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    The Essential Saviolo - Lessons (Version 2.0)

    by Henry Fox

    Originally published 10 April 2008


    • Introduction
    • Saviolo’s Single Rapier: A Curriculum
    • Lesson 1: General Principles
    • Lesson 2: Grip
    • Lesson 3: Wards
    • Lesson 4: Footwork
    • Lesson 5: Voids
    • Lesson 6: Parry
    • Lesson 7: Thrust
    • Lesson 8: Cut
    • Lesson 9: Advanced Actions
    • Lesson 10: Fighting Principles
    • The Last Word
    • Appendix 1: Parts of the Sword
    • Glossary
    • Bibliography


    "V. The true foundation verily and the true beginning from whence you may learne all thinges belonging to this art, is the Rapier alone, and from it will I begin,"

    The single rapier being the foundation of the art of defence with the rapier and its companions, as such it this that this set of lessons will be based upon Saviolo’s single rapier, rather than his rapier and dagger. It is very much less useful to examine the use of the dagger in combination with the rapier without examining the foundation, which is the rapier alone.

    These lessons will be based on the teachings of Vincentio Saviolo, and as such while they do follow many of the principles of the Italian schools of fence, he has also integrated a great deal of information and technique from other schools such as the Spanish school, and these elements will make themselves evident as these lessons progress. The lessons themselves will also be based on the essential principles of the technique being discussed rather than exhaustive examples of each technique described by Saviolo in his treatise.

    Returning to foundations, it is also important that this set of techniques be taught in a logical order so that one technique can build upon that came before it. This is somewhat divergent from Saviolo’s actual manual, which educates the reader in the form of a discussion between a student and master, and as such the techniques emerge as a result of the combats described by Saviolo in this discussion. The lessons will be presented in the order in which they would be taught at a school of defence, and while many of the first lessons will be a little dull for the more experienced fencer, they are vital in order to understand the later ones.

    Saviolo’s Single Rapier: A Curriculum

    Lesson 1: General Principles

    Introduce the basic theory behind Saviolo’s method. Present the over-reaching theory in which Saviolo’s combat is based.

    1. Energy and Emotional Control
    2. Fencing Principle
    3. Distance
    4. Timing

    Lesson 2: Grip

    The grip on the weapon, and how important it is to being able to use the weapon itself. A comparison of different methods of gripping the weapon and Saviolo’s preferences.

    Lesson 3: Wards

    Saviolo’s three wards at single rapier and their uses with some theory about how and when they should be used, and their actual purpose, with a discussion about wards in general.

    • First Ward
    • Second Ward
    • Third Ward

    Lesson 4: Footwork

    The movement of the feet according to the method Saviolo has highlighted in his treatise, from simple linear movement toward circular motions.

    1. Pace
    2. Half-Pace
    3. Pass
    4. Half-Pass
    5. Retreat
    6. Traverse
    7. Diagonals
    8. Circular Movement

    Lesson 5: Voids

    A discussion of the use of avoidances by Saviolo, one of his methods of defending the combatant from danger, this includes some specific discussion on the inquartata.

    1. Voids
    2. Inquartata

    Lesson 6: Parry

    An examination of defence using the sword and hand to remove an incoming attack, Saviolo’s second method of defence.

    1. Sword Parry
    2. Hand Parry

    Lesson 7: Thrust

    The first lesson on attack, and Saviolo’s preferred method of attacking the opponent. This discusses three methods of attacking with the point of the weapon discussing in general and then being specific.

    1. The Thrust
    2. Stoccata
    3. Imbroccata

    Lesson 8: Cut

    The cut, Saviolo’s secondary method of attack, discussing three different methods of cutting and a general discussion.

    1. Riversa
    2. Mandritta
    3. Stramazone

    Lesson 9: Advanced Actions

    Introduction to Saviolo’s advanced actions including attacks on the blade, feints and the lunge.

    1. Beat Parry
    2. Bind
    3. Pressure Glide
    4. Lunge
    5. Punta Riversa
    6. Feints

    Lesson 10: Fighting Principles

    Saviolo’s actual combat principles, used when the combatants are on the field and facing one another. This also highlights Saviolo’s essential approach to how to deal with an opponent, and his approach to combat and training.

    1. Reading the Opponent
    2. Opening Moves
    3. Movement
    4. Practice
    5. Essential Tactical Principle

    Lesson 1: General Principles


    Introduce the combatant to Saviolo’s general principles of fencing in order to give you a theoretical basis to the physical skills. These are the beginning theoretical ideas upon which Saviolo’s method are based. You should gain a general idea about these principles, as they will become more evident as you progress.


    The physical actions of Saviolo are relatively easy to follow once they are discovered, and there is much hidden within Saviolo’s treatise that can be learnt. One of the more complex things is to attempt to examine the principles on which Saviolo bases his techniques and teaching. Without these principles, however, it is not possible to have a complete picture of Saviolo’s method. This lesson is a lesson on Saviolo’s fencing theory, and must be approached as such. These ideas are those, which result in the correct use of Saviolo’s method. It will, however, be noted that many of these theories are common to other masters.

    Energy and Emotional Control

    One of the first principles that must be examined is not to do anything in combat that does not gain you some advantage over your opponent, or as Saviolo states,

    "this I would advise you, when you would make these passages, or put your weapon under your enemies, that you doe them not in vaine nor without some advauntage."

    This is a policy of entropy, for the combatant to save his energy and not to commit to any action that does not gain him some sort of advantage over his opponent. Reserving energy makes a great deal of sense as a tired combatant would be more likely to make mistakes in comparison to one who has energy left.

    In concert with this is the idea of the combatant remaining in control of himself throughout the combat, and not being carried away by anger, “Wherefore as well in this ward as in the other, take heede that you suffer not your selfe to bee blinded and carried awaie with rage and furie.” Not only does this lose the combatant control over himself, but it also uses energy, thus Saviolo is stating that the combatant should approach the combat coldly, and with an even head. In the arenas that the rapier is fought with in the modern age, this is of even more importance as there should be no animosity between combatants, in fact it is more a friendly encounter to test a combatant’s skills against another. Both of these are also control elements, encouraging you to remain in control of not only your physical actions but also in control of your mental and emotional state. This leads well on to Saviolo’s combat principle, which conveniently is the motto for all forms of fence.

    Fencing Principle

    "In this sorte the saide scholler shall learne to strike and not be stricken, as I alwaies advise the noble-men and gentlemen whit whome I have to deale, that if they cannot hit or hurt their enemy, that they learn to defend them selves that they be not hurt."

    As can be seen this is the general principle for all forms of combat, and especially fencing, “hit without being hit”. There should be no surprise that Saviolo would have this in his treatise. Reading it a little deeper, it also states that you should learn how not to be hit, especially when at that point in time you cannot hit their opponent, therefore laying more emphasis on the defence than the offence.


    With regard to combat, especially hand-to-hand combat, the two defining principles of all of the forms are timing and distance. Without a complete understanding of both of these concepts it is difficult to completely understand combat in its fullest capacity.

    The first that will be discussed is distance, and it must be realised that it is the distance between the two combatants that is being discussed here and that is most important. Saviolo addresses this particular concept early in his treatise and explains that the correct, or just distance between two combatant is thus, “Moreover, you must observe just distance, which is, when either of you stand in such place, that stepping forward a little, you maye reache one another,” this is not simply extending the arm to touch the opponent, it includes a simple element of footwork. This is vital, as will be seen and has been seen Saviolo moves the hands and the feet together in order to make techniques more effective. If this just distance is broken then the combatants are able to hit one another.

    "Moreover, hee must beware of coming too much within his just distance, because if he hit his adversary, hee may bee hitte againe by his adversarye: wherfore I will teache you how to offend and defend in the same time."

    With this in mind, as Saviolo states he teaches the combatant to attack and defend at the same time. As can be seen, Saviolo’s actions are often compound actions using both the hand and the foot in order to achieve its goal, this also alludes to Saviolo’s use of stesso tempo (single time) in is combative principles. It is here that it is clearly demonstrated that distance and timing are integrally linked.


    As stated above, distance and timing are integrally linked, and as such should be discussed one after another. While Saviolo does not define increments of time, nor go into any explanation of types of time and timing, he does use time elements in his descriptions of the actions that he uses demonstrating an understanding of time.

    "At the same time that the scholler removeth his foote, the teacher shall play a little with stirring of his body, and with his lefte hand shall beat away his schollers rapier from his right side, and shall remove his right foot behinde his left striking a crosse blow at the head."

    While this is a combination of several actions it is also a response to an attack in time. As is demonstrated in the first part it is supposed to be done as the opponent is attacking, and as such can be seen to be single time. It is a combination of body, hand and foot movement at that time that achieves the end result. There is ample evidence of this sort of action throughout Saviolo’s instructions.

    Saviolo uses a great deal of single time and counter-time, meaning that a great deal of his actions are enacted while the opponent is moving and doing their action. This makes for a very complex form of combat that is constantly moving. The timing of the combatants has to be exact in order to achieve the result desired and any mistiming will result in one or both of the combatants being struck. To achieve the ability to perform such actions, it is important that you know what your opponent is doing, what he is leading up to doing, and how he will do it, how to do this will be discussed in a much later lesson.


    These elements are vital to understanding the principles upon which Saviolo has based his method. The principles above all relate to control. In the case of the first, it is control over the self, and in the case of the later ones it is control over the environment as a result of control over the self. This is one of the core principles of all forms of combat. It is more important to understand the principles and be able to apply them than it is to be able to quote them, a working knowledge of these principles should develop as the combatant progresses through the following lessons.

    Lesson 2: Grip


    To teach the correct method for holding the rapier as presented by Saviolo.


    The way you grip your weapon will determine what you are able to do with the weapon. If the weapon is held too tight or too loose this will have a large impact on the way you fence. Likewise how you hold the weapon and the position of their hand and fingers will also affect the way the weapon is used.


    Essentially Saviolo thinks that you should hold the rapier in the most comfortable way possible, but he advises against having a second finger wrapped around the ricasso, as he claims that it will limit the movement of the hand and arm, and thus access to certain techniques. He also claims that this grip will also limit the range that the combatant has with the weapon. As such, Saviolo claims that the optimum way to grip the rapier is as such,

    "V. I would have you put your thumbe on the hylte, and then the next finger toward the edge of the Rapier, for so you shall reach further and strike more readily."

    The Grip

    As instructed previously, the index finger is placed through the hilt and around the ricasso and the thumb is placed on top so that the weapon is actually held between the index finger and thumb. He claims that this will enable the combatant to use blows more easily and also not lose range as the previous grip would.

    It is important that Saviolo’s idea of comfort is also emphasised, the sword should be held, not gripped. The hand should firmly hold the weapon in place. The hand should feel no stress; it should be firm but relaxed. A choking grip on the sword will lessen your ability to use the weapon properly, just as having too loose a grip will. You should get used to this grip, as you will be holding the sword for extended periods of time. Practice the correct position of the hand in the hilt.


    1. Take the rapier in your hand, and hold it with a single finger around the ricasso.
    2. Move the rapier around yourself, ensuring that there is plenty of room to do so. Feel how the weapon wants to move around you.
    3. Repeat the process with two fingers around the ricasso and examine the differences between the two.


    While this lesson is very short, it should be considered with equal importance as all of the following and preceding lessons. How you hold the weapon will affect what you are and are not able to do with it, and even how. It is important that the correct grip is established for the combatant and this is used for all of the following lessons. The grip should become comfortable and natural position for you.

    For the Instructor

    The main mistakes that students will make in this lesson are as follows:

    1. The student will hold the hilt backwards, so you need to remind the student of the purpose of the knuckle guard if one is present.
    2. The student will hold the weapon too tightly. This will stress their hand out and will prevent them from holding the weapon for any length of time, get them to loosen their grip.
    3. The student will hold the weapon too loosely. This will result in the student from having no control over the weapon. Instruct the student to hold the weapon firmly in their hand, not tightly otherwise this will result in the problem previously discussed.

    Lesson 3: Wards


    To teach Saviolo’s three wards and establish the principles behind these wards.


    Saviolo only discusses three wards with regard to the use of the single rapier. It is important to realise that the other techniques following this always flow from the particular ward that they are associated with. This is an important association to make with regard to Saviolo’s method, and does highlight the fact that Saviolo’s wards are just that, wards, positions to attack and defend from. Saviolo gives reasons for the use of particular wards, and explains how, when and why these wards should be used.

    Saviolo’s First Ward

    Background to the First Ward

    "I come therefore to the point and say, that when the teacher will enter his scholler, he shal cause him to stand upon this ward, which is very good to bee taught for framing the foote, the hand, and the body:"

    Needless to say, Saviolo claims that teaching this ward first is an effort to teach the student how the foot, hand and body should be held. In this way he teaches basic, but essential elements, within the framing of his first ward. All the elements, which are present in the first ward, appear in the following two wards, and it could be argued that Saviolo’s first ward is the genesis of his other two wards.

    In the discussion of this ward, it is best that rather than attempting to understand all of the elements at once that they are divided up into individual sections so that each may be understood on its own, and then in association with the others. In this way it is possible to examine each element and see how it contributes to the whole. Just as Saviolo describes the ward, so too will the examination commence at the ground level and work upward.

    "so the teacher shall deliver the Rapier into his hand, and shall cause him to stand with his right foote formost, with his knee somewhat bowing, but that his body rest more upon the lefte legge, not stedfast and firme as some stand, which seeme to be nayled to the place, but with a readines and nimblenes, as though he were to perform some feate of activitie, and in this sorte let them stand both to strike and to defend themselves."

    Saviolo says that the feet should not be firm on the ground, but should be prepared to move at short notice. He also says that this foot and leg position is suitable for both attack and defence. This foot position can be seen to be common with many of the Renaissance masters.

    The next set of elements are present in the upper body, it is also important to see that Saviolo, for part of the description of the ward puts it in perspective as compared to another combatant, in this case the master. This is useful as it presents the ward, as it would be in combat against an opponent.

    "Now when the maister hath placed his scholler in this sorte, and that the scholler hath received his Rapier into his hand, let him make his hand free and at lyberty, not by force of the arme, but by the nimble and ready moving of the joynt of the wriste of the hand, so that his hand be free and at libertie from his body, and that the ward of his hand be directlye against his right knee, and let the teacher also put himselfe in the same ward, and holde his Rapier against the middest of his schollers Rapier, so that the poynt be directly against the face of his scholler, and likewise his schollers against his, and let their feete be right one against another,"

    It is important to see that the first thing that he says is that the hand and arm should be loose and free to move. He also says that the joints should move the various parts of the arm and hand, and not have them so solid that one part of the arm moves another. The placement of the sword hand forward of the forward, or right, knee places the sword in a more forward position. The angle of the sword is determined by how the master stands opposite him, and that the feet mirror one another. It is also most interesting to see that Saviolo describes quite a close engagement due to the weapons being crossed at the middle of the blade, rather than closer to the tip. By using this description and framing the ward as such Saviolo puts the ward into perspective as if against an opponent, which is extremely useful.

    Saviolo states that this is a teaching ward, and is useful for teaching the primary elements of combat, but it must be practiced. He also states that knowledge of this ward, due to its elements presented, will make other wards much easier to learn and that men of other countries also use this ward, as it is so useful.

    The First Ward

    The first part of learning this ward is to examine the feet and legs. The right foot is at the front of the combatant, with the knee somewhat bent. The left is behind it, but not directly behind, and has most of the weight placed on this leg. The feet should be shoulder-width apart and somewhat spread so that they do not line up. It is important that the feet are not placed solidly on the ground but are able to move at short notice; the bending of the knees assists this.

    The sword arm should be free from the body in this case. The hand and the arm are pushed forward in front of the knee, and so the weapon is extended from the combatant with the point of the weapon menacing the opponent. The offhand is kept close to the body toward the middle of it, which is somewhat profiled and thus presents much less of a target.


    1. Position yourself in the ward as described
    2. Ensure that your position is correct
    3. You need to relax into this position for it to become comfortable, and then feel where you can move.

    For the Instructor

    The biggest mistake that the combatants will make in positioning themselves in this ward is that they will habitually fall into a classic sport fencing guard. The position of this ward is different and this must be emphasised.The feet do not line up but are separated laterally, thus the body is less profiled. It is also important that the offhand is not placed behind but in front of the body. Ensure that the front foot is pointed at the opponent, and that the point is menacing the opponent also.

    Saviolo’s Second Ward

    Background to the Second Ward

    "Therefore if the maister desire to make a good scholler, let him begin in this sorte, causing his scholar to place his right legge formoste, a little bending the knee, so that the heele of his right foote stand just against the midst of his left foote, holding his swoord hand close on the outside of his right knee, with his swoorde helde in shorte, least his adversarye should gaine the same, ever keeping the poynte directlye on the face or bellye of his enemye, and the maister shall dispose of him selfe in the same manner, as well with his foote as with his poynt."

    As can be seen in comparison to the first ward, the feet and legs are in essentially the same position. It is the sword position that has changed. While in the first it is extended from the body, in this second one the hand holding the sword is placed near the right knee, keeping the hilt close to the body or the sword “helde in shorte”. The point of the weapon is now directed against the face, as in the first, or against the belly, giving the combatant a second option. As can be seen by the plate, the left hand is somewhat extended in order to defend the body, which Saviolo actually describes in his discussion of the use of this ward.

    "Therefore for your better understanding, I will first shew you how this warde is good, either to offend or defend, and cheefelye with the single Swoorde and the glove, which is most in use among Gentlemen, and therefore I advise you and all other to learne to break the thrustes with the left hand, both stoccataes and imbroccates, as I purpose to shewe you."

    Hence, it can be seen that Saviolo advises that incoming attacks should be parried with the left hand rather than the sword. This ward, as described and depicted by Saviolo actually places the left hand in the optimum position in order to achieve this. It should also be noted that this ward should not be considered to be purely defensive, but as a position which can also be used for attack. As for the position of the weapon, Saviolo gives clear reasons why the weapon should be held in this fashion and clearly states the reasons why.

    "Therefore I saie, when you shal stand upon this ward, and that you be assailed and sette upon, keep your point short, that your enemie may not finde it with his,"

    Saviolo is discussing how the position of the weapon prevents the opponent from gaining control of your blade due to its position. In this it can be seen that if the opponent cannot play with the combatant’s blade, nor reach it for that matter, it is much more difficult for him to gain control of the weapon. In this, Saviolo is denying blade engagement, and preventing the opponent from gaining any sentiment du fer (feeling through the blade) due to a lack of blade contact. While it seems that Saviolo is clearly not against blade engagement, as demonstrated by his first ward, clearly he is denying blade engagement in this one.

    "when you doo holde your Rapier shorte, as I have tolde you, and that your pointe is towardes his face, you make him afraide, especially when hee comes forward with his hand and bodie to finde your weapon with his, he must needes come so farre that you maye easily hurt him without being hurt. Besides all this, if your enemy should come to deliver a stoccata, imbroccata, mandritta, or riversa, you have great advauntage, for hee cannot so readily strike, nor with such suretie as you may."

    Saviolo gives further reasons for the advantage of having the blade positioned as it is in his second ward. There is an obvious advantage of having the point in the opponent’s face as it gives him something to think about and may prevent him from coming forward in a hurry, especially where he is unable to prepare his approach by gaining control of the blade, which he cannot do without coming well within striking range. Thus you are able to strike him without being struck. On the other hand, if the opponent strikes first, you are in a sure place of defence having access to a primary defence in the hand and a secondary defence in the blade and movement. To this, where the hand is used in defence, clearly the blade can be used to attack at the same time. Thus with these advantages, Saviolo can clearly claim, “Wherefore I hold this Ward to bee verie good, as well to assaile, as for to tarrie and watch for an advauntage."

    Saviolo has so much to say about this particular ward that it could be argued that while his first ward is useful for teaching all of the basic elements, his second ward seems to be the one which he advocates the most. Thus it could also be argued that it would be the second ward more than the first that he himself would use in a combative situation.

    "V. This warde truely is verie good against all other wards in my opinion, especially if you knewe howe to charge your enemy, & to find time & proportion to strike knowing how to turne and shift your bodie as well on the one side as the other, and understanding the skill of fight, and beeing most nimble, you may aunswere him with it."

    Hence, that while Saviolo advocates the use of his second ward against all others; he does measure this with the importance of the knowledge of the essential principles of fencing. It is important to remember that wards are positions to attack and defend from and not guards as in modern fencing.

    "For all the skil of this art in effect, is nothing but a stoccata: wherefore if you shall have occasion to fight, I could wish you to practise this short ward, and to stand sure upon it, & to seeke your advauntage with time, which when you have found, give the stoccata withall, somewhat moving your right foot, and at the same instant draw back your left, & let your rapier with your bodie shift upon the left side,"

    Saviolo claims that it all comes down to the delivery of a thrust at the correct time, especially from this ward. He advises his reader to practice the use of this ward, and to learn how to gain the advantage through the use of time, and then thrust with a stoccata, remembering to move the body at the same time. Saviolo finishes his discussion of his second ward my making a couple of points.

    "So that as you see, many & verie many things may be performed by this ward, if, as I have sayd, one be skilfull and nimble. But this I would advise you, when you would make these passages, or put your weapon under your enemies, that you doe them not in vaine nor without some advauntage."

    The Second Ward

    The second ward that Saviolo presents is his primary. The foot and leg position is the same as the first ward, the sword-side foot is forward and the knees are bent. Once again the feet should not line up, in this case the rear foot can actually be brought out further than before.

    It is in the upper body, and more to the point the position of the hands where the major change is made. In this case rather than presenting the blade forward, it is withdrawn and the hand is kept close to the knee, with the point still menacing the opponent. Conversely, the offhand is pushed more toward the front and more extended from the body, thus it is presented as the primary means of defence in the case of this ward.


    1. Position yourself in the ward as described
    2. Ensure that your position is correct
    3. You need to relax into this position for it to become comfortable, and then feel where you can move.

    For the Instructor

    Aside from the mistakes presented for the previous ward, the major issue in this case will be swapping the feet around in order to present the left hand forward. Once again the front foot toe should be pointed at the opponent and the point should be menacing the face or chest. In the case of this ward, the body should be profiled even less due to the promotion of the left hand toward the front. In the case of the feet, the combatants will often find it more comfortable to move the rear foot even further across to allow the body to be less profiled.

    Saviolo’s Third Ward

    Background to the Third Ward

    Saviolo’s third ward, changes the position of the feet, but does not change the position of the sword drastically as it does for the other masters. In this case, the change in position is subtle. This ward is, however, different from the other two wards that have been presented previously.

    "I will not faile in anie part to make you understand the excellencie of this third warde, which notwithstanding is quite contrarie to the other two. Because that in this you must stand with your feet even together, as if you were readie to sit down, and your rapier hand must bee within your knee, and your point against the face of your enemie: and if your enemie put himselfe upon the same ward, you may give a stoccata at length betweene his rapier and his arme, which shall bee best performed & reach farthest, if you shift with your foot on the right side."

    Unlike the previous two wards, Saviolo instructs his student to have his feet relatively close to one another. This is due to what this particular ward is designed for. It will also be noted, that Saviolo states that the point should be at the opponent’s face, and does not give the option of a second target in this case. This clearly puts the opponent’s face first on the any list of target preferences.

    It can be seen also, especially by the depiction, that the body is withdrawn substantially more toward the left side than it is in the other two wards. In effect, this places the combatant in a more side-on position. The hilt and hand are placed low, close to the knee. This leads the arm to be rather extended, though the blade is not offered like it is in the first ward.

    Primarily, this ward is designed to deliver Saviolo’s “long stoccata”, which is in effect a lunge. It is important to realise that this is the primary use of this particular ward, but as Saviolo states, “When you perfectlie understand your weapons, it maie serve you otherwise,”.

    The Third Ward

    In this case, unlike the last two wards, the feet are actually placed quite close together. The sword-side foot is in front, and the rear foot is placed about a foot-length directly behind it. The body in this case is much more profiled than in the previous wards.

    Like the second ward the sword is drawn back with the point menacing the opponent’s face. The off-hand is much more withdrawn than it is in the other two wards and thus should be placed more to the left side of the chest. The position of the body, hands and feet should place you in an optimum position to deliver a lunge without being struck at the same time.


    1. Position yourself in the ward as described
    2. Ensure that your position is correct
    3. You need to relax into this position for it to become comfortable, and then feel where you can move.

    For the Instructor

    This is the ward that most resembles the modern guards as used in sport fencing today, but it should be noted that there are some differences. Once again, the hand should be placed near the body and not behind it. The sword should also be positioned in a low position and not with the hand extended as presented in the first ward.


    As has been demonstrated, each one of the wards is designed to deliver a primary attack, and this should not be forgotten. This also demonstrates that they are in fact “wards” and not “guards”, i.e. positions to attack and defend from rather than closing off a particular line. It is also important to examine the similarities and differences amongst the wards in order to understand them better.

    While Saviolo’s second ward is his primary one and the one he advocates using the most, the other two should not be forgotten. As has been described Saviolo’s wards are wards in the truest sense, as such while he states that the combatant should “frame himself” in such a position, it should also be noted that these are positions that the combatant will pass through. It is important that the combatant realises the positions of the wards and knows the principles behind these positions in order to be able to use them effectively. It should also be noted that they are connected to specific techniques and these are their primary uses, this connection should be made early as Saviolo’s method involves the integration of hand, foot, and body.

    Lesson 4: Footwork


    To teach the footwork used by Saviolo as demonstrated in his treatise.


    This section will discuss footwork, further discussion on such things as the void and lunge, which are particular developments of footwork or the combination of hand and foot will be introduced later on. While Saviolo does not approach his treatise in the same manner as Di Grassi, with clear lessons on footwork or other elements, footwork can be extracted due to familiar phrases, which are used, and in multiple descriptions of the same sorts of movement by the combatants. Essentially the footwork is learnt in application rather than separately. This does, however, develop a more fluid form of movement, and this is essential for using Saviolo’s method. It must be remembered that footwork is essential to most forms of sword combat.

    Saviolo uses a full range of footwork, though he tends to predominantly use passing steps. It is also important to note that his footwork is also more focussed on non-linear movements. These steps will be presented in a logical fashion starting with the simple pace and moving on to other progressions of footwork.


    The pace is a single movement with one foot following the other. Each foot makes a single movement, and does not pass the other. This is one of the elementary movements in most forms of fencing. This is also a step, which Saviolo describes in different parts of his treatise. It is important to note that while moving the dominant side, typically the right, is common, also so is moving the other foot first, depending what is required of the movement, and also which one position the combatant is in. One of the ways the position may be changed in order to facilitate the change in movement is through the half-pace.

    The pace is performed by moving one foot then the other. The foot that moves first is the one in the direction in which you wish to go. In the case of an advance the front foot is moved first followed by the rear foot. In each case the toe then the heel should be lifted and then placed into position. The foot should only move just above the ground and should not be dragged in any case.


    This is exactly what it sounds like. It is half of the previous movement discussed. It is the movement of only one of the feet. Depending on which foot is moved, the position the combatant starts in, and where the foot is moved to will result in the feet being either further apart, or closer together. Saviolo describes the half-pace as such, “let your right foot follow the left, that the middest thereof be straight against the heele of your left,” clearly in this instance the feet are moving closer together, but this is not the only way that it is mentioned as he does also note the movement of one foot further away from the other as well. This is usually used in order to change position briefly, usually in the performance of a void.


    As previously mentioned, Saviolo uses a great deal of passes, and in fact this is the dominant form of footwork that he uses in his treatise. In general, like the pace, the movement is once each foot. In this case the rear foot passes by the forward foot and the other follows the same movement to complete the movement, as described as such, “let the scholler passe with his lefte foote where his right was,” it is important to remember that each time Saviolo mentions the word pass, one foot is passing the other.

    These passes, unless they are purely for movement, are usually executed in combination with hand or body movement depending on what is required at the time. Most of his attacks and defences are used in combination with the pass, which makes this form of footwork the dominant mode of movement.

    A pass is performed by the movement of one foot passed another and then the other passing it. In the case of a pass forward, the rear foot moves to a position in front of the front foot. The front foot then regains its position by moving past the rear foot. The pass is performed in this fashion and can be done in different directions.


    This is exactly what it sounds like. It is half of the previous movement discussed. It is the movement of only one of the feet. Depending on which foot is moved, the position the combatant starts in, and where the foot is moved to will result in the feet being either further apart, or closer together. As with the half-pace, this is usually used in order to change position briefly, usually in the performance of a void.


    A pace made in order to move backward is known as a retreat. This does not refer to turning and running away, merely retiring out of distance from the opponent. Saviolo does not use the word retreat but refers to it in terms such as removing, parting or retiring. In another instance he just mentions to go backward. This is the exact reverse movement described in the pace. It may also be achieved by the use of a pass in the backward direction.


    The traverse enables a combatant to move sideways in order to both avoid the opponent and also better position in order to achieve dominance in the encounter. The traverse is the first movement off the linear forwards-backwards line. This movement something, which is mentioned more in passing rather than specifically. Saviolo refers to moving aside, “carry your foot a little aside,” and other such phrases, giving the impression of a movement sideways either to the left or the right. The description, along with the practicalities also result in this movement being essentially a pace or pass movement in a sideways direction either left or right


    The diagonal is a combination of both the forwards or backwards movement and a sideways movement in order to achieve both results at once with one lateral and one linear movement combined together. It is designed to change the angle of attack toward the opponent, so the combatant can position into a position with greater advantage. This diagonal motion is also the beginning of the development of Saviolo’s circular motion in footwork.

    "Therefore hee must take heede to save himselfe with good time and measure, and let him take heede that he steppe not forward toward his teacher, forso hee should bee in danger to be wounded: but let him go a little aside, as I have already saide."

    This is a response to another movement of the opponent, rather than a simple description of the movement. In essence the advice is to not simply move forward but to also move aside while moving forward, this results in a diagonal movement. The diagonal motion is a good introduction to circular motion as it is a move away from more rigid linear movement. This motion also allows the combatant to change angles and ranges toward and away from the opponent. All of these elements are further refined in the use of circular footwork.

    The diagonal step should take the form of a pace in motion. The foot that should be moved first is the one that is in the direction of movement. The ultimate goal in this instance is to stay balanced. The pass should not be used in these instances, as it will result in the combatant crossing over their feet and losing balance.

    Circular Movement

    "turne the pointe of his foote toward the bodye of his maister, and let the middest of his left foote directly respect the heele of the right and let him turn his body upon the right side, but let it rest and staye upon the lefte,"

    Clearly demonstrated is circular motion, this is evident by the words and also the predicted position of the combatants in this demonstration. It can be seen here that such circular footwork can change the angle and distance between a pair of combatants. This is an element of Saviolo’s treatise, which alludes to some influence from the Spanish school of fence. The circular motion is evident in many different places in Saviolo’s discussions, and is highly important to understand what Saviolo is demonstrating in his treatise.

    The circular motion enables a combatant to change their angle and distance from their opponent. This can be achieved very subtly through circular motion. This form of motion can also change the timing due to the changes in distance and the time it takes to move around the circle, or cut through it.

    Circular motion is the result of the effective use of the other forms of footwork. Slight changes can be made to the traverse in order to generate circular motion, and the diagonal step already leads to this motion. In the case of the traverse, the gentle pushing forward, or backward with the feet will result in a gradual circular motion. The use of the diagonal steps will result in a more obvious diagonal movement.


    1. Practice paces in the forwards/backwards direction and sideways
    2. Find a partner and from one of the wards practice the footwork with the partner reacting to the movement, and then swap roles. Both combatants should be attempting to remain at the same distance.
    3. Repeat the previous drills using the other forms of footwork.
    4. Find a partner and using all the footwork attempt to see how it is possible to change distance with the opponent.

    For the Instructor

    The ultimate goal for the combatant is to retain their balance and facing. The combatants should attempt to stay facing the opponent in their movements in order to be able to defend themselves effectively.

    Balance requires that the feet be moved fluidly and carefully with as little crossing over of the feet as possible, this is the first big mistake that people will make. The other major mistake that people will make is dragging their feet while moving, this will alter their distance and also slow them down. The feet should be picked up and placed. Also remind them to point the toe of their front foot at their opponent at all times.

    Two less common mistakes that will be made are over-stepping and shuffling. Over-stepping can also be a problem which will result in bad foot placement, the combatants should move their feet a comfortable distance. Shuffling is extraneous movement of the feet once the step has been taken, the step should involve a single movement of each foot.

    Done correctly, the partner drills described will also establish some concept of distance for the combatants, especially if they manage to keep their correct range from one another. This is something that will become more important to the combatants later on. All of the drills should be done with sword in hand.


    It is the combination and use of the correct footwork that can enable a combatant to dominate. These motions can be applied both in attack and defence. The use of the hand, body and foot in combination in an effective manner will result in a better defence and attack, “the teacher must remoove with his right foote a little aside, followed with his lefte, and shifting a little with his bodie,” this will become more evident as more of Saviolo’s techniques are brought to light.

    Lesson 5: Voids


    To teach voids and how Saviolo applies them in his treatise.


    Voids are an elementary form of defence. They consist of not being where the opponent’s weapon is. One of the simplest is the retreat, as described above, or as in, “shall retire a little with his body,” but this is not the only one that Saviolo mentions. While he only mentions one specifically, the inquartata, he does use them frequently through his discussion of combat.


    When Saviolo does mention a void, he does not spell out what the void is, nor give an in-depth explanation of it. Saviolo uses expressions such as “playe with great nimblenes and agilitye of bodye,” to demonstrate a combatant moving their body. These movements are not necessarily major in nature in some instances they are quite slight. Saviolo is describing movements, which are enough, and only enough to save the combatant from harm. In a great deal of instances he describes the movement of the body in combination with other forms of defence. Thus he does not rely purely on the motion of the body to save the combatant.

    Simple voids involve simply moving the body part that is targeted out of the way of the incoming attack. For example if the leg is targeted it can be simply moved out of the way, same with the arm and hand. Slightly more complex voids involve rolling and twisting the body about the waist in order to move a part of the torso away from an attack. For example if the left side is being targeted a rolling of the body back and away from the left will save you from being hit. These are a simple solution for avoiding an incoming attack.


    "V. At the selfesame time the scholler must remove with like measure or counter-time with his right foote a little aside, and let the left foote follow the right, turning a little his bodye on the right side, thrusting with the point of his Rapier at the belly of his teacher, turning readily his hand that the fingers be inward toward the body, and the joint of the wrist shall be outward."

    This is an action that both defends the combatant and makes an offensive action directed at the opponent. As can be seen in the example above it is executed in response to an offensive action made by an opponent. One of the important things behind this action is that it must be done simultaneously as the opponent attacks or as Saviolo states “like measure or counter-time”. This is a complex motion that should not be attempted unless the combatant has had a great deal of practice and can time it correctly.

    "turne the pointe of his foote toward the bodye of his maister, and let the middest of his left foote directly respect the heele of the right and let him turn his body upon the right side, but let it rest and staye upon the lefte, and in the same time let him turne the Rapier hand outward in the stoccata or thrust, … that the point be toward the bellye of his maister, and let him lifte up his hand and take good heede that hee come not forward in delivering the saide stoccata, which is halfe an incartata, for how little forever hee should come forward, he would put himselfe in danger of his life:"

    Saviolo calls the motion an “incartata” as can be seen above, more to the point, he only really describes a “half incartata” in his text and makes further reference to this particular technique. He never manages to specifically identify a simple full version of the action. He gives this description of the action, and then just refers to the term for the rest of the time, “answere him with a stoccata to the face, turning a little your bodye toward the right side, accompanied with your poynt, making a halfe incartata:” as can be seen, however the action is very much the same as described above. What is even more interesting is that Saviolo, sometimes even refers to the same action in the delivery of a cut. Such offensive actions will be discussed in further detail later on when more of the bladework is discussed.

    The inquartata, or incartata as Saviolo calls it, is a movement of both the body and the feet, but is primary forced by the movement of the feet. The footwork is actually very simple for the half-inquartata, and consists of moving the rear foot across and behind the front foot, while remaining to the rear. This changes the profile of the body, which can be accentuated in a similar way as described in the voids above. The inquartata, is a more extreme movement of the rear foot across, in this case it passes behind the front foot and ends up 90 degrees to the front foot.


    1. Practice body voids slowly
    2. Practice half-inquartata and inquartata slowly
    3. Find a partner and practice body voids against slow attacks
    4. Find a partner and practice half-inquartata and inquartata against slow attacks
    5. Increase the speed of the previous drills until you can comfortably avoid full-speed attacks using voids, inquartata and half-inquartata.

    For the Instructor

    The biggest mistake that combatants will make in the execution of the inquartata is to attempt to propel themselves by the twisting of the body rather than the movement of the feet. This can strain the muscles in the body and can also lead to them becoming unbalanced. Both the half-inquartata and inquartata should be practiced slowly before being put to the test. The placement of the feet is vital in the use of the inquartata and should be highlighted.


    The void is one of the ways that Saviolo instructs the combatant in how to defend himself against his opponent. As presented it can be seen that while most of his voids are mere descriptions of the movement of the body, the inquartata as presented is a complex action that results in the combatant both saving himself from harm and also in the position to attack the opponent at the same time, this demonstrates some of Saviolo’s elemental principles, especially in the combination for defence and the presence of the thought of a counter-attack.

    Lesson 6: Parry


    To teach the parries as presented in Saviolo’s treatise.


    The discussion of the parry in this section will focus on the defensive application of the parry. The offensive application of the parry will be discussed in a later lesson. The parry is a method of using the devices in the combatant’s hands or indeed the hand itself in order to defend against an incoming attack.

    Saviolo’s Sword Parry


    There are no names given to the parries, and only the most straightforward of directions given. The word “parry” is not even mentioned in Saviolo’s text about the use of the single sword. He does, however, refer to “bearing”, “beating” and “breaking” the opponent’s sword, referring to the attack rather than the weapon itself in the last case.

    These instructions are of the most uncomplicated nature in most instances, “shifting his body shall breake the same imbroccata or foyne outward from the lefte side,” thus he gives what is to be done to the weapon and the direction it is supposed to go. Depending on the situation, Saviolo says whether to parry the opponent outward to the left or right. Aside from slight changes in grammar, and the response that follows, this is essentially the format that he uses to instruct the student about how to parry. There is one instance, however where he is more specific, but as will be noted this is somewhat of a more complex technique, though the result is the same.

    "if he offer you a Stramazone to the head, you must beare it with your swoord, passing forward with your lefte legge, and turning wel your hand, that your point maye go in manner of an imbrocata, accompanied with your left hand, so that your poynt respect the bellye of your adversary, and break this alwaies with the point of your sword, for of all stoccataes, riversaes, and Stramazones, I finde it the most dangerous."

    Thus in the directions above the blade of the weapon is used to catch the opponent’s blade and then is supported in this action with the left hand. This particular action is unique among Saviolo’s actions as it is the only time where both hands are placed on the weapon and used in conjunction. This demonstrates some knowledge of German swordplay in the use of this half-swording action. In most other instances it is either the hand or the sword that is used. With the simple instructions given to the use of the sword for parrying, it is of little wonder that Saviolo primarily uses the offhand to parry the opponent’s blade.

    Sword Parry

    It should be noted that Saviolo has given very little instruction about how the sword should be used to parry save for the fact that the opponent’s blade should be directed away from the combatant. There are some indications however that the parries that are advocated are more beating the opponent’s blade rather than controlling it. This is not to say that he does not use the control parry, as there is evidence of this also.

    Thus being said, in the sword parry, in all instances the opponent’s blade should be caught on the forte of the blade, and should direct the opponent’s weapon away from the combatant. In the case of the beat parry the opponent’s blade should be struck with some force in order to remove it, in the case of the control parry, the weapon should stop the opponent’s attack but not force it away in order to gain control. In all cases the combatant should wait for the attack to come rather than chasing it.

    The half-swording action described is an advanced form of parry. As the attack comes in the sword should be lifted so that the attack is caught on the forte of the blade, this is supported by placing the open offhand on the foible of the weapon. The weapon is twisted at the same time so that the point faces the opponent, allowing for an attack. At the same time as this is happening you should also be executing a half-pace backward with the right foot. This should only be used against a vertical attack.


    1. Practice the parries to ensure that the action is correct
    2. Practice the parries with a partner at slow speed to see how the action works
    3. Practice the parries with a partner at full speed, remember to practice both beat and control parries.
    4. Practice the half-sword parry to ensure the action is correct
    5. Practice the half-sword parry with a partner at slow speed
    6. Practice the half-sword parry with a partner at full speed

    For the Instructor

    One of the most common mistakes with the sword parry is chasing the opponent’s attack, and therefore parrying much too early. This can be remedied by encouraging the combatant to do the parries at slow speed, waiting for the attack to come. Parrying too early will also result in contact with the opponent’s blade too far up the blade.

    Parrying with the upper part of the blade is a mistake that can result from the combatant thinking about parrying with the blade rather than moving the hand across in order to parry. To solve this problem you have to encourage the combatant to think about simply moving the hilt across rather than parrying with the blade, this can also assist in solving the previous issue.

    The half-swording parry is an advanced move and should be practiced a great deal before it is used. It should be remembered that the second hand is used only to support the weapon and not to twist it. The offhand should be open as it supports the blade in the parry, but may grip it afterward as the attack is prepared. This action must be accompanied by the half-pace backward.

    Saviolo’s Hand Parry


    "V. I will tell you, this weapon must bee used with a glove, and if a man should be without a glove, it were better to hazard a little hurt of the hand, thereby to become maister of his enemies Swoorde, than to breake with the swoord, and so give his enemy the advantage of him."

    This is Saviolo’s basic principle. In most instances, he will prefer that the student parry the opponent’s attack with the hand rather than using their sword. In some ways this makes Saviolo somewhat unique, as he is one of the few masters who prefers the use of the hand for parrying in preference the weapon. His reasoning is quite sound if you examine it fully, if the sword is being used for defence it is harder to gain the advantage over the opponent’s weapon. Saviolo has a deeper discussion of this particular principle later on, and advocates grabbing and commanding the opponent’s blade.

    "Moreover, having the use of your lefte hand, and wearing a gantlet or glove of maile, your enemy shall no sooner make a thrust, but you shal be readye to catch his swoorde fast, and to command him at your pleasure: wherefore I wish you not to defend any thrust with the swoorde, because in so dooing you loose the point."

    Not only does this give direction to catch the opponent’s weapon, but also clearly states that if the weapon was used instead then the point would be off-line and therefore further from hurting the opponent. Clearly Saviolo has stated reasons that the use of the left hand in parrying has its advantages over the use of the sword. In the light of the use of the rapier in the period and the lack of restriction in the use of the off-hand it only makes sense that it would be used in such a manner.

    Unfortunately, as with his parries with the sword, Saviolo only says that it should be done, and a direction that the opponent’s weapon should be moved in order to be effective, though he does give somewhat more instruction in this technique, highlighting the importance of the hand parry over the sword parry. Of course, depending on the situation he will state whether the opponent’s weapon is to be beaten away or controlled which gives the combatant options as to how he will deal with the opponent and his weapon.

    Hand Parry

    The hand parry should be executed by connecting with the side of the opponent’s blade with the flat of the hand, preferably the palm and not the knuckles. Striking the blade with the knuckles will hurt. Also you will gain much more control over the opponent’s blade if the palm is used instead of the knuckles. The blade should be pushed away the shortest distance possible. Do not drag the opponent’s blade across yourself and do not strike the opponent’s point with your hand. In general, the direction an attack comes in from, that is the direction that it should be parried, an attack toward the left should be pushed left.

    As with the sword parry, the hand parry can be done as a beat, or can be used to control the opponent’s blade. As a beat, the hand should impact the opponent’s blade with the palm, and from the force of the impact, it should be pushed away. The control parry should be executed so when the blade comes in contact with the palm, it can be used to move the blade to a more advantageous position. In all forms of the hand parry, attempt to come in contact with the flat of the opponent’s blade rather than the edge. In the case of a beat, it will hurt less, and in the case of a control, there is less chance of the hand being cut.


    1. Practice hand parries alone
    2. Practice hand parries with a partner gradually increasing the speed once both are comfortable.

    For the Instructor

    The most common mistake combatants will make in the execution of the hand parry is dragging the opponent’s blade across their body; this can be solved by reminding the student to push the opponent’s blade away from himself the shortest distance possible. The other common mistake is to parry the opponent’s blade, accidentally hitting the point of the weapon with the hand; encouraging the student to parry with the palm to the flat of the opponent’s blade can solve this mistake.

    As with sword parries parrying too early can also be an issue, as is chasing the opponent’s blade. These problems can be solved in the same ways as they are for the sword parry.


    As can be seen by what is presented here, Saviolo gives few details about parrying, it almost seems as if the parry is more of an after-thought, or he is assuming that the combatant knows how to present their weapon or hand in such a manner to defend themselves from an incoming attack. More, it must be noted that in most instances Saviolo would prefer the combatant to use their left hand to parry instead of their sword, so that it may be free to attack. These notes are supplemented in some instances by a direction in which the opponent’s weapon should go when it is parried. The simplicity of his approach reflects the “no nonsense” approach Saviolo presents throughout his treatise.

    Lesson 7: Thrust


    To teach the thrust as presented in Saviolo’s treatise


    The thrust is an action that involves the point being projected forward by the hand so that it strikes the target using penetration to do damage. The rapier’s primary use is to execute this form of attack. This does not, however, deny that some rapiers can make cuts, and these cuts will be discussed in a later section of this investigation.

    The Thrust

    Saviolo makes a great deal of the use of the thrust and stresses its importance in combat. He divides the thrusts into different types by how they are executed and from where they come, and the direction in which they go. In one special case the particular action describes a cut also, and this technique, the riversa, will be discussed as the final thrust in this section as it leads on well to the section about cuts.

    The thrust is Saviolo’s primary form of attack and he emphasises and uses it very much over the use of the cut. In all instances where there is a choice between a thrust and a cut, Saviolo chooses the thrust over the cut. He explains the tactical advantage of the thrust over the cut in many instances, thus highlighting the use of the point over the edge, essentially on the basis of efficiency.

    "for to tell the truth, I would not advise anye freend of mine, if hee were to fight for his credite and life, to strik neither mandrittaes nor riversaes [two types of cut], because he puts himselfe in danger of his life: for to use the poynte is more readie, and spendes not the lyke time:"

    Even now that there is a definitive preference for the thrust demonstrated over the cut, it must be understood that he does use the cut, but only where it has a tactical advantage, or more simply where it is easier to deliver a blow with the edge than the point, hence the cuts will be discussed after the thrusts.

    Just as Saviolo prefers the thrust over the cut, he also has preferences within the scope of thrusts. In the scheme of things Saviolo gives preference for the stoccata over the imbroccata, each of which will be described. Thus even to further demonstrate this preference, Saviolo refers to the stoccata as a thrust and the imbroccata as the foyne; hence the stoccata will be discussed before the imbroccata.

    Saviolo’s Stoccata


    The stoccata is the most natural action that a thrust would proceed in. The motion of the arm forces the hand forward and the point is projected forward due to the force of the arm controlled by the hand, which is in a supinated position i.e. with the knuckles pointed downward. The stoccata is differentiated from the imbroccata also by the fact that it comes attacks the opponent from below rather than above, or as Saviolo describes it, “thrust his Rapier under his teachers, and give him a thrust or stoccata in the belly."

    It can be seen that this is a very natural action and this could explain some of Saviolo’s preference for this attack, in fact where he does not mention any particular technique specifically, it is mostly a stoccata, “putting the point of his Rapier under his schollers Rapier, and so giving him a thrust in the belly."

    There is an important note that should be made at this point in time with regard to the stoccata. While it comes from below and goes under the opponent’s defences, the belly is not the only target that it can strike it is just the most direct. The stoccata can be easily directed against other targets and still be delivered in the same manner, “thrust or stoccata either in the face or belly.” It is simply the angle of the wrist and that guides the point to a different target, in all cases the hand remains supinated.

    Previously stated was Saviolo’s preference for the use of the pass and that the stoccata, and all other attacks, are quite often accompanied by some movement of the feet. He does, however, mention a “half stoccata”, “a halfe stoccata, that you come not forward with both your feet,” which would imply that a full one would involve the use of both of the feet. This is most interesting as there are also instances where no foot movement is made. There is a further division that will be discussed much later on in regards to the “long stoccata”, which seems to be some prototypical form of the lunge.

    Saviolo’s liking for the stoccata over the imbroccata is demonstrated clearly in his own words, not only does he state that “never stand about giving any foine or imbroccata, but this thrust or stoccata alone,” but he also states that if someone should deliver an imbroccata against you that the stoccata will counter it, “if hee will make a imbroccata unto you, answere him with a stoccata to the face,” while this is the case, Saviolo does use the imbroccata in certain instances. Ironically in some of these instances, it is described as being delivered in the manner of a stoccata.


    In most instances it is only the arm motion which is considered with regard to the thrust, footwork should, however be considered. The correct delivery of the stoccata is resulted from the movement of the muscles in the shoulder. The muscles in the arm, wrist, hand and fingers are merely used to guide the point to the appropriate target.

    In many ways the action of the stoccata is the same as the fast-draw as found in many western movies. The arm should be brought up directly with very little to no bending of the elbow. However, the elbow should not be locked, but loose. The wrist rolls in order to point the tip at the correct target. In the final instance of the thrust, the hand may be supinated, but this is not necessary. The point of the weapon should travel in a straight line from origin to target. As mentioned above, the stoccata should be executed with a pace. The hand should start moving before the feet do, so the point has landed before the feet stop moving. This is of great importance as Saviolo’s attacks are all a combination of foot and hand movement.

    Saviolo’s Imbroccata


    The imbroccata, also known as a foyne, is a thrust, which is the mirror of the stoccata. While the stoccata attacks the opponent from below the imbroccata attacks from above the opponent’s guard. In this case the hand is in a pronated position with the knuckles upward and the attack descends toward the opponent. The best position to deliver this attack is in a high position where the weapon is above the proposed target. It is the time taken in comparison to the stoccata that makes this less appealing to Saviolo.

    Needless to say that the primary target of the imbroccata is the face and head, “give an imbroccata to the face”. As a side-note this is one place where made himself unpopular with many of the schools as he directed students to attack the face which was seen as too dangerous to practice. Due to the nature of the attack, most of the targets for the imbroccata are high on the body, but this is not to say that it could not be used against other targets, it is just less likely.


    The imbroccata as described above, is a thrusting attack, which comes from a higher position to a lower position. This is a blow, which cannot be delivered from the wards that Saviolo describes. The hand must be above the target so that the point can descend into the target.

    The easiest position to deliver such a blow from is with the hand above the head. This will result in the hand being pronated (having the knuckles upward) and the true edge of the weapon skyward. In similar fashion to the stoccata described above, the shoulder moves the arm downward, while the wrist and hand direct the point to the target. As can be seen this requires some preparation in order to deliver and it is due to this time taken that Saviolo advises against its use unless already in a position to do so. Just like the stoccata described above, the imbroccata should be delivered with a pace using the same timing.


    1. Practice the thrusts at a stationary target
    2. Practice the thrusts at a moving target
    3. Practice the thrusts combined with footwork at a stationary target
    4. Practice the thrusts combined with footwork at a moving target

    For the Instructor

    The combatants should be first aiming for proper technique in the delivery of the thrusts followed by accuracy of the point only after this should the speed of the thrust be even considered. It is of much greater importance that the thrust be accurate, and also be able to be delivered in combination with footwork. These drills can also be done with a partner playing the target, stationary at first, and then moving.


    There are three thrusting attacks presented by Saviolo in his treatise, each enable the point of the weapon to be delivered against the opponent from a different direction. It has been stated, however, that Saviolo does present a marked preference for the use of the stoccata over any other attack. He bases this on the efficiency and effectiveness of this particular attack. It should be noted, however that Saviolo does present instances where the other thrusts are of importance, and this should not be forgotten.

    Lesson 8: Cut


    To teach the different cutting blows as presented in Saviolo’s treatise.


    The cutting blow is something that is not mentioned very much with regard to the rapier, it must be admitted that in most cases it was not designed for this and so such an omission is not unexpected. This has more to do with the weapon itself than anything else. This does not say that the rapier absolutely cannot be used to cut. It just says that some were not suited to the task.

    The Cuts

    In the case of Saviolo, he does mention and use cuts, though as previously mentioned, he does prefer the use of the point to the edge. The fact that he does mention their use in his treatise does demonstrate that they did have their place in this form of combat, but the situation had to be correct for their use. Saviolo mentions three methods of cutting, one of which has already been mentioned. All the cuts are delivered at targets, which are suitable to the time and place in which they are delivered.

    Saviolo’s Riversa


    The cut version of the riversa attacks the same side of the body as the previously mentioned punta riversa. It is a cut delivered against the right side of the opponent from the right side of the combatant. This is often called a “cross blow” by Saviolo and this makes a lot of sense as the arm crosses over the body in order to deliver it. This blow is also executed with footwork in order to create its greatest effect.

    "the maister must shifte a little with his bodye, and shall remoove with his right foote, which must be carried behinde his lefte, and shall strike a riverso to the head,"

    As can be seen the drawing back of the right foot rotates the body in order to deliver the riversa against the opponent. This attack could be very vicious and can be delivered against any exposed target the opponent is unfortunate to leave exposed, “you maie presentlie hit him on the brest … or on the face a riverso, or on the legs:”. This makes the riversa a very versatile blow. The opposite cut to the riversa is the mandritta.


    As described above, in order to deliver a riversa the arm must cross the body. These should be executed as slicing cuts more than impact cuts as this suits the weapon more. In all cases, it is the elbow that determines the target, so in essence these blows are actually delivered from the elbow rather than the shoulder. This also makes them more efficient and quicker than if they had been delivered from the shoulder. In general, this is best achieved by crossing the arm over the body then extending it, leaving the elbow somewhat bent, it is from here that a decision needs to be made.

    If a push cutting blow is to be delivered, the arm should be straightened in a forward motion. The blade should impact and then slide. The blade of the weapon should strike before the arm has fully straightened so that the continuing straightening of the arm pushes the blade into the target and slices it. The hip of the forward foot should also be pushed forward as the blade slices. As with the punta riversa, a half-pace should be taken as the hip comes forward. If the arm is straight and then strikes it will merely bounce off and do nothing.

    If a draw cutting blow is to be delivered, a similar action is required but in a different manner. The arm should be straightened and the hip pushed forward. The hip is then drawn backward along with the arm, which should bend as it does so. As above footwork will ensure a greater effect to this action, in this case, as the hip is withdraw so too should the same foot make a half-pace backward. If the arm is kept straight as the hip and arm are withdrawn, once again the blade will bounce off and do nothing.


    1. Practice the cut, while stationary against a stationary target
    2. Practice the cut, while stationary against a moving target
    3. Practice the cut, with footwork against a stationary target
    4. Practice the cut, with footwork against a moving target

    Saviolo’s Mandritta


    In many ways the mandritta is the “natural” blow, delivered from the right against the opponent’s left with the purpose of hitting with the edge. Just as the riversa is called the “cross blow”, so the mandritta is referred to as the “right blow”. It could be said that this cut requires no further explanation than this, nor any more discussion, but Saviolo sees it differently, and when presented with the concept of not teaching the mandritta, he counters with the following argument.

    "but everye man hath not the skill to strike, especiallye with measure, and to make it cutte: and heereupon you shall see manye which oftentimes will strike and hitte with the flatte of their Rapier, without hurting our wounding the adversarye: and likewise many, when they would strike a downe-right blowe, will goe forward more then measure, and so cause themselves to be slaine."

    As such Saviolo in his presentation describes when the mandritta should be delivered and in what manner. More to the point he highlights the importance of knowing the appropriate timing and distance for the delivery of the blow,

    "his scholler may have judgement to knowe what fight meanes, with measure and time, hee shall teach him to give a mandritta, and to know when the time serveth for it."

    As with the riversa, the mandritta may also be delivered against the opponent against varied targets with very little description, from the legs all the way to the head are possible targets for this blow. The delivery of the mandritta is, in many instances, described as simply using the arm in order to strike the blow against the opponent, though in some instances Saviolo describes the use of the feet in the delivery of the mandritta, in much the same way as the riversa, “removing with his left foote, which must be carried behinde the right, and withall shall give a mandritta at the head,”. As can be seen again the feet and the hands work together in order to perform the attack.


    The mandritta is a very simple blow, but there is still technique involved as Saviolo alludes to. As with the riversa described above, this blow is also thrown from the elbow. A similar technique is also used in the delivery of the mandritta to that which was described for the riversa. Once again, the arm is extended toward the target somewhat bent in order to deliver the blow.

    In the case of a push cutting blow, the arm should be straightened in a forward motion. The blade should impact and then slide. The blade of the weapon should strike before the arm has fully straightened so that the continuing straightening of the arm pushes the blade into the target and slices it. The hip of the forward foot should also be pushed forward as the blade slices. As with the punta riversa, a half-pace should be taken as the hip comes forward. If the arm is straight and then strikes it will merely bounce off and do nothing.

    In the case of a draw cutting blow, a similar action is required but in a different manner. The arm should be straightened and the hip pushed forward. The hand is then rolled over into a pronated position so that the false edge of the blade is against the target. The hip is then drawn backward along with the arm, which should bend as it does so. As above footwork will ensure a greater effect to this action, in this case, as the hip is withdraw so too should the same foot make a half-pace backward. If the arm is kept straight as the hip and arm are withdrawn, once again the blade will bounce off and do nothing. In most cases it is the push cutting version of the blow is the one that is thrown.


    1. Practice the cut, while stationary against a stationary target
    2. Practice the cut, while stationary against a moving target
    3. Practice the cut, with footwork against a stationary target
    4. Practice the cut, with footwork against a moving target

    Saviolo’s Stramazone


    The stramazone, or tip cut, is a scratching cut delivered with the tip of the weapon, typically in a downwardly vertical motion, and typically against the head, “a slicing or cutting blow, which we call Stramazone:”. Things that can be said of this attack is that it is a slicing attack that is predominantly delivered against the head. In fact, in all instances in Saviolo the stramazone is delivered vertically against the face and head.


    The stramazone is unlike the mandritta and the riversa as it is the tip that does the damage rather than the edge. This is a very fast blow that is thrown usually targeting the fleshier parts of the opponent. It is important to get the execution of the stramazone correct. It may, in fact be executed in two manners. The first consists of placing the tip against the target and then drawing it across, this is very easy, but is not what Saviolo is presenting.

    The stramazone is a fast cutting action delivered much like a slash. It is vital that the combatant has the correct range in order for this to work and that you have the correct range. To measure for the correct range the arm should be extended so that only the tip of the weapon can touch the target. In essence, the arm is extended and the tip is dragged very quickly against the target, this is done in a single, smooth cutting motion. Once again, this blow is executed from the elbow and should be accompanied by footwork.


    1. Practice the cut, while stationary against a stationary target
    2. Practice the cut, while stationary against a moving target
    3. Practice the cut, with footwork against a stationary target
    4. Practice the cut, with footwork against a moving target

    For the Instructor

    In the case of all cuts, but the stramazone especially, the correct distance is vital. In most cases this will require the combatant and their target to be quite close, of course this will be different for the stramazone. It should be remembered that it is the impact that hits the target, but the slicing motion that does the damage. The drills presented can be done with partners, but only after the combatant has the correct technique perfected.

    One of the major mistakes that will be made will result in a pure impact cut rather than a slicing one. This will most often result from a combatant having their arm locked as the blade impacts the target. Another mistake that will be made will be that the combatants will only practice the cuts against stationary targets and without footwork, it is important that both of these be integrated into the training regime in order to properly learn the correct time for the execution of a thrust.


    The cut is always delivered with some movement of the feet accompanying it, just as with the thrust. It is important to realise that Saviolo combines techniques together in order for them to achieve more effect. The cuts are delivered at times of opportunity, rather than being a primary attack, this is left to the thrust. This, however, does not mean that the cuts should be ignored as they accompany the thrusts very effectively and assist in rounding the form of combat.

    Lesson 9: Advanced Actions


    To describe and present advanced actions that Saviolo presents that allude to the complex nature of his treatise and method of combat.


    While Saviolo does not explicitly name most of these actions, there are some quite advanced techniques presented in his treatise. These actions are presented by the manner in which he deals with attacks, defences and counter-attacks. It is important that these skills are noted and not be assuming that because they are not explicitly presented that Saviolo somehow lacked them. Keeping to the general structure of this investigation, it will be the beat parry that is examined first being the one that is most like another simpler action.

    Saviolo’s Beat Parry


    Saviolo uses the term “beat” frequently in the use of both the sword and the offhand when describing parrying, but not all of these are beat parries. In most cases he is instructing the individual to strike the weapon in order that it is sufficiently off target not to be a threat anymore. In instances such as, “when you finde his point long, you maie breake it aside with your swoorde,” this clearly indicates a beat parry, using the weapon to remove the opponent’s weapon in order to open them up for another attack. It should also not be assumed that Saviolo advocates only the use of the sword in the use of the beat, quite the opposite actually, “beating aside the Rapier with his hande must bee done readily,” clearly the hand is used for this action where it presents itself and is suitable to the situation. Further, he is so aware of his instruction about the use of the beat parry that he cautions the user on its correct technique,

    "let him beware that he doo not beate aside his teachers weapon toward the point, because he shoulde be in danger to receive a thrust or stoccata either in the face or belly."

    Beat Parry

    The beat parry is usually formed in one of two manners; the first has already been described above in the section about parrying. The second form of the beat parry is executed as an offensive action rather than a defensive action. This is deliberately opening a hole in the opponent’s defence so an attack can be made.

    The first form of the beat parry is a passive form and is executed as a defensive motion; in this case it is a forceful parry, which removes the offending point from the target area through the application of impact. In essence any parry may become a beat parry by the application of force against the opponent’s blade at the end portion of the parry. This needs to be a sharp, forceful motion in the direction of the opponent’s blade. The impact is achieved through the use of the muscles of the hand and wrist.

    The second form of the beat parry is an offensive form and is executed as an offensive action in order to remove the opponent’s blade and open their defence up for an attack. Once again this is achieved through the application of forceful impact. The force of the beat parry comes from the muscles of the wrist and hand and not the arm. If the full arm is used, it will be obvious and the opponent will easily be able to avoid it. This action needs to be fast and sharp. The target for the beat parry should be the foible of the opponent’s weapon and the part of the blade that is used for the beat parry should also be the foible. The best place for this is the percussion point of the weapon. It is preferable that the edge of your blade strikes the flat of the opponent’s blade; this will result in the greatest effect.

    The action itself proceeds as such; the blades need to be close together, or at least relatively close together. The motion of placing the blades as such should be subtle. Essentially the action consists of turning the wrist toward the opponent’s weapon and flexing the hand and wrist in order to force one blade into the other. This needs to be executed as a short, sharp action as it is the impact that makes the beat effective.


    1. Practice the action involved in a beat parry, in the two different forms
    2. Practice the defensive beat parry with a partner in order to achieve the best result. One person thrusts, and the other parries, using the beat
    3. Practice the offensive beat parry with a partner in order to achieve the best result. In this case on person extends their blade from their ward and the other beats in order to remove the blade so an attack may be made.

    For the Instructor

    In the defensive form of the beat parry, it is important to enforce that the motion has to be sharp. There must be a definitive impact of one blade on the other in order to achieve the correct effect. As with the offensive form, it is the hand and the wrist that achieves the action, if the arm is used it will be noticed and the beat avoided.

    In the offensive form of the beat parry, the biggest mistake that the combatants will make is to attempt to use the force from the entire arm. This will result in the beat being much larger and much more obvious, and therefore easier to avoid. Reinforce that the most effective beat parry is done with the muscles of the wrist and hand. The next problem will be targeting, and striking the opponent’s blade too low or with the flat. This can be corrected with practice and ensuring that the wrist is turned so that the edge strikes the opponent’s blade.

    With regard to practicing the beat parry the simple action of the beat parry can be practiced alone so that the action is reinforced for the combatant, but in essence the beat parry must be practiced with a partner in order for the combatant to have a target for the action.

    Saviolo’s Bind


    The bind is an action, which many masters describe and some name and others do not, Saviolo belongs to the second group. He does describe the action of a bind, but never manages to name the technique, much the same as many of his more advanced techniques, which are currently being discussed.

    Some of the instances are clear such as, “give him an imbroccata or foine under or above his Rapier, and may be master of his weapon.” Whereas some take more of an understanding of the techniques in order to realise what is happening. In one instance the hand is turned on a pass in order to bind the opponent’s blade, as an example, “but rather passe on him with your point above his sword, turning wel your hand as in an imbroccata,” as can be seen, the turning of the hand binds the opponent’s weapon. At least one attack on the blade is demonstrated, and that will be presented next.


    The bind is an action on the blade designed to gain control of the opponent’s weapon and also move it to a position where it is more advantageous for the person doing the bind. This may be achieved in one of two methods, much like the beat parry, a passive form and an active form. The passive form is performed from the position of a parry and directly after one, the active form actually seeks the opponent’s blade in order to bind it.

    As stated the passive form of the bind is enacted after a successful parry has been completed. From this position, with the opponent’s foible on your forte, a motion is made with the wrist and the hand and arm moved so that the opponent’s weapon is moved to a different position. This movement is designed to place the opponent’s blade into a more advantageous position for the combatant.

    The active bind, as stated, seeks out the opponent’s blade, gains control over it and then moves it to a position where it is more advantageous for the combatant. The opponent’s foible should be targeted with the combatant’s terzo, the middle section of the blade. Thus meaning there is a stronger section of your blade against your opponent’s. From here it is a matter of moving the opponent’s blade through movement of the wrist and arm in order to re-position it to a position, which is more advantageous for you.

    In all cases it is important to remain in control of the opponent’s blade by ensuring that a stronger part of your blade is always on a weaker part of theirs. By doing this you will be able to position the opponent’s blade anywhere you like, so long as this advantage is maintained. Of course, on the opposite end of this the simple method of defeating a bind is to disengage from the opponent’s blade, or shift it so that you are in a dominant position. A forceful active or passive bind is actually able to disarm an opponent also, but this takes a great deal of practice in order to get the correct leverage and force applied to the opponent’s blade.


    1. With a partner practice the passive bind, practice moving the partner’s blade to different positions
    2. With a partner practice the active bind, practice moving the partner’s blade to different positions
    3. With a partner practice getting out a bind of both kinds

    For the Instructor

    The major issue in executing the bind is maintaining control. It is important that the combatants ensure that they are maintaining the advantage over the opponent while re-positioning and in performing the action. The stronger part of the blade must be used on the weaker in order to maintain an advantage. This technique should be practiced slowly so that the combatants can feel the different pressures between the blades and see where the advantage is and is not.

    Saviolo’s Pressure Glide


    The pressure glide is a complex action, which involves engaging the opponent’s blade and then applying pressure to it while moving the point toward its target. This pressure often just has to be enough to ensure that the opponent’s blade is blocked from replying to the attack. Saviolo describes an action as such,

    "thrusting with the point of his Rapier at the belly of his teacher, turning readily his hand that the fingers be inward toward the body, and the joint of the wrist shall be outward."

    Clearly this has all of the basic elements of the pressure glide presented in the action that Saviolo is describing. There is a thrust toward a target, in this case the belly. The hand is turned outward in order to block the opponent’s counter, and in this case to ward off an attack. Due to the action of the blade, the opponent’s would be forced outward allowing the successful attack of the combatant, a clear demonstration of the elements, purpose and goals of a pressure glide.

    Pressure Glide

    The pressure glide is a complex action as it is attempting to achieve two things at the same time, and one relies on the other’s success. Needless to say, the correct technique is required for the best result. Like the bind, the pressure glide forces the opponent’s blade out of the way clearing an avenue of attack for the combatant. It is also like the beat parry in that it uses the application of force in order to achieve the result, and like both, it can be used in both an active and a passive manner.

    Like the bind, the passive version of the pressure glide is performed from the position of a successful parry. From here the hand is forced forward and outward, while keeping the point on target. This forces the opponent’s blade outward while delivering a successful attack to the opponent. It is the forward and outward motion that forces the opponent’s blade away. It is important that for the beginning of this motion the blades must be engaged and must be with your blade in a dominant position.

    The active version of the pressure glide seeks out the opponent’s blade in order to force it away and open the opponent up for the following attack. The blade is forced forward engaging the opponent’s blade at the foible with your terzo, this gains a dominant position, as the point continues forward toward the target, the pressure on the opponent’s blade forces it to move outward exposing the opponent until the point strikes its target.


    1. With a partner practice the passive pressure glide, practice moving the partner’s blade from different parry positions
    2. With a partner practice the active pressure glide, practice moving the partner’s blade to different positions in the attack.

    For the Instructor

    The pressure glide is like a riposte, but is not the same. The riposte does not force the opponent’s blade out of position whereas the pressure glide does. Forcing the blade out of position is the primary goal of the pressure glide allowing the following attack to be successful. It is the engagement of the blades and following motion that is important. This motion must be forceful and direct. Any deviation of the blade can prevent the point from striking its target. This technique takes a great deal of practice.

    Saviolo’s Lunge or Long Stoccata


    It has been long assumed by many in the fencing community that the lunge was only mentioned by Viggiani and was then left to masters such as Giganti and Capo Ferro to perfect. Presented in Saviolo’s text there is an example of an action, which presents itself much like the lunge, if not in its finest form or description, at least in a fashion. “stoccata at length betweene his rapier and his arme, which shall bee best performed & reach farthest, if you shift with your foot on the right side.” The “stoccata at length” presents the concept of an extended thrust, in much the way that later masters introduced it, and all of the basic elements are present, the movement of the foot and the use of a thrust, “deliver the stoccata, and shift with your foot."

    Further to this, Saviolo presents the “long stoccata” as a technique that must be delivered with some velocity, and in an instant, “if you would deliver a long stoccata, and have percieved that your enemie would shrinke awaie, you may, if you list, at that verie instant give it him,” each one of these elements assembled presents a technique much like, if not very much comparable to the lunge. So aware of this technique is Saviolo that he presents his third ward as the optimum position from which to deliver it, hence presenting a ward, which is designed for its use.

    Long Stoccata

    The long stoccata is a stoccata delivered with an extended half-pace. This is best achieved being delivered from the third ward, as this is what this ward is designed for. The arm motion is the same as the normal stoccata; the shoulder moves the arm and the wrist and hand guide the point to the target. The hand will more comfortably be placed in a supinated position at full extension. It is important, however that this is delivered with an extended half-pace.

    The hand always moves first in order to threaten the opponent; this is followed by the front foot moving forward. The distance that the foot moves forward needs to be further than a normal step in order that this blow increases the combatant’s range. It is important, however that you do not over-extend yourself. It is important that the hand moves first and the foot follows closely behind. The hand should be raised high in this motion so that the hilt is positioned in front of the face in order to provide some protection. The offhand may be placed in one of two places, still defending the body or behind in order to profile the body. It is the step that provides the velocity of the lunge and not the hand or body moving forward. It is the extension of the rear leg rather than the extension of the front that provides the forward motion. The rear foot should not move at all in the lunge.

    Once the lunge is completed the combatant should recover their position; this achieved in one of two methods. The first involves the rear foot being brought forward back into position. Only once the foot is back in position should the point be with drawn. This is recovering forward. The second method involves the front foot being withdrawn backward into position, as with the recover backward, the hand should only be withdrawn once the foot is in position. Recovery backward or forward will depend on the response of the opponent. A backward if the opponent does not retreat and a forward if he does.


    1. Practice the action of the long stoccata against a stationary target
    2. Practice the action of the long stoccata against a moving target
    3. Practice the punta riversa with an opponent

    For the Instructor

    The combatants should all stretch the muscles in their legs properly before attempting this lesson, as it will place stress on these muscles. The first mistake that the combatants will make in this lesson is in timing, the hand must move before the foot. This can easily be corrected by separating the action into sections, first hand moves, foot moves, foot moves and then hand moves, being lunge and recovery. In teaching this lesson, this is the best method to teach it correctly.

    The next mistake that the combatants will make is attempting to gain range by over-extending themselves. This will result in a loss of balance and a loss of accuracy. Should the rear foot slip forward, this will also result in a change in range, and loss in stability. Even in the fully lunged position the combatant should still be reasonably stable.

    Gravity lunging is the result of the combatant forcing themselves forward through the moving of the body, rather than projecting themselves forward due to the movement of the legs and feet. The power and speed of the lunge comes from the extension of the rear leg forcing everything else forward. It is not the result of the body leaning forward. It is not the result of the front foot moving forward. The motion of the lunge should project the combatant forward not upward. This can only be corrected through practice of the correct technique.

    The resulting position of the lunge at full extension is important, as it is the point at the opponent and the hilt of the weapon that provide the main protection for the combatant. This is the reason why it is placed in front of the head at full extension. The correct position is also balanced. The front foot should be still pointing at the opponent, the rear should still be grounded and at 90 degrees to the front.

    Practicing the recovery is actually as important as practicing the lunge, both should be practiced together and not separated. The recovery must be done properly the correct timing is vital. The hand must be withdrawn last to ensure there is still a threat placed toward the opponent. In fact a second lunge can follow the first if the hand is left extended, thus only the feet need to move. Recovery backward or forward will depend on the response of the opponent. A backward if the opponent does not retreat and a forward if he does.

    Saviolo’s Punta Riversa


    The punta riversa is a thrusting attack delivered with a step, in some ways it is like a lunge off at an angle. It is designed to push the attack around the opponent’s defence by the use of angles and stepping. The hand is in a supinated position. For a right-hander against a right-hander, which most of Saviolo’s writings discusses, it is an attack, which attacks the right side of the opponent. This often involves stepping across the line between the combatants.

    This attack is also one of the reasons for Saviolo’s third ward, which is designed around the use of his “long stoccata” and the punta riversa. What is most interesting is that when Saviolo mentions the use of the riversa he is most often discussing the use of a cut, and that the punta riversa is infrequently mentioned and does not specifically describe its action, though is mentioned to be very effective and purposeful in the right circumstances.

    Punta Riversa

    The punta riversa is a special blow, as it actually requires the combatant to cross their feet in the motion. The arm motion is the same as found in the stoccata, the shoulder is used as the primary mover with the elbow, wrist and hand being used to ensure the point is delivered on-target. The front foot steps diagonally forward in front of the rear. The primary target for this blow is the right side of the opponent, be it arm, chest or whatever else can be hit. The hand should start moving before the feet do, so the point has landed before the feet stop moving. Importantly, a recovery step is required and this is executed by the rear foot regaining its proper position. This is a blow that requires the correct timing for it to be executed properly and effectively.


    1. Practice the action of the punta riversa against a stationary target
    2. Practice the action of the punta riversa against a moving target
    3. Practice the punta riversa with an opponent

    For the Instructor

    The biggest mistake that will be made with the punta riversa is timing. The hand must move first, with the feet following close behind it. In a lot of cases the combatants will attempt to move their feet first and hand second, this is incorrect. Timing is vital in order for this blow to work. If the feet are too slow to move the blade will not move around the opponent’s defence.

    The step must be forward and in front of the rear foot, they must cross over in order for the blow to go in the correct direction. This being said, if the combatant takes too big a step they have the potential to over-step and become completely unbalanced. This will affect their motion and the blow. As with all steps it must be measured and be of correct distance. The other footwork mistake that will be made is not following up with the rear in the recovery, but attempting to recover backward, this is much slower and much less efficient.


    The Feint is a subject that has been discussed a great deal by masters of the Renaissance period and the current one. There are some who advocate against the use of the feint. There are others who claim that feints are essential, and then there are those, like Saviolo who feel that feints have their place in combat as long as they are used properly, much like any other technique. In Saviolo’s case he uses the word falsify as in this case, “falsifie with a riversa either to the face or bellye,” he uses this in order to disengage from a potential attack from the opponent, and threaten him.

    The feint is essentially any action which does not directly threaten an opponent but attempts to deceive them into moving their defence toward the action in order that another avenue of attack is opened, which is the true target. These techniques can come in many different forms, too many to describe in detail.

    Clearly it can be seen that Saviolo had mastered many different techniques even though he does not name them explicitly throughout his manual. These techniques are present if the reader is only able to examine what Saviolo is presenting and discover the art he hides in the techniques.


    The actions as presented demonstrate an advanced knowledge of sword combat, which is often overlooked due to Saviolo’s method of presenting his work. These advanced techniques must be discovered within the text rather than just being presented to the reader. However, this somewhat round about method of gaining access to the knowledge hidden within the techniques, presents these advanced skills in a context where the reader can see what has come before and what comes after. In this way they are usefully presented as logical progressions of the process of fencing.

    Lesson 10: Fighting Principles


    To introduce the mind-game which Saviolo presents throughout his treatise.


    These fighting principles are those along with the general principles already introduced that make up the mind-game of fencing that Saviolo presents in his treatise. These concepts are those that introduce Saviolo’s thoughts on various aspects that are important to how the combatant thinks when he is in combat. This all culminates in his essential tactical principle, or the solid basis on which his method and techniques are based. This is his ultimate methodology about how to deal with any opponent. It will be noted that these all reflect the skills that have been previously presented.

    Reading the Opponent

    "But yet I would have you to marke and consider well in what sorte your enemie behaveth himselfe, and howe hee holdeth the pointe of his weapon: if that you finde him holding his pointe alofte, that it bee above yours, when that you holde it right against his face, you must seeke to winne grounde a little with your right foote before you remoove, and your hande must be nimble and readie, & at that verie instant make three times with your feet at once, moving a little with your right foot, a little with your left, and againe a little with your right."

    This section of text demonstrates the ability to read the opponent and an action from being able to read the opponent. It is the initial sections that are of concern for this section, he points out some things that a combatant should be aware of, how the opponent behaves, and where he holds the point in comparison to the combatants. Each one of these elements leads to the following action being viable. It is the reading of the opponent, and the information gained from reading the opponent that will decide what a combatant can and cannot do against their opponent, especially with regard to the first movements.

    It is important to ensure that you can observe the entire opponent for clues about what they may do without losing attention to any other part of the body or weapon. Do not focus on one aspect of the opponent, but ensure that you are encompassing the entire opponent in your gaze. Each motion that the opponent makes gives a clue as to how they will move and what will come next. Watch for what the opponent does, or does not do. Each one of these gives a clue as to how the opponent will move, act and respond.

    Opening Moves

    "V. As soone as your Rapier is drawne, put your selfe presently in garde, seeking the advantage, and goe not leaping, but while you change from one ward to another, be sure to be out of distance, by retiring a little, because if your enemy be skilfull, hee may offend you in the same instant. And note this well, that to seek to offend, being out of measure, and not in due time, is very dangerous: wherefore as I tolde you before, having put your selfe in garde, and charging your adversarye, take heed how you go about, and that your right foot be formost, stealing the advantage by little & little, carrying your lefte legge behinde, with your poynt within the poynte of your enemies swoord, and so finding the advantage in time and measure, make a stoccata to the belly or face of your enemy, as you shall finde him ungarded."

    The first moves a combatant makes can often define how they are going to fight, and sometimes even the outcome of the combat, and as such these moves are vital. In the above, Saviolo not only states what a combatant should be doing as their first moves, but what they should also not be doing.

    He places a great deal of emphasis on how the feet should be moved and that a combatant should not change his ward if he is too close to the opponent otherwise he will be hit. It is also important to note that while he mentions moving in on the opponent, he states that this should be done with care, easing himself closer and closer to the opponent ensuring that the line of engagement stays correct, and that these movements should open the way for a combatant to attack the opponent toward an open target. This must be tempered with the ability to freely move and to not have to think about the movements.


    The movement of a combatant takes time, and if there is any hesitation on the part of the combatant, this takes away time from them and can also leave them in a disadvantageous position. It is important that the combatant can move freely and with confidence, and be able to move all the parts of the body when they are required.

    "you maye frame your hand, your foote, and your body, all which partes must goe together, and unlesse you can stirre and move all these together, you shall never be able to performe any great matter, but with great danger"

    Clearly Saviolo states the importance of free movement by the combatant in the above, especially with regard to all parts of the body. It will be noted, as it has been stated repeatedly his movements often involve not only movement with the hand but also the body and the feet. If any one of these elements is lagging behind or lacking in the motion it can leave the combatant exposed to an attack from their opponent. This requires that the combatant has practiced these actions so that they are able to do them as they are required, rather than having to think about moving and then move.


    "to perform these maters, you must be nimble of body & much practised: for although a man have the skill, & understand the whole circumstance of this play, yet if he have not taken paines to get an use and readines therein by exercise, (as in all other artes the speculation without practise is imperfect) so in this, when he commeth to performance, hee shall perceive his want, and put his life in hazard and jeopardie."

    All physical arts require practice in order to perform them properly and in order for them to be effective. If a combatant has not practiced a particular technique until he is able to simply do it when it is required, then there will be something lacking in it, or it may be performed incorrectly, in either case this can leave the combatant exposed.

    As such, Saviolo places much importance on practice and preparing the body for the movements that he uses in his treatise. He quite clearly states that to perform such techniques effectively it requires practice and therefore preparation of the body. He also states if such preparations are not made then the combatant will place himself in jeopardy because he cannot perform the techniques correctly.

    Essential Tactical Principle

    Saviolo’s essential tactical principle takes what has been presented above and condenses it down to the basic elements and describes how they should be used. He gives clear advice as to which ward should be used, and how the opponent should be approached. He also warns the combatant on how the combatant may reply and thus presents the optimum attack and how the combatant should defend himself.

    "For all the skil of this art in effect, is nothing but a stoccata: wherefore if you shall have occasion to fight, I could wish you to practise this short ward, and to stand sure upon it, & to seeke your advauntage with time, which when you have found, give the stoccata withall, somewhat moving your right foot, and at the same instant draw back your left, & let your rapier with your bodie shift upon the left side, because if your enemy be cunning, he may sodainly aunswere you with a thrust, and beate aside your weapon, and therefore if you minde, to give a right stoccata, there is no other waie to save your selfe from harme. But if your enemie bee cunning and skilfull, never stand about giving any foine or imbroccata, but this thrust or stoccata alone, neither it, also, unlesse you be sure to hit him: suffer your enemie to doo what he list, onely stand you upon a sure ward, and when you finde opportunitie and time, deliver the stoccata, and shift with your foot. And this also you must marke, that sometimes it is good to give the stoccata to the right side, which must bee doone when your enemies right foot is over against yours, and sometimes to the lefte side."

    So as presented, Saviolo’s method essentially boils down to using his second ward, and to frame it properly. Once some advantage has been gained a stoccata should be delivered against the opponent, but also with the use of the inquartata in order that the combatant is able to protect himself at the same time. He also states that the imbroccata should not be used unless the combatant is sure to hit the opponent with it, in fact, he says that an attack should not be made unless it is sure to succeed. He also states that the combatant should wait until the opponent exposes himself and then deliver the stoccata and move the foot.

    Here is Saviolo’s essential principle presented simply. Use the ward, attack with the stoccata when the opportunity presents itself, and use the inquartata at the same time. Clearly this approach is more from the Italian school as it involves stesso tempo (single time) but it also uses elements from the Spanish schools in the taking of advantage by movement of the foot.


    The mind-game, or inner game of fencing is as important as the physical. It is here that the opponent is considered and how the opponent moves is considered. If each one of these elements is not at least considered, the combatant is doomed before he starts. In all cases with fencing the inner game broadens it and presents the combatant with the essential thought processes that are involved in fencing. This lesson is designed to introduce you to the various important elements that make up Saviolo’s mind-game.

    The Last Word

    One of the most important things of note when studying Saviolo is that he always accompanies hand movement with foot movement. This is done both on the advance and on the retreat. It is this combination of hand and foot that increases the effect of Saviolo’s techniques. The combination of different schools of thoughts in the writings of Saviolo is evident, his use of circular footwork and attacks alludes to the Spanish school, his use of cuts and their application presents some of the principles of the German schools, and of course the blade engagement and use of direct attacks and footwork demonstrates his understanding of his native Italian principles. It is important to view Saviolo’s work through this paradigm and not to attempt to confine it to a single school of thought.

    While the individual techniques have been presented here, it is must be noted that this is not the way that they are presented in Saviolo’s treatise, and as such there will be many conflicting opinions about what he is meaning with regard to a particular technique, save those he has named. This presentation of techniques demonstrates how they are connected and how they are used against another opponent, rather than in a vacuum as is often presented in many manuals. With this in mind, what has been presented here is what could be called the “essential” Saviolo, those techniques which are the lynch-pins of his method of combat. To truly understand what each technique is and how to use it properly it is important to revert back to the original document and the context in which these techniques are found. This is a mere introduction to a much deeper font of information and technique.

    This investigation has focussed on Saviolo’s single rapier, but truly it must be said that it is not just single rapier but rapier and offhand. These techniques are further developed in Saviolo’s discussion of the use of the rapier and dagger, the only other combat subject that he investigates in his treatise. This is a subject for another investigation.

    Appendix 1: Parts of the Sword

    Parts of the Blade

    Parts of the Hilt


    Beat parry
    Also known as a beat is an action performed either as a passive or aggressive action in order to remove an opponent’s blade by forceful impact.

    An action on the blade designed to gain control of the opponent’s weapon and also move it to a position where it is more advantageous for the person doing the bind.

    Counter-time, the performance of an attack into an opponent’s attack.

    See Contra-tempo

    See Quillons

    The lower portion of the blade toward the hilt of the weapon, used most often in defence

    A position of defence that actually closes one avenue of attack.

    See Half-Inquartata

    Misspelt in Saviolo’s treatise as half-incartata, is a movement of the feet in order to remove the body from an incoming attack. Usually the rear foot moves behind the front foot. It is a less extreme version of the Inquartata.

    Half a Pace. The movement of a single foot.

    To support a weapon in attack or defence by placing a second hand on the blade of the weapon.

    An attack delivered from a high position to a low position, usually from above the opponent’s guard

    See Inquartata

    Misspelt in Saviolo’s treatise as incartata, is a movement of the feet in order to remove the body from an incoming attack. Usually the rear foot moves past behind the front foot.

    The “natural” blow, delivered from the right against the opponent’s left

    The single movement of both feet in a single direction, and the basis of fencing footwork.

    Footwork movement where one foot passes the other.

    Percussion Point
    The points at which on the blade the maximum force is applied for a cut. There are two of them one at the forte and one at the foible. In a great deal of cases it will be one third of the forte from the hilt, and one third of the foible from the tip.

    Pressure glide
    A complex action, which involves engaging the opponent’s blade and then applying pressure to it while moving the point toward its target

    With the palm downward and the knuckles upward. Also known as first position.

    Punta Riversa
    See Riversa

    Also known as the cross-guard is bar of metal at right angles to the blade, placed between the blade and the hilt.

    Footwork movement designed to increase the distance between combatants

    The unsharpened part of the blade located just in front of the quillons

    A counter-attack launched from a parry position

    An attack, which attacks the right side of the opponent from the right of the deliverer, in the case of a thrust, it is called a Punta Riversa

    Sentiment du fer
    Feeling through the blade, the use of the feeling through the weapon in order to gauge what the opponent can or will do

    Single time
    See Stesso Tempo

    Stesso Tempo
    Single time, the performance of attack and defence in a single motion

    An attack which is delivered from a low position to a high position, usually under the opponent’s guard. This is the most common method of delivering a thrust

    A scratching cut performed with the tip of the blade.

    With the palm upward. Also known as fourth position.

    The middle section of the blade, it consists of the part where the forte and foible meet and actually comprises part of both.

    Footwork movement typically used to move in a lateral motion

    An avoidance, to move the body, or part of the body out of the way of an incoming attack

    A position for the preparation of an attack or defence


    Saviolo, V. (1595) His Practice in Two Books,, (originally published 1595)


    Last updated on 20 Dec 2017, 3:34:02.