I often find that students new to the Bolgonesse systems have difficulty with the body mechanics. I believe that part of this has to do with the necessary core engagement to control a weapon as heavy as a long sword with one hand. This becomes especially apparent when students try to perform compound actions such as our famous ribbon cut, parry riposte, and beating actions.
Getting a pair of Danelli Heavy Side Swords revealed a huge area of weakness in my own body mechanics and I had to go back and relearn cutting with those beasts all over again. Swinging a heavy blade with one hand and poor body mechanics will wear down your shoulder, forearm, and risk injury to both the elbow and wrist.
This article and accompanying videos are meant to walk a student through the use of Viggiani’s short lesson to inform their body mechanics. It will look at Viggiani’s seven guards, his prescribed transitions, and paired exercises that can come from these transitions. Great attention to detail should be maintained while performing these actions, and forming the guards. Viggiani can be a great tool to improve body mechanics or completely useless if rushed through.
Note: Viggiani has a numbering scheme for his guards from 1 to 7. I will name the guards by both this and by their common name in the Bolognese Tradition.
Note II: I am not happy with any of the videos I put in this but they are a good starting place. I am going to polish up on what I'm doing again and reshoot in a week or two.
The Guards and Transitions
I need to have the tip pointed more down towards the chest.
My front knee is collapsing inwards.
Because of the importance of this transition to Viggiani's system a rather long direct quote is needed, starting from 2nd:
"...now make a big step (Lunge), and make your right shoulder drive your arm as far forward as you can, and with your sword hand direct the aim of your point at my breast without making any turn of your hand, until it comes forward as far as it can come, and then, turn there the true edge of the sword toward the left side, and from here you descend finally to the ground, and it is necessary that you
make a half turn with your body at the same time that the blow is traveling, so that your right shoulder is somewhat lower than your left, and that it faces my chest; and the right foot trailing behind somewhat, bring yourself to rest again in good stride, and settle your feet, which are on the diagonal, and bend your knees a bit, and cause your sword hand to be located halfway between your knees, and your left arm to lower from high to low."
You will end in Viggiani's 4th Guard, Porta Di Ferro Larga.
As a bit of context Viggiani calls this the perfect offense (Imbrocata, or Punta lo Soprano), and is often used in conjunction with a rising parry as a counter attack, we will discuss this later. While you can end in a point online guard as you would in a rapier system having the point down and withdrawn is an invitation to the opponent to attack and prepares you for making a parry against an cut or thrust that can be thrown at you. This particular transition is also seen in Dall'Aggochie's paired form, but includes a stramazone in the middle.
4th Guard, Porta Di Ferro Larga
Again I'm letting my front knee collapse inwards.
I need to turn the left shoulder slightly more forward. Again with the knee.
Same issue with the left shoulder not being far enough forward.
After going between this you should of noticed any time that you transition from the left to the right or vice versa that the back foot and the shoulders both turn. Repeat this action over and over again. It is the origin of power.
The following are a set of simple parried exercises that you can do in addition the prescribed transitions.
Universal Parry: Agent attacks with a mandritto, riverso, or stocatta thrust. Patient waits in 1st and parries by doing the first transition ending in Alicorno. Patient then counters with the 3rd transition thrusting an imbrocata into the Agent's chest.
Alternatively the patient can cut up into Guardia Alta beating the sword to the side and countering with a Mandrito Sgualembrato.
"Mezza Volta": Agent attacks the chest with a stocatta thrust. Patient waits in Porta Di Ferro Stretta, and parries by turning directly into Coda Lunga Stretta. Be sure to push off the back foot, turning the left hip and shoulder forward. Patient then thrust an Imbrocatta or Stocatta thrust at the Agent.
Falso Manco: Agent attacks with a stocatta or mandritto sgualembrato. Patient waits in Porta Di Ferro Larga and parries with a falso cut up (almost) to Guardia Alta, and then returns down the same line with a Mandritto Sgualembrato. This false edge cut will follow about a 45 degree path up.
There are several other exercises that can easily come from these transitions. Going through Dall'Agocchie's plays and applying these body mechanics is a great exercise, and will introduce you to more complex foot work.
If you are interested in learning more about Viggiani I would recommend reading Greg Mele's paper "Understanding Viggiani's Lo Schermo" and taking a look at Jherek Swanger's Translation of Viggiani. Links to both found below.
Understanding Viggiani's Lo Schero