Works of Richard Marsden

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

Fiore Longsword Basic How To (Videos Included!) 

Like my basic How To pages? Time to help defer website costs by buying my science-fiction dark humor book, the Traveling Tyrant!  

 

Fiore dei Liberi was from Northern Italy and created a book on various fighting arts, ranging from hand to hand, to longsword, to mounted combat. His book, "The Flower of Battle" was completed in 1409 and given to D'Este, ruler of Modena and Ferrara and leader of the pro-Papal and anti-Viscontii faction in Northern Italy.

Below are various lessons that are slowly being put together to break down Fiore's techniques in terms of the longsword and its use. Since I plan on writing a book for people to use, I won't put all the lessons on this website, but enough to help clarify things and assist newcomers and perhaps provide new or complimentary thoughts to veterans. 

Parts of a Sword

Holding a Sword

Foot Work

Guards

Cuts 

The Cross and the Bind

Tip Bind Play

Middle Bind Play

Strong Bind Play 

Phoenix Society

Parts of a Sword

The longsword has several parts that become necessary to understand in order to learn not only how techniques work, but why.

Pommel = The weight at the end of the hilt, used to balance the sword but also can be used as weapon.

Handle = The handle should be long enough for both hands to fit comfortable, with some space between the hands. 

Crossguard/Quillions =  Protects the hands and allows for catching opponent's blades and keeping them there.

Strong = The lower potion of the sword, which is stout and good at defense, but lacks offensive power.

Middle = The middle of the sword, where binds often occur.

Weak = The upper portion of the sword, which is tapered and meant for thrusting and cutting, but lacks defensive power. This area of the sword is also known as the tip or point.

True Edge = The edge of the blade aligned with the knuckles.

False Edge  = The edge of the blade aligned with the nails of the fingers.

Holding a Sword

Fiore does not say how to hold a sword, and so his pictures provide the best advice. The grip is right-handed near the crossguard, the left near the pommel. It is acceptable to palm, or grip, the pommel as needed. Some space should be left between the two hands if possible. The right hand is in danger if it is pressed flush with the crossguard because strikes can angle over the quillions and strike the fingers.

Foot Work

Steps 

Advance = The lead foot moves forward, the rear foot follows.

Retreat = The rear foot moves backward, the lead foot follows.

Pass Forward = The rear foot moves forward and becomes the lead foot.

Pass Back = The lead foot moves backward and becomes the rear foot. Often known as a slipping the leg.

Off Line Step Left= If the left foot leads, the left foot moves left. Usually followed up with a pass.

Off Line Step Right = If the right foot leads, the right foot moves right. Usually fwollowed up with a pass.

Rotate = From either a right or left foot leading, turn on the toes in order to

A - Face the opposite direction

B- Switch the leading foot C- complete the move without lifting either foot.

Some of Fiore's guards start with the feet pointed away from the opponent in a deceptive manner. A turn of the feet (and body) align and provide power.

Feet

Fiore's guards often show a heel off the ground. This lifted foot pre-loads a step and makes it faster. When looking at guards, note the position of the feet and see if the heel is raised.

See how Feet and Fiore work 

See how the off-line Step works! 

Samples from various copies of Fiore's work detailing the raised heel.

Guards

Fiore discusses a multitude of guards, and some, like the Woman's Guard have multiple variations. Not all guards are shown in the surviving copies of Fiore's work, nor do the images from the manuals entirely match up to one another. This may be due to entirely to the use of different artists, or it could be an indication of some level of flexibility in the guards.

When fighting, it is always a good idea to be in a guard. One is vulnerable when they are not in a guard, which can happen between transitioning between guards, or from an over-correction of some sort. 

Guards are divided into several categories including high (held above the waist) and low (held below the waist) as well as stable (the point of the sword does not easily move), unstable (the point of the sword is easily moved) and pulsing (the sword is ready to deliver a powerful cover).

Below are a sample of some, but not all, of Fiore's guards. 

Iron Door and Iron Door Middle

This guard, known as Porta di Ferro, and Porta di Ferro Mezzana, are two low guards. The first Iron Door has the sword held near the hips, the point aimed at the ground. From here, using a lever-action on the handle, the sword can be brought up to perform a cover against a cut, or an exchange or break against a thrust.

The left leg is leading and weighted and the right heel is off the ground. Movement is with the left foot to the left, followed up by pass once the cover, exchange or break is made. 

The only offensive measure Iron Door has is a thrust, making it a good defensive guard. Fiore notes that too long a sword is not a good idea for this guard because the tip would touch the earth.

The variant of this guard is Middle Iron Door. In this guard the sword is brought forward and low. A longer blade is better for this. Cuts can be deflected with a low cut or sottani strike, followed up by a high cut, or fendente strike. When an opponent attacks, use the sword to fling the incoming attack over the right shoulder. Pass as needed to deliver the counter.

Either leg can lead, though the lead leg should be weighted.

 

Iron Door

1 - The left leg will be leading. The left leg will be weighted. The right heel is off the ground. Even though the weight is on the left leg, the foot can move a little to the left when the sword moves. This helps open up the hips and provide strength to the movement of the blade.

2 - The sword is held near the hips with the blade pointing at the ground. By pushing down on the pommel and up and across with the right hand, the sword is used as lever to rapidly move into a cover. 

3- The body leans forward, this provides the head as bait, but by simply straightening up that target can be taken away.

Middle Iron Door 

1 - Either leg can be leading, though the guard is forward weighted. The right heel is off the ground so as to make passing easier.

2- The sword is held in front of the body with the tip pointed at the ground. The hands cannot be extended too far forward or they become a target. A lever action up, along with a push of the arms can deflect an incoming attack over the shoulder. The guard can also perform low cuts, or sottani at an opponent's hands. One must move off the line to do this safely or the low cut will be traded for a high!

3- The head can be baited a little forward as in the regular Iron Door.

Video of both Iron Doors and their applications. 

Woman's Guard 

This guard, known as Posta di Donna, is a high guard with several variations. Cutting from the woman's guard is deceptive because the most obvious attack, a hefty baseball-bat style swing, is not used. Instead, the body turns so as to point the pommel at the opponent's head and the cut is delivered at a tight angle. A thrust can also be performed by raising the arms and increasing the lead foot in what is similar to a lunge.

In terms of defense, if the rear leg is weighted, by simply shifting the weight forward and moving into the front guard a cover can be made. This guard also breaks the thrust very well by delivering a high cut to an incoming attack.

The body position of the guard is deceptive. The arms and and hands are taken away as a target by twisting the body. This will force an opponent to close distance if they wish to strike. Meanwhile, the leg bearing the least weight is ready to move, be it forward or back or to the side before a pass or counter-cut can be made. 

The guard is referred to as pulsing because of its ability to break incoming thrusts or deliver a strong cover.

 Woman's Guard

1 - The left leg will be forward and have little or most of the weight upon it. The right leg responds accordingly. The feet point toward the opponent. In this way the body is either leaning away or toward the opponent depending on which leg bears the most weight. The images above show both variations. 

2 - Rest the sword on the right shoulder.

3 - The body is twisted so the hands and arms are not an available target to the opponent. Meanwhile the tip of the blade is pointed somewhat toward the opponent. In the forward leaning variation the hands are held low, closer to the hip than to the shoulder. This speeds any cut up because it is not necessary to point the pommel at the opponent and deliver the cut, instead as the body turns the right hand can fling while the left hand pulls creating a swift lever-action.

Woman's Guard on the Right

1- The left leg will be forward and have little weight upon it. The right leg will be bent as it supports the body's weight. The feet point away from the opponent.

2 - Rest the sword on the right shoulder.

3 - The body is twisted so the hands and arms are not an available target to the opponent. Meanwhile the tip of the blade is pointed somewhat toward the opponent. 

4 - Look at the opponent over the left shoulder. 

Woman's Guard on the Left 

1 - The right leg will be forward and have little weight upon it. The left leg will be bent as it supports the body's weight. The feet point away from the opponent.

2- Rest the sword on the left shoulder.

3 - The body is twisted so the hands and arms are not an available target to the opponent. Meanwhile the tip of the blade is pointed somewhat toward the opponent.

4 - Look at the opponent over the right shoulder. 

Woman's Guard High 

1 -  The left leg will be forward and have little weight upon it. The right leg will be bent as it supports the body's weight. The feet point away from the opponent.

2 - Raise the arms and rest the sword along the back. The bend in the elbow of the left arm will lie across the brow so one can look at the opponent under the arm, or the bend in the elbow of the left arm will be across the mouth so one can look at the opponent over the arm.

Video on Woman's Guard

Long Point 

This guard, known as Posta Lunga, is the end point for all cuts and thrusts. While it is possible to cut from a high guard to a low, by ending in long point, one can quickly add a thrust to their cut and they are not vulnerable during the transition from long point to a low guard. 

Long point is also a good guard for keeping distance against an opponent. While the blade is easily moved, lone can transition from long point into a variety of guards, or simply raise the point to void any swiping attack aimed at the sword.

Long point counters any other guard whose point is forward, namely window and short point. Because the arms and sword is extended, one can reach an opponent in the window or short point guard quicker.

This guard is referred to as unstable because the point of the sword is easily moved.

Above is an example of long point, as well as long point in action. Note how the two are not identical. This is because long point needs to adapt to where the opponent is. In the first, the shoulders and arms are supporting the guard, this is ideal for a cut. In the second, a thrust is being performed so the arms are more extended.

Long Point 

1 - The left or right leg can be forward and is weighted. This is because long point is often entered into by either passing, or taking a deep advance during a cut or thrust.

2 - The arms are extended and the point is directed at the opponent's face or chest. If the point is no longer a threat, then the guard has been lost and must be re-attained or transitioned into another guard. The arms need to be somewhat bent if performing a cut so that the shoulders and body are supporting the cut. When thrusting the arms can extend much more since the point is being driven through an opponent. 

Video on Long Point, as well as the Two Horned Guard and Short Point. 

Short Point

The guard known as , Posta Breve, is a retracted guard where the hands are close to the center of the body and the point directed at the opponent. Fiore notes that this guard is better for armored combat because it can only thrust. One must also remain moving in short point so that an opponent cannot get past the point.

Short Point

1- The left or right leg can be forward and is weighted. This is because short point often needs to pass to get power behind the thrust.

2- The arms are retracted and the point directed at the opponent's face or chest. If the point is no longer a threat the guard is very weak because it lacks the ability to cut well. When thrusting a pass while extending into long point can maximize range.

Two-Horned Guard

Bicornio is a guard one can retract into from long point. The guard has the elbows together, the poiint high or toward the opponent and is ready to cut or thrust. The guard is also very strong and is opposed to Long Tail in the Getty manuscript. If attacked by a powerful cut, the Two-Horned Guard can intercept it. There are many ways one can use their back hand on the sword according to the manuals.

Two-Horned Guard

1- The left or right leg can be forward and is weighted. The guard is good at transitioning to others, such as long point, or window. However, when transfering guards it may be neccessary to back-weight.

2- The elbows are brought close together in a manner similar to catching a football. The sword's point is up or directed at the opponent. The quillions can be horizontal or vertical depending on what action is being taken. If intercepting a cut, horizontal will let the quillions protect the hand. If thrusting or cutting, the long-edge must be ready to be used.

Long Tail

This low guard, known as Coda Longa, is a retracted guard in which the hands and sword are refused to an opponent. The guard is deceptive because the distance of one's cut or thrust can be disguised by giving the opponent no easy reference point. Additionally, by refusing the hands and sword, an opponent will need to get close if they wish to strike.

The cut and thrust performed with the long tail is, like so much of Fiore's techniques, deceptive. A large over-handed or under handed attack is not performed. Instead, the attack comes close to one's own right ear and launches forward into long point for either a cut or thrust. The hands rotate forward to snap into long point as quickly as possible while a pass is made.

Even with the benefit of a disguised measure (distance) and the ability to perform a surprisingly quick attack, it is likely that a skilled opponent will perform a cover against strikes from long tail. This is to be expected and soon as contact with the opponent's sword is made, another pass leads into close measure and plays from the strong bind.

Defensively, one can pass forward or back and transition to the front guard for a powerful cover in a way similar to how the woman's guard defends, but coming from below rather than above. 

The guard is referred to as stable because the point of the blade can remain stationary and in its retracted state cannot be moved by an opponent. 

 

Long Tail 

1 - The left leg will be forward and support the weight of the body. The right leg will have less weight upon it and be ready for a pass.

2 - The sword is held low and to the right side. The tip points directly away from the opponent and the true edge is aimed at the ground. (To perform a cut or thrust curl the wrists so the true edge can be brought to bear as it passes by the right ear). 

Video on Long Tail 

Window 

This high guard, known as Finestra, threatens the opponent with the point, invites attacks that are easily countered and keeps the hands safe. Fiore calls it the master of offense and defense. 

By keeping the arms retracted, an opponent has to get close giving one the ability to thrust, transition into another guard, perform a cover and so on. The lead foot has little weight upon it, allowing for easy and quick movement laterally, or forward in a lunging thrust. If attacked on the covered side, by dipping the tip of the blade a ramp is created and the opponent's sword will pass safely out of the way while the window guard is ready to cut.

The guard's weakness is long point. Fiore states that in point forward guards, the longer point has advantage. Someone in long point can close the distance and threaten the shoulder or body while being relatively safe from someone in the window guard. Thus, if in the window guard and approached by an opponent in long point it is necessary to act. One solution is to treat long point as a thrust- of which Fiore says the window guard can exchange, by pushing the opponent's blade out of the way with superior leverage, or break, by transitioning into a high cut aimed at the middle of the opponent's blade to batter it to the ground. If all else fails, the window guard transitions into long point with ease and can counter an opponent in the same guard.

 

 Window on the Right

1 - The left leg will be leading and have little weight upon it. The toe will be pointed in the general direction of the opponent. The right leg will be bent and support the weight of the body. The foot will be turned so as to help support the weight of the body.

2 - The back of the right hand is drawn to the right ear. This will cross the wrists.

3 - The arms are pulled back so the quillions of the sword are near the right ear while the point is directed forward.

Window on the Left 

 

1 - The right leg will be leading and have little weight upon it. The toe will be pointed in the general direction of the opponent. The left leg will be bent and support the weight of the body. The foot will be turned so as to help support the weight of the body.

2 - The back of the left hand is drawn to the left ear. The wrists will not be crossed.

3 - The arms are pulled back so the quillions of the sword are near the left ear while the point is directed forward.

Video on Window 

Boar's Tooth and Boar's Tooth in the Middle

This low guard known as Dente di Cenghario has two variations. Both have the same options and both do the same job, just slightly differently. Like all of Fiore's guards, the hands are kept safe and the sword is retracted as well. An opponent needs to get close to interact. The guard is good at launching thrusts at the face, followed up with a cut to the head or hands. The guard also prevents people from getting too close, by simply presenting a point as a threat. Boar's Tooth is unusual in that the two variations do not appear in every manual. Boar's Tooth in the Middle is in the Getty for example, but not in the Pissai-Dossi.

 

Boar's Tooth in the Middle

1 - The right leg is leading and the left bears the weight. This is so the right foot can move easily. The rear foot does not need to point at the opponent.

2 - The sword is held close to the hip and the point is aimed at the ground. The hands must be kept safe and the sword cannot be too far forward or the guard becomes Middle Iron Door. The sword can be used to thrust at the face or cut at the head and hands. The lead foot can move forward then right back again as needed. The blade is on the line.

3- The head can be baited far forward. This target can be taken away simply by straightening up.

Boar's Tooth 

1- The right leg is leading and bears the weight. The left heel is off the ground.

2 - The sword is held close to the hip and the point is aimed at the ground. The hands must be kept safe and the sword cannot be too far forward or the guard becomes Middle Iron Door. The sword can be used to thrust at the face or cut at the head and hands. The lead foot can move forward then right back again as needed. The blade is not on the line, but rather off to the side. Like the tusks of a boar, the blade comes in at an angle to perform its thrusts and cuts.

3- The head can be baited forward as before and simply straightening up removes the target. 

Video of both variants of Boar's Tooth

Front/Crown/High

The guard known as frontale is a high guard where the tip of the sword is pointed in the air. It is often used as a form of cover. One can, from Iron Door for example, transition into the front guard to deflect an incoming cut, or exchange a thrust. From this guard one can transition into others to cut or thrust as needed.

Front Guard

1- The right or left leg is leading and bears the weight.

2- The hands are held high and near the body, while the tip of the sword is directed directly up. The guard is good for deflections.

Cuts

Types 

There are 'seven' strikes in Fiore's longsword system. Two High Cuts, two middle cuts, two low cuts and the thrust.

High Cut = These are known as fendente cuts and travel along the line of the teeth to the knee.

Middle Cut = These are known as mezzano cuts and travel horizontally.

Low Cut = These are known as sottani cuts and travel along the line of the knee to the teeth.

Thrust = The seventh strike is a thrust, known as a punta.

Right to Left = Cuts from right to left are known as mandritto.

Left to Right = Cuts from left to right are known as riverso.  

Angle 

In Fiore's system there are diagrams on how to cut, however the diagrams can be misleading. The diagrams do not necessarily show the angle with which the cuts should be delivered. We know this because there are several copies of Fiore's 'Flower of Battle' and their 'cutting-diagrams' are not identical. 

Text is what needs to be looked at and Fiore gives good advice on at what angle to perform a cut. Fiore states that high cuts travel in a straight line toward the teeth, while low cuts travel in a straight line toward the knee.

If one were to cut and aim at an opponent's shoulder and cut along a line leading toward their hip, this cut would be traveling at a 45 degree angle.

Fiore's cuts are aimed at the head (teeth) and cut toward the knee. This makes cutting faster because the blade travels along a roughly 35 degree angle and has less distance to travel.

An easy way to perform these cuts is to swivel the pommel from Woman's Guard to point at the opponent's eye (left eye for mandritto and right eye for riverso), then pull down on the pommel with the left hand and extend the right hand. The cut will go where the pommel was aimed.

Red = The proper Fiore cut along tighter angles, perferably teeth to knee and knee to teeth.

Blue = A 45 degree angle along the angle of shoulder to hip and hip to shoulder. Note the manual's depiction.

Green = Three different diagrams from three different versions of the 'Flower of Battle' manual and their cut angles. While the manuals show these angles as directions cuts may come from, they aren't suggested angles to perform a cut of your own.

Black = Diagrams showing the proper angle to cut to achieve the teeth to knee, or knee to teeth angle, as well as how to perfom a middle cut.

How to Perform a Right to Left High Cut, or Mandritto Fendente 

Start in Woman's Guard, sword on the right shoulder, left foot leading.

Left foot moves to the left.

Pommel rotates to point at the opponent's eye left eye.

Pass.

Pull the pommel down with the left hand and extend the right arm.

The sword ends in the Long Point guard. 

Streamline the process so that the movements are as simultaneous as possible. The objective is to

1 - Move off line.

2 - Cut in such a way that the hands and arms are not exposed.

3 - Cut at a tight teeth to knee angle to make the cut fast.

4 - Pass so the body is being used to power the cut, not just the arms.

5 - End the cut so that a thrust can be performed afterward if needed.

Typical Targets = Head, shoulders, arms. 

How to Perform a Right to Left Middle Cut, or Mandritto Mezzano 

Start in Woman's Guard, sword on the right shoulder, left foot leading.

Left foot moves to the left.

Pommel rotates, but is then pulled toward the left hip.

Pass.

The right arm extends and the sword travels along a horizontal line with the true edge leading.

The sword ends in the Long Point guard.

Streamline the process so that the movements are as simultaneous as possible. The objective is to

1 - Move off line.

2 - Cut in such a way that the hands and arms are not exposed.

3 - Cut along a horizontal line.

4 - Pass so the body is being used to power the cut, not just the arms.

5- End the cut so that a thrust can be performed afterward if needed.

6 - Perform the cut so that an opponent might mistake it for a High Cut.

Typical Targets = Elbows, arms and head. 

How to Perform a Right to Left Low Cut, or Mandritto Sottani

Start in Middle Iron door, sword tip will be near the ground, left foot leading.

Left foot moves to the left.

Pass. 

Lift the sword up, so that the false edge leads.

The sword ends in the Long Point Guard.

Streamline the process so that the movements are as simultaneous as possible. The objective is to

1- Move off line.

2 - Cut in such a way that the hands and arms are not exposed (hence false edge). 

3 - Cut along a knee to teeth angle. 

4 - Pass to provide power, but also assist in off line movement. 

5 - End the cut so that a thrust can be performed afterward if needed.

Typical Targets = Hands. 

The Cross and Binds

When swords meet they form a cross and are at a bind. This is a highly likely scenario when using Fiore's techniques because 

A - Fiore has guards from which a cover can be made, and thus a cross formed.

B - Opponents can intercept cuts and thrusts.

There are four types of crossings.

Asymmetrical = This is when the swords meet but not evenly. An asymmetrical bind is disadvantageous for one of the parties involved because the weak portion of their blade is opposed to the strong portion of another. When in this bind, if in the superior position, a thrust should be easy to perform thanks to mechanical advantage. When in the inferior position, try to get out of it, such as getting to a symmetrical bind.

Crossed at the Tips = Swords meet with the upper portion, the weak, forming a cross.

Crossed at the Middle = Swords meet roughly at the middle forming a cross.

Crossed at the Strong = Swords meet near the guards, or strong, forming a cross.

Crossed at the Tips                  Crossed at the Middle          Crossed at the Strong 

When at the cross, either person can succeed in the next action. It is a matter of speed and making the correct decision. They include closing the distance to shift the bind from tips to middle, or middle to strong, or using a variety of plays. 

Winning the Bind = When swords cross, it is unlikely they will be even in their alignment. Generally, someone's blade has pushed the other's out of the way. This person has 'won' the bind and it can have some effect on the options available. 

Tip Bind Play = Cut/Thrust to the Head

The 1st and 2nd play of Fiore's section on the longsword involves what to do when crossed at the tips. The plays are related and give two options, but only show the result of one, namely the thrust.

Options

A = Thrust to the opponent's face. Easiest to do from winning the bind and requires no additional footwork.

B = When crossed at the tips, the true edge of the blade will be typically aimed at the at the right eye of the opponent for the proper 'teeth to knee' high cut. Turn the true edge of the blade to be aimed at the left eye of the opponent. Pass or step right and deliver a cut with the tip of the sword toward the opponent's scalp. In this fashion the bind is not abandoned and the play follows Fiore's instructions to 'turn' the blade and instead of attacking the right side, attacking the left, all while staying on the right side of the opponent's blade. The step or pass will ensure a strike, even if the opponent has won the bind.

Crossed at the Tips (Cut and Thrust) as well as Crossed at the Middle (Cut and Thrust)

Middle Bind Play = Cut to the Arms

The 3rd and 4th play for Fiore's section on the longsword involves what to do when crossed at the middle. As before, there are two options, but the plays only illustrate the thrust.

Options

A = From the moment the cross and bind is made, instantly seek to cut the opponent's hands while remaining in the bind. Best done if the bind has been won.

B = As in the prior play, turn the true edge to face the opponent and pass. Deliver a cut to the opponent's arms, preferably cutting both in one motion and thus creating a bar over their arms. By passing and using the sword as a bar over both arms, the opponent will be unable to strike back. Instead of cutting, or as a response after the cut, a thrust can be delivered to the opponent's chest.  

 Crossed at the Tips (Cut and Thrust) as well as Crossed at the Middle (Cut and Thrust)

Middle Bind Play = Grabbing the Sword

The 5th and 6th play of Fiore's section on the longsword involves grabbing the opponent's sword.

See how the 5th and 6th play work, as well as some close-measure binds 

Strong Bind Play = Pommel to the Face

Fiore discusses more plays from the strong than he does the tips or middle combined and they are listed under their own section. The 1st play shows a bind at the strong. From there, there are a variety of additional plays available, one of the easiest being the 3rd and 4th play. 

3rd Play at the Strong = From the crossing at the strong, pass and with the left hand grip the right wrist of the opponent and push down. At the same time snap the pommel into the opponent's face. The pass, grip, and pommeling must be done in one motion, or the opponent may counter.

4th Play at the Strong = From the crossing at the strong, pass and deliver the pommel of the sword into the opponent's face. As before, the pass and the bringing of the pommel up into the opponent needs to be done in one motion. 

Some Samples! 

Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship

Videos of the System in Action

Online Resources

Welcome

Recent Forum Posts

No recent posts

Recent Blog Entries

by rmarsden | 0 comments
by rmarsden | 0 comments
by rmarsden | 0 comments
by rmarsden | 0 comments

Recent Videos

No recent videos

Newest Members