Introduction of the Style
Presentations of the Sword
Movement of the Fight
Where to Put the Sword
Distance and Measure
Putting it All Together
Advanced Concepts
Saviolo's Actions
What to Wear


Saviolo's Actions

The following is a breakdown of the actions used by Saviolo. The difficult part in trying to use the existent texts is that the presentation is done in a conversational style. For modern use, we need to break down the individual elements of what Saviolo is discussing here.  A second issue is that his terms are a little vague. I have used what I hope are a common set of terms, and where described in the text by Saviolo; have worked out the actions express and have given comment on what I think best fits the motions.  However, this can change and someone else with a different understanding of these movements and terms might take a different perspective.  That’s a valid approach, and there is even passages noted by Saviolo which state there is a whole lot more to this than he can put in words with the limited amount of space he has.

In order to achieve a vast majority of the actions digested here; I feel it’s important to put a few things into perspective.

First; DON’T BACK UP. Do not use your distance as your defense. Why is this important? In every case, the master advocates taking control of the point and using the control to facilitate the strike. At no time does he say flee the attack and make them chase you down. In the event of an aggressive fighter, one stands ground and defends. Passing backward in an orderly manner to me means that a remove or a retreat from the combat is done with a specific purpose, which usually looks like gaining time for a counter and returning to a fight. There is some comment by “Luke” to the effect that giving up ground is seen as bad. I would concur and to further illustrate a point, the List that was used to fight in was a limited size field. I don’t know what that means in terms of size, but I would venture that one would need to be situationally aware that their combat space could be limited if in an authorized bout, and running backwards constantly in a bout could cause a disqualification.

Recall too, that in England, it may have been common to see public displays of fencing, and with the history of the guild of London Masters, some formalization of playing at swords. We don't consider the Noble Art of Defence to be the province of street thugs, rather it has structure and formalization and order in it's manner. This is why it's called an Art after all.

What this means in terms of how an SCA fight looks, it's pretty common for SCA people to use a sport style approach to fencing. The idea of very long lunge thrusts with no intent to control the sword, or thrusting in an absent measure quickly and fleeing away; this is pretty much the norm for a lot of SCA fencers. It's athletic. It can be effective, but it's not in any way historical. I'm not saying lunges didn't happen, but they happened with a control element. The opponent's sword was safely rendered away and would pose no threat. The lunge would be deep, with a few feet perhaps of penetration. Not just a tip. The thrust would end up in perhaps middle measure. It would take time to run in and out. Quite frankly, a thrust that is in and out in .025 of a second wouldn't be very effective and probably didn't occur. In order to do this, don't thrust unless the opponent's sword is taken away from the fight for at least a tempo. It is very tempting to do so, but try not to. It does not mean punching firster and faster.

PROPER FORM means being in control. If you are one to insist on an athletic approach, counter punching, and not trying to control the fight, what exactly is the point then? From a historical perspective, how you do this is as important as why. Honor is placed above life, so conduct that is in line with honour is the preferred action. One can die and retain honor, or live and lose all. Simply winning isn't the point, winning correctly is. Men would solve issues with each other using swords, but they did so as men with honor. If your opponent has to chase you down to fight you, why is there even a fight? Running backwards from an opponent looks like cowardice and could be seen as either as insulting your opponent's honor or your own. Saviolo takes great pains in all his writings to emphasize the lens of honor being what all fight actions should be viewed through. Understanding the How and What of a fight leads to the enlightenment of the Why of the fight. To understand this is the key to understanding how to do this style. Winning isn't everything. Winning correctly is.

Lastly, while the SCA is something that does not place restrictions on fighting style, it does have rules which place restrictions on fighters. I like to tell people that if they run backwards in a fight, and end up hurting themselves, who is at fault? It's the one attacking them, because everyone on the field is a marshal and should call a hold when something dangerous happens. Why is it expected that the defender who runs away expects the attacker to be both marshal and combatant? Too much work, and it's kind of rude.

Saviolo is quick. If the paces are worked out, and I have done all of these; the measures that we end up at are middle to close. Meaning that when he says in his manuscript that you need to be fast, he means it. In nearly all these actions, there are admonitions from him saying “in the very same instant he does this, you do this.” How would one know that? In middle measure experience tells me that fighters have bare fractions of a second to decide how to react This can be expressed in terms of tempo. Half tempo is about as fast as one can move. Were historical fencers slower? Maybe they were more deliberate in their movements? Without a time machine, I don’t know. I do know that since most of these actions appear to be conducted at middle measure, it’s very difficult to want to throw it all on an instant decision of an action and hope you are right. One small move and you are dead here. When he says you need to practice a lot, I feel that he means it.


First Ward: Sword held in Broad Ward. First is Active Dagger, second is Active Hand.

First ward:
Right lead on bent right leg, weight on left foot. Low extended ward point on face. Saviolo says here that the leg is “Somewhat bent”. I would take this to look close to a classic Dardi stance with the sword extended out and dagger also extended, or in close. I don’t know how exacting Saviolo is in his placement of position, and he seem pretty flexible to a degree.


  • Right circle paced step.

  • Reassemble right lead.

  • Stoccata in terza.

  • Body void, offhand control to right.

  • Right remove + Riversa.

  • Thrust to counter a riversa, go to guardia difacia.

  • Break thrust to left (This may be a left side guardia gitesta) and remove left foot, cut dritto or stoccata.

  • High ward to defend dritto, but what is Saviolo calling a “High Ward?” This may be a yrue guard type ward.

  • Right compass step + stoccata from a beat to the left.

  • Thrust imbroccota in counter time to a stoccata.

  • Beat left and fendente.

  • Inquartata and guradia difacia.

  • Right compass remove + stoccata.

  • Body void + right beat and right remove.

  • Side step as much as possible.

  • Remove to side, compass like.

  • Imbroccota like a Stoccata.

  • With a long stance, hand parry and left remove.

  • Defend a riverso with a guradia alicorno.

  • From Alicorno, throw stramazone.

  • Hand parry and a riverso.

Second ward: broad ward in right lead, sword can be straight or point in the face


  • Defend thrusts with left hand.

  • Side step right and assemble to right lead with compass step.

  • Right remove, stay in measure.

  • Hand parry thrust + stoccata + right compass.

  • Hand parry right and right remove+ punta riverso. 

  • Switch lead to left.

  • Extend dagger hand straight up and beat using alicrono.

  • Step to left lead + stoccata to face.

  • Retire to change ward.

  • Right remove + stoccata.

  • Steal measure using gathering steps.

  • Stesso tempo a coming stoccata.

  • Mezzo tempo stoccata to face + inquartata.

  • If leg attacked, remove with compass step + stoccata.

  • If stramazone, defend with sword and hand to alicrono.

  • Defend cut with thrust to face.

  • If inside stoccata, inquartata + riverso.

  • Alt stance is right lead twist left lean forward.

  • Parry stoccata with chigheri porto deferro alta.

  • Parry outside a stoccata with codelunga alta.

  • Thrust outside and redirect with right slope paced step.

  • Switch to left lead.

  • Defend thrust with left hand, laying on blade, convert to riverso.

  • In broad ward 3 gathering steps R-L-R.

  • Reverse lunge + stoccata to L or R.


Third ward: Right lead The third ward in Saviolo is much like the Dardi style attack position. The front leg is bent, weight is mostly on it, and the trailing foot is light. It can be thought of as an attack stance, it can put more steel between the fencers, and allows for a wonderful right remove back to a left lead as a means to handle attacks that get to close measure. Dagger or offhand is used active and defensive and ready to bolster the sword to brace against strong attacks, or act on it's own. The fencer on the right is in this ward.

Actions: Stand in a narrow T stance, much like the picture


  • Parry over to left, dagger to alicorno and end in imbroccota with L slope paced step.

  • Break overhand cuts with true guard.

  • Break punta riversa with L hand to R side. It's a hand parry or dagger as you have.

  • If they are long, take with left hand beat out and L slope step with thrust.

  • If long mezzo tempo parry + stoccata + R retire using half turn.

  • If long, cut down + stramazone or any thrust or cut. This could be a half dritto in half tempo with the stramazone in a full tempo.

  • If long, false above (creates tempo) then below with counter time to thrust.

  • If thrust from long, reverse lunge, cut reverse (a false move) to attack the arm, then thrust.


Day 1 Sword and Dagger:
  • First Ward: Sword held in Broad Ward. First is active dagger, second is active hand.
  • Stance: Right lead, straight left arm, sword in broad ward (up by the hip, point in the face) right leg bent a little.  Start in T stance.

    Actions: Starting in T stance, stepping out with first action.

    • Stoccata under dagger and right slope step.

    • Dagger parry down and left, thrust stoccata.

    • Parry stoccata with dagger and thrust imbroccota with right side step.

    • Dagger parry up to defend imbroccota and right compass with imbroccota.

    • Beat imbroccota out and left with dagger using a thrust “Point of the dagger” and stoccata under opponents dagger.

    • Break stoccata left with sword and body void with a right slope paced step.

    • Left pass step with dagger straight, defend a riversa with guardia alicorno, attacking in prima using imbruccata.

    • All stoccata’s under sword, and imbroccota over sword are defended with a beat using a straight arm out and left.

    • Imbroccota coming from under an offered riverso; break it to the right and retire right foot then follow with riverso.

    • Left retire, body void and Left dagger parry and thrust guardia defacia.

    • Defend with a high four thrust with dagger straight out and right advance, convert to stoccata.

    • Defend stoccata with a left beat (not saying if this is a sword or dagger. One point Saviolo makes is to always defend with the dagger. Here, he indicates that there may be a re-enforced beat using the sword and dagger together.

    The next actions are a mirror of the previous ones.

    • Beat an imbroccota and do a “Blow to the head” (Just exactly what is this? Saviolo has indicated stramazone before, which is a kind of blow to the head. If in the previous action, the offered attack is an imbroccota, the beat may lead to a fendente).

    • In defence of the head shot, step to inquartata and offer a stoccata when the “Head Blow” occurs, thrusting into the cut. Keep dagger out straight. Here the inquartata is a left one, meaning the right foot was forward, and the step to inquartata leaves a left lead in a narrow stance.

    • Hit and retire in good order, don’t run backwards. Saviolo has some discussion about running backwards. In all things here, it’s in a controlled manner. Distance would appear to be just outside of measure, and indicates only a single time of the foot kind of distance away.

    • If the opponent is long (think Cappofero) with dagger high; right slope paced step and beat sword with dagger, stoccata under dagger.

    • If short (Open Ward); advance and do a punta riverso and quickly retire back after the hit.

    • If in Alicorno there are four options

                                    1.  Low stoccata with a Right slope paced step

                                    2.  Feint a stoccata and do a Left inquartata and a riversa (may be a little left slope paced step involved)

                                    3. Thrust in with dagger, blocking the sword and offer a stoccata

                                    4.  Left pass going to alicorno (becca posa) with dagger warding for counter

    • Opponent holds sword low, charge directly (advancing step) turning to a right profile dagger arm is always straight, this time with point down and traversa under their dagger and thrust; then a right retire.

    • If their point is high go to broad ward, with a left profile dagger held out long thrusting to the hilt (so, this looks like taking the sword in the middle, and using the leverage forcing the dagger down the length of the blade to the hilt). End result is that their point should be off pointing up high, dagger tip near their face. Left slope paced pass with a cravatsion under their dagger assuming a stoccata made in chingere porto deferro alta.

    • If their sword is high, use low extended ward, and bend forward in a left profile. Steal measure, and thrust a stoccata under their sword with the dagger, keeping their sword out and left; make a stoccata.

    • If their sword is low extended ward, go to broad ward, steal measure and thrust as you can.

    • If point is long; a mezzo tempo action in a counter thrust.

    • If they are in low extended ward; take a right lead, with left arm extended, sword broad ward, reducing profile slightly by bending forward. Use a left pass doing a cravatsion and a stoccata. The dagger will enter the middle of the opponents rapier and slide down all the way to the hilt with the point to their face. All done in the same time.

    • Opponents hold their dagger high, or low, thrust “with discursion” to their face or stomach. I take this to mean if dagger is high, thrust low and vice-versa.

    • Break a thrust to the right (use sword) and cut a riversa in counter.

    • If opponent is long and straight; charge (advance pace) thrusting a mezzo temp thrust (use a kind of thrust to gain control over the opponent, so as to off-line them and hit when doing so).

    • If point is long; go to a “Low Italian” ward and hit in counter time. I have given this a lot of thought, and Saviolo says “Go as low as you may” it may look like a classical Capofero stance. The trick is to meet the sword on the same plane, or maybe a little under theirs. This means that any thrusting attack is going to be over the top, where it can be managed with the sword and dagger together. Don’t fall for any falsings.

    • If they are in a classical Morrozo stance, this is a left arm straight out, dagger straight up, sword in broad ward, point meeting near the dagger; thrust a stoccata from your “Low Italian” ward. Go to the face or you can go close by the dagger.

    Here, Saviolo talks about if they point their dagger to the right charge them on the right and offer a punta riversa. He also talks of staying in parity with right foot to right foot, cutting riversa or stocatta, if the dagger crosses too close to the right of their body.

    • If defending an imbroccota, retire back, parry right and offer a punta riverso.

    • If a face thrust from the right; beat out to the right and punta riverso or passata.

    • If a thrust above the dagger; keep the sword to the inside and do a right inquartata and cut a riversa to the face.

    • If getting cut, thrust a stoccata into preparation.

    • If getting a leg cut, step to the cut (you are safer closer to the cut) and stoccata into their preparation.

    • If getting a thrust to the leg; remove

    • If getting a riverso to the head, parry it with sword and dagger (back of the hand out, dagger to the right cheek) possibly a guardia ditesta; then left pass and a stoccata.

    A little bit of advice for how this works. Counter thrust with cuts and cuts with thrusts. Reviewing the actions here and Saviolo shows what he expected a fight to look like. Also, use Guardia DiFacia actions with the dagger included with the sword.


    Second Days Discourse with Rapier and Dagger.


    Sword held low extended ward, using a right lead. It's the guy on the left here. Stand in a right lead, sword at porta deferro stretta and left arm out straight.

    • Thrust a punta riverso with a right compass, which I take to mean a cross pace step, and a retire back left slope pace to re-align the lead.

    • Defend a riverso, parry using chigera porta di ferro alta; taking control left slope paced step and stoccata over the top/outside of the opponent and don’t use the dagger.

    • Defend a stoccata with a dagger parry out and left with a body void back and left (starts with pushing off the upper body, with a right remove and a slope step left foot back); cut a mandritto

    • Defend a mandritto with the sword and dagger together. (How does this work? Possibly guardia di testa to the left with dagger vertical; following with a right slope paced step and stoccata leaving the dagger in control of their sword).

    • If defending a long lunge; turn to the left using an inquartata and offer a stoccata. While I am not sure about the turn to avoid the cut would work, it’s possible to also parry do the same thing.

    • Note that a fast opponent may use tempo and do a left pass. If that’s the case use a right slope paced step and thrust where you can; then left slope back following with the right.

    • If you get a left slope pace or and advance from the opponent; counter with a right slope pace and try to keep them to your right. This may open riverso to their legs or counter thrusts with dagger to them.

    Dexterity, quickness and use of art are better than main strength. All of these moves must be done quickly and almost at the same time. Hard to do and needs a lot of practice. The next short sequences give some advice and methods of response to actions.

    • Defend the lunge with a left pass; use dagger and sword to also defend it. This looks to be flexible as per the situation, so exactly how would rely on how the lunge comes.

    • If you have an aggressive opponent, who lunges long and to your outside right, turn to a left profile.

    • If lunged at from the right; go to a left profile and beat their sword with the dagger out and to the right; at the same time body void a little and do a punta riverso.

    • If a lunge from the right; go to a narrow Left lead with the point of the dagger up, cravatsion under the sword.

    • If a lunge from long and high; slip to a right refuse to defend making a false beat to defend; instead catch the thrust with dagger high and to the right control the sword and lunge back using a slope step.

    • If getting a lunge from what looks like a punta riverso; go to a left lead or a refuse both with dagger straight, going to code lunga alta and beat using a gliding parry into a stoccata position.

    • If defending any of these stoccata's counter thrust while moving to a left lead.

    • From a left lead parry down and out to the right; and cut a riverso the leg or thrust to the leg. This can be done since the dagger would be low and under the sword across to the right outside of the body, leaving a clear path to cut.

    • If defending a long line sword, do a gliding parry to a punta riverso, possibly in mezzo tempo with a right slope paced step.

    • Cut long points down and continue with a full tempo mandritto.

    • Use a false to draw a counter; cravatsion and thrust with a right slope paced step.

    Introduction of the Style
    Presentations of the Sword
    Movement of the Fight
    Where to Put the Sword
    Distance and Measure
    Putting it All Together
    Advanced Concepts
    Saviolo's Actions
    What to Wear