Thursday, January 29, 2015

Of evil orders or customs in our English Fence schools, & of the old or ancient teaching of weapons, & things very necessary to be continued for the avoiding of errors, and reviving and continuance of our ancient weapons, and most victorious fight again.

There is in my opinion in our fence schools an evil order or custom in these days used, the which, if it might stand with the liking of our Masters of Defence, I think it necessary to be left. For as long as it is used, it shall be hard to make a good scholar. That is this, at the single sword, sword and dagger, & sword and buckler, they forbid the thrust, & at the single rapier, and rapier & dagger, they forbid the blow. Either they are both together best, or the thrust altogether best, or the blow altogether best. If the thrust is best, why do we not use it at the single sword, sword & dagger, & sword & buckler? If the blow is best, why do we not use it at the single rapier, rapier & poniard? But knowing by the art of arms, that no fight is perfect without both blow and thrust, why do we not use and teach both blow and thrust?

But however this we daily see, that when two met in fight, whether they have skill or none, unless such as have tied themselves to that boyish, Italian, weak, imperfect fight, they both strike and thrust, and how shall he then do, that being much taught in school, that never learned to strike, nor how to defend a strong blow? And how shall he then do, that being brought up in a fencing school, that never learned to thrust with the single sword, sword and dagger, and sword and buckler, nor how at these weapons to break a thrust? Surely, I think a down right fellow, that never came in school, using such skill as nature yielded out of his courage, strength, and agility, with good downright blows and thrust among, as shall best frame in his hands, should put one of these imperfect scholars greatly to his shifts.

Besides, there are now in these days no grips, closes, wrestlings, striking with the hilts, daggers, or bucklers, used in fencing schools. Our plowmen will by nature will do these things with great strength & agility. But the schoolmen is altogether unacquainted with these things. He being fast tied to such school-play as he has learned, has lost thereby the benefit of nature, and the plowman is now by nature without art a far better man than he. Therefore in my opinion as long as we bar any manner of play in school, we shall hardly make a good scholar. There is no manner of teaching comparable to the old ancient teaching, that is, first their quarters, then their wards, blows, thrusts, and breaking of thrusts, then their closes and grips, striking with the hilts, daggers, bucklers, wrestlings, striking with the foot or knee in the cods, and all these are safely defended in learning perfectly of the grips(1). And this is the ancient teaching, and without this teaching, there shall never scholar be made able, do his uttermost, nor fight safe.

Again their swords in schools are too long by almost half a foot to uncross, without going back with the feet, within distance or perfectly to strike or thrust within the half or quarter sword. And in serving of the prince, when men do meet together in public fight, are utterly naught and unserviceable. The best length for perfect teaching of the true fight to be used and continued in fence schools, to accord with the true statures of all men, are these. The blade to be a yard and an inch for men of mean stature, and for men of tall statures, a yard and three or four inches, and no more(2). And I would have the rapier continued in schools, always ready for such as shall think themselves cunning, or shall have delight to play with that imperfect weapon. Provided always, that the schoolmaster or usher play with him with his short sword, plying him with all manner of fight according to the true art. This being continued the truth shall flourish, the lie shall be beaten down, and all nations not having the true science, shall come with all gladness to the valiant and most brave English masters of defence to learn the true fight for their defence.

Side notes:
1 In the wars there is no observation of Stocatas, Imbrocatas, times, nor answers.
2 Long weapons imperfect.

Paragraph breaks added.

Silver, George, and Cyril G. R. Matthey. 1898. The works of George Silver: comprising "Paradoxes of defence" [printed in 1599 and now reprinted] and "Bref instructions vpo my paradoxes of defence" [printed for the first time from the ms. in the British Museum]. London: G. Bell.

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