Wednesday, April 29, 2009

One of the best explanations of Fiore dagger material

So I am sure that most of the people who will read this have already seen it, but I thought it was worth immortalizing again. In a recent discussion about Fiore's dagger material on Sword Forum Mark Lancaster posted this succinct and eloquent process for interpreting and reading Fiore's dagger material:

This is the way I tend to describe the Masters to students.

Think of each Master as being an expert in whatever Fiore is describing at the time (i.e. he is representing mastery).

So, we have several different areas of expertise:

1. The stages of a fight (from the introduction).

a. The first expert is Master Battle. He knows how to fight (distance, reaction, etc). In context this would be an expert fighter of the period and Fiore does not go into much more detail (but see below).

b. This expert, however, can be countered (Fiore calls this a Remedy) by the expert Master Remedy. This is really where Fiore's manuscript starts (he expects the reader to know the bulk/jist of Master Battle).

c. The first person (who was the expert Master Battle) could be good enough that he/she knows the technique used by the Master Remedy expert and how to counter it. Fiore calls this Contra, so we have Master Contra.

d. Finally the chap who did the Remedy knows how to counter this Master Contra and is Master Contra-Contrary. This is so rare that is it only shown once in Dagger and Fiore basically says that the fight (if it every reaches this stage) won't go any further.

The above is like a pyramid with four layers (Master Battle at the bottom and Master Contra-Contrary at the very peak). The options (techniques) reduce as the fight continues.

2. The Posta Masters

Here Fiore is basically giving good "expert" positions from which to fight and to recover into (maybe in the middle of a technique). He is saying that mastery of these posta/positions and how they can be used are core to his system. The natural place that this happens is in the first stages of the encounter - Master Battle - and when recovering out of a technique/encounter back to a Master Battle position. Knowing these postas and mastering them gives your brain basic building blocks (like lego) to find within the fight and reduces the thinking time dramatically.

3. The Dagger Requisites.

Fiore gives us four requisites of dagger - each shown as a Master (with the crown).

These show the areas of expertise that define mastery of dagger fighting in general - being able to strip the dagger from your opponent; being able to break limbs (in his view); being able to lock your oppenent and finally being able to use all of the unarmed/wresting skills shown in abrazare.

The important point here is that the illustration shows someone who is getting older (check the beard) and better dressed with each of the four illustrations and Fiore is saying that these progressively take longer to master - i.e. the easiest thing to learn is to strip the dagger and the hardest (requiring longer to master) is the full abrazare within dagger.

4. The 9 Masters of Dagger

In the entire dagger section Fiore shows 9 different "methods" with several sub/progressive techniques for countering a dagger attack. These cover attacks from above and below and can be stopped one handed (left and right) or two handed, etc.

Fiore has grouped all of these possibilities into 9 methods and he starts each one by showing the Master and the basic technique - i.e. the expertise of how to implement the defence/counter (he calls it remedy). However, he then states that he will let his students/scholars show the other techniques that spring out of these nine methods.

This has two illustrative advantages. First he is showing the arrogance of a Master by only showing the basic method and then allowing his students to do the hard work. Second it makes it easier to illustrate when a Master Contrary comes in to counter these Remedy techniques.

If you can crack this use of Master then the manuscripts suddenly make a lot of very simple sense at a quick glance. I could look at any technique, without text, and tell you what is happening by who to whom.

Don't know if that helps - but it's my contribution.


Mark Lancaster
The Exiles

That really is one of the best descriptions of the dagger material I have ever heard. Enjoy!

Monday, April 27, 2009


So I really need to get better at this. The problem is I've set this up as a WMA blog, and my main area of study is the pollaxe, the info etc. for which I am still developing and don't feel terribly comfortable putting online yet.

My finger is healing. The good part is that the bruising is almost gone and you can just see the smallest part where my left pinky is shorter than the right. The bad part is that the internal stuff, i.e. the broken bone healing, is going slowly and still causes issues every now and again.

On April 18th the Northwest Fencing Academy did an armizare demo at the Oregon Knife Collector's Association Knife Show in Eugene. We also had a table where we sold a few Arms & Armor pieces (Thanks Craig!). The one hour demo went great! The students displayed pieces from I.33 and Fiore longsword while Maestro Hayes narrated and then answered questions. It was a wonderful opportunity to get the word about HEMA out to the public. As one of my co-workers who caught the demo said "Wow, there's a lot more to it than I thought!" Overall, the reception the Academy received was great!

I've been working on putting together lesson plans and solo exercises for pollaxe, mainly based on Le Jeu, with some bits of Fiore and the Anonimo to be added in. Eventually I'm hoping that these will form the base of own school's axe curriculum. At the moment I am 60% done with a solo form that will encompass all of the principle defensive and offensive actions. As with everything in HEMA, it will of course change and adapt over time, but I am confident that it's pretty solid for my present interpretation.

I'm planning on attending WMAW this year, where I will be assisting Maestro Hayes in two classes; one on armoured sword work and another on longsword flow drills and how they provide the bridge from basic work to sparring. I went to WMAW in 2007 and absolutely loved it and am really excited to go again, especially with a little more experience under my belt, both with the weapons and with teaching.

As always I continue to work on teaching myself French. Methinks I should stick with teaching history and martial arts! Teaching languages may not be my forte!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wow I really suck at this blogging thing. Oh well. The finger is healing nicely, no more open wounds, but it is still slightly tender, probably due to the bone being still broken.

Other then that, life pretty much continues as it has for some time. Work, practice, eat, sleep, repeat.