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 The "epee" of the Neapolitan school 
Alexander Nordstrand


Joined: 14 May 2013
Posts: 4
Location: Sweden
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Hello!

I just recently registered here. Seems to be a very nice forum with a lot of knowledgeable people contributing to it!

Several articles on this website discuss the classical Neapolitan school of epee fencing. This is somewhat confusing to me -- of course "epee" is simply French for sword, with the epee du combat or epee de terrain being the predecessor of sport epee fencing. Both French and Italian grips still exist in the sport (the Italian ones are rare, but available from Negrini, for example). The history of this Italian-grip epee is as follows (forgive me if this is already well-known to you): After having examined the French school, Maestri Agesilao and Aurelio Greco developed a new type of dueling sword with an off-set perforation for better protection of the hand. This happened in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Maestro Aurelio had a treatise on this new epee published in 1907. The 1904 edition of Maestro Parise's work included a section on this same weapon, called spada da terreno (obviously, then, the Italian counterpart to the epee de terrain).

Therefore, when the articles make reference to "classical Neapolitan epee," am I to assume we're discussing the weapon invented by the Maestri Greco, or is it that Maestro Parise's "spada" (not the spada da terreno) has for some reason been translated as "epee?" As far as I know, the Italians made no distinction between the spada and the foil in terms of technique -- the latter was simply a "blunted" version of the former. Therefore, the spada of Maestro Parise in 1884, should be foil technique rather than epee...? Am I correct?

I do apologize for the long-winded nature of my question... I'll just stop here before I can ramble any worse!

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Chris Holzman


Joined: 01 Oct 2005
Posts: 369
Location: Wichita, KS
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Epee was the term used in the articles because it was something that most readers would relate to without a great deal of extra explanation needed. The Italians in the time period in question didn't differentiate between fioretto and spada as they do today, in terms of the weapon itself, or the technique.

Parise said the following in his 1885 book, in sec 164, in pertinent part:
"As is said in § 2, the weapon that is used in the duel, that is, the spada , differs not a little in its sections, from the fioretto, which is the weapon used in the school, as can be observed in the present illustration. Through such difference, it can happen that the fencer does not know how to use both these weapons, the maestro will take care, or rather it will be his duty, of exercising his students with the spada, (provided with a button, which is in the marginal illustration), on open ground, treated properly as if a duel. Therefore, but for the mask, no other protection will be used; the bout will end when just one of the combatants has been touched. In this exercise, the valid target will be the whole trunk, including the face, arm, and hand. But the maestro will not permit such exercise, if those who perform it are not to the point of bouting."

The spada illustrated is a double edged sword, mounted just like the fioretto, with a blade hexagonal in cross section for the first two thirds of its length, becoming diamond sectioned, and with a fuller in the flat of the hex section. The CONI foil prep book from the 1970s shows one of these weapons on the cover. Blunt, they're a sometimes called a smarra.

Technically the spada was supposed to be sharp, though cutting with it was forbidden in the duel under most of the dueling codes and as late as Rosaroll-Scorza and Grisetti's 1803 publication, the authors point out the blade should be about 3/4" wide at the base if you want any cutting power (though they didn't teach cuts in that book with that weapon), and 4 palmi long, or about 37 to 40 inches, depending on the local understanding of term. and diamond in cross section. The hilt was, yep, an Italian foil hilt, with or without a knucklebow.

I don't have a copy of Greco's book, I wish I did. As i understand it, Greco advocated not only for the new Italian epee/spada hilt, but also for a longer, diamond sectioned blade. Sounds a bit familiar.. I wish they had taken hold of the market.

By the way, real true ricasso Italian epee blades are back in production by Dynamo, and are available in dry and electric versions via Rockwell Classical Fencing. They're really pretty darn nice.

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Christopher A. Holzman, Esq.
Moniteur D' Armes
Wichita Fencing Club
Wichita, KS, USA
"Remember that the calm spirit is the only force that can defeat intinct, and make us masters of all our strengths." -- Capt. Settimo Del Frate, 1876.
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Alexander Nordstrand


Joined: 14 May 2013
Posts: 4
Location: Sweden
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Yes, I was wrong when I said Parise's spada da terreno was the same type of weapon as Greco's épée.

Unlike other Italian masters, the Greco brothers also promoted the view of foil and épée as two completely distinct disciplines. I suspect they wanted Italian counterparts to the French weapons, an adaptation to international competition.

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Richard Cullinan


Joined: 23 Apr 2007
Posts: 108
Location: Sydney, Australia
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Chris, ABE books has it...
http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=6997079845&searchurl=tn%3Dspada%2Be%2Bsua%2Bapplicazione

Price seems reasonable! Twisted Evil

I've seen Peter's copy, and had a chance to skim through it. He trained at Accademia Greco under Enzo to sit his Maestro exams, so I guess it was expected students should have a copy. It's not a big book, and the little bits I can remember were very to the point.

Yeah Ok so I think it's kind of cool to have the Grecos in my personal fencing lineage!

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Richard Cullinan
Australia's Bolognese Swordsmanship guy!
www.renfence.com.au

You can also find me at www.scherma-bolognese.org/forum/
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Stephen Anthony Fisher


Joined: 05 Aug 2009
Posts: 9
Location: Kentucky, USA
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Example of both. Cool
http://s27.postimg.org/k2ioo4bsj/IMG_1501.jpg
http://s22.postimg.org/ww2yo1toh/IMG_1500.jpg
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