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Understanding the Florius Manuscript

Part One: A Beautiful Mess; the Florius as a Martial Arts Treatise

The Flower of Battle (Flos Duellatorum in Latin or Fior di Battaglia in Italian) of Fiore dei Liberi (c. 1350—before 1425) comes down to us in four manuscripts:

  • Getty MS Ludwig XV 13;1
  • Morgan Library M.383;
  • a copy privately held by the Pisani-Dossi family;
  • Bibliothèque National de France MS Latin 11269.2

Another Fiore manuscript attested in the Estense library, MS CX, is currently unknown and presumed lost.

Three of the manuscripts internally date themselves to 1409 (1410 modern calendar), and two – Getty and PD – are dedicated to Niccolo d’Este III, Marquis of Ferrara, Parma and Reggio. Discovered earlier this century by Ken Mondschein, the Paris manuscript is newer, likely between 1425 – 1430, and currently lacks a prologue, and thus a dedication. Further, the Paris ends “This is the book of Fiore the Furlan, May God Have Mercy on Him” which tells us that at the time of its creation, Fiore was deceased.

Dating and Authorship

The Paris manuscript is not a copy, but rather should be considered a “posthumous collaboration” between Fiore dei Liberi and the unknown scribe who created it. A number of things point to this:

  • Verses are rewritten, more than “translated” into elegant, Humanist Latin, well-beyond the Latin used by Fiore himself in the Pisani-Dossi prologue;
  • The source material is sometimes changed so considerably (for good and ill), and in a manner so consistent with it originating in the court of Leonello d’Este, Marquis of Ferrara, that we must consider it almost a separate work. By recasting knightly martial arts in refined Latin, it shows the humanistic interrelation of the academic and the practical

BnF MS Lat 11269 is not only a unique and beautiful work of art, but a witness to the birth of an aristocratic humanist idea, a piece of official Estense propaganda, and a direct predecessor to Baldesar Castiglione’s famous statement that “the principal and true profession of the courtier ought to be that of arms.” 

The artistic style, dating and the manuscript’s Humanistic language and flourishes all suggest that it was likely created by and for Leonello d’Este (21 September 1407 – 1 October 1450), third illegitimate son of Niccolo III and Stella de’Tolome and Marquis of Ferrara and Duke of Modena and Reggio Emilia from 1441 to 1450. Contrary to other prior d’Este family leaders, such as Azzo VII, Niccolo II or Niccolò III, who had a drive for power and control, Leonello is recognized principally for his sponsorship of the arts, literature, and culture.

Leonello surrounded himself with humanist thinkers and writers, including the poets Basinio Basini and Francesco Ariosti; rhetoritician Angelo Decembrio; and Leon Battista Alberti, who wrote a seminal work on architecture. He also commissioned many minor scholars to translate books in the university and castle library into humanist Latin As a martial arts treatise couched in humanist Latin and illustrated with somewhat classical figures, the Paris manuscript fits well into this milieu.

Perhaps even more convincing, Leonello used a leopard as his personal impressa, or emblem. Niccolò III had a taste for giving his offspring non-traditional names drawn from romances, and Leonello, of course, means “little lion,” so the leopard becomes a play on both his name and his illegitimacy: the leopard was itself a “bastard,” believed to be the illegitimate offspring of a lion and the mythical pard. Playing off of this, in the Paris manuscript, the guard “Bastard Cross” becomes True Cross, and True Cross becomes Guard of the Leopard.

So, we have the right dates, the right artistic style, a humanistic literary reworking of a manuscript in the ducal library, the removal of a “bastard” guard and replacement with Leonello’s own badge, and finally, small page adornments of leopards at the end of the manuscript. While not a smoking gun, it makes Leonello the likely patron, or at least recipient, of the project.

A Rough Road Through the Centuries

Whatever loving care was taken to produce this work in the 15th century, the following centuries were not kind. The manuscript was rebound in the 17th century, likely after water-damage destroyed the opening pages, and unfortunately, it was rebound in a haphazard order that was clearly not its original format. Just a few of the many organizational problems that clearly arise from nothing more than haphazard rebinding:

  • The sword instruction is interrupted by a third of the dagger, then begins again.
  • Some of the Third Remedy pages are shoved in before the Third Remedy itself
  • The sword in armour guards appear after the sword in armour plays.

The overall result creates a seemingly haphazard authorship that clearly was not true when the Paris manuscript was created. Sadly, this is not the only problem the work presents to modern readers…

A Broken Pedagogy

As a piece of Humanistic art, meant to elevate the “knightly art” and honor a powerful patron, Florius de Arte Luctandi is a magnificent work; a prime example of the interest of the educated aristocracy to see the arts and sciences of their class — hawking, hunting, riding, fencing and ordering of battle — elevated and enriched to stand beside rhetoric, poetry, music, jurisprudence and so forth. But what about as a practical martial arts work? Do the many, Humanistic flourishes and fine Latin paraphrasing enrich and refine Fiore dei Liberi’s older works?

Sadly, no.

In fact, the manuscript is filled with so many breakdowns in the careful pedagogical paradigm established by dei Liberi, not to mention the actual errors and misunderstandings by the scribe and artists involved in its composition, that one of the only things we can say with almost certainty about is composition is that it almost certainly was not created with oversight by an actual practitioner of the art it represents, nor was it likely ever intended to be used as a practical manual of arms!  As modern practitioners, when we  evaluate  the  work,  we  need  to  keep that second phrase in mind: it likely was never intended to be used.

While that may astound us today, we need to recall that the role of illuminated manuscripts was one part as a “book” and one part an object d’art, something that glorified the patron be its beauty and rarity, not necessarily its contents. It is quite likely that Leonello d’Este received the Florius, paged through it, and gave it to his librarian, never to look at it again.

So how do we know the manuscript is flawed?

Let’s start at the beginning.

Fiore teaches in the other three copies of his book via Four Masters, represented by crowns:


Each Master has students, who wear a gold garter on their knee, whereas Counter and Counter-Counter Masters wear a crown and garter. So to know who wins a given play, just look for the gold garter!

In the Paris manuscript, however, the system is haphazard. Lacking any prologue to explain the intent, we still have crowned Masters, and students in garters — sometimes. Often, the Scholar/student is represented by wearing armour, even when the technique is for unarmoured combat. This would be a perfectly good alternate system, if the artists adhered to it.
Which, of course, they don’t.

Both men in Armour: Who’s the Scholar?

Garters, not armour.

No Armour, No Garter,

No Crown – No Nuthin’

On the other hand, why be limited — crowns and armour!

Hey, I want a crown and armour too!


Errors (Not “Variations,” not “Insights”) in Transmission

Alright, so the pedagogical system of visual cues is broken, and the pages have been rebound wrong, but if we have the other three manuscripts, we can sort that all out, right?

Well, sure, but…remember: it was almost certainly was not created with oversight by an actual practitioner of the art it represents. As much as I would love to say that the only evidence of this is the misunderstanding of when to use crowns, when garters, unfortunately, in reality there are consistent mistakes in the illustrations and text that cannot be reasonably construed as “variant plays” or “insights” by the unknown author (as, for example, can be said about the differing plays in Filippo Vadi’s De Arte Gladiatoria Dimianci.) There are well more than a dozen of these transmission errors found throughout the manuscript3 as well as some minor ones, but we will look at just a small sampling here.

First Master of the Sword in Two-Hands at Wide Play (Zogho Largo)

Students familiar with the Getty or Pisani-Dossi manuscripts should have looked at the last image I showed above and immediately recognized it as the Master of Close Play (Zogho Stretto). Indeed, it even shares the crowns worn on each Master’s head (a reminder that in close play, what man can do, so too, can the other).

Unfortunately, the creators of the Florius manuscript have intended this image to be that of the First Master of Zogho LARGO, as evidenced by both the text, its appearance as the first longsword Remedy, AND the play that follows, which, indeed, is the conclusion of the first Master.

Here is the First Remedy as he appears in the Getty MS4. Note the following points:

1. Only one man wears a crown.
2. The Master is crossed left-foot forward, creating an asymmetrical crossing.
3. The figures are crossed in the last third of the blade.

None of these differences are insignificant, and all are necessary to actually be the crossing of the First Remedy. Taking them in reverse order, the First Remedy is *specifically* called out as the crossing at the punta — so it simply cannot occur at the half-sword. Secondly, although Fiore does not in his text demand a left foot forward crossing, he always shows the largo crossings with the left foot forward, and Vadi is explicit on this: when you parry the riverso, keep forward the right foot and parry as said/when parrying the dirrito, then you will let the left foot be forward. ((Vadi, Cap. XI)) Finally, because of this asymmetrical crossing, the combatants do not have parity in the bind. They are not both “Masters,” because only one of them can execute the play that follows.

Taken together these three points show that either the Florius artists misunderstood the important elements of the artwork they were copying, or they were working from an unknown text that was itself in error!

Exchange of Thrusts and Follow-On Grapple (Scambiar di Punta e Prese)

Arguably, the Exchange of Thrusts (Scambiar di Punta) is one of the most important core plays, if not the most important, in the entire art of arms. A powerful counterattack with opposition, it is delivered with the entire body on the step, and is described rather meticulously in the Getty Manuscript.

Fiore further clarifies the play later:

As I have said in the Exchange of Thrusts (the second play before me), you need to perform an accrescimento and a pass off the line. Do the same in this play, except that in the Exchange of Thrusts the arms are low and the point high, as I said before.

Which is what the Getty and Pisani-Dossi manuscripts show. Here is how it appears in the Florius:

Scambiar di Punta in the Florius Ms. Note that the hands are not low, as advised by Fiore, and indeed, the sword isn’t actually binding, nor is the point even on target!

The most cursory look at the artwork reveals three clear problems:

1. The hands are not low and supported by the body, as shown and described in the other texts:

2. Look at the Scholar’s hilt — the blade’s aren’t bound, which is the very definition of a thrust in opposition!

3. The thrust is missing!

It is tempting to want to argue that this just an alternate play or a variation of the Scambiar di Punta, but as that play is a cornerstone of the art, nothing in the text suggests an alternate play, and the follow-on play is precisely the same as follows the Scambiar in the other sources, there is simply no supporting data for such a theory. The more likely theory is that the artist simply drew what he felt he saw — one combatant thrusting another — with no real knowledge of what the core technical points were.

This is even more likely when we see how badly the Florius garbles the follow-on presa, which is also the first play of Zogho Stretto. As shown in the Getty:

This play derives from the Exchange of Thrusts we just saw. Let’s say the student in the play before me didn’t immediately thrust to the opponent’s face, hesitating instead with his point without directing it to the opponent’s face or chest because the latter was in armour. In this case, the student should pass forward with his left foot and perform this grab. Next, he should use his sword to strike, since the opponent’s weapon has been grabbed and cannot be freed.

In the Florius, the caption is so vague as to meaningless, but when the play is repeated in the Zogho Stretto section, all becomes clear — or rather, the author’s confusion becomes clear:

I hold your handle thus, just as we spar,
With my sword’s point I’ll give your face a scar.

I will strike and without anything stopping me, hold your sword hostage, so badly do you handle it. Look, you grab mine, but I keep it, transfixed by which you now die.

Unclear at what he was looking at, the artist has drawn

1. the Scholar’s sword on the wrong side of the opponent’s weapon;
2. the Player grabbing his own blade with his right hand.

And the scribe has the Player (despite the other figure wearing the garter) winning the technique!

While it is tempting to argue that the Florius has shown us a hitherto unknown Counter-Master, that interpretation only works if the Scholar has completely garbled the initial grab (making it a lousy counter, and in between plays the “Counter-Master” has become a lefty! Not sure what the artist is portraying, the scribe has simply created some text. Considering that the play is depicted wrong both times, there is simply no conclusion other than the transmission is garbled.5

Miscellaneous Examples

While the above are some of the most egregious errors and can send new students down blind allies, there are a number of other errors that are more easily spotted:

Sixth Remedy of Dagger

Getty Ms: A direct cover with the edge of blade into the attacker’s wrist, so that his blade is hooked over the top of the Master’s, causing a bind.

Florius: The dagger is on the wrong side of the attacking blade! Besides making the follow-on plays impossible (perhaps why Florius doesn’t show them?) it is also an excellent way to get one’s self killed.

Tor di Spada la Soprana

Getty Ms: This is the high disarm. I push forward with the handle, while squeezing his arms with the left hand until he abandons his weapon. Then, I can give him a good dose of strikes. The student after me shows the opponent’s sword on the ground.

Florius: This may be the biggest “blooper” in the entire manuscript — the Scholar’s sword hilt and left arm are both on the wrong side of the Player’s weapon, making the play mechanically impossible. Ironically, the left foot, which is on the Player’s outside, gives an advantage of leverage for the disarm, albeit not enough to make up for the other problems.

These errors in transmission, as well as a number of others woven through the manuscript, combined with the fact that this is a posthumous work that emphasizes formal, academic Humanistic qualities at the expense of the plain-spoken clarity characterizing its siblings, whether Leonello d’Este was its patron or not, the intention of Florius de Arte Luctandi  might have been
 a ‘memorial’ to the ars martialis, but it was never intended as a practical, instructional treatise. The work is a new artistic work, derived from an older, more practical template. But what was that source?

We will examine possible answers and clear connections, both to the surviving Flowers of Battle texts by Fiore dei Liberi, and at least one, surviving, German “Blumes des Kampfs” manuscript, in part two.

  1. a complete translation and edition is available as Tom Leoni and Gregory Mele, Flowers of Battle: The Complete Martial Works of Fiore dei Liberi — Volume One: The Getty Manuscript and Historical Context, Freelance Academy Press (2018). 

  2. a complete translation and edition is available as Ken Mondschein and Gregory Mele, Flowers of Battle: The Complete Martial Works of Fiore dei Liberi, Volume III — The Florius Manuscript, Freelance Academy Press (2018). 

  3. all of which are detailed in Flowers of Battle Volume III: Florius de Arte Luctandi 

  4. The Morgan and PD manuscripts show both figures crowned, as is shown in the Florius — which remains an error in transmission. 

  5. For the determined: yes, we tried, in the name of science, to make this play work. Even if the opponent’s sword is as shown, and you quickly let go with the right and slide your left hand up the hilt, it doesn’t work against a non-compliant opponent. And if his blade is in the correct position shown in the other manuscripts, you will run right on to his point. 

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!


The IAS Core Curriculum: How it Works

The International Armizare Society is a confraternal association concerned with the restoration, preservation and transmission of canonical Armizare as  a complete, traditional, but living and functional martial art.

To this end, we have established both a four-grade ranking system derived from the historical fencing guilds and a modern certification process for creating Armizare instructors. This process is meant to be open and transparent, and is discussed at length elsewhere on this website.

As a body of inter-connected schools, when developing this system, the founding members felt it important to allow and encourage member bodies to maintain their own sense of creativity, innovation and expression in how they developed their internal curriculum and approach to training. For this reason, you will note that the lower grades of Scholar and Free Scholar have only broad-based requirements and are awarded internally by the member school. This has worked well for older, more-established schools.

However, our first and foremost task is to educate and since the Society “went live” we have had a number of small study-groups and “at-large” members join specifically because they are looking for a structured way to train, let alone teach.  For these folks, we have the IAS Core Curriculum, which is derived from that developed and used in Member academies and provides a lingua franca for the Society.


The IAS Core Curriculum is built around a pedagogical method that embeds Fiore dei Liberi’s own within a structure derived from the creators’ experiences in traditional martial arts, modern fencing, and best-practices in contemporary education theory. The evaluation process is already discussed at length elsewhere, what concerns us here are the physical components of the curriculum, which include Solo Drills, Set-Plays and Training Sequences.

Solo Drills
Solo drills are used to teach the fundamental skills of Armizare —balance, body-mechanics, footwork, cutting, and thrusting. Examples include: air-cutting, pell-work, and slow motion and full speed footwork drills. The solo drills instill in the student the “alphabet” of historical swordsmanship.

Solo drills in the sword curriculum are comprised of two types: Cutting Drills and Assalti.

  • The Cutting Drills are designed to teach students the underlying body mechanics behind executing fendente, sottani, thrusts and how to apply them as defensive covers; each of the drills forms the basis for a set of two-person Set-Plays (see below). There are three, four-step cutting drills in the Core Curriculum. When turned into paired drills, they create the 12 longsword set-plays used in the curriculum.
  • Assalti are solo “forms” that are meant to give a student a routine for memorizing a variety of actions. The two forms used at this level include a Posta Progression for learning the various guards of the sword, and a Scholar Assalto or Universal Form which is a summary of all of the basic defenses used with the spada a dui mani. (The Scholar Assalto is adaptable to any long weapon used in the art, creating a “jumping off point” for students to take up a new arm, as will be seen at later levels in the curriculum.)

Set-plays are pre-planned sequences of attack and defense, derived directly from the historical source material. They are used to teach fundamental techniques in a way that will encode them in the student’s muscle memory. Once the set play has been memorized, students can then vary the distance, timing and rhythm to further explore how the techniques can be applied. Set-plays essentially use the “alphabet” of the solo drills to create “sentences”.

Set Plays in the Core Curriculum are taken from the various copies of the Flower of Battle, and correspond to the three primary areas of training: abrazare, dagger and sword. The rationale behind each section is as follows:

  • Abrazare Set-Plays are taken directly from the single Remedy and follow-on plays left by Fiore dei Liberi. When looked at en suite, the first six plays provide a fundamental lesson of how to use and apply the Remedy, responding to pressure in the bind, adapting to changes in measure if the Companion presses in or flies-out, and a basic Counter.
  • Likewise, Dagger Set-Plays are comprised of the basic cover and response taught by Fiore dei Liberi for each of his Nine Remedies, giving students a broad knowledge of how the master conceptualized dagger combat.
  • Finally, the Longsword Set-Plays focus on actions in zogho largo, particularly how to defend in tempo from the core poste as an attacker breaks measure. As such, they derive from two sources: the detailed instructions the Master provides for each posta (the First Master of Battle), and the instructions for coming to the bind and countering thrusts found in the plays of zogho largo.

Training Sequences
This term is used to mean extended set-plays comprised of linking a series of basic set-plays using Fiore dei Liberi’s pedagogical model of Posta > Remedio > Contrario > Contra-Contrario.  There are training sequences in the curriculum for abrazare (one), dagger (two) and longsword (four).


Society members have access to an extensive library of hand-outs, essays, articles and videos instructing the various components of this curriculum, at no cost beyond their annual membership fee.

You can see an example video of one of the three core cutting drills here:

As well as one of the “detail videos”, expanding upon the drill:

All IAS Affiliates are welcome to either use the Core Curriculum as “plug and play” in their classrooms, or as a foundation for developing their own. However, as the drills form a pedagogical, technical, tactical and interpretive foundations for later levels, the Society recommends that all Affiliates interested in rank-testing are at least familiar with the specific drills and essays contained therein.

Each member school remains free to grant the rank of Scolaro to its students internally, provided candidates meet the base required criteria. (Each school is free to define other requirements as they see fit.) At-large or study-group members seeking to be ranked by the Society may apply to be tested in the Core Curriculum by any certified IAS instructor, or at an official, IAS conference, and should make arrangements by either contacting their nearest instructor or by emailing the secretary.


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.


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….


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).



 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]


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.



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


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.


Applied Armizare – Fiore’s Five Throws


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.

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