Florentine: Marne/ Classic
Florentine style is the pinnacle of the fighting class currently. The top fighters all have extensive experience using this combination. Florentine is commonly thought to be the most complex fighting style, and it is fairly complicated in that it has many facets. Truthfully, many of the most "complicated" portions are actually many simple motions. Sticking to the fundamentals of the style is the key to excellence. The downfall of many journeymen Florentine fighters is in overcomplicating their movements, among other problems to be explained later. Either this style, or shield; is highly recommended as the second style for any aspiring fighter to learn. Basics: The concept of Florentine fighting is very similar to Boxing. A good Boxer has either a killer right or left, while a truly great boxer is able to score a knockout with either hand. Ambidexterity is a skill that some people have naturally, but is a concept that can be trained. Being able to reliably attack and block with either hand without having to cross hands to compensate is incredibly important.
Exercise: A good way to build strength and coordination in your off hand is to fight with a rogue Florentine combination (dagger and sword), but with the sword in your off hand. This still allows you to block with your dominant hand, but also requires you to mainly use your off hand for attacks. It can be very frustrating at first but it is incredibly helpful in the long run. It is recommended for newer Florentine fighters to mix this sort of exercise in with regular Florentine every so often. This exercise is also helpful in building comfort with both footwork stances. It really helps you learn perspective in terms of right and left foot forward, and also allows you to see available shots and the defensive strengths and weaknesses of a righty and lefty.
Left and Right
Understanding the important of balance in Florentine fighting is critical. Attacks to the left side of the body are block with your left hand, and vice versa. You will often see people make large exaggerated blocks or a cross block where the left swords blocks the right side. This is a good example of people overcomplicating the style. A simple turn of the wrist will effectively block most shots. An outside attack requires wrist rotation towards the outside, whereas an inside shot requires rotation towards the body. The simple motions prevent your opponent from easily wrapping either your arm or your midsection. This is primarily a defense against slashing attacks. A jab requires a more proactive form of defense. This is called the "reach block". It is very effective against thrusts and slower fighters using slashing attacks. Depending on which sword you are favoring to attack with at the time, you move the opposite sword in for a feigned attack, then move it across their midsection and have it intercept their thrusting sword. This works in two ways: first your opponent may abandon the attack altogether, as they truly are worried about being attacked; or you will make the block and be in a position for an easy counter-attack. This tactic is especially successful when fighting against a single weapon or a shield. It is highly recommended to block downward and outward, as this prevents the attacker from grazing kill locations. This type of block normally involves the middle or upper part of the sword, as opposed to the wrist turning block, which commonly lands either on the hand or somewhere on the weapons handle. Be prepared to modify your approach in case of feints when trying to reach block, which takes you out of your guard position. As you get more comfortable with this technique, you will also have more practice experience under your belt. As you begin to learn the main openers that your opponents use, you will be able to more reliably stuff there opening attack and close quickly. You will hear many fighters talk about "soaking" a shot to close quickly in a fight. This can often be messy and technically unsound. Using the reach block prevents the necessity of soaking a shot, which accomplishes two things. It allows you to close/ties up their main attacking hand, and also expends less armor, allowing you to either leave a one on one fight less damaged, or attack more people in a line battle without having to worry about getting things repaired or dying.
A second approach to blocking, especially thrusts, relies less on your arms and more so on your body. When you are in your guard position, and you know a thrust is coming, you first take a diagonal forward step towards your main hand side. Next you rotate your body as the thrust is coming in towards your off hand side. This relies more on your oblique muscles. What this allows you to do is push the thrust towards the outside of your body and your off hand weapon, allowing you to quickly counter with your main hand. Also, it puts the stress of blocking on your core muscles, which makes it less likely you will be overpowered, since your hands and arms stay stationary, and ones core muscles are generally stronger than their opponents’ arms. This is a very different way of blocking and defense, and generally requires a lot of practice to learn and remember. This type of defense is recommended for fighters with some experience with the more orthodox systems of blocking first.
The attacks of Florentine fighting are the most complex concepts to learn. Florentine has by far the most possibilities as you have two weapons that have the range to attack. The most important thing to consider is to stay in your guard position before attacking, and to return right afterward. This prevents your opponent from capitalizing on your openings should your attacks not be successful. Because of the differences of approach, this part will be divided into multiple sections.
Fighting a Single Weapon
When fighting against a single weapon (Hand and a half, great weapons, or a shield) a defensive approach is recommended. The key is to be patient and make a solid block on their attack. Next you take a step or two forward, while holding the block away with one sword and attack the now exposed attackers’ body. It is generally more successful to move in toward your preferred attacking side, though as you raise your ambidexterity this should begin to matter less. As you become more proficient in this style you can also begin to mix in reach blocks and become more aggressive against single weapons styles. This allows you another tool in dictating the flow of the fight and helping you fight from a position of comfort while forcing your opponent to fight from one of discomfort. If the opposing fighter is not attacking, it is recommended to throw a couple of light non-committed attacks from your guard position in order to bait him into attacking. The most important concept to get down when countering off a block is putting as little time as possible between your block and counter. This ensures you will catch your opponent in a non-favorable position and not give him time to recover and return to his guard position. Contrary to popular belief, this same approach is very successful against shield men; it just may require you to hold your block for longer as you navigate your way around the shield. Against shields it can be effective to target the blind spot on a shield, as it does not allow them to track your shot.
Secondary Approach: There is a second, more aggressive approach to fighting single weapons. This is particularly useful in line fighting or unlimited fights. The concept is to preemptively block you opponents’ weapon while the attacker is still in their guard position and quickly moving in and attacking while their weapon is jammed up. This requires keen reflexes as there is a distinct possibility that they will attack at the same time. It is recommended to do a quick side step in order to attack towards whichever side appears weaker in their guard. This will help land shots to the vulnerable location in their guard. The side step while closing is particularly useful against pikes as it will normally lead to either a complete miss or a slash from the pike, either way dealing no damage.
Side Note: Using the reach block as a way to close works particularly well against shields and Marnes. The majority of fighters are very dominant handed. Locking up their dominant hand leaves you nearly free from attack and allows you to either attack the shield side shoulder or midsection, depending on where they preemptively block. Being even handed gives you a huge advantage against the majority of people. Even people who prefer to use the Marne should be proficient in attacking with it. Any bladed surface is meant for attacking, forgetting that makes you effectively a gimped shield fighter.
Up and Down
This is a period of transition that often comes up when executing a reach block and closing with your opponent. You opponent either throws a high or low shot that you block by moving one of your swords down or up. It is now important to adjust your stance from the normal Left and Right explained before. In order to compensate for the increased top defense your opposite sword needs to transition lower, or vice versa. It is effectively the same theory as Left and Right, but turned on its side. It also presents a whole new set of angles to attack from. It can be challenging at first to reliably block from that stance, as it is very unorthodox. It is recommended to master the orthodox right and left stance before attempting this.
Florentine is the pinnacle for fighters. When you follow simple core principles of how the style works, nothing has such a lethal combination of defense and offense. This is a challenging style to learn at first, but the rewards are huge. Build your skills in small parts. If certain parts are easy to learn, master them first, then move on to more challenging sections. Building ambidexterity is a huge key to completing your skill set. Over complication is the biggest obstacle to success.