/ assalto

Art of the Two-Handed Sword Part 5: An Assalto within Assalto

The Primo Assalto (first assault, or form) of the two-handed sword has ten parts. In this post we have part number five under the microscope, and together with the previous part it is my favorite, because it has so much in it that it is almost a complete assalto of its own!

Now having a lot of material in it does not necessarily mean it was overly long or difficult to learn. Interpreting it has some challenges, but once you accept your interpretation (or mine) it is digestible.

Let’s begin with my interpretation as a video together with Marozzo’s words rendered in English:

Here continues the fifth part of the agent

Now being in Porta di Ferro Alta and your enemy in Porta di Ferro Stretta or Alta, from here you find him by passing with your left foot towards his right side and striking a tramazon that will beat strongly his sword.

Without stopping the abovesaid tramazon, you push a thrust in falso to the face of the opponent, over his sword, outside to his right.

For the fear of the said thrust, he will parry it knocking it outwards or upwards, during which you will give him a roversoridoppio from below upwards to his arms, passing with your left foot strongly forward.

And know that because of this redoppio you will make a hold with your left hand. And you don’t want to make a hold, you pass your right foot to his left side and give a <span class="glossaryLink cmtt_Strikes" data-tooltip="

Mandritto
Literally "right hand". Refers to strikes that originate from the right (sword-hand) side of the fencer. Mandritto is a roof term for these cuts, but on its own it refers typically to a downwards diagonal cut from the right with the true edge, a mandritto sgualembrato.">mandritto to the head in any way you like, together with a tramazon that will fall in Porta di Ferro Larga.

Then, you being in the said Porta di Ferro Larga and your enemy responds with any strike, you parry with the false edge of your sword from below upwards, striking a roversosgualembrato to his right temple while passing with the left foot strongly towards his right side, your sword finishing into Coda Lunga e Distesa.

For your safety you will do this strike that is called ‘escape and cover’, in a way that your sword will go into Cinghiara Porta di Ferro Stretta.

And from here you need to embellish the play, that is you will make a right turn throwing the left foot close to the right and then do a left turn going with the sword into Guardia d’Intrare and the left foot will go in a large pace towards the enemy’s right side.

And you stop in the abovesaid guard of entering in a large pace, with your arms neatly extended, and above all your left hand high strongly above and the point of your sword forwards, directed to the face of your adversary.

Now reading this it is clear that we do need to have a bit of technical understanding before we can even begin to understand what is going on — interpreting these actions is not easy to begin with.

Glossary

To help you out I’ll explain my understanding of all the terms relevant to this part of the assalto:

Porta di Ferro Alta

Porta di Ferro Alta

A type of guard with the sword to the inside of your right thigh (porta di ferro), held with arms somewhat high (alta).

Porta di Ferro Stretta

Porta di Ferro Stretta

A type of porta di ferro held with the hands somewhat close to the body and the point of the sword toward the opponent.

Tramazon

A cut executed by wheeling the sword around its point of balance. With the two-handed sword, this action is likely done either to the inside or the outside depending on the circumstances.

Thrust in falso

A thrust executed in the way of a false edge strike, an action similar to a rising cut with the false edge but that strikes with the point.

Roverso ridoppio

An ascending cut done from left to right with the true edge of the sword.

Mandritto

A strike originating from the right side, traveling towards left typicallyin a descending diagonal line, unless otherwise specified.

Porta di Ferro Larga

Porta di Ferro Larga

A type of porta di ferro with the sword pointing to the ground.

False edge

The edge of the sword facing towards the swordsman.

Roverso sgualembrato

A downwards strike originating from left side towards the right in a diagonal angle.

Coda Lunga e Distesa

Coda Lunga e Distesa

A guard with the left foot in front and the sword pointing backwards on the right side.

Escape and cover

A retreating action consisting of a defense of escaping with the body and by covering with the sword. Unfortunately we lack a precise technical description.

Cinghiara Porta di Ferro Stretta

Cinghiara Porta di Ferro Stretta

A type of porta di ferro with the left foot in front and the point towards the opponent’s face, with hands pulled somewhat close to the body.

Embellishment

An action done out of measure, which is to decorate and make the play beautiful; basically a flourish.

Right turn

The first half of this embellishment. Consists of a riversosgualembrato into guardia di testa and a riversoridoppio, while drawing the left foot, that was forwards, back close to the right, ending into guardia di croce.

Left turn

The second part of this embellishment. Consists of a <span class="glossaryLink cmtt_Strikes" data-tooltip="

Mandritto
Literally "right hand". Refers to strikes that originate from the right (sword-hand) side of the fencer. Mandritto is a roof term for these cuts, but on its own it refers typically to a downwards diagonal cut from the right with the true edge, a mandritto sgualembrato.">mandrittosgualembrato into guardia di testa and a <span class="glossaryLink cmtt_Strikes" data-tooltip="
Mandritto
Literally "right hand". Refers to strikes that originate from the right (sword-hand) side of the fencer. Mandritto is a roof term for these cuts, but on its own it refers typically to a downwards diagonal cut from the right with the true edge, a mandritto sgualembrato.">mandrittoridoppio while stepping wit the left foot forwards in a long pace into guardia d’intrare.

Guardia d’Intrare (in largo passo)

Guardia d'Entrare in Largo Passo

A guard with the left foot in front and the sword high to the left, with the point sloping somewhat downwards towards the face of the opponent.

Interpretation

The process of interpretation for this sequence, like the others, consists of three phases (and often several iterations of this cycle):

  1. Solve the meaning of any technical terms or expressions that you are not familiar with
  2. Learn to execute all the actions in sequence without too much extrapolation of actions
  3. Figure out how the sequence plays out with an opponent and get fluent in executing the sequence with a partner

For step one the fifth part provides plenty of challenge: the thrust in falso is again used, and there are many guards and cuts that need to be understood, but while these may be easy, we then find the ‘escape and cover’, which in its original Italian form is fugie e crove, ‘crove’ not being a known word in any Italian dialect as far as I know.

So we are forced to interpret the meaning of the word, and given the context I have been forced to settle with the theory that the word is a form of coprire, ‘to cover’. I would be happy to be shown that is — or is not — the case, but so far there’s nothing more I know.

But even with this, we still have the question of what the phrase actually means. From Marozzo’s description (he uses this action twice in his book, only with the two-handed sword) we only know that it ends in cinghiara porta di ferro, and both times the action begins from a position where the left foot is in front. I believe that for the action to include any sort of escape (fugie) there needs to be a backwards step, and from a left foot in front position into the same there has to be two passes or a gathering step or some sort of leap that does not change the lead foot. Fugie e crove also includes two terms and hence likely two actions, so going with a false edge parry and a true edge strike into the required position seems reasonable, but it is difficult to confirm!

But even more of an interesting thing is the embellishment. A right turn and a left turn,what are those? Starting with what we have in the primo assalto:

  • Begin in cinghiara porta di ferro
  • Perform a ‘right turn’, bringing left foot back
  • Perform a ‘left turn’, throwing the left foot in front
  • Finish in guardia d’entrare

This is not all that much and with this we would have quite a bit of freedom to perform whatever we want in place of these turns. But if we read all of Marozzo we will find more clues from the secondo assalto, where Marozzo describes the following in the seventh part:

Here, being in the seventh part of this second assault in guardia d’intrare in a large pace, here embellish the play, that is throw a roverso into guardia di testa, drawing the left foot close to the right and at the time turn the sword into guardia di croce. And from here do the left turn that goes into guardia de intrare with your right foot escaping.

Now nothing is certain until we find more sources giving us more detailed descriptions, but regardless of the differences between this passage and the above description of the embellishment in the first assault, we can allow ourselves to make the following assumptions:

  • The first part of this passage describes the right turn, as in the second the left turn is mentioned but not described in detail, but the first is not named but instead described in detail.
  • Regardless of the different starting guard and steps the turns, the volte are similar in both assalti.

If we take these to be true, we can say that the right turn consists of

  1. A generic roverso (likely descending) that ends into guardia di testa, while drawing the left foot close to the right.
  2. A turn of the sword from guardia di testa into guardia di croce, which is a cross-handed position where the true edge of the sword points up, sword being point forwards head-level on the right side. This action is likely to be reminiscent of a riversoridoppio.

From here we can assume that the left turn is the opposite of this, consisting of

  1. A generic <span class="glossaryLink cmtt_Strikes" data-tooltip="
    Mandritto
    Literally "right hand". Refers to strikes that originate from the right (sword-hand) side of the fencer. Mandritto is a roof term for these cuts, but on its own it refers typically to a downwards diagonal cut from the right with the true edge, a mandritto sgualembrato.">mandritto
    (likely descending) into guardia di testa.
  2. A turn of the sword into guardia d’intrare while stepping forwards and to the side with  the left or backwards with the right, reminiscent of a <span class="glossaryLink cmtt_Strikes" data-tooltip="
    Mandritto
    Literally "right hand". Refers to strikes that originate from the right (sword-hand) side of the fencer. Mandritto is a roof term for these cuts, but on its own it refers typically to a downwards diagonal cut from the right with the true edge, a mandritto sgualembrato.">mandrittoridoppio.

So this is by no means definitive, and remains as one of the somewhat mystical parts of Marozzo, but at least this way of doing the two turns of the embellishment are a form of actions described in the text, even if theywere done in the wrong moment.

The other easy option would be to just pull the sword directly into something vague on the right side, and then throwing the sword up to guardia d’entrare. Doing it like this it feels like something is really missing. And given how often Marozzo encourages us to do things our own way, I believe he would be happier to see us improvise something beautiful into the places where we are forced to extrapolate. But it is important for us to stay honest about our interpretation when we make guesses.

Notes

In the video, when I do the embellishment I do not emphasize the position of guardia di testa as much as I should — if at all. After the first cut the sword should rotate into a position like this:

Guardia di Testa

And the rising cut be done from there. I will see if I can update the video, or make another video showing this interpretation of the embellsihment in detail.