Interview with Guy Windsor: Veni Vadi Vici

Guy Windsor’s Veni Vadi Vici is an annotated transcription and translation of De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi, written by Filippo Vadi sometime between 1482 and 1487.

Filippo Vadi

Although different, Vadi’s work appears to be based on Fiore’s earlier work. Do you feel that Vadi has done some “copy paste” from Fiore’s manual? What things are the most similar between Vadi and Fiore?

– There are several passages which are word-for-word identical between Vadi’s treatise and at least one version of Fiore’s (there are four that we know of). These tend to be in places where the text is a mnemonic verse, such as in the guard tutta porta di ferro. So it could be that the similarity between the texts does not come from copying, but repetition of a phrase that was generally associated with that guard.

We also find some major similarities in the organisation of the manuscripts, and the specific content of some sections (sword in armour, spear, and axe, for instance). The fundamentals of the art do appear very similar.


What new things does Vadi provide that Fiore doesn’t?

– To start with, Vadi gives us a gigantic amount of theory, in 16 verse chapters. This alone is priceless. He also shows us what to do with a longer sword, and provides a key link between Fiore and the later Bolognese system.

Guy Windsor


It has been suggested that Vadi’s style represents a transitional phase between Fiore and the later Bolognese masters. Do you think so?

– For a full answer to that, please refer to my article, here:

I have understood that you found that there is a connection to German style longsword in Vadi’s manual?

– Not exactly. There is no evidence that Vadi had any exposure to the Liechtenauer tradition (though it is likely); but his work, because it uses a longer sword than Fiore’s, as does the German style, has some similar techniques, which puzzled Fiore scholars by their absence from his system. You can read my full argument here:

How long time you have researched Vadi for you book?

– I first came across Vadi in about 1998; and in the early days of the school, we used his treatise quite a bit. I went 100% Fiore in 2003, and didn’t really look at Vadi again until January last year. I write books to learn as much as to teach.

vadi2 vadi3
What has been the most difficult part in your research of Vadi?

-Well, some of his language is really tricky, and frankly my Italian is not so good. It got a lot better from working on the translation though.

What have been the finest things for fencing you have found out from Filippo Vadi’s fencing theory?

-Oh, where to start? Firstly, more solutions to the zogho stretto problem; secondly, a lot of really interesting theory, and, how about this?

El te bixogna ancora avere amente
De portar sempre honere altuo maestro
Per che denar non paga tal somente

And you must always keep in mind
To always honour your teacher,
Because money does not repay such a
(Veni Vadi Vici p 51)

What’s the most important question that I didn’t ask? And your answer to it…

– How about: “where can I get the book?”

You can download Vadi’s treatise in pdf with my translation added, completely free, from here.
And you can buy the ebook as a pdf here.
And as an epub from here.
And the paperback from here.


PS. Read also:
Interview with Guy Windsor: The Fiore Extravaganza (June 19, 2013)
Guy Windsor in Kuopio – outpost of swordsmanship civilisation in the wilds of Finland 24.3.2013 (April 18, 2013)

Interview with Guy Windsor: The Fiore Extravaganza

Guy Windsor and The School of European Swordsmanship has arranged the week-long Fiore Extravaganza seminar once a year during the summer. This summer the dates are June 29th-July 6th 2013.

How many Extravaganzas you have arranged?

– This year will be the fifth. The first, in 2008, was called “5 days of Fiore” and ran from Wednesday to Sunday; the current, longer, format is better for retention, as there is more training time, and a bit more down-time.

I suppose that it is the most important seminar of the fencing year at The School of European Swordsmanship?

– It’s certainly the biggest, and tends to be well attended. I have also found that it tends to lead to new insights and hence syllabus and interpretation developments. I think though that how important it is depends on whether it happens to generate new insights, in me or in the students present.

Fiore Extravaganza 2011

Earlier you have gone through il Fior di Battaglia (The Flower of Battle) written by Fiore dei Liberi around 1409. Was it the original idea of Extravaganza?

– Yes. The original idea was to go through as many sections as possible, play by play, showing the students the book first, reading out the text, and then doing the actions literally by the book. That is a critically important process, of course, but by the third year we needed to go deeper, so in the third Extravaganza we focussed on what the player (the one losing in the play) was doing that made the particular play we were working on the best possible solution. And last year we included a lot of Vadi.

On the Extravaganza 2012 we spent much of our time working through another Italian fencing master, Filippo Vadi’s, fencing theory. I suppose that you brought Vadi into the Extravaganza because you were researching his manual for your Veni Vadi Vici book (now published)?

– That was part of it, yes. The content of all my books are worked out in class, of course. Which makes the students on the one hand guinea pigs, and on the other, research assistants and even co-authors! But also, it was a natural fit because Vadi’s book seems to draw heavily on Fiore, and adds a significant layer of insight for Fiore scholars. And several students who were thinking of attending practically begged me to include Vadi. I am a sucker for enthusiasm, so thought, why not?

Fiore Extravaganza 2012

Extravaganza 2013 we will study Fiore, Vadi and Liechtenauer? How did you get this idea?

– At the end of last year’s Extravaganza, I was discussing the next one with the students present, and the idea came to focus on the longsword, then we thought that it would be cool to expand that into a complete look at the way the longsword was being used in the 1400s. So enter Liechtenauer, master of the German school.

There will be a guest instructor this time Mr. Stefan Dieke. Could you introduce him?

– Certainly! Stefan is an old and dear friend of mine, and also a professional HEMA instructor in Germany. He has been working on Liechtenauer for about as long as I have been working on Fiore.

This will be his third trip to teach at SES. He has a very straightforward and practical approach to the art, which I think the students here will enjoy.

Is he the first guest instructor in the history of Extravaganza?

– Indeed he is. But probably not the last! I have always had a policy of inviting instructors in from abroad, especially in areas or systems where I don’t know so much.

Indeed, there will be two more coming to Finland this year alone: Chris Chatfield, teaching a seminar on Saviolo this August 17th and 18th; then in November Paul Wagner returns, though we have not set the topic yet.

What do you hope and expect from the coming Extravaganza 2013?

– Well, firstly I am looking forward to the energy and enthusiasm that the students tend to bring to this event. It is special.

I am also looking forward to seeing how my take on Vadi squares with Stefan’s Liechtenauer interpretation. It is my current theory that the Germans and Vadi are using a longer sword than Fiore, which leads to specific similarities in the response to the zogho stretto bind.

And top-secret, tell no-one, I am also looking for ideas from Stefan about the content for a Liechtenauer module for our current syllabus…

– Mika –

Guy Windsor in Kuopio – outpost of swordsmanship civilisation in the wilds of Finland 24.3.2013


Until March this year my only contact with the swordsmen of Kuopio was the regular attendance at our annual Fiore Extravaganza, and the occasional additional seminar in Helsinki, Jyväskylä, and Oulu, of some of them. It was with particular anticipation then, that my student Henry Vilhunen and I set off very early on a Sunday morning for the four hour drive to this outpost of swordsmanship civilisation in the wilds of Finland. We made good time on clear roads, and arrived ready to see what these Savolaiset could do. As it turns out, quite a bit!

There were about 16 students present, including a few who had made the trip from Joensuu. The seminar began with the usual warmup, with some mechanical analysis, encouraging the students to think about what they were doing. The purpose of the day, from my perspective, was to run a systems check on their understanding and knowledge of the syllabus. They also asked me to test several students for levels one and two. This presented an interesting challenge because there was not nearly enough time in the day to check the entire basic syllabus for those doing level II, and dividing my attention between two groups of different levels is tricky. However I did my best to highlight for them the way the syllabus is put together for the purposes of memorisation and swift assimilation, and the tools it contains for developing your skills in the Art of Arms.

The morning session was mostly taken up with the cutting drill and the four basic drills, with the two groups taken separately at times, and being specifically intermingled at others. For example, we might take everybody through first drill, with intermediate helping the basic level students, then separate out the basic level students to practice the basic form of the drill, while the more advanced group plays variations on it. Having opened their eyes to the depths of the material they thought they knew, the intermediates would then pair off again with the basic level students, with an improved understanding of exactly how and why the basic material should be done. By the end of this the basic level students had seen enough new material to keep them thoroughly confused if we had added any more.

During the lunch break Henry and I got to sample the legendary Savolainen hospitality, and I did some work on one student’s shoulder.

The afternoon was spent mostly blasting the intermediate level students through the Syllabus Form, its variations and applications, and the more advanced ways of training familiar material. For the purposes of examination, I had them also run through some dagger material. Henry spent much of the afternoon supervising the basic level students, while I applied pressure to the seniors. Of course we found many areas to improve, as that is the function of the more advanced drills. Learn the basics, pushed them until they break, then strengthen that area of weakness.

At the end of the day I had the pleasure of being able to pass the following students through their level II:
Mika Vesterinen
Paula Vesterinen
Jaakko Vesterinen
Mira Kärki
Paula Thitz

And the following students through their level 1:
Olli Riukulehto
Esa Arbelius
Jussi Hakkarainen
Pauli Hyvönen
Sanna Jääskelainen

They are all a credit to their branch leaders, Janne Kärki in Kuopio and Risto Rautiainen in Joensuu.

A sick child at home meant that I had to go straight back, with no time for the planned proper dinner, sauna, and overnight stay, but many of the attendees came with us to brave the food at the nearest eatery, a motorway service station, so we ate in good company. I look forward to a swift return, and to seeing many of their number in the Salle sometime soon.

– Guy Windsor –

Kuvat: School of European Swordmanship