Sadly my hubby and I came home from Dragon*Con with a horrible case of con crud and I unfortunately had to cancel my Silver’s Gryps and Closes class which I had planned for Academy of the Rapier/Atlantian University the following weekend.

To make a long story short though, my revised paper,The Mannr of Certaine Gryps, (upon which the class in based) has been uploaded to the site and is now available on the Research page.



I’m not quite sure what the issue is but lately I’ve found that I’ve been feeling very distracted with regards to my various projects and I haven’t been feeling like I’m really getting a lot done.  Oddly I’ve been feeling like I used to be able to get so much more done than I have these past few months.  Logically though I know I must be getting something done because my FR articles are finished and free time seems to be at an even higher premium than usual.  Years ago I used to keep yearly project lists of the things I was working on, things I had finished, and projects I wanted to start over the course of that year.  I sort of stopped tracking them though in early 2009.  Why?  I have no idea.

So in an effort to really compare what I’ve been doing this year with what I had accomplished in years past I decided that I need to revive my old project lists.  So far I’ve found one from 2008 and one from 2009.  I’m fairly certain I kept ones for 2007 and 2006 as well but I’m still looking for them.

Here’s my list from 2008:

2008 Projects

Black silk suit Finished! Jan 2008
Red Wool Hood Finished! Feb 2008
Silver’s Gryps and Clozes Finished! Mar 2008
Linen GFG/Kirtle Finished! Mar 2008
Linen Surcoat Finished! Apr 2008
Second Linen Surcoat Finished! Apr 2008
Gamboised Cuisses, 2 pair Finished! May 2008
Arming Vest Finished! May 2008
Padded leather fencing doublet Linen Proof of Concept Finished! May 2008
Linen Suit Finished! June 2008
White Linen 63 Finished! July 2008
Scarletwork Coif Finished! Dec 2008
Swetnam Article One Finished! Dec 2008
Complete In Progress Silver Article Finished! Dec 2008

Not too shabby.  I finished at least one project a month except for August-November when I was focusing on my coif.  I don’t embroider very quickly.

I had to go back and use my blog to recreate most of it but in 2009 my list looked like this:

2009 Projects

Get my fencing in top notch shape In progress
Wool Jacket Finished! March 2009
Embroidered Jacket Started August 2009
Black Bias Cut linen Hosen Finished! March 2009
Green Bias Cut linen Hosen Finished! March 2009
Blue Linen Fencing Doublet Finished! May 2009
Scarletwork Forehead Cloth Finished! September 2009

I got some things done but I spent most of my free SCA time fencing and embroidering.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  It was really quite enjoyable. 🙂  But it does mean that I have finished fewer projects.  Especially since my jacket was one of the things I was spending most of my time on.

So now that I’ve had a chance to go back and look at what I accomplished of over 2008 and 2009 I needed to create a list for 2010.

2010 Projects

Get my fencing in top notch shape In progress
Embroidered Jacket In progress: Started August 2009
Flander’s Gown In progress
Saviolo Dueling Blog Series Finished! June 2010 (Combined with class)
Silver Training Blog Series In progress
Swetnam Training Blog Series In progress
Early Modern English Dueling Class Finished! June 2010
Steampunk Gown Finished! January 2010
Wrapped and Stuffed Buttons @ Etsy Opened! January 2010
Grey Wool Bias Cut Hosen Finished! February 2010
Linen Kirtle Finished! April 2010
White Linen Bias Cut Stockings Finished! April 2010
16th-17th Century Stocking Tutorial Finished! April 2010
Blue Linen Bias Cut Hosen Finished! May 2010
14th Century Hosen Tutorial Finished! May 2010

Hmmm…no wonder I feel distracted.  I’ve accomplished much more than I thought I had but I have let several “In progress” projects accumulate at once.  Normally I try to keep it to one or two.  Plus three of those projects are blog series.  I should certainly be trying to limit those to one at a time.  So for now, no more new blog series!  I need to finish these first! 🙂  I don’t have too many sewing projects going at once, just my Flander’s Gown and my jacket but they did get pushed to the back burner while I worked on some others.  I definitely want to get back to back to work on them once my second article is turned in.  I will also probably place my Saviolo dueling series on the back burner since it’s so similar to the class that I’m working on for June Univeristy.  And I’m going to add a few more items to the planning list to start on once I’ve finished my gown and jacket.

2010 Project Plans

Get my fencing in top notch shape In progress
Embroidered Jacket In progress: Started August 2009
Flander’s Gown In progress
Saviolo Dueling Blog Series Finished! June 2010
Silver Training Blog Series In progress
Swetnam Training Blog Series In progress
Early Modern English Dueling Class Finished! June 2010
Steampunk Gown Finished! January 2010
Wrapped and Stuffed Buttons @ Etsy Opened! January 2010
Grey Wool Bias Cut Hosen Finished! February 2010
Linen Kirtle Finished! April 2010
White Linen Bias Cut Stockings Finished! April 2010
16th-17th Century Stocking Tutorial Finished! April 2010
Blue Linen Bias Cut Hosen Finished! May 2010
14th Century Hosen Tutorial Finished! May 2010
Green Linen GFG (pieces cut out)
French-Cut gown
Red Silk Bodies (have fabric and boning)
A new linen suit
Natural Form Gown

Postponed Projects

Di Grassi Series
Di Grassi Class
Swetnam Class
Arming Garments Class

(Sewing and Embroidery)
Blackwork shirt
Red Wool Suit
1530’s Tudor gown
1530’s petticoat
1530’s Kirtle
English Hood
1605 Gown
Embroidered Night Cap
Blackwork sleeves
Blackwork partlet
Doublet and Pluderhosen
Edwardian Lingerie Gown

I know a lot of tall fighters and a lot of not-so-tall-fighters.  I am a not-so-tall-fighter.  I’m not short by any means but at 5’7” I’m usually shorter than the 6’-ish fighters I generally face.  I know a lot of average and shorter fighters think that height gives tall fighters and automatic advantage but that isn’t really true.  All statures have their own inherent advantages and disadvantages.

A look at historical thoughts on the subject

In his Paradoxes of Defense Silver sets up a dialogue between a master and student about whether a tall man or an average man has the advantage in a fight if both men have a “perfect knowledge” about their weapons. Silver maintains that the tall man always has the advantage over the average man because the taller man has a longer reach, does not have to move as far to gain the “true place”, his pace is longer, and because he is taller his proper sword length is longer than that of an average man. Because of this advantage, the shorter man must be careful not to fail in any part of his fight or he is in great danger. As long as he maintains a true fight and fights in the true time he will still be able to defend himself even though his taller opponent has the advantage.

A perusal of Saviolo’s Practice shows that, in general, he likely would have agreed with Silver’s thinking. He says that if a tall man is fighting a shorter man, the taller fighter may have a great advantage over his shorter opponent due to his longer reach and greater stride, provided that he know how to properly put himself “in ward”. However, if he doesn’t understand proper warding the shorter man could have the advantage. If the taller fighter loses his point the shorter fighter could easily attack him from underneath with a stoccata or a passata.

My thoughts

Personally I tend to believe that each stature holds its own inherent advantages and disadvantages.  A taller fighter generally has the advantage of a larger range.  While tall, average, and even shorter fighters are all fairly just as likely to use the same lengths and kinds of blades, taller fighters are more likely to have longer arms and longer legs, giving them a greater range from which to fight.  Often a shorter fighter will find he needs to use a longer blade to equal the ranger of the taller fighter with a more standard blade.  A taller fighter as has the advantage of being able to more easily make attacks from a higher line than the shorter fighter which does give him some advantage.  However, that doesn’t mean he has all the advantage.  A shorter fighter does have to come further inside a taller opponent’s range in order to make his attack, but once inside his opponent’s range his stature and arm length then become more of an advantage allowing him greater maneuverability in closer quarters.  In this situation a shorter blade can provide even greater advantage for the shorter fighter because he does not have to draw back as far to execute additional attacks.  Similarly, attacks from a lower line are also easier for a shorter fighter.  He’s already closer to the lower line than his taller opponent so executing and attack from that line is not as difficult.

A major part of being successful in fencing is making what you have work for you.  Every body type has its own inherent advantages and disadvantages but not all fighters see that.  Just because you are shorter than your opponent doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.  Pit your advantages against their disadvantages and make them pay for it.

I thought I would take some time today to talk about my theory on Silver’s stance.  While Silver discusses wards in his discussion of the Four General Fights, he does not directly discuss the placement of the feet. In his discussion of his general rules he does stress that a fighter should stand comfortably, constantly thinking about his opponent’s stance and attacks but he does not directly mention the placement of the feet in his Bref Instructions so we are left to conjecture on how he would have had his students stand 

Image from Arte dell’ Armi (1568)Of his contemporaries and predecessors, his fighting style and mindset seem to be most similar to that of Marozzo. They both rely heavily on cutting attacks but do not exclude thrusts. Their movements seem similar, and although Silver has far fewer wards, some of his wards bear a resemblance to those used by Marozzo, certainly more so than those used by some of his other contemporaries. Thus I think we can surmise that his stance is probably also fairly similar to that of Marozzo. In this stance, as with modern fencing, the fighter wants to present as small a target as possible with their upper body. The front foot is also pointed at the fighter’s opponent with the rear foot at a 60° to a 90° angle from the front foot. The feet and lower body are still spaced similarly to the modern stance with one interesting exception. Marozzo has his fighter’s move their heels out of line apparently to provide a steadier stance.  I have been using this stance predominantly when I fight for several years now and I can say that it does add stability especially when executing many foot movements of the period including the demi volte and the slope step.

*Note: The above image is from Marozzo’s Arte dell’ Armi (1568).  For some unknown reason I am having trouble with image captions right now.  I hope to have this fixed shortly but I did not want to have to put off posting any longer because of it.

In his discussions of time in his Bref Instructions, George Silver outlines Four Times: The time of the hand, the time of the foot, the time of the hand and foot, and the time of the foot and hand

The time of the hand is the amount of time it takes to strike with the hand, ether from a ward or in place. 

The time of the foot is the amount of time it takes for a fighter to step forward to strike or to move towards their left side. 

The time of the hand and foot is when you move in order to strike rather than simply pressing forward.  It also refers to when you slide or move backwards and the hand and foot are equally agile.  

The time of the foot and hand refers to when you fight in guardant and use a slow motion for both the foot and hand.  

Something I always think about with respect to these times is that it seems in the time of the hand and foot the hand is positioned and/or moves before the foot.  When you strike your hand is moving before your foot so as to better maximize the time of you attack and so as not to telegraph your attack to your opponent.  When you retreat your hand still remains in front of your feet in order to better keep your sword between you and your opponent.  In the time of the foot and hand the position is reversed.  In the True Guardant fight the hand is above the head and thus above the feet and behind the front foot.  In the Bastard Guardant fight it is at shoulder height but still behind the front foot. 

Stephen Hand also discusses the following times in his book English Swordsmanship: The True Fight of George Silver, Vol. 1

The Time of the Hand is the amount it takes to move the hand and it is the fastest of the four times he discusses.  The Time of the Hand and Body is the time it takes to move the hand and then the body and thus it is the second fastest time.  Similarly the Times of the Hand, Body, and Foot and of the Hand, Body, and Feet are the times that it takes to move all of those limbs in turn and they are the third fastest and slowest times respectively.  Just as with Di Grassi’s circles of the arm, as you involve more of the body it takes longer to make the movement.

Silver is most often known as a proponent of the blow rather than and advocate for the thrust.  His fighting style, by virtue of favoring the English Broadsword as the weapon of choice, incorporates far more cutting attacks than thrusts.  He is also quite infamous for his Paradoxes of Defense in which he lays out all of his arguments for why the true fight of English Broadsword is superior to that of the rapier.  But Silver is actually a very well rounded fighter and teacher.  In his Paradoxes he argues for a complete education for students of the art of defense and he also argues, quite effectively, that the true fight must incorporate both blows and thrusts.

Perfect fight standeth upon both blow and thrust, therefore the thrust is not only to be used.

-George Silver, Paradoxes of Defense

An illustration from Di Grassi's treatise (1570's) showing a situation in which attacking with a cut would be preferable to a thrust.

An illustration from Di Grassi's treatise (1570's) showing a situation in which attacking with a cut would be preferable to a thrust.

Silver argues that the perfect fight must incorporate both blows and thrusts.  Neither attack is perfect for each and every situation.  Sometimes you will find yourself in a position where striking with a blow is the most effective attack and other times it will be a thrust.  You may find yourself in a position where a quick thrust to your attackers hand will end the fight.  In some positions though you may find that if you attack with a thrust it will cost you time, requiring two movements, when a blow would only require one and cost significantly less time.  This is very effectively illustrated with a woodcut from Di Grassi’s treatise.

While Silver may have originally intended this paradox to argue for the importance of the blow it also very effectively argues for the inclusion and importance of the thrust.  No one attack can be relied on for every situation so it is imperative that you be able to execute both effectively so that both will be available to you when you face your opponent.

*Sorry I’m still off schedule guys.  I blame actually setting the schedule in the first place. 🙂  But hopefully this should be the last off schedule post for a while.

After dealing with Silver’s first general rule in depth I decided I wanted to do a brief overview of his other general rules, delving into them more deeply in later posts. 

In Silver’s second rule he stresses that a fighter should stand comfortably, constantly thinking about his opponent’s stance and attacks. However, a fighter should take care to always maintain his distance from his opponent, keeping his head, arms, hands, body, and legs out of range so that if his opponent wishes to attack he must first advance forward. Once his opponent has advanced forward, a fighter has three options available to him. He may attack his opponent immediately as soon as his opponent has advanced, he may ward first and then attack, being careful to remember his governors, or he may step back, attacking his opponent as he steps out of range. Silver continues to stress that a fighter should take care to step back if his opponent advances on him in order to prevent his opponent from gaining the advantage and to give himself time to prepare to execute any of the options Silver discusses above. 

In his third rule, Silver cautions fighters to maintain distance and not to allow their opponent to place them within his range. Once they are within their opponent’s range they are in danger of being hurt by an attack. A fighter should always know at what range his opponent can attack without having to advance forward. 

He goes on to explain in his fourth rule that when your opponent attacks he is almost always open to an attack on some area of his body or, at the very least, weak in his ward and that you should take care to strike at the nearest opening or weak area. 

Similarly, in his fifth he cautions his readers that when they move to gain an advantage over their opponent that they must always move in guard and remember their governors. If you opponent attacks you and presents you with an advantage then you should attack him as he advances forward. If he attacks you then you should ward his attack and counter with an attack of your own while moving out of his range. 

Silver’s sixth rule concerns fighting an opponent who is standing in the variable ward. If your opponent attacks you from the variable ward, then again you should take care to maintain your distance so that you are out of his range, attack the closest opening, and back up out of range. 

Silver goes on to state that if two fighters are both fighting in the variable fight and both standing within range of the other then those fighters are in imminent danger of being wounded as they don’t have the time and positioning to make the true cross in order to parry their opponent’s weapon. 

In rule eight, Silver continues to caution fighters to take note of how their enemy holds his weapon and when he moves, to position themselves into the ward that best fits their body and hand, and in this ward they should attack their opponent while keeping their governors in mind. 

Rule nine deals with moving your opponent’s attack offline. If a fighter can redirect his opponent’s attack, either by parrying or voiding their body, then they will gain a distinct advantage over their opponent. Their opponent will have to move to bring his attack back online while you can attack immediately and move out of range during the time he is try to bring his attack back online. 

Finally, in rule ten, Silver explains that if you ward an attack made to your right or left side, then you should move your rear foot circularly away from the side that was attacked. This will place you in a better position to make your own attack.

The 4 governors are those that follow

1. The first governor is judgment which is to know when your adversary can reach you, and when not, and when you can do the like to him, and to know by the goodness or badness of his lying, what he can do, and when and how he can perform it.

2. The second governor is measure. Measure is the better to know how to make your space true to defend yourself, or to offend your enemy.

3. 4. The third and forth governors are a twofold mind when you press in on your enemy, for as you have a mind to go forward, so must you have at that instant a mind to fly backward upon any action that shall be offered or done by your adversary.

After Silver discusses the Four Grounds he continues his discussion of the foundation of the Art of defense with the Four Governors

The Four Governors seem to be very similar to the Four Grounds and work with them to provide a more in depth foundation for fighting. 

  • Judgment is still the most important and the first on the list.  Through Judgment a fighter gains a greater understanding of when your opponent is within your range and vice versa. It also gives a fighter and understanding of the pros and cons of his opponent’s stance, the movements and attacks his opponent can execute, and what he is vulnerable to. 
  • The second Governor is Measure so that you can better understand movement and range.  Measure also includes a sense of distance and timing.  Knowledge of Measure helps a fighter to regulate not only the speed and length of his pace but also the time of his attack. 
  • The third and forth governors are included together and cover coming in for an attack. Just as you are prepared to come in to attack, you must also be prepared to step out or back if you opponent does the same to you.  This echoes the old adage that a fighter needs to be prepared to attack and defend in the same time. 

In some ways the Governor’s echo the same ideas as the Grounds and in other ways they elaborate on them.  But it is clear that both are vital for a true and sure defense.

There hasn’t been alot to add this week. I’ve been working on prep for Mousehole so I haven’t had as much time to write about my projects or martial arts. I expect that will get back to normal though next week.

What I have done is add a new page for my Silver training manual. This will help keep all those posts in one place.

Elizabethan Mafia also has a facebook page now and a twitter account. Now that we’ve finally joined the 21st Century with everyone else feel free to check us out in our new locations.

In general I am a big believer in starting from the beginning. That is why last week I chose to start my training manual for Silver with his Four Grounds. In retrospect I probably should have had a bit more of an introduction accompanying that post. Ah, well there is also something to be said for jumping right in. I will be setting up a page this week that will have links to all the posts for my training manuals project and I will add my introduction there.

I know that last week I said we would be discussing the Four Governors next but this week I’m inspired to jump a little ahead to one of Silver’s general rules. This pretty much goes against my usual method of starting at the beginning and following through to the end but sometimes you have to go where the inspiration takes you. I’ll just put it all back in order when I set up the page.

After his discussion of the Four Grounds and the Four Governors Silver discusses several general rules “which must be observed in that perfect use of all kind of weapons”. In his first general rule he states:

First when you come into the field to encounter with your enemy, observe well the scope, evenness and unevenness of your ground, put yourself in readiness with your weapon, before your enemy comes within distance, set the sun in his face traverse if possible you can, still remembering your governors.

It seems so simple but I hardly ever see fighters do it. By inspecting the field beforehand a fighter is able to note potential hazards and determine which areas of the field would provide him the greatest advantage and help him to control the fight.

Rarely is the field as flat as we think it is. There is nearly always a slight slope, a rut, some clump of crab grass that makes this weird, slightly higher lump than the surrounding grass. All of these things provide both advantages and disadvantages. The crabgrass or a rut could cause you to stumble. A slope and both place you at an advantage or a disadvantage depending on whether you have the high ground or the low ground. Sometimes even the low ground can offer you a more advantageous line to your opponent’s lower targets depending on the situation but you will have to remember to guard a slightly higher line depending on your opponent’s placement relative to yourself. More often the higher ground provides the advantage over your opponent, often opening holes that he may not be aware exist from a higher position.

Two weeks ago a War of the Wings I was watching two fencers spar in the few minutes between the end of the scenarios and the beginning of court. One of the fighters was significantly shorter than his opponent. The ground had a slight slope to it if you looked at it and the shorter fighter started out on the higher ground. This placed him in a better position relative to his opponent because it took away some of height difference between him and his opponent. But once the bout started the shorter fighter, who seemingly had not noticed the slope, quickly circled around his opponent and positioned himself on the low ground, giving his opponent the higher ground. This not only reinstated the original height difference but also increased it by a couple of inches. This took away the advantage the shorter fighter had gained by taking the higher ground. After several passes this was pointed out and discussed.

The second part of Silver’s rule, positioning the fight so the sun is in your opponent’s face, is also hardly ever used. More often I’ve seen fighters move so that the sun is not in their face but they do not intentionally try to position their opponent toward the sun. Using the sun can be an excellent way to gain advantage over your opponent. If his ability to see is reduced by the glare of the sun he’s going to have a much harder time attacking you than he would under normal conditions. It’s not nice, but this is the Art of Defense not the Art of Being Nice.

Silver’s first rule is simple and straight forward but covers ground that is often overlooked by fighters. Next time you face an opponent take a few minutes to note the ground you’ll be fighting on so that you can take up a position that offers you the most advantage possible. Why give up a perfectly good advantage to you opponent?