Studying HEMA from the sources is a process that fluctuates between trying to generalize and trying to extract as much detail as possible. This applies to every aspect of the study from personal fencing ability, through interpretation all the way to teaching.
How the strikes (cuts and thrusts) are laid out and taught in different manuscripts has always felt slightly insufficient to me. Either they are spoken of in very generic terms leaving me to wish for a more systematic approach, or when they are structured with more detail, there is always some details that I end up missing. Such as the guards in which tondi, the horizontal cuts end, or how the fendenti really differ when done from right or the left side. These will not stop us from practicing the art, but for a perfectionist like myself every remaining little question is a cause for gray hair.
Dall'Agocchie has always been my go-to source for systematic description of anything -- really only haunted by some of the places where he chose to depart from the earlier texts -- and he divides the strikes into three categories: the mandritto, the roverso and the thrust. Further, he divides the cuts into five subcategories and the thrust into three.
These are for the cuts fendente, sgualimbro, tondo, ridoppio and tramazzone. And for the thrusts imbroccata, stoccata and punta riversa.
In plain English, this means we have cuts in vertical and horizontal plane, and also both descending and ascending diagonal cuts (specified as going from neck to knee) and a wheeling cut done by turning the wrist. Each done from the right and from the left side (mandritti and riversi).
For the thrusts, we have a descending thrust from the right, a simple straight thrust and an "inverted" thrust coming from the left side with the palm up.
Finally dall'Agocchie also gives us the false edge strikes, specifying falso manco, a rising false edge cut from the left and the falso dritto, a rising false edge cut from the right.
This is fairly systematic, and easy to understand. But I have always felt that this listing is incomplete, yet very technical and clearly born out of the need to have a symmetrical framework of cutting lines.
Now I may be biased at the moment, since I am working mainly with the Anonimo Bolognese at the moment so I might not be 100% objective, but let's have a look at how the Anonimo introduces the cuts. I will write this very briefly, but for a thorough explanation you can watch the below video (7 min 32 sec):
Firstly, the author gives us five primary strikes, which are: mandritto, roverso, fendente, stoccata and falso.
Interestingly, the author mixes several "categories" in this listing: first two refer to the sides from which the cuts originate, and they most likely represent the downwards diagonal cuts, that dall'Agocchie would have called sgualembrati. Their line is defined as being from ear to the knee, so slightly more vertical. There's also the stoccata in there, which is a thrust. So clearly, this is a list of most common attacks in general, not just cuts. The falsi are defined as being any cut done with the false edge, but the two rising ones are the most common in the plays that follow.
In addition the anonymous gives us the rising cuts done with the true edge, and then two non-principal strikes: the tramazzone and the montante. The montante is a vertically rising false edge cut from a low guard into guardia alta, where the arm is held extended upwards.
The thrusts are divided into four: stoccata trivellata, imbroccata, imbroccata riversa and punta ferma.
I believe the stoccata trivellata is a thrust where the hand is supinated or pronated, ending towards the left or the right side, thus playing the role of both dall'Agocchies stoccata and also the punta riversa. The imbroccata is defined from both sides (the Anonimo Bolognese is unique in defining the left-side descending thrust with this name) and finally the punta ferma represents a thrust delivered without moving the hand, likely in contrast to the trivellate.
The author discusses the strikes in further detail, going into mechanics (a little bit) and into timing, but I will discuss this in a later post. It is a subject big enough for an article on its own. But one interesting additional categorization the Anonimo gives us is the division of the cuts into full cuts, half cuts and redoubled cuts. Full cuts traversing the target from a high to a low guard (or vice-versa), half cuts ending with the point in line and redoubled cuts not finishing in a guard at all, but continuing their motion -- like a tramazzone would.
So I find myself having previously looked into dall'Agocchie with detail, then trying to teach the cuts in a way of my own (you've seen me connect four guards into four cuts in an attempt to take simplification and generalization to the extreme) and now eventually finding some kind of peace from the Anonimo Bolognese's practical division and layout of these actions. It is like knowing what they are, yes, and now seeing them put to their proper place not based on geometry or mechanics but their importance and application.
Which one do you prefer? Or would you rather have a look at Manciolino and Marozzo first before coming to a conclusion? And no, Viggiani is not allowed to take part in this discussion!
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