Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Fiore cites Döbringer?
Manui dat cognitio vires.
Knowledge lends strength to the hand.
Let's cut right to the chase, shall we?
I knew you'd agree.
The author of the Döbringer manuscript (some call into question Döbringer's actual authorship) and Fiore dei Liberi were contempories. Döbringer dates to the 1380's, and Fiore's first known treatise dates to 1409, or 1410. Personally, I don't think we can rely firmly upon either of these dates, but they're good ballpark figures. Regardless, the respective treatises that both authors produced are indicative of the martial methodology and culture of the late 14th and early 15th centuries.
With that little preamble out of the way, let's examine some passages in each, starting with Döbringer:
...regarding the Iron Gate...If you are set upon by four or six peasants (the actual number isn't all that important, apart from the fact that Döbringer is adamant that a lone man should never, unless absolutely compelled to, engage more than a maximum of three adversaries at once), then place either foot forward, and with the Gate you will create a shield by placing the point towards the ground.
Hear how you should do this: Place yourself so that they are right in front of you, [so that none] can get behind you. Now hear what you should do: When they [cut] or thrust at you, set [their attacks] aside with strength - going up from the ground - and then you will shame them well...
Dobringer prefaces this passage with this:
...for practice and school fencing (i.e., for training purposes), I want to describe a few easy techniques [with] some short and simple rules.
(Translation by David Lindholm.)
Döbringer was not an enemy of the fechtschule, as some would have you think. He stressed only that there is a line between theory - even tested theory - and kill-or-be-killed application that every prudent combatant should be aware of. But it should not be inferred that Döbringer disapproved of training in a fechtshule. In point of fact, when taken in context, he implies that serious formal training, guided by a true master, in such an environment was imperative. He simply cautions that such training alone is often not enough. As Vadi said, "Be sure, as death is, that your blows come not from courtesy."* It is also worth noting that Döbringer, having insisted more than once that a fighter should never tangle with more than three, states later on that it is indeed possible to pull off successfully, provided that the swordsman "wants to win," and that he attack "the ones on the outer ends" first.
Döbringer also says: But I also advise not to remain standing [directly] in front of [the opponent,] unless you want to be a loser, but [instead] someone who hits [the opponent/s.]
Now, let's move on to our friend, Fiore:
I'm the Whole Iron Door at ground level,
And I always stop cuts and thrusts.
-Flos Duellatorum, (translation by Hermes Michelini.)
We three...want to kill this Master - one with a thrust, one with a cut and the other by throwing his sword at the Master. [It'll] be a miracle if the Master survives, God damn him (the translator is coy here, and puts "darn" in the place of damn. I, however, am totally without shame, and say what Fiore intended.)
You're all inept and know little of this [A]rt...come...one by one...I'll mess you all up with this guard, which is...good and strong. I'll step with my [lead] foot a little [off-line,] and with the left foot I'll pass at angle; as I do so, I'll cross [blades] and beat away your swords, find you open and strike you for sure...even with my sword in one hand, I can practice my [A]rt...
Middle Iron Door...holds the sword in the middle...it delivers strong thrusts, beats away attacks from low-to-high...a strong guard that is difficult to break without danger...
-Fior di Battaglia, (translation by Tom Leoni. Seriously, you need to get this book! It's the most important work out there right now.)
The above is direct evidence, about as direct as it can get, of cross-borders instruction, international masters, and an ultimately pan-European Art. Also worth mentioning is Fiore's comment about being able to practice his Art even while holding the longsword in one hand. As far as I know, only the English texts make a similar such show of using the longsword interchangeably in one or both hands. It is shown in action in the English texts, and Fiore comes right out and says that you can do it all with one or both hands; the same basic principles and mechanics apply.
The title of this post is above, but of course Fiore didn't cite Döbringer. They both spring from the same source.
*Translation by Greg Mele & Luca Porzio.
**Image from Flos, not Battaglia. They're more or less identical, in any case.