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Breaking the Thrust (Fiore Translation Project #23)

The two-page spread of plays against the thrust continues with the six plays relating to breaking the thrust. I’ll cover them all in order, starting with the 11th play of the master of the zogho largo crossed at the middle of the swords, shown on f26v.

The text reads: 

Questa sie unaltra deffesa che se fa contra la punta, zoe, quando uno ti tra una punta come to detto in lo scambiar de punta in lo secondo zogo che me denanzi che se de acresser e passar fora di strada. Chossi si die far in questo zogho salvo che lo scambiar de punta se va cuz punta e cum gli brazzi bassi, e cum la punta erta de la spada come ditto denanzi. Ma questa se chiama romper de punta che lo scolaro va cum gli brazzi erti e pigla lo fendente cum lo acresser e passare fora de strada e tra per traverso la punta quasi a meza spada a rebater la a terra. E subito vene ale strette.

This is another defence that is done against the thrust, so, when one thrusts at you as I said in the exchange of thrust, in the second play that is before me, one advances and passes out of the way. So you must do in this play except that in the exchange of thrust you go with the thrust, and with the arms low, and with the point of the sword high, as I said before. But this is called the breaking of the thrust, that the scholar goes with his arms high and catches the fendente with the advance and pass out of the way, and strikes across the thrust about at the middle of the sword to beat it to the ground. And immediately goes to the close plays.

The next play shows the scholar stepping on the player’s sword, like so:

Lo scolaro che me denanzi a rebatuda la spada del zugador a terra, et io complisto lo suo zogho per questo modo. Che rebattuda la sua spada a terra, io gli metto cum forza lo mio pe dritto sopra la sua spada. Overo che io la rompo o la piglo per modo che piu non la pora curare. E questo no me basta. Che subito quando glo posto lo pe sopra la spada, io lo fiero cum lo falso de la mia spada sotto la barba in lo collo. E subito torno cum lo fendente de la mia spada per gli brazzi o per le man com’e depento.

The scholar that is before me has beaten the player’s sword to the ground, and I complete his play in this way. Having beaten his sword to the ground I put my right foot forcefully on his sword. Either I break it or I grab it in such a way that he can no longer fix it [I.e. Recover from it]. And this is not enough for me. Immediately that I have put my foot on the sword, I strike with the false [edge] of my sword under the beard in the throat. And immediately return with the fendente with my sword to the arms or hands as is shown.

Here’s how I do the play in its most basic form:

I just love the instruction to ‘strike with the false edge of your sword under the beard in the throat’. In case you weren’t certain where the throat was. This also reaffirms the general practice in this system of using multiple strikes. We aren’t playing tag, first to touch wins. A single blow may well not incapacitate the opponent. Once you have them where you want them, hit them until there’s no point continuing to do so.

The next play, on the top left of the facing page (f27r) is also a continuation of the breaking of the thrust:

Anchora questo zogho del romper di punta ch’e lo segondo zogho ch’e me denanzi. Che quando io o rebattuda la spada a terra, subito io fiero cum lo pe dritto sopra la sua spada. E inquello ferire io lo fiero in la testa come voy vedete.

Also this play of the breaking of the thrust that is the second play that is before me. When I have beaten the sword to the ground, I immediately strike with the right foot over his sword. And in that strike I will strike him in the head as you can see.

So this is the same play as the one before it, except the strike is to a different target- directly to the head as you step on the player’s sword, rather than cutting the throat first. What follows is a way to deal with the player parrying the strike (which can only happen if you have failed to step on the sword, as indeed the first of these breaking the thrust plays shows). In practice we tend not to step on our training partners’ swords – they are likely to get damaged.

Questo e anchora un altro zogho del romper de punta, che si lo zugadore in lo rompere ch’i’o rotta la sua punta, leva la sua spada ala coverta de la mia, subito io gli metto l’elzo de la mia spada dentro parte del suo brazo dritto apresso la sua mane dritta, e subito piglo la mia spada cum la mia man mancha apresso la punta, e fiero lo zugadore in la testa. Ese io volesse, metteria la al collo suo per segargli la canna de la gola.

This is also another play of the breaking of the thrust, in which if the player, in the breaking that I have broken his thrust, lifts his sword to cover mine, I immediately put the hilt of my sword on the inside part of his right arm close to his right hand, and immediately grab my sword with my left hand close to the point, and strike the player in the head. And if I wish, I could put it to his neck to slice his windpipe.

There are a few things to note here. Firstly, though the player parries the initial riposte, his action does not count as a counter-remedy, and this scholar is not, therefore, a counter-counter-remedy master (as his lack of a crown confirms). Why not? It’s my view that because his action is not shown as a successful counter to the break, it doesn’t merit the term. As Fiore wrote in text above the first master of the dagger (f10v):

Io son primo magistro e chiamado remedio per che rimedio tanto e a dire savere rimediare che non ti sia dado e che possi dare e ferire lo tuo contrario inimigho. Per questa che meglo non si po fare la tua daga faro andar in terra. Voltando la mia mane aparte sinestra.

I am the first master and am called remedy, because remedy is as much as to say to know how to remedy, that you are not given [a blow] and can give [a blow] and strike your own counter [against] the enemy. For this it is better to make your dagger go to the ground. Turning my hand to the left side.

The definition of ‘remedy’ is quite clear- you must be able to prevent the attack from hitting you, and strike afterwards. It’s not enough just to stop the attack. You should also note the change of point of view in this passage. It begins with Fiore addressing us, the reader: ‘so that you are not given a blow’. Then it shifts to address the player so that ‘your dagger goes to the ground’ describes the play, not an instruction to us to drop our weapons! It’s worth remembering that this kind of conversational tone pervades this text.

Returning to the play in question, the player’s attempt to parry ends up with him getting his throat cut. As a matter of good training, I don’t recreate the play this way- there is really no point teaching students to parry in a way that just fails. So in this drill, I have the player countering the break with a pommel strike, closing the line of the blow to the throat or the head (or as Fiore would say, ‘passing with the cover’), which is then countered by the scholar putting their hilt over the player’s arm and following the instructions. I also tend to swap out cutting the throat with a take-down, as you can see in this video:

The last pair of plays on this page, the fifteenth and sixteenth of the second master of the zogho largo, can be done as a follow on from the breaking of the thrust, or not, as we will see:

Anchora quando io o rebatuda la punta o vero che sia incrosado cum uno zugadore, gli metto la mia mane dredo al suo cubito dritto, e penzolo forte, per modo che io lo fazzo voltare e discovrire, e poy lo fiero in quello voltare che io gli fazo fare.

Also when I have beaten aside the thrust, or when I am crossed with a player, I put my hand behind his right elbow, and push it hard, in such a way that I make him turn and be uncovered, and can strike him in that turn that I have made him do.

The next play completes this action:

Questo scolaro ch’e me denanzi dise lo vero che per la volta ch’ello ti fa fare per questo modo dredo de ti la testa ti vegno a taglare. Anchora inanzi che tu tornassi ala coverta, io ti poria fare in la schena cum la punta una piaga averta.

This scholar before me tells the truth, that by the turn that he has done to you, in that way I come to cut you from behind in the head. Also before that you would turn to parry, I could give you an open wound in the back with the point.

So, when we can reach the elbow, we can push it and strike from behind, just as we saw in the sixth play of the sword in one hand. This can be done after breaking the thrust, but also whenever we are crossed with the player (at the middle of the swords in zogho largo, at least, given the section that we are in). Notice how specific Fiore is about which elbow to push- as we saw in the 6th abrazare play, where you push ‘the elbow of the hand offending your face’, here you push the elbow of the sword arm. Pushing the other elbow may well not give you full control of the sword. And the window of opportunity is small – you must strike immediately, before they can turn back round to parry.

You can see my interpretation here:

The theme of thrusting will conclude in the next post, with the punta falsa, and its counter. See you then!

This project is being published in stages. You can get part one, The Sword in One Hand, as a free PDF by subscribing to my mailing list below, or buy it in ebook format from Amazon or Gumroad. You can get Part two, Longsword Mechanics, from Amazon or Gumroad too!

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