Fiore dei Liberi in his 1409 treatise tells us that “Out of envy, some Masters challenged me to combat with sharp swords, in an arming coat and with no other defensive weapon besides a pair of chamois gloves.” (translation care of Tom Leoni).
This is light gear indeed, considering that he was facing sharp swords. It is also a far cry from the highly equipped tournament environments we place ourselves in today. Some of my Belgian friends jokingly called it “Robocop Fencing” when I visited them in 2014.
When I look back on Fiore’s words I recognize that he is specifically telling us that the quality of his art was sufficient to protect him without reliance on gauntlets or harness. It speaks to a type of fencing that respects the deadliness of the blades, the importance of both prudence and audacity (two of Fiore’s chief virtues), and the realities of martial combat.
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