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Unlike Joachim Meyer, Henri de Sainct Didier says little about his concept of the fight and how to approach or conduct it. There is rarely anything that appears to be explicit tactical advice in his text. However, there are several oblique references from which we can deduce something of the fight he envisioned.
Swordplay is compared to sport. In Sainct Didier’s view, a good jeu de paulme (the handball forerunner of tennis) player has the physicality necessary and general concept of movement (fore-hand and back-hand) to make a decent fencer. Is this only a comment on the degree of athleticism […]
I was reading today Sigmund Ringeck’s Fechtbuch on the longsword (both the Lindholm and the Tobler translations) and found that his definitions of vor (the before) and nach (the after) are quite different to what I’ve been taught. These terms refer to much more than just plain owning the initiative of the fight. They’re about breaking the opponent’s guard and single-time defences.
“Before means pre-empting your opponent with a strike or thrust to an opening. Then he must defend or parry. Be flexible in your defence and aim your sword against one opening after another so that he cannot get
The Six Strikes of Henri de Sainct Didier are a simple set of exercises which teach more than just how to cut and thrust at an opponent. Also encoded within the sequences are a range of parrying techniques; some simple, some more complex. One aspect which puzzles is how he suggests the Lieutenant change safely from attacking from the right to attack from the left and vice versa. Here's our interpretation.
Agrippa's Treatise on the Science of Arms (1553) doesn't quite make the cut for Club 1570 (my personal interest in later sixteenth century sidesword) but he remains an important factor in the understanding of the world and mindset of fencers of the period. An civil engineer by trade, Agrippa broke with the so-called medieval traditions of fencing still extant in his life. He de-constructed the art of the sword and rebuilt it as a science on firm geometric principles. Some believe that his work may be the inspiration for the geometry of the Spanish sword art known as La Verdadera Destreza. I need to revisit Agrippa's work at some point. I've learned a lot since I wrote these posts and I can see there's plenty more to learn within the text.
This post marks the start of my investigation into A Tract on the Single Sword of Henri de Sainct Didier (1573), another member of Club 1570. Like my look at Joachim Meyer’s rapier technique, there is likely to be a bunch of posts working through different aspects of his swordplay style culminating in a PDF which presents my interpretation of them. I’ll be relying on the facsimilie text of the treatise available at the Raymond J. Lord Collection of Historical Combat Manuals and Fencing Treatises rather than the translation by Preston and Wilson which I’m not at all keen on. […]
Last time, I looked briefly at what Giovanni Dall'Agocchie has to say in his On the Art of Fencing (1572) about teaching a complete newcomer in thirty days how to survive a duel. The simple technique he describes covers enough situations to be effective for a beginner. However, he says, if given more time, he'd teach the student a second guard. This post looks at his advice for that guard, coda lunga stretta. Together with this guard position, the porta di ferro discussed last time and Dall'Agocchie's advice on how to use them forms a solid core for any one interested in cut-and-thrust historical swordplay. A right-handed fencer is assumed.
I'm making a side trip into the rapier fencing technique of Giovanni Dall'Agocchie as outlined in his On the Art of Fencing (1572). He's considered the last writer within the Dardi School of rapier fencing. The book has a fascinating little section on how to teach a complete novice within thirty days enough skill and technique to allow him or her to survive a duel. His advice is extremely useful to anyone interested in cut-and-thrust swordplay.
I’ve posted before on the difference between sword fighting and swordplay. One is for the battlefield and the other is for more social situations. I find it amazing that there are historical fencers wthese not understand or fully appreciate the different contexts in which these wonderful weapons were used and how their use changed over time. This post is a quick and very general overview of the different situations in which swords were used.Battlefield
This is the most obvious use of the sword as a weapon. It is also the one that is least understood by fencers. Contrary to […]
I've finally come to the end of my explorations of the rapier chapter of Joachim Meyer's Art of Combat (1570). I'm presenting here my notes on Meyer's rapier system (PDF) for public appraisal. Maybe I've learned something new about his rappers technique. Maybe I'm on the wrong track entirely. Thoughts, comments and criticism is, as always, greatly appreciated.
I’ve found a rather nifty set of rules for rapier tournaments by RedStar Fencing in Chicago. Of the many points of interest is that this rules set has come out of a modern fence club rather than an historical fencing school. Even more amazing is that all the cumbersome and artifical modern electronic scoring kit is not required.
Before I get stuck in, here’s a copy of the rules: Lancet Fencing Modern Rapier Rules (PDF)
The first thing I like about these rules is their simplicity. There are priority (head and sword arm) and non-priority (everywhere else) target areas. If […]
In his Art of Combat (1570), Joachim Meyer unifies feints, parries and strikes and thrusts into a schema inherited from his version of Leichtenauer’s longsword practice. He calls these actions either provokers (feints), takers (parries) and hitters (cuts and thrusts). This schema provides a very useful mental framework for thinking about how and why you act in a bout, regardless of the weapon being used.
As we’ve all discovered, attacking someone standing in a solid guard position is a sure way to get hit. The best you can hope for is that you both hit each other. To the problem […]
Swordplay is a three day gathering of schools of historical swordsmanship held each September in Brisbane, Australia and run by the Australian College of Arms (ACA). The idea behind the event is to bring together fencers from all corners of this wide brown land to meet, exchange ideas and cross blades is a friendly atmosphere. This year, we kidnapped Puck Curtis and refused to release him until he presented a workshop on one of his passions, La Verdadera Destreza, the Spanish rapier technique of the sixteenth and seventeen centuries.
The format seems to have roughly fallen out as a day […]
It’s September and that means Swordplay 11 is just around the corner. In fact, it’s on in less than a week. Yay!
Obviously, all historical fencers in Australia know about Swordplay but there’s bound to be a poor benighted few who haven’t heard of it. Swordplay is an annual event run by the Australian College of Arms which brings together schools of swordplay and historical fencing from all over the country in order to chat, compare notes and, of course, cross blades. It’s been going for a few years now and leaping from strength to strength. You won’t find three […]
One recent development has been playing on my mind of late: the height of pedestal on which we place the masters of the various historical fencing techniques we study. In our collective hero-worship no one seems to have considered that the masters’ techniques either just plain don’t work or work only in a limited set of circumstances. This type of hagiography does not to advance our understanding of historical swordplay nor does it provide a useful basis for the future of the sport.
The context in which a particular master wrote is the key piece of information missing from the […]
What happens when you face an opponent who read my last post and is standing in front of you in Straight Parrying or, to a much lesser extent, Iron Gate? What do you do?
Meyer is not particularly clear on this point but, as he says, he gives a range of examples from which the reader is supposed to deduce the principles at work, many of which will be familiar from the section on the longsword or from other schools of rapier play. He says in general that “ you should not go out more than a hand’s breadth to […]