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Three Elizabethan Fencing Manuals Hardcover – December, 1972
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Top Customer Reviews
But don't assume you'll have an easy read. Saviolo is not writing in his native language, and it shows. He doesn't describe motions very well, and occasionally appears to leave out a foot move in a long sequence. Di Grassi never wrote in English. This manual is a sixteenth century English translation of his Italian manual. People who deride the "negative campaigning" of today will get quite a surprise when they read Silver's virulent contempt for the rapier and the foreigners who teach it.
There is also the language issue. Yes, it's written in English, but sixteenth century English doesn't always mean what you think it does. Saviolo tells you to come on guard with your right wrist against your knee, your right foot against your opponent's right foot, and your point against his face. Obviously, something has been lost in four centuries. In this case, it's the fact that "against" meant "opposite or across from", not "touching". You are now armed against one problem, but it's still not the language you think it is. (Hint: an Oxford English Dictionary is a very useful companion volume.)
Also, don't assume you can do this in modern fencing. The blades were longer and heavier, and they don't work like modern fencing weapons. Furthermore, these are very basic lessons. We know that the advanced moves were jealously guarded, and not written in books.
With all the difficulties, this book remains essential - it's a direct link to the fighting methods of the Elizabethan fencers.Read more ›
The time in which these manuals were published was crucial: there was a gradual transition from the medieval sword techniques to the renaissance rapier ones. At the time (and long afterwards) the french schools of fencing were not existent and the main flow was latin: two of the manuals were written by italians and the swords used in latin countries were rapidly evolving from medieval sword towards the rapier. Those were times of frequent wars and of deadly clashes involving different cultures and ways of fighting. Very different from the later "civilized" duels between long-haired make-uped "gentlemen" which originated the french schools of fencing from which our childish fencing appeared.
This work is the real thing! It shows the experience of three sword masters, in a time where expertise was gained by fighting often and staying alive doing it, and mastery was achieved by recognition from a world where everyone was a swordsman ready to challenge such a person just to get fame.
Forget for a moment modern sword-"play" and read this book about real swordsmanship!
BTW, if you are interested in the scholarly aspects of reconstructing historical martial arts I would expect that this would be a good place for an English speaker to start. If you already know German or Italian there are some potentially more accessible works in those languages.