The Italian Wars raged from 1494 to 1559, and all of Italy was embroiled in frequent battles. The Germans, Spanish, French, and Turks waged war to control the Italian peninsula, and so the Italians developed combat systems that enabled them to withstand all comers, no matter what the fighting method. Venice, for example, remained unconquered for 900 years. Although firearms were emerging in Europe at that time, they had not yet seen widespread use, and so it was still common to battle with blade and spear.

Bologna, like other city-states of Northern Italy, has a long history of the use of arms.  There were many accomplished instructors of martial arts in Bologna; we know some of their names and that they were granted licenses to operate schools as early as 1390.  To these schools men with money sent their sons, so that they would have superior skills to those who could not afford it.  Some of these masters wrote instructional manuscripts, and after the printing press came to Bologna, books began to appear that contained the martial arts teachings of the time.  Five such books survive to this day, and these make up the basis of what we know as Bolognese Martial Arts.  One of our masters, writing in 1550, said that the martial arts of Bologna were already ancient in his time, and that no one knew exactly how old they were.


We have five complete and very detailed primary sources to work from:
Antonio Manciolino (1523)
Achille Marozzo (1536)
Anonimo Bolognese (abt. 1550)
Angelo Viggiani (1550)
Giovanni dall'Agocchie (1572)

As you can see from the images below, Bolognese Swordsmanship encompasses small and large shields, the two-handed longsword, the staff, spear, various polearms, dagger and unarmed combat. The style is elegant, direct, practical and extremely fightworthy. It contains many complex solo forms and two-person forms. Using proper protective gear, we regularly freespar using this system, and competitions take place all over the world.

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