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The Spada Due Mani of the Anonimo Bolognese Part I: Words

The Anonimo Bolognese is a handwritten manuscript written around 1510 in Bologna that serves as a how to for a variety of weapon forms.  As of the time of me writing this, we are currently only aware of the one handwritten copy of this text which unfortunately does not list an author or exact date.  There is some speculation that it was written by Guido Antonio di Luca, the instructor of Achille Marozzo and perhaps Antonio Manciolino.  Although he supposedly published a book towards the beginning of the sixteenth century, there is unfortunately no way as of yet to know whether or not this particular manuscript was his.

Out of all four Bolognese texts (Marozzo, Manciolino, and Dall’Agocchie being the others), only Marozzo and the Anonimo deal with the spada due mani (the sword in two hands).  It is important to note here that at the time the Italian sources did not differentiate between arming sword and sidesword, or longsword and spadone.  Although a couple of the treatises have pictures that might help us now anachronistically categorize what is being used, many of them (such as the Anonimo) do not.  For the purposes of this project, I have retained the original wording as best I could to remain true to the source.

By this time in history, Europe has had the printing press for sixty years and with its rise we see accompanied a rise in a middle class.  As such there is now a significant portion of the population with enough spare funds to not only purchase swords to be carried in everyday civilian life, with some even being able to afford to pay a fencing master to teach them the art therein.  Earlier Italian texts, such as Fiore dei Liberi’s books, teach both self-defense as well as how to use a weapon on the battlefield both in and out of armor, on and off horseback.  By the sixteenth century we see fencing manuals discard their armor (the only mention of armor in the Anonimo is the section on the sword and armored glove) and their horses, instead focusing on the one on one civilian duels that had begun to rise in popularity.

The text of the Anonimo is incredibly dense and often unclear as to the specifics of any given action.  This project originally began as a set of notes for my own personal training so that I could avoid having to work my way through the original language each time I wanted to practice one of the plays.  Eventually it grew into something I thought I might as well share with the rest of the world and I got to writing out notes for all of the plays I thought were not self-explanatory on a first read.

Below is the original translation of this section done by Stephen Fratus.  He has been invaluable in helping with this project not only in giving me permission to republish part of his work here, but also in answering all assortment of questions I have had along the way.  As such I would like to thank him here for making this all possible.  For those looking to pick up a copy of his updated translation of the whole entire text, please head over to http://www.lulu.com/shop/anonimo-bolognese-stephen-fratus/with-malice-cunning-anonymous-16th-century-manuscript-on-bolognese-swordsmanship/hardcover/product-24436500.html and pick one up for yourself.  My own added commentary can be found written below in both the italics as well as the footnotes. Thee sections without any italics I found to be clear enough that they did not require further explanation.

Please also note that I in no way intend for this to be the end all be all of interpretations. Instead this represents my own findings on the matter and I hope that it serves you as an educational tool in order to help further your own study. Please enjoy.


456. (176/#1) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #9)

Note: the description of plays with the Spada a Due Mani start at #9.

The ninth manner will be, that you being false edge to false edge with the left foot forward, but your enemy having his right foot forward; there you will pass with the right foot towards his left side giving him a mighty mandritto to his sword, and so beating this towards his right side; this done you will immediately be able to strike him in his right temple with a falso allowing the left foot to go behind the right.

Pass forward with your right foot performing a moulinetto and then beating their sword with a mandritto, then pull your left foot back and hit their head with a rising falso.

457. (176/#2) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge, Counter to (play #456))

The counter to this will be, as he passes with his right foot forward to turn the mandritto to your sword; you will make no sign of stirring, but as he strikes with his falso to your right temple, you will lift the hands high to the end that with his falso he will not be able to strike you. That done you will immediately pass with your left foot towards his right side, and taking your left hand from the pommel of the sword you will take the blade of this driving the pommel to the inside and on top of his right arm, and so pressing them strongly, you will have made a way for yourself of striking his temple with a mandritto.

Stand still during as they beat your sword.  Then parry their falso with your true edge/quillion.  Follow this by passing forward with your left foot and use your left hand to push your pommel into their right arm and then hit them in the head with a mandritto.


458. (176/#3) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #10)

The tenth way of striking will be one being false edge to false with the right foot forward to the end that, he will want to strike he will be able to hurt with the quillion of one’s sword to the sword of the enemy beating it strongly towards his left side for an attack. And passing immediately with the left foot towards the right side, one will be able to strike the head with a roverso fendente, but in this attack one must pull the right foot behind the left.

Beat with the false edge quillion, perform a molinetto and then strike a roverso to the head with the true edge in order to block out their sword as the left foot steps forwards.

459. (176/#4) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge, Counter to (play #458))

The counter of the aforesaid attack will be, that as you will see attack you will see the sword of the attacker to strike in the aforesaid manner for the reason to that is to say of throwing the roverso to the head, one will be able to when he turns to the mandritto the left temple.

Use the momentum of the beat to come around and perform a mandritto fendente to his left temple.[1]


460. (p.177/#1) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #11)

The eleventh way is, that being false edge to false edge, but with the left foot forward, wanting to strike, you will be able to cross the arms striking then immediately and strongly the enemy’s sword with the quillon of your beating this towards his right side. And passing without delay with the right foot towards his left side of the same you will be able to in that moment strike his head with a mandritto fendente, but such that the left leg follows behind the right.

As the counter to the twelfth way teaches us, by “cross” the author means to grab your own blade with your left hand.  After grabbing your own blade, strike his blade with your true edge quillion as you step with your right foot towards their left.  Then perform a mandritto fendente as you grab back on with both hands pivoting on the balls of your right foot as your left foot swings out.

461. (p.177/#2) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge Counter to (play #460))

The counter of this attack will be that finding the attacker[2] with the right foot forward; and one will not move at the crossing of the arms, but when he wants to strike the sword with his quillon to strike the head then with a mandritto, one will be able to defend oneself by turning mezzo mandritto to the flanks, beating immediately his fendente in guardia di intrare without moving the feet.

When they try to beat with the quillion, slip your sword under theirs and perform a mezzo mandritto to their flank.  Then immediately perform a volta stable to your left ending in guardia di intrare so that you intercept their fendente.


462. (p.177/#3) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #12)

The twelfth way of attacking is that being false edge to false edge with the left foot forward and your opponent with the right foot forward, is, that as the attacker you will be able to cross the arms taking the left hand from the pommel of the sword[3] and at that moment taking the (your) sword at the middle; this done, it will be necessary to pass the right foot towards his left side, striking in that tempo with the quillon of the the sword into your enemy’s sword, and beating it towards his right side, and subsequently striking his face with the pommel of the sword.

Again, grab your blade with your left hand and pass with your right foot as you beat their sword with your quillions/lugs.  This time, hit them in the face with your pommel by going straight forwards instead of with a cut.  This will likely require an extra step forwards in order to complete.

463. (p.177/#4) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge Counter to (play #462))

The counter is, that being with your opponent false edge to false edge and with the right foot forward, you will not move as he crosses his arms and places his hands to the middle of his sword, but as he passes forward with the right foot striking with his quillon to your sword to prepare a pommel strike to the face; these it will be possible in this tempo to abandon one’s sword with the left hand, and passing forward towards the attacker’s right side it will be possible to take with the left hand the right arm of the opponent pushing towards his left side; and striking him subsequently to the head with a fendente or to the face with the pommel.

Stand there as they grab their blade with the left hand.  Then, as they try to beat your sword with their quillion, use your left hand to press their right arm to their left side as you pass forward with your left foot going towards their right.  Then hit them in the head with either a fendente or a pommel strike.


464. (p.177/#5) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #13)

The thirteenth way to strike is that being false edge to false edge with the left foot forward, and the enemy with his right foot forward, you will be able to pass with the right foot towards his left side feinting with the arms and the body and with the head to throw a mandritto to his head not making therefore another movement of the sword; but only moving him away four fingers of that of the enemy this done; you will be able to immediately turn the right foot in its place strike the enemy with then the false edge of your sword across his right temple.

Pass forwards with your right foot and feint a mandritto.  They will respond only by moving their sword with width of four fingers.  Once that happens, pivot on your right foot and perform a falso into their head.

465. (p.177/#6) (Sword in Two Hands) (Counter to (play #464))

The counter to the aforesaid stretta play will be, that being false edge to false edge with the right foot forward, you will stay alert, that when the enemy passes with his right foot to feint a mandritto to your head, you in that tempo will pass the left foot opposite his right side pushing a a roverso to his right temple.


466. (p.177/#7) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #14)

The fourteenth offense will be, that you being false edge to false edge, and with your left foot forward you will pass the right foot towards his left side feinting a mandritto to the head, and as soon as he wants to defend himself from this attack, you will in this passing take your left hand, and grab the enemy’s blade near the quillon pushing it towards his right side and not stopping, but feeding him your apple, or giving him a fendente to the head.

Pass forwards and feint a mandritto without disengaging their blade.  As they react, use your left hand to push their blade near the quillion and then feed them the apple (pommel straight to the mouth) or perform a fendente to their head.

467. (p.178/#1) (Counter to (play #466))

The counter of this stretta play will be, that being false edge to false edge with the right foot forward, you will stay alert, that as he passes to feint the mandritto your head, you in that tempo will pass with your left foot towards his right side turning at him a rising roverso to his right temple, and as he will remove his left hand to take your sword to make his presa, you will withdraw the left foot back throwing at him a mezzo mandritto to the hands, but in case the enemy should grab your sword, or some other part of the body to strike you with his pommel to your face, you will immediately drive the left arms turning him towards towards his right side, and lifting the sword outside the hand.

As they feint, pass your left foot towards their right and perform a roverso ridoppio (going almost to guardia di croce[4]) towards their right temple.  When they go to grab your sword, pass back with your left foot use a molinetto to get you into a perform a mezzo mandritto aimed at their hands.  If, however, they manage to successfully get a hold of your sword, immediately drive their left arm to their right side and free your sword to the outside.

Here we see the Anonimo differ from much of the material in Marozzo in that the response is not to seek victory by ending in presa (a grapple), but instead to prioritize freeing your weapon to perform a strike.


468. (p.178/#2) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #15)

The fifteenth offense will be, that finding yourself false edge to false edge with the right foot forward, you will feint the turning of a mandritto his left temple, and as soon as he wants to defend against this mandritto, you will immediately lead with your left foot towards his right side, feinting a roverso to his head, and in this you will take your left hand from the pommel of your sword and grip your sword about a hand’s breadth from the quillons, and beating strong with your sword that of the enemy towards his left side pushing at him immediately a thrust to the chest.

469. (p.178/#3) (Sword in Two Hands) (Counter to (play #468))

The counter to this offense is, that being false edge to false edge with the right foot forward, you will stay mindful, that as he feints a mandritto to the head, you in that tempo will withdraw the right foot back giving him a mezzo mandritto to the hands, and so not he will be unable to do anything else.[5]


470. (p.178/#4) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #16)

The sixteenth offense will be, that finding yourself false edge to false with the right foot forward, you will feint as through turning a mandritto to the left side of his head, and immediately you will pass with the left foot towards his right side beating your enemy’s sword with a falso, putting him to your side with your arms well extended towards his left side you will be able to immediately strike his left temple with a mezzo mandritto.

Feint with a mandritto, step forward with the left and beat with a falso, then strike with a mandritto.

471. (p.178/#5) (Sword in Two Hands) (Counter to (play #470))

The counter to this stretta play will be that finding oneself against the enemy false edge to false edge, and with the right foot forward one will stay alert, that as soon as the attacker feints the mandritto one will remain still, but when the attacker passes to beat one’s sword with a falso, so as to place you to his outside and strike you with a mandritto, you will strike him with a similar falso his sword towards his left side.

Ignore the feint and answer their falso with one of your own.


472. (p.178/#6) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #17)

The seventeenth way of strike is, that finding yourself false edge to false edge, and with the left foot forward you will pass the right foot towards his left side feinting a mandritto to his head, and now you will quickly turn in the sword in the manner of a molinetto passsing with the left foot towards his right side, and this done you will feint a roverso to his head, and withdrawing the left foot back you will make a work of striking his hands with a rising falso, but such that it ends in guardia di faccia.

Pass with your right foot towards their left side, feint with mandritto to the head without disengaging.  Then perform a molinetto to transition into a roverso as you pass forwards again, this time with the left foot.  Finally pass back with the left foot and perform a rising falso ending in guardia di facia.

473. (p.178/#7) (Sword in Two Hands) (Counter to (play #472))

The counter to this will be that you stay aware, that as soon as he passes to feint a mandritto to your head and you will not move, but now that he will make this roverso you receive this attack with a falso towards his left side, and in this tempo, that he withdraws the left foot back throwing a falso to your hands, you pass forward with the right foot, cleave his sword down with your true edge pushing a thrust to his chest.

Again, do not respond to the feint.  Beat their roverso away with a falso, then as they pass back and attempt a rising falso, pass forwards and cleave his sword downwards with your true edge, flowing into a thrust to their chest.


474. (p.179/#1) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #18)

The eighteenth offense will be that being false edge to false edge with the left foot forward, and wanting to strike you will pass with the right foot towards the left side of your enemy feinting to strike his head with a mandritto, and with the same cut striking his flank, repairing with the sword into guard for safety, and in this you will allow the left foot to step behind the right.

Pass with the right towards their left.  As you do this feint with a mandritto to their head and then use that motion to cut their flank.  Then compass out by pulling your left foot behind your right.

475. (p.179/#2) (Sword in Two Hands) (Counter to (play #474))

Your counter will be, that wanting to strike your enemy you will stay alert, and as he passes to feint the mandritto to your head, you will not move, but as he follows with that same cut to the flanks, you will now withdraw the left foot back giving him a mezzo mandritto to the hands.

Ignore the feint then gather back with your left foot and hit them in the hands with a mezzo mandritto.


476. (p.179/#3) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #19)

The nineteenth offense will be, that being false edge to false edge, but with the left foot forward, wanting to strike, you will be able to pass with the right foot towards his left side, and in this passing you will remove the left hand, and take both blades together a hand’s breadth from their respective guards; taking similarly with the right both sword hilts, and narrow so much more you will be able to, you will have made a way of now throwing the sword to the sword hand, turning the arms, and the sword (finishing) towards his right side.

As you step forward with your right foot use your left hand to press both blades together, then using your hilt push their sword out to their right side and throwing it.

477. (p.179/#4) (Sword in Two Hands) (Counter to (play #476))

The counter will be that the offense stay aware, that in that tempo, that the assailant will pass with the right foot forward, to remove his hand from his sword, and take your swords together, you will immediately pull your sword back and to the right, and then taking your left hand from your pommel, take the enemy’s sword with your left hand, and next push your pommel into the left side of his face, or drive a thrust into his guts.

Pass back, grab their sword with your left hand and then either pommel strike the left side of their face or thrust into their torso.


478. (p.179/#5) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #20)

The twentieth offense will be, that finding yourself false edge to false edge, with the left foot forward, and this you will have to offend with the right, you must pass with the right foot forward towards his left side making a feint of striking a mandritto to his head, and now turning the sword in the manner of a molinetto, passing with the left foot towards his right side, and turning at him a rising roverso to the right flank and to the arms, you will set yourself into guardia di Croce, having strongly stricken him with your sword.

479. (p.179/#6) (Sword in Two Hands) (Counter to (play #478))

The counter will be, that you will stay alert, and where he passes feinting a mandritto to your head, you will pass with the left foot towards his right side turning a rising roverso to his right temple, and in this way you will come to make yourself secure, but after that make sure that you find yourself with the sword in guardia di Croce, securing the left leg with the right (ie make a compass step).

Seize the tempo of their feint by performing a roverso into their head, making sure to end in guardia di croce and compassing out with the right foot behind the left.


480. (p.180/#1) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #21)

The twenty-first offense will be that finding oneself false edge to false edge in the way described above, if you wish to attack, you will be able to pass towards your enemy’s left side with your right foot throwing a mandritto to his head, and in so doing making with your body as though you intend to strike his head and not do otherwise, but then once you have pushed your sword to within four fingers of his sword, you will turn a falso to his head, and next you will turn a mandritto tondo to his left temple allowing the left leg to step behind the right.

481. (p.180/#2) (Sword in Two Hands) (Counter to (play #480))

The counter to this play will be that as the attack will make the act from the body for making it appear as though he will strike with head with a mandritto, for the purpose of then striking with a falso to your head, you in that tempo will step with the right foot back, giving him a mezzo mandritto to the hands.

Pass the right foot back and cut into their hands with a mezzo mandritto.


482. (p.180/#3) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #22)

The twenty-second way of attack will be that finding oneself, as is said above false edge to false edge with one’s enemy, one will be able to pass with his right foot towards the adversary’s left side feinting a mandritto to the head, and nonetheless turning the sword in the manner of a molinetto and also turning the right foot behind, and throwing at this point a roverso trivillato[6] to the right side of the enemy’s face.

Pass with the right and feint a mandritto, then perform a molinetto pulling the right foot behind and throw a roverso spinto to their face.

483. (p.180/#4) (Counter to (play#482))

The counter to the above will be that when the attack will be feinting his mandritto, you will not move at all, but as he sends a roverso trivillata to strike your face, you now with the false edge of your sword will crush it, and passing forward with your right foot, you will be able as however best pleases you, strike him with a mandritto across his left temple, or to his arms.

Ignore the feint, then use a falso to beat their roverso.  From their pass forward with your right and perform any sort of mandritto you see fit.


484. (p.180/#5) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #23)

The twenty-third way of striking will be, that you finding yourself false edge to false edge against your enemy, and with the left foot forward, and the enemy with his right foot forward, you should pass forward with your right, and so done, now strike the quillon of your sword into your enemy’s sword with such vigor, that you will be able to strike him in the face with the pommel of your sword, or into the chest as you will prefer.

Beat their sword with your quillions and then strike them with your pommel.

485. (p.180/#6) (Sword in Two Hands) (Counter to (play #484))

The counter of this attack will be, that when the attacker passes to lift his guard into your sword, you will pass forward with the left foot taking your left hand from the sword and, and so done you will make a presa to your enemy’s arms, and pushing them strongly towards his left side, you will be able to strike in this way with a mandritto to the head or strike his face with your pommel.


486. (p.180/#7) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #24)

The twenty-fourth manner of strike will be that finding yourself false edge to false in the mode used above, that, in order to strike your enemy, you will pass with your right foot towards his left side, feinting a falso to his left temple, and now, that your enemy will be try to defend against this falso, you will withdraw the right foot back, making a powerful rising falso manco to your enemy arms, in such a way that, that this falso then stops in guardia di faccia.

Pass forward with your right and feint a falso to their head.  As they respond, step back with your right and cut them in the arms with a falso manco that ends in guardia di facia.

487. (p.181/#1) (Sword in Two Hands) (Counter to (play #486))

The counter to this attack will be, that when the attack will feint the falso to your left temple, you will go into guardia di intrare to ward against it, and as he steps back with his rising falso manco, you will step forward with your left towards his right, sinking his falso with your true edge towards the ground, in the manner of cinghiara porta di ferro stretta, and at your pleasure, you may push a thrust to his chest, or give him a mandritto to the face.


488. (p.181/#2) (Sword in Two Hands) (False Edge to False Edge #25)

The twenty-fifth way of wounding is that being false edge to false edge with your left foot

forward, and the attacker having his right foot forward, you will pass with the right foot towards his left and in this tempo give him a rising mandritto to the arms, lifting the hands high in this that the point of your sword faces the ground, then you will turn at him without waitng a rising roverso to the arms from his right side, and then you will feint a rising mandritto to his arms but will actually throw a roverso fendente onto his head without moving the feet.

489. (p.181/#3) (Sword in Two Hands) (Counter to (p. 488))

The counter to this will be that when the attacker passes the right foot forward to throw a rising mandritto to the arms, you will immediately push a thrust to his face or to his chest, or you will be able to drive down his blow with the true edge of your sword towards the ground passing quickly with your right foot somewhat forward, and as best pleases you, you may push a thrust to his face or strike his right temple with a falso.


[1] I would suggest passing back and letting his roverso go by you before throwing your own cut as I don’t see how your mandritto would intercept his roverso.

[2] Even though he says “attacker”, he likely means the person responding as the initiator is explicitly told to start with the other foot.

[3] Despite not having any pictures, here we gain an insight into how we should grip our sword with our second hand.

[4] Marozzo in the third permutation of his first play of his 161st chapter, covering the sword in two hands, similarly has you go into guardia di croce without specifically naming it, but still telling you to “cross” your arms with your hilt up high and your point aimed at your opponent’s face.

[5] Here we see the author diverge from some of the earlier plays of allowing the first part of the play to happen in order to catch your opponent later down the line.  Instead he here suggests interrupting the entire process with a simple contra tempo action.

[6] This is a term that only appears in the spada dui mani section of the Anonimo and Marozzo’s texts and then again in the sword and buckler section of Manciolino, but is never defined for us.  The best guess is that this is a high roverso spinto as we know that trivillato means “to drill”, but even that is just speculation.


Stay tuned for Part II: Video

Published by Arik Mendelevitz

A martial artist since the age of 8, I picked up a rapier for the first time in March of 2008 and have never looked back since.

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