"Taking a first step into a larger world," the new SSG student dives into the late medieval martial culture, where the Hundred Years' War (1337-1451) has seen the development of transitional and plate armour, and where the towns and cities sharply increased their influence. Fiore dei Liberi, a north Italian teacher from the region of Friulia, gathered his observations of armoured and unarmoured combatants, on foot and on horseback, into a cohesive set of fighting principles he called the l'arte d'armizare, literally, the art of arms.
Unlike many later systems, but as with the chivalric fighting forms upon which it is likely based, Fiore's art seems to have emphasized power, as well as position and timing. This is because, with an armoured opponent, a single "touch" is unlikely to do much harm, so our philosophy is that it is better to have the power than not. Consequently, students learn solid kinesthtics needed to deliver significant power, and it is one of the reasons our preference for new students is for "soft" synthetic swords (Revival or Rawlings), so that they can "finish" their blows, at least until they can procure their own armour.
Presenting his secret teaching as memory aids for his students, the cryptic art survives in at least four manuscripts--the Pisani Dossi, the Morgan (both known for their modern owners), the Florius, and the Getty, the text we anchor most of our interpretations upon, because it is the most complete.
Students first learn to build a solid fighting platform, so this course is known as the "elephante" course. Stance, footwork, and the fighting poste (positions) are the basic elements, augmenting basic knowledge about the sword, armour, and fighting clothing of the era. Students are also encouraged to begin their study of context through a medieval romance or chronicle. First principles are demonstrated through the learning of six plays, zoghi, drawn from FIore's work. Finally, students are expected to learn about and support the chivalric culture upon which the SSG community is built, and which enables our students to engage diplomatically and martially with other "like-minded" groups.
Fundamental to training safety are the concepts of armore "love" and concordia, "agreement," which guides all our interactions. Think of it as companionship, which is why the first level test is recognized with the title of compagno. The chivalric ideas of prowess, courage, loyalty, humility, fidelity, and the rest are discussed.
Students are encouraged to acquire their own training sword, gloves, and some other gear according to the approach of their local branch or study group. Guidance on the selection of training swords, masks, helmets, and other gear is readily available and freely given.
Your study group leader will have documents, videos and such that will help you learn the material faster, and support what is said in class with more information. Below are a few documents.
Sword in Two Hands
2007 - Brian R. Price
In 2007 Brian R. Price compiled an introductory guide to the SSG's interpretation of the Compagno material. Published by Chivalry Bookshelf, it went out of print in 2011, though copies can still sometimes be found. A new edition is planned, but there are a few excerpts included here.