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Filippo Vadi


Extracted from "L'arte cavalleresca del combattimento  ("The knightly art of combat") - De arte gladiatoria dimicandi by Filippo Vadi",
by M. Rubboli, L. Cesari, in bookstores since February  2001.
Edited by publishing house "IL CERCHIO" in Rimini (Italy).

History and principal characteristics of the Filippo Vadi's manuscript

The treatise "De arte gladiatoria dimicandi", today kept at the National Library of Rome, was written between 1482 and 1487 by Filippo Vadi, a Master at arms from Pisa, and by him dedicated to the Duke Guidubaldo of Urbino, a valiant and unlucky "condottiero".
Guidubaldo became Duke in 1482, so the text cannot be older.
On the other side, the book was included in the catalogue of the Ducal Library of Urbino, made between 1482 and 1487 by Odasio, the teacher of the young Duke, at the number 654, so it cannot have been written after 1487.
We don't have any other evidence of the presence of Vadi at Urbino's Court, but the dedication to the Duke and the presence of the manuscript in the Ducal Library must convince us that Vadi had lived at least for a period in that town, and that he taught fencing to Guidubaldo.
Again in the catalogue of the library we can find the note that the book have never been found again after the conquest of the town by Cesare Borgia in 1502.
Nothing we know of the following story of the manuscript, until it was bought by the Italian National Library.
We like to believe that the book could have been found interesting by the warlike Duke "Valentino" (Cesare Borgia) or by some of his military commaders, and that this is the reason why it disappeared from the Library of Urbino.
A partial publication of Vadi's treatise, commented from a philological but not from a technical point of view, has found its place in the beautiful book of Bascetta about medieval sports (see Bibliography of the publication), where it is possible to find the transcription of all the textual part, in Italian, and only a few paintings.

As we have written before, the great similarity between the treatise of the Pisan Master and the Flos Duellatorum makes us think that Vadi could have had access in some way to the teachings that Master Fiore wrote more that seventy years before.
However, the text by our author is quite different from a simple re-proposition of traditional teachings, and in many aspects it foreshadows the birth of that purely Italian school that during the Renaissance overwhelmed the old German school.
One of the new elements introduced for the very first time by Filippo Vadi, as far as we know, is the part of the treatise made up exclusively of text, without illustrations, a solution that would become very popular in the following century.
In fact in many Renaissance treatises the text becomes always the most important part for the comprehension of the techniques and the principles contained in the treatise.
Mostly in the firts treatises of the century, the ones written by Masters of the Bolognese School, illustrations are either completely missing, or they have a function of pure support of the textual part.
In the first treatise of the XVI century, by the Italianised Spaniard Pietro Monte , published in 1509 but written at the end of the XV century, also in the town of Urbino, there are no illustration at all.
The same we can say for the treatise by Antonio Manciolino (there are a couple of purely decorative drawings, with no relation at all with the techniques), and in Achille Marozzo 's treatise illustrations show just the guards and the weapons whose use is treated in the text.
The textual part of the "Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi" is made of an introduction in prose and 16 chapters in verses.
In the introduction, after having dedicated the treatise to the Duke Guidubaldo, Vadi introduces himself in way very similar to Fiore dei Liberi , saying that he has studied the science of combat for a long time and with many masters, and that he has decided to write a treatise not to let the art disappear.
He also recommends not to let the knowledge contained in it in the hands of ignorant and rough men, but to communicate them only to nobles and knights.
Vadi, moreover, refers that he has put into the treatise only effective techniques, seen in action and approved personally by him (a concept that is apparently obvious, but unfortunately it is not always respected in modern martial arts).

Fencing develops from the missing of natural weapons in the human race, which, to survive, had to make use of its only true weapon: rational intelligence, of which fencing, as a geometrical science, is a daughter.
That's why the science of fencing permits to a weaker individual to submit even a stronger and more athletic opponent, because this discipline teaches how to defend, how to attack and how to disarm the opponent in the quickest and most efficient way.
After that Vadi, having reaffirmed his intention to preserve the memory of this art, and having exposed his long martial curriculum, expresses his intention to treat only some kinds of weapons: pike, two-hand sword, dagger and pole-axe, of which only the sword will find place in textual part, while the other weapons will be examinated by our Author only in the illustrated part.
Finally, one more time the Pisan Master recommends to divulgate the art only among men that have the responsibility to rule the State and defend the weak.
Very important, and unfortunately very rare in the history of fencing (in which every master consider himself the only keeper of the truth), is the declaration that ends the introduction, in which Vadi gives to the reader, if he's expert in the art of combat, a previous permission to make variations to the book, adding and quitting techniques.

The first chapter, " Incipit " (beginning) treats of the fact that fencing belongs to the family of the sciences, like geometry, and not to the world of the arts, comparing it to music (also considered a science in a late medieval and Renaissance vision).
The second chapter, " Misura de spada da doi mane " (measure of the two-hand sword) illustrates the measure that the two-hand sword must have, an indication that has a great importance for all the people that want to restore the science of fencing of those times, or even for historical re-enactement.
The reader should note that it has no sense to change the measures given by Vadi (for example the total length of the two hand sword, that must go from the ground up to the armpit of the fencer) in precise metrical measures: the real measures of the sword must be different according to the person that will use it and his phisical characteristics (except in a duel, where the two swords must be identical between themselves, i.e. both of the measure that the defied part preferes).
The following chapter, the third, " Ragion de spada " (the discourse of the sword), treats the utility of fencing and the ethical and practical principles that must lead the fencer: this is a key chapter of the work.
The chapter illustrates several advices and several techniques of "gioco largo" (wide play, i.e. techniques executed at long or medium distance, that does not foresee grips on the opponent's body, but can include kicks, grips on his sword etc.) and "gioco stretto" (close play, essentially grips, techniques including wrestling or anyhow techniques at very short distance).
For a detailed analysis of the techniques see the Technical Appendix.
The sword, in the first verses, is defined "royal weapon", a weapon that must be handled in a manly way, a consideration that reminds what have been said on the opportunity of restraining the art of fencing to nobles and knights.
From a technical point of view, it is worth considering how the Author resumes the whole art in the crossing of the swords, i.e. in the "cross parry" that blocks the enemy's blow with a countercut (and not with a stable cross parry like in modern sabre fencing, that may not have enough power to stop a strong blow), and from which a great number of techniques may start, and first of all the "parry and risposte".
This same concept is repeated later on: " gioca de croce e non serai conquiso ": play with the cross and you will not be conquered.
Again, intereresting are the verses in which the basic concept of time and measures are mentioned, or the ones in which it is stated that " ingegno ogni possanza sforza " (cunning wins any strength).
In the second part of the chapter one can find several moral indications, even more interesting, whose analysis we present here below.
Among them are the prohibition to pick quarrels and to fight against justice, the respect due to the Master, the loyalty towards legitimate authorities and so on.
From a technical point of view, we underline that our Author advices who wants to become an expert swordsman not only to learn, but even to make teaching experiences, always taking care to free himself from his own mistakes.
Finally, our Author speaks of the intrinsecal virtues of the noble art of fencing, an art that hunts the cowardice out of the heart, and gives happiness by its own virtue, and always accompanies the ones that dedicate themselves to it, preserving them from poverty and taking them back to the light when they feel like an estiguished fire: the discipline of fencing is like a loyal partner that's always there for its followers.
The last verses are dedicated to a proud revendication of the innovations that the Pisan Master brought to the science of sword handling.
The fourth chapter, without a title, is dedicated to the importance of the art of the sword and to the advantages that it offers to the ones that dedicate themselves to it.
Strangely enough, the first advantages of the practice of fencing that our Author names are of an almost aesthetical nature: it teaches how to walk well (sense of equilibrium, elasticity of the step, good gait) and it makes the eye quick, brave and lord-like.
Then we pass to more concrete advantages: one can learn to parry well, and therefore to defend his own life: many people that did not want to learn this science of defence have died in a violent way.
There is no greater good than life (a concept, this, tipically western, stranger to other martial cultures), that's why the importance of the knowledge of the art of personal defence, which may save your life a thousand times, is much higher than the importance of any material wealth.
In fact, even if you don't look for trouble, it is easy to find yourself in a quarrel that may end in a violent way, and in this case it is better to be able to prevail over other people.
From this comes the need to learn the new art discovered by Vadi, and in particular to learn how to measure the fencing times, in order not to give to your Master a reason to complain about you.
When you have to fight (in a duel) with someone, it is necessary to pay attention that the swords are identical, without giving any advantage to the opponent.
Then we find another list of virtues that the fencer has to develop: a swift eye, knowledge, rapidity, strength and a firm heart (buon occhio, sapere, prestezza, forza e cuore).
Notwithstanding what stated before on the opportunity that the swords used in a duel must be identical, our Author tells us that for a big man it is more convenient to use a long sword and for a little man a short sword.
The strength of the big man can break the guard of the little man, shifting his sword with violence, but knowledge can compensate this disadvantage of the little man.
In fact, one that knows many blows is very dangerous, while a man that knows just a few of them will act with great strain and disadvantage, and at the end he will be overcome, even if he's stronger.
By consequence of this, it is dangerous to reveal the secrets of the art, mostly to people that you don't know well.
It is very dangerous to fight against an opponent armed with a longer sword, that's why in a duel it is necessary to pretend to use identical weapons.

To the said considerations Vadi adds a declaration of exclusive love for the two-hand sword:

"La spada da doi mane sola stimo
e quella adopro a mia bisogna"


"only the two-hand sword I esteem,
and I use it for all my needs"

Finally, the Pisan Master advices not to fight against more than one opponent, and in case you are forced to do it, he invites to use a very light weapon and to avoid the use of the thrust.
As we have seen, we find here a quite messy miscellaneous of precious advices and principles, many of which we'll find again later on.
The fifth chapter, " de punte e tagli ", (of thrusts and cuts) describes in brief the seven basic blows, that are quite similar to Fiore dei Liberi 's one, even if some have here a different name.
This same subject is treated again in a more extended way in the fololwing chapter, the sixth: " li sette colpi della spada " (the seven blows of the sword).
The brief chapter seven " de la punta " (of the thrust) is dedicated to the thrusts, described as " velenosi " (venomous) as they are very insidious and often deadly, while the eighth " costione di tagli e punte " (the dispute of cuts and thrusts) presents us a kind of polemic discussion between cuts and thrusts to decide which blow is the best.
The Pisan Master illustrates here mostly the disadvantages of the thrust (even if before he had defined it as full of venom): any parry, even the most feeble, is good enough to deviate a thrust, on the contrary a cut must be opposed with strength.
Moreover, if the thrust does not hit it loses any utility and it cannot menace the opponent anymore.
Finally, against more than one opponent it is not advisable to use the thrust, because when it hits, if it is not withdrawn with great swiftness, it makes the fencer vulnerable to any attack from any of the other attackers.
So we don't agree with an interpretation that makes of Vadi an apostle of the thrust against the more "archaic" Fiore dei Liberi , seen as a paladin of the fendente cut.
The Master from Friuli, in fact, makes much use of the thrusts, while Vadi sees clearly its limits and defects.
However, it is possible to sustain that Filippo Vadi puts more emphasis, in general, on swift and insidious blows, little charged (not only the thrusts, but mostly the false edge blows going upwards), in comparison with the often more powerful cuts of the Flos Duellatorum.
Coherently with what we have just said, the chapter ends with a note in favour of the light and handy weapons against the heavy ones, in particular if one has to confront several opponents.
Chapter nine tells us " de la croce " (of the cross). We believe that the subject here is the cross-parry or " incrosar " (crossing) mentioned both by Vadi and by Fiore dei Liberi (see also the Glossary of the Technical Appendix), but it may also be possible that the reference is to the family of guards named " di croce " (of the cross), in which you should keep your left hand on the blade of the sword, and which can be used for several good cross parries (see for example Pag. 26v of the Manuscript, pic. 1: the accent on the stability and the trustfullness of the cross may be seen as a reference to the "reinforcement" supplied by the left hand on the blade).
Chapter ten " ragione di mezza spada " (discourse of the half-sword) introduces us to the " gioco di mezza spada " (play of half-sword), the most important part of the "gioco largo", derived from a crossing of the blades more or less at half of the length of the blades themselves, in which one of the duellers has attacked, the other has parried, presumably without moving his feet or moving it just a little, and the two find themselves in short distance, but still not to the grips (in this last case it would be called "gioco stretto").

Here Master Vadi shows us some methods to arrive to the half-sword play, or even to the grips, and he also indicates a kind of footwork that according to him is innovative, in which you have to flex the knee of the advanced leg and extend the leg behind, as shown also by Marozzo, like in a modern lunge, but generally shorter. Vadi attribuits to himself the discovery of this " passeggiar " (footwork), and we must recognize that in the Flos Duellatorum in general the steps are shorter and the back leg only in a few illustrations seems to be extended.
We know that for Fiore the steps were the "passare", or full step, in which you bring ahead the foot that was behind like in normal walking, and the "acrescer", in which you advance with the foot that is already forward. In this case but the back foot follows like in modern normal fencing steps, and it does not stay firm like in Vadi's footwork and in the modern lunge.
An interesting technical consideration is the advice to throw cuts charged with a rotating motion, i.e. with a moulinet ( stramazzoni ), only if they're very brief and with the sword always held directly in front of the face, never bringing it too far away from the line of attack.
In the following chapter, number eleven, " ragion de gioco de spada" (discourse of the sword play), the discourse about close combat goes on, and we immediately find the advice to make the feints in a quick and short way, never bringing the sword too far from the line, in order to be able to call it back to the defence without delay.
This advice is followed by several technical indications, among them the footwork to be used with the different parries, and a warning against the half-time blows (see Glossary of the Technical Appendix) that the opponent may throw.  
Chapter twelve, " ragion de' viste de spada " (discourse of the feints of the sword) treats of the feints, in particular in half-sword play. Vadi states that the feints are used to deceive the opponent, not letting him understand to which part you want to throw your real attack, but he complains that he cannot be so clear with words as he would be sword in hand.
In the thirteen chapter, " ragione de mezza spada " (discourse of the half-sword), we go back to the discourse on the techniques to be used at middle-short distance.
Worth noting is the emphasis on the use of thrusts or false edge cuts from below, more than on the traditional " fendente " downwards blows.
At the end of the chapter there is a recommendation to always calculate well the right time for any action, remembering to the reader to always respect one of the basic principles of fencing: time.
The fourteenth chapter, " ragion di mezzo tempo de spada " (discourse of the sword's half-time) continues the discourse about time, speaking of the half-time blows (blows thrown in the middle of the attack of the opponent, often to the arm or hand; they're blows that must hit much before the attacking movement is completed).
Again Vadi complains because he cannot describe in a clear way this action only with words, without the possibility to show it phisically, and he limits to insist on the speed that those blows must have, and on the need that they must be thrown only with a quick movement of the wrist, and with right measure (here we find another of the basic principles of fencing: measure).
In the half-time blows it is essential to hit the opponent at an advanced target as soon as that target is taken forward by the opponent and enters into the sword's range (into measure).
If the half-time blow is thrown out of measure it is useless, as it would not hit the target, while if it is thrown when the opponent's attack is already too close, there would be the risk to be hitten anyhow, as the attack has not been stopped in time.
Moreover, in this last case, there could not be enough time to take the sword back to parry, or to avoid the attack moving away.
In the second part of the chapter, Vadi glorifies as the best jewel of art a misterious action called the " volarica ", of which we can only deduct some characteristics.
Beyond any doubt, it is a blow to the head, as " rompe con bon filo l'altrui cervello " (it breaks with its good - or true? - edge the other's brain), and it should also be a half-time blow, as it is treated in this chapter.
Finally, it parries and hurts at the same time (as Marozzo says that false edge parries do).
Chapter fifteen, " ragion di spada contra la rota " (disourse of the sword against the rota) tells us how to react facing an opponent that attacks with a repeated moulinet move. In the second part of the chapter we can find an offensive technique against an opponent that waits for us in the guard called "porta di ferro" (Iron Door).
Finally, we arrive to the last chapter, entitled " ammaestramento di spada " (the teachings of the sword), in which we can find a resume of the basic fencing principles (not only of Vadi's fencing method, but also of rational fencing in general) that we have already found in all the other chapters, often applied to particular techniques.
First of all, the author's attention is applied to self-defence, the defence of that greatest good of all that is life: the sword must be most of all like a big shield (" targone ", in Italian) that covers the whole body of the fencer.
So the sword should never go too far from the body that it must defend, be it making guards or making blows (" facendo guardie né ferir "), so neither the guard positions nor the blows thrown during combat should bring the sword so far that it cannot run back to the defence.
By consequence of this, but also in order to have more possibilities to hit, the route of the sword should be as short as possible.
Moreover, it is good that the point of the sword is always facing the opponent, and in particular his face (for combat psicology reasons: a thrust to the face is much more scaring than one to the trunk, although the two are equally deadly).
All the techniques, so, will be executed keeping the sword in front of the fencer, between himself and his opponent, and the blows will not be much charged, as already indicated in chapter X.
Actually, a quick examination of Filippo Vadi's guards, in comparison for example to Flos Duellatorum's ones, permits us to verify that the main characteristic of Vadi's guards is to keep the point much more towards the opponent, with the sword always between the fencer and his opponent.
The last advice of the Pisan Master, with which he takes his leave from the reader, is to use as often as possible half-time blows, stopping the opponent's blows as soon as they begin to take form, with swift cuts to the hands.

It is worth noting as in Vadi's treatise the textual part treats either of fencing in general or of the two-hand sword handling, disregarding the use of any other weapon.
We'll see that the other weapons typical of the period are more sintetically treated in the second part of the book the illustrated one.
However, it is evident that Vadi favours the teaching of the two-hand sword over the other weapons, that are limited to a very reduced space or disappear completely, like also unarmed wrestling and mounted combat do.
In practice the only weapon that is treated with attention apart from the two-hand sword is the dagger, also in the form of personal defence with bare hands against a dagger assault (a science that could result of great utility in the courts of the period, according to the chronicles).
We have to underline that this is an indication of a trend that would grow with time and that, with some exceptions, will cause a metamorphosis in the Italian martial artist, from the warlike and eclectic knight of Fiore dei Liberi (who can handle equally well any kind of weapon both mounted and on foot, wrestles, defends himself with the dagger against the sword and viceversa, fights with any stick or staff that he comes to have at hand, etc…) to the fencer specialised in one or two kinds of combat (in the late Renaissance usually single sword, sword and dagger, or sword and cloak).   The second part of the treatise has a more traditional structure, with the different martial techniques illustrated by means of pictures and a brief explicative comment made up of a couple of verses, like in the old German tradition that goes from the I33 Manuscript to the Fechtbuch by Talhofer, just to name a few, a tradition mantained in Italy by Fiore dei Liberi and partly by our Author.
It has been hypotesized that the poetic form of the few verses that go together with the pictures of the Flos Duellatorum and Vadi's treatise can indicate that they were meant to be learned by heart, and maybe recitated during lessons, being the techniques directed mainly to an illiterate public.
In favour of this ipothesis one can note that many verses are similar in Vadi and in Fiore dei Liberi (mostly the Pisani Dossi version).
However, the text of the verses of both Vadi and the Pisani Dossi manuscript of the Flos Duellatorum is often not very useful in order to understand the illustrated technique, and in these cases it could hardly help in remembering the technique itself.
Moreover, Fiore dei Liberi clearly states that it is impossible to know and to remeber many techniques without a book, so every good "scholar" and "magistro" must own a book.
Notwithstanding this, if a diffused literacy (at least in the knightly class) could be the real situation at the Court of Ferrara during Master Fiore's times, and even more at the splendid Court of Urbino of Vadi's times, not necessarily the same was true in other places, or for earlier generations.
It is possible to presume that some "books" were made only by pictures (in many German treatises the text is even more reduced that in the Pisani Dossi manuscript), and that Masters taught verses to be learned by heart to accompany each drawing.
Finally, rithm and rhime, generally speaking, were discovered also to help memorization, so this ipothesis canot be excluded.   In comparison with the Flos duellatorum we can note that clothes and armour of Vadi's fighters seem to be more recent, typical of the second half of the XV century, reflecting the variations that took place in costume and armour during the seventy years that passed between the two treatises.
Even from the technical point of view there are evident similarities with the Flos Duellatorum, but also some aspects that link Vadi to the following Italian Masters: wrestling is not treated, while the treatise is dedicated almost exclusively to the two-hand sword and the dagger, the guard positions never keep the point of the sword far from the line of attack, while Fiore dei Liberi charges more his blows, and so on.
In particular Master Fiore almost always comes to the half sword and to the grips after a cross-parry, while both Vadi and Marozzo often approach with a false edge cut or a thurst from below, and both make much use of the feint to open the way for a grip.

The first illustration that we find, at page 15r of the manuscript, is a man that takes a two-hand sword in a kind of "stand at ease" position (the same position in which we'll see Filippo Vadi himself, at the following page), surrounded by different symbolic figures.
The illustration reminds the one at page 17A of the Flos Duellatorum (Pisani Dossi manuscript), in which four animals symbolize the opposed phisical and moral virtues that a knight must own: the Strength of the Elefant (with a firm Tower on his back), the Celerity of the Tiger (represented, however, like a Greyhound that brings an arrow), the Bravery of the Lion (that shows his courageous heart) and the Prudence of the Deer-wolf (represented as a spotted feline, maybe a Leopard, that keeps a sextant, symbol of calculation).
Note that we have here in the same person the same dichotomy of virtues that we find in the Chanson de Roland, between the "prouesse" of Roland and the "sagesse" of his comrade Olivier.
Vadi, instead, gives to his symbols a more technical and concrete meaning, as we'll see in detail, given the particular interest that this illustration has for the understanding of our Author's work.
Over the head of the fencer we see a star-like figure, that according to the text is a sextant, and that once again, like in the Flos Duellatorum, symbolizes the rational calculation of time and distance that should guide any action:

"Io sono un sexto che fo partimenti
O scrimitore ascolta mia ragione
Cusì misura el tempo simelmente."


"I am a sextant, that divides,
Oh fencer, do my reason hear
Time you will measure in the same way"

Lower, to the left, in place of the fencer's heart, we find an eye, that symbolizes the fact that the heart must be not only brave, but also watchful and prudently full of cunning (we find again, here, the theme of "audacia et prudentia"):

"L'ochio col cor vole star atento
Ardito e pieno di providimento".


"The eye with heart whatchful will be
He's brave and he's of prudence full"

At this point from the virtues of the mind and of the heart we pass to the limbs, that have to put in practice the said priciples by means of a phisical action.
Over the right shoulder we see the head of a bear, and just like an attacking bear the shoulder has to turn:

"Il natural de l'orso si è el girare
In qua in là in su in giù andare
Cusì conviene che tua spalla facia
Poii la tua spada fa che metti in caccia."


"The bear's nature is to turn
Here, there, down, up to go
The same your shoulder should here do
Then to the hunt you'll send your sword."

Pushed by the shoulder, the next part of the body that should act is the right hand, similar to a snake (but it is a dragon that appears in the illustration), that must be as brave in attacking as prudent in not exposing itself and not bringing the sword too far from the body, keeping it always ready to come back to the defence:

"La man dirita vol eser prudente
Ardita e mortal cum un serpente"


"Cautious the right hand be
Lethal and brave such as a snake"

Please note that we find again here the opposed virtues of prudence and courage.
Different is the function of the left arm, from which shoulder we see a ram coming out, ready to clash with any attack of the enemy:

"Io so un muntone e sto sempre a mirare
Che per natura sempre voglio cozare
Così convien tuo taglio sia inginioso
Sempre parar quando serà resposo".


"I am a ram, I'm always looking,
That by my nature I want to butt,
So your cut'd better be so cunning,
I'll always parry when you answer."

So we come to the left hand, that should be as quick as a greyhound, in order to be used for the grips and to take the blade of the fencer's sword and make "gioco stretto" techniques (for ex. See the ones at page 18r pic. 2 and page 20v pic. 1 e 2):

"Con la man stanca la spada ò per punta
Per far ferire d'ezza quando serà giunta
E se tu voi sto ferire sia intero
Fa che sia presto como levorero."


"With my left hand I take my point
To hurt with her when it'll arrive
And if you want this blow complete
Make that it's quick like a greyhound."

Now let's see the lower limbs, where we find very useful indications about which was the kind of footwork used by our Master from Tuscany.
At the knee level we find a pair of keys, with verses both to the left and to the right:

"E chi queste chiave cum seco non averà
A questo giuoco poca guerra farà."
"Le gambe chiave se po' ben diri
Per che li ti serra e anche ti po' aprire"


"And who these keys with him won't have
In this game not much war will bring
The legs can justly keys be called,
As they can close and they can open."

So the legs will open and close, changing distance and measure.
But coming now to the feet, we see that besides the right foot there is a drawing representing the sun, and like the sun the right foot must often come back, turning, to the place from where it first moved (for example in order to go back out of hitting measure after throwing an attack):

"Tu vedi el sol che fa gran giramento
E donde el nasce fa suo tornamento
Il pé com el sol va convien che torni
Se voii ch'el giuoco toa persona adorni."


"You see the sun that great turn makes
Where it was born it will return,
And like the sun may foot come back
If with your play honour you want."

The left foot, on the contrary, mostly if it stays back, behind the right one, as it is generally advisable during an offensive action, must remain firm and give stability, as a safe castle:

"El pié stanco ferma senza paura
Como rocha fa che sia costante
E poii la tua persona serà tuta sicura."


"Left foot you must stop without fear
Firm should it be just like a rock
Then fully safe your body is.")

Between the two feet, finally, it is represented a wheel, that tells us of a different kind of footwork, circular, that our author advises mostly from a defensive point of view:

"Quandi i pié o l'uno o l'altro fa molesta
Como rota da molin dia volta presta
Bixogna esser il cor providitore
C(he - abraded text -) luj s'aspetta vergogna e l'onore."


"When he'll attack to either foot
Like wheel of mill it has to turn.
It is the heart's that's to be watchful
As shame and honour on him depend."

The following pictures shows the seven blows of the sword, similar to Fiore dei Liberi 's ones, except for the fact that the Sotani of the Master from Friuli are called Rota, while the Mezani become Volanti.
Also the verses that accompany the illustration are very similar.
However, we know from the text that many blows that in the Flos Duellatorum were made with the true edge, are made here with the false edge.
Vadi, moreover, wants to put into evidence that he couldn't represent blows of a basic importance like the half-time blows.
Then we find the "portrait" of Filippo Vadi, an athletic man dressed in black, followed by the 12 guards of the two hand sword (page 16 and 17 of the manuscript).
Many of those guards have the same name and/or are identical to Fiore dei Liberi 's ones, others are new, but it is evident that there must be some relation between the two Masters.
For a detailed analysis of the guards please see the Technical Appendix, here it will be sufficient to indicate that the main difference between the two is that Maestro Fiore often uses guards that permit to throw a strong blow, Vadi adopts very "closed" guards, with the point of the sword never far from the line of attack, coherently with his fencing principles.
After the 12 guards we have twenty-five techniques of the two-hand sword, mainly in "gioco stretto" (close play).
Also here it is evident the similarity, and sometimes the identity, between these techniques and the ones of the Friulan Master.
In "gioco stretto" the techiques used by Vadi belong entirely to the tradition, one cannot find any innovation like the ones found in the textual part of the treatise, in "gioco largo".
However, we cannot avoid to point out that while in the Flos Duellatorum the techniques are exposed in an order that makes sense (in each part of the treatise the techniques come out from the crossing of swords that precedes them), in Vadi's treatise the two-hand sword techniques have been exposed without any order, without showing the position from which they start, and the interpretation would often be difficult, if we didn't have some help from the Flos Duellatorum.
At page 24r of the manuscript we find some guards and techniques for the pole-axe play, in full armour, followed by guards and techiques for the two-hand sword also in full armour, and finally the illustration of the particular kind of sword to be used in such combat.
Here the similarity with the Flos Duellatorum is even more clear, and Vadi uses the same exposing principle of Fiore, for which the various techniques follow the same parry.
The only difference worth a brief comment is a bizzarre innovation, exclusively terminological (a case not rare at all in the history of fencing), for the guards of the two-hand sword in armour: the family of the "cross" guards is turned into the family of the "leopard" guards, maybe thinking to oppose them to the "snake" guards.
Curiosly, in the pole-axe guards we find the "guardia di croce" (cross-guard) with its traditional name, instead that with the new name " posta di coda di leopardo " (leopard's tail guard).
The innovation, we presume, didn't find any enthusiasm among the public, as we don't find it in any other text.
After the two-hand sword in armour, at page 28, we find the pike play, also similar (but shorter and with some more ambiguity, see Technical Appendix) to Fiore dei Liberi 's one.
Finally, from pic. 1 of page 29r, our Author begins to treat the dagger and the unarmed defence against the dagger, an art to which he will dedicate much space, and for whose study Vadi's treatise is very important.
The dagger used by Vadi and Fiore dei Liberi is a weapon that is sharp, but whose main use is the thrust, both with the so-called hammer grip and with the screwdriver grip (sopramano and sottomano, in Italian).
Even if at a first sight the techniques seem to be fully traditional, with the usual exposing technique for which from a parry/grip all the deriving techniques will follow, a more detailed analysis reveals to us some innovative aspects.
First of all in the Flos Duellatorum and in general in medieval treatises the main attack was "sopramano", downwards from above, with the hammer-grip, an attack typical of street and court killers, deadly if it hits the target but rough and predictable, and which requires that the attacker moves very close to the victim.
In Vadi it has much more space the more insidious and fencing-like attack "sottomano", with the screwdriver grip, much quicker and which permits to hit without having to move too close to the opponent.
By consequence, also many defences pertain more to the world of fencing than to the one of wrestling.
We'll see that later on, in the Opera Nova of the Bolognese Master Achille Marozzo , there will be a total separation between the traditional dagger grips, used against a rough and probably treacherous attack, often "sopramano" (see the Dagger Grips at the end of Book V of the Opera Nova), and a situation of dagger duel in which each of the two opponents keeps the dagger exclusively "sottomano", and uses it to wound the opponent to the hands or the face with quick cuts and thrusts.
At the end of this section (but soon we'll find again the art of the dagger), Vadi shows the form and the measure of the dagger.
After that, there is a techique executed with two sticks against a pike attack, similar to the one shown in the Flos Duellatorum, but simpler and easier to make, and then two paintings that illustrate how to take position to make a parry against the throwing of a javelin.
Finally, the work ends with some other dagger techniques, mostly defences against a killer that has a grip on his victim and prepares to hit him with the dagger (but there is also a defence with the sword against a killer armed with the dagger).
In these last techniques one can always find both the starting position and the final outcome, but we don't find the usual comment in verses.

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©2006 Sala d'Arme Achille Marozzo ®