The Twelve Poste of the Sword — Poste Pulsativa

Here begin the guards of the sword in two hands.  There are twelve guards.

Despite Fiore’s claims, there are not twelve sword poste. Some poste have left and right variations, of which he shows only one (Posta di Finestra), some have three, of which he shows two (Posta di Donna), while some he shows forward and backward weighted variations. This is because of the symbolic need for the number twelve, a mnemonic symbolizing the sum of creation (4 x 3), or the created world, as represented in the Twelve Houses of the Zodiac, the Twelve Apostles, etc.  In reality practice, there are ten poste:

  1. Tutta Porta di Ferro
  2. Donna (la destra, la sinistra e la Soprana)
  3. Finestra (la destra e la sinestra)
  4. Longa
  5. Breve
  6. Porta di Ferro Mezzana
  7. Dente di Zenghiaro (forward and back-weighted variations)
  8. Coda Longa
  9. Bicorno
  10. Frontale

Of the poste the five most important are the four abrazare poste (Longa, Frontale, Porta di Ferro, Dente Di Cenghiaro) and Posta di Donna, with which the entire art can be executed. The abrazare poste are common to all weapons in the system, whereas Posta di Donna is common to all long, striking weapons. Remember that these five poste, and indeed all of the poste, can also “do volta stabile and mezza volta”. What this means is that they can be framed with a forward and back-weighted stance, and with either foot leading.

NB: When we shot these photos, we didn’t realize that Greg’s boots were a little loose in the heels, with the end result that unless he over-exaggerated lifting the heel slightly when in a forward stance, the rear foot would still look flat footed. Note that in EVERY forward stance, the heel of the rear foot should be lifted about a finger’s width off the ground.

(Click on each image for a full-size photo)

Poste Pulsativa — Striking Guards

These first two poste are the only pulsativa (“smiting”) guards Master Fiore shows in his treatises. Both are characterized by the advice that they can break all blows and exchange thrusts or drive them into the ground, and so it is fair to say that in essence, these two guards mirror each other and summarize the nature of the longsword fight (break from above with an attack or break from below and then attack). When you are in a pulsativa guard, even your defense is offensive in the sense that you are always striking to make cover.

Tutta Porta di Ferro

(The Full Iron Gate)

he first is tutta porta di ferro (complete iron gate) that stands in great strength.  And it is good to await every hand held weapon, long and short.  And as long as it has a good sword it is not concerned with too much length.[1]  And it passes with a cover, goes to the close, exchanges the thrusts and places its own.  Always going with a pass, it beats aside the thrust to the ground, and makes a cover from every blow.  And he who is in that guard easily makes great defense against whoever contends with him.

[1] That is, the length of the wielder’s own sword is of little importance to place successfully from this guard.

As a pulsativa guard, Tutta Porta di Ferro can strike from above or below with a cut or thrust. As a low guard, it’s first role is defensive (as the name suggests)

It is not concerned with too much length simply means that the weapon does not have to be particularly long to content against long weapons. It is the footwork and percussive cover that allows it to defend, not the physical size of the sword.

The specific actions advised from this first posta are:

  • Defense over offense
  • Strong blows.
  • Scambiar di Punta
  • Rompere di Punta

NB: Pay attention to the left toe being turned out at 45-degrees to the left. This opens the hips, allowing a more powerful strike, and  making it easier and stronger to intercept any attack coming from the swordsman’s left — such as when parrying in Posta Frontale, Exchanging Thrusts, etc.

Likewise, the point of your sword should be turned out 90-degrees from the body, but inline with the left toe, not the right foot. This keeps the point forward of the hand, and means the point will “lead” the hand when cutting, thrusting and exchanging thrusts.

Posta di Donna

Variation One: Posta di Donna la Soprana
(The High Woman’s Guard)

Variation Two: Posta di Donna la Destraza
(The Right Woman’s Guard)

his is posta di donna (position of the woman) that makes and defends against all seven blows of the sword.  She breaks the other guards with the great blows that she makes, and she is always quick to exchange a thrust.  The foot that is in front advances off the line and the one in back passes obliquely, causes the companion to remain uncovered [so that] she can quickly strike for certain.

The second guard is arguable the most offensive and aggressive of the twelve poste, and is one of the few that the master praises for both its offensive and defensive qualities. It is also the first place that the Passo ala Traversa (pass to the side) first introduced in the sword in one hand, is described for offense as well as defense – which will become a recurring theme for all of the long weapons in dei Liber’s Art. A slip of the lead foot takes the Scholar off-line, opening the opponent’s centerline. This can be done two ways. The more common is to slip the lead foot towards its own side, so that the swordsman subtly crosses the opponent’s centerline, something he may not notice until it is too late. The second slips the foot in the opposite direction, so that the swordsman’s pass/mezza volta moves him deeply to the enemy’s flank, making his attack very difficult to parry. The slip of the lead foot can be done as a small shuffle, a deliberate step, or even as the Scholar makes a volta stabile into a back weighted position

The specific actions advised from this posta are:

  • Makes and Defends all blows — equal in attack or defense.
  • Breaks other guards
  • Scambiar di Punta
  • Rompere di Punta

NB: The Soprana (High) variation enables to the swordsman to easily look in multiple directions, such as when fighting opponents on either side of the body.   This only works is the left elbow is kept elevated above the head, as shown in the photos.

In the second Posta di Donna, the swordsman’s right elbow can be flared outward as shown here, or more relaxed, closer to the body. Fiore dei Liberi himself shows both variations, depending on the manuscript.