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The Fiore Extravaganza

The Fiore Extravaganza, a week-long immersion in medieval Italian martial arts, is now over. This year we spent much of our time working through Filippo Vadi's fencing theory, and his 25 longsword plays. This was in part to help with the commentary section of my upcoming Veni VADI Vici book, in part to satisfy the curiosity of the students present, and in part because it provided a set of key plays and concepts that bridge the gap between Fiore's longsword material other systems.

While it was clear that Vadi's presentation of the material is far less complete and far less well organised than Fiore's he nonetheless introduces some important concepts. In the first advanced class following the Extravaganza I summarised the critical insights like so:

1) Size matters. Vadi requires us to use a longer sword than the ones we see in Fiore. This has a huge impact on the appropriate responses to the crossing at meza spada. Video explanation to follow!

2) The blows of the mezo tempo “remain in a knot”. At the moment the default understanding seems to be that the “mezo tempo” equates to a counterattack with a half blow. That is just not how he is using the terms- they are instead the blows done from the meza spada crossing, in which your hands must remain in front of you and the sword going forwards turning around its midpoint or you get stabbed.

3) All of Vadi's longsword plays can be done from the meza spada crossing, which is analogous to Fiore's crossing in zogho stretto.

4) The solutions Vadi talks about when crossed at the middle of the swords are very similar to those found in Liechtenauer; and depend in large part on the sword being some inches longer than the ones illustrated in Fiore. He describes actions that are very similar to certain windings (e.g. “the arms play above the head”), and actions like zucken.

5) Vadi's longsword guards are not always created by blows, and though he makes little real use of them, he includes guards that we do not see in Fiore or the Liechtenauer system, but which appear in the later Bolognese.

6) His solution to avoiding the complexity of the plays from the meza spada (zogho stretto) is exactly as Fiore's- parry from the left with a good roverso and strike.

The Extravaganza ended, as always, with a tournament. The format was agreed beforehand by those participating, and unlike last year we went for the two teams approach. The participants were divided into the A team (seniors) and the B team (juniors). We started with two rounds in which the B team members challenged the A team member of their choice, at the weapon of their choice. This guaranteed every B team member at least two good fights. If the B team member won either of their fights, they got into the final. Those B team members that did not get into the final were organised into a pool and all fought each other, giving them more experience. The winner of the pool also won a place in the final.

The finalists, so the original A team plus successful B-team members, were organised by rank and experience, and fought a winner-stays-on elimination. Number one fought number 2, winner fought number 3, winner fought number 4, etc etc. The spectators got to pick the weapons used. So the most experienced person would have to beat every other finalist to win- the least experienced had to win only one fight to take the tournament. Janne Kärki of the Kuopio branch won in fine style, winning four matches in a row. His prize was a bout with me, which we both enjoyed thoroughly.

All in all, a fantastic week of research, training, and fighting. Well done all who took part!

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