New IAS Dagger Training Manual!

The International Armizare Society’s mission is to maintain and pass down canonical Armizare as recorded and left to posterity by the Founder, Fiore dei Liberi,  as a complete, traditional, but living and functional martial art”. In furtherance of these goals, our task as a society is to both provide guidance through articles, video and personal instruction, as well as work to develop new instructors and researchers into the medieval Italian “Art of Arms”.

To that end, we are particularly excited to share with our members a new, 135 page training guide on dagger use in the Dei Liberi Tradition, written by Chicago Swordplay Guild alumnus and California Armizare instructor, Oscar Erkenswick. Current IAS members can find it on the Curriculum page.

Dagger combat, both unarmed against a dagger and with a weapon of one’s own, builds directly upon the lessons of abrazare,  forming the single largest section in each of the various copies of il Fior di Battaglia. The nearly 80 “plays”, or techniques, that encompass the dagger section are organized into nine Remedies — specific defenses against a particular type of attack.

All dagger instruction is built around five principles, applied in order:

  1. Disarm (Disarmato)
  2. Strike (Ferrire)
  3. Lock (Ligadura)
  4. Break (Rompere)
  5. Throw (Mettere in Terra)

The combination of these five actions allows him to introduce a complete curriculum of not only knife-fighting, but unarmed combat at striking range, joint-locks and arm-bars, entering techniques from out of distance to create throws and a series of disarms that will be used not just in close-quarter combat, but with longer weapons, such as the sword or pollaxe.

This new course guide grew out of Oscar’s 40  page  “Crash Course to Medieval Dagger Fighting,” which was written and submitted as part of his requirements to pass from Scholar to Free Scholar within the Chicago Swordplay Guild. Although three times the size of that earlier work, like it, this training guide seeks to put the system of dagger combat and unarmed defenses contained in Armizare into a wider historical and cultural context. Rather than just a catalog of the techniques (or plays) found in the various editions of the Flowers of Battle, the reader will find extensive notes on the form, wearing and deployment of the dagger, all illustrated from historical artwork, an explanation on body mechanics and footwork, before moving to the actual curriculum left to us by Fiore dei Liberi himself.

Contents Include:

Part One: Western Dagger Traditions
I. Form of the Knife
II. La Daga
III.Wearing the Dagger
IV.Common Dagger Grips
V. Defense Against a Bearhug
VI.Defense Against Long Weapons

Part Two: Understanding La Daga in Armizare
I. Fundamentals Mechanics
II. Path of the Dagger (Strikes)
III.Drawing the Dagger
V. Poste
VI.The Four Masters of Dagger Combat
VII. Zoghi di Daga (Dagger Plays)
VIII. Training Sequences

Undeniably, Fiore has left us the single largest and most thoroughly organized corpus of dagger material, but no one text can answer every question posed by modern students to the long-dead master. Consequently, rather than simply providing an illustration and synopsis of each dagger play, the author has sought to provide additional clarity from other 15th and 16th century sources, both for the canonical plays themselves, and where those other sources have provided variations or conclusions to the play not found in the teachings of Fiore himself. Sources ranging from the Anonymous Gladiatoria and Hans Talhoffer in the 15th century, to Joachim Meyer and Achille Marozzo in the 16th, as well as iconography and illustration from non-technical works are referenced to show how to use the plays in a dynamic, combative function, as the old master intended, not as a random grab-bag of techniques.

While certainly not the final word on medieval dagger combat, the hope is that the Guide will provide useful context and memorial aid for students working with an IAS instructor.  Although the Guide is a perk of IAS membership, and available only to members, some of its contents and ideas will be made publicly available through future blog posts and articles. Of course, our greatest hope is that it will inspire other Society members to undertake similar projects themselves!