The entire school is actually one hall, which includes the training area, a nook for coats and changing rooms, and a kitchen. Racks holding swords and daggers line the room. An icon hangs on one wall and below it there’s a leather-bound book on a stand. A suit of armour made by my father hangs in a corner.
Even though I arrive about 30 minutes early, there are already a lot of people waiting for the class to start, all dressed in white shirts and black trousers. Once I’ve changed, I spend my time copying what everybody else is doing: standing and staring at the concrete floor.
As more people continue to trickle inside from the biting cold, I distract myself from my growing fears by listening in on a discussion. I catch a valuable piece of information: the teacher’s clock runs five minutes fast, making sure that those who arrive last-minute are always late. Won’t be making that mistake.
Safety Comes First
Once all 20 of us students have showed up, our teacher asks us to gather around. He warns us that we’ll be leaving this first class overloaded with information, but that the only lesson we really need to learn is this: “Everybody ends training healthier than they started it.”
Safety always comes first. This means two things: one, you must be extremely careful not to hurt others, and two, you mustn’t do any exercises that are damaging to your body (because of a previous injury, for example).
He goes on to explain to us that he’s not interested in self-defence, and that this is not the class to learn it. Sure, you can use some of the taught techniques to floor a mugger, but it’s not a good idea to start stabbing him in the face afterwards. This course will teach us medieval fighting, so we can’t directly apply it to modern-day, nor apply modern morals to it. What is murder to us today was not necessarily murder five hundred years ago.
Remember Fiore dei Liberi? Turns out he was pretty important. Like, really important: the manuscript we’ll be studying from was written by him for the guy in charge of defending Italy’s northern border. This manuscript is the book on the stand under the icon. We are free to browse it whenever we want to, and will find that all of the things we learn originate from there. For those of us who can’t read medieval Italian, there’s a translation available.
After being introduced to the school, teacher, rules and the book, we moved on to a warm-up and then to our first exercises. Click here to read on Fiore’s obsession with the number 4.