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Manciolino's Guards?

This explanation of Manciolino's guards was originally posted on the Swordforum site by Tomasso Leoni, and is reproduced here with his kind permission.

In a previous discussion on Castle and Alfieri, the subject of Manciolino and Marozzo were brought up. Manciolino explains the rather cryptic ten guards used by Marozzo. A while back, I translated them and made drawings for each. However, for now I'll spare myself the embarrassment of posting my 3rd-grade-like "art" .....

Manciolino's guards

Guardia alta [High guard]
The first guard is called alta because it necessitates a graceful posture of the body and requires holding the sword with the arm as high as possible. In this manner, the sword is pointing backwards. The buckler-arm has to be well extended against the opponent, stretching out as much as possible. The right foot should be placed about three or four inches in front of the left, with the heel slightly off the ground. Both knees should be straight and not bent.

This guard can be performed in two alternative manners. One is by placing the right foot forward in wide step, and the other is by standing left-foot-forward, also in wide step. But in both these instances, the arms should still be held as explained above: the sword should always be held high in the air with the arm extended, no matter how the feet are positioned. This guard is called alta after the manner in which the sword is positioned (not by the placement of the feet).

Guardia di testa [Head guard]
The second guard is called guardia di testa, and is executed by stretching both arms towards the opponent. The outstretched arms should be positioned so that the fists are about shoulder-height; the only difference being that the sword-hand should be slightly lower than the buckler-hand. As far as the feet, they can be positioned right-forward or left-forward with a wide step; in both instances the guard is the same for the above-mentioned reasons.

Guardia di faccia [Face guard]
The third guard is called guardia di faccia, and it has two things in common with the preceding one as well as one conspicuous difference. Common with the previous guard are the placement of the feet (with the option of being right-foot or left-foot forward) and the height of the hands. The big difference is that in the previous guard the sword was held sideways, whereas in this one the sword is pointing directly towards the opponent's face. The buckler-hand is held above the sword-hand.

Guardia di sopra il braccio [Over-the-arm guard]
The fourth guard is called guardia di sopra il braccio because the sword-hand forms a cross by laying over the left arm, with the tip of the sword pointing backwards. The buckler-arm should be completely stretched out towards the opponent.

As far as the feet, the first method is to place the right in front of the left with just enough space between the two that they do not touch. The same guard, though, can be performed by placing the right foot a large step before the left and by curving [the knee] with the utmost grace.

In this posture, although the right hand does not change its position (being placed in the middle of the other arm, otherwise the guard would change its name for the above-mentioned reasons), the arms would be held slightly wider, as opposed to previously when they were closer. The right shoulder comes to be positioned directly against the opponent, so that you can attack him wherever you feel best.

Guardia sotto il braccio [Under-the-arm guard]
The fifth guard is called sotto il braccio because the sword-hand is held under the buckler-arm (in the underarm area), with the sword tip facing backward. The buckler-arm is well extended against the opponent. The right foot should be placed just in front of the left in the manner described in the previous guard, or alternatively ahead of it by a great step. But if you place it ahead by a great step, your right shoulder should be facing straight towards the opponent as described in the previous guard.

Guardia porta di ferro stretta [Narrow iron door guard]
The sixth guard is called porta di ferro stretta. The posture of the body is sideways in such a way that the right shoulder faces the opponent, as described above. The arms should also be stretched towards the opponent, but in such a manner that the sword-arm is extended downward in defense of the right knee. The right fist should be close and in the center of the right knee. The buckler-arm should be stretched towards the opponent, pointing neither up nor down, in defense of the head.

The right foot should be [forward] in wide step, with the knee facing the opponent, defended as described above and quite bent. The left foot should be placed sideways, with the left knee also bent.

This guard is called porta di ferro stretta because it is safer than the others, and as strong as iron. It is different from the wide guard (coming next) in the fact that it places the sword close to the opponent while keeping a tight defense of the knee.

Guardia porta di ferro larga [Wide iron door guard]
The seventh guard is the porta di ferro larga, originating from the previous one, as the feet and the body are positioned in a similar manner. The difference is that the sword-hand moves away from the knee and points the sword towards the ground to the inside of the said knee. This is why it is called "wide": by moving away from the knee, the sword leaves the body more uncovered than in the previous guard.

Guardia cinghiara porta di ferro [Boar iron-door guard]
The eight guard is called cinghiara porta di ferro. The left foot is placed sideways and the left knee is slightly bent; the right leg, though, should be straight. The sword-arm should be held with the fist forward of the left knee (in a similar manner to the porta di ferro, hence the part of the name); the left arm should be extended with the buckler defending the head, as said before [in the sixth guard].

This guard is named after the boar because it is believed that this animal, when attacked, places the head and the teeth sideways (as in this guard) in order to wound his enemy.

Guardia di coda lunga e alta [Long and high tail guard]
The ninth guard is called coda lunga alta and is performed with the left foot forward and the knee slightly bent, with the toes pointing towards the opponent. The step is wide. The right arm should be well extended towards the opponent, with the sword tightly gripped and held sideways, [but in such a manner that] that the tip covers the opponent. The buckler arm should also be extended towards the opponent's face.

This guard, as well as the following one, originates from a guard called coda lunga alta in which the feet are positioned in the same manner as in this, but the sword-arm is extended backwards. This name was given to it by paraphrasing the old proverb that "one should never mess with great masters because they have a long tail"; meaning that they have the power to harm you with their numerous followers. So, that guard had the same name as our ninth and the next (tenth), as it is very capable to wound your partner [opponent?] and has therefore the name of coda lunga e alta.

Guardia di coda lunga stretta [Long and narrow tail guard]
The tenth guard, called coda lunga e stretta, is performed with the right foot forward in a wide step. The knee should be slightly bent sideways, and the arms are held in the exact same position as in the previous guard; except that the sword-arm is a little lower.

These guards, in my opinion, are sufficient for our purposes.


Comments and suggestions on this article welcome.