Wednesday, October 20, 2010
(click on the above images to enlarge.)
When you get two or three sword trainers together, you get disputes and opinions. The task of a historian is to cut through the opinions, and determine the underlying truth in order to form your own (no doubt disputable) opinion. In the case of sword fighters, the opinions usually come down to "which school or style is better". Mr. George Silver, a sword fighter who bitterly opposed the "new fangled Italian style" wrote two books. The first was an off-putting non-stop diatribe against the Italians, the second is much harder to find but is more useful in that he discusses the "Englyshe Style of Broad Swerd" with great thoroughness and depth, a worthy sucessor the Marxbuder German style popularized by Talhoffer and Meyer. DeGrassi discusses the introduction of rapiers and the desire to not lug a shield around all over the place. Savolio is often considered the genius behind the creation of a foil and Achille Morozzo is considered the first codifier of cuts, guards, wards and parries.
The book by Egerton Castle referred to above is a wonderful compilation of these opposing viewpoints! Mr. Castle created a history of the art of sword fighting and has strenuously declined to determine "which is better". He and I agree that a fighter who is poorly trained in a superior style will lose against a fighter who is properly trained in an inferior style. Rather like the question "what sword is best in a fight", the answer of course is "the one you brought with you, not the one you left at home in the closet", the question of which style or school is "better" can be answered simply by observing which school trains their students daily, which school is more intuitive, which school is more capable of training folks who really have no knack for sports, and which school teaches techniques which can be transfered to other weapons easily. And perhaps, in this modern age, which school can stay interesting enough so that even the most jaded belt hunters will come back to it again and again.
Take a week of evenings, and read Castle's dissertation. I will guarantee that you will be the better for it.