This glossary lists the common technical vocabulary used by Fiore dei Liberi, as well as the Italian nomenclature for the various weapons, implements and styles of combat from the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. For those unfamiliar with Italian, masculine nouns change from a final “o” to an “i” when becoming pluralized, and feminine vowels from a final “a” to “e”. Singular nouns ending in “e” are generally masculine and also change to a final “i” in the plural. The list retains the vernacular spelling used by Fiore, which has become somewhat of an established custom in the Historical European Martial Arts community.
A cavallo – “On horse”. One of the three major divisions of armizare, the others being senza arme (out of armour) and in arme (in armour)
Abrazare – Archaic for modern Italian abbraciare (“to embrace”). A type of stand-up grappling (as distinct from wrestling; It: lotta) that characterizes much of Fiore’s play.
Accrescimento – “Increasing”. The act of moving the foot that is in front either farther forward along the line of direction or, in the case of an offline accrescimento, somewhat away from it or to the side. Verb form: accresere (see above).
Accressere fora di strada – Offline Accrescimento. A piece of footwork in which the front foot moves away from the line of direction, most often in preparation for an oblique pass (see ).
Alla Traversa – “To the side”. An oblique or lateral step offline.
Armadura or Arme – Armour (Also: harness). In the time of Fiore, the transition between mail armor and plate armor was near complete. A typical full suit of the time consisted in a bascinet with a movable visor or an open-faced helm, breast and back with articulated faulds extending to the upper thigh, pauldrons (shoulder armor), arm and elbow armor, gauntlets, leg armor, greaves (shin armor) and sabatons (foot armor). As armizare is a chivalric discipline, the use of armour in single combat and on the battlefield informs the movement and body mechanics of the entire system, but whereas there are restricted target areas against an opponent wearing armor, Fiore is careful to specify which actions are possible in armor, out of armor, or both.
Armizare – Fiore’s word for exercising the skill at arms, or the “art of arms”.
Azza – Fiore uses the term “axe” for the poleaxe: a polearm approximately man-sized with a square-section haft, which was part of the knightly arsenal at the time. On the forward offensive end, it features an iron consisting of a short spike, a hammer or axe-blade (hence the name) and a stout beak protruding behind it. On the other end, it typically has a short spike, so as to enable the user to strike with either end. Although poleaxes could be as long as seven or eight feet, armizare favors the use of weapon somewhere between the length of the wielder’s armpit to full height (approximately 54 – 72″).
Bastoncello – A short staff, usually no longer than the arm, which was carried by Italian military commanders as a sign of command. Bastoncelli could be simple batons of polished, white wood, or elaborately carved and decorated. Descended from the Roman vitis, and remembered in the modern era by the general’s swagger stick. A minor weapon in armizare, Fiore dei Liberi shows the use of a bastoncello about a foot (30 cm) or so long to defend against knife attacks.
Bastone – A club or staff. A minor weapon in canonical armizare, Fiore dei Liberi briefly shows the ad hoc use of a pair of arm-length clubs as well as the use of a walking staff in conjunction with the dagger.
Battere or Rebatter(e) – To beat the opponent’s weapon means to give it a rap with yours so as to set it aside or hit it to the ground.
Chiave Forte – “Strong Key”. A strong lock from the low bind (see ligadura), appearing as the sixth play of the Third Master of dagger, and recurring throughout the art in the use of sword and axe.
Colpo – A blow. A general noun used to describe an attack involving hitting the opponent–with or without a weapon. Fiore classifies three blow angles, each of which can be made from the forehand (mandritto) or backhand (riverso) sides, for six blow angles in total:
- Fendente – An attack in which the weapon falls obliquely downwards on the opponent. While it is traditionally a cut, Fiore also uses it as an overhand thrusting attack in the dagger section. A mandritto fendente comes from the right side, while a riverso fendente comes from the left.
- Mezzano – A cut or blow whose path falls between that of a fendente and a sottano.
- Sottano – An ascending cut whose path is that opposite a fendente.
Colpo di Villano – “Peasant’s Strike”. A named play for defending against heavy blows, introduced by the Fourth Student of the Second Remedy Master of the Two Handed Sword in Zogho Largo. The peasant is the opponent who delivers a powerful fendente to set up the action. Contrary to what the name suggests, the opponent delivering the first attack does not need do so in a rough or unskilled manner; but simply strikes forcefully – which is why Fiore advises the play will also work against an axe or staff.
Contrario (Also: magistro contrario) – “Counter “. A tier in Fiore’s pedagogy representing the counters to the Remedy Masters (see remedio) or their students (see scolaro). In some cases, Counter Masters also have students.
Contra-Contrario – “Counter-to-the-Counter.” The final tier in Fiore’s pedagogy, this rarely seen Master, teaches techniques designed to thwart an opponent’s counter to your original defense (see remedio).
Coverta – “Cover.” Any defensive motion designed to block, beat away, deviate or keep away an incoming attack, including parries (parrare; verb: riparare), beats (rebattamenti), or breaks (romperimenti; verb: rompere)
Daga – “Dagger”. A short knightly weapon consisting of a thrusting blade and a hilt featuring a cylindrical handle with a disc (or rondel) on either side to secure the grip and prevent the weapon from slipping. One of its main functions was that of penetrating mail in the various openings left by plate armor–hence its being stiffer than a knife, acutely pointed, and being practically without an edge.
Decrescimento – “Decreasing”. The act of pulling the front foot back towards (but not past) the rear foot. The opposite of an accrescimento. Infinitive: decressere
Dislogadura – “Dislocation”. In abrazare, the act of wrenching a bone of the opponent’s limbs out of joint, without necessarily breaking it. Verb form: dislogare.
Ferrire – “To wound”. One of the Requirements of Abrazare; ferrire are strikes made to vulnerable areas such as the temples, eyes, nose, throat, floating ribs or groin.
Ferro – “Iron”. The tempered-metal component at either end of a polearm. It: ferro.
Fora di Strada – “Offline”. 1) A piece of footwork in which the foot moves away from the line of direction. 2) A way to hold the weapon so that it does not lie along the line of direction or offense. N.B. fora di strada is also used for a generic piece of footwork that is not parallel to the line of direction.
Forteza – “Strength”. One of the Requirements of Abrazare.
Ghiavarina – A polearm similar to a winged-spear, but with a longer iron that is broad enough to deliver cuts. As depicted in this manuscript, the ghiavarina also has two lateral spikes protruding on either side of the base of the iron. An early form of partizan, also called a “Bohemian ear-spoon”, the term ghiavarina may be etymologically related to “glaive.”
Guardia – “Guard”. See posta.
In Arme – “In armor.” One of the three major divisions of armizare, the others being senza arme (out of armour) and a cavallo (on horseback).
Incrossada, Incrossare – ” Crossing, to cross”.The act of meeting the opponent’s weapon with yours so as to form an X, or a cross–either in the course of a parry, of an attack, or of a probing action.
Instabile – “Mutable, changing”. A quality of a guard that makes it apt for fluidly changing into another, rather than waiting firmly in the same posture. Fiore offers a clue of this on Folio 36 Recto: “We have no stability, and we each seek deception: you think I’ll attack with a fendente, but I pass back instead and change guards.” Instabile poste are usually used for making covers and risposte.
Lanza – “Lance”. A term applying equally to the English lance and spear. Fiore shows the use of the lanza corta, or short spear, a weapon about 7′ in length that is apt for combat on both foot and on horseback, as opposed to the longer, heavier weapon specialized for mounted combat, or the long, massed infantry weapon called the picca (pike). Filippo Vadi adopts the teachings to the lanza longa, a weapon longer than the lanza corta but shorter than a picca — generally a weapon about 9′ – 10′ long.
Ligadura – “Bind”. One of Fiore dei Liberi’s Eight Requirements of Abrazare, a ligadura is a joint-lock; although demonstrated against the elbow, the founder makes it clear that ligadure can be applied to any joint. wrestling situation in which one traps one or more limbs of the opponent. It differs from a grapple (see presa) in the sense that a grapple does not necessarily have a locking quality. There are three types of ligadura, classified as sottana (low), mezzana (middle) and soprana (high).
Magistro – “Master”. 1) An individual exceptionally skilled in the art of arms; 2) A principal tier of actions in Fiore’s pedagogy. Master of the Fight, or First Master: a crowned figure representing a guard from which proceed the most logical actions from that position. Remedy Master or Second Master: a crowned figure representing the entry into the plays deriving from the guard, and the defenses against opponents who use the actions deriving from the main guard; the various plays from this Remedy Master are displayed as Students (see), who wear no crown but have a gold insignia below the knee. Counter Master or Third Master: a figure wearing both a crown and an insignia under his knee, who counters the actions of the Second Master and his students. Because they wear a crown, Masters are called “Kings.” Italian: re.
Mandritto – 1) A cut or cut-like blow you deliver from your right towards the left; 2) Mandritto Side: the side to the (your) right of the line (see strada).
Passare – “To pass” (Noun: passo) One of the four basic types of footwork in armizare, this is the act of stepping the rear foot forward, so that it becomes the front foot; a walking step with martial intent and body mechanics. A pass can be forward, backward (tornare), along the line of direction or oblique.
Passare alla Traversa – “Oblique Pass”. A pass that crosses the line of direction; i.e., the foot that is behind, as it passes forward, goes to the opposite side of the line of direction, typically after an offline accrescimento of the other foot.
Pedale – “Heel”. The part of a polearm consisting of the bottom part of the haft, opposite the main iron. Most Italian Masters who address the issue–including Fiore–advocate capping it with an additional iron cap or sharpened spike for offensive purposes.
Piu Forteza – “More Strength”. A defense against a dagger strike where the right hand grasps the left wrist, making for a stronger cover (see coverta).
Posta – “Position”. A deliberate position of the body, feet and, when applicable, the weapon(s); a fighting stance. Fiore gives us his own definition in the introduction: “A guard, or posta, is what you use to defend or ‘guard’ yourself against the opponent’s attack. A posta, or guard, is a ‘posture’ against the opponent, which you use to injure him without danger to yourself.” Most guards are represented in the drawings as a Master or King standing alone, without an opponent. Fiore classifies them as First Masters.
- Posta Breve – “short (or withdrawn) guard.”
- Posta Breve Serpentino – “short (or withdrawn) serpent guard.”
- Posta di Bicorno – “two-horned guard.”
- Posta di Croce Bastarda – “bastard cross guard.”
- Posta di Coda Lunga – “long tail guard.”
- Posta di Dente di Cinghiaro/Zenghiaro – “boar’s tooth.”
- Posta di Donna – “woman’s guard.”
- Posta di Finestra – “window guard.”
- Posta di Porta di Ferro Mezzana – “middle iron door guard.”
- Posta di Tutta Porta di Ferro – “whole iron door guard.”
- Posta di Serpente Superiore – “high serpent guard”
- Posta di Vera Croce – “true-cross guard.”
- Posta Frontale – “frontal guard.”
- Posta Longa – “long (or extended) guard.”
- Posta Sagittaria – “arrow guard.”
Presa – “Grab”. Another requirement of abrazare, prese are any grip or hold used while grappling.
Presteza – “Speed”. One of the Requirements of Abrazare
Pulsativa – “Smiting”. A quality of guards, which Fiore does not define, but that may involve the ability to deliver strong blows to the opponent or his weapons.
Punta – “Thrust”. To his basic six angles of attack, Fiore adds a seventh blow (see colpo), which is the linear attack with the weapon’s point. The thrust can also be made from the mandritto or riverso, and either overhand (punta sopramano) or underhand (punta sottomano), as well as straight up the middle (stoccata).
Punta Curta, Punta Falsa – “Short Thrust, False Thrust”. The sixteenth play of the second Remedy Master of Two-handed Sword in Zogho Largo. It consists of feinting a strong mezzano to the opponent’s head and, upon his attempted parry, turning your sword to the other side while grasping the blade with your left hand, and finishing with a thrust to the opponent’s neck or chest.
Remedio (Also: magistro remedio) – “Remedy”. Also called Second Master, it is a tier in Fiore’s pedagogy representing the entry-point of the various plays that can be performed from the guards, which Fiore calls First Masters (see posta).
Riverso or Manriverso – “Reverse” or “backhand”. 1) A cut or cut-like blow you deliver from your left towards the opponent’s right; 2) Riverso Side: the side to the (your) left of the line (see strada).
Rompere – “To break”. This verb is used in armizare in two ways: 1) In wrestling, the act of causing a fracture in the opponent’s bones, typically in the limbs. 2) In fencing, the act of strongly disrupting the opponent’s guard, design or attack.
Rompere di Punta – “Breaking of the Thrust”. An action designed to counter an incoming thrust, which Fiore introduces with the two-handed sword. It consists of beating the opponent’s thrust to the ground with your own weapon, and following with different kinds of risposte.
Scambiar di Punta – “Exchange of Thrusts”. An important recurring technique that Fiore first introduces by name with the two-handed sword, consisting in countering a thrust by meeting the opponent’s weapon with yours and simultaneously setting it aside while pushing a counterthrust. The Exchange of Thrust also forms the basis of spear-play and can also be used with the axe.
Scholaro – “Student.” 1) A person who learns the art of arms. 2) A secondary tier of actions in Fiore’s pedagogy representing all the various plays that the Remedy Master (see remedio) or the Counter Master (see contrario) can perform.
Segno della Spada – “Sign of the Sword”. A symbolic diagram of the seven blows of the sword superimposed over a human figure, surrounded by four animals, each representing an ideal quality of a swordsman. The animals are named in both Latin and Italian, depending on the copy of il Fior di Battaglia, but there placement and meaning is always the same:
- Fortitudio/Forteza – “Foundation/Strength”. An elephant carrying a war tower and standing on a stone slab, situated at the feet.
- Celeritas/Presteza – “Speed”. A tiger clutching an arrow, at the right hand.
- Prudentia/Avvisamento – “Prudence”. A lynx holding a mason’s calipers, standing over the head.
- Audatia/Coragio – “Courage”. A lion, holding a heart, at the left hand.
Senza Arme – “Without armour” One of the three major divisions of armizare, the others being in arme (out of armour) and a cavallo (on horseback).
Spada – “Sword”. Any kind of sword, be it one or two-handed.
Spada a Dui Mani – “Sword in Two Hands”. The weapon generally referred to as a longsword; a weapon between 44 – 54″ long and 3 – 4 lbs in weight. Dei Liberi preferred a shorter weapon that could easily be wielded in one or two hands, on foot or on horse, whereas Filippo Vadi recommends a weapon that reaches to the armpit, with a hilt as long as one’s forearm.
Spada d’un Mano – “Sword in One Hand”. While this can imply an one-handed arming sword, Fiore dei Liberi uses the term to distinguish how the weapon is being wielded, and his techniques for the sword in one hand are shown with the same, long-hilted weapon he depicts in the two-handed sword section.
Spada en Arme – “Sword in Armour”. A term which both refers to use the normal spada a dui mani in armour, as well as a type of specialized weapon for judicial duels. This latter sword was a massive weapon, with a broadly flared point, like a boar-spear, a dull lower blade, a long, pointed crossguard and a sharply pointed or spiked pommel.
Stabile – “Stable”. 1) The adjective in volta stabile (see volta); 2) a characteristic of a guard or posture that makes it ideal for waiting motionless for the opponent.
Stanga – “Staff”. A polearm consisting of a cylindrical length of wood with no iron. It can be a stanga, or roughly man-sized or longer, a shorter bastone (roughly half the size of a regular staff, or no longer than the armpit), or an even shorter bastoncello, which is usually no longer than the arm. See bastoncello.
Strada – “Line”. The shortest distance between two opposing fighters. The Line of Direction is on the ground, while the Line of Offense is (traditionally) at chest-height. Far from being a concept only developed in subsequent times, Fiore names it (strada) and clearly considers it as a vital concept of the footwork and weapon-work he presents. He uses strada to mean both the line of direction and the line of offense. Modern Italian: line
Taglio – Cut. An attack that uses the shearing ability of an edged weapon to inflict damage on the opponent.
Tor di Spada – “Sword-Taking”. Weapon disarms. As with the ligadure, which use similar mechanical principles, Fiore shows three types of tor di spada, classified as sottana, mezzana and soprana.
Volta – “Turn”. The term is used generally by Fiore, such as in the volta di pomo, and also to describe a type of footwork that has a specific, tactical component. This latter classification has three variations:
- Volta Stabile – Literally, stable turn. 1) An about-face action of the body accomplished by pivoting on the balls of your stationary feet, so that from facing forward you now face backward, or vice-versa. 2) Volta stabile of the sword: although Fiore names it without describing it, it may be the act of keeping the sword on the same side of the opponent’s blade, and without turning the edge (as in the mezza volta) simply moving from a high to low position, or vice-versa.
- Mezza Volta – “Half-turn”. Mezza volta of the body: the act of making a circular pass, so that the toe of the stepping foot points across the centerline, thereby turning your chest from facing right to facing left, or vice-versa. Mezza volta of the sword: an action of your sword in which the weapon moves from your left to your right, or vice-versa, while remaining on the same side of the opponent’s weapon. For example, from a mandritto vs. mandritto incrossada, uncrossing to strike a riverso to the face, as taught by the First Student of the Second Remedy of the Sword in Two Hands.
- Tutta Volta – “Whole turn”. Tutta volta of the body – A passing step that moves further than a mezza volta, and causes the body to perform an about face. Tutta Volta of the sword: although Fiore names it without describing it, it is most commonly the act of turning the leading sword-hand in a complete wheel-like motion of the weapon, so that if you were crossed on the mandritto side, your blade is now on the opposite side of the weapon, as taught by the Fourth Student of the Second Remedy Master of the Two Handed Sword in Zogho Largo (see: colpo di villano).
Volta di Pomo – “Pommel Turn”. An action that follows a crossing (see), consisting of pivoting your sword around the opponent’s using his blade as a fulcrum, so that your sword finishes pommel-forward on the opposite side of the crossing. It usually involves a pommel-strike to the opponent’s face.
Zogho – “Play”. 1) An individual technique, taught in the tradition’s manuscripts by Masters and Students (see magistro and scholaro) that combines both a technical and tactical lesson, 2) a type of combat, related to the measure and line and the types of techniques thereby available. Modern Italian: gioco.
Zogho Largo – “Wide Play”. Only appears when discussing long weapons, such as the sword, spear or axe. At this measure, combatants may use the weapon’s edge and point, bind or grab the weapon’s head and, depending on the weapon’s length, make long-range unarmed attacks, such as kicks. Grabs will not reach any deeper than the opponent’s elbow; body-to-body contact is not possible.
Zogho Stretto – “Close Play”.Combat that is executed from grappling measure — i.e., from a distance that enables you to grapple the opponent after (at most) a single passing step. All grappling and knife fighting occurs at zogho stretto, whereas with long weapons it is normally arrived to through a crossing (see incrossada).