The first part of offenses in the primo assalto

I had planned to go to the local sports center to go through the first ten offensive steps of Manciolino’s primo assalto of the sword and buckler this morning, but was disappointed to notice I had forgotten my buckler at work. This is the problem with having multiple places where I train – something always seems to be in the wrong place. I do think eventually I will have my own training space before I will learn to be more organized. I did not let that bother me and went to train without the buckler. If nothing else it is easier on the arm.

I love training on my own. Not that I saw it as the most important training form, but when you run classes and fence a lot with other people you start to really value the time you can spend training just on your own. When it comes to your personal performance there just is so much less noise: you can feel everything you are doing much better and are in total freedom to set the pace of your training. Of course, you’re also blind to many mistakes and prone to laziness, but given that the training doesn’t consist only of alone time, it really is lovely.

The video of the entry to the play, the embellsihment and the recovery from play I posted earlier this week has generated a relatively large amount of discussion. That really is good, since Bolognese swordsmanship usually just gets much less attention than it deserves. To clear out a few things I’d like to say that the work will always remain in progress, and the only thing not to change is the original source text. Unless we find new source texts the basis will remain the same. All else is bound to change or evolve, however.

As I see it, the assalti are pedagogical, artistic and efficient exercises. Pedagogical in the sense that they not only teach certain actions and movements but also make it easier to remember them. They could be compared to how a poem is easier to remember than the amount of random words it consists of.

Artistic in the sense that they promote a lively manner of moving that is suited to the fencer himself, they include flourishes that have no apparent application in combat. Therefore the original text should be viewed as a guideline to give one something to work with but at no point as something that ens up being restrictive or in contrast with the fencers bodily abilities. Freedom of expression should be found within the assalti, up to a point. This is especially true to those interpreting the assalti. If you are teaching your interpretation to a student of yours (which, of course is perfectly fine as long as the students understand where the exact physical rendition comes from) it is up to you how you do it.

They are efficient in that they teach both bigger and smaller movements. They teach big movements that enable the full body to be used to generate maximum power and then also have more condensed actions in which this power can be focused. I personally believe in a training paradigm where bigger actions are taught first and then made smaller through practice – which would be a topic for another blog post or more! Because of this I believe it is all right to exaggerate some of the movements in the assalti, it is OK to do everything with wide and deep stances (every swordsman should be able to fence like Meyer even though he decided to eventually utilize a posture shown in Marozzo’s illustrations) and it is all the much better for every bit of flamboyance you can put in.

Finally they are exercises. They exercise the body to be more agile, they exercise the individual actions they consist of, they exercise being able to keep moving from one action to another and they exercise concentration. Finally, they exercise timing and a little bit of actual fencing when done with a partner.

The ten new actions I added to the form today are a set of relatively simple offenses, with the obvious challenge that only the performers side is described. The other partner’s actions are not described at all, so here we are free to be creative. I personally try to create an interpretation where the performance would look exactly the same with the partner as it would done solo, without the partner causing too many stops and changes of direction not present at the solo form and not described by text. Here is what I’ve got so far:

After the entry and the first embellishment you are in guardia alta with the right foot forward (easy, relaxed pace)

  • Advance the right foot into a long step, striking at the opponents head. Opponent parries your sword to your left side, so you turn a riverso at his face above your buckler arm. Opponent lifts the buckler to parry, so you retreat with the right foot near the left and cut at his buckler or sword hand with a montante from below, rising to guardia alta. I like to do the montante with a little turn of the wrist in preparation but this is not described in the text.
  • Advance again with the right, cutting straight down into guardia di faccia (normally the blade would be with the flat downwards in this guard, but now keep the edge down). The opponent parries toward your left side.
  • Pass diagonally with the left and cut tramazzone to his sword, then pass forward with the right and cut at his face with a falso, lifting the sword into guardia alta.
  • Recover the right foot near the left and cut a <span class="glossaryLink cmtt_Strikes" data-tooltip="
    Literally "right hand". Refers to strikes that originate from the right (sword-hand) side of the fencer. Mandritto is a roof term for these cuts, but on its own it refers typically to a downwards diagonal cut from the right with the true edge, a mandritto sgualembrato.">mandritto to his face (which misses or is parried to your left), letting the sword travel above the buckler arm, then around your head into another <span class="glossaryLink cmtt_Strikes" data-tooltip="
    Literally "right hand". Refers to strikes that originate from the right (sword-hand) side of the fencer. Mandritto is a roof term for these cuts, but on its own it refers typically to a downwards diagonal cut from the right with the true edge, a mandritto sgualembrato.">mandritto done with advancing of the right foot. The sword travels under the buckler arm, and you recover the right foot once again and bring the buckler to protect your head. The opponent avoids this cut by avoiding backwards, and then can possibly attack with a strike or remain with the sword toward you.
  • Advance the right foot once more, cutting with a falso towards his face, which the opponent will parry to your left side. Let the sword quickly spin around with a tramazzone that beats his sword, then another tramazzone that is directed towards his head. This strike will connect to the target or be parried by the opponent’s buckler. Then recover the right foot near the left and rise up to guardia alta. I do this only as a change of guard, but it could easily be turned into a montante to the arms (not specified as such).

Then you end with embellishing the play for the second time.

I will hopefully have video of this next week. I didn’t film it this time as I didn’t have the buckler with me.

Interestingly, three years ago I used to do a thrust after the mandritto to guardia di faccia, I dropped it out now since it is not described and I think it is less of a sin to just have the sword aligned differently. Maybe one could also just bang the opponent in the head with the flat (Marozzo does this with the spadone once), but I think that’d be just silly. 🙂

I’d also like to know whether “ritirerai piede destro appo il sinistro” and “ritirerai piede destro lungo il sinistro” mean the same thing, and whether it’d sometimes be feet close together or sometimes one foot behind the other. If some knows, please tell me!

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