Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Windows and High Snakes

When I went over to Eugene to train at the Northwest Fencing Academy on June 2nd, I knew that it was essentially to be an exchange of notes on pollaxe between Maestro Hayes and myself, with the other students being willing guinea pigs. Many wonderful things came from that session, not the least of which being this video showing two Armizare axe drills and my take on Jason Smith's Le Jeu de la Hache drill (I say "my take" because I left out at least one part of it by mistake) :

Another area that Maestro Hayes and I kept coming back to was why Fiore changes the names of some of the axe guards; is it Mezzana Porta di Ferro or Dente di Cinghiaro? Why the name change between axe Finestra and sword in armour Serpentino lo Soprano?

Dente di Cinghiaro from the Pissani-Dossi. All images courtesy of

1) I believe that the naming difference between the guard that is called Mezzana Porta di Ferro in one paragraph and Dente di Cinghiaro in the other is really not that important (possibly even just a scribal error) because those two guards with the longsword operate very similarly. Both are point forward & low guards. Mezzana Porta di Ferro is held closer to the center-line and Dente di Cinghiaro is held with the point off to the left - this leads to the major difference between the two guards: DdC chambers the body (esp. the hips) for more powerful sottani than does MPdF. That's it. So while Maestro Hayes prefers to call this axe guard Mezzana Porta di Ferro and I prefer to call it Dente di Cinghiaro, it doesn't matter, we know what guard we're talking about and how it operates.

Serpentino lo Soprano from the armoured sword section of the Pissani-Dossi.

Posta di Finestra from the axe section of the Getty

2) The one that really got me thinking was why the name difference between Serpentino lo Soprano (from the armoured sword section) and Posta di Finestra (from the axe section of the Getty)? The way that Maestro Hayes and I interpret using Finestra is very similar to Serpentino lo Soprano with the sword - as a high line parry. The difference, in my opinion, has to do with the hands. When you look at Serpentino lo Soprano the hands are spread far apart and most interpretations of this guard have you parry the incoming blow between your hands. But when you look at the axe guard of Finestra, even though in Armizare the sword is an axe and the axe is a sword, the hands are not held far apart - they are right next to each other. This hand position leads the parry to be executed with the front (between the head of the axe and the lead hand) of the axe - just like the unarmoured sword guard of Finestra is used.  I truly believe it's a simple as that - the difference between Serpentino lo Soprano and Finestra is simply how far apart you hands are. If you parry between your hands - you are in Serpentino lo Soprano. If you parry in front of your hands - you are in Finestra. Of course, switching between the guards is as simple as sliding your hands closer together or farther apart.