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Dall’Agocchie and Me

As a Scholar at the Sacramento Sword School, I study La Veradera Destreza. But outside of that context, most of my martial arts effort goes to learning the art described in Giovanni Dall’Agocchie’s treatise from 1572, Dell’Arte di Scrimia Libre Tre (The Art of Fencing in Three Books). I love this work, and my main personal martial arts goal at this point is really learning the art it describes.

Modern martial artists include Dall’Agocchie’s work with several other treatises under the heading of “Bolognese Swordsmanship”. We know of 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.

The early Bolognese treatises emphasize sword-and-buckler, with time spent on several other weapons as well. But unaccompanied sword sometimes seems like an afterthought. Dall’Agocchie (along with the other principle late Bolognese-tradition author Angelo Viggiani) focuses on the unaccompanied sword as the main weapon.

Score one for me – while I enjoy off-hand weapons, unaccompanied sword interests me more than anything else.

Most, if not all, of the Bolognese authors include assaulti, or forms. Similar to kata in Eastern Martial Arts, an assaulti describes a pre-defined sequence that the student can use to internalize their art.

Score two for me – the system includes fun training sequences, 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.

Dall’Agocchie structured Dell’Arte di Scrimia Libre Tre as a dialogue between himself 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, admittedly stiff and formal at times, utterly charming.

Score three for me – it’s a rare and wonderful thing 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.

(Nod to my friend Pete since I’m riffing on his title.)