Art of the Two-Handed Sword part 6: Short and to the Point

Previous: An Assalto within an Assalto

The fifth part of the Primo Assalto marks a mid-point in the form. It introduces the embellishment for the first time (which is only repeated in the tenth part) and by this time most of the actions introduced in the Primo Assalto are already shown. From the sixth on we see some of the earlier themes revisited, and find many new examples of how to use the sword cleverly presented by Marozzo within the steps of the form.

Sixth part and in this the agent will be with a falso

From the said Guardia d’Intrare in largo passo, you find your enemy with a falso manco, passing with your right foot strongly forward to the right, and this you do to give him a reason to move from his guard.
And as he moves, you pass with your left foot toward the his right side and make feint of throwing a tramazon to the head, only to let it fall as a roverso to the leg that will go into Coda Longa e Distesa.
But for your safety you throw your left foot strongly behind the right and drive a crossed overhand thrust to his face, and with a half-turn of your hands your sword will go into Porta di Ferro Alta, where you set yourself with your hands well placed and as gallantly as possible.

The sixth part is very short and by now, if you have studied the guards and are familiar with the cuts of the tradition, you should be able to follow the text without too much difficulty. Make sure to also refer to the glossary of terms, available to you if you have registered and signed in to on the right-hand side panel.

But if we look at this closer we will notice that the beginning is somewhat similar to the first part. In the first part we began with the point off-line and thrrew a thrust in way of a falso, while now we begin with the point in line and throw a falso with the edge. The feet are reversed as well but in the first there were two passes made and here only one.

At the throwing of the tramazzone we are in a very similar situation as in the first, but instead of following through with the cut we execute it as a feint, apssing with the left as we throw a cut from the left side to the leg that travels all the way to the extended-behind position of Coda Longa e Distesa.

From there we choose not to execute the standard retreat but instead pass back with a thrust, finally settling into Porta di Ferro Alta. Notice that in the video I make the transition after the thrust as a cut while the text implies a mezza volta di mani, a half-turn of the hands, which is essentially just turning from one guard to another without necessarily performing a cut of any kind. I got a bit carried away, but outside the practice of this form in its purest, performing the cut after the thrust is just as valid.

So if you compare these you can see how they share same movements but there are certain differences, like switches flipped:

First part

  1. Begins point off-line
  2. Throws a falso with point
  3. Throws a full Mandritto
  4. Parries with true edge and strikes a half roverso, then parries with Guardia di Croce, going through into a falso dritto
  5. Finishes into Porta di Ferro Alta

Sixth part

  1. Begins point in line
  2. Throws a falso with edge
  3. Feints a mandritto and throws a full riverso
  4. Continues the riverso by spinning around into an imbroccata
  5. Finishes into Porta di Ferro Alta

The most interesting thing is that if you consider the last actions of these two sequences, you may realize that parrying in Guardia di Croce and cutting afalso drittoin the first part and cutting a riverso into Coda Longae Distesa and following with a crossed thrust are the same action, only done in different directions. Pretty neat, huh?

Ask any Marozzo aficionado and they’ll tell you this is no coincidence. When you start looking you will find more of similar instances in Marozzo’s work — strangely it is as if the master started to speak to you directly as your understanding grows. Perhaps the genius in the assalti is exactly this: as you practice them you start to see the reasons behind them. What at first appeared as lacking in structure and symmetry suddenly becomes clear.

It is the same with the partner forms as you figure out the possible actions of the master, the one performing the defenses and offenses you are acting on or provoking with the form. As you become more sure about what the correct steps are you go through an incredible amount of situations and actually develop a greater number of skills for surprising situations than you ever imagined. Perhaps this is now a bit too much speculation, but there’s little doubt that it does work like this in practice.

The nice thing about the assalti is that there are not too many places where we are forced to guess and come up with our own ideas. There’s plenty of detail to keep us in touch with what we know is proper Bolognese swordsmanship. And as Marozzo tells us in various parts of his book, we can be creative. To which I can’t help but to add: as long as we stay true to the sources where possible, and admit where the line between interpreting and being creative stands.

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