Although the IAS is organized on the model of the historical fencing guilds, inclusive of the four traditional ranks of Scholar, Free Scholar, Provost and Master, for the two lower grades (Scholar and Free Scholar), it only provides a framework of minimum skills and academic work that each member instructor or academy agrees to implement; testing and promotion up to the rank of Free scholar is entirely within the testing school’s domain.
Testing and certification for the higher, or teaching, grades of Provost and Magister, however, is overseen by the IAS. All testing conducted by and within the IAS will include written, oral, technical and instructional components, and is primarily conducted in person — with specific exceptions noted where relevant. A formal Prize Play will round out the process, as a form of “confirmation.” All testing need not be done on the same day, but over a certain period.
Technical performance criteria is outlined in the general Quality of Execution specifications below, as well as on the pages for each of the four grades, or ranks.
QUALITY OF EXECUTION
What follows are guidelines for an acceptable quality of execution (QoE). Quality of execution refers to the execution of technique using proper mechanics and timing for movement and action, but may have some interpretational aspects, given that it is impossible to entirely separate physical execution from interpretation in a systematic fashion. The points below are universal, with specific criteria pertaining to individual ranks noted in the rank descriptions, as needed. More specifically, QoE will be graduated along a skill progression slide using an adapted model proposed by Henri Boudreault, PH.D. Our model is as follows (see appendix for more information on pedagogical progression and skills advancement):
- Novice: rigid adherence to taught rules or plans, no exercise of “discretionary judgment”
- Rote execution or repetition of a demonstrated technique or skill as demonstrated, often without using proper mechanics and without necessarily demonstrating an understanding of the wider context or variations in technique.
- Intermediate: has limited “situational perception”, all aspects of technique treated separately with equal importance.
- Applies, with help, the knowledge and skills necessary to the performance of a technique.
- Proper mechanics are more prevalent, but secondary to the performance of the technique. I.e. the student will quickly abandon proper mechanics if the situation becomes difficult.
- Application of technique requires concentration and conscious thought.
- Competent: independent evaluation of a situation, autonomy, transfer of technique across situations.
- Executes techniques in isolation (set plays, simple phrases) against non-compliant partners.
- Executes technique without prompting, in tempo and using proper body mechanics.
- Capable of planning an approach (strategically)
- Can apply tactical decision making consciously
- Proficient: ability to apply and adapt technique and mechanics to a variety of situations.
- Executes multiple techniques (“strings techniques) together to form complex phrases
- Employs proper body mechanics, at speed
- Can apply tactical decision making with little conscious thought
- Mastery: Has a holistic view and can adapt technique to varying situations and weapons (i.e. has practiced the corpus of techniques and can use them across weapons and versus disparate weapons)
- Employs proper body mechanics with fluidity and grace (sprezzatura)
- Applies tactical decision making intuitively
- Expertise: Innovates building upon his mastery, is not limited by the parameters of the system
- Has significant skill or knowledge beyond mastery in a particular sphere of research (polearms, mounted combat, etc.)
To gain any rank outlined below, a student must gain a certain skill level in the required elements. For instance, to gain Scholar rank, the student should be rated as “competent” in the required skills. Individual schools are encouraged to use the qualitative assignments with their internal ranks and evaluations.
General Body Mechanics
As a rule, body mechanics are built on natural, mechanical efficiency, using universal principles such as the triangle, spiral and wave. All techniques presume the body is used in a way to perform maximum result with minimal effort, and to be effective across the system: in and out of harness, with all weapons, etc.
Footwork adheres to the rules on general body mechanics and its original context (i.e. turn shoes in medieval environments). That means weight is carried over the balls of the feet, steps are even, balanced, precise and grounded – no jumping, hopping, bobbing, etc. Footwork should be even and balanced, with the weight resting largely on the balls of the feet. Posture is upright, with weight shifts according to the guard or position and adapted to the situation. Given the holistic nature of l’arte dell’armizare, footwork should be applicable both in and out of armour, with carriage adjustments as necessary.
Attacks (cuts and thrusts) are to be done along proper fencing lines, and developed in true times (for the purposes of this work, true times are defined as leading the attack with the weapon, with the body following after) and in a safe manner (covering the most exposed line as one enters.)
Defenses should be performed in such a manner as to keep the defender reasonably safe and provide opportunities for a change in initiative in the form of a follow-on action or riposte. Said defences should be drawn from basic fencing actions or from set plays and performed within acceptable standards of interpretation as set in the following section.
- Any grappling actions should be done in proper sequence, i.e.: unbalance, enter, throw.
- Grappling actions should be mindful of the context of the Art as a holistic system.
Will be evaluated: The applicants use of tactics in freeplay. Tactics are defined as responses, in time, to a partner’s actions. Among these, we find:
- Proper use of tempo in attacking and defending
- Developing a prima tempo (first intention) attack in proper tempo
- Use of second intention actions (dui tempi) and feints
- Proper use of measure
- Use of provocations to elicit responses, through guard changes, manipulation measure, drawing attacks or specific defenses, etc.
Any interpretation must be demonstrably and arguably derived from source material, or reasonably interpolated from the wider dei Liberi tradition. This includes all four extant manuscripts, Fillipo Vadi’s De Arte Gladiatoria, and manuals in the die Blume des Kampfs/Von Eyb tradition. Further, any interpretation must be demonstrably martially valid.
- A Free scholar should be able to present an interpretation of a play and provide a reasonable argument for his interpretation, keeping within the established interpretational standards of the IAS as stated above;
- Accord to the organization’s understanding of the underlying body mechanics and tactics of Armizare;
- Work at full speed against a simple attack;
- Work at full speed against an non-compliant opponent, or if the play “fails” naturally allow for safe secondary actions.
Furthermore, any Provost or Magister candidate with a substantial interpretive difference or innovation should be able to submit a paper justifying their interpretation and argue favorably in its defence before a panel of no less than three (3) judges. and based on the following criteria:
- Accord to the text in any/all of the Fiore Ms. In other words, a text might not address a point of interpretation, but it can’t contradict it;
- The physical actions should generally accord with the illustrations allowing for: a) differences between the four Ms and b) the nature of medieval art;
- Must be demonstrably martially valid, as specified above.