Pattern Practice Drill for Lanza en Arme: Spear in Armour

Fiore dei Liberi's system of martial arts, L’Arte dell’Armizare (the Art of Fighting, more colloquially known as Armizare), is a single system for fighting.  The principles taught through the techniques for abrazare (grappling), daga (dagger), spada (sword), azza (poleaxe), and lanza (spear) in or out of armour are used across the system in all weapons and situations.

The accompanying video shows a basic pattern practice drill using Fiore's six spear guards and an associated  play from each.  This pattern practice drill is the foundation of Northwest Fencing Academy's spear curriculum, and on this platform we incorporate Fiore's lessons in all weapons (in and out of armour) for a complete fighting form.  Proper movement and body mechanics are essential, both to armoured and unarmoured work.

Body Mechanics

Moving effectively in armour is a skill that takes considerable practice, but that practice begins with correct movement out of armour.  Fiore’s art is not divided into an art for armour and an art for street clothes: it is a single art whose principles are applied universally across weapon and armour types, including no armour at all.  Therefore it is critical that the way you move out of armour is identical to the way you move in armour, and at our school we practice this assiduously.

The mechanics of movement must incorporate:

  • Stability
  • Agility
  • Power Generation

Stability means that the fighter can both deliver and receive force and respond while maintaining balance.  Agility means the fighter can move appropriately in offense, defense, or counteroffense, including while delivering or receiving force.  Power Generation means that the fighter can, from this platform, fully engage his core musculature and connect that to the actions of the arms and legs.  Doing so properly means understanding the effects of a particular weapon (weight, balance, points of rotation) as well as the distribution of armour on the body.  You must be able to account for these factors without conscious thought when you fight, and only dedicated practice in and out of armour, with all weapons, will teach you this.

Future articles will address the subject of proper body mechanics in depth.

Interpretive Notes:

The author, on the left, concluding a beat attack from posta Tutta Porta di Ferro (with the point down). From il Torneo del Cigno Bianco, Verona, Italy, 2014. Photo by Daniella Franchi.
The author, on the left, concluding a beat attack from posta Tutta Porta di Ferro (with the point down). From il Torneo del Cigno Bianco, Verona, Italy, 2014. Photo by Daniella Franchi.

The drill is not designed to teach six different guards that lead to two different finishing positions, as is shown in the manuscript, but rather is designed to teach fundamental concepts at spear (a weapon with two ends on a long lever that spans the body and plays like the sword in defense but only thrusts in offense). We also do the set plays that lead to the two different finishing positions of the manuscript. (Of those, you should note that the starting guards of the attackers for the right side poste do not actually correspon to their finishing positions: they mysteriously reverse hands between their offensive postures and the concluding plays.)

For this drill I use an interpretation of Tutta Porta di Ferro with the point down, accompanied by a beating action to the opponent’s left (a variant reading of the text, but corresponding to principles taught elsewhere in the system).  The reasons are twofold: first, for teaching purposes, I wanted an action that was distinct from the action of Mezza Porta di Ferro and right Posta di Finestra; and second, the art in MS Ludwig XV 13 is ambiguous about position of point, but Filippo Vadi’s De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi (a manuscript in the Fiore tradition) shows the same guard point down.  Employing the guard with point up simply sets up a variant on the action of the other two right sides guards - good, valuable and something we regularly practice, but as a choice for an instructional drill from which lessons are derived, I preferred this variation.

The action from Dente de Zenghiaro can be handled in an alternate fashion to the beating action shown.  Corresponding to the play from the same guard at spada, the player can deliver a strong thrust with the butt of the spear to the face as either an attack or a counterattack, to be then followed by the reversal of the spear.

The form can be mirrored, with all right-side actions performed on the left and vice-versa.

Application:

The form shows what appear to be defenses (a parry followed by a return strike), but each action can also be an attack or counterattack, depending on the disposition of the adversary, the measure between the fighters, and the timing of the action.  Additionally, each action contains in it the elements of counters to prior actions, so that an attack can be defended against and a riposte begun, which can itself be countered.  Considerable variation is possible, particularly when Fiore’s axe, sword, dagger and wrestling curricula are incorporated.

As with body mechanics, future articles will address the spear curriculum in greater depth, as well as developing the other curricula in full.

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The author, at left, covering from a riverso-side variant of Mezza Porta di Ferro. From a spear fight with Christian G. Cameron at il Torneo del Cigno Bianco, Verona, Italy, 2014. Photograph courtesy  Aaron Beltrami.
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Christian G. Cameron, at left, counterattacking into my thrust. At il Torneo del Cigno Bianco, Verona, Italy, 2014. Photograph courtesy Aaron Beltrami.
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About Sean Hayes

Maestro Sean Hayes initially studied classical French fencing under Maitre d’armes Adam Adrian Crown in Ithaca, New York; and also pursued studies of rapier and dagger under Maitre Crown. In 1995 he began his studies of traditional Italian fencing at California’s San Jose State University Fencing Master’s Program, under the direction of fencing master Dr. William M. Gaugler. The program employs the system of instruction developed by Masaniello Parise, first director of the celebrated 19th century Military Masters School in Rome (Scuola Magistrale di Scherma). The program trains teachers to think critically about the details of fencing theory and the application of fencing theory in actual practice, to work with students closely and carefully, and to observe the most minute aspects of their performance in the lesson and when fencing. Maestro Hayes apprenticed directly under Maestro Gaugler from 1995 to 1999. His examination for Master At Arms was open to the public, and conducted by an international board of 6 fencing masters representing the United States, France, and Italy. The examination included oral and practical components: intense questioning on the smallest aspects of classical Italian fencing theory; the candidate required to teach group lessons, individual lessons, take individual lessons; and finally to teach any actions or combination of several actions in any weapons desired by the board to a fellow candidate.

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