A Successful Approach to Florentine -Sunday, March 21, 2010
Welcome fighting enthusiasts. This article is an overview of my Florentine
style. A style that has been cobbled together from many years of Amtgard fighting, SCA
fighting and martial arts concepts. To put this into perspective I have been fighting in
Amtgard for a 20 year period, about 16 of that at a truly hyper active level. I have, on
and off, fought SCA for many years. I am an avid follower of mixed martial arts and
have trained regularly in Brazilian Jujitsu and Muay Thai Kickboxing for many years on
and off. This should give you an idea of the background and sources I am fortunate to
Setting the Stage
There has been a very popular, but in my opinion inaccurate, viewpoint that there is only one way
to fight Florentine properly. As a counterpoint to that sentiment I have written this article, which will
offer you the truths and absolutes of my own style; which, itself, is a style with concepts stolen
from many people and martial pursuits. Foam fighting today is a game of feints, angles and misdirection
whereas the fighting of years past was straight, heavy-handed attacks with little finesse. Styles change
and evolve constantly... the art of fighting is in putting everything together into a style of your own.
In this section we will conceptually cover the use of your feet, your hands (swords) and
your core and how everything should be working independently yet towards common
purpose. Also all of the components will be glued together with pace and meter. We will
consistently discuss the use of patterns. Establishing our own patterns and frenetic
energy to be less predictive and to force or lead our opponents to where we want them
to be. Use everything we are discussing to set up shop in the heads of opponents,
seriously, we want to build our summer homes there.
Lets start with the foundation of any style: legs and feet. You must always be on the
balls of your feet, knees slightly bent and always ready to move, move, move. Whether
you are advancing, circling or throwing it in reverse you must stay off of your flat footed
tendencies. If you become flat footed at the wrong time you could fall down, miss shots,
get stuck and ultimately lose. Additionally your stance must shift constantly. You
should switch your lead foot (frequency and pace of this should be kept varied) and
continually move your feet. Keep these things in mind as we continue on and remember
if your feet aren't moving they aren't doing their job.
On to setting up your offense. Florentine fighters, whether naturally ambidextrous
or not, need to become practiced and truly comfortable with both hands. Both hands
need to be working at separate but linked purposes. This is where we will use the prize
fighter picture to help visualization. Even if you have not seen an MMA bout or K1
match you have most likely seen a boxing match or at least a movie about boxing.
Think on these references and notice that in all of these scenarios there are
consistencies with hand placement we will draw from. Think of the fighters lead hand
and how it is used to jab. For our purposes our jab is our lead sword. Like our lead foot our
lead sword should change with varied frequency and pace. The jab accomplishes
consistent pressure and annoyance in all competitive fighting and it is no different in
sword fighting. Thus, the jab is both offense and a setup up for further offense. By contrast
our back sword is our "power hand" and will be used for strong follow-ups to score knockouts
on our opponents. After taking your fighting stance you need to keep moving your feet, the
more lateral movement the better. While circling to the weak side of your opponent you will
want to make quick and concise strikes with your jab hand sword. You want to do this to
establish a pattern of defense in your opponent. When you feel their defense is retracting
you want to strike hard and quick with your power hand. Hopefully at this point your
opponent is rocked back on their heels or at minimum pulled into a defensive position.
This sets up many opportunities, but my favorite at this point is what I like to call "Blood in the Water".
Now to borrow from Muay Thai we are going to put our opponents where we want and
control them by force. As we covered in the paragraph above, your opponent is now
rocked onto to his defensive heels. Going on the offensive is an expansion of what we
have already learned, in that we want to establish a pattern of offense. A pattern that
will be fully under your control and one that will perform a distinct purpose. Pull your
opponents defense in any direction you wish; up, down, left or right. The key is ensuring
that your offense is intense and controlled to the point that your opponent has to put his
defense where you want or die. At the point your opponent is fully committed to one area
defensively you can quickly switch to another location. That is what happens when things
go correctly... But what happens when they don't? I like to call it acquiescing, or agreement.
Now, am I telling you to go along with the offense of your opponent? No of course not.
We still want to control our opponent but now we will borrow from my Brazilian JuJitsu
background. Letting our opponent feel we are agreeing to their offensive stance and as
so putting him in an indefensible position. When your opponent presses you, start your
tactical movement away. This is where your footwork is essential. You need to be able
to literally run backwards while keeping your posture offensive. If this hard to picture
have an advanced fighter in your region show you or wait for Loptr's video of my SKBC
Florentine seminar to be released. Now that you are running backwards you will notice
that your opponent will pursue you as long as they feel they can get to you. If you feel
very confidant in your footwork you can adjust your speed to ensure this condition
occurs. Now that they are pursuing you their defense will tend to rise and a good
portion of their body will be exposed at the hip down or they will lean forward enough to
where you can snag an outside wrap or slot shot. You can still use your jab and power
techniques despite moving backwards. Remember the pattern. We have now controlled
our opponent by leading them where we wanted by making them think they wanted to
be there. Now what happens if neither the offensive or defensive approach has worked,
what do you do. One word for you dear readers, reset.
The art of the reset is a simple matter in theory and difficult until practiced.
The key to resetting is lateral movement and the dramatic cut. Cutting across
your plane of movement with quickness can put you beside an over intrepid pursuer, put
you out of the way of balanced opponent and pull you out of play for a defensive
opponent. Now fluid lateral movement is critical. "Circle out and away, out and away".
This is the final stage of resetting combat. What do you do then, well my friends, see
Repetition is key to muscle memory. Muscle memory is key to being great. While you
think through a plan before combat, being able to act out of second nature is key. Here
are several drills you may use to practice everything above.
This practice may be performed with a partner or a pell (partner is better). Take your
stance and ensure to continue to stay on the balls of your feet. While stepping in and
out of range throw your jab, inside and outside. Remember that the strike should be
quick and concise every time and you should never be reaching beyond your stance.
Vary your lead foot and your jab hand as the drill progresses. There should be
consistent repetition with this movement so your muscle memory is well on its way.
Just like with the jab this drill is partner or pell doable. While in your stance and moving
throw from your power hand. Ensure that the blow is hitting with power as the name
entails. You want to vary the shots. You should try traditional slots, downward angles
and shots to the side of the shoulder as well as the shoulder itself. These shots can
become very painful for your sparring partner so unless you are using a pell you should
take turns as you are practicing. Remember that these shots should produce several
elements. If not blocked this will produce wound and kill shots that actually sting your
opponent. If blocked these shots will knock back and rock your opponents defense also
while stinging your opponent.
When you feel you have a good comfort level with your jab and your power shots you
will want to put them together. With your partner or pell throw five jabs (remember to
vary) and then throw a power shot. Shift your lead foot and jab hand and repeat the
exercise. Once again it is critical that you stay on the balls of your feet and stay
balanced and light on those feet. During this drill you should ensure you are moving in
and out of range and add circling to the mix. These footwork components can still be
used even with a pell but are easier when you have a dance partner. Repeat this drill
several times, if you have an opponent switch off but make sure you are getting even
time with both hands and feet.
Practicing blood in the water requires a sparring partner to be done properly. Take turns
with your partner on the offensive. The offensive partner should square off, not square
up, with the defensive partner. While both opponents are in a proper stance the
offensive partner should start off with the combo exercise. Perform the combo exercise
until the defensive partner's defense is pressed back and he hits his heals flatfooted.
When you are first performing this drill it can help for the defensive partner to let this
happen. Once you have achieved putting your opponent fully on the defensive you
should continue throwing alternating power and jab shots. These shots should be
thrown in a pattern with speed and consistent force and pressure. One of two things will
happen with the defensive person. Either they will start to follow the patter of what you
are throwing to survive or they will die. Even if they know it is coming they can't really
stop it if you maintain range, posture and pressure. If the defensive opponent DOES
manage to maintain the pattern of defense this is where you will finish him. Move the
pattern so you may pull their defense high, low or to the side. As soon as the defense
begins to move break your own pattern and then strike to the now exposed areas.
Trade off with your opponent but continually drill this exercise. Repetition is important
with all of these drills but this is the drill you should perform the most when you get to
an advanced level. You have to be able to do this completely second nature. Also you
want to be able to do this in a way that will brutalize your opponents but not injure
Now you will need to trade off being on the acquiescing side. Let your partner close on
you. When you feel they are right at weapons length you need to move. Press off your
back foot and move backwards quickly. You need to make sure that you are staying up
and agile. Your posture should be upright and ready to throw. Even though you are
moving backward you should always be ready to strike as well as defend. The key to
this drill is to create enough distance where your pursuer feels he needs to move faster
than he is comfortable. Believe it or not it is easier to maintain a good defense while
running backwards than forwards, this is your edge. While running backwards use your
combos to create opportunity. As your pursuer attempts to close holes should open in
his defense, strike them. You want to repeat this drill over and over again taking turns
as the pursuer. The key to this drill is to become comfortable running backward and
taking shots while acquiescing. Keep drilling until you are comfortable. The advanced
version of this drill involves starting off on the advance. While on the advance shift your
weight back and when your next foot forward hits absorb the momentum by bending
your knee and then thrusting yourself back. Then you will be moving backwards and
may try the rest of the drill as described above.
Resetting is absolutely key. Resetting may be practiced in combination with any drill or
while ditching. Just remember the key is to circle away, leap away or to cut severely to
the side. You then need to finish getting out and then reengaging. Make sure you
practice the entire motion and not just leaping out. As always, being comfortable with
the action is key.
I hope that this overview and practices provided will help. The key to your success
should be bound only by your ambition, love for the sport and hard work. Good luck and
reach out to me if you ever have questions. You can find me on ESam under Guy...