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.
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:
- 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.
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.
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.