The Teaching Circle

The Teaching Circle in Martial Arts

Much of what I’m going to put down in writing below is likely in the “obvious” category for many of you reading this. Much of it, through the failings attributed to human nature, also fits into the “oft neglected” category, because despite having the knowledge, it doesn’t always carry over into practise – something I am most certainly guilty of on occasion. In the interest of helping some of our more fledgling instructors, and reminding some of our more experienced instructors, I’m going to lay down a few fundamentals, or “ABCs” of teaching martial arts, and despite the title of the article, they apply to teaching any subject matter.

Moving directly to the subject of this article, one can observe that there are several steps involved in teaching any subject. These can be summarised as follows:

  1. Set goals
  2. Plan and prepare
  3. Execute
  4. Assess and correct
  5. Revise and repeat

Continue reading The Teaching Circle

Metaphysiks of Armizare

The Metaphysiks of Armizare; Theory to Doctrine, Doctrine to Practice

By Christian Cameron, IAS

This article is not founded on my belief that I am a particularly gifted swordsperson.  Rather, it is founded on the observation that too many swords people with solid training and principles in the art don’t seem to be aware of ways to think about their art or put together various essentials of training which they fully understand into a single, coherent ideal of a system, which they can thus translate into performance (and then practice).  Put simply; they know a lot, and yet, they do not fight well.

Let me add that I don’t think I’m going to tell any experienced swordsperson anything they have not heard before.  I’m just going to try to codify some things, like a philosopher or theologian. Hence that threatening word, ‘Metaphysiks.’

Continue reading Metaphysiks of Armizare

SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS, PART FIVE: Wide and Close Play in Armizare

Gregory D. Mele, ©2014

[N.B: This article greatly expands and upon an earlier one “Understanding Wide and Close Play in the Martial Tradition of Fiore dei Liberi”, first presented in 2008 and later published with photo interpretations in In the Service of Mars, Proceedings from the Western Martial Arts Workshop (1999 – 2009), Vol. I. In addition to a new introduction that is about a third of its entire length, substantial revisions and citations extend throughout the article, so those familiar with the earlier work will still want to read this in its entirety.]

INTRODUCTION

A wide variety of Italian authors, from Giacopo Gelli to the famed fencing master, Luigi Barbasetti, had written on the man and his work in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Further a new generation of Italian researchers, most notably Massimo Malipiero and Giovanni Rapisardi, were also working with this “father of Italian fencing”, building on the work established by Novati almost 100 years earlier.[1]

Continue reading SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS, PART FIVE: Wide and Close Play in Armizare

Spada Instructional Video: First Master of Zhogo Largo

Instructional video showing the execution of the First Remedy of Largo and the binary choice that results from this particular crossing.

Here begins the play of two-handed sword, in wide play. This Master has crossed his sword at the point with this opponent, and says: when I am crossed at the points, I quickly turn my sword and strike the opponent on the other side with a fendente to the head and arms; or I thrust to his face, as you will see next.

I have given you a thrust to the face, as the Master before me had said. I could have also performed the other action he mentioned: attack right after crossing swords to the right, i.e. turn a fendente to the left side, to the head and arms of the opponent, as my master before me said. – MS Ludwig XV 13, translation © Tom Leoni

The first play deals with a critical situation: the crossing of the swords near the points, and the immediate tactical choice that presents itself depending on the quality of the incrosada – the pressure placed on the Remedy Master’s sword but the Player’s sword.  For additional context, please refer to:

SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS, PART 6: ORDERING THE PLAYS OF ZOGHO LARGO

If the Remedy Master crosses – i.e. parries – and finds the line open, he will make a direct point thrust to the Player.  If he finds the line closed – i.e. the Player’s cut has pushed his sword to the right – he will quickly cut over to the other side of the sword, striking head or arms with a fendente.

It’s important to remember that the text and image shown for any given play is not a prescriptive injunction that this play can only happen exactly as shown, but rather a descriptive example of principles to be applied in any similar situation.  Therefore the same crossing – weak to weak – is also demonstrated from actions in Posta Longa and Posta di Finestra. As Fiore says:

These plays are all linked, and have remedies and counters both from the mandritto and riverso side, counter-thrusts and counter-cuts to each action, with breaks, parries, strikes and binds—all things that can be understood very, very easily. – MS Ludwig XV 13, translation © Tom Leoni

For additional information on the variable nature of applying Fiore’s martial principles, please refer to

Stable, Striking and Mutable: Fighting from the Guards of L’Arte dell’Armizare

In the demonstrations I perform the actions of the Remedy Master from a “refused” or back stance position, using a volta stabile di corpo (stable turn of the body) to add strength and structure to the defensive cut.   This mechanic is covered in further detail here:

Fundamental Mechanics: Executing a Correct Fendente

Additionally, several of the demonstrations use sharps, because the qualities of the bind with sharps are much more noticeable than with blunts – sharps “stick” momentarily, blunts don’t.  PLEASE NOTE: the blades we are using are sharp on the edges but dull at the points, that we are wearing safety gear, and that we are both well-trained.  Don’t try this at home.

The plays could also be performed from a forward stance with a step of the left foot off the line to the left.  The volta and the step could also be combined.   Though not demonstrated here, these variations are taught at Northwest Fencing Academy and in the IAS.

SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS, PART 6: ORDERING THE PLAYS OF ZOGHO LARGO

We now turn to a more in-depth analysis of the technical curriculum Maestro Fiore has left us for how to remedy, or defend, against blows launched from the various guards in either wide (largo) or close (stretto) play. As seen previously, we can define wide play, or zogho largo, as encompassing any action that begins with one of the combatants bridging distance (analogous to the Wide Distance/misura larga/Zufechten of other traditions) and ending with the swords  crossed in the middle third (mezza spada).

Dei Liberi divides his instruction into two main groupings: a crossing of the sword in the first third, or punta, and a crossing at the mezza spada, with the majority of the plays falling in the latter category. There has long been a tendency for students to treat these plays in isolation — not just from the larger system, but from each other — and this is understandable, given how the master presents the material: Sometimes providing specific advice for variations to a play, illustrating a follow-on technique in zogho stretto for what to do when a play fails or is countered, discussing in some cases how to come to the half-sword, rather than beginning at the half-sword, etc. However, by carefully studying how the scholar is controlling the Player, both tactically and mechanically, a clear reason for each play and their overall ordering can be deduced.

Continue reading SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS, PART 6: ORDERING THE PLAYS OF ZOGHO LARGO

An Interview with Fiore dei Liberi’s stunt double….

Alphabet - The Akademia Szermierzy is a Polish HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) academy in Warsaw. While I knew of the Akademia and its members via Facebook, I wasn’t really aware of the focus or quality of their work, other than they were interested in Armizare.  So imagine my delight (and the entire Society’s!) when they released a short film presenting their interpretations of Fiore dei Liberi’s swordsmanship, not as a how-to or demo-reel, but as a dramatization of one of the old master’s five duels against rival fencing masters. Since it was released (Aug 13, 2016), the video has garnered 56,000 views and enthusiastic applause from HEMA students across the globe.  Certainly, IAS feels it is one of the most dynamic snapshots of our art currently online.  (See for yourself, then come back and read the rest of this article!)

Continue reading An Interview with Fiore dei Liberi’s stunt double….

SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS, PART FOUR: STABLE, STRIKING AND MUTABLE, REVISITED. THE TWELVE GUARDS OF THE SWORD

[NB: Part Four of this series is a revision and clarification of an early article, which can be found on the Chivalric Fighting Arts blog.]

Continue reading SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS, PART FOUR: STABLE, STRIKING AND MUTABLE, REVISITED. THE TWELVE GUARDS OF THE SWORD

SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS, PART THREE: SWORD IN ONE HAND

Alphabet - Having looked at Fiore dei Liber’s pedagogical system, system of blows, and six methods of using the sword, we now turn to those individual sub-systems itself. Swordsmanship proper first appears in the Pisani-Dossi and Getty manuscript (ff. 20r – 21v) after the dagger teachings, and is almost an extended interlude in its own right. A single Remedy is presented, a master standing in a low guard, comparable to a position of the sword in the scabbard. Although he is wielding the sword in one hand, as one might an arming sword, the weapon itself clearly has a long, two-handed hilt.

Continue reading SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS, PART THREE: SWORD IN ONE HAND

SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS, PART TWO: The Seven Blows of the Sword

Alphabet - Fiore’s art is a holistic one, adaptable to a variety of situations and circumstances (in armis, sine armis…). Why then, is so little said of the mechanics of cuts and the tactical framework for initiating an attack?  Popular wisdom says Fiore’s art was not intended for use by newcomers to the art, but rather by experienced men-at-arms. This is easily backed up by even a cursory read through the introductory material, where Fiore lists his accomplishments in preparing men for feats of arms – a veritable who’s who of well-known medieval fighters.

Continue reading SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS, PART TWO: The Seven Blows of the Sword

SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS, PART ONE: THE SIX MASTERS OF SWORD COMBAT

Alphabet - The lessons on the two-handed sword begin with two variations of the guard Posta di Donna opposing one another, followed by six unnamed masters. These masters are not so much poste – though many of them do correspond to specific poste, as they  do different ways that the sword can be used in combat: in armour and without, in one hand or two, thrown, and so forth. As explains its nature, they reveal the interrelation between the various forms of sword use, the close-quarters methods of the dagger, and specific “mixed weapons” techniques taught at various points throughout the manuscript.

Fol 22

We are two guards and we are alike but contrary to one another. As with all other guards in this art, alike guards are contrary to one another, with the exception of the point guards (Posta Longa, Breve and Mezza Porta di Ferro); with point guard against point guard, the most extended guard can reach the opponent first. Anyway, what one guard can do, its opposite also can. These guards can perform a volta stabile and a mezza volta.[1] A volta stabile lets you play forward or backward (from one side only), without moving your feet. A mezza volta is when you pass forward or backward, so you can play on the opposite side forward or backward. A tutta volta is when you use one foot to describe a circle around the other foot; in other words, one foot stays in place, the other circles around it. The sword also has three movements: volta stabile, mezza volta and tutta volta. These two guards are both called Posta di Donna. There are four more concepts in this art: passing forward, passing backward, an advancing (accrescimento) of the front foot, and pulling back the front foot (decrescimento).

Continue reading SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS, PART ONE: THE SIX MASTERS OF SWORD COMBAT

SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS: INTRODUCTION

 am the sword and I am lethal against any weapon; Alphabet - Ilances, axes and dagger are worthless against me. I can become extended or withdrawn; when I get near the opponent I can enter into close play, perform disarms and abrazare. My art is to turn and to bind; I am expert in defense and offense, and always strive to finish in those. Come against me and feel the pain. I am Royal, enforce justice, propagate goodness and destroy evil. Look at me as a cross, and I will give you fame and a name in the art of arms.

Il Fior di Battaglia, folio 25r, Fiore dei Liberi, 1410 (tr. Tom Leoni)[1]

Introduction

At first glance, swordplay seems to take  relatively minor role in armizare, at least compared to its German contemporaries. Whereas there are nine tactical situations, or Remedii (“Remedies”) containing 78 discreet dagger plays, Fiore dei Liberi summarizes his sword teachings in three Remedies with just over forty plays, more than half of which concern grapples and disarms with the weapon. The twenty plays reserved for Zogho Largo (“wide distance”) are not even a fifth of the vast corpus of techniques found in the Liechtenauer compendia.

Continue reading SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS: INTRODUCTION

Writing Fiore: Fiction as a Window to the Master’s Mind

‘I, Fiore, am of the opinion that few in the world are Masters of this art, an art for which I want to be remembered’

[N.B. — IAS is pleased to have among its membership, renowned historical fiction and fantasy author Christian Cameron. An historian, former intelligence officer and long-time historical reenactor, Christian’s writing focuses on looking into the minds, lives and motives of “those who fight”, vividly bringing other times and places to life. In researching the world of the 14th century he discovered armizare , which plays a role in both his “Chivalry” and “Traitor Son” series, particularly the former, where a young Fiore dei Liberi himself appears as a character!

The young Fiore we first meet late in The Ill-Made Knight and learn a great deal about in the sequel, The Long Sword, is perhaps not the figure we would expect. Neither Yoda (nor even Luke Skywalker) nor Miyamoto Musashi in plate armour, he’s simultaneously brilliant and dense, blunt and emotionally awkward, suggesting a modern diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome on Autism Spectrum Disorder. Is this our man, or just a bit of fictive fantasy useful to Christian’s story? As you will see, Christian himself argues the answer may well be “why not both?”]

Continue reading Writing Fiore: Fiction as a Window to the Master’s Mind

Fiore dei Liberi and the Gladiatoria Tradition — A Comparative Analysis

[Nota Bene: IAS is pleased to present our first article from a Society Affiliate — Mr. Mauro Carapacchi of of Rieti, Italy. A founder of the group Mos Ferri, Mr. Carapacchi first encountered Fiore dei Liberi through the realm of historical reenactment. Today he works to understand the martial art of Armizare, with a particular interest in armoured combat. He maintains his own blog, where he has provided a free translation of the Gladiatoria Manuscript into Italian. — ed.]

Under the name “Gladiatoria” we can identify a group of early XV century manuscripts covering the art of fighting in armour, joined by stylistic form of pictures and some technical peculiarities.

Continue reading Fiore dei Liberi and the Gladiatoria Tradition — A Comparative Analysis

The Nine Dagger Remedy Masters: 9th Master

Video 9 of 9 in a short series.

In-Class Review Session for Iniziato, Compagno and Scholar candidates at Northwest Fencing Academy.  Produced by Northwest Fencing Academy for use by affiliates of  the International Armizare Society.

The remedies will be made public and the scholar’s plays put in the Member’s Area. This series covers the basic mechanics of the Nine Dagger Remedy Masters from Fiore dei Liberi’s Fior di Battaglia, which details L’Arte dell’Armizare (the Art of Arms).  The instructional emphasis is on developing proficiency in mechanics and timing, so that there’s a solid foundation for the actual scholar’s plays.

The video is fairly self-explanatory, but I’ll be happy to take questions over on the forums.  Note that this just covers basic execution of the Remedy.  We’ll cover various plays in later videos.

Candidates for all ranks are expected to be able to analyze mechanics as well as perform them, with execution skills increasing per level.

The Nine Dagger Remedy Masters: 8th Master

Video 8 of 9 in a short series.

In-Class Review Session for Iniziato, Compagno and Scholar candidates at Northwest Fencing Academy.  Produced by Northwest Fencing Academy for use by affiliates of  the International Armizare Society.

The remedies will be made public and the scholar’s plays put in the Member’s Area. This series covers the basic mechanics of the Nine Dagger Remedy Masters from Fiore dei Liberi’s Fior di Battaglia, which details L’Arte dell’Armizare (the Art of Arms).  The instructional emphasis is on developing proficiency in mechanics and timing, so that there’s a solid foundation for the actual scholar’s plays.

The video is fairly self-explanatory, but I’ll be happy to take questions over on the forums.  Note that this just covers basic execution of the Remedy.  We’ll cover various plays in later videos.

Candidates for all ranks are expected to be able to analyze mechanics as well as perform them, with execution skills increasing per level.

SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS: SERIES INTRODUCTION

I am the sword and I am lethal against any weapon; lances, axes and dagger are worthless against me. I can become extended or withdrawn; when I get near the opponent I can enter into close play, perform disarms and abrazare. My art is to turn and to bind; I am expert in defense and offense, and always strive to finish in those. Come against me and feel the pain. I am Royal, enforce justice, propagate goodness and destroy evil. Look at me as a cross, and I will give you fame and a name in the art of arms.

Il Fior di Battaglia, folio 25r, Fiore dei Liberi, 1410

Introduction

At first glance, swordplay seems to take  relatively minor role in armizare, at least compared to its German contemporaries. Whereas there are nine tactical situations, or Remedii (“Remedies”) containing 78 discreet dagger plays, Fiore dei Liberi summarizes his sword teachings in three Remedies with just over forty plays, more than half of which concern grapples and disarms with the weapon. The twenty plays reserved for Zogho Largo (“wide distance”) are not even a fifth of the vast corpus of techniques found in the Liechtenauer compendia.

Continue reading SWORDSMANSHIP IN THE ART OF ARMS: SERIES INTRODUCTION

The Nine Dagger Remedy Masters: 7th Master

Video 7 of 9 in a short series.

In-Class Review Session for Iniziato, Compagno and Scholar candidates at Northwest Fencing Academy.  Produced by Northwest Fencing Academy for use by affiliates of  the International Armizare Society.

The remedies will be made public and the scholar’s plays put in the Member’s Area. This series covers the basic mechanics of the Nine Dagger Remedy Masters from Fiore dei Liberi’s Fior di Battaglia, which details L’Arte dell’Armizare (the Art of Arms).  The instructional emphasis is on developing proficiency in mechanics and timing, so that there’s a solid foundation for the actual scholar’s plays.

The video is fairly self-explanatory, but I’ll be happy to take questions over on the forums.  Note that this just covers basic execution of the Remedy.  We’ll cover various plays in later videos.

Candidates for all ranks are expected to be able to analyze mechanics as well as perform them, with execution skills increasing per level.

The Nine Dagger Remedy Masters: 6th Master

Video 6 of 9 in a short series.

In-Class Review Session for Iniziato, Compagno and Scholar candidates at Northwest Fencing Academy.  Produced by Northwest Fencing Academy for use by affiliates of  the International Armizare Society.

The remedies will be made public and the scholar’s plays put in the Member’s Area. This series covers the basic mechanics of the Nine Dagger Remedy Masters from Fiore dei Liberi’s Fior di Battaglia, which details L’Arte dell’Armizare (the Art of Arms).  The instructional emphasis is on developing proficiency in mechanics and timing, so that there’s a solid foundation for the actual scholar’s plays.

The video is fairly self-explanatory, but I’ll be happy to take questions over on the forums.  Note that this just covers basic execution of the Remedy.  We’ll cover various plays in later videos.

Candidates for all ranks are expected to be able to analyze mechanics as well as perform them, with execution skills increasing per level.

The Nine Dagger Remedy Masters: 5th Master

Video 5 of 9 in a short series.

In-Class Review Session for Iniziato, Compagno and Scholar candidates at Northwest Fencing Academy.  Produced by Northwest Fencing Academy for use by affiliates of  the International Armizare Society.

The remedies will be made public and the scholar’s plays put in the Member’s Area. This series covers the basic mechanics of the Nine Dagger Remedy Masters from Fiore dei Liberi’s Fior di Battaglia, which details L’Arte dell’Armizare (the Art of Arms).  The instructional emphasis is on developing proficiency in mechanics and timing, so that there’s a solid foundation for the actual scholar’s plays.

The video is fairly self-explanatory, but I’ll be happy to take questions over on the forums.  Note that this just covers basic execution of the Remedy.  We’ll cover various plays in later videos.

Candidates for all ranks are expected to be able to analyze mechanics as well as perform them, with execution skills increasing per level.

The Nine Dagger Remedy Masters: 4th Master

Video 4 of 9 in a short series.

In-Class Review Session for Iniziato, Compagno and Scholar candidates at Northwest Fencing Academy.  Produced by Northwest Fencing Academy for use by affiliates of  the International Armizare Society.

The remedies will be made public and the scholar’s plays put in the Member’s Area. This series covers the basic mechanics of the Nine Dagger Remedy Masters from Fiore dei Liberi’s Fior di Battaglia, which details L’Arte dell’Armizare (the Art of Arms).  The instructional emphasis is on developing proficiency in mechanics and timing, so that there’s a solid foundation for the actual scholar’s plays.

The video is fairly self-explanatory, but I’ll be happy to take questions over on the forums.  Note that this just covers basic execution of the Remedy.  We’ll cover various plays in later videos.

Candidates for all ranks are expected to be able to analyze mechanics as well as perform them, with execution skills increasing per level.

The Nine Dagger Remedy Masters: 3rd Master

Video 3 of 9 in a short series.

In-Class Review Session for Iniziato, Compagno and Scholar candidates at Northwest Fencing Academy.  Produced by Northwest Fencing Academy for use by affiliates of  the International Armizare Society.

The remedies will be made public and the scholar’s plays put in the Member’s Area. This series covers the basic mechanics of the Nine Dagger Remedy Masters from Fiore dei Liberi’s Fior di Battaglia, which details L’Arte dell’Armizare (the Art of Arms).  The instructional emphasis is on developing proficiency in mechanics and timing, so that there’s a solid foundation for the actual scholar’s plays.

The video is fairly self-explanatory, but I’ll be happy to take questions over on the forums.  Note that this just covers basic execution of the Remedy.  We’ll cover various plays in later videos.

Candidates for all ranks are expected to be able to analyze mechanics as well as perform them, with execution skills increasing per level.

The Nine Dagger Remedy Masters: 2nd Master

Video 2 of 9 in a short series.

In-Class Review Session for Iniziato, Compagno and Scholar candidates at Northwest Fencing Academy.  Produced by Northwest Fencing Academy for use by affiliates of  the International Armizare Society.

The remedies will be made public and the scholar’s plays put in the Member’s Area. This series covers the basic mechanics of the Nine Dagger Remedy Masters from Fiore dei Liberi’s Fior di Battaglia, which details L’Arte dell’Armizare (the Art of Arms).  The instructional emphasis is on developing proficiency in mechanics and timing, so that there’s a solid foundation for the actual scholar’s plays.

The video is fairly self-explanatory, but I’ll be happy to take questions over on the forums.  Note that this just covers basic execution of the Remedy, plus a simple armbar.  We’ll cover various plays in later videos.

Candidates for all ranks are expected to be able to analyze mechanics as well as perform them, with execution skills increasing per level.

The Nine Dagger Remedy Masters: 1st Master

Video 1 of 9 in a short series.

In-Class Review Session for Iniziato, Compagno and Scholar candidates at Northwest Fencing Academy.  Produced by Northwest Fencing Academy for use by affiliates of  the International Armizare Society.  The remedies will be made public and the scholar’s plays put in the Member’s Area.

This covers the basic mechanics of the Nine Dagger Remedy Masters from Fiore dei Liberi’s Fior di Battaglia, which details L’Arte dell’Armizare (the Art of Arms).  The instructional emphasis is on developing proficiency in mechanics and timing, so that there’s a solid foundation for the actual scholar’s plays. The dagger strip (which is technically not a Fiore play) is something I use for teaching fundamental mechanical concepts of structure, timing, and movement. In reality, the other fellow will put up a fight, which is where the actual plays come in.

Candidates for all ranks are expected to be able to analyze mechanics as well as perform them, with execution skills increasing per level.  The video is fairly self-explanatory, but I’ll be happy to take questions over on the forums.  Note that this just covers basic execution of the Remedy, plus mechanics of the dagger strip.  We’ll cover various plays in later videos.

Evaluating physical skills

This article continues our pedagogical series by focusing on evaluation methods for physical skills. These evaluation schemes can be either formal or informal as previous articles have detailed, with their primary purpose being to provide the evaluator with a proper picture of the students’ abilities, strengths, growth, and points upon which to improve. This picture also provides the student with a global picture of where his abilities lay, and provides important feedback for continued progress. Finally, it should provide a reference point for future evaluations to ensure progress is being made, by providing a baseline for comparison.

The best method for providing lasting feedback on student’s progression is with a dichotomic evaluation scheme, as this article will present. In a nutshell, while there are many and varied methods of formal and informal evaluation (see Ranks and curricula, part II for more), the simple fact of evaluating physical skills is a student either can or cannot perform a particular skill or technique. This article will present different evaluation schemes and provide examples of why a dichotomic scheme is preferred for evaluating martial skills.

Percentage scores

Besides the perennial (and widespread) trope of evaluating a student by observing and saying “yup, looks good,” (a horribly insufficient method) the most familiar modern scheme we know of is in the form of percentage grades. We’ve been raised on this scheme, and are used to and familiar with it, but it has serious disadvantages in terms of evaluating physical skills, competence, and providing feedback. An example follows.

Continue reading Evaluating physical skills

Actions with Intent

In-Class Video – March 2016
Sean Hayes
Isaac Prier

When practicing technique, or specific tactical applications of technique, it’s critical for both partners in a drill to maintain realistic intent.

Artificially stopping or otherwise altering the natural momentum and follow-through of an action leads to an incorrect understanding of the martial principle the action is intended to teach.

This short video is a in-class discussion of proper intention in the attack, which allows the defender to properly perform the technique.  Obviously, this applies to all aspects of the art, and is also vital to correct practice of more complicated, multi-step drills.  Finally, by practicing proper intent, the student learns to calibrate the necessary degree of force when actually fighting.

Announcement: Declaration of Fraternity with the Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts!

The International Armizare Society is extremely pleased to announce a Declaration of Fraternity with the Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts, which can be seen IAS-AEMMA-Smith-Hayes-Mele-Signature_signed_mar18_2016.

About AEMMA
With chapters throughout eastern Canadam AEMMA is one of the first North American HEMA schools, and the group whose presence made the first Western Martial Arts Workshop (1999) in Chicago an “international” event, and long-time promoters of armizare taught in its fullness: from grappling to polearms, in armour and without. In particular, they have placed a strong emphasis on the importance of armoured combat, hosting the first HEMA-inspired armoured tournament (2000) in Toronto. Greg was an early collaborator on AEMMA’s efforts to create a viable system of historically-inspired armoured tournaments, and a decade later, the AEMMA system served as a model for a system developed  by Greg, Sean and IAS advisor Bob Charrette, which is now known as the DeKoven Conventions.  Furthermore, in 2008, AEMMA provosts Brian McIlmoyle and David Murphy stood as challengers at the first Chicago Swordplay Guild Free Scholar prize, where they and the CSG declared mutual recognition of each other’s ranks. “Your Scholars are our Scholars,” Brian said. This new Declaration is a natural outgrowth of that long-standing recognition. Continue reading Announcement: Declaration of Fraternity with the Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts!

Fundamental Mechanics: Executing a Correct Fendente

From time to time IAS will release Member’s Area content (normally only available to affiliates) to the general public, in the interests of promoting L’Arte dell’Armizare and the Academy’s approach to it.  This post is an in-depth lesson and video detailing the execution of a fundamental action: the fendente, and is part of a series of in-depth Fundamentals videos.

The video details the specifics of the fendente itself; the lesson refers to partnered body mechanics exercises that are reviewed before the fendente lesson is begun.  Those videos are not shown here (but are in the Member’s Area).

Lesson 1: Fundamental Body & Sword Mechanics

Level: Fundamental/Beginning

Description: Students will learn to execute both mandritto and riverso fendenti from Posta di Donna diritta (mandritto side) and Posta di Donna sinistra (on the riverso side) using correct body mechanics.

Prerequisites: None.

Goals: To properly engage arms, shoulders, hips and legs to power the blow in a true time (hand before body and feet) into a tactically sound and physically stable ending position.

Continue reading Fundamental Mechanics: Executing a Correct Fendente

Measuring Success: the Role of Freeplay & Competition in Training

Freeplay

IAS Schools employs a variety of models for freeplay (sparring).  The bridge between strict drills and complete freeplay is in the form of exercises with certain parameters in which actions are limited to specific techniques.  Such exercises can more or less limit the scope of possibilities, and are designed to focus the student’s attention on specific aspects of the art as applied in the fight.  Since any limitation introduced necessarily distorts the reality of the art’s application, conditions in these drills are usually changed frequently from more limitations to fewer, consistent with the student’s level of ability.

Sean Hayes (r) fighting Axel Petterson (l)
The author (right) fighting Axel Petterson at Longpoint 2014. Axel took 1st in the tournament.

It is important to understand that even freeplay has limitations placed on it.  The most obvious limitations are that we use blunt weapons and protective equipment, we play so as to minimize the possibility of injury, and our intent is not lethal – quite the opposite!  Safety is always our first priority.  The effect of all this is to remove the very natural fear one would have with sharp weapons and lethal intent, to remove the caution that fear would inspire, and to encourage behavior that is not consistent with a real fight.

Because of these considerations, students must: Continue reading Measuring Success: the Role of Freeplay & Competition in Training

Ranks, curricula, and pedagogy, Part III

This last article in our three part series will focus on attaining long term goals through short term planning, i.e.: lesson plans and pedagogy. If you’re arriving at this article without having read the rest of the series, I strongly suggest you begin with part I.

The Lesson Plan

As seen in part I of the series, the lesson plan is derived from the curriculum. A simple list of things to do written on a napkin can serve as a lesson plan, but I would suggest preparing a more in-depth plan for better results.Philo_mediev

The lesson plan acts as your guide for the class, helping you stay on point, focused, and working towards your stated curricular goals. It helps you plan, time-wise, and can help with your pedagogy. Let’s look at a simplified, yet detailed lesson plan for a fictional class, returning to our fictional art from part I, the “military corkscrew”, again so that we may focus on the pedagogy rather than the techniques of any given system. I would normally use a table to better organise the lesson plan, but the space available here doesn’t lend itself well to that, so please bear with me!

Continue reading Ranks, curricula, and pedagogy, Part III

Ranks, curricula, and pedagogy, Part II

This second article in our three post series will focus on ranking systems and student evaluation. You can find part I here.

Ranking Systems – good or bad?

There is some debate in the martial arts community about the relevance or usefulness of ranks. Some democratically organised clubs often find them elitist and have no place for them. Many professional schools use them and prefer ranking systems. The International Armizare Society is solidly in favour of ranking systems as a pedagogical and organisational tool, for reasons that will become clear below.

Ranks are common and widely used, despite not always being recognised as such. Beginning with the modern Asian belt system as an obvious example, students progress through a series of coloured belts known as “kyu“, each belt signifying they have achieved a certain level of technical skill or learned “x” number of new techniques before moving on to obtain their “dan” levels (a further classification for advanced students).kyu

Other Japanese systems use menkyo (teaching licenses). The English Maisters of Defence used the Scholar, Free Scholar, Provost and Maister system. Moving away from martial arts, trades and guilds historically (and today) used ranks: apprentice, journeyman and master. Universities employ a similar paradigm: Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior, or if you prefer, Bachelor’s, Masters and Doctorate levels.

Even elementary and high school grades are meant to classify a student according to their level of achievement. All these disparate systems have one thing in common: they are levels of progression through curricula. While there are a variety of opinions surrounding the use of ranks, they are certainly a practical and widely used means for marking advancement – clearly, such systems have a usefulness beyond satisfying simple hubris. Continue reading Ranks, curricula, and pedagogy, Part II

Ranks, curricula, and pedagogy, Part I

This article is the first in a series of three articles that will cover curriculum building and its importance in the continued advancement and improvement of your students. I will use this as a foundation for the articles that follow, touching on ranking systems and finally, pedagogy and structuring and running a successful class and how to address different types of students by varying pedagogical approaches.fight training Continue reading Ranks, curricula, and pedagogy, Part I

Applied Armizare – Fiore’s Five Throws

Introduction

Fiore dei Liberi is known as the founder of a fully-functional, holistic system of combat, used with and without weapons, that he named l’arte dell’armizare — the Art of Arms. Grappling without weapons forms the introductory section of at least two manuscripts, and is known by practitioners as abrazare, or “the art of embracing.”

Dei Liberi is often referred to by modern practitioners (erroneously, but that is a subject for a separate article) as a“wrestling master” when comparisons are made with his Germanic contemporaries . In point of fact, there is precious little in the way of wrestling instruction in the corpus of works attributed to Maestro dei Liberi, and what is present is predominantly a repetition of techniques across a variety of weapons. A portion of this is undoubtedly due to his focus on a holistic style of combat. For this reason, not only is much of the underlying structure for a wrestling system found integrated into the dagger remedies, but also throughout dei Liberi’s self-referential work.

Continue reading Applied Armizare – Fiore’s Five Throws

The Mystery of Ioannes Suuenus and Nicholai de Toblem

(c) Gregory Mele, 2014

Today’s researchers into the martial arts of Europe come upon a strange paradox: our first known source, Ms. I.33, now found in the Royal Armouries in Leeds, UK, is dated to approximately 1300, yet clearly not only possess a systematic, full-developed pedagogical system, but is seemingly designed to counter an even older, “common method,” now lost to us. We then run into a gap of nine decades before our next source, Ms. 3227a (c.1389), found in Nuremburg, Germany. This is our first source in the “Liechtenauer Tradition”, and which opens with the following bold claim:

At first, you should note and know that there is only one art of the sword, and this art may have been developed some hundred years ago. And this art is the foundation and the core of any fencing art and Master Liechtenauer understood and practiced it in its completeness. It is not the case that he invented this art – as mentioned before – but he has traveled many lands, willing to learn and experience the same real and true art.1

Continue reading The Mystery of Ioannes Suuenus and Nicholai de Toblem


  1. Ms. 3227a, 13v. Translation by Thomas Stoeppler. 

Captains of Fortune: the Rise of the Condottieri in the 14th Century

croarpad_renaissanceThe unique culture of the Italian city-states produced a unique military structure.  Initially, each city gathered a local militia under the command of its aristocracy, in which the lower classes from the city and its subject territories served as infantry, while the upper classes served as knightly cavalry. The militia conducted regular training sessions and was well-suited to defending its domain or conducting short-term campaigns. However, by the early 1300s this system was collapsing. Increased inter-state violence, a growing preference among wealthy townsmen to hire others to fulfill their military duties, and the despots’ often justified distrust of arming their own subjects led to an almost complete reliance on paid mercenaries, the condottieri.

Named for the condotta, the contract specifying the terms of military service, the condottiero was the consummate professional; well-armed, highly trained and able to remain in the field indefinitely — or at least as long as his employer could make good on his payments; it was quite common for a military captain to switch sides as soon as his contract was either fulfilled or negated.  The least savory captains sometimes simply shifted alliances if the tide seemed to be turning.

Continue reading Captains of Fortune: the Rise of the Condottieri in the 14th Century

The Friulian Civil War

(c) Gregory D. Mele, 2014

Fiore dei Liberi’s homeland of Friuli was not spared the constant military engagements that plagued Italy in the last decades of the 14th century, and the civil war that tore the region apart during the 1390s also provides us with some of the more interesting data-points we have regarding the Furlan master-at-arms life and career.

Friuli is a unique region, originally founded by Celtic tribes, during progressive invasions of Romans and Lombards. It grew into a unique culture, whose people speak a unique language to this day, which is related to, but distinct from, Italian. The region was first centered around the ancient Celtic-Roman city of Aquileia, and later Cividale, a city that traced its founding to Julius Caesar himself. By the 14th century, the Patriarchate of Aquileia had become a duchy that included Trieste, Istria, Carinthia, Styria and Cadore, making it one of the largest Italian states of its time, and placing it at the center of the Patriarchate of Aquileia, essentially an area of religious and political administration that became the largest diocese in the middle ages.

The city of Udine, as depicted in a Renaissance-era map. The city became the center of Ghibelline resistance in the Patriarchate War of Succession.
The city of Udine, as depicted in a Renaissance-era map. The city became the center of Ghibelline resistance in the Patriarchate War of Succession.

The Patriarchate was an ancient bishopric, founded by St. Mark, which had a perpetually uneasy relationship with Rome, and the Patriarchs had played Pope and Emperor against each-other for centuries, with the latter granting them ducal authority in the 1077. However, the power of the Patriarchs began to wane in the 12th century and repeated earthquakes and disasters reduced Aquileia to a few hundred residents by the early 14th century. The bishop’s seat was relocated to Udine, and found itself under increasing attempts to be “brought to heel” by the Papacy.

Continue reading The Friulian Civil War

Galeazzo da Montova: Portrait of a Condottiero Captain

(c) 2013, Gregory D. Mele

I will now recall and name some of my students who had to fight in the lists. First among them was the noble and hardy knight Piero dal Verde, who had to fight Piero della Corona. Both of them were German, and the contest had to take place in Perugia. … Another was the famous, gallant and hardy knight Galeazzo di Capitani da Grimello, better known as Galeazzo da Mantova; he had to cross weapons with the famous French knight Boucicault in Padua.

….

None of my students, in particular the ones I have mentioned, have ever possessed a book on the art of combat, with the exception of Galeazzo da Mantova. Galeazzo used to say that without books, nobody can truly be a Master or student in this art. I, Fiore, agree with this.

Fiore dei Liberi, Il Fior di Battaglia (Getty Ms)

The city-state culture of late medieval Italy produced a unique military structure.  Initially, each city produced a local militia under the command of its aristocracy, in which the lower classes from the city and its subject territories served as infantry, while the upper classes served as knightly cavalry. But by the early 1300s this system was collapsing. Increased inter-state violence, a growing preference amongst wealthy townsmen to hire others to fulfill their military duties, and the princes’ often justified distrust of arming their own subjects led to an almost complete reliance on paid mercenaries, the condottieri.

Continue reading Galeazzo da Montova: Portrait of a Condottiero Captain

Filippo Vadi’s Role in the Dei Liberi Tradition, Part II

(c) 2010 – 2014 Greg Mele, Chicago Swordplay Guild

While Filippo Vadi’s De arte gladiatoria dimicandi differs in the main very little from the work of Fiore dei Liberi in terms of technique, the assertion that Vadi’s work does not differ in method of communication is simply incorrect. The true originality of the De arte gladiatoria dimicandi stands in the sixteen introductory chapters that come before the illustrated leaves. These elegantly written verse chapters constitute the center of Vadi’s work and detail the main principles of swordmanship. They also mark a notable difference in the pedagogical method of the manuscript itself from all three of the dei Liberi texts.

Dei Liberi’s Fior di Battaglia are experiential manuscripts. In the Getty and Pierpoint Morgan manuscripts, the author clearly describes the various guards, attacks and mechanics of the individual techniques. Each illustration follows in a logical sequence, so that a technique is followed by its counter, and then the counter to that counter follows. Dei Liberi also goes to great length to show the repetition of key mechanical concepts, so that an armbar learned in the wrestling section is often pointed out in the dagger plays, and again in the use of the sword.

Continue reading Filippo Vadi’s Role in the Dei Liberi Tradition, Part II

Filippo Vadi’s Role in the dei Liberi Tradition, Pt. I

(c) 2010 – 2014 Gregory Mele, Chicago Swordplay Guild

When I teach at workshops and seminars, I am often told something along the lines of this:

I’m surprised that the man who co-authored the reproduction on De arte gladiatoria dimicandi doesn’t work more with the hallmarks of Vadi.

It’s a fair question, and suggests that in 2001, when I was working on my edition of Vadi, I did not yet have enough understanding of the larger dei Liberi tradition to separate Vadi’s brilliance from the marketing hype aimed at securing him a position at the court of Urbino. While Filippo Vadi defines his art as “newly made”, and specifically draws attention to several supposedly unique features, a study of his work against Fiore dei Liberi’s shows that this is a bit of clever marketing on Vadi’s part. As such, Vadi’s value is not in the tweaks he provides to the mainline of the art, but rather in his often detailed explanations of the art’s fundamentals and theory.

A recent email from one of my students asked about Filippo Vadi’s innovations and his role in the dei Liberi tradition, and how they influence what we teach at the CSG. These were such excellent questions that I thought I would share them, polish up my replies and post them here.

Greg:

As long as I’ve known it, the CSG offers two main initial courses of study: the Renaissance rapier masters of the early 17th century and the medieval dei Liberi tradition.  In each class session weall practice abraçare, dagger, and longsword as learned from Fiore dei Liberi’s treatises.  To attain the rank of Scholar one must have a certain knowledge about Fiore.  Translated quotes from Fiore are often cited in class.  Even rapier students are required to learn the abraçare and dagger sections of Fiore, in order to play their prize. In short order, the CSG “teaches Fiore.”

Continue reading Filippo Vadi’s Role in the dei Liberi Tradition, Pt. I

Memory and Performance: Visual and Rhetorical Strategies of Il Fior di Battaglia

(First presented at the Renaissance Society of America’s Venice conference in 2010. Presented also as part of an academic session followed by an armoured combat demonstration, organized by Dr. Regina Pskai, at the American Association for Italian Studies conference at University of Oregon, 2013)

This paper is part of a larger study on medieval and Renaissance martial arts manuscripts, their art historical context, their relationship to medieval arts of memory, and the practical interpretation of the arts they represent. I will address the work of Mary Carruthers and Kathryn Starkey on medieval techniques of reading to show how a medieval martial arts manuscript makes use of visual rhetorical devices to address the problems inherent in notating fencing actions. MS Ludwig XV 13, dated to 1410 and commonly known by its title Il Fior di Battaglia or Flower of Battle, is a Northern Italian manuscript by a military captain named Fiore dei Liberi. The manuscript, currently held by the J. Paul Getty Museum, is a complex performance document which employs specific notational techniques to record for later use the elements of a physical performance.

The difficulties of understanding and interpreting historical martial arts texts lie partly with their semiotic remoteness from the present day. It is not simply that the teachers of those traditions are now long dead, or that the manuscripts themselves invariably seem to assume some prior knowledge of the arts they record, but also that they employ a literary, academic, and artistic vocabulary that is different from our own. To arrive at reasonable interpretations of the physical performance and use of these arts requires study of the complete cultural context in which these arts were performed. Only with this type of study can we begin to assign degrees of confidence to our interpretations of these arts.
Continue reading Memory and Performance: Visual and Rhetorical Strategies of Il Fior di Battaglia

Stable, Striking and Mutable: Fighting from the Guards of L’Arte dell’Armizare

“I am the sword and I am lethal against any weapon; lances, axes and dagger are worthless against me. I can become extended or withdrawn; when I get near the opponent I can enter into close play, perform disarms and abrazare. My art is to turn and to bind; I am expert in defense and offense, and always strive to finish in those. Come against me and feel the pain. I am Royal, enforce justice, propagate goodness and destroy evil. Look at me as a cross, and I will give you fame and a name in the art of arms.” –Il Fior di Battaglia, folio 25r, Fiore dei Liberi, 1410 (tr. Tom Leoni)[1]

Introduction

Fiore dei Liberi’s il Fior di Battaglia, a medieval martial arts manuscript dated to 1410 in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum and catalogued as MS Ludwig XV 13, uses an innovative instructional design to teach the techniques and principles of L’Arte dell’Armizare (the Art of Arms). Among the features of this system is the organization of longsword guards (positions from which the fighter attacks, defends or counterattacks) into three classifications: StabilePulsativa, and Instabile, or stable, striking, and mutable. Knowing the play of these three classifications of guards is an essential part of understanding Fiore’s strategy and tactics in the fight – in other words, the actual application of martial technique against an antagonistic opponent.

In order to better describe how the three types of guards are used strategically and tactically, I’ll first outline the pedagogical model of the manuscript, and then briefly outline the core elements of longsword play as taught by Fiore’s 24 First Masters on folios 22r through 24v. These masters teach lessons both specific to the sword and general to all weapons. For example, the four masters who teach the cuts and thrusts teach them for sword, axe and spear, but not for dagger, which are taught separately. Conversely, the First Masters of the armoured and mounted combat sections have lessons applicable to the sword, whether used single-handed or with both hands.   The focus of this article is on the play of the longsword, but since the manuscript teaches an interconnected system, I will draw from its entirety.

Continue reading Stable, Striking and Mutable: Fighting from the Guards of L’Arte dell’Armizare