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Rapier Fencing of Francesco Alfieri

Translated by I. M. Davis

Contents
Essential Elements of the Rapier from Capo Ferro
Striking
The Guards
Sword Alone
Sword with Dagger
A Seizure from the Plays of Alfieri
Brief Final Notes

3
4
5-6
7-17
18-25
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Essential Elements of the Rapier from Capo Ferro


1
Of the sword
The true edge is in line with the knuckles and
the false edge faces the holder of the sword.
Forte is the first half of the blade closest to the
hand and the debole is the half farthest from the
hand.
2
Forming the guard
Stand with the feet in an L-shape and the body
profiled. Step away with the back or left foot,
carrying the weight onto the left leg so the head
leans away from the opponent. The sword
comes up in the center of the right thigh, true
and false edges vertical, at the height of the ribs,
with the point directed at the opponents eyes.
3
The hand positions
Prima or first is with the palm facing to your
right, thumb down. Seconda or second is with
the palm facing directly down with the hand
parallel to the ground. Terza or third is with the
palm facing left and the thumb up, and is the
opposite of prima. Quarta or fourth is with the
palm facing up and the hand parallel to the
ground, and is the opposite of Seconda.

4
The usual guards
Prima is with the hand high and to your right
somewhat, in first position, with the point
respecting the opponents chest. Seconda is with
the arm strongly extended forward, hand in
second position, and the point only slightly
angled if at all from centerline. Terza is the
described in Forming the guard, with the hand
in third position, the point respecting the
opponents left shoulder. Quarta is the same as
Terza, but with the hand in fourth position,
respecting the opponents right shoulder. In the
case of the thrust in Seconda or Quarta, the
point is generally directed into the opponents
right and left eye, respectively. For Fabris, the
guards are perfectly extended with the body bent
over, protecting the body behind the guard.
Such a position is not applicable to the cut and
thrust sword, though the principles of use may
be applied.

5
Measure and manner of striking
The narrowest measure is where you may strike
by coming into the offensive posture from the
defensive posture, or Terza, by extending your
sword and shoulders forward. Narrow measure
is when you may strike by extending sword,
shoulders, and hips forward without motion of
the feet. Wide measure is when you may strike
by extending the sword, shoulders, and hips
forward, followed by pushing off the rear leg to
come into the lunge, depicted in the first page of
this document. The widest measure is where you
may strike by extending the sword, shoulders,
and hips forward, then passing clear through
with the rear leg. Out of measure is where you
cannot strike, even on a pass. The order of
striking is critical, going sword, shoulders, hips,
feet, and you recover in the reverse order back
into guard.

6
Footworks
The feet may either lunge, as is the primary
mode of footwork, pass off on an angle with the
lead or right foot, pass clear through from
behind with the rear or left foot, or circle the
rear foot off to the right behind the right foot.

Striking
1
The three advantages
We should seek three advantages in order to
strike, which are: crossing, leverage, and edge
alignment. Crossing is when our blade is above
theirs. Leverage is when their debole is closer to
our forte than our debole is to theirs. Edge
alignment is when our true edge is turned into
theirs.

2
Stringering
Stringering or constraining is performed when
we come to restrict the free motion of their
blade on the inner or outer line in preparation
for placing our thrust.
3
The process of stringering
First, find their blade. That is, bring your sword
into contact with their sword while obtaining the
three advantages. Second, gain their blade, which
is done by pushing the sword and shoulders
forward into the offensive posture. Finally, strike
through their debole, obtaining attack and
defense all at once.

4
Constraining and striking on the inner line
Having found the opponent, gain them
transitioning into Quarta in the offensive
posture, and strike through.
5
Constraining and striking on the outer line
Having found the opponent, gain them
transitioning into Seconda in the offensive
posture, and strike through.
6
The disengage and counter-disengage
They having been found, may disengage. The
disengage is when you make a small U-shape
with your point under or over the opponents
blade in order to refind the opponent, coming
into the three advantages. A counter-disengage
may then be performed by the defender in order
to undue the advantage of the first disengage.

7
Tempos of the foot
The tempos relate first to the motion of the feet,
which carry the motion of the sword. Either you
move into range to strike, your opponent moves,
or you both move. From your fixed foot, if they
move forward, they enter your narrow or
narrowest measure from their wide or widest.
You can strike from wide or widest measure into
their narrow or narrowest. If you both move
forward, then you will most likely enter
narrowest measure. If one advances, the other
may retreat into out of measure, wide measure,
or widest.
8
Tempos of the strike
Contratempo is to strike in the time of their own
strike, gaining the advantages and striking
through at that instant. Mezzo tempo is to gain
them and force a disengage, thereby striking
them in the moment of their disengage. Primo
tempo is to strike in the moment of their or your
entering into range. Dui tempi is when they have
control and strike, you regain control by
disengage or some other defensive action, then
strike them as they recover. The plays from
Alfieri, unless otherwise stated, could initiate
from a stringering or strike on the same line, or a
disengage from the opposite line, in one of the
four tempi.
4

Collected Plays from Francesco Alfieri

1
The guards
Prima as depicted, ensure the body is over the knee. Two variants, High and
Low, low being with the point abased along Line B. Seconda as depicted,
Prima but with the hand rotated and the arm extended in line with the back.
Two variants, High and Low, low being with the point abased along Line A.
Terza as depicted, body and head leaning far away, hand with the palm facing
to the right. High variant, withdraw the lead foot a little, straighten the waist, and
lift the weapon into Line D. Low variant, drop the sword into Line C with the
hand inside the knee, discovering the body somewhat (Porta di Ferro Larga).
Quarta as depicted, palm up and hand inside the knee. High variant, raise the
hand so the sword occupies Line A, low variant, lower the hand so the sword
occupies Line B. Prima is as depicted in the plate, combatant 39, while Terza is
with the hand dropped onto Line B with the sword and the dagger extended.
Seconda is as depicted in the plate, combatant 38, while Quarta is with the sword
inside the knee on Line A with the dagger held in short.
5

Guardia Mista
Guardia Mista halfway between Terza and
Quarta, holding the body as in Terza and the
sword somewhat closer to Quarta, palm of the
sword hand facing somewhat to the right and
up. This guard is designed to be maintained for a
long period. Come into Contraguardia inside on
Line A and B for each given combatant, raising
the hand into Quarta to stringer, or with a pass
of the left foot turn the hand to Seconda to
stringer outside on Lines C and D.

2
Cap. V - The manner to throw the long stoccata and the two principal cuts
From the Guardia Mista, extend the hand and sword, the arm, the
rear leg, and the back in a single tempo, though in the order given.
Done from the Guardia Mista, it is faster than from Prima or
Seconda. It is error to attempt to thrust while standing straight.
Once the thrust is done, recover guard. The principal cuts are
Mandritto Fendente (Line GA descending to F from the right side)
Mandritto Obliquo (Line BF), Riverso Fendente (Line GA
descending to F from the left side), Riverso Obliquo (Line CE),
Montante or Sottomano (Line HF ascending to A), which can be
either mandritto or riverso.

3
Cap. VI - Of the hurt of Quarta from the Fixed Foot
In the moment they step into measure, strike from Guardia Mista
into Quarta in opposition against their Terza, recover out of range
back into Guardia Mista. First variant, in the strike lift the sword to
Line A, striking in Terza from outside to their face. Second variant,
feint on Line A and then drop your body so the sword comes into
Line B in Seconda. Finally, feint on Line A and then cut riverso on
Line C to their leg. In striking, the head and back should stretch in
with all power, in order to note lose our objective and power.

4
Cap. VII - Of the hurt of Seconda from the Fixed Foot
In the moment they enter measure, strike from Guardia Mista into
Seconda in opposition against their Terza, recover out of range
back into Guardia Mista. First variant, strike from outside over
their right arm to their face in Quarta. Second variant, feint on Line
A a thrust in Quarta, then drop your body and hand to Line B into
Terza to thrust below their arm. Third, feint on Line A in Terza or
some other guard, then cut a riverso on Line C to their right leg,
retreating out of measure into guard.

5
Cap. VIII - Of wounding the enemy from outside above their sword, passing
the left foot
Stringer the enemy outside to cause them to attempt a thrust in
Seconda or a thrust from outside over your sword, or stringer them
on the inside to cause a disengage so they strike outside. In their
strike, wind up into Prima and pass the left foot forward, gripping
their hilt and wounding them with a thrust as shown. Alternatively,
drop your hand and thrust in Seconda under their sword on Line
B, or if the tempo is large enough, cut a mandritto or riverso to
their head on Line A.

10

6
Cap. IX - Of wounding from outside under the sword, passing the left foot
First, make a feint above their sword and with the pass, wound in
Seconda under. Secondly after the feint, you may wound with a
fixed foot, meaning the lunge, inside or outside on Line A, as
previously taught. Thirdly, after a feint on Line A, you may cut a
mandritto on Line B to their leg.

11

7
Cap. X - Of wounding with the stoccata of fixed foot against a cut to the head
As they lift their sword to cut a mandritto, or in the moment they
enter measure by means of a cut, strike a stoccata in Quarta before
the fall of their sword in tempo. Against the riverso under the same
two conditions, strike a stoccata in Second before the fall of their
sword. Against the mandritto, you may also cut a mandritto on
Line A, or dropping the body to void the cut, deliver a riverso to
their leg on Line B. The converse would be true against riverso.

12

8
Cap. XI - How you should wound an enemy striking at the leg
They strike a cut or thrust to your leg, most likely by means of a
stringering and then a cut or a feint of thrust or cut high to deliver
the real blow down low. Withdraw your leg and strike a direct
thrust, or you may cut mandritto to their head (Line A) or riverso
to their arm (Line B).

13

9
Cap. XIV - Of the wound with a twist of the body without a pass
They stringer on the inner line in Quarta, and as they strike, the
defender voids the blow by means of the twist depicted, thrusting
in Seconda or Terza in the moment. Alternatively, encountering
their debole with your forte, strike in Quarta on Line B. Finally,
you can displace their thrust with your sword on Line C, a low
Seconda or a hanging parry, and strike a mandritto on Line A.

14

10
Cap. XV - Of the wound by taking the body out of the presence of the thrust
As they enter stringering to thrust, encounter their debole with
your forte, and making a circle pace of the left foot, drive your
thrust in Quarta. Secondly, you may simply strike in Quarta
without touching their sword in the primo tempo. Third, you may
perform the twist from Cap. XIV without the motion of the feet.
Finally, you can abase your point into Line B, as a hanging parry,
and reply a cut on Line A.

15

11
Cap. XVI - Of the wound with lowering the body without parrying
Come to stringer from outside. They thrust in Seconda. Lower the
body to void the thrust and strike in Seconda under. Alternatively,
thrust on Line A in Quarta, or abase the point to thrust in Seconda
on Line B. This is from perfect measure. If they strike in Prima
from Misura Larga, you may strike in Seconda as shown.

16

12
Cap. XVIII - Of the wound to the enemy who passes with the left foot
They strike in Quarta against your Guardia Mista. Make the hand
parry shown without motion of the feet, striking in Prima in the
tempo, or strike in Seconda abasing the body on Line B, or turn
mandritto or riverso to their head on Line A.

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13
Cap. XXIII - Of the wound between the weapons
The thrust depicted is made close by the enemys dagger with the
advantage of time, stringering inside and then striking in Quarta.
Second, you may strike on Line A from outside over their dagger
in Seconda. Third, you may strike on Line B under their arm in
Quarta, retiring back into Guardia Mista.

18

14
Cap. XXIV - Of the wound of stoccata from a fixed foot in Terza between
their weapons
Find this thrust from uncovering your left side in Terza, then
parrying as they strike and replying in the same tempo, or from a
feint outside their left and disengage under their left arm.
Alternatively, you could give a riverso on Line A, a stoccata by way
of circle pace in Quarta on Line B (Cap. XV), or a mandritto to the
leg on Line C.

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15
Cap. XXV - Of the parry of the cut, and the wound
They stringer outside in Seconda, and feeling resistance, turn a
mandritto to the head. From Seconda, turn your hand to Prima,
catching their blow as depicted and trapping it with your dagger to
thrust over their right arm. Or having caught the cut as shown,
turn a mandritto to the head on Line A or to the leg on Line B.

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16
Cap. XXVI - Of the wound by a pass of the left foot
Stringer them on the outside to force a disengage and strike on
their part. With the left past, come into Seconda to strike, parrying
their blow with the dagger. Alternatively, strike in Seconda over
their dagger from outside on Line A. You may also strike a riverso
to their arm on Line B in the moment.

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17
Cap. XXXI - Of the wound through a pace of the left foot
Forcing a strike of Prima or Seconda, make the left pass as shown
striking Seconda between their weapons with the sword and in
Quarta under their sword arm with the dagger. In the time, instead
of the thrust, you could give a mandritto on Line A or to the leg on
Line B.

22

18
Cap. XXVII - Of parrying and wounding in the same tempo
Stringering in Terza, they strike in Terza from outside. In that
tempo, parry with the dagger as shown and strike in Terza.
Alternatvely, you may strike a mandritto on Line A or a riverso to
the leg on Line B instead of the thrust.

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19
Cap. XXVIII - Of the wound by feint, over the dagger
Having stringered and entered into measure, give a thrust under
the dagger to cause them to parry and strike in Quarta as depicted.
As they move to parry, you make your own parry of their thrust
with your dagger and disengage over their dagger to strike in
Seconda as shown. Alternatively, you could give a mandritto in the
tempo on Line A, a riverso over their sword arm on Line A,
through a cavazione (circle pace) drive in the thrust below still on
Line B, or a mandritto to the leg on Line C.

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20
Cap. XXIX - Of the wound by feint, under the dagger
Having stringered and entered into measure, give a thrust over the
dagger to cause them to parry and strike in Quarta as depicted.
With the voiding of your head, come inside and under their dagger
to strike in Quarta to the face, or strike in Seconda over their
dagger on Line A, or by abasing your body strike under their sword
in Seconda on Line B.

25

Seizure from the Plays of Alfieri

1
Cap. XIX - Of the wound and twist of the sword, or a seizure
The opponent marked 36 arrived in measure in Terza uncovered
outside, and the other combatant, taking measure and time,
delivered the thrust depicted, and with the left hand, twisted their
sword out and off to their left. This could also be achieved from a
feint inside, or striking on the alternate lines, though Line B has the
hand in Seconda. This can be applied with any left handed item,
pugnale, brocchiero, etc, but with the cape it is better to throw it
onto them to impede their vision. It is also a useful disarm against
the Pugnale alone.
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Brief Final Notes


1
Target, buckler, and rotella
Alfieri notes that secondary weapons like the target, buckler,
rotella, and the cloak are all used in essentially the same manner as
the dagger. Plays are presented for the sword with cloak, but due to
their similarity to dagger plays, they have been omitted in this
reference. From Giacomo di Grassi, shields are always held with
the arm extended to provide greatest coverage to the body. In the
case of the rotella, the rim is projected forward, while for the target
and buckler the flat is projected. In the case of the square target,
the left upper corner is held pointing up, in order to provide better
lines of vision around the weapon. Shields can be used for striking
whenever the measure is close enough. All of the hand checking
and stabbing with the dagger presented in the plays can be directly
replaced by either checking with the shield or striking with the rim
of the shields.

2
Sidesword fencing
Alfieris system, if practiced from a more upright posture like that
of Saviolo, serves equally well for the spada da filo. An
understanding of the principles of Giacomo di Grassis
Introduction will elucidate how many of the actions function by
taking advantage of momentum from footwork or that is given by
a displacement of your blade by the opponent.

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