Giganti Second XII: Giganti’s Third Books

At the end of Giganti’s first book, he mentions that, God willing, he will one day produce a second book where he would explore more fully the use of the dagger, buckler, targa, rotella, and cloak.  At the end of my first pass through his first book, I planned to make at least one post where I’d explore what that might look like, applying the lessons he’d already covered to the weapons he mentioned.  I failed to follow through.  Luckily for us all, he didn’t.  However, in that second book he mentions two more books he will produce, God willing.  Unless somebody stumbles across a manuscript that says “Libro Terza” sitting mis-labeled in some collection somewhere, though, it looks like those books won’t show up anywhere any time soon.  What might they look like, though, if he had written them?

The first he describes is “A book dedicated to the dagger alone against a variety of weapons.”  The second “a book… entirely with the left foot forward”.


The Dagger Alone Against a Variety of Weapons

Well, actually, there aren’t any he hasn’t covered.  Remember that buckler, targa, and rotella are just like dagger, and he already covered sword and dagger.  Cloak is mostly like dagger, and the way it’s not (the passive screening of the entire left side) doesn’t matter because your dagger won’t reach to their cloak anyway.

He’s already covered polearm, using the example of the short spear.  The polearm is not all that different (in length or striking) from a longsword or from any other hafted weapon, and the same tactic of feigning weakness, falling back, offering an invitation, and parrying strongly when your opponent takes it, would work against these weapons, too.  The two-handed weapons can’t be overpowered by just a dagger if they’re being held ready in guard, but they can during a blow (muscles already committed to the strike can’t resist the parry).  The sword, though, can be pushed aside even when held in guard, which constitutes the decision point against all weapons: “Can I move it aside right now?” If yes, do, and kill them.  If not, solicit an attack, and when you can move it aside, do, and kill them.

In fact, the only armament he didn’t already cover, by analogous weapons, is the unarmed man vs. the dagger.  And missile weapons.  But there’s not a lot to say about missile weapons and Thibault said it.  The unarmed vs. dagger is fun, and his instruction would probably look similar to Marozzo’s or Fabris’s (though, simplified, because Giganti).  Marozzo’s can be broken down to “Is your opponent attacking overhand or underhand? Is his right foot forward or left foot forward? Is your right foot forward or left foot forward?” It works out to eight combinations.  Marozzo gets over 20 out of it.  There might also be a decision point of whether or not they’re attacking strongly (and therefore you have their momentum to assist your throw), but that still would only make sixteen.  Extrapolating from Marozzo’s pressa (what I remember of them – I should revisit those.  NEXT PROJECT!), my guess at Giganti’s eight:

Attack Over or Under Opponent’s Lead Foot Your Lead Foot Your response
Overhand Right Right Block upward with right hand, pass to his outside with your left foot (seizing wrist), place left hand on their face or throat, and throw them backward
Overhand Right Left Deflect to your left with left hand, pass in with right foot, seize throat with right hand, and throw to your right
Overhand Left Right Block upward with left hand, pass forward with left foot, seize throat with right, throw backward and to your left
Overhand Left Left Block upward with left hand, pass forward with right foot (behind their left on the inside), wrap arm around their waist and hip-toss them to your left
Underhand Right Right Block with left hand, pass left foot forward (outside and behind his right foot), grab throat with right hand, throw to your left
Underhand Right Left Block to the the left with left hand, pass right foot forward, seize throat with right, throw to the left
Underhand Left Right Block (or seize) with the right hand from the outside, pass left foot forward, seize throat with left hand, throw to left
Underhand Left Left Block with left to the left, pass right foot forward, seize throat with right hand, throw to left


Put it in pedestrian Italian, add plates, and there’s his other book.


As for instruction in how the dagger-wielder can be certain to best the unarmed man (it does seem obvious that the guy with the knife shouldn’t need to be told what to do, but Giganti’s first book does assume both fighters know what they’re doing) I can’t begin to form a guess. Fiore’s the only master I’m aware of who covered that and I’m not familiar enough with his counters to the counters, and I didn’t stay with Aikido long enough, to make an educated guess as to what Giganti’s would look like, or even what his decision points would be.


With the Left Foot Forward

He doesn’t say “With the left hand”, just “With the left foot forward”, so I’m starting with the assumption that he’s not just talking about fencing left handed.  To quote what Giganti says about the left foot forward:

“Anything you can achieve with your right foot forward, you can accomplish with your left foot forward, be it a lunge, pass, or cut.  Furthermore the thrust is just as long, whether the right or left foot is forward on the lunge.  Any differences depend on practice.”

My first inclination, based on long experience, is to call bullshit.  All that he says is not in keeping with my experience, and the left foot forward seems to limit your actions to two-tempo grab-and-go’s and the passing lunges he spent two pages teaching against in this same book.  However, since Giganti’s been pretty spot on up to now, over the course of two books and a couple hundred pages, he earns consideration of his premise.

He makes an obvious, and easily tested claim: The lunge covers the same distance, whether the right foot is forward or left.  So I just picked up the yardstick/substitute sword I keep in my office for just such situations (they really do come up far more often than the average person might think), set up with my right foot forward, and lunged so that the stick just touched the wall.  Then I marked my rear foot’s big toe on the ground.  I set up with left foot forward, then, and my right foot’s toe on the mark (with about a 120 degree angle in my feet and hips), and lunged: extending the arm, rotating my body to bring my right shoulder forward, leaning in behind it, and lifting my left foot.  And the yardstick touched the target.  The son of a bitch was right.  It takes more rotation of the upper body, which may make it slower, but not by much.  In practice, and with perfection of both, the difference between the two might be as much as one or two inches of range and a quarter second of time.

Since Giganti doesn’t have prescribed guard positions, your guard only has to meet his criteria (remember those from the first book?).  However, these criteria rule out almost all left foot forward fighting styles seen in the SCA, since they hold the sword withdrawn, relying on the off hand for defense, rather than where it can parry and strike in a single tempo.  You still need to lead with your sword in order to be able to close lines.  This requires rotation at the hips to bring the body more or less square, and keeping the sword extended.  Counter-guards are formed just as readily (the blade rests above the opponent’s the same, either way) though it’s more difficult to get your body behind your sword, since you’re squared up and your sword cannot extend as far forward as it can right foot forward, so your opponent’s extension won’t necessarily go to your guard without additional action on your part.  While closing the line to the outside is simple (and almost doesn’t apply – If your opponent engages your blade from the outside, his sword will already be offline if yours is online), closing the line to the inside requires extending the sword in quarta with more lateral movement to your left.

With dagger, his basic suite of invitation guards work the same, though the left shoulder is the more favorable target to provide for an invitation.  The liberally-borrowed Fabris “wedge of doom” style guards (which echo Giganti’s example of a single-sword guard to the outside with the right foot forward) also work with either foot forward.

And, since your body doesn’t have to shift much, if at all, from the waist up to maintain a counter-guard, this means you can pass forward to form left- or right-foot forward guards, and lunge from whichever finds you at measure.  However, as Master Ximon illustrated for me rather clearly, the greater extension of the hand in quarta for the inside line must be done before passing into the left-foot forward stance.  Otherwise you deserve the stop thrust to the left shoulder that your opponent will give you.


So ends our discussion of Giganti’s colorfully named Second Book.  There may be cause to revisit it sooner or later. Until then…

9 comments to Giganti Second XII: Giganti’s Third Books

  • Gawin

    One of the things that stuck out to me was the extent to which Giganti’s dagger instruction directly contradicted the instruction presented by Fiore, which obviously makes coming up with a conjectural recreation of Giganti’s dagger manual difficult. To make things more difficult, my brief survey of Marozzo’s dagger plates seems to be more in agreement with Fiore than with the few dagger plates that Giganti has given us. For starters, in both Fiore and Marozzo, a right-foot forward dagger guard simply doesn’t exist for either the assailant or the unarmed man. The assailant will pass forward with the right leg as part of the strike (which is why the images show them with their right foot forward). The defender typically does like-wise when closing to grips. Having the left arm forward for the unarmed man allows him the most flexible defense against the dagger as he can catch a mandritto without crossing over his body. My impression of Giganti’s dagger plays from the second book is that they are specifically planning a 2-tempo action, one where they defend, and the second where they strike. This may explain his right-foot forward guard, as his defensive action will be carried out with a passing step of the left foot, thus beginning the tempo where he strikes with the left foot forward. Long story short, you may be able to simply skip all the parts where someone has their right foot forward, as that’s semi-incompatible with delivering a strike with a dagger (unless you lunge) and it’s a worse defense than left foot forward when unarmed against the dagger.

    Likewise, with very few exceptions, both Fiore and Marozzo tend to use the left hand to defend against the overhand strike. However, this has the caveat that Fiore divides mandritti and riversi, and that riversi *are* blocked using the right hand. There are likewise a couple plays towards the very end of Marozzo’s dagger against unarmed that do use the right hand to defend against the strike, and these are some of the more complicated defenses. If you really want to pare things down, then you might also consider a simpler situation where the unarmed man defends an overhand strike using his left hand or the slightly more complicated situation where the unarmed man defends against an overhand strike using whichever hand is on the side that the strike is coming from (essentially dividing into mandritti and riversi).

    Doing this simplifies your defense against overhand strikes of the mandritto essentially to Marozzo’s plate 1 or probably Fiore’s 1st master 7th play. In short, grab the dagger-wrist using a reversed grip with your left hand, pull their arm towards your left while passing to their outside with your left foot. Then either grab their throat with your right hand (Marozzo) or wrap your right arm over their shoulders/neck (Fiore) and throw them to the ground over your left hip. There are of course, reasons that both Marozzo and Fiore have a whole bunch of plays against this strike, but we’re being simple here.

    Against the riverso, grab the dagger-wrist with your right hand, pull them towards your right, pass forward with your left foot so that you’re behind them and do whatever you want with them (Fiore 3rd master). Marozzo doesn’t seem to distinguish between these strikes, but at least it appears as if most of his plays are geared towards a mandritto, so use caution in your interpretation. As noted by Fiore, a riverso isn’t a great idea, so perhaps later Italians just stopped talking about them.

    Against the underhand strike, Fiore likes using two hands, Marozzo seems to switch things up a little, but seems to prefer the right hand. Both hands is probably safest and it’s probably simpler to just say to use both hands here rather than trying to sort out some rule about when to use left and when to use right. Fiore’s plays against the underhanded strike either redirect the dagger into the assailant’s chest or involve a pass with the right foot on the outside line to put you behind them. There are a couple flashy things in his 9th master plays, but essentially the defense would be something along the lines of, “Catch the dagger-hand with both hands and pull it towards your right, releasing your left hand. Pass forward with your right foot behind them, and do whatever you want to them (bind, break, throw, etc).

    Again, however, I must restate that Giganti’s dagger plays seemed to contradict Fiore (and what I’ve seen from Marozzo). Giganti is clearly presenting a right foot forward guard, but he is also not specifically addressing the question of unarmed against dagger. His dagger vs. dagger plays share this contradiction, as Giganti seems to prefer a two-tempo static block followed by a strike with the dagger, where Fiore at least seems to largely accompany his more static blocks with a close to grips. Ultimately Fiore cares more about throwing an opponent than stabbing them, but Giganti seems to be implying that you keep your distance and strike them with your weapon from further away/strike at the extended arm. Giganti might carry this attitude forward into plays on being unarmed against a dagger by prioritizing disarming the opponent and then striking them with the weapon while otherwise keeping your distance, which would complicate any projections we might make.

    • Wistric

      Giganti’s dagger play is right foot forward when facing dagger against another weapon. Extrapolating that stance (essentially a fencing stance) to dagger vs. unarmed or unarmed vs. dagger is not particularly rational.

      Also, I find no support for your assertion that Marozzo does not include a right-foot forward dagger guard. A quick read through of the first four or so pressa ( indicate no footwork that would bring the right foot forward, though that is the lead foot illustrated in each (the third is a little iffy, since the foot is in the air, but since the right leg is seized that requires it to be the more available leg, and therefore the forward leg).

      • Gawin

        Dagger strikes are typically performed with a passing forward of the right foot such that the guard is left foot forward, but the strike and close to grips (by the unarmed man) is performed with a passing forward of the right foot. Fiore is drawn the same way, but makes it explicit that the guard is performed left foot forward.

        If you have your right foot forward in guard with a dagger, you will necessarily be really close to your opponent when starting the play, at which point they can grab you without needing to counter a strike.

      • Gawin

        Also, take a look at the “grab” plays of Marozzo. In those, the unarmed man is the first person to act and the armed man is largely stationary and you will see that the man with the dagger is forming a left-foot forward guard.

        Giganti is peculiar in suggesting a right-foot forward guard, which makes it tempting to interpret his approach to dagger as simply sword-fighting with a short sword, but I don’t think that actually makes any sense given the constraints of the dagger (namely its measure).

      • Gawin

        “Giganti’s dagger play is right foot forward when facing dagger against another weapon. Extrapolating that stance (essentially a fencing stance) to dagger vs. unarmed or unarmed vs. dagger is not particularly rational.”

        I agree with this part, but since that’s all Giganti gives us, how and why are you trying to extrapolate a dagger manual for Giganti? Why not just go read Marozzo or Fiore?

  • Dante di Pietro

    I still don’t see where the thesis is.

    • Gawin

      The few plays Giganti presented directly contradict the instruction of both Fiore and Marozzo. Either Giganti is describing a special case in book 2, meaning that we cannot extrapolate a system any further from what he wrote, or his system is different than Marozzo and Fiore, in which case we can’t fill in the gaps with what they wrote.

      There’s no right foot forward guards in dagger vs. unarmed

      Defending against a mandritto with your right hand is suicidal.


Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>