The Weapon

Baroque Sword by Darkwood Armory.
We use the term "Baroque sword" to describe the fencing style of the late 17th-Century masters such as Francesco Antonio Marcelli and Bondií di Mazo, who published their treatises in 1686 and 1696 respectively.

This style differs from early-17th-Century rapier in a few ways. Primarily, it incorporates a much greater number of parries-ripostes in two separate motions (two-tempi actions) than did Fabris and his contemporaries, who generally preferred to defend and counterattack in a single tempo (actions in contratempo). Actions in contratempo are copiously used, but only after the swordsman masters the basic two-tempi defenses. In this sense, late 17th-Century swordsmanship is similar to Classical fencing.

Another peculiarity of this style is its ample use of the cut as a complementary action to the thrust, although the latter is still greatly preferred as a safer and quicker form of offense. This makes the style very dynamic and the actions interesting and diverse.

Pedagogically, we find Baroque sword to be an excellent place to start oneís rapier studies. This style is forgiving on the learner while still being tough on the opponent; also, the way the texts are structured is almost proto-Classical, resulting perhaps less arcane to the average modern student.

Tom Leoni executing a passata sotto against a thrust to the outside line at the 2007 ISMAC Instructors' Tournament

Weapon-wise, Baroque swordsmanship is as diverse and interesting as its earlier counterpart. The sword is used alone as well as in conjunction with several other defensive implements such as the left-hand dagger, the cape, the small square shield (targa) and even the lantern for night-time fencing. Furthermore, Marcelli gives some unique instruction regarding the use of the Sciabola (a falchion-like heavy cutting sword) against another Sciabola or against the rapier, about the smallsword and even about using the dagger as a throwing knife.

Suggestions for further reading and discussion:

Our Baroque Sword Work

At the Order of the Seven Hearts, we practice Baroque swordsmanship primarily from two texts: Francesco Antonio Marcelliís Regole Della Scherma (Rome, 1686) and Bondií di Mazoís La Spada Maestra (Venice, 1696). Marcelli came from an illustrious lineage of Roman fencing masters going back almost two centuries, while di Mazo was a Venetian who published his crisp and informative treatise late in life.

We like this style also because it requires particular exactness in all the motions and a terse understanding of the sequence of the actions, making it a splendid intellectual and physical exercise.

Research & Resources

The Robert J Lord collection of historical treatises includes one of the Baroque works:
Francesco Marcelli (26.9 Mb)

Last Updated: 28-Oct-11