Italian Fencing

Created by Gilbert Wolghope, edited by Veil le Pantera

From the SCA Fighter Training Weekend, 2014.



Aristotelian time & motion for fencing


Capoferro – mechanics

Capoferro – fundamentals  1

Capoferro – fundamentals  2

Manciolino – cutting patterns & footwork

Manciolino – principles & tactics

Fiore – various dagger plays

Capoferro – fundamentals revision

Capoferro – various plays

Capoferro – Sword and dagger

Fiore – sword in one hand


Aristotelian time & motion for fencing

  • Units of motion & stillness
  • What is a tempo
  • Natural vs violent  motion
  • Repercussion for disengage
    • Cavatione is slower than ricavatione
      • All dependent on initiation start point
      • Contracavatione is a responding cavatione in the time of the other persons cavatione
  • Cavatione should flow rather than stop – start
    • Subtly turning the key, not moving the elbow
    • Rotating about the balance point of the sword vs moving the whole arm and sword
    • Repercussion for  cuts
      • Flowing circular movements are quick and more controlled than a stop start movement (such as a V)
      • Tactical tempo control
        • Your action should be shorter than your opponents
        • Your action should aim to elicit a longer re-action from your opponent


Warm up

Range of motion stretches

  • Shoulder
    • Shoulder rotation (rotating arms in opposite directions)
    • Retraction & protraction (moving shoulder blades back and forth, arms outstretched)
    • Elbow rotation
      • Keep elbows level with your shoulders
      • Wrist rotation
        • Ditto above
        • Windsor turn
          • Arms out, turning whole body on balls of the feet such that one knee almost touches the ground, then untwist to bring the other knee to the same position near the opposite foot (similar to The Duelests Companion, but slower)
          • Lunge & turn
            • Start short lunge, rotate 135 deg, deepen by bending the knee and then allowing the rear foot to slide a third of a foot length
            • Ankle rotations
              • Lift leg and rotate pointed foot


Capoferro – mechanics

  • Pyramid stepping to find stance
    • All weight on one leg, knee bent over foot, upright back
    • Other leg rests on weighted leg above knee, find balance, put your arms down if possible
    • Unbend unweighted leg out perpendicularly to weighted foot, lowering the body such that your heal touches the ground and the unweighted leg is straight, keeping the majority of the weight off this leg
    • Flatten foot
    • Shift weight by bending knees from weighted foot all the way to unweighted foot
    • Lift newly unweighted foot and rest on weighted leg above knee, in reverse to first stance
    • Repeat
    • Resisted partner lunge
      • Patient goes to stance, faced by the agent, not in stance
      • Sword hand is forward at appropriate sword wielding height, use the rotating drop motion to relax muscles and gain stance
      • Agent applies force to sword hand horizontally along stance strength, note flaws and adjust
      • Patient lunges at slow speed forwards, resisted by agent, note flaws and adjust
      • Patient recovers back, resisted by agent, note flaws and adjust
        • Common flaws:
          • Toppling tower – caused by balance is too high or too far back
          • Twisting – torso too square on
          • Not settling back into original stance – memory
          • Simple steps
            • Simple step
              • Back footed (off hand foot) weight and knee is bent as per pyramid above, front foot (sword hand) is flat, pointed toward opponent
              • Lift front foot toes until heal is the only contact with the ground, lift foot and place no greater than one foot length forwards, placing heal to toe
              • Rear foot moves without lifting torso, done by quickly contracting the foot and moving forwards and extending the foot in a leg only hop like fashion
              • Torso does not rock forwards on the front leg, front leg remains unweighted. Only the back leg moves the torso forwards.
  • Lunge
    • Arm extends with sword extending as if along a rail
    • Shift weight forwards (allows muscles to define speed, not gravity)
    • Lifts toes and then heal, placing the heal forwards and then flattening the foot
    • As front foot moves forwards, off hand extends backwards from elbow to point behind in a vertical fashion (avoid horizontal circle as it throws your aim off), shoulders straighten in line with the lunge, both hands are oriented in the same direction (palm up for both, or palm down for both)
    • Recover by beginning shifting weight back, then step back and all other actions are the same in reverse
    • Common flaws are balance, angle of feet, angle of knee and timing
    • Passing steps
      • Rear foot moves forward in a forwards direction, front foot moves back in a backwards direction, feet do not change orientation
      • Perpendicular foot lands on the ball, in line foot lands on the heal in a forwards direction, on the ball in a rearwards direction
      • Footwork kata
        • Lunge, recover
        • Pass back one foot, recover forwards
        • Pass forwards, recover forwards
        • Pass changing hands (change foot orientation to match blade), withdraw to guard
        • repeat
        • The guards
          • Guards are defined by where the sword hand is placed
            • First is above the shoulder
            • Second is in line with the shoulder
            • Third is below the shoulder but outside the knee
            • Fourth is below the shoulder but inside the knee
            • Fifth and six are for later


Capoferro – fundamentals 1

  • Finding the sword
    • AKA gaining
    • The disengage
      • Cavatione
      • Basic drill 1
        • Out of measure
        • P invites (inside, or outside)
        • A gains and advances
        • A lunges and strikes
        • Basic drill 2
          • Out of measure
          • P invites (inside, or outside)
          • A gains and advances
          • P disengages and strikes in the time of A’s gain
          • Intermediate drill 1
            • A & P moving, maintaining measure
            • P invites (in own time)
            • A gain (includes advance) and strike
            • Intermediate drill 2 – this is a drill to focus on the mechanics and flow
              • AS above
                • A & P moving
                • P invites
                • A goes to gain
  • If gained P disengages and retreats
  • If not yet gained P disengages and strikes


Capoferro – fundamentals 2

  • Countergain
  • Parry riposte
  • Beat
  • Basic drill 1 – 4
  • Basic drill 3
    • Out of measure
    • P invites
    • A advances to gain
    • P disengages in time of A’s gain in order to strike
    • A counter gains and strikes (it’s a trap!)
    • Basic drill 4 – Inside
      • Out of measure
      • P invites inside
      • A advances to gain
      • P disengages in time of A’s gain by way of feint
      • A counter gains to strike
      • P parry’s in second tip up, true edge
      • P strikes imbrocarto
      • Basic drill 4 – Outside
        • Out of measure
        • P invites outside
        • A advances to gain
        • P disengages in time of A’s gain by way of feint
        • A counter gains to strike
        • P beats A’s blade with mandrito (number 1 cut within shoulders)
        • P strikes A with either a thrust to head or cut to arm or head
        • Intermediate drill 3
          • A & P moving
          • P invites in own time
          • A gains
          • P disengages and retreats or disengages to strike
          • A follows striking if feasible with countergain (i.e. in the time of Ps disengage)
          • Intermediate drill 4
            • A & P moving
            • P invites in own time
            • A gains
            • P disengage by feint,  or disengage to strike
            • A counter gains to strike
            • P is struck, or parry & riposte, or beat and strike as appropriate



Manciolino – cutting patterns and footwork

First teach the core idea of each cutting pattern with as simple foot and hand work as possible:

  1. charity ribbon with pass & recovery
  2. infinity ribbon with two simple passes
  3. X cuts with two simple passes
  4. possibly reverse infinity ribbon with two simple passes i.e.
    1. Sopra il Braccio,
    2. pass Riverso Riddoppio,
    3. Guardia Alta,
    4. pass Montante,
    5. Sopra il Braccio,
    6. repeat

Following that, teach the previous with more focus on Manciolino specific footwork:

  1. traverse & recover
  2. pass & traverse & recover i.e.
    1. GA LFF (left foot forward)
    2. pass mandritto fendente
    3. Sotto il Braccio
    4. traverse riverso fendente
    5. recover GA
    6. repeat
      1. larga guard
      2. linear pass, falso
      3. GA
      4. traverse, fendente
      5. repeat on both sides
      6. linear pass & traverse i.e.
        1. GA LFF
        2. pass, montante
        3. SopraIB
        4. traverse, riverso ridoppio
        5. GA
        6. repeat

NB When I use pass I mean the pass along the line of offence and when I use traverse I mean a pass away from the line of offence.

At this point the students have something that can be feasibly used in free play. We then increase the difficulty of the sword work:






Teach the guards at this point:



      1.                      i.            PDFS (porta di ferro stretta)
      2.                    ii.            Traverse, mezza volta
      3.                   iii.            recover, mezza volta
      4.                  iv.            CPDFS (Cingaria porta di ferro stretta)
      5.                    v.             Traverse, mezza volta
      6.                  vi.            recover, mezza volta
      7.                 vii.            PDFS
      8.               viii.            repeat
      9. And also
        1.                      i.            CLS (Coda Lunga Stretta)
        2.                    ii.            Traverse, mezza volta
        3.                   iii.            recover, mezza volta
        4.                  iv.            CLA (Coda Lunga Alta)
        5.                    v.             Traverse, mezza volta
        6.                  vi.            recover, mezza volta
        7.                 vii.            CLS
        8.               viii.            repeat
          1. CLA
          2. pass, trammazzone
          3. PDFS
          4. traverse, Molinello
          5. recover, trammazzone
          6. CLA
          7. Repeat













    1. with two variations
      1.                      i.            PDFS
      2.                    ii.            pass, mezzo mandritto
      3.                   iii.            CPDFS
      4.                  iv.            traverse, mezzo mandritto
      5.                    v.            PDFS
      6.                  vi.            repeat
        1.                      i.            CLA
        2.                    ii.            pass, mezzo riverso
        3.                   iii.            CLS
        4.                  iv.            traverse, mezzo riverso
        5.                    v.            CLA
        6.                  vi.            Repeat
          1. Coda Lunga Larga
          2. pass, falso dritto
          3. CLS
          4. traverse, riverso ridoppio
          5. recover, riverso fendente
          6. CLL
          7. repeat

These actions are smaller and use more mezzo cuts which means more blows for a given amount of foot movement. Since the shapes of the blows and sword recoveries are the same as the previous I hope that it will mean memorising one idea and deriving many drills.


Manciolino – principles & tactics

  • attacking openings
    • against low guard cut to the head/arms
    • against high guard thrust
    • defending by changing guard
      • against cuts to the head
      • against thrusts
      • against lowline attacks
      • using the  falso
      • provocations & feints
      • slips
      • plays
        • cap 3 plays 2 – 3
        • cap 5 plays 1 – 4
        • cap 6 plays 1 -2, 4
        • cap 7 plays 1, 3, 5
        • cap 8 plays 1,

See Renfence:

Pro tip: he says pass when I say traverse.

Fiore – various dagger plays

  • wrestling plays
    • 1st master
      • Plays 1 – 4
      • Dagger plays – against basic attack, then push and pull
        • 1st master  (disarm)
        • 3rd play (middle lock)
        • Or  5th play (upper lock?)
        • 7th play (throw)
        • 3rd master  (throw)
        • 3rd play (break)
        • 4th master (disarm)
        • 3rd play (upper lock)
        • 5th play (disarm)


Capoferro – fundamentals revision

  • Pyramid stepping to find stance
  • Resisted partner lunge
  • Simple steps
  • The guards
  • Basic drill 1 – 4
  • Disengage drill
    • A & P moving
    • A gains
    • P disengage and step back
    • Repeat
    • Same drill except with strikes
      • If A advances without gaining P should strike
      • If A gets within narrow measure A should strike



Capoferro – various plays

  • plate 8 &10 – over commitment  to gain
  • plate 12 – blades are low, strong commitment
  • plate 13 – scannatura, blades are low on the other side









Capoferro – Sword and dagger

  • Guards with sword and dagger
  • Gaining with the dagger
  • Counterattack
  • Parry riposte


Fiore – sword in one hand

  • 1st master of sword in one hand
    • Against thrust
    • Against cut
    • Conditions of the crossing
      • 1st play
      • 2nd play
      • 8th play
      • Sword in two hands?
        • 2nd master
        • 2nd play
        • 3rd master
        • 2nd play
        • 3rd play
        • Application to rapier play
          • Binding
          • Yielding
          • Hand parries



Useful resources:


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