Capoferro seeking measure

Capo Ferro Chapter XI: How to Seek Measure

You can find links to all the chapters I’ve interpreted in the Historical Fencing section of the site.

I’m using two translations as my sources. The Swanger/Wilson translation of Capo Ferro’s book (download it here) and Tom Leoni’s version. Both are solid, but have weird translation issues that make more sense when each version is compared to one another. It helps to get a rounder view of the material.

In this section, we look at how to seek measure (which is to get into a position to be able to strike your opponent) while remaining safe from being struck yourself.


Like defense, offense is consisted of two parts — seeking measure and striking.


Capoferro defines seeking measure as “a form of offense in which, while on guard, you maneuver into narrow measure.”

Narrow measure, as described in Chapter IV, can “of the arm” which means extension distance or “of the foot” which means a lunge.

So, in short, seeking measure is moving into position where you can hit your opponent with a lunge or an extension.


There are three ways you can seek measure:

  1.  You move to seek measure and your opponent remains still.
  2. Your opponent moves and you remain still.
  3. You and your opponent both move.


The tempo of seeking measure needs to be precise, according to Capoferro. It needs to put you at the furthest you can lunge to hit your opponent. Seeking that measure is one tempo. Then comes a second tempo which is the actual striking motion.

Remember, offense consists of two parts — seeking measure & the striking.


Capoferro talks about being patient when seeking measure. Impatience leads to improper and premature attacks which put yourself in a bad situation… like being dead.


Capoferro presents an example in this section (he’s pretty wordy, so it’s a bit confusing; I hope I annotate/interpret it correctly):

You take your guard (terza, most likely) and seek measure while your adversary is already in their wide measure (aka, a lunge distance). As he tries to continue to seek measure on you, or throws and attack, his sword must also advance forward. Capoferro says it’s important to keep your sword-point still during this tempo, as to not attack too early. His motion should measure your stillness and your stillness his motion. If you move too early, the “tempo would not be just” (aka accurate) and you wouldn’t have sought measure correctly.

He continues to note that tempo isn’t a measurement of speed (like it is in music). Tempo is a measurement of motion. The end of the tempo of wide measure is the beginning of the tempo of narrow measure. To translate: the end of the motion that gets you into lunge distance is the beginning of the motion of striking your opponent.


Capoferro gets on his high horse a bit here. He talks about how many fighters when seeking narrow measure will do a lot of blade work like disengages, counter-disengages, feints, move side-to-side, etc. Capoferro pretty much calls these moves bullshit and were invented to “fool the gullible and make plays difficult.”

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Of course, humans are all fools, so that stuff works great. In reality, when you’re seeking measure and gaining the blade you don’t need to do much (or any) of those moves. I digress…

Capoferro continues by saying when you gain an opponent’s sword, it’s important to only gain their debole with your forte in a straight line, putting your sword on top of theirs without touching it. Only when you’re striking should you touch your opponent’s blade.

I have trouble with that last one. I do too much blade contact. It’s something I need to work on.


Capoferro advises cavazione (disengages) only when your opponent has gained your blade or removed you from the straight line. At this point, you should probably also retreat or disengage with withdrawing your body. Once you complete that move, you should replace your blade back on the straight line and seeking measure.

Cavaziones are performed against the gaining of the sword (gaining is also called stringering). Since gaining the sword moves the sword forward, cavaziones should be done while moving the sword back.


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