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Here’s my modern English translation of Henry de Sainct-Didier’s 1573 sidesword/rapier treatise Secrets of the Sword Alone. This is a straight translation. I’ve not attempted to interpret the text as it’s really not required.
It’s 154 pages long including an introduction and 34 pages of Sainct Didier’s images.
The print version is currently available from these stores.
- Book Depository
- Barnes and Noble
The eBook can be ordered today from these stores:
- Barnes and Noble
- Apple iBookstore
- Amazon (Kindle)
- Angus & Robertson
The back of the book says:
A modern […]
This is a translation of the section concerning how to step correctly in Henri de Sainct Didier’s Secrets of the Single Sword (1573). More sections of the text will be translated as time allows.
- Secrets of the Single Sword – Jeu de Paulme
The translation is based on the transcription of the copy in the Library of the city of Blois (available at Bibliotheque Virtuelles Humanistes) made in 2010 by Olivier Depuis for l’Association pour la Recherche et le Développement des Arts Martiaux Historiques Européens. All amendments to the text made in the transcription have been assumed and are not […]
Continuing my delving into medieval Italian literature, I came across this gem. Il Novellino is a collection of short anecdotes and popular stories written around 1250-1300. Most (semi-?)educated people of the time knew these tales and would recognise them if heard told. Many are familiar to us as forming the basis of the stories of Boccaccio, Chaucer, Shakespeare, etc. As there’s no easily obtainable copy of this public domain text, I’ve formatted the text into ePub and PDF formats.
Il Novellino is one of the first works extant in the developing Italian language. Latin at this time is slowing losing […]
This is a translation of the section concerning how to draw the sword in Henri de Sainct Didier's Secrets of the Single Sword (1573). More sections of the text will be translated as time allows. The importance that Sainct Didier gives to drawing the sword is a puzzle that I believe is only resolved when the illustrations are considered literally. All the draws start with the opponents facing each other, feet together and hands on hilts. This does not suggest to me a military application but a civilian and social setting, whether a judicial duel, duel of honour of friendly competition.
I’ve finished Days One and Two of Giovanni Dall’Agocchie’s On the Art of Fencing and I’ve got some notes and observations to share. And I’ve got to say I’m terrified of making my little contribution to the field public given the amount and depth of study others have put into the Bolognese tradition.
I’m just a simple swordsman and I reckon that learning from the sources can give me an edge over others I bout with. This may mean I look at the tradition from a slightly different angle and it may help beginners unravel some of its intricacies.
Scott McDonald, principal of the Australia College of Arms and convenor of Swordplay 12, dropped this on the Queensland Living History Federation‘s facebook page. I was planning on posting about this but he beat me to the punch.
Puck Curtis, one of the world’s most respected historic swordplay researchers, will as part of Swordplay’ 12 present for the first time in public never before seen in English instructions on Spanish Sword and Dagger combat. His formal workshop scheduled for Friday 7th September will cover this material over 6 hours.
Puck will be available on Saturday and Sunday to run impromptu
Henri de Sainct Didier outlines three basic postures: high, medium and low. This last has two variants. The high and medium postures seems to be untenable in any form of actual bout, be it sporting or deadly in intent. I believe that Sainct Didier intends them as defensive stances but cannot prove this from the text. These two postures are the outcomes of drawing one’s sword and stepping back with the right foot (see the Trois Desgainements below).
The only actions that I can make work from these postures (other than initiating the Six Strikes sequences) are defensive: parrying with […]
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 […]
Henri de Sainct Didier presents two footwork exercises in his text, Traicte Contentant Les Secrets de Premier Livre d’Espee Seule. Today, I’m going to examine briefly his triangle and square stepping exercises.
A right-handed fencer is assumed throughout.
The first he calls triangle step which concentrates on simply stepping off-line as both a defensive measure and a means of gaining a mechanical advantage in the attack. Triangle stepping appears to apply to both the attacker and the defender.
Triangle: A triangle with the vertex pointing left (1) and the baseline facing the opponent. The lower point is labelled (2) […]
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 […]