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.

 

 

Originally posted July 22, 2010

Di Grassi believed that fencing was more firmly rooted in footwork than in anything else. It was necessary to provide balance and to help a fighter put force behind his blows.

Stance

In his treatise, Di Grassi recommends that a fighter stand with his body “stable” and turned towards the enemy. A fighter should make himself as small a target as possible and if he must bend his body, he should take care to bend away from the enemy. When a fighter strikes he should either advance or thrust forward as soon as it is to his advantage to do so. You should always carry your body so as to make yourself firm and immovable. Don’t make any unnecessary movements. Don’t skip or leap. Rather keep your feet on the ground and make firm and unwavering movements. Always strike or defend in one or half a motion and be careful to keep foot and arm movements together.

It is important that a fighter maintain his stability because without stability he is vulnerable not only to attack but also to grappling. He is especially susceptible to being thrown off balance or to the ground by his opponent and in such a position he would be extremely vulnerable to attack and mostly likely unable to defend himself. That’s part of why a fighter shouldn’t skip or leap about. Such action can seriously affect his stability.

It’s nearly impossible to have a stable, strong stance when you’re leaping through the air. A fighter should strive not to make any unnecessary movements because they waste time and energy and you may inadvertently place yourself in a disadvantageous position. Di Grassi also touches on a fact that he discusses many times in his work: striking or defending in one or half a motion. It is important to attack and defend in as few motions as possible. Doing so conserves time, motion, and energy. Also, elsewhere in his treatise Di Grassi demonstrates with an illustration how attacking in two times rather than one opens a fighter up to attack from his opponent. Thus it’s especially important to make you attacks and parries in as few movements as possible. Preferably a fighter should be able to attack and defend himself at the same time as this provides the most security against attacks from ones opponent.

Movement

When moving your feet you should always take care to “frame a reasonable pace.” If you want to strike you should advance or increase one foot. Conversely, when defending you should retreat or withdraw one foot, taking care not to put yourself off balance or fall.

Di Grassi does not specify what distance is to be considered a reasonable pace. Instead he explains that since all fighters have different body types a given distance, which might be “reasonable”, or comfortable, for one fighter would not be for another fighter. Thus, since everyone’s “reasonable pace” will be different, fighters should take care to figure out the distance that is comfortable for them.

The feet move straight or circularly, forwards or backwards, in a half or a whole pace. A whole pace is made when the back foot is carried forwards in front of the front foot without moving the front foot. The whole pace can be made in a straight pace or a slope (crooked) pace, however Di Grassi notes that a fighter seldom performs a straight whole pace. In a slope (crooked) pace the back foot is still brought in front of the front foot, but this time it is placed at an angle so ass to carry the body out of line of the attack. A whole pace can also be made backwards, but usually only as a straight pace. A half pace is a transitional movement and is made when the back foot is brought even with the front foot and left there or then moved forwards. When preformed backwards, the front foot is moved even with the back foot and left there or from there moved behind the back foot. A circular pace is made when the front or back foot is moved to the right or left in a compass motion. This can also be made as a half or whole circular pace. A whole circular pace is also commonly known as a volte and demi volte is also another common term for the half circular pace.

A big benefit of the movements Di Grassi outlines in his treatise is that they not only move the body through a fight but many of them also void the body out of line of attack. This is especially true for the slope and circular paces. A fighter can use these movements to not only secure a more advantageous position from which to launch his attack but he also adds an extra layer of protection to his own body at the same time. This provides a fighter more weapons for his arsenal and additional methods that he can use to both attack and defend himself at the same time, a strategy that Di Grassi advocates over and over again.

The agreement of the hands and feet

Di Grassi felt very strongly that the strength of the right hand came from the right leg. Similarly the left leg is the strength of the left hand. This theory is known as the agreement of the feet and hands. By this logic, the force of a blow should come from the legs. Because of this, the position of the arms should agree with the position of the legs. For example, if the right leg is behind the body then the fighter should stand so that the right hand is behind the left.

You can put a lot more force into your attacks by using your legs and hips than you can by using just your arms. Your leg muscles are generally larger and stronger than those of your arm and your hips can generate quite a bit of force just from torque. This additional force would be invaluable if you found yourself on an actual field of battle where life and death truly hung in the balance. In such a situation you need all the additional force and strength for you attacks that you can generate.

Closing thoughts

A fighter needs a solid foundation in order to be successful and good footwork is a big part of that foundation. Di Grassi understood that and spent several pages of his treatise discussing proper stance and movement. We can learn a great deal from his methods and much of it can benefit not only our fighting but also our own studies of the Arte of Defense. His thoughts on stance and stability are invaluable and have wide applications to both fighting and study. Similarly his thoughts on attacking and defending in time and his use of body voids are especially beneficial to fighters interested in applying their studies in real world combat.

*This article is a 2009  revision of an earlier article that I wrote in 2006.

 

*Originally posted November 9, 2010

This is a transcription that I did from a passage of The Third Book of Of Honor and Arms that I thought might make interesting reading for a [Saturday] morning.  I took the liberty of modernizing some of the language in hopes of making it easier to read.  If anyone would like it in the original please feel free email me.  My contact information can be found on the about page.

Reference: Author Unknown. The Booke of Honor and Armes. Published by Richard Jones. 1590. Available from http://eebo.chadwyck.com/home. Downloaded Sept. 2007

What Sorts of Men Ought not to be Admitted to Trial of Arms

Because the trial of arms is the realm of the gentleman and gentility itself is an honorable state it is not fit that any person of base or mean condition (i.e. any ungentlemanly person) should be admitted into that realm.  Just as judges of civil trials will often reject the testimony of an infamous witness, so to should a man of mean or base quality be disallowed from accusing an honorable man.  After all, how can such a man charge another of a crime when he himself has committed an offence against his own reputation?

1.       It has therefore been determined that no man having committed treason against his prince or country should be admitted.

2.       Also any man who has had intelligence or conference with the enemies of this prince or who having been taken by his prince’s enemies chooses to remain with them even if he has the means to return to his prince’s service.

3.       He who becomes a spy for the enemy, takes an oath against his prince, or takes his prince’s money and leaves before serving his full time.

4.       He who abandons the army of his prince and flees to the enemy, or who after having been discharged goes to the enemy during a skirmish or fight.  He shall be reputed as infamous and as a traitor.

5.       He that abandons the ensign of his prince or captain or that either during the day or night maliciously departs from the place of his charge about the prince’s person or in camp.

6.       All thieves, beggars, bawds[1], victuallers[2], excommunicated persons, usurers, men banished from the army, and every other man engaged in an occupation or trade unfit and unworthy of a gentleman or soldier.

7.       Finally, whosoever is defamed of any notable crime or who is by law not allowed to bear witness.

These are the men who should rightfully and lawfully be disallowed from challenging any gentleman or soldier and should also be abhorred by every honest person.  If a man of good reputation should fight with such person be besmirches his own character in doing so.  However, if a gentleman would refuse a challenger on these grounds he must confidently know that this man has been condemned for such crimes or at least he has been condemned for crimes so notorious that the repulsed party cannot deny it.  It should be known though that if any man of such infamy were to be challenged by a gentleman or a soldier, he may not himself refuse, unless after the challenge the challenger commits some infamous act which must be observed by both parties.

Citation: Unknown. The Booke of Honor and Armes. http://eebo.chadwyck.com/home. (1590) p.30-32


[1]Bawd: a person dealing in the prostitution industry.

[2] Victualler: a person licensed to sell alcoholic beverages.  Also used to refer to the landlord of a public house or similar establishment

Sometimes it happens.  You had this fab idea for a project.  It was exciting and it really got your juices flowing.  But once you got further into it you realized that it wasn’t quite what you had had in mind when you first got started.  It’s just not making you happy any more and you find yourself wondering if it’s better to trudge through and finish it up or shelve it until it does start to make you happy again.

I’ve been feeling that way myself lately.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes it may just be better to shelve a project rather than to keep working on something that is no longer bringing you the joy it once was.  Sometimes its better to shelve it and free yourself up to take on other projects that will bring you joy.  After all, isn’t the fact that they bring us happiness and some measure of joy and fulfillment the whole reason we do these projects in the first place?  Besides there is nothing that says you can’t come back to that old project at a later date.

So I’ve decided to step back from the projects that haven’t been bringing me joy so that I can focus on the things that are.

What am I putting on hold?

  1. The eBooks. Working on them and selling them through the site just hasn’t been as fun as I thought it would be so I’m shelving the project.  What will I do with the two I already have?  I’m not sure yet but I’m pondering several options.
  2. The Flanders Gown. It was so much more fun when I started it but once the fur went down hill it just wasn’t as inspiring anymore.  Since all it needs are sleeves I will probably finish it but I’ll do something more simple that I had originally planned.
  3. Commissions. I’ve enjoyed working on the commissions I’ve taken but now that my most recent one is done I’ve decided to take some time for myself for a while.  I have about 20 buttons to make and that’s it.  I’m going to finish them in the next couple weeks and then I’m going to focus on some personal projects that have really been calling to me.  The calendar will probably open up again for commissions at some point in the future but for now I’m going to focus on personal projects.

What am I still deciding on?

  1. The Etsy Shop. I just don’t know what to do about it.  On the one hand I’ve enjoyed it and I have some big ideas for changes to it but on the other I’m not sure that the things I want to produce fit in best at Etsy.  Still pondering this one.

What am I going to do more of?

  1. Fight. Fighting has been bringing me a lot of joy lately and I want to free up more time for it.
  2. Sew and Embroider for myself. I have several personal sewing projects that are calling to me.  Plus less free time has meant less time for my embroidered jacket.  I worked on it recently and it reminded me how much I’ve enjoyed this project and really want to free up more time for it.
  3. Enjoy the fresh air and warm sun. This winter was rather stressful but the thing that always made me feel better was going outside and walking around the building.  Now that its starting to warm up being outside is even more pleasurable.  I want to spend more time outside, go to fighter practice in the daylight, move my workouts outdoors, and get in a little diving.  I can’t wait for Spring.
  4. Write. I’ve really enjoyed the FR and YWU articles that I’ve written and I have several ideas for new tutorials and HMA articles that I’ve been neglecting.  I have two more FR articles in the works and I want to get started on at least one of the HMA articles after Ymir.  I might even see about teaching at summer University.

For those of you who are not on Facebook (or who may have missed my post yesterday) last night I finished my 16th and early 17th Century stockings tutorial reformat. My plan is to have it available on my site as the first in a series of ebooks before the end of the year.  I’m very excited about this project.  I’ve been wanting to do a series of costuming and martial arts ebooks for Elizabethan Mafia for a while and I’m very excited to be starting the project with this tutorial.

This is a transcription that I did from a passage of The Third Book of Of Honor and Arms that I thought might make interesting reading for a Tuesday morning.  I took the liberty of modernizing some of the language in hopes of making it easier to read.  If anyone would like it in the original please feel free email me.  My contact information can be found on the about page.

More »

I’ve probably mentioned it here before but for the past year and a half at least I’ve had an unfinished green linen gothic fitted gown sitting on my shelf waiting to be picked back up.  It was all cut out, it just needed to be assembled.

More »

Di Grassi believed that fencing was more firmly rooted in footwork than in anything else. It was necessary to provide balance and to help a fighter put force behind his blows.

Stance

In his treatise, Di Grassi recommends that a fighter stand with his body “stable” and turned towards the enemy. A fighter should make himself as small a target as possible and if he must bend his body, he should take care to bend away from the enemy. When a fighter strikes he should either advance or thrust forward as soon as it is to his advantage to do so. You should always carry your body so as to make yourself firm and immovable. Don’t make any unnecessary movements. Don’t skip or leap. Rather keep your feet on the ground and make firm and unwavering movements. Always strike or defend in one or half a motion and be careful to keep foot and arm movements together.

It is important that a fighter maintain his stability because without stability he is vulnerable not only to attack but also to grappling. He is especially susceptible to being thrown off balance or to the ground by his opponent and in such a position he would be extremely vulnerable to attack and mostly likely unable to defend himself. That’s part of why a fighter shouldn’t skip or leap about. Such action can seriously affect his stability.

It’s nearly impossible to have a stable, strong stance when you’re leaping through the air. A fighter should strive not to make any unnecessary movements because they waste time and energy and you may inadvertently place yourself in a disadvantageous position. Di Grassi also touches on a fact that he discusses many times in his work: striking or defending in one or half a motion. It is important to attack and defend in as few motions as possible. Doing so conserves time, motion, and energy. Also, elsewhere in his treatise Di Grassi demonstrates with an illustration how attacking in two times rather than one opens a fighter up to attack from his opponent. Thus it’s especially important to make you attacks and parries in as few movements as possible. Preferably a fighter should be able to attack and defend himself at the same time as this provides the most security against attacks from ones opponent.

Movement

When moving your feet you should always take care to “frame a reasonable pace.” If you want to strike you should advance or increase one foot. Conversely, when defending you should retreat or withdraw one foot, taking care not to put yourself off balance or fall.

Di Grassi does not specify what distance is to be considered a reasonable pace. Instead he explains that since all fighters have different body types a given distance, which might be “reasonable”, or comfortable, for one fighter would not be for another fighter. Thus, since everyone’s “reasonable pace” will be different, fighters should take care to figure out the distance that is comfortable for them.

The feet move straight or circularly, forwards or backwards, in a half or a whole pace. A whole pace is made when the back foot is carried forwards in front of the front foot without moving the front foot. The whole pace can be made in a straight pace or a slope (crooked) pace, however Di Grassi notes that a fighter seldom performs a straight whole pace. In a slope (crooked) pace the back foot is still brought in front of the front foot, but this time it is placed at an angle so ass to carry the body out of line of the attack. A whole pace can also be made backwards, but usually only as a straight pace. A half pace is a transitional movement and is made when the back foot is brought even with the front foot and left there or then moved forwards. When preformed backwards, the front foot is moved even with the back foot and left there or from there moved behind the back foot. A circular pace is made when the front or back foot is moved to the right or left in a compass motion. This can also be made as a half or whole circular pace. A whole circular pace is also commonly known as a volte and demi volte is also another common term for the half circular pace.

A big benefit of the movements Di Grassi outlines in his treatise is that they not only move the body through a fight but many of them also void the body out of line of attack. This is especially true for the slope and circular paces. A fighter can use these movements to not only secure a more advantageous position from which to launch his attack but he also adds an extra layer of protection to his own body at the same time. This provides a fighter more weapons for his arsenal and additional methods that he can use to both attack and defend himself at the same time, a strategy that Di Grassi advocates over and over again.

The agreement of the hands and feet

Di Grassi felt very strongly that the strength of the right hand came from the right leg. Similarly the left leg is the strength of the left hand. This theory is known as the agreement of the feet and hands. By this logic, the force of a blow should come from the legs. Because of this, the position of the arms should agree with the position of the legs. For example, if the right leg is behind the body then the fighter should stand so that the right hand is behind the left.

You can put a lot more force into your attacks by using your legs and hips than you can by using just your arms. Your leg muscles are generally larger and stronger than those of your arm and your hips can generate quite a bit of force just from torque. This additional force would be invaluable if you found yourself on an actual field of battle where life and death truly hung in the balance. In such a situation you need all the additional force and strength for you attacks that you can generate.

Closing thoughts

A fighter needs a solid foundation in order to be successful and good footwork is a big part of that foundation. Di Grassi understood that and spent several pages of his treatise discussing proper stance and movement. We can learn a great deal from his methods and much of it can benefit not only our fighting but also our own studies of the Arte of Defense. His thoughts on stance and stability are invaluable and have wide applications to both fighting and study. Similarly his thoughts on attacking and defending in time and his use of body voids are especially beneficial to fighters interested in applying their studies in real world combat.

*This article is a 2009  revision of an earlier article that I wrote in 2006.

I had a fabulous time at June University this past weekend.  I got to spend some time fighting C&T pickups with Giacomo, enjoyed Isobel, Robert, and Lisette’s furniture class, and my dueling class went rather well.

It was really rather hot on Saturday but I didn’t really feel hot.  I felt warm but comfortable while I was fighting which I found a little surprising considering how hot I felt fighting at Coronation which was about the same temperature.  I think the main difference was the amount of water I drank.  I drank an insane about of water before and during University and I followed that up with a bunch of water on Sunday.

The library seemed very well attended and there were a ton of books.  I was quite impressed by the work that was put into making it happen.

My class went rather well.  I had a bunch of students and the day shade that the group had provided for our class was quite comfortable and had plenty of space.  As soon as I format my citations I’ll be putting the handout up on my site so it will be available to anyone who was unable to attend the class.

The 16th Century saw a notable rise in interest in the Italian culture in England.  While we most often think of the rapier as the most important Italian import in to England it was not the only one.  Italian courtesy manuals became immensely popular in the mid to late 16th Century, especially among the English nobility.  Among the many things these treatises imparted was the Italian sense of honor and gentlemanly behavior.  Previously there had certainly been courtesy books based on the Christian sense of civility however these new manuals were specifically directed towards the men of the court.  These treatises placed particular emphasis on decorum, presentation, and conduction oneself so as to be thought well of by other courtiers and gentlemen.  Thus this courtesy and decorum became a way to both gain and bestow honor and reputation.

There were thought to be two different kinds of honor during this time period.  Vertical honor was the honor due to one’s superiority and horizontal honor was the honor due to an equal or a member of one’s peer group.  Vertical honor could be increased as a man gained superiority however, horizontal honor could not.  Horizontal honor was thought to be innate and served as a man’s reputation among his peers.  Also known as natural honor, it was believed to have been conferred on a man at birth.  Interestingly for men of the time period natural honor could only be lost, not regained.  Thus it was immensely important to preserve one’s reputation and honor.  In a society were the opinion of one’s peers was so very important, reputation was everything and it was vitally important to preserve their good opinion.  This is why it was so important to maintain civil and courteous interaction.  Gentlemen conferred honor on each other through their courteous behavior.  Thus discourteous behavior meant running the risk of loosing that honor.  Once one’s honor and reputation had come under question a gentleman had no other recourse to retain his status and reputation than retaliation.  The only acceptable method of retaliation open to a gentleman was the duel.