I’ve finished Days One and Two of Giovanni Dall’Agocchie’s On the Art of Fencing and I’ve got some notes and observations to share. And I’ve got to say I’m terrified of making my little contribution to the field public given the amount and depth of study others have put into the Bolognese tradition.
I’m just a simple swordsman and I reckon that learning from the sources can give me an edge over others I bout with. This may mean I look at the tradition from a slightly different angle and it may help beginners unravel some of its intricacies.
The text appears to me to be one long list of sub-classification after sub-classification. Dall’Agocchie agrees with Henri de Sainct Didier that there are only three strikes – mandritti (cuts from the right), riversi (cuts from the left) and punta (thrusts) – but then goes on to break down each strike into the numerous subdivisions we’re used to seeing from the Italians. He does the same with the guard positions.
Thankfully, Dall’Agocchie only enumerates eight guards rather than the 14+ described in other works. Even here, the eight represent sub-classification rather than vastly different positions. For example, his porta di ferro stretta and cinghiale porta di ferro and his coda lunga stretta and coda lunga alta differ only in that the first of each pair has the right foot forward and the second of each pair favours the left. The sword position in each pair remains the same. So, are these really four guard positions or just two with a couple of variations?
In Day Two, Dall’Agocchie has a surprising amount of clear instruction on footwork. I’m working through what he says at the moment and find it simple, clear and concise. If, he says, you are in a right foot forward stance:
- In a double time response, gather the left foot forward when parrying and then step forward with the right foot to counter attack,
- In a single time response, begin the parry statically then advance the right foot as the counter attack develops.
If you are in a left foot forward stance:
- The right foot is used to support both the parry and the attack regardless of tempo.
Regardless, always turn your body and rear foot away from the incoming blade. Not being there when the blow lands is always the best form of defence.
This point last point thrilled me to bits when I read it. This exact movement is found is found in Joachim Meyer‘s sidesword style and I have elsewhere dubbed it the Meyer Pivot. Suddenly, this Club 1570 idea looks like it may provide some value. Each fencer’s treatise can illuminate that of the other.
The remainder of Day Two is spent in outlining a long catalogue of responses to various strikes. Almost all of the actions listed at double-time defences, ie: a parry and a separate counter attack, rather than the two combined into the one motion. I’ll present my take on this catalogue in another post.
Day Three looks to consist of how to break an opponent’s guard and initiate an attack. This, again, is for another post.