A Brief Glossary of Italian Rapier Concepts 

By Tom Leoni

Introductive Remarks

“Sword” or “Rapier”?  Interestingly enough, the Italians, perhaps the highest exponents of the “classical” rapier, had no specific term for this kind of weapon.  Continuing a tradition that had started centuries before late-16th-early17th century fencing masters such as Salvator Fabris, Francesco Alfieri and Ridolfo Capoferro, any sort of sword appearing in Italian manuals was simply called….spada (“sword”). One of the few exceptions was the Spadone, essentially a long-sword primarily for war rather than a duelling or urban self-defense tool.

So, lacking an explicit indication from the authors, what makes certain Italian sword manuals “rapier” manuals?  Is it the physical style of the sword, sporting a rather long, slim, tapering blade and a complex hilt?   Is it the style of swordsmanship, featuring mostly in-line, single-blow attacks?  Is it that other Countries’ Maestri identified any Italian swordsman of the time as a rapierist just by virtue of being Italian?

The answer to these questions is nebulous.  The original Italian edition of Di Grassi (Venice, 1570), for instance, was written in the tradition of the Bolognese spada da filo or spada da lato (side-sword or short sword / “cut and thrust”).  In Di Grassi’s manual, the blades are short, slender, and tapering with simple hilts of side-rings. Di Grassi’s manual was not a “rapier” text, but a fencing manual clearly in the Bolognese cut-and-thrust tradition. But when it was translated into English, it “became” a “rapier” manual. Conversely, the work of the Milanese master, Camillo Agrippa, a few decades earlier, is decidedly rapier in style, although it features almost the same, late-medieval cruciform sword.*  

I believe that the correct approach, as followed by modern Renaissance martial arts revivalists, should be to take all aspect of “rapier” –the physical sword and the swordsmanship style –into consideration.  As with all post factum definitions, we should not be too strict in our demarcation of the parameters of what, in this case, makes a rapier a rapier.

There were many types of sword and many different ways of using the same type. Perhaps my most satisfactory answer to this dilemma is this.  A rapier is like the old definition of obscenity –you know it when you see it.  For now, I will confine my discussion (and my terminology) to the authors that are recognized as the primary classical Italian “rapier” authors:  Giganti, Capoferro, Alfieri and, above all, Fabris. 

The Sword And Its Parts

"The knowledge of the sword is the first half of fencing: it teaches us to become familiar with the sword in order to handle it properly."  (Capoferro, Chapter III).

Italian rapier masters insisted that the knowledge of the sword is an essential element of successful fencing.  Hence the need to name and classify its many components. 

Forte.  This is the half of the blade closer to the swordsman’s hand.  It is the defensive part of the sword with which virtually all successful parries are executed.  The forte has no offensive role in traditional Italian rapier theory, so much so that Capoferro states that it would not matter whether it sported an edge at all. 

Debole (Foible).  This is the half of the blade incorporating the tip.  It is the offensive part of the sword with which all attacks are executed.  According to traditional Italian rapier theory, this section of the blade should almost never be employed defensively, especially against cuts.  The one exception is noted below under terza. 

Temperato.   This word is employed by Alfieri to describe the middle section of the blade. 

Filo dritto (True edge).  The edge of the sword on the same side as one’s knuckles.  This is the part of the blade with which most parries and cutting attacks are performed, according to virtually all classical Italian rapier masters. 

Filo falso (False edge).  The edge of the sword opposite the true edge.  The role of this part of the blade is somewhat more limited than that of the true edge.  However, there are some cuts that are delivered with this edge, primarily ascending diagonal cuts (falsi, see section below on cuts). As far as defensive play, Capoferro concedes that in rare cases, the false edge may be used in parries. 

Piatto (Flat).   The “side” of the sword, i.e. the flat part of the blade on either side, between the two edges.  This part of the sword has no active role in traditional Italian rapier play, as no offensive or defensive action involve it directly. 

Finimento, fornimento, (The guard of the hilt).  This is the part of the hilt consisting of differently-shaped bars and branches or (later) of the cup.   Its role extends beyond the obvious one – the protection of the hand.  Fabris makes a very successful use of the guard’s mass and width to literally shut the opponent’s blade out of line in the course of an attack. 

The sections of the blade (using Fabris’ four quarters).

Prima (First).   In the division of the blade, this is the quarter closest to the swordsman’s hand.  It is the strongest part of the blade and, for this reason, it is the preferred part of the sword with which to execute parries.  The prima and the seconda have no offensive role in traditional Italian rapier play. 

Seconda (Second).  In the division of the blade, this is the quarter that goes from the end of the first part to mid-sword.   This section of the sword, like the previous one, is exclusively used for defense, although it is not as strong as the prima.  The reason for this is both structural and mechanical.  Structurally, any well-made blade tapers progressively from the hilt to the tip, thus becoming increasingly flexible; mechanically, the greater the distance between any point along the blade and the swordsman’s hand, the less the leverage when meeting another blade.  The prima and the seconda together constitute the sword’s forte (see definition above). 

Terza (Third).   In the division of the blade, this is the quarter that goes from mid-blade to half-way to the tip.  It is almost entirely useless for parries (especially against cuts), although it can be successfully opposed to the fourth part of the opponent’s blade when parrying a thrust.  Its primary role is an offensive one:  when used together with the fourth part in adding a “slicing” motion to the percussive action of a cut, it can make such a blow very effective, as Fabris reminds us in chapter 3. 

Quarta (Fourth).  In the division of the blade, this is the fourth incorporating the sword’s tip.  Its role is essentially offensive, as it is the part responsible for delivering both thrusts and cuts (see above).  The terza and quarta together constitute the sword’s debole (see definition above). 

Why divide the blade in so many parts?

Although Italian masters disagree as to the exact number of parts into which to divide the blade (e.g. Capoferro = 2;  Fabris = 4;   Alfieri = 5), they all place an enormous emphasis on the need for the swordsman to know that each section has its own peculiar role.  In other words, these masters viewed the sword as a highly sophisticated tool possessing many parts, each one of which, in turn, possessed its specific function.  For instance, Fabris, who divides the blade into four sections, assigns to each a specific degree of usefulness as far as defense or offense; had he only distinguished between debole and forte, many of the subtleties inherent in his style would not be possible.  Even Capoferro, who, in his usual pragmatic style states that it is enough to divide the blade between forte and debole (two sections) though later in the book finds the need to further sub-divide the debole.   Alfieri, who divides the blade in five parts, de facto utilizes the sword in a similar manner to Fabris, even finding it necessary to explain how Salvator Gran Maestro divided the blade.

The Guards

In 1553, the Milanese Camillo Agrippa did away with the myriad of fancy-named guards of spada da lato and codified four guards that were to remain the mainstay of fencing for at least another two centuries.  For this and many other reasons, Agrippa may be considered one of the true pioneers of the rapier style. 

Guardie (Guards).  Postures of the feet, body, arm(s) and sword possessing the desired characteristics to fulfill various tactical purposes of defense and offense.  Italian rapier guards derive their properties from the position of the sword-hand (prospettiva, or “perspective”). 

Prima (First).   Any guard featuring the thumb-down position in the sword hand.  The reason why it is called “first” is because it is the first natural position the hand assumes after pulling the sword from the sheath and pointing it towards the opponent.  The prima is an inherently high guard, so it tends to defend the upper body and the head rather well, although it leaves the legs exposed.  For this reason, Fabris prefers the prima in sword and dagger rather than sword alone.  Defensively, this guard is particularly effective against cuts.  Offensively, the prima is very formidable, since the thrusting attacks launched from this position proceed naturally downward, thus possessing great momentum.   The prima’s main drawback is the fact that it tends to tire the arm. 

Seconda (Second).  Any guard featuring the palm-down position in the sword hand.  Since the blade’s true edge naturally faces to the outside, this guard is particularly effective to shut the opponent out of line to that side.  Although not as high as the prima, the seconda provides excellent defense to the upper body without tiring the arm as much as the previous guard.  Offensively, many good attacks can be performed from this guard, since it lends itself to flexibility as far as forming angles and, therefore, can take advantage of even the most unusual openings the opponent may offer.  As an interesting asides, Capoferro, in Chapter X of his Gran Simulacro, vilifies the prima and the seconda to the point that Alfieri finds himself compelled to refute him rather harshly 30 years later. 

Terza (Third). Any guard featuring the knuckles-down position in the sword hand.  This is probably the preferred position in classical Italian rapier, with Capoferro going as far as to state that the terza is the only guard (until the last chapter of his book, which has the strong flavor of an afterthought).    Although virtually no parries are executed in terza (as the true edge faces downwards), it is a very flexible guard since the hand is half-way between the seconda and the quarta and can therefore quickly turn to either side to fulfill most defensive requirements.  Ditto for attacks, few of which are actually carried out with the hand in third. Another of the many advantages of this guard is that it is the least tiring for the sword arm. 

Quarta (Fourth).  Any guard featuring the palm-up position in the sword hand.  Fabris states to prefer the fourth over all other guards, although in virtually all his examples of attacks, the fencers start out in terza.  The main advantage of this guard is that it covers the inside line splendidly.  Once the arm gets used to this position, the quarta is indeed an excellent guard.  Offensively, it is the most used hand-position in classical Italian rapier, with the austere Capoferro stating that the hand should always be in quarta when performing a typical lunge.  Indeed, attacks in fourth are suitable for both the inside and the outside, thanks to the ease with which angles can be formed with the hand thus situated. 

Mista, bastarda (Mixed, bastard).  Any guard in which the hand and the arm are situated in between two (adjacent) of the above four positions.  The most important mixed guard in Italian rapier is the one introduced by Alfieri, which shares of the third and the fourth. 

Quinta, Sesta (Fifth, Sixth).  Guards found in Capoferro’s illustrations (marked by the letters E and F, page 44), otherwise not further described or identified by him or any of the classical Italian rapier masters.

Other terms pertaining to guards and posture

Dentro (Inside).  The area to the left of the sword when in guard (assuming fencer is right-handed).  Thus when two fencers face each other “to the inside”, it means that each will see the opponent’s sword to the left of his own.  Fencing to the inside is the more used method in classical Italian rapier. 

Fuori (Outside).  The opposite of inside, i.e. the area to the right of the sword when in guard (assuming fencer is right-handed). 

Over the right (or left) foot.  Any guard, unless specified, is formed with the right foot forward (“over the right foot”).   According to classical Italian rapier theory, placing oneself in guard over the left foot (especially without a companion weapon) is counterproductive for two reasons:  1) it places the left leg in danger, since the forte of the sword is not nearby to protect it and 2)  it leads to slow attacks because the right foot has to travel a greater distance as it passes forward.   Fabris states that guards over the left foot are safest in sword and cloak, as the latter hangs low to protect the whole left leg. 

Counterguards

Fencing, like chess, is not a static game, and one must adapt his play to the moves of the opponent in order to maximize effectiveness and minimize danger.   Therefore, depending on what posture and strategy the opponent adopts, one should tailor his own to suit every particular situation.   Hence the need of counterguards, or “counterpostures” (literally: postures to counter the opponent’s guards). 

Fabris devotes two whole chapters to the counterguard as one of the mainstays of his style (chapter 4 on sword alone and chapter [3-deest] of sword and dagger).  According to Fabris, a counterguard (or counterposture) is a subtle adjustment of any of the main guards made to ensure that the line between the opponent’s tip and one’s body is completely covered by the forte of the sword.  Counterpostures are to be formed outside the measure in order to ensure good defense once the “danger zone” is entered.

Nicoletto Giganti, in his Chapter 1, plainly states that while inexperienced fencers stand in guard, good ones stand in counterguard.

Some Masters’ idea of a counterguard (e.g. Cavalcabo) is a guard itself rather than its adjustment.  For example, he advocates using the fourth guard against a first, a second against a second, etc.  By contrast, Fabris and Alfieri can tailor most guards to oppose any posture by the opponent by means of slight adjustments of the sword-arm and the angle of the wrist. 

Regrettably, the concept of counterguards is one of the most overlooked in modern rapier studies. 

Measures (Misura)

Larga (Wide, large).  The distance where, by lunging forward with the right foot, the opponent can be reached with the tip of the sword. 

Stretta (Narrow).  The distance where, by bending the body forward, the opponent can be reached with the tip of the sword (without moving the feet).  Both the larga and the stretta are widely used in Italian rapier, with the first being a “safer” distance (albeit conducive to slower attacks) and the second possessing the opposite benefits and drawbacks. 

Fuori misura (Out of measure).  The distance between two opponents where neither can reach the other in a single tempo. 

Strettissima (Extra-narrow).  Identified by Capoferro as the distance where, while in the misura larga, one can wound the opponent in the sword or dagger-hand (see also mezzo tempo). 

Perfetta (Perfect).  Identified by Alfieri as a sub-species of the misura larga where the necessary lunge to reach the opponent is not so long as to disrupt one’s form and balance. 

Rompere di misura (Breaking the measure).  The act of retreating from one of the measures to out of measure. 

Guadagnare la misura, entrare in misura (Gaining the measure).  The act of proceeding from out of measure to the misura larga, or from the misura larga to the misura stretta (close). 

It is important to understand that the concept of “measure” is not absolute; rather, it is relative to one’s size and ability.  It oftentimes happens that two fencers of different height and skill face each other at a given distance and one is in measure, the other is not.  This is because the first can reach the second by lunging with the right foot (by virtue of his longer limbs and/or his more developed ability) while the other is too small or unskilled to do so from the same distance.  Needless to say, the first enjoys a tremendous advantage.  So, say all the Italian Masters, practicing long and accurate lunges is a vital part of the swordsman’s exercises in order to “shorten the measure” for oneself. 

Advantage Of The Sword

Definition:   a fencer has the advantage of the sword when his blade is situated in such a way as to enjoy the mechanical advantage of the lever when intersecting the opponent’s.  Key:  when the two blades intersect, the one that is met closer to the hilt has the advantage.  Example:  if fencer A places the second part of his blade against B’s third part, A enjoys the advantage of the sword. 

The advantage of the sword is extremely important in classical Italian rapier, and all the attacks, defenses, guards and counterguards depend on this subtle hinge-point.    

Trovar di spada (Finding the sword).  The art of placing one’s blade against the opponent’s (without actual contact!) so as to enjoy the advantage of the sword.  “He who has more of his sword into the opponent’s (no matter by how little) will have the advantage of the sword” (Fabris, Chapter 9).  Between two experienced fencers, the one who manages to find the opponent’s sword usually enjoys an enormous defensive and offensive advantage. 

Synonyms:   trovar di spada, occupare la spada, guadagnare la spada, acquistare, coprire, etc. 

Free sword, keeping the sword free (Spada libera).   Preventing the opponent from finding one’s sword.  This can be accomplished by attempting to gain the advantage oneself, by keeping the sword away from the opponent’s (especially feasible when fencing with a companion weapon) or by breaking the measure.  Keeping the sword free is essential towards succeeding in a bout, according to Fabris.

Perder la spada (Losing of the sword).  If A finds B’s sword, B has “lost the sword”.  Not a situation to find oneself in, according to classical Italian rapier theory.

Footwork

Pie’ fermo (Firm-foot).  This term applies to all offensive footwork where at least one foot  remains static (exception: the girata).    The typical lunge with the right foot falls within this category, as the left foot remains in its place. 

Passata (Pass).   A series of resolute steps towards the opponent (usually starting with the left foot) in the course of an attack.  One of the advantages of the passata is that the first step reduces the distance from the opponent considerably; another is that its momentum oftentimes unsettles the opponent.  All Italian rapier Masters consider the passata an extremely important technique to have in one’s repertoire, although Fabris tells us that the lunge “a pie’ fermo” was the more commonly used in anger. 

Passo grande, passo piccolo (Wide, small step).  The distance between feet while in guard.  Fabris is an advocate of the small step, since it is conducive to a longer, more explosive lunge and keeps the right leg more protected.  Capoferro’s guards, on the other hand, feature a much wider step, with Alfieri being somewhere in the middle.

Passo straordinario (Extraordinary step).  The distance between feet while performing a typical lunge – i.e. bringing one’s feet more than a wide step apart.  The theory on steps and their measures is explained in great detail by Agrippa. 

Girata.  The act of turning one’s body out of line while stepping forward in the course of an attack.  Most commonly, a girata is performed by either stepping to the left with the right foot or by crossing the left foot behind the right one.  The main drawback of these types of footwork is that the sword loses the “support” of the feet and body and can therefore be more easily pushed aside. 

Timing

Tempo. 1)   A motion of the opponent within the measures that creates a momentary opportunity to attack.  The concept of tempo incorporates elements of both time and motion.  A tempo (Italian = time) is finite and must therefore be longer in duration than the time required for the attack.  2)  The act of performing a single movement (e.g. 1-tempo parry-counterattack = the act of parrying and delivering a counterattacking blow in the same movement.  Also called un tempo, stesso tempo). 

Contratempo.   The art of beating the opponent as he tries to take advantage of a tempo you created.  E.g.:   you make a movement within the measures (= you “make a tempo”); he attacks (= “attack of tempo”), but, by doing so he himself makes a tempo;  you are able to strike at him (with or without parrying) and save yourself. 

Mezzo tempo (Half-tempo).  Identified by Capoferro as the situation when one can make a quick strike at the opponent’s sword hand.   (See Misura strettissima).

Attacks

Ferita (Wound).   Any action resulting in harming the opponent.   This includes all cuts, thrusts, lunges or defensive counteractions (such as the “stop-thrust”, an action described as early as Agrippa). 

Distesa (lunge).  A type of ferita a pie’ fermo (see definitions) consisting of performing an extraordinary step with the right foot.  Different Maestri call it by different names, although there is little or no technical difference between them.  Capoferro’s botta lunga, for instance, establishes some rather “fixed” canons as far as the length of the step, the placing of the limbs and the position of the hand.  Fabris’ distesa, instead is tailored to the specific situation as far as distance, placement of the body and position of the hand. 

Passata (Pass).   See definition above. 

Punta.    One of the many terms for “thrust” (see below).

Taglio, also “coltellata”.  Cut (see sub-species below).

Thrusts

Stoccata (Generic for thrust).  This term is applied rather loosely to mean a thrust or even a lunge.  Fabris utilizes this term (although not exclusively) to describe all thrusts, qualifying it with the position of the hand; e.g. stoccata di quarta = thrust with the hand in fourth position.  Another common synonym is punta.  Some Masters (e.g. Capoferro), restrict the meaning of “stoccata” to a thrust delivered with the hand in third. 

Imbroccata (Thrust from the first guard or position).  This term is generally used to describe a thrust executed from the prima. 

Other terms (punta dritta, riversa).  Some Masters mention these other thrusts as sub-species proceeding, respectively, from the second and the fourth guards.  

Cuts

These are blows of the edge as opposed to stabs with the point. Depending on the circumstance and blade used, they may or may not be intended as wounding actions.

Classification according to general direction:

Mandritto (Fore-hand).  Any cut proceeding right-to-left (assuming the fencer is right handed). 

Riverso (Back-hand).  Any cut proceeding left-to-right (assuming the fencer is right handed).  This cut is very dear to Alfieri, who employs it as an alternative tactic on most of his attacks.   

Classification according to specific direction.

Tondo.  A cut proceeding on a perfectly horizontal plane.  It can land at 3 o’clock of the target (mandritto tondo) or at 9 o’clock (riverso tondo). 

Squalembrato.  A descending diagonal cut.  It can land at 1-2 o’clock of the target (mandritto squalembrato) or at 10-11 o’clock (riverso squalembrato). 

Fendente.   A descending vertical cut landing at circa 12 o’clock of the target.  Depending on whether it proceeds slightly from the right or from the left, it can be mandritto fendente or riverso fendente. 

Sottomano (Underhand).  This is an ascending cut landing just right of 6 o’clock of the target.  It is mentioned by Fabris and Alfieri. 

Montante (Ascending).  This is the common name assigned to a vertical ascending cut.  Fabris and Alfieri, who also mention the sottomano, classify the montante as a cut landing just left of 6 o’clock of the target. 

Ridoppio (literally = redoubled).  In a strictly rapier context, this cut is mentioned by Capoferro as being a rapid succession of two generic mandritti:  the first one to the opponent’s sword (to get it out of the way), the second to his body. 

Falso.  This is an ascending diagonal cut delivered with the false edge of the sword.  It was used extensively by the 16th-Century Bolognese masters of Spada da filo such as Marozzo and Manciolino, but it makes an appearance on classical Rapier manuals.  Falso dritto is the one landing at 5 o’clock of the target; falso manco the one landing at 7 o’clock. 

Classification according to delivery method:

Dalla spalla (From the shoulder).  This method of delivering any of the above cuts can be further sub-divided into two categories:

        Letting the shoulder swing the whole arm as it delivers the cut (similar to a tennis stroke).   This gives the cut great momentum, but has the serious drawback of leaving the body open for a rather long time.  For this reason, Fabris considers it the worst kind of cutting technique in rapier play.

        Keeping the arm and the wrist locked forward as the cut is delivered from the shoulder; in this manner, the motion of the arm (and the sword) is more controlled, although it does not give the cut quite the same impetus as the previous one.  But the fact that such a cut never brings the sword completely out of line makes this delivery method one of the preferred one by Fabris and Alfieri.    Also, the narrower motion is compensated by the fact that the whole weight of the arm contributes to the momentum of this cut.

Dal gomito (From the elbow).  Any of the cuts can be delivered by keeping the shoulder (and the arm) locked and by just swinging the forearm and the wrist.  This type of cut, although not making as wide an arc as the first one delivered from the shoulder, still brings the sword quite far out of line.  For this reason, Fabris advises against it. 

Dal polso, dal nodo della mano (From the wrist).  This cut is delivered by keeping the whole arm locked forward (shoulder and wrist) and by swinging the sword in a small arc from the wrist.  This type of cut is quick and does not open up the line too much; it is therefore one of Fabris’ preferred methods of delivering cuts. 

Stramazzone.  This cut, very dear to the pre-eminent 16th-Century Bolognese Maestri, is delivered from the wrist, and it makes the sword describe a whole circle not dissimilar to that described in a modern moulinee.  Although Fabris does not use the term, he would include the stramazzone in the repertoire of cuts delivered from the wrist (and therefore advisable). 

In order to specifically classify a cut, Maestri tended to use all three identifying criteria: general direction, specific direction and delivery method (not unlikely biology’s Family, Genus and Species).  For example, a wide swinging cut landing horizontally on the opponent’s right side should be classified as a riverso tondo from the shoulder.

Trading Sides

Cavazione (Trade).  The act of “trading sides” with the opponent’s sword, i.e. bringing the sword from the inside to the outside or vice-versa.  This can be done both under and over the opponent’s sword. It is similar (but not analogous) to the modern “disengage”.  One of the main differences is that the classical Fabris trade is almost always executed in the course of a forward thrust; the motion, therefore, ends up being “corkscrew-shaped”, since it combines a forward motion and a semi-circular one. 

One of the most serious modern misconceptions about the trade or cavazione is that of equating it with a circular parry.  This idea originated in the 19th Century, when the first fencing historians such as Castle researched old martial arts texts in order to find the supposed “family tree” of contemporary fencing techniques.  The classical Italian rapier cavazione is not a parry, although it can incorporate one if the tactical situation calls for it.  

Controcavazione (Countertrade).  The act of nullifying the effect of an opponent’s trade by performing one of your own, thereby ending on the same side of his sword as before the whole operation started. 

Ricavazione (Re-trade).  The act of nullifying the effect of an opponent’s countertrade by performing one additional trade, thereby ending on the same side as after the first trade. 

Mezza cavazione (Half-trade).  The act of interrupting a trade in the middle, ending in most cases with the sword underneath the opponent’s. 

Commettere di spada (Commitment of the sword).  The act of performing a trade, then returning the sword on its original side. 

Other Actions

Attaccare di spada (Attaching swords).  The act of pushing forcefully against each other’s blade in order to – eventually – shove the opponent’s sword out of the way.  This, according to Fabris, is a very poor technique that can make a sword bout degenerate into a wrestling match.   For this (and many other reasons), Fabris advocates never to make contact with the opponent’s blade unless forced to parry. 

Cedere di spada (Yielding of the sword).  The act of ceding to the pressure of the opponent’s blade while attaching swords (see above), in order to let the opponent’s sword fall out of line while your own goes to the attack.  Fabris advocates this technique as the best one to adopt in the event of an attachment of swords. 

Schivar di vita (Voiding).  The act of voiding the opponent’s sword by bringing one’s body out of line (e.g. with a side-step).  Knowing how to void is one of the most essential aspects of 16th-17th-Century Italian swordsmanship (not just rapier). 

Finta (Feint).   The act of giving the opponent the impression of attacking a part of his body in order to cause him to create an opening as he goes for the parry.  A feint generally involves a “fake” target (where one initially pretends to strike) and a “real” one (where the attack eventually lands).  Fabris, who perhaps has the best section on feints, admonishes us that the “fake” target should nonetheless be a realistic one, in case the opponent does not fall for the feint and fails to move for the parry. 

Chiamata, invito (Invite).  The act of deliberately making a tempo or offering an opening to the opponent in order to lure him to attack – and then beat him with a contratempo (see definition).  Be careful not to make too wide an opening as you perform an invite, says Fabris;  otherwise, the likelihood of a “double” is very real.   

Mutazione (Mutation).  A movement or change of posture performed outside the measures.  The same thing performed within the measures becomes a tempo (see definition). 

Conclusion

In this glossary, I have listed most components of classical Italian rapier play.  For the sake of brevity, I have omitted their specific tactical raison d’etre as well as the description of their proper technical execution.  For a deeper insight on any of these terms and their tactical/technical context, please refer to the following primary sources:

Salvator Fabris, Lo schermo, overo Scienza d’armi, Copenhagen, 1606

Francesco Alfieri, La scherma, Padova, 1640

Ridolfo Capoferro, Gran simulacro dell’arte e dell’uso della scherma, Siena, 1610

And also:

Camillo Agrippa, Trattato di scienza d’armi, Roma, 1553

*George Silver in 1599 lamented how a certain “Giacomo” was spreading Italian rapier fencing in England like a sort of foreign plague. If, however unlikely, he was indeed referring to an aged Giacomo Di Grassi and his “conservative” cut and thrust style, we might wonder what would he have said of Fabris? 

Copyright 2002 by Tom Leoni & ARMA – The Association for Renaissance Martial Arts. All Rights Reserved. 

 
 

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