Updated: Apr 13
To understand why we choose to practice Fiore's system of Abrazare, we need to delve into the context of the formation of the different traditions of sword fighting that emerged around the same time as Fiore.
Fiore published the primary work we study, Il Fior Di Battaglia (Getty Version), in 1409 at the behest of the Marquee of Ferrara, Niccolo III d'Este. This work was intended to set Fiore's teachings down into a format that could be used for the recollection of combat techniques and to teach the same system to others without Fiore's presence. This treatise covered unarmed combat, dagger combat, sword fighting (both in one hand and two - armored and unarmored), spear, halberd, and fighting on horseback. To this day, it is one of the complete martial systems discovered in Historical European Martial Arts; this is a critical point that we will return to later.
The other main form of longsword combat during this period was the “German” longsword or the school of Liechtenauer. This style of longsword combat has an extremely long tradition, starting with Beringer in 1416 and going through many authors until Heinrich Gunterrodt in 1579, with Liechtenauer writing his most impactful treatise around 1448. This style of historical fencing cannot be ignored in the deeper study of historical martial arts as it is highly effective and well-documented. When the different authors are combined, it is an incredibly expansive delve into the evolution of fencing over around 200 years.
With all this being said, why does San Diego Swordschool focus mainly on this one man's system rather than the long tradition that takes Leichtenauer's name? There are several reasons for this decision at our school. Still, the primary one has to do with the context under which the different traditions operated when they were putting pen to paper.
All Historical Fencing traditions are broken lineages; no one alive today had this knowledge passed down to them through a line of people who used the arts in actual combat. This means that all HEMA teachers and students learn from texts as the progenitors of our understanding of combat. And this is the crux of our decision to study Fiore as our primary starting point for combat. Liechtenauer’s tradition was primarily intended to be taught to soldiers or noblemen with a history in combat.
There are several places within the tradition where the authors of the texts refer to "walking” as the way you move within a combat context, with no more detail ascribed. Fiore, on the other hand, specifies how we walk, turn, and do almost everything else we need to do in a martial context. This is because Fiore's text was intended to be the primary source of information to teach new students how to do the art of arms without his presence. And this is precisely what we are doing today at San Diego Swordschool. Most of us are not soldiers, and most of us have very little knowledge in martial contexts. Learning from the master's text how to do all these things is a significant boon to modern people.
This in no way means we should not also study the tradition of Liechtenauer, but Fiore is a fantastic place to start.