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Stefan's Florilegium


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Silver-1-man - 9/15/94


Wherein is proved the true grounds of fight to be the short ancient
weapons and that the short sword has advantage over the long
sword or the long rapier. And the weakness and imperfection of the
rapier fight-fights displayed. Together with an admonition to the
noble, ancient, victorious, valiant, and most brave nation of
Englishmen, to beware of false teachers of defence, and how they
forsake their own natural fights. With a brief commendation of the
noble science or exercising of arms.

by George Silver, Gentleman.
London Printed for Edward Blount 1599

To the right honorable, my singular good lord, Robert, Earl of Essex
and Ewe, Earl Marshall of England, Viscount Hereford, Lord Ferrers of
Chartley, Bourchier and Louaine, Master of the Queens Majesty's
horse, & of the Ordinance, Chancellor of the University of Cambridge,
Knight of the most Nobel order of the Garter, and one of her highness
most honorable Privy Council.

Fencing (Right honorable) in this new fangled age, is like our
fashions, every day a change, resembling the chameleon, who alters
himself into all colors save white. So fencing changes into all wards
save the right. That it is so, experience teaches us, why it is so, I
doubt not but your wisdom does conceive. There is nothing
permanent that is not true, what can be true that is uncertain? How
can that be certain, that stands upon uncertain

grounds? The mind of man a greedy hunter after truth, finding the
seem truth but changing, not always one, but always diverse,
forsakes the supposed, to find out the assured certainty, and
searching everywhere save where it should, meets with all save
what it would. Who seeks & finds not, seeks in vain. Who seeks in
vain, must if he will find seek again, yet all in vain. Who seeks not
what he would, as he should, and where he should, as in other things
(Right Honorable), so in fencing. The mind desirous of truth, hunts
after it, and hating falsehood, flies from it, and therefore having
missed it once, it assays the second time. If then he thrives not, he
tries another way. When he has failed, he adventures on the third &
if all these fail him, yet he never fails to change his weapon, his fight,
his ward, if by any means he may compass what he most affects, for
because men desire to find out a true defence for themselves in their
fight, therefore they seek it diligently, nature having taught us to
defend ourselves, and art teaching us how, and because we miss it in
one way, we change to another. But

though we often chop and change, turn and return, from ward to
ward, from fight to fight, in this constant search, yet we never rest in
any, and that because we never find the truth, and therefore we
never find it, because we never seek it in that weapon where it may
be found. For, to seek for a true defence in an untrue weapon, is to
angle on the earth for fish, and to hunt in the sea for hares. Truth is
ancient though it seems an upstart. Our forefathers were wise,
though our age accounts them foolish, valiant though we repute them
cowards. They found out the true defences for their bodies in short
weapons by their wisdom, they defended themselves and subdued
their enemies, and those weapons with their valor1. And (Right
Honorable) if we have this true defence, we must seek it where is is,
in short swords, short staves, the half pike, partisans, glaives, or such
like weapons of perfect lengths, not in long swords, long rapiers, nor
frog pricking poniards. For if there is no certain grounds for defence,
why do they teach it? If there be, why have they not found it? Not
because it is not so. To say so, were to gainsay the truth. But
because it is not

certain in those weapons which they teach. To prove this, I have set
forth these my Paradoxes, different I confess from the main current
of our outlandish teachers, but agreeing I am well assured to the
truth, and tending as I hope to the honor of our English nation. The
reason which moved me to adventure so great a task, is the desire I
have to bring the truth to light, which has a long time lain hidden in
the cave of contempt, while we like degenerate sons, have forsaken
our forefathers virtues with their weapons, and have lusted like men
sick of a strange ague, after the strange vices and devices of Italian,
French, and Spanish fencers, little remembering, that these apish
toys could not free Rome from Brennius's sack, not France from the
King Henry the Fifth his conquest. To this desire to find out truth the
daughter of time, begotten of Bellona, I was also moved, that by it I
might remove the great loss of our English gallants, which we daily
suffer by these imperfect fights, wherein none undertake the
combat, be his cause never so good, his cunning never so much, his
strength and agility never so great, but his virtue was tied to fortune
Happy man, happy

dolt, kill or be killed is the dreadful issue of the devilish imperfect
fight. If the man were now alive, which beat the masters for the
scholars fault, because he had no better instructed him, these Italian
fencers could not escape his censure, who teach us offence, not
defence, and to fight, as Diogenes' scholars were taught to dance, to
bring their lives to an end by Art. Was Ajax a coward because he
fought with a seven folded buckler, or are we mad to go naked into
the field to try our fortunes, not our virtues. Was Achilles a run-
away, who wore that well tempered armor, or are we desperate, who
care for nothing but to fight ,and learn like the the pygmies, with
bodkins, or weapons of like defence? Is it valorous for a man to go
naked against his enemy? Why then did the Lacedemonians punish
him as desperate, whom they rewarded for his valor with a laurel
crown? But that which is most shameful, they teach men to butcher
one another here at home in peace, wherewith they cannot hurt their
enemies abroad in war2. For, you honor well knows, that when the
battle is joined, there is no room for them

to draw their bird-spits, and when they have them, what can they do
with them? Can they pierce his corslet with the point? Can they
unlace his helmet, unbuckle his armor, hew asunder their pikes with
a Stocata, a Reversa, a Dritta, a Stramason or other such tempestuous
terms? No, these toys are fit for children, not for men, for straggling
boys of the camp, to murder poultry, not for men of honor to try the
battle with their foes. Thus I have Right Honorable) for the trial of
the truth, between the short sword and the long rapier, for the
saving of the lives of our English gallants, who are sent to certain
death by their uncertain fights, & for abandoning of the mischievous
and imperfect weapon, which serves to kill our friends in peace, but
cannot much hurt our foes in war, have I at this time given forth
these Paradoxes to the view of the world. And because I know such
strange opinions had need of stout defence, I humbly crave your
Honorable protection, as one in whom the true nobility of our
victorious ancestors has taken up residence. It will suit to the rest of
your Honors most noble complements, to maintain the defence of

weapons whose virtues you profess. It agrees with your Honorable
disposition, to receive with favor what is presented with love. It
sorts well with your Lordship's high authority, to weigh with reason,
what is fit for marshal men. It is an unusual point of your Honor,
which wins your Lordship love in your country, to defend the truth
in whomsoever, and it adds a supply to that which your Lordship
have of late begun to your unspeakable honor and inestimable
benefit, to reduce the wearing of swords with hilts over the hands3,
to the Roman discipline, no longer then they might draw them under
their arms, or over their shoulders. In all or any of these respects, I
rest assured that your Lordship will vouchsafe to receive with favor
and maintain with honor these Paradoxes of mine, which if they be
shrouded under so safe a shield, I will not doubt but to maintain
with reason among the wise, and prove it by practice upon the
ignorant, that there is no certain defence in the rapier, and that there
is great advantage in the short sword against the long rapier, or all
manner of rapiers in general, of what length soever. And that the
short staff

has the advantage against the long staff of twelve, fourteen, sixteen
or eighteen feet long, or of what length soever. And against two
men with their swords and daggers, or two rapiers, poniards &
gauntlets, or each of them a case of rapiers, which whether I can
perform or not, I submit for trial to your Honors martial censure,
being at all times ready to make it good, in what manner, and against
what man soever it shall stand upon your Lordship's good liking to
appoint. And so I humbly commend this book to your Lordship's
wisdom to peruse, and your Honor to the Highest to protect in all
health and happiness now and ever
Your Honors in all duty,

George Silver

to the noble, ancient, victorious, valiant, and most brave nation of

George Silver having the perfect knowledge of all manner of
weapons, and being experienced in all manner of fights, thereby
perceiving the great abuses of the Italian teachers of offence done
unto them, and great errors, inconveniences, & false resolutions they
have brought them into, has informed me, even for pity of their most
lamentable wounds and slaughters, & as I verily think it my bound
duty, with all love and humility to admonish them to take heed, how
they submit themselves into the hand of Italian teachers of defence,
or strangers whatsoever, and to beware how they forsake or suspect
their own natural fight, that they may by casting off these
Italianated, weak, fantastical, and most devilish and imperfect fights,
and by exercising their own ancient weapons, be restored, or achieve
unto the natural, and most manly and victorious fight again, the dint
and force whereof many

brave nations have both felt and feared. Our plowmen have mightily
prevailed against them, as also against masters of defence, both in
schools and countries, that have taken upon them to stand upon
school tricks and juggling gambols. Whereby it grew to a common
speech among the countrymen "Bring me to a fencer, I will bring him
out of his fence tricks with down right blows. I will make him forget
his fence tricks, I will warrant him." I speak not masters of defence
indeed, they are to be honored, nor against the science, it is noble,
and in my opinion to be preferred next to divinity, for as divinity
preserves the soul from hell and the devil, so does this noble science
defend the body from wounds & slaughter. And moreover, the
exercising of weapons puts away aches, griefs, and diseases, it
increases strength, and sharpens the wits. It gives a perfect
judgement, it expels melancholy, choleric and evil conceits, it keeps a
man in breath, perfect health, and long life. It is unto him that has
the perfection thereof, a most friendly and comfortable companion
when he is alone, having but only his weapon about him. It puts
him out of fear, & in the wars and places of most danger, it makes
him bold, hardy and valiant.

And for as much as this noble and most mighty nation of Englishmen,
of their good natures, are always most loving, very credulous, &
ready to cherish & protect strangers, yet that through their good
natures they never more by strangers or false teachers nay be
deceived, once again I most humbly to admonish them, or such as
shall find in themselves a disposition or desire to learn their
weapons of them, that from henceforth as

strangers shall take upon them to come hither to teach this noble &
most valiant & victorious nation to fight, that first, before they learn
of them, they cause a sufficient trial to be very requisite &
reasonable, even such as I myself would be contented withal, if I
should take upon me to go in their country to teach their nation to
fight. And this is the trial: They shall play with such weapons as
they profess to teach withal4, three bouts apiece with three of the
best English masters of defence & three bouts apiece with three
unskillful valiant men, and three bouts apiece with three resolute
men half drunk. Then if they can defend themselves against these
masters of defence, and hurt, and go free from the rest, then are they
be honored, cherished, and allowed for perfect good teachers, and
what countrymen soever they be. But if any of these they take fail,
then they are imperfect in their profession, their fight is false, & they
are false teachers, deceivers and murderers, and to be punished
accordingly, yet no worse punishment unto them I wish, than such as
in their trial they shall find.

There are four special marks to know the Italian fight
is imperfect, & that the Italian teachers and setters
forth of books of defence, never had the per-
fection of the true fight

The first mark is, they seldom fight in their own country unarmed,
commonly in this sort, a pair of gauntlets upon their hands5, and a
good shirt of mail upon their bodies. The second mark is, that
neither the Italian nor any

of their best scholars do never fight, but they are most commonly
sore hurt, or one or both of them slain.

The third mark is, they never teach their scholars, nor set down in
their books any perfect length of their weapons, without which no
man can by nature or art against the perfect length fight safe, for
being too short, their times are too long, and spaces too wide for their
defence, and being too long, they will be upon every cross that shall
happen to be made, whether it shall be done by skill or chance, in
great danger of death, because the rapier being too long, the cross
cannot be undone in due time, but may be done by going back with
the feet, but that time is always too long to answer the time of the
hand, therefore every man ought to have a weapon according to his
own stature, the tall man must have his sword longer than the man
of mean stature, else he has wrong in his defence, & he man of mean
stature must have his weapon longer than the man of small stature,
else he has wrong in his defence, & the man of small stature must
beware he does not feed himself with this vain conceit, that he will
have his weapon long, to reach as far as the tall man, for therein he
shall have great disadvantage, both with the making of a strong
cross, and also in uncrossing again, and in keeping his point from
crossing, and when a cross is made upon him, to defend himself, or in
danger his enemy, or to redeem his lost times. Again, rapiers longer
than is convenient to accord with the true statures of men, are
always too long or too heavy to keep their bodies in due time from
the cross of the light short sword of perfect length, the which being
made by the skillful out of any of the four true times, upon any of
the four chief

actions, by reason of the uncertainty & great swiftness in any of
these times, they are in great danger of a blow, or of a thrust in the
hand, arm, head, or face, & in every true cross in the uncrossing, in
great danger of a blow upon the head, or full thrust in the body or
face, and being taken in that time & place, the first mover in
uncrossing speeds the rapier man of imperfect length, whether it is
too long, too short or too heavy, and goes free himself by the
direction of his governors.

The fourth mark is, the crosses of their rapiers for true defence of
their hands is imperfect, for the true carriage of the guardant fight,
without which all fights are imperfect.

Of six chief causes, that many valiant men think
themselves by their practices to be skillful in their
weapons, are yet many times in their fights sore
hurt, and many times slain by men of
small skill or none at all.

The first and chief cause is, the lack of the four governors, without
which it is impossible to fight safe, although a man should practice
most painfully and most diligently all the days of his life.

The second cause is, the lack of the knowledge in due observance of
the four actions, the which we shall call bent, spent, lying spent, and
drawing back. These actions every man fights upon, whether they
are skillful or unskillful, he that observes them is safe, he that
observes them not, is in continual danger of every thrust that shall
be strongly made against him.

The third cause is, they are unpracticed in the four true times,
neither do they know the true times from the false, therefore the
true choice of their times are most commonly taken by chance, and
seldom otherwise.

The fourth cause is, they are unacquainted out of what fight, or in
what manner they are to answer the variable fight, and therefore
because the variable fight is the most easy fight of all others, most
commonly (they)do answer the variable fight with the variable fight,
(at) which (they) ought never be but in the first distance, or with the
short sword against the long, because if both or one of them shall
happen to press, and that in due time of either side's fight be
changed, the distance, by reason of the narrowness of space, is
broken, the place is won and lost of both sides, then he that thrusts
first, speeds (it home). If both happen to thrust together, they are
both in danger. These things sometimes by true times, by change of
fights, by chance are avoided.

The fifth cause is, their weapons are most commonly too long to
uncross without going back with the feet.

The sixth cause is, their weapons are most commonly to heavy both
to defend and offend in due time, & by these two last causes many
valiant men have lost their lives.

What is the cause that wise men in learning or practicing
their weapons, are deceived with
Italian Fencers

There are four causes. The first, their schoolmaster are imperfect.
The second is, that whatsoever they teach, is both true & false; true
in their demonstrations, according with their force & time in gentle
play6, & in their

actions according with the force & time in rough play or fight, false.
For example, there is much difference between these two kinds of
fight, as there is between the picture of Sir Beuis of Southhampton
and Sir Beuis himself, if he were living. The third, none can judge of
the craft but the craftsman, the unskilled, be he never so wise, can
not truly judge of his teacher, or skill, the which he learns, being
unskilled himself. Lastly, & to confirm for truth all that shall be
amiss, not only in this excellent science of defence, but in all other
excellent secrets, most commonly the lie bears as good a show of
truth, as truth itself.

Of the false resolutions and vain opinions of Rapier men
and of the danger of death thereby ensuing

It is a great question, & especially among the rapier men, who has
the advantage, the thruster or the warder? Some hold strongly, that
the warder has the advantage. Others say, it is most certain that the
thruster has the advantage. Now, when two do happen to fight,
being both of one mind, that the thruster has the advantage, they
make all shift they can, who shall give the first thrust, as for
example, two captains at Southhampton even as they were going to
take shipping upon the key, fell at strife, drew their rapiers, and
presently, being desperate, hardy or resolute, as they call it, with all
force and over great speed, ran with their rapiers one at the other, &
were both slain. Now when two of the contrary opinion shall meet
and fight, you shall see very peaceable wars between them. For they
verily think that he

that first thrusts is in great danger of his life, therefore with all
speed do they put themselves in ward, or Stocata, the surest guard of
all other, as Vincentio says, and thereupon they stand sure, saying
the one to the other, "thrust if you dare", and says the other, "thrust
if you dare", or "strike or thrust if you dare", says the other. Then
says the other,"strike or thrust if you dare, for your life". These two
cunning gentlemen standing along time together, upon this worthy
ward, they both depart in peace, according to the old proverb: "It is
good sleeping in a whole skin." Again if two shall fight, the one of
opinion, that the warder has the advantage, then most commonly, the
thruster being valiant, with all speed thrusts home, and by reason of
the time and swift motion of his hand, they are most commonly with
the points of their rapiers, or daggers, or both, one or both of them
(are) hurt or slain because their spaces of defence in this kind of
fight ate too wide in due time to defend, and the place being one, the
eye of the patient by the swift motion of the agents hand is deceived.
Another resolution they stand sure upon their lives, to kill their
enemies. That is this, when they find the point of their enemy's
rapier out of the right line, they say, they may boldly make home
thrust with a Passata, the which the observe, and do accordingly.
But the other having a shorter time with his hand, as nature many
times teaches him, suddenly turns his wrist, whereby he meets the
other in his passage just with the point of his rapier in the face or
body. And this false resolution has cost many a life.

That the cause that many are so often slain, and many
sore hurt in fight with long rapier is not by reason of
their dangerous thrusts, nor cunning of that
Italianated fight, but in the length and
unwieldiness thereof

It is most certain, that men may with short swords both strike,
thrust, false and double, by reason of their distance and nimbleness
thereof, more dangerously than they can with long rapiers. And yet,
when two fight with short swords, having true fight, there is no hurt
done. Neither is it possible in any reason, that any hurt should be
done between them of either side, and this is well known to all such
as have the perfection of the true fight. By this it plainly appears,
that the cause of the great slaughter, and sundry hurts done by long
rapiers, consists not in their long reach, dangerous thrusts, nor
cunningness of the Italian fight, but in the inconvenient length, and
unwieldiness of their long rapiers, whereby it commonly falls out,
that in all their actions appertaining to their defence, they are
unable, in due time to perform, and continually in danger of every
cross, that shall happen to be made with their rapier blades, which
being done, within the half rapier, unless both are of one mind (and)
with all speed (make) to depart, which seldom or never happens
between men of valiant disposition, it is impossible to uncross, or get
out, or avoid the stabs of the daggers. And this has slain many times
among valiant men at those weapons.

Of running and standing safe in rapier fight, the runner
has the advantage

If two valiant men fight being both cunning in running, & that they
both use the same at one instant, their course is doubled, the place is
won of both sides, and one or both of them will commonly be slain or
sore hurt. And if one of them shall run, and the other stand fast
upon the Imbrocata or Stocata, or however, the place will be at one
instant won of one side, and gained of the other, and one or both of
them will be hurt or slain. If both shall press hard upon the guard,
he that first thrusts home in true place, hurts the other, & if both
thrust together, they are both hurt. Yet some advantage the runner
has, because he is an uncertain mark, and in his motion. The other is
a certain mark, and in dead motion, And by reason of this many
times the unskillful man takes advantage he knows not how, against
him that lies watching upon his ward or Stocata guard..

Of striking and thrusting both together

It is strongly held by many, that if in a fight they find their enemy to
have more skill than themselves, they presently will continually
strike & thrust just with him, whereby they will make their fight as
good as his, and thereby have as good advantage as the other with all
his skill. But if their swords are longer than the other('s), then their
advantage is great. For it is

certain (they say) that an inch will kill a man. But if their swords are
much longer than the other('s), then their advantage is so great, that
they will be sure by striking and thrusting just with the other, that
they will always hurt him that has the short sword, and go clear
themselves, because they will reach him, when he shall not reach
them. These men speak like such as talk of Robin Hood, that never
shot with his bow, for to strike or thrust just together with a man of
skill, lies not in the will of the ignorant, because a skillful man
always fights upon the true times, by which the unskillful is still
disappointed of both place and time, and therefore driven of
necessity still to watch the other, when & what he will do. That is,
whether he will strike, thrust, or false. If the unskillful strike or
thrust in the time of falsing (feinting), therein he neither strikes or
thrusts just with the other. He may say, he has struck or thrust
before him, but not just with him, not to any good purpose. For in
the time of feinting, if he strikes or thrusts, he strikes or thrusts too
short. For in that time he has neither time nor place to strike home,
and as it is said, the unskillful man, that will take upon him to strike
or thrust just with the skillful, must first behold what the man of
skill will do, and when he will do it, and therefore of necessity is
driven to suffer the skillful man to be the first mover, and entered
into his action, whether it is blow or thrust. The truth of this cannot
be denied. Now judge whether it is possible for an unskillful ,am to
strike or thrust just together with a man of skill. But the skillful man
can most certainly strike and thrust just with the unskillful, because
the unskillful fights upon false times, which being too long

to answer the true times, the skillful fighting upon the true times,
although the unskillful is the first mover, & entered into his action,
whether it is blow or thrust, yet the shortness of the true times make
at the pleasure of the skillful a just meeting together. In the perfect
fight two never strike or thrust together, because they never suffer
place nor time to perform it.

Two unskillful men many times by chance strike or thrust together,
chance unto them, because they know not what they do, or how it
comes to pass. But the reasons or causes are these. Sometimes two
false times meet & make a just time together, & sometimes a true
time and a false time meet and make a just time together, and
sometimes two true times meet and make a just time together. And
all this happens because the true time and place is unknown unto

George Silver his resolution upon that hidden or doubt-
ful question, who has the advantage of the
Offender or Defender

The advantage is strongly held by many to be in the offender, yes in
so much, that if two minding to offend in their fight, it is thought to
be in him that first strikes or thrusts. Others strongly hold opinion
that the warder absolutely has still the advantage, but these opinions
as they are contrary the one to the other, so are they contrary to true
fight(ing), as may well be seen by these short examples. If the
advantage is in the striker or thruster, then were it a

frivolous thing to learn to ward, or at any time to seek to ward, since
in warding lies disadvantage. Now may it plainly by these examples
appear, that if there is any perfection in fighting), that both sides are
deceived of their opinions, because if the striker or thruster has the
advantage, then is the warder still in danger of wounds or death. If
again, if the warder has the advantage, then is the striker or thrust
in as great danger to defend himself against the warder, because the
warder from his wards, takes advantage of the striker or thruster
upon every blow or thrust, that shall be made against him. Then
thus do I conclude, that if there is perfection in the Science of
Defence, they are all in their opinions deceived. And that the truth
may appear for the satisfaction of all men, this is my resolution: that
there is no advantage absolutely, nor disadvantage in striker,
thruster, or warder, and their is great advantage in the striker,
thruster & warder, but in this manner. In the perfection of fight the
advantage consists in fight between party and party, that is,
whosoever wins or gains the place in true pace, space and time, has
the advantage, whether he is striker, thruster or warder. And that is
my resolution.

Of Spanish fight with the Rapier

The Spaniard is now thought to be a better man with his rapier than
is the Italian, Frenchman, high Almaine (German) or any other
country man whatsoever, because they in their rapier fight stand
upon so many intricate tricks

that in all the course of a man's life it shall be hard to learn them,
and if they miss in doing the least of them in their fight, they are in
danger of death. But the Spaniard in his fight, both safely to defend
himself, and to endanger his enemy, has but one lying, and two
wards to learn, wherein a man with small practice in a very short
time may become perfect.

This is the manner of the Spanish fight. They stand as brave as they
can with their bodies straight upright, narrow spaced, with their feet
continually moving, as if they were in a dance, holding forth their
arms and rapiers very straight against the face or bodies of their
enemies, and this is the only lying to accomplish that kind of fight.
And this note, that as long as any man shall lie in that manner with
his arm, and the point of his rapier straight, it shall be impossible fro
his adversary to hurt him, because in that straight holding forth of
his arm, which way soever a blow shall be made against him, by
reason that his rapier hilt lies so far before him, he has but a very
little way to move, to make his ward perfect, in this manner. If a
blow is made at the right side of the head, a very little moving of the
hand with the knuckles upward defends that side of the head or
body, and the point being still out straight, greatly endangers the
striker. And so likewise, if a blow is made at the left side of the
head, a very small turning of the wrist with the knuckles downward,
defends that side of the head and body, and the point of rapier much
endangers the hand, arm, face or body of the striker. And if any
thrust is made, the wards, by reason of the indirections in moving
the feet in (the) manner of dancing, as aforesaid, makes a perfect
ward, and still withal the

point greatly endangers the other. And thus is the Spanish fight
perfect: so long as you can keep that order, and soon learned, and
therefore to be accounted the best fight with the rapier of all
other(s). But note how the Spanish fight is perfect,you shall see no
longer than you keep your point straight against your adversary: as
for example, I have heard the like jest:

There was a cunning Doctor at his first going to sea, being doubtful
that he should be sea sick, an old woman perceiving the same, said
unto him: "Sir, I pray, be of good comfort, I will teach you a trick to
avoid that doubt. Here is a fine pebble stone, if you please to accept
it, take it with you, and when you are on ship board, put it in your
mouth, and as long you shall keep the same in your mouth, upon my
credit you shall never vomit." The Doctor believed her, and took it
thankfully at her hands, and when he was at sea, he began to be sick,
whereupon he presently put the stone in his mouth, & there kept it
so long as he possibly could, but through his extreme sickness the
stone with vomit was cast out of his mouth. Then presently he
remembered how the woman had mocked him, and yet her words
were true.

Even so a Spaniard having his rapier point put by, may receive a
blow on the head, or a cut over the face, hand or arm or a thrust in
the body or face, and yet his Spanish fight perfect, so long as he can
keep straight the point of his rapier against the face or body of his
adversary, which is as easy in that manner of fight to be done, as it
was for the Doctor in the extremity of his vomit to keep the stone in
his mouth.

Yet one other pretty jest more, scarce worth the

reading, in commendation of outlandish fight. There was an Italian
teacher of Defence in my time, who so excellent in his fight, that he
would hit any English man with a thrust, just upon any button in his
doublet, and this was much spoken of.

Also there was another cunning man in catching of wild-geese, he
would have made no more ado, wen he had heard them cry, as the
manner of wild-geese is, flying one after another in rows, but
presently looking up, would tell them, if heir were a dozen, sixteen,
twenty, or more, he would have taken every one. And this tale was
many times told by men of good credit, and much marvelled at by
their hearers, and the man who would have taken the wild-geese,
was of good credit himself. Merry they said, indeed he did never
take any, but at any time when he looked up, and seen them fly in
that manner, he would with all his heart have taken them, but he
could no more tell how to do it, then could the cunning Italian Fencer
tell how to hit an Englishman, with a thrust just upon any one of his
buttons, when he listed.

Illusions for the maintenance of imperfect weapons & false
fights, to fear or discourage the unskillful in their
weapons, from taking a true course or use,
for attaining to the perfect know-
ledge of true fight

First, for the rapier (says the Italian, or false teacher) I hold to be a
perfect good weapon, because the cross hinders not to hold the
handle in the hand, to thrust both far & straight, & to use all manner
of advantages in the wards,

or suddenly to call the same at the adversary, but with the sword
you are driven with all the strength of the hand to hold fast the
handle. And in the wars I would wish no friend of mine to wear
swords with hilts, because when they are suddenly set upon, for
haste they set their hands upon their hilts instead of their handles, in
which time it happens many times before they can draw their
swords, they are slain by their enemies7. And for Sword and Buckler
fight, it is imperfect, because the buckler blinds the fight, neither
would I have any man lie aloft with his hand above his head, to
strike sound blows. Strong blows are naught, especially being set
above the head, because therein all the face and body are discovered.
Yet I confess, in old times, when blows were only used with short
Swords & Bucklers, & back Swords, these kinds of fights were good &
most manly, now a days fight is altered. Rapiers are longer for
advantage than swords were wont to be. When blows were used,
men were so simple in their fight, that they thought him a coward,
that would make a thrust or a blow beneath the girdle8. Again if
their weapons were short, as in times past they were, yet fight is
better looked into these days, than then it was. Who is it in these
days sees not that the blow compasses round like a wheel, whereby
it has a long way to go, but the thrust passes in a straight line, and
therefore comes a nearer way, and done in a shorter time than is the
blow, and is more deadly than is the blow? There fore there is no
wise man that will strike, unless he is weary of his life. It is certain,
that the point for advantage every in fight(ing) is to be used, the
blow is utterly naught, and not to be used. He that fights upon the

blow especially with a short sword, will be sore hurt or slain. The
devil can say no more for the maintenance of errors.

That a blow comes continually as near as a thrust,
and most commonly nearer, stronger,
more swift, and is sooner

The blow, by reason that it compasses round like a wheel, whereby it
has a longer way to come, as the Italian Fencer says, & that the
thrust passing in a straight line, comes a nearer way, and therefore is
sooner done than a blow, is not true, these are the proofs9.

Let two lie in their perfect strengths and readiness, wherein the
blades of their rapiers by the motion of the body, may not be crossed
of either side, the one to strike, and the other to thrust. Then
measure the distance or course wherein the hand and hilt passes to
finish the blow of the one, and the thrust of the other, and you shall
find them both by measure, in distance all one. At let any man of
judgement being seen in the exercise of weapons, not being more
addicted unto novelties of fight, than unto truth itself, put in
measure, and practice these three fights, variable open, and
guardant, and he shall see, that whenever any man lies at the thrust
at the variable fight, (where of necessity most commonly he lies, or
otherwise not possible to keep his rapier from crossing at the blow &
thrust, upon the open or guardant fight,) that the blows & thrusts
from these two fighters, come a nearer way, and a more

stronger and swifter course than does the thrust, out of the variable
fight. And thus for a general rule, wheresoever the thruster lies, or
out of what fight soever he fights, with his rapier, or rapier and
dagger, the blow in his course comes as near, and nearer, and more
swift and stronger than does the thrust.

Perfect fight stands upon both blow and thrust, there-
fore the thrust is not only to be used

That there is no fight perfect without both blow and thrust. Neither
is there any certain rule to be set down for the use of the point
only10, these are the reasons: In fight(ing) there are many motions,
with the hand, body, and feet, and in every motion the place of the
hand is altered, & because by the motions of the hand, the altering of
the places of the hand, the changes of lyings, wards, and breaking of
thrusts, the hand will sometimes be in place to strike, some times to
thrust, sometimes after a blow to thrust, sometimes after a thrust to
strike, & sometimes in a place where you may strike, and cannot
thrust without loss of time, and sometimes in place where you may
thrust, and cannot thrust without loss of time, and sometimes in a
place where you can neither strike nor thrust, unless you fight upon
blow and thrust, nor able to defend yourself by ward or going back,
because your space will be too wide, and your distance lost. And
sometimes when you have made a thrust, a ward or breaking is
taken in such sort with the dagger or blade of the sword, that you
can neither thrust again, nor defend yourself unless you do strike,

you may soundly do, and go free, and sometimes when you strike, a
ward will be taken in such sort, that you cannot strike again, nor
defend yourself, unless you thrust, which you may safely do and go
free. So to conclude, there is no perfection in the true fight, without
both blow and thrust, nor certain rule to set down for the point only.

That the blow is more dangerous and deadly in fight(ing), than a
thrust, for proof thereof to be made according with Art,
and Englishman holds argument against an Italian.

Italian: Which is more dangerous or deadly in fight(ing), a blow or a

Englishman: This question is not propounded according to the art,
because there is no fight perfect without ht blow and thrust.

Italian: Let it be so, yet opinions are otherwise held, that the thrust
is only to be used, because it comes a near way, and is more
dangerous and deadly, for these reasons. First, the blow compasses
round like a wheel, but the thrust passes in a straight line, therefore
the blow by reason of this compass has a longer way to go than the
thrust & is therefore longer in doing, but the thrust passes in a
straight line, therefore has a shorter way to go than has the blow, &
is therefore done in a shorter time, & is therefor much better than
the blow, & more dangerous and deadly, because if a thrust does hit
the face or body, it endangers life, and most commonly death ensues,
but if the blow hits the body, it is not so dangerous.

Englishman: Let your opinions be what they will, but that the thrust
comes a nearer way, & is sooner done that the blow, is not true, and
for proof thereof read the twelfth paradox. And now will I set down
possible reasons, that the blow is better than the thrust, and more
dangerous and deadly.11 First, the blow comes as near a way, & most
commonly nearer than does the thrust, & is therefore done in a
shorter time than is the thrust. Therefore in respect of time,
whereupon stands the perfection of fight, the blow is much better
than the thrust. Again, the force of the thrust passes straight,
therefore any cross being indirectly made, the force of a child may
put it by. But the force of the blow passes indirectly, therefore must
be directly warded in the countercheck of his force, which cannot be
done but by the convenient strength of a man, & with true cross in
true time, or else will not safely defend him, and is therefor much
better, & more dangerous than the thrust. And again, the thrust
being made through the hand, arm, or leg, or in many places of the
body and face, are not deadly, neither are they maims, or loss of
limbs or life, neither is he much hindered for the time in his fight, as
long as the blood is hot. For example:

I have known a gentleman hurt in rapier fight, in nine or ten places
through the body, arms, and legs, and yet has continued in his fight,
& afterward has slain the other, and come home and has been cured
of all his wounds without maim, & is yet living. But the blow being
strongly made, takes sometimes clean away the hand from the arm,
has many times been seen12. Again, a ful blow upon the head or face
with a short sharp sword, is most commonly death. A full blow upon

neck, shoulder, arm, or leg, endangers life, cuts off the veins, muscles,
and sinews, perishes the bones. These wounds made by the blow, in
respect of perfect healing, are the loss of limbs, or main=ms incurable

And yet more for the blow. A full blow upon the head, face, arm, leg,
or legs, is death, or the party so wounded in the mercy of him that
shall so wound him. For what man shall be able long in fight to stand
up, either to revenge, or defend himself, having the veins, muscles,
sinews of his hand, arm, or leg clean cut asunder? Or being
dismembered by such wound upon the face or head, but shall be
enforced thereby, and through the loss of blood, the other a little
dallying with him, to yield himself, or leave his life in his mercy?13

And for plainer deciding this controversy between the blow and the
thrust, consider this short note. The blow comes many ways, the
thrust does not so. The blow cones a nearer way than the thrust
most commonly, and is therefore sooner done. The blow requires the
strength of a man to be warded, but the thrust may be put by by the
force of a child. A blow upon the hand, arm, or leg is maim
incurable, but a thrust in the hand, arm, or leg is to be recovered.
The blow has many parts to wound, and in every (one) of them
commands he life, but the thrust has but a few, as the body or face,
and is not in every part of them either.

Of the difference between the true fight & the false. Where-
in consists ( the Principles being had with the direction
of the four Governors) the whole
perfection of fight with all
manner of weapons

The true fights be these. Whatsoever is done with the hand before
the foot or feet is true fight. The false fight are these: whatsoever is
done with the foot or feet before the hand, is false, because the hand
is swifter than the foot, the foot or feet being the slower mover than
the hand, the hand in that manner of fight is tied to the time of the
foot or feet, and being tied thereto, has lost his freedom, and is made
thereby as slow in his motions as the foot or feet, and therefor that
fight is false.

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

There is in my opinion in our fence schools an evil order or custom in
these days used, the which, if it might stand with the liking of our
Masters of Defence, I think it necessary to be left. For as long as it is
used, it shall be hard to make a good scholar

That is this, at the single sword, sword and dagger, & sword and
buckler, they forbid the thrust, & at the single rapier, and rapier &
dagger, they forbid the blow. Either the are both together best, or the
thrust altogether best. If the thrust is best, why do we not use it a t
the single sword, sword & dagger, & sword & buckler? If the blow is
best, why do we not use it at the single rapier, rapier & poniard? But
knowing by the art of arms, that no fight is perfect without both
blow and thrust, why do we not use and teach both blow and thrust?
But however this we daily see, that when two met in fight, whether
they have skill or none, unless such as have tied themselves to that
boyish, Italian, weak, imperfect fight, they both strike and thrust,
and how shall he then do, that being much taught in school, that
never learned to strike, nor how to defend a strong blow? And how
shall he then do, that being brought up in a fencing school, that never
learned to thrust with the single sword, sword & dagger, and sword
and buckler, nor how at these weapons to break a thrust? Surely, I
think a down right fellow, that never came in school, using such skill
as nature yielded out of his courage, strength, and agility, with good
downright blows and thrust among (them), as shall best frame in his
hands, should put one of these imperfect scholars greatly to his
shifts. Besides, there are now in these days no grips, closes,
wrestlings, striking with the hilts, daggers, or bucklers, used in
fencing schools. Our plowmen will by nature will do these things
with great strength & agility. But the schoolmen is altogether
unacquainted with these things. He being fast tied to such school-
play as he has learned, has lost thereby the benefit

of nature, and the plowman is now by nature without art a far better
man than he. Therefor in my opinion as long as we bar any manner
of play in school, we shall hardly make a good scholar. There is no
manner of teaching comparable to the old ancient teaching, that is,
first their quarters, then their wards, blows, thrusts, and breaking of
thrusts, then their closes and grips, striking with the hilts, daggers,
bucklers, wrestlings, striking with the foot or knee in the cods, and
all these are safely defended in learning perfectly of the grips14.
And this is the ancient teaching, and without this teaching, there
shall never scholar be made able, do his uttermost, nor fight safe.
Again their swords in schools are too long by almost half a foot to
uncross, without going back with the feet, within distance or
perfectly to strike or thrust within the half or quarter sword. And in
serving of the prince, when men do meet together in public fight, are
utterly naught and unserviceable. The best length for perfect
teaching of the true fight to be used and continued in fence schools,
to accord with the true statures of all men, are these. The blade to
be a yard and an inch for men of mean stature, and for men of tall
statures, a yard and three or four inches, and no more15. And I
would have the rapier continued in schools, always ready for such as
shall think themselves cunning, or shall have delight to play with
that imperfect weapon. Provided always, that the schoolmaster or
usher play with him with his short sword, plying him with all
manner of fight according to the true art. This being continued the
truth shall flourish, the lie shall be beaten down, and all nations not

having the true science, shall come with all gladness to the valiant
and most brave English masters of defence to learn the true fight for
their defence.

The grounds or Principles of true fight with
all manner of weapons

First judgement, lyings, distance, direction, pace, space, place, time,
indirection, motion, action, general and continual motion, progression,
regression, traversing, and treading of ground, blows, thrusts, falses
(feints), doubles, slips, wards, breaking of thrusts, closings, grips, &
wrestlings, guardant fight, open fight, variable fight, and close fight,
and four governors.

The wards of all manner of weapons

All single weapons have four wards, and all double weapons have
eight wards. The single sword gas two with the point up, and two
with the point down. The staff and all manner of weapons to be used
with two hands have the like.

The sword and buckler, and the sword and dagger are double
weapons, and have eight wards, two with the point up, and two with
the point down, and two for the legs with the point down, the point
to be carried for both sides of the legs, with the knuckles downward,
and two wards with the dagger or buckler for the head. The forest
bill is a double weapon by reason

of the head, and therefore has eight wards, four with the staff, four
with the head, four of them to be used as with the staff, and the
other four with the head, the one up, the other down, and the
other(s) sideways.

The names and numbers of times appertaining unto fight(ing)
both true and false

There are eight times, whereof four are true, and four are false. The
true times are these:
the time of the hand,
The time of the hand and body,
The time of the hand, body, and foot, (and)
the time of the hand, body, and feet.
The false times are these:
The time of the foot,
the time of the foot and body,
the time of the foot, body, and hand, (and)
the time of the feet, body, and hand.

Thus have I thought (it) good to separate and make known the true
times to the false, with the true wards thereto belonging, that
thereby the rather in practicing of weapons a true course may be
taken for the avoiding of errors and evil customs, and speedy
attaining of good habit or perfect being in the true use and
knowledge of all manner of weapons.

Of the length of weapons, and how every man may fit himself
to the perfect length of his weapon, according
to his own stature, with brief reasons
wherefore they ought to be so.

To know the perfect length of your sword, you shall stand with your
sword and dagger drawn, as you see this picture, keeping out
straight your dagger arm, drawing back your sword as far as
conveniently you can, not opening the elbow joint of your sword arm,
and look what you can draw within your dagger, that is the just
length of your sword, to be made according to your own stature.16

The perfect length of your two handed sword is, the blade to be the
length of the blade of your single sword.

To know the perfect length of your short staff, or half pike, forest
bill, partisan, or glaive, or such like weapons of vantage and perfect
lengths, you shall stand upright, hold the staff upright close by your
body, with your left hand, reaching with your right hand your staff
as high as you can, and then allow to that length a space to set both
your hands, when you come to fight, wherein you may conveniently
strike, thrust, and ward, & that is the just length to be made
according to your stature. And this note, that these lengths will
commonly fall out o be eight or nine foot long, and will fit, although
not just, the statures of all men without any hindrance at all unto
them in their fight, because in any weapon wherein the hands may
be removed , and at liberty, to make the weapon longer of shorter in
fight(ing) at his pleasure, a foot of the staff being behind the back
most hand does no harm. And wherefore these weapons ought to be
of the lengths aforesaid, and no shorter, than the long staff, morris
pike, and such like weapons over and above the perfect length,
should have great advantage over them, because he may come boldly
and safe without any guard or ward,to the place where he may
thrust home, and at every thrust put him in danger of his life, then
can the long staff, the morris pike, or any longer weapon lie nowhere
within the compass of the true cross, to cross and uncross, whereby
he may safely pass home to the place, where he may strike or thrust
him that has the long weapon, in the head, face, or body at his

Of the lengths of the battle axe, halberd, or black bill,
or such like weapons of weight, appertaining
unto guard or battle.

In any of these weapons there needs no just length, but commonly
they are, or ought to be five or six foot long, & may not well be used
much longer, because of their weights, and being weapons for the
wars and battle, when men are joined close together, may thrust, &
strike sound blows, with great force both strong and quick. And
finally for the just lengths of all other shorter or longer weapons to
be governed with both hands, there is none. Neither is their any
certain lengths in any manner of weapons to be used with one hand,
over or under the just length of the single sword. Thus ends the
length of weapons.

Of the vantages of weapons in their kinds, places, & times,
both in private and public fight.

First I will begin with the worst weapon, an imperfect and
insufficient weapon, and not worth the speaking of, but now being
highly esteemed, therefore not to be unremembered. That is, the
single rapier, and the rapier and poniard.

The single sword has the vantage against the single rapier.

The sword and dagger has the advantage against the rapier and

The sword & target has the advantage against the sword and dagger,
or the rapier and poniard.

The sword and buckler has the advantage against the sword and
target, the sword and dagger, or the rapier and poniard.

The two handed sword has the advantage against the sword and
target, the sword and buckler, the sword and dagger, or the rapier
and poniard.

The battle axe, the halberd, the black-bill, or such like weapons of
weight, appertaining unto guard or battle, are all one in fight, and
have advantage against the two handed sword, the sword and
buckler, the sword and target, the sword and dagger, or the rapier
and poniard.

The short staff or half pike, forest bill, partisan, or glaive, or such like
weapons of perfect length, have the advantage against the battle axe,
the halberd, the black bill, the two handed sword, the sword and
target, and are too hard for two swords and daggers, or two rapier
and poniards with gauntlets, and for the long staff and morris pike.

The long staff, morris pike, or javelin, or such like weapons above the
perfect length, have advantage against all manner of weapons, the
short staff, the Welch hook, partisan, or glaive, or such like weapons
of vantage excepted, yet are too weak for two swords and daggers or
two sword and bucklers, or two rapiers and poniards with gauntlets,
because they are too long to thrust, strike, and turn speedily. And
by reason of the large distance, one of the sword and daggers-men
will get behind him.

The Welch hook or forest bill, have advantage against all manner of
weapons whatsoever.

Yet understand, that in battles, and where variety of weapons are,
among multitudes of men and horses, the sword and target, the two
handed sword, battle axe, the black bill, and halberd, are better
weapons, and more dangerous in their offence and forces, than is the
sword and buckler, short staff, long staff, or forest bill. The sword
and target leads upon shot, and in troops defends thrusts and blows
given by battle axe, halberds, black bill, or two handed swords, far
better than can the sword and buckler.

The morris pike defends the battle from both horse and man, much
better than can the short staff, long staff, or forest bill. Again the
battle axe, the halberd, the black bill, the two handed sword, and
sword & target, among armed men and troops, by reason of their
weights, shortness, and great force, do much better offend the
enemy, & are much better weapons, than is the shot staff, the long
staff, or the forest bill.

Of the insufficiency and disadvantages of the
rapiers fight in battle

For the single rapier, or rapier & poniard, they are imperfect &
insufficient weapons, and especially in service of the prince. When
men shall join together, what service can soldier do with a rapier, a
childish toy where with a man can do nothing but thrust, nor that
neither, by reason of the length, and in every moving when blows,
are dealing, for lack of a hilt is in danger to have his hand or arm cut
off, or his head

cloven. And for wards and grips, they have none, neither can any of
these fine rapier men, for lack of use, tell how to strike a sound blow.

Of the vantages and sufficiency of the short
sword fight in battle.

The short sword, and sword and dagger, are perfect good weapons,
and especially in service of the prince. What a brave weapon is a
short sharp light sword, to carry, to draw, to be nimble withal, to
strike, to cut, to thrust both strong and quick. And what a good
defence is a strong single hilt, when men are clustering and hurling
together, especially where variety of weapons are, in their motions to
defend the hand, head, face, and bodies, from blows, that shall be
given sometimes with swords, sometimes with two handed swords,
battle axes, halberds, or black bills, and sometimes men shall be so
near together, they shall have no space, scarce to use the blades of
their swords below their waist, then their hilts (their hands being
aloft) defend from the blows their hands, arms, heads, faces and
bodies. Then they lay on, having the use of blows and grips, by force
of their arms with their hilts, strong blows, at the head, face, arms,
bodies, and shoulders, and many times hurling together, scope is
given to turn down their points, with violent thrusts at the faces and
bodies, by reason of the shortness of their blades, to the mighty
annoyance, discomfort, and great destruction of their enemies. One
valiant man with a sword in his hand, will do better service, than ten
Italians, or Italianated with their rapiers.

That all manner of double weapons, or weapons to be used
with both hands, have advantage against the single rapier
or single sword, there is no
question to be made.

That the sword and buckler has the vantage
against the sword and dagger

The dagger is an imperfect ward, although borne out straight, to
make the space narrow, whereby a little moving of the hand, may be
sufficient to save both sides of the head, or to break the trust form
the face or body, yet for lack of the circumference his hand will lie
too high or low, or too weak, to defend both blow and thrust. If he
lies straight with a narrow space, which is to break the thrust, then
he lies too weak, and too low to defend his head from a strong blow.
If he lies high, that is strong to defend his head, but then his space
will be too wide to break the thrust from his body. The dagger
serves well at length to put by a thrust, and at the half sword to
cross the sword blade, to drive out the agent, and put him in danger
of his life, and safely in any of these two actions defend himself. But
the buckler, by reason of his circumference and weight, being well
carried, defends safely in all times and places, whether it be at the
point, half sword, the head body, and face, from all manner of blows
and thrusts whatsoever, yet I have heard many hold opinion, that
the sword and dagger has the advantage of the sword and buckler, at
the close, by reason of the length and point of the dagger, and at the

point of the sword, they can better see to ward than with a buckler.
But I never knew any, that won the close with the dagger upon the
sword and buckler, but did with himself out again. For distance
being broken, judgement fails, for lack of time to judge, and the eye
is deceived by the swift motion of the hand, and for lack of true
space with the dagger hand, which cannot be otherwise, for lack of
circumference to defend both blow and thrust, it is impossible for
lack of true space in just time, the agent having gotten the true place,
to defend one thrust or blow of a hundred. And it is most certain,
whosoever closes with sword and dagger against the sword and
buckler, is in great danger to be slain. Likewise at the point within
distance, if he stand to defend both blow and thrust with his dagger,
for lack of true space and distance, if he has the best eye of any man,
and could see perfectly, which way the thrust or blow comes, and
when it comes, as it is not to deny that he may, yet his space being
too large, it helps him nothing, because one man's hand being as
swift as another man's hand, both being within distance, he that
strikes or thrusts, hurts the warder. The reason is this: the agent
being the first motion although in his offense, further to go than the
warder to defend, yet the warder's space being too large, the blow or
thrust will be performed home, before the warder can come to the
true place to defend himself, and although the warder does perfectly
see the blow or thrust coming, so shall he see his own ward so far
from the true place of his defence, that although he does at that
instant (of) time, plainly see the blow or thrust coming, it shall be
impossible for him to recover the

true place of his ward, 'til he his wounded. But let the warder with
his dagger say,that it is not true which I have said, for the eyes to
behold the blow or thrust coming, so has he as good time to defend
himself. Herein he shall find himself deceived to, this is the reason:
the hand is the swiftest motion, the foot is the slowest, without
distance the hand is tied to the motion of the feet, whereby the time
of the hand is made as slow as the foot, because whereby we redeem
every time lost upon his coming in by the slow motion of the foot &
have time thereby to judge, when & how he can perform any action
whatsoever, and so have we the time of the hand to the time of the
feet. Now is the hand in his own course more swift than the foot or
eye, therefore within distance the eye is deceived, & judgement is
lost, and that is another cause that the warder with the dagger ,
although he has perfect eyes, is still within distance deceived17. For
proof that the hand is swifter than the eye & therefore deceives the
eyes: let two stand within distance, & let one of them stand still to
defend himself, & let the other flourish & false with his hand, and he
shall continually with the swift motions of his hand, deceive the eyes
of him that stands watching to defend himself, & shall continually
stride him in diverse places with his hand. Again, take this for an
example, that the eyes by swift motions are deceived: turn a turn-
wheel swift, & you shall not be able to discern with your best eyes
how many spokes are on the wheel, no nor whether there are any
spokes at all, or whereof the wheel is made, and yet you see when
the wheel stands still there is a large distance between every spoke.
He that will not believe that the swift motion of the hand in fight will
deceive he eye, shall stare

abroad with his eyes, & feel himself soundly hurt, before he shall
perfectly see how to defend himself. So those that trust to their fight,
the excellency of a good eye, their great cunning, & perfect wards of
the daggers, that they can see better to ward than with a buckler,
shall ever be deceived. And when they are wounded, they say the
gent was a little too quick for them. Sometimes they say they bear
their dagger a little too low. Sometimes they are thrust under the
dagger, then they say, they bear it a little too high. Sometimes a
thrust being strongly made, they being soundly paid therewith, say,
they were a little too slow, & sometimes they be soundly paid with a
thrust,& they think they were a little too quick. So they that practice
or think to be cunning in the dagger ward, are all the days of their
lives learning, and are never taught18

That the sword and buckler has the vantage
against the sword and target.

The sword & target together has but two fights, that is the variable
fight, & the close fight, for the close fight, the number of his feet
being too any to take against any man of skill having he sword &
buckler, & for the variable fight although not so many in number, yet
too many to win the place with his foot and strike home. The sword
& buckler man out of his variable, open & guardant fight can come
bravely off & on, false & double, strike & thrust home, & make a true
cross upon ever occasion at his pleasure. If the sword & target man
will fly to his guardant fight, the breadth of the target will not suffer
it, if to his open fight, then has the sword & buckler man in effect the
sword and buckler to the single, for in that fight by reason of the
breadth, the target can do little good or none at all

The short staff.

Now for the vantage of the short staff against the sword and buckler,
sword & target, two handed sword, single sword, sword and dagger,
or rapier and poniard, there is no great question to be in any of these
weapons. Whensoever any blow or thrust shall be strongly made
with the staff, they are ever in false place, in the carriage of the
wards, for if it at any of these six weapons he carries his ward high &
strong for his head, as of necessity he must carry it very high,
otherwise it will be too weak to defend a blow being strongly made
at the head, then will his space be too wide, in due time to break the
thrust from his body. Again, if he carries his ward lower, thereby to
be in equal space for readiness to break both blow & thrust, then in
that place his ward is too low, and too weak to defend the blow of
the staff. Fir the blow being strongly made at the head upon that
ward, will beat down the ward and his head together, and put him in
great danger of his life. And here is to be noted, that if he fights
well, the staff man strikes but at the head, and thrusts presently
under at the body. And if a blow is first made, a thrust follows, and
if a thrust is first made, a blow follows, and in doing of any of them,
the one breeds the other. So that however any of these six weapons
shall carry his ward strongly to defend the first, he shall be too far in
space to defend the second, whether it be blow or thrust.

Yet again for the short staff. The short staff has the vantage against
the battle axe, black bill, or halberd

, the short staff has the advantage, by reason of the nimbleness and
length. He will strike and thrust freely, and in better and swifter
time than can the battle axe, black bill, or halberd, and by reason of
his judgement, distance and time, fight safe. And this resolve upon,
the short staff is the best weapon against all manner of weapons, the
forest bill excepted.

Also the short staff has advantage against two sword and daggers, or
two rapiers, poniards and gauntlets19, the reasons and causes before
are for the most part set down already, the which being well
considered, you shall plainly see, that whensoever any one of the
sword & dagger men, or rapier and poniard men shall break his
distance, or suffer the staff man to break his, that man which did
first break his distance, or suffer the distance to be one against him,
is presently in danger of death. And this cannot in reason be denied,
because the distance appertaining to the staff man, either to keep or
break, stands upon the moving of one large space always at the most,
both for his offense or safety. The other two in the breach of their
distance to offend the staff man, have always four paces at the least
therein they fall too great in number with their feet, and too short in
distance to offend the staff man. Now there rests no more to be
spoken of, but how the staff man shall behave himself to keep that
distance, that one of the sword & dagger men get not behind him,
while the other shall busy him before. To do that is very easy, by
reason of the small number of his feet, as it were in the center point
of a wheel, the other two to keep their distance, are driven to run
twenty feet for one, as it

were upon the uttermost part of the circle of the wheel, all this while
the staff man is very well. Then it comes thus to pass, whether they
both labor to get behind him, or one keeps directly before him while
the other gets behind him, yet before that is brought to pass, they
shall either be both before him or just against both sides of him, at
which time soever the staff man finding either within distance, he
presently in making of his play, slays, with blow or thrust one of
them, or at the least puts him in great danger of his life. If the staff
man takes his time, when they are both before him, that is to say,
before they come to the half ring, just against both sides of the staff
man, then he that is nearest within distance is slain by blow or
thrust, or put in great danger of his life. But if the sword and dagger
men do keep their distance until they come to the just half ring
against the sides of the staff man, and then break distance, hat man
that first breaks distance is slain with blow or thrust, or sore hurt,
and in great danger of death, and the staff man in making that play
at that instant, must turn with one large pace, which he may easily
do, before the other can get near enough to offend him by reason
that he has to make with his feet but one large pace, but the other
has to make with his feet but one large pace, but the other has at the
least three paces. But if the sword and dagger men will in the time
they are before him, keep their distance in the time of their being
upon the middle part of the outside of the circle, right against both
sides of him, & will labor with all heed & diligence to be both or one
of them behind him, that troubles the staff man nothing at all, for in
that very time, when he finds them past the middle part of the circle,
he presently

turns, by the which he shall naturally set himself as it were in a
triangle, and both the sword and dagger-men, shall thereby stand
both before him in true distance of three paces, from offending of
him at the least, as at the first they did. And take this for a true
ground, there is no man able to ward a sound blow with the sword
and dagger, nor rapier, poniard and gauntlet, being strongly made at
the head, with the staff, and run in withal, the force of hands in such,
being in his full motion and course, that although the other carries
his ward high and strong with both hands, yet his feet being moving
from the ground, the great force of the blow will strike him with his
ward, and all down flat to ground. But if he stands fast with his feet,
he may with both weapons together, strongly defend his head from
the blow, but then you are sufficiently instructed, the thrust being
presently made, after the blow full at the body, it is impossible in
due time to break it, by reason of the largeness of his space.

The short staff has the vantage against the long staff,
and Morris pike, and the Forest Bill against all
manner of weapons.

The reasons are these. The short staff has the vantage of the long
staff and Morris pike in the strength & narrowness of space in his
four wards of defence. And the Forest bill has the vantage of all
manner of weapons in his strength and narrowness of space in his
eight wards of defence> And the rather because the bill has two
wards for one against the staff

or Morris pike, that is to say, four with the staff, and four with the
head, and is mote offensive than is the staff or Morris pike. Yet a
question20 may be made by the unskillful, concerning the fight
between the long staff and the short, in this sort: Why should not
the long staff have advantage against the short staff, since that the
long staff man, being at liberty with his hands, may make his staff
both long and short for his best advantage, when he shall think it
good, and therefore when he shall find himself overmatched in the
length of his staff, by the strength of the short staff, and narrowness
of space of his four wards of defence, he can presently by drawing
back of his staff in his hands, make his staff as short as the other's,
and so be ready to fight him with at his own length? To this I
answer21, that when the long staff man is driven there to lie, the
length of his staff that will lie behind him, will hinder him to strike,
thrust, ward, or go back in due time. Neither can he turn the contrary
end of his staff to keep out the short staff man from the close, nor
safely to defend himself at his coming in.

Again of the vantages of weapons

Make this for a general rule, all long staves, Morris pikes, Forest bills,
Javelins, or such like long weapons, of what sort soever, being above
the true lengths, the shortest has the advantage, because they can
cross and uncross in shorter time than can the longer. And all
manner of short weapons to be used with both hands, as staves, and
such like, being under the perfect lengths,

the longest have the advantage, and all manner of weapons to be
used with one hand, that are above the perfect length of the single
sword, the shortest has the vantage, and all manner of weapons
under the just length of the short sword, as falchions, skaines, or
hangers, woodknives, daggers, and such like short weapons of
imperfect lengths, the longest has the advantage, because the fight of
these weapons consist within the half or quarter sword, wherein by
the swift motions of their hands, their eyes are deceived, and in
those weapons, commonly for their hands lie no defence. And if two
shall fight with staves or swords, or what weapons soever, the one of
them having his weapon longer than the perfect length, and the
other shorter than the perfect length, he that has the longer has the
vantage, because the shorter can make no true cross in true time.
The short staff or half pike, Forest bill, Partisan, or glaive, or such
like weapons of perfect length, to be used with both hands, have the
advantage against two swords and daggers, or two rapiers, poniards
and gauntlets, and against all other weapons whatsoever, the Forest
bill excepted.

Again for the short staff. or half pike

The short staff is most commonly the best weapon of all others,
although other weapons may be more offensive, and especially
against many weapons together, by reason of his nimbleness and
swift motions, and is not much inferior to the Forest bill, although the
Forest bill is more offensive, and has more wards, because

the staff is very uncertain, but the bill is a more certain mark, by
reason of the breadth of the head, whereby as the bill has advantage
in his wards in the head, so therefor has the staff the like defence, or
rather more, to play upon the head of he bill, not only to make a
perfect good ward, but thereby, the rather to cast the bill out of the
right line, whereby the staff man may thrust safe, and endanger the
bill man. and the reason because therein he is the first mover,
wherein there is great vantage, both in time and force. And if the
bill man is not very skillful (all vantages and disadvantages of both
sides being considered,) the short staff will prove the better weapon.
Lastly note this22, that long staffs, Morris pikes, and such like
weapons of imperfect lengths, being to be used with both hands,
notwithstanding their imperfect lengths, are perfect weapons to be
used, the one against the other, and their fights therein perfect,
because in drawing of them back between their hands, their motion
is swifter backwards, than is the time of the agents feet forwards, by
which all their lost times are redeemed. Therefore these weapons in
their fights, the one against the other are perfect. And these
weapons in the night are the best weapons of all others, and have
great advantage against the Forest bill, short staff, or any manner of
short weapons whatsoever, for these causes: they boldly make home
their fights, and if need be against desperate men, that will venture
themselves to run in, they redeem their lost times. Bit the other
with shorter weapons for lack of light, can make no true defence.
Thus ends the vantages of weapons.

Questions and answers between the scholar and the master,
of the vantages and disadvantages between a
tall man, and a man of mean stature, having both the perfect
knowledge in their weapons

Scholar: Who has the advantage in fight, of a tall man, or a man of
mean stature?

Master: The tall man has the vantage, for these causes23: his reach
being longer, and weapon unto his stature accordingly, he has
thereby a shorter course with his feet to win the true place, wherein
by the swift motion of his hand, he may strike or thrust home, in
which time a man of mean stature cannot reach him, & by his large
pace, in his true pace in his regression further, sets himself out of
danger, & these are the vantages that a tall man has against any man
of shorter reach than himself.

Scholar: What vantage has a man of mean stature against a tall man?
Master: He has none: because the true times in fight, ands actions
accordingly, are to be observed and done, as well by a tall man, as by
a man of mean stature.

Scholar: Why then if this is true, that tall men have the vantage
against men of mean stature, it should seem in fight

there is no perfection, other then this, when men of like stature,
reach, & length of weapon, shall fight together, the which will seldom
or never happen, but either in the length of their weapons, statures
or reaches (if their swords should be of just length) some difference
most commonly will be in their reaches.

Master: Yes verily, the tall man has still the vantage, and yet the
fight is perfect, although the men that shall happen to fight, shall
happen to be unequal in their statures, reaches, or lengths of their

Scholar: That can I hardly believe, unless you can tell me by art how
to avoid or safely defend my self, being but a man of mean stature,
against a tall man.

Master: I will tell you. There belongs unto this art of defence only to
be used with the feet, progression, regression, traversing, and
treading of grounds. In any of these you playing the part of the
patient, or patient agent, your feet are swifter in their motion than
are the agents, because his weight and number of his feet in his
coming in to win the place to strike or thrust home, are greater than
yours, and therefore the true time is yours to avoid him, or safely to
defend yourself. So the art is still true, and the tall man has still the

Scholar: Yet I am not fully satisfied herein, because you tell me still
that the tall man has the vantage, and notwithstanding you say the
art is true, wherein then has the tall man the vantage, when by your
art you can defend yourself against him?

Master: I will satisfy you herein thus. The tall man has the vantage
he can maintain his fight, both by nature and by art, with more ease
than can the man of mean stature, because the man of mean stature
has thereby a further course with his feet to pass to the place,
wherein he may strike or thrust home, and in winning of that place,
is driven by art to come guarded under his wards to defend himself,
because in the time of his coming, the tall man may have both
naturally or artificially strike or thrust home, in which time, if the
man of mean stature should fail in the least iota of his art, he should
be in great danger of death or hurt. But the tall man can naturally24
and safely come to the true place open, without any artificial wards
at all, and therein also endanger the other, or drive him still to
traverse his ground, with all the artificial skill that he has to defend
himself, and all this the tall man does by reason of his length of
weapon, large pace, short course, and long reach, with great safety,
pleasure and ease. And for those causes the tall man has still the
vantage of men of mean stature, and not withstanding the noble
science of defence most perfect and good.

Of the single rapier fight between valiant men, having
both skill, he that is the best wrestler, or if neither
of them can wrestle, the strongest man
most commonly kills the other, or leaves
him at his mercy

When two valiant men of skill at single rapier do fight, one or both of
them most commonly standing upon their strength or skill in
wrestling, will presently seek to run into

the close. But having both skill, not without special care of their
guard or cross, the which the may safely do, by reason of the length
of the rapiers. But happening both of one mind, the rather do bring
themselves together. That being done, no skill with rapiers avail,
they presently grapple fast their hilts, their wrists, arms, bodies or
necks, as in lustring(?), wrestling, or striving together, they may best
find for their advantages. Whereby it most commonly false out, that
he that is the best wrestler, or strongest man ( if neither of them can
wrestle) overcomes, wrestling by strength, or fine skill in wrestling,
the rapier from his adversary, or casting him from him, wither to the
ground, or to such distance, that he may by reason thereof, use the
edge or point of his rapier, to strike or thrust him, leaving him dead
or alive at his mercy. But if one of these valiant men shall seek to
run into the close, and the other shall use his skill in traversing of his
ground, or otherwise by standing upon his guard or Stocata ward, to
take all manner of advantages at his coming, yet all avails him not,
because the rapiers being long, the crossing of the blades cannot be
avoided. That being made, the oppressor runs faster forwards than
can the the defendant backwards, and so are brought together, as in
the first assault they were, &every action therein performed.

Of the rapier and poniard fight betwixt valiant
men, having both skill.

If two valiant men do fight at rapier and poniard having both skill,
one or both of them will presently press hard to win the place,
wherein in his judgement he may thrust home. If both

are of one mind, the time is doubled in winning the same, whereby it
comes to pass, that then he that first thrusts, endangers, kills or
hurts the other, and if they both thrust together, as they may do by
the equal time of their feet, then they are most commonly both slain,
or both hurt. And this is well known unto all men of skill, that the
place being once gotten, there is neither judgement, space, pace, nor
time, either by wards with their rapier blades, or by breaking with
their poniards, or flying back, that can preserve or defend them. But
if but one of them will seek to win by passage, hard pressing, or
otherwise the place, wherein in his judgement he may thrust home,
it is impossible for the other to deny him the same, because the
length of the rapiers wins him the cross. The cross being taken, the
place is had. The place being had, he that first thrusts, first speeds. f
both thrust together, they are both in danger. Then presently follows
(unless it please God otherwise to have it) the stabs of their daggers,
wherein there lies no defence.

Of the long rapier & Poniard fight between two valiant
men, the one having skill, the other none, he that
has no skill has the vantage.

When two valiant men shall fight with long rapiers and poniards, the
one having skill, the other none, he that has no skill most commonly
proves himself the better man, for these causes or reasons following.
First the skillful man as knowing the other to have no skill, or find it
to be so by his shape or

manner of coming towards him, will presently yield to take the
advantage of his coming, or else with all speed put himself into his
short ward, to be ready at his coming to make a strong Stocata (as
the Italians call it) the other knowing his imperfection in fight,
assures himself there can be no great good for him to stand long out
at the point, presently redoubles or revives his spirits with perfect
resolution, to make short work, courageously with some offensive
action, such as nature shall best yield unto him, flies in with all force
and agility. The skillful man stands watching to take such advantage
as his schoolmaster has taught him, in which time, many times it falls
out, he is taught a new time, seen by an unskillful man that never
fought before, is sore hurt or slain. And if it happens they both miss
in their offensive actions, then by reason thereof, and of the
imperfect length of their rapiers, they come to stabbing with their
poniards, wherein their lies no defence, because distance being
broken, judgement fails, time is lost, and their eyes (by the swift
motions of their hands) are deceived.

Of the long single rapier, or rapier and poniard fight between
two unskillful men being valiant .

When two unskillful men (being valiant) shall fight with long single
rapiers, there is less danger in that kind of fight, by reason of their
distance in convenient length, weight, and unwieldiness, than is with
short rapiers, whereby it comes to pass, that what hurt shall happen
to be done, if any with the edge or point of their

rapiers is done in a moment, and presently will grapple and wrestle
together, wherein most commonly the strongest or best wrestler
overcomes, and the like fight falls out between them, at the long
rapier and poniard, but much more deadly, because instead of close
and wresting, they fall most commonly to stabbing with their

Of the imperfection and insufficiency of rapiers in
general, of what length soever they are.

If two fight with long rapiers, upon every cross made with the half
rapier25, if they have poniards, they most commonly stab each other,
which cannot be avoided, because the rapiers being long, the cross
cannot be undone of either side, without going back with their feet,
the which likewise in due time cannot be done, because the hand is
more swift than the feet, and the feet more swift in their course
forwards than backwards, neither can the cross be prevented,
because the point of necessity lies too far off in his offense, or else
within compass of the true time of the hand and body, by reason of
his imperfect length, and so by the like reason, if two fight with long
single rapiers, upon every cross made therewith, within the half
rapier, the close cannot be avoided, whereby it comes to pass most
commonly, that the strongest man or best wrestler overcomes. Now
if two do fight with short rapiers, or rapiers of convenient length,
such rapiers are inconvenient also for lack of hilt to defend the hand
and head from the blow. For no eye (in making a

perfect ward for the head, to defend the blow, can discern to take the
same within three or four inches, whereby it may as well and as
often fall upon the hand, as upon the blade of the rapier. Again, the
hilt as well serves to defend the head as the hand, and is a more sure
and strong ward, than is the blade of the rapier. And further,
understand this for truth, that in gardant and open fight, the hand
without a hilt lies open to most blows that shall be struck by the
agent, out of gardant or open fight, because in the true carriage of
the gardant fight, the hand must lie above the head, in such
straightness and narrowness of space, that which way soever the
agent shall strike or thrust at the head, face, or body, the removing
of two or four inches shall save all. And now somewhat more for the
shortness or convenient length of rapiers.

Rapiers having no hilts to defend the head, the rapier man is driven
of necessity to lie at the variable fight or low ward, and being there
he can neither defend in due time, head, face nor body from the
blows or thrust of him, that shall fight out of the gardant or open
fight, but is continually in great danger of the agent, for these causes
following. First, because his space is too wide to defend his head
from blow or thrust. Secondly his pace standing upon that fight, will
be of necessity too great or too narrow. If too narrow, too weak, if too
large, his weight and number of his feet, are too great to endanger
him, that is upon his gardant of open fight.

Of the imperfection and insufficiency of the fight of the
single rapier, rapier and poniard, rapier
and buckler, rapier and
cloak, and rapier and
glove of mail.

The rapier fight , whether it is single or accompanied with the
poniard, buckler, cloak, or glove of mail, is still by reason of the
insufficiency or imperfection of the rapier, an imperfect fight.
Imperfect instruments can make no perfect music, neither can
imperfect weapons make perfect fight. Let men that handle them
have all the knowledge that may be in all manner of weapons, yes
the full height, or perfection, and habit by his great labor and
industry, even as it were naturally effected in him, yet if the
weapons that they shall fight withal be imperfect or insufficient to
perform whatsoever appertains unto true fight, as concerning the
perfection of their safety, it avails them nothing. What shall we then
say for the rapier? Is the rapier an imperfect or insufficient weapon
to perform whatsoever appertains unto true fight? Yes. Wherefore?
Because unto the true fight there appertains four fights, gardant
fight, open fight, variable fight, and close fight, without all four of
these fights it is impossible to fight safe. But the rapier for lack of a
hilt is an imperfect weapon, and therefore insufficient to fight safe
upon these four fights, for the are already set down in the Paradox
before, but is inferred to loose the benefit of two of the

best fights, gardant and open fight, and to fly from them, and trust
only unto variable fight, and close fight. Now having proved through
the imperfection or insufficiency of the rapier, the imperfections of
the rapier fight, it remains that I speak of the rest of the weapons, or
instruments appertaining unto rapier fight.

The rapier and poniard fight, the rapier & buckler fight, the rapier
and cloak fight, & the rapier & glove of mail fight, all these fights by
reason of the imperfection of the rapier, and the rapier fight, are also
imperfect fights, for proof of the uncertainty and impossibilities of
the safety in any of these fights, thus it stands. These fights depend
altogether upon variable fight and close fight. In any of these fights
it is impossible in true space of offence to keep the blades of their
rapiers from crossing, or from breaking with the poniards, buckler,
cloak or breaking or catching with the glove of mail, because in any
of these two fights, the agent has still in true space the blade of the
patients rapier to work upon. These things by letters cannot be made
more plain, neither is it unknown to the skilful, or in fight by any
means to be avoided. The weapon being too far in true space to be
wrought upon, the place cannot be denied, do the patient what he
can for his life to the contrary, either by blows, thrusts, falsing
(feinting) or doubling of thrusts, going back, indirections, or turnings
of the body, or what else soever may in the highest touch of wi or
strength, or agility of body be devised or done, to keep out the agent.
But still the agent by narrowness of space brings himself by strong
guard to the place, where being brought, it is impossible to fight safe,
as it is for two desperate men set together

being both blind. Because in the true place (won in rapier or
variable fight) their eyes by the swift motions of their hands are
deceived, the crosses in that fight are false, their distance, judgement
and times are lost, either to offend in safety, or safely to defend
themselves, and these reasons, rules, or grounds of the feats of arms
are infallible or invincible.

Now, oh you Italian teachers of defence, where are your Stocatas,
Imbrocatas, Mandrittas, Puntas, & Punta Reversas, Stramisons,
Passatas, Carricados, Amazzas, & Incartatas, & playing with your
bodies, removing with your feet a little aside, circlewise winding of
your bodies, making of three times with your feet together, marking
with one eye the motion of the adversary, & with the other eye the
advantage of thrusting? What is become of all these juggling
gambols, apish devices, with all the rest of your squint eyed tricks,
when as through your deep studies, long practices, & apt bodies, both
strong and agile, you have attained to the height of all these things?
What then avails it you, when you shall come to fight for your lives
with a man of skill? You shall have neither time, nor place, in due
time to perform any one of them, nor gardant nor open fight safely
to keep out a man of skill, a man of no skill, or scholar of your own
teaching, from the true place, the place of safety, the place of
uncertainty or mischief, the place of wounds or death, but are
enforced to stand in that mischievous, uncertain, dangerous, and
most deadly place, as two men having lost in part their chiefest
senses, most furiously with their rapiers or poniards, wounding or
slaying each other.

Thus ends the imperfect fights of the rapier with

all manner of weapons or instruments thereto appertaining, with
their imperfections, through the true grounds and rules of the art of
arms, truly displayed & brought to light.

All laud be unto the Almighty God.

That the reasons used by the Italian fencers in commending
the use of the rapier and poniard, because it
makes peace, makes against

It has been commonly held, that since the Italians have taught the
rapier fight, by reason of the dangerous use thereof, it has bred great
civility among our English nation, they will not now give the lie, nor
with such foul speeches abuse themselves, therefore there are fewer
frays26 in these times than were wont to be. It cannot be denied but
this is true, that we are more circumspect of our words, and more
fearful to fight than heretofore we have been. But whereof comes it?
Is it from this, that the rapier makes peace in our minds; or from
hence, that it is not so sufficient defence for our bodies in our fight?
he that will fight when he is armed, will not fight when he is naked.
Is it therefore good to go naked to keep peace? He that would fight
with his sword and buckler, or sword and dagger, being weapons of
true defence, will not fight with his rapier and poniard, wherein no
true defence or fight is perfect. Are these insufficient weapons
therefore the better, because not being sufficient to defend us in
fight, they force us into peace? What else is it, bu to say, it is good

subjects to be poor, that they not go to law, or to lack munitions, that
they may not fight, nor go to the wars. And to conclude, what more
follows through the imperfect works of the Italian peacemakers?
They have made many a strong in his fight weak, many a valiant
man fearful, any a worthy man trusting to their imperfect fight, has
been slain, and many of our desperate boys and young youths, to
become in that rapier fight, as good men as England yielded, and the
tallest men of this land, in that fight as very boys as they and no
better. This good have the Italian teachers of Offence done us, they
have transformed our boys into men, and are men into boys, our
strong men into weakness, our valiant men doubtful, and many
worthy men resolving themselves upon their false resolutions, have
most willfully in the field, with their rapiers ended their lives. And
lastly, have left to remain among us after their deaths, these
inconveniences behind them, false fencing books, imperfect weapons,
false fights, and evil customs, whereby for lack of use and practice in
perfect weapons and true fight, we are disabled for the service of our
prince, defence of our country, and safety of our lives in private

That the short sword has the advantage against
the long sword or long rapier..

Whereas for the most part opinions are generally held, that he long
sword, or long rapier, has the vantage in fight against the short
sword, which the Italian teachers of defence, by their false

monstrations have brought us to believe. I have thought good that
the truth may appear which has the vantage, to add my help unto
the reasons they use in their own behalf, for that yet I could never
hear them make a sound reason for the same. These are the
reasons.27 First with my long rapier, I will put myself into my guard
or Stocata, holding my hilt back by the outside of my right thigh,
keeping in short the point of my rapier, so as he that has the short
sword, shall not be able to reach the point of my rapier, to make his
ward or cross with his dagger, buckler, sword, or cloak, without
stepping in with his foot, the which time is too long to answer the
time of the hand, by reason of my distance. I can there stand safe
without danger of blow or thrust, playing the patient's part. If you
strike or thrust you do it too short, by reason of my distance. If you
seek to come nearer, you must do it with the time of your foot, in
which time I may safely thrust home. If in that distance you break
it not, you are slain. If you do break it, yet you do me no harm, by
reason of my distance, and I may stand fast and thrust again, or fly
back at my pleasure. So have you put yourself in danger of your life,
and having hardly escaped, are driven again to begin a new bout, as
at the first you did. Again, if I please, I can be the oppressor,
keeping the same guard, and my point in short as I did before, and
pressing strongly by putting in by little and little of my feet, until
the place of my foot is gotten, wherein (in my judgement) I may
thrust home, the which I may boldly and safely do, without respect
of any ward at all, by reason of my distance, in which time of my
coming he must strike, thrust, ward, or go back. If he goes back,

it is a great disgrace, if he strikes or thrusts, it is too short, if he
stands o defend, the place being already gotten, where I may thrust
home, the thrust being very quick & strongly made, such is the force
and swiftness thereof, that it is impossible by nature or art, for any
man to break one thrust of an hundred. These reasons in my opinion
may suffice to confirm the wise, that there is no question to be made,
but that the long rapier has the advantage against the short sword.

Sir you have prettily handled your discourse28, concerning the
advantages or the long rapier against the short sword, especially at
the first show, and according to common sense, but for the substance
and truth of the true fight, you have said nothing, because for the
performance of any of your allegations, you have neither true pace,
place, time, nor space. These are the reasons. Your pace of necessity
must be too large, because otherwise you cannot keep safe the point
of your long rapier, from the cross of the short sword, unless you will
with a narrow pace keep back your hilt so far, that the space of your
offence will be too large or too long in distance, and your body inapt
to move and thrust both strong and quick in due time, nor aptly to
keep your distance, to win the place with your feet, to thrust home.
So now you may plainly see, if you have skill in the art or science of
defence, that is to perform anything which you have alleged, you
have neither true pace, place, time nor space. But if you will stand
upon the largeness of your pace, to keep back or save the point of
your long rapier from the ward or cross of the short sword, op upon
your Passatas, in all these you have great disadvantages. And

these are my reasons. Your number will be too great, as thus.
Whenever you mean out of your large pace to thrust home, you must
of necessity make four times with your feet, and one with your hand,
or two times with your feet, and one with your hand at least. And
whensoever you make any of your passages, the number of your feet
are greater than the greatest of any of these times done out of the
large pace. But the patient with his short sword, to avoid you, or
disappoint you of your thrust, has but one time with his feet, at r
before the which time, as he in his judgement shall find you in your
motion, has by the slow and great number of your motions or times,
sufficient time safely out of all danger to make himself ready to take
his cross with his short sword. Now sir, whether you thrust or not
thrust, whether you play the part of an agent, or patient, it helps you
nothing, for he that has the short sword has four times or motions
against the long rapier, name bent, spent, lying spent, and drawing
back, in all manner of fights these are to be observed both by the
patient and agent. Now note, he that has the long rapier must of
necessity play upon one of these four motions, or be patient, which
soever he shall do, he is still in great danger of the cross of the short
sword, because if he is agent, his number is too great, he falls into
one of the four motions, the patient with his short sword, having but
the time of his hand, or hand & foot, safely upon these actions or
times takes his cross with the short sword. That being done, he
presently uncrosses and strikes or thrusts at his pleasure him that
has the long rapier, in the head, face, or body. Now here is again to
be noted, that when the cross

is made, if he that has the long rapier stands fast, he is wounded
presently in the uncrossing of the short sword, if he steps or leaps
back to save himself, yet the time of the hand being swifter than the
time of the foot, overtakes him, with blow or thrust in the arm, hand,
head, face and body. Now if he that has the long rapier will be
patient & make no play, but lie still watching to make his thrust or
Stocata just in the coming or moving of the agent's feet with his short
sword, then he has as great disadvantage as he had when he was
patient, because then the agent with his short sword has but hand
and foot to make his cross, which is most safely to be done in that
time, which we call bent, and is as impossible for the rapier man to
prevent, as it is for an unskillful to strike or thrust just together with
a man of skill. Then thus do I conclude, that he that fights with a long
rapier, against him that fights with short sword, can do nothing in
due time to defend himself, or hurt the other, but is still in danger of
his life, or at the mercy of him that has the short sword, or else has
no safe way to help himself, but only Cob's Traverse29. This Cob was
a great quarreler, and did delight in great bravery to give foul words
to his betters, and would not refuse to go into the field to fight with
any man, and when he came to the field, would draw his sword to
fight, for he was sure by the cunning of his traverse, not to be hurt
by any man. For at any time finding himself overmatched would
suddenly turn his back and run away with such swiftness, that it was
thought a good horse would scarce take him. And this when I was a
young man, was very much spoken of by many gentlemen of the
inns of

the court, and was called Cob's Traverse and those that had seen any
go back too fast in his fight, would say, he did tread Cob's Traverse.

George Silver his military riddle, truly set down between
the perfection and imperfection of fight. Containing the
handling of he four fights, wherein true consists
the whole sum and full perfection of the
true fight, with all manner of weapons,
with an invincible

Gardant fight stays, puts back, or beats gardant fight.

Open fight stays, puts back, or beats open fight.

Variable fight answers variable fight in the first distance, and not
otherwise, except it is with perfect length against imperfect.

Close fight is beaten by gardant fight.

Variable, close & gardant fight, beats gardant fight, open fight,
variable fight, and close fight.

Gardant fight in the imperfection of the agent or patient, wins the
half sword, and presently the close, and whosoever first ventures the
close, looses it, and is in great danger of death, and not possible to
escape or get out again without great hurt.

There attends most diligently upon these four fights four offensive
actions, which we call certain, uncertain, first, before, just, and
afterward. They are to be performed through judgement, time,
measure, number and weight, by which all manner of blows

thrusts, falses (feints), doubles, or slips, are prevented, or most safely
defended. And thus ends my riddle.

Now follows the conclusion, that whosoever shall think or find
himself in his fight too weak for the agent's, or patient agent, and
therefore, or by reason of his drunkenness, or unreasonable
desperateness shall press within the half sword, or desperately run
in of purpose to give hurt, or at least for taking of one hurt, to give
another, shall most assuredly be in great danger of death or wounds,
and the other shall still be safe and go free.

Veritas vincit.


There were three Italian teachers of offense in my time. The first
was Signior Rocco, the second was Jeronimo, that was Senior Rocco
his boy, that taught gentlemen in the Black Friars, as usher for his
master in stead of a man. The third was Vincentio. This Senior Rocco
came into England about some thirty years past. He taught the
noblemen & gentlemen of the court. He caused some of them to wear
leaden soles in their shoes, the better to bring to nimbleness of the
feet in their fight. He disbursed a great sum of money for the lease
of a fair house in Warwick lane, which he called his college, for he
thought it great disgrace for him to keep a fence school, he being
then thought to be the only famous master of the art of arms in the
whole world. he caused to be fairly drawn and set round about his
school all the noblemen's and gentlemen's arms that were his
scholars. and hanging right under their arms their rapiers, daggers,
gloves of mail and gauntlets. Also, he has benches and stools, the
room being very large, for gentlemen to sit round about his school to
behold his teaching. He taught none commonly under twenty, forty,
fifty, or an hundred pounds. And because all things should be very
necessary for the noblemen & gentlemen, he had

in his school a large square table, with a green carpet, done round
with a very broad rich fringe of gold, always standing upon it a very
fair Standish covered with crimson velvet, with ink, pens, pen-dust,
and sealing wax, and quivers of very excellent fine paper gilded,
ready for the noblemen & gentlemen (upon occasion) to write their
letters, being then desirous to follow their fight, to send their men to
dispatch their business. And to know how the time passed, he had in
one corner of his school a clock, with very fair large dial. He had
within his school, a room the which was called the privy school, with
many weapons therein, where he did teach his scholars his secret
fight, after he had perfectly taught them their rules. He was very
much beloved in the court.

There was one Austin Bagger, a very tall gentleman of his hands, not
standing much upon his skill, but carrying the valiant heart of an
Englishman, upon a time being merry among his friends, said he
would go fight with Signior Rocco, presently went to Signior Rocco his
house in the Blackfriers, and called to him in this manner: Signior
Rocco, you are thought to be the only cunning man in the world with
your weapon, you that takes upon yourself to hit any Englishman
with a thrust upon any button, you that takes (it) upon yourself to
come over the sea, to teach the valiant noblemen and gentlemen of
England to fight, you cowardly fellow, come out of your house if you
dare for your life, I am come to fight with thee. Signior Rocco,
looking out at a window, perceiving him in the street to stand ready
with his sword and buckler, with his two hand sword drawn, with all
speed ran into the street, and manfully

let fly at Austin Bagger, who most bravely defended himself, and
presently closed with him, and struck up his heels, and cut him over
the breech, and trod upon him, and most grievously hurt him under
his feet. Yet in the end Austin of his good nature gave him his life,
and there left him. This was the first and last fight that ever Signior
Rocco made, save once at Queen Hith he drew his rapier upon a
waterman, where he was thoroughly beaten with oars and stretchers,
but the odds of their weapons were as great against his rapier, as
was his two hand sword against Austin Bagger's sword and buckler,
therefore for that fray he was to be excused.

Then came Vincentio and Jeronimo, they taught rapier fight at the
court, at London, and in the country, by the space of seven or eight
years or thereabouts. These two Italian fencers, especially Vincentio,
said Englishmen were strong men, but had no cunning, and they
would go back too much in their fight, which was great disgrace unto
them. Upon these words of disgrace against Englishmen, my brother
Toby Silver and myself, made challenge against them both, to play
with them at the single rapier, rapier and dagger, the single dagger,
the single sword, the sword and target, the sword and buckler, & two
hand sword, the staff, battle axe, and Morris pike, to be played at the
Bell Savage upon the scaffold, where he that went in this faster back
than he ought, of Englishmen or Italian, should be in danger to break
his neck off the scaffold. We caused to that effect, five or six score
bills of challenge to be printed, and set up from Southwarke to the
Tower, and from thence throughout London unto Westminster,

we were at the place with all these weapons at the time appointed,
within a bow shot of their fence school. Many gentlemen of good
account, carried many of the bills of challenge unto them, telling
them that now the Silvers were at the place appointed, with all their
weapons, looking for them, and a multitude of people there to behold
the fight, saying unto them, now come and go with us ( you shall take
no wrong) or else you are shamed for ever. Do the gentlemen what
they could, these gallants would not come to the place of trial. I
verily think their cowardly fear to answer this challenge, had utterly
shamed them indeed, had not the master of defence of London,
within two or three days after, been drinking of bottled ale hard by
Vincentio's school, in a hall where the Italians must of necessity pass
through to go to their school, and as they were coming by, the
masters of defence did pray them to drink with them. But the
Italians being very cowardly, were afraid, and presently drew their
rapiers. There was a pretty wench standing by, that loved the
Italians. She ran with outcry into the street: "Help! Help! The
Italians are like to be slain." The people with all speed came running
into the house, and with their capes and such things as they could,
parted the fray, for the English masters of defence, meant nothing
less than to soil their hands upon these two faint hearted fellows.
The next morning after, all the court was filled, that the Italian
teachers of fence had beaten all the masters of defence in London,
who set upon them in a house together. This won the Italian fencers
their credit again, and thereby got much, still continuing their false
teaching to the end of their lives.

The Vincentio proved himself a stout man not long before he died,
that it might be seen in his lifetime he had been a gallant, and
therefore no marvel he took upon him so highly to teach Englishmen
to fight, and to set forth books of the feats of arms. Upon a time a
Wels in Somersetshire, as he was in great bravery among the many
gentlemen of good account, with great boldness he gave out speeches,
that he had been thus many years in England, and since the time of
his first coming, there was not yet one Englishman, that could touch
him at the single rapier, or the rapier and dagger. A valiant
gentleman being there among the rest, his English heart did rise to
hear this proud boaster, secretly sent a messenger to one
Bartholomew Bramble, a friend of his, a very tall man of both his
hands and person, who kept a school of defence in the town. The
messenger by the way made the master of defence acquainted with
the mind of the gentleman that sent for him, and of all what
Vincentio had said. This master of defence presently came, and
among all the gentlemen with his cap off, prayed master Vincentio,
that he would be pleased to take a quart of wine with him. Vincentio
very scornfully looking upon him, said unto him: "Wherefore should
you give me a quart of wine?" "Merry sir" said he, "because I hear
you are a famous man at your weapon." Then presently said the
gentleman that sent for the master of defence: "He is a man of your
profession." "My profession?" said Vincentio, "What is my
profession?" Then said the the gentleman, "He is a master of the
noble science of defence." "Why," said Vincentio "God made him a
good man." But the master of defence wouldnot thus leave him, but
prayed him again he would be pleased to take a quart of wine of him.
Then said Vincentio: "I have no need of your wine." Then said the
master of defence: "Sir I have a school of
defence in the town, will it please you to go thither?" "Your school?"
said master Vincentio, "What shall I do at your school?" "Play with
me (said the master) at the rapier and dagger, if it please you." "Play
with you?" said master Vincentio,"If I play with you, I will hit you
1,2,3,4 thrusts in the eye together." Then said the master of defence:
"If you can do so, it is the better for you, and the worse for me, but
surely I can hardly believe that you can hit me. But yet once again I
heartily pray you good sir, that you will go to my school and play
with me." "Play with you?" said master Vincentio (very scornfully),
"by God let me scorn to play with you." With the word scorn, the
master of defence was very much moved, and up with his great
English fist, and struck master Vincentio such a box on the ear that
he fell over and over, his legs just against a buttery hatch, whereon
stood a great black jack. The master of defence fearing the worst,
against Vincentio his rising, caught the black jack into his hand, being
more than half full of beer. Vincentio lustily started up, laying his
hand upon his dagger, & with the other hand pointed with his finger,
saying very well: "I will cause (you) to lie in jail for this gear?),
1,2,3,4 years. And well said the master of defence: "Since you will
drink no wine, will you pledge me in beer? I drink to all cowardly
knaves in England, and I think you to be the very most coward of
them all." With that he cast all the beer upon him, notwithstanding
Vincentio having nothing but his gilt rapier, and

dagger about him, and the other for his defence the black jack, would
not at that time fight it out. But the next day met with the master of
defence in the street, and said unto him: "you remember how (you)
misused me yesterday, you were to blame, me being an excellent
man, I (wil) teach you to thrust two feet further than any
Englishman, but first you come with me." Then he brought him to a
mercers shop, and said to the mercer: "Let me see your best silken
points." The mercer then did presently show him some of seven
groats a dozen. Then he paid fourteen groats for two dozen, and said
to the master of defence: "There is one dozen for you, and one dozen
for me." This was one of the valiant fencers that came from beyond
the seas, to teach Englishmen how to fight, and this was one of the
many frays, that I have heard of, that ever he made in England,
wherein he showed himself a far better man in his life, than in his
profession he was. For he professed arms, but in his life a better
Christian. He set forth in print a book for the use of the rapier and
dagger, the which he called his practice. I have read it over, and
because I find therein neither true rule for the perfect teaching of
the true fight, nor true ground of the true fight, neither sense nor
reason for due proof thereof. I have thought it frivolous to recite
any part therein contained. Yet that the truth thereof may appear,
let two men being well experience in the rapier and dagger fight,
chose any of the best branches in the same book, & make trial with
force and agility, without which the truth between the true & false
fight cannot be known, & they shall find great imperfections therein.
And again, for proof that there is no truth, neither in his rules,

or rapier fight, let trial be made in this manner31. Set two unskillful
men together at the rapier and dagger, being valiant, and you shall
see, that once in two bouts there shall either one or both of them be
hurt. Then set two skillful men together, being valiant at the rapier
and dagger, and they shall do the like. Then set a skillful rapier and
dagger man, the best that can be had, and valiant man having no
skill together at rapier & dagger, and once in two bouts upon my
credit in all the experience I have in fight, the unskillful man, (will)
do the other what he can for his life for the contrary, shall hurt him,
and most commonly if it were in continuance of fight, you shall see
the unskillful man to have the advantage. And if I should choose a
valiant man for service of the prince, or to take part with me or any
friend of mine in a good quarrel, I would chose the unskillful man,
because unencumbered with false fights, because such a man stands
free in his valor with strength and agility of body, freely takes the
benefit of nature, fights most brave, by loosing no opportunity, either
soundly to hurt his enemy, or defend himself. But the other standing
for his defence, upon cunning Italian wards, Punta reversa, the
Imbrocata, Stocata, and being fast tied unto these false fights, stands
troubled in his wits, and nature thereby racked through the
largeness or false lyings or spaces, whereby he is in his fight as a
man half maimed, loosing the opportunity of times and benefit of
nature, & whereas before being ignorant of these false rapier fights,
standing in the free liberty of nature given to him by God, he was
able in the field with his weapons to answer the most valiant man in
the world, but now being tied unto that false, fickle uncertain fight,

has lost in nature his freedom, is now become scarce half a man,, and
every boy in that fight is become as good a man as himself.

Jeronimo this gallant was valiant, and would fight indeed, and did, as
you shall hear. He being in a coach with a wench that he loved well,
there was one Cheese, a very tall man, in his fight natural English, for
he fought with his sword and dagger, and in rapier fight had no skill
at all. This Cheese having a quarrel to Jeronimo, overtook him upon
the way, himself being on horseback, did call to Jeronimo, and bade
him come forth (out) of the coach or he would fetch him, for he was
come to fight with him. Jeronimo presently went forth (out) of the
coach and drew his rapier and dagger, put himself into his best ward
or Stocata, which ward was taught by himself and Vincentio, and by
them best allowed of, to be the best ward to stand upon in (a) fight
for life, either to assault the enemy, or stand and watch his coming.
which ward it should seem he ventured his life upon, but howsoever
with all the fine Italianated skill Jeronimo had, Cheese with his
sword within two thrusts ran him into the body and slew him. Yet
the Italian teachers will say, that an Englishman cannot thrust
straight with a sword, because the hilt will not suffer him to put the
forefinger upon the blade, nor to hold the pommel in the hand,
whereby we are of necessity to hold fast the handle in the hand. By
reason whereof we are driven to thrust both compass and short,
whereas with the rapier they can thrust both straight and much
further than we can with the sword, because of the hilt. And these
are the reasons they make against the sword.

1 English masters of defence, are profitable members in the
commonwealth, i they teach with ancient English weapons of true defence,
weight and convenient length, within the compass of their statures and
strength of men to command, because it makes them safe, bold, valiant, hardy,
strong, and healthful, and victorious in wars, service of their Prince,
defence of their friends and country. But the rapier in reason not to be
taught, because it makes men fearful and unsafe in single combat, and weak &
unserviceable in wars.
2 To this it will be objected, that in the wars we use few rapiers, or none
at all, but short swords. To that I answer: Those are insufficient also, for
that they have no hilts, whereby they are insufficient in their defence, and
especially for the hand, which being struck although with a very small blow,
most commonly is the loss of a man, because the force of his hand being taken
from him, he is neither able to defend his life, nor greatly to offend his
enemy. And again, since the rapier-fight has been taught, for lack of
practice they have lost the use of the blow.
3 Why should we leave the hand naked, since thereby our limbs & lives
are defended, our enemies discomforted, wounded, and executed? I see no
reason but that the hand should be as well armed and provided for, as any
other part of the body.
4 A great favor to give them choice of their weapons, because professors
of arms ought to be skillful with all manner of weapons.
5 Yet they persuade us that the cross of the rapier without hilt or gauntlet
is sufficient.
6 No fight perfect that is not done in force & true time.
7 These counterfeit shows are enough to carry the wise that know not the
true fight from the false, out of the right way.
8 And if their weapons were short, as in times past they were, yet they
could not thrust safe at body or face, because in guardant fight they fall
over, or under the perfect cross of the sword & to strike beneath the waist, or
at the legs, is a great disadvantage, because the course of the blow to the legs
is too far, & thereby the head, face & body is discovered. And that was the
cause in old time(s), that they did not thrust or strike at the legs, & not for
lack of skill, as is these days we imagine. Again, if man in these days should
have fought with a long sword, they would presently have put him into Gobb's
9 A confutation of their errors.
10 This in truth cannot be denied.
11 The blow more dangerous than the thrust.
12 A blow cuts off the hand, the arm, the leg, and sometimes the head.
13 He that gives the first wound with a strong blow, commands the life of
the other.
14 In the wars there is no observation of Stocatas, Imbrocatas, times, nor
15 Long weapons imperfect.
16 If the sword is longer, you can hardly uncross without going back with
your feet. If shorter, then you can hardly make a true cross without putting
in of your feet, the which times are too long to answer the time of the hand.

The like reason for the short staff, half pike, forest bill, partisan, or
glaive, or such like weapons of perfect length.
17 The eye is deceived by the swift motion of the hand.
18 The dagger is an imperfect ward.
19 The short staff or half pike has the advantage against two sword and
dagger men, or two rapiers, poniards, and gauntlets.
20 A question
21 Answer
22 Note this.
23 Tall men have the vantage against men of mean stature.
24 Four invincible advantages consist in a tall man against a man of mean
stature. Long reach. Short course. Length of weapon. Large pace.
25 If they stand upon breaking with their daggers, he that first wins the
place, and thrusts home, hurts the other for lack of the circumference. If
thrust together, they are both sped, because their spaces of defence are too
wide to answer the time of the hand, and by the swift motion thereof, the eye
in that distance is by the same deceived. The feet in their course, but not
in the first motion, always note for the avoiding of great errors.
26 There are fewer frays, but more valiant gentlemen slain now than were
27 These reasons are used by the Italians.
28 A confutation of the Italians' reasons.
29 Cob's Traverse.
30 I write not this to disgrace the dead, but to show their impudent boldness

and insufficiency in performance of their profession when they were living,
that from henceforth this brief note may be a remembrance and warning to
beware of (bad advise?).
31 Proofs against the rapier fight.

<the end>

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