fiore dei Liberi, Fior di Battaglia - 1409ish
  • Philippo Vadi, De Arte Gladiatoria - 1482 - 1487

The following modern works are highly recommended for longsword study:

  • Charrette, Robert N. Fiore dei Liberi’s Armizare: The Chivalric Martial Arts System of Il Fior di Battaglia. Wheaton, IL: Freelance Academy Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-9825911-7-8
  • dei Liberi, Fiore; Leoni, Tom. Fiore de’ Liberi’s Fior di Battaglia. 2nd ed. Wheaton, IL: Freelance Academy Press, 2012.
  • Mondschein, Ken. The Knightly Art of Battle. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011. ISBN 978-160-60607-6-6