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Fencing and History Nut Extraordinaire. While I am tending toward 16th century at the moment, I am and have been interested in history for a long time. Hence the fencing focuses more on the Renaissance period than the modern. This explains two out of three of my blogs. The third is a more personal one focusing on fibromyalgia. What I write in these blogs, I hope will be of use to people.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Italian Blow Translation


The following is a subject which I have been considering whether writing it would be of any use or not and I have decided that even if I get one person interested, it is worth the effort. For all of my usual Historical European Martial Arts readers I apologise, this one is for the Society for Creative Anachronisms crowd. Well, actually it is so you can both talk to one another in a similar language so it is actually for understanding, so in that way it is for both of you.

Communication is the Aim

The subject which is raised here is one which I proposed quite a while ago and simply just never got around to dealing with. The purpose of this post is to take the standard SCA "heavy" (armoured combatant) blows and translate them into Italian language, or at least that used in many of the period manuals. Why? So then these manuals may be more accessible to these members of this group, also so that there is more understanding between the two sets of martial artists. I have chosen Italian terms because they are more familiar to me.

"Snap" and "Off-Hand"

Ok, so we are going to start simply. Anything which is thrown as a fore-hand blow is known as a mandritta. Anything which is thrown as a back-hand blow is known as a riversa. So a "snap" is a mandritta, and an "off-hand snap" is a riversa. This delineation works for all blows which are thrown in this direction from the combatant (Please note I am using a particular spelling and nomenclature for these words some manuals may use others).

Next, a blow which comes horizontal is called a tondo, so your average "snap" is a tondo, and so is the "off-hand snap". To delineate between the two the former is a mandritta tondo and the latter is a riversa tondo. Remember, this is because one travels in from the combatant from the right and the other from the left, as previously explained. Where the angle changes so will the descriptive word.

A diagonally downward blow is called a squalembrato. So a "snap" to the leg would be a squalembrato, as would be an "off-hand snap". Again, we have the mandritta squalembrato for the "snap" to the leg, and a riversa squalembrato for an "off-hand snap" to the leg. The pattern of side then direction is a format which will give a general idea of the blow followed by more specifics about the blow.


Even the "wrap" a blow which supposedly has no place in period manuals actually does have a description in Italian. The first word that is used is the word falso, which describes an action using the false, or back, edge of the weapon. The next is to simply describe the blow as it is delivered. A standard "wrap" is simply a falso mandritta tondo as it is a false edge blow which comes from the right at a horizontal angle. The "rising wrap" is a little different it is a diagonally upward blow from the right hand side which is called a falso dritto.


The last blow that will be discussed here is the "Slot" shot. It is a vertical blow designed to pass down between the sword and shield of the opponent to strike them. A vertical blow in Italian is called a fendente. So, in essence, this would be the simplest naming of this particular shot.


So the question that often gets asked is "What happens to the terms if I am a left-hander?" Nothing. Except that, as per usual, you will drive your average right-handed opponent up the wall, and probably left-handers as well. The terms do not change as the directions originate with the person throwing the blow rather than the person recieving them. In fencing the Lines simply swap over, and it is much the same here, because the weapon is in the opposite hand all of the same names apply to all of the same blows as before.

Blow Effectiveness

One of the questions which always arises with regard to a blow is how effective it is. One of the issues with regard to this is that the average rattan sword is round so it is difficult to see what is edge and what is flat. With an edged sword some of the blows which are called flat would have actually struck with the edge were the weapon shaped in the correct fashion. An example of such a blow is the "rising wrap" to the hip, or a falso dritto as it has been described above.

With the round rattan sword there is the chance due to the nature of the weapon it could be called "flat" whereas in reality the edge would be cutting into the target. To gain the best appreciation of what would actually be flat and what would be edge, a weapon with an edge is the best for simulation, however the rattan sword could be shaped in such a fashion that a clearer edge is present on the weapon (BTW: The best source for a weapon with an edge would be one of your fencing compatriots).

More Blows, More Actions

Really, this has been an introduction to this particular subject in which I have focussed on some of the most basic shots which are delivered by the SCA heavy combatant. There are more shots which can be described using Italian terminology no doubt and definitely actions which can be described using such terminology which have not been included to prevent this from getting too technical. One of the easiest ways to access this information would be to ask a fencer, or me of course.

The Italian terms which have been used above are common in many period manuals and this is one of the reasons why this language has been used to "translate" these blows. It could have just as easily have been German, or Spanish, except I am not so familiar with either of them. Accessing such period manuals will supply infomation about fighting techniques which were used in period combats in the period which are being studied, so what is a good reason that such information should not be accessed?

Added to this, familiarising yourself with the terminology of period manuals will mean it will be much easier to communicate with other Western Martial Artists about what you do and also what they do also. Such communication can only be a benefit to both groups as it will increase the knowledge of both groups. More to the point you will find it easier to communicate with SCA fencers who often access period manuals and can pass on information which they have learnt, which can only be an asset to your group and the SCA as a whole.