The Magical 4

There’s something with Fiore and the number 4. Don’t believe me? Take a look at what we learned during our first swordsmanship lesson.

Four Basic Steps

Once we finish the warm-up our teacher tells us to get in line. Take a step forward, he says. Now take one backward. Pass forward. Back. Pass. Pass. Back.

Fiore calls these steps “passare” and “tomare“. Sounds cooler than “pass forward” and “step back”, right? Good, because we’ll be using the Italian terms instead of English ones. After a few more passares and tomares two new words appear: “accressere” and “dicressere“. When doing the accressere you step forward without changing which foot is in front, so it’s a smaller step than passare. The same is true for discressere, it’s a small step backwards.

Four Unarmed Poste

After practicing responding to the calls of “Passare!” and “Dicressere!” for a while, we move onto the real stuff: attacks. Or rather, poste, positions that are used with pretty much every weapon. To keep it simple, we go over them unarmed first. The teacher and his assistant show us every one.

This one is called Posta Longa: you step forward and extend one arm for your imagined opponent’s throat.

Dente di Cinghiaro, “Boar’s Tooth”, comes next, as pictured above. Used unarmed it can, for example, attempt to break the opponent’s jaw.

This is Posta Frontale, where both hands are lifted. The teacher calls it “fingers in eyes”.

And lastly, Porta di Ferro. It’s similar to the basic stance (portrayed by the stick figure in the previous section), only both hands are in the front, ready to strike. Taking this position after Posta Frontale forces the opponent down on the ground.

“Grab his throat, break his jaw, fingers in eyes, head on floor. It rhymes!” the teacher announces, and most of us can’t withhold a chuckle. We go on to practice these moves on our own while also going over the different steps we learned previously. The twenty of us stride around the room for a few minutes, trying to look like we know what we’re doing, until the teacher calls for a line again.

Four Dagger Attacks

Pictured to the left is a rondel dagger. It was a common weapon during the late Medieval period, and a very effective one against armoured opponents. The wooden daggers we are asked to fetch from the rack resemble this one in shape.

The first three strikes of the four are similar, all landing the blow from above to the opponent’s head. One targets the face, while two other strikes aim for the two sides of the head.

The fourth attack is a little different. Instead of hitting from above, it strikes from below, ripping through the opponent’s stomach like a wild boar’s tooth. It is, in fact, Dente di Cinghiaro with a dagger.

Once again we practice on our own for a few moments, going through the steps and the strikes. I’m still struggling with the two smaller steps, accressere and dicressere. The class is well underway, and it seems to me that it should be ending soon. It doesn’t, however, not before it can give me enough material to fill two more posts. Read on to hear about the importance of balance and good falling technique.

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2 thoughts on “The Magical 4

  1. Here’s a question, which you might answer in a later post; Do they talk about what you are supposed to be feeling/thinking while practicing these moves? Like “don’t think of it as a human, just a target” or the opposite, or is that not a consideration yet?

    • Hmm… Your question is a good one. One thing that we’ve been told from day one is that you can’t think of the things we learn as self-defence – this is historical, medieval fighting, complete with a medieval sense of justice and morals. That’s something one always has to keep in mind when doing the exercises. Other than that, we’ve been told about (and practicing) the importance of keeping our head clear in combat.
      But as for thinking about the target as a human or not, it hasn’t really come up… Obviously one needs to be aware of your pair being human, and avoid getting too caught up in the exercises, but that goes without saying. :D I’ll think about it a little and then maybe come back to you.

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