Tag Archives: pedagogical

Break, Capture and Dominate the Center: Understanding Il Primo Remedio di Daga in Context, Part One — Organization

Dagger defense — both with and without a blade of one’s own — is the largest and most detailed section of the various copies of The Flower of Battle. It is here that the lessons of abrazare are applied to actions at arm’s length — striking range and arm-wrestling — and so it is here that the use of throws and neck-breaks are accompanied by the ligadure (joint locks), arm-bars and strikes that comprise Fiore’s “five things” to do against an attack:

  1. Disarm;
  2. Strike;
  3. Bind;
  4. Break;
  5. Throw

The Nine Remedies themselves are also organized in a (mostly) logical fashion beginning with highline attacks (Masters 1 – 4), a “bridging” attack, made when the attacker uses his offhand to grab the defender (Master 5), a reapplication of the earlier lessons when the defender also has a dagger (Masters 6 – 7), and then defenses against a lowline attack (Masters 8 – 9). However, this section of the manuscript also provides us a tactical framework that we will see repeated again and again throughout the art. These principles include:

  1. Work the three crossings (measure): weak, middle, strong, which at the dagger is wrist, elbow and body;
  2. Step into an attack before it is in full force to capture the center with an attack of one’s own;
  3. Break and return on the same line;
  4. When losing the bind, pass and go to the outside.
The Plays of the First Remedy: Overview
Schema of the First Master of Dagger, from “Fiore dei Liberi’s Armizare: The Chivalric Martial Arts System of Il Fior di Battaglia”

All of these elements can be found in the First Dagger Remedy (Primo Remedio), which is taught against  the most natural attack: a forehand blow, against which the master defends with an application of the abrazare guard, Posta Longa, executed with the left hand. Just as dagger defenses are the largest section of the manuscript, the First Remedy is by far the largest subsection; nearly one-third of the entire discussion on the dagger are covered in its teachings. Beyond the commonality of the attack, there are also a number of clear, pedagogical reasons involved in this decision.1

  1. The first seven plays (Getty 10v-a to 11-c) address a progressively greater depth of entry, with the student covering first at the wrist (Getty 10v-a), then the elbow (10v-c) both directly and from the wrist cover (11-a) and finally at the body (11-c), the last of which does not admit a counter.
  2. In between each of these plays occurs a specific counter: at the wrist and counter (10v b),  at the counter (10v-c and d), at the elbow  (11-b), from the wrist cover and attack at the body (11-c)
  3. The eighth play (Getty 11d)is a passing cover with the left hand, which can be used if the student is unprepared to enter inside the attack. This moves the Player’s actions to a riverso, which are the lesson of the Third Remedy.
  4. Beginning with the ninth play (Folio 12) we see three Counter Masters that can be used to thwart the Remedy at the moment of its inception, thereby preventing any of the plays that have come heretofore.2

Taken together, these first eleven plays create a micro-system of basic defenses and counters against a mandritto, but the master then adds ten plays more, addressing more specialized situations. These include the ligadura soprana, or “high bind” (11v-d), a reinforced cover called piu forteza, or “more strength” (12-b), which can be used in place of the Posta Longa cover introduced in the first play, an arm-break (12-d), blade-strip (12v-b), and throw (12v-d). As with the initial plays, these each of these techniques is immediately followed by a counter, creating five, paired sets of actions.

Bob Charrette masterfully graphs all of these plays and their relationship in his Fiore dei Liberi’s Armizare: The Chivalric Martial Arts System of Il Fior di Battaglia. (See illustration, above)

Viewed holistically, the twenty-one plays of the First Remedy reveals a robust and coherent curriculum of eight paired defenses and counters against a simple knife-attack, an uncounterable throw, a way for the student to pass the knife it gets inside his guard, and three general counters against the cover itself. The ordering of these plays further demonstrates the pedagogical system Fiore dei Liberi articulates in his prologue, and which will follow throughout the rest of the work.

Part Two: Execution of the Remedy’s Cover
Part Three: Using the Other Hand, Piu Forteza and Training the First Remedy

Bibliography

MS. Ludwig 13 — J. Paul Getty Museum, Santa Monica, CA

MS M.383 — Pierpoint-Morgan Library, New York, NY

MS Latin 11269 — Bibliotheque National, Paris

Charrette, Robert, Fiore dei Liberi’s Armizare: The Chivalric Martial Arts System of Il Fior di Battaglia, Freelance Academy Press (2012)

Charrette, Robert N, “Patterns of Remedy in Il Fior di Battaglia” in Mondschein, Ken and Cramer, Michael (ed.), Can These Bones Come to Life? Insights from Re-construction, Re-enactment & Re-creation, Vol. I: Historical European Martial Arts. Papers Sponsored by the Higgins Armory Museum and Oakshott Institute at the International Medievalist Conference (2005 – 2011)Freelance Academy Press, Wheaton, IL (2014).

Leoni, Tom and Mele, Gregory, Flowers of Battle: The Complete Martial Works of Fiore dei Liberi — Volume One: The Getty Manuscript and Historical Context, Freelance Academy Press (2018).

Mondschein, Ken and Mele, Gregory, Flowers of Battle: The Complete Martial Works of Fiore dei Liberi, Volume III — The Florius Manuscript, Freelance Academy Press (2018).


  1. The schema is generally consistent in the manuscripts, but the notation here follows the ordering in the Getty Ms., although some of the linked images are from the other Ms — all hosted by the Wiktenauer.  

  2. The Pisani-Dossi also includes a Counter-Counter master in the sequence 

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.

CURRICULUM COMPONENTS

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
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).

USING THE CORE CURRICULUM

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.

The International Armizare Society’s First Provost Exam, Part Two: Board Examination

Once a student has cleared their school’s internal provost requirements, it falls to their instructor to arrange for an IAS Examiners Board. The board always comprises the testee’s instructor/sponsor, and then at least two other examiners. In this case, Mr. Mele was joined by Society co-founder Sean Hayes (Northwest Fencing Academy), and the board was rounded out by Marco Quarta (Nova Scrimia) and Devon Boorman (Academie Duello), both IAS Advisors. Since this was the Society’s first board, and thus the Board, as much as the Candidate, were under examination, we also asked Mr. Christian Cameron (Hoplologia), an IAS member and future candidate to join us. His experience both in modern fencing and sitting as an officer on US naval boards helped us streamline and refine the process as we went.

Candidate Introduction

The first part of the oral exams began with an introduction of the student. While this may at first seem a bit superfluous, after all, the candidate in this case was a long-time student of one of the Society’s co-founders, it serves several purpose. First, and most obviously, if the IAS is successful in its mission, there will come a time when candidates are not well-known to all, or even most, of their examiners. Secondly, questions such as Who are you and why are you here? or What do you get from the journey of mastering armizare? Why do you want this rank? give a glimpse into the candidate’s mindset, personal aspirations and how they see both the role of armizare and their lives, and theirs in the armizare community. In the end, martial arts (as opposed to simple combatives) are more than pragmatic combat skills; all the more so when the art in question involves using antique weapons: it can and should be about challenging each of us to be better, do better and challenge others to do the same.

Continue reading The International Armizare Society’s First Provost Exam, Part Two: Board Examination

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

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