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Joshua Santana




Location: Bayville, NJ
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PostPosted: Wed 23 May, 2012 8:33 am    Post subject: 16th Century/Renaissance Armored Combat         Reply with quote

I came across this forum thread on the Order of the Seven Hearts Forum and it sparked a curiosity about the vague notion of 16th Century Armored Combat.

http://salvatorfabris.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=473

I began to do research into this but sadly found this article to be the only one that tackles the topic: http://www.thearma.org/essays/DOTC.htm. I have looked into books but they seem to be either out of print or rare.

I am also looking into the treatisies left by the Bolognese Fencing Masters and they only discuss the contexts of the Duel and Honor. I was able to find a few references pertaining to fighting in armor or fighting against an armored opponent (I'm looking at Marozzo, Dal'agochie, Viggiani, Anonymous Bolgnese).

Can one make this argument: Was it possible that Armored Combat changed from fighting with Spear, Dueling Shield and Longsword to Sidesword and Rotella shield, Lance and Rotella or Spadone? Could it also be possible that the practitioner having knowledge of the weaknesses of the armor used that knowledge when fighting in armor by adjusting his technique and using that? Could the former be the reason why there are little to no references of armored combat in the Bolognese treatises?"

Feedback, input, suggestions, recommendation are welcome.

Honorare scutum meum, Veritas mea gladio

Honor my shield, Truth my sword
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Greg Mele
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PostPosted: Wed 23 May, 2012 9:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think you have to understand the Bolognese school holistically. There is this notion that it is unarmoured sword and buckler, with some other weapons that might or might not be armoured. What it really is is a single form of combat used in and out of armour, with some weapons favoring harness over others. Authors like Manciolino and Viggiani make it clear that this is a system for war and duel alike, and we should take them at their word, and read carefully.

Consider for example, Manciolino's discussion about how to choose armour for the judicial duel - not weapon *systems*, but rather how to choose light or heavy armour, and for which parts of the body, based on the physical attributes of your opponent.

We also see periodic references to combat "en arme" scattered throughout. Marozzo has two places in his sword and buckler material where he mentions to do something in the matter of the spade en arme - by which he means half-swording - and it comes up once in spadone; Viggiani talks about how to target armour weakness. Polearms were meant to be wielded in varying degrees of harness and the attacks and advice on the weapon, show that. For example, the bill might be wielded by foot soldiers in partial harness, with or without gauntlets, and has raking attacks to the hands. The poleaxe is a knightly weapon, and although the plays are similar, they are specifically adapted for *full* armour. In a similar way, look at the targets of the spada and rotella sequences - primarily, they target the vulnerabilities of a man in half-armour.

HTH!

Greg

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Joshua Santana




Location: Bayville, NJ
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PostPosted: Thu 24 May, 2012 7:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I think you have to understand the Bolognese school holistically. There is this notion that it is unarmoured sword and buckler, with some other weapons that might or might not be armoured. What it really is is a single form of combat used in and out of armour, with some weapons favoring harness over others. Authors like Manciolino and Viggiani make it clear that this is a system for war and duel alike, and we should take them at their word, and read carefully.


Point taken.

Quote:
Manciolino's discussion about how to choose armour for the judicial duel - not weapon *systems*, but rather how to choose light or heavy armour, and for which parts of the body, based on the physical attributes of your opponent.


Yep, just read it the other day. That helps a great deal.

Quote:
We also see periodic references to combat "en arme" scattered throughout. Marozzo has two places in his sword and buckler material where he mentions to do something in the matter of the spade en arme - by which he means half-swording - and it comes up once in spadone


Yep, in the Seventh Part of the Second Assaulto of the Open and Close play in Sword and Buckler (Capitolo 11), and in the Third Part of the Third Assaulto of the Sword and Buckler in Half-Sword (Capitolo 12), the references state to "you will engage your sword with the hand of the brochiero in the style of spada in armi" I assume Marozzo i saying to have both hands in a different hand formation. Yet I wonder what it looks like.

Also I see it in the Second Assaulto of the Spadone of Gioco Largo & Stretta together in the Seventh Part of the Assaulto "at the mezza of the sword, in a way of spada in armi" (Capitolo 163)

Quote:
Viggiani talks about how to target armour weakness


Yep, I see it clearly here "You speak the truth, Rodomonte; some of those who are armored in full jousting
harness, when the opponent lowers his lance, looking to the visor of their helm in order to
offend it, I have seen that they happen to have a little helmet hanging from a band, well
advanced from the face, to avoid the enemy’s point for fear of their eyes. And there are
some that close their eyes out of fear, and these never make worthy blows"

"And then, although it happens that the blow falls from high to low with a great
onslaught, it does not always kill, because the bones of the skull are extremely strong and
doubled in some places; in addition if you contact some other place, such as the shoulder,
there are other very hard bones; and sometimes they are armored with good arms of
defense, which abate the fury of the cut, but not the thrust."

Quote:
Polearms were meant to be wielded in varying degrees of harness and the attacks and advice on the weapon, show that. For example, the bill might be wielded by foot soldiers in partial harness, with or without gauntlets, and has raking attacks to the hands. The poleaxe is a knightly weapon, and although the plays are similar, they are specifically adapted for *full* armour.


That I agree on, the layout of the techniques resemble to a degree the plays in Medieval Poleax sources (Fiore, Paulus Kal, Talfhoffer, and others).

Quote:
n a similar way, look at the targets of the spada and rotella sequences - primarily, they target the vulnerabilities of a man in half-armour.


Yesterday after reading this part, I did a couple of sword and rotella technqiues that as soon as I finished them, I realized that they did indeed targeted the openings mentioned by Viggiani and I can see now why the Sword and Rotella teachings were popular with the Bolognese Master (exception of Viggiani and Dall'Agocchie) including Di Grassi.

From what I am getting, if I take the masters at the word, combine the knowledge of Sword and Rotella, Polearms, sword and buckler and Spadone in the "spada en armi" hand positions, I can almost easily re-create real 16th Century Armored Combat, I find that to be amazing and quite a unique field to pursue in.

Is there any references to Armored Combat in the Anonimo Bolognese? I am aware there is a section in which it describes armored combat with poleaxes and a short chapter on fighting with an armored gauntlet (MS. 346), is there any more in that manuscript?

Another curiosity I keep finding is that the Gioco Stretto which has many Presas, takedown and grappling, could the Half-Sword techniques in single sidesword, sword and buckler, Spadone and sword and targa including Gioco Stretto be transcribed into fighting in half-armor? I find easy to imagine that the above and combination of Gioco Stretto and Half-Sword would also be used since armored combat by its nature involves plenty of grappling, wrestling and takedowns with the chosen weapon (longsword, poleax, sidesword or spadone in this case).

I found this quite helpful and beneficial to my study in the Bolognese School. Thank you.

Honorare scutum meum, Veritas mea gladio

Honor my shield, Truth my sword
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Greg Mele
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PostPosted: Thu 24 May, 2012 9:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joshua,

Firstly, I'm glad you took the time to cite the locations - I confess I was typing on the fly. Wink

If we assume that "spade en arme" means to the Bolognese what it did to Fiore and Vadi - and based on Marozzo's advice to grip the blade with the buckler hand, it seems safe to do so - this is what we generally call "half-swording". Note that is distinct from the way that he grips the spadone blade for playing against polearms - which is why I think he calls it out separately.

For the Anonymous - he has a large section on spadone - mostly plays of gioco stretto, but I have not had opportunity to really work with it. I would argue though that the size and power of the spadone makes it ALL useful in harness/against harness, especially half harness. However, as you said, he is the one master to SPECIFICALLY talk about armoured combat - in his chapter for the "Axe in Armour". I translated (with significant help from Steve Reich) and interpreted most of this section in my essay in the book In the Service of Mars - and I think if you compare it to Marozzo and Manciolino's section on the bill you will get a great idea of where half vs full armour causes some changes (more throws, for starters). Otherwise, no, nothing more to speak of that I can recall. Steve Reich and Tom Leoni know this source much better than I, however.

I absolutely would say that spada and rotella, spadone and polearms all give you a clear idea of fighting in harness, and most of Marozzo's prese does as well (compare to Fiore's dagger defenses, for example). Even his forward grip dagger work is interesting, although of the seven or nine plays, probably half clearly presume no harness. As to fighting in half harness - really just stick with this rule - cut where the armour isn't, thrust into the gaps. No go and look at the sword and buckler plays again, and you'll realize that many of them will clearly work well against half harness - the strikes to the lower leg and inside of the hand, cuts to the face, thrusts to the face, groin, armpits and throat. It's adaptation, but not really requisite of a radical reconsideration of combat.

Finally, you might want to track down Il Tre Giorni of Pagano, which teaches spadone, partizan and a "pole knife", which is some form of spear. (Neapolitan, 1550s).

Hope this helps!

Greg

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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Fri 25 May, 2012 8:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greg Mele wrote:
Joshua,
As to fighting in half harness - really just stick with this rule - cut where the armour isn't, thrust into the gaps.

Is there any period evidence of that though? I'm not confident that every student of a 16th century master would know that any metal armour was proof against sword cuts and one-handed thrusts. They don't spell this out as often as we might expect in the 15th century, but they fairly often distinguish explicitly between armoured and unarmoured combat.

It seems to me that Manciollino's sword and rotella has a number of fendenti (to the head?), thrusts to the flank, and cuts to the sword arm which might not be the best choice against a man in harness. These may be less common than in other forms- I don't have enough feel for his art to judge. I've only spent a hundred hours or so moving in a Bolognese way, and that either Dall'Agocchie or Steve Reich's "generic Bolognese."
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Joshua Santana




Location: Bayville, NJ
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PostPosted: Fri 25 May, 2012 9:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Firstly, I'm glad you took the time to cite the locations - I confess I was typing on the fly.


Thank you, I hope this is helpful for those reading this thread who are not familiar with the Bolognese School.

Quote:
If we assume that "spade en arme" means to the Bolognese what it did to Fiore and Vadi - and based on Marozzo's advice to grip the blade with the buckler hand, it seems safe to do so - this is what we generally call "half-swording". Note that is distinct from the way that he grips the spadone blade for playing against polearms - which is why I think he calls it out separately.


I agree with you, the difference though is that "Half-Sword" in the Bolognese Sword School is almost the equivalent of Mezza Spada in the Fiore tradition (where both blades bind in the middle of the sword hence it's name.

Quote:
or the Anonymous - he has a large section on spadone - mostly plays of gioco stretto, but I have not had opportunity to really work with it. I would argue though that the size and power of the spadone makes it ALL useful in harness/against harness, especially half harness. However, as you said, he is the one master to SPECIFICALLY talk about armoured combat - in his chapter for the "Axe in Armour". I translated (with significant help from Steve Reich) and interpreted most of this section in my essay in the book In the Service of Mars - and I think if you compare it to Marozzo and Manciolino's section on the bill you will get a great idea of where half vs full armour causes some changes (more throws, for starters). Otherwise, no, nothing more to speak of that I can recall. Steve Reich and Tom Leoni know this source much better than I, however.


Thank you, much appreciated and I will ask Mr. Reich and Mr. Leoni.

Quote:
I absolutely would say that spada and rotella, spadone and polearms all give you a clear idea of fighting in harness, and most of Marozzo's prese does as well (compare to Fiore's dagger defenses, for example). Even his forward grip dagger work is interesting, although of the seven or nine plays, probably half clearly presume no harness. As to fighting in half harness - really just stick with this rule - cut where the armour isn't, thrust into the gaps. No go and look at the sword and buckler plays again, and you'll realize that many of them will clearly work well against half harness - the strikes to the lower leg and inside of the hand, cuts to the face, thrusts to the face, groin, armpits and throat. It's adaptation, but not really requisite of a radical reconsideration of combat.


I will and I find this eye-opening and enlightening simultaneously, thank you and I will look at the sword and buckler material. I confess that I was a bit confused as to why did Marozzo specify targets to the right temple, the legs, outside line thrusts to the face in the first two Assaultos of the Sword and Buckler. Now I can see that re-creating Renaissance Armored Combat may not be difficult at all, thank you again.

Quote:
Finally, you might want to track down Il Tre Giorni of Pagano, which teaches spadone, partizan and a "pole knife", which is some form of spear. (Neapolitan, 1550s).


That is great! However, where do I start looking? I am having some difficulty finding it at the moment.

Quote:
Is there any period evidence of that though? I'm not confident that every student of a 16th century master would know that any metal armour was proof against sword cuts and one-handed thrusts. They don't spell this out as often as we might expect in the 15th century, but they fairly often distinguish explicitly between armoured and unarmoured combat.


I must argue that you seem to be missing the point of this discussion. There is proof and I cited it in the previous post with Viggiani. Students in the Bolognese School would be familiar with the subtle differences between unarmored and unarmored combat, all it is is adaptation of the techniques. Manciolino discusses in his treatise how to choose appropriate armor designed by you and against the physical attributes of your opponent.

Quote:
It seems to me that Manciollino's sword and rotella has a number of fendenti (to the head?), thrusts to the flank, and cuts to the sword arm which might not be the best choice against a man in harness. These may be less common than in other forms- I don't have enough feel for his art to judge. I've only spent a hundred hours or so moving in a Bolognese way, and that either Dall'Agocchie or Steve Reich's "generic Bolognese."


True, however those fendenti can be adapted to feints be fendenti turning into thrusts to the face (or eyeslits in the case of armor), cuts to the sword arm would then be changed to cuts to the wrists or hands, depending on whether or not the opponent is wearing gauntlets, if he is the cuts would turn into provocations that will either make the opponent expose his palm, inside wrist, or arm pits underneath the pauldrons. Thrusts to the throat or groin would easily be utilized for provocations or feints to force the opponent to "open" any of the openings in his armor. Like Greg Mele said "It's adaptation, but not really requisite of a radical reconsideration of combat."

I hope this helps you understand.

Honorare scutum meum, Veritas mea gladio

Honor my shield, Truth my sword
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Greg Mele
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PostPosted: Fri 25 May, 2012 11:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean,

Sean Manning wrote:

Is there any period evidence of that though? I'm not confident that every student of a 16th century master would know that any metal armour was proof against sword cuts and one-handed thrusts. They don't spell this out as often as we might expect in the 15th century, but they fairly often distinguish explicitly between armoured and unarmoured combat.


I really can't agree that they don't spell it out in the 15th c - the Liechtenauer commentaries begin with the instructions of where to strike and include plays that say "if he knows little of the art and wishes to cut at you". Then look at how they teach and what they teach - I don't think it needs to be more express than that. After all, *we* can figure it out, and we are notably more removed from sword combat than the original audience.

>It seems to me that Manciollino's sword and rotella has a number of fendenti (to the head?), thrusts to the flank, and cuts to >the sword arm which might not be the best choice against a man in harness.

I think there is a mistake that "armoured" = any kind of armour. It means *fully* armoured. Less armour, more you apply other techniques. We can have a textual debate about this, but we can see it by analyzing the plays themselves.

Anonymous Poleaxe: the combatants are in full harness. The plays involve thrusts to the weak points, like the groin, throws and hooks.

Bill - Billmen generally fought in varying degrees of partial harness. The techniques are quite similar, but include things like using the horn of the bill to rake the hands or forearms while recovering a thrust - something that would be useless against full harness.

Sword and Rotella - yes thrusts to the flank, as beautifully depicted by Agrippa - which take you in under a breastplate or into the armpit. And fendente to the face are possible as long as the helm doesn't as a brim, like a burgonet, which was quite likely in the first two decades of the 16th c. If his helmet is visored, don't cut there.

I'm not a living historian worried about the portrayal of the "common student" of a fencing master. As a martial artist, my concern is about the art taught by the actual fencing masters at its fullest expression. In the end, Viggiani, Marozzo, the Anonymous and Manciolino all tell us that the art is for use in armour and without. Do they give a treatise on how to pick and choose based on how much harness? No. But we can deduce that quite clearly by looking at what they do say and the plays they teach, Not surprisingly, it seems to follow the advice in Chinese and Japanese swordsmanship: avoid the harness. IMO, there seems little reason to believe that professional masters at arms living in the 16th c somehow did not understand the same lessons, especially when we compare their plays to advice given in the 15th c.

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Steven Reich




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PostPosted: Fri 25 May, 2012 6:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To make things short, I agree with what Greg has written pretty much 100%. In general, the Bolognese give us hints about armor and the period artwork shows that it was definitely still worn. I think that the key is that you learn how to defend yourself in the worst possible scenario (i.e. you have no armor) and then adapt to the situation.

In terms of knowing that your armor would be proof against a cut or a thrust, while your opponent might be aiming for a gap, even if he wasn't, would you trust your armor well enough to leave your defense to it's passive protection? I wouldn't and I'm not sure very many people would even if they wanted to--since you'll likely have trained to react to anything coming to your vital targets. Granted, if desperate situations, you would probably do things like parrying with your greaves or gauntlets, but you're probably not likely to consider that a primary defensive tactic.

In general, I think that the key to learning the Bolognese system is internalizing the fundamental actions and the complex actions. Ideally, the complete swordsman will adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of his opponent. Of course, that is easier said than done, but there really isn't a special formula that addresses it other than practice and experience...

Steve

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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Sat 26 May, 2012 8:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greg Mele wrote:
Sean,

Sean Manning wrote:

Is there any period evidence of that though? I'm not confident that every student of a 16th century master would know that any metal armour was proof against sword cuts and one-handed thrusts. They don't spell this out as often as we might expect in the 15th century, but they fairly often distinguish explicitly between armoured and unarmoured combat.


I really can't agree that they don't spell it out in the 15th c - the Liechtenauer commentaries begin with the instructions of where to strike and include plays that say "if he knows little of the art and wishes to cut at you". Then look at how they teach and what they teach - I don't think it needs to be more express than that. After all, *we* can figure it out, and we are notably more removed from sword combat than the original audience.

Hold on- I said that they don't spell it out as often as we might expect. The texts that gloss the line "Leather and gauntlets, below the eyes, seek the openings correctly" in the 'Liechtenauer' poem on armoured combat are a significant fraction of the written sources on armoured combat, but they aren't all of the sources. But perhaps this was something that one was expected to already know, or pick up by example, or learn in person.

Its always frustrating that so much knowledge was left implicit in the early manuals. We can pick up some if it by historical scholarship, some by experimental archaeology, some by practicing fencing, and some by anthropological parallels, but its not easy. So I'm always interested in what people who have studied these arts for longer than I have, and in languages I can't yet read, think and why they think so.

Joshua Santana wrote:
Quote:
Is there any period evidence of that though? I'm not confident that every student of a 16th century master would know that any metal armour was proof against sword cuts and one-handed thrusts. They don't spell this out as often as we might expect in the 15th century, but they fairly often distinguish explicitly between armoured and unarmoured combat.


I must argue that you seem to be missing the point of this discussion. There is proof and I cited it in the previous post with Viggiani. Students in the Bolognese School would be familiar with the subtle differences between unarmored and unarmored combat, all it is is adaptation of the techniques. Manciolino discusses in his treatise how to choose appropriate armor designed by you and against the physical attributes of your opponent.

Could you give the citation? The Viggiani that you quoted doesn't say that; it makes an observation about how people behave in a joust, and comments that downwards cuts can be stopped by bone or armour. Fortunately, we do have a lot of 16th century literature which talks about combat in armour (military manuals, memoirs, etc.) so there are probably sources outside the fencing manuals if one looks. I don't have the time or the vernacular languages to do it myself right now, unfortunately.
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Greg Mele
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PostPosted: Sat 26 May, 2012 4:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean,

Sean Manning wrote:

Hold on- I said that they don't spell it out as often as we might expect. The texts that gloss the line "Leather and gauntlets, below the eyes, seek the openings correctly" in the 'Liechtenauer' poem on armoured combat are a significant fraction of the written sources on armoured combat, but they aren't all of the sources. But perhaps this was something that one was expected to already know, or pick up by example, or learn in person.


I understand the frustration, I guess that in this case I don't think there is much more to be said. Fiore explains how to find the openings in armour, the Merkverse have it, and in the end, none of these works are for someone without any knowledge of swordsmanship, so I don't think that there is much more that needs to be said, for the intended audience.

Not to turn Steve and I into a broken record on this, but I think that he encapsulated it well here:

In general, I think that the key to learning the Bolognese system is internalizing the fundamental actions and the complex actions. Ideally, the complete swordsman will adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of his opponent. Of course, that is easier said than done, but there really isn't a special formula that addresses it other than practice and experience...

I highlighted it because that is what we come away with from the discourse in the texts: "armour is a factor and the way you factor it in is to strike where it is absent or weak. Now, when using the cloak...."

Now, I wish someone had just said that succinctly! But honestly, the Bolognese material is so expansive (I don't think most folks realize that just Manciolino's sword and buckler section is about four times as long as all of I.33) and so preliminary in our efforts, that right now we are best served by focusing on the foundations and seeing how they apply against the broad range of weapons - which in turn I believe will answer a lot of these questions.

Greg Mele
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Joshua Santana




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PostPosted: Sun 27 May, 2012 8:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Could you give the citation? The Viggiani that you quoted doesn't say that; it makes an observation about how people behave in a joust, and comments that downwards cuts can be stopped by bone or armour. Fortunately, we do have a lot of 16th century literature which talks about combat in armour (military manuals, memoirs, etc.) so there are probably sources outside the fencing manuals if one looks. I don't have the time or the vernacular languages to do it myself right now, unfortunately.


The Viggiani quote doesn't say the exact armor weakness (in this case the eye slits), but it hints the location using jousting as an example. To me, it is more like a hinting or suggestion saying "thrust to the eye slits" using jousting helmets as an example of armor weakness.

Quote:
In general, I think that the key to learning the Bolognese system is internalizing the fundamental actions and the complex actions. Ideally, the complete swordsman will adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of his opponent. Of course, that is easier said than done, but there really isn't a special formula that addresses it other than practice and experience...

I highlighted it because that is what we come away with from the discourse in the texts: "armour is a factor and the way you factor it in is to strike where it is absent or weak.


I agree with Greg in this matter.

Quote:
But honestly, the Bolognese material is so expansive (I don't think most folks realize that just Manciolino's sword and buckler section is about four times as long as all of I.33) and so preliminary in our efforts, that right now we are best served by focusing on the foundations and seeing how they apply against the broad range of weapons - which in turn I believe will answer a lot of these questions.


Exactly., I agree with starting with the fundamentals first before tackling Theory which is the complexity of the Bolognese System.

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