Part 2 out of 2
the middling Guard, People being more careful of parrying with the
Sword, and a Man is in much better Condition to parry from the middling
Guard than from any other.
_To attack the Guard where the Sword is held in both Hands._
Those who hold the Sword in both Hands, that is to say, the Handle in
the Right-hand, and the Blade about four Fingers Breadth in the Left,
will either engage, or beat on your Sword, with great Force, or stick to
a strong Parade, in order to uncover you the more, in Favour of their
But as they cannot keep this Situation without exposing their Body very
much, which is often dangerous, as also a very unseemly Posture, this
Guard is therefore, with good Reason, condemned by most, if not all,
If you have to do with one that holds this Guard, you must keep your
Point a little low, and be always ready to change, in order to render
the Strength which the Left-hand gives to the Right, useless, in his
engaging or beating.
If he will not attack you, but waits for your Thrust in order to parry
and risposte, you must make a Half-thrust, and recover quickly to your
Parade, to avoid his Rispost; wherein, throwing back his Left-hand, and
abandoning himself extremely, he is not in a Condition to avoid your
Thrust after you have parryed his.
You may also make a Home-thrust on him, by a single or double Feint,
because these require two or three Parades; so that your Adversary being
unable to parry without throwing his Point a great way off, he cannot
bring it back in time if you disorder him by a Feint.
You may likewise catch him, by placing your Sword along his, with your
Point a little raised, and sliding on a Defence along his Sword, push at
his Left-hand or Arm, for he cannot, tho' he goes to his Parade, hinder
your Blade from sliding so as to hit him there, without running any
Risque, you being in Measure of his Hand and Arm, when he is out of
Reach of your Body.
You are to observe, that in all Guards with Sword in Hand, you must push
at the nearest and most uncovered Part; which in the Guards that I have
described is the Arm; therefore you must not abandon yourself to hit
the Body, but in risposting, or after having disordered, or engaged the
Enemy as aforesaid.
_Of Left-handed Men._
Most People imagine that a Left-handed Man has, by Nature, the Advantage
of a Right-handed Man in Fencing, whereas he has it only by Habit,
exercising oftener with Right-handed Men than a Right-handed Man with
him, as well in Lessons as in Assaults, most Masters being Right-handed,
as well as most of the Scholars, taking Lessons from the Right-hand, and
practising seldom with Left-handed Men, find themselves puzzled, nothing
surprizing more than what one is not used to, which is so true, that to
embarrass a Left-handed Man, who has not fenced much, you must put
another against him; I say one that has not fenced much, because Right
or Left-handed Men who go to the School of a perfect Master, will be
taught to use both Hands, by which Means, they will not be so much
surprized when they meet with a Left-handed Man, as they would otherwise
When a Right and a Left-handed Man fence together, the Right handed Man
should push but seldom within, that being the Antagonist's strongest
Part; and his weakest and outward, which should be kept covered, or in a
defensive Condition, as the most liable to be attacked; the best Way is
to push _Quarte_ without, Engagements, Feints under, and Thrusts above,
and double Feints, finished above or under the Wrist in _Quarte_, Cuts
over the Point without, and upon the Parade, with the Fort, or with the
Feeble, redoubling _Quarte_ under the Wrist, or _Seconde_ over: These
are chiefly the Thrusts which a Right-handed and a Left-handed Man may
make against each other, whether on an Attack, or in Defence, by Time or
Several Masters puzzle their Scholars by telling them that with a
Left-handed Man they must act quite contrary to what they do with a
Right-handed, which appears to be false; because to a Right or
Left-handed Man you must push, opposing with the Sword, which is to be
done by pushing _Quarte_, when the Enemy is within your Sword, and
_Tierce_, when he is without. All the Difference between a Right and a
Left-handed Man is, that two Right, or two Left-handed Men, are both
within or without, whereas a Right with a Left-handed Man, the one is
within when the other is without, the one in _Quarte_, the other in
_Of the Parade of the Hand._
There are, in Fencing, three Parades with the Left-hand: The first, like
the Opposition that is from the Top to the Bottom; the second, with the
Palm of the Hand without, towards the Right Shoulder, and the third,
from the Bottom to the Top, with the Outside of the Hand: Of these three
Parades, the first is the easiest, the most used, and the least
dangerous: They are condemned by able Men, as weakening those of the
Sword; wherefore it is wrong in a Master to shew them to a Scholar,
before he has practised those of the Blade a good while, which being
longer, can return to all feints, which the Left-hand cannot, it being
impossible to parry with it except you be near, which is very dangerous,
as well by reason of the Difficulty of meeting properly with the Sword,
as of the Facility of deceiving the Hand, which in this Case has not
Time to come to the Parade, because of it's small Distance; and besides
the Facility of deceiving it, you need only push at the Arm, Sword in
Hand, in order to make it useless.
_Of the Opposition of the Hand._
Many People make no Distinction between the Parade and Opposition of the
Hand, tho' there is a very great Difference, the Parade being made only
against the Adversary's Thrust, and the Opposition to prevent a
following Thrust after having parryed with the Sword, which is very
necessary in most Thrusts, especially in the Risposts which may be made
to your Thrust in _Seconde_.
Besides the Opposition of the Hand, after having parryed with the Sword,
you may oppose with it, taking the Time, that is to say, when the Enemy
pushes from above to below, as the motion of his sword is greater than
your's, having only a strait line to push _Quarte_ on, whereas his from
above to below, is crooked, so that pushing upon his time, he cannot
avoid the thrust, and you may easily oppose his with the Left-hand,
which is very different from the parade with the hand, to which you do
not push 'till after you have parryed.
_Of the beat of the Foot, in closing the measure, or in the same place._
Though it may seem to many people, that the beat of the Foot, in gaining
measure, making appels, or alurements, engagements, or other Thrusts, is
rather ornamental than necessary; nevertheless, there is nothing puts
the Foot in a better condition to follow the swiftness of the Wrist, in
most of the actions of the Sword; nor can any thing contribute more to
the equal situation, and to the retention of the Body, qualities, which
keeping you covered from the time of your combatant, procures you the
means, not only of taking advantage of his, but also of possessing
firmness, freedom, justness and swiftness. You are to observe two sorts
of beating, the one with the Foot firm in the same place, the other
gaining measure; the Beat with the Foot firm, is done in two ways, the
one in appels, or alurements on the Blade, and the other in engagements
or Feints. That upon the allurement on the Blade, may be made by a
single beat of the Foot, but those who are pretty well advanced, make
two without lifting the Foot but once, the first with the Point, and the
other with the whole Foot: that on engagements or single Feints, shou'd
have but one beat, the thrust being to be made on the second motion. The
beat of the Foot in marching or advancing, is also divided into two
sorts, the one in Engagements or single Feints, and the other in
Engagements and Feints following, or in double Feints; the manner of
engaging must be with a single beat gaining measure, and that of
engaging with a double Feint, must be done with a double beat, in order
to agree with the motion of the Wrist; and as in all, including the
lunge, there must be three beats; you must, on the First Time or Feint,
beat with the whole Foot in the same Place, at the second Motion of the
Wrist beat again with the foot getting Measure, and at the third Motion
You must observe, that between the first and second Motion, there is no
Interval, but between the second and third there is, in order to see
where the Enemy gives Light: This Interval must be shorter or longer
according as your Disposition or Practice is more or less.
_Of the Good Effects of a nice Discernment of the Eye._
In Fencing, there is the Foreseen, and the Unforeseen; the Foreseen is
the Effect of the Understanding and of the Will, and the Unforeseen is
the Effect of the Discernment of the Eye, and of Custom; which being
upheld by this Quality, has no sooner discerned an Action or Opening of
the Enemy, than all the Parts which are to act, display themselves to
oppose or attack him, as if they depended on the Eye. To be convinced of
this Truth, you may reflect on READING, wherein, as soon as the Eye has
discerned the Words, the pronouncing them follows as quick as in a
studied Discourse; the Eye and Tongue being so disposed by Custom, as to
do it without immediately reflecting. Indeed before they cou'd arrive to
this, the Understanding and the Will were necessary, which having been
united for a certain Time, have communicated such a Habit to these
Parts, as to make them act as it were of themselves.
In order to acquire this Quality in Fencing, it is necessary that the
Master, in his Lessons, shou'd shew what Opportunities are to be
favourably laid hold of, two opposite Actions at one and the same Time,
That whilst he is uncovering some Part of his Body, he cannot, at the
same Instant, parry, because by the Parade, it must be covered; so that
by making them make their Thrusts, and other Motions, by the Discernment
of the Eye, they find themselves by Practice ready to oppose all the
Motions of the Antagonist without the Assistance of the Will. This
Method is indeed a little more tedious in the Beginning, but it
afterwards becomes shorter and more certain.
If you have not had Practice enough to make the Discernment of the Eye
thus habitual, you must observe what Motions your Action causes in the
Adversary, by making a Half, or Home-thrust, in order to discover
whether the Enemy has recourse to the Parade, or to the Time: If he goes
to parry, you must observe his Manner, in order to make a Feint
resembling the same Thrust, and to push at the Part where you observed
him to give the Light; and if he goes to the Time, you also make a
Feint, preparing yourself for the parade and Rispost, or to take a Time
contrary to his.
If we were to follow the exact Term of Time, every Thing that is done in
Fencing might be called so; for you shou'd never thrust but when you
have a favourable Opportunity of hitting, nor parry, but at the Time
that favours you to oppose the Enemy's Sword, not make an Engagement,
nor a Feint, but to take the Time upon the Motion that your Action
occasions in the Adversary.
Time is the Duration of any Motion: It is called Time because it is the
most favourable Opportunity of pushing, the Enemy being unable during
one Action to do a contrary one.
It is divided into several Manners and Terms: The first is called the
Time, the second, taking his Time, the third, Time to Time, the fourth,
the same Time, and the fifth, false Time.
1. Taking the Time, is making your Thrust by a judicious Discernment on
the Motion of the Enemy, taking him by a contrary one: You are to know
that every Motion, of whatever Part it be, is called Time; for which
Reason, I shall say nothing of Feints, Engagements, and Disengagements,
upon which it may be taken; and that in three Manners, _viz._ strait,
lowering the Body, or volting it, which you must know how to apply. In a
strait Thrust the Time shou'd be taken by lowering and volting the Body,
because the Thrust coming strait, if you were to push the same Way, you
would, by supporting the Wrist, make a _Contrast_; and by pushing
crooked, you would make a _Coup Fourres_, or an interchanged Thrust; but
if the Thrust be in Two Times, or Motions, you may push on the first; If
it be in three Motions, on the second. As to the volting and lowering
the Body, they may be used on all Motions, provided they be abandoned,
and that the Enemy does not keep back his Body to draw you on.
2. Taking his Time, is the most subtle Thing in Fencing, depending
principally on the Mind: The Manner of taking it proceeds from your
Place or Situation, which gives you an opportunity of knowing the fort
and the feeble of the enemy, so that feeling his blade with your's, you
may by a judicious custom, push at a proper instant, according as you
find the weakness of his sword; and though it may seem that the enemy,
in the same guard, and at the same distance, can as easily parry; that
does not happen because of his different design to push, disengage, or
make a feint, by reason of the several operations of the mind which
follow the will.
3. The Time to Time, or the Counter to Time, is by several people,
called Counter-time: this cannot in effect alter this necessary part of
the art; it being but an impropriety in terms; when they say that making
a motion to bring the Enemy on, and when he is going to make a Thrust,
the making a Counter; this is by consequence a Counter Time, like a
Counter-disengagement, without observing that a Counter-time is nothing
but an ill timed Motion, which should upon all occasions be avoided: and
if that argument were to take place, it might be said that there is no
such thing in fencing as taking the Time, because it is to be done only
by taking a Time contrary to that which is intended to be taken of you,
which according to their Argument would be a Counter-time; whereas the
Term Time to Time, or counter to Time, sufficiently shews, that it
requires three Motions; since the taking the Time requires two, and the
taking it at the Time that he takes it, must require a third. Of these
three Motions you are to make two: The first, in order to get one from
the Enemy, that you may have an Advantage by your second, which is the
third Time; so that when he thinks to take the Time upon you, you take
it upon him, which, far from being a Counter-time, is a Time to his, or
Counter to his Time.
4. The same Time, depends on three Things: First, that both having a
Design to push, you both push by chance at once, without expecting it
from each other: Secondly: That full of the Design to take the Time, and
not knowing it, you push upon the Enemy's Thrust, without foreseeing how
to avoid it; and thirdly, when an Inferior or desperate Man, unable to
defend himself, had rather run on your Thrust in endeavouring to hit
you, than strive in vain to avoid it. These are not only the Occasions
of the same Time, but also of the _Coups Fourres_.
It is to be observed, that Time, and the same Time, differ only in
their Figure, and not in their Occasion, as Monsieur _De la Touche_
says, for to take the Time upon a Thrust, you must go off upon the
Lunge, as if it were on the same Time, except that the Figure of the
Body shuns the Thrust, which in that of the same Time it does not do.
5. False Time, is a Motion made by the Enemy to draw you on, in order to
take a Time upon your's; therefore he that would take the Time, shou'd
distinguish whether the Motion made, is to disorder him, and take the
Advantage of his Parade, or to make him thrust, and take the Advantage
of his Lunge; In Case of the first, it would be a Fault not to push; and
in Case of the other, it would be amiss to push. Some Masters call the
false Time, Half Time, which is wrong, every Motion being a Time, and as
it is impossible to make a Half Motion, so 'tis impossible to make a
The Difference of Time between the dexterous and awkard is, that the
dexterous present and take the Time, and the others, give and lose it.
Swiftness is the Shortness of Time between the Beginning and End of a
Motion: It proceeds from a regular and frequent Exercise, joined with a
good Disposition; that is to say, Vigour and Suppleness, which form
A great Swiftness cannot be acquired without long Practice and a good
Disposition, the one not being sufficient, without the other, to give
it: For the best natural Parts, without Practice, will be of very little
Service to those who have the best Disposition; and the most regular
Practice without the Assistance of Nature, will never make a Man
Swiftness in Fencing, is so necessary, that without this Quality, it is
very difficult to defend, and impossible to offend: This Truth is so
well known, that every one is earnestly desirous of it, tho' most People
are ignorant of the Means necessary to acquire it.
What contributes most to the becoming swift, besides, frequent Exercise
and a fine Disposition, is a perfect Situation of the Parts, the
Retention of the Body, and the regular Motion of the Wrist: The
Situation requires this advantageous Point of all the Parts, to
communicate Freedom and Vigour to the Action, that they may act with
Quickness. In order to retain the Body, it is necessary that it be
always in it's perfect Situation, during the Motions previous to the
Thrust; and if the Thrust consist of one Time only, the Wrist must
As to the Motion of the Hand, it must not only be animated, but also the
Action must not be wide, whether in Disengagements, Engagements, Feints,
or Risposts; because if you would be soon at your Mark, it is not
sufficient to go quick, but it is also necessary that the Action be
Many People have confounded the Swiftness of pushing with precipitate or
consecutive Thrusts, without considering that Precipitation is either
when the Body moves before the Hand, or when an improper Motion is made;
and the consecutive Thrusts, the pushing several Times without Interval,
or when there is no Occasion; which may be done by one who is not swift;
for Swiftness is only the Shortness of Time between the Beginning and
End of an Action, as I have already said.
Swiftness and Time are very justly called the Soul of Fencing, and all
Thrusts owe their Success to these Qualities; for you cannot hit but by
Surprize, nor surprize but by Swiftness.
There are three Ways of surprizing in Fencing: The first is the
Situation of the Guard, taking his Time: The second, is doing an Action
to disorder the Enemy, in order to hit him, at that Time, where he is
open; and the third is when the Opponent attacks you, either by Feints,
Engagements, or Lunges, you take him upon the Time. Tho' these three
Sorts of Surprize require a certain Point of Swiftness, the first needs
the most, having no other Support; but the two others have the Advantage
of having disorder'd the Enemy.
Although Time, Swiftness, and the other Qualities are absolutely
necessary in Fencing, without their just Concurrence they are useless.
In order to acquire which, the Wrist must be easy by Practice, that you
may hit where you see Light.
Time, Swiftness, and Justness, without the Knowledge of Measure, would
be in vain, Thrusts from afar being of no Use, and from near, dangerous;
and the other Motions shou'd also be at a certain Distance, in order not
only to be ready for the Time, but also to take Advantage of the
Disorder of the Enemy. The Measure is taken from you to the Enemy, and
from the Enemy to you: The first is easier known, as well because it is
naturally so, as by the Custom of your Lunge, which being, in regard of
yourself, always the same, makes it easier by Practice: The Measure from
the Enemy to you is difficult, from the Difference in Persons whose
Stature, Activity, or Swords, are not always alike; and tho' the Height
shou'd be the same, the Arms, Thighs and Legs are not proportionable;
besides there are big Men that have short Arms, and little Men that have
long Arms. It is likewise so in regard to the Clift; some being longer
in the Fork than others; and though two Men shou'd in that Particular be
alike, if one of them has shorter Legs than the other, he will reach
farther, because his Thighs are longer, and in the Lunge, only one of
the Legs contributes to it's Length, the other making a Line almost
perpendicular, whereas the two Thighs making a strait Line, contribute
equally to the Extention.
The Difference in Suppleness, also makes a Difference in the Extention;
a Man who has the Freedom of his Shoulders and Hips, going farther than
one that has them constrain'd. It may also happen that two Men of like
Proportion and Freedom of Parts, may not have an equal Extention, by
their being taught differently; some Masters teaching to keep the Body
upright, the Wrist raised, or too much on one Side, and the Left-foot
first; whereas the Body shou'd lean a little forward, without raising
or carrying the Hand to one Side, farther than to keep the Body
covered, and the Left-foot shou'd lye down on the Edge; this Situation
gives a greater Length than the other.
The different Lengths of Swords sometimes make it difficult to know the
Measure, and makes it impossible to fix it by Rule, as several Masters
have pretended: Some of them say that the Measure is just, when the
Points cross each other a Foot; others, with as little Reason, wou'd
have the Middle of your Blade touch the Point of the Adversary's; but
what gives a true Knowledge of the Measure is frequent Exercise,
accompanied with a good Judgment, pushing often _Quart_ and _Tierce_
with different Foils, and being pushed at by different Persons.
The Extention is taken from the Left-foot, which is the Centre, to the
Button of the Foil.
I did design, in this Place, to treat of Time, and of a regular Way of
pushing in Lessons, from the Beginning to the End of one Year, according
to the Disposition of Scholars; but after I had finished it, I thought
that my Fellow-Brethren would perhaps take it ill that I should
prescribe Lessons to their Scholars, by which, instead of gaining their
good Opinion, I might incur the Accusation of being more busy than
_Of the Necessity of some Qualities in a Master_.
In order to teach well, it's necessary to have a perfect Idea of the
Means which conduce from the Beginning to the End of the Matter
proposed, I mean to it's Perfection, or to what comes nearest it, if our
Age has not as yet arrived to it.
In Fencing, as well as in other Exercises, there should be Judgment and
Knowledge how to act and how to Teach: The first is the Effect of a long
and good Theory; the second, of a good Theory, long Practice, and a good
Disposition; and the third, besides the Theory and Practice, is the
Effect of a good Genius, or of a particular Talent.
Qualities which shou'd be always united; so that the Genius may be
capable of teaching properly to different Persons, the Application of
the Rules which are acquired by Experience.
It is as necessary in this Art that a Master's Motions shou'd be
regular, and that he shou'd hold the Foil properly in his Hand, as it is
for a Writing Master to draw the Example well that he would have copied;
so that the Scholar of the one, or of the other, may learn a better
Motion, or a finer Character. It is also proper that when a Scholar
commits a Fault, the Master shou'd shame him by imitating it, the seeing
the Fault making a greater Impression than the hearing of it.
A Master in his Lesson shou'd give a Time to the Scholar to make him
push, in order to teach him to take the Enemy's Time. He shou'd likewise
sometimes beat back his Body, and parry him from time to time, that he
may accustom him to be firm on his Legs, to oppose his Sword well, and
to recover well: It is good sometimes to let him make several Thrusts
following, and then remaining firm all of a sudden, to shew him, that he
shou'd always be ready to thrust when an Opportunity offers, and to
retain himself when it does not offer.
In order to make him take the Time well, and to form his Parade and
Rispost properly, the Time that the Master gives must have a Regard to
Rule, and sometimes to the Disorder of an unskilful Enemy, that he may
be equally fortifyed for both; and to form his Parade and Rispost the
Master must push in the Manner the most like to an Assault.
Though most Masters give Lessons with shorter and stiffer Foils than are
used in assaulting or playing loose, I esteem it better always to use
the same Foils that they may not be deceived in an Assault.
A Master's Play shou'd be neat, subtle agreeable, and useful, as fit for
Combat as for the School.
The Art of Fencing being to make the most of a good or bad Disposition,
when 'tis good 'tis capable of being made perfectly dexterous, and when
bad, the Defect of Nature is to be repaired by Art.
By saying that 'tis no hard Matter to perfect such Men as are naturally
of a very good Disposition, is meant the bringing them to a certain
Point which they could almost arrive to of themselves, by Practice and
Speculation; but it is well known that it is the Business of a good
Master to make his Scholar perfectly dexterous, and tho' he may have a
good Disposition and long Exercise, if he is not well instructed, he
cannot become dexterous, even tho' he shou'd execute with Agility, being
incapable of acquiring a Good without knowing and practising it.
A good Disposition is seldom to be met with, for there is generally a
Mixture of bad Parts with the good. Some have a supple, light and
vigorous Body, and with these Qualities a heavy or ill adjusted Hand;
and others that have as good a Disposition as is desirable, have a
narrow Genius, fearing to undertake any thing, or are hot and
inconsiderate, which shews that it is only be a perfect Accord of the
Parts and Understanding that a Man can be perfectly dexterous.
In short an able Master does not only shew the Fault, and whence it
proceeds, but also the Danger to which it exposes, and the Means to
leave it. A Master whose Play is regular, or who has the best
Foundation, may properly be said to be a good Master.
_Rules for pushing and parrying at the Wall, and for making an Assault._
Though 'tis absolutely necessary to begin by way of Lesson, and to
continue in it a long Time, in order that Practice growing to a Habit,
may give Liberty to the Parts to form themselves: nevertheless however
well you may take your Lessons, some other Means are necessary to make
an Assault well, than those which the Master gives at his _Plastron_:
This Rule must be supported by pushing and parrying at the Wall, and in
the Manner I am going to lay down.
When you have laboured a certain Time at Lessons, you must push at a
Cushion which is fixed against the Wall for that Purpose, observing the
Guard, and the Measure or Extention of the Thrust; and that the Hand
display itself in _Quart_, not only according to the Rule, but first,
adjusting and supporting the Thrust, and that all the Parts be placed
in the most advantageous Situation for the Thrust and Recovery, which
shou'd be very regularly observed.
After having lunged for some Days on the Cushion, to fix the Wrist and
Body a little, you must push at a Scholar, who Being placed at the Wall
will parry your Thrusts; you shou'd be in Measure, and to see if it be
just, you must lunge in _Quart_, placing the Button softly on the Body,
at the same time taking off your Hat, having taken the Measure you must
recover in Guard, and place yourself on the Outside of his Sword in
order to disengage and push _Quart_, being more careful of pushing
justly than hitting; he that parrys shou'd from time to time drop his
Foil, which will shew whether he that pushes follows the Blade or the
Line of the Body; having remain'd some Time upon the Lunge to form the
Support of the Wrist and the Posture of the Body you recover to Guard.
When you lunge pretty well in _Quart_, you may disengage and push
_Tierce_, and when the Thrust is pushed and parryed, you may recover and
push _Seconde_ under.
When you have pushed for some Time in this Manner, you may practise to
parry, putting yourself for that Purpose to the Wall, which furnishes a
better Parade than at large, where you are used to draw back the Body
which weakens it, whereas here you cannot, which makes the Parade
stronger, having no Dependence but on the Foil; you shou'd chuse a
Scholar that pushes the most regularly, it being difficult without that,
that a Beginner shou'd learn to parry justly.
Most young Beginners endeavour to hit at any Rate, instead of practising
what would be beneficial to them, but instead of deceiving others they
deceive themselves, by practising less how to form themselves and push
according to Rule, than how to spoil their Bodies, and destroy the
Solidity of the Principles: Some use themselves to push with the Wrist
only, without the Foot, which is dangerous, by reason of the too great
Measure; others with as little Reason, and as much Danger, place
themselves without binding the Blade, and thrust under the Wrist; in the
one the Situation of the Guard is good for nothing, and in the other
there is no Defence if the Adversary thrusts at that time: Others
deceive by making a Time or Motion when they are placed, but the pushing
at the Wall requires only the Justness and Swiftness of the Thrust;
others put themselves very near baulking the Measure, which may be done
four Ways, tho' the Left-foot may be in it's proper Place, and kept firm
in the Thrust; the first is done by marking or bringing forward the
Point of the Left-foot, keeping it a little in, then advancing the Heel,
which gives more Measure; secondly, by keeping back the Body on a Lunge,
you deceive the Measure and hit by abandoning it forward, which gives it
a greater Extention, thirdly, by raising or carrying the Wrist too high,
or too much to one Side, which shortning the Thrust, makes it believed
that you are out of Reach, but according to the Rule and Line you are
too much in Reach; fourthly, some take Measure by holding the Thumb on
the Body of the Guard, and when they have a mind to hit they hold it on
the Middle of the Handle, with the Pommel in the Hand, which also gives
a greater Length.
When you have for some time used yourself to push and parry at the Wall,
according to the Rules that I have laid down, you must, (tho' 'tis not
the Rule of Schools, especially when you push with Strangers,) you must
I say, when you push with a Scholar of your own Master, push and parry a
Thrust alternately, disengaging, and then do the same Feinting, and
sometime after you shou'd make the other Thrusts, telling one another
your design, which makes you execute and parry them by Rule, especially
if you reflect on the Motions and Postures of the Lunges and Parades.
Being a little formed to this method, you may, being warned of the
Thrust, parry it, telling the Adversary where you intend your Riposte,
which puts him in a condition to avoid it, and gives him room to
redouble after his Parade, either strait or by a Feint, at which you are
not surprised, expecting by being forewarned the Thrust he is to make,
which puts you easily on your Defence and Offence: by this manner of
Exercise, you may not only improve faster, but with more art, the Eye
and Parts being insensibly disposed to follow the Rule, whereas without
this Method, the difference that there is between a lesson of assaulting
a Man who forewarns you, helps you, and lets you hit him, and another
who endeavours to defend himself and hit you, is, that except the
Practice of Lessons be very well taught by long exercise, you fall into
a Disorder which is often owing to the want of Art more than to any
Defect in Nature. The taking a Lesson well, and the Manner of Pushing
and Parrying which I have just described, may be attained to by Practice
only, but some other things are necessary to make an Assault well; for
besides the Turn of the Body, the Lightness, Suppleness and Vigour which
compose the exteriour Part, you must be stout and prudent, qualities so
essential, that without them you cannot act with a good Grace, nor to
the purpose. If you are apprehensive, besides, that you don't push home,
or justly, fear making you keep back your Thrust, or follow the Blade,
the least Motion of the Enemy disorders you, and puts you out of a
Condition to hit him, and to avoid his Thrusts. Without Prudence, you
cannot take the advantage of the situation, motions designs of the
enemy, which changing very often, according to his Capacity and to the
Measure, demonstrates that an ill concerted Enterprise exposes more to
Danger than it procures Advantage: in order to turn this Quality to an
advantage, you are to observe the Enemy's _fort_ and _feeble_, whether
he attack or defend; if he attack it will be either by plain Thrusts
strait, or disengaged, or by Feints or Engagements, which may be opposed
by Time, or Ripostes: if he keeps on his Defence, it is either to take
the Time or to Riposte. In case of the first; you shou'd, by half
Thrusts, oblige him to push in order to take a Counter to his Time, and
if he sticks to his Parade you must serve in what Manner, in order to
disorder him by Feints, and push where he gives Light.
It would fill a whole Volume to describe the Thrusts that may be made,
according to the Difference of Persons, as well to surprise as to avoid
being surprised; besides the many Repetitions wou'd be extremely
puzzling, for which Reason, I have, instead of them, laid down the
following Advices, which contain chiefly, what I cou'd not otherwise
have communicated without a long Treatise.
Don't put yourself in Guard within the Reach of the Enemy.
Make no wry Faces, or Motions that are disagreeable to the Sight.
Be not affected, negligent, nor stiff.
Don't flatter yourself in your Lessons, and still less in Assaults.
Be not angry at receiving a Thrust, but take care to avoid it.
Be not vain at the Thrusts you give, nor shew Contempt when you receive
Do not endeavour to give many Thrusts, running the Risque of receiving
Don't think yourself expert, but that you may become so.
When you present the Foils, give the Choice without pressing.
If you are much inferiour, make no long Assaults.
Do nothing that's useless, every Action shou'd tend to your Advantage.
Lessons and Assaults are only valuable when the Application and Genius
make them so.
Too good an Opinion spoils many People, and too bad a one still more.
A natural Disposition and Practice are necessary in Lessons, but in
Assaults there must be a Genius besides.
The Goodness of Lessons and of Assaults does not consist so much in the
Length as in the Manner of them.
When you have to do with one that's bold and forward, it is necessary
to seem apprehensive in order to get a favourable Opportunity.
If you act against one that's fearful, attack him briskly to put him in
Before you applaud a Thrust given, examine if Chance had no Hand in it.
Thrusts of Experience, and those of Chance are different, the first come
often, the others seldom or never happen, you may depend on one, but not
on the other.
In Battle let Valour and Prudence go together, the Lyon's Courage with
the Fox's Craft.
To be in Possession of what you know, you must be in Possession of
Undertake nothing but what your Strength and the Capacity of the Enemy
will admit of in the Execution.
The Beauty of an Assault appears in the Execution of the Design.
Make no Thrust without considering the Advantage and the Danger of it.
If the Eye and Wrist precede the Body, the Execution will be good.
Be always cautious, Time lost cannot be regained.
If you can hit without a Feint, make none, two Motions are more
dangerous than one.
To know what you risque, you must know what you are worth.
If you would do well, acquire the agreeable and useful.
Twenty good Qualities will not make you perfect, and one bad one will
hinder your being so.
Judge of a Thrust, rather by Reason than by it's Success; the one may
fail, but the other cannot.
To parry well is much, but it is nothing when you can do more.
Let your Guard, and your Play be always directly opposite to the Enemy.
Practice is either a Good or an Evil; all consists in the Choice of it.
When you think yourself skilful and dexterous, 'tis then you are not so.
'Tis not enough that your Parts agree, they must also answer the Enemy's
The knowing a Good without practising it, turns to an Evil.
Two skilful Men acting together, fight more with their Heads than with
If you are superiour to your Enemy, press him close, and if you are
inferiour, break Measure to keep him moving.
Endeavour both to discover the Enemy's Design, and to conceal your own.
When the Eye and the Hand agree in the same instant, you are perfectly
Draw not your Sword, but to serve the King, preserve your Honour, or
defend your Life.
_Against several erroneous Opinions._
Though there are People of a bad Taste in every Art or Science, there
are more in that of Fencing than in others, as well by Reason of the
little Understanding of some Teachers, as of the little Practice of some
Learners, who are not acting upon a good Foundation, or long enough, to
have a good idea of it, argue so weakly on this Exercise, that I thought
it as much my Business to observe their Errors, as it is my Duty to
instruct those that I have the Honour to teach in the Theory of it: By
this Means, I may furnish the One with juster Sentiments, and the
Others with the Means of preserving their Honour and Lives.
I begin with those, who defer letting their Children learn 'till they
have attained a certain Age, Growth and Strength. If these three
Qualities would enable them to put this Art in Execution immediately, I
acknowledge that they ought not to begin 'till they possessed them; but
it is by long Experience and Practice only, that they can become
perfect; so that except they begin young, the Employments for which they
are designed, may not give them Time to arrive to it; besides, by
beginning in a tender Age, the Body is more easily brought to a good
Air, and an easy Disengagement; being more at Liberty, and less used to
Faults, which it would naturally fall into for want of being cultivated.
Others say that it is needless to learn when the Disposition is wanting,
which is an Error; for a Body that is well disposed by Nature, can
better dispense with the Want of Improvement, than those that she has
taken less care of; these requiring a constant Labour, to acquire what
the others have almost of themselves; and tho' they cannot arrive to a
perfect Agility, yet their Bodies will be better disposed to act, and
their Lives not so much in Danger.
Some assure you that the knowing how to Fence, makes a Man quarrelsome,
and thereby exposes him to dangerous Consequences, without considering
it is a natural Brutality, Honour, or Danger, which obliges him to
attack another, or defend himself, which he would do without having
learned, with this Difference; that though he have the same Brutality or
Courage, the Issue of the Battle is not the same; and if he have
Occasion to defend himself, would it not be better for him to be able to
do it, than to leave his Life to an uncertain and dangerous Hazard.
Others say that it is enough to learn one Exercise at a time; that a
Plurality of different Lessons fatigues the Mind and the Body: But as
one Science disposes the Mind for the others, they having a Sort of a
Correspondence one with another, so Exercises favour one another as well
in regard to the Posture of the Body, as to the Freedom of Motion;
besides, that learning them one after another, as each Particular would
take up as much Time as all in general, this Length of Time would be too
great for any one almost to succed in them.
Many People say that with Sword in Hand the Rules of the School are not
observed, and that 'tis sufficient to have a good Heart: It is certain
that People who are subject to this Error, are not capable of following
the Rules which are to be acquired only by putting a good Theory in
Practice; which by frequent Use, disposes the Eye and the Part of
Executing so well, that it is almost impossible to act otherwise: And as
to the Practice of Schools and of the Sword, 'tis the same; for no one
ought to do any thing with the Foil, but what he knows by Experience to
be without Risque, according to his Rules. In some Cases, it is true,
what is esteemed good in one, is not in the other. For Example: Thrusts
with the Foil are good only on the Body, and with the Sword they are
good every where; and that in an Assault with the Foil, the joining is
reckoned as nothing, whereas in Battle 'tis the Seal of the Victory; but
except in that, it should be alike in every Thing.
Others say that if they had to do with experienced Men, they would not
give them Time to put themselves in Guard; as if a Man who is expert
were not always on his Guard, being more knowing, and better disposed,
not only to place himself at once, by the Habit that all his Parts have
contrasted, but also to surprise, and to avoid being surprised, by the
Knowledge he has of Time and Measure: On the contrary, an unskilful
Person being ignorant of both, is easily catch'd; besides, that his
Parts being unaccustomed to place themselves regularly, or at once, must
always be in a continual Motion, vainly seeking their Place, by which
they give the Time, and would lose it if it were given to them.
Some, in Opposition to these, say that if they know how to keep
themselves in Guard 'tis sufficient. They are in the right if the Guard
be perfect, which is not to be acquired but by a Practice as long as is
necessary to make them perfectly dexterous, which is not their Meaning;
they thinking that it is only the placing of the Parts, which is
useless, without Freedom and Vigour to manage them. These are Qualities
which when accompanied with a certain regular Air, and a good Grace,
shew, as soon as a Man takes a Sword or Foil in his Hand, to what Pitch
of Dexterity he is arrived.
Some Men will tell you that they know enough to serve their Turn: Those
who use this Expression, as well as those I have spoken of before,
sufficiently shew that they have learnt but little or nothing. In Effect
it is no hard Matter to judge of the different Degrees of Ability; so
that when a Man finds himself inferiour, he cannot properly say that he
knows enough to serve his Turn; and a Man who is superiour, knows very
well that he is not perfect, and that if his good Disposition together
with his long Practice, has brought him very forward in the Art, others
may know as much as he, and that therefore he is not so perfect as an
unskilful Person may imagine.
I have heard several People say that they did not care to be dexterous,
nor to know the five Rules, provided they knew how to defend themselves,
and to push and parry well; and really they are in the right, supposing
they could do that without practising what the most able Men have
invented upon this Occasion.
There are People that say, that with Sword in Hand, against an able Man,
there is nothing to be done but push vigorously, to disorder him: I am
apt to believe that this may succeed against a Man who is not well
form'd, or has not the Courage and Resolution that is necessary; but if
he has enough to keep up his Spirit, this Attack will be advantageous to
him; because it cannot be done without giving him an Opportunity of
getting the better; and besides, I have Reason to believe that the
greatest Part of those who talk in this Manner, would hardly attempt an
It may be said that People have then fought in this Manner with Success;
but as there is Difference in Persons, what succeeded with them against
unskilful People or Cowards, would have been dangerous against other
I have met with People who were weak enough to believe that Knowledge in
Fencing takes away the Heart, saying, that seeing the Counters to every
Thrust they form, by Means of that Knowledge, an Idea of evident Danger,
which dissipating the Courage, and causing an Apprehension, hinders them
from their Enterprise; when an unskilful Person blindly undertakes every
thing. It is true that there is great Blindness in this Way of pushing,
as they say, and still more in their Understanding, to think that an
able Man dares not undertake or venture when the Appearance of Success
leads him to it; and that an ignorant Man shall venture when his Loss
is almost certain. Is it reasonable to suppose, that a Man of natural
Courage shou'd lose it, because he is assured that he is more expert
than his Enemy, over whom, or perhaps his Equals, he always had the
Better in Assaults, by the Help of his Knowledge and Dexterity? This,
far from intimidating him, seems to assure him of Success, which is due
to his habitual Practice. On the contrary, an awkard Man having seen, by
his Disadvantage in School Assaults, that he has no Room to hope in
Combat, the dexterous Man possessing the Qualities which procure
Success, and one who had never handled a Foil, will be as much puzzled,
as if he had experience'd the Disadvantage of it.
Others, with as little Reason, leave all to Chance, but the very Name is
sufficient to shew that it is not to be relye'd on.
Some again say to what Purpose shall we learn to Fence, the KING had
forbid Duels: It is true that this great Prince, as august for his Piety
as for his Victories, was willing thereby to preserve the Blood of his
bravest Subjects, who expose'd it every Day to be shed through a false
Notion of Honour.
But tho' he forbid Duels, he was so far from hindering the Practice of
the Sword, that he has established several Academies for the perfect Use
of it, not only for Defence, but also to qualify his Subjects to put the
Justice of his Measures in Execution: And it must at last be agreed to,
that a Man who wears a Sword, without knowing how to use it, runs as
great a Hazard, and is full as ridiculous, as a Man who carries Books
about him without knowing how to read.
Many Men are of Opinion that a Man may naturally know enough to attack
or defend himself, without the Assistance of Art: Man, tho' the only
reasonable Creature, finds himself deprived of what irrational Creatures
naturally possess; and he requires for his Improvement the Assistance
and Practice of others; the grand Art of War, and that of using the
Sword, which has been practised thro' so many Ages, still find new
Inventions; and it may be said, that as there is no Place, in whatever
Situation by Nature, but requires Art to secure it's Defence; so
likewise, whatever Disposition a Man possesses, he cannot be perfect
without the Assistance of Rules and Practice.
Some Men acknowledge that Skill is necessary in single Combat, but that
in a Crowd or Battle it is altogether useless: I own that on these
Occasions, it is less useful than in single Battle, by reason of the
different Accidents, as of Cannon, Musquets, and of other Arms; besides,
a Man may be attacked by several at once: But if a Man cannot avoid
being hit with a Ball, and sometimes with a Sword, he may, nevertheless,
by the Disposition and Agility of the Parts, more easily defend and
return a Thrust: Besides, being more able to hit with the Edge or Point,
he may put more Enemies to flight, or keep them at a greater Distance.
If the French Troops have always been victorious, Sword in Hand, a Part
of the Glory is owing to the Skill of several Officers; and I'll venture
to say, that if they had all been as expert as they should have been,
you might see, as well on Foot as on Horseback, in Battle as on a
Breach, Actions that would be not only uncommon but prodigious. It may
perhaps be said, that our Enemies have some expert Officers among them;
besides, that their Number is commonly less than in _France_, there is
as great a Difference between their Dexterity and that of the _French_,
as between their Masters and our's, from whom very few would have
learned if the War had no suspended our Academies.
I think it proper to finish this Chapter by confuting an Error as
common, and more ridiculous, than the others; which is, of an infallible
Thrust, which a great many People think that Masters reserve for
dangerous Occasions, or to sell it at a dear Rate. This wonderful Thing,
is called the secret Thrust. I don't know whether this Error proceeded
from those who have not learned, or from the Chimera of some
self-conceited Masters, who have sold to ignorant Scholars, some Thrusts
as infallible, of their own Contrivance, as ridiculous and dangerous as
the Simplicity of the Scholar and the Knavery of the Master are great.
To discover the Error of this Opinion you must observe two Things:
First, that in Fencing there are no more than five Thrusts or Places,
which I have described in Page 27, shewing the Parade of each of them;
and secondly, that there is no Motion without it's Opposite; so that as
you cannot push without a Motion, there is no Thrust without it's
Counter, and even several; for besides the different Positions of the
Body, there is not only the Time to take, but also several Parades to
favour the Risposts, which plainly shews, that doing one of these Things
properly, this imaginary infallible Thrust, far from succeeding will
expose him that would make it.
All the Secrets in the Thrusts that are given by an able Man, far from
being an Effect of the Thrust, is only an Effect of the Occasion, and
the Swiftness; or rather of the judgment and Practice: By Means of these
Qualities all Thrusts are secret ones, or they wou'd be worth nothing.
All the Thrusts in Fencing are equally good, when they are made
according to Rule, with Swiftness, and on the Occasions proper to them;
wherefore they ought not to be neglected whilst the Time of learning
them offers; not but you may stick closer to some Thrusts than to
others, either because you may be better disposed for them, or because
you are more used to them.
I thought that after I had exposed the Errors of several Persons, I
might tell them, that it is contrary to the Rules of good Breeding, to
talk of Things they do not understand; that oftentimes People, by their
first Appearance, have been thought to possess the Qualities of knowing
Men, but have afterwards forfeited the good Opinion which they had at
first imposed on others.
_Thrusts of Emulation for Prizes, Wagers &c._
All Thrusts from the Neckband to the Wastband are counted good.
_Coup Fourres_ or interchanged Thrusts are not counted on either side,
except one of the Competitors has Recourse to it in order to make the
Thrusts equal, then the Thrust of the other is good, and not his.
If one hits the Body and the other the Face or below the Wast at the
same Time; the Thrust on the Body is counted, but not the other.
If a Man parrys with his Hand, and afterwards hit, his Thrust is not
good, because by parrying with the Hand, his Antagonist's Foil is less
at Liberty than if he had parryed with the Blade, and might be a Reason
why he could not parry and risposte.
If a Man takes the Time, opposing with the Left-hand, and hits without
receiving, his Thrust is not good, because if he had not Opposed with
the Hand, both would have hit, the Opposition of the Hand serving only
to avoid, but no way contributing to the Success of the Thrust.
If in parrying, binding, or lashing the Foil, it Falls, and that the
Thrust is made without Interval, it is Good.
Thrusts made with the Sword in both hands, or shifting from one Hand to
the other are not good.
A Master is not to give judgment for his own Scholar.
[Footnote 1: The Iron at the End of the Blade that runs into the
[Footnote 2: I am not of Opinion that the Body should be drawn back,
except it be impossible to avoid the Thrust without doing it; all
Parades being best when the body is not disorder'd.]
[Footnote 3: See the 8th. Plate.]
[Footnote 4: See the 12th Plate.]
[Footnote 5: As in this Paragraph, Monsieur L'Abbat rather introduces an
Encomium on his Country-men, than any thing essential to the Art of
Fencing. I leave the Reader to his own Opinion thereon.]