Core Training Components

The objective of core training program is to train the student in the foundations of historical European martial skills, specifically armizare, in a manner that closely resembles Fiore dei Liberi's systematic approach to training as was written in his treatise entitled "Flos Duellatorum". The training approach combined with fighting and fencing theory and history, the recruit will achieve a state in which he/she is prepared to challenge for the prize of scholler.

The program is structured to introduce and train the student to develop foundational skills in the arts of abrazare or grappling, daga or dagger and spada or arming sword weapons based martial training. Upon completion of the recruit training segment, the student will possess a working knowledge with the historical terminology and techniques of Fiore's treatise, and will have been exposed to a wide variety of concepts, drills, and sparring/fighting sessions. This training segment presents the initial concepts that provide the framework for AEMMAs recruit training program, and is expanded upon the later skills levels. In the end, the skills learned by the student through this training program can, in effect be used in todays modern combat situations (well, except for the sword) because the combat techniques are consistent with todays fighting situations. Therefore, from a personal enhancement perspective, if a student wishes to learn the art of self-defence against an attacker poised with a knife, or perhaps simple hand-to-hand engagements, even though the techniques are sourced from the 14th or 15th centuries, these techniques can also employed in todays modern combat training programs. The end result of this training for both men and women are:

The following online pages briefly describe the core components of recruit training. The details on these pages are by no means a complete training description for recruits, but will offer the reader a sense of the structure and approach of the recruit training program at AEMMA.


Part #1: Abrazare - Grappling Fundamentals

Grappling TrainingThe student is introduced to the foundations of grappling or wrestling techniques (abrazare) as is so named in Fiore dei Liberi's manuscript. The training begins with these wrestling techniques because it forms the basis on which other skills developed during recruit training are layered upon, such as dagger and arming sword techniques. The student is introduced to the techniques described in Fiore's "Flos Duellatorum" which was started in 1409 and completed in 1410. It is critical that the student is cognizant that the techniques learned in this part and the later dagger part, are extremely dangerous techniques! The student must remain cognizant that his/her partner is simply a training partner, and not someone to compete with during the training exercises. In Fiore's manuscript, there are very few instances (four instances we believe) in which he refers to the partner as an opponent.

abrazare play - boar's tooth and face pull (Flos Duellatorum (Pisani-Dossi MS): F. Novati, Flos duellatorum: Il Fior di battaglia di maestro Fiore dei Liberi da Premariacco (Bergamo, 1902))
The student will view his/her training partner in the light of scholler (scholare - Italian, someone that has more experience than he/she) or players (zugadore - Italian, a partner in training) or companion (compagno - Italian, another reference to a partner in a non-aggressive orientation).

Complete medieval combat training does not only involve developing skill with the sword. Other skills are necessary in order to develop high degree of swordsmanship skills. In battle conditions or duels, one must be comfortable and able to continue combat and engage in hand-to-hand/grappling should one loose his sword or dagger or both, or if the opponent closes in and fights "close-quarters" or giocco stretto. Part #2 will provide the student with basic skills in the area of close-quarter combat with dagger techniques.

The student at the end of this training part will have developed a good understanding and some skill in the area of poste or guards (positions in preparation to deploy defensive or offensive maneuvers) and begin the development of timing, distance, judgment and position. Advanced and other grappling and throw techniques as documented by the other masters will be explored in later levels of training. The skills developed in this level of development comprise the minimum technical requirements in preparation to challenge for the rank of scholler.

This part of the training is comprised of two (2) units. The first introducing the student to basic grappling. The intent is for the student to build a "comfort" level with "man-handling" their partner. Also introduced are the counter techniques that will break free of the holds introduced. Below is an extract of the points covered in unit #1. Click on the abrazare icon above left for a more general description of abrazare @ AEMMA.

  1. General Grappling Fundamentals
  2. Fiore's abrazare Techniques
  3. The second introduces the student to the techniques described in abrazare as documented by Fiore dei Liberi. This unit covers the four fundamental guards that form the basis of all skills developed in later units. Following the guards, are the instances to deploy the guards and counters. The skills learned in this unit prepares the recruit for the next segment of the training, that being dagger or daga.

    The points below highlight some of the concepts which are integral to the abrazare training segment. The intent is to give the recruit some exposure to what is to be expected during abrazare training, however, it is not intended to detail the complete abrazare training segment.

To view the relevant illustrations and text of the plays with respect to abrazare in the AEMMA online library, click here.


Part #2: Daga - Dagger Fundamentals

Dagger TrainingThis segment will train the student on the basics of dagger techniques, primarily focused on the first dagger master followed by some techniques described in the other dagger masters.

3rd counter to the 1st remedy master (Flos Duellatorum (Pisani-Dossi MS): F. Novati, Flos duellatorum: Il Fior di battaglia di maestro Fiore dei Liberi da Premariacco (Bergamo, 1902))
There are the fundamental concepts that must be learned, on which all other techniques and skills are based upon which is why the recruit dagger segment is designed with two units, the first developing very basic movements with respect to body mechanics, movement, timing and distance which are not necessarily described in Fiore's treatise, but which are key concepts that must be learned. This is followed with the second unit comprised of various concepts and techniques found in Fiore's treatise. This training is by no means complete with respect to dagger techniques, however, basic skills in this area will enhance the overall experience and skill of the student and position the student to challenge for the prize of scholler. Click on the dagger icon above left for a more general description of daga @ AEMMA.

  1. General Dagger Fundamentals
  2. The first unit's purpose is to introduce the student, basic defensive and evading maneuvers for the defense of dagger attacks in order to "get the body moving" with respect to timing and distance, and offensive maneuvers for attacking with the dagger all from the perspective of an underhand or sopramano grip on the dagger (ice pick grip), not necessarily described in Fiore's treatise.

  3. Fiore's daga Training
  4. This unit now introduces the student's training focused on Fiore's techniques and plays as described in Flos Duellatorum. After establishing an introductory grounding in the above foundations, the student now explores some of the techniques offered by the five masters of dagger.

To view the relevant illustrations and text of the plays with respect to the first remedy master, click here.


Part #3: Spada - Arming Sword Fundamentals

Longsword TrainingIn harmony with the system of training described by Fiore's treatise entitled "Flos Duellatorum", this section describes the concepts and techniques surrounging the spada or arming sword. The arming sword is the single handed cruciform sword that was in common use between ca. 1000 and 1350, considered both an offensive and defensive "side-arm".

a depiction of the primary guard (Flos Duellatorum (Pisani-Dossi MS): F. Novati, Flos duellatorum: Il Fior di battaglia di maestro Fiore dei Liberi da Premariacco (Bergamo, 1902))
It was an integral part of the normal dress of individuals of status (low-high level nobility, knights, etc.) to wear an arming sword aong with a dagger. Our study and exploration of Fiore's treatise indicates that the arming sword is an effective tool to investigate the principles of fencing and which provides the recruit with numerous opportunities to work both the sword arm and left arm for such applications as closures, entries and disarms using the free hand.

It is interesting to note, and this is emphasized during the training, that each component of training leverages on the component before. For example, the sixteen abrazare plays will find their way one way or another into the daga plays. The 65 plays found in the daga will periodically materialize in the arming sword training. In other words, a recruit picking up an arming sword, should already have dozens of techniques that can be instantly applied to the arming sword. The principle differences between each fighting style is the larger true distance between fighters as one moves from grappling to arming sword. Training with arming sword, also emphasizes the work that the free hand can do with respect to grabs, disarms, evades, etc., encompassing similar principles found in daga training.

The most important aspect of training with arming sword, is that the recruits only have to know "1" guard position. The capabilities of this guard are extensive as described by Fiore (illustrated on the right) and is included in the recruit training program. Fiore writes in his treatise:

"For any strike of the sword and I am able to draw (as in drawing the sword from its sheath) and thrust because the guard that I am will never fail me." - Fiore dei Liberi, 1410
The fencing concepts of distance, timing and place become quite clear while training with this weapon. However, as the recruits develop their skills with the arming sword, by virtue of the deployment of the strikes, the recruit will familiarize themselves of all of the arming sword poste in this training segment. When the recruit achieves their scholler rank, and engage in longsword training, the new scholler should be able to pickup the techniques related to longsword relatively rapidly. Click on the spada icon above left for a more general description of spada @ AEMMA.

Of Strikes and Guards

The Strikes (Colpi)

The colpi illustrations below depicts the seven angles/lines of attack. They are: a) colpi fendente or downward cuts, which are downward strikes at an angle from either the right or the left, b) the horizontal strikes or colpi mezani from both the left and right, c) colpi sottani or upward cuts from below from the right or left, and finally, d) le punte crudele e mortale or "the cruel and deadly thrust".

colpi fendente: Liberi depicts two swords scribing a downward angle of a cutting strike. The emphasis is on the "cleaving" action of the cut "to the teeth". The execution of such a cut can begin with the "tail guard on the left" position as illustrated in the above image on the right. The action of "drawing the sword from the scabbard" which would be worn on the left side and raise the sword overhead and transition through the "guard of the woman" either on the left or right and execute a downward cut angled as illustrated in the image on the left. The fendente is executed with only the true edge.
colpi sottani: The illustration is similar to the previous one in terms of the sword angles. This illustration accompanied with text in the treatise describes the cuts from below from the right or from the left. These upward cuts are executed from the right from a "tail guard" on the right, and from the "tail guard" on the left. In both cases, the cutting edge can be either the true edge or the false edge. The targeting of the upward cuts, depending up distance from the opponent would generally be the hands. Although the thigh is a viable target if engaged in giocco stretto or close play. It is important that the recruit think in "multi-dimensions" in that the first action may be a parry from below, followed immediately with a grab to the wrist/forearm of the opponent, bind the arm, and strike the thigh with the false or true edge, followed by an immediate retreat delivering yet another strike such as a colpi fendente.
colpi mezani: The illustration highlights the two directions of the horizontal cuts from both right and left. The execution of such cuts can begin with the "tail guard on the left" and transition through the "guard of the woman" either on the left or right and deliver a horizontal cut. Care must be taken to ensure the angle of the blade is perfect for the strike. Anything less will be either the parries will not work as expected, or the cutting angle will not deliver the impact as expected. The horizontal cuts can be delivered with either the true edge or the false edge, so in fact, there are 4 versions of the horizontal cut.
le punte crudele e mortale: or the "cruel and deadly thrust" aptly described by Liberi as the geatest offensive technique which is able to "quarrel" with all cuts and of being far more venomous than a serpent. The thrust is the quickest method of incapacitating your opponent, i.e. a straight line is the shortest distance. From either the "tail guard", "boar's tooth", "close guard", "guard of the window" (in each case, either right or left) and the "two-horned guard", one can deliver a decisive blow in the form of a thrust. Of course, depending upon the positioning and distance, it is adviseable to deliver the thrust accompanied with a traverse step. During the drills, the recruit must develop thrusting related skills that include the delivering of a thrust while in control of the opponent's sword. This is often the most difficult technique to master because the recruit must learn to "setup" the exchange in order to deliver a thrust decisively and safely at the demise of the opponent.

The arming sword portion of the recruit's training will leverage the techniques learned in both the abrazare and daga sections and will observe the opportunities to deploy those techniques during the arming sword training. The recruit will learn and apply the fencing principles pontificated by George Silver with respect to the true and false times, the four grounds and four governors. These elements will be evaluated as part of the recruit's scholler test.

The Guard (Posta)

A guard position or posta is a position from which the recruit can deliver an attack or to defend, often times, a combination of both. Guards should not be considered static positions but rather fluid or transitional states in order to achieve a certain degree of control in a fencing bout. For arming sword fencing, there is only the one guard position described earlier in the introductory paragraphs. The idea is that as a civilian, one would wear an arming sword on the left side, and should the wearer be threatened, the fencing would be initiated from this position (drawing the sword) and deploy the parries and offensive cuts/thrusts.

To view the relevant illustrations and text of the plays with respect to arming sword, click here.

Part #4: Fencing Theory and History

This portion of the training will provide the necessary theoretical and historical intelligence necessary to satisfy the scholler requirements. It is extremely important that the student begin to develop a deep level of understanding of swordsmanship and all the aspects that surround it, i.e. the theoretical aspects as well as the historical aspects.

The student will review and study the primary sources with respect to the recruit training program that include Fiore dei Liberi and George Silver. The sources and linkages below will aid in identifying the salient points that should be studied and understood from the primary sources for the recruit training, and secondary sources that may be of interest.

Training Videos

click to view the video Typical Training Class: This video (5.9 MB - AVI format) illustrates a typical arming sword training class at AEMMA at the Salle d'Armes located near the intersection of Ossington and Dupont. The students are all engaged in either the phase 1 or phase 2 drills in paired training drills. - Feb 05
click to view the video Sample Training Drills: This video (6.12 MB) illustrates one of the foundational drills in recruit level of training. It is conducted in pairs, and one partner would be on the offensive (agent) while the other partner (patient agent) would be on the defensive. The drill is referred to as phase #1 in which the students exercise the various offensive strikes from different angles of attack, while the patient agent parries the strikes with the appropriate parry. Footwork is emphasized during these drills to ensure that the student demonstrates proper footwork during either offensive or defensive maneuvres.
click to view the video Typical Training Class: This video (5.1 MB) illustrates a typical training class at AEMMA. Note that students are engaged in various levels of drills which represent the "third" period of a typical training session. The first period of training focuses on grappling techniques followed by the second period focused on dagger techniques followed by the third period on longsword techniques. This training program forms the core of the AEMMA curriculum.
click to view the report and videos Sharpened Sword Cutting Exercise: In order to fully appreciate the destructive capabilities of the European longsword, an assessment was conducted using an edged longsword and striking against a facsimile human target or FHT comprised of rolled and water-soaked straw/tatami mats afixed vertically to a stand. The purpose of this exercise was to determine the attributes and properties of an edged weapon against a reasonable FHT.
click to view the report and videos Abrazare e Daga (Grappling and Dagger): A number video segments depicting the abrazare (grappling) and some daga (dagger) techniques that form part of the recruit level of training out of the longsword primer entitled The Art of Longsword Combat - Book #1 are available for reference. Some of the abrazare techniques includes the boar's tooth and their various counters, including elbow push and face push. The video segments go on to include basic exercises on dagger attack re-direction and evading.

  1. Early Period Fencing (XIV and XV Centuries) a periodization for the classification of the eras of the history of fencing based on the various periods in the development of the historical European fighting arts. See the International Masters at Arms Federation (IMAF) website for more info.

Copyright © 2000 Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts  (AEMMA)
Released: November 09, 1998 / Last modified: November 29, 2009