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Thread: Length matters...or does it?

  1. #1
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    Hi Greg,

    Let me start by saying that I understand your point and in general terms agree with it to a certain extent - at least the basic premise.

    But:

    Originally posted by Gregory Mele
    Fiore's longsword - that is, that which is depicted, is a fairly short, tapered weapon. A type XVa perhaps. But there were a number of other sword forms in use c.1400, from broad-bladed XIIa and XIIIa to the rather "ice-pick" like XVIIs. Do I think Fiore really specialized his method to one blade form? No, not remotely. Clearly a more tapered blade will work better when you fight in armour, and clearly a broader blade is almost a given to end a fight immediately with a cut. But ultimately, so what?
    Hmm... Well.. Yes - if you look back at what I said, I said that you could use any longsword, or even a stick, for those texts I mentioned. However, I do believe that there is a type of sword which was very popular in northern Italy around 1400 AD, and it is partly the handling characteristics of this type of sword which dictated some of Fiore's tactical decisions.
    We all here realise that if you have a very 'quick' longsword with a pointy blade then you are more likely to use certain techniques. And if it has a very long hilt, or a COP nearer the hilt than average, or a broad heavy blade. You *may* be able to do all of Fiore's techniques with almost any type of longsword, but it is quicte clear that for Fiore's technique there is a certain kind of longsword that works best for most people. Same for any source - for an extreme example, would we really *choose* to practice Alfieri's spadone with a sword like Fiore's? I sure wouldn't..

    Matt

  2. #2
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    Originally posted by Gregory Mele
    Which means that if you have someone like Fiore, his use of the "spada da doi man" is meant for the class of two-handed swords available in 1409 - a sword roughly four feet long, with two edged and a good point. That's going to be the same weapon that a Liechtenauer or Doebringer meant by "langenschwert" as well.
    I'm not so absolutely sure Greg. Northern Italian two-handed swords are quite noticeably of the 'Fiore' (type XV, not very long) type circa.1400 - quite a few have gone in auction at Christies here in London. However, I've seen a fair number of German longswords from circa.1400 that are longer, narrower and heavier (there are a bunch in Krakow), a bit like the 'Sempach' type.
    Much the same as the Kastenbrust style armour predominated in Germany in the 1430's, while the beginnings of the Milanese style predominated in northern Italy in the 1430's, why should longswords be the same everywhere at the same time?
    Maybe I'm missing your point - help me out


    >>So saying "Meyer's rapier" is sort of absurd. It wasn't "his weapon" - he didn't claim to invent it. It was the sword German fencers were calling "rapier/rappir" in 1570.

    Did the individual masters have a favorite form of sword? Sure, just as we do today.<<

    Ok Greg... Maybe I am reading this wrong, but you just seemed to completely say two opposite things one after the other!


    >>Vadi clearly describes his ideal form of sword (as do others), and it is a larger weapon than Fiore's.<<

    I agree. And I feel his techniques reflect this.


    >>But his illustrations show a weapon little different than dei Liberi's.<<

    I disagree! It looks huge! And the handle often looks like it could fit four hands on it!... Fiore's hilt often looks too short to get one hand on! (see the technique in Getty where he wraps the arms with his left arm).


    >>Why? Because both were in use c.1480 and both are "two-handed swords". The system works for either.<<

    Well.. Vadi and Fiore are not exactly drastically different.. I mean, Vadi had clearly some access to the same teachings as Fiore. I would not say that all Fiore's techniques could be done well with Marozzo's longsword - would you?


    >>It is important to remember that arms and armour went through radical changes in the late medieval period. Fiore's "spada da doi man" is not the same weapon as Marozzo's.<<

    Aha! Greg... You're trying to confuse me aren't you?


    >>The rapier post-1600 is clearly a thrust-dominant style of fencing<<

    Alfieri (1640) is not - he uses all the cuts, and rather a lot.


    >>Where's the problem?<<

    Hehe, well, you seem to be arguing and agreeing with all the points at once

    Matt

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    Matt,

    Originally posted by Matt Easton


    I'm not so absolutely sure Greg. Northern Italian two-handed swords are quite noticeably of the 'Fiore' (type XV, not very long) type circa.1400 - quite a few have gone in auction at Christies here in London. However, I've seen a fair number of German longswords from circa.1400 that are longer, narrower and heavier (there are a bunch in Krakow), a bit like the 'Sempach' type.
    Much the same as the Kastenbrust style armour predominated in Germany in the 1430's, while the beginnings of the Milanese style predominated in northern Italy in the 1430's, why should longswords be the same everywhere at the same time?
    Maybe I'm missing your point - help me out
    My point is that if we want to see what is "representational" of a weapon form in a given part of Europe at a given time, we are going to have to do a rather serious cross-analysis of iconography, portraiture, etc., along with weapons that have come onto auction, especially considering some of the rather creative record keeping that can follow antiquities around.

    Why should longswords be the same? At a macro-level, the single biggest thing we've determined from these texts and the records of arms and armour is that European (meaning Western and West/Central) are fairly homogenous. Yes, we can go on at length about the differences between Liechtenauer and Fiore, but these are notably less than say Escrima and Ba Gua. They are branches of one notable family.

    We can iconographically see an earlier preferrance for the point in Italy (there are 13th century images of knights fingering their cross guards), but there is little evidence that swords radically differed from England to France to Italy. Hell, the swords of the Muslims in the Levant and North Africa were largely indistinguishable from their European counter-parts until the later 14th century. There are certainly going to be regional variants and preferences, but the same general blade forms appear across the board. (Eg. The effective difference in size and function between a baudelaire, storta and langesmesser is *what* exactly?) I think the burden of proof is on you with this one, Matt.

    >>So saying "Meyer's rapier" is sort of absurd. It wasn't "his weapon" - he didn't claim to invent it. It was the sword German fencers were calling "rapier/rappir" in 1570.

    Did the individual masters have a favorite form of sword? Sure, just as we do today.<<

    Ok Greg... Maybe I am reading this wrong, but you just seemed to completely say two opposite things one after the other!
    No, I am simply saying that whatever their personal preference might be - more tapered, less tapered - made little difference in the overall system of use, until we get to weapons that are designed for one form of combat alone (the rapier, smallsword, etc.). Even then, compromise weapons were often developed to be used with their systems of fencing. (See the discussion of spadroons, above.)

    >>Vadi clearly describes his ideal form of sword (as do others), and it is a larger weapon than Fiore's.<<

    I agree. And I feel his techniques reflect this.
    Uh...I'd like to hear your reasoning on this. As you know, the spada senza arme is the section with the widest variance between Vadi and the three Fiore's we have (eight of 25 techniques). But what do the rest show? Principally techniques done at the half-blade/half-sword, that often are shown by winding and hooking with the hilt - something that would arguably be HARDER with a larger sword, not easier.

    If we look at the introductory chapters for Vadi's advice on playing with the longsword, there is nothing that suggests you need a larger sword or are best served by it. In Chapter 10 - Principles of Crossing the Swords, Vadi introduces his "new footwork":

    To be sure you can understand my goal
    with clear reason,
    I hope to show you the way:
    I don't want all [of your blows] to be pure riverso
    nor fendente, but between the one and the other
    be the common one
    striking the head from every side.
    And I advise you, when you’ve closed in,
    set your legs paired,
    you will surely be lord,
    able to close and strike valiantly.
    And when you strike with the riverso fendente,
    bend your left knee and, note the writing,
    extend the right foot
    without then changing side.
    Then, if the left foot with the head
    are now under attack,
    because they are closer
    than the right, which remains sideways,
    then you are sure from each side
    and if you want to strike with a diritto fendente,
    you should bend
    the right knee and well extend the left one.
    The head will be attacked also
    with the right foot that is nearer to it:
    this is a better footwork
    than the stepping of our elders


    Vadi, 11r - 11v, Porzio/Mele p. 70 - 73

    This "new footwork", which largely consists of a narrower, more squared stance used at the incrossada works with a "longsword" of any variety, but not one of the massive two-handers in Marozzo or Alfieri. Why not? Because you can't uncross the sword quickly enough to strike from side to side, as Vadi advises. (See Vadi, Chapters 11 - 13, 12r - 13r [Porzio/Mele p. 74 - 79].)

    So here is a technique - which Vadi considers a foundational principle of his art, that works with a weapon of his described length and works as well or better with a shorter sword, but not a longer one. (No contradiction here, because the longer weapon in discussion is a XVIth century sword.)

    A similar example comes from Chapter 14, on the "Mezzo Tempo"

    I can't, [in] writing, show you,
    the principle of mezzo tempo (half time), and the way [it is executed],
    because it remains in the wrist
    the shortness of the time and of its use.
    The half time is only a turn
    of the wrist, quick and immediate to strike.


    Vadi, Chapter 14, 13v. (Porzio/Mele p. 81)

    OK, I've done this with everything from a 45" to a 54" longsword, and it makes no difference what soever. Coversely, if the swords start getting much *bigger* than Vadi's description - i.e. a sword larger than what was available in the later XVth century - then you cannot make this action as smoothly. Or more to the point, not at the range Vadi describes.

    The same is true in Chapter 10 - Principles of Crossing the Swords, when he writes:

    If you do any stramazzone,
    do it with [a] little turn in front of the face.
    Don't make your moves too wide
    because any long time is lost.


    Vadi, Chapter 10, 11r (Porzio/Mele p. 70)

    See my comments on the mezzo tempo, above.

    Which bring us to:
    Well.. Vadi and Fiore are not exactly drastically different.. I mean, Vadi had clearly some access to the same teachings as Fiore. I would not say that all Fiore's techniques could be done well with Marozzo's longsword - would you?
    All of these actions work with any sort of two-handed sword generally available c.1480. While none of these descriptions or techniques disagree with Fiore's advice or sensibilities, they do disagree with the instructions for using a larger weapon, such as that of Marozzo in 1536. Now the truth is that Marozzo uses both mezzo tempo and the stramazzone with his rather huge spada da dui mani/spadone, but he does not fight from the same range, nor does he come to the incrossada and play from it in the same way. He can't/won't/shouldn't, because the sword is too long. And this does affect his art - although Marozzo warns to beware of the left hand, which will seek making a grip, the actual amount of grappling that occurs in his two-handed swordsmanship is pretty minute.

    But that's Marozzo in the XVIth century. Vadi can't anticipate the morphology of his two-handed sword, because it post dates him. What he can do is detail a system of fencing that works with the two-handed swords of his day, which he does. So Vadi the swordsman clearly has a weapon that he prefers and recommends, with a long blade and a hilt the length of a man's forearm, but Vadi the fencing master describes an art for use with the two-handed swords of his day.

    Which was why I said we can speak to a weapon from a period of time.

    I disagree! It looks huge! And the handle often looks like it could fit four hands on it!... Fiore's hilt often looks too short to get one hand on! (see the technique in Getty where he wraps the arms with his left arm).
    OK, firstly the swords in Vadi clearly do have longer hilts than the ones in Fiore, but they hardly look "huge". Secondly, like Fiore, the actual size of the weapon depicted fluctuates throughout the plates. These are not schematics or mechanical drawings. Matt, you are a medievalist, so I don't think I have to remind you that medieval art's rules of proportion were different and looser than modern ones.


    The rapier post-1600 is clearly a thrust-dominant style of fencing<<

    Alfieri (1640) is not - he uses all the cuts, and rather a lot.
    The cuts are used right through the 18th century too, that isn't what I meant. But the predominance is clearly on the point, and the cuts are clearly not intended to kill or even particularly cripple. A stramazzone to the face that sets up a fatal thrust is a big difference from Meyer cutting someone's hand off.


    Hehe, well, you seem to be arguing and agreeing with all the points at once

    Matt [/B]
    No, you didn't read my post carefully. What I said was that there is no need to try and define weapons by master, which the masters in question would never have done themselves, when you can define it by period. Even though you can't necessarily use an 18th century rapier to perform correct XVIth century technique, they are both still rapiers, they are just optimized for the style of fencing in use in their historical period.

    Further, each master undoubtedly had their ideal sword, but there is little to suggest that their systems aren't perfectly capable of being used by any weapon correct that period. I.e. a XVth century longsword of whatever configuration ought to work with the method of XVth century method - with some techniques becoming more optimized than others, while a XVIth century rapier should work with any XVIth century rapier text.

    Seems pretty clear to me!

    Best,

    Greg
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

  4. #4
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    Hi Greg,

    Originally posted by Gregory Mele
    there is little evidence that swords radically differed from England to France to Italy.
    Hehe, well.. England and France were interlinked (hell, 1/3 of France WAS English ) and both generally followed the Italian innovations in arms and armour (after c.1370), rather than the German. Find me a French or English picture of a kastenbrust harness Fluting on Italian style armour and the occasional German sallet seems to be about as far as it went.

    Anyway, I'm drifting off at a tangent as usual.. The point is, there were acknowledged differences in regional/national equipment, and as you know there are plenty of contemporary referrences to Burgundian style poleaxes, English swords, Italian bills, Spanish javelins etc etc etc
    From what (maybe little) I have seen, the broader, longer, wheel-pommelled two-hander stuck around in Germany up to 1400, whereas the Italian two-handed sword around 1400 seems to have been more usually a smaller hand-and-a-half weapon (this type of sword also seems to be shown in English and French effigies more than German also). And I personally trust to probability therefore that this is likely to be related to the fact that I (and a few other people I have spoken to) believe that Fiore works better with the type of sword that seems to have been more common in Italy (north) at that time. I personally find that Fiore seems to much prefer using his sword in one hand than Liechtenauer, Doebringer, Ringeck or Von Danzig did..
    Coincidence? Well yeah maybe. But I don't see why it should be.

    >>Hell, the swords of the Muslims in the Levant and North Africa were largely indistinguishable from their European counter-parts until the later 14th century.<<

    That's a bit of a generalisation


    >>No, I am simply saying that whatever their personal preference might be - more tapered, less tapered - made little difference in the overall system of use<<

    Well system is a foggy word, but I believe the form of the weapon is incredibly important to the way you use it!


    >>Uh...I'd like to hear your reasoning on this. As you know, the spada senza arme is the section with the widest variance between Vadi and the three Fiore's we have (eight of 25 techniques). But what do the rest show? Principally techniques done at the half-blade/half-sword, that often are shown by winding and hooking with the hilt - something that would arguably be HARDER with a larger sword, not easier.<<

    Maybe - I'd like to discuss this more at some later date. I still believe Vadi's sword is bigger than Fiore's though, and for me this is one of the reasons that many of Vadi's guards are different (I'm not talking about something as big as Marozzo's though, just bigger than Fiore's). I don't think it's the only reason, but I think it is one of them.


    >>OK, I've done this with everything from a 45" to a 54" longsword, and it makes no difference what soever.<<

    Well.... I've done Fiore with my 50something inch longsword/greatsword, and just for starters several of the guards don't work properly. Not to mention the problems using the sword in one hand, or using the hilt to disarm etc etc.


    >>Coversely, if the swords start getting much *bigger* than Vadi's description - i.e. a sword larger than what was available in the later XVth century<<

    There are some pretty large late 15thC sword Greg - one in the Wallace Collection is over 5 foot and weighs 6.5 Lbs (and it's not a bearing sword). Also there are some really big swords shown in the late-15thC illustrated Chronicles of Froissart.

    >>So Vadi the swordsman clearly has a weapon that he prefers and recommends, with a long blade and a hilt the length of a man's forearm<<

    This is my point Greg. Why would Vadi and Fiore specifiy sizes of swords and spears if they didn't care?...


    >>OK, firstly the swords in Vadi clearly do have longer hilts than the ones in Fiore, but they hardly look "huge".<<

    Ok, bigger than Fiore's then.


    >>What I said was that there is no need to try and define weapons by master<<

    Well then I disagree to a certain extent - there is a spectrum for each source, a repertoire or range of parameters. Surely that is agreeable? My personal addition would be to say that there is probably also an optimum for each source and each practitioner doing that source.


    >>Further, each master undoubtedly had their ideal sword<<

    This is my point Greg


    >>but there is little to suggest that their systems aren't perfectly capable of being used by any weapon correct that period. I.e. a XVth century longsword of whatever configuration ought to work with the method of XVth century method - with some techniques becoming more optimized than others, while a XVIth century rapier should work with any XVIth century rapier text. <<

    You're agreeing with me Greg You're just explaining the same point as if from a different direction!

    >>Seems pretty clear to me!<<

    Me too

    Chat soon,

    Matt

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    Matt,

    Two quick notes:

    1) I think Vadi's guards are different because his approach is different. I think that his guards are formed and influenced by the priorities of his approach to combat, not the subspecies of sword he was using. This has been an editorial

    2) While Vadi does talk about what lengths the various parts of the sword should be, Fiore does not. When coupled the variation of swords portrayed in the artwork, and the various references in the text of the poste indicating a preference for a long sword in a particular posta, or saying that tutta porta di ferro isn't concerned with how long the sword is as long as its a good one, then one would have to conclude there is quite a variety of swords being used, and capable of being used with Fiore's art.
    Bob Charron
    St. Martins Academy of Medieval Arms

  6. #6
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    Hey Bob,

    Originally posted by Bob Charron
    2) While Vadi does talk about what lengths the various parts of the sword should be, Fiore does not.
    He does, for the special armoured fighting sword - even the weight (I know you know this of course ). He also makes referrence to heavy and light swords, long and short longswords. I think that shows a fair amount of recognition to different sword sizes.


    >>When coupled the variation of swords portrayed in the artwork, and the various references in the text of the poste indicating a preference for a long sword in a particular posta, or saying that tutta porta di ferro isn't concerned with how long the sword is as long as its a good one, then one would have to conclude there is quite a variety of swords being used, and capable of being used with Fiore's art. <<

    Again, as with Greg's points, I agree. But I am perhaps drawing a slightly different conclusion that yourself and Greg, from the same evidence - that both Vadi and Fiore *were* concerned about swords sizes, rather than not being concerned. To my thinking, if they were not concerned, and if their readers were not concerned, then theyt would not have written it.
    Can you see my point (even if you disagree)?

    Cheers,

    Matt

  7. #7
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    Hi Matt,

    Originally posted by Matt Easton
    Hi Greg,

    Anyway, I'm drifting off at a tangent as usual.. The point is, there were acknowledged differences in regional/national equipment, and as you know there are plenty of contemporary referrences to Burgundian style poleaxes, English swords, Italian bills, Spanish javelins etc etc etc

    From what (maybe little) I have seen, the broader, longer, wheel-pommelled two-hander stuck around in Germany up to 1400, whereas the Italian two-handed sword around 1400 seems to have been more usually a smaller hand-and-a-half weapon (this type of sword also seems to be shown in English and French effigies more than German also). And I personally trust to probability therefore that this is likely to be related to the fact that I (and a few other people I have spoken to) believe that Fiore works better with the type of sword that seems to have been more common in Italy (north) at that time. I personally find that Fiore seems to much prefer using his sword in one hand than Liechtenauer, Doebringer, Ringeck or Von Danzig did..
    Coincidence? Well yeah maybe. But I don't see why it should be.
    Woh, the generalizations in here are sweeping, and way too broadstroked.

    Firstly, other than illustrations there is nothing textually that provides you this evidence (in terms of Fiore's preference), so that's a big assumption. Secondly, while we can look at surviving swords and say that there *appears* to have been a regional preference for a longer/shorter blade, wheel pommels or scent stoppers, etc., we simply do not have enough info or data to claim that this is a hard fact. And I'd be far less inclined to make that statement in Northern Italy, which spent most of the late 14th and 15th centuries awash in mercenaries from all over Europe.

    BTW, I believe you are the one who keeps saying that we shouldn't categorize things as "German" or "Italian" since such borders didn't really exist at the time. So why exactly doesn't this rule apply here?

    Now, let's assume for a moment, however, that the argument that a different sort of sword was used in Italy than Germany. The topic of discussion is how does this affect technique?

    Let's tie this to the armour comments you make - you actually make my point. Sure, there is a Milanese/Italian and a German style to armour (at least by the mid-15th century), and the export harness to the rest of Europe seems to have been based on these models. Then again we see examples of Italian harness in a psuedo-German style and vice-versa appearing all over the Alpine region. But more to the point, do we see any evidence that the armour was so radically different in function that it necessitated different combat skills or techniques? (*That's the crux of this discussion.) Nope. Despite radically different aesthetics, different methods of articulation, etc., the harness ends up weighing about the same and allowing the body to move in the same general fashion. In fact, if anything the combat in harness has the closest overlap of sensibilities between the various masters.

    So if radically different *armour* didn't seem to impact techique, why would something as simple a sword?

    >>No, I am simply saying that whatever their personal preference might be - more tapered, less tapered - made little difference in the overall system of use<<

    Well system is a foggy word, but I believe the form of the weapon is incredibly important to the way you use it!
    Sure, when we are talking about serious differences in form. If we were making any of the following comparisons:

    1. Broad categories of weapons:
    Axes vs. swords, one handed weapons vs. two-handed weapons

    2. Cross-cultural comparisons between comtemporary weapons:
    An arming sword vs. a Hungarian sabre, a longsword vs. a tachi, then I think that would be a fair statement.

    3. Same cultures, different time periods:
    A rapier vs. a smallsword, a Dane axe vs. a poleaxe, a Viking sword vs. spada da filo or a Type IV.

    4. Purely military weapons vs. civilian ones:
    The heavy sabre vs. the dueling sword. he rapier vs. the backsword.

    Then the morphology is a critical issue, because these weapons have significantly different qualities as they serve a different purpose or are designed for a different environment of combat. But what are we discussing within the subgroup of "longswords"? A matter of 3 - 5 inches of blade length, and the exact degree of taper. But in the end, we are still describing a weapon that is 43 - 50" long, about 3 - 3.5 lbs, with two edges and a point, designed to cut and thrust well, and designed to be used out of armour or in armour against the same sorts of weapons and armour. These are subtlties, and while it may make a handful of techniques play better than others, if the actual system (it's strategy, tactics, and mechanics) still works, then you are arguing personal preference, nothing more.

    Maybe - I'd like to discuss this more at some later date. I still believe Vadi's sword is bigger than Fiore's though, and for me this is one of the reasons that many of Vadi's guards are different (I'm not talking about something as big as Marozzo's though, just bigger than Fiore's). I don't think it's the only reason, but I think it is one of them.
    I agree that Vadi prefers a larger sword than what Fiore's manuscript shows (Fiore doesn't tell us what his sword should be like, so I don't want to put words in his mouth), my argument is that this difference isn't enough to effect their actual arts at a fundamental level. I.e. you don't need one sword to practice Fiore and another to practice Vadi.

    As to the guards, we've discussed this before on this forum over the last several years. Vadi's guards show a "drift" forward, which becomes even more true in Marozzo, and even *more* true with the rapier. But if this was due to weapon length, then I'd suspect we wouldn't see the same thing in the German school. Yet look at Meyer's guards - all have crept forward, yet his sword, judging by what is depicted in his text and the 16th century longsword foils that survive, is no bigger than those of a century earlier.

    I don't think this has anything to do with blade length, it has to do with the growing emphasis on civilian combat in shirt sleeves. The less armour between your body and his sword, the more distance you want between you. The emphasis shifts towards point forward guards and cutting guards keep a line closed.

    For example, look at Vadi's posta di donna. A cut from there has much less power than Fiore's version, but it is extremely fast and can quickly defend in frontale or breve. He ditches coda longa completely, and adds one other strong cutting guard - posta falcone, which is still fairly far forward and is the same variant we see slip into vom Dach in later German fencing manuals. If you compare this with Marozzo's spadone guards, you see the same considerations, but even more so.

    This also influences tactics. Someone at Benecia - I don't who recall now- told me they felt Vadi only uses mezzo tempo while Fiore uses multiple tempi. That's not true, he *emphasizes* mezzo tempo because the reality of the style of combat he is discussing is going to involve thrusts, half and full cuts made at the hands and face, from a more forward guard, and thus a closer blade. Mezzo tempo actions are a good way to handle this. If we then compare that to Marozzo (at least the parts I've seen) we see this trend taken even further - a greater preponderance of half-cuts over full cuts and actions made in mezzo tempo.

    We see the exact same thing happen amongst modern practitioners. Watch people today who fence with blunts and wear little more than basic fencing gear for protection. You see a lot of wrist and elbow cuts, and thrusts, all made from guards such as breve, longa, finestra and porta di ferro mezzana. Full cuts all but disappear.

    So without following this tangent further (that's subject for another thread), I think the forward drift of sword guards that occurs in the early Renaissance has more to do with changing realities of combat, and little to do with weapon size.

    Well.... I've done Fiore with my 50something inch longsword/greatsword, and just for starters several of the guards don't work properly. Not to mention the problems using the sword in one hand, or using the hilt to disarm etc etc.
    We've discussed this before, too. As I recall, you had trouble framing dente di chinghiaro. The only difference I've noticed with a 54" sword is that I have to "cock" my arms a bit further back. I can still assume the basic position, I can strike up with a false edge cut or thrust, without footwork or with an advancing step, or I can step off-line and thrust - precisely as the text advises. I can't think of a single other guard that can't be framed, unless we are talking about a true two-hander - which we aren't.

    In terms of hilt disarms, ditto. Even with a hilt as long as Vadi's - which is pretty dang long, these all work. And as I mentioned, many of the gioco stretto that Vadi shows with his hilt require fairly complex winding of the pommel - more so than Fiore's plays - and Vadi certainly felt it could be done!

    Your comment on the sword in one hand hits on what I think is a fundamental disconnect in our understandings of the section. At a certain point a longsword gets cumbersome in one hand, I agree. But I don't think Fiore *specifically* requires us to use a longsword for these play. All he tells us is that this section is used with the sword in one hand. He illustrates the same sword throughout the manuscript. So what? Does this mean we shouldn't use an arming sword? I doubt it. It is nothing more than what he says - if you are using a sword in one hand, use it this way.

    This is why I am uncomfortable with the idea that "Fiore favors using his sword in one hand more than Liechtenauer, Doebringer, etc." We don't know that. He shows a very short sequence of plays for the sword used in one hand and playing out of coda longa on the left. All of those plays, or plays that achieve much the same function, appear in German messerfechten, from the same guard. He also shows a section on using the sword in one hand on horseback that I think you and Bob rightly argue is also for use anytime you have a one-handed grip on a sword. The 15th century glossa has long sequences of mounted sword combat as well. So your comment is only true in so far as we can assume that Fiore's entire work is meant to be used with one sword. But he does not say that, and I don't see how we can assume that.

    There are some pretty large late 15thC sword Greg - one in the Wallace Collection is over 5 foot and weighs 6.5 Lbs (and it's not a bearing sword). Also there are some really big swords shown in the late-15thC illustrated Chronicles of Froissart.
    Sure, there's a massive 14th century one that Oakeshott identifies as well, but they are annomalies that come into fashion over time. The Pissani Dossi also shows what appears to be a grill-faced pignosed bascinet, but nothing suggests this was a norm. (I won't even touch on the very "chubby" and large gold-leafed swords that appear in the Morgan "Fior" or the telescoping arms in the "Pissani-Dossi".)

    And again, with any iconography, remember a sword is a sword - perpsective is quite flexible and not "realistic" in any modern sense.

    This is my point Greg. Why would Vadi and Fiore specifiy sizes of swords and spears if they didn't care?...
    They are telling you their ideal Matt. I really like XIIa's and XIIIa swords with 39" blades and just enough hilt to comfortably grip with two hands when wearing guantlets. But that doesn't mean everybody in the CSG has to use a sword that fits that description! My point is that if you read their texts carefully, particularly Fiore, you'll see that they make reference to a wide variety of options for a longer sword or shorter sword, just as Fiore will advise that some plays work better in armour than out of it.

    Well then I disagree to a certain extent - there is a spectrum for each source, a repertoire or range of parameters. Surely that is agreeable? My personal addition would be to say that there is probably also an optimum for each source and each practitioner doing that source.
    I'd only agree in so far as that range is relative to the statiscal norms of that type of weapon at that period.

    >>Further, each master undoubtedly had their ideal sword<<

    This is my point Greg

    and..

    You're agreeing with me Greg You're just explaining the same point as if from a different direction!
    No, I'm not. What I am refuting is the idea that an individual master's ideal sword affected his style of combat to the point that a weapon of those precise measurements are required to execute their system of fencing. What I am saying is that whatever their personal biases, any decent fencing master in any era would have taught their students to use the weapons of the day, and any decent system of fencing can handle the natural variants you'll find in that weapon in that time and place. Clearer?

    Ciao,

    Greg
    Greg Mele
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    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

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    Some excellent points Greg, especially on the Italian longsword topic.

    I would agree that slight variations in blade length, taper or section should make very little difference in the application of a particular technique, no matter which style you are performing.

    Certainly, I wouldn't argue that German-style longswords are more suited to the German longsword style, or Italian longswords for the likes of Vadi or Fiore. And yes, the masters are fairly clear about what they prefer for a particular style of engagement - look at Vadi's Spada in Arme as a prime example.

    However, to suggest that the boundaries of technique are so confined as to require wholly individual and different weapons for each master's methods doesn't make much sense in the real world. I doubt anyone in the 15th century would have agonised over possessing the "correct" sword for Vadi, the "correct" sword for Fiore etc etc. Yes, differences do exist, but I don't believe they are critical for the correct application of technique.

    We see a great diversity in the morphology of longswords throughout the period of their use, as with any weapon, each possessing its own subtle variations.

    I believe the well-practiced 15th century swordsman would have been a far more pragmatic fellow, able to comfortably dispatch you with a sharpened stick than worrying about whether it conforms to a particular pattern

    "Hold that zornhau for a minute Hans - I have to find my Talhoffer model. This one is no Vadi good."

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    Bob Brooks
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    Wow Greg! You must have blisters on your fingers from all the typing today!!

    Originally posted by Gregory Mele
    Firstly, other than illustrations there is nothing textually that provides you this evidence (in terms of Fiore's preference), so that's a big assumption.
    Sorry, what's this in referrence to? If it is Fiore and Vadi, then well no. Fiore refers to sizes and weights of swords quite a few times, not to mention lances and spears also.


    Secondly, while we can look at surviving swords and say that there *appears* to have been a regional preference for a longer/shorter blade, wheel pommels or scent stoppers, etc., we simply do not have enough info or data to claim that this is a hard fact.
    Eh? So we can see there is a regional preferrence but we are not allowed to say it??? How much more evidence do we offically need before we are allowed to say it out loud?

    And I'd be far less inclined to make that statement in Northern Italy, which spent most of the late 14th and 15th centuries awash in mercenaries from all over Europe.
    This point is irrelevant in this context - it was northern Italy that was the arms & armour trend-setter (esp. Milan) in the area and beyond, not visa-versa. English and French men-at-arms predominantly wore Italian style armour and in fact it seems that much arms and armour in England, for example, was imported to London from Milan, via the Low Countries. This is very evident in the Mowbray inventories that Ele translated, which date to just before the Agincourt campaign. There is LOTS of evidence for French and English importing Milanese arms and armour, and as far as I have seen NO evidence for Milan or the north of Italy importing French or English arms and armour in this period.


    BTW, I believe you are the one who keeps saying that we shouldn't categorize things as "German" or "Italian" since such borders didn't really exist at the time. So why exactly doesn't this rule apply here?
    You miss-quote me Greg - what I say is that we should not talk about 'German' style longsword and 'Italian' style longsword, as what we actually have are lineages of masters.
    In fact there was a very clear cultural border between Germany, Austria and Italy in the time of Fiore and Vadi. Why else would Fiore specify people as 'Tedesci' (German) so many times if this was not true?
    If we go to armour development in the 1420's and after, then it is once again clear that the division between styles in Munich and Milan, which are not so far apart geographically, were just about as big as between any other armour styles of western Europe. Later many Italian armourers were employed in Germany, France, England etc, and they built harnesses in the style of the place.
    When we talk about the massive difference between the kastenbrust style and the Milanese style, we are talking about the 1430's. Well that is just about the same time as the Pisani-Dossi version of Fiore's Fior di Battaglia, so it is contemporary comparison I am using. You can see the late kastenbrust style of the 1440's in Talhoffer's 1443 maniscript (and also Gladiatoria to some extent).

    Now, let's assume for a moment, however, that the argument that a different sort of sword was used in Italy than Germany. The topic of discussion is how does this affect technique?
    Well the earlier Liechtenauer lineage manuscripts (eg. Doebringer, Von Danzig, Ringeck etc) certainly don't use the sword in one hand as often as Fiore does. They don't seem to use the left hand for grappling as much as Fiore does (I would say Fiore is at closer range, with a shorter, lighter sword). These Germans wind the blade back to thrust often, from the crossed-blades, whereas Fiore thrusts straight (which is better with a short blade due to space restrictions). Fiore seems to actually use the same sword one handed as two handed, and in support of this he specifically calls the mounted sword a SHORT sword etc etc etc. I really feel there is a lot of evidence that Fiore's sword is shorter, but I cannot, for obvious reasons, write a whole essay on it here .

    Sure, there is a Milanese/Italian and a German style to armour (at least by the mid-15th century)
    By 1415 already. If not even earlier. Most people don't realise that articulated pauldrons were already becoming popular in Milan by 1420. Not to mention celata, armet, articulated plackarts etc.

    and the export harness to the rest of Europe seems to have been based on these models.
    Broadly speaking yes, but there are features to Milanese armour which seem to occur rarely outside Italy, and of course fluting was introduced to the export armours (some of which have been shown to have been made in the Low Countries).

    Then again we see examples of Italian harness in a psuedo-German style and vice-versa appearing all over the Alpine region.
    Do you mean German style armour made by an Italian armourer? Do you have an example to hand because I don't quite get what type you are referring to?

    But more to the point, do we see any evidence that the armour was so radically different in function that it necessitated different combat skills or techniques? (*That's the crux of this discussion.)
    No it's not, because the type of full plate armour affects martial technique far less than the type of sword used out of armour...


    So if radically different *armour* didn't seem to impact techique, why would something as simple a sword?
    Hold on Greg.. you just said that the armour was different in style, not in useage (which I generally agree with)... So your above question is therefore moot.
    The fact is, I repeat, style of full plate armour (Milan or Augsburg) is obviously going to make less difference to martial technique than different types of longsword out of armour will (say, Fiore's compared to Marozzo's).


    But what are we discussing within the subgroup of "longswords"? A matter of 3 - 5 inches of blade length, and the exact degree of taper. But in the end, we are still describing a weapon that is 43 - 50" long, about 3 - 3.5 lbs, with two edges and a point, designed to cut and thrust well, and designed to be used out of armour or in armour against the same sorts of weapons and armour. These are subtlties, and while it may make a handful of techniques play better than others, if the actual system (it's strategy, tactics, and mechanics) still works, then you are arguing personal preference, nothing more.
    Yes, I agree. But what I am saying in addition to this is that if your grip is too long, if the sword is just a bit to unwieldy in one hand, and if the blade is a bit too long, then you will not be able to apply Fiore's technique properly against someone using an appropriately sized sword.


    I agree that Vadi prefers a larger sword than what Fiore's manuscript shows (Fiore doesn't tell us what his sword should be like, so I don't want to put words in his mouth)
    We agree, Vadi prefers a larger sword than Fiore - But wasn't that the point you were originally disagreeing with/ rose to?

    Fiore gives us some hints to size (and tells us lengths and weight for the 'special' armoured swords), and his techniques tell us more, and the positions of his guards tells us some more. Several times he mentions sizes of swords generally. We are left with a fair impression of what size range he is talking about.
    Certainly, given that Fiore keeps assuring the reader that either a certain size sword is preferred, or that it doesn't matter, I find that Fiore and the reader were concerned with the sword's size...

    I quote:

    "And if he has a good sword, then he does not care about too much length. "

    "But, it needs a long sword. "

    "This is Posta Breve, which requires a long sword"

    "And the hilt (quillons) has to be well forged/balanced, and to have a good point, and the pommel has to be heavy, and those points have to be well forged and sharpened. And the sword has to be heavy at the back end and light at the point. And it has to weigh from V to VI pounds. And, according to the man being big and strong, it has to be armed in this way."


    my argument is that this difference isn't enough to effect their actual arts at a fundamental level. I.e. you don't need one sword to practice Fiore and another to practice Vadi.
    I cannot say because i do not know Vadi enough to have an opinion. I could however say that if someone had a sword that looked like Vadi's or Marozzo's then I think they would have a lot of problems trying to do all Fiore's techniques (though some techniques it may make little difference). I'd like to see someone doing Fiore's one handed techniques with Marozzo's sword Maybe Dave could do it....


    As to the guards, we've discussed this before on this forum over the last several years. Vadi's guards show a "drift" forward, which becomes even more true in Marozzo, and even *more* true with the rapier. But if this was due to weapon length, then I'd suspect we wouldn't see the same thing in the German school. Yet look at Meyer's guards - all have crept forward, yet his sword, judging by what is depicted in his text and the 16th century longsword foils that survive, is no bigger than those of a century earlier.
    Ok, this is a well made point - however, from what I have heard those longsword-foils vary a lot in size - there are one handed ones for example. To me Meyer's sword looks pretty big, though still a longsword rather than two-hander. But it is possible the situation in Germany was different because people tried to preserve Liechtenauer art (he was still having his verses copied for a *very* long time), whereas in Italy the longsword art kep evolving.. Maybe the German stuff stagnated a bit more. I don't know, I am just speculating. I *think* there are more Italian greatsword sources than German aren't there?


    For example, look at Vadi's posta di donna. A cut from there has much less power than Fiore's version, but it is extremely fast and can quickly defend in frontale or breve.
    I must admit I find Vadi's version quite incredible in difference. And if we give a rough date to Pisani-Dossi, then in only about 50 years difference..

    He ditches coda longa completely, and adds one other strong cutting guard - posta falcone, which is still fairly far forward and is the same variant we see slip into vom Dach in later German fencing manuals. If you compare this with Marozzo's spadone guards, you see the same considerations, but even more so.
    Yeah I agree. Why do you think Fiore has more wide-spaced guards than Vadi then? I mean, we can't really use the civil/war answer can we, because Fiore only has these guards for unarmoured fighting... (and pollaxe...)

    This also influences tactics. Someone at Benecia - I don't who recall now- told me they felt Vadi only uses mezzo tempo while Fiore uses multiple tempi. That's not true, he *emphasizes* mezzo tempo because the reality of the style of combat he is discussing is going to involve thrusts, half and full cuts made at the hands and face, from a more forward guard, and thus a closer blade. Mezzo tempo actions are a good way to handle this. If we then compare that to Marozzo (at least the parts I've seen) we see this trend taken even further - a greater preponderance of half-cuts over full cuts and actions made in mezzo tempo.
    Sure, but why are these changes happening? Why should Fiore have more wide-spaced/open guards for an unarmoured part of the art?

    We see the exact same thing happen amongst modern practitioners. Watch people today who fence with blunts and wear little more than basic fencing gear for protection. You see a lot of wrist and elbow cuts, and thrusts, all made from guards such as breve, longa, finestra and porta di ferro mezzana. Full cuts all but disappear.
    I agree, it's horrible to watch

    I think the forward drift of sword guards that occurs in the early Renaissance has more to do with changing realities of combat, and little to do with weapon size.
    Ok, so the only difference in what we are saying in this part is that I *also* (in addition to the above) believe that the weapon size *can* also be a factor, and in the case of Fiore, Vadi and Marozzo, is.

    We've discussed this before, too. As I recall, you had trouble framing dente di chinghiaro. The only difference I've noticed with a 54" sword is that I have to "cock" my arms a bit further back. I can still assume the basic position, I can strike up with a false edge cut or thrust
    Well I can just about do it with my five-footer (boys love to boast don't they? ), but I find it totally innappropriate to that size of sword... Marozzo's guard work much better. So do Vadi's in general.

    I can't think of a single other guard that can't be framed, unless we are talking about a true two-hander - which we aren't.
    True, but many of Fiore's guard become too slow to employ with a big sword in my opinion, and I can move a two-hander as fast as anyone else in our group. True you have greater reach, which gives you more time, and clearly Fiore uses that big axe-sword thing from Posta di Donna lo Soprana, because he shows it!

    In terms of hilt disarms, ditto. Even with a hilt as long as Vadi's - which is pretty dang long, these all work. And as I mentioned, many of the gioco stretto that Vadi shows with his hilt require fairly complex winding of the pommel - more so than Fiore's plays - and Vadi certainly felt it could be done!
    Sure, but Vadi doesn't use the sword in one hand as much as Fiore.. Fiore has a whole section devoted to it after all.

    Your comment on the sword in one hand hits on what I think is a fundamental disconnect in our understandings of the section. At a certain point a longsword gets cumbersome in one hand, I agree. But I don't think Fiore *specifically* requires us to use a longsword for these play. All he tells us is that this section is used with the sword in one hand. He illustrates the same sword throughout the manuscript. So what? Does this mean we shouldn't use an arming sword? I doubt it. It is nothing more than what he says - if you are using a sword in one hand, use it this way.
    I agree, but nevertheless, Fiore is clearly able to use his normal longsword in one hand adequately. And in the mounted section he specifies a short sword.

    This is why I am uncomfortable with the idea that "Fiore favors using his sword in one hand more than Liechtenauer, Doebringer, etc." We don't know that.
    Well I would say we probably do, because he uses the sword in one hand in his given plays more than the aforementioned masters.

    He shows a very short sequence of plays for the sword used in one hand and playing out of coda longa on the left.
    You're calling it Coda Longa now? Yes I agree it is, but yourself and Bob used to call it Denti di Cinghiaro, which I disagreed with due to the mounted section ;-)

    The 15th century glossa has long sequences of mounted sword combat as well. So your comment is only true in so far as we can assume that Fiore's entire work is meant to be used with one sword. But he does not say that, and I don't see how we can assume that.
    No, in the mounted section he calls it a short sword.
    But yes, I still agree that these techniques can be done with his standard sword, because he seems to be fine with using his standard sword in one hand throughout the treatise. It is for this reason that i believe that his 'standard' sword is light and small enough to wield happily in one hand.

    And again, with any iconography, remember a sword is a sword - perpsective is quite flexible and not "realistic" in any modern sense.
    I agree totally, and never took the images into consideration for Fiore's treatises because they vary so much - rather I used the physicalities of his guards and what he does with the weapon.

    My point is that if you read their texts carefully, particularly Fiore, you'll see that they make reference to a wide variety of options for a longer sword or shorter sword, just as Fiore will advise that some plays work better in armour than out of it.
    I always said that there is a range, or spectrum of swords, for each source. But clearly, for each source there are also upper and lower limits to various factors, such as mass, blade length etc. By assertation towards Fiore was that I feel that his 'longsword' is small and light enough to be easily used one handed. That's not exactly radical

    No, I'm not. What I am refuting is the idea that an individual master's ideal sword affected his style of combat to the point that a weapon of those precise measurements are required to execute their system of fencing. What I am saying is that whatever their personal biases, any decent fencing master in any era would have taught their students to use the weapons of the day, and any decent system of fencing can handle the natural variants you'll find in that weapon in that time and place. Clearer?
    Yes, clear. But just to finish, in addition to what you say, I would add that if a given master was given a longer weapon than he normally used, I believe he would adapt his teachings to better suit the properties of that weapon. In terms of weapon affecting the art, or the art affecting the weapon, well again, that's just a chicken and egg scenario - both probably went hand in hand, or otherwise we can't say.


    Matt

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    It's Friday night here, and I am tired, hence not out drinking/partying (I'll save my energy for tomorrow night!)... I don't even have web access at work You can imagine the withdrawal symptoms!! But I am taking good drugs for that now and the shaking hands are under control...

    Sorry for hijacking the thread again guys! Rapier, rapier, rapier, rapier....

    There... some kind of appeasement is better than none....

    Matt

  12. #12
    Originally posted by Matt Easton

    Sorry for hijacking the thread again guys! Rapier, rapier, rapier, rapier....

    There... some kind of appeasement is better than none....

    Matt
    "Everyone was longsword fighting... Those chaps were fast as lightning..."

    Longswords will take over the world...

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    Citations

    Matt,

    Could you give the citation where Fiore refers to the sword on horseback as a "short sword." I may be missing it, but I just gave a quick read to the whole section and couldn't find it. It seems it would be an interesting comment, especially if it is applied to all the plays of the sword on horseback.

    Also, it appears that the weight required for the first of the two spada in arme says, "E voler esse di peso .xv. a .iii. libre." I've been through Italian weights and measures, and a pound is approximately 1.5 libre, so I'm curious how you came to the five to seven pound weight for that piece.

    I'm also curious about your multiple references to the length of sword set down by Fiore. Do you mean in general terms, like this posta should have a long sword, or do you mean a measurement somewhere? I'm just trying to make sure I follow you.

    Thanks!
    Bob Charron
    St. Martins Academy of Medieval Arms

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    The day is coming when backsword, spadroon and small sword guys will settle the matter with long sword and rapier guys to regain the due respect to these venerable weapons, eh eh eh eh we are coming




    Originally posted by William Carew


    "Everyone was longsword fighting... Those chaps were fast as lightning..."

    Longswords will take over the world...
    :

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    Re: Citations

    Good Morning Bob!

    Could you give the citation where Fiore refers to the sword on horseback as a "short sword."
    Ok:

    Folio 43 verso

    "And this rebatter (beat) he wants to perform with a lance could also be done with a stick or a short sword."

    "curta spada"

    Therefore, seeing as he goes on to do this a lot with the sword mounted, we can only assume it is a stick or a short sword .

    Actually, seeing as he seems to do the sword in one hand section on foot with a hand-and-a-half sword I think he would and could do all the mounted stuff with that sword also. But, the art does seem to show a smaller sword on horseback, and we have this lone referrence to the short sword in the mounted lance/spear section.


    It seems it would be an interesting comment, especially if it is applied to all the plays of the sword on horseback.
    It is, I admit, far from being a clear cut statement!
    However, if we suggest he is still using the same sword as before, or that it doesn't matter, then this would REALLY support my argument that Fiore's longsword is small-ish and very handy in one hand..

    Also, it appears that the weight required for the first of the two spada in arme says, "E voler esse di peso .xv. a .iii. libre." I've been through Italian weights and measures, and a pound is approximately 1.5 libre, so I'm curious how you came to the five to seven pound weight for that piece.
    Fair point - Ele did that a long time ago, and I can't remember how she came to that figure. I remember we left it blank for a while, and then she added the figures, but I can't remember why or how. I'll ask her.
    What weights do you come to then?

    Regardless, my point was that Fiore specifies weights, lengths and more - and so he does

    I'm also curious about your multiple references to the length of sword set down by Fiore. Do you mean in general terms, like this posta should have a long sword, or do you mean a measurement somewhere? I'm just trying to make sure I follow you.
    Both - as mentioned above he gives quite a few specifics for the special armoured swords, and then elsewhere (yes, in the Posta part) he either says a length of sword is needed or not needed. To me this shows that Fiore was concerned about general sizes of swords.

    What do you think he meant by 'a good sword'?

    ("And if he has a good sword, then he does not care about too much length.": Porta di Ferro, Pulsativa)

    Cheers,

    Matt
    p.s. rapier, rapier, rapier, rapier, rapier, rapier

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    Re: Re: Citations

    Originally posted by Matt Easton
    Good Morning Bob!



    Ok:

    Folio 43 verso

    "And this rebatter (beat) he wants to perform with a lance could also be done with a stick or a short sword."

    "curta spada"

    Therefore, seeing as he goes on to do this a lot with the sword mounted, we can only assume it is a stick or a short sword .

    Actually, seeing as he seems to do the sword in one hand section on foot with a hand-and-a-half sword I think he would and could do all the mounted stuff with that sword also. But, the art does seem to show a smaller sword on horseback, and we have this lone referrence to the short sword in the mounted lance/spear section.

    It is, I admit, far from being a clear cut statement!
    However, if we suggest he is still using the same sword as before, or that it doesn't matter, then this would REALLY support my argument that Fiore's longsword is small-ish and very handy in one hand..
    Well, I think it's a bit of a stretch to use such a statement, as it is an aside, and seems to be indicating it can be used with a long or short weapon in one hand. So I think you're backing away from your statement that you think all the horseback techniques are done with a "short sword?" I agree more with your last paragraph, in that I think it's all the same *range* of swords being used throughout, with specific techniques that require specific types of sword being pointed out.

    I don't think Fiore had a preference for a particular sword to be used throughout his art, and I think that the problem was that you gave that impression in your initial posts. Greg is arguing (correct me if I'm wrong Greg) that Fiore did not set down a preference for a particular kind of sword to be preferred in the execution of his system of combat. The individual references to a certain type of sword being used for particular poste or techniques does not make a rule.


    Originally posted by Matt Easton

    Fair point - Ele did that a long time ago, and I can't remember how she came to that figure. I remember we left it blank for a while, and then she added the figures, but I can't remember why or how. I'll ask her.
    What weights do you come to then?
    The references to weights and measures in this time in Italy indicate a range, of course, but the Libre is between 300 and 350 grams. 300 grams is .661 pounds, and 15 libre would be 9.92 pounds at the low end. That's a very heavy sword.


    Originally posted by Matt Easton

    Regardless, my point was that Fiore specifies weights, lengths and more - and so he does

    Both - as mentioned above he gives quite a few specifics for the special armoured swords, and then elsewhere (yes, in the Posta part) he either says a length of sword is needed or not needed. To me this shows that Fiore was concerned about general sizes of swords.

    What do you think he meant by 'a good sword'?

    ("And if he has a good sword, then he does not care about too much length.": Porta di Ferro, Pulsativa)
    He clearly specifies a weight with regard to a single spada in arme. He gives no specific weights or lengths otherwise in the treatise. He does indeed show some concern for the proper general length or quality of a weapon to be beneficial in order to maximize the use of a particular posta, but I wouldn't represent it as setting down a preferred sword for his art in general.

    This is where the confusion comes from, in that your first few posts seemed to make this very point. We can certainly say that the Fior di Bataglia shows some guidance in general (long, short, good) in regard to particular plays or poste but not specific guidance as to a preferred sword for this art.

    Now, my sincere apologies to all individuals who are interested in hashing out terminology and technique with regard to rapier. Could the moderator please break the last couple of posts here out into a different thread so that it can cease being in the way of another very interesting and necessary dicussion.

    Thanks in advance,
    Bob Charron
    St. Martins Academy of Medieval Arms

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    Fair enough. I can agree to disagree if you can. We should be getting adept at it now

    Matt

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    Hi Matt,

    OK, I think this thread is winding down, 'cause somehow neither of us understands the other's "crazy moon language".

    At any rate, let me hit a few key things:

    Originally posted by Matt Easton

    Sorry, what's this in referrence to? If it is Fiore and Vadi, then well no. Fiore refers to sizes and weights of swords quite a few times, not to mention lances and spears also.
    Uh. not really, he says oblique comments like "she favors a long sword" in certain areas, but he describes one weapon - the spada en arme. (Which if we go with the logic that this then makes it a favored weapon, that should be what he shows for his plays in the armoured combat section, which we don't.)

    The point is irrelevant in this context - it was northern Italy that was the arms & armour trend-setter (esp. Milan) in the area and beyond, not visa-versa. English and French men-at-arms predominantly wore Italian style armour and in fact it seems that much arms and armour in England, for example, was imported to London from Milan, via the Low Countries. This is very evident in the Mowbray inventories that Ele translated, which date to just before the Agincourt campaign. There is LOTS of evidence for French and English importing Milanese arms and armour, and as far as I have seen NO evidence for Milan or the north of Italy importing French or English arms and armour in this period.
    No Matt, the point is perfectly relevant. If all of these folks are importing Italian arms, then the arms should be of Italian pattern - thus, becoming an "international preference". SInce, English, Frernch, Spanish, etc. examples of swords are hardly homogenous, the idea of a homogenous "Italian sword" is a stretch.

    But you keep coming back to this issue, and this wasn't my point or our discussion, per se. The discussion was whether you need a specific weapon to practice a specific style of combat. Your contention (originally) was that there is a direct congruence. My point was that you need a weapon contemporary to the period the master was active. So if we are going to discuss Fiore, I need a longsword c.1400, period. Doebringer is roughly contemporary as well, so I would see no problem for using the same sword for that.

    When we get to Vadi (c.1480) there are larger blades available, but my point was that they are still basically "longswords", not true two-handers, that the masters are talking about, so again, any longsword of the period should work. Although additional forms of longsword had appeared, the same sort of sword Fiore was using in 1400 was being used in 1480, so ther is no reason to assume the two systems can't use the same weapon.

    THAT is the argument/discussion!

    You miss-quote me Greg - what I say is that we should not talk about 'German' style longsword and 'Italian' style longsword, as what we actually have are lineages of masters.
    In fact there was a very clear cultural border between Germany, Austria and Italy in the time of Fiore and Vadi. Why else would Fiore specify people as 'Tedesci' (German) so many times if this was not true?
    Fair enough, although if we can identify clear cultures and clear lineages of masters whose style of fighting seem to remain within the sensibilities of a given culture (look at Meyer's adaptations of "Italian" rapier), I think this is a weak division.

    Now, onto the use of the armour. You write:

    [quote]No it's not, because the type of full plate armour affects martial technique far less than the type of sword used out of armour...[quote]

    And then:

    Hold on Greg.. you just said that the armour was different in style, not in useage (which I generally agree with)... So your above question is therefore moot.
    The fact is, I repeat, style of full plate armour (Milan or Augsburg) is obviously going to make less difference to martial technique than different types of longsword out of armour will (say, Fiore's compared to Marozzo's).
    First, I compared styles to function in the same way you compared swords (read my post), so my question is not moot - it was the very point that I was trying to make.

    Second, your comment that the stle of full harness is "obviously going to make less difference to technique..." is pretty confident. Your experience to judge the effects of fighting in full harness is??? Mine is as follows: I've fought in a light harness of a gambeson, helmet and joint protection, a full, 13th century kit (riveted hauberk, greathelm, etc), a full transitional harness, and a borrowed Milanese harness. I've never worn a full Gothic harness, but I think I've done enough armoured combat to say that the style of armour, how it articulates and where the weight of the harness settles on the body has a profound affect on how a person moves and acts, a hell of a lot more than if my sword 45", 48" or 54". And again, note that the harness techniques remain functionally the same between the two nations, so there is little reason to suspect that a German fencer requires a signifcantly different sword than an Italian one - which is what led to this discussion.

    Next topic. The sword in one hand. You write:
    Fiore seems to actually use the same sword one handed as two handed, and in support of this he specifically calls the mounted sword a SHORT sword etc etc etc. I really feel there is a lot of evidence that Fiore's sword is shorter, but I cannot, for obvious reasons, write a whole essay on it here .
    But that's what you need to do, or at least the bullet points of the argument, which you haven't done. Because, you then say:

    I agree totally, and never took the images into consideration for Fiore's treatises because they vary so much - rather I used the physicalities of his guards and what he does with the weapon.
    Great, but then this largely makes your argument untenable, based on the text. Because as Bob and I have pointed out, nothing in the ms. says that the sword used in one hand is a longsword used in one hand or real, single-handed sword. Nothing in the text says this, and we can't use the assumption that the mounted sword seems shorter and the other longer, since as you agree, the artwork is not that specific. (Not to mention that other versions of the manuscript, such as the PD, show the same "sword in one hand" section with both a longsword and an arming sword.) The closest, supported argument is this:

    I agree, but nevertheless, Fiore is clearly able to use his normal longsword in one hand adequately. And in the mounted section he specifies a short sword.
    Which as you later acknowledge is based on a single comment made in one play. If that is clear evidence, then when Fiore advises that posta breve "wants a long sword", does this mean I can't use it unless I go and get a longer weapon?

    Sure, but Vadi doesn't use the sword in one hand as much as Fiore.. Fiore has a whole section devoted to it after all.
    Actually Vadi does not discuss it at all, and tells us that he won't discuss it.

    We agree, Vadi prefers a larger sword than Fiore - But wasn't that the point you were originally disagreeing with/ rose to?
    This was a joke, right? What I said was that Vadi's personal preference is clearly for a fairly large sword, but it is not so large that it is not a "longsword" and ther is nothing to suggest that you can't use Vadi's system with a shorter weapon, or Fiore's with a longer one, as long as it's a "longsword". I think I've explained that three or four times now...

    "And the hilt (quillons) has to be well forged/balanced, and to have a good point, and the pommel has to be heavy, and those points have to be well forged and sharpened. And the sword has to be heavy at the back end and light at the point. And it has to weigh from V to VI pounds. And, according to the man being big and strong, it has to be armed in this way."
    Yes, this is the spada en arme, a specialized dueling sword. Now, assuming that Fiore's description means this is what you should use when fighting in armour, he'd probably have showed it in his plays, right?




    I cannot say because i do not know Vadi enough to have an opinion. I could however say that if someone had a sword that looked like Vadi's or Marozzo's then I think they would have a lot of problems trying to do all Fiore's techniques (though some techniques it may make little difference). I'd like to see someone doing Fiore's one handed techniques with Marozzo's sword Maybe Dave could do it....


    To me Meyer's sword looks pretty big, though still a longsword rather than two-hander. But it is possible the situation in Germany was different because people tried to preserve Liechtenauer art (he was still having his verses copied for a *very* long time), whereas in Italy the longsword art kep evolving..Maybe the German stuff stagnated a bit more. I don't know, I am just speculating. I *think* there are more Italian greatsword sources than German aren't there?
    Hmmm...check out the swords in Goliath, from 60 - 70 years earlier. They'd make Marozzo proud- still being used to illustrate Danzig though...

    Yeah I agree. Why do you think Fiore has more wide-spaced guards than Vadi then? I mean, we can't really use the civil/war answer can we, because Fiore only has these guards for unarmoured fighting... (and pollaxe...)
    Do we? I still don't think that the iconic record points to swords being predominatly used to half-sword on the field.



    Sure, but why are these changes happening? Why should Fiore have more wide-spaced/open guards for an unarmoured part of the art?

    Yes, clear. But just to finish, in addition to what you say, I would add that if a given master was given a longer weapon than he normally used, I believe he would adapt his teachings to better suit the properties of that weapon. In terms of weapon affecting the art, or the art affecting the weapon, well again, that's just a chicken and egg scenario - both probably went hand in hand, or otherwise we can't say.
    But in the end, the point remains the art would still function, intact, until you get to a radically different weapon, such as big two-hander, like Marozzo/Alfieri. Even then, the similarities and the core root of the *sytem* should work, but the alterations would be noticable.

    Greg
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

  19. #19
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    Fiore's sword lengths and weights

    Originally posted by Matt Easton
    Fair enough. I can agree to disagree if you can. We should be getting adept at it now

    Matt
    What are we disagreeing about, and based on what evidence? I'm confused.

    Please outline what points you disagree on and what evidence you base your assertions on so that I can understand what it is I might need to reconsider based on the evidence.

    So far yur position seems kind of fluid, and I can't keep up with where your final stand will be.
    Bob Charron
    St. Martins Academy of Medieval Arms

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    Good choice of title Greg - It's exactly what I would have titled the thred!

    Good morning Bob,

    OK, I think this thread is winding down, 'cause somehow neither of us understands the other's "crazy moon language".
    Hehehe

    So far yur position seems kind of fluid, and I can't keep up with where your final stand will be.
    Well I didn't mean it to seem like that - I thought I had stated my point several times, it is this:

    That for a given source (and using Fiore as an example here) there are a range of weapons that are appropriate to be used. There are parameters to the appropriate weapon - nothing too long or too short, and something that handles basically in the right way and has a basic set of characteristics. Also, for a given source, to me it seems that there are a prefered set of details to the weapon used. For Fiore this would be a sword that can be used by the practitioner to perform all of his plays well (something not too long, something that can be used well in one hand etc).

    Now it just so happens (no big surprise) that most surviving northern Italian 'longswords' of circa.1400 are more of what we might call the 'hand-and-a-half' variety, not too long, and that handle adequately in one hand or two. They also tend to be type XV or XVIII, with pointy blades. To me this seems the *most* appropriate sword to use for training with Fiore's books. Maybe not the only type, but the best.

    To me it seems clear that there are certain contemporary 'longswords' that do not work well with Fiore - for example the types that are too big and unwieldy in one hand, and too long, making some of Fiore's plays innefficient (in my hands/eyes).


    No Matt, the point is perfectly relevant. If all of these folks are importing Italian arms, then the arms should be of Italian pattern - thus, becoming an "international preference". SInce, English, Frernch, Spanish, etc. examples of swords are hardly homogenous, the idea of a homogenous "Italian sword" is a stretch.
    Germany hardly imported Italian arms and armour at this time. And Bordeaux seems to have exported almost as many sword blades as Milan at this time.
    I never said there was a homogenous Italian sword. I said there is a common type of northern Italian longsword to be found amongst surviving examples circa.1400. And so there is.

    So if we are going to discuss Fiore, I need a longsword c.1400, period. Doebringer is roughly contemporary as well, so I would see no problem for using the same sword for that.
    It stands to reason that if one master uses the longsword in a different manner to another (as Doebringer does to Fiore), then in choosing the optimum characteristics of that sword, then different features will be sought. Doebringer does not seem to use the sword in one hand anything like as much as Fiore, so he might not care about using a bigger, longer sword. And the nature of Fiore's volta, and of the Liechtenauerian winden, may well mean that the Liechtenauer tradition can be done with a larger sword. Not that it *needs* to be, but the parameters can be different due to the style of useage.
    In 1400 there were some really big two-handers already, and clearly (to me) these don't perform in Fiore's plays as well as the lighter, smaller swords.


    Although additional forms of longsword had appeared, the same sort of sword Fiore was using in 1400 was being used in 1480, so ther is no reason to assume the two systems can't use the same weapon.
    I never disagreed with this. What I said was that I believe Vadi's guards, and some of his plays, are better suited to a larger sword than Fiore's guards, and some of his plays, are.

    I've stated my opinions and the reasons why I have those opinions - I can't do much more

    Matt

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    Other Aspects

    Hi Folks,

    I am probably not qualified to actually get into this discussion as I have not translated much medieval Italian (5 pages to be exact) and not much of Liberi. Just to stick my oar in I will say something.

    I think this is a very interesting discussion and both sides have made many good points, and I think I can see where most of you are coming from.

    I think that personal preference is important in picking a style of combat and a style of sword. I think it was perfectly possible to pick your style of sword in the medieval period, though whether it was possible to pick a style of combat. I mean you couldn’t just walk up to Fiore and say ”hey mush, teach me how to hit with pointy things.” He taught in secret. The number of people actually taught by Liberi is not known, though probably small.
    Maybe there was many different styles and such out there in the medieval period in N. Italy and the Knight could pick his teacher within reason, I do not know.

    Anyway an ”old dog” may have been taught many styles, techniques and methods over a period of time. He, like me or you, could have discarded, or ”forgotten” techniques that did not fit his personal preference. Even Fiore says ”I know more of the art but I give you what I think is best” (I hope that is close to a quote)

    What creates personal preference? Well too big a subject to speak of it here, though body size, strength, hip width, agility, intelligence, and others, all play their part. But personal preference exists and existed, and this influences lots of things. Fiore seems to have a personal preference for certain techniques, because he only shows some of them in his treatises.
    Did he have a personal preference for a sword? We will never know, but I have a personal preference, do you?

    All the best


    Col
    Founder and Head Instructor at Arts of Mars Historical European Martial Arts Academy.
    Author: Fiore Dei Liberi 1409: Wrestling and Dagger (in two languages)
    DVD "Medieval Combat Italian Longsword - Student Guide 1" from the Treatises of Fiore dei Liberi 1409
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    There is no need of further discussion, when the Sword has the last word.

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    Opinions

    You started by taking some pretty strong positions about specific types of swords preferred in the practice of a particular master's art, and that all of the swords in Fiore's equestrian combat section were "short swords".

    So it seems to me that you are taking these positions based on your own personal experience and the confluence of several observations you have made. That's fair as an editorial.

    Yet it is not taken on specifics laid out in Fiore as to the type of weapon to be used (save one spada in arme that is an exceptional weapon). And the "short sword" reference is a single oblique one that was extrapolated out by you to cover the entire equestrian section.

    Yet there is only one specific reference to weight of a sword in all of the data we have on Fiore's work, and this is in reference to a single, special sword used for special purposes.

    There are no references to specific lengths of swords in all of Fiore, and a variety are shown throughout the text. There are only general notes made infrequently about how a particular posta can be better used with a longer sword. (By the way, the Morgan-Pierpoint and Getty-Ludwig copies disagree on whether the porta di ferro mezana should use a long sword or not use a long sword, making it even more difficult to pin down

    So based on the manuscript, my position is that swords of all kinds can be used in Fiore's art, and so many different kinds are depicted throughout the work. Where certain general types (long, short, good) would be beneficial to the use of a posta or can also be used (short) with a specific cover, then they are mentioned, but they don't make a rule.

    Finally, I hope you don't feel like I'm jumping all over you. I feel there is much to discuss in Fiore, and sometimes discussing it from strong positions can yield a great deal of good contemplation.
    Bob Charron
    St. Martins Academy of Medieval Arms

  23. #23
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    Sword Length and Technique.

    HI Folks,

    I also feel that Fiore has issues with the length of a blade and says so within the treatise. Though it will take a very interesting analysis to disect whether techniques, specific or otherwise, are noticably affected by weapon length (see my pathetic attempt later). Techniques or ”modus operandi” are affected by design as we see throughout history. At what stage are we looking at definite functional differences that can be actually discerned?
    I am not the brain to solve that one at the moment. What can we say about Fiore and his fighting system, that may involve weapon length?

    He states that certain poster need a long sword, and these are posta’s that ”stay in the point” (iffy quote). Of course if you are both thrusting at each other, say to the hand, the longest will offend first, though this is not the end of the subject. Our erstwhile combatants know a little about geometry and understand it’s implications. Fiori’s Boars Tooth thrusting from below into the hands has the interesting point that you hit his hands before he hits your chest even if he has a longer sword by four inches. So is Fiore here just indicating that someone who knows the art equally well as you, the longest offends first?
    Later he describes middle boars tooth, stepping off to the side and hitting hands/face, which is another way for a shorter sword to offend against a longer (also any sword against any). This another technique were short beats long if the opponent does not understand the art.

    Fiore has many techniques that defeat the attack with the point, some which use geometry as regards sword angles and others using the geometry related to stepping.

    In his zhogo stretto (close play) and zhogo largo (long play), he has certain stepping indicators in the text. Though there are many ways to reach his zhogo largo position, one way is to make a gathered step backwards a little when the opponent attacks. Of course this will be slightly bigger if the opponent has a big step, long arms, or a long sword. (I am assuming that we react to the blow at about the same time. Fiore would use his linx and see his ”longer” move, though whether he can maintain optimum distance is a moot point. Lets say that he reacts to all attacks at about the same point in space). The end result is we end up ”incrossada” at the middle of the blade. If my blade is shorter say 36” and the opponent is 44” inches, we cross at 18” to 22” short to long in the ideal world. This will produce a different time to uncross and go to the other side depending on the sword used (and of course the pressure). So that it one of Fiore’s techniques that should be quicker with a shorter sword. I think it is the first play in zhogo largo.

    Looking at another play, where Fiore grabs the sword blade, we can see that a longer sword blade with present Fiore with more opportunity to grab it, given the conditions are right. Trying to do the kick afterwards is more awkward the further you are away from the opponent, even 4 inches adds to the difficulty.
    When Fiore steps on blades surely if is easier if the blade you are using against him is longer by 4 inches.

    In zhogo Stretto we could analyse many of the grapples, elbow pushes, handle grabs, smashes in the teeth, all are more difficult the further away from the opponent you are. Time equals distance, both add 4 inches and you have increased the time proportionately. As in combat it may just be that one inch is all that is needed to mark the difference being hit or not, that is, your counter or evade works because you have the time to do it. When we have engaged the blade, the relative speed/length of the blades is significant IMHO. Can we say in engaged blade scenarios that the speed of my technical move can help to determine the outcome? Is there a length of blade which turns technique from Fiore’s style into Lechtineur’s or into Vadi’s?
    I have no real answers just indicators, and a personal feeling that Fiore’s style seems to benefit from a shorter sword. Though of course, who am I to say; I hope one day I can get to the point of understanding where I could state things with more confidence!

    I have a feeling that the way Fiore steps is somehow significant in this whole discussion, though that is another topic for another time.

    All the best


    Col
    Founder and Head Instructor at Arts of Mars Historical European Martial Arts Academy.
    Author: Fiore Dei Liberi 1409: Wrestling and Dagger (in two languages)
    DVD "Medieval Combat Italian Longsword - Student Guide 1" from the Treatises of Fiore dei Liberi 1409
    HEMAC member.
    Organiser International Open Championship 2008, 2010
    www.ArtsofMarsBooks.com
    www.ArtsofMars.com
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    There is no need of further discussion, when the Sword has the last word.

  24. #24
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    Re: Opinions

    Hi guys,

    Originally posted by Bob Charron
    Yet it is not taken on specifics laid out in Fiore as to the type of weapon to be used
    Well you see to my mind it is. Because I calculate this from Fiore's guards and his techniques/plays.

    I'll try to be more specific. I believe that if your sword is too long/big then:

    1) You cannot use the sword well in one hand as prescribed
    2) When you 'break the thrust' you are too far away to step on the point and reach the opponent easily.
    3) When you exchange thrusts the angle is too shallow, and too easy for the opponent to 'uncross' and therefore not 'safe' in Fiore terms (your arms can only go as low as your arms are long).
    4) You cannot use Denti di Cingiale properly
    5) The disarms do not work so well because with a longer handle the opponent's wrists do not become crossed so easily
    6) A different angle has to be used in the counter to the Punta Falsa and it becomes too easy for the opponent to uncross (a shallower angle to get the point in the face is needed, so less 'opposition')

    I could go on, but apart from 1) you *can* do all these techniques with a bigger two-handed sword, but to me they seem to work less well, and also negate some of the advantages that I think Fiore is taking advantage of.

    And the "short sword" reference is a single oblique one that was extrapolated out by you to cover the entire equestrian section.
    Well.. Fiore shows a technique with a spear/lance, saying it can be done also with a stick or a short sword and then goes on to show technique with a sword based upon the same principle.

    As I stated before, I do not believe the mounted techniques can be done well with a larger 'longsword', so if he is using the same sword (or range of swords) for the whole art, then I think he must be using a 'longsword' that is very manageable in one hand. So if he is not using a different sword for the mounted part, then this just supports my argument even further!

    Yet there is only one specific reference to weight of a sword in all of the data we have on Fiore's work, and this is in reference to a single, special sword used for special purposes.
    Yes, but as I stated before, Fiore and Vadi are unusual in giving any weights at all! And Fiore *does* make passing referrences to sword sized several other times in different parts of the treatise. I used this fact to illustrate that Fiore was concerned with sword sizes. If he were not, if he thought 'longsword' size never mattered, then surely he would not have made any such referrences at all (like most other 15thC sources). Fiore and Vadi are conspicuous in that they talk about this subject at all.

    (By the way, the Morgan-Pierpoint and Getty-Ludwig copies disagree on whether the porta di ferro mezana should use a long sword or not use a long sword, making it even more difficult to pin down
    Weird isn't it?

    So based on the manuscript, my position is that swords of all kinds can be used in Fiore's art, and so many different kinds are depicted throughout the work.
    I thought you didn't give credence to the art on this subject Bob?
    Don't get me wrong - I think Fiore's *principles* can be applied to a whole bunch of weapons, but his specific techniques cannot. To use a 5-6 foot two-hander with some of Fiore's plays would be downright silly, though certainly courageous .

    Finally, I hope you don't feel like I'm jumping all over you.
    No more than normal . I can respect your opinions on this greatly of course - But it does seem we just disagree, but I'm ok with that .

    I feel there is much to discuss in Fiore, and sometimes discussing it from strong positions can yield a great deal of good contemplation.
    Yes of course - hence why my statements may have seemed 'fluid', because they have probably evolved to a deeper thinking on the subject. I take many of yours and Greg's points on board - they are not lost - I happen to still believe my statements, but maybe I can phrase them in a way now that better explains why I believe that, which is always useful.

    Thanks,

    Matt

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