Grappling, Grappling - Plays

Grappling – Master

Folio 6 v. a


This is the first play of grappling and every grappling guard can arrive at this play, and in this grip. Namely, take the left hand inside his right elbow and the right hand up behind his left elbow. Now immediately make the second play, that is, having gripped him in that way I give a turn with the body and he will go to the ground or else his arm will be dislocated.


The player grabs with the left hand to the neck and the right to the hip in an attempt to roll into a lock or throw in either direction.

As the master you need to jam the players right arm in the crook of the elbow. Step either forward or backward dependant on distancing, twisting the hips anticlockwise and removing the target from the players hip grab.

The players left hand arm is also blocked above the elbow. You need to push with the inside of the forearm upward into the opponents triceps. Your forearm should not be directly vertical. Be sure to move your elbow inside the line of the hand, allowing the inside of the forearm to push upwards.

You are not stopping the grab from arriving, but rather, taking control of the momentum in the instant it arrives. Tense your neck a little to help with leverage. The same hip twist which moves your left hip back, pushes your right arm up. Using the grab point as a fulcrum, you have just created a third class lever. Contacting the players arm in this way will create a small shock in their elbow.

Tempo is important. The leverage needs to be applied in the last moment of the players reach, not before it arrives, nor after they have completed the grab. If the grab is completed, the player can anchor their arm and resist, causing the play to devolve into a match of strength.

Grappling, Grappling - Plays

Grappling – 1st scholar

Folio 6 v. b


The scholar of the first master says that I am sure to put this one to the ground, or break his left arm, or dislocate it. And if the player that plays against the master first took off his left hand from the shoulder of the master to make another defence, immediately I exchange reaching for his right arm with my left hand, and I take his left leg, and my right hand I put it under his throat to send him to the ground as you see drawn in the third play.


This play rolls seamlessly from the Master. There are no sharp moves or straight lines involved. In a quirk of his writing style, Fiore gives a clearer description here of the 2nd scholar than he does of the play depicted.

In the Master play, you will be able to feel a fairly even tension in each of your opponents arms. You also will have jammed their right hand. As they take the pressure off it to try for another approach, this frees up your own left hand to go on the offensive.

Roll your right hand over your opponents left arm. This should be a smooth ‘sticky’ kind of action. You want your forearm to be immediately above their elbow. The rolling motion you use will adjust their arm to a point where it is locked straight, thus creating a 3rd class lever. Grab onto your wrist with your left hand to stabilise it.

You next need to make a large anticlockwise rotation with your hips. You can step your front foot across, as shown, which will give your throw a long shallow arc. Alternatively, you can turn your back foot around behind you which will spin your opponent in a short, tight spiral. They are effectively the same thing. Your choice really comes down to what feels best with the distance and movement in the moment, and also where you want your opponent to fall.

By turning your body and dropping your weight, you will lever your opponent to the ground. Stepping of the central line allows you to add more torque to the lock. The aim is to pull your opponent diagonally forward rather than straight down.

A fast, tight movement will rip open the elbow joint. You can easily adapt this to a controlled takedown by moving a little slower, and dropping your weight until you are kneeling on your right knee. This will leave your opponent face down with their arm still locked.

Be aware that your opponent will be aiming to disengage the lock by twisting their left arm anticlockwise and dropping the elbow, thus breaking the lever and allowing them to escape.

Grappling, Grappling - Plays

Grappling – 2nd scholar

Folio 6 v. c


The scholar who is before me speaks truly that his grip will put him on the ground or dislocate his left arm. Also I say that if the player removes his left hand from the shoulder of the master, that the master arrives at the third play similarly to how you see it drawn. So that the first play and the second are one single play where the master sends him to the ground on his face, and the third one sends his shoulders to the ground.


The play of the 1st scholar follows seamlessly from the master play of grappling. At the transition point between the two plays, if the opponent feels the pressure on their left arm, they can avoid the arm lock of the 1st scholar by dropping their left elbow and slipping away.

This will cause them to twist slightly clockwise. As the 2nd scholar, you want to take control of this movement and add to it.

Strike your right forearm into your opponents neck and collarbones. It will create a shock, but is not intended as an attack in its own right. With a clockwise twist of your hips, curl your right arm down and carry their head to your right hip.

Once your opponent is unbalanced, scoop your left hand under their knee. They must already be destabilised before you try this. If you go to scoop too early, not only will it be unsuccessful, but you will lose the advantage and be exposed to a counter throw.

With correct timing and having successfully caught the knee, lift it right up and step through. You will be left standing in Posta Dente di Zenghiaro with your left foot forward. Your opponent will be lying on their back to your right hand side. Be sure to strike them hard before they have the opportunity to recover.

Grappling, Grappling - Plays

Grappling – 3rd scholar

Folio 6 v. d


This is the fourth play of grappling by which the scholar can put the player on the ground. And if he cannot put him on the ground in this way, he will seek other plays and grips that we will now see drawn below. I tell you that you can well know that the plays are not all equal at all times, so that if you have a grip that is not good enough you should quickly gain one, so that you do not give the advantage to your enemy.


The 3rd scholar of grappling is a variant on the 2nd scholar. The easiest way to arrive at this position is by mistiming your efforts at making the play of either the master or the 2nd scholar. If you are too slow in either of these applications, your opponent will step in close, and grab you by the hip and shoulder in preparation for a throw of their own. It is still possible to recover, and turn this situation to your advantage.

With your left hand, grab your opponent in the small of their back, on the top ridge of their right hip. Pull it towards you, locking it against your own hip. This will jam their right arm and bend their waist back slightly. By doing so, you are starting to steal your opponents balance point.

As you pull on their hip, push back on the opponents jaw, twisting their neck clockwise. This will simultaneously bend your opponent backwards and off to your right. Your grip on their hip prevents them from stepping back to recover.

Once their balance is lost, the action progresses in much the same way as the 2nd scholar. Move your right hand, and your opponents head with it, in a spiraling curve out and down to your right hip. Grab onto their belt with your right hand, and lift it up towards your right shoulder. Step through as you do so to move into what was your opponents space.

You should end up more or less in Posta Dente di Zenghiaro with your left side forward and your opponent lying on their back off to your right.

Grappling - Plays

Grappling – 4th scholar

Folio 7 r. a


The grip that I make with my right hand into your throat will bring you sorrow and pain. And for that you will go to ground. Also I say that if I take my left hand under your left knee I will be more certain to send you to the ground.


The 4th scholar is essentially the same as the 3rd scholar, except that you are pushing directly on the throat rather than turning the jaw.

There are a variety of ways to arrive at this position. One of them could be a failed attempt on your part to perform the master play has led to your opponent dropping their left hand into a lower grab. Another could be that your opponent is retreating and is attempting to pull you forward into a throw.

Regardless of how you arrived here, your opponent has you in a lower grab, and you need to step forward with your right foot outside the attackers left foot. Drop your weight low to avoid being lifted by your opponent. Make sure your hips are lower than theirs. Grab your opponents right hip with your left hand and pull it in as close to you as you can.

Turn your right hand thumb down and grab at your opponents throat in the same manner as the 2nd scholar of baton. With your thumb and first two fingers open to grab, keep the last two fingers closed like they are making a fist. This makes your hand into a pincer with a spike in the middle. Raise your elbow to make an underhand strike at your opponents windpipe.

Pull back on the hip and push forward on the throat. This pushes on the upper body with an external rotation. When your opponent is off balance, drop your left hand down to scoop under their left knee.

Curl your right hand down to your right hip. Lift your left hand up as you step through to Posta Dente di Zenghiaro with the left foot forward. Your opponent will be lying on their back to your right.

Grappling, Grappling - Plays

Grappling – Counter to the 4th scholar

Folio 7 r. b


I am the counter to the fifth play that is shown before. And I say that if I use my right hand to lift the elbow of his hand which is harming me, I will make him turn in such a way that I will force him to the ground, as you see here, or I will gain a hold or lock. And I will have little care for his grappling skills.


The 4th scholar has attempted a throw against you by pinning the small of your back against their hips and then stepping through with their right leg, pushing back and to the outside on your throat.

To counter this, you need to act early. The first step of your opponents attack is to try and grab your right hip with their left hand and pull it forward. The aim is to lock your hip in place and cause you to bend slightly backwards.

As soon as they attempt this, slide your right hand back. Your hand is inside theirs, so use that to your advantage. Use your elbow to prevent their hand from making a grab. Turn your right hand and grab their elbow from the inside, pushing it up and rolling across your body past your face as shown.

Shuffle your right foot up if necessary, then pivot on it. Swing your back foot out of the way in an anticlockwise arc. This will get you out of your opponents grip and completely remove you from their line of attack.

As you step out of the way, grab your opponents left hand with your left hand. This will give you a good elbow lock. The 2nd scholar of the 3rd master of dagger gives an excellent description of this same lock on the opposite arm. Use it to spin your opponent down in an anticlockwise circle.

Grappling, Grappling - Plays

Grappling – 5th scholar

Folio 7 r. c


Because of the hold I have earned, and the way I lift you from the ground, I will lift you with my strength and put you under my feet, first with your head and then your body. And you will not see a counter to this.


This play appears in both the Pisani Dossi and the Florius manuscripts. As can be seen below, both these other documents show the throw being performed on the right leg, instead of the left, as shown in the Getty. It makes more sense to throw the right leg.

From the master play, you will have contact with the inside of your opponents right elbow. Drop your weight onto your back foot to disengage from your opponent. As you do so, slide your hand down their forearm and grab onto your opponents right wrist. Pull them forward off balance. You need them to take a step forward. With your weight on your back leg, swing your foot around your opponent to their right side.

Place your foot in between your opponents. Get it right up close to the inside of their right foot. Bend your knee and sink your weight low in your front foot. The back and forward motion will create the momentum you need to smoothly lift your left hand up, putting your opponents arm across the back of your shoulders. Scoop your right hand under their thigh as shown in the Pisani Dossi or Florius manuscripts.

Straighten your legs and bend at the waist. The combination of your straightening leg and the thigh lift, will pick their right leg up and throw them off balance. Your opponent will fall backwards, landing in front of you. As you have bent over, their right arm will slide over the top of your head. Since you control the wrist, you will be able to pull on it, causing them to spin on their back slightly. You can now safely lock the wrist and finish your opponent with the remainder of Fiores five things.

Grappling, Grappling - Plays

Grappling – 6th scholar

Folio 7 r. d


When I give you my thumb under your ear, you will feel so much pain that you will go to the ground without a doubt. Or I will make some other grip or lock that will be worse than torture. The counter that he can make is the sixth play against the fifth, where he puts his hand under the elbow. That can be done to me as a counter, without doubt.


From the position of the master play, your opponent has grabbed your right forearm and left shoulder. By making a volta stabile, they are attempting to make a forward twisting throw, pulling you down in front of them.

Slide your right arm over your opponents left shoulder. Wrap your fingers around the back of their neck. Push your thumb into the neck between the earlobe and the corner of the jaw. Straighten your right arm and allow your opponent to pull you onto them. This is the moment shown in the picture.

Your thumb is driving into a very sensitive pressure point. The more your opponent attempts to throw you in this direction, the greater the pain they inflict on themselves, and the more they will disrupt their own balance as a consequence.

Step through with your back foot, continuing the momentum which your opponent has begun. Push their head forward and down as you do so. This will throw your opponent face down on the ground in front of you.

Be aware that your opponent may attempt to counter this by changing the direction of their movement to an anticlockwise turn. If they can successfully switch feet while lifting and catching your left elbow, they will throw you same as the counter to the 4th scholar of grappling.

Grappling, Grappling - Plays

Grappling – 7th scholar

Folio 7 v. a


You take me from behind to throw me to the ground and I turn like this. If I dont throw you to the ground, you will have gotten a good deal. This play is a finishing move, but it must be done quickly so that the counter will fail.


There are a number of ways you can arrive at this position. Fiore gives us the context that you have been grabbed from behind. While this certainly works, it is not limited to such a scenario. As long as your hands are free and you are at extremely close range, you can use this play.

The 9th scholar of the Sword in One Hand uses the same entering throw, starting from wide play and then rapidly closing in on the opponent from directly in front. The 6th scholar of Sword in Armour also makes a very similar throw after closing from the front.

Swing your front foot around behind your opponent. You want it to be between their feet. As you do so, extend your front arm across your opponents chest and throat with the hand over their shoulder as shown.

Flare your knees and drop your weight down so low that your thighs are parallel to the floor. This gives you an extremely solid base. As you drop your weight, extend your arm through your opponents space. Dont twist yourself, but rather push straight along the line of your legs.

You should arrive in Posta Longa, although your legs will be in a deeper stance than usual. Effectively, you are creating an obstacle with your thigh, and then pushing your opponent over it. Aikido practitioners will recognise this technique as kokyu nage.

Grappling, Grappling - Plays, Uncategorized

Grappling – 8th scholar

Folio 7 v. b


This one is a play with a leg throw which is not well assured in grappling. And also, if anyone wants to make the leg throw, they must use force and speed.


Fiore refers to this throw as ‘gambarola’ – leg throw. There are several subtle variations on exactly what he intended the throw to be, but a good interpretation would be the judo throw ‘osoto guruma’ – large outer wheel.

The object of this throw is to cut out both of your opponents legs as you twist them down. Begin from an upper grapple with your right arm over your opponents left shoulder and your left arm under their right. Shuffle your left foot forward slightly so it is level to or just behind your oppnents foot. Swing your right foot through so that it is completely behind your opponent as shown.

With your right ankle, catch your opponents left leg at the achilles tendon and scoop it upward. Straighten your right leg by raising it behind you. Put all your weight onto your left leg and with a straight back, twist forward at the hips. This will push your opponents shoulders backward as well as twist them to your left. Your opponent will roll over your hip and land on their back in front of you. You will be left holding their left arm to control and lock as you choose.

Be sure to move assertively and with constant flow. At the point just before entering the throw, both combatants are at a point of equalibrium. You hold the advantage because you control the movement, but if you hesitate at the point shown in the picture, your opponent can counter by using the same throw against you. This is why Fiore warns us the throw is not assured and must be carried out with speed and force.

Grappling, Grappling - Plays

Grappling – 9th scholar

Folio 7 v. c


This is a finishing move and it is a good grip to use to hold someone in such a way that it cannot be defended against. The counter is that the one being held goes back against a wall or other timber and turns in such a way so that the one who holds him breaks his head or back on the same wall or timber.


Here you make a high grab from behind. There are a couple of different ways to get behind your opponent. You can, of course, come from either side equally well depending on the circumstances. For the purposes of description, the play is written as manipulating your opponents right arm.

You can counter an attack of theirs with an elbow push. There are many examples of these throughout Fior di Battaglia. Within the grappling section is the counter to the 11th scholar. You could also, somewhat more proactively, grab at their front hand like the 5th master of dagger. This will pull them off balance, allowing you to step behind. Either way, you will turn your opponent in an anticlockwise direction.

Regardless of which method you use to turn them, shuffle in close with your right foot. Step through with your left foot so you are behind your opponent. As you step, swing your left arm under your opponents left arm. Slide your right arm under theirs and using both hands, push forward on the back of the skull, as shown in the picture.

Although pushing the head down, you also need to pull their weight back. You want them to fall in a sitting position with their legs out in front of them and their arms jammed out to the sides. Once your opponent starts to fall like this, kneel down one knee and lean forward into them. This will lock the whole body in place.

Be aware that to counter this, your opponent will be trying to stay on their feet and bend forward at the hips. If they succeed at this, there are several things they can do.

If they get their hips under yours, they can throw you forward over their shoulder. This is particularly the case if they are much bigger than you.

They can lift you off the ground enough to run you backwards into a solid obstacle.

If they are reasonably flexible, they can bend right forward while stepping back and to the side. This would allow them to slide under your arm. They would then be well placed to counter you with the throw of the 7th scholar of grappling.

Grappling, Grappling - Plays

Grappling – 10th scholar

Folio 7 v. d


This one strikes the player with his knee in the balls to gain the advantage to throw him on the ground. The counter is that immediately the player goes between with the knee to hurt him in the balls, that you take the right hand under the knee and throw him to the ground.


Locked in a grapple in which neither combatant has the initiative, as the 10th scholar, you take the advantage by driving your knee into your opponents groin. Notice that this is not a finishing technique in itself. You are doing this to hurt your opponent so that you can then throw them. Attack on the inside line where your opponent will be more open to impove your chances of success. The scholar pictured would be better using the left knee instead of the right.

Although the play describes a groin attack, you can just as effectively strike to the pelvis or solar plexus. Hitting your opponent successfully with a knee will jar their whole body, rendering them incapable of doing anything for a moment. Because you are holding them at close range, this means that they are usually open to a repeat attack. If your first knee hits home, you should be able to trap your opponent in a vicious cycle, getting an extra two or three in before running out of momentum. Being on the receiving end of a barrage of knee strikes is a memorably unpleasant experience.

There are two slight variations on how you can deliver your attack. For both variants, you need to be at extremely close range.

First and simplest is to raise the knee straight up and into the target. As the knee rises up, push your hip forward. Grab your opponent tightly and pull them down onto it. There is the sensation of leaping into your opponent. This is the attack as pictured. If you have a little more distance to make up, you can also grab your opponent by the shoulders, pulling them forward and down, while driving the knee into the solar plexus.

A second variant is from a low grip, raise your knee to horizontal while keeping your hip back as far as possible. When in position, drive your knee straight forward while pulling your opponent onto it. This will smash through the front of the pelvic bone, creating what is called an open book pelvic fracture. Your opponent will collapse to the ground in great pain and unable to walk.

The right circumstances to effectively use a knee attack are quite infrequent, but due to the fact that it is such a short movement, knees are difficult to counter. You need to keep your weight low and make the initial defence with your thigh. Rotate your hips inward, using the inside of your front thigh to push the knee offline. This will not only save you a lot of pain, but will give you the time needed to get your hand there.

Scoop under the inside of the knee. The player in the picture would be using their right hand to do this. Lift the thigh up, while pulling down with the other hand. Your opponent will twist and fall on their back to your outside. You can see the principles of this throw being used by

Grappling, Grappling - Plays, Uncategorized

Grappling – 11th scholar

Folio 8 r. a


Because you have taken both your arms under mine, I strike with my hands firmly in your face. If you were well armoured I would leave this play. The counter of this play is that the scholar who is injured by the player in the face puts his right hand under the elbow of the players left arm and pushes strongly, and the scholar will remain free.


The 11th scholar does not feasably flow from the master play. Instead, your opponent leaps in to grab you around the waist, pinning your arms inside theirs in an attempt to throw you to the ground.

As they close in, step back to give your self some space, and bring your hands into the centreline close to your body. Put one hand on top of the other and hold them with the palms forward. Fiore shows the right hand on top, but it really makes no difference, just as long as one hand supports the other.

Put your hands into your opponents face as shown. As your opponent applies the grip, they will pull you towards them. Emphasise this move by extending your arms and lunging your front foot forward. This will push their head right back, unbalancing them and leaving them open for a throw.

There is some scope for variations in exactly how you place your hands here. You could open the fingers on your front hand into two pairs, and drive them into the eyes. You can use the heel of your hand to strike at the base of the nose and break it. You can grab the point of the chin and lever it backward. You can cup your front hand slightly to stengthen it and drive the fingertips into the hollow of your opponents throat. Although each of these will give slightly different results, they are all extremely painful and unpleasant to recieve.

As should be fairly evident, and as Fiore points out, if your opponent is wearing a helmet, this play will not work. It can also be countered which is explored in the next play.

Grappling, Grappling - Plays

Grappling – Counter to the 11th scholar


I do the counter to the thirteenth play. His hands have gone away from my face. And because of the way I have done it and hold him, if he does not go to ground, I will take great disdain.


This is a curious play in that although the text gives no real details and instead relies on the pictures, the Getty, the Pisani Dossi and the Florius all show the play being performed slightly differently. The Getty shows the grab on the players right arm although the 11th scholar has said to grab the left. The Pisani Dossi and the Florius show the grab to the left arm. While the Getty and the Pisani Dossi scoop out the left leg, the Florius scoops for the right. It is difficult to know exactly what is intended, and the interpretation provided is one of several possibilities.

In the play of the 11th scholar, you had grabbed you opponent with both hands around their waist. Your opponent slid their hands up the centreline, and using one to suport the other, are now trying to drive them into your face.

Drop your weight, move in close, and scoop out the players right leg with your left hand. Try to catch it as they are moving forward. This is the crux of the play and needs to be done with a high degree of assertiveness. Bend your left arm and twist your hips to really get this working. You want them to be left standing on one leg.

Dropping your weight like this not only lets you reach the leg, but also moves your head out of the way of their attack. As you drop, raise your right hand to catch your opponents left elbow. You should find yourself in the position shown by the Pisani Dossi manuscript.

Scooping the leg like this will turn your opponent in an anticlockwise direction and cause them to start falling to your left. Exaggerate this by locking your left arm, and by extension your opponents right leg, against your body. Pivot anticlockwise on the balls of your feet. As you pivot, use your right hand to push your opponents left elbow across and then down.

You will end up having turned nearly 180 degrees and your opponent will be falling on their back with the leg still captured. Although the application is different, you will also see the same principles of this throw being used in the 6th scholar of the 5th master of dagger

Grappling, Grappling - Plays

Grappling – 12th scholar

Folio 8 r. c


If you take hold with both your arms under your opponents, then you can put both hands in his face as you see that I do, and especially if he has an uncovered face. Also you can transition to the third play of grappling.


Against a low grab, your opponent has countered with a grab to your head. Their intention is to step back with the left foot, and throw you down by twisting the neck. This will cause you to roll across your right shoulder onto your back at their side.

Your response to this is to shuffle your right foot up, pinning their left foot to the floor. At the same time, reach up with both your hands outside your opponents grip, as shown in the picture.

Cup each hand slightly, so as to brace the fingers against each other, and push into your opponents eyes. Reach down with your thumbs, and lock them under the jawbone. This will give you a solid point to lever from so as to push your fingers further in. Their attempted throw will be completely disrupted. The more you push, the further back they will lean to get away.

Follow up on your advantage by stepping through with your left foot and dropping your elbows to your hips, locking them to your core. Keep rolling your hands over as you do so. Your opponent will be rolled back on themselves, falling on their back at your feet.

As an alternative follow through from the picture point where your opponents head is tipping back, slide in deeper with your right foot. Use your right hand to push across their face, turning their head to your left. Drop your left hand to scoop their left knee and make the throw of the 2nd scholar.

Grappling, Grappling - Plays

Grappling – Counter to the 12th scholar

Folio 8 r. d


I am the counter of the fourteenth play, and any other that puts his hands on my face while grappling. I take my thumbs and I put them in his eyes if I find them uncovered. And if his face is covered, I take the elbow and grip or lock it immediately.


The text here draws attention to Fiores less than great naming conventions. He says this is the counter to the fourteenth play, by which he means the fourteenth not counting the master play. In other play counts throughout the book, he does include the master play, although not always. Regardless of what he calls it, he is clearly referring to the play immediately preceding this one. In a more standardised naming convention, this is the counter to the 12th scholar.

The scenario is that as the player to the 12th scholar, your opponent has gone for a low grab. You have countered this by grabbing at your opponents head with the intention of twisting them to the ground. As a response, your opponent is pushing back into your face, aiming to lever your head straight backwards, pushing you over.

Your hands are already almost in place to make the counter. Slide them around your opponents head slightly. Use the two bottom fingers of each hand to hook under the corner of the jaw. Your thumbs will naturally fall into your opponents eye sockets, and the corner of the jaw makes for a solid fulcrum to lever off.

Ideally, you are aiming to push your thumbs into the gap between the top of the eyeball and the socket. Get them right in to the knuckle. This will break the delicate bone on the floor of the socket, pushing the eyeball through, if not gouging it out completely. It is an unpleasant sensation for both parties. Although still very much alive, your opponent will be completely incapable of fighting, or doing very much at all. Regardless of someones strength, their eyes are extremely sensitive and vulnerable.

If your opponent is wearing a helmet, then making an eye gouge is impossible. Transition through the counter to the 4th scholar instead, and continue on with the 2nd scholar of the 3rd master of dagger.

You do this by pushing up on your opponents right elbow using your left hand. With your right hand, grab their left. Put your thumb on the back of the hand, and wrap your fingers over the ulnar edge. Twist the wrist and crank the elbow over, locking it. Pivot clockwise on your left foot, with your right foot arcing around behind you 180 degrees. This will free you from your opponents grip and allow you to spin them to the ground with the elbow lock.