The Lunge

There are people who will maintain that Capo Ferro does not advocate a lunge because he does not use the word lunge or because the movement of the front foot is so slight in comparison to a modern lunge. However, if you look at the mechanics of Capo Ferro's attack and also at the illustration it is readily apparent that he is advocating the lunge.

It took me a number of years to understand the mechanics of the renaissance lunge. I would look at the pictures from the texts and would wonder how the fencers at that time could do these lunges without ruining their knees. When I started wearing historically accurate shoes I noticed that my footwork changed. At this time I also attended a number of seminars (by Bob Charron and others) where earlier footwork was discussed and it was determined that much of the footwork was done on the balls of the feet. This lead me to the conclusion that even at 1600 mand later the balls of the feet would be used and it was not until the classical fencing period that the heel would have been used more.

So, now I advocate a different lunge for renaissance fencing that allows the knee to travel forward of the foot without straining the knee.


Mechanics of the Lunge

First and foremost you must have a proper on-guard. Refer back to the main Capo Ferro page for this information. The image to the right is Capo Ferro's lunge plate.

The following is a translation of his key to the lunge plate.

A -- The left shoulder
B -- The leg of the left knee
C -- The planting of the left foot
D -- Ordinary step
E -- Planting of the right foot
F -- The thigh and the leg to the shoe
G -- The hand of the right arm
H -- The increase of the right arm
I -- The increase of the right knee, almost a step
K -- Increase of a step, a little more than a foot (piede)
L -- The increase of the left foot, with its turn
M -- The increase of the left knee of a half pace

In speaking of the lunge Capo Ferro stated:

Chapter VII
68) In striking the body is propelled forward, so that the right thigh forms an obtuse angle with the body, and the point of the shoulder aligns with the point of the right foot, and the left thigh and calf are carried forward through an oblique line, extended to such a degree that the left shoulder divides the pace that is made through the middle.
69) And when one goes to strike, the body needs to be pushed forward in a straight line, so that through the diversity of striking, outside and inside, leaning somewhat more to one than to the other side, it will deviate the least from the straight line.

Chapter IX: Of the thighs, calves, of the feet, and of the pace.
83) In resting in guard and in seeking the narrow measure, the right calf with the thigh and its foot point directly forward, and lean back in an oblique line, in the manner of a slope; and the left calf with the thigh and its foot point straight toward your left side, with the knee bent as far as possible, so that the inner side of the heel directly aligns with the point of the right heel.
84) In striking, the knee of the right leg is bent as far as it can be, so that the calf and the thigh come to make the most acute angle; and on the contrary, the left calf with its thigh is extended forward in an oblique line in the manner of a slope.
85) The pace is a just distance between the legs, as much in fixing as in moving oneself, well suited for placing oneself in guard to seek measure, and to strike; in regard of distance, the pace is either entirely narrow, or a half pace, or a just pace, or extraordinary.

With this in mind I will now describe the mechanics. In the lunge Capo Ferro also stated that the front foot should only move forward in the attack a foot length or a little more. So the step is small and takes little tempo. From the onguard the weapon arm will start to extend forward and the body will follow and be moved forward by extending and pushing forward with the back leg. Looking at the lunge illustration you will see that the big toe of the back foot is separated from the other toes. This indicated to me that the toes and ball of the foot is being used to propel the body forward. With only moving the front foot a short ways forward the knee is able to extend past the toes and the distance coverd may be a little more than with a classical or lunge. I had my lunge distances measured based on distance from the back foot and I could easily get an extra inch or two with the renaissance lunge.

The following links are streaming video of the lunge sequence showing a classical followed by a renaissance lunge.