Layout of the book
There are four copies of Fior di Battaglia. I have focussed on the Getty version, due it being the most complete.
It is divided into different sections, beginning with grappling techniques, and then increasing the mass and power of weaponry involved until by the end, the characters are fighting in full plate armour from horseback. The main sections are
The main sections are
The sword section is further subdivided into Sword in One Hand, Sword in Two Hands and Sword in Armour.
The spear section is divided into Spear on Foot and Spear vs Horseback. Spear vs Horseback is actually after the Horseback section.
The Dagger and Sword sections begin with an introduction to the weapon, laying out broad instructions for their use. In the midst of the Sword sections is also the Segno Page, which summarises the key elements of Fiore’s style.
There are also several bridging sections which connect the main catagories – Baton, Sword vs Dagger, and Mixed Weapons. They act something like an ‘applied self defence’ component of the theory previously covered. A seated man is attacked with a dagger. He defends himself with a stick, but tells us that a piece of rope, a hood, or any other dagger shaped object within reach would do the job. A man with a dagger is attacked by a mob, conjuring up imagery of street violence. A swordsman is attacked before having the chance to adopt a stance or draw his weapon. Men fight with stylised branches, which could safely represent any sword like implement the combatants were able to grab.
Although teaching and training presents itself as duelling, these techniques are clearly designed to be applied in a broader and far more chaotic context.
The teaching is presented as a series of ‘plays’ (zogho), which are snapshots of the moment where individual techniques are appplied.
Although at first glance, Fior de Battaglia appears to be a complex list of 250 things to do in different situations, it is really far simpler than that. Fiore’s style consists of a number of themes which are applied under different circumstances. Sword pommels attack with dagger plays, horsemen use grappling attacks, and so on.
Fiore outlines the principles of his system in the introduction to the Dagger section. He clearly states that at all times he aims to
- Strip the weapon from your opponent
- Break the arm
- Apply a lock
On the Segno page, he also tells us that to do these things, you will need
- Fortitude – Physical strength, mental tenacity, and an understanding of body mechanics
- Speed – Both speed of application and timing of movement
- Vision – This is seeing the opponent clearly, and watching for angles, distancing and opportunity to take the advatage
- Audacity – Above all, it requires daring and intent.
Most sections begin with Posta. These are guard positions where you are mechanically stable, yet still still free to move. They provide a clear defensive structure, while also allowing the capability of launching an attack. Each different Posta weights its advantages slightly differently, causing them to be better suited for certain conditions. Each action should begin and end in a Posta.
Each section is divided into a number of Masters. The Master sets the theme for a number of potential ways to follow through, something like a logic tree. It is interesting to note that every Master in this book is acting defensively. They never initiate the attack, but carefully maintain their own safety first before striking.
Masters are designated by wearing a crown.
Following each Master are the Scholars. They continue the movement the Master initiates. On occasion, they will continue the movement of the previous Scholar, leading to a three play chain of events.
With a clear recognition of the very high risk environment the combatants are placed in, Fiore stresses an unadorned and simple style to finish things quickly. Events begin with a cautious defence, move on to a rapid counter, and then a fast, often brutal finish.
Scholars are shown wearing a garter.
Occasionally, there is a counter move to a Master or Scholar. They counter the play or series of plays before them.
Counter Masters wear both a crown and a garter.