Art of the Two-Handed Sword part 2: La Seconda Parte del Primo Assalto

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Next: Choices

With the overview of all the “other” sources dealing with the two-handed sword out of the way in the previous part and the guards covered in the first, we can now up the speed and dive deeper into the teachings of Achille Marozzo.

I hope you have already read the first part of the first assault, that translated in the end of the previous part? If not, go read it now and only then resume reading this.

I don’t want to blast the complete assalto in front of your eyes in one go (for the hard-core researchers the original text is out there if you want to cut some corners) but instead present it in bits, just the way Marozzo probably had intended.

I hope in this way you will take some time to really think about Marozzo’s words, seeing how clever his instruction actually is. There is a lot of knowledge encoded into the assalti, and some pedagogic conventions as well.

But, to quote various Italian warriors and condottieri: enough talk, let’s see some action.

Being with the sword in Porta di Ferro Alta, here it is necessary that always you watch, in the wide play, at the [opponent’s] sword from middle onwards and, in the narrow play you watch the left hand in case of holds and feints.
But first in the wide play he throws a thrust in falso to the outside to unsettle you, in order to give any mandritto or other strike: then beat the said thrust with the false edge of your sword a little to the outside, at the same time stepping strongly forward with your left foot and push a crossed thrust to his face.
And having pushed the said thrust, pass with your right foot toward the enemy’s left side, and in this passing strike a falso from below upwards to his right hand and the left foot will follow behind the right; without stopping you strike a tramazzone that falls into Cinghiara Porta di Ferro with your left foot in front.
Then for your safety draw the left foot close to the right and parry the enemy’s blow in Guardia di Croce, and having parried the said blow, throw the right foot two spans behind the left and strike a falso from below upwards, straight to the hands; and in this strike, the left foot will go strongly behind the right, so that in this way you will have arrived with the sword into Porta di Ferro Larga.

Now I have a lot of things to say about this chapter. But I want to challenge you. How does this second part relate back to the first? There are two things I’m looking for. They should be fairly obvious if you read both the first part and this second part with thought.

If you wish to continue the exercise, wait a while before continuing reading, as I’m about to explain what the two things are.

Firstly you will notice, that the second part begins by explaining the opponent’s action1 while the first one begins with “your” action. And not only this, but the opponent’s action is the very same that you are executing the first one. He is teaching a counter to the sequence of feints in the first one, which — not surprisingly — is to shove the point of your sword into your opponent’s face to break his designs.

Secondly the ending is identical, save for the final guard, as in the first one. This highlights the importance of parrying in Guardia di Croce and following with a falso to the hands, all done with relatively elaborate retreating footwork. This sequence will repeat itself throughout the primo assalto. It will serve as an aide-memoire and a moment of breath between the ten parts of the exercise. Much like the abbellimenti, the embellishments of the sword and buckler forms.

In the next part we will continue reading the original instructions of Marozzo, until we reach the end of the primo assalto. After reading and studying the text I will give your further instructions on how to execute both roles of the exercise. But before that, there is plenty of work to do with the text. But if you want to have a go trying to re-create the assalti on your own before the videos and other more detailed instructions, I have no doubt about Achille Marozzo’s ability to guide you through it. You only need patience and to listen to him carefully.

Please share in the comments if you have any thoughts on the second part of the first assault.

  1. In the past even myself have been guilty of spreading the misconception that the assalti would be rather quiet about the other swordsman’s role in the exercise, but it simply is not true. Of course, Marozzo liked to save ink and sometimes there are multiple options, but at the same time there is plenty enough material to reproduce on a believable, reasonable level both roles of the assalto.
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