Guy's Blog

Guy frequently keeps this blog updated with thoughts, challenges, interviews and more!

Tag: vadi

As this awesome comic shows, many students find the new, foreign, terminology a major barrier to learning swordsmanship. (You can see the whole strip here; this is just one panel)

How it feels to take your first sword class in an Italian style… from the excellent web comic Sähköjanis.

I get it. I really do. In 2006 I even wrote an article explaining why I translate “meza” and “tutta” the way I do. I put a glossary in the back of most of my books, and I created a separate pdf handout for the Longsword Course that includes the essential terms for studying Fiore and Vadi. If you'd like a copy, sign up below and I'll send you one automagically.

 

 

Medieval Italian fencing terms glossary

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It has been a splendid few days in Seattle so far, kicked off by a trapeze lesson with the excellent Milla Marshall at SANCA. The place was pretty empty, so there was no-one to hold the camera (Milla was busy spotting me through the tricky bits), but we did manage to catch this new trick on video:

There's no better way to get the aeroplane out of your spine! This was my third class with Milla, and I can highly recommend her. I also managed to get one go on the flying trapeze on Friday, so that's my adrenal glands thoroughly exercised.

On Thursday evening, Dan from Lonin took me shooting; it's been a while since I last shot, but I didn't disgrace myself. Dan is a fan of old British militaria (up to and including driving a 1980s military Land Rover), and he kindly let me blast away with his (semi-auto) Sterling SMG, his Browning Hi-Power (my favourite 9mm pistol), a WWII Webley revolver, and, to cap it all, a WWI era Webley .455, just like my grandfather carried in the Great War.

I spent most of Friday working on my new Vadi book (it's not all fun and games!). I'm reading around the period quite widely, and came across an interesting light history of the Medici banking empire on my brother-in-law's bookshelves. Medici Money by Tim Parks is well worth a look if you're interested. It's not a mighty and definitive scholarly work, but it explained some aspects of Italian financial history I hadn't grasped before, and it's a fun read. It's by the same Tim Parks that wrote Teach us to Sit Still, a very personal journey into meditation. As my regular readers know, I meditate a lot; if the Vipassana stuff Tim talks about is a bit heavy, you could try this instead.

While I'm on the subject of books: I'm staying at Neal Stephenson's house, and came across an advance reader's copy of his next novel (co-written with Nicole Galland), The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.. Let me put it this way- I meant to just scan the opening pages, but am now 400 pages in… It's classic Neal, in that you can't really categorise it, but it's a lot like Reamde in tone, with a bit of Baroque cycle in content, and it manages to fuse both classic SF elements (quantum physics stuff) with magic, in a way that's just a delight to read. Yes, we're friends so I'm biased, but I would never recommend a book just because a friend wrote it.

Friday night I was teaching in my Seattle sword home, the Lonin loft at SANCA, then all day Saturday (Fiore stuff, with a bit of Vadi), and all day yesterday (I.33 in the morning, Capoferro in the afternoon).  A big shout out to Dan Weber for organising the whole thing, Alex Hanning for running the I.33 group, and Michael Heveran for keeping the rapier flag flying amidst all this medieval stuff. Sunday's seminars were graced by Devon Boorman and three of his Duello students, one of whom, Greg Reimer, is a superb graphic designer who has taken my free Fabris photos and laid them out with Tom Leoni's 2006 translation… I have an advance reader copy of the first section, so it looks like I'll have plenty to do on my flight home next week!

But before then, I'm off to Vancouver tomorrow, to teach seminars at Valkyrie, and, while I'm there, go horse riding for the first time in about a decade… wish me luck! I'll report back in due course. If you're in or around Vancouver next weekend, come and train!

 

Medieval Italian fencing terms glossary

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What's this? A new book? Or an old one? My recent fascination with producing affordable facsimiles of fencing manuscripts began with wanting to curl up in a chair with Vadi.

Mission accomplished.

The proof copy arrived this week, and I have released it for distribution. It will go on sale on February 28th. I set it that far ahead because it gives me some wiggle room in case I spot any errors in the print file, and because I imagine a lot of the people who bought Fiore's Il Fior di Battaglia will probably be interested in Vadi too, and it makes sense to space out these publications by a month. Fiore went out on the 28th January, so 28th February seemed auspicious.

You can preorder your full-colour hardback loveliness from Amazon US here. And from Amazon UK here.

Or use the isbn to search for it on any book store: 9789527157091

A loud shout-out to Bek Pickard of Zebedee Design who has made the book beautiful!

Medieval Italian fencing terms glossary

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About a month ago I was checking through a pdf of Vadi's De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi, and thinking how lovely it would be to just pluck the manuscript off a shelf and curl up in an armchair with it. So I looked into getting a copy printed and bound locally. It was going to cost about £40. “Huh, that seems expensive” I thought to myself. “I wonder how much it would cost to get it printed by the company that does my print on demand publishing?” Then I thought- “you know what, I can't be the only person who wants one.” A quick email to my list triggered a deluge of “yes! do it! do it now! I want one!” responses, so I looked into the costs of getting it laid out and a cover designed.

Then it hit me that I really better do Il Fior di Battaglia first. That's a way more popular manuscript, and sales of it could very well subsidize producing Vadi… four weeks later, my facsimile of Fiore dei Liberi’s magisterial Il Fior di Battaglia is #1 in fencing on Amazon (where he assuredly belongs!) as well as #1 in “hot new releases” in martial arts!

The notion of a 600 year old book being a “hot new release” is gloriously ironic, but there you have it. The only modern text in the book is a note in the back saying where the manuscript is, and some details about it. I wanted to keep myself out of these books as far as possible; I mention my Mastering the Art of Arms books, of course, but also Bob Charrette's ArmizareTom Leoni's translation of the text, and some other resources, on the grounds that most readers of the book will be interested. But this is Fiore's book, not mine. It is his manuscript, laid out, but not edited, translated or commented on. It's just its own pure gorgeous self.

 

Our spiffy logo

And now Vadi is laid out, uploaded to the printers, and I'm eagerly awaiting the proof copy.

The ease and sheer pleasure of producing these facsimiles has lead me to create a new imprint, Spada Press, which even has its own (very basic, don’t go there! ok, you can if you want, but I warned you) website up at www.spada.press  I expect I’ll shift all my book publishing over to that imprint, to help keep the various aspects of my work separate. Expect facsimiles of Meyer (the 1560 ms), at least one other Fiore ms, Marozzo, Fabris, and hopefully Capoferro, in the near future. I welcome requests!

On the subject of books: I have been delighted by the way my beta-readers have been responding to the first draft of The Theory and Practice of Historical European Martial Arts, which I released a 100 copies of recently. While they like the book, they have also made some really useful suggestions for improvement. I hope to get the book finished within the next four months or so. Also, the second edition of Veni Vadi Vici went to the editor at the end of last week— I have completely rewritten the book, reorganised it, and added a ton of material to the introduction. It’s probably 8 months or so from being published, but this was a major milestone in its production, and it is a much, much better book. Veni Vadi Vici was my first self-published book, and it really shows. The second edition has benefitted greatly from the constructive criticism of many readers, and the expert help of friends and colleagues. I hope it does them justice. I will be sending out ebook copies of the finished book to everyone who backed the crowdfunding campaign, and to everyone I can reach who has bought the well-meaning but flawed Veni Vadi Vici since it launched.

I would say that was a cracking start to 2017, wouldn't you?

Medieval Italian fencing terms glossary

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Image courtesy of Elisa Hyvärinen.
Image courtesy of Elisa Hyvärinen.

As you may know, I am in the process of videoing everything we do in the salle, and putting it up online for free. This project is called the “Syllabus Wiki“. One of the many benefits of this is that informed commentators can see what we are doing and make constructive criticisms, which leads to improvement in our interpretations and methods. Not all criticism is well-meant, or well-written, but I do my best to stick to the facts, and ignore any agenda the critic may have. The truth of the Art should outweigh any other factor.
We have been putting a lot of Capoferro rapier material up lately; we have recently uploaded the last of the plays of the sword alone, shown on Plate 20. Bear in mind that these videos are intended to show a co-operative, choreographical rendition of the contents of the plate; they do not go into hard and fast applications of the lessons of the plates, or show anything against a non-compliant opponent.
One anonymous blogger, who goes by “Grauenwolf”, has recently taken issue with quite a few of our videos, and in some cases he has a point. [There is actually quite a lot of interesting material on his blog, which has been going since 2008.] I would find the criticisms more useful if they were accompanied by video examples of Grauenwolf himself doing the same actions his way, but at least he is quoting from the sources, and seems to truly care about historical accuracy. One such critique is here, in which he states his opinion that we are using blades that are much too short. He doesn’t actually tell us how long our blades should be, but does quote from Capoferro’s passage (using Wilson and Swanger’s translation without attribution):

“Therefore the sword has to be twice as long as the arm, and as much as my extraordinary pace, which length corresponds equally to that which is from my armpit down to the sole of my foot.”

He includes this screenshot from our video (again without attribution, but at least in this case anyone who checks the video link will find out whose video it is), with lines added to indicate his point of disagreement (if only all disagreements were so clearly stated!).

Henry and Janne blade length

As you can see, Henry's sword is clearly shorter than the distance from his armpit to the floor. But the passage is not quite as straightforward as all that. The arm is presumably measured from the armpit; but to the wrist, or the fingertips? The “extraordinary pace” is measured from where to where? The only apparently simple measurement is from armpit to the sole of the foot, presumably while standing (and incidentally is the same length of sword that Vadi recommends). The problem is that it would make for a sword that is much longer than most surviving examples, and much longer than the ones that are apparently illustrated. I have addressed this problem in print twice before, in The Duellist’s Companion, and in Choosing a Sword. To quote from the latter:

In my opinion, Capoferro’s system works best with a sword that weighs between 1kg and 1.6kg (2.0—3.5 lb), with the point of balance between 6 and 15 cm (2.5—6 inches) in front of the crossguard, a complex hilt that allows you to put your forefinger over the crossguard safely, and a blade length from crossguard to point of at least 97 cm (38”) (for short people), up to a maximum of about 114 cm (45”).
Capoferro himself tells us, in Chapter III: The Division of Fencing That is Posed in the Knowledge of the Sword, section 36:
“Therefore the sword has to be twice as long as the arm, and as much as my extraordinary pace, which length corresponds equally to that which is from my armpit down to the sole of my foot.” (Translation by William Wilson and Jherek Swanger).
I have never met anyone for whom those three measurements were the same, and in my The Duellist's Companion I worked them out like so:
“My arm is 52 cm, shoulder to wrist; my lunge about 120 cm from heel to heel, and it is about 140 cm from my foot to my armpit when standing. When standing on guard, it is about 115cm from foot to armpit. When in the lunge, it is about 104 cm from foot to armpit. Also, it is not clear whether he refers to the length of the blade, or of the whole sword.
If we resort to the unreliable practice of measuring the illustrations, in the picture of the lunge, the sword blade is 73 mm, the arm from wrist to armpit 37 mm, and the line G (front heel to front armpit) 55 mm. The distance between the feet is 67 mm.
So, the measurement most consistent with the text would appear to be the length of the arm, from wrist to armpit, as it approximately correlates to half the length of the blade.
 Given this as a guide, my blade ought to be 104 cm or about 41” long from the guard to the point.”

Henry, the chap in the illustration, has the following measurements:

  • Arm from armpit to wrist: 49cm. From armpit to fingertip, 66cm.
  • In guard, armpit to sole of the foot: 122cm; standing, 150cm.
  • His lunge is 100cm heel to heel, and 130cm from the back heel to the front toes.
  • His sword has a blade length of 107cm (a touch over 42”), and a total length of 122cm.

For what it's worth, modern manufacturers of rapier blades tend to offer them between 40 and 45″ (102cm- 114cm); a 150cm rapier would have a blade of about 135cm, or 53″.
So, given these measurements, I would be very interested to hear how long Henry’s sword should be, based on Grauenwolf's interpretation. I would also like to know Grauenwolf’s measurements, and the length of his sword, and see how he has solved the knotty problem of reconciling three quite different measurements.
[“Grauenwolf” goes on to criticise the way we beat the sword, apparently completely oblivious to the fact that Janne is co-operating in a way that the combatants illustrated in Gran Simulacro are not, and also oblivious to the purpose of the video. But that’s a whole other story. At least our videos are doing what they are intended to do: making it easier for people to get to grips with the source material; in this case, providing the impetus for a whole list of blog posts. Sure, I’d rather they were a bit more constructive, but anything that gets the sources talked about has to be a good thing.]

I have a strict policy on the internet: I never link to bad things. In other words, if somebody has annoyed or disgusted me, I don't reward them with traffic. So you might wonder why I am sending traffic Grauenwolf's way. Simply, it's because

a) I'm not annoyed or disgusted; if nobody ever disagreed with me, I'd never learn anything;

b) his blog has a lot of good and interesting stuff on it;

c) while I obviously don't agree with him on this point, and think he could be better at attributing his sources, I think his critique is an attempt to serve the Art, not to advance a personal agenda, and

d) I really do want to know how he solves the problem of the three incompatible measurements.

Medieval Italian fencing terms glossary

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Way back in the dawn of time when I came to Finland to open my school, my research into historical swordsmanship was at a very early stage. But we all have to start somewhere. As I wasn’t sure whether to focus on Vadi or Fiore I included elements of both systems in the material I taught my students. After a couple of years we dropped Vadi to focus on Fiore. It took about nine years to get that system solid enough to build on. So then I returned to Vadi (as most of you will probably know), and instead of a messy hodgepodge of material we have a solid base, and an expansion pack. Mixing the systems is a mistake, but not the one this post is about. To be sure, these days that approach is completely unnecessary and counter-productive, but I don’t think anybody really understood that then.

No, the mistake I made was to take an outlier, an apparent exception to the norm, and simply on the word of a native-speaker, make it part of the core training. Yes, I am referring to the infamous rising fendente blow. A quick look at the segno of blows in Vadi:

VadiBlows

might lead one to believe that the rota blows descend, and the fendente blows rise. But you only have to actually read the book to know that the image is misleading, and a quick cross-reference to Fiore, and indeed to every other Italian sword fighting system in the history of the world, will simply put that mistake right. But no, I took the word of a charismatic self-proclaimed “master”, who happened to be a native speaker of Italian, and cheerily taught my trusting students that in Vadi’s system the fendente is a rising blow.

When my first book, the Swordsman’s Companion, was in the editing phase, I had kept this bizarre misreading, and one of the editors picked it up. (Thanks Greg!) Unlike the “masters” of my acquaintance at the time, this editor did not simply say “No Guy, that’s wrong, it’s like this”: he sent me a page of explanation supported by quotations from the actual source to establish why Vadi’s fendente is a descending blow. The truth, the evidence, was incontrovertible.

So then I was faced with the first proper character test of my new career. Half of me thought that if I admitted such a basic mistake to my students, they would quit. The other half thought that this would be an excellent teaching opportunity, to set the example of changing research leading to changing interpretations, and the truth being infinitely more important than ego or embarrassment. But oh, God, it was scary. That same night in class, I candidly admitted my mistake to my students. I don’t think a single person quit in disgust at my making the error. And I know because they have told me that some were actually reassured or impressed that I could admit it so openly. Some of them are still training with me 11 years later; and some even, with enough beer in them, still rib me about it. (This is fraught with peril, so beware!)

So, the lessons learned:

1) Students worth teaching understand that their teacher is human and will make mistakes. What makes a good teacher is not infallibility, but transparency and integrity. How you deal with mistakes is crucial. That you will make them is a given.

2) If a point of interpretation is an outlier, and appears to contradict the normal usage of the term, check it, check it, check it, before relying on it.

3) It is perilous to mix treatises and systems. Study one system deeply and broadly before attempting to blend two potentially incompatible systems. Create a base of one master’s work before adding to it.

4) Always check the whole book. The usage of a given term will tend to be consistent. If it appears to mean something weird in one place, check that it means the same weird thing everywhere else. This is basically point 2 again, but it’s worth repeating!

5) Being a native speaker does not automatically make you an expert. When I was studying at at Edinburgh University, the professor of English Language was German. His speciality was phonology. Although his own pronunciation was decidedly Germanic, he knew more about how English words are created in the mouth than anybody else I have ever met. But finding out that the professor of English Language was German was something of a shock. Yes, there are nuances of understanding a language that only native speakers can attain, but most do not. And I have certainly met non-native speakers of English who use and understand English better than certain native speakers.

6) “Don’t pull that Maestro shit on me”: be very, very wary of anybody expressing an opinion on the research or practice of this Art (or indeed any art) whose authority rests on a title, or who seems to believe that the fact that it is their opinion should be sufficient to convince you. Expect supporting evidence: true experts will always a) have it and b) be happy to supply it. Listen to those who will provide it, and avoid like the plague those who will not.

And in case it isn’t clear: as the great Quiller-Couch once wrote: “Murder your darlings”. He meant that, when writing, be prepared to cut even your favourite sentences, words or phrases. For us involved in the researching our Art, be ready to sacrifice any opinion, way of doing things, or interpretation, if the evidence demands it.

Medieval Italian fencing terms glossary

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I recently posted this video as part of the ongoing Vadi interpretation work I am doing. As should be clear from the context, this is not syllabus-ready material, it is just my first proper take on the subject. In other words, the interpretations in the video are not the gospel according to Guy, but an indication of my current thoughts on the subject. Bear that in mind when putting it into practice!

This play is tricky to interpret as the image seems to show something that directly contradicts an earlier statement in the text. I don’t know of anyone who has a definitive interpretation with no such inconsistencies. So this may be a good place to look at the assumptions I am making, as they shed light on the process of interpretation that I tend to follow. And a deeper look into the text that may support my current view.

Here is the image in question:

Vadi first LS Play

And the text that goes with it:

E reverso fendente ho tratto sul pe stanco 

Senza scanbiar pe voltando el galone 

Traro el dritto senza moverme anco.

I have made a roverso fendente on the left foot,
Without changing the foot turning the hips

I strike a dritto without further movement.

(Translation mine, from Veni Vadi Vici, p 126)

The first question then is can we trust the image? It is possible to argue that given medieval artistic conventions and the like that the the play done in real life may not look much like the image. I reject these arguments out of hand on the grounds that there is no end then to what the image may represent- it becomes essentially useless. I make exceptions only for images that are anatomically impossible to replicate, such as this one from the Getty MS:

The famous Alien defence, where an extra arm explodes out of your chest at the critical moment.
The famous Alien defence, where an extra arm explodes out of your chest at the critical moment.

To claim that an interpretation looks nothing like the image because the image is wrong demands a hefty burden of proof. So we might ask, are the other images in this MS reliable? And with the exception of sudden hand changes (eg the 12th play, p 134), and the 14th play (p135) where it appears that they would both be injured, I think yes. There is no good reason to suppose that this play should not look just like the picture.

So what is the picture trying to show? There is no doubt, given the foot placement, and the blade relationship, that the figure on the left is doing the action in the text. So, is this image showing us the roverso (backhand), or the dritto (forehand) mentioned? As a general rule, derived from my experience, and to which I cannot offhand think of a single exception, treatise illustrations show the moment of the final action of the text. They may show the beginning, middle, or end of a technique, such as the 8th, 9th and 10th plays of the zogho stretto from the Getty MS, subject of this article and this video, but the text accompanying a given image will then state that the play is in an intermediate stage, and the image will show that stage. So this image is most probably showing the “dritto” stage of the action. Given that this blow ends up with the hands crossed on the right hand side, it appears that the scholar has struck a descending blow with the false edge, or is thrusting.

“But hold!” you say, and rightly too. Does Vadi not clearly state in Chapter Five, verse three (on p. 60) that descending blows use the true edge?

Let’s take a look. It’s a tiny chapter, so let’s have the whole thing:

La spada sia una ponta con doi taglie 

Pero bem nota et intende questo scripto 

Che la memoria tua non sabarbaglie 

 

Luno sie el false et laltro sie el dirito

E la ragione si comanda e vole
Che questo tenghe nel cervel tuo fitto

 

Deritto col deritto inseme tole 

El riverso col falso inseme sia

Salvo el fendente lo diritto vole.

 

Intende bene la scriptura mia 

Sepetti colpi son che la spada mena 

Sei taglii con la punta quel feria

 

Accio che du ritrovi questa vena
Doi de sopra et de sotto e dui mezane

La ponta por mezzo con ingagne et pena 

Che laer nostro sa spesso serena.

 

The sword has a point and two edges,

But note well and understand this text,

That memory will not fail you.

 

One is the false, and the other the true,

And reason commands and desires,

That this is fixed in your brain.

 

Forehand and true edge go together,

Backhand and false edge stay together,
Except the fendente which wants the true.

 

Understand my text well,
The sword goes with seven blows

Six cuts with the thrust that strikes.

 

So that you will find this seam,
Two from above and below and two in the middle,
The thrust up the middle with deceit and suffering,
That our Air is often calm.

Fine. So far, so clear. Fendenti take the true edge.

Later, on p 111, we see this image of those seven blows, and the text that reads:

Qvesti son colpi de spa da due mane. 

Non glie el mezo tempo: nel nodo rimane.

These are the blows of the two-handed sword,

Not those of the mezo tempo, they remain in a knot.

So it would appear that mezo tempo blows, whatever they may be, are named differently, or take different paths, or something. It seems clear though that the information on this page does not apply to them.

So what are they? We find them in Chapter 14, pp 95 to 97.

My commentary on this chapter runs like so:

“In this little chapter Vadi describes for us the way to strike safely from the meza spada crossing, using a “half time” or “half motion” of the sword. This may well be what Fiore refers to as a “meza volta of the sword”, and action he mentions but never defines. Fiore’s meza volta is a footwork action, defined thus: when with a pass forwards or backwards you can play on the other side. He goes on to say that there is a half- turn of the sword, but never refers to it in a way that would allow us to be sure what it is. Here, Vadi’s mezo tempo blow is the means by which you can, from the crossing, strike safely on the other side of the opponent’s sword. The key is to keep your hands in front of you, and turn the sword without losing your cover. As Vadi says, one who does not practice will parry badly, and thus get hit.

Up to now, the common interpretation of Vadi’s mezo tempo has been a half-blow which (as the text says) treats as one the cover and the strike. In effect, a counterattack, or counter-cut, much like the Liechtenauer technique zornhau ort. This may be so, but does not fit with the rest of the book, nor with the repeated description that these blows “remain in a knot” or are “a turn of the knot”. Executing these blows from the crossing though, we do simply keep our hands as a knot in front of us, and turn them from one side to the other.

We can cross-reference this to folio 15V, the blows of the sword in two hands, which are illustrated as full blows (as in Fiore), and are specifically not those of the mezo tempo, as Vadi writes:

Qvesti son colpi de spa da due mane. 

Non glie el mezo tempo: nel nodo rimane.

These are the blows of the two-handed sword,
Not those of the mezo tempo, they remain in a knot.

This may also exempt us from applying the injunctions about striking roverso volante and roverso rota with the false edge – these blows of the mezo tempo are mechanically different, and we will normally have to use the true edge even in these two cases to avoid losing the cover.

The key here is to keep your hands in front of you, and your sword between your face and your opponent’s blade.”

I can see that I should explain for those who have not read “the rest of the book” that chapter 11 begins with what to do when crossed at the half sword, and includes a strike to the head done with the false edge (p 85); chapter 12 discusses the feints of the sword done explicitly from the meza spada crossing, and chapter 13 discusses what to do when crossed at the half sword, and includes the following:

E e si pur tu volesti trar ferire 

Lassali andar el fendente riverso 

E filo falso con la punta al vixo.

(Voltandoli atraverso)

And if you want to throw blows,
Let a fendente roverso go,
And a false edge with the point in his face

(turning it across)

Which seems very like this first play of the sword too.

It would seem likely then that chapter 14 is continuing this theme of working from the crossing at the meza spada, and we have at least two specific instances in the text of false edge blows being done to the head.

Lastly then, can we source similar actions being done in contemporary systems for the same weapon? Indeed yes, this action has much in common, both mechanically and tactically, with the duplieren type winding at the half sword. Indeed, this is one of those plays that my students who have trained in the Liechtenaer system find much easier to learn than those who have not.

In the first interpretation shown in the video (time 0.25-0.42) Ilpo and Jarno are showing this play as I would do it if we had no image, just following the text and the general principles of this system. So, for anyone who believes that the image is wrong, this is how I suggest you do the play, though I would be inclined to do that action from the crossing of the swords shown later in the video (from about 1.27) as the basic, default interpretation.

In fine, then, I take the mezo tempo blows to be those done from the meza spada crossing, and specific, textually supported exceptions to the general admonition regarding the blows of the sword, namely that fendenti must be done with the true edge. And while my interpretation may well change as we go through all the other plays and start to incorporate Vadi’s material into our core syllabus, as it stands it follows the text, looks like the picture, fits with the general themes of the book, and has correlates in other systems using the same weapon. Enough to be going on with, I think.

Medieval Italian fencing terms glossary

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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!

Medieval Italian fencing terms glossary

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