Summary of Henri de Sainct Didier’s Rapier System


Henri de Sainct Didier This post marks the end of my investigations into A Tract on the Single Sword of Henri de Sainct Didier (1573), another member of Club 1570. I’m presenting here my notes on his sidesword technique (PDF) for public appraisal. Any and all feedback is gratefully appreciated.

My initial thoughts were pretty much correct. The text is a series of lesson plans rather than a coherent sword combat system. Sainct Didier is all about training young courtiers rather than warriors.

There’s little in the way of description of the stages of the fight as there is in, say, Joachim Meyer‘s Art of Combat other than a long argument comparing fencing with tennis. All exercises described in the text (so presumably every encounter) start  with the opponents within distance and swords sheathed. All end with either the teacher (Provost) defeating the student’s (Lieutenant’s) attack or with the student disarming the teacher.

The comparison with tennis (jeu de paulme) is apt. The same movements and footwork apply to both sports – and sport is definitely the focus of Sainct Didier’s text.

I always heard it said that any martial art is three or four core techniques done well and the rest is mere window dressing (Who said it originally?). If that’s the case, these are the core techniques of Sainct Didier’s practice.

  • All attacks rely on the second intention. The initial strike serves solely to moving into close distance and force the opponent out of his or her guard posture.
  • Disengaging under the blade then lifting the hilt into a hanging parry is the means to gaining a second intention attack.
  • All actions defending against these attacks are simple double time parries followed by a thrust in response. No single time responses are shown in the text.
  • While stepping offline to the side from which one attacks is encouraged, the key to the fight is to move around the opponent towards the opponent’s outside.
  • Movements of conclusion (in which one combatant disarms the other by grabbing the hilt) is an essential part of the practice.

As for the PDF of my summary of Henri de Sainct Didier, read it and work through it. All I ask is that you tell me whether I’ve got it wrong or whether what I’ve said is useful.