I’m about to embark on a review of Giovanni Dall’Agocchie’s 1572 fencing treatise “Dell’Arte Di Scrimia” (The Art of Fencing) and it terrifies me. Not because the text is difficult or unapproachable but because there’s already been so much research and practice of the Bolognese tradition that I doubt whether I can add anything to that body of work. My approach, however, may be a little different.
I’m not so much concerned with re-creating the style as it was but understanding how I can use what Dall’Agocchie can teach in my own practice. How, for instance, does he propose I should defend against a thrust or a cut to the high outside line?
That’s not to say that context is not important. It’s vital. Dall’Agocchie himself says that fencing is the “noblest of all bodily exercises” and that it’s terribly useful in time of peace as well as in times of war. While understanding the theory of fencing is important, the real value is in putting it into practice.
I must say, though, that I like him already. He’s thrown out a large number of the Bolognese guards in favour of a mere eight. Even then, the four low guards (coda lunga and porta di ferro) are really only two positions with both a left foot or ward and a right foot forward stance. He wants to simplify which is, as Henri de Sainct Didier says, the mark of a master.
Here’s a list of links very useful for understanding the text and the Italian take on sidesword fencing at the end of the 16th century.