From the Archives: A Walk Through Marozzo, concluded.

Good morning! Here we go again. This was a project I meant to finish, but never got permission from the sources. I figured I was stretching fair use to its limits with what I had done, so I let the project die. C’est la vie. In the last year William Wilson published the excellent “16th Century Sword Combat: Bolognese Fencing and the Italian Sidesword Era.” as an Amazon Ebook. It’s $2.99. Buy it. Even if you don’t read it, think of it as buying a pioneer of WMA’s a cup of coffee.

So here we go:

Part 4

This week we finally move past chapter one, and go all the way to chapter five! Exciting times ahead, it seems…Just a little bit more of the essential ground work and we start to get into actual swordplay!

Chapter 2
And I tell you again that you must never attack without defending, nor defend without attacking, and if you do this you shall not fail…

Well, this is basic good advice. Basic hockey, for us Canadians: “A strong defense is a good offence!” Man, I can still smell the ice of childhood rinks whenever I hear that. I tell yah, when you are 7 years old, and someone is yelling that at you at 5am, you remember…

In light of later lessons, I take this as advice to ensure that the path of the cut has a clearing action on the opponents blow, and the footwork ably positions you. Each step, each cut, whether it is an attack or a defensive action, will generally work to put you in a greater position of advantage. We’ll get more into it later, but this is a point of my interpretation of Marozzo that differs from some others: We don’t force an action to work, we move to make it work.

Chapter 3
And still I say to you, that when you have made the examination and given them the pros and cons of what you have taught, I want you to make them practice with you several days and amend where they have failed and make good strong attacks in order that they may practice defense: Finally when you have done this, have one of your old scholars who is a good & pleasant player and have them play with said student in order to make a brotherhood one to the other.

Mmmmm, more practice. I like this Marozzo fellow, I do. So, to review again: We’ve taught the student true and false edge, the cuts, stepping back and forth, and the guards. And we’ve made them work on it for four or five days! Great! So, next? We, the teacher, have at them. They work the guards, the steps, the cuts, they try to recognize the engagements, while we plow into them with our blade and make sure the lessons are learned well and truly. For a few more days. I think so far we have the makings of a student with some grand basics, don’t you?

And then when we are happy with them, we let them “play” with a trusted senior student. This echoes good teaching philosophy. Keep the student with one drill partner until they have the drill down, then switch partners so they can test what they learned. This is what we have here…the student tries out what he learned with someone who can match the limited skill set, but has a different build, mechanics, personality, etc. Not only is it a test which will solidify the lessons into the student, but he will also start to see that he is part of a process…a school, something bigger than himself.

A point here about the word “play.” What does this mean? Sparring? Maybe, but I don’t believe so. My take on this so far is that the student has made a game out of advancing and retreating, and meeting his opponent at various points, and learning to judge the position at these meetings. This is how I teach Marozzo. It’s a lot to put on one word! Again, I have no idea if this what Marozzo meant, but it makes sense to me and I’m seeing a huge improvement in the students that I am now putting through this process.

Chapter 4
Still I say, that you must never let any of the company’s new scholars play if you are not present so that you will be able to amend their mistakes. For in playing with others other than with the master they will learn bad habits which are hard to amend. Do not forget that they should not practice with different scholars who are not your students. This makes it more difficult. So, practice for more days that they may learn good practice that comes from God that has much theory, therefore I give it to you.

Pretty straightforward. New students only practice while the boss watches, and never with people from other schools, as they will learn bad habits. Oh lord yes. The hardest thing to unteach someone is some stupid trick they used to beat some monkey one time. It becomes embedded in the student’s head as the thing to do, and it will rear it’s ugly head years later. Anyone who’s taught fencing in the SCA is nodding their head in agreement right about now. But hey! Good news! He says to make them practice even more days! Sweet! That is a lot of practice on basics, eh? And constant correction on them as well.

I don’t know about you, but these students are starting to look pretty good to me. Solid basics, good tactical advice, tons and tons of practice…they only need a few more things, and they are going to be fantastic fighters! And we are only at the bare beginning of the book.

Chapter 5
Again I say to you, that in teaching your students the principles of the edged weapons, that with the targa, & rotella, & brochiero larga, & single sword, & sword and cape, sword & dagger, & of two swords, & of many other strong weapons that you use, remember always the standards of movement, from guard to guard, forward, as behind, & from the side, & for deviousness, & in every way that it is possible, & to teach them to accompany the hand with the foot, & the foot with the hand, otherwise you would not do well, so that if you that teach walk over such a sign you will teach it in place, where others are not that you did not teach. Otherwise, you upset the foundation with those you teach.

And here are those things the student was missing to become a great fighter. The first point is that what we have just taught applies to all weapons. The second is the biggest missing point. Strong cuts and defenses are nothing without a foundation, and that foundation is movement…not just the forward and backward we’ve been working on so far, either. Now we add in sideways movement and deviousness, and from guard to guard. Deviousness…yes, this has to be taught, and now is a good time to do it.

Now our students are almost complete, throwing cuts, moving from guard to guard, stepping in all directions and being devious in movement. Teachers dream of such students, truly. Now, before we go further, does he really mean us to teach the additional footwork only at this point, or is he reminding us that we should have earlier? I dunno. I’m not entirely sure how the Italian text should be read on this point, hopefully one of the translation experts will weigh in and clarify. I can say that I tend to stick with the manual as exactly as it’s laid out as I can. Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes not so much. In this case…I find the students are busy enough before this, and adding the extra footwork here is good timing. Again, that’s entirely my interpretation.

Ah yes, here we go. The good part. Hand and foot. I’ve heard this explained a few ways, and I teach it a few ways. At the most basic level, I teach the students to start by having the cut reach it’s target point at the moment the stepping foot lands. This tends to help with the defensive attack idea. For some reason students find it easier to control the centerline with this timing. I also find it handy to work the students on the timing of throwing two or three cuts per step. It’s good training, and keeps their timing flexible.

Another way I interpret this is to use the placement of the foot to aid in the actions of the hand. I’ve found this to be a key action, and oddly not noted or practiced by other Western Martial Artists…perhaps they have the wrong background. Anyone with a boxing background knows the importance of stepping to set up power shots. The mechanics are remarkably similar with a sword. This is better explained with diagrams and video than text, though. I’ll put some up in a few weeks.

Part Five

Our last instalment before we get to the first of the meaty bits.

Chapter 6
Still I say to you, that when you will want to begin, you will say it to them in this way: here my children and brothers: I want you to swear on this sword which is the cross of God, to do nothing counter to your Master and not to teach any other person that which you have learned without my licence : Do this before starting.

Standard non-disclosure contract, really. And again, good general advice. Not much more to say about this, except that a formal beginning is always a good idea.

To the said examination of precepts that you will show to them, & their playing and making of good attacks that do not go however in guard, explain everything, pro and con of what is done.

“Making of good attacks that do not go however into guard” Interesting point this one…The common Marozzo trick that is taught is that all your cuts should end in a guard…but do they? Sometimes he tells you not to in a particular case, and other times he is specific in saying what guard you should wind up in. My take on this is “sometimes” not “always.” But I tend to see the guards more from an i.33 perspective, as common points or means of entry taken by fencers. I also sometimes teach that going to a guard isn’t something you TRY to do as much as can’t help but do. When your opponent throws a cut at you and misses, and starts to throw another cut, the transition between the two cuts is often identical to a guard…and if you are trained to react spontaneously to a guard, well…good things can happen. Plus, you can be aware of what guards you might inevitably wind up in as you fight.

I don’t see a fight as being two people in static guards, inching in for the perfect win by one of them, but rather a flurry of blows and changes of measure, where an inevitable crossing happens that one person is prepared to take advantage of. Which, I suppose, is sort of my explanations of the pro and con of what is done!

Chapter 7
And know that such oath is made alone, for he is sure, as they know to hold the sword in hand, go demonstrate to others and listen then to your scholars on what you have shown and taught to them.

This part is wordy and awkward, so let’s go a little bit at a time. What he’s saying here is that once you’ve taught your student, and made him swear his or her oath, once released on the general student body the student will go show the other students what he learned, and listen about what they have learned. Little gossips. Sheesh!

And you hearing then some of your students, yea, he makes you never amend those that do it, when he played with some.

As my daughter would say: “LOLd, wut?!?” Yeah, it’s passages like this that turn a man to Capo Ferro…

And to this way come punishing, and believing they of knowing much and with this weary ago, than masters son it becomes to you; that being masters they not will never be able complains king of you; for when they said, that you had to teach to it, then you will answer them saying : I embarrassed to teach itself to whom master is: for this reason to other people’s you go teaching: You do not have shame to want to learn from others that have to say them ago your these scholars that to such gives them such answer.

But thank god he clears it all up here, eh? That was much better! Aye yi yi…

Chapter 8

Also, for your usefulness & for your students, never allow them to wrestle as this would not be useful: But when they would use close-quarter wrestling or half-sword, have them do it in a proper bout. This way they will learn them through proper practice. Remember that one can perform all the wrestling (prese) or blows when they are plainly tried, but if a student faces another from the opposite side of the class and try these they will learn:

Well, what exactly do we mean by “wrestling” here? Is it even the right English word to use? Let’s stick with Mr. Wilson’s standard translation for now, and assume it is. If later research changes it, we’ll get back to it. I’m picking on this point because wrestling is one of my strong suites, and I realized that word can have a lot of meanings in sword-play. Does it mean don’t let the students drop the swords and wrestle with each other? Or does he mean not to let them play at close grips when fencing? This is pretty good advice. There is a tendency amongst students to start a little close play, and then get carried away with it. One gets an exaggerated sense of their own capabilities in such a situation. It’s not like real combat, where there is no second guessing, or relaxed, easy reaction or reading of the opponents intent. I think this is what he means. In boxing, I can teach you many wonderful combinations, and you can come up with all sorts of fancy things when sparring with friends…but you can’t pull them off when you’ve just been punched in the face. It’s better to learn things you can use when you’ve just been punched in the face!

I want you to know that it is a beautiful mystery to know how to teach people well, more than to just play; for a man, if he knows how to play well and does not know how to teach, is not good (he is single): but one that knows how to teach well, is good for many people; and know that when he knows the one and the other, he is of double virtue and is a double master.

Yeah. These are good words. Teaching is hard. Very hard. It’s also natural for people to think that if a person can fight, they must be able to teach. Not so, or at least rarely so. George St Pierre is currently a top fighter in the UFC. He has coaches for wrestling, boxing, and jujitsu…are they world champions? Do you know who they are? I don’t, but I know they are world class teachers, even if they never competed in their lives.

Competing means beating the other guy. Teaching means knowing how to talk, inspire, and test everybody. People who can do both are a lot rarer than people who think they can do both.

Chapter 9
Note now, do not at present give more training, for I am forced to give principally many different games of arms from one to the other and in this you have much to see: First I will give the principle of the art of the brocchiero piccolo and then we will talk of the hand in hand with the graciousness of God & the Mother Madonna Saint Maria, everlasting are they praised.

“Do not at present give more training” Which, to clarify, is what we have been doing up until now. The following is not training, it is “gioci d armi…” Games of Arms.

Well…Isn’t that something? Not training but games of arms. This is another theme of Marozzo’s…some things are for play, some are serious. We have learned the serious stuff, now onto the fun, perhaps. And sure enough, in our next section we move onto the first of the Assalti.

Intermission – Assalti

It’s probably a good point for me to re-iterate my focus in teaching and studying historical martial arts. I’m not interested in re-creating historical arts. As I’ve said before, others are, and do a better job than me. My focus is different. Since I started training in martial arts, I’ve always had the same goal: Protection of others. At first, I wanted to defend everybody with my own skills…then, as I grew up, I wanted to teach people to defend themselves. That remains at the core of all my martial arts training. In WMA, that translates to not wanting myself to get hit with a sword…and even moreso, not wanting my students to get hit with a sword!  Whether it’s for real or in a tournament, I die a little every time a student gets touched. I Want it to never, ever happen. And I think the best way for that to happen is to really understand the work written by the people who had the same concerns.

So, when I read Marozzo, and explain him here, I’m not being an archaeologist. I’m looking for information to suite my needs. I’m trying to be as thorough as possible so I don’t miss anything, but when you read what I’m writing, you should keep my focus in mind, as it may be different from yours.

Before we dig into the Assalti, which are confusing to a lot of people, I should state my theory. I believe the Assalti have a specific training purpose, and that purpose is not exclusively solo training. I think they also tell us about the kind of students Marozzo was training.

There are three Assalti. As you read through the Assalti, you see the first one is mostly actions to be performed apparently solo, with a tiny bit of partner action. The second includes a little more partner-vs-partner action, and the third is almost exclusively partner-vs-partner. Why is this? In the intro to the third Assalti, Marozzo may be telling us why.

He says, in my understanding, the third Assalti is only for students who will use it, for the fighters. He says not to teach it before going through the others, as the students will like it too much and not want to do the other two. So…the first two Assalti are for the people who only want to play at swords.

But he still wants all the students to learn them first. So, aside from a way to keep students busy while they perform more necessary repetitions (never a bad goal for any exercise) What purposes can they serve?  I use them to instill pattern recognition in students, as this is a key ability in Marozzo’s style. Even the craziest, most random swordsman is going to, on occasion, wind up in a recognizable position or even pattern. All of Marozzo’s later actions depend on you seeing your opponent’s position and intended action, and recognizing your own position and intended action. This is a hard skill.

But once you’ve attained it, you can access proven counters to what you see. As a scholar, we might take this notion and imagine that the swordfight described is very slow, methodical and planned. Fencer A takes a position, Fencer B reacts with his position, and they change and continue until one makes a mistake or a magic bean is dropped and the action commences. This rarely happens in real life. If a knowledgeable fighter is stopping in a guard, he’s out of range and has something sneaky in mind. I don’t care what you have planned, stepping into that situation is just bad tactics. But as I said earlier, all fighters, at some point in an exchange, will likely fall into a familiar guard or pattern. Imagine you are in the middle of a fight with an angry man. You throw a random blow to his head….because you just did, no reason, that happens…he parries and ripostes, you pull your leg back…and hey, you’re in Guardia Alta and he’s in Sotto Braccio. You know what to do from here, and you do, winning the fight.

To train this ability, I use the Assalti. Two students face each, and approach each other from across the room, performing a portion of a particular Assalti. Doesn’t have to be the same one, but it sure helps to learn the first few times if both partners do the same. They arrive at the final position in a measure, and in a guard. The students learn to step forward against someone swinging a blade, they learn to gauge measure and anticipate actions, they learn to recognize guards, foot forward, and other common occurrences, and see how the relation between the opponents position and theirs change based on small details of each others actions. This is excellent, excellent, swordsmanship practice.

Of course, once you’ve done the cool technique where you kick the other guy in the nuts, this might all look a little lame, as Marozzo warns. And a bored student who wants to do the cool stuff is a student who isn’t really putting effort into the current lesson, and that’s a student who is not learning a thing. Well, that’s enough from me for now, so next we’ll move on.

Part Six

Capitula 10
Now I will begin the first assault of the spada and brochiero stretta, which is very beautiful and useful for playing and for teaching.

For playing, and for teaching…not for fighting? Interesting. So the first assalti is for playing and teaching. When he tells us it’s good for teaching, I take that to mean that the practice of this assalti will make the student a better fighter, and is an essential next step to what we have already taught them. We’ve already taught the students cuts, guards, footwork, deception, and had them practice at attacking and defending, if only with one or two select people. So what is next? What is the next thing a person needs to practice? Keep that though in mind. Another point to keep in mind, before I forgetm, is that the Italian heading for this assalti says it’s for wide play. The second is for wide and narrow play, and the third is for grappling, close work and mezza spada (we’ll define that later)

Note, before going to play you must find a companion/partner;

Well, first off, we (the student in this case) go find a practice partner. This is interesting, because it implies that the student is now taking a little charge of their own training. You learn the basics under the watchful eye and sword of the master, but at some point you have to practice what you have learned, on your own, to make it really sink in. But there is really little of swordplay that can valuably be learned alone. It’s best learned against a living, breathing partner. To me, the implication here is that we are going to engage in a mutual practice session with another student, doing something that will polish our basic skills.

but I want you to take a side of the room…

So we got take a side of the room. Note that he doesn’t tell us what our partner does. Does he go to the opposite side of the room? Does he stay put? Nothing is said.

…with your brochiero, below to the left side, that is on your upper thigh, and your right foot close by the left in good form and with the sword in the coda lunga e larga with the arm extended and the body upright and as courteous as possible.

And now we get into it. We start in Coda Lunga e larga. Remember that this guard can have either leg forward, but the point of the blade is down. This won’t be a strict form of the guard, as he tells us our right foot is close to the left. And our buckler is on our thigh! Obviously not a fighting move. But also not sloppy, as he’s telling us to be upright and courteous. Sounds like the start of a salute to me…Wait! What leg do we have forward? Dunno. I don’t think it matters to much if our feet are actually close together…and having our feet close together isn’t a bad thing, as it doesn’t give our opponent any clues as to what foot will move first, which as we have learned can be an important tactical advantage.

Here I want you to advance your right foot forward and at the same time cut with the false edge at the copula of the brochiero and bring the copula near your face. Then make a gran passo with the left foot, forward and to the right and then strike the sword with the brochiero. End in the guardia di testa with the arm extended and then bring the point towards the ground, that is with the false edge of your sword towards your brochiero and strike your brochiero with the false edge.

Ok, so we step with the right foot first. And then cut with the false edge of the sword at the face of the buckler, letting the buckler naturally recoil a little. Then we take a big step with the left crossing over to the right, while bouncing the buckler back into the sword, knocking it into guardia di testa, and then let the tip drop and clank the false edge into the buckler again. Bang-bang-bang, aren’t we noisy!

Then throw a high upwards cut with a mandritta and in this cut you do a molinello by making a gran passo forward with the right foot towards the left. Then make another with the left foot and go over the brochiero and strike the brochiero with the pommel of the sword on the side inside the rim.

So from left foot forward, we know step with the right, over to the left. Yeah, if I’m reading this right, it means we’ve taken two little catwalk steps. Fabulous! Makes sense, though. I believe this whole action is in the form of a salute, and shows some of our martial skill. And big stampy stoccato military steps may feel really butch, but they show crappy form and poor understanding of martial basics. The foot work and sword actions should be fluid and quick, almost sprightly. Anyway, before we take this step, we follow up the buckler bang with an upward cut, which we then molinello into a mandritto (true edge cut, remember?) while we take the step. Then we step again with the left foot and … Well. Open to interpretation a little bit. What I do here, since another cut doesn’t seem to explicitly called for, is to let the tip of my previous cut pass over the buckler into a Sopra Braccio guard, kinda like the fourth guard of the i.33 system. Then it’s easy to whack the back of the buckler with the pommel. Bong! Weeee! More noise!

Bring the sword hand forward and place the sword point towards the ground and then bring the right foot forward and cut with a montante. Again, with the foot towards the left and ending in the guardia alta and your brochiero extended.

This is better explained, I think. From the previous position, step right with another catwalk step (Sorry, I’m gonna keep calling it that, because that’s where I first learned it. Don’t ask.) while making a rising cut ending in guardia alta. There. That wasn’t hard was it?

Now cut with a fendente against the rim of the brochiero with your right foot back and the blow to the left against the right. End in the coda lunga e distesa.

Step back with the right while cutting down against the rim of the buckler…This, by the way, is a great defensive technique, and occurs often in the i.33 (which has a ton of things in common with Marozzo) system as the longpoint guard. Cutting down into your buckler closes off a lot of the lines of attack, and can act as an almost-universal parry. It’s a good reflex to develop…good enough that a number of systems have specific exploits against it. “and the blow to the left against the right.” Well, it’s 4:06am as I write this, and I’m too tired to figure that out without cheating and going to the Italian, so let’s ignore it for now and just continue our cut into coda lunga e distesa. Isn’t that pretty? Yay! BTW, have an idea what that part means? Write it in the comments. I’d love to hear some feedback in any case!

Finally make a gran passo forward to the right, punching the sword with the brochiero and going into a guardia di testa.

It’s implied here, as we step forward with the right, that the sword is sweeping forward as well. Other than that, clear enough.

Then bring the false edge of the sword towards the copula del brochiero making a gran passo with the right foot towards the left and immediately cut with a montante as the right foot comes left. End in a guardia alta with your arm extended. Your left thigh will be guarded from your enemy and your right foot will be extended.

Well, this is a little tricky. If our right foot foot is forward, how do we make a big step with the right to the left? Could be a cross step to the left, as he says the left thigh is protected. Combining a long step to the left with a montante to guardia alta leaves us in an interesting position, reminiscent of Asian Martial Arts. Is that what he meant us to do? Well, he said it’s for play…I dunno.

You will have reached close to your enemy being agente or patiente.

And here we come to the really interesting part! You have reached your enemy, presumably the partner we chose in the first place. What’s he been doing all this time? Standing still, doing the same thing as us, or anticipating our arrival? Agente or Patiente…that implies fighting. And clearly, one person is going to move first. I think our opponent has either been standing still, or walking toward us, and at the meeting point has taken a guard either to react to our actions, or to give us something to react to. To me, this is an excellent logical extension of what we have learned so far. So now things get interesting again, as we will see in the next instalment!

Part Seven

“But I suggest that you be agente, that is you are the one attacking.”

We’ve arrived “close” to our opponent after a series of cuts, which may or may not have been imitated by our opponent. Our opponent is either waiting for us to arrive at measure, or has come out to meet us at measure. Marozzo is advising us in this case to be agente, to attack. This is usually advocated from Guardia Alta in any case, but at the point of arriving at measure, it’s not a bad idea. Whether Marozzo means it as general advice, or particular advice for the purpose of this point, we can’t say. But we can follow his instructions and try it, and see for ourselves. It’s generally the best way to figure out intent!

“You should be in guardia alta with the right foot forward.”

Re-inforces what guard we just ended in. Marozzo doesn’t mention what guard the opponent is in, so we can either assume that the opponent is matching us and is in Guardia Alta, or the following advise is usable against any guard.

“You should attack with a mandritto sgualembratto that goes over the arm with your buckler extended towards your enemy.”

Straight-forward enough. This is another one of those points of congruence between the i.33 system and Marozzo. I assume Gaurdia Alta the same way I assume Seconda in i.33, as a wind up for a squalembrato. So this seems like a natural attack action to use, arriving at measure in Guardia Alta. Note that he mentions the cut goes over the buckler, and that the buckler is pushed out towards the opponent. This is another one of those “safe” cuts, as the buckler should protect you against low-level cuts, and the cutting action of the sword can act as a sweep against any other cuts…or as a general collector of the opponents blade, giving you an instance of control.

Step with the said foot towards the left and at the same time make a cut to the head. Or, cut to the leg with a mandritto; or a roverso, or thrust, or tramazzone. I want you to do them in the same time as you make a gran passo with the right foot.

Well, we have to assume said foot is the right foot, it’s the only foot he mentions. More to the point, I read this entire bit, and the previous, as one attack. We take a step to the left of our opponent (for tactical reason’s we’ve already discussed…the buckler pushed-out position adds to the tactical value) with a big step with the right foot. At the same time we take this step, we can throw our choice of the above mentioned attacks. Again, it helps to practice this, or at least visualize this, correctly. You perform a sequence of cuts, arrive at measure in guard, and instantly take an angled step out while throwing an attack. Fun.

“And you will throw a roverso sgualembrato against the rim of the brochiero and you will end in the coda lunga e stretta. Cut then at the enemy’s head.”

And we follow up any of the attacks we may have throw with the clearing action of a roverso squalembrato to the rim of the buckler, ending in our new guard. I’m not sure about the “cut THEN” comment…does he mean that the squalembrato should be aimed at the head, or that we should throw a head cut before the next sequence, or emphasizing that the next sequence should be aimed at the head?

“Then I want you to bring the point under the buckler and then cut with two tramazzoni at the face of your enemy. End in the porta di ferro stretta.”

Bring the point under the buckler, and then throw two cuts to the face. Tramazzoni are wheeling cuts thrown with the wrist. Generally I would throw two of them as two outside cuts, that is with the blade rotating on the right hand side of my arm. By specifying that we first bring the point under the buckler, Marozzo may be telling us to throw at least the first of the tramazzoni to the inside. Or, he’s telling us to withdraw the arm straight back, pulling the wrist towards the waist (which has the effect of bringing the tip backwards under the buckler,) before throwing the cuts. There are mechanical and tactial advantages to doing it both ways. Keep an open mind, see what works for you, and try out both.
Porta di ferro stretta is a good strong guard to end in after a series of two cuts, especially when, as you may have noticed, he does not tell us to move. Not moving while throwing two cuts in a row is a solid invitation to a presa, and pulling the sword down to a nice tight guard that threatens with the tip is a good solution.

“Now, when in the porta di ferro stretta, your enemy may attack to the head.”

Now, for the first time, we deal with the opponent attacking. And the first attack we deal with is the most dangerous, an attack to the head. It might seem like an easy attack to deal with, but nothing is more guaranteed to end a fight quickly than brain trauma. So, as much as we might sneer at the simpleness of the attack, and the simple response…this is one you have to get right.

“So I want you to bring up your sword accompanied by the brochiero into the guardia di testa and parry the cut. Straightway on parrying I want you to throw a mandritto tondo at the legs while stepping with the right foot to the left. Then throw a roverso sgualembrato montando immediately and end in the guardia alta with both arms extended.”

He still hasn’t told us exactly what attack to expect, fendente, thrust, roverso, dritto…but with the correct timing, the Guardia di Testa is the right response. It’s a solid, strong response against a fendente. Its an aggressive pick-up against a dritto (time it to lift under the incoming stroke, and carry it over your head. Puts you in a good spot!) Against the Roverso or a thrust, it begs an answering thrust or presa. It will do you no harm to practice all the possible counters, and to be fluid in response no matter what your opponent comes at you with.
We follow this excellent parry with a dritto tondo to the legs. We see this response in many martial arts: attack low in response to a high attack. It’s the first drill of Angelo’s Highland Broadsword lessons! And a sweet response in this case since the Guardia di Testa response, backed by the buckler, has the effect of hiding our footwork from the opponent.
And it’s this consideration which leads me to believe he means stepping the right foot to our own left, which brings us under the sword-side of the opponent. We can step to our opponents left, but that might invite a roverso to our own legs. Still, it’s worth trying it out for yourself.
The next step in our defense is a roverso sqaulembrato montando. So, that’s either two cuts, or an angled upwards cut like the roverso redoppio. I tend to believe it’s the latter. My reasoning is that the it seems a better response if the opponent has somehow defended. If they’ve stepped back, this is the perfect follow up shot. If they have defended some other way and are retaliating, this cut can parry a lot of attacks.
We finish in Guardia Alta, just like in the plates. But we aren’t done yet!

“Next make a gran passo taking the right foot behind the left and cut with a fendente.”

If nothing else, this will either finish our opponent off, or finish our defense with a strong parry and retreat. It’s all good. This is a nice strong action, with universal practicality.

“Lastly you will return a cut with the left foot forward. Then punch the sword with the brochiero and in said punching I want you to do a half turn of the fist, that is to move the point of the sword towards the ground and touch the copula of the brochiero with the false edge of the sword and pass with the right foot into a gran passo towards the left. Cut with a montante and end in guardia alta with the brochiero as extended as possible.”

And perhaps it’s just me, but these actions seem to return to the decorative format. There isn’t as much a sense of urgency, is there? Throw some cut, do the buckler tap-tap we did earlier, bringing the right foot back up, and cutting a montante to Guardia Alta. Pretty. Yawn. Can we do the third assalti now? Just kidding. Maybe.

And on that note, our retrospective is done.

I will cover other material from Marozzo in future, fear not! Thanks for reading, back to regular posts tomorrow.


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