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!

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