Recently, I’ve been working on Giovanni Dall’Agocchie’s treatise from 1572, Dell’Arte di Scrimia (The Art of Fencing). I’ve become slightly obsessed with this book, and my main personal martial arts goal at this point is really learning this art.
Dall’Agocchie is part of what is now referred to as “Bolognese Swordsmanship”. There are a small handful of books from the 1500’s, all from the region of Bologna, Italy, all describing a similar, but not identical, martial tradition.
It’s a fun tradition, too. Both cuts and thrusts, designed to work for sport, or battlefield combat, or self-defense, or duels on the field of honor. When I first joined the Sacramento Sword School a few years ago, this was what they were working on, and I was instantly hooked. We’ve mostly moved on as a school to other material, but I’ve tried to do a little work on the Bolognese material here and there ever since then.
In the early Bolognese treatises, the emphasis is on sword-and-buckler, with time spent on several other weapons as well. But unaccompanied sword sometimes seems like an afterthought. In Dall’Agocchie’s treatise, and other late Bolognese-tradition works, the unaccompanied sword is the main weapon.
Score one for me – while off-hand weapons are fun, my main interest is in unaccompanied sword.
Most, if not all, of the Bolognese authors include assaulti, or forms. These are the same idea as kata in Eastern Martial Arts – an assaulti is a pre-defined sequence that the student can use to internalize their art.
Score two for me – built right into the system are fun training sequences that are great for solo practice. I run through Dall’Agochie’s form for unaccompanied sword at the beginning and ending of my daily practice sessions, even when I’m working on something else.
Dell’Arte di Scrimia is written as a dialogue between Dall’Agocchie and his friend, Lepido Ranieri. Unlike some dialogues, they stay pretty much on-topic throughout, so the form of the work doesn’t add much overhead for someone just interested in understanding the content. However, for some reason I can’t explain, I find the dialogue, stiff and formal as it often is, utterly charming.
Score three for me – it’s a rare and wonderful think to have a historical fencing manual describe a cool system and be a joy to read at the same time.
Over time, I will be writing about my process of working through this system, and what I’m discovering along the way.