Works of Richard Marsden

The Works of Richard Marsden. Writing and Historical European Martial Arts.

Italian Fencing Terms

There were many Italian fencing masters and unlike the Spanish system, which remained largely unchanged after Caranza, the Italians have common themes, but many varations. Below are some of the terms used from a variety of sources, not any one master.

Guards: Marozzo had 13 guards to be used with a cut and thrust sword. Agrippa, who used the rapier, reduced these to four main guards.

Primo: When drawing a blade from the scabbard, the natural position is primo. Arm up, fingers pointed away from the body, tip towards the enemy.

Seconda: Lowering the arm from Primo so that the arm is to the right of the body, the hand is supinated (fingers down) and the tip towards the enemy.

Terza: The primary stance advocated by Capo Ferro. From Seconda the arm moves in so the elbow is in front of the hip, the sword is held in a hammer or trigger grip and the tip towards the enemy. From this position most of the body and head is protected.

Quarta: From Terza the arm moves left and the hand switches to prontated (fingers up) and the tip towards the enemy.

Stance: The fighter starts in the terza guard, they from a t with their feet, forward toe pointed towards the enemy. A comfortable step is taken and both knees are bent to allow spring. Capo Ferro recomended that the back leg be bent and the forward leg kept straight to keep it away from the enemy.

Footwork: Italian movents are linear with angles. This means they advance and attack on a line, stepping off the line to strike or dodge at an angle. They do not circle as the Spanish did in Destreza.

Advance The front foot extends and plants, the back foot follows.

Retreat: The front foot moves back and plants, the back foot follows.

Pass Forward: The back foot extends and plants, toes pointed left. The front foot follows returning the fighter to Terza guard and gaining much ground.

Pass Back: Forward foot moves back while the rear foot remains planted. It is a defensive tactic to perform is the leg is attacked.

Traverse: Forward foot moves at an angle /left/right while the back foot remains, or moves.

Sbasso: The forward foot moves forward and left/right while the fighter ducks low. Their head remains still, and they should be low enough to duck under a thrust.

Inquartata: The back foot slides to the right while keeping the toes pointed left. This twists the fighter's body and perfoms a dodge usually followed by the enemy getting impaled.

Void: A physical dodge of the enemy blade.

Cuts: The Italians have many types of cuts that are indicated by where they strike. Amusingly the cut was seen as inferior and eventually reccomended against, despite this the Italians broke apart the mechanics of the cut with great detail. Cuts were meant to be slashing, not impact strikes.  

Fendente: A cut to the head, straight down.

Mondonte: A cut to the inner thigh or goring, straight up. Ouchie.

Mandritto :Cuts to the right.

Riverso: Cuts to the left.

Squalambrato: Diagonal cuts, prefaced by mandritto or riverso.

Tondo: Horizontal cuts, prefaced by mandritto or riverso.

Falso Manco: Cuts to the back of the knee using the false edge of the blade.

Falso Dritto: Cuts to the wrists using the false edge of the blade.

Thrusts: The Italians used thrusts as their primary mode of attack. The thrust was performed with the motion of the body, not the arm or through use of the enemy's motion. (Impaling themselves on your sword.)

Imbrocatta: A thrust from above an enemy blade. Performed usually from Primo.

Stocatta: A thrust under an enemy blade. Performed usually from Quarta.

Punta Riversa: A thrust to the left of the enemy.

Punta Dritto: A thrust to the right of the enemy.

Botta Lunga: The forward leg kicks out and plants. The rear leg straightens. The arm is already extended and the thrust is carried by the movemet of the legs and body.

Closed Hip: A Botta Lunga where the rear foot is stationary during the movement.

Open Hip: A Botta Lunga where the rear foot swivels to give the thrust greater range.

Passata Soto: A lunge that is so low, the fighter uses their off hand to prevent falling. It can also be performed by simply straightening the back leg as a response to a thrust.

Parry: A parry is a block of the sword. The Italian method didn't reccomend true parries, but suggested that ripostes were better. A parry with a counter-attack.

Cavazione : Moving the blade from one line to the other by passing the tip of the sword under/over the enemy blade.

Counter-Cavazione: Countering a cavazione by returning to the original position by passing the tip of the sword under/over the enemy blade.

Riposte: Parrying an enemy attack and counter-attacking in the same motion.

Stringere: The process of closing and making light contact with the enemy blade to prepare for an attack. Seeking the blade, gaining the blade and mechanical advantage are other similar terms.

Elements: The Italian method was fascinated with time in relation to a fight. Below are the terms which wove together their fighting style.

Misura: Measure or distance. Distance had to be gained through stringering. Distance was either short (you can strike without moving your feet) or long (you must step or lunge to strike).

Tiempo: The moment to attack. Once attained its go time.

Contra-Tiempo: Striking the enemy first as they enter tiempo. Taking their 'time to strike' and turning it into your own.

Velocita: Knowing what type of attack to use to hit the enemy as quick as possible while not being hit back.

Mezzo Tempo: A quick move of the blade where the enemy impales themself.

Single Tempo: A single movment to strike an opponent. A raising of the blade and leaning to thrust.

Dui Tempi: Two movements to strike an opponent. A cut for instance.

Misura leads to Tiempo, Velocita leads to a successful attak when in Tiempo.


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