One of the advantages of living where I do is that we have lots of banana trees growing here. Banana trees make excellent cutting targets. They are heavy and wet and dense, but also slightly spongy. They are about as close as you can get to getting a body without actually using a body. They have a fairly short life span and need to be cut out and trimmed. That gives us a good opportunity to practice cutting.
In this video, I am taking a look at the penetrating power of a spear. Spears not only have an advantage over most weapons in terms of reach, but also mass. This one weighs just under two kilos as compared to my longsword which weighs 1.4 kg.
We are three masters in guards with our spears, and they are based on those of the sword. And I am the first in Tutta Porta di Ferro (Full Iron Gate). I am placed to quickly beat the spear of the player, that is, I pass with the right foot and traverse off the line and in doing so, his spear will be beaten to the left. If I pass and beat in a single step, I will wound. This is something I cannot fail to do.
Holding the spear vertically with the point up, the First Master waits in Posta Tutta Porta di Ferro to sweep and counter any incoming attack. The length of the spear means the sweep will cover the entire body in a single move, something like a sliding door, and can then smoothly rotate into a counter thrust, either high or low depending on circumstances.
Alternatively, the master can rotate the spear into Posta Vera Crose and make a relatively close range attack with a butt strike.
I am positioned in Mezza Porta di Ferro (Middle Iron Gate) with the spear. Beating and wounding is always my custom. Come whoever wants. With a short spear or staff, the beat with a step will not fail to wound, and all guards which step off line with short spear and short sword are enough when facing any long hand held weapon. And those which cover from the right, cover with a pass and a thrust. And the guards on the left side cover, beat and injure with a strike but cannot thrust well.
In the description of the Spear Posta Tutta Porta di Ferro, Fiore makes it very clear that the spear postas are just sword postas used in a different context. This is interesting in Posta Mezza Porta di Ferro, because when this posta is used with a sword, the right foot is forward and the point is on the centerline. By leading with the left foot here, the spear point has to swing off to the right. Functionally, this stance more closely resembles Sword Posta Tutta Porta di Ferro.
Regardless of nomenclature, all Fiore spear posta hold the point offline. As he points out here, all his spears and any relatively short weapon all make the same initial defence.
Slide your front foot off to the side. Beat the opposing spear point to the side while passing your back foot to the front. You will now be able to deliver a counter thrust of your own.
I am the noble Posta di Fenestra Destra (Window Guard on the right), and for beating and wounding I am always ready, and I care little against a long spear. Also, with a sword, I could wait for the long spear standing in this guard, which beats aside and obstructs every thrust. And I can exchange the thrust, and beat to the ground without fail. I want to finish in the play that is after this.
Posta di Fenestra translates easily across the different weapons of armizare. It is used not only with the spear, but also the sword in one hand, sword in two hands and pollaxe. It can be used equally well on either side of the body.
With the left foot forward and in a rear weighted stance, hold the spear in much the same way as you would a sword. The left hand is at the base of the spear shaft, with the right hand on top. Fiore shows holding the weapon quite a long way down the shaft. The closer your right hand sits to the balance point, the less reach, but more control you have. Your right hand should rest next to your ear.
This posta is ideally suited to exchanging or breaking the thrust. In beating aside incoming attacks, slide the front foot offline and step through with the back. Cut down and across with your arms, but keep the head of the spear as still as possible. This will give you much greater control and balance, as well as leaving you well placed to deliver a counter strike.
The three guards that are drawn above, that is, the tutta porta di ferro, the mezza porta di ferro and posta di fenestra, should all finish in this play, which is their art. Like this I strike for them.
The minimalist style which characterises armizare is most fully realised by the scholars of the spear. Regardless of which posta you come from, slide your front foot offline, and sweep your spear across your body as you step through. There is no need to push it off to the side. You are better off using the spear to control the centre line and stepping around it. This will make for a fast, tight movement.
With your weapon now dominating the centre, the spear should be aimed directly at your opponents face. As your right foot lands, extend your arms, driving the point into them as shown.
Such a beat and stab is a form of exchanging the thrust. You will see similar examples being used with two handed weapons in the following plays.
This master waits for these two with their spears, the first to attack with an over handed thrust, and the other to come from below, as is seen. The master waits with his staff and dagger. When one of these men attacks with his spear, the master moves his staff to the right, almost into Posta Tutta Porta di Ferro, turning his body, but not moving his feet or the staff from the ground. And the master remains in his guard. And as one of these attacks, he beats the spear aside with his staff and with the dagger if he needs to, to his left side, and with that beat he passes and attacks. And this is his defence against the two spearmen who follow.
Translation – Players
We are both willing to hurt this master, but according to what he said, we will not do anything. Except we will not be decieved in this way. Instead, we will turn the head of the spears behind us, and we will strike with the butt of the spear. And when he beats aside the butt of the spear, we will turn our spear and wound from the other side with the spear head. And this will be his counter.
Explanation – Master
With a staff to hand, the 2nd master of mixed weapons makes the interesting choice of using it solely for defence and relying on the dagger for a counter attack against his opponents armed with spears.
The description is extremely clear. With your dagger poised to strike, and the base of the staff on the ground, swing your left hand across your body. This is a purely defensive move. Although the context is slightly different, the defence is thematically identical to Spear Posta Tutta Porta di Ferro.
As your opponent attacks, beat the thrust aside by sliding your left foot to the right of your staff and swinging your left hand to point directly at your opponent. Given the triangulation that your straight arm provides, and the fact that your body is moving to the right, this does not have to be a large movement. Bringing your staff back to vertical will be enough. Excessive movement here will only slow you down.
Lunge in with your right foot to close the distance with your opponent. In the unlikey event that the beat with the staff coupled with your stepping offline was not sufficient to keep the spear out of your way, you can also cover it with your dagger blade as you step through.
As soon as you are within range, stab your opponent. Stay in tight and keep stabbing until they fall over. As long as you stay in narrow play, you will have all the advantages.
Explanation – Players
The counter to this is the same used by the Counter to the first 3 masters of spear on foot, the Counter to the second 3 masters of spear on foot, and the 2nd scholar of spear vs horseback.
If you are attacking with the spear, as soon as your initial thrust is beaten aside, keep the momentum of that turn going, so that your spear spins a full 180 degrees. Make a second strike with the opposite end of your spear. Be sure to adjust your footing if necessary so that your attacks are always made keeping your opponent at a distance.
The only thing that sets this counter aside from the others is that Fiore recommends you preempt the defence entirely. Turn your spear around, making the initial strike with the butt. That way, your counter, which is the strike intended to do all the damage, will be delivered using the spears head.
We are three left side guards, and I am the first in Dente di Zenghiaro (Boars Tusk). Those that were on the right side, we do the same on the reverse. We pass off the line, first of all by advancing the foot that is in front. And we easily make our thrusts from the reverse side. Both the right and left sides beat and finish with a thrust, because other attacks with the spear should not follow.
The master in Posta Dente di Zenghiaro with a spear is a mirror image of Posta Tutta Porta di Ferro. The spear is held vertically with the left hand uppermost on the spear shaft, while the right foot is forward in a rear weighted stance.
As with all the masters of spear on foot, this uses the universal defence of sliding the front foot off the centreline and sweeping the weapon across the body. Step through with your left foot as you do so, landing in Posta Breve la Serpentina. You will be perfectly placed to deliver a thrust into your opponents chest or face.
Although not mentioned here, you could also easily drop into Posta Vera Crose and deliver a short thrust with the spear butt if your opponent moved in too close and carelessly.
This is the play of the master who waits for those two with the spears. The master has in his right hand a dagger, and in the left he holds the staff in front of him. He can do this play, and I do it also. But if this player was skillful, the dagger thrust could be well avoided. If he had widened his grip on the spear, and with the extra spear shaft that came after, he had covered under my dagger by crossing it, this would not counter him. And so his spear would wound me if he had been able to do the counter.
In this play, the scholar demonstrates what the 2nd master and players have previously described. Having used the staff to knock the point of the spear to the side, you now close in fast to your opponent. Use the staff to jam the spear. Your opponent has both of their hands occupied in holding their weapon, but they are too crowded to use it. Take the opportunity to stab them mutiple times before they can recover.
If your opponent manages to keep their head, they can still fight you off. Your staff only covers your left side. By taking a wide grip on the spear, turning it perpendicular to the line of attack, and pushing up under your dagger, they have effectively made the cover of the 6th master of dagger.
By then pivoting back on their left foot, they can sweep your dagger aside and break free of the narrow play. This will leave your right side exposed so that they can strike or stab you with the butt of the spear. For your own safety, once you get in close, you must do everything you can to stay there until you have finished your opponent.
This is the play of the previous master who is waiting with the ghiavarina against the horsemen in Posta Dente di Zenghiaro. In passing off the line and beating the attack aside I enter this play, and because I understand how to place it, I can strike him in the head with a cut or thrust, my ghiavarina moves so well.
The play of the 1st scholar is technically very simple, although rather harder in practice than theory. From Posta Dente di Zenghiaro, beat the point of your opponents spear up and to your right. Ensure that it ends with the point directed at your opponents face. The forward momentum of the horse will cause your opponent to impale themselves.
As discussed in the explanation of the master play, having a horse thunder past you at such close range is a psychologically overwhelming experience. Even more so when it is being ridden by an opponent with a dangerous weapon and deadly intent. The hardest part of this play is keeping a clear head.
Timing is the key to making this work The greatly foreshortened view of your opponent coupled with the speed of the horse make it much harder than it sounds to guage the distance and timing of your beat. Also, of course, you only get one opportunity to make the attempt work.
Even if you avoid the spear point, you are still in danger of being run over by the horse. If you need to step offline, move your back foot to the left in the instant before the beat starts. Move your front foot also to the left after the beat, but before making contact with the point
You need to be far enough to the side to avoid the riders knee as they pass, but still close enough that you hit your opponent reasonably straight on.
This is also a play of the previously mentioned master who waits in posta dente di zenghiaro. In his place, I do this. When the lance is beaten aside, I turn my spear and strike with the butt, which is capped in well tempered steel.
Although the context is different, this play is essentially the same as the counter to the masters of spear on foot. You will notice it is also mechanically very similar to the pommel strike used by the 3rd scholar of the 3rd master of sword in two hands.
The master play has you waiting for your opponent in Posta Dente di Zenghiaro. As they bear down on you, step offline and beat up with your spear point, knocking your opponents lance past your head.
Depending on the individual circumstances of the beat, you may not be able to strike with the point as the 1st scholar suggests. If your spear point has risen too high, or your opponent is moving too fast, your opportunity to counter is not lost.
Step with your right foot to give yourself appropriate distancing. Given the motion of the horse, this will very probably be a step backwards. Continue the motion of the spear, rotating the butt upwards, directing it into your opponents face. You are in a mechanically strong position and your cover will push their lance aside. Their own momentum will cause them to impale themselves, as shown.
You will need to slide your hands on the spear shaft as it spins to give yourself the required reach. Notice the scholars left hand is in the middle of the spear, while their right is up by the spear head. You will also need to take care to give yourself enough space to be safely off to the side. Even if your counter is successful, if you are hit by your oppponents foot or knee as they pass, you can still potentially be knocked to the ground and trampled underfoot by the horse.