By Robert N. Charrette
Freelance Academy Press, 2011
Publisher’s Description: Armizare (“the Art of Arms”) was the name the warriors of medieval Italy gave to their martial art, which included the wielding of sword, axe and spear with wrestling, knife-fighting and mounted combat. In the waning years of the 14th century, Fiore dei Liberi was a famed master of this art, whose students included some of the most renowned and dangerous fighting men of his day.
Toward the end of his life, Master Fiore preserved his teachings in a series of illustrated manuscripts, four of which have survived to the present day, and have become the basis of a world-wide effort to reconstruct this lost martial art. However, because medieval books were written for an audience with different expectations than the modern readers “how-to” manuals, today’s students often have trouble understanding the old swordsman’s choices in including, omitting or organizing information as he did. They may see that fighting art was a system, but lack the background to see the systematic instruction of the book itself.
In Armizare: The Chivalric Martial Arts System of il Fior di Battaglia, Robert Charrette brings together his experiences as a martial artist and respected 14th century living historian with his skills as a professional author graphic artist to not only take readers on a walking tour of Master Fiore’s manuscripts, but into the mindset behind its creation. More than just an interpretation of an old book’s contents, this is a tool-kit that reveals Fiore dei Liberi’s brilliance as not just a fighter, but as martial arts teacher. Whether a long-time student, a newcomer to the art or a more academic devoté of the medieval warrior and his craft, readers will find themselves educated and entertained as a door is opened into another time and place – the training hall of the medieval knight
Excerpt: What we know about Fiore comes mostly from biographical notes in the introduction of his works. He was the son of the ‘noble’ Ser Benedetto of Cividale in Friuli, a small region in what is now north-eastern Italy.At the time portions of the area were under the sway of the Germanic entities that became Austria.
Fiore tells us that he spent more than forty years and possibly as many as fifty before committed his knowledge to books. One manuscript contains within it the date on which Fiore says he started it in 1409. Based on the professional length of his career, and the usual age when a man might launch a military career, he must have been born some time around 1350. We have no record of either his birth or death.
Fiore says that he grew up wanting to learn all he could about the secrets of weapons and combat. He was a soldier and traveled extensively, seeking to learn as much as possible about the fighting arts. During this time he studied with both German and Italian masters, as well as with experienced warriors of various courts.
He became a scarmitor, a sword master, and he trained men for “combat in the barriers.” Some of his students were famous, and some fought famous men, and all were “satisfied by my instruction and … wanted only me as a teacher.” The roster includes mercenaries, knights and minor nobles active in northern and central Italy during the latter part of the fourteenth century.