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Di Grasse
Di Grasse
Di Grasse
Di Grasse
Di Grasse
Di Grasse
Giacomo Di Grasse
His True Art of Defense
A Video-Enhanced Rapier Tutorial
Plainly teaching by infallible demonstrations, apt figures, and
perfect rules
the manner and form how a man without other teacher or
master
may safely handle all sorts of weapons, offensive and defensive;
with a treatise of deceit and falsings,
offering a way by private industry to obtain strength, judgement
and acuity.

First written in Italian by the fore-said author, 1570
Englished by I.G., Gentleman, 1594
Americanized, abridged and interpreted by Rick Orli, 1994
Richard J. Orli, 1994, 2000 credits

Slow modem? Click me for the no-video/no-graphics version
Also, you must have MicroSoft Explorer 3.5 or higher to view the video clips (Sorry Sorry
Sorry....)
WARNING: Swordplay can be dangerous if improperly practiced. Routines should be
practiced only under the qualified supervision of a fencing instructor or by a Society of American
Fight Directors instructor. The videos show staged (carefully choreographed) and well-practiced
moves, done by experts. Any sort of 'free' fencing or play demands the use of modern sport
fencing equipment, including facemasks and flexible/lightweight swords (such as foils or epees).



diGrasse's Rapier Fencing Manual, Video Version
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Contents
forward
note to novice readers
Rick's Basics Review
The First Part - The Basics
I. Introduction
II. The Sword
III. Of Footwork
IV. Of Wards
V. The Strike
VI. Defending
VII. Application of Method
The Second Part Attack and
Defense
VIII. One Rapier
IX. Dagger
X. Cloak
XI. Buckler
XII. Square Target
XIII. Round Target
XIV. Case of Swords
XV. Two-handed Sword
XVI. Staff Weapons
XI. Pike

The Third Part
Deceits and Falseing of
Blows and Thrusts

The Forth Part
How a Man by Private
Practice may Obtain
Strength of Body Thereby

Index
Rapier Technique Demo
(4MB .avi)

WARNING! THIS IS NOT INTENDED AS SWORDPLAY INSTRUCTION FOR BEGINNERS.
Foreword
In 1594 the writings of an Italian Fencing Master, Giacomo diGrasse, were "Englished" from the
original Italian for the benefit of his London students. I highly recommend the 1594 version, which
uses the language of Shakespeare and the King James Bible, and is very readable. Regrettably, it
has been my experience that most students are daunted by certain typographical conventions and
unfamiliar terms, and so satisfy themselves with only a quick glance. This modern interpretation
was prepared originally for my students, and will serve readers with a historical interest in period
fencing technique who prefer a more streamlined and accessible version of this classic work.
To keep the text concise, my working assumption is that the reader is familiar with modern fencing
jargon, which is used as applicable. Brief explanations are included in the gloss. In addition, the
gloss includes comments on diGrasse's intent or observations from the experience of modern
fencing or martial arts. In the second edition, I supplemented this material with video clips of
selected rapier techniques.
The original translation was likely performed by Jerenimo, a student and successor to Rocco
Bonetti, and associate of Vincentio Saviolio. Saviolio would, within a few years, author his own
manual on the Art of Defense.
DiGrasse promises to teach us to "safely handle" weapons in the title. What does he mean, given
that the chance of suffering a wound or death against an equal opponent is 50% at best? Clearly
safety is a relative concept based on small steps taken to bias the odds. He emphasizes one central
tenant: the objective is not to strike and be struck, but to strike and remain without danger.
diGrasse's Rapier Fencing Manual, Video Version
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Safety means:
1) Being more skilled, trained, in better physical condition than your opponent.
2) Doing nothing that may yield a double kill. (If the chance of a double kill is 10%, you have only
a 45% chance of surviving against an equal opponent.)
3) Having a readiness to win - to kill; confident aggression.
DiGrasse and his peers advocated a style of fencing that emphasized the thrust with light-weight
point weapons and high speed movement. This style rendered obsolete the earlier form of heavy
backsword play which relied on the cut.
It is interesting to note that Saviolo writing in English freely uses Italian terminology such as
imbrocatta, squalanbrato, etc., while di Grasse's translator was careful to use only common English
terms. George Silver, a contemporary champion of the good old fashioned English way of things,
mocks both the Italian words and the very concept of rapier play. However, even he uses some
Italian jargon by the time of his second work, and certainly the use of Italian was common and
fashionable by 1600. Shakespeare uses fencing terms such as "stocatta" in Romeo and Juliet and
other plays. Undoubtedly this was due to some extent to the credit of Saviolio himself, a popular
teacher of defense for the cream of English society.
This new fashion was in turn superseded by a fundamental change in fencing technology and
fashion around 1660. "Small sword" techniques, dominated by the French School, replaced Rapier
techniques, which had been dominated by Italian masters such as diGrasse and Saviolio. One
consequence is that modern fencing jargon is based largely on 1660 French language. Italian
terminology of one generation earlier is, as is rapier play itself, now archaic and disused outside
the realm of theater and reenactment.
As a translator/interpreter I took many liberties with translator IG's words to be true to spirit. Please quote IG
when you wish to quote DiGrasse. The 1694 manuscript is available from Syke's Sutlering (Falconwood Press
edition).
A partial online version of IG's 1694 diGrasse transcribed by Steve Hick is at: http://www.cs.unc.edu/~hudson
/digrassi/
The original Italian manuscript in facsimile is available from William Wilson at : http://www.cs.unc.edu
/~hudson/digrassi/

Comments or questions? I'll be happy to hear from you: Rick Orli
A note to the reader about some basics
THIS WEB SITE IS NOT INTENDED AS SWORDPLAY INSTRUCTION FOR NOVICES, BUT THE
FOLLOWING WORDS ARE ADDRESSED TO YOU, THE NOVICE.
The subject of this document is not theatrical fencing, although that is the closest description of
diGrasse's Rapier Fencing Manual, Video Version
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what I do most often. Theatrical 'combat' is a dance, where you and your partner adhere to a strict
plan and know the rhythm by heart. In contrast, non-theatrical real Combat means you keep your
plans a strict secret from your enemy, and if you detect a rhythm in her moves, you use that
knowledge to, figuratively speaking, stomp hard with the big boot. In theatrical fencing,
maintaining eye contact to pick up subtle cues, designing phrases to consist of cue-action-reaction,
maintaining a measure 'out of distance', mis-directed blows, etc. all play a part in making for an
effective and safe presentation. These issues are not discussed here.
Nor is the subject competitive sport fencing or using pseudo-rapiers. As I discuss below, the
modern sport of epee is competitive fencing using pseudo-smallswords, which started out to be a
true dueling simulation but grew to be false to the spirit of combat or dueling (even while being a
lot of fun and good sport). Any well-intentioned effort to do the same with pseudo-rapiers is
doomed to the same end for the same reasons.
The subject here is the methods, technique and mindset for training for combat or dueling, as
diGrasse intended, (or as best as we can research and as near as we can guess). This is a historical
study exercise, and from this base you can go where you will.
In discussion I assume knowledge of fencing. Here is a test for you. Do you know the difference
among a prise de fer (beat parry with the foible/weak/tip part of blade), a 'regular parry' (with the
forte/strong part of blade) and a glasse or bind (exclusion made with constant blade contact, such
as in a time thrust)? And I don't mean theoretical... I mean, viscerally do you know the timing and
what it feels like to do each of these correctly, because you have done each many times in drill? If
not, then you do not have the intermediate level (2nd year) of training necessary to know what I
am talking about in this tutorial, nor do you have the background necessary to study on your own.
By the way, I'm not prejudiced solely in favor of modern western fencing. If you had studied
Kendo or Philippine stick fighting for a good solid year or two, I bet you would know exactly what
I was talking about above even if you had never heard of a 'prise de fer' (you can always look it
up...(ah, might be like the kaeshi waza...)) and you would be ready also.
Nor can I say in words the correct 'feel' for executing a parry - how to make it snappy yet firm,
how not to either over or under parry, or how to make a thrust fast yet smooth. These are things
learned only by hands-on practice, with the assistance of an instructor. DiGrasse believed that a
man might be self-taught... that may have been true then because it would have been possible to
observe, in daily life, good swordsmen in practice and bouting, and chances were your group of
sparring buddies would have included someone who had had basic training. Today, that is simply
not the case. The visual image of rapier play you may be straining under might have come from the
'bish-bash-bam' Errol Flyn movies, or from the comic-fantastical combat in the Highlander films,
or even Star Wars. Please believe me when I say that that type of 'movie knowledge' is worse than
total ignorance (although check out Kurasawa's 'Roshamon' for a thoughtful film commentary on
fantasy versus 'real' dueling).
Anyway, my point is, if you are interested, you ought to learn how to fence and get a LOT of
practice fencing through the handiest means available. Most likely that means taking modern sport
fencing lessons. Many large urban areas support some type of rapier group, but these often meet
irregularly. A serious student should fence twice per week, and preferably much more - that is
usually possible only with modern sport fencing.
diGrasse's Rapier Fencing Manual, Video Version
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I am not even going to argue that it's all transferable knowledge. As a matter of fact anyone
interested in becoming a first rate sport fencer should not learn rapier. Basic things like the
footwork and even the timing is all different. It can even hurt a bit if your objective is Rapier
only... If I am in a competitive situation where I want to hit my opponent, I turn into a competitive
modern fencer with a rapier in my hand - I can't help myself, I was too well trained for too many
years, er, decades. Also, to be frank, some of the rapier moves just don't seem that great.... I've
been up against the US national champion and Olympic medallists, and if I imagine sticking a
rapier into their hands, can I see getting away with a 'traverse' against them? NO WAY! At the
core of it all, is how to move with a sword in hand - and to learn that you have to spend a lot of
time moving with a sword in your hand.
This material should not be considered as a 'how to' manual for beginners, but as a resource for
experienced fencers who want to find out a bit about the rapier and 17th C. fencing technique.
OK, so your taking up sport fencing, what kind? Of the modern fencing weapons, Foil is best to
learn for similarity to real combat fencing. Why? Because foil was invented as training weapon for
dueling with the small sword, around 1670-1680. People nowadays dismiss it and dis it, because it
is lightweight, but mostly because of all the 'rules'. They say, real fightn' ain't got no rules.
True it is lightweight, but it is only a tad lighter than the small-sword it is trying to simulate. But,
I'm here to tell you that there are only two rules in foil, and they are not made up BS just to crimp
your style, but real good advice designed to save your hide in a duel:
Rule 1) Don't waste time trying to hit where you can't kill (e.g., chest yes, ankle no).
Rule 2) Never do anything that will result in your own death. (e.g. suicide is bad)
The foil 'rules' were devised by 17th Century fencing experts (who had fought in and survived real
duels) as a means to teach their sons, cousins, and friends how to conduct themselves in a duel so
that they might win. So for example, the rule about avoiding death is expanded to say something
like... 'if your opponent is stabbing at your heart with a sharp thing, better run, dodge, or block
before you even think about doing anything else'. The foil fencing rule book had to say that in
several pages, and used several dozen pages to explain exactly what constitutes an attack, a dodge,
and so on. Rules that codify what is and is not 'good' are necessary when people are playing with
safety gear, since without the negative reinforcement of dying as a consequence of error, practice
easily degenerates into simultaneous whacking nonsense with people arguing about who got who
first or who hit harder. Since the deadly use of the rapier is not as common today as it was in 1570
in the province of Grasse, a student's casual observations and guesses cannot be trusted to provide
a 'reality check'.
Once people found that this swordplay stuff was a lot of fun to do, it became a sport and the rule
book quadrupled in size again to include sportsmanship and scorekeeping guidance. As dueling
became irrelevant, the sport aspect of fencing became dominant, and it took on a life of it's own,
and became less duel-like and more sport-like. This was an inevitable consequence of the situation,
and I refuse to think of it as either good or bad. Still, foil even as a sport adhered to the two deeply
true-to-reality rules above.
Epee was never a training weapon for the duel, but was a sport from the get-go. It was no doubt a
well-intentioned effort to simulate the conditions of a duel more realistically than foil, by
diGrasse's Rapier Fencing Manual, Video Version
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eliminating "right of way" rules and allowing the whole body to be a target. However, one of the
original mechanisms designed to force realism... single hit elimination, and simultaneous hit
double elimination, was quickly tossed aside to allow prominence to the sporting aspect. From the
duel simulation perspective the result was total disaster, teaching mastery of weird suicidal
attitudes and dangerous moves. Epeeists specialize in calculations such as: this move results in a
simultaneous hit 50% of the time, 23% I win a clean hit, 12% my opponent gets a clean hit on me,
15% no hit.... I should do it all the time. (Rephrased: A move that would result in my death 62% of
the time is great!) This bogus calculation also affects foil multi-point bouts, but at least each
individual phrase in a bout is tested against a style template to maintain some degree of fidelity to
sound dueling technique, if not necessarily attitude.
A NOTE ON KIDS AND LEARNING
I am often asked.... How old should one be to learn? Best is about age 7 or 8, second best 6 or 9,
third best age 10... you get my drift. That is, modern fencing. I would not encourage learning rapier
until the late teen years. If you are a kid, or are responsible for a kid, you should know that any
serious fencing school that wants to produce champions LOVES to give lessons to kids.

Further Reading:
Joseph Swetnam, by William Wilson
Jakob Sutor, Knstliches Fechtbuch , , by Peter Valentine
Art of the Sword , by Rick Orli
Targeteer, by Rick Orli
William Hope, The Complete Fencing Master, by Rick Orli
Polish Sabre Fencing - 16th-18th C.
My 17th C. Polish Horse Artillery reenactment group
My Janissary and Byzantine groups
John Clement's "Historical Armed Combat Association" has a great collection of stuff and pointers to other
internet sources.
Szczepan Twardoch's Polish Language Historical Fencing www.fechtunek.republika.pl
<http://www.fechtunek.republika.pl>
Also:
.http://www.swordplay-symposium.com/Default.htm
http://www.swordforum.com/ and the forum, http://www.swordforum.com/ssi/
http://www.aemma.org/index2.htm
Many thanks to:
diGrasse's Rapier Fencing Manual, Video Version
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Peter Valentine Peter Valentine - Provided scanned illustrations of Jakob Suter. All Suter images are
copyright Peter Valentine.
Robert Gonia - Participated in and helped develop the many Rapier demonstrations.
Fred Schlop - Target and Pike demonstration.
Brian - Partisan and Muskette Butte demonstration.
William Wilson, - Provided scanned illustrations from the original Italian diGrasse. All Italian edition
diGrasse images are copyright William Wilson.
Basics Review: Movement, Measure, the Thrust, and the Cut.
Rapier Technique Demo
*

diGrasse's Rapier Fencing Manual, Video Version
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1994, 2000
Richard J. Orli - Credits
Di Grasse - His true Art of Defense
Basics Review:
Movement, Measure, the Thrust, and the Cut.
BASICS
MENU
BASICS
PREVIOUS
NEXT















diGrasse
illustrations show a
rather non-athletic
'stand-up' stance.
Kendo on-guard


Stance
The period manuals describe a wide range of rapier stances. The figure illustrates this
extreme range, and I can point to examples of each, even what I call the 'tennis stance,'
in the period literature. The average seems to be similar to the 'rapier stance', with early
period rapier tending to the 'boxing stance', and later period (including di Grasse's
recommendation ca.1590) more to the 'foil stance'.
The following two stances show ways in which one might 'steal a pace.' The
Kendo-like stance is on the ball of the left foot. The third way, like that taught to epee
fencers today, is like the foil stance above, but feet close together.
The di Grasse illustration shows a 'stand-up' form, whereas Robert and I are much
lower, with knees more bent. This is a tricky point. A few years ago, I thought that the
di Grasse woodblock prints were just artistically wooden, and did not show the
athleticism of the form accurately. However I believe now that the diGrasse
illustrations are accurate, although they clearly do not show the necessary athleticism.
When it comes to the question of what is more effective, I tended toward the 'modern'
convention -that bent knees mean that there is potential energy available to drive you
forward, and that straight legs means the lack of potential energy. My Kendo master,
however, begs to differ. According to him, bent knees mean that the lunge will be more
vertical than horizontal,
and that there is more immediate power in only slightly bent legs. Look at a 100 meter
sprinter's 'set' starting stance, he says, and see that the left leg is almost straight.
In my experience a properly executed lunge from a 'very bent knee' position is not at all


WARNING:
Swordplay can be
dangerous if
improperly practiced.
Routines should be
practiced only under
the qualified
supervision of a
fencing instructor or
by an American
Society of Fight
Directors instructor.
The video clips show
staged (carefully
choreographed) and
well-practiced moves,
done by experts. Any
sort of 'free' fencing or
play demands the use
of modern sport
fencing equipment,
including facemasks
and
flexible/lightwieght
swords (such as foils
or epees).


















Basics Review
1 of 6
Sprinter's 'Set' (from
Marco Steybe)



A pass as fleche
from Jakob Sutor
(all Sutor images are copyright
Peter Valentine)











'Magic Circle' footwork
pattern, after Girard
Thibault






'vertical'. I also researched the sprinter analogy, because it is surely the one athletic
stance designed for maximum forward acceleration. The modern sprinter's practice is,
according to Marco Steybe: "In a set position, the arms should be perpendicular to the
track, shoulders
directly above the hands, and the front and rear leg angles 90 and 120 degrees,
respectively". (Close to the 110-130 degrees recommended leg angle for modern foil,
also about what is shown in the Jakob Suter illustrations, while the rear leg angle in
Kendo is about 155-165 degrees.) There may be something in the claim that there is
more immediate power in an only slightly bent leg, and perhaps it is sometimes more
important to travel 8 inches very fast than 18 inches fast.
A year ago I wrote: "Although I am not sure if I believe my Kendo master's assertion
that this is the 'best' form, for now I accept that claim at face value, at least when I
practice Kendo. I'll reassess this point as I gain more experience using a 'stand-up'
stance. It is nevertheless now easier for me to accept that diGrasse's illustrator showed
what diGrasse would have considered to be correct rapier form, and I will work on
adopting a slightly more 'stand-up' stance in my rapier practice."
After a year and a lot of practice, I understand the Kendo-style footwork better, and
where it is getting its energy from. It is only partially from the big leg muscles that
connect from the knee - it uses the calf muscles much more, but more importantly it
uses the hip. The hip movement lifts the lead knee while driving the groin down, so that
the extending leg and flexing calf drive the body forward rather than up. It has the
equivalent speed and range - maybe even slightly longer range - of a modern lunge. It
does not usually stop like a lunge, but rather, like a pass or fleche, tends to result in
closing with or running past the opponent; this might be a disadvantage, but the Kendo
folks don't think so. At any rate, it can be executed such that it stops cold. I also think
it has an advantage over the modern footwork style in conditions of uneven or slippery
footing. I am now convinced that diGrasse practiced footwork of this type. I will try to
replace the illustrations with better representations of deGrasse's footwork.
Movement
Advance, of three types
- Pass - pace such that back foot crosses in front of the lead foot, like walking. When
fast, equal to 'fleche', modern fencing running attack. Time the hit to land exactly when
the foot strikes the floor. (Some modern interperters say the pass should stop cold, like
a modern lunge; my reading is that that is sometimes the intent, but more often the pass
is intended to continue to close with or slip by the opponent)
- Increase of pace (Lunge) - driving body and lead foot forward by straightening the
rear leg.
- Half pace - rear foot moving forward, such as from rapier stance to tennis stance, or,
fencing step (like modern advance, front foot leads followed by back foot in a crab-like
step.)
Figure after Frederico Ghisliero, notice modern-fencing style foot alignment and
the lunge (Increase of Pace).


Retreat - movement backward, pass or half-pace.

Slip - diagonal movement back, pass or half step.

Encroach or Thwart - diagonal movement forward

Traverse - movement to side

Pass
Pass
Rapier2.avi
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Pass + Pass
Rapier2.avi
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Increase of Pace
Rapier2.avi
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Encroach Left
Encroach Left


Thwart
Rapier2.avi
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Traverse
Rapier2.avi
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Basics Review
2 of 6



Quatre = Demi
Volte




Exercise: Practice
these moves as
unarmed evasions,
against an armed
adversary doing a
simple straight
pass.

Note: Footwork
should be practiced
every day without
fail.




















Demi Volte - movement to side or diagonal, spinning the body away while driving back
with the lead foot



Volte - Continuation of spinning motion to 180 degrees, usually as an attack developing
from a defense, or a surprise attack from what might have initially appeared to be a
Demi Volte.


Figure from Jacob Sutor
Perhaps, a Volte




When approaching your opponent, but just outside of measure, stride firmly with an
athletic posture, gut in, back straight, head up, with the knees at least slightly bent.
With few exceptions, all movement within distance must be crisp and forcible. To walk,
one uses just enough muscle power to move to the balance point, and then gravity takes
over. In contrast, a fencing lunge or fencing step uses vigorous muscle power to move
the entire distance - consider how in a modern fencing lunge the muscles straighten the
driving leg to propel the body forward. To execute a slip to evade your opponents
thrust you must drive your body to the side with the same speed and energy, using the
same movement principle.
Consider closely that the purpose is to first move your target area (torso/head) to safety,
not your leading foot. I emphasize this because in repetitive practice it is tempting to
rhythmically use smooth dance-like movements like: "first the lead foot goes, plant it,
then follow-up by moving the body." That is not the point! When you do a slip to avoid
a mortal attack, you do so abruptly, instantly, and with no warning to your opponent of
the direction in which you are moving. However, that does not mean that fencing
footwork is coarse or jerky; with practice, correct movements are done so smoothly that
they seem light and dance-like to an observer.

Measure (or "Distance")
'In distance' is the point where your opponent can strike you in a single move. In
Rapier, the range of a pass is 2.5-3 meters (9-12 feet), and with a step-pass about 4-5
meters. When you are within distance of a single pass, you must immediately either
strike or withdraw - standing in place gives a great advantage to your opponent, so is
unacceptable.
DemiVolte
Rapier2.avi
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Volte
Rapier2.avi
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Danger zones - the
range from which the
fencer in the lower
left can strike.






Basics Review
3 of 6










Exercise: Practice
a distance 'key
drill'. Have your
partner measure
out a long attack on
the pass, and you
stand right where
the point ends. Then
as he advances or
retreats, or moves
to the side, you
keep the same
relative position,
retreating,
advancing and
traversing as
required, keeping in
good balance and
practicing the most
effective movement
technique. Then
take a position at a
diagonal, and keep
that relative
position. This is
great exercise,
especially if you are
not the 'key'!







Exercise: thrust
(extend your arm),
pause a second,
lunge ('increase
pace').
The figure illustrates the relative danger zones.
Measure is a fluid concept, as it depends on your opponents athletic abilities and reach,
as well as her current stance and the ground conditions. Consider that men who were
the Joe Montanas or Michael Jordans of the 17th Century, seeking a physical outlet for
their talents, could have found more fame and fortune as fencers than in most any other
pursuit. A great athlete can strike in a blink from an amazing distance - like from the
far side of a large room.
The red zone is easy range for an increase of pace, yellow is range for a pass, and white
is range for a step-pass. The boundary of yellow to white is 'in distance' in rapier,
although any inattention in the white zone can spell instant disaster. The figure shows
the danger areas typical of facing only an average-height club-level fencer. Add 1/2
meter to the red, 1 meter to the yellow, and 1 1/2 meters to the white when facing a tall
superb athlete.
Notice that when closing with your opponent, you pass from the most dangerous area to
safer areas. Any closer than a few feet and a punch from your opponent's rapier guard
or pommel becomes a more dangerous threat than his rapier point. The area adjacent to
the back shoulder is a 'safe' area, for that instant, from any blow except from the elbow.
The point of many encroachment moves is to move into 'safe(er)' areas to your
opponents back or side, from which you may be psychologically more ready to strike
than your opponent. Some pass attacks should not stop if failed (which is at a point of
maximum danger) but continue in an accelerating run close past your opponent's
shoulder like the modern fleche. Alternatively, fall off from your opponent's flank with
a sort of a slip to the side (changing the axis of the engagement 90o). Alternatively,
crash into your opponent (especially if your opponent's left hand does not contain a
dagger).
Unfortunately, a taller opponent has a comfort zone where you are in his distance, while
he is outside of your range. This zone must be studiously avoided while taking your
opponent's measure, and on your attack must be crossed with aclarity.

Thrust or Stocatta
Extend the arm fully when making a thrust, but keep you shoulder and biceps relaxed,
and grip firmly but not tightly.
Generally, and as a beginner ALWAYS, thrust (extend your arm) first in an attack,
driving the point home with your footwork. This is essential to correct form, as by
establishing the fact of attack it reduces the chance of a double kill.
Thrust (extend your arm), pause a second, pass.
























Full Cut
Rapier2.avi
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Moulanie Cut
Rapier2.avi
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Basics Review
4 of 6



Scramacioni =
flicking cut to the
face



WARNING!
THIS IS NOT
INTENDED AS
SWORDPLAY
INSTRUCTION
FOR BEGINNERS.

****************
Rick's true confession.
As a fencing instructor
with a lot of experience
finding fault, I watch
these clips and say to
myself, "man, you
stink." Most of the clips
are, of course,
deliberately slow and
the moves large so that
the average reader can
see what is going on,
and I'm not talking
about that. Nor am I
referring to the fact that
I look like a potato,
since the 1620 fashion is
supposed to make the
wearer look like a man
of substance (e.g, a
potato). The main thing
bad about my form is
my bad posture, and the
way my shoulders are
tight and my neck is
hunched down. If I
were coaching myself
from the sidelines I
would not have put up
with that for a second.
That's a bad habit I had
when I was a young
competitive fencer that I
eventually overcame,
but I guess it crept back
in. The second thing is
that the balance point in
the stance is often not
the ideal for rapier. I
would like to see the
torso leaning a bit
forward. I could go on.
My point is, there is
always something one
can improve.
After a few weeks or months of disciplined practice, reduce the length of the pause so
that it eventually ceases to exist, and your attack is smooth and fast yet always starts
with the extending arm.
Cut or Edgeblow
The cut is unlike the modern sport saber cut, which is executed by extending the arm
and cutting using the fingers. Or rather, I should specify that that sort of cut was ok as a
flicking cut to the face. However, a proper cut has to have the force of a baseball bat to
cut any target other than the face. (That is a challenge, since the lightweight rapier,
especially mid-17th C. rapiers, did not have sufficient mass to readily provide the
necessary momentum.) To properly execute a cut, the arms, shoulder, and feet have to
combine in one mighty movement not unlike a baseball bat swing (which maximizes
momentum; or alternatively, like cracking a whip, which maximizes blade speed). The
second choice is a 'moulanet' (windmill) where the arm extends straight, but using the
wrist the point drops down and swings around in an arc to give the blow momentum.
As diGrasse states, the rapier is simply not a cutting
weapon, and he and all period writers discussing rapier
discourage the use of the edgeblow except in moments of
special opportunity.

Proper Set-up for Cut, From Jacob Suter

Blocks or Wards
DiGrasse's section on Wards covers the starting 'on guard' positions. The photos
illustrate the basic 'blocks' (parry) positions. Rapier blocks are somewhat wider or
'bigger' than foil parries, and are exaggerated here. A fast, economical defense should
make an attack miss by an inch or two, not a foot.
Inside high line (Modern Parry Prime)
Inside lowline (Seven)
Inside High Line (Four)
Outside High Line (Three)
RapierDaggL
(90986
bytes)
Drop the point for Outside Low Line
(Two) shown as a circular parry with
traverse to left.

WARNING:
Swordplay can be
dangerous if
improperly practiced.
Routines should be
practiced only under
the qualified
supervision of a
fencing instructor or
by an American
Society of Fight
Directors instructor.
The video clips show
staged (carefully
choreographed) and
well-practiced moves,
done by experts. Any
sort of 'free' fencing or
play demands the use
of modern sport
fencing equipment,
including facemasks
and
flexible/lightwieght
swords (such as foils
or epees).
Basics Review
5 of 6
Head Block (Five) from right to left, may
also be from left to right.









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Time of Advantage - a
moment of opportunity
during which a strike
may be safely delivered.













Foible (weak torque for
parry) - parts 4 and 3
Forte (strong) - parts 1
and 2









II. The Sword
.O f all weapons a man may use, none is more honorable,
handy, useful or safe than the sword. The sword offers two
tools - edge and point. Weather you cut or thrust you must
observe the time of advantage - when your sword is more near
and more ready to strike than the enemy's.
This principle is easiest to apply against edgeblows (cuts). For
example, if your enemy is close and cuts widely (the point
describes a big circle as your opponent swings), you must not
defend, but close and strike with the point with all celerity. As
you hit home you will prevent the fall of the enemy's sword. If
forced to defend from any edgeblow, parry with the strong part
of the blade, close to the hand.
Thrusts are the most perilous blows. To be ready for a thrust,
stand at the ready, so as not to loose time in reaction or
preparation. If you stand awkwardly you will need to prepare
for a trust by drawing back the arm, shifting the feet, leaning
the body, or other dangerous motion which will invite an attack
as you prepare.
The blows of the sword are strongest the further from the hand,
much as the force at the rim of a wheel is stronger than at the
spokes. Dividing the blade into four parts, the two nearest the
point 4 and 3 are to be used for striking. 1 and 2 are to be used
for wards, since nearer the hand they are strong to resist any
violence. These divisions are illustrated in Figure 1.
This logic applies to the arms, and the wrist and elbow should
be used (adding to the circumference of the circle, they add
force to the blow). But, as they are strong, they are also slow
(as they perform the greater compass) Therefore, do not swing
from the shoulder, because you will give to much time to your
enemy, and the wrist and elbow give strength enough.










The Rapier is long
and lightweight ,
designed primarily to
thrust. In 1550, it was
a light and long
broadsword variation
that kept getting
lighter year by year.
By 1650 new rapiers
had become so light
that blades often
broke, leading soon to
blades forged with a
triangular cross-
section.










By 1600, rapiers were
lighter and the
benefit of using the
elbow was reduced,
as it provided
insufficent additional
momentum to be an
effect cut. Saviolio no
longer recommended
Di Grasse - His True Art of Defense (Rapier Combat) - II. The Sword
1 of 2
Remember - the hit with the point is the straightest, shortest,
and fastest.


using the elbow to
cut.





Diagram illustrating
arc of blow from the
sholder (large circle),
elbow, and wrist.

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See BASICS for video
clips of footwork.







In distance (within
measure) means that
you can hit with one
movement, lunge or
pass; about 10 feet or
so.
Increase of Pace or
Lunge - forceful
advance, relying on
extension of the rear
leg to drive the body
forward. In di Grasse's
practice, this usually
included dragging the
hind leg forward
somewhat.
Half-pace or Fencing
step (the front foot
moves forward,
followed by the rear
foot the same distance)
Whole-pace or Pass -
the rear foot crosses
past the front foot - e.g.
a normal walking step
or fleche.
Slope-pace or crooked
step - Move on the
diagonal (45 degree
angle, more or less)
forward or back.
Encroach or Thwart -
Slope-pace forward
Circular-pace or Slip or

III. Of Footwork
.F irm footwork is the font from which springs all offense
and defense. The body likewise should be firm and stable -
right shoulder turned towards the enemy.
If you can hit by extending the arm only, without even using
the feet, so much the better since the body should be always
ready and firm. This is far better than the snail-like wiggling
some fencers show, wresting themselves from side to side.
Each movement takes time, and if you can perform an action
not in two motions but in a half motion so much the faster and
better.
In footwork as well, by orderly, discreet, and controlled
motions, you will win. Proper size steps depends on the
individual's stature and frame, but each step can only be
straight or circular.
The right leg is the strength of the right hand, and the left leg is
the strength of the left hand. So, the right hand attack should be
accompanied by the right leg. Take care that the foot and arm
move together. Above all, do not skip or leap, but keep one
foot always firm and steadfast.
The blow of the point or thrust cannot be handled without
consideration of the feet and body, because the strong
delivering of a thrust consists in the apt and timely motion of
the arms, feet, and body. The object is to be able to deliver a
thrust from the ready position in as little time as possible.
Figure 3. Footwork Explanations
To lunge left, leading with your left foot (pass first if your left
foot is in the rear) make a powerful and fast lunge toward (or
just outside of) the back of your adversary. Optionally finish by
pulling up the hind (right) foot to a guarded ward stance. Di
Grasse uses the phrase, "increase of the left foot".
To lunge right, leading with your right foot (pass first if your
right foot in the rear) make a powerful and fast lunge toward
(or just outside of) the breast of your adversary. Optionally



Right shoulder to the
front, left hand forward,
the breast slightly
turned away.
Two-weapon methods
discussed below require
a more square stance.





The right foot leads,
similar to a modern
guard position, The left
hand is in front of the
breast, and the body is
slightly bent forward
with greater weight on
the rear leg.




Think of two purposes
for motion:
Set-up - out of distance;
Attack or escape - in
distance.

Modern research is not
definitive about the
'half-pace.' If I took the
explanation and
illustration to mean that
the ending position
would be a 'tennis
stance' chest square
toward the opponent,
both feet parallel and
equidistant from the
opponent, that would be
exceptionally acquired -
DiGrasse, His True Art of Defense, Footwork
1 of 2
Quarte - changing
your orientation from
the original line to a
new line by moving a
foot (typically the hind
foot) in a semi-circle.
Lunge, or pass-lunge.
di Grasse uses the term
"increase the pace."
The idea is to drive
forward by dynamically
pushing with the rear
leg. In contrast, a
walking pace relies on
gravity to "fall"
forward at each step.
Stretch out far and low
in the attack. Finish in
many cases by dragging
up the rear foot
somewhat, as in a
modern lunge-recover-
forward.
Traverse Sideways
movement. (90 degree
angle)

Imbrocatta -An angled
attack.
finish by pulling up the hind (left) foot to an on guard stance.
Di Grasse uses the phrase, "increase of the right foot"
To lunge slope left, instead of lunging toward the back, your
leading left foot should land on a mark about 45 degrees to
your left. When lunging left, If your rapier is in your high
hand, a thrust will usually be delivered as a reverse. A reverse
blow is any that comes from your left side, often with the wrist
bent to angle the sword past the guard.

suitable for lateral
movement, but
unsuitable for attack or
retreat.
A possible interpretation
is that the half-pace is
intended to move into
the 'tennis stance' as a
momentary phase in a
continuous movement,
such that the forward
momentum is preserved,
allowing the attacker to
spring a-thwart
immediately either right
or left.
Perhaps a more likely
explanation is that the
half-pace moves from
the fairly square 'boxer
stance' left leading, to
the 'boxer stance' right
leading.

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With the left foot
leading, the right hand
is near and above but
behind the cheek.















Puncta Reversa
(reverse thrust)- What
Saviolo calls a variation
of the low Ward. This
Ward is in many ways
contrary to the others.
Stand with the feet near
together, as if ready to
sit down. The right foot
is only moderately in
front of the left. The
Rapier handle must be
within the knee, point
against the face of your

IV. Of Wards
.T he first ward achieved on withdrawing the blade from
scabbard is the high ward - right hand above and in front of
the right cheek, and point angled toward the opponents face.
The obvious attack from here is a long thrust above hand.
If the point is too high, the enemy can close underneath, if too
low, the enemy can beat down your blade too easily.
The second ward is the broad or wide ward. The arm is
stretched back so widely,that it seems to leave your body open
- but in truth it does not. Although the hand is well away from
the body, the point is directly in line.
The Broad Ward
The low ward, base ward, or lock
ward is more strong, sure, and
commodious than any other ward, and
from which one may more easily
strike, ward and stand, and with less pain. The hand should be
near and outside the knee, and the point should be raised. The
blade should be carried crooked over somewhat to the left
side. This is superior to variations taught by other schools,
wherein the arm is carried well out in front. In that position,
one would have to draw back before the strike, or else strike
very weakly.
The high ward is
similar to the modern
Parry 5 or Prime, but
the point is angled
toward the opponent's
face.



Left arm always
forward! Chest to
opponent. Stance is
more open and like a
boxer's stance than
modern (post 1660)
practice.


Broad Ward, Left
Lead. My stance is too
wide here.
Saviolo's open ward is
similar to the broad,
but with the chest
toward the opponent,
rather than twisted
away (closer to
modern guard in three
with the left arm
forward).
Low Ward, Right Lead


Di Grasse - His True Art of Defense (Rapier Combat) - IV Wards
1 of 3
adversary. A variation
has the handle without
the knee.
The puncta reversa on
the defensive is
explained as follows: If
you are attacked first
with a thrust (stocatta),
don't try to parry (for
he may have the
advantage). Turn the
knuckle of your hand to
the right side chest level
and let your point be
right upon the belly of
your opponent with the
arm fully extended.
Shift the left foot back,
then move the right
foot, bend the left foot
such that the heel of the
left is in line with your
right instep, a half pace
back. In this way, you
may hit without
Danger.
------------------------
Silver's Four
Governors:
1. The first governor is
judgment which is to
know when your
adversary can reach
you, and when not, and
when you can do the
like to him, and to
know by the goodness
or badness of his lying,
what he can do, and
when and how he can
perform it.
2. The second governor
is measure. Measure is
the better to know how
to make your space true
to defend yourself, or to
offend your enemy.
3. 4. The third and
forth governors are a
twofold mind when you
press in on your enemy,
for as you have a mind
to go forward, so must
you have at that instant
a mind to fly backward
upon any action that
shall be offered or done
by your adversary.
Figure 6. The Low Ward
NEXT




Saviolo's favorite
Short or Close Ward is
somewhat different
from any of di
Grasse's: The on
guard position is with
the right foot leading,
the weapon's guard on
or near the hip, the
chest toward
adversary, and no
engagement of the
blades.
"In this ward you
must be sure not to
put yourself in
danger by carrying
your weapon long.
Your opponent can
strike upon your
weapon, and upon
you with great speed,
and master not only
your weapon but you.
To close near enough
to find your weapon,
he must come close
enough to risk being
hit."
Saviolo on the use of
the left hand: I advise
all to learn to break
trusts with the gloved
left hand. But even
without a glove, it is
better to hazard a little
hurt of the hand, and
master the enemy's
sword, than to give the
enemy the advantage
by parrying with your
sword.
Di Grasse - His True Art of Defense (Rapier Combat) - IV Wards
2 of 3
This last item is very
similar to Mushai's no
conception, no design
philosophy.
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Measure = the
distance between
combatants. "In
measure" (or in
distance) is the
distance at which you
can hit or be hit in
one move.


This includes
material from the
"Falsing" section.



See video clips of
edgeblows in BASICS






Di Grasse points out
in another section
that cuts to the face
need not have power
to be effective. The
face is a good target
for a quick flicking
cut.



V. The Manner of the Strike
.T he Thrust
Without a doubt, the thrust is to be preferred over the edge blow.
Not only is it faster, but it can cause the greatest hurt. This I lay
down for a firm and certain rule.
When moving in a circle, always be sure that the left (rear) foot
is always shifted so that there is always a straight line from
sword tip to hand to rear foot. In this way, the lunge attack with
thrust can be the strongest and longest. Further, as the lunge
completes, draw the hind foot forward a half-pace to ensure that
the blow is longer and stronger. The attack should be measured
to just reach, but not to overshoot, the mark. At the completion
of the attack, the rear shoulder and arm should be turned away
from the opponent, and so out of reach of a counter thrust. It is
not possible to frame a longer blow than this.
From the low ward, make a reasonable pace, bearing the hand
without the knee. Force on their thrust nimbly, throwing back the
rear arm. End in a lunge position, so as to increase the reach of
the thrust. If the lunge is too deep and far to be comfortable,
draw forward the back foot slightly as well.
This thrust must be jerked or sprung forth as straight as possible,
the arm fully extended. The body and feet move behind such that
the arms, shoulder, and feet are under one straight line. This
technique can deliver a very great thrust.
The high ward is awkward for a strong thrust, especially if the
right foot in the fore. Since this ward is used to attack rather than
defend, set up your lunge. Draw yourself up, feet close together,
leaning forward, arm high and straight, thrust accompanied with
a lunge powerful and long
The Edge
The edge is to be preferred over the point for only one reason -
when it saves time in the blow. This circumstance can happen
when the point is out of line with the opponent - for example
after warding a blow, or if your opponent beats your blade out of
line. In these cases, hitting with the point may take two moments
of time, where an edgeblow would take but one (as illustrated in
Figure 7).

Speed is of two types -
Natural speed is
reaction time - given by
nature, health, youth,
and muscle tone.
Technical speed is
earned by executing an
efficient movement
without any wasted
motion or excess
energy.
Drawing the rear foot
forward is natural
ONLY if the lunge is
very powerful and long.
Di Grasse takes for
granted that his
readers understand the
explosive quality of
combat.
However, this also
commits everything to
the attack. Later
writers urged more
caution.
By 1692, Hope was
saying, do not drag the
rear foot behind.
HighLeftS.avi
(99532
bytes)
"Extend the arm
FIRST!" is the most
often repeated refrain
of the modern fencing
coach. As a slight
exaggeration, this a
pedagogic technique.
Purpose - to keep the
student from 1) slowing
the (fast) arm to keep
pace with the (slow)
feet and (slower) body.
2) "telegraphing" the
attack with premature
foot movement.
At a deeper level, the
extending arm
establishes the fact of
the attack. Any action
by the opponent in the
diGrasse's True Art of Defense (Rapier Fencing) - The Manner of the Strike
1 of 2


Silver's Times
There are eight
times, whereof four
are true, and four are
false. The true times
are these.
hand
hand and body
hand,body and foot
hand, body and
feet.
The false times are
these:
foot
foot and body
foot body and hand
feet body and hand
Translation: extend
the arm first.


An occasion in which a cutting blow will take one moment of
time
I particularly advise cutting back immediately after receiving a
beat, for the opponent is often taken by surprise at its rapid
replacement, because of his preoccupation with his attack.*
NEXT
face of a clear attack
other than defense or
retreat would be
suicidal.
See Silver's "times".


*This argument is hard
to accept since a cut in
these circumstances
would have no power at
all. However, rapidly
replacing the point as
illustrated would be
very effective.
Saviolo on picking the
moment to attack:
Don't rush headlong
into the first attack
without an advantage,
for you risk a counter
attack. Instead, if you
have the skill, gain the
advantage in time and
measure, and then
attack. Do not settle for
simultaneous hits. Hit
without being hit.



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Measure = the
distance between
combatants. "In
measure" (or in
distance) is the
distance at which you
can hit or be hit in
one move.


This includes
material from the
"Falsing" section.



See video clips of
edgeblows in BASICS






Di Grasse points out
in another section
that cuts to the face
need not have power
to be effective. The
face is a good target
for a quick flicking
cut.



V. The Manner of the Strike
.T he Thrust
Without a doubt, the thrust is to be preferred over the edge blow.
Not only is it faster, but it can cause the greatest hurt. This I lay
down for a firm and certain rule.
When moving in a circle, always be sure that the left (rear) foot
is always shifted so that there is always a straight line from
sword tip to hand to rear foot. In this way, the lunge attack with
thrust can be the strongest and longest. Further, as the lunge
completes, draw the hind foot forward a half-pace to ensure that
the blow is longer and stronger. The attack should be measured
to just reach, but not to overshoot, the mark. At the completion
of the attack, the rear shoulder and arm should be turned away
from the opponent, and so out of reach of a counter thrust. It is
not possible to frame a longer blow than this.
From the low ward, make a reasonable pace, bearing the hand
without the knee. Force on their thrust nimbly, throwing back the
rear arm. End in a lunge position, so as to increase the reach of
the thrust. If the lunge is too deep and far to be comfortable,
draw forward the back foot slightly as well.
This thrust must be jerked or sprung forth as straight as possible,
the arm fully extended. The body and feet move behind such that
the arms, shoulder, and feet are under one straight line. This
technique can deliver a very great thrust.
The high ward is awkward for a strong thrust, especially if the
right foot in the fore. Since this ward is used to attack rather than
defend, set up your lunge. Draw yourself up, feet close together,
leaning forward, arm high and straight, thrust accompanied with
a lunge powerful and long
The Edge
The edge is to be preferred over the point for only one reason -
when it saves time in the blow. This circumstance can happen
when the point is out of line with the opponent - for example
after warding a blow, or if your opponent beats your blade out of
line. In these cases, hitting with the point may take two moments
of time, where an edgeblow would take but one (as illustrated in
Figure 7).

Speed is of two types -
Natural speed is
reaction time - given by
nature, health, youth,
and muscle tone.
Technical speed is
earned by executing an
efficient movement
without any wasted
motion or excess
energy.
Drawing the rear foot
forward is natural
ONLY if the lunge is
very powerful and long.
Di Grasse takes for
granted that his
readers understand the
explosive quality of
combat.
However, this also
commits everything to
the attack. Later
writers urged more
caution.
By 1692, Hope was
saying, do not drag the
rear foot behind.
HighLeftS.avi
(99532
bytes)
"Extend the arm
FIRST!" is the most
often repeated refrain
of the modern fencing
coach. As a slight
exaggeration, this a
pedagogic technique.
Purpose - to keep the
student from 1) slowing
the (fast) arm to keep
pace with the (slow)
feet and (slower) body.
2) "telegraphing" the
attack with premature
foot movement.
At a deeper level, the
extending arm
establishes the fact of
the attack. Any action
by the opponent in the
diGrasse's True Art of Defense (Rapier Fencing) - The Manner of the Strike
1 of 2


Silver's Times
There are eight
times, whereof four
are true, and four are
false. The true times
are these.
hand
hand and body
hand,body and foot
hand, body and
feet.
The false times are
these:
foot
foot and body
foot body and hand
feet body and hand
Translation: extend
the arm first.


An occasion in which a cutting blow will take one moment of
time
I particularly advise cutting back immediately after receiving a
beat, for the opponent is often taken by surprise at its rapid
replacement, because of his preoccupation with his attack.*
NEXT
face of a clear attack
other than defense or
retreat would be
suicidal.
See Silver's "times".


*This argument is hard
to accept since a cut in
these circumstances
would have no power at
all. However, rapidly
replacing the point as
illustrated would be
very effective.
Saviolo on picking the
moment to attack:
Don't rush headlong
into the first attack
without an advantage,
for you risk a counter
attack. Instead, if you
have the skill, gain the
advantage in time and
measure, and then
attack. Do not settle for
simultaneous hits. Hit
without being hit.



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Parry - defensive use
of weapon to block
thrust or cut. Modern
term adopted from
the post 1660 French
school jargon. Di
Grasse's translator
uses "break",
"ward", "block",
"encounter" and
other words for
parry.
Block of attack to
outside high line
(back).
See other illustrations
of Blocks in BASICS.
Below, the thwart, or sloping step
forward.
DaggerThwa
(89090
bytes)

Stop thrust= attack
into an attack

Time thrust. Rather
than parrying first
and hitting on riposte
second, try to parry
while hitting at the
same moment.
Timing is

VI. The Means of Defending
.T hree means defend against all attacks from either point
or edge. The first is the parry - your weapon opposes the
opponent's. The weapon you use can be a sword, dagger, a
stick, your hat, your hand - because a soldier and gentleman
must master defense, not just how to use a particular tool such
as a rapier. Besides, one can not always be armed as one would
prefer.
But the parry is not always the solution - especially as it is
often practiced and taught today. Particularly dangerous is the
habit of retreating while parrying - caused apparently by a lack
of confidence in the parry's ability to control the opponent's
attack. # Problems caused by withdrawing include:
The greater likelihood of your being hit by (or near) the point,
and so take a stronger, more dangerous, blow.
To strike you must first take a step back to where you were
before. This takes so much time that you risk counter attack
and give your opponent an opportunity to defend.
I advise stepping into a cut, with the left foot taking a sloping
step forward. Thereby, the attack's measure will be misjudged,
and the cut can be taken close to your opponent's hilt, where it
has less power. In addition, by stepping forward, you can strike
in the same instant. This manner of defense is so sure and
quick, I use it above all others. ##
The second way to defend is useful primarily against a cut with
a great compass (broad arc) - or when the cut is being prepared
with a pull back of the hand. This defense requires a sudden
thrust with the point, Most attackers will perceive the danger
and back off. If they choose to continue, you will henceforth
find that they weaken as opponents, by reason of the blood
which goeth from them. *
The third means of defense is the void, in which the body is
taken away from the line of the attack. This is seldom used
alone, but rather used with an opposition with the weapon as
described in the first means of defense, or as part of a timing
attack as described in the second means above. If used alone,
the idea is to move enough to let the opponent's weapon slip
past, while hitting simultaneously with your weapon.







# Post 1660 small sword
technique encourages
retreating while
parrying. The default
rapier technique is
stepping to the side.
A parry is not static, but
a movement that first
defends then shifts to an
attack (riposte).
Beginning students are
taught "parry 4" as a
position, but the expert
understands that the
position is a transition
phase with the objective
of not just defense, but
control of the
opponent's blade.

## The advice is sound,
but not for the timid.

*Attack into an action,
to forestall a weak or
indirect attack with a
strong direct thrust. In
modern jargon, this is
an attack into the
preparation or stop
thrust depending on
circumstances.

Miyamoto Musashi
(Japanese
near-contemporary) on
fixing the eyes: Some
schools have one fix
their eyes on the sword,
others on the hand,
Di Grasse - His True Art of Defense (Rapier Combat) - VI. Defending
1 of 2
extraordinarily
critical - the slightest
error is fatal.






The following
sections offer advice
on how to attack and
defend when either
you or your opponent
is a given position.
This is conceptually
not unlike a manual
of chess openings.
Moves from a set
position are
important, but are
not the entire picture.
The rhythm of the
exchange must be
mastered. The skill of
exploiting an
indecisive clash is a
significant mark of
mastery.
Zones
VII. Application of Method
.I n the sections to follow I will address the most practical
and useful attacks and defenses practical for each ward. Every
conceivable bad attack or weak defense is not discussed. These
techniques were selected largely based on two principles that
always hold true: 1) In the Attack: Trust to the Thrust. 2) In the
Defense: Trust to the Thrust against the preparation or into a
wide cut
The End of the First Part
The Second Part - Attack and Defense Tactics
and Opening Moves from each Ward of the Several
Weapons
others on the face or
eyes. But if you fix your
eyes on anything other
than a man's heart your
spirit can become
confused. The gaze must
include perception
which is strong, and
sight which is weak;
perception includes the
enemy's spirit, the
terrain, changes in
advantages. In single
combat you must not fix
the eyes on details and
neglect important
things.

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Steal a Pace - To draw
the left (rear) foot near
the right (front).
Void - not being where
the blow is aimed.

Stop thrust - attack with
point after the
opponent's attack
starts.
Reverse thrust - keep
the point in line or
extending while your
body falls away.








All Italian edition diGrasse images
are copyright William Wilson.



Parry inward - the
modern Parry 4 (if high
line, or 7 if low line).
Traverse - move to side,
90 degrees to opponent.
VIII. Single Rapier
T he high ward of the Single Rapier.
The truest and surest blow is the trust above hand. First draw
your left foot near your right foot, and lunge as forcibly as you
may, ending in the low ward. If your opponent dodges right,
immediately follow with a slash right to the head.
To defend against the same, stand in the low ward, encounter
the edge of the sword to push it right and step sloping forward
with the left to void to your opponent's Right. Keep the point
down toward the enemy so that he would impale himself if
careless.
To defend against a cut, I have spoken of the stop thrust.
Because I know that some timid souls out there might prefer to
defend themselves first, another way is to parry with the edge.
Then, thrust to the face while stepping with your left foot
circularly to your right. This places your body behind your
weapon and is secure because it attacks while it defends. This
move is also called a reverse thrust.
The broad ward of the Single Rapier
The most sure and principal blow from this ward is the thrust
underhand. Draw the left near the right foot, lunge, and settle in
the low ward.
To defend against the same, stand in the low ward, and do a
simple parry since the attack has no advantage to hit home first.
The low ward of the Single Rapier
Any move is possible from this ward, but there are no special
advantages in thrusts from here. The special tactic of this ward
is one of the defensive.
To defend against a thrust, parry inward and traverse to the
right by stepping broadly back with the left (rear) foot. Then
lunge and thrust solidly from this new angle.
NEXT
\
In modern fencing,
the default response
to an attack is a
retreat. In Rapier, it
is to move to the side
or sloping diagonally
forward or back.
Note also that by
pivoting the body as
part of a side or
diagonal movement,
the rapier can close
the line of the
original attack
without actually
having to move the
rapier arm. Indeed,
that would be
considered the best
type of parry.
The circular step
moves the body away
from the line of the
attack while
re-orienting the body
to the opponent's new
position. Also known
as a demi-volte or
quart. A volte
continues the
circular motion
toward the opponent
in an attack.





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IX. Rapier and Dagger
T he dagger is most convenient as a companion weapon to
the Rapier. The role of the dagger, by reason of its shortness, is
defending the left side down to the knee. In contrast, the rapier
can defend both the right and left, including below the knee.
The dagger can parry any cut if the parry is taken against the
rapier's 1st and 2nd parts (the half nearest the hilt). Do not
attempt to parry a cutting attack at the strongest part of the
blow (3rd and 4th), for the dagger is too weak. But if you
boldly encounter an attack toward the hand, you can stop not
only a rapier but any weapon, no matter how heavy, with only a
single dagger.
Parry with dagger
Do not use both rapier and dagger together (as a cross), even
though this is often used by men who erroneously believe this
is secure. This method bonds both weapons, and two moments
of time are required to recover a weapon and strike. *
One advantage of the dagger is that an attack with the edge of
the rapier can be done more safely. The principle danger -
exposing yourself while the cut is in preparation - is moderated
by the defensive power of the dagger. However, I still counsel
no man to accustom himself to give blows with the edge. #
The dagger should be strong, easily drawn from the sheath, and
not excessively long. For best advantage hold it with the arm
stretched forward and pointing toward the enemy, so that you
will be able to find the enemy's sword a great deal before it hits
you. Either the edge or flat can be toward the enemy. If you
wish to benefit from a dagger with special blade-catching
guards, you must use the flat.
The left side, knee and above is the part which the dagger ought
to defend. When the attacking point or edge comes on the left
side, beat it from that side with the dagger. Use the Rapier for
defenses on the right. To do otherwise takes two motions, and
the hit may land before the parry is completed.
The High Ward of the Rapier and Dagger
The ward can be right leading (first) or left leading (second).
The second requires greater time in the attack, since the point is



\The dagger was part
of everyman's every
day dress.



*Silver and Saviolio
allow the 'cross'.

#Dagger parries
work best as a bind
or slide rather than a
beat. The objective is
usually to gain a
measure of safety by
taking control of the
opponent's rapier for
an instant . Beats
may be more likely to
result in a double
kill.




Since a thrust high to
the face often opens
the defender as he
wards, you may have
an opportunity to
continue with a slope
pace to the left, and
reverse at the legs.


**Don't do the cross
parry, diGrasse says,
but if you must this is
when.

diGrasse's True Art of Defense (Rapier Fencing) - Rapier and Dagger
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riposte=attack,
following your
oppenent's attack and
your defense.










more distant, but has the advantage of lending the force of the
whole body behind the blow.
The basic attack from the first is the lunge with the thrust,
completing in the low ward. The basic attack from the second,
left leading, is a forcible thrust with the pass lunge. Restrain the
urge to cut, since it is too easily parried with the dagger and
counter attacked.
To defend while in high ward, take a slope pace to void the
body away from the line of attack while you parry. If you are
parrying with the dagger only, you must often lunge toward the
enemy, and as you find the enemy's sword strike with your
rapier underneath. If parrying with a rapier, slope pace away,
but as soon as the parry connects attack the forehead with the
dagger while maintaining control of the enemy's rapier with
your own.
If you do a slope step and cross parry, stay the enemy's rapier
with your dagger, and attack with your rapier underneath with a
lunge or pass.**
The Broad Ward of the Rapier and Dagger
The basic attack is again the thrust. Be sure, when possible, to
beat away the point of the enemy's sword with your dagger as
you attack.
In defense, again take the slope pace. When parrying with the
rapier only, riposte to the face, and follow the lunge with the
rear-foot to lengthen the thrust and to stay on balance.
The Low ward of the Rapier and Dagger
While it is always a disadvantage to strike with the edge, from
the low ward it is possible to make quick small cuts that are less
likely to open you to a dangerous counter attack. However, I
still advise against even this sort of edgeblow, resolve instead to
discharge thrust after thrust.

NEXT





This ward with the
right foot behind is
strongly defensive,
but less suited for the
attack. While a thrust
delivered with a full
pace (pass) is
powerful, it is a long
time in coming and
so can be easily
avoided or warded.
To attack, therefore,
place the right foot to
the fore. Thrust
either directly at the
face, or with a beat
followed by a thrust.
Since a thrust high to
the face often opens
the defender as he
wards, you may have
an opportunity to
continue with a slope
pace to the left, and
reverse at the legs.

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Cloak - more general
term for outerware,
may be sleeved.
Cape - usually
sleeveless garment with
a hood (the 'cape'
itself).
Mantel - sleeveless
outerware without a
hood. Characteristically
worn over the left
shoulder.




















Reversa - indirect blow
(imbrocatta) delivered
angled from the left.
X. Rapier and Cloak
The next most commonly available weapon a gentleman will
have at hand, after the dagger, is the cloak. Here I will discuss
it in straightforward use. I will complete my discussion of the
art of the cloak in the treatise on Deceit.
Handling the Cloak
The cloak's use is determined by its length, size, and
flexibility. Flexibility, and not strength, is indeed the hallmark
of the cloak. One trusting to the strength of a cloak by
wrapping it about the arm to absorb a strong right cut will
prove himself a fool. One must use the length and flexibility
of the cloak, and with that any blow can be warded.
Take the cloak by the collar or cape, and wrap it at most twice
about the arm. Make sure your left leg is not leading when
warding a hit, for the cloak will only absorb a blow if there is
distance - anything solid immediately behind it (like a leg) is
in peril if you are trusting it to stop a blow.
Edgeblows delivered high should be warded with the sword,
since lifting the arm and a heavy cloak high is as violent as it
is perilous. This is so because the arm is exposed, and you risk
blinding yourself by your own cape.
There are two ways to wrap the cloak: by the collar or cape as
described above, or, as it often falls out in practice, by
grabbing one side as it is taken off the shoulder, and turning it
once or twice about the arm.
With the second method of folding, the cloak is usually longer.
Therefore, when striking, it is often best to take half-paces
(fencing steps), since with the whole pace (a pass, or walking
step) the risk of entangling the feet is great. Either way, the
danger of tripping yourself should be guarded against. This is
not a problem when warding, however, since your motion is
often away, and tired arms lift heavy cloaks better when
danger presses.
Three wards apply with the cloak as well. The first is the high
ward, and particularly deserves its name here, since the cloak
is also almost at chin level.
The High Ward of the Rapier and Cloak

\At this period, capes
and mantels may be
short - to the waist - or
long to below the
knees, depending on
the season's fashion.
They were worn by all
classes, year round.



c


Cloak Parry
CapeParryS.avi
(67404
bytes)
\

















diGrasse's True Art of Defense (Rapier Fencing) - X. Rapier and Cloak
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Full-pace - Pass
Void - evasive move of
the body away from the
line of attact









Steal a pace - slide
rear(left) foot close up
to the right.
Take another half pace -
fencing step advance, or
lunge
Forcing action - thrust
maintaining blade
contact, such as a glide.
From the high ward, the edgeblow should be delivered without
any motion of the feet. The Reversa should be done with a full
pace. The enemy's parry should be followed with and stayed
by the cloak, while a thrust is delivered underneath.
In defense against the high, the thrust should be taken with a
void, left foot moving behind and to the right, while hitting the
face in a reverse thrust. If the enemy's sword is encountered
without, then step forward with the cloak and encounter the
enemy's sword with it. Thrust with a lunge underneath.
Parrying with the cloak while hitting, without a void, has little
certainty and great peril in it, and yet if well done is excellent.
Great acuity and deep judgement is needed, for as the enemy's
point approaches, you must wait until it is just within the
hand's reach, and then beat it down with the cloak while
delivering a blow yourself.
The Broad Ward of the Rapier and Cloak
From the broad ward, I recommend the following sequence.
First thrust while sliding the rear foot in a circle to your right,
then cut, then thrust with a lunge. Attacks may often be
effectively stopped by a counter attack to the left thigh.
The Low Ward of the Rapier and Cloak
If the opponent is in the low ward, do not cut (since this may
be easily warded and counter attacked), but thrust only. Use
the cloak to occupy the enemy's sight while you steal a
half-pace on him. Then take another half-pace, and strike with
a forcing action on the sword.
NEXT
Since a thrust high to
the face often opens
the defender as he
wards, you may have
an opportunity to
continue with a slope
pace to the left, and
reverse at the legs.



Counter attack in this
case means a
stop-thrust

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Swashbuckling -
Allegedly, the term
came from the sound
of 'Prentices in
London swashing their
sword against their
buckler as they
walked. Or, it may just
come from the
meaning of "swash" :
to flourish.

XI. Sword and Buckler


T hebuckler is often at hand (being easy to carry, and
having service at night as a lantern carrier) and is commonly
used. The buckler is not only a weapon of warding - it can be
used to strike as well.
The Form of the Buckler.
The buckler is small and round, yet it must shield something
much bigger and differently shaped - the whole body. When
you understand how it can be used to accomplish this feat, you
will also better understand a key principle of all defensive
weapons.
The principle is one of geometry. Attacks start from a single
point - which may be the eye, the hand, or the tip of the sword.
From that single point, all potential lines of attack follow
roughly a cone. The smallest obstacle placed close enough to
that point of origination will foil the attack.
For example, imagine your little sister with garden hose, and
the water spraying out in a cone at you. If you hold a fairly
large umbrella right next to your body, perhaps much will be
protected, but perhaps your head and legs will still be sprayed.
If you hold the umbrella at arms-length, closer to the source,
you may totally protect yourself. If you were close enough to
the nozzle, even an object as small as your hand will deflect
all the spray back.
If you imagine the sword to be the same as a stream of spray,
you will see that a small obstacle pressed close to your
opponent's hilt - such as a buckler - can block all direct
avenues of attack easily. The only way for your opponent to
get around is the contort his body to attack from the side or
underneath, which places him at a disadvantage.
A useful feature of a buckler is a small ring of iron securely
attached to the center of its face. The ring should have a small
gap between it and the surface of the buckler, for its purpose is
to catch the point of your opponent's sword. The catching is
done rather by chance than by any deliberate measures.



Bucklers are the size
of a dinner plate,
usually metal,
sometimes made of
wood and leather.


BucklerParryR
(85372
bytes)











(The original obscure
example seemed to
hinge on the scientific
fact as then
understood that vision
depended on "beams"
emitted from the eyes).








Di Grasse - His True Art of Defense (Rapier Combat) - XI Buckler
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Steal a pace = Moving
the rear-foot close to
the front foot, to
deceive your opponent
about the distance.



Slip = move diagonally
away.
Pass lunge = full pace,
followed by an
increase of the left
foot.
Within = between the
adversary's rapier and
his breast.
Another useful optional feature is a spike of sorts that can
make the buckler a more potent offensive weapon.
Buckler Handling.
To effectively cover yourself, you must hold the buckler as far
off from the body as your arm can stretch. Always move your
arm and buckler together, as one entire and solid thing, never
bending, and always keeping the flat toward your opponent.
The first advantage of this is that your arm is always fully
covered, being always directly behind the buckler.
The second is that all cutting attacks will be encountered close
to your attacker's hilt (the first and second part), and so with
less force.
The third advantage is that all thrusts are more easily warded,
for the buckler will leave only slightly open the head and feet.
The head can be covered with the slightest upward motion of
the buckler. To bypass your buckler, your opponent will have
to move or contort to a disadvantageous position from which
to strike. I recommend that the sword, not the buckler, be used
to parry any attack directed against the feet.

The High Ward of Sword and Buckler
Defending against a cut is so easy with a buckler that I will
limit my discussion to the thrust.
When starting with the left (foot) leading, attack on the pass
(full pace) with as much force as can be mustered. Then, settle
into a low ward.
Attack from a right leading position by first stealing a
half-pace, and then lunge strongly. Finish in the low ward.
The low ward is well suited for defense against high thrusts. I
recommend lunging with the left foot, taking the opponent's
sword with the buckler or sword. If close enough, as is often
the case, you can deliver the "mustachio" - a blow to the face
with the buckler. Follow up with a lunge right and thrust
underneath.
The Broad Ward of Sword and Buckler
It is important to not cut from this position, because the sword
is far off from the body and the cut cannot be done with force
while retaining balance. Using the thrust, steal a half-pace and
lunge right. Recover in the broad ward.
To counter this, stay in the low ward, opposite the buckler.
Slip right and thrust (counter attack) along the line of attack.
The Low Ward of Sword and Buckler
With left leading, pass-lunge right between the sword and
buckler. Finish in low, right leading.
With the right leading, you can attack either within or without.
From without, engage the blade, pass left lunge. Do this not to
































Mustachio
mustacs.avi
(83910
bytes)
Di Grasse - His True Art of Defense (Rapier Combat) - XI Buckler
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Without = between the
adversary's rapier and
his back.
Attempt to hit while
parrying - one motion
(time thrust).
Within is likely Parry 4,
Without is likely Parry
3 .
avoid the opponent's blade, but to close with the buckler to
close off your opponent's line of attack. Finish with a pass
lunge right.
From within, use the same approach, but thrust still more
strongly with a lunge. Trap the opponent's sword between
your sword and buckler. Finish with a thrust.
To counter this attack, start at the low Ward. When attacked on
the pass (Right behind), slip and time thrust. Against the
lunge, whether from within or without, do a slope pace with
the left foot, and a high thrust, and your opponent's very
concentration on his attack will result in self-immolation on
your point.
NEXT












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The word used at the


time for what
marksmen aim at is
"mark".

From Achille Morozzo



XII. Sword and Square Target
.T he target is a most ancient weapon used first only in
warfare, not for man-to-man fights. However, it has today
found a thousand uses. The square target is commodious and
profitable because its virtues include many shared by both the
buckler and round target.
Some are inclined to bear the target close to their breast, which
is an error. To take best advantage of the target's form and
function, adopt an open stance with your left foot to the fore.
Hold the target with your arm nearly fully stretched out,
somewhat open, at an angle such that the upper left point is at
face level, the lower right point is on line with your right hip.
You should be able to see your enemy on either side of the
high point. You should not carry the target too low, which will
slow you ability to defend against head attacks. The target held
in this way can, by the slightest motion, defend your entire
body above the knees. The rapier should be used to defend
against lower attacks.
Figure 11 The Sword and Square Target
The High Ward of the Square Target
To attack from the high ward, first steal a pace straight, and
then lunge left (with left foot, drawing the right foot behind).
Angle your sword over and down to bypass the defender's
target, finishing your thrust with a lunge right.
The best counter to this is to beat the point away strongly with
the target, then lunge left, then finish with a lunge right as you
deliver a thrust underneath. Generally, adopt a low ward when
warding a thrust above hand.
The Broad Ward of the Square Target
To attack from the broad ward, rely first on the fast direct
thrust, as the heaviness of the target may slow a ward enough
to leave an opening. To strike at or in the low ward, approach
as near as possible, beat away the opponent's sword with a
lunge left, and thrust. If short of the mark, strike home with a



\A target is usually
made of wood and
leather, but is
occasionally made of
metal.
Di Grasse - His True Art of Defense (Rapier Combat) - XII Square Target
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lunge right.
To best oppose these attacks, stand at the low ward. As the
opponent starts to attack, counter attack below both your and
the opponent's target, with a strong right lunge.
The Low Ward of the Square Target
Attacking from the low ward is difficult, but there are two
strong possibilities. If your point is within (to the right of your
opponent's sword), with the right foot before, pass with your
left foot, try to pin your opponents sword between your target
and his, and thrust strongly at the thighs while lunging right. If
you start with your right in the hind, pass lunge in the same
way, but if you miss force your way and run by the enemy to
safety.
If without, beat your opponent's sword to the right with your
target while lunging left, then lunge with your right foot
directly at the opponent, thrusting at the face.
To counter, stand at the low ward. Counter attack with a thrust
while lunging left, try to pin your opponents sword between
the two targets, and strike home with a right lunge either above
or below.
NEXT

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"Gathering" up to
measure in an offensive
posture is dangerous,
as retreat is difficult. It
creates a moment of
opportunity for the
defender to launch an
attack into your
preparation

XIII. Sword and Round Target
.P erfect because of its circular form, the round target is so
steeped in antiquity that I must restrain myself from
digressing into mathematics or historiography, and focus on
my purpose. The history of the target is so long, however, that
many means of using it have been practiced. One practice is
resting it on the thigh, as if in this art (in which only travails
and pains are available) a man should seek rest and quiet. Or,
holding it with the arms bent close, near the chest, as if one
were behind a safe wall of great size and strength.
Of the manner of how to hold the round target.
To hold the target so that it may cover the whole body without
hindering vision, bear it edge-first toward the enemy, arm
nearly straight. Holding the arm bent both tires the arm and
tends to obstruct sight. Do not keep the target close to your
body; there the target only covers an area its own size, leaving
the head and belly open. In the way suggested, the left side is
already covered, and the least motion to the right with the
target will cover any blow above the knee.
Figure 12 Sword and Round Target
The High Ward of the Round Target.
The target is such great and sure defense, that no edgeblow
can be expected to penetrate without the help of your own
target. Thrusts are very uncertain as well. The best strategy is
to first steal a pace, gathering upon the enemy as near as
possible without danger. Thrust forcibly, and if you should
penetrate past the circumference of the target, pass left, crash
into the enemy's sword and target with your target, drive home
a thrust with a straight right lunge. If your opponent reacts to
this by lifting his target, continue as before, but thrust from
underneath.
To counter this, start at the low ward, and counterattack by a
similar sequence. Drive first left with a slope pace, closing
with the enemy's sword and target, finishing with a thrust and
a right lunge. The slope pace makes this counter attack safer
because it takes you outside the line of the original attack.






The round target is
about a yard in
diameter, usually
made of wood with a
leather cover, and
sometime out of metal.
It is also usually
concave, and has a
strap for the hand and
another just before or
after the elbow.

Target

Target Defending
Halbred
TargetHalbre
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Di Grasse - His True Art of Defense (Rapier Combat) - XIII Round Target
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The Broad Ward of the Round Target
It is difficult to hit from the broad without using your target to
beat away your opponent's sword. Therefore, be sure to do
that first, and follow with the general strategy described above
for the high ward.
To counter this, try first not to allow your sword to be beaten
off. Stay in the low ward.
The Low Ward of the Round Target
I strongly recommend finding the enemy's sword with your
own, to pin it between your sword and your target. Thrust
with great speed with a right lunge, driving in with the target
as well.
To counter, do not suffer your sword to be found by your
enemy's weapons. Further, respond to an attack by taking a
slope pace forward, and discharge a thrust underneath.
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Slope lunge to the left
= Left foot 45 degrees
forward and to the left.


XIV. Case of Swords or Rapiers
.N owadays the use of two swords or rapiers is common in
the schools and lists alike, although they are not used for war.
While dexterity in the left as well as the right is of use in all
weapons, it is crucial with the Case of Rapiers. Each rapier
ought to be handled equally and indifferently, each one as apt to
strike as defend. Do not profess this Art until you are much
practiced and exercised therein, or you will find yourself utterly
deceived.
How to handle two Rapiers
Both can strike at the same time but this dangerous technique
should not be used. Just as the single sword must strike and
defend, so too must the double swords in turn.
Figure 13 The Case of Rapiers
The High Ward at two Rapier
It does not matter which foot leads, but the hind rapier is aloft,
and the fore is below, (as a low ward is framed). At the two
rapiers the high ward is the most perfect and surest. Execute the
thrust with the pass lunge. Whenever possible find your
enemy's sword with the lead (low ward sword) with a beat or
bind as a precursor to the attack. As you finish the attack, the
attacking sword settles in the low ward, and the now hind sword
raises to the high position. If your opponent has retreated, it is
ideal to follow without hesitation with another attack, this time
with the arm now raised in the high ward.
To counter, stay to your enemy's left (without) in low ward, and
allow your point to be found with the beat, (for it is of less
hazard to you from without, if you also move to the left with a
slope pace) and time your thrust to strike at that precise moment
as you take the slope lunge to the left.
The parry is strongest if the point is well raised, as you will
thereby use the fort of the blade in defence. Respond to the beat
on your blade, which will likely be weak, with a strong
downward beat of your own hind sword, backed by a strong



The case consisted of
two identical light
and short (30-34
inches) rapiers, kept
in a single double
scabbard.
Di Grasse - His True Art of Defense (Rapier Combat) - XIV Case of Rapiers
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straight pass lunge.
The Broad Ward at the two Rapiers
The approach is similar to that of the High ward. First attempt
to engage or beat the opponent's fore rapier with your own, so
that it is momentarily controlled, and deliver a strong thrust to
the thigh off a slope pass lunge.
To defend, stand at the low ward, left leading. The right arm
and hind (right) foot should both be open and wide. When
attacked, take a slope pass step with your right foot (45 degree
angle forward and right), to void your left from the enemy's line
of attack. Practice as well with the right foot forward, stance
reversed.
The Low Ward at the two Rapiers
Attacks within have one blow, attacks without have two. If your
point is within (between your opponent's swords), with the right
foot before, pass lunge with your left foot, try to engage and
force your opponents sword with your left, and thrust strongly
below while lunging right. The threat of your attack will force
your opponent to attempt to defend himself with his hind rapier,
so your attack is relatively safe.
If without, beat your opponent's sword to the right with your
lead sword, then slope pass lunge with your right foot to the
left, thrusting at the head or breast. Or, thrust with the lead
rapier with a slope pass lunge, and continuously follow with a
thrust below from your second rapier (that is now in the fore)
with a direct lunge. This latter attack is very aggressive, but can
overtake any retiring defender.
In defence, I most strongly advise voiding by a very sloped
(steep angle) lunge or traverse, and delivering a thrust at the
enemy's face. Be sure to always keep one sword's point within,
and to keep both weapons somewhat apart, to avoid having both
trapped at the same moment.

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Down-right - Direct
blow delivered from
the right side or
overhead.







From Achille Morozzo






XV. Two-Handed Sword
.T he chief virtue of the two-handed Sword is that one may
be used to resist many swords or other weapons. In war, it is
placed for the defense of the ensign. In civil life, it may be
carried in a city to forestall an attack by a mob or band of
thieves.
The great weight and length of the weapon requires great
strength and size by the wielder. Since the wielder may be
expected to encounter many foes at once, a valiant and stout
courage is also necessary.
Against a group, the swordsman must fight with great fury and
speed, and must keep the blade in constant and unpredictable
motion, with both down-right and reverse cuts, and shifting
weight from one leg to the other. The key is the strength of the
great edge blow, for it has the strength to encounter many,
while a thrust can only capture the attention of one.
Two-Handed Sword, taking away one hand at the moment
the thrust is delivered
Only two effective counters exist. First, rush in as the cut
sweeps past. Second, close to take a parry close to the
attacking blade's hilt, where the force of the blow is weaker.
Both strategies require great resolution.
How to handle the two hand sword in single combat.
While thrusts are not recommended in group fighting, in single
combat thrusts are essential. A common error in handling is the
use of two hands in delivering a thrust, which causes the blow
to be shorter than needed. I recommend taking away one hand
at the moment the thrust is delivered, especially the leading
hand, and thrusting with the pommel hand on the pass or lunge.
If the attack misses, control can be quickly recovered by
retiring a pace and replacing the hand, settling into the low
ward.
I do not recommend delivery of a right cut, since one is open to
a strike below during its execution. A possible sequence
incorporating a cut is to first thrust with both hands, and then
cut from the thrusting position while lunging.



The two-handed
sword actually has
enough hilt to allow
four large hands to
wrap around it, is
4.5-6 feet in length
and also has a
characteristic cross
guard. It should not
be confused with the
hand-and-a-half or
bastard sword can be
wielded with two
hands.
Di Grasse - His True Art of Defense (Rapier Combat) - XV Two Handed Sword
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Against both the high ward and low ward, adopt a low ward for
defense. I do not recommend use of the broad ward with the
two-hand.
From both the high and the low ward, the basic attack to rely
on is the thrust as described above.
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A bill is an ax or
Hachette mounted on a
pole, you can still buy a
bill ('bush ax') in any
rural hardware store
where kudzu rules.
A halberd is the same
with the addition of a
point. A partisan is
symmetrically shaped,
like a fleur de lys.























XVI. Staff Weapons - bill, partisan, halberd.
.D esigned originally to reach and take down heavily
armored horseman, these have long shafts and good steel
heads. A mighty cut can rend any armor or cleave a sword.
Six motions are possible - toward head, feet, right side, left
side, forwards, backwards. The last is an offensive threat if the
weapon has a reverse hook.
The weapon should be borne in the middle of the shaft, with
the heel of the shaft low and the point at face level. The lower
half to heel should be used to ward blows and thrusts.
Figure 14 Halberd
The qualities of the partisan is best seen against pikes. Against
a pike, the lower half should beat the point aside. Step in to the
void created, and strike down as forcibly as possible to cut the
pike (or anything else).
Against another staff weapon, the thrust is much preferred to
the cut. Cuts with a bill or halberd are slow because of their
weight and the circumference of the blow, and so can be
avoided or stepped into by the nimble. Four wards are possible,
three with the point up and forward, one with the point back.
1 Point low, hind (right) arm lifted up.
2. Point high, hind arm borne low.
3. Point and shaft level.
4. Point up on high, with the heel forward.
The ones with the point forward require a false thrust, followed
by one indeed. Without, and delivery within, high, and delivery
below, the usual combinations are possible. I recommend that
the rear foot should move circularly away from the line of first
false, so that you will be in a more protected position as you
thrust home.
The last is much used, especially with the bill. The use of this
ward is to anticipate the enemy's attack, ward with the heel or
middle of the shaft, and finish by lunging and delivering an



While heavy, these
weapons are easier
to handle and
quicker than one
might expect.
























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Di Grasse - His True Art of Defense (Rapier Combat) - XVI Staff Weapons, Bill, Partisan...
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The heel of the pole
arm should have a
metal point.
edgeblow.
The false: after the ward with the heel of the weapon, start the
lunge and cut, then finish by withdrawing the weapon and
giving a thrust underneath with a lunge.
I recommend the low ward, hands well apart, point directly at
the enemy's throat. Adopt the reverse of the footwork
orientation of our opponent. Rely generally on the direct thrust
delivered with proper timing.
The most useful other attack is beating upward, trying to
entangle the enemy's weapon, and strongly lifting up (using
you rear hand as a pivot). As you lift, quickly pass-step inward.
Strike the opponent with the heel, and finish with an edge blow
that is a pivot (cut using your hands and forearms, not
shoulders). A pivoting edge cut is the fastest and most nimble.
If your opponent is lifting your weapon, the proper response is
to step in even more quickly, and hit with your weapon's heel,
finishing with a pivoting blow.
If entangling, another option is to change hands (increasing
reach) and step back, while cutting down and to the side.
With a straight thrust, timing is everything. Anytime the
opponent's point is off line, particularly while cocking back for
a beat, or passing through a beat, you must quickly deliver a
thrust.
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executed first with
Halberd, then with
Partisan vs. Musket
(butt-end)

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XVII. Staff Weapons - Pike
.O f weapons of the staff, the pike is the most plain, most
honorable, and most noble. Among renowned knights and great
lords this weapon is highly esteemed both for its lack of deceit
and for the strength, valor and deep judgement required to handle
it. Its use requires a most subtle and delicate knowledge of times,
motions, and a ready resolution to strike - qualities not resident in
the average man.
In single combat, two incorrect and one correct means of carriage
are used. Some who value ease and comfort would have the pike
borne in the middle; this is dangerous. Others, strong of arm but
weak of heart, hold it by its heel- this cannot be sustained, and is
weak on both offense and defense. The best place is an arm's
length from the heel, with the rear grip firm (palm down), and the
front grip loose so as to allow the pike to shift forward through it.
The fore arm is used to support the pike, the hind arm is used to
control it and drive it home.
The two most important wards: first, point up and heel down -
the low ward; second, point at waist level, heel up - the high
ward. The third ward, straight and level, is very effective against
the first two - but against an opponent also in third ward it is too
likely to result in a double/mutual kill to be safe.
You are also safer from a mutual kill if you are in high ward and
your opponent is in low, or vice versa.
Handling the Pike
The basic attack: first beat off the enemy's pike without letting
your point stray from the line, and thrust firmly.
The basic defenses: beat away the point with the heel end, and
immediately thrust back; or, thrust strongly if your opponents
point deviates from the line as he cocks for or over strikes his
beat.
In defense, timing is everything because you have no special
tools but distance and the shaft of your pike. Remember that the
objective is not to strike and be struck, but to strike and remain




Pikes are used on
guard duty at the
"cheek" position,
hand holding the
shaft about a foot
from the point,
resting on the hip.
Anything that will
result in a mutual
kill must be
avoided, since it
will increase the
chance of your
personal death.


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without danger.
Compass of the Pike
Pikes or lances at the list, 1554

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Deceits and Falseing of Blows and Thrusts
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Deceits and Falseing of Blows and Thrusts
.T he true art does not contain deceits, except perhaps
indirectly to conceal one's true movement and intention. The
essence is to strike in as little time as possible, and then
always being well warded. Deceits, falsings, and slips
increase the danger, because time is used to create the false
move, time that can be exploited by an astute enemy. Of
particular danger is a deceit that will confuse your opponent
into thinking that you are not attacking when in fact you are;
this embolds him to counter attack, increasing the chance of a
double kill.
It is true that deceits can be used against a weaker opponent to
effectively cause him to uncover part of his body that can then
be struck. However, it is necessary in a fight to the death to
assume that your enemy is as strong or stronger than you.
Using a deceit presupposes contempt for your enemy - and
overconfidence is a path to sure death.
However, it is also necessary to know of the advantages and
disadvantages of deceits, so that one can see through them
more clearly. Also deceits and false blows are part of the
game of skirmishing for exercise and pastime.
Deceits are of two sorts:
False attack - drawing a parry or dodge, followed by striking
at the newly open area by either disengaging the first weapon
or by striking with a weapon in the other hand.
Misdirection - as a card trickster will make a grand gesture
with his right hand to draw the eye while subtlety exchanging
cards with the left, so it is possible to distract in one direction
while striking in the other.
Any false attack presupposes a predictable reaction from the
opponent. Through careful observation, you will be better
able to judge how your opponent will react.
My general advice regarding falses is, if you start with the
intention to false, if your opponent does not ward you must be
ready to make your false true, and hit home instantly.
Single Sword
With the Single Sword falses are almost infinite - thrust, cut,
high low, within , without. False high, strike low; false within,
strike without: any combination is possible. The blow is
different from the false only by intent. It is a common error to
strive to encounter the weapon, and focus on that objective
without regard to time or advantage. This tendency can be
taken advantage of.
Dagger















Observable Tendencies
include:
- fast/early reactions,
sensitive to every small
movement on your
part, or
- broad reactions, or
- habitual actions,
such as always
retreating one step, or
- falling into rhythm,
or
- cocking back their
blade in preparation
for a beat.







Di Grasse
1 of 6
I do not see how to practice a deceit with the dagger which is
not openly dangerous. One approach is to widen the position
of the dagger as a "discovery" or probe, provoking your
opponent to move. In my opinion, these sorts of falses ought
not to be used. A wise practice of the true art is to first safely
defend yourself; second, attack the enemy. These false moves
do neither against a skillful opponent.
One strategy to be used in only the most desperate cases is to
either feign throwing the dagger against your opponent's face
or to do so indeed. Your opponent may ward by lifting up his
arms or retiring, in which event one may step in nimbly, and
safely hurt him.
To seize the enemy's sword, do not first cast away your
dagger, as I have seen it often practiced. Do it dagger in hand,
whether against an edge blow or thrust. At the instant of a
parry with your sword, place the dagger close to the
opponents point and force outward. This can easily disarm
your opponent (or get yourself killed).
Cloak
To deceive your opponent with the cloak, it is necessary to
know the many ways it may serve, how to skillfully fold it
about the arm, and how to take advantage of its size. It is
necessary to know how to defend, attack and hinder the
opponent. It is important to understand as well that not all
techniques rely on wrapping the cloak about the arm.
The cloak is usually used about the arm, but is also useful
when worn normally. When challenged and fight is
inescapable, but you are not armed, take both sides of the
cloak as near to the collar as possible, draw it over your head,
and throw it at your enemy's face. Entangled and blinded, he
may be thrown down, or disarmed. You can take advantage of
a cloak which your enemy wears by taking hold of the cloak
near the collar (best with one hand), and turning it into a
noose ("ginne") which can be violently hauled. A punch to the
face is a good follow through.
Besides using the cloak to ward blows, use it to molest your
opponent by falsing to fling the cloak, and then to fling it
indeed. Actually, flinging the cloak is part of the true art,
since it is done by strength and directness. The only reason I
treat of it here is that it is not seen as the way to conquer
manfully, since one ends by striking a blinded opponent.
It is easier to throw a cloak when joining the throw with a
lunge. By making the throw easy, it is more likely to be
thrown widened and loose, the better to entangle and ensnare
your opponent.
To fling the cloak with the sword it is possible to use the point
or edge. Try the point at the low ward with the right foot
behind and cloak before (cloak doubled on the arm, not
wrapped), then thrust the cloak with the point toward your
opponent's face while lunging left. This move is so forcible
and covertly delivered that it can blind your opponent long
enough to be stuck at your pleasure.
The cloak may be flung with the edge. When at the low ward,
point back and to the left. False a reverse to the left, and fling
the cloak toward the face with the edge following with a




































Di Grasse
2 of 6
strike.
Many other deceits with the cloak are possible, but these few
will do for an example.
Bucklers and Targets
The buckler, square target, and round target are sufficiently
similar that they are well discussed together. All three should
be born in the fist, the arm stretched out forwards. This is true
even of the target, which though too heavy and large to be
carried in the fist only, even with the rear strap in place it is
carried much as a buckler would be. All three are used for the
same sorts of falses - largely defensive. However, one
difference is that the round target is excellent at warding both
cuts and thrusts, the square target excels at warding cuts, and
the buckler, though excellent against thrusts, is unsure against
cuts (which may glance off, or flip over the buckler), and
requires the aid of the sword.
Falses and deceits possible are infinite. Start with all those
possible with the sword blow, and add carrying the shield
wide from the body and uncovered, as an invitation. This is
safest with the square target.
When attacking, do not false only against an area that can be
safely covered by the shield. For, the enemy's sword is still
free to do you harm. Instead, false in such a way that your
opponent is obliged to defend at least partially with his sword
(such as a high reverse, or to the knee).
Respond to a high false by pressing in with the shield and
thrusting below. Respond to a low false by warding with the
back edge of your sword, followed by your own immediate
cut to their knee without any other movement on your part.
Generally, all attacks should be warded by both the shield and
sword moving together, with the sword pointing toward the
opponent at all times. An immediate riposte has an advantage,
because you are within your measure and within the perimeter
of the opponent's weapons, and a very quick riposte to the
face or legs can beat the defense. I call this both defending
and striking together in the shortest and most direct way.
If your opponent uncovers a part of his body to invite a strike,
you must judge carefully. If your sword is closer to his body
than his weapon, and your shield is close on hand to defend
against his sword, the opportunity may be real and you should
drive your strike home first as resolutely and nimbly as
possible. But, if you truly strike where there is no possibility
of a hit, you will lose much time and place yourself in grave
danger. In that case, a false may be a suitable move.
Two Swords or Rapiers
Again the range of falses is limited only by the imagination.
Each weapon can either attack or defend, or both can attack or
defend at the same instance. One weapon can false and the
other attack, or the same weapon can first false then thrust
true. I won't try to list all possibilities. One thing that always
hold true is that the fore sword is the first choice for defense
against both falses and resolute blows.
Be cautious about lessons learned only in sport or play. It is
too easy, for example, to fall into a pattern of using one















Reacting to the
position of your
opponent to the extent
of copying his moves
seems like bad advice,
so I do not take di
Grasse literally in the
broad sense. I believe
his narrow point here
is valid, speaking
purely of defensive
position and attitude.
However, an effective,
winning attitude
maintains the initiative
with an attacking spirit
to control timing,
position, and
ultimately the
opponent..









Di Grasse
3 of 6
weapon only for defense, and the other for attack. Or worse,
to expect that your enemy will behave in this or other
predictable manner.
A rule worth adhering to is keeping at least one weapon
pointed right at the enemy at all times. This is more likely to
encourage him to try a false so that you will create an
opening. You can then take advantage of the opening your
enemy makes and time he loses by falsing. To use this
opportunity you must have deep judgement: knowing the
intent of the false and the part of the enemy likely to be
exposed, and striking through the opening in the shortest and
safest way.
A very strong and direct way of striking is to false with the
fore sword not once or twice, but several times in several
ways - now high, now low, sometime thrust, sometime cut - to
blind and occupy both of your opponent's swords. When
opportunity presents, strike home with the hind weapon on
the pass.
The hind sword is of little use for false attacks, because it is
too distant to force a reaction. The best that can be done is to
drive forward resolutely with the hind sword on the pass, and
as the enemy moves to defend, hit with the same sword an
area uncovered by the attempt to ward your first attack (with a
disengage or coupe). The same sword must be used, because
the sword that was in the fore will now be in the rear, and
would be to slow to hit since it would need to be accompanied
by another pass or lunge.
My rule for safe falsing is to use one of the following:
- false with the fore sword and hit with the same on the lunge
or pass
- false with the fore sword and hit with the hind on the pass
- false with the hind sword and hit with the same on the pass.
In sport or play you can take up any posture you please. But it
is more gallant to behold and more commodious to take the
same stance as your opponent. This symmetry makes a false
that will busy both of your swords less likely. I recommend
standing every way as the enemy does and ward his false
blows with the fore sword, on contact pass on the slope and
with the hind sword thrust at an opening, for example cut at
the legs. Best of all, reverse cut across the face or arms, which
takes advantage of the fact that the opponent's fore sword is
occupied (either bound in your ward or recovering), and the
hind sword is poorly positioned to cover an attack from the
reverse angle.
Therefore, let every man resolve himself (as soon as he
encounters the enemy's sword with his own fore sword) to
step in and strike with his hind sword. Do not stand in fear of
the opponent's hind sword as you do this, for it is always
either just away from endangering you because of your
opponent's position, or it will have to be committed to defense
from your attack.
The Two-Handed Sword
Most wards in which the point is to the side or back do not
Di Grasse
4 of 6
facilitate a false, and the only one worth using is the false of
an edgeblow. However, after the false edgeblow, one must
continue with a true edgeblow in a circle, because the
momentum of the swing will make finishing with the thrust
too difficult. Therefore, frame the false as a thrust, and then
follow through with an edgeblow or thrust elsewhere.
If you have a guard with the point more forward, such as with
your arms crossed and the point sloping to the lower left, the
only way to false with the edge is to false with the back edge,
then follow through a full circle and hit on the full lunge. If
you intend to finish with the reverse, you must finish with a
left lunge, if from the right or straight, a right lunge.
Striking home with the edgeblow is effective with the
two-handed sword because of its force and power. However,
it is also dangerous because it is slower than the direct thrust
of your adversary. Therefore, drive on with a thrust, not as if
to false but resolutely and far forward. As the enemy retires,
follow on with an edgeblow and with a lunge, which can be
delivered with more safety.
If you thrust and the enemy takes a slope step sway, as soon
as you realize that the thrust was in vain, bring the point back
up and take the high ward.
The defense against the two hand sword requires a stout heart,
because the great blows cannot be warded but must be
defeated through use of timing - judging the best moment of
opportunity.
When your opponent tries to attack with an edgeblow, try to
not encounter it, rather back away as you anticipate the blow,
and follow up with a lunge and thrust as he tries to recover.
If you have a single sword or sword and dagger, respond to a
thrust by beating it off and retreating. Respond to a cut by
attacking into the preparation with a fast lunge and thrust; or
bear the blow near the hilt (where the force of the blow is
small), grab the hilt with one hand, and strike with the other
hand.
Staff Weapons - Partisan, Bill, Javelin, Halberd
Deceits or falses are easier to see through when done with
these long, two handed weapons. Therefore, I recommend the
false of the thrust except in special circumstances
Four wards are possible, three with the point up and forward,
one with the point back:
Point low, hind (right) arm lifted up.
Point high, hind arm borne low.
Point and shaft level.
Point up on high, with the heel forward.
Di Grasse
5 of 6
The ones with the point forward require a false thrust,
followed by one indeed. Without, and delivery within; high,
and delivery below; the usual combinations are possible. I
recommend that the rear foot should move circularly away
from the line of the true attack, so that you will be in a more
protected position as you thrust home.
The point up on high ward is much used, especially with the
bill. The use of this ward is to anticipate the enemy's attack,
ward with the heel or middle of the shaft, and finish by
lunging and delivering an edgeblow. To false: after the ward
with the heel of the weapon, start the lunge and cut, then
finish by withdrawing the weapon and giving a thrust
underneath with a lunge.
Pike
The pike is a weapon void of any crooked forks, and is much
more apt to show valor than deceit. The only false possible is
to thrust falsely at one mark followed by a resolute thrust at
another. Be sure to carry your hind foot (in a half circle
sweep) toward the side against which you thrust resolutely.
Defense against staff weapons
To defend against deceits by staff weapons, practice the true
art. Ward false attacks as if they were true, and attack into a
preparatory move without hesitation. Do not try to take hold
of the attacking weapon, for you will likely have only one
hand on it while your opponent has two.
My final advice: if you start with the intention to false, if
your opponent does not ward you must be ready to make your
false true, and hit home instantly.
The Ende of the False Arts.
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1994, 2000 Richard J. Orli -
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Di Grasse - His true Art of Defense
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How a Man by Private Practice may
Obtain
Strength of Body Thereby
.M any believe that strength is a virtue bestowed by
nature, just as sight and hearing is. If that were so, exercise
would be a ridiculous waste of time. But that is not so,
exercise does build strength, and the coordination necessary to
be a good fencer as well. So, do it.
Even a strong and lusty man without the proper type of
exercise cannot deliver blows with the power and speed of one
who is properly exercised. Many times a strong man will
quickly tire so that he can no longer maintain hold of a sword,
and give up on the practice of arms thinking that he is not
suitable for the Art. This is not so, for exercise builds
endurance as well.
One of the best ways to get the right sort of exercise is to
practice fencing with or without a partner. Without a partner,
simply go through the full range of thrust and edgeblows, with
the full range of possible foot work - lunges and passes, slips
and circles. Do not neglect wards and ripostes. Also practice
starting and stopping an attack, and suddenly attacking again.
FIN





Di Grasse
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