William Hope's The Sword Man's Vade Mecum
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Vade = mecum:
SURPRIZE of a SUDDEN ATTAQUE
Being a Reduction of the most Essential, Necessary, and Practical part of FENCING; ito a few Special Rules, With their Reasons: Which all SWORD-MEN should have in their Memories when they are to Engadge; but more especially if it be with SHARPS.
With some other Remarques and Observations, not unfit to be known.By W. H. Gentleman.
printed by John Reid, Anno DOM. 1691.
Such who have a Real Respect for, and take Delight in the Art of Fencing.
When I Wrote my Book of Fencing, Entitled The Scots Fencing-Master, I designed it should serve both to instruct the Ignorant, and be a help to Artists; to unstruct the Ignorant by giving them a true and particular Description of the most common Lessons taught in the Fencing schools, that so by it they might come to understand both better and sooner, the Lessons which their Masters were daily to Descrive and Teach them; And I am very confident I have not failed as to that, for I dare appeal to any who ever took the pains to peruse it, if ever they met with a piece upon the same subject, either so plain, or exact in the Directions for the Lessons as it is.
I designed also it should be a help to Artists, in so far as that the looking it over, would bring to their minds such Lessons, as want of Practice for some time might have worn out of their Memories, and also in respect that there is init very good directions, and Rules for their behaviour in practice against either Artists or Ignorants, both with Blunts and Sharps.
But in that Book I gave only a bare Discription of the Rules, without any of the Reasons subjoyned to them upon which they are grounded, which ommission did probably make some Artists judge, that those Rules were not so very infallible, but that as good as might be put in their places; And which it is like hath also been the cause of thier not having so good an Opinion of, and liking for them, as perhaps otherwise they would.
Therefore, that I might both vindicate the certainty and infallibility if my Rules, by showing that they are not grounded meerly upon my own Fancy, but upon the solid Foundations of Art and Reason, and satisfie such persons by publishing the Reasons upon which I ground them; As also, make my Rules more compendious and easier to be kept in their memories, I have in these following sheets made an Abstract of them, and have given the Reasons, why I order such and such a thing in such a Rule.
And although I cannot deny, but a judicious Artist may perhaps make use of some Rules of his own choise, or making, differing somewhat from mine, which may be very good, and have sometimes as good effect against the particular Play of the Person he is to engage against as mine could have; Yet I am confident they cannot be no better than mine are, and that if he observed mine exactly against that same Person, he would find them to have the very same effects with his own, and to be against all humors whatsoever generally the more secure and certain of the two.
But albeit I confess there may be particular Rules invented for particular humors of Play, which may differ from mine, and yet prove very effectual against that particular humor for which they were designed; yet against on of another humor they will be altogether Ineffectual, and prove stark nought, in which doth consist their insufficiency, whereas those which I am to give you will not only prove as effectual against those particular humors, as he particular Rules designed for them, but will be sufficient also against all humors whatsoever, so that there will be no need of particular Ones, mine supplying their place because they are general, in which dothe lye their Worth and Excellency.
For to discover to you the unsufficiency of particular Rules, consider but what difference there is betwixt a Man's playing with a Person whose humor and method of playing he knoweth, and with one whom perhaps he never so much as saw before, certainly there must be Methods taken vastly different to play Advantagiously against either of those Persons as a Man shall be engaged; for if he be Attaqued by a Person whose Play he knoweth, then knowing upon what Lessons his humor runneth; I confess he may safely make use of particular Contrarys and Pursuits which he knows will take effect upon his Adversary, (although undoubtedly to use generalls were a great dale more safe) but if he be Attaqued by one who perhaps he never saw, of if he did, yet knoweth not upon what Lessons his humor runneth, I say such a Case to make use of Particulars were but very bad Judgement.
As for Example, to make a Real and Home Pursuite with a single or double Feint when no such pursuite will take effect upon that Person again whom he is playing, but what is accompanied with binding; or to take himself to any particular Parrade, when he is not certain what Lesson his Adversary is to play home upon him, this I say is but to play at Random, and wholly expose himself to Contretemps, by rendering his Art altogether Ineffectual.
And this bad Custom of using alwise Particulars, is certainly one of the main Reasons, why the French (who are generally of a Brisk and Hot Constitution) are for the most part when they Engage either both Killed, or at least severly wounded, because immediatly after presenting, they commonly Advance within the particular Pursuite of some single or double Feint, without ever offering to secure their Adversarie's Sword, and their Adversary upon the other Hand, not being accustomed to a general Parrade, and finding be is not certain what particular one he should make use of, endeavours to take time upon him, and so they are both wounded: This is the True French Play, which I confess hath a Bonne grace with it at Blunts, and appears Brisk and Courageous at Sharps; but as to its security, I leave that to be judged of by any considering Person, whither Artist or other.
Therefore the only secure way is to make alwise use of Generalls against whatever Persons you Play, whither Artists of not, until you have found out their Constitution and Humour, and what particular Lessins you judge will take effect upon them, and if you think it fit and convenient then to try Particulars, you may, but I would not advise you to do it sooner if you regard your own safety.
You may now perceive the great Advantage General Rules have of Particular ones, and it is the Abstract of those General Rules that are of such admirable use, which I am to set down to you together with their Reasons in the following sheets, but that there may want nothing to make them compleat and easie to be retained, I have also for your greater ease and satisfaction, (at the end of my Rules and and before I give my Reasons) Epitiomized this Abstract, and brought it into so narrow a Compass, that a Man must have no memory at all, if he cannot so fix in his Fancy and Brain what I have there given him, as it shall not be in his power when he presenteth either Fleuret or Sword to get himself ridd of it.
And it is upon that account I call it The Sword-Man's Vade Mecum, not that I would have alwise these Sheets carried about with him in his Pocket; (for that any Ignorant can do as well as be, an be ne're a whitt the wiser of them) but that the Epitome of my Rules which as I said is at the end of them, may be so engraven in his Memory, that when he is any wayes to Engage, he may through its practice all the rest which are as it were lively represented in that Mirror, which must be alwise earned carried about with him, and still represent those Objects (I mean Directions) upon which his Judgement must work.
Now, as my former Book of Fencing was designed for the use borh of Artists and Ignorants, so this Abstract is only for Artists, there being only contained in it the very Marrow and Quintessence of Fencing, which without all debates is not only above the Practice of it all, but capacity of most parts of Ignorants until it be explained to them, and therefore they can have no pretence or claime of Right to it; but if such Persons will be so curious as to take a look of it, its like they may find some things (in my Observations especially) which may be a means to reclaime them, and make them sensible of their Ignorance and folly in contemning and neglecting an Art, by which a Man doth reap so many undenyable Advantages.
And if the reading of this do it not, I assure them I shall not put my self to the trouble so much as to think of doing it any other way, having lost all hopes that any thing will succed if this once fail; for to deal Ingenously, I am resolved never to put Pen more Paper upon this Subject, seing I think what I have said first and last upon it, not only abundantly sufficient to Instruct those, whose gentile Inclinations do dispose them to take delight in, and follow this Useful Art, but also to convince and perswade all who have the leas Drop of generous Blood, of the worth and excellency of it.
But leaving such Persons to follow their foolish Ininclinations, I do really acknowledge, that it is only to such generous Spirits as you are (to whom I have Addressd these following Sheets) that I so earnestly recomend the closs Practice and Observance of thir subsequent Rules, in the rejecting of Approbation of which, I shall wholly submit my self to your Impartial Cencure; earnestly Intreating, that if there shall be found any thing in them Repugnant to the first Principles & true Fundamentals of Art, I may be acquainted with it, that so I may either Vindicate my self, or acknowledge my Faults and Error; in both which I shall most willingly endeavour to satisfie all True Lovers of Art.
And I assure you, were it not that I am Ambitious, this Art (for which I have such an Estime my self, and of which I think I have given sufficient Testimonies) should be both improven and be hereafter had in more Repute amongst the generality of our Gentry then it hath been hitherto, I had never beein either at the Trouble of Charges, to expose my self a second time to the sensure of the Publick by giving you this (I may call it my Master piece upon this Subject) in Print.
I thought to have had the Approbation of most of the Masters prefixed to this Piece; but there being some things in my Observations (especially anent the Abuses committed in Fencing-Schools to which I refer you) in which we differ, and which they would not go alongst with, I have therefore only condescended to Print the Aprobation of one who is of the same Opinion with my self, which I hope will not be thought any Vanity in me, seing I am most sensible the Applause and Commendation he is pleased to bestow upon me, is far above what I really deserve.
Judge and Arbitrator of all who make any publick Trial of Skill in the Noble Art of the Sword, within the Kingdom of Scotland.
I Receive your Papers, and have perused them so narrowly, that there is not one Paragraph or Line that has escaped my strictest Observation; wherein I find nothing but Plain, Undenyable, and Inerrable Truths: And without Complement) beyond any thing that ever I have Read on that Subject; all other Authors being so Abstruse and Intricate, that those who have knowledge of the Sword, cannot reach the understanding of their Writtings; so that in my Opinion, who ever may claime the Honour of being the first Author of the Noble Art of Defence, I am confident there is none who reads what you have Writ on that Subject; but will readily Esteem you one of the most considerable Advancers of it, that any Age or Country hath yet produced.
The Rules of Practice which you have so Clearly and Orderly set down in your Scots Fencing Master, shews you to be a great Master of the Art; and your reducing all these to so small a number, together with the solid Reasons and Demonstratons you have given of them in your Sword-Man's Vade mecum, evidences you to be also in the Judgement of the Sword, a Master of all Artists.
Certainly the Sword was never so much Adepted to the Pen before, as it is now by thatlate Piece of yours, wherein you have done this considerable Honour to the Art, that as formerly (for what of Reasons and Demonstrations of its Rules) it was scarce accounted an Art, and but a Mechanical one at best; Now its Fundamental Rules being digested into good order, founded on firm Reasons, and fortified by solid Demonstrations, it may justly claiim all the priviledges, that any of the Liberal or Mathematical Arts can pretend to.
Proceed then (Worthy Sir) in your Laudable Design or improving the Noble Art of the Sword, which me-thinks does only wait, and hope to receive its outmost Accomplishment, from the Pen & Hands of Sir William Hope. For your pains herein will Infallibly meet with the just Requitable of Praise, Honour and Esteem, from all true Lovers of Armes and Arts, together also with all Imaginable thanks especially from Sword men, whom you cannot either Honour or Oblidge more, then by publishing that Piece; which merits more Applause and Commendation, then can eveer be given it by
Right Honourable, Your most Humble and Obedient Servant, William Machrie.
Aberdeen, April, 30. 1690.
The Sword-Man's Vade Mecum, or A Preservative against the Surprize, of a Sudden Attaque with Sharps, &c.
Being to Direct my Discourse to Persons so knowing and Skilful as You are to whom I have Addressed these Sheet; I think I need to say little (by way of Introduction) in Commendation of this ART, either to Display its Excellencies, or Recommend it to You; the very Tittle of my Dedication supposing you to need neither of these, to excite you to its Practice.
I shall therefore at present only say, that the Generous and Noble Art of Defence (passing by all its other Qualities) may in some Respect be compared to the most Excellent and most Sublime of all Sciencies, I mean that of Divinitie, For as Divinity doth teach us, to defend our Souls from the cruel assaults and attempts of that old Serpent the Devil, the cunning and Subtile alurements of the World, and these pleasants and short, but destroying lusts of the flesh.
So doeth the Art of Fencing teach us to defend our Bodies, from the Assaults and Attaques of all Adversaries, whether Artists or not, who in respect of the cruel designe they have against our Bodies, may in some sense be accounted Devils, it also teaches us not to be deceived by all the fallacious Quirks and Tricks of Artists when we are engaged with them, which do represent the cunning and subtile Allurements of the World.
and lastly, it furnisheth us with directions to defend our selves from the Thrusts and Wounds of our Adversaries, which although they can be said to be pleasant to none but the Giver, yet are short and destroying to the Receiver, short and transitory, because they are swift and given in the twinkling of an eye, or a moment; and destroying, because they seldom faile to dissipate and give a Passage to our Vital Spirits; by which we are sent a packing to our long Home: And therefore they may be justly compared (because of their danger and short continuance) to the pleasures of the World; and the Comparison cometh yet nearer, In so far as they reach not only the Body, but oftimes also endanger the Soul.
Seing then there is such as Annallogie betwixt this Humane Art and that Divine Science, what kind of Persons must those be who undervallow it?... Buth when I reflect a little, I find it no great surprizal that Fencing should meet with so many Opposers and Contemners when even Divinity yea GOD Himself (to speak with Reverence) is by some treated En Ridicule, and I am apt to believe that the dispising and contempt of both, (although there be no equality in the Comparison) may flow from the same Original and Source.
For as it is impossible for any Man who considers the Fabrick of the whole, nay; but the smallest and most inconsiderable part of the Universe, to doubt of a first or supreme Beeing, until from the consciousness of his Sins & Provocations, it become his Interest there should be none; so is it Impossible for any Man who reflects upon, and considers the excellencies of Fencing, to doubt or question the usefulness of it; until from a sence of his own Ignorance, and of the Advantadges he knows Artists will have over him; it doth become his Interest, that there should be no such thing as Art, or at least what is called Art should be of no use: And this is certainly one of the chief Reasons, why the Art of the Sword is so much undervalued, by those who understand it not.
But that I may the better represent such Persons to you: consider in what a Pitiful and Deplorable condition they are, when (after having received a challenge, or being obliged to Fight the Rancounter) they seriously reflect upon the Art, and Androitness of their Antagonists, and their own Maladroitness, & Ignorance, by which they are rendred incapable of either knowing what way to begin their Pursuite, or defend themselves; certainly their thoughts at that time must either abaite and cool their Courage, or make them altogether desperate.
And indeed, to see the most part of them when they are engaged for their Lives, one would judge them to be by their Pursuits, rather out of their Witts, and Madd-men, then Sober and Rational Persons; and they are necessitate to force themselves unto that Furie and Passion, that so their frowardness may somewhat supply their Ignorance; for if they declined to Fight, it would loss them their Reputation and Honour; Therefore to save that they must Fight, and in Fighting is odds but they loss their Life, which to preserve they use all the most usnseemly and desperate Actions in the World; all which will not do against compleat Artists such as you are.
And if it be asked why Ignorance (for I expect they will not take it till I give them this Disignation, seing it is not done out of any Contempt to their Persons, or reflection upon their Judgements which may be very deserving in other things, but meerly because it is the custom amongst Swordmen, to let all who understand not the Art of the Sword go under that Name) are generally more Subject to Passion and Forewardness in their Pursute than Artists.
It is Answered, That in some Extremes there is a Coincidence, and that Art and Ignorance may sometimes act alike, as in the instance of Fear and Courage, for as Desperation which is the height of Fear, doth many times (being sharpened by Necessity) excite Courage, and beget Hope; so Temerity which is the height of Courage, doth often (from experience of Danger) breed Caution, which is a discret Fear;
Now to make the application, Ignorance from a sense it hath of the Hazard and Danger it may receive from Art, begets Fear or Despair, and being sharpened up by this Despair, and being sharpened up by this Despair which is as it were a leaven to make it ferment, it is forced and hoaved up (although contrary to its Nature) to Courage and Forewardness which I may properly enough call, Temeritatis vel Ignorantie audacia, and which should never be esteemed nor made use of, except in a great Extreme or Necessity, because it hath its arise from Ignorance, which is the ground and cause of its being so frequently put in practice by those who have little or no Art, and this I take to be the Reason of Ignorants having generally so hot and violent Puruste.
So by this you may perceive how Ignorance may prompt a Man to be Forward and Ventorious as well as Art: now as Ignorance (which is Diametrically opposite to Art, and which should in reason produce nothing but Fear and Concern) doth excite Courage, so doth Art, which in reason should be Prolifick of nothing but Courage and Heroick Actions, breed somethimes Caution, which may be very well called a discreet and reasonable Fear, or rather Peritæ & experientiæ Cautela, and which is only esteemed and put in practice by Judicious and Understanding Artists, because it proceeds from the experience which Art giveth them of the danger they would run in making a violent and inconsiderate Pursute, which is not carried on with Judgement, and performed by Art; ans this is the Reason why Artists are generally not so foreward and irregular in their Pursutes as Ignorants, but more cautious and slow, and consequently more certain and safe.
Is it not therefore (from what I have been saying) far more commendable, to be dexterous and regular in our Offensive and Defensive motions, them irregular, and as it were out of all Hope, and in Despair, that if we overcome, we may be said to have done it by Art and Judgement, and not at randome, and by chance, more beseeming an irrational than a rationalCreature.
If it be, what Art can teach us better, than this of Fencing? I confess I need not recommend it to you, whose Inclinations have already led you that way, but perhaps it may not prove unreasonable Advice to others who may peruse this & the foregoing Dedication.
I shall therefore say no more in Commendation of this Noble and Gentlemany Art, but shall before I proceed, shew you the Method I intend to follow in Communicating and Discovering the Reasons upon which it is grounded, and the Source from whence all its Worth and Security doth flow; and for the more regular Procedure shall first give you the single Rules, one after another, which you are alwayes to have in your Memory; Then Secondly each particular Rule by it self, with the Reasons subjoyned to it upon which it is grounded; And thirdly, some Remarkes and Observations, all of which will be both Useful, and if I mistake it not, pleasant to the Reader.
First, The RULES.
Before I begin, I shall give you a Fundamental, which in respect of his Excellency, and Universality, I may call the Golden Number, or Rule of Three, both because it is alwayes to be taken alongst with you, and to be made a part, (and that none to the least) of each Particular Rule I am to give you, and also because it consists of Three important Terms or Words which are.
Calmness, - Vigour, - and Judgement.
Now these three Words in general, being the only Foundation upon which all True Fencing is built, and each Word in particular being as it were a Column, or Pillar by which my Rules are to be supported, (for without them all would be but Uncertain and False) I shall begin my Fisrt Rule, which as well as all the rest, is to be supported by those three infallible, and never to be too exactly copied Pillars of the composite Order, because each of then in some measure partake of the Beauty and Excellency of the Other two, and to that end Earnestly and Serioulsy intreats and desires: That.
- Rule I.
Whatever you do, let it alwayes (if possible) be done Calmely, and without Passion, and Precipitation, but still with all Vigour, and Briskness imaginable, your Judgement not failing to Direct, Order, and Govern you as to both.
- Rule II.
With Calmness, Vigour, and Judgement, put your self into as Closs, Thinn and Convenient a Guard, as the Agility of your Body will permit your Heels being still kept as near other as possible.
- Rule III.
With Calmness, Vigour, and Judgement, make use (for your Defence) of the of the most Excellent, and not to be parrallelled Contre-caveating Parade, and that generally upon the outside of your Sword, your left hand alwayes asisting you if any wayes doubtful of the Parrade; and that you may with the more certainty defend your self, look alwayes to your Adversary's Sword-Hand.
- Rule IIII.
With Calmness, Vigour, and Judgement, endeavour to Offend your Adversary, by binding or securing his Sword, and that for the most part also upon the outside, giving ina single plain Thrust upon the back of it, or if you please make a Feint upon the back of your Binding, your left Hand making alwayes a kind of Parrade, at the giving in of every Thrust, the better to save you from a Contre-temps; and by no means rest upon your Thrust, but instantly after the performing of it, whether you hitt or not, recover to your Defensive Posture again: This is the true Play for a Mans Life: but if you be so far Master of your Adversary, and so merciful to him that you design not his Life, but only to disable him: Then.
- Rule V.
With Calmness, Vigour, and Judgement, Thrust at his Sword-hand; Wrest, or Arm, or at his nearest advanced Thigh, the wounding any of which once, or twice, will seldome fail to disable him.
- Rule VI.
If your Adversary be Hasty, Passionate, and pursue Furiously, and Irregularly, then with Calmness, Vigour, and Judgement, Cross, Stop, and Oppose his Fury: but upon the contrary if Careless, Lash, Slow, or perhaps Timorous, then also Calmly, Vigorously, and with Judgement pursue him.
- Rule VII.
With Calmness, Vigour, and Judgement, prevent yor Receiving one Thrust for the giving another, called (after that dangerous World, and Artists Bug bear) a Contre-temps, and for that end the using your left Hand for a Defence upon your Pursute, as I have before told you, will not be found amiss.
- Rule VIII.
Now to put a Close to my Rules, let them all be done within distance as much as possible, and with little or no Elonge, or stretch of any part of the Body, save only that of the Wrest & Arm (called a Spring) and as I desired you to begin, so I expect you will continue and end all your Actions, with that most Excellent Fundamental, and Golden Rule of Three to wit.
Calmness, - Vigour, - and Judgement.
And then no doubt, you will procure by the foregoing Rules, advantage proportionable to the Art you have acquired to put them in practice.
But that my Reduction may yet better answer my Design, (which was to be short and compendious) and be more easily kept in your Memory, I have brought it into a narrower Compass, by, as it were Epitomizing it as followeth.
- Vigour, and
- A Close Guard.
- The Contre-caveating Parade.
- A Contretemps.
- Being without Distance.
- Resting upon a Thrust.
A Man must be certainly void both of Art and Memory, if upon all necessary Occasions he cannot furnish himself, with such an Excellent Preservative as this; but seeing the very doubting of it, would be so absurd, and discover so much a Man's Ignorance and weakness, I shall say no more, but desiring to leave it as it were Ingraven in your Memory) proceed to the second thing I proposed, which was.
Each particular Rule, with the Reasons subjoined to it, upon which it is Grounded.
- Rule I.
Whatever you do, let it alwayes (if possible) be done Calmely, and without Passion and Precipitation: &c.
The Reasons upon which this Rule is grounded, are.
Because I find by Experience that Passion exposeth a Man, and incapacitates him, from making use of his Art with that Discretion which is required of him, to procure the undenyable Advantage he hath by it.
But that he may not by being advised to Play Calmly, fall into the other Extreme of Playing too Carelessly, Lashly, and perhaps Timerously, (it being difficult to determine which of these two Extremes, do most Eclipse a Mans Art, and consequently most expose him to his Adversaries mercy) he is advised to counterfeit a kind of Passion, by playing Briskly, and Vigourously, it being as it were a Medium, or if I may so call it a Ballance or Counterpoise, which upon the one Hand prevents his sinking in the Gulf of Unreasonable, and Unmanly Fear, which would loss him his Reputation, and Honour, dearer to a Man than his very Life, and upon the other his ascending the Ragged, Unequal, and Disperate Rock of inconsiderate Passion and Forwardness, for which there is oftentimes hardly any Retreat, or Descent, but by the Life of a Mans Adversary, if not his own with it, both which should be preserved as much as possible, in respect, not only of the great Sin it is against God Almighty (which to all Christians should be a sufficient Reason) but also in respect if the severe punishments the Laws both of God & Man, ordain to be inflicted upon such as are guilty of either: And for effectuating of which, if I be not deceived this first Rule will not a little contribute, if it be practiced cautiously & as I have ordered in the end of it, with Judgement, without which the best Rule I can give or invent to you, will not signifie a Straw, it being such a chief ingredient, that without it all the Compositions both for Defence and Offence, in our Fencing Pharmacopie would signifie but little or nothing as I shall more fully hereafter declare, when I speak to the Eight Rule.
- Rule II.
With Calmness, Vigour, and Judgement, put yourself in to as Closs, Thinn, and convenient Guard, &c.
The Reasons upon which this Rule is Grounded, are.
Because it is most certain that the closer a Man sink to the Ground, the more secure he is from all the Thrusts which may be given in beneath his Sword at the lower parts of his Body, which without all manner of doubt are both very dangerous, andd most difficult to Defend, because the Parrades of them lie not so Naturally to a Man's Hand (supposing hiim to stand to a High Guard) as the Parrades of the Thrusts given in above, and that either without the Sword or within it.
And the Reason is, because in the Defensive part of the small Sword, all the Parrades that are made beneath the Hand are a great deal stronger and firmer, because they are, and ougght to be done with a Jerk or Spring, whereas all the Parrades of the Thrusts below the Sword, such as that of the Feint a la teste, Volt-coupee, Flacanade, Under counter. &c. must be all (supposing him to stand to a High Guard) parried Slopwayes, & your Adversaries Sword born off and a little up, as it were, by yours, which both hindereth the Spring and weakeneth teh Parrade by reason of the compelled Posture and Disposition of your Hand, both which Inconveniences are absolutely Guarded against and shunned, by sinking closs to the Ground, and keeping the Hilt of your Sword a little higher than your Knee, and the point a little higher than your Hilt, because this posture prevents the playing of any of the above low Thrusts upon you.
In the second place, I order a thinn Guard, because it would be to no purpose to sink closs, and endeavour by it to cover one part of your Body, to whit that beneath the Sword, when at the samr time you discover your left Side, a part of your Body, which as much if not more deserves to be secured because in it is contained one of the most Noble, and (if wounded) most Mortal parts of a Man's Body, I mean the Heart.
Besides reason will teach a Man, that he should make himself as little a mark for his adversary to thrust at as possible, and I know no better Method to do that, than by sinking closs to the Ground, and keeping back your Left shoulder or side, the one which is sinking, making your Body shorter, and the other, which is keeping back your Left Side, making your Body thinner, which two answer the two things required by the common and Naturall Reason viz. The making a Man's Body as short and narrow a Mark for his Adversary to Thrust at, as possible. I confess this Posture of sinking so closs to the Ground, is a little Uneasie at first to be acquired by those who have not been accustomed to it, but a little Practice in this as in all other things, will make it become in a short time as Familiar and Easie, as any other Posture; therefore let not its Uneasiness at first discourage any person from attempting to learn it, for the advantage he will reap by it afterwards, will sufficiently Recompence the Pains and Trouble he was at to make himself Master of it.
In the third Place, I order a convenient Guard, such as the Agility of your Body will permit, and by that I mean, that although I have ordered sinking to the Ground, and a Thinn Body; yet rather than that a Man should, (by not having that Agility of the Body and Practice requisite to perform that Posture) force and constrain himself into a Guard which would be uneasie to him, by reason of his endeavouring to obey exactly my Rule, I am rather satisfied that he sink but so much, and keep so thinn a Body as he findeth himself most firm in, and from which he is most able to defend himself, and Pursue his Adversary, athough it be not exactly according to the first Directions I gave him.
And the Reason for which I allow him this Latitude, is because I find all constrained Postures, weaken both a Man's Defence and Pursute, and I had rather have a Man Play from a Posture wherein he can use his Vigour, although it be not altogether so secure and closs as I could with it, than see him play Feeblely and Feintly from a Posture, for which he hath not had Practice enough to make it Familiar and Easie, even although that Posture) in respect of another Persons Agility, may be found to be the more safe, and secure Posture of the two, because of its closness, but which cannot be so to him, by reason of the Constraint it putteth upon him.
But I give not this Allowance to make a Man negligent in acustoming himself to a closs and thinn Guard, not at all, it is only granted to him upon Necessity, and for a time, until he hath had so much Practice as to make it Familiar, and Easie to his Body, which the sooner it be, so much the better, therefore by no means spare either Pains or Labour to acquire it.
The Fourth thing I order is, That your Heels be still as near other as possible, but seing the Reason I have for this will come more properly in, when I speak to the Eight Rule, I shall forbear the setting it down till then, and a present proceed to my Third Rule which is.
- Rule III.
With Calmness, Vigour, and Judgement, make use (for your Defence) of the most Excellent and not to be parallelled Contre-caveating Parade: &.c
The Reasons upon which this Rule is Grounded, are.
Because I find the Contre-caveating Parrade to be so safe and general a Parrade, that a Man who can rightly make use of it, needeth almost no other, for whereas to several of the Lessons you must use proper and particular Parrades, such as are the Parrades which are in a manner Peculiar to a Feint a la Test, Volt-coupee, Flancanade: Undercounter, &c: If you make use of the Contre-caveating Parrade, you save the Trouble of choosing a particular Parrade, and also, the running hazard of being surprised by a Quick-handed Adversary, (who before you can well think upon what Parrade is most proper to Defend the Lesson you imagine he is going to Play, would have the Thrust home at you) but making use of this Parrade exactly, you will certainly have your design of Defending your self.
Besides in making use of other Parrades a man may be deceived, by reason of his judging that the thrust will be given within the Sword when it is really designed to be given without, or without the Sword when it is really to be given within, so that although a Man have a quick enough Parrade, and a good Eye, yet you see he may be deceived with the other Parrades because of this wrong judging of the coming in of the Thrust, but making use of this Parrade as he should, he will never be deceived, for this Parrade Crosseth and Confoundeth the whole Art of the Sword, as Binding, Slipping, Plain Thrusts, Single and double Feints of all kinds, Quarting, Volting, &c. which cannot be said any other particular Parrade of the Sword, but of this most Excellent Contre caveating Parrade.
And the Reason is, because it is a Circular Parrade including a whole Circle, whereas the other Parrades make but a Part of a Circle, and in so much as they come short of the whole Circle, in so far are they Defective and Uncertain, because the Thrust may come in at that part of the Circle, which the Parrade (whatever one it be) left Unclosed or Unfinished, and therefore the second Parrades in Quart and Terce with a Slooping Point, are more secure and certain, although not so quick and firm, as the first Parrades in Quart and Terce with the Point a little higher than Hilt, & that because these make more of a Circle than thir do, but this Contre-caveating Parrade is a great deal more Secure then either of them, for it maketh not only one whole Circle, but sometimes two or three, which is the reason of its so-infallibly feeling and Engaging the Adversaries Sword, and consequently of its being so Infallible a Parrade.
In the Second place, I order it to be used generally upon the outside, and my Reason for that is, because first it disordereth a Mans Adversaries Sword-hand much more to Parrie, Bind or Secure him upon the Outside of his Sword, all which this Parrade doth, then to Parrie, Bind or Secure, him upon the inside, and that because when you Parrie or Bind within, the Natural Posture of his hand Facilitats both his redoubling of a thrust upon you, if he design it, and his slipping you when you are going to Bind him, which is just contrary when you Offer to Parrie or Bind him without, for then the disposition of his hand is so forced out of the easie, and natural Situation of it, that it renders him, if not uncapable, yet at lest a great deal slower both in his redoubling, & slipping. And this is the Advantage you will reap by Parrieing with the Contre-caveating Parrade upon the out Side of your Adversaries Sword.
There is yet another considerable Advantage which a Man may have by using this Parrade, and it is this, if it should be a Mans fortune to be Engaged in the dark, all the Parrades in the World will never so find out, Engage, and Secure his Adversary's sword as this will, for if a Mans Sword came in the Dark, but within the Reach of yours, it will be impossible for you but you must feel it, because of the Reasons above mentioned, which will be a means to Secure you from the uncertain Attacque of your Adversary, and also make you more certain of what you are to do your Self, even although it be in the the Dark, which is an Advantage that no other Parrade will yield you but it, and therefore in my humble opinion not to be neglected or undervalued.
The Third thing that I ordered, was that your left hand should alwayes assist you, if you were any wayes doubtfull of the Parrade, and indeed this is so necessary a thing especialy in the Offensive part, that what I intend mostly to say of it, I shall refer to my discourse upon the next Rule, (being on Offensive one) and at present shall only say, when the Contre-caveating Parrade requireth the use of the left Hand to supply its wants, with what Confidence can the other Parrades claim the Name they have, seing they are so deficient (in respect of it) to give a Man that Satisfaction and Security, which but justly he should expect, for the Labour and Pains he hath been at, to Understand, Learn, and put them in Practice.
But not to be tedious the last thing I ordered was, that to Defend your self with the more certainty, you should look always to your Adversaries Sword hand, and the Reason of this is, because if you should endeavour to draw any observation from his eyes, he may deceive you by looking in you Face, when he intends to thrust at your Belly, or looking at yourBelly when he intends to thrust at you in the face, or if it should so fall out that your Adversary Squint, it is in that case impossible for you by looking to such a Persons Eyes, to Conjecture where, and at what Part of your Body, he intends to thrust.
Neither will a Man though his Adversary have a straight look perceive it well, or be altogether certain upon what part of his Body the thrust is comming in, by even looking to the Swords blade, first by Reason of its clearness, which in a manner dazelleth a Mans Eyes with the motion it maketh; Secondly by Reason of the swiftness of its motion, which is a great deal swifter then that of his hand, for his hand being the Center, and the Swords point the circumference, and the Sword as it were a Line Drawn from that Circumference to the hand or center, to which it is in a manner fixed, it will by a Mathematical demonstration follow that all the Parts of the Sword from the Hand to the Point make proportionably a Swifter motoin then the Hand doth, as they are distant from it, and do nearer approach to the Point or Circumference: A true Similie of which is a Wheel, the Neave or Center of which Representeth the Hand, the Spoaks the Sword, and the Rimm, or outmost Circumference the Swords Point; Now set the Wheel in Motion by turning it about, and you shall perceive pretty distinctly the Spoaks in thieir Motion at the Center as they are turning, but you shall not at all perceive them in their Motion at the Rimm or outmost Circumference, by reason of the Swiftness of their Motion; it is just so with the Motion of a Sword at the Hilt and Point.
So that, to look to the middle of a Swords Blade, or within a Foot of its Hilt, is not so certain as to look to its Hilt, because of the Motion of the Sword, at that Foots distance from the Hilt, or at the middle of it, is a great deal quicker that the Motion at the Hilt, which as it was said before, is as it were the Center and therefore the slowest Mover, and consquently the safest to look to; but to look to the Swords Point which is the outmost Circumference,is yet worst of all, for it being double the distance from the Center, or Hilt, that the middle of the Sword is, and every part of the Sword moving in proportion Swiftlier, as they are farther distant from the Center, it will by Demonstration follow, that the Motion of the Sword at the Point, exceeds the Motion of it at the Middle, as much as the Motion at the Middle, exceeds the Motion at the Center or Hilt.
Therfore, to look to the Point, or Circumference, of the Sword, that so a Man may be certain of its Motion, is Ridiculous, and Uncertain, by reason of its being the Swiftest Mover, and to look to the Middle part of the Sword, although I confess it to be more certain than to look to the Point, yet it is also not at all to be Trusted to, by reason that its Motion is too quick, but to look (according to my Direction) to the Sword-hand, or Center, is a thing most certain, and only to be Trusted to, (and that because of its slow Motion) for the better perceiving the Motion of the Sword, and finding out where a Man intends to Thrust, as I think I have fully Demonstrate, and with out the Observation of which, a Man can never with Confidence, and Assurance say, that he either is, or can be, Master of the Parade.
- Rule IV.
With Calmness Vigour and Judgement, endeavour to Offend your Adversary, by Binding, or Securing his Sword, and that for the most part, &c.
The Reasons upon which this Rule is Grounded, are.
Because if is found that Binding, or Securing ones Adversaries Sword, before a Man offer to give home any Thrust, (his left Hand making alwayes a kind of Parrade at the giving in of every Thrust) is the only Safe and Secure Play, with either Blunts or Sharpes; to secure a Man from Contre-temps, and Thrusts from the Risposts, which I shall endeavour to prove.
Suppose you intend but to Play in a plain Thrust upon your Adversary, then unless you first Secure his Sword, by beating it out of the way, you must certainly Thrust straight home, without so much as regarding his Swords being just opposite to, and presented against you, and in that Case, what should hinder him to Thrust just as you are Thrusting, and to Contre-temps with you?
You will perhaps say, your Thrusting closs by the Feeble of his Sword, will bear off his Thrust, or the quarting of your Head and Shoulders well will saveit; but do not deceive you self with this fancie; for in the first place I can assure you, that although when you play upon a Masters Breast, he may suffer you to Thrust alwayes closs to his Sword, yet in Practice it will not be in your power once in six Thrusts, to have the opportunity of thrusting closs to your Adversaries Sword, ans so that will not hold. But secondly, suppose you should Thrust closs to your Adversaries Sword, and quart your Head and Shoulders well, what doeth hinder your Adversary, to sink the Point of his Sword, as you are Thrusting, and wound you at the same time in the Belly? for it is certain that your Sword cannot defend two parts at once, and if you quart your Head and Shoulders well, and Thrust closs to your Adversaries Sword above, then you are discovered below, which giveth him the Occasion, and Opportunity, if he can take it, to Contre-temps you, so this is as Uncertain and Unsecure as the other, and thus in most part of the other Lessons, as well as in a plain Thrust, doth a Man expose himself.
I can only except Flancanade and Batterie, but yet they are not so secure as Binding; for Binding putteth your Adversaries Sword quite out of the way, so that if you do it Strongly and Neatly, you may have your Thrust home, and your Body in its Defensive posture again, before his Sword come into the straight Line betwixt your Body and his, or be in such a Disposition as he can wound you with it, but no other Lesson doth this so well as Binding, and therefore none of them is so Good or Safe.
Its true the most part of the other Lessons do by Cunning and Subtlitily, as it were Insensibly Cheat and Dukoy your Adversaries Sword out of the straight Line, as all kind of Feints, &c. And indeed I must confess he betrayes his Ignorance but too much, who suffers himself to be so Duckoyed and Cheated, both out of his Art, and I may say sometimes his Life, withe such kind of Tricks; but Binding doth with so much Vigour and Firmness beat your Adversaries Sword, and force it out of the way, that unless he be a great Artist, it is impossible for him to Resist, or Oppose it: and therefore it is the only secure play to be made use of for a Man's Life, and the only means to secure a Man, as said is.
First, from a Contre-temps, because of his Adversaries Sword being forced out of the way by it, which incapacitates him to Thrust, until a Man hath given hs thrust, and recovered himself to his Defensive Posture again; but to make sure Work, and to prevent more certainly a Contre-temps, especially if your Adversary should be a good Sword-man, you see I order your left Hand to make a kind of Parrade or Defence, at the giving in of every Thrust, so that if this be done Neatly, and with Discretion, you are a great deal more secure froma Contre-temps, than if you did omit it; And indeed I know no other way a Man can be certain of his Defence but this, and what I said in my Reasons to the preceeding Rule if the Contre-caveating Parrade, I may say here of Binding, that if it stand in need of the use of the left Hand, to secure it from a Contre-temps, what Security can a Man expect, from playing any of the other Lessons.
But this Binding with the use of the left Hand, doth not only save you as I said from Contre-temps; But secondly, preserves you also form thrusts from the Rispost, & to make it with the use of the left Hand joyned a great and considerable helper to it, by advising you not to rest at all upon your Thrust, but to recover you Body instantly to your Defensive Posture, after the giving in of every Thrust, although your Thrusts should not be designed home, but even half Thrust; the custom of resting upon ones Thrust is so Dangerous, and hath such bad Consequences, that I am perswaded, he can never be a good Sword man, nor play securely who is guilty of it, which I think is a sufficient enough Reason, to make any Man of Judgement guard against it.
Now thir three, viz. Binding the use of the left Hand, and the quick recovering of the Body after every Thrust, are so Linked together, that they may become a certain Defence against Contre-temps, and Thrusts from the Respost, that any one of them without the other two, would not infallibly prove effectual, but the three being wrought and you joyned together, do make so strong a Barricade, and such a secure and infallible Defence, that no Contre-temps in the World, not any Thrusts from the Respostes, can make a breach upon it, or render it Ineffectual.
And to make this the more clear, consider that although by Binding, you may force your Adversaries Sword out of the way; yet if he be an Artist, and have a quick Hand, he may before your Thrust be home, bring his Sword in to the right Line again, and give you a Thrust as soon almost as you can give yours, although you was the first Mover: now the only way to prevent this, is to strengthen this defence of Binding, & making it more secure by joyning the second thing ordered to it, which was the help of the left Hand, not withstanding of which your Defence is yet uncertain, & imperfect, for athough by using your left Hand, you may turn off the Thrust he was giving home at you, yet if rest upon your thrust, he may alter and changes the giving in of his thrust, and so cheat and deceive your left hand. Therefore to let your defence have all the certainty imaginable you must yet farther strengthen it, and make it as it were impregnable, by joyning to the use of the left hand, a quick Recovery of the Body, which Three make the Defence upon your Pursute most Certain and Infallible, if the Fault be not your own, or that you have not acquired Art enough to put them exactly in Practice.
And as for my Advice to Bind generally upon the outside of the Sword, what I said in my Reasons to the predeeding Rule, concering the making use of the Contre-caveating Parrade, generally upon the Oustside, may be also said here of Binding generally upon the Outside, and therefore I refer you to what I said there, not doubting but that I have fully convinced you, that (according to my Rule there is no True and Secure Play with Sharps, and for a Man's Life, but by Binding, or Lessons proceeding from it, the use of the left Hand, and a quick Recovery of the Body, perfecting with the Binding your Defence upon all your Pursutes: But if you design not your Adversaries Life, but only to disable him, Then.
- Rule V.
With Calmness, Vigour, and Judgement, Thrust at his Sword-hand, Wrest, or Arm, or at his nearest advanced Thigh, &c.
The Reasons upon which this Rule is Grounded are.
Because I find the more home a Man playeth his Thrusts, the more he exposeth himself and is lyable to Thrusts from the Rispostes, and albeit, a Man in Playing for the Life and Death, is necessitat sometimes to play home part of his Thrusts fully to the Body: yet when he doth not design the Life of his Adversary, there is not that necessity for giving them so fully home, and so he needeth not to expose himself.
Now if he intends not to expose himself,and yet designs to disable his Adversary, What better Method can there be, then for him to Thrust at those parts of his Adversaries Body which lie nearest to him, and which he can reach without almost any kind of Hazard, or stretch of his Body, such as are the Arm, Wrest, Sword-hand, and Thighs, and which if hit, do as soon disable a Man, as any wounded Member of the Body, by reason of the many Veins, Arteries, Muscles, Sinews, which are contained in them.
This is also an excellent Rule to be observed by Little, and Short Men against those who are Tall and Vigorous, and whose great Design is alwayes to Contre-temps, when a Man playeth fully home any Thrust to their Body, by reason of the Advantage they have of their long Reach or Elonge. It is also excellent to play much from the Respost upon such kind of Persons; But I think I need say mo more for proving of this, the Rule it self being so clear that it needeth no Commentary.
- Rule VI.
If your Adversary be Hasty, Passionate, and Pursue Furiously, and Irregularly, then with Calmness, Vigour and Judgement, &c.
The Reasons upon which this Rule is Grounded, are.
Because it is found by Experience, that nothing encourages a Man more (who is of a Foreward Humour) to continue his violent Pursute, than the yielding altogether to him, and not offering any wayes to resist him; so that by Crossing, Stopping, and Opposing his Fury, I mean that a Man should alwayes so soon as ever he hath presented his Sword, counterfeit a Real, or make a true or half Pursute which are alone, and which half Pursute will be found extremely necessary in putting a stop to the Violence, and Fury of his Adversary.
For if you observe it, you will find for the most part, that all Foreward Humours if given Liberty to, do Extravague extremely, and become most Insolent, Impertinent, and Unsupportable, but if they be in the least checked, it stopeth their Carrier, and maketh them truely discover their Natural Constitution, which is just upon the other Extreme of suffering all Reproaches, and being Hectored and Baffled at all Hands.
But as in most part of things there is some Exceptions, so is there in this aldo, because there may be some Men of a great deal of Natural Courage, who being sensible of their own weakness and ignorance in the Art of the Sword, do find it absolutely necessary (when it is their misfortune to be engaged) to supply that want by brisking it out, and confounding their Adversary if possible by their forwardness, although he be a very good Sword-man (but if he be such, neither their Briskness nor Forwardness will do the business;) and as I said, their Natural Force and Courage, furnish them wherewithall to push it to the very outmost, but there are few People of this stamp to be found, and where an Artist meets with one of those, he will meet with twenty who are such as I before described.
But engage with whom you please, either with Ignorants of the first and second constitution and humour, or with Artists of either, a constant and vigorous half pursute, (for you can turn it into a true one when you please ) is the only method to make your Art effectual, and their irregular passion and ignorant courage, to turn into smoak and evanish in nothing.
I need but say little of the second part of the Rule, which is if your Adversary should be Careless, Lash, Slow, or perhaps Timerous, that then with Calmness, Vigour and Judgement you should pursue him, because if he be Carelesness incapacitats him from putting his Art in practice, and consequently reaping any benefit by it, and if he be Lash or Timerous then although he have Art, yet it betokeneth Cowardiceness , which also rendereth his Art useless to him, and in both these Cases you will have little to do, but Divert your Art with Judgement, Convince and Demonstrate to him (ny letting him feel some of your gentlest Thrusts) how far you are Master of him, and how much he is in your Mercy.
- Rule VII.
With Calmness, Vigour, and Judgement, prevent your receiving one Thrust for the giving another, (called after that dangerous Name, and Artists Buge-bear) a Contre-temps, &c.
The Reasons upon which this Rule is Grounded, are.
Because certainly all the Art in the World signifies not a Farthing, if a Man cannot by it infallibly Defend himself from a Contre-temps, for what doth it avail of profit a Man to pursue his Adversary with all the Offensive Art imaginable, and wound him if at the same time he is wounded himself, and that he doth not Back, or Second that his Offensive Art, or pursute, with his Defensive Art, that so he may shun a Contre-temps.
Can it be any satisfaction to him, that out of Eagerness to give his Adversary a thrust, he hath suffered himself by his Carelessness, to receive one, perhaps much more Dangerous; Certainly in any Artist or Man of Judgement it can be none, but rather a matter of Regrate and Sorrow, that he should have been at so much Pains and Trouble to acquire Art and then to make so bad use of it, as the ill Consequences of exchanged Thrusts do too often prove; therefore to prevent such Mischiefs, observe this Rule, and what I have said in my Reasons for the Fourth, where you will find full Satisfaction, and infallible Directions both to prevent Contre-temps, and Thrusts from the Respost.
But me thinks I hear some Foreward Ignorant saying, that this Advice may be very good fot Artists to observe, who have been Taught both how to Offenc their Adversary, and also Defend themselves, upon their Pursute from a Contre-temps, if their Adversary design one, but for such Ignorants as they are, who would neither be at the Expenses to imploy Masters to Instruct them in this Art, nor if they did imploy them, could take the pains to follow it out, understand it, and put it in practice, is signifieth nothing, and all the time that is spent in either Writting, or Advising it by word of Mouth, is but so much lost time and Labour in vain.
In Answer to which, I shall in the first place grant, that as to what relates to them, it signifieth indeed nothing, in respect that they are Ignorant and have not Art to make my Directions effectual, for my Advices are an Abstract of the best Rules in Fencing, which are to be most exactly observed, by the greatest of Sword-men, so that to all who are either Ignorant, or who have only the bare Theory, without Practice proportionable to it, this foregoing Advices and Rules were never designed, as I before told in my Decicaton.
Secondly, had I been to advise Ignorants, I would have desired them to do the quite contrary, which is to be most Foreward, and to pursue most Furiously, and Irregularly, and so endeavour to wound their Adversary, let it cost themselves what it would; and the Reason is clear, because it is most evident, that all the Advantage an Ignorant can expect to have of an Artist, must flow from his Furious and Violent Pursute, and endeavouring to force his Adversary to Contre-temps with him every Thrust, (but this will have but small Effect against a True Artist) for if he should offer not to Pursue, but endeavour Naturally to Defend himself, a Sword-man is in that Case as much Master of him in his Play, as (to make a Comparison) a Professor of Divinity is Master of a young Student in his Theologie, or an Expert Mathematician Master of one who is but in his Institutions of Geometry.
Therefore the only Method an Ignorant should take to Baffle an Artist, is to be Foreward and Irregular in his Motions, to see if by his Temerity and Rambling, he can Confound and Force the Artist, because he is so Hot and Smartly put to it, to be satisfied to give a Contre-temps, that so he may make himself as much as is in his power, in an equal condition with the Ignorant, who is almost certain to receive a Thrust, as well as the Artist, and perhaps more Dangerous, because of the Artist's knowing better to Plant and Adjust his Thrusts than he can do; for although the Ignorant's Forewardness and Fury, may help him to force the giving of a Contre-temps by an Artist; yet it can nowayes teach him to Adjust his Thrust, or acquire any Advantage that way, which undeniably, and without any manner of Debate, all Artist have of Ignorants by their knowing better how to Adjust and Plant their Thrusts, and will still have so long as the other do really deserve the Name of Ignorants.
But for all I have said, I still think to hear him insist and maintain that even to Artists this Advice of shuning Contre-temps will but signifie little, because whoever will be but at the Trouble to visit the Fencing-schools, shall scarcely see one Assault of ten, made either by Artists against Artists, or Artists against Ignorants, but what is so Composed and made up of Contre-temps, that one would think the greatest Art they learn, and aime at, is to strive who shall Contre-temps oftnest, so that a Man is necessitat to think one of two, either that the Art is of it self unsufficient, to give that security against Contre-temps a Man would desire, or that the Masters play the Cheat, and teach not so much of the security of the Art as they know, so that if the Fault be in the Masters, they ought not to be Encouraged, or Imployed; and if it be in the Art, then it is not worth the Learnning, because an Ignorant can Contre-temps an Artist, as well as the Artist, when it only pleaseth him, can Contre-temps, or Exchange Thrusts with the Ignorant, which maketh the Ignorant's Forewardness as Advantagious, Profitable, and Useful to him, as all the Fallacious Tricks and Directions, which an Artist hath been at the Pains and Expences to Understand and Learn from his Master, can be to him, and therefore that this Advice of mine to shun Contre-temps, is but a bare Speculation, and a thing Impracticable, and consequently of as little use to an Artist, as to an Ignorant">.
One who is not an Artist, but such an one as the Objecter (I mean an Ignorant) will be apt to think that what is here objected is almost unanswerable, while in effect it is just nothing; And to give you some Satisfaction I shall take the pains to Answer it, which I hope to all understanding Men will prove a Motive to make them respect Fencing, and then endeavour, first to Understand and Practise, and when once that length, then to rely upon the Certainty and Infallibility of the preceeding Rules, which upon the contrary, if not exactly put in Practice according to my Directions, will prove both very Fallible and Uncertain, for what I speak must be by them acted, other wayes all will prove false, and therefore if their expectation be not Answered, the Fault is their own, and none of mine.
But as the the Answer of the Objections, I say that it is neither the defect of the Art, which occasioneth so many Contre-temps in the Fencing-schools, because I dare to be bold to say, that whoever practiseth exactly the foregoing Directions, shall infallibly prevent and shun all Contre-temps, so that if thir Rules be sufficient, and are a part of Fencing, then the Art is sufficient to secure a Man from Contre-temps, and therefore it is not any deficiency in the Art, which is the cause of so many Contre-temps in Fencing Schools.
Neither is it the Masters Ignorance, who know not to Teach this secure Play, because to my certain knowledge, the most part of them, and those who are best imployed, build their Art upon the same very Foundations & Rules which I have given you (although I confess they are Guilty of some Abuses and Omissions in their Schools, which I would willingly have Rectified, for which see my second Observation) so that it cannot be their Ignorance in not knowing to Teach this secure kind of Play, which is the cause of so many Contre-temps.
Nor is it likewise the Masters playing the Cheat, in not Teaching; or keeping secret, and not Revealing and Discovering to their Scholars, when they give them their Lessons, the Hazard and Danger of Contre-temps, which are exchanged in Schools; No, the Fault lieth not in any of these, but in the Scholar, who although his Master shew him the way how to prevent Contre-temps, and the Danger that is in them; yet will not be at the pains to observe his Directions, but will follow his own Method, because he thinketh himself, if he hath been but three Months at the School, as Dexterous and Understanding as his Master, and that he standeth in need no more of his Advice, but may be his own Governour and Director.
This is the true Reason why we see so many Contre-temps in Schools, and consequently have so many bad Sword-men in the Kingdom, but to a true Artist who hath exactly followed his Masters Advice, and hath acquired sufficient Practice, I maintain that the foregoing Advice will be most Seasonable, Acceptable, & Useful, let Ignorants talk what they will.
And as for their being certain to Contre-temps with an Artist, when they please to put themselves in that Hazard, I positively deny it, for upon the contrary I maintain that a true Artist may, (provided he practise exactly the foregoing Rules) infallibly save and keep himself from being Contre-temped, let the Ignorant Force and Push as he pleaseth, and if the Artist do it not, it is not the Fault, or any Defect Unsufficiency in the Art it self, but only his weakness, and failing to make use of the Security that his Art is able to furnish him with; and as upon the one Hand an Artist can infallibly save himself from a Contre-temps by an Ignorant, I deny not but one Artist may Contre-temps another, (because it is for them chiefly that this Direction or Rule for shunning of Contretemps was designed) so upon the other, he can infallibly Contre-temps with the Ignorants as often as he pleaseth, and it shall not be in the Ignorants power to hinder or prevent him.
For you must understand that to gove a true and real Contre-temps, doth really require Judgement and a swift and just Hand, as I shall immediately shew you, and here I desire you to make a Distinction, betwixt an Ignorants Contre-temping an Artist, and his Forcing the Artist by the Violence and Fury of his Pursute, for his own Ease and Satisfaction to Contre-temps him for this Last I do not deny, but voluntarly acknowledges, that an Artist may be so pressed, that when he findeth he can do no better, he is satisfied, (rather than to let the Ignorant have any Advantage of him) to put himself in the same Hazard with him, by offering to Contre-temps him, and when People sometimes see an Artist Reduced to this strait, they are so far mistaken, as to think that the Ignorant contre-temps him, whereas it is really the Artist that contre-tempeth the Ignorant, that he may be said to have lost no Advantage by his Art, nor the Ignorant to have gotten any by his Ignorance and Furious Forewardness.
But as upon the one Hand, I acknowledge that an Artist may be so pressed with an Ignorant, that he is necessitate to Venture and Hazard a Contre-temps with him, so upon the other I positively deny, that it is in the power of any Ignorant to Contre-temps a Person who is really an Artist, and my Reason is, because as I said before, to give a real Contre-temps a Person who is really an Artist, and my Reason is, because as I said before, to give a real Contre-temps, doth really require Judgement and a swift and just Hand; and that no Ignorant can be supposed to have, and that it requireth those Three to make it evident thus.
If an Ignorant give a real Contre-temps, it must be given just as the Artist is Thrusting at him, and neither before nor after, for if it be either before or after, then it is no Contre-temps; now suppose it be before the Artist Thrust, then the Artist will not give one Thrust for another, and therefore it is no Contre-temps, but the Fault of the Artist, who did not Defend the Pursute of the Ignorant, and so it is a fair Thrust, and cannot be called a Contre-temps; and if it be after the Artist hath Thrust, that the Ignorant giveth him a Thrust; then neither can it be called a Contre-temps, but rather a Thrust from the Respost; and so it was the Artists Fault in not Defending himself better upon his own Pursute, and not teh Ignorants Judgement that made him give it.
Now as it cannot be called a Contre-temps, which is either given before, or after an Artist doth Thrust, so that only can be called a Contre-temps, which is given at the very nick of time the Artist is Trusting, for then both will undoubtedly receive a Thrust at the same time; (unless one of them prevent it by the help of the left Hand) and this is that which can only be called a real Contre-temps, and that an Ignorant can give this, I deny for three Reasons; The first is, that he must have the Judgement to Time his Thrust, just as the Artist is Thrusting; ans the second, and third, that he must both have a quick Hand to be as soon home as the Artist; and a just Hand to Plant his Thrust right, none of which an Ignorant can be said to have; for not having the Art of the Sword, he cannot have the Judgement of it, and without Practice (which none will say he can pretend to) he can neither have a Just, nor a Swift Hand: And therefore that it is not in the power of an Ignorant, to give an Artist a real Contre-temps will hold good, as I think I have sufficiently made appear. And also that to give a real Contre-temps, is required Judgement and a Swift and Just Hand.
And upon the contrary, that an Artist can infallibly Contre-temps with an Ignorant, as often as he pleaseth, and it shall not be in the Ignorants power to prevent it, is very clear, for the lack of Judgement, a quick Hand, and the practice to Adjust a Thrust, being the Three things wich render an Ignorant incapable to Contre-temps an Artist, it will follow, that an Artist having these three Advantages, they give to him that, which the want of them divest the Ignorant of; so that the Ignorant being rendered uncapable to Contre-temps by the want of them, by the Rule of Contraries, the Artist by having them, is made capable to Contre-temps teh Ignorant, when and how often he pleaseth.
So by this time, I doubt not but you are sensible of the weakness of the Objection, and how unreasonable and frivolous it is, and also understand what Advantages a Man's Art giveth him upon the one Hand, and what Inconveniences and Hazards his Ignorance upon the other doth expose him to; and if so, then I need not Inquire which of the two you had rather be, whether a Judicious Artist, or a Furious and Foreward Ignorant, seing your very Favouring the one, would accuse you of Folly; and your Despising the other, discover your Sloth and Carelessness.
- Rule VIII.
Now to put a close to my Rules, let them be all done within Distance as much as possible, &c.
The Reasons upon which this Rule is Grounded, are.
Because the closer a Man play to his Adversary (if he be Master of the Defensive part) he playeth so much the securer for himself, and is in a better Capacity to Hurt or Offend his Adversary, then when he is without Distance and is necessitate before the giving in of every Thrust to approach, for this both disordereth his own Body, by exposing it more to the Contre-temps of his Adversary, and also maketh his Pursute not so effectual, in respect that it is not so quick and smart, as when it is done within Distance; For playing within Distance, all your Thrusts may be given in the twinckling of an Eye, and a great deal more certain as to the Planting, being only done with the Spring of your Arm, and without almost any Elonge of the Body, which are the second and third things advised in this last Rule.
Now it is most certain, that all Thrusts given only with a Spring or Jerk of the Arm, are a great deal more Strong, Quick, and Firme, then when they are performed with an Elonge, because the Elonging or Stretching the rest of your Body, weakneth and taketh away both the Force of the Spring, and Quickness of the Thrust: Therefore to Play only with a Spring of the Arm, and with as little a Stretch or Elonge as possible, is the only best way to play both smartly, and securely: besides if a Man accustome himself to great Stretches, he runneth into two Inconveniencies, the one is exposing his Body by it to the Contre-temps, and Thrusts from the Respost of his Adversary, which if he did not stretch, woudl not be so much exposed, The other is the Danger he putteth himself in, if his Feet should slip, and he fall, which is also prevented if he play within Distance, ony with a Spring of the Arm, and with little or no Stretch: And therefore if if were but only upon this one Account, I think a Man should shun Stretching as much as possible. A Man hath likewise this Advantage by playing closs to his Adversary, that it preventeth the Variety of Lessons which would make him the more uncertain of the Parrade.
But that you may the better do it, I gave you an Advice in my second Rule, which will be of great use to prevent your Stretching, and it was, That you should still keep your Heels as near other as possible, which I omitted to speak of in that place, thinking it to come a more a Propos here; now if you but consider it, you will find that this keeping of your Heels near other, when you are even without Distance, but more especially when you are within, doth make your Thrust come the farther home, and reach your Adversary with a far less Stretch of the Body, then if your Heels were keep a good way asunderm so that playing within Distance, as I order you, if your Heels be closs, the stepping foreward a Foot with your advanced Foot, will bring your Thrust as far home, as your full Stretch would have done, if your hindmost Heel had been far distant from your advanced; so that keeping your hindermost Heel, closs almost to your advanced Heel and being within Distance, you will almost without any Stretch of the Body, only by stepping foreward a little with your advanced Foot, and using the Spring of you Arm, sheath your Sword to the very middle in your Adversarie's Body, if he do not oppose you.
But this is not all the Advantage you reap by keeping your Heels near; for it not only carrieth home your Thrust farther; but also is a great means to help you to recover your Body quickly after every Thrust, which was one of the Pariculars I advised in the fourth Rule. Now it is clear, that so long as a Man playeth at his full Stretch, he can never so quickly recover his Body, as he can do when he is at a half Stretch, nor so soon at a half Stretch, as he can do when he maketh little of no Stretch, and seing the keeping of his hinder Heel near to his advanced, preventeth his Stretching, and the less that he Stretcheth, the quicklier he will recover his Body, them it doth certainly follow, that the keeping his Heels near other, is a great means to facilitate the quick recovery of his Body after every Thrust, which was that I designed to prove.
So there remains only, that I should speak to the third thing proposed in my first Rule, which I delayed till now, designing to close the Reasons for my Rules with a short Discourse upon it, which is also the last Advice in this my last Rule, to wit, That Judgement accompany all your Actions, both in their Beginning, Procedure, and Close; and indeed without it all I have said would signifie but little, for to make a short Detail, What would it signifie to you? your having Calmness, and Vigour, if you had not Judgement to direct you, how to make use of the Advantage you have by them; And what would the keeping of a Closs and Thinn Guard signifie to you, if you had not your Judgement in defending yourself upon it, or pursuing your Adversary from it; What would it signifie also to you, that you have Directions to prevent Contre-temps, if you have not Judgement to know when to Practise them, and in short what doth the whole Art of the Sword signifie without Judgement, certainly for very little of no use at all.
Now as upon the one Hand an Artist is liable to a great many Inconveniencies by the want of it, so upon the other his having it, putteth him in a Capacity, and sets him at Liberty, notwithstanding my Directions I have given him, (although I confess they are the securest I can think upon, or imagine) to choose what Parrades, and what Lessons he shall think most fitt and agreeable to the Constitution, Play and Humour of his Adversary, although those Lessons which he might pitch upon in respect of some Mens play, would be found to be the most loose and uncertain, but in respect of the Person he is to play them upon, Judicious and Good, because by his Judgement he hath found that such Lessons wiil have as good effect against sudh a Person, as the most secure against one of the other Humour, for if it were other wayes, and had not his Liberty of choose, he would be tyed up, and confined to my Directions; or I may say, to my particular Judgement, which is the rendering of his own useless, and it is just contrary to what I so much recommended; but there must be great care taken, that a man abuse not his Liberty, and Allowance which is given him, and that he be certain his Judgement be not false, but Grounded upon Art and Reason before he Adventure, and take upon him to make any considerable Change or Alteration in Directions, which in the strickest Sense must be confesed to be the most secure against all Play and Humours whatsoever.
But that I may end this with a Comparison, Fencing without Judgement, is just like Watch without a Spring, a Neat piece of Work with a great many fine Wheels, but without any Motion, the want of which maketh her useless: And so is the Art of Fencing a curious Art, wherein there are a great many fine Lessons, and excellent Rules, but for lack of Judgement (which is its Spring) all lieth Dead, and is Useless; but once apply the Spring, ans set it in Motion and a going, and then it becometh a most Quick and Lively Exercise, and (as a Watch) an Ornament fit for all Gentlemen to carry about with them, and as a compleat Watch with a Spring sheweth a Man the Hour of the day, that so he may know how to dispose of his time and actions, so doth Fencing directed by Judgement, discover to a Man the Hazards and Inconveniencies he is exposed to, and the means to shun and prevent them, by his disposing of the several Branches of his Art so and so, as she shall direct him.
And farther, as the Spring of a Watch doth cause its Hand to point to that Hour, which is most needful to be known; so doth Judgement direct a Man's Hand, to point with his Sword and Thrust as such parts of his Adversaries Body, which do most expose and discover themselves to him, and which are therefore the most fit to be Attacqued; so that without her, there can be no true Artist, and where she presides, all will go well, and as one would with that is, make the preceeding Rules answer my Design, which was, infallibly to direct as a Man, to defend himself against the Attaques of all Persons with Sharpes, which I doubt not but I have sufficiently done, if they be exactly observed; and I am confident, if they fail, it can be imputed to no defect in the Directions, but to the weakness and want of the Art in the Person, who is to put them in practice, and therefore the blame must lye at their Door, and not at mine, for it is Acting and not Talking, that in this Case must do the Business.
Having now finished my Rules, with the Reasons upon which they are Grounded, I shall in the last place proceed to the third thing I at first proposed, which was, to give you some Observations, which will be neither Unnecessary, nor Unpleasant.
Thirdly, Some Remarkes and Observations, &c.
IN the First place I observe, let Ignorants talk what they please, and undervalue both Art and Artists as much as is in their power; yet still it is an undeniable Truth, that Artists have three considerable Advantages of them, which is, first, The knowing to Parrie, and actually Parreing a plain Thrust, better than they can do; For I shall Engage for what any Man pleaseth, That, set up an Ignorant to me at the Wall, who was never taught any thing of the Art of the Sword; I shall with the Art I have, give him half a Dozen plain Thrusts distinctly one after another, and it shall not be in his power to Parrie, or Defend himself from one single Thrust if all the six, and upon the other Hand, let him Thrust at me twenty plain Thrusts at the Wall, he shall not Touch me with one of them; And if this be true (which may be easily put to a Trial, whether it be so or not) then certainly the Artist as I said, hath this first Advantage of an Ignorant, that he can Parrie and Defend himself better then the Ignorant can do for his Heart.
But perhaps when some Persons are reading this, who have seen me when I have been in the Fencing-schools, receive either plain Thrusts at the Wall, from those who were Thrusting upon me, or in Assault when I was playing as one would judge my best, they will be apt to challenge me, and ask how I come to Assert things, the contrary of which they have seen with their own Eyes; As first, That I have been so far from Parreing twenty plain Thrusts upon end, that they have seen me hit once in three or four; And secondly, That in Assaulting, notwithstanding the many exact Rules I pretend to give to save a Man from Contre-temps; yet they have seen me several times Contre-temped, and it is probable, that if I could not Defend my self with my own Rules from Contre-temps, another will hardly do it: Therefore my Rules will not prove so very infallible as I imagine them to be, and that I should not have been so positive in the Commendation of them, seing that I myself know them to have failed me, in that which I do most commend them for, viz. Their security against Contre-temps.
I know thir will be the Thoughts and Objections of some, who will peruse thir Sheets more out or a Curiosity to get something to Object against me, then a desire to reap any Profit or Advantage by them, and therefore I thought fit to set them down in the is place that so I might Answer them.
As to the first, I do not believe that any Man will say, he ever saw me receive a plain Thrust at the Wall from any Ignorant, which is what I affirmed, I would Defend my self from; for if I were not able with the Art I have certainly to Defend my self at the Wall, from the plain Thrusts of all Ignorants, I should then throw down my Fleuret, and undervalue Fencing so much, that I should never more enquire after it, or any wayes encourage the Professors of it, but should do all that lay in my power to power to discover its insufficiency, that Gentlemen might not be for the Future Imposed upon and Cheated, both out of their Money & Time by it. But although I deny my being hitt at the Wall by the plain Thrusts of Ignorants; yet I confess I have been often hitt by Artists, and I do not almost remember that ever I was hitt with plain Thrusts, since I understood any thing of this Art but what was given me either by those who were actually Scholars at the Time, and therefore were no Ignorants; or those who had been once Scholars, and therefore also no wayes deserved the Name of Ignorants, and for my being hitt with a plain Thrust by such, I do no deny it, neither doth it any wayes reflect upon me, because for one Sword-man to be hitt with a plain Thrust by another, is no Disparagement at all, but a very considerable one it is, if an Artist cannot infallibly Defend himself against the plain Thrusts of any Ignorant, and that I am not able to do that I positively deny, and refers the Probation of it t a Trial, when ever it shall be required by Persons who are worth the giving of Satisfaction to in such a Matter; therefore when such Persons accuse me of being hitt with plain Thrusts, they would do well to be so ingenuous as to confess, that those Thrusts were really given my by Artists, which I shall willingly confess, and not by Ignorants which I positively deny, for if that were, they would indeed have good Reason to laugh both at me, and my Directions.
But as to the second, which is, My receiving Contre-temps in Assaults, notwithstanding of what I could do to prevent them, which not only discovers the insufficiency of my Rules to prevent Contre-temps, but also my disinfenuity in Commending, and Accounting Rules to be Infallible, which I by my own proper Experience have found oftner then once, to be both Fallible and Uncertain.
This Objection I confess cometh somewhat closer to me than the former did, and I believe I have started it so fairely, that none who considers either this or the former, but will confess, I have said as much both against my self, and to make this Art of no Repute, as any Ignorant whatsoever could do, and I the ratherlike to make all the Objections possible against it, that People may be convinced I deal above Board, and that there lyeth no Cheat in the Matter; and that also by Answering all Objections, I may in a manner (by reasoning so fairely with them) force them to confess and acknowledge, that the Art of the Sword is not only a Pleasant, but also an Useful and Necessary Art, worthy of the Study of all, but more especially of the Gentry.
But in Answer to the Objection, although I confess I have received many Contre-temps, and not withstanding of all the Art I do have, do still Fear them when I am Assaulting, and although I might also alledge what I did in the Answer, to the preceeding Objection, that all the Contre-temps I ever received were from Artists, (for I positively deny that any Ignorant can give an Artist a reall Contre-temps, which I sufficiently made appear in my Reasons for the Seventh Rule, to which I refer you) and the most part of the Thrusts, that were Exchanged one for another, were also for the most Part from Artists and not from Ignorants, and consequently no disparagement to me; yet passing by that, and granting these exchanged Thrusts were given by Ignorants, I shall give you two Reasons, the one shewing why any Artist, be he never so Expert, may come to receive one Thrust for another from an Ignorant, and the other shewing that he may receive either a real Contre-temps, or one Thrust for another from an Artist, and yet that it can be be no reflection upon my Rules, which, as I said, will prove still infallible if exactly observed.
And the Reason of the first (which is, any Artist receiving one Thrust for another from an Ignorant) is that when People Assault, it is commonly with Blunts, and when an Ignorant, who undervalueth the Art of the Sword, and trusteth all to his own Forewardness is desired by an Artist to shew his Natural Play, he very well considering that he can receive no prejudice by his being hitt with a blunt Fleuret, Rusheth and Rambleth still forewards (let him receive never so many Thrusts) until he either hitteth the Artist with one of his Rambling Thrusts, or other wayes cometh so closs, that the Artist must inclose with him, and he thinketh, if he hath given the Artist but one Thrust (although he himself should receive three or four in the time they are playing) that he hath carried the Day, and quite run down the Art of Fencing, whereas if they were either to play with Real Sharps, or with Fleurets having a quarter of an Inch of a point beyond the button, I make not the least doubt, but their rambling would be a little slower, and they would take better notice to what they did, it being Natural even for the most Foreward and Boldest of Men, to endeavour to save themselves by putting a little stop to their Pursute, when they perceive a Sharp point opposite to, and ready to wound, them, and without which stop or pause, they are sensible they might run the Risk, if not of losing their Life; yet at least of being hurt, and so smarting for their rash Forewardness; so this is the Reason why Artists may receive one Thrust for another from Ignorants, to wit, Their Assaulting commonly with Blunts; Therefore to prevent this inconbeniency, if I were to play with an Ignorant for a Wager, I would play alwayes with pointed Fleurets, and then in GOD's Name let him Ramble his Belly full; For in that case I would know a way to come at him, which might perhaps cause him repent his Forewardness.
But the Reason of the second, (which is that an Artist may either receive a Real Contre-temps or one Thrust for another, (commonly called Exchanged Thrusts) from another Artist is that although they play never so warrily, yet if they fail in the least, to make use of the exact contraries to Contre-temps and Thrusts from the Respost, which I have given them, they expose themselves to both, and I must confess, the Directions are so Nice and Difficult to be performed, that there are but few Sword-men, who are able to put them exactly in practice; so that it is not the defect of the Rules, but the Fault of the Artist, in not observing them strictly in practice, that is, the cause of his being either Hitt, Contre-temped, or Resposted: The Reason I also give for me receiving any of the Three in Assault from Artists, or the first and last from Ignorants; and I much doubt if it be possible for ordinary Artists to observe them altogether exactly, however, the nearer they come to the exact Observance of them, they are certainly so much the securer; And if it be asked why I give Rules so difficult, that neither, I my self, not other Sword-men when they are even at their greatest perfection can without a great deal of difficulty exactly observe. It is Answered, That in this, I Resemble the Divines, who although they give most excellent Rules for Holy Living and Dying, which cannot but be confessed by all Christians, to be most Rational and Orthodox; yet find great Difficultly themselves to Live up to that pitch of Mortification and Holiness, which they require exactly of others under the pain of Eternal Damnation; and yet none will be so bold as to say, because those Rules are not but with great Difficulty exactly observed, that therefore they are not sufficient, and infallibly certain, to bring Salvation to all who exactly observe and square their Lives and Actions conform to them: The Parallel I confess betwixt thir two Subjects is altogether unequal; yet the Comparison will hold good, that although an Artist may receive a Thrust, or be Contre-temped or Reposted, because of his failing to observe exactly my Directions; yet that the Directions may be, and are in themselves absolutely sufficient and infallible, for the preservation of one who exactly observes them, from all kind of Thrusts whatsoever, I doubt not but what I have said, will be thought to be, by all rational Men, a sufficient Answer, both to the Objections, and for proving the sufficiency of my Rules, therefore I shall proceed to where I left; And shew, that.
The second Advantage Artists have over Ignorants, is, in Planting or Adjusting a Thrust, which no Man will controvert, seing it is not to be imagined, that an Ignorant who perhaps did never Thrust fix Thrusts in his Life-time, can be so certain to hitt the part of the Body the aimeth at, as an Artist will be, who hath been taught how to Plant, and it is now and then practising himself with it.
And the Third is the having of Judgement, for I suppose all Artists to have that, other wayes they are really no Artists but Ignorants in Masquerad, that is to say, they pretend to Art, because they have been some time at the Fencing School, and so under that Cloak of being once a Scholar, they conceal their Ignorance; but if they be real Artists they must have the Judgement of the Sword, and that no Ignorant can have, because it is unseparably joyned to the Art it self, and is only acquired by practising of it, and that not Ignorant can pretend to, who never was at the Pains and Trouble, so much as to enquire after it, let alone to be at the Toile to gain it by practice, which is the only true way to come at it.
Now the Advantage an Artist hath over an Ignorant, by having this Judgement, is that by it he can know when such and such a Part of his Adversaries Body is open to him, and what Lessons are most proper to offend such parts as are exposed, and even although his Adversary should not be Open but upon a Closs Guard, it furnisheth him with means to make him discover himself and give an Open: As also it Teacheth him in some measure to understand and know, when, and at what part of his own Body, his Adversary designes to Attaque him: all this and a great deal more it doth to an Artist, but an Ignorant not having it, he is frustrate of all these preceeding Advantages, and therefore certainly at a great deal of loss for the want of it, so that it cannot be denied, but this of having Judgement is the Third considerable Advantage, that all true Artists have over Ignorants I could give you several other Instances in which Artists have considerable Advantages, but I think what I have said sufficient as to this Particular.
Secondly, I observe that in the Fencing schools (and that not only of this Kingdom, but England and France also) there are several Abuses, and things committed which I would have rectified, both for the Benefit of the Scholars, and Reputation of the Masters; although I know it will be thought somewhat strange, that after having said so much in Commendation of Fencing it self, I should at last reflect upon its Professors and Teachers.
But to that I Answer, That although the Art be Grounded upon undeniable Truths and infallible Reasons; yet that is no Argument, but many who profess it may be subject to Errours, fot I am far from attributing Infallibility to them: And I confess I am sorry, I should be necessitate to differ from many of them, in circumstances so considerably tending to the accomplishment and perfecting of Sword men, but my Opinion being backed with so many, and strong Reasons (the Truth and Weight whereof I earnestly recommend to the serious Reflection of the Reader,) I cannot but maintain and defend it; until by as strong and convincing Reasons as I have given for it, I am perswaded of the contrary.
Seing therefore my Proposals are grounded upon Reason, and not upon other Mens practices, I expect they will convince me by it, for that practice which is against Reason, is but deceitful and false, and as it is to the Eternal Fame of the great Duke of Newcastle, that he was the first who Rectified the Abuses of Riding in the Academies, by finding out a new and infallible Method for dressing Horses, which was not thought of before, and which at first had no doubt many Opposers, until from the reasonableness and great Success it had had, they were necessitate to acknowledge its Excellency and Certainty: So I hope I shall have the Honour to be one of the first who hath publickly proposed the Rectifying of Abuses commonly committed in Fencing schools.
The first whereof is, The giving of Scholars at their very first Entering to the School, heavy Fleurets to take their Lessons with; And the Reason they give is Because (say they) the using a weighty Fleuret strengtheneth their Arms and Wrests, and maketh them when they come afterwards to Assault with light Fleurets, to handle them a great deal more Easily and Nimbly, then they would have done, had they been still accustomed to play with light ones.
All this I grant, for it cannot be denied, but that which I condemn is, their giving these heavy Fleurets to Schollars at their very first entring to them, when they understand not so much as how to give in a Plain Thrust, or to move their Fleuret regularly any way, for it is certain that they never being accustomed to move their Wrests, the first time that they use that Motion it will be a trouble to them, and make their Sinewes Ake, although they had nothing in their Hands at all, let alone a stiff heavy Fleuret, just as a Man when he is first Learning to Elonge or Stretch, the Sinewes of his Thighs will Ake for a Day or two after, although he force not himself to a full stretch: And as it would be thought a little strange for a Master to force a young Schollar the very first or second Day after his first entring to the School to his full Stretch, or before he hath by custome made Elonging familiar and easy to him; so I say, at the beginning a Schollar should make use of a very light Fleuret untill by a little Practice and Use, his Wrest be acquainted with the turns of the Parrades and Motions of the Lessons, and then, and not till then (which is about three Weeks or a Month at most after his first entering) should be given him a weighty Fleuret to strengthen his Wrest and Nerves, and with that he should alwayes take his Lessons, and Parrie his Adversaries plain Thrusts at the wall, the using of which, will undoubtedly make him handle a light Fleuret or Sword, as he shall have occasion for them, a great deal more firmly and nimbly, then if he had alwayes used a light Fleuret.
For (to make a Comparison) as it is the Common Custom for Dancing Masters abroad, to wear plates of Leed betwixt the plies of the Soles of their Ordinary walking Shoes, that to they may feel themselves as it were Lighter, and Cleevrer, when they put on their Light Dancing Shoes; so will the constant using of weightly Fleurets, make Men when they are to assault with Light ones, or to make use of their Sword, to think them a great deal Lighter then really they are, and the very Fancy of that will cause them make both, their Parrades, and Thrusts quicker then otherwayes they would; But, as I said, their Wrests should be alwayes made Supple, and first accustomed with very Light Fleurets, untill they be three Weeks or a Month at School, and then it is a fit time to give them heavy Fleurets to take their Lessons withal and not sooner, unless their Masters designe to weaken and ruine their Wrests and Nerves. And this Leads me to
The Second thing I observe, is not so much Practised in our Scots and English Schools as I could wish (for I acknowledge the French are free of it) which is the constant Parrieing, and Thrusting of Plain Thrusts upon one another at the wall, this is the only thing which maketh a Man to have a Swift Hand upon his Pursute, and a firme and sure Parrade upon his Defence and there is no other Reason for the French and their having so Swift a Hand in giving in their Plain Thrusts, but their constant accustoming themselves to Thrust upon their commarads at the Wall, of sometimes at a Mark in the Wallm when they want the opportunity of having one to Thrust upon; therefore seing the having a Swift Hand is such advantage, and the most certain way to acquire it, is, to to frequent the Thrusting and Parreing of Plain Thrusts at the Wall, and that (as I have Orderd) with heavy Fleurets I think it will be thought but Reasonable that I advise the Rectifying of this, as well as the preceeding abuse.
The Third thing I observe, is, that they burden their Scholars with too many Lessons, especially Offensive ones, whereas if they would teach them fewer Offensive Lessons (for they will come to them Naturally) and keep them closer to the Defensive Part, People would see fewer Contre-temps, and better Sword-men in the Schools, then for the most Part they do.
The fourth, is, the suffering Scholars generally to take their Lessons in their Cloaths, a thing which hindereth a Mans Body to be so soon broken, and made Pliable as otherwayes it would, because a Man cannot stretch so freely in his Coat as he can do in a West-coat, or Vest, & also it spoileth his Cloths, & if he Fenceth much, the sweat maketh him uneasy the whole Day thereafter, whereas Playing in a West-coat a Man is both Nimbler, and more at ease the rest of the Day, his Coat being dry when he goeth from the School, which perhaps otherwayes would be all torn and neastie with the smell of Sweet and dust, which would be both uneasie to him, and unpleasant to those he is going to converse with
Therefore in my humble opinion no Scholar should be suffered to take his Lessons in his Cloaths untill he be well Grounded, and then in opposition to what I have been saying, I am of the opinion that he should for the most part both take his Lessons, and Assaults in his Cloaths and walking Shoes, for this will confirm him in his Play, and make him upon all Encounters ready, without being surprized, to oppose the Pursutes, and Attaques of his Adversary, with as great ease as if he were stript and in his Fencing Shoes, now this being of great Importance to Compleat and Confirme a Swordman in his Play, it should by all means be lookt to, and taken notice of, that Schollars before they be well Grounded both in Lessons and practice do not Play in thier Cloaths, and that afterwards when they are Grounded they should, to strengthen and confirm them in it.
The Fifth is the suffering Schollars to soon to Assault before they be at least two or three Months standing, and this is also one of the Reasons, why People see so many Contre-temps exchanged in the Schools, because when they begin to Assault so soon, they have neither Art nor Judgement to shun or prevent them: and were it for no more but this, I think the Masters should rectifie it, that they would find it for their own particular Profit and Advantage; for when once their Schollars are accustomed to Assaults, they think it almost below them to take any more Lessons, but think they have attained enough of the Art, and so Quite the School, and there is an end of them, and being at the School, they get the Name of Sword-men which is enough to them, but GOD knows, if they really deserve it, whereas if they were kept longer from Assaulting, they would both continue the longer, their Schollars, and at the end prove better Sword-men.
The Sixth and last thing I shall take notice of in Fencing Schools, is the neglect of teaching the Blow as well as the Thrust, and this both the English and French Masters are guilty of, as well as our Scots, And I am apt to think it may proceed from a mistake, in thinking that the teaching of the Blow would be prejudicial to the quick performance of the Thrust, but whoever may be prepossest with this false Opinion; I shall endeavour to convince them of the contrary by what followeth, and of the necessity there is for a Mans being taught, and understanding both Blow and Thrust, to be reputed a Compleat Sword-man.
Now the chief reasons, or objections they give against teaching of the Blow, or Broad-sword, at the same time with the Small, are three; The first is that it doth not teach a Man to stretch himself so much as the small Sword doth, and therefore will not supple and break his Body so well, and consequently not give him that agility of Wrest and Limbs, which the Small Sword doth.
In answer to which, I say first, that it is a great mistake, to think that the Blow doth not teach a Man to stretch, as well as the Thrust, for in Learning the Thrust, there is nothing that maketh a Man to stretch, and to acquire nimbleness and agility in his Limbs, but Advancing, Reteiring, Elonging and sometimes Jumping back after the gibving in of a Thrust, now all this a Man doth when he is taught the Blow, or Broad-sword, and therefore there is no difference betwixt the learning of the Broad-sword, and Small, for the acquiring of agility and nimbleness.
I know some will say, that the chief difference consists in the Elonging, because in learning the small-sword, a Man is taught to Stretch himself a great deal more, then when he is learning the broad, or back-sword, but this is likewise a mistake, because those who teach the true Art of the Broad-sword, cause their Schollars, when they take take their Lessons, make their full Elonges or Stretches, and likewise recover, and jump back off those Stretches, as frequently, as if they were taught the Smal & those Masters who teach not the Broad; or Back-sword after this manner, discover only their own Ignorance, but no imperfection in the Art: and although I am fully perswaded, that the Small-sword hath the Advantage of the Broad, as to the quickness and subtility of its Motions, yet I am convinced it hath no Advantage over it, as to the rendring a Man more Agile and Nimble; And therefore that the teaching of the Blow at the same time with teh Thrust, can be no wayes prejudicial to the quick performance of the Thrust afterwards, as a man shall have occasion for it.
Secondly, I say the teaching of the Blow at the same time with the Thrust, is not only as I have made appear, no wayes prejudical to a Mans stretching his Body and Limbs, but also doth not hinder him to acquire that agility and nimbleness of the Wrest, which is required, to have a swift Hand in the giving in of any Thrust, for let any Man but consider the turns of the Wrest in making any of the Parrades, or playing any of the Lessons belonging to the Small-sword, and the turns of it in performing teh Blows and Flourishes of the Broad, and he will find the turns in the Broad to be a great deal more Circular and difficult,and consequently fitter for the Suppling and Breaking of a Mans Wrest, so that it may become Nimble and Agile, then any Parrade or Lesson of the Small, and there is no great Wonder it should be so, seing it hath its Rise and foundation from the Art of the Broad, for I believe there are but few who are Ignorants of the antiquity of the Art of the Broad-sword, and how that it was long made use of before, ever the Small was found out, or heard of, and I am so far from thinking the Art of the Small-sword a particular Art by it self, that I am fully convinced, it is only the Art of the Broad more refined, and made more perfect, in so far as at the first the Blow was only made use of without any Thrust, and the Art of the Small-sword perfecteth it, by teaching how eth Thrust may be joyned to the Blow without any the least confusion, or hinderance, of the Blow, as occasion shall offer. Now how the teaching of both at one & the same time hath run into destietude, I confess I cannot comprehend, but certainly it is a neglect and omission, which all who desire to be compleat Sword-men, should endeavour to have rectified.
The Second objection is, that grant the teaching of the Blow at the same time with the Thrust, doth not hinder a Mans Stretching, or his acquiring the same agility of Body and nimbleness of Wrest, which he would do if he were only taught the Small; yet say some, there is such a vast difference betwixt the performance of a Blow, and the giving in of a Thrust, that if a Man were taught to do them both at one time, the one would quite confound the other, and make a Man when he is taking his Lesson with the Small, to give a Blow when he should give a Thrust, and when he is taking his Lesson with the broad, to give in a Thrust when he should make a Blow, which would render both the Arts altogether useless to him, and therefore a Man had better perfect himself fully in the one, before he attempt the other, then desire to be taught them both at one, and the same time.
Here is (one would think) a very strong and reasonable objection, but yet ist shall be very clearly and shortly answered, and first, I say betwixt the Parrades and Guards of the Broad-sword, and Parrades and Guards of teh Small, at least the most part of them, there is but little Difference for the Parrades in Quart and Terce of the Medium-guard, so resemble the first Parrades in Quart and Terce of the Smal-sword, & the Parads of the Hanging-guard, do likewise resemble the second second Parrades in Terce of the Smal-sword with a slooping point: thus much for the Parrades, and as for the Guards, the posture of the Medium guard is a little Different from that of the Quart guard in the Small, the outside-guard little different from the Terce, and the Hanging-guard little different from the Terce-guard in the Smal-sword with a slooping point: to that the difference that are betwixt the Parrades and guards of the Small-sword, and Parrades andGuards of the Broad are so inconsiderable, that I am confident no Man who understandeth both, will say, that the teaching the Parrades and Guards of the one can be any wayes Prejudicial to the teaching the Parrads and Guards of the other at the same time.
But Secondly, if there be any considerable difference, it lieth in the offensive part, in that there is as they say, a vast difference betwixt the delivering of a Blow, and the giving in of a Thrust, and this is that which they maintain will so much confound a Man that it will make him Strike when he should Thrust, & Thrust when he should Strike.
For my part, I confess I cannot but admire how People of Judgement can talk at this rate, for can there be a greater Difference betwixt the performance of any Stroak, and the giving in of a Thrust, then there is betwixt the performance of one Lesson in the Smal-sword, and thePlaying of another in the same Art? no certainly, for there is as great, yea more Difference betwixt a Plain Thrust, and a Feint a la rest, or betwixt a Feint a la rest, and Binding, or betwixt Binding & Passing, or betwixt Passing and Quarting and Volting then there can be pretended to be betwixt the giving in of a Thrust, and the making of any Blow whatsomever, so that if upon the one Hand it be Pleaded that the Difference betwixt Blow and Thrust, is the Reason why they should not be taught together, because the one would confound the other, I plead upon the other Hand and for the same Reason, that nothing should be taught of the Small-sword at the same time but a Plain Thrust, because the Difference betwixt it and the other Lessons is as considerable,if not more, and therefore as apt to confound a Man, because when he should Play onel Lesson, he will make use of another as far out of purpose and season, an the making of a Blow would be when he should give a Thrust, but all this is so ridiculous, that I shall say no more of it, for a Man who will maintain this, must also maintain, that a Man cannot learn any two different Exercises at once, as for Ex: the Exercises of the Pick and Musket, or to Play upon the Guittar and Lute, or to Dance a Courant and Minue without confounding the one with the other, because they have all Different Motions, which is a most extravagant opinion, and the contrary of which we see dayly practised not only by Men, but even by Beasts, for I believe there are but few Gentlemen who have been abroad, and have not seen Horses when they have been either Breaking for the Manage, or to confirm them in it, get most different Lessons for that effect in one Morning, as one to supple their Shoulders, another to put them upon their Haunches, one for Passnger, another for the Terra a Terra, one for Carveting, another for Crouppading, and in fine, one for Caprioling, and another for Balotading, and all this (as I said) in one Morning, now the motions of the Horses limbs are different in all those Lessons and Aires, and seeing the difference of the motions doth confound an irrational Horse, not hinder him to perform what ever Lesson or Aire his Rider requireth of him; I conclude, That the difference betwixt Blow and Thrust, will far less confound or hinder a Rational Man to make use of either, as it shall please him, or his Master to demand them of him. But that I may the better both vindicate my Opinion as to this, and perswade you, that it is not meerly a speculative fancy, but a most practicable, and usefull improvement of the Art of the Sword; I do recommend to all who shall not be convinced of it by the reasonable Arguments I have proposed, that they would Repair to William Machries School, where they will see both Blow & Thrust, taught at the same time with a great deal of ease and expedition, and without the least confusion.
The third and last objection, is this, that supposing the Teaching of the Blow at the same time with the Thrust, be no ways prejudicial to the quick performance of the Thrust, and that all I said in favours of the Blow should hold good & true, yet it is altogether unnecessary to teach the Blow, because a Man that is absolutely Master of the Thrust, can supply all the wants of the Blow by it, and seing the Thrust hath so great Advantage over the Blow, as to the danger and deadliness of its wounds, which no Sword-man will deny, and that it can always be made use of in place of a Blow, therefore the Teaching of the Blow is not necessary, but ought to be Foreborn.
You see by this objection they endeavour wholly to condemn and exclude the Blow, not as being any wayes prejudicial to the quick performance of the Thrust, but as being in it self altogether useless, and not to be regarded, in respect of the Advantage the Small-sword hath of it, by the Dangerous Wounds it maketh, which prove for the most part Mortall, whereas commonly the Wounds of the Broad-sword are not so Dangerous, which in my Opinion insinuats as much, as that a Man with a Small-sword should not stand to hazard his Receiving of a Blow for the giving of a Thrust.
I confess I am as much convinced of the Advantage the Thrust hath of the Blow as to its Wound, as any Man can be, as you may see in my Scots Fencing Master, but that which I condemn is that an Artist should trust to the difference of Wounds, and so venture a Contre-temps, and not rather endeavour first to defend himself himself by his Art from the Blow, and then give in his Thrust for a Man may chance to misplant his Thrust after he hath received a very severe Stroak, perhaps near to the loss of his Hand or Arm, and then I am confident, he will think it had been better Judgement, and he would have shewn more of his Art, if he had defended first the Stroak, and then have given in his Thrust: but passing over this,
I assure you there is no Smal-sword-man, be he never so expert, but will find himself at a considerable Disadvantage in offering to defend a Stroak, unless he particularly understand some thing of the defence of the Blow or Broad-sword, and for my own part I found so great a Disadvantage in not being acquainted with the Parrades and Blows of the Broadsword, when I had occasion to Play with the Fleuret against the Cudgell, (for I was once almost of this opinion my self) that I was never at ease untill I found out a particular posture for the Small-sword against the Broad; which I did, and it is also set down in my Scots Fencing Master, but my curiosity not resting there, I resolved to learn a little of the Broad-sword also, which I did in a very short time, and since I find it a great deal more easy to me to defend my self either with a Broad against a Broad, or with a Small against a Broad, then I did at that time; and the reason is, because I now know both the Parrades and Lessons peculiar to the Broad, which before I was ignorant of, and which put me to the trouble, as I said of finding out a particular posture withe the Small-sword for it, which did indeed at that time answer my design, but doth so now much more, because I understand the Art of the Broad Sword better now then I did then.
I tell you this, not out of any Vanity to commend my self, but that you may understand what Advantage there is in being taught both Blow and Thrust, and let any man who doubteth it, and hath only been taught to Thrust, make but a trial, and I am confident he will find the same difficulty I did, and be som of the same opinion I was when I wrot my other Book, to which I Refer him, and of which I am still “That every man who desires tobe a Compleat Sword-man should learn both Blow and Thrust, and unless a Man do it I do not see how he can pretend to the Name if a Compleat Sword-man, for if a Man Understand only the Thrust and not the Blow, then he may deserve the Name of a Compleat Small-Sword-man, but not of a Compleat Sword-man, because he is Ignorant of the Blow.” In likemanner if a Man understand only the Blow and not the Thrust, be may deserve the Name of a Compleat Broad-sword-man, but not of a Compleat Sword-man, because he Understandeth not also the Thrust, so that in my Opinion to deserve the name of a Compleat Sword-man, a Man must understand both Blow and Thrust otherwise that Title doth no wayes belong to him, neither can he with any confidence pretend to it,
But besides what I have said, there is no Sword-man will deny, but that it sometimes so falleth out when Men are Playing together, that it would be more convenient to make a Blow then to give in a Thrust, and upon the other Hand, at other times more convenient to give in a Thrust then to make a Blow, so that if a Man know not how to deliver a Blow as well as a Thrust, he is upon these occasions at a visible loss and disadvantage, whereas if he knew how to perform both, he would alwayes know how to behave himself according to these several circumstances without the least confusion.
But why need I in this Place endeavour to prove the necessity of that, the contrary whereof is condemned by the constant practice of most Nations in the World, for do we not see the generality of the People both Gentle and Simple, when they go to the Warrs, provide themselves fot the most part with Sheering-Swords, and why would they do that, if if were not out of an opinion, that they think they may have occasion to Strike as well as to Thrust, and that they think the Thrust alone would not be so effectual, as when it can be joined to the blow, and that they are, being thus provided, in a better capacity to make use of either at pleasure, and accordingly as occasion shall offer; From all which I conclude, That there is an absolutely necessity for a Man who intends to be a compleat Sword-man, to be taught and understand both Blow and Thrust, and I think it a thing so indispensably necessary that the learning of it by all persons who understand it not, whether Masters or others, at all times, and at any Age whatsoever, can no ways reflect upon their Judgement in the Art they profess, not be any wayes derogatory from the reputation they have already had of being good small-Sword-Men, and the like I say in behalf of the Thrust, to those who profess only the Broad, so that I think neither of them should think it below them to be instructed of other, in what they are ignorant of, and of what is so useful and necessary for the compleat perfecting of the Art of the Sword, and consequently of Sword-mwn.
Seing therefore (as I think I have sufficiently made appear) there is an absoulute necessity for understanding both blow and thrust to be reputed a compleat Sword-Man, I must recommend the use of the Sheering-sword, and I would advise all without exception, who wear now only Rapiers, to wear light and narrow Sheering-swords, at least Rapiers with good edges which will both answer the design of the Small-sword as to thrusting, and of the Broad as to the blow of striking, and to put a Man in a capacity of using either as he shall think fit, when it shall be his misfortune to be engaged, and which will be as light and convenient to carry, as any ordinary walking-sword.
Its like the Fencing Masters in this Kingdom may think I have gone too great a length upon this subject, in so far as I take upon me to play the Doctor, and offer as it were in a Magisterial way, to teach them their Duty, and also in that I seem to tax some of them of ignorance, in not understanding the blow as well as the thrust, because I recommend the learning of the blow to Masters, if they be ignorant of it as well as to others.
But that they may not mistake me, I desire they would consider that this preceding discourse (anent the abuses in Schools) doth not particularly aim at them, but al all Fencing-Mastersin general, both at Home and Abroad, who are guilty of them; and that they are really guilty of them; and that they are really guilty of tehm, I appeal to all who have frequented their Schools; therefore I expect our Masters will not take what I have said as a particular reflection upon them, although I cannot deny but they suffer the same abuses to be committed in their Schools; and therefore must excuse me, if I censure them with the other Masters, untill I find them rectified.
And let them not think it will pass as a suficient reason for them to continue these preceeding abuses in their Schools, by saying it is the custome abroad, and that they suffer nothing to be done in their Schools, but what is done in the Schools of other Kingdoms, and that because it is not the custome for any Small-Sword Master abroad to teach the Blow at the same time with the Thrust, that therefore they will not do it, because they intend not to be the first Beginners and Promoters of any thing which is extraordinary and out fashion, (which to my particular knowledge is the chief Defence and Language of some) this I say is but very weak reasoning, for at that rate there should never have been any Art or Science found out, or improven, if People had been alwayes restricted to the old Root and Footsteps of their Predecessors, so I expect they will either give me as strong Reasons against the Rectifying of these abuses, (especially the teaching the Blow at the same time with the Thrust) as I have given for them, other wayes they most pardon me to differ from them, by recommending my own opinion which is grounded upon reason, and condemning and Rejecting theirs at least untill they produce stonger Arguments and Reasons for it, then hitherto I have heard.
And although this indeed be my Opinion, that Ignorant Masters who understand not the Blows should learn it; yet it doth not conclude that I reckon those who profess the Art of the Sword in this Kingdom to be in that Categorie, no, I am farr from having so bad an Opinion of them, and I am apt to think the only thing they should be condemned for, and for which I do indeed condemn them, is not that understand the Blow as well as the Thrust, and therefore not capable to teach it (for if they denied that, they would discover too much weakness) but that they understanding both, should teach only the one, viz. The Thrust, and wholly neglect the other, by throwing it out of Doors, this I confess is a neglect of such importance,, and of such bad consequence, that I neither can, nor will forbear the giving of my earnest advice, that it, as well as the five preceeding particulars, be rectified, and then I am confident our Schollars shall acquire Art inferior to none in Europe, and our Masters, by them that repute and Esteem, which both their abilities, and they, rectifying of such Abuses, and Omissions, do really deserve.
And I likeways would not have them Foolish as to think, that (by what I have been saying in Reference to the teaching both Blow and Thrust) I design to recommend any Particular Master before another, no, I am not so mean as to have any such Particular by-end, my designe is so farr from that, that it is altogether general, and meerly for the Advantage of the Art, and to Compleat Swordmen for if Masters cannot by the Art, Care, and Pains they take, recommend themselves to Schollars, they shall never have any from me, because I think all Masters should be reputed, and had in Esteem, only for their distinct and accurate method of teaching, and for the pains they take to cause their Schollars understand, and comprehend what they are Learning, and not for any recommendation they can get from any Particular Person whatsomever, and therefore if they expect any particular recommendation from me, they are hugely deceived, for I wish them all alike well, that is to have Flourishing Schools, and Expert Schollars, to testifie that they are Masters indeed, and not Bunglers, of which there are but too many.
The next thing I observe, is, that if all I have said he duely and exactly put in practice, it will infallibly make a Man a true Artist, and if he be truely an Artist, his having Artwill increase his boldness and courage, and put him in a capacity, not only to preserve his Life and Honour, but also to force as it were a respect and esteem to himself, from those, who although they undervalue his Art, yet darr not be so bold (least he should make them smart for it) as publickly to own it, but are rather satisfied by their silence to acknowledge his dexterity, and that he is to be comended fo the pains, and labour, he hath taken to acquire so gentile and useful an Art.
But suppose they should openly reflect upon him, and undervalue his Art, by threatening him with that unanswerable defence, as they think of their Ignorance, and infallible Defeater of all Art (I mean by ingaging him to fight with a Pistol, or other such like Fire weapons) and indeed to hear some People talk, one would think that by their gaining this one point, of engaging a Sword-manto fight with Fire-armes, they make no doubt, but all will go well with them, and that the day is certainly their own, it being a kind of Proverb amongst them. “Is such a Person a Sword-man, if it be answered; Yes, then reply they after a mocking manner; What doth it signifie? If I were to engage with him, I could soon make his Art of little use to him, I would take a Pistol to him, and then I pray you, where is all his Art of Defence, I believe he will hardly parie a Pistol Ball with it.” Such discourse as this is but too common amongst Ignorants, and they think when they talk at this rate. they have found the Philosopher Stone, which in place of turning every thing into Gold, can turn all their Ignorance into the profoundest Art and Skill, and all skilful Persons, Art, and Judgement into the greatest Ignorance; so that in their opinion, Artists can reap no advantage by what they understand, and themselves can reap all, because they understand nothing.
But alas poor Ignorants! Their Folly in this is as discernable, as their Ignorance in the former; and they can pretend to have no more Advantage over a Sword-man, by engaging him to make use of Pistols. either a Foot or upon Horse-back. but what all Men are alike Master of, I mean to receive the shot, and take their hazard of being hit or mist; for no Man will be so foolish, as to pretend to parie the shot of a Pistol; yet there are some methods, which I think not fit at present to mention, that may be used to shun a shot, the which who can neatly make use of them, will certainly have an advantage of those who understand them not, but set themselves up like an immovable stock or post to be shot at.
But supposing all Men alike dextrous as to this point, that is to know no means of avoiding, but meerly to take their hazard of being hit or not; yet `I say, in the Offensive part, there may be a vast Advantage acquired, for whosoever will according to the advice in my Scots Fencing master, accustom himself to shot at a Mark, both a Foot and on Horse-back, will, when he is neccessitate to use it in great earnest, have almost as considerable advantage over his Adversary in knowing to adjust his shot,(supposing his Adversary to be ignorant and not to have practised to adjust his) as he would have had a Foot in adjusting his Thrust, his Adversary being likewise ignorant of the Art of the Sword; so that if this Person of whom I am discoursing, and who boasteth so much of the Advantage he will have by using Pistols, hath but as little of the practice of shooting, as he hath of Thrusting, he can then in Reason pretend to no more Advantage by using the Pistol, then the Artist can, except what meer Chance and Fortune giveth him, which is far from any ground of certainty.
Therefore, I say, he only will probably have the Advantage with Pistol, who hath frequented most of the shooting at a Mark, and if neither of them have done that, then none of them can pretend to any visible Advantage over the other; but what, as I said is meerly casual and by chance. But I confess, if the Ignorant be better skill'd in shooting then the Artist, in that case he hath an Advantage; and I can see no Reason why the Artist should more answer the Challenge with Pistols, seing he is a better Marks Man then the Artist. then he would answer the Artist with Swords. because the Artist was the most Adroit at thrusting� So that the only way to end this Debate, is, that they either fight with Weapons altogether unknown to both, or otherwise do as one of those two Men, who after they had quarrelled, left the one should have had any Advantage by the Art in the Weapons which might have made use of, did propose a Barrel of Gun-powder should be brought to each, in the middle of which, they were to place themselves, and then with fired Matches to try who could most Manfully, or I may rather say Madly blow up the other. And I know no other way but this toodecide the Quarrel: For if a Man refuse to fight me with a Sword, because he thinketh I am a better Sword-man than he, I must certainly be a great Fool, if I fight him with a Pistol, because he proposethit as a particular Advantage to himself:
I know I will be Answered to this, That it is the custome for those who receive the Challenge, to choose the Weapons, and so that will end the Debate, because who ever giveth the Challenge, is in Honour obliged to Answer the other with whatever Weapons he propose.
I confess it is so, and I think it most reasonable when a Man is forced to fight, that he should have the choice of what Weapon he will venture his Life with; But what I was saying, concerns only such, for some, who after they have given a Challenge, and their Antagonist received it, and appointed Swords to be their Weapons, they afterwards getting to notice that he is a Sword-man, cunningly decline the fighting him with that Weapon, and propose Pistols, because of the inequality there would be in making use of Swords. Now I say, when a Sword-man rancounters with such a Person as this, who first giveth him a Challenge, & then afterwards declines to fight him with the Weapons he proposed, I see, I say, no reason why he should more answer him with Pistols, seing he proposed it for a particular Advantage, then the other did him with Swords, because he judged it would prove to his disadvantage, for if the Refusalreflect upon any of the two, it must be certainly upon him who gave the Challenge; Because, although the was so stout as to Appeal, yet had not the Courage to Answer the other with the Weapons he proposed; Therefore I conclude, That a man had far better forbear a Challenge, then decline the Weapons after they are chosen.
But, There is in my humble Opinion, no better way to take away all such Debates, then to live soberly and peaceably, according to the Doctrine and Precepts of that Religion which we profess, and then we shall make use of all those Arts, more for divertisement to ourselves, then prejudice to out Neighbours.
Now after what I have said, let any considering Person judge, if an ignorant, by ingaginga Sword-man to fight with a Pistol, hath got so great an Advantage, as to be any wayes a ground of railing at, mocking, or turning into Ridicule the Art of the Sword, no certainly, hath got none, but what the Artist may likewise pretend to as well as he, and therefore I would advise such Persons rather to betake themselves to the practice of Fencing , and Shoteing, that so their Advantage may be grounded and depend upon their Art, and not upon such Fancies and Notions, which, if real, are casual; but for the most part, prove Chimerical, and have only their existence in their ignorant Brains, but are below the being regarded, or taken notice of by any Gentleman or Judicious Person, who should ground his thoughts upon Reason, and not in the Air, that if they be examined they may prove solid and durable as Reason, and not volatile and changeable, as the the Aerial Foundation upon which they are built, and so discover the Weakness and Ignorance of their first Promoter and Author; But not to isist longer upon this,
I observe in the fourth and last place that although all I have said in commendation of Fencing, were but Stories and Lies, and the vain imaginations of a Hypocondfiack brain, yet all Gentlemen should practice it, & have an esteem for it , if it were for no other reason but this, that it is a most pleasant divertisement, and an Innocent, Healthful, and Manly Recreation and Exercise for the Body, and although a Man could reap no Advantage by it for the Defence of his Body; yet that is very keeping a Mans joynts and members nimble and cleaver and in ready trime, as it were, for any other Divertisement or Exercise, as Tenice, Dancing, Riding, &c. should make it Esteemed and Practised by all who are above the rank of Clowns.
For to use the words of a Wise man "The understanding of this Noble and Useful Art, is a Quality and Perfection, hardly attainable by those who hold the Plough, and glory in the Goad;who drive Oxen, and are occupied by their Labours, and whose talk is of their Bullocks, who give their minds to make Furrows; and are diligent to give the Kine fodder. No, it agreeth not with the Nature of such; neither is it for the Smith who fitteth by the Anvil, and considereth the Iron work, the vapour of the Fire, wasteth his Flesh, and he fighteth with the beat of the Furnace; the noise of the Hammer and Anvil is ever in his Ears, and his Eyes look still upon the Pattern of the thing he maketh." Such vulgar and undisciplined Minds as those, are not ordinarily capable to conceive the Intricacies, and Excellencies, of this most Gentile and Gentle.manny Art.
And although it cannot be denied, but some mean kind of People profess, practise and take delight in it, yet those are Men who are more refined in their Judgements and Inclinations, than the generality of the Vulgar are, and who by the same gentile Inclination they have to follow the Sword, discover that there is in them something more then ordinary, and that they aime at somewhat, above what either their Birth or Education could really make them pretend to, so that I make no doubt, but if such Persons had either really been, or had had the Education peculiar to Gentlemen, they would have been in a fitter capacity both to have improven themselves, and better instructed others in that Art, for which they have such a respect and liking.
And if this which I say hold true, then no doubt but the understanding of this Art, belongeth in a more particular manner to Gentlemen, of those who are calledLes Homes d' espee. then to any other; and therefore it is my advice, and I earnestly recommend it to such, not to ungentleman themselves by the neglect and contempt of an Art, which as I have made appear, is so peculiar to, and I may say inseparable from the Name and Character they bear.
An Art so Noble, Useful, and Gentile,
To Speak its praises, would a Volume fill,
For when that I its Merits would display,
My Mouth is stopt, my Muse is at a stay.
It so exceeds all that I can conceive,
I'm forc'd to silence, yet to speak must crave;
But seing all I can express and shew
Would far come short, of what's its real due,
I shall be short, and only of it say,
It is a Badge, Accomplishment, and Ray,
Which doth adorn all who to understand
Its real Use and Worth, do take in hand.
An Art so useful, that no Gentleman,
Of Valour, Honour, be without it can,
For it to all who carry Sword by side,
Should be a Pilot, and a constant Guide;
Unless they do renounce the Name they bear,
And that which them from others Character:
For my part, I confess I it esteem,
And for my trusty Safe-guard do it deem,
And alwayes will, knowing it ne're deceives,
Any who to it trust and respect gives;
But believe me who despise it wholly,
Ignorance betray, as well as Folly,
And will repent them(when it is too late)
They trusted none to it, so much, to Fate.
I confess I am neither Poet nor Versificator, yet those Lines offering to my Fancy, and relating to the Subject, I thought fit to set them down; if they are good its by chance, if not, pass them over; I wrote them for my diversitisement, and its like had it not been to divert me, I had not taken the pains to write so much either of Fencing, or in Commendation of it as I have done; However what I have Writ, I recommend to your perusal, which I think can hardly be refused, seing it cost me a great deal of more pains in Writting, then it will do you in Reading; and if you despise my offer, I asssure you I shall take it so ill, and be so much concerned, that I shall never sleep a whit the worse for it.
But that I may draw to a close, if any who shall peruse this Discourse, do not understand the Terms of Art herin mentioned, such as Contre-caveating- Parrades, Contre-temps, Flacanade, Voult-coupee, &c. They may have recourse to my Book of Fencing, Entitled, The Scots Fencing-Master, where they will find all these Termes and Lessons explained to the full.
And that I may end as I began, I earnestly entreat and desire, that with Calmness, and a Vigorous Judgement, you would seriously reflect upon and consider what I have said, before you pass your Verdict and Opinion, and then I doubt not, but it shall jump very near with my own, which is what I expected and wished for.