It has been a very long time since I last taught swordsmanship in Italy. This little gem of an event confirmed a suspicion that I have long held, that I need to spend more time in Italy, and cross swords with more Italians.
First up, the location, the Castello Savelli in Palombara Sabina, not too far from Rome. Oh my lord, what a lovely spot. A little castle at the top of a hill, with a view over the valley to the castle on the next hill, with the Italian countryside rolling in all directions. All the classes took place on the lawn outside, with this backdrop:
I’ll discuss the event in the order it occurred; my class was first. For the first time ever I taught in Italian; thanks to two months of one-to-one classes with Stefano, this was achievable, though far from easy. I have now taught a Fiore class in four languages; English, Finnish, Spanish and Italian; English is easiest, but there is a wonderful feeling to teach Fiore's art in his own language. My class covered my interpretation of Fiore’s Zogho Stretto; what it means, how you get there, and why. It seemed to be quite well received, and I very much enjoyed the enthusiastic participation of the students, and their help when I couldn’t find the right word in Italian!
After lunch, Lois Forster took the field. He began with a superb lecture on Burgundian duelling customs of the 15th century, focussing on Jacques Lalaing. This was perhaps the educational high-spot of the event for me; he has done some stellar research on what exactly these duels were like. Then he donned his armour, and taught a short pollax seminar, which he topped by fighting three opponents back-to-back, for his Emprise d’Arms (he wants 30 fights in his 30th year). I had the profound honour of marshalling the fights, and it was a delight to see such a faithful recreation of the tone and intent of the historical context. No winners were declared, simply honour was satisfied. I would just add that I hope to fight Lois in armour this year, and expect to end up lying on the ground with a headache. You can see him in action here:
Dinner followed, in a charming little place in the middle of nowhere; something of a logistical challenge! But an authentic Italian experience 🙂
Sunday’s classes began with a Fiore spear class from Nicola Gasparet, of Regia Turris, a group from Fiore’s home country, Cividale. Nicola’s group tends to focus on the tournament version of longsword, but this class was all about Fiore’s treatise, and Nicola and I seem to agree on a lot! It was enhanced by excellent graphics from the lovely Angelica Santarossa.
This was followed by a class by Mauro Carapacchi of Mos Ferri, one of the organisers of the event (and the man who invited me: thanks again, Mauro!), on the dagger techniques of the Gladiatoria Fechtbuch. He was ably assisted by Nicola Curini, and the class was very interesting; joint locks work very well in armour. I especially liked seeing Mauro teach his armoured dagger class in armour.
During the lunch break, I had a very interesting discussion about the first and second plays of the first master of the zogho largo, with Francesco Baselice; if he’s right, I may be rewriting that bit of The Medieval Longsword… And then I had the pleasure of introducing Mauro to the fundamentals of takedowns, with a spot of grounding and joint locks. Lots of fun for all of us!
After lunch, Raniero Mariotti, of Ars Monomachia, taught a clear and well structured seminar on medieval German wrestling. My handwriting is awful, so I’m not sure from my notes which source it came from.
Actually, one of my favourite moments of the event happened during the clear-up. I had helped Mauro and Nicola with some of their gear, and going back for the next load, I thought for no particular reason that it would be fun to run back up the steep and winding streets to the castle; Nicola agreed it was an excellent plan, and so up we went. It was a lovely moment of training.
Dinner that evening was simply superb; I vote that we let Marco choose the restaurant at all future gatherings! A feast of local delicacies, including some dishes that I am very glad I have tried but might not order again 😉 served in a simply charming atmosphere.
I was not intending to pick up a sword while here in Italy, before my seminar in Seattle next weekend, but I am very glad that I did. This event was a lovely combination of delightful people (who were very patient with my clunky Italian skills), all passionate about the same arts as I am, in a stunning location, the sort of place that you can imagine Fiore himself giving a lesson. A big thank you to all the organisers (especially Andrea Conti, who I see hasn't been mentioned yet but without whom nothing would have happened), all my students, and my fellow instructors. Grazie mille!
[and a note to everyone I mention here: if you'd like me to link to your group page or personal website, please send me the url and I will embed it.]