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Thread: Largo and Stretto article

  1. #1
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    Largo and Stretto article

    I have just written an article analysing the crossings of the sword in Fior di Battaglia. This includes my new interpretation of the terms zogho largo and zogho stretto.
    You can find the article here
    Enjoy!
    Yours
    Guy Windsor

  2. #2
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    Hi Guy,

    Interesting! I actually see direct similarities with Silver, where the distinction between "zogho largo, wide play" and "Zogho stretto, close play" is similar to "Wide space" and "Narrow Space" (which will take me a little time to process), and when you say "The correct action then is to pass with the cover (i.e. without leaving the cross) and execute one of the close play plays", this gels with Silver's instructions such as "if he strike and come in to the cloze, or to take the grip of you, you may then safely take the grip of him"...

    You have also inavertantly explained Swetnam's "Full, Half and Quarter blows" which has puzzled me forever! Hooray!

    Paul

  3. #3
    Guy,

    Great stuff as always! Just finished my first read through of the article. I'm going to read it a few more times, then probably pester you with questions
    Compagno, Northwest Fencing Academy

    "Axe-play is honorable and profitable for the preservation of a body noble or non noble" - Le Jeu de la Hache

    "Fights are won with basic technique performed at a high level of skill." - Maestro William Gaugler

    http://bunkaijuju.blogspot.com/

  4. #4
    Hi!

    These videos go nicely together with the article.

    Sword in one hand

    Gioco Largo

    Gioco Stretto

    Yours,
    Ilkka

  5. #5
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    Thumbs up

    Hello Guy and Ilkka,

    excellent, both article and clips!

    Cheers,
    Jörg
    Member of Ochs

    "It is a bad teacher that does not allow his student to become better than himself" (Sixten Ivarsson)

  6. Guy,

    Thanks for posting this article, and thanks also for the chance to preview it and discuss it with you last month. As I said then, I think you make a lot of important and valuable tactical observations, and reflecting on them has been an excellent exercise. Everyone should read and reflect on this article and the videos, Fiorista or otherwise.

    That said, I still believe that the defining characteristic of largo and stretto is the incrosdada a mezza spada, the crossing at the half sword, for the reasons Greg Mele enumerated in his analysis of Fiore, Vadi, the Bolognese systems, the German tradition, and George Silver. This doesn't ignore, but rather incorporates, your analysis.

    As a side note, thanks also for the excellent bout at WMAW in September. It was one of the highlights of the event for me, and I'm still analyzing our play, both successful and otherwise. I can't wait for the next one!

    Yours,

    Sean
    Sean Hayes, Maestro d'armi
    Northwest Fencing Academy

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association
    San Jose Fencing Masters Program Examination Board

    One should never confuse the rules of a competition with the rules of an art.

    People talk a lot about speed, but not very much about control, safety, tactics, and trying to get close to the reality of sharps. When simulating sharp fights, how fast one charges in depends on how quickly one would like to die.


  7. #7
    Double post
    Last edited by Ilkka Hartikainen; 11-06-2009 at 10:52 AM.

  8. #8
    Sean,

    That said, I still believe that the defining characteristic of largo and stretto is the incrosdada a mezza spada, the crossing at the half sword, for the reasons Greg Mele enumerated in his analysis of Fiore, Vadi, the Bolognese systems, the German tradition, and George Silver. This doesn't ignore, but rather incorporates, your analysis.
    Could you please elaborate on this slightly -- I'm not sure I understand your meaning here.

    Also, what analysis/reasons are you referring to? As far as I know, in the Bolognese sources "mezza spada" usually refers to the stretti, and while gioco stretto and largo are discussed, they are not used to refer to a crossing of swords in the way Fiore does.

    Yours,
    Ilkka
    Last edited by Ilkka Hartikainen; 11-06-2009 at 12:03 AM.

  9. #9
    Hello Guy,

    thanks for the article, good reading, as usual!

    Just seen the videos... very nice work, Gentlemen!

    Regards, Thomas
    Erschrickstu gern /
    Keyn Fechten lern.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilkka Hartikainen View Post
    Also, what analysis/reasons are you referring to? As far as I know, in the Bolognese sources "mezza spada" usually refers to the stretti, and while gioco stretto and largo are discussed, they are not used to refer to a crossing of swords in the way Fiore does.
    Therein lies the issue - Fiore is not discussing a "crossing of the sword", he is discussing a type of play. There are three crossings of the sword - punta, mezza and tutta. The first two occur with actions done in wide play, the third in close play. Mezza spada - the basic crossing when we both come into measure and strike - is the one place were wide or close play occurs.

    I also don't agree with your analysis of the Bolognese. You can't have "stretti" until you come to mezza spada, that is not the same as saying they are synonymous. Vadi also tells us this in Chapter 3:

    Be well aware and understand my writing;
    if your partner strikes with the sword,
    be sure to cross the blade with yours.

    Your guard should never go out of the way,
    your sword should cover [while] pointing to your foe's face;
    your blows the head shall hammer


    This is precisely the play of the First Master of Largo - I put my point to his face, if I lose the bind I cut his head.

    As we will see, a few chapters later, Vadi specifically tells us how to cross.

    This is wide play. Now note the next part:

    When he comes to the half sword
    close towards him, as reason so requires,
    leave the long distance and assail him.


    So stretto occurs after we reach the half-sword, it is not synonymous with it.

    Likewise:

    If you feel you haven't lost your cunning,
    leave the long distance for close combat,
    you'll make courage change sides.


    To be clear, in the above passage he simply says "largo" and "stretto", never using the term "giocco". But he clearly is telling us to change measure - it can't be as Guy suggests, about point placement, because that would mean which sort of play is being dictated *for* us - it would have nothing to do with cunning or courage.

    I have written about my own theory on largo and stretto at length on this forum, and in two different WMAW presentations, (you can read them in your WMAW handout) and I'm going to be publishing an article on this in the next few months. So I really don't want to rehash all of this again, except to say that in every major pre-rapier art I can think of, the "half-sword" is the defining characteristic of playing from the bind (whether we call it "mezza spada", "handarbeit" or "krieg"), since, as Silver notes, it is the one place from which you may cut, thrust, grip, strike up heels, etc. Further away, you can only cut thrust and make a grip on the blade, closer in you can only take grips, make throws, strike with the hilt.

    Guy was nice enough to explain his theory to me in email and on the phone. I still politely disagree with his analysis - not because I don't think it is well-considered or even has good tactical sense; just much as he disagrees with my analysis, I think he is looking at the data sample in a different way than I do. I know that Guy is looking, in part, and the illustrations and where he sees the points relative to the figures. Without corroboration, I fret over this, since that is again rendering the figures as photos, not cartoons. Does the Scholar's arms really grow to different lengths in certain plays? Does his sword really change lengths?

    Fiore makes no such reference, he did not draw the images, and we cannot say what the interrelation of the different manuscripts is. This is what he *does* say:

    Here begins the play of two-handed sword, in wide play. This Master has crossed his sword at the point with this opponent, and says: when I am crossed at the points, I quickly turn my sword and strike the opponent on the other side with a fendente to the head and arms; or I thrust to his face, as you will see next.

    Then the second Master of largo:

    Here we are crossed at the middle of the sword, in wide play. As soon as the cross is made, I glide with my blade over his hands, and if I pass with the right foot out of line, I can push a thrust to the opponent’s chest, as you will see directly.

    (Translations from the Leoni edition)

    Note that the two Masters are *specifically* defining their plays, and those of the scholars that follow, by *where* they cross on the blade, corresponding to Fiore telling us that there are three crossings of the blade. Note that the Master of Zogho Stretto is then shown crossed on the mezza spada or the tutta (depending on which manuscript).

    The only other, consistent variation is *which foot is forward in the bind*. Even then, I wouldn't be certain that this was the crucial determinant, if it weren't a matter of Vadi expressly telling us so:

    When you parry the riverso, keep forward
    the right foot and parry as said,
    when parrying the diritto
    then you will have the left foot forward.


    Note that this is precisely what Fiore *shows* us.

    I think our disagreement is in part based on how we interpret a number of finer points in the plays. For example, he sees the groin kick as parry on the tutta, *I* do not. It is a parry on the mezza - as Fiore shows in the second master, and the blade is advanced as the foot passes in to kick - driving the opponent's blade up. This is no different than what happens when I pass in with the fight foot on the Scambiar di Punta or the Rompere di Punta.

    We use this play in fencing a great deal in class, and if it were a tutta parry, while the scholar is left foot forward - *as Fiore shows, and as Vadi specifically tells us to do* - then the Player was stepping too deep/was too close on his initial attack.

    Likewise, I feel that the "point in presence" theory, is thwarted by play two of the second master of largo. This is what Fiore says about the play:

    My Master (whom we saw earlier) taught me that when I am crossed at middle of the sword, I should step forward immediately and grasp his blade as shown, so that I can strike him with a cut or thrust. I can also mess up his leg as you will see next, either in the shin or right under the knee.

    So his Master - the crossing at the sword at the mezza - is what his play is based upon. If the blade's point is wide, why are you reaching for it? The only reason to grab that point is that there's a struggle for the centerline and you have to do so immediately, because you cannot otherwise leave the bind without being struck.

    The same holds true for the scambiar di punta and it's follow-on. As I recall, from the article, Guy relates the rompere as what happens when you take your own point wide. I disagree - that is what the hilt grab is for, *as Fiore tells us*, and as he begins his section on stretto. (Which is logical, because the scholar is now in the position of the master of stretto - right foot forward.) The rompere is simply another option against thrusts, which again, is how I interpret Fiore's advice:

    This is another way to defend against a thrust. As I have said in the exchange of thrusts (the second play before me), you need to step and pass offline. Do the same in this play, except that in the exchange of thrusts the arms were low and the point high, as I said before. In this play, which is called breaking the thrust, the student has his arms high, makes a fendente while stepping and passing offline and throws the opponent’s thrust sideways, almost at mid-blade, to beat it to the ground. Then, he immediately goes to the close play.

    Note the bold section and also note "then he immediately goes to close play". Why? The point is not in presence. Ah, but his right foot is forward, which is the Master of Stretto.

    These are examples of why I simply don't see the data the same why Guy does in his article, and may reflect how we interpret the roles of the Masters and the individual details of the plays, themselves. But *for me*, wide and narrow play is dictated by one key issue - have I made it to the half sword - because if I haven't, I can only play wide, and if I am past it, I can only play close. Layered on top of this, Fiore and Vadi emphasize a way to cross in wide play that maintains measure and leaves the opponent striking to the outside line with his strongest blow, whereas, once we bring the right foot forward the far move vulnerable inside line is being threatened.

    (Which, if you think about it, is why so much of rapier fencing is said to occur in the stretto - the combatants face each other right foot forward, their strong attacks threatening the inside line, and their parries occurring at half-sword.)

    Guy has had a number of brilliant insights over the years that have changed my interpretations, and who knows, he may get me on this one yet. It is well-argued, and I'll keep playing with it. But as of now, I agree with Sean - I just don't see the issue of point in presence/not presence as being the defining trait.

    (To be clear - I've shared these comments and others with Guy, so I'm only speaking in 3rd person since he isn't the one asking the question!)

    Best,

    Greg
    Last edited by Gregory Mele; 11-06-2009 at 10:35 AM.
    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)

  11. #11
    Greg,

    thank you for posting your thoughts on the subject. If you don't mind, can I ask your about your thoughts on how one ends up in the gioco stretto? This is something that Guy addresses in an interesting way in his new interpretation with the passing with cover if the point is near, but how do you see this happening?

    Yours,
    Ilkka

  12. Quote Originally Posted by Ilkka Hartikainen View Post
    Greg,

    thank you for posting your thoughts on the subject. If you don't mind, can I ask your about your thoughts on how one ends up in the gioco stretto? This is something that Guy addresses in an interesting way in his new interpretation with the passing with cover if the point is near, but how do you see this happening?
    Since Greg answered the question you asked of me, why don't I answer the question you asked of him?

    By the way, to all observers, you are seeing a continuation of an off-line conversation that Guy, Greg, myself and a couple of others have been having over the past few weeks. We've been having conversations like this for years, since we like to get critical feedback from each other.

    As to how, Fiore doesn't say much, beyond that you're making an additional step. I think mechanically it's fairly simple: you parry while keeping left foot forward, and as the cross is achieved, and through feel and sight you discern the nature of the bind and the tactical options, you choose to step in with the right. Greg has already discussed Vadi above, so i won't repeat that here.

    Personal preferences I tend to close the line off a bit to my left - I step my right foot just to the left of the centerline - and in any defense I freely move my left foot back a little, sideways a little or occasionally forward a little to help generate a cross I like. I incorporate (and teach my students to incorporate) this step in regular practice to compensate for differences in height and reach, etc. It also assists in controlling the measure of the right foot's entry a bit, and since we often practice cutting a tight fendente to a left breve right into the other fendente, it helps with body rotation, structure, and the transmission of power from the right hip. But again, that's me, not Fiore, speaking.

    As to why, let's look at what he does discuss - and it will of course become apparent that we're all discussing the same evidence, as Greg noted, but marshalling it different ways. We should also remember that (again, as Greg said) we don't all see the individual plays through the same interpretive lens, and this will affect our overall interpretation of the larger question.

    From the Getty MS, beginning of the largo section, sword in two hands:

    I am the sword and I am lethal against any weapon; lances, axes and dagger are worthless against me. I can become extended or withdrawn; when I get near the opponent I can enter into close play, perform disarms and abrazare. My art is to turn and to bind; I am expert in defense and offense, and always strive to finish in those.

    Here he characterizes the many-faceted nature of the sword, and specifically notes: "when I (eg the sword) get near the opponent I can enter into close play." In this he refers to the sword in general, not any specific part of it, such as the punta or the mezza, nor does he refer to footing of the swordsman, etc. I take "near" in this instance to mean "close enough to execute a grapple in a reasonable tempo." In any event, he's clearly stating that the play of the sword has both types of play in it, and he doesn't seem to privilege one over the other.

    He then shows us the two largo crossings: punta and mezza. Of the punta he says:

    Here begins the play of two-handed sword, in wide play. This Master has crossed his sword at the point with this opponent, and says: when I am crossed at the points, I quickly turn my sword and strike the opponent on the other side with a fendente to the head and arms; or I thrust to his face, as you will see next.

    I have given you a thrust to the face, as the Master before me had said. I could have also performed the other action he mentioned: attack right after crossing swords to the right, i.e. turn a fendente to the left side, to the head and arms of the opponent, as my master before me said.

    At the punta, the play ends quickly, one of two specific ways: I control the crossing and by implication the centerline, and I thrust; or he controls the crossing and by clear implication the centerline: "attack right after crossing swords to the right," eg the remedy master's right, meaning the opponent has control, or at least enough pressure in the bind that fighting through it is fruitless. And that's all he says: that particular crossing is short, ephemeral, and really doesn't allow of additional actions in that time, and clearly there is no time to enter into zogho stretto.

    For the mezza spada crossing, he only precedes the plays by saying:

    Here we are crossed at the middle of the sword, in wide play.

    But he does make an entry into stretto in the largo section, the 12th play where he passes in and seizes the handle. Greg already mentioned this play, but I'd like to draw your attention to some specific tactical advice Fiore gives:

    This play derives from the exchange of thrusts we just saw. Let’s say the student in the play before me didn’t immediately thrust to the opponent’s face; let’s say he instead hesitated with his point without directing it to the opponent’s face or chest, because the latter was in armor. In this case, the student should pass forward with his left foot and grasp the opponent in this manner.

    The 12th play is the first point Fiore provides us with a tactical reason for entering into zogho stretto: hesitation in the thrust due to a tactical circumstance (armour) necessitates a different response. As we all know, this is also the second play (after the remedy) of the zogho stretto section.

    The second tactical reason he provides (in this case it is implicit, rather than explicit as above) is in the 13th play:

    This is another way to defend against a thrust. [...] In this play, which is called breaking the thrust, the student has his arms high, makes a fendente while stepping and passing offline and throws the opponent’s thrust sideways, almost at mid-blade, to beat it to the ground. Then, he immediately goes to the close play.
    The tactical circumstance has changed because the student changed it: he hurled the opponent's sword to the ground, creating a tempo in which to enter close play. Now, it is my opinion that the close play referred to here is actually play 16, where the opponent has attempted to parry-

    If, after I break his thrust, the opponent lifts his sword to parry, I immediately put my hilt within his right arm, near his right hand, and quickly grasp my blade near the point with my left hand, wounding him in the head. If I wanted, I could also place my sword to his neck to slit his throat.
    -and that the 14th and 15th occur in zogho largo, at the reach of the sword. Note that in play 16 the student is left foot forward, as seen in the majority stretto plays (most of the right foot forward plays involve additional steps after having gained the player's back by turning him) and is at hand-to-hand distance and is using the sword as a tool with which to grapple.

    Play 19 (the false point) contains a small nugget of tactical advice-

    This play is better in armor than without.
    -but a tactical shift comes with play 20, the final play and the only counter master of zogho largo:

    This is the counter to the play we just saw—i.e. the false thrust or short point. When the student strikes my sword and circles his sword around mine, I turn mine around his in the same manner, while with an oblique pass I find the opponent’s uncovered side. I then can put a thrust in his face. This counter is good both in and out of armor.
    Note that the counter master ends up left foot forward, and he has entered into stretto (he is at hand-to-hand distance and is using the sword to assist his grapple, as in play 16). He has been forced by changing circumstance - the opponent's play of the false point, which changes sides - to close to the player, and he can do so in or out of armour.

    In my opinion, 12, 16 and 20 are 'bridge" plays into both stretto and the play of spada en arme (which of course is largely played in zogho stretto). Were I to flowchart it, there would be arrows with decision points leading from those plays to the stretto and spada en arme sections.

    At the end of the largo section, Getty MS, he says:

    Here ends the wide play of the two-handed sword. These plays are all linked, and have remedies and counters both from the mandritto and riverso side, counter-thrusts and counter-cuts to each action, with breaks, parries, strikes and binds—all things that can be understood very, very easily.

    Note the focus on how the sword is used in largo.

    We will now start the close play of the two-handed sword. We will see every kind of parry, strike, entering and exiting binds, grapples, disarms and throws. We will also see the remedies and the counters to each action needed to attack and defend.

    Note the second line, its focus on grappling - We will see every kind of parry, strike, entering and exiting binds, grapples, disarms and throws - and compare it to the above statement about the largo plays. This is explicitly different and refers to a set of plays where we leave the extended reach of the sword (or leg) for the close play of the grapple. But this returns us to Greg's point: it's a set of plays, and there's relatively little explicit instruction advice in the sword section as to why you choose to enter stretto. I won't dig out the other sections of the manuscripts, but I think a little reflection on the rest of the sections will yield more tactical advice.

    As corroborating evidence, Manciolino (1531) says of largo and stretto: 


    As you play with the two-handed sword in the gioco largo, you should keep your eye on the part of the opponent’s sword from half-blade to the tip. However, once you are at the half-sword, you should look at your opponent’s left hand, since it is with it that he may come to grapples. The art of the half-sword is necessary to the curriculum of anyone who wishes to become a good player. If you were only skilled in the gioco largo, and found yourself in the stretto, you would be compelled with shame and danger to pull back, thus often relinquishing victory to your opponent – or at least betraying your lack of half-swording skills to those who watch.

    Hope this addresses your question.

    Yours,

    Sean
    Sean Hayes, Maestro d'armi
    Northwest Fencing Academy

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association
    San Jose Fencing Masters Program Examination Board

    One should never confuse the rules of a competition with the rules of an art.

    People talk a lot about speed, but not very much about control, safety, tactics, and trying to get close to the reality of sharps. When simulating sharp fights, how fast one charges in depends on how quickly one would like to die.


  13. #13
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    To Sean's post I'd add one other, obvious example - when you step in to attack.

    If I am the Player and pass in to attack, as the Scholar parries *I* am in the Master of Zogho Stretto, and I can use his plays to counter what the Scholar does. This can be simply out of opportunity, or it can specifically be done to set up the close - I initiate my attack to draw his cover and then pass in with my left foot.

    Likewise, I can counter his attack with a step in of the right foot - a pressing in - and keep pressing in with the left.

    So coming to the plays of stretto are quite easy, IMO.
    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)

  14. #14
    Sean,

    thanks for the answer! I hope this topic was simple enough that everyone didn't need to quote half of Fiore's work with each reply - it makes it difficult to address the posts further.

    What I'm looking for is the 'why' part. This is again something Guy addressed but I haven't seen addressed elsewhere - that stretto play is where you end up from the situation where your parry has not been successful. The deciding factor is the attackers action to close against the parry (and since we are drawing from 16th c. sources to help argue, look at Meyer who explains this in detail. I can look up the reference later, if necessary.)

    If the mezza spada is the ultimate position of equality, why would anyone want to be there. What is the advantage over your opponent in an equal situation? Something's missing there tactically...

    If from the crossing left foot forward you pass in, this is a huge tempo for your opponent to act - again, I'm not convinced.

    Greg,

    your final example is pretty close to what Guy is discussing in his article, actually as far as I know.

    - Ilkka

  15. #15
    Although I don't really know much about Fiore, since 16th century sources have been included, I thought I'd throw out a few bits of information.

    In the case of the Bolognese, Mezza Spada really seems to be a position with no inherent advantage to either swordsman. Either Manciolino or Marozzo (I can't remember which and I'm too lazy to search) states that from Mezza Spada, the advantage goes to the quicker opponent, which I read as being the opponent who recognizes the tactical situation and moves first. Additionally, I see probably two inherent measures in the Bolognese plays of Mezza Spada: first is when the opponent can only be hit with a step, and second when the opponent can be hit without a step. Thus, in Bolognese, Mezza Spada is more than just a crossing of the swords--it is a specific crossing (or crossings). Note that the Bolognese seem to imply a 'potential' connection between Mezza Spada and Gioco Stretto, but not an explicit one. That is, in Gioco Largo, attacks end with the point out of presence. However, in Gioco Stretto, attacks end with the point in presence; however, is possible even without coming to Mezza Spada.

    However, Altoni looks at Mezza Spada differently. First, in his description, any crossing of the swords is Mezza Spada. Thus, unlike the Bolognese, some crossings favor one or the other swordsman, while other crossings seem to be without advantage. They can be either edge (or even flat) against either edge (or flat). In addition, he explicitly tells us that there are different ranges of Mezza Spada and labels them: Mezza Spada Larga, Mezza Spada Vera, and Mezza Spada Stretta. Additionally, he explicitly labels the situation in which the swords are in contact where one has the advantage, he calls these: Mezze Spade Dispari. Another interesting point that Altoni says which seems to directly contradict the Bolognese is when he mentions Mezze Spade made with the false-edge(s):

    [...]you need to know that all of the Mezze Spade can be made with the False-Edge, with one or both of the swords. Those that are made with only one False-Edge offer some advantage to one or the other [opponent], but those that are made with both False-Edges are very perilous, inconvenient, and without art.

    I find this particularly interesting, since in the Bolognese, False-Edge to False-Edge is one of the two primary types of Mezze Spade.

    I don't have a meaningful opinion on Guy's article (other than to say that it is well-written--but that his par for the course with his stuff), as I just don't know enough about the Italian Longsword texts. I just thought I'd throw this out for consideration, as Altoni provides a somewhat different (and prehaps, more complete) view on this situation than do the Bolognese.

    Steve
    Founder of NoVA-Assalto, an affiliate of the HEMA Alliance

  16. Quote Originally Posted by Ilkka Hartikainen View Post
    thanks for the answer! I hope this topic was simple enough that everyone didn't need to quote half of Fiore's work with each reply - it makes it difficult to address the posts further.
    It seemed relevant, and frankly I'm losing track of what I have said to whom in which venue, so I tried to be "complete."

    If the mezza spada is the ultimate position of equality, why would anyone want to be there.
    You don't! No one wants to be there: we all want to execute the remedy of the first master, thrust the opponent through the heart, and go home. But things don't always work out as we wish, so we have the rest of the largo plays and the stretto as well.

    What is the advantage over your opponent in an equal situation? Something's missing there tactically...
    There is no advantage, something Fiore tells us through the remedy master for stretto: either of them can do the plays. Tactical necessity often dictates choice of action. My strategy is to defend, and thrust you through the heart. My tactics are designed to draw your mandritto fendente and use a specific technique to cross at the punta spada, gain clear advantage by closing the line solidly to my left, and immediately or perhaps simultaneously thrust. But either you didn't cooperate or I didn't execute my action properly, and now a new tactical situation arises, one that demands a nearly instant response. So necessity, rather than desire, plays a big part.

    Remember, the 1st master and his only play at punta spada have two options, one for success in the bind, and one for failure - the mezza spada section expands on this principle. The crossing of the mezza spada in zogho largo is a general case, and the plays that follow are all about specifics - specifics about the quality of the bind:

    At mezza spada in zogho largo, the 4th play of largo (eg 1st student of the 2nd master) has an implied advantage in the crossing: he can leave the bind for the very short tempo necessary to cut the hands, and follow up with a thrust and step. The 5th though 8th plays do not have advantage in the bind: they have to neutralize the pressure in the bind. Assuming the 9th is a cut to the leg from the crossing, there was either equal pressure in the bind that the player left to cut the leg, or he had lost the bind initially and was taking a cheap shot. The 10th play is another attempt by the student to regain advantage in the bind. The 11th through 18th plays all operate from the student's advantage in the bind. The 19th play is a deliberate attempt by the student to draw the player into believing that he (the player) has advantage in the bind. The 20th is a specific counter to 19, what to do when your apparent advantage is not there, but (in my view) also operates as a general instruction on how to play when the defender leaves the bind.

    All the zogho stretto plays operate from a position of no specific advantage - Fiore is telling us that's risky, so act fast.

    If from the crossing left foot forward you pass in, this is a huge tempo for your opponent to act - again, I'm not convinced.
    It is, but I think we're all in agreement (at least according to Guy's article) that some binds don't convey advantage to either swordsman. Guy says of the crossing for zogho stretto, and I fully agree:

    [...] if either leaves the bind, he is likely to be struck immediately. [...]The text explicitly states that either fencer can do any of the plays that follow- in other words, the cross has not conveyed an advantage to either.


    And I note that, at least in your demonstration videos, this is what Guy is doing to close to stretto: he crosses first with left foot forward and then passes in with right. He wastes no time in doing so - it's a very smooth action. I am in complete agreement that the defender can behave this way and minimize the tempo issue: I practice it exactly as Guy does. But the fact remains that Fiore points out that either can perform all the plays, and that means the defender is stepping forward. You can argue that he steps forward with the parry (eg hand and foot together), instead of as the parry is achieved (eg hand leads and foot follows), but there really is no evidence from Fiore for the exact timing of the step.

    Greg,

    your final example is pretty close to what Guy is discussing in his article, actually as far as I know.
    I think that would put us all in agreement about how to enter, then. Both Guy (in the article and the demos) and I have emphasized the student (defender) entering into stretto, whereas Greg first outlined the player (attacker) entering into stretto, and then mentioned the case of the student entering on defense. But I know from experience that Guy will enter into stretto on his attack, and he knows the same thing from experience of me - each of us did it to the other (successfully!) in different actions at WMAW.

    Cheers,

    Sean
    Last edited by Sean Hayes; 11-07-2009 at 09:54 AM.
    Sean Hayes, Maestro d'armi
    Northwest Fencing Academy

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association
    San Jose Fencing Masters Program Examination Board

    One should never confuse the rules of a competition with the rules of an art.

    People talk a lot about speed, but not very much about control, safety, tactics, and trying to get close to the reality of sharps. When simulating sharp fights, how fast one charges in depends on how quickly one would like to die.


  17. This just occurred to me, as a note for people reading this thread:

    I think that Greg, Guy, Ilkka and I are all in pretty good general agreement as how to physically execute Fiore's art. There's a range of interpretation among us, but we are all clearly working from same master's teachings.

    What we're talking about, to a large extent, is how to conceptualize the art (or rather how Fiore conceptualizes the art of armizare). That doesn't mean it's entirely an academic discussion, without eventual physical affect: how you conceptualize the art affects how you train in the art, or teach the art, both of which will affect the ultimate practice of the art. So it does matter.

    But I don't have the sense that we're dealing with radically different ideas on how blades work, what mechanical advantage really is, how good body structure is achieved, or bizarre notions of tempo that supersede the practical laws of Newtonian physics.

    Cheers,

    Sean
    Sean Hayes, Maestro d'armi
    Northwest Fencing Academy

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association
    San Jose Fencing Masters Program Examination Board

    One should never confuse the rules of a competition with the rules of an art.

    People talk a lot about speed, but not very much about control, safety, tactics, and trying to get close to the reality of sharps. When simulating sharp fights, how fast one charges in depends on how quickly one would like to die.


  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilkka Hartikainen View Post
    If the mezza spada is the ultimate position of equality, why would anyone want to be there. What is the advantage over your opponent in an equal situation? Something's missing there tactically...
    Because *fights* are not cooperative, they are antagonistic, Ilkka. Technique does not exist in an ideal vacuum, it exists as an expression of ideal within the realities you must face. ANYTIME we both cut, we come to the half-sword. Anytime to strike as you close into measure and I make a simple parry or deflection *that* is the half-sword. That is why the vast majority of techniques are all taught from that position. It doesn't matter if it is the follow-on techniques from the Zornhau, the plays of the second master of zogho largo in Fiore, Silver's parry in "forehand ward", or the corpus of Bolognese plays - they all focus on actions of the half-sword.

    So, since that is *demonstrable*, if there is something missing, let me reflect your question the other way and ask you, "why is the bind at half-sword the dominant position in all pre-rapier fencing?"

    If from the crossing left foot forward you pass in, this is a huge tempo for your opponent to act - again, I'm not convinced.
    I don't pass in from the left foot forward to "enter stretto" - much as Silver advises, you enter grappling range out of the disorder/wide space of the opponent, or necessity. As Fiore shows then, the stretto plays occur because my largo play *failed* on my initial pass. There is not a single instance, as the quotes Sean and I supplied show, where he says one word about being threatened by the point, so you go to stretto.

    Fiore shows specific examples where this happens in his largo section: scambiar di punta, rompere di punta, punta corta/falsa - and *each time* the follow-on action is a pass of the left foot to the outside and a play of zogho stretto. *Every time*. I don't think that can be discounted.

    your final example is pretty close to what Guy is discussing in his article, actually as far as I know.
    I believe the key differences would be these factors: I feel that I can only take the step in to stretto if we bind at the half-sword or closer (such as he steps with his parry), the location of his point is not the principle determining factor, and this is only one way I might come to the stretto close.
    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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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Hayes View Post
    But I don't have the sense that we're dealing with radically different ideas on how blades work, what mechanical advantage really is, how good body structure is achieved, or bizarre notions of tempo that supersede the practical laws of Newtonian physics.
    I would agree.
    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)

  20. #20
    Hi!

    I would agree that what Fiore is showing in the largo section are different actions based on what happens after the swords are bound, whether they stay crossed or not &c.

    The consensus seems to be, and this is supported by Fiore's text as well, that the significance of the stretto section is that those actions all follow the pass that the master has made with his right foot after a left-foot forward parry made towards his opponent's right side.

    What we should then be looking for, is the situation where the master needs to take this pass in order to reach a position of equality, from which to continue. This would suggest a situation where none of the largo plays were really available, thus he needs to pass to regain a situation from which to act (or that, during his pass he is not able to strike the opponent thus he remains crossed).

    What would such a circumstance be? If it isn't with the parry failing and the opponent having his point in presence (or near presence), then what could it be?

    The 'failed' exchange of thrusts and the breaking of the thrust work here as well, during the pass the master was not able to hit, therefore he enters in the stretto - the followup of the exchange is similar to the first play of gioco stretto - there has to be a link there.

    why is the bind at half-sword the dominant position in all pre-rapier fencing?
    Is it? Isn't that the dominant position in a sense with the rapier as well? The Bolognese avoid mezza spada rather than seek it. With the current evidence, I'm less confident to say one way or theo other regarding Fiore's preferences, so little does he discuss ways of attacking, or feinting, or coming to the parries in general... this really seems as if it was either too trivial to discuss or something that was left out to be learned by experience.

    - Ilkka

  21. #21
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    Hello Guy, Ilkka et al.,

    Great discussion,

    Which seemed to end on some questioning of When to enter into stretto, so I thought I would give my interpretation of why and when you enter into the stretto plays.

    I do think the fundamentals of the plays are orientation of the feet, and distance. Stretto plays begin with both players crossed with right foot forward, making them both able to perform the plays.

    As to who can enter when...

    Defender
    The conditions to enter stretto can be made by the defender by winning control of the initial incrossada. For example,
    • both are waiting in di donna,
    • attacker cuts fendente
    • defender cuts to longa, aiming the point at the throat (centre line) yet keeping his hands to the left thus making a good counter attack and cover
    • the attacker is then forced to alter the trajectory of his cut – away from the opponent and into the opponents sword to prevent a single-time, fight-ending defence from the defender. This means the attacker’s first cut is no longer a real threat.
    • It is because of this change in the attacker’s line of attack that the defender is now in the vor – the defender has the initiative and can now enter.
    • Which play he enters I believe depends on distance and the spatial relationship between the combatants.
    o However, the usual thing to do is to pass in with the left foot and this is because he began right foot forward
    o At this point he does one of the plays

    Attacker
    I believe the conditions for the attacker to enter first are also derived from the fact that the incrossada is made with both being right foot forward, and winning the incrossada – in other words when the cross is made, being ahead on tempo.

    How can the attacker achieve this? Well by confusing the opponent through the use of feints and other motion so that when he does launch the attack, the defender is unable to make a cover which simultaneously threatens the attacker. Because the defender is therefore unable to gain the vor, he is still reacting. The attacker is ahead on time and can enter.

    Cheers

    Murph
    David B. Murphy
    Free Scholar
    Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts
    Guelph Chapter
    Canada

  22. Hi Murph!

    Good analysis. I would only add that the degree of pressure in the incrosada (bind) is a factor as well.

    Cheers,

    Sean
    Sean Hayes, Maestro d'armi
    Northwest Fencing Academy

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association
    San Jose Fencing Masters Program Examination Board

    One should never confuse the rules of a competition with the rules of an art.

    People talk a lot about speed, but not very much about control, safety, tactics, and trying to get close to the reality of sharps. When simulating sharp fights, how fast one charges in depends on how quickly one would like to die.


  23. #23
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    Hey Sean,

    I totally agree and when I was thinking about what I posted, thought that I did not clarify what was going on in the bind.

    In my experience, when one fighter is forced to simply cross hard on the sword without being able to make a threat, the other gains the initiative and can enter.

    cheers

    Murph
    David B. Murphy
    Free Scholar
    Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts
    Guelph Chapter
    Canada

  24. #24
    Hi!

    I wrote a little bit on the subject in my blog here, reflecting on the Bolognese tradition as well. Some of you might find it interesting.

    - Ilkka

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